Notes from underground

يارب يسوع المسيح ابن اللّه الحيّ إرحمني أنا الخاطئ

Archive for the tag “software”

Firefox is Bloatware

I’ve just reloaded Firefox for the sixth time this morning.

It crashed three times, but each time I restarted it it tried to reload all the stuff that had made it crash in the first place, so I had to close it and restart it again.

I remember when Mozilla’s flagship browser was Netscape. It was what I used when I first started exploring the Web, 21 years ago. But it became bloated and cumbersome, and so they wisely decided to split it — the browser part became Firefox, and the mail and news reader became Thunderbird, and they were lean, mean and fast.

Now, however, Firefox has become as bloated and clunky as the old Netscape.

I first began to notice a serious slowdown when I tried to download a PDF file, and instead of downloading it, Firefox opened and displayed it. I wasted quite a lot of time and bandwidth trying to discover how to download the file in order to have it for future reference. It seems that Firefox had added its own PDF reader, which made its memory footprint bigger, and slowed it down quite a lot.

Then it seems to have added something called “Pocket”, which it tells me is better than bookmarks (how?), and that seems to have slowed it down even more. It’s costing me a lot in coffee.

Why? Because when I’m working on something, and want to check a fact on the web, the date of a monarch, or the spelling of a word, I go to make a cup of coffee while waiting for the page to load.

They say they don’t want to develop Firefox for Windows XP any more, because it’s too much hassle to put all these bells and whistles into it.

Well that’s OK, just go back to a version that had fewer bells and whistles and more pistons and cylinders, and re-release that. Then you can go back to playing around producing bloatware for those who can  afford to keep up with the Joneses by buying a new computer every year with more and more memory.

Can an android understand ubuntu?

I really wish that software and online service marketers would choose unique names for their products and services, rather than ordinary words.

Three of the worst offenders that come to mind are Ubuntu, Android and Diaspora.

The problem is that these are also ordinary words, and this causes endless problems and confusion when using search engines, and make it very hard to find what you are looking for.

There was a novel published a while ago, Do androids dream of electric sheep? by Philip K. Dick. But since a cellphone operating system was named Android, I wonder how many people know the real meaning of the term. Perhaps that was why, when the book was made into a film, the title was changed to Blade runner.

Today I wrote a review of the book The elegance of the hedgehog and posted a review of it on my other blog here. I noted in my review that the book gives some valuable insights into the meaning of ubuntu, and announced the posting of the review on Twitter. It was almost immediately (and possibly automatically) retweeted by someone who specialises in Linux documentation. Now I have no objection to Linux fans reading my blog posts, but they might be a little disappointed when they do not find what they were looking for.

Some names are unique and OK. It is very unlikely that anyone will mistake Facebook or Pinterest for anything else. Fortran, Algol and C, C+ and C++ were OK for computer languages, but Pascal, BASIC and Ada were not. Perhaps it would help if search engines were case sensitive by default, so that they could distinguish between Android and android, Ubuntu and ubuntu. But that might not help with “diaspora”, which is often capitalised in normal use as “The Diaspora”. Actually I believe that the Diaspora social networking site has been renamed, which might solve that problem.

Android is one of the worst offenders, because not only the operating system itself, but its various versions have been named with ordinary words, which will no doubt cause confusion to people looking for recipes for making gingerbread. At least the authors of the Ubuntu distro of Linux used improbable noun-adjective combinations for their versions, though it does get me to wondering whether karmic koalas dream of electric sheep, and perhaps tell the time with a clockwork orange.

The Ubuntu disambiguation page on Wikipedia can help to sort out some of the confusion, as can the Android disambiguation page. But that doesn’t help with search engines, and one wonders about the intelligence of the people running Google, one of the most popular search engines, in choosing the name “Android” for their cellphone operating system.

An android is something that resembles an adult male human being, but isn’t. What, I wonder, is something that resembles a sheep and isn’t? Ovoid? No that means eggshaped. Agnoid?

And when it comes to Blade Runner, would Pascal take a wager on a race between electric sheep? Would he have foreseen correctly that Pistorius wouldn’t win an Oscar? And would it have made a difference to Ada’s engine if he had?

Too many toolbars

I wish software marketers would learn that if there is one thing that most computer users don’t need, it is yet another tool bar.

Yet today I got yet another semi-spam message advising me of a new “must have” toolbar. Do they really think I am desperate to look at a screen full of tool bars, most of them with links to the same search engines, and the same other useless stuff?

Worst of all are the ones that install their toolbars along with their programs, without asking if you want it. And then they don’t go away. Firefox asks me if I want to uninstall add-ons that I want and use, but on the junk ones that I’d love to get rid of the “uninstall” option is usually greyed out, and one can just disable it or enable it. And I keep getting notes advising me of updates to the toolbars that I don’t want and can’t uninstall.

One of the problems with too many toolbars is that some web sites (often those of the people who automatically install unwanted tookbars) have pop-up windows that demand a response, but you can’t see what response is needed because the buttons for responding are hidden below the bottom of the screen, and you can’t scroll down the window to see them, and you can’t move the window up above the numerous toolbars.

Some virus writer is going to make a killing one day by writing a program that claims to be able to remove unwanted toolbars, just like a lot of the anti-spam programs that actually transmit viruses.

That’s my pet peeve of the day. I feel better now.

MS Outlook and YahooGroups

Yesterday I got a message in a YahooGroups mailing list from a friend — let’s call him Pete.

Pete’s message began

ON BEHALF OF DAVE

I immediately wondered why Pete was writing on behalf of Dave.

Had Dave’s computer crashed?

Or, worse, had he been taken ill, had an accident, been kidnapped or arrested?

So I asked Pete why he was writing on Dave’s behalf, and was Dave OK, and he said he wasn’t writing on Dave’s behalf at all — the computer had put that phrase in automatically. He assumed that it was something done by YahooGroups.

I’m a member of several YahooGroups mailing lists, and I’ve belonged to some for years, and I’ve never seen it put in anything that before.

I asked Pete what mail reader he was using, and he said he was using MS Outlook.

I was aware that many Outlook users have problems in participating in mailing lists because of Outlooks deficient quoting system. I know that many of them have solved these problems by using Quotefix

http://home.in.tum.de/~jain/software/outlook-quotefix/

and I recommended Quotefix to Pete.

But none of those who have had quoting problems with Outlook have mentioned this particular problem — of some software, somewhere along the line, inserting text to the effect that the poster of a message was writing on behalf of someone else.

Perhaps some prankster has hacked the YahooGroups list server,

But whatever the cause may be, has anyone else had similar problems when using Outlook as a mailing list reader, whether with the YahooGroups or any other listserv?

Is it a problem with Outlook, or with the server, or with both?

And if you have found a solution, please let me know, so I can tell Pete.

MS Outlook and YahooGroups

Yesterday I got a message in a YahooGroups mailing list from a friend — let’s call him Pete.

Pete’s message began

ON BEHALF OF DAVE

I immediately wondered why Pete was writing on behalf of Dave.

Had Dave’s computer crashed?

Or, worse, had he been taken ill, had an accident, been kidnapped or arrested?

So I asked Pete why he was writing on Dave’s behalf, and was Dave OK, and he said he wasn’t writing on Dave’s behalf at all — the computer had put that phrase in automatically. He assumed that it was something done by YahooGroups.

I’m a member of several YahooGroups mailing lists, and I’ve belonged to some for years, and I’ve never seen it put in anything that before.

I asked Pete what mail reader he was using, and he said he was using MS Outlook.

I was aware that many Outlook users have problems in participating in mailing lists because of Outlooks deficient quoting system. I know that many of them have solved these problems by using Quotefix

http://home.in.tum.de/~jain/software/outlook-quotefix/

and I recommended Quotefix to Pete.

But none of those who have had quoting problems with Outlook have mentioned this particular problem — of some software, somewhere along the line, inserting text to the effect that the poster of a message was writing on behalf of someone else.

Perhaps some prankster has hacked the YahooGroups list server,

But whatever the cause may be, has anyone else had similar problems when using Outlook as a mailing list reader, whether with the YahooGroups or any other listserv?

Is it a problem with Outlook, or with the server, or with both?

And if you have found a solution, please let me know, so I can tell Pete.

askSam 6.1

I’ve been using the askSam database software for 17 years, and this year my wife bought me an upgrade to the latest version for Christmas, and I’ve been playing with some of the new features.

If you are doing any kind of research, askSam is one of the best tools for keeping your notes and documents in order. It’s a freeform text database that lets you find anything you put into it, and also allows you to have fixed fields for sorting.

I started using it when I persuaded the university departments I was working in to use it for journal abstracts and a terminology database. I’d read reviews of it in computer magazines, and it sounded as though it would be one of the best tools for the job. It was.

Back then it was the DOS version.

It was easy to get started using it — you simply tossed information in and it would fish it out again. But to get the best out of it required quite a lot of learning, and to learn to use it I tried it out on different kinds of applications — making notes from books, genealogical research, keeping track of correspondence, keeping a log of various activities. For all of these things, it worked very well.

Back then we also used the XyWrite word processor, and XyWrite’s formatting was done using codes similar to HTML markup, so it was easy to produce askSam reports that were fully-formatted XyWrite documents. Reports could be imported into e-mail for sharing information. It worked just as well for exporting data to web pages.

For a long time I resisted the Windows version, but the new version has several features that older ones did not. One of them is the ability to import, link to and attach documents. So you can use it to keep track of word processor documents, PDF files and the like. It handles MS Word documents, pdf files (text only) and RTF files as well. It is somewhat limited in not handling Open Office files, for example, though those can be exported to rtf of pdf format.

If you do any kind of research, especially in the humanities, and want to keep your research notes in order, I definitely recommend askSam. I’ve found it useful for genealogy research, theological research and articles (keeping notes for my MTh dissertation and DTh thesis) and much more.

If this sounds like the sort of program you could use, you can read more about it (and download a 30-day trial version) at the askSam web site.

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