Is Software Getting Worse?

  Pesala 15:29 17 Sep 2006

Is software as well-written and thoroughly tested now as it used to be? There is no doubt that hardware has improved enormously in the last ten years, but has software now become bloated, harder to learn, slower, and more buggy?

I decided to re-install Micrografx Picture Publisher 6.0, which I had on a PCW cover disk to see how it compared to other programs. I did some time trials for simple tasks, and found that in every respect it was faster than any other program that I have, bar Irfan View. However, it is a full Photo-Editing package with all kinds of Effects filters, and Colour controls - not just an image viewer.

Test File Eagle Nebula 86.1 Mbytes TIFF image

click here

Program • Preview • Load • Flip • Rotate • Resample 25%

Irfan View • 5 • 3 • 2 • 14 • 3 (Lanczos Resample)

Micrografx • 2 • 3 • 3 • 4 • 3 (Resample, Smart-sizing)

Corel PhotoPaint • 6 • 5 • 7 • 34 • 22 (Resample method unknown)

PhotoPaint 9.0 is old enough (2001), but so is my PC, and I don't have PhotoShop. I wonder how it would cope with a file of this size on a legacy PC?

1 Ghz AMD Athlon, 384 Mbytes RAM 32 Mbytes shared with on-board graphics. All timings are in seconds.

  Belatucadrus 17:17 17 Sep 2006

A bit of a generalisation I think as there are so many software houses and there are bound to be a variety of in house standards.
I do however agree with your comments on the tendency to produce bloated over complex code. The approach of many programmers now seems to be "everything but the kitchen sink". They seem to find the increase in hardware capabilities as some kind of challenge. How much more can they hog with the next iteration of whatever they've produced ? Not how much smaller and faster can it be.
Which is one reason I'm so impressed when software like photofiltre turns up, very compact, easy to use and does what most people will ask of it well, no more.

  Pesala 19:06 17 Sep 2006

One of my favourite sayings:

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)

It is not just a question of bloat though, it is how well all the extra features have been implemented.

The basic functions that I tested should either improve or remain much the same with each later version of any particular product. At least they shouldn't take longer.

Program startup time might be longer with Photoshop than it is with Irfan View, but why should creating a thumbnail or loading a file take any longer on the same hardware?

  Pesala 19:51 17 Sep 2006

From Snapfiles: click here

1.70 Mbytes — that's my kind of program. It looks clean and well designed. Unfortunately, it couldn't load my test image so I didn't get very far with testing. It managed to load a smaller (9 Mbyte) Tiff image OK, but it was not much faster than Microgafx was at processing the 81 Mbyte image.

Micrografx • 2 • 3 • 3 • 4 • 3 (81 Mb image)

Photofilter • 2 • 2 • 1 • 3 • 3 (9 Mb image)

I think that we can say that it has some room for improvement, but it is clearly not bad if it can fit so many features into such a small amount of code.

What always surprises me is if Program A can do xyz in 5 seconds, why should Program B take 50 seconds? The difference really is that great sometimes. I tried Ulead PhotoImpact 5. It loaded my test image OK, but when I tried to rotate or flip the image, it was about 2% done after 45 seconds. How much programming does it take to flip an image?

  Pesala 20:55 17 Sep 2006

I managed to load the same image into PhotoFiltre as a PNG. At first it was blank, but when I zoomed in a bit it displayed OK.

Then I tried flip horizontal. It took about 35 seconds. The resulting image was completely black. Undo caused PhotoFiltre to stop responding.

Then I restarted and tried again with Rotate right. At first it displayed incorrectly. The window was rotated, but not the image. Again, zooming in fixed the display glitch. However, undo caused a crash.

I think this program needs a bit more testing and bug-fixing.

  Jak_1 20:56 17 Sep 2006

I think it's a case of 'you get what you pay for'. I have downloaded any number of freeware programs that have not done what the profess to do, some have. Usually I resort to buying what I need from a respected company. I will test out shareware and if it does what I want it to then I will usually purchase the full version.

  Pesala 21:03 17 Sep 2006

Uninstall worked perfectly.

  Belatucadrus 21:46 17 Sep 2006

I've got photofiltre on two machines and have never got it to so much as hiccup,let alone crash. The only thing it lacks is support for layers, but most of the time I can work around this.

  Forum Editor 00:34 18 Sep 2006

is the effect of the 'where now?' syndrome. Every software house on the planet is engaged in the search for that killer app. - the one that's going to fly off the shelves/servers because we've all been waiting for just such a thing.

The trouble of course is that you might be better employed looking for the holy grail, because in software it's already been done, there's really nothing that most of us want any more. The result is what you described in your first paragraph - bloated software that is sometimes rushed to market, simply to mainatain that revenue stream from the early-adopter/must have market sectors.

For the past nine months or so I've been using various beta versions of the new Microsoft Office 2007. It looks great - the interface is a departure from the familiar Office format, and there are some useful new features. There's a new file format, too, so users of previous versions won't be able to open Office 2007 files that have been saved in that format.

Otherwise it's business as usual, and to be honest I could work just as easily with Office 2003 for the rest of my working life. I use about a tenth of the available tools and gizmos, and so, no doubt, do most average business users.

It's depressing if you think about it for too long, but that's commerce, as they say, and it's not going to change.

  WhiteTruckMan 01:08 18 Sep 2006

its been my experience that when people say they hate or do not get on with computers, what they really mean is that they hate and do not get on with lazy and/or incompetant software designers/implemeters. Software should conform to various criteria (such as speed and stability) depending on the end users application of it (e.g. is it a safety critical system?) but one thing should stand out and that is ease of use.

But back to bloatware. In my opinion there is too much stuff written that loads up un necessarily on startup (grabbing system resources while its at it) just so it can appear to start up quicker. the result is a slower machine.

And while I'm at it, whats this nonsense about a new non backwardly compatable file format for office 2007? Which brain transplant doner came up with that one? Do MS seriously think people are going to junk their perfectly good installations of older office programs (I use the 2000 version) just to play along with them? Thanks, but no thanks!


  Forum Editor 01:28 18 Sep 2006

that Office 2007 had a "new non backwardly compatable file format". I said that "users of previous versions won't be able to open Office 2007 files that have been saved in that format."

You can save Office 2007 files in earlier version file formats, so users of earlier versions can open them. it will also be possible for those users to download an update that will allow them to open Office 2007 files in their earlier office versions - but only back as far as office 2000.

In fairness to Microsoft I should point out that there are 17 new XML file formats in Office 2007 (Word docs will have the .docx extension by default), and 14 of them are backwards compatible with earlier versions in this way.

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