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RE: Case insensitivity ad nauseum


From: Jim.Hyslop
Subject: RE: Case insensitivity ad nauseum
Date: Wed, 5 Nov 2003 10:11:45 -0500

Greg A. Woods [mailto:address@hidden wrote:
> [ On Tuesday, November 4, 2003 at 13:57:25 (-0500), Derek 
> Robert Price wrote: ]
> > Subject: Case insensitivity ad nauseum
> >
> > So anyway, why _don't_ we remove the case-insensitivity support?
> 
> I can only say it should never ever have been put in in the first
> place.
First, Derek, let me thank you for all the work you have put in on this.

It sounds like I'm going to be the sole dissenting voice here, at least so
far. Let me explain my reasoning; it will be rather round-about, but please
bear with me. It will (I hope) make sense in the end.

Historically, computers have not had the processing power to be able to work
the way humans expect the world to work, so humans have always had to bend
to the limitations of the computer. While that may have been acceptable
forty years ago, in this day and age when using desktop or laptop systems,
it is not. Computers today are tools that should make the jobs easier for
human beings. Computers should bend to the expectations of humans, not the
other way around.

>From the time we first learned to read, we have never considered the case of
a word to be significant in determining the identity of an object being
referred to. My name is Jim. My name is also JIM. If you're talking about
me, then it doesn't matter whether you spell my name "Jim," "JIM," or any of
the other six variations involving case: the label that you apply to me is
not case-sensitive. That's the way the world works... except in computer
sciences. Well, I believe the time has come to rectify that.

A file name is a label that a human applies to a particular entity called a
"file". As I said earlier, case distinction in labelling entities is
irrelevant. Case-preserving, case-insensitive file systems are, in my
opinion, the correct way to model the world. In this respect Bill Gates
actually did something *right* with Windows (let's not go into the myriad
ways he went wrong - that's a whole other troll^H^H^H^H^H rant).

As you have probably gathered, my background is almost entirely
Windows-based. In case-sensitive (i.e. Unix) systems, what is the generally
accepted practise with respect to naming files: is it generally considered
bad practise to have two files with the same name, that differ only by case,
in the same directory? My understanding is that the common practise on Unix
is to use all lower-case names, to avoid potential confusion. Sounds to me
like this is a manually-operated (and therefore error-prone) convention
imposed in order to have, effectively, a case-insensitive, case-preserving
file naming system ;-)

Let's build software that works the way people expect. On a
case-insensitive, case-preserving file system such as Windows or (I believe)
Mac OS, that means making the program smart enough to realize that "cvs rlog
myproject" also means "cvs rlog MyProject". If you put it in, you
unfortunately won't get a lot of Windows users saying "thank you for making
it match the case", but if you leave it out you might get a lot of Windows
users saying "WTF? Why am I getting an error with 'cvs rlog myproject'?
Whaddya mean it's case-sensitive?!? What a stupid program!!"

It won't be easy, and I'm sure the problem is rather complex, but I truly
believe the end results *will* be worth the extra effort involved.

-- 
Jim




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