Sunday, 6 March 2011

Least Favourite Programs - Ghostscript

Ghostscript is the underperforming over hyped bit of bloatware that the experts of the QL world applauded which gives ordinary QLers the bad taste of microsoft software from the mid 1990s.

Ghostscript was touted as the answer to QL printer driver problems and also image conversion or so it was claimed.

Sadly Ghostscript was a lost opportunity as the individual who ported it made no effort to make the program accessible to the general QL users. The default directories Ghostscript uses are precompiled in to the code. The individual who ported it made no effort to allow it to use the QDOS default directories, just compiled in the directories he happened to be using. Hence to use it a separate non QDOS system of system variables and their syntax has to be set up. The user was left to unravel the complexity of installation and use of system variables from the standard badly written documentation written for PC based systems. Ghostscript in addition in a bizarrely old fashioned way contains the drivers it uses as part of the compiled code. So no changing the drivers from those the porting individual preinstalled uless you want to recompile the program. Except that if you are a QL user Ghostscript does not compile under QDOS due to the dependencies of the original C code. Hence it needs to be cross compiled. Requires more than a little knowledge of compilation an systems.

The capper on it is that the original PD code is actually badly written bloatware. On a Q60 68060 80Mhz it provides the nostalgic feel of waiting for an original black box QL to deliver a result. It is terribly slow even on the best QL hardware. Installation also consumes hard disk space by the acre with redundant code allegedly required by the GNU PD licence. Now, while I am knocking it, I have used it and below are some pictures of what can be done.  It is undoubtedly a niche bit of software with limited usefulness, but not nice software.

Above is QD containing some procedures showing the syntax of using Ghostscript.

Above is the Ghostscript window reporting the conversion of a Gif image to a .ps file.

Above are the files on the ramdisk showing the migration of the GIf image format from .gif to .ps and to _pcx through Ghostscript. This took several minutes. I read a few pages of my book while waiting. Finally the image is converted to a .bmp through home written software in compiled C running much faster than Ghostscript, different compiler and took a few seconds, and then lastly to a .jpeg using the ported Cjpeg image conversion software, seconds again. Much much faster. All conversions occurred on a Q60. The final .jpeg image is the last image on this post.

Above is the escher .ps image file that came with Ghostscript converted to a .jpeg. By the way the driver to create .jpeg images directly through Ghostscript on the QL port is broken.
I am a fan of the Lords of Midnight and Doomdarks Revenge games on the Spectrum

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