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Reader Comments on Aardvark Daily 24 Jan 2001

From: Ian
For : The Editor (for publication)
Subj: Word document attachments

How can I stop otherwise reasonable and intelligent people
from sending Microsoft Word documents as attachments?

They are huge, they are a proprietary format, they carry a
virus risk, they carry security risks for the sender.

Yet a great many individuals, corporations, charities and
others persist in sending documents in this format ("it's
the standard") and consider me eccentric for refusing to
read them (from any source).

A trusted friend recently sent me a .doc - hard on its
heels another message urging me not to open it because it
had the "Marker" virus. (This only a few days after I
decided I'd had enough and wasn't opening any more of

I invite anyone to suggest ways of refusing these files
without my appearing pedantic, difficult to deal with,
paranoid about security, obstructive to the free exchange
of documents and ideas...

From: Bede
For : The Editor (for publication)
Subj: Govt hacking

If the goverment attempted to
start hacking, you can bet the sysadmin will take steps
to shut the hack down, i mean how would you know if it was a
police man or not?

are the police going to leave a little note saying

"hi we just stopped by to check your accounts details,
and nice picture collection on the corprate lan too!
must give you access to ours sometime..."

most likely not,
im sure a cyber war would most likely eventuate with telecom
or the telecos systems being the end target,
(in war you go straight for the throat)

NZ, being as small as it is, it's not uncommon for
administrators in different companies to be on a first name
basis (jobs for the boys etc) so a short ring to "bob"
might go like "Hey bob where under attack" "yeah I know,
I've been watching them for the last half hour, dont worry
I'm about to reroute your IP to their own central lan"

But hopefully the end result if this law gets passed is that
computer security spending gets a step up from what it is
now and gets taken even more seriously,
The govt can't ask a company to leave itself full of holes
for the police to swim through,

So hopefully every thing will get shut up nice and tight,

ive got my fingers crossed the reverse lookup of the
attackers ip appears like "hack1.police.govt.co.nz"

so i can re-route them some where else,

on a side note, what if your central systems arnt even in
this country?

what if say primary systems where in australia, could the nz
govt be taken to court by an australian service provider for
malicious actions?

From: john elsbury
For : The Editor (for publication)
Subj: Alternatives to Word documents

PDF writer is relatively cheap - iirc you can buy copy from
overseas for a hundred dollars or so.  This, once
installed, becomes a "vitual printer" so you just print to
it from Word (or any other product).  The good things about
it are:

You KNOW how it will appear and print - regardless of what
the reciepient's settings are.
No viruses.
The content is difficult to steal and very hard to modify.

From: Richard
For : The Editor (for publication)
Subj: "R" and not "D"

Ok, so they [TechNZ] fund research and we [NZ] get great

Now, turn those ideas into $$ by funding development -
what? No development funding? No problem, we'll take it
overseas and develop it there and then sell it back to you,
(oh by the way, you'll have to buy it back with that weak

Sounds like a parallel to the student loans scheme to me.
Sounds like standard government operating procedure.

Good greif, just how dumb do you have to be to get

From: Matthew
For : The Editor (for publication)
Subj: Word Document Attachments

I have had similar experiences with local e-comm sites
sending product lists as Word Docs.  One in particular sent
a very condescending letter back when I suggested that Word
was not the best format for sending such lists on, listing
three reasons (accidentally transmitting macro viruses to
your customers doesn't look good, formatting changes are
common, and many people delete MS docs on sight because of
the threat they pose).  Again, they saw it as a standard
document format (guess the few non-MS platforms miss out).
Some people just don't get it, and those same people wonder
why their business fails.  PDF writing software is not
expensive and as has been said already, is secure and looks
the way you want it, no matter who reads it.

From: Andrew
For : The Editor (for publication)
Subj: Word macros

As far as Word macros go, I'm not at all worried.  Word
2000 by default will only run macros from trusted
sources... I open word documents all the time and have
never had a problem with macro viruses.
The real problem with word documents is their size; if the
document contains graphics then you can bet the size is
going to be astronomical.  This can however be countered by
compressing the document using any decent compression tool -
- which doesn't include zip as that compression technology
is way out of date, but that's another topic entirely.

From: Ian O
For : The Editor (for publication)
Subj: Word attachments

Quoting Andrew from Your Say:
>As far as Word macros go, I'm not at all worried.  Word
>2000 by default will only run macros from trusted
>sources... I open word documents all the time and have
>never had a problem with macro viruses.

I thought the whole point of the Melissa type viruses was that they come
from trusted sources, or at least people who have your email address in
their Address Books.

BTW, I found a file "Happyxmas.exe" floating about in my Attachments
folder. Is that a virus?

From: Michael Smith
For : The Editor (for publication)
Subj: MS Word format

regarding these comments:

"Except -- who was the idiot who decided that critical
documents such as the "Evaluation Guidelines" and the
printable "Application Form" should be provided only in MS
Word format???"

"I think most regular readers are already aware of my
disgust at using a proprietary format which is capable of
carrying evil macro viruses."

 Couldn't let these pass unchallenged.

 1) MS Word is by far and away the number one word
processing tool, in terms of deployment and usage on the
planet. Period. End. Get over it, its a fact.

 2) The fact it is proprietary is neither here nor there.
You should stay what you mean by proprietary - which
is "proprietary to MS" which I think is your real concern.
Unless I'm mistaken, and I no longer have to pay Adobe to
write a PDF document ? Wow how generous of them to make
PDFs not proprietary... Not.

 3) The fact that MS Word documents offer a level of
functionality that PDFs do not (macros) and then saying MS
Word documents are poorer for this is like saying "you
shouldn't have bought a house with doors, cause now people
can break into your house through them" - increased
functionality necessarily allows for increased
vulnerabilities. This is also a fact. Period. End. People
who consistantly use this axiom as a reason to knock highly
functional products in preference of 'dumber' ones, are
missing the point.

 Your arguments are a thin veneer on an anti MS stance,
with no basis in the real world (this line applies to most
of the linux fraternities anti 'wintel' arguments) of
businesses who find MS products provide the real world
functionality they need right now to do their jobs.

 In choosing a format which is the most widely used, and
recognised, the people you comment on made a correct and
valid real-world decision.

 As for whats wrong with Adobe Acrobat ? Why force people
to pay good money, for another product, which doesn't give
them the same level of integration, functionality, or
compatibility with everyone else in the company, the city,
and the planet, for the sake of having a few linux heads
go "oh look, its the same on my box as it is on windows"...


 PS: I don't work for MS, or gain profit from promoting
their products, this is an independent view based on my
observations in the IT industry.

From: Rob K
For : The Editor (for publication)
Subj: Bruce-Word, Smurd, get over it

Bruce, I've got to side with Michael Smith in this one.  MS
products might be fun to poke fun at, but they are
versitile and useful products.  The ONLY substantial
argument for not using MS Word as a single format for
information and applications such as you referenced in your
editorial is simple:

  Home Users Don't Spend That Much Money On Software!

If a home user is lucky, the machine comes with MS Works
which may or may not open all your MS Word documents and
definitely won't handle a lot of the advanced formatting
features.  But since a computer (commonly referred to as
the typewriter of the 90's) is rapidly becomeing a home
appliance as common as a television, expect that home users
will NOT spend as much money on Word and MORE money on
games.  After all, most home computers are used for
liesure.  "What about students?" you ask.  Simple.  They
can use a school computer, use MS Works that comes with
most Windows machines, or (rarely) spend hard earned bucks
on Word instead of school supplies or beer (I was young

Think about it.

Rob K
Baton Rouge, LA

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