Monday, 14 January 2013

Teeth ...wait for it...


I had a difference of opinion with MrsK the other day. We were in the seventh circle of la cittá dolente, or PC World as it is more commonly known, looking for a new laptop. In defence of one I pointed out that it did not have Windows 8 (which to me made it preferable). She wanted to know why this was an advantage, and I said that with any new operating system there's more to go wrong; tried and trusted software is no longer supported.

This was further evidence of my defeatism, she said. Why expect things to go wrong? She asked a passing school-leaver if there were any known support issues with application software (I'm paraphrasing here, you understand) and the answer was, surprisingly enough, that everything was hotsy-totsy with Windows 8.

Well, twenty years of working with software engineers (actually, 19¾ - HP took the penny-pinching precaution of shafting me 3 months before they would have had to fork out for a 20-year award) has taught me that if anything can go wrong with new software it will. This was true of Windows 95, and with everything since. Working in 'Support', which I did for many years, involved me almost daily in fixes and workarounds and you-just-can't-do-that-any-more when people tried to get existing application software to play nice with a new operating system.

So everything, I feared, was not hotsy-totsy. To quote Ogden  Nash it was coldsy-toldsy (and Google, incidentally, has just asked me whether I mean 'cold toddy'). New operating systems are great when all the dependencies work, but with each new operating system there are more dependencies; there's more to go wrong. I hold no candle for Windows 7; give me Windows NT 4.1 any day. But for me it's preferable to Windows 8 (just as Windows 8 will be preferable to - saints preserve us - Windows 9).

This is not just a rant about shopping for laptops. I've just had an inexplicable failure with  my old trusted HotMeTaL Pro. Earlier today, at a whim, it changed all my IPA symbols to meaningless glyphs. I repaired the damage - assuming that it affected only the IPA characters - and carried on. Suddenly, it did it again.

What is there to do? HotMeTaL Pro has long been unsupported. It worked marvellously on Windows NT* V4.1 but the company that made it either off-loaded it or went out of business years ago. It has limped along from upgraded platform to upgraded platform, with bits falling off. It's now at the 'One wheel on my wagon' stage. I can't use the help library any more - that stopped at Windows 2000, as I recall.

If the symbols go on the blink again I shall just have to bite the bullet and learn to use some other tool. I should have done that ages ago - that's the way the world of software works. You have to keep buying and learning to use new stuff. Otherwise, entropy takes over: what started as hotsy-totsy declines to coldsy toldsy, and thence to frigidy-wigidy.

* Later the same day: My fabled typing speeds of up to five words per minute conjured up an American sounding operating system called 'Windows NY', which I suppose someone might ♥.

PS Yippee - I've diagnosed the problem and have a workaround. The trouble is with the Project> External Links command, which is what weds me so strongly to this tool; it - ahem - 'does what it says on the tin' (an anagram, FWIW, of WET AND TIT IN HOSE SAY TOSH), checking links to external web-sites. This command, for some unknown reason, plays around with the symbols. The workaround is to take a copy of the working file before doing the check - just a slight inconvenience, as long as I remember to do it. I also need to note and repeat any fixes arising from the check - a minor annoyance. But at least I now know what's going wrong.

Update 2013.01.15 - a few tweaks
Update 2013.01.17 - added PS
Update 2019.12.31 - deleted old footer

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