Log4j – When Business Choices Undermine Technology


Late in 2021, the Log4j software vulnerability hit the news. This was, and remains, a widespread security risk that impacted Government institutions and commercial organisations that knowingly or unknowingly installed this free piece of software distributed by the non-profit Apache Software Foundation.

Log4j seems not to be the best advertisement for Open Source as this incident has exposed some of the downsides of a more informal approach to software delivery and maintenance. Having said that, it’s well worth reflecting on the large number of derelict and unsupported systems out there in active use in many companies. From Windows XP, to obsolete or unsupported enterprise systems.

Michael Meeks, General Manager of Collabora Productivity, said:

“Organisations deploy solutions that use off-the shelf Open-Source components all the time, which is fine, but they often fail to get the necessary maintenance and support for them. The Log4j vulnerability is a stark reminder of the issues that can arise when this happens and organisations are left to sort out a major problem with little, if any, formal support.”

Open Source and Corporate Responsibility?

In the case of Log4j, the damaging bit of software is supported by a group of Apache volunteers. They are all well meaning and have worked hard to try address the root cause, but when it comes to important or even critical infrastructure, is it really appropriate to rely on software with such informal, part-time support?

Michael Meeks, commented:

“Open Source is unquestionably a force for good. It’s next to impossible to build a significant technology stack without it today. Nevertheless, the Apache Log4j incident calls into question the relationship between Open Source and commercial users and how they can safely unlock the huge business benefits offered by Open Source software deployment.”

“The point remains that when dealing with important infrastructure all software deployed in the enterprise should be supported by a team of dedicated, full-time experts, who can pro-actively engage with risks, and swiftly respond to users’ needs and any problems that may occur. That should create a positive, contributing linkage between between the end-user and the Open Source project.”

Collabora Online Support and Security

In the light of Log4j and the wide-spread problems this has caused, it’s important to emphasise that Collabora Online, which is based on the LibreOffice technology core, benefits not only from paid maintenance and support, but also a significant long term technical investment in code review, linting, fuzzing and extensive automated testing from the community that all end-users should demand of their software applications, combined with the obvious benefits of scrutiny of Open Source code.

Collabora Online is fully supported by a full-time team. Should any problems be discovered they can be easily reported, and dealt with. This includes a support platform and direct contact with engineers. This is further enhanced with a full and complete range of technical documentation, comprehensive SLAs and signed security updates. Users of Collabora Online are never left alone to deal with any problems.

Security is a critical factor in design. Not only does Collabora Online ensure end users can collaborate securely, confident that only those permitted can access documents, but because it can be easily implemented onto an end user’s own infrastructure they have full control over network access and the servers it is hosted on, further protecting data sovereignty.

“All complex software has problems and, despite our best efforts, there are always more to find,” said Michael Meeks. “Having a supplier who is continuously engaged with the community in identifying, fixing, designing around and keeping their customers safe should be a key part of all enterprises open source procurement.”

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Collabora Online 21.11.2.4 Brings Accessibility Checker and Improved UX

The latest update of Collabora Online brings several improvements regarding accessibility and the user interface. Also, the rotation of images has been accelerated, making the experience much better. Inside this blog, we are highlighting some of the latest features of the Collabora Online 21.11.2.4 update. All the technical details of this version are available in the release notes.

Accessibility Check Helps to Create Documents According to the PDF/UA Standard

Accessibility Check in Collabora Online 21.11.2.4

Collabora Online introduces the accessibility checker with the update to version 21.11.2.4. It helps to create documents according to the PDF/UA standard. Published as an International Standard in 2012 (ISO 14289), the PDF/UA format provides clear normative terms for achieving accessibility in the PDF format. The goal is to enable users to use documents without assistance from others, and to be able to receive the same value from the content as people without disabilities. This is accomplished by standardisation of the content structure within the PDF files and the technology capabilities available to the end user, including PDF readers and assistive technologies (AT).

The Accessibility Check is part of the first step in an ongoing journey to improve accessibility, both in Collabora Online (Browser) and Collabora Office (Desktop). The Accessibility Check button can be found in the Review tab. The dialog shows a list of all issues found in the text document. Through a quick access button, it is possible to access the critical element. The issue is highlighted. These checks are currently implemented:

  • Check if the document title is set
  • Check if the document language is set, or all styles in use, have the language set
  • Check all images, graphics, OLE objects for the alt (or title in some objects) text
  • Check for heading order. Order of the headings must increase incrementally with no skips
  • Check, if text conveys additional meaning with (direct) formatting
  • Check if tables do not include split or merged cells, which could be disorienting for users with visual impairments
  • Check for fake/manual numbering (not using integrated numbering)
  • Check that hyperlink text is not a hyperlink itself – hyperlink should be described
  • Check for the contrast between text and the background
  • Check for blinking text, which can be problematic for people with cognitive disabilities or photosensitive epilepsy
  • Check for footnotes and end notes, which should be avoided

Faster Rotation of Bitmap Graphics

Fast image rotation in Collabora Online 21.11.2.4

The rotation of bitmap graphics has undergone a significant speed improvement. When rotating graphics via the button (the slightly off-set filled circle above a selected graphic), the movement is now much smoother and easier to position. This improvement makes manipulating bitmap graphics much more comfortable. Here’s how you can try it for yourself. Select a bitmap graphic by clicking on it. Move the cursor to the grey circle above the graphic. The cursor now changes into a palm. Now move the palm cursor to the right and left as you wish while holding down the left mouse button.

Goodbye, Hamburger Menu 👋 The User Interface Experiences Many Improvements

Home Tab in Collabora Online 21.11.2.4
View Tab in Collabora Online 21.11.2.4

The Collabora Online 21.11.2.4 update brings some clearly visible changes to the user interface. The tabs have been streamlined in favour of a more floating style. The appearance of Collabora Online on iPads has been harmonised with the appearance on desktops and notebooks. By clicking the current tab, you can collapse the menu or display it again. Additionally, we are waving the hamburger menu goodbye. Many of the functions contained therein were already available via buttons in other tabs. Now the remaining functions have also found a new home, in places that are less generic. For instance, Select All can be found inside the Layout tab, the Full Screen icon now lives in the View tab, and so does the possibility to toggle the ruler. At the same time, the Undo & Redo buttons have been moved to the Home tab. And there are even more small UI enhancements to be discovered. All dialogs experienced visual improvements, and so did many elements in the Sidebar and the formatting icons. Thanks to the community, that contributed a lot to this specific area.

 

 

About Collabora Online

Collabora Online 21.11 is our latest enterprise quality release. It’s suitable for large-scale deployment, and comes with SLA, enterprise support with signed security updates as well as interaction with product management, helping to direct our development priorities. Collabora Online integrates flawlessly into Nextcloud, ownCloud, Seafile, and many of the major file sync & share, groupware and hosting solutions. It’s ideal for organisations that want to collaborate on documents, without losing control over them or compromising on privacy. With the ability to host it on your own hardware or to integrate it into a trusted environment, Collabora Online is the ideal online office suite for digital sovereignty. Enterprises interested in using Collabora Online can check out our home page for more information on partner integrations and online demos. Hosting and Cloud businesses that wish to add Collabora Online to their product portfolio can become a partner. For any questions or tailored solutions, do not hesitate to contact hello@collaboraoffice.com.

 

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Talks and Slides by Collabora at FOSDEM 2022

FOSDEM 2022 – The Talks and Slides from the Collabora Team

Whether on-site in Brussels or as an online event like the last two years, FOSDEM is and remains the largest and most important gathering of Open-Source developers in Europe. We’d like to express our gratitude to the community and the organisers. The Collabora team gave numerous talks in the LibreOffice Technology devroom. Missed a presentation? Below you will find links to all videos and to the downloads of the slides.

 

Gülşah Köse

LibreOffice Technology devroom

OOXML Document Analysis

Collabora developer Gülşah Köse explains how we respond when we receive a problematic OOXML document from a customer and demonstrates the solution to a sample bug. See details

Watch the talk!
Download the slides!

 

Miklos Vajna

LibreOffice Technology devroom

Document Themes in LibreOffice Impress and Elsewhere

LibreOffice has been capable of handling colour palettes on its UI for a while. Meanwhile, the competition introduced document themes, which are a fixed set of 12 colours, to be attached to various parts of documents. See what we have done to bring themes to LibreOffice and find out what still needs doing and how you can help. See details

Watch the talk!
Download the slides!

 

Gökay Şatır

LibreOffice Technology devroom

Canvas For Rendering UX

Gökay Şatır shows why we chose to use Canvas for rendering the UI and the document, and explains the structure we created to execute this task. See details

Watch the talk!
Download the slides!


Mert Tümer

LibreOffice Technology devroom

Editing Simulation

Performance measurements are really challenging. This presentation by Mert Tümer covers how we can achieve reliable and repeatable performance tests by implementing clever tools that simulate realistic use cases. See details

Watch the talk!
Download the slides!

 

Jan Holesovsky

LibreOffice Technology devroom

LibreOfficeKit Recent Developments

LibreOffice can be used by other applications via its C++ API called LibreOfficeKit. Primary use cases for this are document conversion and editing in Collabora Online. The LibreOfficeKit is currently being expanded. Jan “Kendy” Holesovsky talks about these recent developments See details

Watch the talk!
Download the slides!

 

 

Michael Meeks

LibreOffice Technology devroom

Online Performance – Making Collaborative Editing Quicker

Collabora Online has a novel model that re-uses the core LibreOffice Technology to provide rich collaborative editing. Recently, we have been focusing our development on improving the look and feel of document editing. Watch Michael Meeks talk about how Online performance wins are making browser-based collaborative editing quicker. See details

Watch the talk!
Download the slides!

 

Szymon Kłos

LibreOffice Technology devroom

Building Collabora Online UI Based on the LibreOffice Components

JSDialog is a “framework” for sharing UI components between Collabora Online and LibreOffice. It was used to bring the Sidebar, the NotebookBar, and dialogs to the web. It provides native HTML widgets connected to the original LibreOffice code, giving the user rich editing options even on mobile devices. Watch Szymon Kłos‘ talk for a brief summary of what has already been done and how it works. See details

Watch the talk!
Download the slides!

 

Pranam Lashkari

LibreOffice Technology devroom

Collabora Online on Kubernetes – Setup & Deployment

See this talk by Pranam Lashkari for a comprehensive demonstration of how to deploy Collabora Online using Kubernetes. See details

Watch the talk!
Download the slides!

 

Ashod Nakashian

 16:00 – 16:30 – LibreOffice Technology devroom

Collabora Online: Async-Saving Design and Testing

This talk explores the challenge of saving and uploading documents to the storage server in an asynchronous way, to improve performance, user experience and also ensure higher reliability and resiliency. Ashod Nakashian covers both the design and the challenges of testing a highly critical component of a production product.

See details Join video & conversation

Watch the talk!
Download the slides!

 

Henry Castro

LibreOffice Technology devroom

Macro Dialog Feature

Watch Henry Castro‘s talk on the implementation of a Macro Selector Dialog on the client side to execute VBA macros on the server side. See details

Watch the talk!
Download the slides!

 

 

About Collabora Online

Collabora Online 21.11 is our latest enterprise quality release. It’s suitable for large-scale deployment, and comes with SLA, enterprise support with signed security updates as well as interaction with product management, helping to direct our development priorities. Collabora Online integrates flawlessly into Nextcloud, ownCloud, Seafile, and many of the major file sync & share, groupware and hosting solutions. It’s ideal for organizations that want to collaborate on documents, without losing control over them or compromising on privacy. With the ability to host it on your own hardware or to integrate it into a trusted environment, Collabora Online is the ideal online office suite for digital sovereignty. Enterprises interested in using Collabora Online can check out our home page for more information on partner integrations and online demos. Hosting and Cloud businesses that wish to add Collabora Online to their product portfolio can become a partner. For any questions or tailored solutions, do not hesitate to contact hello@collaboraoffice.com.

 

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Homeworking and the Role of Open Software in 2022


As most will agree, it’s been an unusual two years as the Covid pandemic has transformed society and ushered in new approaches and attitudes to the way we work, such as homeworking.

Impact of the Pandemic and Homeworking

In this blog we talk to Michael Meeks, General Manager of Collabora Productivity, to get his take on the business impact of the pandemic, the rise in homeworking and the ongoing pressure on organisations to enable and support effective distributed team collaboration and secure data sharing.

Discussing how the pandemic directly impacted Collabora Online, Michael explained that Collabora had always been a very virtual business so homeworking was nothing new.

“We utilise the skills and expertise of people from around the world, so distributed working is a necessity for us. Similarly, from a sales perspective, the pandemic, fortunately, has not been disruptive as it has for many other businesses. In fact, our sales over the last two years have increased significantly, which is possibly a direct result of organisations needing to respond to homeworking.”

Michael explained that they’d seen a growing number of businesses turning to Collabora Online as a way of solving urgent operational gaps brought about by the closure of offices.

“For many organisations, simply extending office-based solutions into the homes of their staff was either too expensive or technically too difficult.”

Tried and Tested Collaboration Solution

Collabora Online presented a tried and tested alternative to the commonly used office document solutions. Not only did it offer a familiar ‘desktop’ look and feel, which is important when trying to maintain productivity levels, but it was easy to deploy within a web/browser-based distributed environment, so it answered many of the issues business decision makers were asking when extending the working environment into a less-controllable domestic setting.

Michael said:

“We regularly talked with decision makers who recognised the urgency of homeworking, but were, understandably, concerned about operational implications, such as productivity, data security and legislative compliance.” He continued: “Given the way Collabora Online is built on the LibraOffice common core, we could provide a feature-rich, distributed office document collaboration solution that was tried and tested, and already optimised for the demands of the homeworking environment.”

Throughout the pandemic, and beyond, Collabora Online was, and is, being used by serious, tech-savvy organisations that need a document collaboration solution that not only provides more control over every aspect of its operation, such as the servers and networking it is hosted on, but greater security over the, often sensitive, data exchanged and stored in office documents.

Collabora Online, Office Productivity Market and Open Software in 2022

So as we move towards greater levels of ‘normality’ what does 2022 look like for Collabora Online, the office productivity market and open software in general?

“I think homeworking is here to stay,” suggested Michael.

“This long-term transition has clearly been accelerated by the pandemic, but you could argue that as the search continued for a better work/life balance, it would have come about sooner or later. As such, more and more organisations will be looking for solutions, such as Collabora Online, that are already optimised for a distributed working environment. Homeworking can come with its own challenges, especially when problems arise. In these circumstances, businesses need to be confident they can quickly and easily get the support they need, when they need it, which they can from us at Collabora.”

With regards to the open software market, Michael was very positive:

“Open Source software is everywhere now and is dominant in new product development, and although a tension can occur with commercial drivers that sometimes encourage bad practices, such as a reluctance to contribute back to the overall open software community, most of those involved get it and understand the huge benefits working with Open Source can deliver”

So 2022 looks like an exciting year for Collabora Online as it continues to respond to the evolving needs of a distributed, increasingly security-aware market, with end users keen to protect their flexibility and avoid getting tied to one dominant supplier.

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