When a progress bar would be really nice… Jamis 03 Nov 2005

20 comments Latest by Nice Paul

So, what year is it again?

Hypothetical situation. You’ve got a server that needed a reboot. It makes the merry trip ‘round the horn and when it comes back, it starts running fsck to check your (fairly hefty) file system for errors.

FreeBSD, at least, does not seem to have any sort of progress indicator on their version of the fsck utility. Which means that while your applications languish for want of a file system, you twiddle your thumbs and hope and hope and hope that fsck will finish soon… really… any day now would be great…

Who in the world writes software these days that performs lengthy operations without giving some kind of feedback to the user? Nasty.

20 comments (comments are closed)

jcs 03 Nov 05


Jeremy Kemper 03 Nov 05

Good point, but back up: running fsck? Get a journaled filesystem!

CM Harrington 03 Nov 05

As the above comment mentioned, you should consider having a journaled FS. There are many out there, there is no excuse for not running one in this age.

Also, Any progress bar for fsck would be *lying*. fsck tells you when it starts each “part” of the fsck procedure, but there is no way of pre determining how long a particular action will take. Sure, you could have a progress indicator, but why bother if it goes from 0-99% in 3 seconds, then stops at 99% for 3 hours?

Adam 03 Nov 05

I think you’re probably assuming the length of all tasks can be precalculated - which isn’t always the case in computer science.

Jeff Croft 03 Nov 05

Who in the world writes software these days that performs lengthy operations without giving some kind of feedback to the user?

You’re also making the assumption that fsck was written “these days,” which I suspect is highly inaccurate. fsck has been around for at least 10 years (probably a lot more), and definitely pre-dates the movement towards usability.

That’s not really an excuse, though — and update certainly could have included something (although, like Adam said, I highly doubt the time to perform these tasks could be pre-caluclated very accurately at all — at the very least, they could probably give you a percentage of the files or directors that have been checked. It’s not that useful, but it’s something.).

Jim Jeffers 03 Nov 05

It sounds like fsck will leave you saying “what the f*ck”

Thomas Crimi 03 Nov 05

If I memory serves (it’s been a while since I’ve watched an FBSD machine fsck given softupdates). Hitting control-T gives a certain amount of status information (what part, and what percentage has been processed).

Eric 03 Nov 05

Not to start OS bashing, but this is supported in Linux fsck.

       -C [  fd  ]
              Display  completion/progress  bars for those filesystem checkers
              (currently only for ext2 and ext3) which  support  them.    Fsck
              will  manage  the  filesystem  checkers so that only one of them
              will display a progress bar at a time.  GUI front-ends may spec-
              ify  a file descriptor fd, in which case the progress bar infor-
              mation will be sent to that file descriptor.

Anonymous Coward 04 Nov 05

fsck has been around for at least 10 years (probably a lot more), and definitely pre-dates the movement towards usability.

Hehe. I know what you mean, but that statement on its own is a bit shortsighted. Addressing the complexity of the first fifteen years of the web is getting lots of attention, but usability as a science has existed for quite a while. I think paper clips and steering wheels are solid examples; the opposable thumb is a nice advancement, too.

karmatosed 04 Nov 05

I think I need a life progress bar - now that would be a nice bit of script.

Julian 04 Nov 05

What is also annoying is when you have a progress bar, that jumps to approx. 90% in a few seconds and stays there for several minutes.

dusoft 04 Nov 05

Even more annoying is a progress bar (mostly by Microsoft) that jumps around from 3 minutes to 20 minutes, then back to 5 minutes and so on. F*ck that, who cares about their inability to compute the proper waiting time.

Wilson 04 Nov 05

Progress bars are a placebo. You *think you know how soon your process will be done, so you feel better about it. The problem is, for most complex processes there is no way to predict how long it will take. So developers fake it, with results like what Julian and dusoft describe.

You know why startup feels faster in OSX 10.4? The “starting up” progress bar is fake. It doesn’t actually measure anything. It just *starts all the startup processes and runs them in the background so you see your desktop sooner and feel like your computer started up quicker. But the time before you can actually *do anything with your computer is still just as long (longer if Spotlight indexing gets in the way).

Progress bars aren’t really progress, they’re just eye candy to distract us while we wait. Might as well be jumping bunnies, or better yet, a nice game of Pong.

Dave Woodward 04 Nov 05

since fsck doesn’t know ahead of time how many blocks it has to scan, it would have to do a first pass to determine how long it would take, then a second pass to determine the actual length of time. But it still wouldn’t be entirely accurate. If you are under a time-crunch to reboot a server, then you need to get a journaled FS or reboot at a non-critical time.

Wilson: I’ve noticed this in Tiger and I find it quit annoying. The Panther bar was nice because it wouldn’t let you login until everything is started. Now I can login in Tiger before everything is done launching, and I’m greeted by a desktop that is unusable because my HDD is thrashing like mad. I’d rather wait until I can actually USE my computer rather than it SEEM like I can use it when I actually can’t cause it is too slow from launching 897,542 applications simultaneously.

A Nonie Moose 05 Nov 05

I look at WinZip as having the ideal progress bar. When it’s zipping/unzipping, it shows the true progress of the operation regardless of the contents it is working with (yes, there’s a downside here, and, yes, there are real limitations to having this work for everything), but it tells you the true status of the real operation; not of individual processes that make up the operation.

How many times have you seen a progress bar zip from 0% to 99% in 1.2 seconds, then take 8 minutes to get over the hump to 100%?

chuck 06 Nov 05

yousendit.com does not use a progress bar and it sucks! I hate not being able to the progress of my upload. Give it a try and you’ll see what I am talking about.


Nice Paul 07 Nov 05

But what use is a progress bar which takes a few seconds to fill up 90% of the way, then minutes to fill the last 10%. Or the other way around.

Most progress bars have no real indication of how long is left to go.

Nice Paul 07 Nov 05

I should read comments before posting ;-)