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Friday, February 06, 2009

Just another Firefox update?

Sitting geeking and spodding as you do, the Firefox update alert popped up, too quick for me to click it before it popped down again. So it was off to the Firefox page to grab the download. Following the process through its simple steps, I was reminded of an essential paradox about the whole business that is never far from the back of my mind, one I believe sits at the heart of broader realities of which Firefox is today perhaps the exemplar.

My point here is that downloading updates without a 2nd thought has become like eating and drinking, and all that goes with that - something you do reflexively, because it's an essential part of merely operating. And for most of us (ie. those no more code monkeys than we could be grease monkeys) there really is no choice but to accept those downloads at face value. Heck, most of us are waiting for the damn downloads just to bring the products we bought up to the specifications we were sold.

I know I am in respect of Windows Vista, which is a bit more stable than it was when I first bought it more than a year ago, but whose irksomely unstable Windows Explorer continues to bug the shit out of me now as I reported it to be doing last April. So OK, the shift- and ctrl- multiselect options now work properly, which has helped me learn new ways of handling files as I move them from folder to folder. But you have to ask some hard questions about how Microsoft's coding teams are organised if they've failed to address in the space of a year bugs such as: there is no way to set the new Folder->View options at general levels; eg.
  • Set all the subfolders of a given folder to view like 'this'.
  • Set all folders with tags A and B to view like 'that'.
  • Tag A supercedes 'this'.
  • Tag B doesn't.
No, I still find myself repeatedly having manually to set the Folder->View options to my preferred settings. I seem to be making some headway, in that a lot more folders look the way they should, assuming that I've visited them before and set them to view the way I prefer. Although I'm still not really all that confident that folders aren't just returning to factory presets or to random settings whenever I leave a given Explorer window.

I've said it before, and I'm saying it again: I've had enough of my lovely machine being screwed-over by running a Microsoft OS. There are better products out there that I could run on my PC.

Regular readers might be surprised to read that I'm still running on Vista at all, after that rant and the follow-up post of May 2008. The sad truth was that I hit a hiccup which defeated my meagre resources. I was left with no recourse but to stick with Windows, because I didn't need to learn anything new to use it. That is to say: for this user seeking ICT products better than those of the big kid on the block, the all-too-well known 'code hump' of Linux was just too much, even in the simple forms in which it appeared in Ubuntu.

And this has precisely what to do with my claim made above, about Firefox's exemplary status in the paradox our download dependence creates?

That paradox I believe is that this download dependence is the heart and soul of the strengths of the Open Source project, of which Firefox's Mozilla is a part. This is paradoxical because it is the selfsame download dependence that appears malevolent in its corporate guise.

Old hands at RD/KA! will remember my longstanding interest in the wider potentialites of the internet, as witness another bold statement dating right back to my very first week. Readers who facebook might already be aware that learning coding skills sufficient to enable a contribution to the Open Source project is something I'd like to do.

So, to answer my title's question. No, this wasn't 'just' another Firefox update. Why not? Because it's set me off on a track paralleling that I'm already on with UK Games Expo'09, namely using RD/KA! to support my efforts towards goals wider merely than itself. In this case that's getting me off Windows, onto Linux, and into training which will help me learn some fresh computer coding skills. Expect to hear more. ;)
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