Feedback wanted on programming introduction (Python in Windows)

Richard Heathfield rjh at see.sig.invalid
Thu Oct 29 19:16:12 CET 2009


In <7ktsj6F3bciqlU1 at mid.individual.net>, osmium wrote:

> "Richard Heathfield" wrote:
> 
>> A man who cannot express what he needs to express /without/
>> resorting to .pdf format is computer-illiterate.
> 
> What format do you suggest?

Firstly, I want to make clear that I'm not objecting to the OP's use 
of .pdf format - and even if I were (which I'm not), why should he 
care? He should be choosing a format to suit his readers, not me!

My comment was more general. If .pdf is the right choice, fine, use 
.pdf - but be aware that there will be some subset of potential 
readers who are unable to use that format.

I wrote a little freebie program that is quite popular round here 
(Physical World "here", not Usenet "here"), which uses a PDF reader 
(you get to choose which one - Adobe, Foxit, whatever) for output. I 
don't like that situation, but I had bitten the bullet and decided to 
live with it. Two evenings ago, I was asked for Yet Another Copy 
(perhaps I should charge for it), so I cheerfully installed it on the 
user's desktop machine (Windows ME, would you believe), and then set 
about configuring the reader, when... ouch! No PDF reader on the 
machine. Not even an ancient Adobe version. Oh dear. Program suddenly 
rendered completely useless for that person. An Internet connection 
was available, but in the very limited time available I did not have 
time to download and install a reader. I'll do what I can to fix that 
over the next week or so, but it drove home the lesson that I need to 
rewrite the program to use bitmaps instead.

So - what format do I suggest? That's easy - the simplest possible 
format that will do the job. If unmarked text will do it, use text. 
If that doesn't cut it, use HTML or some other markup language. If 
that won't do, okay, use PDF or Word or WordPro or WordPerfect or 
whatever your users have. Personally, for stuff I want to display 
over the Web, I have always found HTML/CSS, together with common 
graphics formats, to be perfectly adequate.


> I have some ideas on what I would have
> used, but you seem to love these veiled references that there is a
> better way,

The best way is the simplest technology that will do the job properly. 
If that truly is PDF, okay, use PDF. But it is hard for me to 
envisage circumstances where Web content is best presented in that 
way.

> if the OP had just been smarter.

Er, no, I didn't have that in mind at all.

> Did it ever occur to you that this is
> not very helpful and might even be annoying?

Judging by the tone of your replies to me, I'm perfectly sure that you 
frequently (but not always) find my articles annoying. I also 
frequently (but not always) find your articles annoying. Did that 
ever occur to you? (I ask only for information - I'm really truly not 
trying to get on your case here, although I recognise that it might 
sound like it, hence this disclaimer.)

-- 
Richard Heathfield <http://www.cpax.org.uk>
Email: -http://www. +rjh@
"Usenet is a strange place" - dmr 29 July 1999
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