Sunday, March 15, 2009

Cause sometimes computing ain't for tooling

So far in my uneven revival of The Rand Show, I have attempted to punch out a deep, lengthy post for each sitting. While an admirable ambition, such a goal not only deceases my willingness/ability to post, but it undermines the randomness that makes the Rand Show, well, just in a category of its own. With that in mind, I step aside from my usual ruminations to ruminate different-wise upon the software that I use. Because ultimately, though my soul waxes and wanes on the matter far too seriously, software is cool, and so thus let me share what I use:

Windows generally. Not really by preference, but it is the system that has a lot of software and that generally is pretty user-friendly. I used to be a Mac-fan, but nowadays Mac's are priced out of my range, and while I do have a Linux machine (Ubunutu by variety), that particular machine is unreliable at best, yet installing Linux on this computer would leave me without a Windows machine, which overall I guess would be bad, probably. To those actually thinking of making a decision about OS's, I'd recommend Linux, despite the hypocritical ring these words may take on, it does seem to me the superior system. I suppose as for me personally, I'm too fickle to give up the flexibility having both Windows and Linux on different machines allows, and I just have the misfortunate (less you think me melodramatic, it is but a slight, slight misfortune) of having Linux on the lesser computer.

Internet browser: A little bit of everything really. My browsers have over time covered the gambit. Since I've been using the inter-web since it's explosion, I was at a time well-acquainted with the Netscape Navigator, since then I have on occasion used Internet Explorer, but stayed mostly on the alternative brands, let me tell you why:
Surfing Speed: IE, due to its embeddedness does have a starting up edge over many of the alternatives and when it comes to rendering simple pages sometimes IE can squeak out a slightly smaller time, and sometimes those two factors make IE useful, but generally when it comes to rendering resource-rich pages, IE ain't the tops.

Web Development: Defenders might claim that IE's web page rendering model is not inferior to the W3C's standards. Honestly, I've had frustrations with both so I'm not going to judge. But the thing is, even if at points IE's model might be better, it is not consistent, and it changes from edition to edition. The result is a slowing of internet innovation and annoying number of man-hours lost to cross-browser compatibility. But let me qualify that. IE8 and even IE7 do reduce those flaws to some degree, and let it be known certainly, that NO ONE SHOULD BE USING IE6 ANYMORE. It makes web developers bleed!

Security: IE8 I will also admit does step up security a good bit. However, of major browsers out there it is still the most likely to attract cookies, spyware, and other annoyances. Part of this is popularity, but Internet Explorer is BY ITS NATURE, more hack-prone, if for no other reason, than for the fact that it is integrated into the Windows system, giving it access to resources no other browser has. And let me add a completely unverified point. I do believe IE has a less elegant design that makes features and cooperation with other programs more hap-hazard. But even if we ignore these somewhat vague theoretical points, history has shown Internet Explorer to be awful at preventing security holes, and painful in managing permissions. The current IE8 system is a good example, with its mind-numbingly grandular security options, and annoyingly strict default mode. Le sigh.

Let me leave IE-bashing to others, because others will happily oblige. Let me then cite the browsers I do use:
Firefox: No longer the fastest browser on the block, and a resource devouring behemoth, it is still incredibly featureful with an unmatched add-ons repository.
Safari: Safari is amazingly fast. Even on Windows. That said, I can't say too much more of its praises, because it does strike me as a bit minimalistic. I mean in theory there are a number of interesting features, but many, like DOM Inspector, are hidden away in the wetworks.
Chrome: Like Safari very fast, not as fast though. And not nearly as stable. The Google Chrome project is still developing, and it seems like someday it might be a worthy entry. The isolation of problematic processes I actually have found useful. Still, it's raw edges come out every now and then, and it's generally a 2nd or 3rd choice for page viewing.
Opera: There were once many closed-source browsers, now there are two Opera and IE. Opera was once a little known gem, but it has since gained a particular popular niche: The mobile world. Opera Mini is now the mobile phone browser of choice, and if I had a better phone, it likely would be my phone's browser of choice. Anywho, the desktop model is also very good, with a strong rendering speed near equal to Safari. It also has a nice sampling of features like a built in mail system. Yet though it is almost as fast as Safari and almost as featureful as Firefox, the almosts don't add up to a definitive win. Still, it is nice as a back-up browser.

Word Processor: I have used many word processors in my day, and my favorite remains the ClarisWorks suite, but since that doesn't exist any more and its replacement, Apppleworks, is Apple-only (as was Clarisworks for a while I believe, but back then I was Apple-only as well), I am forced to deal with lesser systems. It's hard for me to give an edge to Microsoft Word or OpenOffice, both have +'s and -'s, WordPerfect isn't too far behind either. But with all those systems I am constantly annoyed at how long it takes to load even the simplest levels of functionality. While I want to type, I don't want to wait 10 minutes to get started! To combat that I've started working with AbiWord, a nice light-weight word processor with almost comparable functionality, but sometimes I just go back to simple WordPad. Not because I like it, mind you, but because the field is so barren of quality.
Programmer's Editor: PSPad I must recommend. Outstanding program. So many text-highlighting options, a ton of indenting and editing tools. It just gives you everything you need as a programmer. Unfortunately, it is pretty buggy at times. If you have a big document it can slow, freeze, or crash with alarming regularity. It also has ceased to output proper Unicode documents for me, so I'm forced now to find another editor. Le sigh.

Well, I'm getting a bit long here, and I have more than enough material for another post on this sometime, but let me run down some also recommends:

  • GIMP-The freeware image editor of tons of options, but painfully slow loading

  • Inkscape-A freeware image editor of truly high-end editing, but painfully obtuse user interfaces

  • GCC-If you're a programmer, I'm afraid that's just the way to be

  • Thunderbird-Very user-friendly, much less quirk-prone than Outlook, and it's the word

  • XTrans-Because XSLT is coming you see

  • Spybot-Search and Destroy-The basic security utility all computers need.

  • Songbird - A surprising capable music player/music organizer with occasional less than surprising performance issues

  • VLC-If you want to play anything without issues, you want VLC

Well, if this seemed like an excursion in pointlessness, remember that I am Rand and I am awesome. Just keep that in mind and keep the above in mind when you need some software to scratch some particular itch, or if you just like cool and shiny new thingamaggers like me.

So take it to your head, take it to your heart, and remember Rand rocks. Goodnight Folks!

And God Bless.

No comments: