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Topic: Let's Whine About Shitty Software  (Read 10876 times)

A Whirring Bone-White Gleech

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Let's Whine About Shitty Software
Because I am nothing but a lifeless husk that serves as a host for a scraggly neck-beard.

I'll start by complaining about a Lunix thing, just to maximize how horrible I am.

The K Desktop Environment lets you embed little widgets into your desktop (which they call "plasmoids," because they call the desktop "plasma").  One of these nifty little plasmoids is called Comics; as you might guess, it lets you view webcomics right on your desktop.  I have helpfully screencapped my desktop and circled the Comics plasmoid.



The comics plasmoid is pluggable; you can add new comics providers to it.  I've written a handful of these things; they're little JavaScript files.  What you do is provide a few select functions, and the plasmoid itself uses those as callbacks.  This API is not very well designed; it's not entirely clear what's going on or why.  As far as I know, there's no formal documentation for it, either; there's a tutorial, but it isn't very good.  The main way you learn how to make these is by installing a few and pulling them apart.

Basically, in the plasmoid's configuration screen, you can get to a screen that lists a bunch of comic providers, which you can click to install.  Here's were the problems start to kick in; that list comes from kdefiles.org, and it isn't curated.  Any schmuck can create an account on kdefiles.org, write some javascript, package it, upload it, and have it immediately appear in the download list for everyone else.  (As far as I know; the ones that I submitted showed up in my comics list immediately.)  This is in part a problem because not everyone is a very good software engineer - and even if they were, the API itself is undocumented and non-obvious.  Some of the providers that are available are really bad - they're by people who couldn't figure out what the hell was going on with that API and ended up producing something that occasionally blows up.

This problem gets worse because - brace for it - the plasmoid isn't isolated from the rest of the desktop at all.  As far as I can tell without looking at the code, the Javascript interpreter that runs the comic providers is in the same process as the comic plasmoid and the rest of the plasma desktop.  If the little uncurated java snippet that you get from the internet explodes, it can drag your entire desktop down with it.  And the Plasma desktop is apparently central to the way that KDE works such that, if it goes down, your entire login session will ultimately get royally screwed up (as opposed to the session just detecting the hang, killing the Plasma session and re-launching it, which is what real software engineers would have done).

I discovered all this when I installed the Dr McNinja provider.  Long story short, my desktop kept crashing.  I finally noticed that it seemed to happen when I hit the "next comic" button with the Dr. McNinja comic up.  So since they're just javascript, I looked at it, and I found out that the person who wrote that provider didn't know what the hell they were doing and built it such that hitting "next" would cause two callbacks to infinitely call each other.  Apparently, when the Javascript interpreter hit that, it started looping forever; because there's no competent isolation, that froze the entire plasma desktop and eventually crashed it.  Just to confirm that that was what was happening, I put a "while(1)" loop in one of my providers, and sure enough, that kills the entire Plasma desktop.

As a final note, this also means that there's a javascript interpreter that is connected to the internet (and designed to process web requests), that is not properly isolated from the process that manages your desktop and that fetches unverified code from the internet and runs it no-questions-asked.  That is a colossal, gaping security vulnerability - unless you trust them to have designed their security systems much, much better than they did their multithreading, which I really doubt.

I haven't kept track of this, so maybe they've fixed it since the last time I looked at it (which was September).  But I kinda doubt it.
« Last Edit: March 13, 2014, 04:03:27 pm by Fizzlebang the Wise »

Runic

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Let's Whine About Shitty Software #1
You were trying to hook it up to Dr. McNinja, so it might have also crashed because it was getting TO RADICAL.

Moriarty

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Let's Whine About Shitty Software #2
At least the comics plasmoid is visible by default. The same can't be said of the stupid weather plasmoid, which places itself invisibly under the clock as though you never even added it.

A Whirring Bone-White Gleech

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Let's Whine About Shitty Software #3
You were trying to hook it up to Dr. McNinja, so it might have also crashed because it was getting TO RADICAL.
Runic, March 13, 2014, 05:27:29 pm

You're behind, Runic!  King Radical has been vanquished, and now we're hunting vampires in a flashback!
I WIN THIS NERD CONTEST!


At least the comics plasmoid is visible by default. The same can't be said of the stupid weather plasmoid, which places itself invisibly under the clock as though you never even added it.
Moriarty, March 13, 2014, 05:40:35 pm

It's a universal theme of KDE that they care a lot more about feature count than quality or integration.  Most K* apps wind up as huge sacks of disorganized neat tricks, and not so much as usable software.

A Whirring Bone-White Gleech

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So let me whine for a bit about LaTeX.  LaTeX is document-preparation software used a lot in the sciences - in the mathier sciences particularly.  The basic idea is that you have a source file, you feed it into the LaTeX processor, and it spits up a PDF.  The reason you'd do this is because LaTeX is really good at type-setting math - way better than any other software I know of, anyway.

Essentially, it turns a source file that looks something like this:
\documentclass[11pt]{article}

\begin{document}

Do you seek knowledge of squid giant axons?

\[ C_m \frac{dV \left ( t \right )}{dt} = \sum_i I_i \left ( t, V \right ) \]

\end{document}

into this:
.

LaTeX is also the math-language for wikipedia, which some of you have probably guessed (or a sub-set of it is, I'm not sure).

If you have a lot of math to lay out, LaTeX is your baby.  The problem is that there's more to modern documents than laying out equations nicely.  You see, LaTeX is old: the current major version of LaTeX is LaTeX 2e, which had its first release in 1994 and its last release in 2011.  There are a lot of things that modern users expect to be able to do easily when making a document that LaTeX doesn't nicely support - like embedding images, having colored text, setting your page margins or including source-code listings.

One or two people reading this post just yelled "Hey, wait a minute!  LaTeX can do all of those things!"  Sort of; straight-up LaTeX can't, but there are packages that add all of those features.  Sometimes, in fact, more than one package; consider the wikibooks section on including source-code listings, or the wikibook chapter on embedding graphics, or the wikibooks section on typesetting algorithms.  (Would you call that simple?)  Notice that in the case of both graphics and algorithms, there are multiple packages that do the same job in different ways - and sometimes there are even packages that extend other packages!

The problem, essentially, is that the needs of LaTeX users have changed, but the core system has not evolved at all; it's still more-or-less the same LaTeX 2e we've had since 1994.  To fix this, people have been releasing more and more packages to shore up the capabilities of the basic system; however, even these packages have aged out usefulness, and other packages have sprung up to add in even more features that the previous crop of packages didn't include.

In an ideal world, what it would be nice to do is throw out the mess that is LaTeX 2e and rebuild it for the current, completely different environment; sadly, that's impractical for a number of reasons.  Among them are all those goddamned packages; people are actually using those things right now in their documents.  If the LaTeX authors started over, they'd either have to either maintain compatibility with all those packages (which'd be a nightmare) or provide as much of the functionality of those packages in their new system (which'd be a herculean engineering challenge).  There is in fact a project to build a new version of LaTeX, LaTeX 3; that's going nowhere, I suspect largely for the reason that they can't possibly satisfy all the needs that the old, decrepid LaTeX 2e plus its 80 bajillion mutually incompatible packages is currently handling (however poorly it's handling them).

So we're stuck with the same old typesetting system, which makes it easy to typeset equations in exchange for making it hard to do God-damned near anything else.

Edit: None of this even touches the less-than-intuitive and inconsistent syntax, or the sometimes-crazy layout rules (like the ones governing figure placement), or that its default behaviors and settings can be insanely hard to change without using packages, or the way it can shit the bath if a figure or table is wider or higher than a page.
« Last Edit: March 24, 2014, 10:22:35 pm by Fizzlebang the Wise »

A Whirring Bone-White Gleech

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Let's Whine About Shitty Software #5
Someday someone not me will post, and someday someone will post about something that isn't a KDE component.  Those two things will probably be related.

Anyway, I'd like to gripe about the KDE system configuration dialog.  I have a simple scenario, pictured below: I would like to set the image of the robot (highlighted in the window at right) as my desktop icon.  There isn't a context-menu option to do that, because that would advance usability, and the KDE team are constitutionally opposed to creating usable software, so I opened the settings application (the window at left) to hunt around for where to set my desktop background.



Looking at that settings pane, can you figure out:
a) if you can set the desktop background from this screen and, if you can,
b) where on this screen would you go to do it?

Answer: you can't.  Even though you can set the theme of the widgets on your desktop from here, and the color of your window borders from here, and the background of the task-bar from here, you can't set the desktop wallpaper from here.  You have to click on the little icon in the top-right corner and go to "default desktop settings".

Bonus: look at my task bar, and marvel at how vast and tangled my neck-beard must be.
« Last Edit: March 31, 2014, 03:16:57 pm by Crypto-Anarchy the Pony Wizard »

Tiny Prancer

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Let's Whine About Shitty Software #6
"Desktop - Dolphin" is the one that fascinates me the most

MISANDRY CANNON

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Let's Whine About Shitty Software #7
Truly the bristliest neckbeard.

A Whirring Bone-White Gleech

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Let's Whine About Shitty Software #8
"Desktop - Dolphin" is the one that fascinates me the most
Tiny Prancer, March 31, 2014, 04:02:06 pm

Sorry to disappoint, but it's just that "Dolphin" is the name of KDE's file-manager.

Tiny Prancer

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Let's Whine About Shitty Software #9
I was so genuinely hopeful that it was one of those virus-ridden FREE OCEAN DESKTOP DOWNLOAD websites

A Whirring Bone-White Gleech

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Let's Whine About Shitty Software #10
I've been using LibreOffice to try to make some presentation slides; LibreOffice is the fork of OpenOffice that happened after Oracle bought Sun.  It's crashed twice in the last 45 minutes.  I'm not doing anything crazy, I'm just using the bullet view and writing text.

That's LibreOffice and OpenOffice in a nutshell right there; it'd be of great value if it worked, but it's a twitchy little fuck that fucks up and crashes all the goddamned time, for no discernible reason.

nigeline

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Let's Whine About Shitty Software #11
I've been using LibreOffice to try to make some presentation slides; LibreOffice is the fork of OpenOffice that happened after Oracle bought Sun.  It's crashed twice in the last 45 minutes.  I'm not doing anything crazy, I'm just using the bullet view and writing text.

That's LibreOffice and OpenOffice in a nutshell right there; it'd be of great value if it worked, but it's a twitchy little fuck that fucks up and crashes all the goddamned time, for no discernible reason.
Der Trommelnspinne, April 09, 2014, 05:25:56 pm
This. It sucks that Google Drive refuses to include such simple features as footnotes or cell merging, forcing us poor paupers to use OO/LO.

jack chick

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Let's Whine About Shitty Software #12
Oh Libre Office is fucking TERRIBLE. I had that on my work machine for hella days until I found out that I could just ask the IT team to install real MS office.

Satan I had a bitch of a time trying to get it to do basic function work on a spreadsheet. LOL WHAT'S DIVISION?

fluffy

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Let's Whine About Shitty Software #13
Yeah I gave up on OO/LO long ago. For my document editing I either write it in HTML or, if it's more complicated... LaTeX.

Which sucks.

Incidentally I typeset my comic books in LaTeX, because I'm some sort of crazy masochist nerd.  The color correction process is pretty much just "pray that it works, run a hard proof, apply adjustments with ImageMagick until it looks sorta okay." I think I'm going to finally learn InDesign for my next book because holy shit.

I think my "favorite" accretion of weirdness is all the different fucking ways you can lay out a table, each with a different subtle set of broken or missing functions. And each has a slightly different name and slightly different subenvironments and it's just goddamn crazy and if you want to turn a table from one type to another because the one you're using doesn't support pagebreaks quite right or it doesn't do footnotes in the way you'd expect or whatever you have to completely rewrite all the markup just to find out that this other one insists on typesetting everything in Outer Mongolian or something.

As far as software that people actually USE goes, my gripe these days is probably with iTunes, especially ever since they redid the entire UI for no good reason. I mean I'm not averse to change if it's for the better, but the new UI is actually missing a fuckload of functionality, like being able to predict what the "play" button will do, and being able to play just a single podcast episode. What's worse about the podcast playback stuff is that it will only play podcast episodes in reverse chronological order.  The library filtering functions have also been completely brain-damaged beyond repair.

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Let's Whine About Shitty Software #14