Thursday, November 21, 2019

Dropbox And Other Major Apps Need To Get On Board With Windows On Snapdragon.

The PC revolution, I think had enjoyed a pretty remarkable binary portability: one that I think today’s users just take for granted. CP/M while a bit tricky, did surprisingly well for the hardware variations. MS-DOS managed to improve the concept of copying some shit and expecting it to run on your computer. And then there was Windows, which has probably had one of the strongest ABIs for decades while Unix systems came to prefer the portability of source code over the resulting redistributibles.

Today, the concept that you can download some program and that it won’t run because your processor architecture isn’t an Intel chip made within the past ten to twenty five years, is less familiar to everyday Windows users. As opposed to folks who have managed multiple flavors of Unix system across several processor architectures.

In many ways, I think the ease of jockeying binaries around on floppy diskettes and bulletin boards is as important to our computing history as the rise of sharing the source code over the Internet. But the systemic effects kinda work the other way as well: it’s hard to maximize the value of multiple processor architectures if you’re surrounded by binaries that won’t run, and it isn’t so practical to just solve the problem with virtualization and translation.

I think it is telling that modern methods of binary software distribution tend to address the problem from the get go. Installing packages on my Debian systems are pretty much the same whether they’re x86 or ARM based, and that’s probably true of the many supported architectures. Dealing with native code on Android  has long dealt with the issue of bundling binaries for different Android ABIs as well. The path from random ass files to a structured delivery from a repository has its upsides.

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