Friday, February 24, 2006

Compression and stuff ...

OK, some posts ago I have mentioned that I do not like StuffIt and some people asked why not and what can be used instead ...

The reason is quite very simple - archives and especially compressed archives should always be something with an 'open format' (do you really want to be forced to pay a tax in 10 or 20 years time just to be able to open your old documents???) - and generally anything that totally locks you into a closed and proprietary format is a VERY BAD THING - especially when you have OPEN and FREE alternatives !!!

So what do I suggest instead ?

Well, as a general purpose interchange-oriented compressed archive format nothing can beat the old ZIP format !!! In case you do not know all major operating systems have default support for that format (open-source since 'forever' :) , Windows since XP, OSX since 10.3 - the 'Create archive' in Finder is using precisely that ZIP format!!!)
By far the most important advantage is not the fact it is an open format (it is), is the fact that ANYBODY can probably open such a ZIP file on pretty much any computer platform that is even barely alive. The open part also pretty much gurantees that 10 or 20 years from now you will still be able to do just that!!!
A major project that was doing a great job with that is
Info-ZIP - that code is behind many other programs and on that site you can find free programs (command-line and some GUI, with source code and for pretty much any computer platform around) to ZIP and UnZIP !!!
The only minor drawback is the 'compression ratio' - it is good for most normal files but not the greatest ... so here comes the alternative ...

For the best compression ratio (one that even makes StuffIt look pathetic) you should use
7z / sevenzip - it is a program that can pack/unpack 7z, ZIP, GZIP, BZIP2 and TAR and can unpack RAR, CAB, ARJ, LZH, CHM, Z, CPIO, RPM and DEB, it is also open and source-code is available!!!
The Windows/Windows64 version also contains a very nice mini-filemanager - you can even configure that one in the Commander-style so it certainly is one of the greatest free programs that you can get !!! For the moment the OSX and Linux versions are 'command-line only' but there are extra free programs that can add a friendly user-interface on that and I am convinced that it's only a matter of time until a better UI will become available !

So now you know it - there is no reason to use that pathetic sit/sitx format!


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