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File Extensions And Monopolies

CmdrTaco posted more than 12 years ago | from the stuff-to-think-about dept.

Microsoft 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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FP bitches (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2402652)

bitches

Re:FP bitches (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2402680)

you won and i admire you can i be your boyfriend thanks ok bye

I have a monopoly (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2402653)

on 1st p0sts

Re:I have a monopoly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2402681)

and apparently 2nd p0sts too. :-)

ST? (-1)

Dead Fart Warrior (525970) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402654)

Second TOAST [drtoast.com]

Salon is now a pay site... (1)

SexPig (464304) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402658)

Can't read full article :(

Anyone want to post content here?

Re:Salon is now a pay site... (2)

neema (170845) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402668)

Salon is not a pay site. Try it again. Works fine.

Re:Salon is now a pay site... (1)

SexPig (464304) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402682)

Spoke before I looked; me bad. They are moving to a pay service, though...I tried to view the article on the Taliban/Jihad from front page earlier and only the overview was allowed.

Re:Salon is now a pay site... (2)

Masem (1171) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402727)

As you've got below, you can see this, but all of Salon's News and Politics coverages, as well as additional select articles, are only available as part of their pay membership. I read a while that they determined that despite all the ad-playing around that they did that they could yet turn a profit, and particularly in light of the Sept 11 events, they knew that people would be willing to pay for news and politics coverage at a time like this (since this is one of their specialities).

It's not like that news isn't covereage elsewhere, but many people (not myself, however) do value Salon's coverage over, say, CNN's.

*NIX needs .vbs (1)

Desus (253573) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402659)

If not just for the virus running abilities alone!
"Someone think of the children!!"

just kidding guys!

Re:*NIX needs .vbs (2)

keesh (202812) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402698)

Nah, that's what .pl is for. None of this huge vbs nonsense, *NIX vir(whatever) can be about sixty bytes big and actually *look* like an ASCII art picture of Anna Kournikova.

Hey, that's a thought... With all those perl loveletters around, how hard would it be to make one of them destructive? :)

Re:*NIX needs .vbs (0, Offtopic)

Petrol (18446) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402757)

ummm... OT i know, but does this mean you could code a perl necklace into your Anna Kounikova pic? ::grin::

Windows 3.1 (2, Informative)

ThymePuns (222253) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402666)

In Windows 3.1 and presumeably 3.11(Workgroups), it was very easy to change the extentions. You could right click on ANY file and I think there was an option for "Open With..." and you could set it to always do that.

Then with Windows 95, you started to have to struggle.

Re:Windows 3.1 (4, Informative)

gorillasoft (463718) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402673)

That is still available, if you hold down Shift as you right-click.

Re:Windows 3.1 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2402693)

If you hold shift while right-clicking on a file, the "Open with" option appears. There's also a way to edit the registry so it always appears, but that's much harder.

Re:Windows 3.1 (1)

StormRider01 (231428) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402702)

By default it's available in Win2K menu when you right click on a file, with a "make this the default" option...

Re:Windows 3.1 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2402719)

Um, you couldn't right-click on anything in Windows 3.x and have a context menu appear. In that regards, the PC was still like the MAC.

Re:Windows 3.1 (-1)

Dead Fart Warrior (525970) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402732)

You can do that in Win2K and WinME

CLI (1)

bigtoy (170668) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402670)

We don't need no stinkin' file extensions!

Re:CLI (4, Funny)

Junks Jerzey (54586) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402705)

We don't need no stinkin' file extensions!

Really? You don't put ".c" at the end of C source files? Hmmm. I used those kind of extensions under UNIX ten years ago.

Give me a break. (2, Troll)

Wind_Walker (83965) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402674)

Come on, this is so obviously satire it's pathetic. We have a non-techie complaining about something that's so simple as changing the "Open With..." dialogue? The fact that Windows keeps track of the associated program that launches associated file extensions is just plain stupid.

Short of a complete re-write of the entire FAT-32 filesystem there is no solution to this, aside from teaching new users that "Hold down shift, right click, then hit Open With..." will solve this problem.

Honestly, this seems like some Salon.com columnist had nothing else to do and decided to bitch about Microsoft for a while cause, hey, it'll get on Slashdot!

Re:Give me a break. (0, Funny)

Jebus_the_spork (449174) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402685)

telling people to "hold down shift" is more complicated than it seems.

althought I agree with you. the majority of computer users are far too inadept to comprehend holding down shift.

what we need to teach to people is commen sense, and basic computer skills. no, you do not put your damn cretid card in the floppy drive.

Re:Give me a break. (2, Informative)

sporty (27564) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402690)

You are granting the user a little more responsibility which they might not handle. Agreed, if they did a little more research, yes, they can find it. But the point is that if you have mp3's and MS is already associated with them, who is to say that someone will sit and figure out how to get realplayer to work with them. Worse yet, whos to say that because they used the MS one first (by default), they aren't getting an unfair advantage by getting first choice of what is seen as an mp3 player to use. Being first seen is usually an advantage.

Re:Give me a break. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2402699)

Short of a complete re-write of the entire FAT-32 filesystem there is no solution to this, aside from teaching new users that "Hold down shift, right click, then hit Open With..." will solve this problem.

Uhh.. it's explorer (the shell) that associates file extensions with programs. Not the file system. But you probably knew that.

Re:Give me a break. (1)

Mr. Foogle (253554) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402739)

His point was that for non-techie people (most MS Windows users) don't want to /can't handle changing file extenstions.

The example he used was Joe Average, who want to use Real Player, but doesn't know how to change the association of .mp3, .wav, etc.

Simple stuff ain't that simple for the average user.

Re:Give me a break. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2402807)

Why would anyone would want to use the piece of spamming crap that's real player?

Re:Give me a break. (1)

jmauro (32523) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402761)

Short of a complete re-write of the entire FAT-32 filesystem


You mean like NTFS? Microsoft knows Fat-32 sucks, it's too open and too limited. They're trying to push NTFS onto everyone.

Re:Give me a break. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2402776)

I agree this is the poorest excuse of a filler article I've ever read. I'm not a Microsoft proponent by any means, but anyone with basic motor skills should be able to figure out how to change your file type associations in Windows.

And he thinks Macs are better at this????? (3, Insightful)

MadCow42 (243108) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402804)

Has he ever tried to change the file association on a Macintosh file? He mentions how "easy and convenient" it is on a Mac...

On a Mac, without special 3rd-party hack programs (like ResEdit or Snitch), it CANNOT BE DONE AT ALL! Talk about monopoly power!

Man... if he can't handle right-clicking on a file, and selecting his own alternative with the provided "Open With" dialog (recent OS's), then he shouldn't be running a computer at all!

MadCow.

Re:Give me a break. (1, Troll)

Decimal (154606) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402805)

Short of a complete re-write of the entire FAT-32 filesystem there is no solution to this, aside from teaching new users that "Hold down shift, right click, then hit Open With..." will solve this problem.

Nonsense. The author gave a simpler way to change file types right in the paper: put a link to it under "control panel". Didn't you read the article? And it can get even simpler than what you suggest: How about a change where "Open With" does not require that the shift button be held? And turning Open With into a drop-down menu with primary, secondary (etc) and "other" options? Or even letting the user have an option to prevent software from setting itself to the primary open type?

It can very easily be made far more user-friendly. The courts should order changes like this.

Mac solution is nice but... (3, Informative)

sporty (27564) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402676)

In the article, it mentions the Mac way of doing it is quite nice without mentioning its downfall. I made the mistake of trying out soundjam on one of my mp3's, and then it changed its resource fork (or so i was told it is called), 8 or 9 bytes saying what type of file it is and what its associated to. Great, so this mp3 when I double click on it launches soundjam instead of itunes. I never asked for that.

Over time, I got irritated with soundjam and went back. I got rid of the program but the association is still there. I know how to fix it, but if someone was a little less knowledgeable or someone writes a program to change all my associations, I'd be quite.. irritated.

I know, its possible for any dos/win program to change my PC file extensions too, but its more obvious and probably a lot less likely.

Re:Mac solution is nice but... (2, Informative)

jeffehobbs (419930) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402707)


It's the kee-jerk solution to 90% of all pre-MacOS X problems:

reeeeeebbbbuild the deeeeeesktop.

Why the desktop on OS 7/8/9 didn't just rebuild itself once a month I'll never know. Oh well, it's a non-issue now.

~jeff

Its not just MS . . . (5, Insightful)

jgaynor (205453) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402678)

Remember when Netscape and IE fought for .html and URL rights EVERY time you opened them?

RealPlayer, Winamp, Winzip, photoshop, even stupid ass AOL all do this . . .

Installation defaults of all these apps try and steal file extensinos away from programs. 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.

Once a program gets a hold of an extension its almost impossible for a normal user to fix it. You cant expect users to know where to reassign file extension ownership (in the file association tab under folder options).

I agree (3, Insightful)

SirWhoopass (108232) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402697)

I don't think it's all that difficult to change registered file types in Windows. It's not something that needs to be changed on a daily basis.

Much more annoying is having every new application try and make itself the default for a million other filetypes.

Re:Its not just MS . . . (4, Interesting)

Jburkholder (28127) | more than 12 years ago | (#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.

Yea, it's really hard... (1)

eric2hill (33085) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402683)

Shift-Right-Click on the file, choose Open With on the menu that pops up, and pick a program. Wow. That's tough.

Question about "Open With" (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402745)

(quote) Shift-Right-Click on the file, choose Open With on the menu that pops up, and pick a program. Wow. That's tough. (end quote)

I don't always see the Open With option. But even when it works, it lists *all* applications, not just those relavant to the file extension or type.

A better solution would be to associate *multiple* applications to a given extension, and then have it list that set upon Open With (with the option of adding to the set from the entire pool of applications.)

(begin rant)

I want a Table Oriented OS where I can issue any fricken query I want to find and manage files, directories, etc. I am tired of being stuck with Linus' or Gates' version of OS collections.

Free the collections!

(end rant)

Re:Question about "Open With" (2)

jiheison (468171) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402777)

I don't always see the Open With option.

I have never had it not appear if I highlight the file first, and then Shift-Right-Click.

A better solution would be to associate *multiple* applications to a given extension, and then have it list that set upon Open With (with the option of adding to the set from the entire pool of applications.)

This is incredibly easy to accomplish with a few simple registry edits. Just clone the existing Open/Open With entries and point them to the apps you want to use.

Re:Question about "Open With" (1)

eric2hill (33085) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402792)

I want a Table Oriented OS where I can issue any fricken query I want to find and manage files, directories, etc. I am tired of being stuck with Linus' or Gates' version of OS collections.

Look at Oracle's Data Dictionary concept. Quite nice. I'd go for an Oracle OS, it'd just cost an arm and a leg. Oh, and another arm. And an ear. And a few feet of lower intestine...

Re:Yea, it's really hard... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2402749)



Right, now I'm going to call your mom and ask her to make winamp the default mp3 player instead of realaudio. I think she'll have to use a life-line, so get ready for that call :)

file extention sabotage (1)

digitalmuse (147154) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402684)

hmmm, maybe someone on the inside could sneak .sux under PHB radar in the Micro$oft camp? Anyone feeling adventurous?

Windows XP is pretty easy (1)

diatonic (318560) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402687)

Even in windows XP... right-click icon, choose "Open With", choose "Choose Program...", then click the "Always use the selected program to open this kind of file."

Hardly only buried in the "folder options" as the article indicates.

.:diatonic:.

Monopoly for the illiterate... (5, Informative)

neema (170845) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402688)

This "attempt" at a monopoly through file extensions is something that would only be successful for those who know nothing about the OS at all. Using Win2k as we speak, right clicking on any file and going to "Open with" seems easy enough. Better yet, it has a check box of "use this program to open up the file as default". Very easy. Of course, if no one bothers to look for it, I'm sure it can be considered hard.

I agree that Microsoft does things specifically to retain a monopoly, but does everything it do have that purpose?

I doubt it.

Re:Monopoly for the illiterate... (1)

jimmcq (88033) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402712)


You're assuming that most people even know how to right-click.

Re:Monopoly for the illiterate... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2402725)

Not everyone is a Mac user...

Re:Monopoly for the illiterate... (1)

KnightStalker (1929) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402752)

Hear, hear. And if RealPlayer or Netscape or (presumably) Star Office or whatever is run under Windows, it asks to register itself as the default viewer and then (if you check the box) doesn't ask again. How hard is that?

The Salon article should be moderated -1, Flamebait.

Re:Monopoly for the illiterate... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2402766)

I agree; the article is ridiculous. He moans on about the monopoly, then talks about file associations as a good and necessary thing, and finally his only real point [after he deals with the rebuttals] is "couldn't Microsoft have just made this a bit easier for me?"


Yes, maybe they could, but it's hardly monopolistic when any CNET download can change the default binding for .DOC, .XLS and .PPT.

Re:Monopoly for the illiterate... (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402768)

This "attempt" at a monopoly through file extensions is something that would only be successful for those who know nothing about the OS at all. Using Win2k as we speak, right clicking on any file...

Thing is, that's is 90+% of users. As the fine article correctly notes, say "right-click" to most Windows users and all you'll get are blank looks.

Re:Monopoly for the illiterate... (1)

ErikZ (55491) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402795)

Blank stares! ha! If I could be so lucky.

MY users are so bad that their HEADS EXPLODE when I ask them to right-click.

I no longer teach windows classes.

Re:Monopoly for the illiterate... (1)

jiheison (468171) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402796)

As the fine article correctly notes, say "right-click" to most Windows users and all you'll get are blank looks.

Give these people Macs and be done with them.

Come on (3, Informative)

Nawak (170627) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402689)

Every program messes with file associations:

RealPlayer, Winamp, Quicktime etc...

What's the difference when it's MS programs?

You can easily change the assocation by holding shift while right clicking on the file and choosing 'Open with'. You then check 'Always open with...' and there you go!

Changing the icon is way harder and is a way more annoying thing in windows.

Errr... (1)

Purple_Walrus (457070) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402691)

Personally I think that if you find doing this too complicated, you shoudln't even be allowed near a computer!

Mmm, okay... (1)

athakur999 (44340) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402692)

The writer's problem is that the default file association points to a Microsoft program.

So what does he propose as a solution? Eliminate the default file association? So when a user clicks on an .mp3 file, for example, he'll have to navigate through an "Open With" dialog and try to find the .exe for whatever program he wants.

If a user is savvy enough to know where the RealPlayer executable lives, she probably knows enough to set the file associations from within RealPlayer, bypassing the whole issue he's talking about.

In any case, last I installed them RealPlayer, Winamp, etc. all gave me the option of reassociating file types so that they were the default player.

Question about Macintosh (1)

jedwards (135260) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402694)

What happens if I don't have the application that created the file?

For example, Bob sends me a plain text file he created with WonderText
My preferred text editor is WhizzyText and I don't have WonderText installed.

Am I unable to open the file, or is there an equivalent to file extensions where I can associate WonderText files with my WhizzyText editor?

Re:Question about Macintosh (2)

phillymjs (234426) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402782)

What happens if I don't have the application that created the file?

It depends.

If you have MacLinkPlus installed, double-clicking on a document whose creator app you don't have, will bring up a dialog listing the other apps you do have that can open it.

Otherwise, the Mac will probably just give you a dialog telling you "The file cannot be opened because its creator app can't be found."

If you have a general idea of what kind of file you're dealing with, try dragging it onto the icon of an application... if the application's icon turns dark, that usually means that it can read that type of file. Dropping the file icon onto the application icon will cause that application to launch, and then try to open that file. You could then do a Save As... and save the file in the format of your chosen app.

Lastly, you can do batch conversions of filetypes and creator codes with a utility called FileTyper [caltech.edu] . For on-the-fly editing of type and creator codes from the file's Get Info window, you can use Snitch [niftyneato.com] .

~Philly

completely true (1)

ruebarb (114845) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402695)

I lost access to JPG and GIF files after uninstalling some scanning software...

Three days later...I was still no closer...I tried recreating JPG extensions just like JPEG extensions...no go. Trying to create a correct file type was a nightmare.

Finally, I just said screw it...I open up photoshop now to see my stuff. Who needs I.E. to look at GIFS and JPEG's anyway.

Re:completely true (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2402751)

why do you even need photoshop? It's awful bloated and acdsee works a lot better. (just get the classic version) http://www.acdsee.com

Re:completely true (-1)

Dead Fart Warrior (525970) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402779)

d/l ACDSee [acdsystems.com] . Rules for viewing files.

Microsoft uber alles!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2402700)

Mirosoft is just so deeply entrenched, it's like trying to cut out a cancer without hurting any friently tissue. Weakening Microsoft's grab on the industry will take a long time and their efforts to move into related industries (media, music, etc..) definitely makes this a lot more difficult. Linux is definitely a god-sent, but is it enough? Probably not - at the very end it is maybe the growing ubiquity of technology itself that will make companies irrelevant. The more we agree on standards and the more we push for inter-operation of disassociated technologies, the more difficult it will be for Microsoft to bully itself into every market that proves to be lucrative...

Taliban unleashes chemical attack on the U.S.! (-1)

puhtime2go (516969) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402703)

The Taliban army has dropped a bomb on Omaha, Nebraska this afternoon releasing toxic noxious gas into the air! Read more here! [uselessknowledge.com]

Right... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2402708)

We should embed the associated application information into datafiles. That'll break Microsoft's monopoly.

Doing stuff like actually providing a better alternative to Office of WMA wouldn't work... Nah...

This is silly... (5, Insightful)

BenCaxton (114005) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402711)

This is just plain ridiculous... I'm not a big fan of Microsoft, but saying their anti-competitive because people would have to spend about 5 min learning how to change a setting, but because they're too stupid or lazy to do so microsoft should be forced to hold their hand while they do it?

What next... Saying that its unfair to have microsoft.com be the default home page for a newly installed copy of ie just because some idiot might want to change it but doesn't want to take the time to figure out how...???

This goes beyond a legitimate argument to just finding something to complain about because complaining about microsoft is the thing to do.

Re:This is silly... No its most definitely not (3, Insightful)

bstadil (7110) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402799)

No this is not silly. Last night I had to spend 10 min explaining to an intelligent lawyer friend why suddenly sh could no longer paly CD using WinAmp. The Realplayer had registered it self for that as she hed used it to watch a Realplayer News clip on CNN. Maybe the program warns you but few reads it as they are requesting the clip. One solution would be if you could block all file registration during install and then activate inside the application you are using.

It's not that hard... (1)

hendridm (302246) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402714)

"Windows makes you go on a mad hunt through menus and folders and options to find the dialogue box that lets you make any such change"

If you want to change a file association, you can just Right-Click in Windows 2k and select "Open With...". If you are using Windows 9x, you can Control-Right-Click and select "Open With...". Then, choose your application and "Always use this program to open these files."

If that's difficult, perhaps the author should use a different OS...

So what? (0)

Husaria (262766) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402715)

Another article that picks at Microsoft because they have a feature that is too hard to find.
Bullshit
I can find the thing quite easily. Under my comptuer and under Folder Options.
The file tabs aren't hidden, they are easily visible. Just look up at the tabs like every other menu tab in windows.
Not all comptuer users are comptuer-smart, and if they decide, "oh hell, lets open mp3 with wordpad" and they won't even get the damn thing to do what it is supposed to do, instead, you get a text full of symbols and such.
Most people already know about the big programs out there and will ask how do they get the programs they want.
Believe me, lots of people STILL use winamp, even after MS' bundling of WM into the system.
I use emacs and vi for development, not visual studio, for my programming.
I use xchat, not mschat. (All of the progs are on a win2k computer)
And it goes on and on.
Its not just up to us to tell ms how to make their own product, but to educate others on how to use the computer and so on.
And stop bitching at microsoft for the littlest things.
Next they'll bitch for having IE in the start menu
popup

Monopoly? (2)

zpengo (99887) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402716)

If Microsoft restricts or makes it difficult to change what applications work with certain file or data types, they're just shooting themselves in the foot. The more they make it "Microsoft everything", and the fewer options they give people, the more frustrated people are going to become with the Windows operating system in general. It was bad enough when we couldn't choose the operating system; Now we can even choose what software runs under it?

People will start to realize this; Even your grandmother.

Re:Monopoly? (-1)

Dead Fart Warrior (525970) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402748)

If Microsoft restricts or makes it difficult to change what applications work with certain file or data types, they're just shooting themselves in the foot

Have you ever shot yourself in the foot??
Then how can you say its bad?!?!?

It isn't all that bad, actually. Aside from the pain and loss of blood, that is.

Re:Monopoly? (1)

BluePenguin (521713) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402786)

The more they make it "Microsoft everything", and the fewer options they give people

I think MS is actually at a disadvantage here. When you install the OS, sure, you get MS associations. But because the OS doesn't ship with competing products, you then have to add those products. Example... Media player owns MP3s by default, but when I install Winamp, winamp gives me the ability to change the association. Because you're adding competing software after the OS is installed, MS looses the ability to controll things.

I've yet to recieve a message from Media Player saying that "Media player is not the default player for MP3s, would you like to change..." though I do get that message from some versions of Real Player.

Honestly, I don't think that this helps MS w/ Monopoly power... though it does annoy the user, and I agree with the article that it should be easier to change file associations.

this is largly hype (2, Insightful)

kilgore_47 (262118) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402717)

from the salon article:
The trouble is, even if some court orders Microsoft to throw Real Player into the Windows package, it doesn't make much difference if most users can't figure out how to switch the default player of music files from Windows Media to Real. When Joe User clicks on a music file, even if he likes Real Player and prefers to use it, Windows Media Player will open and play the file. Unless Joe is a power user or an extremely persistent fellow, he will eventually give up on Real. The competitor's software will sit on the hard drive, unused, while Microsoft takes over yet another market.

When the author resorted to this argument, they lost some credibility. RealPlayer asks you, repeatedly, if it can set itself to be the default player for ALL of it's supported media types.

I agree that file typing via .3 extensions sucks, and I agree that microsoft's interface for changing it sucks.
But I think RealPlayer making itself the default program for mp3 files (which nobody in their right mind wants) is more of a problem than other media types defaulting to WindowsMedia player.
Afterall, what do you really want to use RealPlayer for besides playing their propritary file format (which will be asigned to it anyway!)?
I realize it CAN play other files, and it makes an attempt to set itself as the default program for other types of files, I just don't think anyone actually wants to use it for those.

I mean, to play mp3s I could use winamp (for free) or I could use RealPlayer (pay or be subjected to annoying ads).

I don't think it was their intention (1)

Red Aardvark House (523181) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402718)

File extensions and associations were a way of reconciling between a GUI interface and the matching of files to apps.

What bothers me about this whole rant is that this time, Microsoft is not forcing users to do anything. Admittedly, it's not easy, but even I managed to do it well before the time I became a "power-user".

Microsofot is simply taking advantage of user inertia. Want a simple solution? Pass around the information in the article on how to change registered file types and gain users' attention by expouunding on its conveninece - convenience on using the app you want to do your task.

File Extension ".WTC" (-1)

TRoLLaXoR (181585) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402724)

A file appeneded with file extension ".WTC" will crash your system when double clicked...

This applies to Win32, Linux, and Mac OS...

USERS BEWARE!!!

WARNING: TROLL ALERT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2402798)

The above post is not true. It is a blatant misinformation troll.

Obscure, but not difficult... (5, Interesting)

Daniel Rutter (126873) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402728)

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?"

Re:Obscure, but not difficult... (1)

jedwards (135260) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402810)

Examining the header just makes things worse in the context of the article.
If you have two programs installed that can display jpeg files, there still has to be some way for the shell to decide which application to use.
At least with registered extensions there is some sort of database of format to application.

How would you do the same with headers?
This file starts with "JFIF" what application would you like to use "paintshop", "real player" or "notepad"

This is a feature of W2K (1)

gruntvald (22203) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402729)

Maybe the author didn't realize it, but this very concept has been touted as one of the "improvements" in Windows 2000 - you can choose "open with" and change your default right there and then. You can even register multiple applications with filetypes.

last one in wins (2)

kisrael (134664) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402731)

This is an annoyance, but I don't think it's such a dark conspiracy. Like others have pointed out, many programs play the "fight for the extension" game, especially for multimedia, and usually the last one in wins.

Of course it's silly how hard it is to "roll your own" file associations, you have to use this weird macro language.

I think smarter programs will always have a preferences screen that let you regrab the extensions. IrfanView is a good example of that. And well behaved programs won't keep trying to intrusively ask you if you want to use them instead.

Slow News Day? (1)

hAkron (448427) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402733)

Uh! Another shabby article that paints Microsoft to be The Evil Sheriff of Nottingham on the basis that most users wouldn't bother to read their manuals or the online help file, or even use their heads once in a while. The Windows Developers haven't tried to obscure the process of file re-association, they haven't made it difficult for software vendors to code in their own file associations...All they are guilty of (in this one specific instance) is putting a seldom used function off to the side, possibly requiring a user to do a little investigation to change an association...Would you want casual users to have the easy ability to change file associations at a whim? I don't know who your users are, but I certainly wouldn't want to afford that ability to every "Joe Mouse Click" that I support.

BeOS did file extensions right (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402734)

"The BeOS Bible" by Scott Hacker has a 3 page blurb on why Mac and Windows buggered up file extensions. (Mac assumes that the viewer of a file is the same as its creator. Windows has the problem that if you rename the file, double-clicking on the file no longer brings up the proper app. Window's "Open With" is a hack, but a workable one.)

Be's solution was to use the mime class/type. Even executables use this! i.e. If there is no app to handle image/jpeg it looks for apps that can handle image/*

I can quote more from the book if people are interested.

Never Blame On Malice... (5, Insightful)

Carnage4Life (106069) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402736)

...what can adequately be blamed on stupidity. The Salon article goes on and on claiming that the fact that the menu options to change the default program that should be used to open a file with a given extension is buried deep in a bunch of menus is the indication of some sort of conspiracy theory. I assume the writer isn't used to using Microsoft products because if he was he'd realize that poorly placed yet important functionality is a staple of Microsoft software. Recently I've had problems like that with MSFT software such as:
  1. I've spent months trying to figure out how to turn of auto-indenting in numbered lists within Word 2000 with no success.
  2. Using typeid() and other RTTI features is disabled by default in Visual C++ 6.0 and requires finding a very hidden, nested menu to turn it on. This took hours to find.
In general most of their products seem to lack a good Human Computer Interaction factor. But to go as far as calling bad design, some sort of attempt to keep a monopoly seems rather excessive to me, especially since it's fixed in Windows 2000 so that right-clicking on a file brings up the shortcut menu complete with an option that says "Open With..." where you can specify what program to open the file with and if you want the program permanently associated with that file extension.

Re:Never Blame On Malice... (2)

Amazing Quantum Man (458715) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402764)

I've spent months trying to figure out how to turn of auto-indenting in numbered lists within Word 2000 with no success.

Yeah, and try using styles for nested numbered lists. They don't restart properly!

Re:Never Blame On Malice... (1)

programcsharp (514902) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402787)

1) Go to Tools->AutoCorrect
2) Go to the Autoformat As You Type tab
3) Deselect Automatic numbered lists

While you're at it, you might want to turn off the menu folding.
1) Go to Tools->Customize
2) Go to the Options tab
3) Deselect Menus show recently used commands first

Chris

Off-topic, but related to file extensions... (2)

antdude (79039) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402738)

There are times when you need to know kind of file extension it is. ExtSearch [extsearch.com] is useful. It helps you to determine the file format. :)

Ah, but it is also their Achilles (sp?) heel (2, Interesting)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402740)

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."

Re:Ah, but it is also their Achilles (sp?) heel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2402797)

That's actually a pretty interesting idea. The IE component is provided as a system library, theoretically the IE browser app is an example application like Calc.exe or Hyperterm.exe.

Replacing the system defaults shouldn't be looked upon as a negative (though Netscape would definitely be a backwards step), but actually a nice fleshing out of the OS.

As for Office, though, it is hardly the Default application. It may come pre-installed, but it is not part of the OS and is not a sample app for the OS.

My gripe with extensions (3, Insightful)

Gruneun (261463) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402741)

The arguement is really not an issue for most people. The people who know they can change a file extension asociation, will. The people who want a different program to open it, will learn. Last, the people who don't know, don't care.

My greater gripe is programs that change extensions be required to display a "warning, proceed?" message during installation (much like a security grant for Java or ActiveX) if the extension is already associated with a different program. It burns me every time I install some software and it becomes my cd and mp3 player. Yes, I know how to change it, but it's still irritating.

I never considered the extensions menu particularly difficult to find or use. Not everything can be in the Start menu.

Windows annoyances (3, Insightful)

sting3r (519844) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402744)

This is just a symptom of the generally uncooperative nature of Win32 applications. Windows software does not know how to share; how to place configuration information under HKEY_CURRENT_USER instead of HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE; how not to leave necessary files in c:\windows; how not to mess up your Start menu, desktop, and registry upon installation. You think Freshmeat is full of amateurish, half-baked projects? Take a look around your local software store and you'll find the same exact thing.

In short, Windows applications are a textbook example of competition at all costs. Spyware and "gator" controls install themselves, behind the scenes, and mess with every other application. Many applications install "quick start" programs in the system tray or as services, wasting your resources and time in the vain hope that you'll use their software more often. It's no-holds-barred capitalism. Applications fight with each other over eyeballs and control of your system, and you're left with a mostly-unstable computer that blares ads at you and has a dozen security holes.

And that is why I run Linux. Because the coders who wrote my applications had respect for me, the user.

-sting3r

Re:Windows annoyances (2)

Junks Jerzey (54586) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402806)

Windows software does not know how to share; how to place configuration information under HKEY_CURRENT_USER instead of HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE; how not to leave necessary files in c:\windows; how not to mess up your Start menu, desktop, and registry upon installation. You think Freshmeat is full of amateurish, half-baked projects? Take a look around your local software store and you'll find the same exact thing.

I have never had trouble like this with _any_ Windows applications. I hate installers, and I'm not a big fan of Windows, but I think you're overstating your case.

Why is this such a great concern? (3, Insightful)

Tim_F (12524) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402750)

It's not really that big of a deal. If you want to use a different program, all you have to do is start that program, and open the file that you want to use. All Microsoft is doing here is making things easier for the end user. If you want to stop using Word to open .doc files, remove it, and install Corel Office.

Other companies (as was pointed out in the article) have been doing this for years. Why is this suddenly such a big deal? Because the author needed to come up with a column. Pick something that wasn't a big deal, and turn it into one.

Microsoft should not be painted with such a black brush simply for trying to make it easier to be a user of their software.

Not the greatest article. (2)

scott1853 (194884) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402755)

"Microsoft has always done its best work when faced with real competition"

Does the author mean their best software? If he did, then that would be MS-DOS 5.0, circa 1990. I would truly take this statement to mean their best marketing work. Gates has admitted it before, that when the going gets tough, they throw some more money into marketing.

Not Surprising (1)

White Roses (211207) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402771)

I don't find this surprising in the least. The few times I have "worked" on windows, it seemed to me that the constant, irritating changes to what file extension means what got very old very quickly. Linking the file extension to the program that uses the file is simply stupid unless you want to limit yourself to 46656 total apps
in the world. And someone gets .ass and .fck of course. Extensions can get longer than three chars, but it's been that way for so long in windows that few know how else to do it.

The better way to go is to link the file itself to a program via some sort of metadata (someone will remember the /. article on that, I am sure). Then you don't even need extensions. None of my MP3s have extensions. It certainly confuses LimeWire, but strangely not Hotline.

Too bad Apple is abandoning this metadata.

Why do we not encode the company/product name? (4, Interesting)

deander2 (26173) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402783)


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.

Evil will always win because good is dumb... (2)

jgerman (106518) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402790)

... this is a tremendous waste of an article. Yes M$ does do evil stuff, but focusing on something as stupid as file extensions is about as dumb as you can get. Learn how your computer works whether it's Linux or Windows or whatever, it's not that difficult to change the extension associations. It can be obscure in Linux to change certain things too, but it's not some monopolistic plan to dominate the desktop. I can't stand Windows, but this is going too far.


Not to mention this guy sounds like a moron. I wouldn't expect add/remove programs to have the file extension list, nor would I expect to have the poperties for a particular file provide the option to change what file types get opened by what.


And as far as mac's having a more elegant solution, I don't buy that. Number one I'd rather be able to look at a file and be able to tell exactly what kind of file it is than to have it hidden withing the file. Number two, it's simple and easy to change the associated program to a file by changing the extension, is there a program to do that on the Mac? (I'm not bashing the Mac, just pointing out the flaws in this guys article).

It may be a conspiracy (2, Interesting)

Everyman (197621) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402793)

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.

if only they would (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2402794)

patent the idea of crappy software design. that way they could have their monopoly and enforce it too!!!

Dear Microsoft: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2402800)

F$ck off.

No good reason? (1)

Happy Monkey (183927) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402801)

My central point remains: What Windows needs is a plain-English set of choices, in plain view, one that any novice user can easily find and understand, to tell the computer which program to use to open different kinds of files. There is no good reason under the sun that Microsoft has not provided such an option.

Well, the reason is obviously that it would look mighty suspicious if it was only hard to grab extensions from Microsoft applications.

How is this different from KDE? (2, Insightful)

EconomyGuy (179008) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402802)

My experience with file extensions and registered file types with Windows have never been good... but for that mater, I really haven't had greate experiences with KDE either. Their registered file system is built into the Control Center and require you to fully understand nameing conventions and extensions, as well as the names of programs.

For example, if I want mpgs to be play by KDE's Media Player by default, I need to understand all of the various forms that mpgs can come in and the associated extensions... and to make it all the more worse, I need to know that the KDE's Media Player run command is noatun.

It seems that this is an issue that crosses all OS operating systems (yes... even Macs, anyone remember fighting over conflicts with Claris Works and early version of MS Word?) and one that is probably never going to be within the relm of the "average" user. The solution lies with the developer and whether they wish to play fair or not. An example of a company who still plays be the fules is Nullsoft and their mp3 player Winamp. After a succesull install it asks what kind of files you wish to play... in plain english.

That kind of behavor is a far cry from installing Word and having it automatically associate mp3s with Window's Media Player.

Blaming Microsoft for "users' ignorance"? (3, Interesting)

corky6921 (240602) | more than 12 years ago | (#2402803)

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.)

Stephen King, author, dead at 54 (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2402811)


I just heard some sad news on talk radio - Horror/Sci Fi writer Stephen King was found dead in his Maine home this morning. There weren't any more details. I'm sure everyone in the Slashdot community will miss him - even if you didn't enjoy his work, there's no denying his contributions to popular culture. Truly an American icon.
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