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Word Processors: Stupid and Inefficient

The Dumbing Down of Computers

The Elements Of Style: UNIX As Literature

Wild Extravagant Theories: The Science of The Time Machine

In the Beginning was the Command Line

Posting emails in HTML

No Word Attachments

To end

The following are some interesting articles that you might consider reading.

Word Processors: Stupid and Inefficient  by Allin Cottrell
The author begins with...

"The word processor is a stupid and grossly inefficient tool for preparing text for communication with others. That is the claim I shall defend below."
If you are interested in why someone would make such a claim read his opinion at the link above. It's an interesting read. As a LaTeX user I squirm whenever I see "word processor users" spending all their time figiting with the formatting, not using styles (or what ever the package calls them) to save them work and actually battling with their software because it can't do what they require of it. I'm probably biased being a LaTeX user :-)

Having used word processors for 20 years I agree with this author on many of his points. Most of my document preparation is done using a typesetting language called LaTeX.

The Dumbing Down of Computers  - a newsgroup post by Beverley White
Beverley White posted this article to the Scary Devil Monastery on 12 June 1997. Beverley's "rant" on the dumbing down of computer use and of computer users is now a classic article. I have great sympathy for her views; have a read of the link above and form your own opinion. The post was from:
Newsgroups: alt.sysadmin.recovery
Subject: Re: Luser ISP Salespeople
Date: 12 Jun 1997 22:17:38 -0500

(The link above is to a copy at Brian L. Naylor's site, http://www.sackheads.org/~bnaylor)

The Elements Of Style: UNIX As Literature  by Thomas Scoville (from Tres Hofmeister's site)

"If there's nothing different about UNIX people, how come so many were liberal-arts majors? It's the love of words that makes UNIX stand out."
This is a funny and thought-provoking tour of UNIX and its users. Does UNIX posess literature-like qualities with its grammar, rich syntax and power of expression? Is it true today? Are Linux users as literary as the UNIX users of yesterday?

Wild Extravagant Theories: The Science of The Time Machine   - Paper for Picocon 13, Imperial College, 4 February 1996 by Stephen Baxter
This is a paper on the science of "The Time Machine" as described by H.G. Wells in his wonderful 1895 novel.

In the Beginning was the Command Line  by Neal Stephenson
Neal's site at Cryptonomicon loads a little slow but I found you can read his article at Spack[dot]org's copy. While your there have a look at the main Spack[dot]org site. There are many more interesting articles to browse and stimulate the mind in Spack[dot]org words


Refrain from posting emails in HTML

Many other email clients such as Microsoft Outlook Express make it easy for users to post in HTML but make no attempt to inform users of the problems that this may cause. The following links explain the reasons why you should use plain text to send email messages and how you can set you mailer to send email in plain text. This is especially so for postings to newsgroups.

1. This is probably the best reference; http://www.expita.com/nomime.html has five reasons why you should refrain from posting emails in HTML. It's also the general link that many mailing list admins hand out, because it explains how to turn it off for various email clients.

2. This reference covers a bit on Microsoft Outlook and why it makes posting in HTML the default: http://www.houghi.org/.

3. George Dillon is a little stronger in his condemnation of HTML emailing. You can read his article "HTML email is Evil" where describes the "7 sins" of HTML posting at http://www.georgedillon.com/web/html_email_is_evil.shtml. His links at the end of the above reference are particularly extensive and covers Netiquette, privacy, security and spam issues involving HTML email.

Finally, if you enter "don't post in HTML" into any search engine such as Google you will find lots of posting about this problem.

Avoid sending Microsoft Word Docs

Please do not send Microsoft Word documents unless you have asked the person if they will accept such formats. Here is an excellent reference about sending Word documents and assuming that everybody uses Word: No Word Attachments

MS Word files are a closed format so that they are un-readable by most other word processing software. That means that I have to use converters whose authors have had to reverse engineer the format. These converters are not perfect so that I probably won't see what you expect me to see :-) You are probably locked into that product and pay for upgrade after upgrade so Microsoft can spend your money to stay ahead of the companies and open-source programmers that reverse engineer their format. Even large companies with products that need to read Word format, such as Word Perfect, have used reverse engineering to be able to do this. Thus a regular change of Word format is quite in the best interests of Microsoft but must be quite annoying for users. Contrast this with the Open Office or Star Office open format. It's just zipped XML.

You will also find that MS Word files are often huge in size compared to the size of an RTF format carrying the equivalent formatting information (Rich Text Format is a MS format but is at least it is open, though unfortunately there are still many different versions of this format). I do not appreciate being sent a large Word doc when I download my mail from home on a dialup line. MS Word documents are also well known for their ability to carry viruses and run undesirable macros for Microsoft operating systems. Fortunately I don't use any of Microsoft's buggy and insecure products at home anymore.

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