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January 29, 2006

Old, Unimproved Model

Improving software to the point of unusability

They used to do it with cars. As soon as the design was right and the flaws fixed, mechanics knew their way around it in the dark, shops had the parts, and everyone was happy, the model would be declared obsolete. Now it's software. Successive versions balloon in size and exponentiate in run-times until they've been improved to the point of total unusability.

After depending for the last 8 years on a laptop that has probably crossed the Atlantic more times than the Queen Mary (I don't carry it anymore because of all the airport hassles), I finally decided it was time to invest in another desk machine. In re-creating the system, I found I had mislaid the installation disk for a graphics viewer that I like, and so went online to find the current version--available on a free 10-day trial. It weighed in a 12.4 Megabytes, which means over half an hour to download, plus another 20 minutes for something else that it needed, when you're restricted to dialup in rural western Ireland. The outcome turned out to be loaded with"fluff," chocolate-box pictures, cutsey designs, and trying to comprehend and navigate it was a nightmare of dialog-box speak and demands to choose among features that I didn't understand and could never imagine wanting. I went to bed in an irritable mood, and first thing in the morning, uninstalled it.

Going back online to explore some more, I found a site called www.oldversion.com. It's a free site that offers old versions of programs that people donate. And there in their library, lo and behold, was the early version of the graphics viewer that I use on the laptop. 869KB, three minutes to download, lean, fast, and simple. Result: one happy user.

For funding they rely on advertising, and ask for word of their existence to be passed around, which is what I'm doing. I'm sure they would welcome any old installation disks that anyone has lying around out there that are unlikely to be wanted again, too.

 
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