Doug vs. the interweb

Journal #493
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6 comments post comment
December 31st, 2011 1:30 PM

It's 2011! Almost 2012 I guess, maybe I can slap one entry in before the year rolls over. I'm always getting angry at stupid interfaces, so here we go again, pretend I actually update this site!

A decade ago, I did a lot with various Linux type junk, most of my work at college was on some BSD thing, and I have always liked the idea behind free software, apart from the price aspect of it. My major gripe with it, though, was its almost willful disregard for being even slightly user friendly. I don't mean user friendly in the talking paperclip or rearranging shortcuts list kind of anti-user disguised as ooh-shiny-grandma-will-buy-it-now behavior, I just mean putting 12 seconds of thought into what a person will do with something after they have downloaded it. Or even how they would download it. Things like providing a list of latest releases, not sorted chronologically (!!!). Things like having an install bundle that dumps two different executables out, with no indication which you're supposed to run (one gives a missing DLL error and another is a command line program that you aren't provided the documentation for, great!).

I figured that by now, some of these things would've gotten their act together. Look, when you foil the efforts of a computer programmer just trying to see what your app is like, then perhaps you are doing something wrong. I don't want to commit to going through your source files just to see if your app has the right features for what I'm trying to do.

When I put out friggin' Duke Nukem Doom, I included a super-helpful batch file that actually installed things, with options. I didn't just hope the user knew how to apply DeHackEd patches and wished them the best in a README. I even set up a special batch script for switching out some dumb multiplayer mods like soccer doom, and holy hell the install script even could be set to censor out duke's curses. When did I do this, 1997 or something?

I just don't know who the audience is supposed to be for some of this open source software. I have a million things I want to do, and learning every little bit of software along the way sounds so exhausting and tedious that I just don't want to bother. You're asking me to learn the syntax of your special config file to sync some files? No thanks!

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Christine - January 20th, 2012, 1:39:12 AM

I would comment more if you wrote about something I could understand!!!!! "Sigh*

Rob3rt - January 20th, 2012, 10:01:36 PM

Which software is the culprit?

Michael - January 24th, 2012, 3:00:27 PM

Douglas... put it into action! You feel this is something that could change the world as we know it online? DO IT, you MOTHERLOVER. Sorry, I just found a burst of creative energy and am now going to try and make something.

Doug - January 25th, 2012, 3:27:36 PM

The problem is that there seems to be an oversaturation of syncing software out there, and I'm certain something must exist that's user friendly, reliable, and free, but I just don't know how to differentiate them. And even if I were to find a way to distinguish my own attempt at it, there's so many crazy edge cases when it comes to that kind of stuff (so I guess I can understand why the market is so fragmented). Different software can't even always agree on what certain file attributes even mean, and working between different operating systems and file systems probably is a nightmare.

And Robert, I don't remember the name of it, but I did get it working even with its nonexistent install process, and for my own drive it worked nicely. But then I tried to sync Margot's drive, which had once been plugged into a Mac, and it went crazy with all kinds of stupid hidden files and I was too scared to run the sync for fear of corrupting something. So I guess that just emphasizes the idea that syncing software is harder than it looks.

Rob3rt - January 30th, 2012, 6:34:19 PM

Here's what I've been using. It's amazing, and is java-based (love it or hate it) and works everywhere:

Doug - February 12th, 2012, 1:18:28 PM

Wow, that actually does look pretty nice, thanks! I like that I can explicitly describe the syncing relationship I want (mirror, sync, etc., and which direction). Seems to be pretty fast so far, too, way better than Unison when I tried it. A 140 gb directory full of photos, after copying it so it was exactly the same, still took Unison several hours to just analyze, but this was done in less than a minute. Though I think Unison allows partial file syncing? Which I don't really need.

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