Tuesday, December 30, 2008

UnRAR Me Please

Another day I was looking for Estonian subtitles to the movie Barry Lyndon. The subs were easy to find, but they came packaged inside a RAR archive. This might not look like a big problem, but remember that I was stuck in Windows.

Windows Support for Archive Formats

Windows supports natively only the ZIP format. Although the wizardly interface for unpacking ZIP files is the crappiest and slowest possible, at least it works out-of-the-box and you can be sure, that every Windows user is able to extract ZIP.

In the land of Windows all other archive formats are second class citizens. Don't you even dare to mention TAR and GZip - the giants from the UNIX world – these drive most Windows users nuts. No-one but ZIP may command archives in the land of Windows.

But there seems to be one notable exception. Somehow the proprietary RAR format has established itself as another mighty archive format. How did this came to be?

The Golden Age of RAR

A long time ago I was also using Windows. It was Windows 95 back then, running on a small 486 box with a crisp sound the small 128 MB hard disk made. So, as you see I got plenty of disk space, but it was really hard to fill it, because my computer was connected to the internet through the sneakernet. All the files and programs I wanted, had to be brought on small 3½-inch floppy disks. But some files were larger than 1.3 MB and didn't fit on one floppy...

This is were RAR came into play. RAR format was excellent for spanning archive across multiple floppy disks. You could do it with ZIP, but it wasn't nearly as convenient. ZIP wrote information about the files in archive to the very end of archive, so to extract a ZIP archive you had to first insert the last disk. With RAR I was able to read the disks in their natural order. Floppies were also quite fragile and bad sectors were an everyday problem. With ZIP the whole archive would have been corrupted, but with RAR only the files directly affected by corruption were broken – others could still be extracted.

But this golden age of floppies has disappeared into the past. No-one uses floppies any more and no-one should also have a reason to use RAR.

The Shadow from the Past

Yes, that's what RAR is. It's history. No place for it in the future. No use for it even in the present. But somehow some old RAR-zealots remain, who just can't get over it. They keep using this ancient technology, feeding the proprietary software daemon behind RAR. RAR is past. RAR is proprietary. RAR is nothing more than pain in the ass. Just read the comments of article Why RAR archives do not belong in torrents – these people are just plain zealots, no constructive arguments whatsoever.

So please each archive unRAR.
If you want, then use a TAR.
But never ever create a RAR.
Or we will have a WAR.


  1. väga hea selgitus :)

  2. rar is great! download freeware soft like 7-zip, that will open many different formats. when people are nowadays using ethernet cards to connect to the Net without having to pay for all their on-line times (instead having cheaply the Net operating 24h/7) - then who cares what software is used to pack something? maybe people have emotional connections to some programs... 8) -> imagine someone still using ARJ, for example :)

    I, myself, like .zip over all, don't know why 8)