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29.12.09

The newer the program, the buggier it gets: a reminder of departed software 



One reason I love working with the NZCS as a client is that they promote professionalism when it comes to ICT.
   That brought my mind to software in general, especially if I am to shift this blog to Wordpress.
   If you follow my Tweets, you’ll know that I suffer a daily Firefox crash ever since I upgraded to 3.5. The earlier 3.0 was fine, and it still runs successfully on my Asus laptop, running Vista.
   Today I took the PageMaker 7 trial off my desktop machine after discovering many files crashed on opening. The old 6.5.2 works fine. We still have a few stationery templates on it, not to mention my résumé—important in those expert-witness cases.
   It’s not the only program to be more buggy with a newer edition. Others that come to mind include:
  • WordPerfect. The DOS 5.1 version was fine. Even the first Windows one did what it said on the tin, though the print driver updating was tiresome. On 5.2, I found it could not support italics. Nothing I entered italicized, without selecting the italic variant from the font menu. Version 6 could not handle columns—what you fed in to the program was not what you got on paper. Around this time, Microsoft Word kicked WordPerfect’s ass—I do not believe Word’s wide installation base was what killed it, but WordPerfect’s own incompetence. In fact, version 8 still could not handle columns, while version 14 (X4 to Corel) still has some issues with letterspacing;

  • Netscape. There were nice, gradual improvements to 4.7, which were all quite welcome. Netscape skipped 5, and that was a worry: the engineers forgot how to count. When 6.0 came out, it was so bloated and—worse for me—it no longer supported Adobe Type Manager. In those pre-OpenType days, I preferred the hinting of PS1 fonts to TrueType ones. I still upgraded to 7.1 just so I could use the newsgroups’ browser, but it was around the time of 6 that I switched to IE5;

  • Fontographer. You will still find some of us old-school font guys who think the world of 3.5, and Robofog was based around that version. When Altsys came out with 3.5.2, it was discovered that it would forget the width of the space character—we were asked to put a single point in there so it would remember that it needed to save the width. I went back to 3.5.1, and had (and still have) 4.1 alongside FontLab 5—which might be the only program that has not got worse with age;

  • Internet Explorer. Version 5.0 was actually quite good. It supported all the fonts I had (4 did not), even 6.0 was not too bad at the time. Around this time I discovered Maxthon, the Chinese-designed browser using the IE engine, and stuck with that till Firefox came out with 3.0. I liked the IEs these years because they supported speech marks and ligatures. Firefox did not—quotation marks would, for example, display in a different font. I guess the beta testers never used quotation marks and it was not picked up for versions 1 and 2, or the programmers deemed quotation marks superfluous. IE7 tended to crash within a few minutes of being open, as does IE8, and neither are worth entertaining;

  • ACDSee. I tried version 3.1 many years ago and liked it, and a friend suggested I give version 6 a go on her computer. It was rubbish. The whole point of ACDSee was being a practical file browser, especially for images, as it was far quicker than Windows Explorer. The newer version was slower;

  • Microsoft Word. Actually useless for word processing (I use WordPerfect—despite its bugs it still does a better job), Microsoft Word is good for two things: as a search-and-replace tool, and as a HTML converter. Or at least Word 97 is. When Word 2000 was released, its HTML export created so much superfluous code that the program became useless. I never tried any newer versions, though apparently I have a 60-day trial on my laptop. I have kept 97 going on my computers;

  • Adobe Reader. Regardless of how I set it, it will not print without changing all the characters to gibberish in version 9. Every other version worked fine. I have to go back to version 7 to get anything printed from it. On a Mac, embedded fonts sometimes do not get embedded when viewed in and printed from 9.

  •    It makes you wonder if these chaps ever tested their software in real-world conditions, or took note of the feedback offered. I’m wondering if another country can do it better.

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    Comments:
    I have to agree to disagree on the browser front. IE 7 and 8 were huge improvements on previous versions from a web development point of view. Firefoxs crashes are frustrating but it is the premiere developers browser. Tools like Firebug are irreplaceable.  
    I’d be fine with either IE, Nigel, if they didn’t crash within a few minutes of opening. I used 7 with Maxthon, and that was OK, but IE7 in its standard form was not good from a layman’s point of view. Firebug is good though; however, I am tempted to return to Firefox 3.0 right now. The 3.5 browser does not give me any noticeable speed difference and hangs way more.  
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    Entries from 2006 to the end of 2009 were done on the Blogger service. As of January 1, 2010, this blog has shifted to a Wordpress installation, with the latest posts here.
       With Blogger ceasing to support FTP publishing on May 1, I have decided to turn these older pages in to an archive, so you will no longer be able to enter comments. However, you can comment on entries posted after January 1, 2010.


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