Eclipse download hell
One of the many thing the Mozilla/Firefox team have got right is the fantastic ease with which the application can be downloaded. Visitors to www.mozilla.org are greeted with a nice big “Free Download” link, aimed straight at the version for their (automatically detected) operating system hosted on a mirror geographically close to their IP address. It’s hard to think of any way they could improve on this.
Contrast the Firefox experience to that facing anyone who wishes to download the Eclipse IDE. By far the most common usage of Eclipse is as an intelligent Java development environment, but the front page of eclipse.org makes no mention of this, instead calling it “a kind of universal tool platform—an open extensible IDE for anything and nothing in particular” followed by a link to a white paper. If you wanted to be pedantic about Firefox you could call it a “development platform for XUL-based web-centric applications” (and maybe mention the embedded HTML parser in a foot-note) but doing so would be utterly counter-productive.
So, on to the downloads page, embedded in a late-90s era frameset (at least they have the decency to link to a new frameset for each page, thus keeping bookmarks functional). This is a list of mirrors, ordered alphabetically by the name of the company or organisation sponsoring the mirror with only the domain name of each site as an indication of its geographical location. The link to the infinitely more useful geographical list is hidden at the bottom of the page.
I’m in the UK, so I hit the link for the UK mirror service. I’m after the most recent stable release, which I happen to know is version 3.0.1. Here are my options:
I’m going to take an educated guess and go for R-3.0.1-200409161125—after all, the R probably stands for “release”, it’s got the version number in it and it was last modified on the 7th of November which sounds about right for a recent release. I’m now faced with a list of files too long to show here, at least 7 of which have macosx-carbon in the filename. Here are the most likely contenders:
I tried eclipse-platform-3.0.1-macosx-carbon.tar.gz first, which gave me the IDE but not the Java editing features that I was actually interested in. Next I tried eclipse-JDT-SDK-3.0.1-macosx-carbon.tar.gz, which gave me the plugins but not the actual application. It turns out that eclipse-SDK-3.0.1-macosx-carbon.tar.gz, my third choice, was the one that I needed.
I’m a huge fan of Eclipse: it makes Java development bearable (see the IDE Divide) but installing it is such a pain I nearly gave up! A note to the Eclipse guys: please, please take a look at how Firefox are distributing their application and see if you can apply some of the same techniques to Eclipse. Your users will thank you for it.