30 years

In 1981 Micro-Soft introduced MS-DOS, their Disk Operating System or some such. With it a computer user could boot a PC or clone with an 8086 or 8088 microprocessor. Three of the (probably) most used commands that any kid who had ever sat down at one knew were DIR, CD and RENAME. DIR returned a list of files and directories residing in the current directory. CD stood for “change directory” and did exactly what its name implied. RENAME renames files. Pretty simple.

A GPX file is a file that contains XML-like markup. It’s plain old text, but formatted in a way that your GPS device or mapping software understands. For example, a file that contains directions from here to there might be named heretothere.gpx.

A few days ago I ran a script that turned a Google Maps route into some GPX markup, which I then copied and pasted into Notepad. Finally, I saved it. The little save dialog had automagically assigned a “.txt” extension in the file name box. Since I wanted a GPX file, and not TXT, I simply backspaced over it and gave it the name heretothere.gpx.

A quick transfer over USB to the GPS device quickly proved that my GPX file wasn’t really a GPX file. A cursory glance at the properties window for the file showed that Windows still saw it as a TXT file. Clicking the Advanced tab showed the file’s real name – heretothere.gpx.txt. WTF? Unsurprisingly, Windows 7 provides no means to alter this within the properties window. XP allowed this, but I could see no way to do it with 7.

I am still 100% convinced that I’ve missed something obvious, but I’m simply unwilling to go looking for it. I’m a user these days. I used to like to tinker with this stuff, but not anymore. After 16 plus years of using some sort of GUI, I’d like to think I’m capable of doing simple tasks with my computer without having to relearn how every time MS decides to pretend it’s releasing something new.

From the Start menu, I selected a command prompt. CD to the appropriate directory. DIR shows me heretothere.gpx.txt. RENAME heretothere.gpx.txt heretothere.gpx. DIR confirms the rename command was successful. Exit. Transfered the file to the GPS device again. I went about my merry way from here to there.

Welcome to 2011.  When a 30 year old command line is the way to get shit done.

5 responses to “30 years

  1. It sounds to me like you have the “hide extensions for known file types” option selected under Folder Options or wherever it is. That would explain the odd renaming behavior. That option is enabled by default; disabling it is one of the first things I do on any new windows installation. I don’t want extensions hidden from me, ever.

    Commandlines aren’t obsolete, not by a long shot, though DOS ones are still a pain compared to a nice BASH shell or something. Still, surely you shouldn’t have to use a commandline to rename a file. That’s ridiculous.

    • You’re probably right, though I’m booted into Linux at the moment and can’t check. At the time, not wanting to waste even more time looking for buried menu options, it was easier and faster to use DOS. MS’s efforts to make the OS more “user friendly” really made it harder to use effectively. I’m not sure how they expect J. Random Home PC User, who doesn’t have a support contract or an IT department at his disposal, to figure this crap out. It’s inexcusable and wrong-headed.

      • As an opportunity to poke my tongue at you, I created a text file on my mac and named and extension-ed it .gpx and the extension held.

        hehehehehehehe 😛

    • “Hide extensions” was, in fact, turned on. What I don’t get is how Windows just decides that even though I deleted it’s default extension when I named my file, it can just tack it back on without letting me know. After turning off “hide extensions” and then changing a file’s extension in the properties window, Windows decided to let me know that I might make the file unusable by its default application. Why couldn’t it have done that when I first named the file, instead of assuming that I’m an idiot?

  2. I like the moral to the story, but as Apertome knows, .gpx and sortied sundries make not me happy.

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