Mac Musings

Standards Needed

Daniel Knight - 2000.11.16

Sometimes computers make things harder than they have to be. Take email, for instance. Every email client can read plain ASCII email, although you may have to work at discovering how to make your client send it.

Likewise, every browser will display standard HTML correctly.

But there are a lot of places where standards could be set to make life easier for our multiplatform Internet.

Styled Email

I am not fan of styled email. My email client (Claris Emailer) doesn't display styled text, just plain old ASCII.

If proponents of styled email want it to become as broadly accessible as ASCII and HTML, they need to all sit down and agree on a single standard for styled email. And then they need to make sure the styled message can be easily read on good old fashioned text-only email clients.

While we're at it, let's make support for Unicode text part of the new standard.

Compressed Files

Mac users stuff files. Windows users ZIP them. And Unix and Linux folk tar and gz theirs. The first thing we need is clients (programs like StuffIt Expander) that understand and work with every format.

After that, we need a standard compressed file format that works across Windows, Unix, and the Mac OS. One format, one file extension. No more of this nonsense of stuffed files ending with .exe because they are self-extracting on Windows - how's a Mac or Linux user to tell that from an .exe program file?

Removable Media

When I buy Zip disks, I've always got to check the box. Macs and Windows machines use the same disks in the same drives, but the disks have different formats. Let's establish standard format protocols that allow Zips, CD-RWs, optical disks, etc. to be readily shared between operating systems.

I'm sure there are other areas where standards would simplify communication between Macs, PCs, Palms, minis, and other platforms, but these appear to be the three that create the greatest problems now; solving them would likewise bring about the greatest benefit.

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Dan Knight has been using Macs since 1986, sold Macs for several years, supported them for many more years, and has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. If you find Dan's articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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