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The Challenges of Application Compatibility

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Time and time again, I've encountered online arguments in which Geek A is telling Geek B that Company C does a poor job of maintaining backward compatibility.

In these cases, I'm never quite sure what it is that Geek A means. Does Geek A have any idea how difficult it is to maintain app level compatibility over the years as the underlying OS changes and evolves?

Maybe Geek A should watch this video...

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  • Joshua RossJoshRoss Niner since 2004
    I would think that innovation would start at the following website... http://www.innovateonwindowsvista.com However, It could use a little snazzing-up before I would call it innovative. Start by putting up a wall-of-shame for software. I would like to nominate HP printer driver installers.
  • evildictaitorevildictait​or Devil's advocate
    JoshRoss wrote:
    I would think that innovation would start at the following website... http://www.innovateonwindowsvista.com However, It could use a little snazzing-up before I would call it innovative. Start by putting up a wall-of-shame for software. I would like to nominate HP printer driver installers.


    A wall of shame ye say? I think NVidia would fit in just right there. I know lots of very mild mannered people who say some very nasty things about their video drivers for vista. Curse them!
  • Joshua RossJoshRoss Niner since 2004
    While we're cursing installers; SoundMax and ATI, this one goes out to you! PLEASE stop using low-res 8-bit images to fill the background of your crappy, hand-rolled, installers. Without getting too negative, I would like to issue a praise for every curse. THANK YOU windows update team for providing feature complete, minimally intrusive, drivers. The whole process from acquisition, installation, and finally use, works wonderfully!
  • JoshRoss wrote:
    While we're cursing installers; SoundMax and ATI, this one goes out to you! PLEASE stop using low-res 8-bit images to fill the background of your crappy, hand-rolled, installers. Without getting too negative, I would like to issue a praise for every curse. THANK YOU windows update team for providing feature complete, minimally intrusive, drivers. The whole process from acquisition, installation, and finally use, works wonderfully!


    But ATI installers aren't all hand rolled. There are parts from Nullsoft, and parts from Installshield, etc. The home-grown stuff is just used as shims between the disparate components. It's actually a very good example of WTFery at it's finest.
  • Innovated video.

  • Joshua RossJoshRoss Niner since 2004
    Geek A knows what they are talking about. How often does a version of windows drop? How often does a new version of visual studio drop? How much more productivity does each new version of visual studio bring? Writing apps for windows is a breeze. If company C follows the best practices, of the time the apps were produced, then fixing breaking changes should be trivial. And for the changes that are not trivial, there is a huge amount of lead time between when the breaking change is announced and when the product, in this case windows, makes its way out of a series of betas, CTPS, and RCs.
  • swax wrote:
    This just isn't true, first you're asking companies to continually update their software for the latest windows APIs.  This just isn't practical for many companies that are 'done' with whatever component, and don't see the need for re-compiling it every x number of years. 

    The same is true on the receiving end, a new version of windows shouldn't break all the components developed or bought by a company.

    And on the customer end imagine if vista really did break all software, do you understand the sheer scale of the situation? Geek A needs to get a job, and see what the real world is like.  Many many many companies are still writing their production software in VC6 and VB6.



    How about customer demand? What if the customers don't want to still be running windows 95 just because the developers are too lazy/incompetent to change a few API calls?

    You do make a good point though. The next time I go buy a car, I'm going to yell at the salesman until he finds me one that has harnesses for a team of horses attached to the front.
  • JoshRoss wrote:
    I would like to nominate HP printer driver installers.


    Seconded.

    To anyone from HP who may be reading, installing a printer should NOT give me an error if:

    1) I'm using RunAs
    2) I'm using Remote Desktop
    3) I don't have 32 bit colour depth selected. I mean WTF is that all about? How can an installer be that broken?
  • JoshRoss wrote:
    If company C follows the best practices, of the time the apps were produced, then fixing breaking changes should be trivial


    This just isn't true, first you're asking companies to continually update their software for the latest windows APIs.  This just isn't practical for many companies that are 'done' with whatever component, and don't see the need for re-compiling it every x number of years. 

    The same is true on the receiving end, a new version of windows shouldn't break all the components developed or bought by a company.

    And on the customer end imagine if vista really did break all software, do you understand the sheer scale of the situation? Geek A needs to get a job, and see what the real world is like.  Many many many companies are still writing their production software in VC6 and VB6.

  • kettch wrote:
    What if the customers don't want to still be running windows 95 just because the developers are too lazy/incompetent to change a few API calls?


    The customers don't need to use windows 95 because of backwards compatibility.  That was the entire point, sheesh.

    This is about MS building a platform (a foundation) and us building upon it without the fear of our base being pulled out from under us at some point in the future.  This is a major reason why companies invest in building their software on top of windows.
  • swax wrote:
    
    kettch wrote:
    What if the customers don't want to still be running windows 95 just because the developers are too lazy/incompetent to change a few API calls?


    The customers don't need to use windows 95 because of backwards compatibility.  That was the entire point, sheesh.


    Really, I know of a few applications that I've tried to install/run on Vista that were not helped by any amount of compatibility assistence that the system could give.

    Providing backwards compatability for so many applications seems to be close to becoming an unwieldy task. If you can make the changes required by the new APIs, then you should. It's the job of the developer to make sure that their product runs on Windows. Just throwing up your hands and saying "Backwards compatibility will save us" is just ridiculous.

    I'm all for providing backcompat for as long as possible, but if it is happening at the expense of innovation in the product, or is a detriment in any other way, then something has to be done.
  • Joshua RossJoshRoss Niner since 2004
    swax wrote:

    The same is true on the receiving end, a new version of windows shouldn't break all the components developed or bought by a company.


    And on the customer end imagine if vista really did break all software, do you understand the sheer scale of the situation? Geek A needs to get a job, and see what the real world is like.  Many many many companies are still writing their production software in VC6 and VB6.

    The first bit is hyperbole.  You can't break all of the componnts of a program, there are just too many.  They could break a few, but there would be a good reason behind doing so.

    I would not recommend purchasing software from an abandonware provider.  It is very difficult to write high-quality software using these old programs. 

  • javamdkjavamdk unrated

    This is kind of a dated interview, I'm guessing back in December or something - although very interesting. I'm probably shouting out the obvious, but a lot of people generally 'view' Apple as being innovative. With their great vector based graphics, UI, and security. Then I thought, what's wrong with Microsoft?

    Microsoft does employ great minds with urges to implement all new and great features... although, with the compatibility of thousands of devices and hundreds of thousands of applications, Microsoft really has some limitations to what can, and cannot be done.

    Apple for instance, has a good handful of applications... as far as devices; they're fairly all proprietary to Apple. Therefore, they have that room to innovate and play around with new ideas. Cool Jr

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