I have three rants today, all about poor quality desktop software and none of it from Microsoft. Since two of them are free software, I probably shouldn’t complain too much, but it worries me that this lack of quality is indicative of the overall level of quality that the software industry is accepting. The third was paid-for software and really should work as advertised. So, on to the problems:
iPhoto:The problem is simple, it refuses to export photos from my library to a folder on the hard drive where I can burn them to a CD that a friend with a Windows box can read, claiming that the drive is full (“Caution: Not enough disk space to complete current operation”). Only I have 33GB free and only 250MB of photos to export. Turns out that this is a known issue, supposedly fixed in version 4.0.1 (I have 4.0.3) and there are numerous workarounds on the internet for it. The best though came from one A. Dieckmann and was posted on the MacInTouch reader forum – basically, ignore the export option, select the photos you want and drag them to a finder window. So, I have a workaround, but not a fix. I am going to try to rebuild the “database” (hold down shift when starting the application I’m told, rather than an easy to find menu option), but somehow I don’t hold out much hope there.
Firefox: This one has been bugging me even before Firefox when using Mozilla. The thing leaks memory like a sieve. From the moment you start it, all it seems to be doing is eating RAM, and it carries on doing so until there is nothing left. Now, this is a common feature of software written in OO languages, like C++ and, even more so, Java, that have a tendency to hide the mechanics of memory allocation behind language features. The result of this abstraction appears to be badly written software that leaks memory. I suspect that using Java as a teaching language will make it worse too – there will be a whole generation of programmers who don’t even know that they have to release the memory they allocate (assuming they could recognise a memory allocation in the first place). Carefully written C++ can be memory efficient and not leak, but that will only happen if the engineers writing it understand where what they write will allocate memory, and that they are responsible for releasing that memory when they are done with it.
Also, shouldn’t somebody have seen this already? I cannot be the only user out of all those millions that downloaded it who leaves it running all the time can I? To make it worse, it also has a bug that sometimes causes it tol go off into the background somewhere and consume 100% of the CPU. The visible windows it has still work, just very slowly. Opening a new window and closing all the old ones doesn’t fix it either. The only fix is to re-start the whole program. Oh, and this happens on Windows, Linux and Mac OS X – at least it is consistent!
Zinf: A free shoutcast stream player that is actually not bad (doesn’t have as many features as iTunes, but it does run on Linux). The only problem is that around 17 minutes into a stream the music goes all jittery. The workaround is easy: stop the stream and restart it. Don’t even need to close the program. But surely people out there listen to a stream for longer than quarter of an hour at a time don’t they?