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Microsoft Releases Specs for Binary Formats 205

Posted by Zonk
from the thanks-for-the-hand-up dept.
skolima writes "In response to requests for even easier access to the Binary Formats, Microsoft has agreed to remove any intermediate steps necessary to get the documentation. They're going to just post it, making it directly available as a download on the Microsoft web site. Microsoft will also make the Binary Formats subject to its Open Specification Promise by February 15, 2008. They're even planning to include an Open Source converter implementation."
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Microsoft Releases Specs for Binary Formats

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  • The important stuff (Score:5, Informative)

    by ccguy (1116865) * on Thursday January 17, 2008 @12:22PM (#22081336) Homepage
    The important stuff from the TFA:


    Microsoft agreed to:
    * Initiate a Binary Format-to-ISO/IEC JTC 1 DIS 29500 Translator Project on the open source software development web site SourceForge (http://sourceforge.net/ ) (...) The Translator Project will create software tools, plus guidance, showing how a document written using the Binary Formats can be translated to DIS 29500. The Translator will be available under the open source Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD) license (...). The Translator Project will start on February 15, 2008.
    * Make it even easier to get access to the Binary Formats documentation by posting it and making it available for a direct download on the Microsoft web site no later than February 15, 2008. The Binary Formats have been under a covenant not to sue and Microsoft will also make them available under its Open Specification Promise (see www.microsoft.com/interop/osp) by the time they are posted.
    • by tritonman (998572) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @12:46PM (#22081746)
      ok, so if it's all binary formats only, does this mean they won't be releasing the specs for the notepad format? I've been waiting for this forever.
      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        ok, so if it's all binary formats only, does this mean they won't be releasing the specs for the notepad format? I've been waiting for this forever.


        Which format of notepad file do you want?

        (You jest, but Notepad supposedly can open ASCII, UTF-8, UTF-16 (big and little endian) and documents. It can't comprehend the oddball UTF-7 format, though. It helps though if your Unicode documents have a header (BOM) so Notepad can choose the right format.)
        • by j-pimp (177072)

          Notepad supposedly can open ASCII, UTF-8, UTF-16 (big and little endian) and documents. It can't comprehend the oddball UTF-7 format, though. It helps though if your Unicode documents have a header (BOM) so Notepad can choose the right format.)

          The UTF-8 BOM, 2 bytes signifying nothing that have caused myself and many others to waste countless hours arguing over nothing. I'm to angry to go verify that the UTF-8 bom is indeed 2 bytes.

          • by phasm42 (588479)

            I'm to angry to go verify that the UTF-8 bom is indeed 2 bytes.
            It's not :-)

            The UTF-16 BOM is 2 bytes, the UTF-8 BOM is 3 bytes.
          • The UTF-8 BOM, 2 bytes signifying nothing that have caused myself and many others to waste countless hours arguing over nothing. I'm to angry to go verify that the UTF-8 bom is indeed 2 bytes.
            The UTF-8 BOM is actually three octets, not two: 0xEF 0xBB 0xBF. They decode to a single codepoint U+FEFF.
      • .LOG file format... (Score:5, Informative)

        by DarthStrydre (685032) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @04:01PM (#22084298)
        The only Notepad specific "file type" is a .LOG text file, where the ASCII '.', 'L', 'O', 'G' is the file magic in the first four characters (might require after, I forget). It appends the date and time whenever you open the file. It's still "ANSI" format, but it does special stuff if it is there.
      • by hullabalucination (886901) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @05:14PM (#22085342) Journal

        Not to fear. I'm 9eveloping my own open so4rce reverse-engineere9 implementation of the NotePa9 format, calle9 OpenPa9. I estimate that I've got abo4t 96% of the format fig4re9 o4t. As a matter of fact, my post here was compose9 originally in OpenPa9 then copie9 an9 paste9 into the Slash9ot comment s4bmission page.

        * * * * *

        Oh, squi9beaks!

    • by MrNemesis (587188) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @01:02PM (#22081974) Homepage Journal
      February 15th? Are they merely trying to recruit the programmers who attempted suicide the previous evening on account of not getting lucky?

      "Decoding MS binary formats - it's better than death!" ;)
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by flyingfsck (986395)
        Re Feb 14: Most geeks have no clue what you are talking about...
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by mhall119 (1035984)

          Re Feb 14: Most geeks have no clue what you are talking about...
          Feb 14 is the date of Ubuntu 8.10 feature freeze, I would think every geek knows that.

          Oh wait, are you talking about something else?
  • by ccguy (1116865) * on Thursday January 17, 2008 @12:24PM (#22081378) Homepage
    From the TFA:

    Initiate a (...) Project on the open source software development web site SourceForge The Translator Project will start on February 15, 2008.
    I believe it's quite considerate to give both network teams enough time to unblock each other' IP ranges :-)
    • by WK2 (1072560) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @01:02PM (#22081968) Homepage
      This isn't the first project that Microsoft has released on Sourceforge. They also released WiX, which is a program to build windows installation executables (similar to Nullsoft's nsis). Sourceforge is available to everybody who wants to publish an open source project, even mega-corps like Microsoft. I wouldn't suggest it any other way.
      • by rucs_hack (784150)
        This isn't the first project that Microsoft has released on Sourceforge. They also released WiX, which is a program to build windows installation executables

        It relies on Visual studio being present though, Nullsofts nSis (which I use) cares not for such restrictions.
        • by whatever1856 (985063) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @02:54PM (#22083424)
          It relies on Visual studio being present though, Nullsofts nSis (which I use) cares not for such restrictions. no it doesn't. It can be used with VS but you don't have to. When we started using WiX, I just used an XML editor create the files and then ran the WiX compilers and linkers from the command line. It's convenient to use it via Visual Studios, but by no means necessary.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by MBHkewl (807459)
        It's called: Windows Installer XML, not executables. It builds installation packages from XML files.

        Tutorials & info are maintained here: http://www.tramontana.co.hu/wix/ [tramontana.co.hu]
        Sourceforge link: http://wix.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]

        Just thought of correcting the name. By the way, thanks for the info, WK2.
  • Whoops (Score:5, Funny)

    by ProteusQ (665382) <dontbother@nowher[ ]om ['e.c' in gap]> on Thursday January 17, 2008 @12:26PM (#22081410) Journal

    And they will even an Open Source converter implementation.


    Yes, I'm they will!
  • by AmaDaden (794446) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @12:26PM (#22081422)
    Satan: Why did it just get so cold in here?
    • by Ossifer (703813)
      APRIL FOOLS!!!
    • but this is a very positive move on the part of Microsoft.
      • by Locutus (9039)
        positive for Microsoft, negative for those who want to own the rights to view the contents of their data. FYI, there's 20 years of history to show that what Microsoft giveth, Microsoft taketh away. Remember, they once said that ISO will control changes to the MS Office OXML spec if standardized but in the past couple of months, changed that and said they would control changes to the spec. There is no way in hell Microsoft is not going to use this to keep changing the format and keep all others behind them
      • by HiThere (15173)
        It is? A promise is a positive move? A promise from a compulsive liar is a positive move?

        I'll believe that it's a positive move AFTER it has achieved results that *I* consider positive. And which legal authorities that I trust concur are irreversible. There's too much history here for me the trust MS on any other basis.

    • by Jason Levine (196982) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @12:54PM (#22081860)
      I don't know. I'm too busy dodging those stupid flying pigs. Ack! Another one!
    • by pilgrim23 (716938)
      Careful, you might 42 49 4E Hex the whole thing.....
  • Intermediate steps (Score:4, Insightful)

    by autophile (640621) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @12:27PM (#22081426)

    I hope these intermediate steps that they're eliminating include packaging the documents in an .exe file, and requiring MS Office to be installed. I'm looking at you, Word format!

    --Rob

    • by ByOhTek (1181381)
      It's been over a decade since MS Office was needed to read a word file.

      EXE packing, however is annoying (Although, many archiver apps can actually open the EXE formatted archives - you just have to figure out which app it use, zip, cab, rar, other?)
      • by MrNemesis (587188)
        Perhaps even more bizzarely, on the two occasions where I didn't look at the file extensions the EXE archive opened up in WINE and extracted without a problem...! I find that BIOS updates typically come in exe format only, but HP's definitely ran well enough to make me a bootable CD ISO.
  • by BigHungryJoe (737554) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @12:28PM (#22081442) Homepage
    And they will even an Open Source converter implementation

    i find myself doing this all the time at work now, and it's embarrassing. I leave entire words out of emails, IMs, etc. I never used to do that. I must be getting old.

    Many times, I'll leave out a negating word, like "not", causing me to communicate the wrong idea.
  • by EMB Numbers (934125) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @12:28PM (#22081446)
    This has to be good. Right ? How will this work with specifications that say "render text like Word 98?" Will Microsoft now document how Word 98 renders ?
    • by adpsimpson (956630) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @12:58PM (#22081922)

      How will this work with specifications that say "render text like Word 98?"

      As covered in this link [xmlguru.cz], it appears that most of these specifications have either been removed or documented. What this does mean is that perhaps it will be possible to truly understand what these formatting hooks refer to, not what MS have documented them as referring to...

      (Thanks to zmotula [slashdot.org] for the link)

    • by Locutus (9039) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @01:57PM (#22082672)
      "This has to be good. Right ?
      How will this work with specifications that say "render text like Word 98?" Will Microsoft now document how Word 98 renders ?"

      I'm sure there'll be some nice documents to tell you exactly how each of these statements work. You know, things like:
      1)open file
      2)scan for 0x06660666
      3)take the next 128 bytes and pass them to winRulesAll(*DWORD) in /windows/system/explorer.dll
      4)take the resulting array of 8bit vectors and sequentially call winConvertToBlob[0-255](LoByte(DWORD)) in /windows/system/kernel.dll
      5)concatenate the results from those calls and send to sysDecryptWord95Text(URL,*DWORD) in mplayer.dll with URL=http://microsoft.com/secretdoor.asp
      6)replace those 128 bytes with the results from the call or, if failed, render text like Word 95.

      Easy as pie.

      LoB
  • carrot (Score:3, Insightful)

    by apodyopsis (1048476) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @12:30PM (#22081474)
    thats the carrot then. so where's the stick?
  • Woohoo! (Score:4, Funny)

    by MisterSquirrel (1023517) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @12:30PM (#22081492)
    Wow! It sounds like Microsoft has seen the light! It's only a matter of time now before they start giving away all their software for free.
  • by afidel (530433) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @12:31PM (#22081508)
    Because it ensures that the very real possibility of bitrot for the majority of documents written in the last 15 years is now greatly reduced.
    • by garcia (6573)
      Because it ensures that the very real possibility of bitrot for the majority of documents written in the last 15 years is now greatly reduced.

      Now they just need to open up VBA so that all those applications won't be rendered useless by their choice to do away with them, starting with future Office versions. Oh wait, that was their point... To force people to upgrade.

      So they open up one way and close up another. Anything to keep their anti^H^H^H^Hcompetitive behavior moving!
    • This is a VERY good thing because it ensures that the very real possibility of bitrot for the majority of documents written in the last 15 years is now greatly reduced.

      I think the time window might need to be reduced a bit. Back in the 90s Microsoft used to publish the Word and Excel document formats. I recall that the specs/formats were downloadable from their website.
  • APRIL FOOL! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MrNemesis (587188) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @12:32PM (#22081526) Homepage Journal
    Wait, what? Brain not comprehending this. Unless TFA is a complete pack of lies, I'm going to have to give tentative applause. Perhaps the only interesting thing I can think of is that "royalty free" != "we won't sue you into oblivion if we think you're trespassing on our patents". Sorry MS, you taught me to be cynical.
    • by johannesg (664142)
      Well, I can think of a few possibilities. First, this might be an attempt to shore up the OOXML specification, one criticism of which is that it refers to these old formats. Second, a criticism of Office 2007 is that it cannot open old formats. By opening the specifications, they might hope that Office 2007 becomes more desirable (or at least, less problematic).

      Or maybe a chair bounced off the wall and hit Ballmer in the head. Who knows?
    • by Minwee (522556)

      If it helps your sense of cynicism any, the headline is a lie.

      Microsoft hasn't actually released anything more than an announcement that they are going to, at some point in the future, release some information regarding certain file formats. They haven't done it yet, so I'll just wait for the other shoe to drop before getting excited.

    • by HiThere (15173)
      Well, if your cynicism needs help...

      I seem to recall that their last promise not to sue over patents only covered "fully compliant applications". I'm not sure this promise is the same as the last one, but I don't have any reason to doubt it. In which case, guess what the promise not to sue is worth...
  • by denis-The-menace (471988) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @12:34PM (#22081556)
    Disclaimer:IANAL
    The docs are released under MS' own "Open Specification Promise" *cringes*
    http://www.microsoft.com/interop/osp/default.mspx [microsoft.com]

    If you do a search on GPL you get:

    Q: Is this Promise consistent with open source licensing, namely the GPL? And can anyone implement the specification(s) without any concerns about Microsoft patents?

    A: The Open Specification Promise is a simple and clear way to assure that the broadest audience of developers and customers working with commercial or open source software can implement the covered specification(s). We leave it to those implementing these technologies to understand the legal environments in which they operate. This includes people operating in a GPL environment. Because the General Public License (GPL) is not universally interpreted the same way by everyone, we can't give anyone a legal opinion about how our language relates to the GPL or other OSS licenses, but based on feedback from the open source community we believe that a broad audience of developers can implement the specification(s).

    I don't get warm and fuzzy feelings reading this and I think that's the idea...
  • by jgarra23 (1109651) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @12:35PM (#22081566)
    ...and since this is slashdot, it's not good enough until they've also:

    1. refunded all money earned through use of these formats
    2. allow people to fork them and then demand that their idiot-forks get recombined into the trunk and incorporated into MS Office 09
    3. #2 isn't good enough, Microsoft must even make sure that they are in the next release of OO even though they have nothing to do with that product
    4. Clipart of Steve Ballmer throwing chairs is included
    5. it is released under the GPLv3 license
    6. the EU gets to fine them another trillion euros (with a lower-case e) for every day since 1980 that the formats have not been open
    7. none of the above points matter because Microsoft sucks anyway and no one @ slashdot uses MS Office, they all use OO (yea, right!)

    so go ahead, mod me down you fuckers.
  • Do the specs come with a 'Click here to buy a license for $0'?

    I.e. can I use it in an open source program, or is it hindered by a license that prevents me from distributing it because I can not re-license them?
  • by JeanBaptiste (537955) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @12:37PM (#22081598)
  • by Bongfish (545460) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @12:37PM (#22081600)
    Note that these specs have been available previously, royalty free, just by e-mailing MS (or so they claim), meaning that anybody who wanted them has got them, or can get them.

    The only interesting thing here is the converter they're proposing, assuming nobody beats them to it with a better one.
  • by dtjohnson (102237) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @12:46PM (#22081734)
    Microsoft is releasing the specs for binary document formats. This will help those who want to support and maintain those formats so this is a gift from Microsoft. Fellow residents of Troy, let us be grateful and embrace this great offering.
  • by Locutus (9039) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @12:47PM (#22081766)
    or there's no way they'd be doing this. Well, it is Microsoft so there are likely to be some problems. For instance, they could post 10,000 lines of assembly or just plain crappy C code and say, 'there you go, it's open'. Not so bad in itself but not very easy to use none the less.

    But what is really probably happening here is that ODF is getting adopted around the world by governments and once you go ODF, it's going to be a tough sell back to the pull-the-rug-out-from-under-your-feet Microsoft way. Anyways, if Microsoft really sees ODF as a credible threat, getting MS Office OXML through ISO is important, very important. But, once they can do that and gain back credibility, there is NOTHING to stop them from releasing software which others are not privy too. ie, change the format and keep everyone else chasing them.

    Remember, ISO will not be in control of the changes to the spec, Microsoft will be.

    So watch out for this good-guy mask being applied. We've seen nothing to say there isn't anything but the same old Microsoft hiding behind it. And no, I would not accept this as a first step and something to trust. ODF and open access to your own created data is too important to let a simple trick undermine it all. IMO.

    LoB
    • by cnettel (836611)
      Isn't the release of plain crappy C code the pinnacle of openness? There are lots of FOSS projects with a bunch of crappy C code and quite limited docs. For the MS Office format, an open source licensed version of a parser that would expose something like a subset of the Word COM object model as a DOM would be more useful than hundreds of pages of docs. If that's not enough, one could go into the code itself.
  • Exchange (Score:5, Interesting)

    by abigor (540274) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @12:53PM (#22081856)
    Wait a second, does this include Exchange? If so, that's huge.
  • I thought the tag "missingword" meant they had left out the specifications for Word formats...
  • In another news... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anne Honime (828246) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @01:08PM (#22082062)
    ... Lucifer has announced the launch of a massive advertisement campaign to promote the opening of his new snow park under the brand "Hell Inc."
  • hoops (Score:2, Insightful)

    by hey (83763)
    But why the hoops. The Microsoft site says

    you may be eligible to participate in a Royalty-Free File Format Program and to receive technical documentation for certain Microsoft Office binary file formats.

    Er, why not just put um on a website.
    Be open or not.
  • I do not know how to feel just now.
  • Microsoft is pushing so hard to get "Open" XML adopted by the ISO that they're really dropping their pants here. Regardless of what ISO does, both "Open" XML and the legacy formats are now wide open for interoperability work to be done by the free world.

    Pointy haired morons demanding the use of a $500 office suite cannot prevail forever. Commoditization is a very strong force but sometimes it takes a while to do its thing.
  • by ShadowOfMe (919646) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @01:52PM (#22082612)
    From wiki: a representation for numbers using only two digits (usually, 0 and 1) Nex week Microsoft will release specs for Octal format We're expecting full disclosure for Hexadecimal to follow soon.
  • by CrazyTalk (662055) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @02:57PM (#22083466)
    Is it just me, or does this story remind anyone of The Onion headline, "Microsoft patents ones and zeros"
  • The headline is wrong. Microsoft has not openly released the specs. They've said they are going to do so. Not the same thing.

    Remember when they released some specifications in copy-protected Office documents?

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