Size matters

Am I the only person who still cares about size?

I got an e-mail today that contained a bunch of Word documents as attachments. OK, fine, I can deal with this — but one of the documents was simply a note that said the relevant details were in the other document, and could I please call the originator if I couldn’t open it? (Ironically, it was this first document I had problems opening.) It would have been marginally acceptable, but this note was a whopping 88KB — all that, for what was essentially 4KB worth of information, including the formatting. Even if you accepted the idea you might want 8-bit encoding, you still wouldn’t even approach a tenth of the size of the original file. And for what?

You get the sense that, since disk space became practically infinite and the links that carry our packets became infinitely fast (at least from a user perspective), people and developers stopped caring about the size of a particular data set. I know that’s always been more or less true — I’d like you to meet emacs, circa 1990 — but at least developers used to make some kind of sop towards the idea of stripping out the extraneous junk from anything they created. If you could get away with plain text, or, better yet, make someone else apply the hard work to fancy up the text (hello, PostScript and TeX), that was a big win for everyone. Now we just e-mail multi-megabyte files back and forth, and think nothing of it — as though it has always been this way, and anyone who objects is a curmudgeon.

Separately, can I just say that the person who built my fence will stay alive only as long as I do not find out who they are? Seriously — the panels are about 8′ long: some are 96″, some are 94.5″, some are 90″… it’s like the fence replacement project is trying to drive me to drink.

2 thoughts on “Size matters”

  1. That sort of thing is why I keep an arsenal of defuglifiers (hello, antiword(1)!) to hand at all times. As for emacs, (does Dr. Evil pinky-thing) EIGHT MEGABYTES &c did seem faintly ridiculous, but on the other tentacle consider that it was partly trying to replicate as much of the experience of using a Real Workstation(tm) on a unix as it could.

  2. As for the word doc size: likely has an embedded font, but probably still lots of other random garbage in there. Previous versions of Word have been known to include random garbage from memory in the files, either out of laziness or bugginess.

    But there’s no excuse for using an actual document format to convey purely textual information. Also like the “Let me know if you don’t receive this” problem.

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