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Alias (5735)

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Journal of Alias (5735)

Monday November 10, 2008
10:06 PM

Subtle improvements in Windows Vista

[ #37851 ]

I've moved my home 4-core parallel-coding/gaming machine over to Vista, following the typical "wait for the first service pack" approach that most people take when considering new Microsoft operating systems.

I have to say that it pretty much WORKSFORME and apart from a few different dialog boxes and what not I'm settling in mostly fine. And of course, being a developer, I've jealousy turned off all the eye candy to save the resources for myself :)

One of the more subtle changes in Vista that I hadn't paid attention to before but have noticed since I started doing some Padre coding on it is that Vista has changed the directory layout for home directories.

Instead of the previous (horrible) style...

C:\Documents and Settings\Adam\My Documents

We now have a much cleaner...

C:\Users\Adam\Documents

The obvious improvement here is for the server hackers and command line users, who have much less to type.

But one additional and more interesting benefit is that this change removes all of the whitespace from these paths. What attracts me most about this seemingly simple change is that in a single stroke it lets us avoid a ton of deeply buried bugs in certain very old Perl modules that require lists passed as whitespace-separated strings.

Avoiding these bugs is one of the reasons that Strawberry Perl is locked down to C:\strawberry, because if we allowed installation to arbitrary paths it would be too easy for people to enter whitespace-containing paths that might break things in unexpected ways. (The other reason is the lack of power in InnoSetup, which I'm in the process of fixing by moving to WiX)

It also simplifies things somewhat for people with whitespace escaping troubles.

Now granted, it doesn't FIX the problems as such. Escaping bug fixes now need to be done. But now the bug is not EXPOSED on quite so many operating systems it helps to limit the scope of the bug and reduce the impact from it between now and such time as it is resolved more thoroughly in all the various places fixes are needed.

The ultimate effect of this "whitespace tweak" is that Vista (and I assume Server 2003/2008 as well) are much better platforms for building Unix-originated Open Source applications on than XP was.

As much as I had grown to like "My Documents" (and File::HomeDir will continue to use the terminology in ->my_documents) I think this change represents a win for engineering over marketing, potentially at a slight cost to usability for computer novices.

But I guess that as a ratio of the population, computer novices are in a slow inevitable decline (at least in the developed world where the bulk of Microsoft's revenue comes from) so this does make some sense...

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