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File Extensions And Monopolies 881

A_Non_Moose sent us an article from Salon that talks about how file extensions are one of the tools used by Microsoft to extend their mind and market share. It's a very simple idea but its honestly something I'd never thought about. Definitely worth a read, and a few neurons to realize how its really the simplest of things that will guarantee that this monopoly isn't stopped even if Microsoft's deep pockets didn't let them buy the law.
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File Extensions And Monopolies

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  • by Daniel Rutter ( 126873 ) <dan@dansdata.com> on Monday October 08, 2001 @02:27PM (#2402728) Homepage
    Scott Rosenberg, the author of the Salon piece, says Windows "makes you go on a mad hunt through menus and folders and options to find the dialogue box that lets you [change the app that opens a given file type]". Well, yes, it does, unless you shift-rightclick a file and use the "Open With..." option.

    This doesn't really weaken Rosenberg's argument, of course, because this is just one of the zillion and three Windows shortcut thingies that Joe Average doesn't know about. Joe's no more likely to use this than he is to fish his way through to the long-form File Types dialogue. But all of us windswept and interesting Slashdotters who choose/are forced to use Windows ought to know it :-).

    Dang it, I used to use an Amiga. Directory utilities on the Amiga just looked at the darn file header. Your IFF image could be called notapicture.txt and it'd still display JUST FINE. A 1Gb footprint for WinXP (which, I hasten to add, I _am_ going to install when next I upgrade my Tiny God), and it still can't do that?!

    Come to think of it, that'd be an anti-Sircam-ish sort of feature. "You have attempted to open a file whose extension is PIF, but which appears to be an ordinary executable. That's odd. Would you like to check this file against the new and wonderful Microsoft Proprietary Crushing All Opposition Virus Database to see if it's one of the many things that takes advantage of our monopoly almost as well as we do?"
  • I thought about this some (before this article), and came to the realization that any program I create should steal as many extentions as possible under Windows. Why? Because once you steal the extension, the mindshare is shifted to your program instead of Microsoft's.

    By the same token, would I want Real Player to automatically take over my Desktop? Not a chance. The difference is that Real Player is a piece of bloated s**t that deserves to die. They have not produced a GOOD product in a very long time. Netscape 6.1/Mozilla and StarOffice OTOH, should detect all the extentions it supports, check if they are not registered or registered with "System defaults" (read: Microsoft) and automatically switch them. As long as it doesn't switch any non-M$ software, people will hardly notice and just come to expect the new software. Then and only then will you start hearing "You're still using IE/Microsoft Office? Geez. Go get some real software."
  • by Jburkholder ( 28127 ) on Monday October 08, 2001 @02:33PM (#2402762)
    >Its just a matter of knowing what boxes to uncheck during the installation. Ordinary users simply dont know what they're clicking through during an install.

    Man, the worst offender I ever experienced was paintshop pro. This was especially bad if you were stupid enough (as I was once) to download and install the TRIAL VERSION!.

    It took _every_ file extension it decided it should handle and changed the registered extension app without asking (or even giving an option in the install, custom install not being available in the 'demo').

    So, after using the software for 30 days (or less!) and deciding I didn't want it, there was no way to restore the file extension settings (other than manually, of course).

    At first, I would still click on the file I wanted to open and PSP would come up and rag at me that my trial had expired and I should buy the damn thing. Of course, my response was to uninstall the stupid thing. Not much better, now windows would report that it couldn't find the registered application for the file I was opening.

    You can, of course, hunt down the view/folder options/file types dialog and then manually change each extension back to some other app install on your system. Most programs these days will ask during the install which extensions you want to have automatically opened by the program, and others are even smart enough to offer the right-click/open with option during the install.

  • Ugh. I'm sick of programs fighting each other for the user's attention. Who would buy a blender that detected other blenders in the house and tried to disable them? Should my Sony TV ask me every day if it should take over the remote control for my Magnavox? Why do we put up with this?

    We should have a file typing system that incorporates the creating company/software package into it, like how UPC symbols list COMPANY/PRODUCT_NO so both Jiffy and Food Lion can both sell peanut butter and the register knows the difference. That way Joe Shmoe can double-click on his RealMP3 and it won't open in WMP.
  • by Everyman ( 197621 ) on Monday October 08, 2001 @02:37PM (#2402793) Homepage
    The problem is not merely that file extensions launch programs, and the association between extension and application is difficult to change.

    The larger problem is this: new application software for Windows is typically file-extension oriented, and it's Microsoft that defines the important extensions. For example, I was evaluating a Windows full-text desktop document indexer recently, written by a small Windows development house. It was fast (written in assembly), and it could even do PDF and ZIP files.

    But then I discovered that the years of files I had saved under legacy systems, starting with DOS, were completely invisible to this package. They were ASCII files, and I used my own file-naming conventions for the extension, so they weren't easily convertible to *.txt files. I had just been punished by this application for not going along with the Redmond game plan.

    And here's another nightmare:

    Consider, if you will, what happens when you ask Explorer to save a web page to disk. It uses a huge filename, and saves the images in separate directories. There's basically no way to get the thing back from the disk without using Explorer. That's why I take the trouble to Lynx-strip everything I want to archive, and put it into ASCII with a short filename.

    Have you ever considered what it would be like to convert to Linux if all the filenames on your Windows system were around 80 bytes or so? Both Windows and Linux will accept filenames up to 254 bytes, but no one except a masochist would ever use a command-line system on filenames that long.

    It's a conspiracy, I tell you. You gotta use a mouse, you gotta be using it in Explorer, and you gotta be interested in approved Microsoft files only, or you can forget it.
  • by corky6921 ( 240602 ) on Monday October 08, 2001 @02:38PM (#2402803) Homepage
    From Salon: "The power of "default" settings lies in users' ignorance and inertia. There are millions of Windows users who barely know what "right-clicking" is.

    The remedy Salon suggests? "It would probably take one of Microsoft's developers a short afternoon to build a simple, forthrightly labeled control panel that sits right on every user's desktop and asks, in plain English, 'Which program would you like to open Web pages? Or text files? Or MP3 audio files? Or photo files?'"

    So these users, who the author seems to think are too stupid to know what right-clicking is, now have to know the difference between a text file (*.txt) and a Word file (*.doc) and which program goes with which extension (no, wait, which program they want to use to open which file types!)

    Microsoft isn't even the real perpetrator of these things. It's companies like Real, which have programs like RealDownload (click here [tccug.org] and here [grc.com] for examples) that really go overboard with the registered file types thing. RealDownload attaches itself to your web browser in such a way that the only way to stop it from popping up every time you try to download a file is to uninstall it. It also comes preinstalled on a bunch of OEM computers, so people are afraid to uninstall it. That's just one example...

    There are lots of horrible pieces of software in the Windows world: spyware like the stuff that comes with BearShare and Morpheus, the Real "suite" of products that tries to take over your computer; AOL, which tries to eat your TCP/IP stack for lunch and replace it with its own TCP/IP stack. Instead of focusing on how Microsoft is horrible because it HAS registered file types, let's focus on programs (Microsoft ones included) that abuse their privilege and try to force you to use them for everything under the sun.

    Finally, please continue to educate our user base, instead of just assuming they are "ignorant" and unable to take control of "where they want to go today" (and what program they want to use to do that.)

  • Better idea. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Xibby ( 232218 ) <zibby+slashdot@ringworld.org> on Monday October 08, 2001 @02:46PM (#2402860) Homepage Journal
    The article does have some good points, IMO. But why not take it a step further. MS has the Windows Stamp of approval that goes to software as long as the software follows certin guidlines. By following these guidlines, developers know that their software will run on the Windows platform and the users know before buying the product. (This is very important with Win NT and 2000 actually.)

    Anyway, perhaps one of these guidlines should be that the installer registers what file types it is capible of handling. This is different from registering it as the default viewer.

    Then, all MS would have to do is create, say, a control panel applet for the file types. Shouldn't be too hard. It would present you with a file type (sorted into say, images, video, audio, documents, etc...) and what applications are able to handle that file type. Then you just select the program you want from the list that support it, instead of having to remember what program views what.

    Go a bit firther and require installers to prompt before changing and you should be set.

    This would be an improvment to the current setup, and I can't imagine that the talented Windows developers (they have to have some talent, the OS does run rather decently...) could do with the next service pack.
  • by geomcbay ( 263540 ) on Monday October 08, 2001 @02:56PM (#2402922)
    I just mailed a letter to the editor of Salon about this article before it popped up on Slashdot. I believe it is dangerous because this whole thing is really a non-issue. File-type mapping is a convience, not a curse, and the article is very misleading about how hard it is to change these mappings...

    Below is the text of my letter:


    I think Scott Rosenberg is way off the mark in his article regarding 'registered file types' for Microsoft Windows. In reality, it is not as hard to change these file mappings as he portrays.

    To begin with, the user would very rarely want to change one of these file type mappings; it is the sort of action you tend to perform once and then leave alone. As it is such a rare event, it makes sense for it to be somewhere deeper within the UI than an action that you would want to perform very often. There's only so much space within the UI for quickly accessible items, and they should always be items that are used regularly by a majority of users.

    Further, it is a lot easier to change these file-types than he portrays even if you want to change them. Since Windows 98, at least (I don't remember far enough back to know if Win95 supported this), you can right-click a particular file, choose "Open With.../Choose Program" and an easy-to-use dialog pops up which allows you to pick which program to use to open that file-type and even change the file mapping for that file type by choosing 'Always use this program to open these files'. Making this change is not exactly rocket science.

    And lastly, while it is true that the process above may not be completely intuitive for new computer users, virtually every application released in the past five years will check the Windows registry to determine file mappings when it is launched and offer the user the option to change these mappings so that the program just launched will become the default for the file-types it supports. When this occurs, it is generally via a simple dialog box popped up when the application is launched, it is hard to argue that this interface is too difficult for users. One of Scott's own examples, RealPlayer, is adamant about informing users of file-type mappings at startup, and offering the choice to remap files to RealPlayer (using a simple Yes/No dialog), ditto for Netscape (and IE), and countless other applications.

    I believe Microsoft has many questionable business practices, but file-type mapping is not one of them, and highlighting such a non-issue just detracts from the real problems via crying-wolf-syndrome.
  • by Lumpish Scholar ( 17107 ) on Monday October 08, 2001 @03:02PM (#2402962) Homepage Journal
    Rosenberg claims it's hard to change registered file types, then explains how to do it in twenty one words. Like many of you, I'm not all that impressed. (Some Windows programs, such as the wonderful IrfanView, offer to grab or give up the registered file type for various types, at installation or whenever.)

    The real problem is, not all interesting associations can be set via Windows Explorer. Programs can tell Windows, "I want to open up a Web page" or "I want to start sending an e-mail message"; what programs do they use?

    Setting "the default browser" is more than just setting the .HTM association! If you've told all your browsers to fight over the default like a pack of starving pit bulls, they'll offer to change it back and forth all too often. Otherwise, you can edit a dozen or so obscure registry entries. There's a commercial (but cheap) utility, BrowserSwitch [coolware.com], that doesn't do anything but this.

    How do you change the default mail program? I honestly have no idea. Heaven help someone with both Outlook and Eudora installed, who would prefer to use the latter.

    Various movie formats can be handled by Windows Media Player, and RealPlayer, and QuickTime. Assuming Microsoft hasn't banned the latter two, how can you tell your browser which one you want?

    Any solution would need to be at least partially technical. It's not clear how much of a legal solution is necessary; I'd like to hear arguments on both sides.

    I agree with Rosenberg in one way: Windows users would be better off if they could make such choices more easily.
  • by vtechpilot ( 468543 ) on Monday October 08, 2001 @03:07PM (#2403004)
    Why does everyone out there seem to think that because the justice department was ordered to stop pursuing a break up, it won't happen? Its not the prosecutions position to decide the sentence. If judge Kollar-Kotelly decides that breakup is the only effective solution, it will be the decision made even if the justice dept. doesn't ask for it.

    Personally, I am pretty confident that breakup will probably be the only acceptable solution. We already know that restrictions on behavior aren't enough to tame this beast. With all that in mind discussions about file extension management in the name of antitrust are kind of pointless don't you think?
  • by Danse ( 1026 ) on Monday October 08, 2001 @03:12PM (#2403024)

    Make the "Open" option into an expandable menu instead of a single option. List all the programs that are registered to handle that file type in the menu and let the user select the one he wants. You could still select one app as a default for when you double-click on a file, but this way users could select a specific program a lot easier.

  • by hhe_hee ( 470065 ) <prodigy&acc,umu,se> on Monday October 08, 2001 @03:13PM (#2403029) Homepage
    The problem here is that the major part of the pc users actually doesn't know anything about the OS.

    Better yet, it has a check box of "use this program to open up the file as default". Very easy.

    I don't know how many questions I've got from friends asking "What program should I choose for this file? Why can't it just open in the right program in the first time?"

    The success of M$ is actually the fact that they made an OS available for a user without any "advanced" knowledge. I still remember when the first windows came, it was really exciting. And by the way think about this; why is it that other OS of Linux/UNIX-type has exploded in number of users in the last few years? The answer is plainly that much of it is thanks to graphical interfaces to the OS. Here in my town they run Linux at a lot of schools, and the students wouldn't be able to use it if they just had a black screen with a prompt. Many people I talked to think's its great that they can handle an "advanced OS" like Linux, but it's just because they have some icons and some menues. You know, stuff that calm's the user down.
    Maybe we users who know better should stick with our kinds of "Alternative OS", and let M$ run its race. Maybe we finally could outpace them? Could it be that Linux/UNIX soon would be as easy as windows to handle? If it goes that way in the future, it would be a hit :)

    But of course, I think that M$ monopoly is some sort of situation that we gotta do something about. But some things are their invention, like the file extension which made it more simple for "ordinary" users to handle. But it's a large company, and large companies tend to be more greedy the larger they get. So maybe splitting it up in several pieces will be just good...
  • by Chibi ( 232518 ) on Monday October 08, 2001 @03:13PM (#2403033) Journal

    Just wanted to point it out. There are plenty of people at my job that do not set Windows to show file extensions. This is one reason why some viruses/worms can spread so quickly. "Oh, here's a cute icon, I think I'll double-click it, it's called 'readme,' after all..." By having this the default, it saves some users from having to know certain things, but it probably causes more harm, ultimately, than good.

  • by powerlord ( 28156 ) on Monday October 08, 2001 @03:28PM (#2403120) Journal
    You are also dependent on the applications registering the types with the same name.

    I think what he's suggesting is instead of a two dimentional table (extension/program to handle it), you end up with each entry for an 'extension' containing a list of all the programs that register their ability to handle that extention type.
    If 42 programs want to register their ability to handle GIFs, fine, you have 42 entries.

    You can still mark down a "Default" program that is activated when you double click on an Icon, but by keeping all the other info you can:

    1) Browse what programs are assigned what extensions, and which ones they want but are not the default, or even create a utility to go through the catalogue and make a particular programs settings the default (again, preserving the current defaults as alternatives).

    2) Preserve alternative choices in case the default application is un-installed.

    3) Turn the current windows "Open" option when you right click on an Icon into a expanding menubox (ala the "Program" menu) listing all the currently registered options.

    Okay. I wish I could take credit for this, but the poster above did. I think this would be a really good idea for a desktop to do. Lets beat Windows to the punch and get this into Gnome and KDE :)
  • Drag 'n' Drop? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ktakki ( 64573 ) on Monday October 08, 2001 @03:29PM (#2403132) Homepage Journal
    Doesn't anyone drag and drop anymore? Wasn't DnD the big advantage to using a GUI?

    On both my Macs and my Windows computers, I use DnD to override default file associations. Drag the .html file on to the text editor icon: it's open for editing. Double-click and it's opened by the default browser. Want to see it in an alternate browser? Drag it over to that icon. Drag it over to the printer icon for a hard copy.

    Lately, I've been using DnD to extract strings from all of the Sircam-infected Word documents that show up in my mail by dragging the attachment link embedded in the mail message on to the TextEdit icon in the OS X Dock (not that SecretPlans.doc.pif would execute anyway if I clicked on it).

    Why bother with the overhead of having a GUI if you're not going to use all the features?

  • Re:Give me a break. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by viking099 ( 70446 ) on Monday October 08, 2001 @03:39PM (#2403181)
    "The courts should order changes like this." Correction: The market should order changes like this. The courts should be determining that MS has done something illegal, and if it has, what it needs to do to make up for it. Something as minor as this should not be in the realm of the courts. If enough customers wanted such a tool, someone would come out with one, and MS would then emulate the tool (or purchase it outright). It's the way the world works. I mean, look at StickyNotes on the mac. IIRC, Apple didn't program it, someone else did, and Apple thought it was such a good idea, it incorperated it.
  • by saider ( 177166 ) on Monday October 08, 2001 @03:44PM (#2403196)
    1) When a new app is installed, just put a dialog box that allows the user to associate the extensions with the new program.

    2) Also, put this code in the program itself, accessable from the menu.

    3) Put an article in the help file about how to do it manually. There are ways to easily re-register an application. The article makes it sound so difficult (it's not).

    How do you change the application on the Mac? Why not provide a GPL'ed program to do this task for grandma, and publicize the hell out of it?

    This sounds like nitpicking to me.
  • Re:Give me a break. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Old Wolf ( 56093 ) on Monday October 08, 2001 @04:28PM (#2403405)
    Joe Average doesn't look at his computer as a programmable tool like we do. He looks at it the same way as you would look at your video player. Put the tape in and it plays. Click on your mp3 and it plays. He doesn't give a flying fuck whether it gets played by MS or Real or Nullsoft or whatever (and most likely, couldn't tell the different), as long as it plays.

    People who are aware of such a difference are likely to be able to find their way to "Open With", or download an application to manage filetypes in a friendly way.

    This article is so unbelievable -- he complains that something is "hidden away" and "arcane" because it is completely configurable, and located more than one mouse click away. Sound like a familiar complaint about a certain OS?

    There _are_ technical difficulties involved too. Many programs can be run with the commandline ' "%1"', but what about programs that want to accept switches, or have other functions defined (eg. Print instead of Open). This is why applications can register filetypes themself, so they can get it right.
  • by Chasing Amy ( 450778 ) <asdfijoaisdf@askdfjpasodf.com> on Monday October 08, 2001 @05:02PM (#2403590) Homepage
    "Registered file types" are there because Windows was designed for non-techie users. It's not part of The Grand Conspiracy, since file typing is still done in Windows XP the same way it was done in Windows 95, and the way to change registered file types is still the same too. I'f they'd made it harder, I coyuld go for the argument. But they didn't--they kept it the same.

    Registered file types were just a typical Microsoft hack designed to get the system to do essentially what Macs did, but without all the coding overhead and file/creator nonsense. Personally, I'm glad they cheaped out instead of doing file/creator typing, because I like to be able to change a file extension merely by clicking on the filename and changing 3 letters (after setting the newer versions of Windows to show the file extensions, of course--hiding them was another hack to be more like Mac, but a stupid one).

    And the average user will never have to change what kind of program opens a certain type of file, manually. See, when you install new software on a Windows box, the new software almost always asks the user whether he wants documents with such and such extensions to open in this new application. Yes is the default and that's almost always what the user selects. No manual changes necessary. It's only computer literate people who should be tinkering around with registered file extensions anyway--because illiterate yahoos can "accidentally" make it so that double-clicking things does nothing, or opens a file in the wrong application. That's why Microsoft put the feature where it did instead of into a separate control panel, where "average" users would no doubt fsck themselves up.

    Is MS evil and a predatory monopoly? Yes. Is their handling of registered file types part of their bid to rule the world? No. It's set up just like it should be--literate users know where it is, and average yokels can't ruin their systems by messing with something they shouldn't touch, and installing new apps to handle that file type will give the user the chance to change to opeining files of those types with that program. Or should we put a big shiny button in the control panel that performs a full fdisk just because that functionality is hard to find for the average bloke? No? Didn't think so. The writer of the Salon article is just blowing smoke up our collective arses at best, and at worst is a blundering moron. Nothing personal, of course... ;-)
  • Re:Give me a break. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by aka-ed ( 459608 ) <robt...public@@@gmail...com> on Monday October 08, 2001 @06:50PM (#2404028) Homepage Journal
    But then there's the complication of programs that will reclaim filetypes on launch by default, while others will not.

    A friend of mine, who is actually an experienced, working, audio-visual tech, was convinced that real audio had taken over all his media and nothing could be done about it, until I showed him how to stop Real from reclaiming filetypes.

    The article's author suggested a wizard or configurator app that allows you to choose default programs for various tasks. Despite another poster's claim that a re-jig of FAT32 is required, it would be quite simple for such a wizard to be included with windows. And for the majority of users, it would show then that there are choices available in many areas that they never suspected. The article's writer is correct, in that this would diminish MS's ability to "embrace, extend, and assimilate."

  • by ColGraff ( 454761 ) <maron1.mindspring@com> on Monday October 08, 2001 @07:35PM (#2404179) Homepage Journal
    If I may ask: In a postscript to your article "The Devil is in Windows' Details", you point out that it is irrelevant that the program used to open a given format can be changed by right-clicking on a file of that type, because there are many users who don't even know what right-clicking is.

    That's certainly true, but at the risk of sounding like an elitist, why should we (the computer-literate people) care? It is really not that hard to learn about the "hidden" features in windows, through one's own experience or research on the Internet, or even in the Dummies books. I agree that the concept of hidden features is anti-competitive, but why should we lose any sleep over people who are, for whatever reason, unable to learn enough to make windows do what they wish? Isn't it best for them that they aren't faced with choices that could tax their limited understanding of technology beyond the breaking point? You and I, sir, and the legions of other competant users, will use whatever software and operating systems we like, no matter what Microsoft does. It just seems to me that people who are being hurt the most by "hidden" features are those who shouldn't really be playing with them anyway, because they have no idea what they are doing.

    I know that sounds - well, assinine, to put it mildly - but I'd like to cite an example from my work. I am a part-time computer tech at my high school, and one of my duties (and hobbies, when I am not on the clock) is to assist teachers when they have technical problems. About half the calls I get that don't boil down to "You didn't plug in the power cord" are related to incidents where teachers install some new word processor/media player/whatever that a friend (or email spam that sounded "friendly") recommended. All of a sudden, "My Microsoft looks different!" they cry, and they are hopelessly confused.

    Most users really do benefit from using an OS that limits what they can do, because most users lack the initiative to learn how to use a less constricting system. Being held by the hand allows computer illiterates to do, for the most part, what they want to do (word processing/games/web browsing). For those who are capable of a greater degree of computer literacy, the modern versions of windows are simply not appropriate - they are not targeted at us. For computer-literate users to complain Windows over-limits the user is like a racing bycyclist to complain that training wheels greatly limit his/her speed - it's true, but what the heck is he doing with training wheels?

    BeOS and Linux are both more powerful, inexpensive operating systems without the penchant Windows has for assisting Microsoft megalomania. I would assert that a user who feels constrained by windows should simply switch - and if he/she has documents or other files Linux or Beos can't run, to complain is inappropriate - find or start a project that is working on what you need, and help it however you can. Don't just sit there.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 08, 2001 @09:36PM (#2404534)
    tries to open a document for which the creator is not available.

    And tries, and tries, and tries, and fails, forcing the user to pick some other application, which gloms on to all files of that file type. Same as Windows, except you only get to choose once in MacOS. (Simpletext can't open this somewhat large file, let's not offer any alternatives...)
  • by A_Non_Moose ( 413034 ) on Monday October 08, 2001 @11:39PM (#2404780) Homepage Journal
    Ok, did anyone realize that windows 3.1 had a registry? Yes, it did. In the heady days of win 3.1, I found a text editor (shareware) that would, ironically, open up a 5Meg text file of MS's ftp site. (would note pad do it...oh, hell no).

    Well, after figuring out that this text editor sucked, I un-installed it. Double clicked on a text file...shareware editor is not installed.
    Associated it via the file manager ... shitware editor is not installed, please re-install (ok, this is the exception, not the rule to winfile rules all).

    Ok, so I write the programmer and bitch him out saying "WTF did you do to my machine?"
    I de-installed your program and *IT REFUSES TO GO AWAY*.
    Well the response was a walk thru into the registry to remove the association.
    (he was offended by my language, but that was the point, however could not refute my claims of screwing up my machine...let me repeat *MY MACHINE*)

    Back then the registry was just another idea to give *programmers control of machines* not the person who owned/used the fricking thing.

    These were in the days when if a program, oh, say deleted critical dll's (like a solitare prog that would delete vbrun*.dll) if you fiddled with it or tried to fool it. Malicious intent, I believe it was called.

    Yes, I know I can "right click, open with or drag and drop or drag a file from explorer, hover it over an open programs taskbar icon and drop it on the title bar {did you know about that one? probably not} to open the file". 1001 and one ways, same goddamn cat gets skinned over and over.

    I know that, most of /. knows that...guess what, people...most people don't.
    Case in point: 2 graphics artist I used to work with...one was a "mac veteran" the other a windows user, on a mac @ work... neither one knew you could drag a file (just about any) onto a program/alias(aka shortcut) and have it launch/open the file.

    I was dumbfounded... the "newbie", ok, the "mac vet"... You're kidding.

    Hell, 90% (and this is being kind) of the users I've run across will find a file in windows explorer and then run their program to open it and do the "File->open" and *renavigate* instead of double clicking on the *file*.

    OMG... the shame, the shame...

    I ask why? Why? the answer is usually along the lines of "that is what I know".
    No matter how many times I show them the easy way...the always go back to what they know (right, wrong or indifferent).


    And what is even more appalling is the /.'ers are so far removed from the real world/ the 'trenches' / the 'average user' that they *conveniently forget* what being a newbie is about. It is about fear of the unknown, or at minimal, not knowing what to do and hoping for some guidance.
    With mac's, it is there to an almost zealous extent.
    Unix? there is some community nature, ignoring the RTFM's/flames ... some one is usually helpful.
    Windows? Hah! It is an *industry standard*, on 9X% of computer in the world...you should be *born* with the knowledge! Seems to be the opinion even from windows users themselves.

    Yeah, mucking with extensions is not high treason.
    But, we've been here before (at least I have).
    Usability and Control over your own system (or that of the average user "we" seem to be wanting to protect and help and free from being a "slave to MS/dmca/sssca/riaa/mpaa" are the same one we are shunning with "they should know this..."

    Tell me how many unix systems you could run from the CLI less than a year after birth?
    Uh, huh.

    I don't know all the answers, but dammit, some of us are trying to find the right questions.


    "You ain't pretty, and you ain't strong. So, dammit you better be *smart*.
    Elenor Roosevelt's Mother to her daughter.
  • by SPeW ( 466398 ) on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @12:15AM (#2404861) Homepage Journal
    it is very simple to associate file types with programs ... there are even many ways to go about this task ... hold shift and right click pick open with ... or click properties on a file and then click the button that says Opens with X Change ... and of course in the registry and in the folder options ... i don't think there is some sort of attempt to hide these options ... however there is software (not necessarily by MS) that is very persistant about modifiying these assosciations.
    And as far as elegance goes it's a much better sytem than on a mac ... mac files never want to open with the right program unless they were created on that computer and you have the software installed.
    there is nothing wrong with file extensions , they are a standard, and i don't believe MS overly takes advantage of file type assosciations.

  • fulla crap (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jedir0x ( 522662 ) <brian_dilley@hRASPotmail.com minus berry> on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @01:52AM (#2404991) Homepage Journal
    I think the guy that wrote this article is a weakling. It's easy as hell to change the registered file types. And the people out there that may have problems changing the registered file types are most likely people that are not very computer savy in the first place, and therefore would have no reason to change that registered file type anyway. And when someone wants to open a document in a program other than what was designated to open it, 90% of the time they open that program and go to the file->open menu. You have to remember, windows was made for the idiot user. It was made to let the people of the world that do NOT want to learn what rm -rf, or mkdir, or chown do (didn't want to use dos commands, they are bartely useable anyway), it's for people that like purty buttons and pictures to guide them around the internet and tell them how to do things, and they don't care. Because if they DID care, they'd learn how to change thier registered file types.
  • by namespan ( 225296 ) <namespan.elitemail@org> on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @02:05AM (#2405001) Journal
    Our friend keeps saying there needs to be a way to let YOU decide
    what gets opened with what by default. A program that will let you
    map a file type to whatever application you wish.

    So someone should write this program. Make it freely downloadable.
    License it freely to third party software developers who realize this
    is one of the best things they can include with their program to insure they aren't steamrollered by Windows. Heck, write your own version of Code Red that installs this program on every machine it encounters. Or release a report that tells IT departments how much they can save in terms of time or TCO if they'll just deploy this in their organization (see, there's default installs, and there's default installs).

    Sometimes I've wondered if it would be possible to seriously combat how microsoft does their dirty work by setting up a website to the effect of "http://www.betterthandefaultinstall.com". Tips, tools, and free software for the user who wants to get the most out of their computer! This app could go on it....

  • by whizzmo ( 239423 ) on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @05:00AM (#2405196)
    It should be simple enough to write a program that, upon install, adds an additional key under HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\*\shellex\ContextMenuHandlers that gives the user another context menu of "Change which program opens this file".

    The program would bring up an interface perhaps somewhat like "File Types" dialog now, but with simpler options. Something like:

    "This type of file [MP3 music file] is currently set to open with Windows Media Player [insert icon here]. Would you like to change this behavior? "

    If the user clicks "yes", they are presented with a list of programs out of the Add/Remove Programs list (hklm\software\microsoft\windows\currentversion\un install) , perhaps with those known to open the given file type listed first.
    It would have to be AOL-easy, of course, as that would be the target audience...

    Any VB/VC/BP/tk coders out there wanna take a crack at it? :)

"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger