The Challenges of Changing Software Tools

  • As we all are aware, changing software tools, and even more importantly, changes TO software tools are not always improvements.  When I began using software 53 years ago, software was simple, straight forward, and pretty much had a single purpose.  I began in the Apple arena, then IBM, DEC/VAX, Burroughs/Unysis, and settled in the Windows world.  Operating systems were focused on just that, being the 'traffic director'.  We didn't expect the OS to rule the world.  It didn't tell us where and how to store our data, didn't tell us how to design things.  Computers and software were the tools, not the architect.

    Over the decades the world of software has changed focus from being a tool that those with skills could use to a do-it-all, sell-to-the-masses 'no-brainer' thing that thinks it knows more than I do.

    The article mentions features such as "Documents", "Pictures", "Music", etc.  The OS wants to decide where I should keep various items based on this arbitrary determination.

    To me, this is akin to SQL Server deciding that this data element is varchar so it belongs in THIS table, and this element is integer to it should be stored in THIS OTHER table.

    I remember the days when installing an application, the application designer decided the install location, directory names, and ASSUMMED that all the pieces of the package AND THE DATA belonged in THAT location because they 'owned' it.  Of course, backups were not all that important because the actual amount of data stored on the system was minimal, and they were accomplished by copying an entire floppy disk to ANOTHER floppy disk.

    With that background, I still want that sort of control over my system.  I don't want all the additional features ('crap') that come with many of the installs.  I don't want the OS provider to decide which tools I should use or to install all those things I will never use.  My main system is probably by most standards pretty pristine.  I don't often download things just to see what they are like, and if I do it is often on a separate system away from what I use daily.  And I have third-party, usually very well and simply done, and often free, tools that are better than most of the freebies and that I can choose for myself and keep or throw way without unknown consequences.

    As I look at my system disk, the first seven items listed in Explorer are things that I have never used and don't need but are all listed BEFORE I get to the directory structure that I have built and use, these things are usually difficult to get rid of, and the ramifications of doing so are usually unknown.

    I don't need or want 'Program Files', Program Files (x86), or Program Data.  And what is all that mixture of unknowns in ProgramData?  (Should I be backing up that stuff just in case?)  I don't want everything I download listed under something called 'Downloads' and categorized such as 'A long time ago'.

    Even with Outlook, for which I have JUST upgraded to a five-year-old version, the application is now putting certain emails in a folder called 'Important'.  Why does it think it needs to decide this?  And why does it INSIST on 'syncing' things to GMAIL?  When I connect, I don't WANT' my stuff left on someone else's server - EVER.

    I want to be able to quickly and easily be able to back up my personal DATA frequently without needing to include all of the software pieces that I can easily reinstall and patch from my directory called 'INSTALLS', (as distinguished from 'DOWNLOADS') or my CD/DVD storage.

    OK, so there is my rant for the day.   Yeah, as the coping tip today says, 'Take three calming breaths...'.

    At this point I thoroughly agree with the old thing from my IBM days that advised using the KISS method - Keep It Simple, Stupid.

     

     

    Rick

    One of the best days of my IT career was the day I told my boss if the problem was so simple he should go fix it himself.

  • I've noticed that behavior, too. And I've been puzzled by it. Back in the day I did some development on a VAX, towards the end of those type of computers. I was working with a lady who worked remotely for the same company, on some IBM system. That's where I first encountered that sort of thinking. I described the directory structure we were using for some program we were writing. I got around to asking what it was like on the systems she worked on and developed apps for. She said everything was in one directory. I was very surprised, as I simply couldn't comprehend how those things stayed separate. I still don't.

    But I see this now with my wife and our kids. When using their iPhones they take pictures, make video records, etc., but they've no idea where that stuff gets put on their iPhones. Truthfully, I don't know where that stuff gets put on my Android phone, either. But I do know that it is stored in some sort of directory structure.

    However, your article does suggest to me that we, as developers, should start to accommodate this sort of thinking in developing applications.

    Kindest Regards, Rod Connect with me on LinkedIn.

  • I certainly struggle with search. My first instinct is to "go look for things".

    I am learning to relax and search more. Some of us is seeing the accuracy of search working better.

    Some, however, is annoying. Downloading things like my vaxx card and then not being able to easily find it because I don't understand the directory structure and it didn't go where I expected. Lots of things have a "recent" space, which is where I typically find things, but when it rolls off that list, I sometimes get a bit confused and annoyed.

    We certainly ought to think of this as a developer, without abandoning the need to keep things organized in some way. Even the large "big data" people using a data lake often have folders to entities and then subfolders for year, month, and day.

  • Yeah, I hear ya, Steve. I run into that same issue. I've got pictures of my vaccination card and booster shots. But I've no idea where they are because they're disappeared into the distance due to other pictures I've taken. There should be a way if pinning certain things so you can easily find them.

    Kindest Regards, Rod Connect with me on LinkedIn.

  • Steve Jones - SSC Editor wrote:

    I certainly struggle with search. My first instinct is to "go look for things".

    I am learning to relax and search more. Some of us is seeing the accuracy of search working better.

    Some, however, is annoying. Downloading things like my vaxx card and then not being able to easily find it because I don't understand the directory structure and it didn't go where I expected. Lots of things have a "recent" space, which is where I typically find things, but when it rolls off that list, I sometimes get a bit confused and annoyed.

    We certainly ought to think of this as a developer, without abandoning the need to keep things organized in some way. Even the large "big data" people using a data lake often have folders to entities and then subfolders for year, month, and day.

    Ironically, while obsessing about being able to organize, search and find things, I end up trusting the OS and the directory/file structure to actually put things wherever IT decides, allocating space here and there as needed.  Even though I do regularly optimize my systems, in reality I have no real knowledge of where everything is at any point in time, other than being on a certain physical device.

     

    Rick

    One of the best days of my IT career was the day I told my boss if the problem was so simple he should go fix it himself.

  • Rod at work wrote:

    Yeah, I hear ya, Steve. I run into that same issue. I've got pictures of my vaccination card and booster shots. But I've no idea where they are because they're disappeared into the distance due to other pictures I've taken. There should be a way if pinning certain things so you can easily find them.

    It's called the directory structure!

    That's exactly the reason for how I do it.  All my systems have a directory actually named C:\Data\.   Within that, I allocate directories named appropriately clearly identifying the 'owning' application or MY classification of the contents.    This DATA directory on my laptop currently contains 78 sub-directories that categorize the data by application or in MY categories.

    Within the DATA directory, since I use it so frequently, for instance the first sub-directory is 'All Statements' (so it sorts first) that in turn contains 39 subdirectories by vendor, etc which then contain more subdirectories by year, making it easy to archive older data.

    And I can easily back this up every couple days to an independent NAS device without all the time and space for installs that don't change that often.

    • This reply was modified 5 months ago by  skeleton567. Reason: further thoughts
    • This reply was modified 5 months ago by  skeleton567.

    Rick

    One of the best days of my IT career was the day I told my boss if the problem was so simple he should go fix it himself.

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