[Linux-aus] [Osia-discuss] Tax office - Open Source policy

Arjen Lentz arjen at lentz.com.au
Mon Aug 31 14:47:35 EST 2009

Hi Brett

> > ----- "Bret Busby" <bret at busby.net> wrote:
> >> I am wondering what is wrong with simply using MS Word 97 document
> >> format (.doc), without the malicious inclusion of macro's.
> >> Most of the free word processors (AbiWord, Open Office, etc)
> readily
> >> import and export that document format, and, are available on
> multiple
> >> OS platforms, including MS Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, and others.
> >
> > Notice the conditionals in your own sentence: it has to be Word97
> compatible, not contain any macros, etc. So seeing a .DOC file does
> not mean everybody will be able to read it.
> > It places a burden on the author of a document to know more about
> the product they use, and use it appropriately to ensure that the
> resulting files can indeed be processed by others.
> >
> > With ODF and PDF, while not perfect, it will work. People are used
> to working on the basis of an extension and understand that already.
> In short, non-techies "get it", and thus the process is not hindered
> by a requirement for additional education (a requirement which would
> just hinder the desired objective).

> I had not realised that PDF was included as a format in which
> documents should be published, in the thread.

(alert: use of invalid discussion technique above)
Bret, it was not in the thread per-se. I just mentioned it as it's a common choice and generally quite workable. And indeed it is in use by govt to disseminate information on many of its websites, and thank goodness for that because having forms in formats other than PDF would be a monster to handle. This way I've found that they neatly print in-tact. This regardless of whether I'm using OSX or Linux or whatever else.

> One of the problems with PDF, now, is that it is no longer standardised, 
> and bodgy PDF files have been distributed, that are not viewable, or,
> that cause problems, with different PDF viewers. In this, I have 
> experienced PDF files that have been viewable using gPDF or xPDF, but,
> not using Acrobat Reader.
> And, CERT Advisories have been posted about Acrobat Reader, at various
> times, due to malicious code that can apparently be put in PDF files.

That's up to PDF readers and their security, which are generally OSS: merely rendering a document does not require enhancements nor can trigger malicious code, unless of course the reader in question has a bug and things like buffer overflows would be triggered.

> I think that legislation should exist, requiring all government 
> departments to publish documents in universally accessible formats, 
> devoid of things like macro's, and, once again, I suggest MS Word 97 
> format, without macro's, for documents that are designed to be edited
> by a person accessing them, or, an earlier PDF format, that is universally 
> accessible, and that is not sabotaged by "extensions or enhancements" by 
> "the latest versions" of software producing the files, where the documents
> are not designed to be ddited by the people viewing the documents.

Yes, this recycles the point you already made, without addressing the concern I raised for this.
I do appreciate that to a degree PDF also suffers from this, however it's less prolific than borked DOC files.

Arjen Lentz, Director @ Open Query (http://openquery.com)
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