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The Effects of a Monopoly

  • January 9, 2002
  • By Dennis E. Powell

What are you running on your machine that hasn't changed since early 1998? Probably very little. The pace of Linux development is such that there isn't much that isn't in whole new versions in the last three years -- more than whole new versions, multiple whole new versions.

But some things, one might have thought, were eternal.

What causes me to think of this is KDE bug #128.

Bug #128 was the perfect bug. It was noticed by everyone who uses KMail, and pretty much everyone was irritated by it. But it did not overwrite your master boot record, or send your private documents to everyone in your address book, or cause the application to crash, or corrupt your folders. It was annoying, but not so annoying that there would be a general effort to wipe it out. Hence its longevity.

What it did was this: Let's say that you received a message and decided to reply to it, or to forward it to someone, but then, before sending the reply or forward you thought better of it and killed the further message. KMail sets a little flag next to messages that have been replied to or forwarded. And even though you'd not actually sent anything, the flag would remain, suggesting you'd done something you hadn't.

That's it. And it was annoying -- not very annoying, just a little.

There had been attempts here and there to fix it, but the fixes often broke something else and were rejected.

"Close 128" was the terse message from Ronen Tzur, who provided the fix that had long eluded the project. That was in late November, though I imagine that most people even now don't know about it; I learned of it when Waldo Bastian dropped me a note on New Year's Eve. (Still, that night there were mass gatherings and celebrations all around the world, so maybe the word did spread.)

And how long had bug #128 been around? It was the dean of its particular nest, having appeared in the KMail in KDE-1.0 beta 3. Bugs are always coming in, including many things that aren't actually bugs; yet it's worth noting that the KDE bug reporting site has logged about 37,000 reports. This one was number 128 in the list.

I'll actually kind of miss it.

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