Bigger vs. Better

There's an old aphorism/joke in computer programming: Any good program can be killed with enough improvements.

There's another one which runs: Inside every large, unwieldy program is a small, useful utility trying to get out.

I learned this idea twenty years ago, and it's always made sense.

It's why I use Audition 1.5 for audio editing. It's small, fast, almost never crashes and has all the basic features.

Compare with Audition 5.5 which is big, slow, unreliable...and has actually had some of the more useful features removed.

It's why for wordprocessing I use Word '97, which is small, fast and rock solid stable. As opposed to MS Office 2012 which is none of these.

I don't just use Windows XP, I use TinyXP - proof that once a major company have spent millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours making a product, all it takes is a few nerds working in their spare time to make the product what it should have been all along.

Meanwhile the major company have given us the disastrous Vista, the 64 bit kludge, and the bloated Windows 7 - an operating system so confident that it can deal with every contingency, it won't let you fix it when it can't.

Which is why last week I dealt with three separate people, all of whose Windows 7 installations needed a complete wipe and reinstall. None had been provided with a disc to do this when they bought the computer. Which is why their ability to do their jobs relied on knowing someone who worked with someone who could get them a copy of what they'd already paid for.

Oh, and we're about to get Windows 8 - a new design concept based on the assumptions that everyone lives on the cloud...and no one has a mouse.

Possibly the best music making program around is Reason. I use version 5, which has synths, samplers, drum machines, a brilliant vocoder, lots of distortion types, some great compressors and EQs, and all with amazing CPU efficiency.

It also has one bizarrely lacking feature - you can't record audio on it. You can play recordings, you can process them, but you can't make them.

To have your singing over your synths, you have to plug Reason into a program which can record audio, record yourself, do the editing, denoising, level normalisation and such in the second program...and export the result to be loaded into Reason as a sample.

Reason version 6 has audio recording. And editing.

And autotuning, and more distortion types, and more sound-mangling effects. The upcoming version 6.5 supports a proprietary plugin format, and from the demos I've seen it could put Reason right back on top of the heap.

The thing is, it also runs at half the speed, crashes more often...and the security authorisation is a freaking dongle. Your entire recording studio, hinging on one small, unreliable, easily lost, easily broken, inconvenient bit of plastic.

So that's three reasons why I'm still using version 5. Out of date, clunky, relatively limited, but fast, usable, and reliable.

And so, we come to Firefox, the great orange hope of web browsers. The reincarnation of the first great browser, Netscape Navigator, and the one preferred by the majority of those who aren't happy to use whatever Microsoft gives them.

The one which has had eight major upgrades in the last twelve months. And has been getting progressively slower and less stable with each upgrade.

After spending a week with version 11...I'm posting this on version 4. Oh yes, and handcoding the HTML on Windows Notepad.

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