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 Forum index » Taking the Puppy out for a walk » Suggestions
Better software
Moderators: Flash, Ian, JohnMurga
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Joined: 26 Sep 2005
Posts: 24
Location: Big Island of Hawaii

PostPosted: Sun 05 Mar 2006, 21:36    Post subject:  Better software  

Way back in the "olden times" I started programming a Bendix drum computer in binary, eventually graduated to moderate competancy in Fortran, Cobol, and Basic and when the first desktops came out I built and programmed them to run dental offices. Now I am 77 and my programming days are long gone but I am still a computer user. I mistakenly thought that as other younger and far smarter programmers took over I would before now enjoy more user-friendly OS's and apps that were solid, reliable, and easy to learn. I more or less welcomed the advent of GUI, point and click, multi-tasking, and multi-user. Desktop hardware went from slow, low-capacity, $3,000 clunkers to the $300 speed-demon multi-gigabyte marvels of today.

Unfortunately the software went in a different direction. Instead of more user-friendly it got steadily less so. Bloated crashy OS's and equally bloated hard-to-learn overly complex apps. DOS was primitive but decent. It loaded faithfully from a floppy or HD in a short time, it didn't take a degree in computer science to learn the commands, and it always responded the same way to the same commands. It ran apps one at a time, but that just made things simpler for the user and did not seem to harm anything at the time. A simple numbered text list at boot-up was all it took to select what app to run. When a selected app was closed it returned control to the master menu. You were instructed on-screen to hit a number key to select another app or quit DOS, not much different from a mouse click.

Nowadays in the multi-user, multi-tasking world of huge flaky OS's and apps, the apps run in forground, background, sideground, and playground --- real and virtual. They keep stepping on each others dicks and become so tangled all you sometimes get is a series of "Blue Screens of Death" with error messages even experienced programmers can't decipher. I recently bought an HP scanner/printer and just its driver alone in full-fledged mode took up 900 megs of disk space! Apps often won't run if you don't have the latest gee-whiz expensive hardware upgrade. OS's are supposed to be upgraded every month and upscaled every year at the user's expense. ISP's like AOL and other portals take over your whole machine with their proprietary Internet software. Bill Gates left such big holes in his software that Internet crooks could drive through whole herds of worms.

Linux and PuppyLinux to the rescue? Don't I wish, and I appreciate y'all are working hard on it, but I have learned it's not there yet. Some distributions are hardier and more Internet secure, but there are serious drawbacks for ordinary users. Linux is free but often won't marry to peripherals unless you have the time to learn C and program the interface yourself, or at least that seems to be true in Puppy. New Linux distributions and apps come out by the truckload but since they are essentially free the support is thin and not accountable. Manuals, if they exist at all, seem to be written in Hebrew by a crippled Frenchman in Mongolia. The amatuerism in this respect is so visible it hurts. Likewise for on-screen help.

I believe the world would create a rut to anyone's door, if he or she or a group developed a straightforward, robust, reliable, secure op system and set of apps that were well supported, well documented on and off screen, did not require monthly upgrades, and were truly user-friendly. It might be an improved Linux or PuppyLinux, a reformed Microsoft (fat chance), or someone else entirely. It seems to be up for grabs. Any bold takers?


Robert Williams
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Joined: 04 May 2005
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PostPosted: Sun 05 Mar 2006, 22:25    Post subject:  

You're preaching to the choir. Smile I'd say Barry's done more to solve the problems you indicate than any other single person. If you don't think you can do better on your own, then why not at least join in and help out?
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Joined: 06 Aug 2005
Posts: 322
Location: Manila

PostPosted: Mon 06 Mar 2006, 03:03    Post subject:  

Flash wrote:
at least join in and help out?

I second to that! Very Happy

"If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it."
~Margaret Fuller

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Joined: 29 May 2005
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Location: Kitchener, Ontario, Canada

PostPosted: Mon 06 Mar 2006, 11:36    Post subject:  

You have expressed very clearly what many of us think.

Have you thought about sending this post to a professional developers' magazine?

I will take exception with only one comment where I think the blame is missplaced: Driver support.

Driver support is responsibility of the hardware providers, not the OS developers. Even in the Windows world, the Blue screen of death was mostly caused by bad drivers. Of course with the right kernel isolation level you would not have the Blue screen, but the point is that the issue of bad or lacking drivers cannot be solved on the OS side.

On the issue of plain bad, bloated and buggy code: Tools, development environments and practices have evolved really quick, but the fact is that humans don't evolve that fast. Actually the newer environments have allowed many people to write bad code faster. Software development is on it's infancy and many developers are still very reluctant to learn and addapt to the ever changing best practices.

I am a best practices advocate but I realize that I have to constantly rethink addapt and rethink them.

I am still hopefull that in 300 years from now software development will be a mature discipline where consistency and quality can be predicted as it is with Civil Engineering.

mistakenly thought that as other younger and far smarter programmers took over
We are not smarter than humans were 10,000 years ago. Actually, it very well be that you had to be smarter on the dawn of the software development where ingenuity was the name of the game.

Thank you for your post. It gives me a lot of food for thought.

http://rarsa.blogspot.com Covering my eclectic thoughts
http://www.kwlug.org/blog/48 Covering my Linux How-to
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Joined: 26 Sep 2005
Posts: 24
Location: Big Island of Hawaii

PostPosted: Mon 06 Mar 2006, 18:47    Post subject: Better Software  

I thank you responders to my post and wish to say I agree with all that was said, especially about Barry.

Yes, I should have said that I knew it has been the responsibility of Mfg's to provide drivers and I also admit that business-wise Mfg's have to aim at the largest market which is Windows users. Unfortunately these hard facts don't help an ordinary user who likes Puppy and would like to run his existing printer. I have wondered if until the day more Mfg's create Linux drivers, maybe someone might come up with a clever way to run a windows driver under Linux without messing up the very worthwhile goals of Linux. I suppose windows drivers may depend too much on the windows OS structure, binary libraries, etc. I am exposing my ignorance of modern software here.

Even though I used to be a programmer way back, I am so very rusty now and tired with fighting the usual health problems of my age group, that I really don't want to spend the year or so it would take me to get proficient in C and Linux system structure and lingo to possibly contribute in a programming way. Therefore I try to join in by offering what observations I can and comments like the one I am preparing to post soon about a printer and modem I found that work with Puppy. I might try to submit a better manual for a small app that needs one, if things would stay still long enough to make the effort worthwhile. If the source is in C I can't read it, and sometimes when I try to get hold of the author their email is invalid or they reply they are no longer supporting their app so I can't even ask what their intent was on aspects of their program.

You gotta know a program somewhat more intimately than just using it to write a good manual. That's why the best one to write the manual should be the author unless he can be in close touch with a technical writer.

Cheers, and keep up the excellent work.
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Joined: 05 May 2005
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Location: Chelsea, Alabama, USA

PostPosted: Thu 09 Mar 2006, 22:25    Post subject:  

I really enjoyed reading all these comments.
I believe in using what works. DOS still can do many usefull things. Win98se is still good if you use it for simple things that use mostly Windows standard drivers. I use Open Office in Vector for most business needs. Puppy is for Internet and Email. Puppy and DOS are both quick to boot and operate. Puppy is slowly taking over the uses that I have for DOS and Windows 98se. But I try to use the best operating system for each use.
I still use a lot of keyboard commands instead of a mouse for the same reasons. Often Keyboard commands are much fasted than a mouse.
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Location: Knoxville, TN, USA

PostPosted: Fri 10 Mar 2006, 20:12    Post subject:  

A good way to contribute is with scripting languages or simple programming languages. If you can or could do dos and basic, then scripting should be easy. I haven't done any normal programming in quite a bit. I've just been sticking to scripting because I can pop open a text file an BAM have a working script. It's quite amazing how much you can accomplish with them. You can't really write drivers, but you can make package removers, wallpaper setters, configuration wizzards, and much much more.

I am starting to miss working in C++ on my game engine (I don't care if I ever finish it. I just like working on it Smile ), so I plan to finish some of my ideas for Puppy then spend some time on it. I'm going to re-write much of it from the ground up, because my ideas have changed quite a bit since I started. It's also going to be coded and compiled with Puppy, because I can. Puppies can never have too many playthings. I'll try to port it to windows too, just to be nice to those people. It shouldn't be hard. I only had to change one line (the randomizer) when I ported it to linux the first time (not counting fixing capitalized filenames and such).

Between depriving a man of one hour from his life and depriving him of his life there exists only a difference of degree. --Muad'Dib

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