Pet Peeve: Version Transparency

I have a possibly odd habit: I like to keep an up-to-date archive of the software I normally install on my Windows boxen. I maintain an SMB volume on my file server, exported to my home network via Samba, into which I file various installers and updaters. This makes bringing up a new machine — which I’ve been known to do from time to time — a minor rather than a major annoyance. Almost everything I want has already been fetched, and is available for retrieval at gigabit speeds.

This brings us to the second-most-retarded thing on the internet: software downloads without versions in the filename. (What’s the first-most-retarded thing on the internet, you ask? Why, e-commerce forms that require you to enter credit-card numbers “without dashes or spaces”, but Steve Friedl‘s got that one covered.)

When I’m looking at your web site, contemplating a set of download links, I should be able to tell at a glance whether or not the software bundle you’re offering me is newer than the one I’ve got. If you had the foresight to embed the bundle’s version number into its filename, this is a trivial determination for me to make. If you haven’t, then I may wind up downloading another copy only to determine that it’s no different from the one I have. This is waste of time for me, a waste of bandwidth for you, and a pointless annoyance to us both.

Names like “iTunesInstaller.exe”, “stable.tar.gz”, and “autoruns.zip” tell me nothing about the vintage of the software whose acquisition I’m contemplating. I am baffled that outfits which are by any other measure under the operation of the extremely smartApple, the folks behind perl.com, and Sysinternals, to name but three — haven’t figured this out yet. It makes me wonder whether I’m not in truth the one who’s missing something. But until someone offers me definitive proof that this the case, though, I’m going to continue waving my fist at the sky and acting cranky over this one.

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