Running those legacy apps

posted in: Bad Tech | 0

Yesterday Andrew McGill posted the message below on the Gauteng Linux User Group mailing list. Because he is not blogging I’m doing it for him. What he is describing is one of the biggest frustrations people have with so called new and improved software.

Andrew is a very competent sysadmin and if he is battling what is Eric Raymond’s poor Aunt Tilly doing with this lot.

The problem however is that very often the pretty so called WYSIWYG software simply refuses to give you what you want but that 20 year old program produces perfect results even if it doesn’t provide you with pretty pictures and dancing girls when you enter the data.

Besides text processing I see rants about these problems very often in discussions about genealogy programs. Very often the new stuff simply do not match the convenience and ease of use of the older trusted programs.

Microsoft created the expectation of backward binary compatibility which made software vendors lazy and users could become set in their ways. Apple does provide much shorter guarantees of backward compatibily which keep vendors on their toes, but of course the open source way is by far the best because you only need a decent compiler to keep your software running on newer systems. 😉

Enjoy Andrew’s Post:

I’m preaching to the choir, but anyhow, it’s a fun story. If I had more fun, I’d blog.

My dad’s Word Perfect 5.1 has been very happy for many years in a DOS box under Windows 3.1. It is the platform of choice – but not suitable for a new laptop which does not even have a parallel port for DOS printing. Migrating to OpenOffice would have been nice (and it’s formula editor is okay), but the WordPerfect import filter for OpenOffice drops WordPerfect equations (it’s a planned feature – http://libwpd.sourceforge.net/features.html).

WordPerfect 5.1 happens to run just fine on dosemu under Linux. It even works, almost out of the box, and pressing Shift+F1 to configure brought back memories:

– Tell Wordperfect it has a VGA adapter 640x480x16 colours

– Tell WordPerfect it has an AppleLaserwriter printer (Postscript)

– Tell /etc/dosemurc that raw mode (“lpr -r”) is not the thing, but “lpr” is.

However, under that great and impressive flagship product punted by Microsoft under the name “Vista”, there is a great and impressive raft of problems:

– Full screen mode is not supported (is this some kind of wierd “feature”?). You can only run in a graphics box.

– Graphics mode is not supported! You can’t do a print preview. When you try it, Vista pops up an “Abort/Ignore” dialog box which quits or crashes the application.

– You can (according to rumour) do raw printing, but to do cooked printing (ie. print to the current Windows printer) requires a stack of add-on software. Coincidentally, this same software (ghostscript) came with my Linux distribution.

In the good old days, Windows 95 would find the ISA IRQ and port numbers for the Linux installation. A few years down the line, you use Linux to find the appropriate driver for some stubborn PCI device. And now, it seems the only proper way to run legacy Microsoft platform stuff is to use Linux. I predict that in 15 years time, no Microsoft product will be able to read today’s OOXML. The only way to open them will be to use OpenOffice. In 25 years, probably the only way to get today’s Windows applications to run properly will be wine, since Microsoft stuff will have auto-expired (windows cannot start, since your licence key is invalid …)

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