[Long] [OT] That Big Shadow Over Your Shoulder, Part 1, was Re: [Coco] OS Vulnerabilities
bathory at maltedmedia.com
Sun Feb 29 09:57:09 EST 2004
Woke up this mornin', 'bout the break of daaayy....
...and had to finish some thoughts. This is getting too long (my fault!),
so I'll just put these down & be done with it & leave it back to CoCo
At 10:04 PM 2/28/04 -0800, Neil Morrison wrote:
>IMO, Word Perfect 5.1 for DOS is much more of a standard. A very
>large number of programs can handle that format, and there was once a
>Unix version. Even MS Word can read/write it.
WordPerfect? DOS? Well, that's just kind of retro. :) But we're a retro
group, aren't we?
<read or ignore at your pleasure>
Still, it does once again bring up that interesting dichotomy -- that there
are at least two kinds of standard: what a standards body asserts and what
is actually a de facto standard.
MSWord is a de facto standard, but it's not a standards-body standard. And
here is that hateful truth that none of us are really comfortable with:
It's the former that actually matters. (But, recognizing their need for
legitimacy, Microsoft has spent considerably more time in the past few
years both participating in and lobbying standards bodies; case in point
for another discussion: SOAP.)
Mac led the world out of the command-line interface to the graphical
interface. No, they didn't invent it, but that didn't matter. And Microsoft
actually gave the world that graphical interface. Yes, they stole it from
Apple, but that didn't matter. (One Mac user even said, in a fit of
sourness, that "we all use Apples now". Alas, you *can* rewrite history --
at least the history of perception in the tradist's theocracy.)
The world is full of spurned technologies and rewritten history. Who would
have guessed that it wasn't information or computer technology, the stuff
we did on the CoCo, but good ol' *shopping* that put a computer in every
American home, and living-room-style entertainment that has kept it there?
But back to your specific comment: As a writer, I would never dream of
handing a WordPerfect DOS document to a business round-robin discussion or
shared edit or editor or publisher. I wouldn't do it because it's not used
and, more important to me, because I'd lose the account since I wouldn't be
perceived as up to speed with business technology. Even with everyday users
-- who were not there during the computer rev-o-lu-tion of the 1970s/80s --
a WordPerfect DOS document would be utterly useless, and an embarrassment
to them because I'd be shoving the appearance of geekdom in their faces.
As for Alex's comment about PDF/PS. Yes, PDF documents are useful for final
product presentation, and PS is (decreasingly) used in the print shop,
which has gone to PDF as Macs fade and Windows PCs rise there. But MSWord
is the standard editor from which the PDF documents are created and the
tool business uses as it works. (And even so, PDF is another 'standard'
that changes with every iteration from Adobe -- it's a corporate-created
format just like MSWord, but people tend not to hate Adobe as much as they
We hate to admit it, but standards bodies are always pulled along by actual
events, which are in-use standards. Sometimes it's messy, as with the early
years of HTML. Nobody cared about SGML until the graphical browser. But
once the edges were filed off and some paint was applied, what resulted was
the standard originally set by the browser makers, begrudgingly adopted by
standards bodies and 'harmonized'. (Yeah, they got their way with
'marquee'). I use Opera as my browser, which is the most
standards-compliant, and because I do consulting in accessibility. I also
keep 3 versions of Netscape, 2 versions of IE, plus Mozilla, Lynx, WebTV
emulator, and Home Page Reader at the ready.
But I don't use Opera *because* it is standards-compliant. In fact, I have
to test everything with IE because it is really the standard browser. Sites
that don't function in IE are broken. Instead, I use Opera because I like
its configurability in user stylesheets, quick turn on/off of plugins,
reduction of icon size, skins, language handling, window usage, etc., etc.
-- all those things that are important to how I work and think. Opera
pegged them. But I know Opera's not standard, and if anybody has a
complaint about my web work, I immediately fire up IE and "fix" my work to
match the world's de facto browser standard.
I don't always like it. Here's an example of "fixing". I used to serve my
web pages gzipped. I don't anymore. And why not? Gzip is a standard, right?
It sure is. But one iteration of IE6 broke it. Gzipped pages came up blank.
And there are millions of copies of that iteration of IE, the standard
browser, being used. So I turned off gzipping on all 28 of my domains. That
meant slower access for everyone because the standard browser broke
decoding gzipped documents. Did I like it? Not one bit. Was it stupid on
Microsoft's part? You bet. Did they endear themselves any more to me? Not a
whit. But, knowing IE was the standard browser, I complied immediately. And
will keep gzipping off until IE6 fades as far back as Netscape's badly
broken 4.7 now has, and I can safely turn it back on without blank pages
being my (!) fault.
I don't have a computer tech site. My sites are music, art, writing,
horses, nursing, radio, photography, public relations, history, vampires,
consumer electronics, festivals, and publishing. No shopping, but my stats
still give a pretty good read on browser usage. I had 797,130 requests last
week, of which 4,176 were Netscape; 3,147 were Safari; and **469,501** were
MSIE 5/6 (and not ID'ing as, such as Opera). There were 276,007 were from
7,103 other browsers (minor browsers, bots, searchers, etc.). Windows
represented 537,190 of the OS requests; Macs were 45,776; Linux 3,832; BSD,
237; HP-UX, 11; and "other Unix", 2. Even the erstwhile BeOS clocked in at
69! (151,799 didn't ID their OS.)
So you bet I'm paying attention to that big shadow over my shoulder, and I
check before I use or buy -- if I expect to communicate with others in my
fields, what should I use?
Let's talk about email. That's simple, right? Not. My email client is an
old version of Eudora (3.0.6, from 1997), with all formatting turned off.
Since the tech crash of 2001, I don't do much business writing anymore, but
if I did, I would *have to get* a richtext/HTML client. I *like* plaintext
(albeit not monospaced). But the business world now expects to
*collaborate* via email, meaning editing of content using color, images,
etc. Even today, when I get some piece of richtext/HTML mail that requires
my attention, I open it in my browser to see what's been done during
editing. But I can't reply in kind. If or when it comes time (meaning, if
or when my collaborative participation via email becomes necessary for me
again), I'll have to move to it and away from plaintext.
We all repeat the joke about the good thing about standards is that there
are so many of them. And there are so many of them because competition
encourages it! So why do we lament when standards are so readily tossed
aside when something better comes along? Amazing, the capitalist forces at
I'd be delighted if something better came along than Microsoft, if only
because of their amazing arrogance (not that Apple isn't worse, and Linux
worst of all). But they have done what every software company has wanted to
do, and done it well -- they have reached the widest market on the planet
with software that meets people's needs... not all of them, but 95% on the
desktop at least. And, you know, the compromises on quality have been fewer
than their opponents would lead us to believe. Put any other operating
system -- any other one -- in 95% of the world's personal computers, and
see if productivity and enjoyment stay even close to where they are.
Wal-Mart's putting it to the test with preconfigured Linux boxes. We'll see
what standard is next. I'm up for it!
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