Thank You For Your Future Abandonware

Few things honk me off quite as much as abandonware, especially when something good is abandoned. Microsoft could abandon everything they make and I would not care, none of it is a quality product. Other things really hurt.

You are reading this because there was yet another Qt question on the Qt mailing list from yet another person creating yet another glorified text editor/crippled word processor. I think this one was supposed to support markup language. I cautioned them against creating future abandonware and pointed them to existing Qt based word processors some of which had already been abandoned and had most of the features they wanted. After building it all they would have needed to do was add support for their special syntax.

Given the fact they were working in C++ and Qt I first pointed them to KATE. This editor has been around a long time and recently made the hop from Linux to Windows. Most importantly, if you scroll just shy of halfway down that page it tells you how to build just KTextEditor, the editor component used by KWrite and KDevelop. It’s probably also used on a hundred other lesser known or private projects. Why re-invent the wheel if all you need is a couple of tweaks to the KTextEditor?

Nah, they didn’t go for that. NIH (Not Invented Here) syndrome in full bloom.

This got me thinking about all of the other text editor and word processor abandonware I’ve encountered over the years. KWord was a serviceable word processor. It was abandoned for the ghastly Calligra Words project. All mention of KWord is slowly being purged from the Internet. You can still find a snapshot of the KOffice source code here which includes KWords.

Adding insult to injury, Oasis was a Qt based word processor which began as a Qt example program. Basically, Oasis was about 2-4 years ahead of where the poster’s editor currently was. There are literally thousands of these things out there.

That brings us to one of the most painful abandonware cases ever.

It’s amazing IBM can make money given how clueless management is

I will skip over the massive OS/2 abandonware issue, well, at least most of it. Lotus SmartSuite was and still is a particularly painful part of the abandonment. Some of these pictures are going to seem really grainy. When you install Lotus SmartSuite on Windows 10 or really any Windows after 98, the fonts it installs are old. They are from a time when SVGA was the bleeding edge of screen resolution and the bulk of the world simply ran VGA. I didn’t feel like lowering the video capabilities of the VM. One adorable quirk the product had was the “floating file cabinet.” A thin little bar you could move around on the screen. Each of those brown wood grained buttons is a “drawer” where things are filed.

SmartSuite File Cabinet
SmartSuite File Cabinet

Lotus 123 ruled the spreadsheet universe. Honestly, the last version of 123 ever released is still ahead of Microsoft Excel.

Lotus Approach was a victim of zero marketing. I’m not saying it was a fantastic database, it was a fantastic report creation system driven by a database. For years I had my expense tracker system in Lotus Approach. Why? The data entry screen took about ten minutes to set up. The actual expense report with beautiful fonts, perfectly aligned columns, group totals and grand totals took about thirty minutes or so to create. It really looked professional too. Microsoft Access is still trying to get where Lotus Approach was when it was abandoned.

calendarThe calendar and address book portions were kind of cool. With hundreds or thousands of such things around today most of you don’t realize just how ground breaking it was to have such things all integrated. This was back when we were still shipping software on floppies remember. You could double click a spot there to create a new appointment for today or you could open up the calendar application and be greeted by a full software version of a Daytimer planner.

lotus organizer

Yes, you could change the view to be a week, month, whatever. I used the Lotus Organizer a lot. Those little Daytimer planners were getting to be hundreds of dollars when I stopped using them.

Address book
Address list

Everything was integrated for the very first time. You don’t think much about that now if your company has a pricey, unstable Exchange server, but this was a major feat. You really needed to have Team Center email at your company to get full use out of the email integration part. As I remember it didn’t work well with the Internet email of the day. Having said that, we didn’t have email standards yet. A regular person couldn’t send email from Compuserve to an AOL user. Every ISP wanted to own the Internet and all its content. The best way to do that was have a proprietary email system. Big Government had to step in and thump that. Today you don’t even think about the @someUrl.Blah portion of an email address when you send an email, but there was a long, dark period when you couldn’t “just do it.”

Don’t dis the layout of the address drawer too hard. It matched what the executive secretary had on their desk. A low level clerical person like a receptionist had a great big Rolodex of cards. The higher you went in a company the smaller and more stylish your list and address tracker became. You had people to do things for you. Those people had the great big Rolodex. You only had to keep track of the executives in Mahogany Row and a few special friends outside of the company. I seem to remember mine having the slider on the left. Honestly, I just threw it out when I changed desks this past fall.

Bates Listfinder image
Bates Listfinder

The slider worked because the cards inside had cut edges. The slider hung well down below the card edges. You slid the slider down to say, K, and then clicked the open button. All of the cards before K were missing the indexer edge.

Bates List Finder opened image
Bates List Finder opened

 

Lotus WordPro was and still is the best word processor for a writer ever created. It has features that were and still are earth shattering. In particular Sections and Divisions are something nobody else has really duplicated. There is a claim Scrivener has something similar, but I haven’t played with Scrivener yet. Installed Scrivener in a VM and basically forgot about it. Had it not been free to try I probably wouldn’t have even done that.

application drawer image

supported file formats image
Supported file formats

As you can tell by the list of supported file formats, WordPro has not been updated in a long time. We really need a Change.org campaign to get the federal government to pass a law requiring vendors to Open Source anything they abandoned posting a fully tested build script with all source on both GitHub and Sourceforge. We have simply lost too much. IBM didn’t kill this off because they launched a competing product. They killed it off because they got out of the PC software business not long after the death of OS/2. At least that was the story, but Lotus Notes is still around.

WordPro document image

Don’t confuse these tabs with tabs for different documents that lesser word processors use today. These are Divisions. You can even change the color of the Division tab along with its name so Research can be one color, To-Do list another, etc.

WordPro print dialog
WordPro print dialog

Notice in the bottom box of the print dialog that you can choose to print only the current division. I should point out that when you drag divisions to different locations you actually change their position within the file hierarchy. The next part should really blow your mind.

creating section image
creating a new section
document with new section image
document with new section

Take a good look. Notice the green “My New Section” tab is within the “Body” division. Every Division can have however many Sections within it. I don’t know if there is a physical number hard coded into the design or the only limit is the combination of physical memory and disk storage. Sections are amazing!

section image 1
Sections for Chapters 2 and 3

Notice that I created Sections for Chapter 2 and Chapter 3. To make them stand out I gave each tab color.

section image 2
re-arrange sections

Notice that you can just drag and drop a section to a new location. When writing a book it is often the case we have to re-arrange chapters. No matter what widely known word processor you are using now you are either selecting huge chunks of text to delete then paste in a new location, or you are simply deleting the stuff and retyping from either a print out or pdf. When an editor tells a WordPro user to make the third chapter the first chapter, it’s no big thing, drag and drop. Oh! You may have to fix some stuff in the text itself due to story line, etc., but the mechanics are no longer a horrible error prone thing.

Section drop down menu image
Section drop down menu

I imagine the cut and copy items are grayed out because Windows 10 has a different paste buffer API than Windows 3.1. Just a guess though. I just wanted to show you the right click section drop-down menu. It lets you do quite a few things. I just don’t feel like going through section mark and combine right now.

section moved to new division image
section moved to new division

The last thing I wanted to show you is dragging a Section from one Division and dropping it in another. People who don’t write for a living or to just be an author probably don’t understand just how indispensable this ability is. A professional writer or someone who hopes to one day be a professional writer must always have an open scraps Division. Never just nuke a chapter, scene, whatever, put it in a scraps Division. This advice is especially true during early external editing phases and “I got lost in the middle of the story” rewrites. That problem spot may get fixed and re-added. You may learn (because your editor informs you) the reason that problem spot was a problem is because you screwed something else up way early in the work.

It happens man. Adding insult to injury, it will be something you dropped in, not even caring about it. You gave some character a disability or background trait that sounded so good for five to seven sentences, then it never came up again in the book. Well, not until you got to the end of the book and now you need that not to exist only you are so far past it you don’t remember why or if it was a really important thing when you added it. Yeah, you aren’t finding that mistake on your own, you need an outside reader.

What happens if you are using Microsoft Word? Well, you select a bunch of text, copy, cut, then open a new scraps document file and paste it in praying you don’t lose it along the way. Oh, but you most likely lost the page styles including their sizes. Probably lost other stuff too.

It was a really sad day when IBM sunset Lotus SmartSuite. Sadder still that our Federal government didn’t force them to Open Source the code so someone could maintain it. We really need the Federal government to force IBM to release the source code, build configuration, and all development documentation. This is some abandonware we should never have lost. We could probably get it ported to Linux without a huge effort, especially if it was cleaned up to be Wine compatible.

Death of the 2 Party System

Whether you are watching the twitching of the Republican dinosaurs in Springfield, Illinois or watching politics on the national level you have to come to the same conclusion. The 2 party system of graft, corruption and cronieism has died. Its last few surviving dinosaurs lie twitching and shivering in the nuclear winter where they will forever be denied food making the outcome predetermined. Odd since they had been so good about predetermining the outcome of investigations before they started for so long.

The 2 party system started dying during the Clinton administration when Janet Reno not only didn’t put any Microsoft officials in prison, but didn’t prosecute them for calling Windows 3.1 an “operating system” on the box and in advertising when it was no more than a task switching application on top of DOS. Lotus 123 and Borland Sidekick had just as much right to be called an “operating system” as it did.

Today it is obvious to all the 2 party system has failed spectacularly. Public trust is non-existent. Agendas are bought and sold by Wall Street elite and the damage done to the middle class by the combination of off-shoring and massive visa worker abuse has been almost complete. Spin doctors toss around “statistics” showing the middle class to be much larger than it really is. It is not until you push the issue and get them to finally admit they use an annual income of $45,000 to define “middle class” that you realize just how completely fabricated those “statistics” really are.

Another anomaly is this definition of Gen-X and Baby Boomer. They tend to include people born all the way up to 1964 in the Baby Boomer generation but most people born in the early 60s don’t fit any of the Baby Boomer descriptions. Other than age we have little in common with them. Few of us believe voting for a party is worth voting against issues we care about. Most of us don’t really fit into the descriptions of Gen-X either.

Now we have Millennials. In truth Millennials are closer in definition to the lost generation covering that span of years between the real end of Baby Boomers and the real beginning of Gen-x. The lost generation watched the factories close with the first wave of off-shoring. Many of us were college age or near enough. Some were both lucky and skilled enough to work in the emerging tech industries while others were crushed. Millennials have watched parents eat endless miles of corporate feces trying to keep their jobs only to be replaced by a visa worker or have the entire plant off-shored anyway.

I didn’t care much for Donald Trump’s acceptance speech. This whole “defund ObamaCare” thing the dying twitching dinosaurs keep championing will be their end. Obamacare isn’t perfect, but it can be fixed. Most thinking creatures realize this and Millennials tend to be made up of thinking creatures. I can remember generations before me using expressions like “that’s above my pay grade” when it came to political decisions. The number of times I heard “glad I don’t have that job” when people discussed elected officials is simply uncountable. The generations which wanted to be lead are in nursing homes or gone now. The ones who will blindly follow a party or a leader are thankfully a dwindling few.

While most people paid no attention to her speech, Ivanka Trump fired the shot across the bow both parties have failed to heed.

“Like many of my fellow millennials, I do not consider myself categorically Republican or Democrat.”

Millennials and the lost generation have this in common. At least that section of the lost generation who worked in tech have that in common with Millennials. Since Millennials grew up with so much of our tech it is not surprising. In tech you solve one problem at a time. I’ve often wondered if Millennials all read “Peopleware” and the first edition of “The Secrets of Consulting.” Both Millennials and the lost generation seem to adhere to “Rudy’s Rutabaga Rule.” Your second worst problem becomes your first worst problem after you solve your first worst problem. Trying to solve both at once won’t get you anywhere.

Honestly, I’ve loaned my copies of these out so much I don’t think I have either of them anymore. They really are childhood fables for adults. Adhere to their lessons and you won’t have a bad life. Too bad politicians seem to have never read this books. Some may have skimmed them but they didn’t actually read them.

Millennials also watched while over a trillion dollars was sucked from the global economy without a single Wall Street executive going to prison. A Super PAC contribution here, speaking fees there and vola! The shareholders eat the token fines while the perpetrators of the crimes walk free still collecting massive salaries and bonuses. Millennials also watched Bernie Madoff get 150 years in prison for a financial scam which recovered roughly 60 cents on the dollar. Obviously he didn’t fund enough Super PACs or pay enough in speaking fees.

So, now we have a generation, some of which are now 30-somethings, in both their prime earning years and their prime voting years who are used to being perpetually connected. They don’t have to be activists or hold protests, they simply have to trend. In political years past getting a million people to care about something was expensive and annoying. Today Millennials can get a million plus people to join their cause without the news media even knowing about it. One blog post, one chat site or one whatever that the media isn’t following.

They (Millennials) live in the gig economy knowing full well corporate America would screw them over royally if they ever took a traditional job. They value life experiences with their friends and loved ones over the trappings the twitching dinosaurs cherish. When they decide to show up, they won’t be showing up alone. They also won’t be showing up for a political party. With Gary Johnson’s position of “anyone should get a work visa” they won’t be showing up for him either. He’s taken the absolute worst plank of the Republican Dinosaur platform and stood on it. He keeps sending out emails wondering why he cannot get to the 15% threshold to appear in the debates, well, because only the upper 1% believe that plank is worth standing on. Oddly enough Jill Stein, the green party presidential candidate from Illinois hasn’t yet posted anything on her Web site (that I can find) about abolishing all visa programs until we hit 100% employment. Perhaps she will finally weigh in on the issue.

When even Disney is trying to replace U.S. workers with visa workers corruption has gone too far. Millennials see this. Most of them are in the tech world and being victimized by the rampant visa abuse in this country. Trump is completely off-base worrying about Mexicans coming in to do nasty physical labor. It is the decimation of high paying jobs via visa abuse and misuse that is Rudy’s Rutabaga for both Millennials and the lost generation. Even the Department of Labor has abandoned the America workforce.

We can only hope Jill Stein will smell the tea brewing and adopt the plank which will propel her onto the debate stage.