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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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    When Firefox cannot open PHP pages 

    Why can’t the Firefox people post this very simple solution?
       For years now, I will occasionally happen upon a bug where Firefox refuses to open a PHP page. Instead, it prompts me to save it:

    Firefox cannot open PHP pages

    If I attempt to open it, it is a tiny XML header file. The error is with Firefox’s file type handling.
       I can go back to 2006 and find this error being discussed, usually among Ubuntu users: it seems to surface more often with them than with Windows users. Nevertheless, it comes up often enough.
       You’d be hard pressed to find a straight answer. Most technical people prefer blaming the user, or the site, or the server, before they blame Firefox. I do not understand this, given that the error never surfaced in Internet Explorer and I have yet to see it in Safari. It is, as with the character set problem I encountered many years ago, a Firefox bug, but one that Mozilla does not seem to acknowledge.
       In all these years, I have only seen one non-Ubuntu geek discuss it as though it were real and not a product of the collective imaginations of certain computer users. That page is here. Sadly, Firefox has moved on since he wrote the page, so the tips about editing about:config do not work, and the browser no longer allows for the deletion of file types from the Tools–Options–Application menu (the successor to the Tools–Options–File Types–Manage page he writes about).
       However, one tip he gives still works, and I have managed to overcome the error.
       One needs simply to delete the mimeTypes.rdf file he writes about. There are indeed two copies of this file, so the one that needs to go is in a folder called something like this (in Vista and, presumably, in Windows 7):


    The parts in asterisks will be customized to your details. A similar one is in C:\Documents and Settings on Windows XP.
       1. Find this, or use the search tool.
       2. Go into the folder.
       3. Close your Firefox browser.
       4. Go to the mimeTypes.rdf file. In my case, I renamed the file to mimeTypes-old.rdf.
       5. Restart Firefox.
       All being well, a new mimeTypes.rdf will automatically appear, and will probably be smaller than the original. Once it does, delete the old one. If it doesn’t appear, put the old one back to its original name—you are now in uncharted waters.
       The trouble has disappeared for the time being, so here’s hoping a few more of you, who find that Firefox cannot open PHP pages without prompting you to save it, can get a resolution with the above. It’s taken over a year for me to figure it out; hopefully, you will only need a few minutes! Jack 1, computer boffins 0.

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    My blogging goes back to the future 

    Above: What the Vox compose screen looks like. Viewing the source reveals an equally blank code screen.

    I’m very likely returning to Blogger for my own posting, after the failure of Vox.
       The Six Apart people, who run Vox, have been amazing in trying to help me figure out my issue, but despite eliminating dormant neighbours and about 7 kbyte of tags from the blog—which should make it more trim than it was before the site ceased to let me compose readily on October 28—I’m still at my wit’s end.
       As I removed today’s set of neighbours, I discovered many who had left Vox after being fed up with its various bugs. However, only author Patricia Volonakis Davis has exactly the same symptoms as me, and she has relatively few tags to her 50 or so blog posts. Whether it’s down to the tags, dodgy neighbours or a corrupted Vox database is anyone’s guess.
       The compose screen takes anywhere between two seconds and two days to emerge, and generally takes between 15 minutes to six hours. I have put up with this for nearly two months.
       Another possibility is shifting this entire blog on to Wordpress, which remains an option, since Blogger itself has been shown to be horribly unreliable on numerous occasions.
       I will still have to go on to Vox to moderate some of the groups I run. Another down side to the site is the number of sploggers who create fake accounts and overrun the groups. (That’s right: sploggers can create posts where I can’t.) I left one yesterday, on social media, after finding it overrun by sploggers: the site owner herself had left, so there was no one to take care of business.
       I’ve prided myself on running very clean groups there, where members can operate in a spam-free environment.
       It looks like December 2009 is when I might undo the split between a work blog and a personal blog. Back in 2006, as a Vox beta tester, I liked the site but could not see myself abandoning this blog, which is, after all, at a domain named for me.
       It’s lucky I kept this going, otherwise, I’d face the difficulty of building an audience here back up from scratch.
       Vox offered numerous advantages, including storage space for images and videos, which suited my forays into digital photography nicely. I was able to share some work-related videos there. It’s something I’m going to have to do without (YouTube is too unreliable, and Vimeo too strict, even for licence holders of videos), although I do have a lucire.vox.com blog there where some of these things can still go. (My hesitation is that it is branded with the Lucire name, so it limits what I might like to put up.)
       I also enjoyed having the luxury of tags, and I am not sure about whether Blogger labels are related. It might be time to find out.
       So for three years, the trivial, throw-away comments, clips from favourite TV shows and other non-sensical items went to Vox, and this space was left to more “serious” matters (with some exceptions along the way).
       All this is, of course, moot. I don’t know if I will enjoy returning to Blogger, for starters. I have to hack in HTML because the compose screen here will not allow hard spaces for paragraphing, and I don’t believe in having line breaks between paragraphs. Tumblr has proved to be a fairly good platform if I don’t want comments—but what is the point of a blog, and the engagement that they should have, without them?).
       There is no point forcing myself to adapt to a technology when the opposite should hold true. But right now, this looks like the way forward, so expect less work-like items surfacing back here from time to time.

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