Why I (used to) recommend WinSCP over FileZilla for your FTP and SFTP needs.

15 February 2009 update: In the time since I originally wrote the following article,  FileZilla 3 has improved to the point where I am beginning to prefer it again over WinSCP.  Most of my problems with it have been fixed, including issues such as not maximising the window and columns that were too narrow.  Missing features have also been added, such as a right-click menu allowing editing of files in the local pane.  As of recently FileZilla has also added a synchronised browsing mode just like WinSCP.  I still miss being able to set a custom background colour for each site preset though.

With the release of FileZilla 3.x beta versions, I switched to WinSCP. Now in version 4, WinSCP finally supports regular FTP as well as just SFTP, making it a genuine competitor to FileZilla. There have always been things that annoyed me in FileZilla, and I was a little disappointed by what I saw in 3.x versions – especially the fact that many of the annoying bugs were not fixed and there were new bugs that were worse.

Even after 11 beta releases of FileZilla 3.x, I still encountered the following new bugs.

  • No longer remembers the positions of panes between sessions.
  • No longer remembers whether the window is maximised between sessions.
  • Column widths are not remembered between sessions, and the default column widths are too narrow. The filename column is not wide enough to show an 8.3 filename, for example, and the date column (Last Modified) is not wide enough to show a date.
  • There is nothing to allow me to double-click to edit a file, or even right-click and choose ‘Edit’ from the context menu like I could in the older version. I can’t seem to open a file in my text editor from FileZilla (unless I drag and drop, but then my text editor needs to be open already).
  • Navigating in the left hand (local) pane is noticeably slower, especially when using a network drive. I think loading the file icons is slower. It’s much slower than the right hand (remote) pane, anyway, which is silly.

The 3.x betas also didn’t fix some of the problems I’ve always had with FileZilla, that I just put up with.

  • When I open FileZilla, it doesn’t appear in the foreground or on the Windows task bar until I give focus to it some other way, such as by minimising other windows.
  • SFTP transfers are fairly slow.

So I switched to WinSCP after the 11th beta and I have been happy since. I think WinSCP is much easier and nicer to use. I particularly liked the following features.

  • I quite liked the way that ‘advanced’ preferences were hidden by default, and when I showed them, they are all set to how I would have had them anyway, so I don’t need to worry about them.
  • I love the ‘synchronised browsing’ mode. Whenever I used FileZilla I always wished that it would have something like that.
  • Dragging and dropping, and right-clicking on files to edit or view them, works like it should (or rather, like I am used to from regular explorer windows). The only exception to this is that F5 does not refresh – it’s actually Ctrl+R.
  • I can set up profiles including what background colour should be used for my session, allowing me to use colour to differentiate between ‘live’ and ‘staging’ server connections for example where they would otherwise look pretty much the same.

Number of pixels is broken as a performance measure

I’m a few years too late to this one – the boom days of digital cameras started years ago. Still, manufacturers are still promoting the number of pixels in their sensors as a measure of performance for cameras. There are multiple reasons why pixel counts are misleading both for still images (megapixels) and for video (SD vs HD).

The first is a mathematical reason. The number of pixels increases with the square of the resolution. That is, if you double the resolution of a digital image, you are increasing the number of pixels by four times.

So, while a 10 megapixel camera seems much better value than a 5 megapixel camera, it may not be the increase in resolution you expect. A 10 megapixel camera is not 2 times the resolution, it’s only 1.4 times the resolution in the horizontal or vertical direction. That means that comparing 8 megapixel with 10 megapixel cameras, you’re only considering 11 percent improvement in resolution. While this difference isn’t completely insignificant, it is usually easily overshadowed by other factors such as how much you’re going to resize, process and sharpen the hell out of it once you get it into Photoshop.

This brings me to the second reason that number of pixels doesn’t work as a performance measure.

Simply, the perceived quality of an image at a given viewing distance in a given medium has more to do with the characteristics of the original image than at which resolution it is presented. In other words, a blurry image at a high resolution is still a blurry image. The quality of the image can be affected by the quality of the original lens, any image processing that was applied including sharpening, softening, interpolation, or scaling, which often all happens inside a camera as a crucial part of its operation, and the medium in which it is presented – LCD or CRT, paper or film.

If you bought a high definition television and watch a true HD picture in it, say Becker on channel 10 (which isn’t on anymore, this was a while back), you may just be slightly disappointed at the slightly soft, grainy appearance, because this was originally shot on film. This is more noticeable to the casual viewer than the approx 2x increase in resolution.

Some people who buy expensive television sets and cameras spend lots of time searching for material to play, or things to photograph, that shows off the resolution of their equipment. People even give reviews of DVDs online recommending a movie or not based on whether the DVD encoded quality is high enough to justify their expensive TV purchases. What if it’s a good movie but blurry, grainy and slightly oversharpened?

One the other hand, I could take the argument too far and become one of those trendy people who purposefully buy cameras that will take grainy, blurry photos in order to show off the fact that I don’t care about visual quality and, supposedly, I therefore care more about taking an interesting photo. But I think once you get to the point of paying more for something of poorer quality, you are a bit of a fashion victim.

It you are considering buying a digital camera, and have a megapixel value in mind, perhaps I can convince you to rethink – dropping those pixels by 50% is only a 30% decrease in resolution, and you may find that you never notice the difference if the camera you’re using has an autofocus that’s too hard to get right, resulting in slightly blurred images, or can’t take decent pictures indoors.

Why HD

One of the most important questions that seems to be overshadowed by the media hype surrounding HD formats such as Blu-ray and HD-DVD:

Will it help me enjoy my movie more?

Certainly, throw away your VCRs and buy yourselves DVD players. Apart from the fact you can’t get movies on VHS anymore, DVDs are more reliable, there’s less ‘annoying’ hiss from the audio and there’s none of the annoying snow on the screen. And you won’t ever get tape stretching or unthreading itself inside your machine.

DVD doesn’t have these problems. And DVD players are dirt cheap. What problems does DVD have that require us buying Blu-ray? A slightly lower screen resolution? Is there anything in a movie frame that I could see in 720 or 1080 lines that I couldn’t see in 576, that will help me enjoy the movie more?

Second Life

Disadvantages to Second Life as a universal communication medium.

  • High cost barrier to entry
    Second Life requires expensive computer hardware, including a fast, modern computer and expensive video card not found in typical workstation or laptop computers. It also requires fast broadband internet access, which is not available to many users. These are barriers of entry to those who cannot afford a modern computer and extra hardware for gaming. See System Requirements.
  • High resource use
    As a communication medium, Second Life has high bandwidth, storage and computer power requirements in order to facilitate a 3D world with complicated colours, textures, sounds and avatars (virtual clothing and appearance for users) which aren’t necessary for a communication medium. As a result, the interface loads and runs slowly and requires more resources when compared to other communication mediums such as email, IRC and instant messaging.
  • Central commercial control of virtual world
    Even though the Second Life client is an open source application, in order to interact in the virtual world known as Second Life one must still connect to a server owned and controlled by the company Linden Research, Inc. It is this company that has access to and the ability to record all interactions happening within the Second Life world, and the existence and integrity of the world is owned by this company. By contrast, communication mediums such as email are based on open standards and do not rely on communication with any one commercially owned server in order to function.
  • Cost of owning real estate
    Leasing land on Second Life costs real money, and the market for such land is fully controlled by the Second Life publishers. Thus any organisation wishing to establish a permanent presence in the Second Life must pay whatever fees the publishers wish to charge. There is no competition because it is wholly controlled by one company.
  • Unfamiliar interface
    While many people are familiar with 3D worlds through playing computer games, to most people a 3D computer-game-style world is entirely unfamiliar.  The generation-Y stereotype portrays young people as all being more comfortable in 3D virtual worlds than any other medium.  Indeed, media coverage of MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft and EverQuest seem to support this stereotype.  However, is this nearly as ubiquitous a medium among young people as the stereotype implies?

For those few people who are fortunate enough to have a gaming-spec computer at home and occasionally play MMO (massively multiplayer online) games, Second Life will seem boring, slow and clunky by contrast.  Second Life is not as slick as what online gamers have come to expect.


Criticism of the Church of Scientology often includes details of the Xenu story. The Church has tried to keep Xenu confidential and critics say that revealing the story is in the public interest, given the high prices charged for OT III, part of Scientology’s secret “Advanced Technology” doctrines taught only to members who have already contributed large amounts of money to the organization.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xenu [6 Jun 2007]