Office 2007 & the OOXML Test: The Real Interpretation

Recently Alex Brown of the ISO made a blog post regarding a test he ran on a Word 2007 DOCX (OOXML) file on the final standard of OOXML that was ratified by the ISO. Suddenly, the infamous Groklaw took up the results, mangled it out of proportion and came up with a sensational verdict of "Office 2007 itself fails the OOXML standard with 122,000 errors". Other news sites quickly picked this up and started reporting the same. I too was quite surprised with this result till I went over to the actual blog post and read through it myself, instead of trusting what Groklaw had reported. Let's analyze what's been said.

Very clearly, Alex states that:

The STRICT conformance model is quite a bit different from Ecma 376, essentially because most of that format's most notorious features (non ISO dates, compatibility settings like autospacewotnot, VML, etc.) have been removed. Thus the expectation is that existing Office 2007 documents might be some distance away from being valid according to the strict schemas [My emphasis --Vinod]

This basically means that since the format's specification has changed (due to the changes requested by many countries in the first round of voting after it was submitted), it can be expected that these changes wouldn't have gotten implemented yet. It's obvious if you think about it. Microsoft submitted the original specification for its OOXML format to the ISO. When countries decided that the specification requires a large number of changes, Microsoft went back, worked hard and incorporated those changes into the specification. Obviously they didn't spend time and effort in making those changes into the product itself before the specification was accepted - since for all they knew it might get rejected again or more changes could have been asked for.

So when there are 122K errors on the STRICT conformance model, it is to be expected - as Alex Brown very clearly states above. Somehow people tend to skip over that part for their own convenience. The really great part comes a little further down:

TRANSITIONAL conformance model is quite a bit closer to the original Ecma 376. Countries at the BRM (rather more than Ecma, as it happened) were very keen to keep compatibilty with Ecma 376 and to preserve XML structures at which legacy Office features could be targetted. The expectation is therefore that an MS Office 2007 document should be pretty close to valid according to the TRANSITIONAL schema.
Sure enough (again) the result is as expected: relatively few messages (84) are emitted and they are all of the same type
... [My emphasis again --Vinod] 

Reading this lets you know that a different conformance model also exists for working on a transitional format which contains a super set of stuff that the STRICT has and Office 2007 is expected to be compatible with it. And surprise, surprise, it sure is. There were 84 warnings that were generated on the same document using the TRANSITIONAL model - and they were all for an element

<m:degHide m:val="on"/>

which according to the specification should have been using "true" instead of "on" (and "false" instead of "off"). That's it - a simple little thing to fix isn't it? Now that the OOXML spec is becoming a standard, MS can go ahead and make the changes in the product to make it conform to the standard and apply it in any major Office 2007 update as well as in the next version of Office. And this is what the entire hullabaloo was about.

Basically I think it is time that news sites read the original source of any "news" and make interpretations themselves, rather than rely on obviously biased reports from sites like Groklaw or Slashdot. Anti-OOXML fanatics also need to get their act together and when they make a claim, substantiate it with actual facts rather than spewing fire and brimstone over nothing. You can also read a much more detailed analysis of this over at Doug Mahugh's blog and discuss it different forums.

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Categories: Microsoft | Rant

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Windows Vista 1-year Security Vulnerability Report

Jeff Jones, the Microsoft Security guy, has just released a 1-year security vulnerability report of Windows Vista versus other operating systems for their first year. The OSs compared are: Windows XP, RedHat Linux Enterprise 4 (Workstation), Ubuntu 6.06 and Apple MacOS X v10.4. Here is a summary of the report.





Ubuntu 6.06*

Mac OS X

Vulnerabilities fixed






Security Updates






Patch Events






Weeks with at least 1 Patch Event






*: Reduced feature set over full install

Some points of note are:

  • To do a "fair" comparison between the 2 Windows and the 2 Linux variants here, the vulnerabilities in the Linux columns do not include optional and server components like OpenOffice, Gimp, gcc, Apache, bind etc.
  • Windows on the other hand was analyzed on ALL the components that it ships with - not a reduced set

So what does this mean? Vista is more secure than everything else? Well, if nothing else, it does tend to show that the improved focus on Security during the software development process at Microsoft is actually doing a huge bunch of good. So the next time someone mentions security, Vista and Linux, it might be useful to point them to this resource.

Categories: Windows Vista

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Kaput Laptop Adapter and Dell Service

On Friday morning my notebook's power adapter died suddenly, leaving with a heavy paperweight on my table. This also meant that I couldn't charge my machine with any other cable although we have many Dell laptops around - none were compatible with my particular model - the Dell XPS M1710. I called up a local repair guy to check whether he could do something about it. He called up after an hour to say that the adapter was completely shorted out and no way it could be repaired.

Since I had wisely taken a 3-year complete cover international warranty when purchasing the machine last year, I called up the local Dell toll free and was quickly redirected to the XPS exclusive line. This line happens to be serviced out of Malaysia (I think) and the tech support guy was very friendly. Once he heard my problem, he took almost no time in assigning me a a temporary reference number for the call in India (since the notebook is still registered in the US). He then said that the adapter would be delivered the next working day - meaning Monday.

I got a call from the local Dell office in an hour or so, confirming that I'd get the adapter on Monday. Which was quite ok. I did spend the weekend starting to get notebook withdrawal symptoms but survived.

Today, while sitting in office and working on a desktop - after ages (yuk!), I got a call from the delivery guy who had my packets. A quick jump back home and I picked up not one but three (!) boxes. I had to return the burned out adapter as replacement. Now imagine my surprise when I opened up the packets.

The first two contained a completely new set of power adapter and power cable - much smaller than the one I was originally using and with an Indian plug. The last one had a replacement for my original brick adapter. I first quickly plugged in the big brick to the original power cable and turned on my notebook. It worked fine. Curious about the new set, I connected them up and checked out my machine and it was working fine even then - except for a small popup that suddenly appeared on the screen. This informed me that I had plugged in a 90W adapter and to use all the features of my notebook I should be using the 130W adapter. The brick is the 130W one I guess. Well, now I have one that gives me the full power of my notebook as well as a spare that even if it doesn't let me play games or use the higher end features will at least let me check mail, browse and use my notebook for standard stuff.

As always, I've been very happy with Dell's service and their commitment. I sure hope they keep this up.

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Categories: Gadgets | Rave

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