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Web applications are limited by data speed, local applications are not


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I discovered today a limitation of web applications. Because they run in the browser, they are taken hostage by the internet connection. Local applications are far less sensitive to this. 

It is most noticeable on a PC. A PC has a lot of CPU power and fast SSD storage to throw at a local application. This is demonstrated with Legacy, a software virtually unchanged since 2018, is much faster than the modern equivalent and intended replacement EN10. The irony of this was never lost on me.

New is that the level of internet dependence that EN10. For the sake of testing, I did not use Evernote but rather Outlook. Outlook, like Evernote, has a local product that is part of Office 365 suite and a web client equivalent (browser), Outlook.com, of comparable functionality (but still less after 5 years of development). The speed of the later depends far less on the speed of the PC but rather on the speed of the internet. 

Copper

Today was a bad internet day. About two years ago, copper cable for "the last mile" from the exchange was replaced by a cabinet sitting on the street. With this change, the length of copper was reduced from 4.3 km to less than 1 km. The change was the result of a network upgrade from ADSL to VDSL that occurred in the whole suburb at that time. Our internet was then 10 times faster, but it is still slower than two-thirds of the broadband connections in the country. Data speed increases in steps with the introduction of new technology - from dial up, ADSL1, ADSL2, to VDSL- but then will largely stagnate. 

Email provides an interesting benchmark, as a service, for it has not noticeably got faster as in two decades and the functionality has remained unchanged. 

Resilience testing

It can be difficult to test the resilience of the environment in a working system. Economists have noticed this and relied on freak events as a laboratory for policy changes. Two recent examples of this have been COVID-19 when governments intentionally suppressed economic activity (for good reasons) and the temporary introduction of the price on carbon for half a year in Australia. Both had a similar effect to turning off the lights, a sudden abrupt change that propagates through the system resulting in a new equilibrium. 

The equivalent for VDSL technology is rain - lots and lots of it. Copper pairs do not like water. The insulation breaks down as the moisture invades the ground and with it the cables. It is impossible to stop once the rain has become sufficient that the stormwater system exceeds its designed capacity. Runoff sinks into the ground everywhere and some flooding may occur. A puddle on the ground may not seem like much to us, but this is not true of copper. Anything below ground level gets wet, including the copper cables. VSDL slows becomes intermittent and then eventually stops. 

The effect of web clients in a browser is the same: it slows becomes intermittent and then stops.

Outlook local versus Outlook.com

Work must go on. With the increasing failure of the internet connection, I switch from the web client, Outlook.com, to the local application, Outlook à la Office 365. Working with Outlook does not get slower when the internet is intermittent. Sure, the synchronisation is also intermittent, but you do not notice that. 

The conclusion from this test is that local applications are resilient to rain (data unreliability) where web clients are not. Given sufficient rain, a web client reduces you to the tech of a bygone age, before the introduction of the internet, without a local application replacement. 

Better data

I would hear the reoccurring objection, that the problem lies with better data and not putting all your data and applications in one basket, the cloud. While this is true, it is not possible to improve data connections quickly and a small business can certainly not do this without moving. (There a certain points in the city that are nodes from which large-capacity data is distributed. I have heard of businesses finding commercial premises in the same building as these nodes thereby overcoming the "last mile".) For most of us, this is not an option.

Others would claim mobile data is the option. When the data goes out, a router can reroute the data to the mobile data network. This is great with local issues, but with heavy rain, the whole area goes down. It becomes a network failure. The mobile data network will become quickly overloaded and seize up. We see this with road closures. The traffic from an already overloaded network reroutes to the few available routes and the traffic comes to a halt. There is no substitute for network capacity. 

Building a better data network

In the long term, the copper data network may be replaced by an optical fibre network and the "last mile" problem can finally be buried as a historical oddity. Unfortunately, such changes require large investments and long periods to build these networks. Unless the network is being built now, you will not see improvement soon. If there is no discussion of this then it could take a decade or more to see the improvement, should the upgrade from ADSL2 to VDSL be indicative.

Conclusion

Web applications such as EN10 are not resilient to rain compared to Legacy. This is another reason to stay with Legacy as long as possible. It is not just a question of functionality and privacy, but also the resilience of the workflow itself. Data disruption for many is a real threat. 

My response since October 2020 has been to develop workflows that cut out Evernote. For web publications, I have developed a workflow that does not require Evernote at all (Instapaper, Readwise, Grammarly, WordPress). If I need a "note taking" software then I use a Joplin local client which uses markdown just like WordPress.

I see this trend continuing. I have no way to improve data. Legacy will fail eventually (threat). Until then, I have to remove my resilience on Evernote (risk mitigation). My workflows were a symbiosis with Evernote and this must end. Every app has its day. Companies come and go. The work, however, must go on. 

I have become indifferent to Evernotes plight but conclude that the management is not all that smart. What did Darwin have to say about this sort of thing?

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A lot of words to tell the obvious: Any online service is as good as the online connection.

This is why there are offline options. Not as good as they used to be on desktop, quite improved on mobile. 

Case closed.

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10 minutes ago, gazumped said:

It's not exactly a surprise that web-based applications are affected by the speed of the web connection...

... not to mention the speed and load of whatever processors are being used to satisfy the clients.  Not to mention any programming done in deference to constraints (read having to wait for the server to manage updates before the client presents accurate results to queries).

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I really don't see much difference between an application running in a browser that uses local storage (like indexeddb) and an application running on a vm using local storage (for example Java or .net applications). All applications are limited by various factors. For a "native" app (whatever that may mean) internet speed is just as much a limiting factor as for an app that runs in a browser engine, provided both need to fetch data over the internet.

The experience of running an app inside a browser window is rather similar to the experience of a "native" client nowadays. Both are downloaded over the internet and both store their data locally. At least' that's how it could be. However we are used to software in browser windows getting re-downloaded when we hit "refresh". 

As it is, the evernote web client stores a fair amount of detail locally in the browser database. It however does not (yet) allow for offline notebooks. This will probably be added at some stage. The main difference between offline notebooks in the web client and offline notebooks in the "native" client would be that the notebooks in the web client would be stored in a database, while the notebooks for the "native" client are (to the best of my knowledge) stored in flat files on the file system.

Summing up, what I read above is the standard long-standing irrational rejection of the browser as a vehicle for local applications.Though I'm not a fan of most browser-based applications (javascript, css and html, i mean, really? 3 horrible technologies: please, devs, just use flutter), I must admit that the browser is perfectly capable for most native application needs.  

It's interesting to think where this rejection comes from. We have 2 big tech companies (Microsoft and Apple) who profit from a fractured and less-capable web experience. On the other hand we have a number of big tech companies (google, facebook, amazon, ...) who profit from a standardised and powerful internet. It will be interesting to see how the situation develops.

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Whatever. From the abstract to the practical, as an experienced EN desktop user V10 is a major step backward for my productivity.  Both from missing feature and performance.  Which is why I am still using 6.25.1. EN is aware of it or why else the reco to use legacy?  Fixing speed is key for a power user. 

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2 hours ago, ehrt74 said:

For a "native" app (whatever that may mean) internet speed is just as much a limiting factor as for an app that runs in a browser engine, provided both need to fetch data over the internet.

The thing with legacy EN desktop is that it doesn’t need to fetch data over the internet to perform. All access is local which is why it is faster.  The internet is used to sync and disperse to other platforms.  

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23 minutes ago, CalS said:

The thing with legacy EN desktop is that it doesn’t need to fetch data over the internet to perform. All access is local which is why it is faster.  The internet is used to sync and disperse to other platforms.  

Apps running in a browser could do this too. I'd like to see Evernote switch on this capability for the web client.

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Basically EN has already done it - with the offline notebooks for the mobile clients. Currently the probably best solution to work without a stable internet connection is an iPad with „all notebooks“ offline switched on and fully downloaded.

I would be quite happy if they would add this „offline“ feature to the desktop clients, and drop a sync button on the GUI to have a way to make sure everything is done before shutting the app or the MacBook down.

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22 hours ago, PinkElephant said:

Any online service is as good as the online connection

For most people on the planet data neither fast nor reliable. Assuming the opposite is building your business model on the sand. Local storage is essential. Some data needs to be encrypted before transmission. Business data is confidential and personal data private.

 If you live in a cloud, data is assumed. I have watched many people sitting around the office twiddling fingers and going out for coffee because they could not do anything because of yet another IT failure.

IT reliability has become chronic as the systems do not have sufficient resilience in the real world.

Let's talk about the real world - not the Evernote bubble where the assumption is that you will always have data. 🙂

This is worth a read:

Brilliant Hardware in the Valley of the Software Slump — by Craig Mod

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There are these clay boards. The good is: You can always reuse them. But when the bad guys burn your palace to ashes, they will convert into bricks, making your messages available for archeologists some millennia later. Very clever: RAM as long as you‘re doing good, autoconverting into long term storage when things go wrong.

Is clay boards what crossed your mind when philosophically speaking about local data storage ?

Everybody is aware that EN is cloud based, and as such has its pros and cons as every cloud based service does. Nobody forces you or anybody to use it, and super-nannying around here telling what evil it does is completely beside the point.

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Discussions, when they become emotional or political can quickly degenerate to a dichotomy: with us or against us, true or false, cloud or not cloud. 

Consider the problem of cloud security: admit or not? A cloud service is not useful if I cannot get access to my data. However, it is also not useful if everybody can get access to my data. It is not a dichotomy. 

In the modern world, it is hard to imagine a useful app without some form of connectivity. Some are all about connectivity - Facebook or websites - but this is one end of the spectrum. 

Do we build the system to keep everybody out (a fortress) and only let in exceptions (a guard at the gate). When in doubt, we err on side of caution and deny access. The alternate is to optimise for entry. We err, in this case, to allow access. The latter turns up in strange places. LastPass was shown to have applied it to second-factor authentication. If you disrupted the second-factor authentication validation on LastPass (pull the plug so to speak) it would let you in. I would presume this is now fixed.

The question Evernote has to ask itself is whether is a web application that facilitates local access or a local application that facilitates web access. Engineering is a matter of compromise. In the first case, it will do connectivity well, but its usefulness with intermittent data is likely poor. Alternatively, they could err on the side local, in which case its local performance is optimised, at the price of connectivity. The underlying assumption of EN10 is the latter and Legacy the former. 

This has implications. If the paradigm for EN10 is connectivity, it will never do local data well. It may pay lip service to it, as did LastPass with adding second-factor authentication, but that does not make it good. There is something disingenuous about lip service. This is how marketing got a bad name. In simple terms, it will never become a replacement for Legacy. 

If EN10 is to work with intermittent and unreliable data, which is typical for the vast majority of people and businesses around the world, Evernote has to do a lot better. Their current assumptions are more than a little naive. 

I think the problem is software developers do not get out into the real world much. Sitting in the office, rain is not something they have to think about. However, rain does make a difference, EN10 does not work. 

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48 minutes ago, Tamagotchi said:

EN10 does not work. 

Funny that a number of posts here and elsewhere are saying that it does then...

If you have something specific that we can help you with,  please let us know.  Until then speculation and guesstimation on either side is just going to generate pages and pages of pointless discussion without a conclusion. Either continue to use Evernote or don't;  they'll get better or they won't.  Only time will tell.  Until then,  there's work-arounds (and the Legacy app).

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On 3/22/2021 at 2:03 AM, ehrt74 said:

Apps running in a browser could do this too. I'd like to see Evernote switch on this capability for the web client.

If EN adds a solid local data base to V10 they will sort of accomplish your wish (desktop V10 does appear to be a browser app in a wrapper).  If they did it with first access local vs web they could also moderate the speed issues of constantly phoning home for data.   But that would be a disparity to the other platforms.  Then again tags are high on IOS and low on desktop.  Uniform experience.  /sarcasm

Not sure but there seem to be disparities appearing within IOS best I can tell.  My iPhone is fast and syncs quickly.  Not so much on the iPad.  Not sure why there would be such a wide disparity in a platform of sorts performance.  Phone is 1 year old and tablet is 2 years old.  Could be a hardware upgrade in the last year I suppose.  But puzzling.  On the plus side the phone is now almost as usable as pre V10 other than the extra presses and stilted search process that have been added to workflow.  

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I've not noticed a sync performance issue between my iPhone and iPads. Especially given that I use my iPhone constantly and the iOS app regularly, where one or both of my iPads are not used at all regularly and sometimes go a week or weeks without being used at all and the Evernote app isn't running. IMHO The Evernote apps refresh quickly once launched.

Now as for the iOS app offline capability, it's an absolute disaster. I can download movies faster.

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Slightly different for me.  My phone syncs smoothly and quickly.  My iPad does not.  Or it may be and not displaying the results.  IAC, iPad not as smooth as iPhone.

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