Something you can do to help

[Note: This item was originally posted on September 28, but for some reason, it keeps vanishing. Restoring it occasionally bumps it to the top of the home page, but unless you see an “Update:” at the top or bottom, there’s nothing new for those who’ve already read it. Sorry for any inconvenience.]

We’re all extremely grateful for the E-mails and other things that have poured in since Matt first discussed his diagnosis of heart failure, and the new batch that came in today after it was disclosed in MDJ 2006.09.28. Many people have asked if they can do anything, no matter how small, and after reading today’s E-mail, there is one thing everyone can do that would help us tremendously.

Stop using StuffIt 7 or 8. Seriously.

We’ve distributed the PDF versions of MDJ and MWJ as binhexed StuffIt archives for over ten years, because until the days of Mac OS X, that was the best way to save bandwidth while preserving the "PDF " file type and "CARO" creator type necessary to allow double-clicking the issue files. In the past couple of years, readers have requested a switch to Zip archives because they’re easier to decode on other platforms. We would have preferred switching to StuffIt X because, frankly, it makes smaller files, and we’re all about saving bandwidth – but the free StuffIt Expander for Linux can’t decode these files, and a few people do process their E-mail on Linux boxes, so we’ve resisted the temptation.

But for some reason we don’t really understand, a lot of people seem to have stopped paying attention to StuffIt when Apple stopped bundling it. StuffIt 7 was released over three and a half years ago, and a lot has changed on Mac OS X since then. That was pre-Safari, for pete’s sake. StuffIt 9 (released two full years ago, before Tiger) added important new decompression algorithms to keep up with the latest in Zip technology, as well as to support new StuffIt features.

We know that Aladdin/Allume/Smith Micro has not always made upgrading StuffIt easy, especially if you want a new Expander while keeping the functionality of an older paid version. Some versions of Expander installed a “replacement” StuffIt framework that made older paid versions stop working. Even today, Smith Micro requires you to provide your E-mail address to get a link to the StuffIt Expander download page, and notes that by doing so and clicking the links, you are signing up for an opt-out mailing list about new products. We’re glad that you’re no longer forced to download the entire “StuffIt Standard” product and install it for evaluation just to get Expander at all. Even so, this is the kind of behavior that has dropped Expander from a “must-have” to “must-tolerate” product.

Nonetheless, if you use StuffIt Expander, you are well advised to use a current version. If you’re unwilling to try the brand new Expander 11.0, the same download page offers Expander 10.0.2. If you have multiple versions already, we advise that no one use any version of StuffIt Expander older than version 9.0.2. Version 9.0.1 and earlier simply cannot expand all modern StuffIt and Zip archives. If you’re not using at least version 9.0.2, you need to update, or alternately, accept that there are archives in the wild that you cannot decompress – and some of them may come from us.

Paying for StuffIt is no longer a no-brainer (we hope to take a full look at version 11 in an upcoming issue of MDJ and MWJ), but that doesn’t obviate the need to stay up-to-date if you do use the free StuffIt Expander. We try to stay up-to-date on lots of tools to get the smallest files possible, and we simply cannot guarantee that we can create files that old utilities know how to decompress. It’s more of a pain than it should be, but one of the best ways you can help us deliver issues to you is to have a current (i.e., 9.0.2 or later) version of StuffIt Expander.

We hope to make Zip archives that either the command-line or the Finder can decompress, but even that may require current versions of those programs (i.e., Tiger or later). The best way to make sure you can decompress anything that anyone creates is to use StuffIt Expander 9.0.2 or later. Just that simple change would probably drop our support E-mail by 25% per month, believe it or not.

Oh, and if you’re unhappy with current StuffIt offerings or practices, tell Smith Micro. Be specific about what you don’t like and what you’d like to see instead. We know they want to hear from you.