More debating on haxies

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
December 7th, 2005 • 10:43 am

Following the discussion via blog posts between DrunkenBatman and Bare Bones Software’s Rich Siegel about “haxies” or “application enhancers” and their impact on the reliability of the affected applications, there has been more debating about this, notably with a furious post by John C. Welch.

For the record, I don’t use WindowShade, FruitMenu or any of the other popular Unsanity haxies that restore parts of the classic Mac OS interface in Mac OS X. But I do use Default Folder X on a daily basis and can’t really imagine life without it. And I do occasionally use Audio Hijack Pro.

I also use Spell Catcher X, but as far as I know it doesn’t qualify as an application enhancer, since it works through Mac OS X’s input menu architecture. (I am mentioning this because, in his post, John C. Welch mentions that he has used TypeIt4Me, and, as far as I know, TypeIt4Me works in the same way as Spell Catcher X. So I am not sure that Welch is entirely clear about what constitutes an application enhancer here.)

There is little using denying that application enhancers are not just eye candy and that some of them are actually very useful pieces of software. It’s also hard to understand why application developers cannot install some of these haxies on their own test systems to check whether there are any interactions with their applications.

It is true that a bug only becomes a bug when it’s actually experienced by the end users and, if an application bug only ever occurs when haxies are installed, then the application developer has good reasons to be defensive about it. (After all, the bug wouldn’t exist if no one used haxies.) But on the other hand if there is some bug in Mac OS X itself that causes a problem with their application, they have no choice but to work around the bug, even if the problem is not technically their fault. Third party applications do not exist in a vacuum. They work within a computing environment, and have to play nice with that environment. If that environment has a flaw that causes the application to misbehave, then even if the problem is not technically the developer’s fault, he has a duty to either try and work around it or work with the people responsible for the flaw in order to try and get them to eliminate it.

Blaming the end user for daring to try and use the application in his own particular computing environment does not strike me as a very constructive attitude.

Of course, John Welch discusses this in the context of his system admin duties in the corporate world, where he’s responsible for a number of machines and haxies can add to the complexity of his task. But it seems to me that, in the corporate world, system admins have a number of tools at their disposal to prevent users from installing haxies in the first place. In Mac OS X, you can set up a user environment with restrictions about what the user can do. So the problem here is not with the haxies themselves, it is with the fact that Welch has to administer users who are not properly restricted in what they can do or cannot do with their machines.

If these users are allowed to install such application enhancers, then we fall back on the position discussed above, and I would expect system admins to have a more constructive attitude and try and work in collaboration with the application developers and the haxie developers to solve the problem.

In my own experience with Default Folder X and Audio Hijack Pro, there are very few problems or bad interactions with third-party applications—if any—and the developers of these application enhancers are very serious about making sure that their software works with all other third-party applications as smoothly as possible.

Of course, if Default Folder X did actually cause a crash in BBEdit that wouldn’t occur if Default Folder X didn’t exist, then I would fully expect St. Clair Software to fix the problem. I would not expect Bare Bones Software to take the blame. But at the same time I would expect Bare Bones Software to collaborate with St. Clair Software to fix the problem, with a constructive attitude, realizing that Default Folder X is a very useful system enhancement and it is also in Bare Bones Software’s interest to make sure that it works well with BBEdit.

I certainly wouldn’t be very impressed if Bare Bones Software put the blame on me for installing Default Folder X in the first place and told me that the only solution if I wanted to continue using BBEdit would be to remove Default Folder X from my system altogether.

Let me stress, however, once again, that this has never actually happened—that, in my experience, Default Folder X and BBEdit work very well together, thank you very much. But if I ever have a problem, I fully expect Bare Bones Software to, yes, tell me that it’s a problem with Default Folder X and to contact St. Clair Software to get it fixed—but not with a condescending tone or with the negative attitude demonstrated by John Welch in his post.

3 Responses to “More debating on haxies”

  1. ssp says:

    I’d give Welch a bit more credit. I’m fairly sure he has a very good idea of what he’s speaking about. If Spell Catcher is an Input Manager, it may very well be considered a haxie, i.e. something that inserts its own code into an application without the application asking for it.

    Because that’s just what input managers do. And what they are supposed to do. They are designed to plug into applications to improve the user experience. Of course you can to this with varying extents and it’s hard to say where people should stop. But at the end of the day you can hook about any code into other applications using Input Managers.

  2. Pierre Igot says:

    OK, thanks for the clarification. I still think that, if Welch was going to write a scathing attack on haxies, he should have made sure that what constituted a haxie was clearly defined, with a comprehensive list of offenders. Many people associate haxies with Unsanity’s stuff, which tends to be on the eye candy side of things.

    And I still think that, if Default Folder and Spell Catcher are classified and treated as haxies, then there is something seriously wrong. These are two incredibly valuable and useful tools. I suppose the only hope here would be that Apple would finally purchase these two tools and integrate them into Mac OS X itself.

    One can always dream…

  3. apple4ever says:

    This haxie debate intrigues me. Its shows how two worlds collide in this instance. We have the users on the one side, and the developers/administrators on the other. And the mindset for each comes out in their arguments.

    The user wants to use his computer how he wants to; to install applications and enhancements- all to improve his use of the computer.

    The developer or administrator wants to set up the computer how he would like it, to make it easier for him to troubleshoot and solve problems. He wants to eliminate things that make it difficult.

    So who is right? I’m going to side with the user. He is the one paying the bills or at least is why the developer/administrator has a job. Without the user, and his computer, the developer or administrator would be useless. So the user gets to do what he wants, and the developer or administrator will just have to deal. There are other, worse, jobs out there, you know.

    And this makes it really frustrating to hear the attitude coming from the developers and administrators. If I’m paying for your software, because I find it useful and worthy of my money, then you damn well better support it, regardless of what else I have on my computer. I don’t want to hear that haxies are “buggy,” I shouldn’t have them installed, and/or that you don’t have the time to support fixing my problem. I paid you money, and if you want any more of my money, you’d better fix the problem.

    Now if the problem isn’t yours, I still expect you to help me get it fixed. Work with the haxie developer. Its called customer satisfaction. It goes a long way to getting and keeping a loyal customer. They will recommend your product to others if you help them out, even if its not your problem. Insulting the customer is not the way to do that.

    I’ve been running FruitMenu(cause its much more efficient and space saving than the Dock), Demetalfilizer(because I hate brushed metal), and Disunity(because I hate the unified toolbar) for as long as they have been out, and I’ve never had a problem with a third party app. No developer is going to tell me I can’t run them, at least if they want me to use their product. This is a major reason why I don’t use and of BareBones’ software.

Leave a Reply

Comments are closed.