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

Bret Busby bret at busby.net
Mon Sep 7 16:06:23 EST 2009

On Sat, 5 Sep 2009, Sridhar Dhanapalan wrote:

> Date: Sat, 5 Sep 2009 16:09:07 +1000
> From: Sridhar Dhanapalan <sridhar at dhanapalan.com>
> To: Bret Busby <bret at busby.net>
> Cc: Open Source Industry Australia <osia-discuss at lists.osia.net.au>,
>     Linux Australia List <linux-aus at lists.linux.org.au>
> Subject: Re: [Linux-aus] [Osia-discuss] Tax office - Open Source policy
> 2009/8/31 Bret Busby <bret at busby.net>:
>> 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.
> PDF is an ISO standard, if that means anything any more after the
> OOXML debacle...

I assume that ("the OOXML debacle") is the IT botchup, that resulted in 
people who don't know any better, sending documents in the nasty .docx 
file format, so that people without the latest version of M$ Word, can't 
decode the ominously encrypted garble.

> The problem is more likely due to differing implementations of that
> standard. If the reader and/or the generator have bugs in their
> implementation (and all software has bugs), the result might not be
> what you expect.

Nasty things have happened with different PDF versions; apart from 
inconsistencies in viewing (where xpdf or gpdf and Acrobat Reader, can 
sometimes read PDF files that the other can't, and, similarly, one can 
print some PDF files that the other can't - a botchup), there is the 
sinister aspect (a club that exists in Perth, in receiving bodgy PDF 
files from the national governing body, and, distributing the files to 
members, resulted in the club secretary's email application going into 
an endless loop, sending out multiple copies of the files, until the 
club secretary killed the email application, each time that the issue 
arose, due to the bodgy PDF files that were sent by the national 
governing body, people who received the files, generally being unable 
to read any of the multiple copies that they received).

But, when PDF was a standard document format, and it worked okay, before 
the industry-wide tendency to botch itself through abandonment of such 
standards, the concept of PDF was good and reliable, with all reasonable 
PDF viewers able to read all PDF files equally well (and, be able to 
print them), so that everyone saw the same displayed and printed 
material, in the same format.

It sounds very musch like the development of the Software Engineering 
Industry, with its standards and metrics and quality control, the need 
for which, apparently, arose from the increasing lack of confidence in 
the development of software, which was so unreliable and risky to 
consumers, that both buying off the shelf software (like MS Windows, 
before NT, and, applications), and, getting custome-made software, was 
about as safe and reliable, as walking into a swamp with quicksand and 
very deep pools, and not knowing where it is safe to walk.

The standards people, appear intent on recreating the same scenario, for 
all software.

Maybe, they got bored with software development starting to get 
reliable, and, with the IT industry starting to become respectable.

> As for your earlier comment about the DOC 'format', it's not really a
> format at all. It's more of a binary memory dump of that particular
> version of MS Word. The result is that there are many different
> versions of this 'format'. There's enough difficulty in reading an old
> DOC file in a later version of MS Word, leave alone trying to
> read/write it in a different application.

Interestingly, all of the import/export filters that I have used, 
whether they were Star Office 5.x or Open Office, or AbiWord (which is 
now superior to Open Office, due to the instability of Open Office, 
which appears to be far more resource-demanding than Star Office 5.x, 
Open Office causing system crashes with 2GB RAM, when trying to 
perform file operations, such as Open Existing File, Save, Close, or 
Print), have worked quite okay with the MS Word 97 .doc format (or, 
whatever word or phrse you ant to use, to classify it).

Bret Busby
West Australia

"So once you do know what the question actually is,
  you'll know what the answer means."
- Deep Thought,
   Chapter 28 of Book 1 of
   "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
   A Trilogy In Four Parts",
   written by Douglas Adams,
   published by Pan Books, 1992


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