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Making Linux Easy With Eazel's Andy Hertzfeld

emmett posted more than 14 years ago | from the making-things-easy-is-hard dept.

Linux 203

Make no mistake. Andy Hertzfeld, Eazel developer and Macintosh forefather, is an Open Source zealot. Forged in the fires of Steve Jobs and Bandley 3, Andy's leading the team to build a kinder, gentler interface for our favorite operating system. I got the opportunity to speak to Andy last week, and I learned a lot about the challenges and victories of thinking different with Linux.

Slashdot: Tell us what you're doing now, and how it differs from your work at Bandley 3.

Andy: What's similar about it is we're working on another revolution, trying to take usability to the next level -- it's different in that we have the network now. With the Macintosh, we were able to solve a different class of usability problems, but we really weren't able to get at some fundamental issues of system management and robustness. Now, with the network, it gives us the ability to address those.

Slashdot: How is it, working on a hyped-up technologically advanced version of what you've done in the past?

Andy: I don't know if that's really true or not. There's a level of it that's similar, but it is twenty years later, and the possibilities are vastly different. Sometimes I stop and think about when I was working on the Macintosh, it seemed like 128k was a lot of memory, because we were initially trying to fit everything into 64k. Nowadays, 128k is lost in the noise, it's a rounding error. There are possibilities to do so much more than we ever could before. On the other hand, the original Mac prized simplicity, and some of that simplicity has been lost. The Mac has gone, in certain respects, downhill on the ease-of-use curve over the years, and part of that is the natural evolution of a system to order to fulfill the complex and varied needs of it's users. There's just a tendency in the world toward complexity. On the other hand, one of the things distressing me is the lack of innovation over time. Just your very question indicates that even though the hardware now is thousands of times more capable than what we had when we were working on the original Mac, the software paradigms have not advanced in the same way.

Slashdot: The whole Linux craze, you've got Windows, and 'Ooh, look at this new fighter on the horizon.' But it's UNIX.

Andy: Well, but the new fighter on the horizon, from my point of view, is not so much that it's UNIX, but it's a new and better business model, a new and better paradigm for developing software, and that's really exciting.

Slashdot: How did you get involved in the Open Source/Free Software movement?

Andy: When I took off from General Magic in 1996, the Internet was exploding, and I just wanted to learn about it. So, I set up an ISP at my house, got a T1 line, and set everything up myself so I could learn about how things are put together. But also, to justify that T1 line, I started doing pro bono projects of various kinds. I was happily puttering along with those kinds of projects when in January of 1998, the Mozilla announcement caught my attention in a big way. That led me to Eric Raymond's papers, and an epiphany, you know, a moment of insight, where I realized that it solved the structural problems in the software industry. I'd been depressed about the lack of innovation and the stagnation and the anti-user framework that the software industry had fallen into. The idealism of the computer industry had led to this cul-de-sac, where no one was really happy with their machines. The basic problem is that the applications want to converge on a common system infrastructure. That's what's good for the applications, good for the users, good for everyone, to be built on top of a common system software base. The problem is that when that common system software base is controlled by a proprietary interest, the company that controls it necessarily becomes anti-innovative. In order to maintain their control, they are at odds with the users and the developers. I had realized that, and I didn't see a way out until reading Eric Raymond's papers, and learning about the successes of Linux, Apache, et cetera. I saw that if that common infrastructure could be owned by the community on something like the GPL, the problems are solved. You can have a healthy software industry, where anyone who wants to innovate has equal footing. That was really exciting to me, and I saw it as a call to action. The first step was converting my Web servers over to Linux, I started installing all sorts of software, playing around to see the state of usability. The first one I did was KDE, about six months later, I started exploring Gnome, and just getting up to speed in the space which took about six months of just exploring around, and another six months actually programming on gtk to understand it's strengths and limitations. Around the very beginning of 1999, Bart Decren was the founder of an organization in East Palo Alto called 'Plugged In,' which was one of the few organizations trying to address the digital divide, trying to fix the paradox that right next to Palo Alto, one of the most affluent and high-tech communities in the nation, was this little place called East Palo Alto, which was one of the least affluent and high-tech places in the nation and Bart started an organization to try to bring technology to them. So, I supported Bart in those efforts over the years, and he was one of the people I respected the most. He had all the qualities of a classic entrepreneur, but he was applying them for public good instead of his own private interests. So, when Bart came to me and said he had run his course at Plugged In and was looking for something new to do and just wanted my advice, I told him about my excitement about free software. My plan was not to start a company, it was to start an Open Source project. Bart surprised me when he came back to me, a month or two later, and he said, 'I figured out what I want to do, I want to start an Open Source company with you.' That was around April of 1999, so we started putting together a plan, and what really made Eazel happen was the realization that in order to create ease-of-use on the desktop in a broad way, we needed something to fund it. We wanted to do Free software, but we needed some sort of business model.

Slashdot: Someone's gotta pay the bills.

Andy: Yeah, so the real 'eureka' moment was when we realized that the GUI is only part of the problem. The real problem vexing users is system management, as well as lack of coverage on the GUI, and lack of fit-and-finish and all of that, as well as the lack of innovation. We had ideas for years that have just not made their way into the main platforms because things had stagnated. Anyway, the system management problem seemed to be the real opportunity that it would take a company to address, and it could have a potential business model behind it because of the ongoing nature of system management. What needed to be done was to create a service that could manage people's systems for them, and that we could charge people a subscription-based fee for and use that revenue to fund our efforts at making the GUI really great on the desktop. So, that's what happened. That all came together in the summer of last year, we got an office in August, or early September.

Slashdot: Tell us about the technical aspects of what you're doing. I don't know how much time you're spending in front of a compiler everyday.

Andy: Oh, I'm in there programming every day and every night, like I always do.

Slashdot: Well, tell us what you did this morning.

Andy: Well, the very first thing I do when I come into work after I put my backpack down is to go get a Diet Coke. Usually, I read the Web, I read my E-mail. The first thing I did this morning was work on our test database. We're using Bugzilla to manage all the various tests that need to be done with the project, so I go over that to close some out from the previous night, write some new ones, and then look over which ones I should work on today. Most recently I've been working on what I call the 'novice home' directory, which is the place where novice users go and there's a nice set of links for them to access the functionality of the program.

Slashdot: Tell us what excites you about Eazel.

Andy: One of the really exciting things to me about Eazel is the great team that we've built and are continuing to build here. One of the very best things is getting to work with Bud Tribble again, who was my boss on the original Macintosh project.

Slashdot: The original Macintosh project is usually defined as a cult of personality led by Steve Jobs.

Andy: Well, it varied over time. The Mac group got a reputation for being really spoiled, but that was in the very late stages of the project. The Mac team was paid less than the average people working at Apple initially, because we were pretty young and out of the mainstream. We had a tiny little office above a gas station, that's the place where the Mac project really took root, we called it Texaco Towers, and we weren't spoiled at all really, compared to the rest of Apple. In mid-83, we moved into a fancy building, then they put the piano in ...

Slashdot: You had the piano, you had Defender ...

Andy: Yeah, Defender was actually partially due to me. Burl loved it. Burl was the hardware designer of the Macintosh, and he just loved Defender. We always used to go to Cicero's Pizza, which was across the street, to play Defender in the afternoon. When we had the opportunity to buy a Defender game, we sprung for it. Joust was the other video game we had there.

Slashdot: How closely are you working with Helix Code, and how does that affect the hacking you do everyday?

Andy: Well, I'm not sure it affects the hacking we do every day very much, but we closely coordinate with them to make sure that the Gnome platform is coherent, and we try to avoid reduplication of efforts, so we have a process where the folks at Eazel have a conference call with Miguel and Nat usually every other week. It's really fun. We almost became one company last summer. We had a lot of natural synergies, but there were enough differences that we decided to go separate ways, but we consider ourselves, I think both sides consider the companies to be siblings, so we each try to help each other wherever we can.

Slashdot: How much of your original Apple Macintosh design influence is finding its way into Eazel?

Andy: What I would say is that our design values have remained pretty consistent.What we think is important is the same. Essentially, making the user happy. Bill Atkinson, who is really the person I learned the most from on how to do good user interface, his one rule of user interface design is 'make the user happy.' What you do is put yourself in the shoes of the user, look through their eyes, and try to make things work from their perspective. That being said, one of the things we didn't know how to do on the Macintosh, that we learned subsequently, is that it's very important to user test. So, to make usable software, you have to take your best shot with your own empathy with the user, seeing the way the user sees, but then you have to test that against real users. You put them down in front of it with a video camera running, and you see where they 'get it' and where they don't.

Slashdot: When a wirehead designs an interface for wireheads, that's fine. The Linux command line works fine for wireheads. For that reason, it's why the popular Linux interfaces don't work well with people coming right from Windows.

Andy: One of the big problems in terms of usability and Open Source software is that no systematic user testing has ever been done. That's one of the things we're trying to change at Eazel.

The personal computer has come a long way since 1984. Microsoft has a vast marketshare of the desktop computer market, and most people are content with machines that don't perform nearly as well as they could. With new ideology and a team of experienced developers, Eazel is helping to build something that Open Source and Free Software advocates have been waiting for. A computer industry for the rest of us.

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Re:I know this will get me flamed, but... (2)

Spasemunki (63473) | more than 14 years ago | (#1070927)

Well, to me the underlying assumption that ease of use eliminates power is a flawed one. I think that a more complex model for a system other than just (UI) xor (text config) would make it possible to keep the power and configurability of Linux while allowing more users to actually use it. Give newbies a nice set of click-driven menu boxes and wizards that present them with a sub-set of the available options. Let power users dig down, fiddle with text-based configuration scripts and recompile to their hearts delight.

As to why Linux should go to the trouble of being more user-friendly, or free software generally. . . to me, a lot of the promise of this movement, and something that is present in the rhetoric of people that are advocates(just look at sections of this article) is the potential for free software to aid in the digital divide that is disenfranchising people who can't afford to stay current in modern software and hardware. Free software is a great solution for that; but, not if they can't use it. People who can't afford to buy a Win98 computer probably also cannot afford the traininga nd familiarity necesary to use free software/Linux as it stands now. I have friends who work in international development who know of schools in the third world and impoverished areas of the developed world that would love to be running a free software setup, but the technical knowledge isn't available for them. And while slapping a better GUI wouldn't do enough to fix this problem, it would be a useful step in lowering the bar for people who might not otherwise have access to computers.

Re:Very nice! (1)

gaudior (113467) | more than 14 years ago | (#1070928)



Hypertext (1)

GarrettZilla (103173) | more than 14 years ago | (#1070932)

Invented by Ted Nelson. Get your hands on the classic "Computer Lib/Dream Machines".

Re:UI only as good as number of compliant programs (1)

Tralfamadorian (115732) | more than 14 years ago | (#1070933)

This is simply not true. A lot of windows programs follow a guideline, but many do not. Think of even MS's programs. Bookshelf 97 (98?) looks COMPLETELY different from any other windows program I have seen. Look at programs like quicktime, and winamp, and others (that really funkily shaped mp3 player).
The UI is only as good (or compliant) as the programmer makes it. Sure, there are more toolkits in use for X than I care to name (compared to windows), but most new programs are being developed in QT or GTK+ (I believe).

He who knows not, and knows he knows not is a wise man

Re:Obvious answers to ease of use (1)

geekd (14774) | more than 14 years ago | (#1070936)

Actually, I had heard they were working on system admin tools. I was hoping for an easy way to change color depths and virtual desktop size without having to edit XF86Config. But then I read that they would be doing the system admin for you. That kinda sucks, from my perspective.

I will also admit to being in a bad mood when I made that post. :-)

However, I count myself in the camp of people who don't want linux 'dumbed down' so Joe A User can have his way. But then, with Open Source, there will always be an alternative desktop, and of course, the command line, so I guess we're safe.

What you are used to != easy (4)

raistlinne (13725) | more than 14 years ago | (#1070937)

You see, I can't stand windows any more. That crufty and annoyingly long cut-and-paste standard that windows uses, for example. And there is no safe operating system which allows any user to shut down. If you really want to run as root (win9x), just log in as root to your Linux box all the time.

NT makes you switch users to log out (or should, maybe it assumes that console users should be able to kill the system since they can always hit the power switch).

And the X thing isn't an ease of use issue. It's vendors not releasing their proprietary specs in most cases. Otherwise it is drivers which simply need to be fixed. I have never had problems with getting X up on supported video cards, it's the 1/2 supported video cards that give problems.

Anyhow, the fact that windows doesn't have a security model (9x) or that it is a half-baked OS (NT) that forces users to be at the console and thus assumes that they are is not a good thing. Eventually those things should go away.

Oh, and the X cut-and-paste model is better than the windows one. I only highlight things for one reason: to copy. Why on earth should I have to hit a key to enable me to copy after I've highlighted? Of course, that just goes to show that we're different people. But please don't take UI preferences as easier/harder. They are just different.

Oh, and have you seen Xconfigurator lately? It makes setting X up pretty damn easy. The list goes on.

Have you not looked into a project like gnome or an installer like redhat's in the last three years? Noone thinks that normal users are hackers. They're being designed for, things just take time. As it is, for me, using windows is torture. I feel like I've had my arms cut off when I have to use it. It's weak, tempermental, badly designed, and when you get down to it, the people who designed it must not believe that its users were going to actually try to get work done. What sort of idiocy is make the windowing buttons dependent on the application? What dolt didn't provide a kill -9 option? When I say that I want a window dead, I want it dead now, not 30 seconds from now.

Yes, unix requires work. At least where hardware support permits, it allows you to do work, too.

So, in conclusion, unix requires work to use. Windows requires much more patience to endure it. Personally, I'd rather work than endure. And there are always the issues of freedom, but that's off topic. At least to the point is that I will generally always take power of enslavement. Maybe you prefer bondage. your choice. You are right that being a slave is easier.

Re:Interface Testing (5)

jacoplane (78110) | more than 14 years ago | (#1070939)

I agree.

If anyone's interested in the theory behind usability, I recommend this book [] on Human Computer Interaction as an introduction.

Also, here are some web-sites I found useful:

- Cooper design []
Excellent collection of articles, case studies and, for students who want bullet-point summaries for ease of recall, a nice list of HCI design axioms. See in particular [] where there is a series of articles, including one entitled "The myth of metaphor". Cooper is also the author of two excellent books on interface design.

- Ask Tog Design []
Bruce "Tog" Tognazzini developed the first version of the Apple Human Interface Guidelines in 1978, moved to Sun, and is currently lead designer at Healtheon. He has published two excellent books on interface and software design and at this web site, he answers questions and discusses interface issues with wit and insight.

- Jacob Nielsen's website []
Nielsen produces a bi-weekly column on web usability and has also just published a book called Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity which is getting rave reviews. He is widely regarded as a leader in the field of web site design and usability testing.

- Interface Hall of Shame []
An excellent collection of scathing but accurate reviews of user interface disasters of one sort or another. The ultimate depressing experience for any interface designer must be to end up here.

- HCI Reading List []
If you want an exhaustive list of HCI reading materials, this is a good place to look. It is reasonably up-to-date (Feb 98) and has useful comments on the majority of textbooks in this area.

- University of Maryland Human-Computer Interaction Lab []
The Human-Computer Interaction Lab (HCIL) at the University of Maryland conducts research on advanced user interfaces and their development processes. They study areas such as new approaches to information visualization, interfaces for digital libraries, multimedia resources for learning communities, zooming user interfaces (ZUIs), technology design methods with and for children, and instruments for evaluating user interface technologies. The director is Ben Schneiderman, author of the book [] "Designing the user interface".

Re:All GUI's suck. A lot. (1)

paulschreiber (113681) | more than 14 years ago | (#1070940)

Doug Englebart invented the mouse at Stanford Research Institute (SRI).

Credit for hypertext belongs to Vannevar Bush (As we may think) and Ted Nelson (project Xanadu [] ).


Re:Think DIFFIDENT! (1)

ZamZ (28920) | more than 14 years ago | (#1070942)

IANAL (but I start all my posts like that) - Sorry, had to get that out of my system :>) Seriously, I don't know if eazel are aiming at that kind of user base for cash-in. In the corporate world it matters little about the ins and outs of most of the libraries. There they'll be looking to create a new config and roll it out to a large number of users (all or a sub-set of the company) at one time. Preferably all at once and preferably without any hitches. At the moment this is an expensive task for which large departments are allocated in v.large companies to do almost constantly. Having been at the receiving end of many of these rollouts its never a happy experience. Many attempts in the Windows arena have been made to get round this and much expensive technology has been brought in. If Eazel can step into this area and offer company wide desktop maintenance and rollouts then I think they'll make a lot of in-roads. Expand this idea to supporting the desktop as well and they might end up with outsourcing contracts worth a lot.

Windows is easy because eveyone uses it (2)

Phallus (54388) | more than 14 years ago | (#1070943)

While Windows is easier to use than some interfaces for some things, it's still not particularly easy. The main thing that makes Windows look leaps and bounds ahead in usability is that almosts everyone knows how to use Windows. Because Windows is so widespread, most people get exposed to Windows, and know the Windows paradigm. So we get the illusion that Windows is super easy to use, whereas in fact, it's not that easy but many people are very experienced with it.

This will be a significant obstacle for Eazel and similar projects, and also possibly one reason why KDE is windows-like - unless you leverage peoples knowledge of previous interfaces they've used (eg *dows), any new interface is hard, no matter how well designed.

tangent - art and creation are a higher purpose

Nautilus (1)

superlame (48021) | more than 14 years ago | (#1070944)

So has anyone here actually tried Nautilus, the file/other stuff manager from Eazel? I've only seen screen shots, and they look OK, but not revolutionary, but maybe the revolution is in the using.

Re:Obvious answers to ease of use (1)

pb (1020) | more than 14 years ago | (#1070945)

I think the UI Designers and the Hackers do a fair amount of self-selection, and the programs they create are popular in their own circles. I use mpg123; Joe A. User can use XMMS.

I change my 'display settings' by hitting CTRL+ALT+'+' and CTRL+ALT+'-'. And really, why would I want 8-bit color? :)

But seriously, it would be cool to have a box that could do this in GNOME or KDE, but I'd appreciate it if it didn't have to be integrated into X. Just being root and rewriting XF86Config while showing a pretty dialog to the user and saying "Now Restarting X..." would be good enough, IMO.

(don't listen to me, though, I'm one of those "hackers" that your design teacher warned you about! :)

I *do* appreciate it when programs support multiple ways to get help. For 'Joe A. User', it sounds like it should be "The Help Menu". (Command line? What's that?) However, it should *always* be "man prog". I don't *care* if there is alternate documentation available, there should always always ALWAYS be a man page for it, too.

Source and a configure script, or a package for the right platform, or both, is pretty standard these days. And your distro can probably find packages for anything that "Joe A. User" would ever find out about. ("for everything else, there's"... :)

Would you consider "crashing" to impede ease-of-use? I wouldn't consider Netscape terribly easy to use on Linux because sometimes it just plain doesn't work. But even if Netscape gets a 5/10 on Linux, IE gets a 0/10 on Linux, and bringing down the whole OS on Windows is even more serious in my book... IE 3.0 under Wine is reasonable; it has some Wine-related glitches, and doesn't support some things because it's old... but it's fast. Probably like running Netscape 3.0 on Linux. :)
pb Reply or e-mail; don't vaguely moderate [] .

Re:Obvious answers to ease of use (1)

Dungeon Dweller (134014) | more than 14 years ago | (#1070946)

Yeah, I was thinking that redhat had a similar tool... I just set everything up nice and pretty in my config file, and cycle through with ctrl-alt- + -, like you said, but I have seen X utilities that will let you do this graphically, just like windows/mac.

Go Eazel! (5)

Junks Jerzey (54586) | more than 14 years ago | (#1070947)

Once again, I see at least one legitimate response claiming that Linux should remain difficult to use, as it keeps away people without enough knowledge. There's one fundamental flaw to this line of thinking:

It's also keeping away people that *have* enough knowledge.

I've done my share of assembly coding. I spend my day job immersed in C++ code. I've used UNIX as my primary operating system on the job. I've written tens of thousands of lines of production code using vi on a Sun workstation. I also have both Windows and Linux installed on my machine at home, and, more often than not, I find myself using Windows.

Most of the reason is that Linux is just too tempermental and fussy. I admire the work that's gone into the kernel, but twiddling with Xwindows settings and getting my video card to work properly and having to deal with weird X cut and paste standards is just too much. And there are little things no one thinks about, too, like having to login as root in order to shut down, or remembering how to set it up so any user can shut down. Crusty.

Yes, you can respond with "You dolt! Here's how you can get around that problem!". But the bottom line is that some people have gotten tired of the attitude that getting to play 1970s system administrator is a wonderful thing. Some people don't mind, like people who passionately hate Microsoft and love to start email campaigns about getting game ABC ported over, and people who equate snagging MP3s and constantly upgrading different parts of their systems with "using a computer." It's almost cultish how these people will deny that Linux is hard to use. Get over it!

Re:Converting people... (1)

Cinquero (174242) | more than 14 years ago | (#1070948)

You are absolutely right. Many 'gamers' like to play around with the system... but not if it's for the sake of crashes. Linux/BSD needs a lot of more PORTS. I wonder if it's more advantageous to the FSM if more hobbyists join in instead of businesses. My proposals are: 1. Full-fledged database as a replacement for the traditional hierarchical file system. Complete and reliable databases would presumably much better fit into a GUI. Ever wondered why local disk browsing is _that_ boring? Or why file searching is relatively inefficient? This could also remove one layer for database systems - they could run directly within partitions without the file system layer in between. Another advantage would be that all configuration data could be stored directly on disk. There would be no need for configuration files anymore. Instead all configuration data could be stored along with each application and/or user (see next point). 2. A combined application/user security system. If you run an application inside your userspace, it can do there everything. That's s small leak that could be dangerous to viruses even on a Linux/BSD system. And being restricted to the standard packages of a specific distribution is not what I call _freedom_. That way you could even install multiple versions of the same application without any complications or install packages from totally different ditributions sharing the same files or dirs between different packages. And viruses could only delete themselves - if at all. Those who don't like could disable it anyway, but I don't see a reason. Proprietary products (and all others) could be denied to read user's data... so no spionage/trojan horses would be possible. 3. Defining a standard for GUI and/or system configuration. There are already some packages that can configure whole clusters, but I think we need to agree upon a standard. If I had the time, I would do it. But years may go by before that will happen. What do You think?

Re:Converting people... (2)

Dimitri-san (169146) | more than 14 years ago | (#1070949)


My wife gets furious with Win 98's instability, but refuses to switch to Linux because she can't play The Sims or EverQuest under Linux.

Can't say that I blame her. I had my machine dual-booting Win 98/Red Hat 6.0 for the longest time, but then realized that 99% of my off-line time was spent on Torment, Baldur's Gate, X-Wing Alliance, etc. It wasn't worth rebooting just to run Linux to web surf and even then, I had to boot back into Win 98 to play EverQuest.

Solution: Goodbye Linux partition...

Re:All GUI's suck. A lot. (1)

DJerman (12424) | more than 14 years ago | (#1070950)

It would have been nice to be able to open the folder I was in the CLI in the GUI, and vice versa

>gmc `pwd`

All things are possible with a good desktop interface, but your point is taken. If we could point and type w/o hands reorienting all the time that would be a lot more powerful.

Re:Obvious answers to ease of use (4)

pb (1020) | more than 14 years ago | (#1070951)

Well, any of the X configuration programs do this, but...

Please explain to me how [Ctrl]+[Alt]+[+/-] is not easy. What could be easier? Is [Ctrl]+[Alt]+[Del] particularly difficult for you under Windows? Or is [Ctrl]+[Alt]+[Backspace] hard to remember under X?

I agree that it has somewhat different effects than resizing the desktop under Windows or Macintosh, but it's still *incredibly* easy!

Also, I don't see how it's that easy on Windows/Mac. For the average user, it goes something like this (realize there are many inconsistent ways to do the same task, too):

"First, go to the Control Panel."
"What's the Control Panel?"
"Okay, click on the menu. (Start / Apple / Whatever)"
"Now go to Controls."
"Now go to Display. (preferences / monitor / whatever)"
"Now pick your resolution."
"So is 800x600 bigger? How many colors do I need? Why would I want 32 colors instead of 256?"

For a novice user, they have to learn *something* first, but navigating a maze of menus seems rather harder than pressing a key combination, at least to me... And remember, once you learn it, it's easy! You must have learned the wrong 'easy' way to do things first...
pb Reply or e-mail; don't vaguely moderate [] .

Re:All GUI's suck. A lot. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1070952)

Ah, no...Hypertext was invented by Ted Neilson, inventor of Xanadu, great-grandfather of what would become the world wide web.

Re:I know this will get me flamed, but... (1)

BobLenon (67838) | more than 14 years ago | (#1070953)

I agree, at least to a point. Linux still isnt user friendly enough for the masses. But its alot better than even two years ago. However, I fear that linux could become that fat, bloated cow of an OS we call Windows.

At least in the desltop market. Thankfully package management has various advantages, so a server can still be nice and sleek. What worries me is the Desktop. Yes, thats the place to make kinux user-friendly, yet at the same time, that is the place linux seems to be bloating at now.

I've used Afterstep, Enlightment/Gnome, blackbox, OpenWin, CDE and a few others. Some of them just suck (CDE), and some are really cool (blackbox). Yes, I suppose to some degree I like a minamalist's approach, as I abhor the whole IE-Explorer BS of windows. My fear here lies in that these window managers are getting too bloated. Yea, I know i can easily go change mine, edit a few rc files and have a different faster desktop. But does Joe User? No, but, Joe User can use whatever config tool that comes with KDE, Gnome, Enlightment and poof!

Yes, eye candy is nice ;) but at what cost does it become too much? Frankly, I finaly got sick of how sluggish the Enlightment/Gnome setup is, and went to blackbox. Sure I dont have all those handy things from the gnome bar, yet my desktop is soo much faster.

Microsoft has proven a point, avrage users use what is pushed infront of them (IE, Office, ect). Needless to say, if the desktop-masses were to use Linux, such would be the case again. I think we need to figure out what makes a good window manager vs eye candy. If for no other reason, one must realize that us slashdotters may have the latest and greatest hardware, but many companys dont keep all their emploeeys on the the cutting edge. Hence eye candy becomes bloatware.

Re:interface design of classic games (1)

Zoid (8837) | more than 14 years ago | (#1070956)

Ah, Defender. We have one at my workplace. Another fellow who works here and myself have been battling each other for high score.

It's starting to get pointless, I think we could both go forever now. :)

Defender is still one of the most intense games I've ever played. You just get so "in the zone" when playing it. Everything else disappears except for that ship on the screen. Your hands become extensions of your mental state.

I guess its a similiar experience to "deep hack mode" as described in the Jargon file.

I know I just can't get enough of the intensity of Defender. I just finished playing it about twenty minutes before I posted this message. :)

I also find it strangely comforting that Andy likes Defender as well. Defender may have been a daunting user interface when people first encounter it--but its prefect in its design once you learn it.

Also, Defender was five buttons on a two-way joystick. Stargate added the sixth button for Inviso--temporary invulnerbility for those people who couldn't dodge in Defender. :)

Re:Obvious answers to ease of use (1)

mikegross (181325) | more than 14 years ago | (#1070962)

au contraire, you CAN change the resolution in X, other than by using ctrl-alt-+ and ctrl-alt--. I run Corel Linux 1.1, (no flames, please, it's just the first distro I've found to run Samba perfectly) and it has a nice little monitor logo in the system tray, which when I double click it gives me the display properties. For all of you that have been jumping out of windows these days, display properties is basically a fancy name for Xconfigurator or XF86Config. There's a little slider for choosing resolutions, and two drop-down menus for color-depth and refresh rates. It even has a handy dandy test button to make sure nothing goes wrong. I don't know if you can get this utility for any other distro other than Corel (Debian?), but it would be great if you could, it's very helpful.

Think different? (2)

Signal 11 (7608) | more than 14 years ago | (#1070966)

I don't think that phrase fits linux very well. If anything, it would be "Think Fast!" With the kernel internals and libraries shifting faster than the sands in the sahara desert, programmers need to keep on their toes if they want to stay compatible. That isn't to say linux is hard to keep current with - it's usually a compile away, but upgrading from libc to glibc, from the 2.0 to 2.2 kernels, from a.out to ELF, etc., it can certainly be a challenge!

Interview suggestions (5)

gammatron (120978) | more than 14 years ago | (#1070967)

It would be nice if you guys could do an interview with someone where you get to ask you questions, like this one, and in addition you have user-submitted questions. If I were you I'd ask your questions first, which would let you get the obvious stuff out of the way, and would also give us a chance to ask questions based on the interviewee's answers.


Very nice! (1)

sinergy (88242) | more than 14 years ago | (#1070969)

Things are definately looking up in terms of GUI. It would be nice to have the functionality of linux with a sleek front end like a Mac.

UI only as good as number of compliant programs (4)

Ars-Fartsica (166957) | more than 14 years ago | (#1070970)

Linux UIs need to be more than a few applets, a file manager, and a window manager. To make it useful it has to be pervasive, with defined motifs that are pervasive in all third party software. Apple has essentially achieved this. Windows isn't far behind. Linux? HA! Some programs are KDE-compliant, some GNOME, and now Eazel. You may call that diversity folks, but its also known as a MESS.

Gorgeous design usually rests upon draconian guidelines. Linux has no guidelines at all, and no one to enforce them if there were, so you can forget about a UI for linux that makes sense.

I agree with previous posters who cite this as a waste of time. Leave this type of thing to Apple, who is more willing to make ISV's tow the line.

What The Heck ??? (1)

Glowing Fish (155236) | more than 14 years ago | (#1070971)

Correct me if I am wrong, but I didn't know that it was one person that came up with these ideas. I thought that the mouse was invented by a man who graduated from Oregon State over 50 years ago, that the GUI was invented at Xerox about 25 years ago, and that Hyper Text (the transfer protocol, at least) was invented by Tim Berners-Lee about ten years ago. Am I missing something?

BTW, I was't able to post this comment with the title "WTHeck"...encountered a lameness filter. Lame.

Re:All GUI's suck. A lot. (1)

johnnyb (4816) | more than 14 years ago | (#1070972)

I think that the GUI has all the potential (or at least most) of the command-line. However, it is just in its early stages of development. In the future, especially through the use of componentized software, we may be able to do the equivalent(or better) of command line filtering by dragging several GUI components together and clicking on options. One major advantage of GUI over command-line is that you don't have to worry about special characters (like in regexps), you simply have a symbol for them that is clicked rather than having to escape (or double-escape) everything you type.

Re:Interface Testing (2)

ceswiedler (165311) | more than 14 years ago | (#1070973)

And don't get me started on the 30,000 tiny buttons sitting along the toolbar(s) in MS Word. If it takes a "tooltip" to explain what the icon represents, then the icon is a failure.

Correction: if it takes a "tooltip" to understand an icon the second time, then the icon is a failure.

An icon on a toolbar is an abbrev. Abbrevs are impossible to understand unless 1) you understand the underlying concept, and 2)you've had the abbrev explained at least once.

Why does a floppy disk icon mean SAVE? It could mean LOAD. It could mean millions of things. If you had never seen that icon before, would you know what it did (without a tooltip)?

A picture is worth a thousand words. An icon is worth about two.

what's bandley 3? (1)

millia (35740) | more than 14 years ago | (#1070974)

A quick search of yahoo didn't turn up anything; somebody out there must know.

Wow! Deja Vu! (3)

Randy Rathbun (18851) | more than 14 years ago | (#1070975)

Earlier today I was sitting here thinking about some stuff and it dawned on me that I had never ever seen a "Windows to Linux" guide for newbies.

The two arguments I hear all the time are 1) There are no applications in Linux and 2) Linux is too hard.

Well, I can say with 100% conviction that neither of those are true. But, we all know that!

But nobody that I know of has ever written a document that says "This is a comparison of Windows to Linux." Something I had in mind:

W: to launch a program you double click it
L: to launch a program you double click it

W: To get a listing of a directory, type dir
L: To get a listing of a directory, type dir

W: To log out of the system, select Start|Logoff
L: To log out of the system, type "logoff"

If you can show people that Linux IS as easy as Windows on the user level, a lot of the rest of the stuff will come easy. Another thing that REALLY needs to be done is to get away from some of these "must have a doctorate in comp sci" HOWTOs out there. Admit it, some of them are really horrid. Yeah, there is stuff that needs to be said, but does it need to be said in end user documentation? You and I might enjoy reading about how a serial port works or how a sound card turns electrical impulses into beautiful music, but for the average Joe, he just wants his damn modem to work or his mp3s to play.

Re:Converting people... (1)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 14 years ago | (#1070976)

Childish? Yeah, I guess it's pretty childish to actually want applications to use!!

Again, users use applications, not operating systems.


BINL (2)

Glowing Fish (155236) | more than 14 years ago | (#1070977)

That stands for "Bash is Not Linux"...after remaking Unix, I don't know why there is any particular reason to still use the Bash Shell (besides it usually works). But the Bash shell is not Linux, and neither are any of the others. The only reason it is added into Linux is by default, but it is only a matter of preference.

A GUI, or even an Olfactory User Interface, whatever, is no less "true" to the Kernel. The ideal shell for the Linux kernel for many users would probably be the MacIntosh shell, the best, or at least most elegant, UI ever developed.

interface design of classic games (2)

ruin (141833) | more than 14 years ago | (#1070992)

Call me crazy, but I'm not sure I want someone who loved Defender in charge of making a user interface. :)

(Defender, of course, being the one arcade game with the easy to use six-button controls and a maddeningly steep learning curve)



Re:Think different? (1)

Signal 11 (7608) | more than 14 years ago | (#1070993)

It was meant as a tongue-in-cheek joke... I was poking alittle fun at the fact that linux seems to suck differently with each release.

Re:Obvious answers to ease of use (2)

JammmGrrl (131305) | more than 14 years ago | (#1070994)

One of the points, though, is it's not even easy to learn. Where is Joe A. User going to go to find this out? How long is it going to take him? How many HOW-TO's does he have to read, each being filled with the aforementioned un-needed info.

Windows and Mac OS are intuitive. For most people, you don't even have to read anything once you get past the basics of mouse clicking and menu reading. Most people don't have to read a manual or go to a class to figure out how to use Outlook or .. change their display settings. Everything you want is in the control panel, and there are even shorter-short cuts. Right click on the desktop and choose properties to change anything having to do with the desktop, including display settings. Possible to guess. Ctrl-Alt-+? That's Impossible to guess. A plus sign has nothing to do with display settings, that I can see. Right-clicking the desktop does. And if you miss-guess (if right-clicking the desktop was a BAD answer) you aren't going to break anything. Personally I'd be afraid to go randomly hitting ctrl-alt-key combinations in Linux.

Linux was a big step out of the world of Windows. It was incredibly anti-intuitive. I'm used to sitting down to new software and guessing my way through it. With Linux, I was asking people questions, frustratedly reading how-tos and websites and newsgroups. Joe A. User doesn't want to do this. He will not do this. I did it because I'm a geek and all my geek friends were using/had used Linux. Joe A. User has a different kind of peer pressure, and doesn't want to take the time.

It's the path of least resistance, and Windows, at this time, is that path.

Re:what's bandley 3? (1)

dvaria (43612) | more than 14 years ago | (#1070995)

Try and search for it there. They have a lot of explanations for obscure terms.

Re:UI only as good as number of compliant programs (1)

DaKrushr (16560) | more than 14 years ago | (#1070996)

What a profoundly clueless person.

Guess what Eazel is working on? GNOME.

U * P = K (4)

ceswiedler (165311) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071013)

To paraphrase Larry Niven, "User-friendliess times power is a constant."

Niven was quick to point out, however, that the "constant" can change-- that 'K' is different for different environments. The idea is really that "user-friendliness and power are inversely related." Increasing one decreases the other.

For example, the mouse increases user-friendliness, while the keyboard increases power. Making a small, isolated change from a keyboard shortcut to a mouse shortcut results in a decrease in power and an increase in usability. We can tinker with the left-hand numbers all we want, but we're not going to make signifigant changes in the overall system.

It takes a massive restructuring, along the lines of the 'paradigm shift,' to change the 'K' value. This is exactly what a 'killer app' does--it increases the usability and the power of the computer. Visicalc, WordStar, the Macintosh, Netscape. Microsoft can tweak IE all they want, but their effors can't change the basic 'K' constant of the Web.

Linux needs a killer app to make it really worthwhile. Usability testing is great, kernel speed is great, but they fall out in the wash.

Re:Nautilus (3)

miguel (7116) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071014)

Indeed. You need to use Nautilus and see a demostration of a normal person using Nautilus to appreciate the ease of use.

Andy did a demostration at the Guadec [] conference a few months ago of Nautilus and people were pretty impressed.

We saw his prototype last summer, and back then it was already very interesting, it already was a testbed for new ideas (things that I had not seen before). Describing them is hard, as they were very smoothly integrated into the system, things just "worked".


Re:Very nice! (1)

alfredo (18243) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071015)

Yes OSX, but I will not give up my Linux. Dual boot forever. If I can run Xwindows on OSX, I might think of giving up Linux. but I want Glade, I want Perl-Tk, I want Nedit, I want Gnome. Xbill doesn't run on the MacOS.

Re:Interface Testing (1)

n8willis (54297) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071016)

Since when do I have to have it explained at least once?

I'm looking at the row of icons at the top of the Slashdot menubar, and here's what I see : a penguin, some kind of ring of PCs encircling Earth, the Apple logo, the Slashdot logo, and the SGI logo. Four of those are obvious, the fifth is not. Maybe you like being confused the first time, but I say the "Internet" icon is awkward and unsuccessful.

In response to your question, I don't think the floppy icon is a good one. But I do think that the scissors icon, the printer icon, the B and I are successful.

From a graphic design standpoint, a work's purpose is to communicate, and it either succeeds or fails in that every time someone looks at it; in the communication business there is no forgiving a failure because it was the audience's first/second/third time. And an icon is not and abbreviation, it is a pictorial label: a graphical medium for communicating the purpose of the button on which it resides. It succeeds or fails on its ability to communicate, not on its powers of abbreviation.


Re:Think different? (1)

Signal 11 (7608) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071017)

Lovely. I've done both.. I had a friend use the, uhh, "golden oratory" of "karma whoring" for a month and it worked as expected.. you probably know him. And I previously did alittle experiment over karma.. which earned me the title "karma whore" as a result.

Yea, still people remember the man and not the message.

Re:I know this will get me flamed, but... (2)

wjodon (137830) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071018)

If you had ever seen and used NeXTSTEP, of which Bud Tribble of Eazel was the key architect, you would know that power and usability don't have to be at cross purposes when they are united by strong design work. NeXTSTEP featured a beautifully designed GUI with a cohesive OO architecture running on top of BSD with a Mach kernel. It also had the best software development environment that has ever existed. If only Steve "These are my toys and you can't have them" Jobs had given back to the GNUSTEP project after taking heavily from GNU for NeXT's utilities, tools and compilers, we would not have to be doing this again. GNUSTEP has never had a chance because it looks backward toward a NeXT future that almost was but never will be (The sense of pathos that pervades the dedicated OpenStep / Cocoa developer community is truly heartbreaking). Last year, despite a healthy market for WebObjects development, I quit my involvment with NeXT/OpenStep/MacOS X Server because I felt that it was time to look to the real future of computing, which for me is Free Software / Open Source / Linux. Although the new environment and its tools are a lot more chaotic, their potential is becoming clearer to me every day. The presence of this team of people working on a breakthrough user interface for Linux fills me with hope. I'm rejoicing - you should be too.

I see progress (3)

hatless (8275) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071019)

Having tried the recent Helix Code tweaks of GNOME and the beta of KDE 2, it's clear we're getting there fast. KDE 1.x still has GNOME beat hands-down on ease of use, but the UI changes Helix has been putting out lately are closing the gap. Dialog boxes are starting to look clean and rational, and menus are more consistent than before. They're on the right track.

KDE 1.x is still far ahead of GNOME on the usability side of things, if not its internals--and it's rock solid. I could give a KDE 1.1.x machine to a genuine novice, and with an hour of coaching they'd be able to do everything they need with minimal help from a "Dummies" book. Software installation remains the big barrier between *nix and the mainstream of personal computing. With KDE, everyday computer use is no longer a problem.

However, last week's KDE 2 beta was a real eye-opener. The icons are prettier, the design cleaner and warmer. They've moved on from aping their benchmark, Windows 98, to making something easier for novices and power users alike to use. The "first use" user-settings wizard absolutely blew me away, as did the context-sensitivity and embedding capabilities of the new file manager/browser. KDE 2 beta 1 is unstable as all hell, not yet usable by any stretch, mind you. But for the curious and hardy techie, it's worth looking at. Unix desktop environments are coming into their own.

Re:Wow! Deja Vu! (1)

Avumede (111087) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071020)

>W: to launch a program you double click it
>L: to launch a program you double click it

Except that so many unix programs have no GUI's. Double clicking those will do nothing.

>W: To get a listing of a directory, type dir
>L: To get a listing of a directory, type dir

So Linux's command-line is as easy as DOS's command line? That's damning with faint praise.

>W: To log out of the system, select Start|Logoff
>L: To log out of the system, type "logoff"

Nope, judging by your first example, you are imagining the user is in a GUI. In this case, typing "logoff" will simply close whatever xterm they were working on. However, you could select in by whatever menu is with your window manager, and it's not that hard. Well, not that hard in Gnome / Enlightenment - others will require you to right click on the desktop or some other strange non-intuitive thing. If Joe user mistakenly chooses some other WM from gdm or kdm, he could easily not know how to logout.

Nope (1)

delmoi (26744) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071021)

I didn't know about hypertext, but the mouse and the GUI were defenetly invented by the same guy, Doglass Egglebart. what the hell would the point of a Mouse without a GUI be?

Parc did not think up the GUI, and Tim-barners Lee defenetly didn't invent hypertext.

Re:Interface Testing (1)

epukinsk (120536) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071022)

The standard philosophy of button bars is that they are not supposed to be explanatory, but merely shortcuts. The menu hierarchy is supposed to be the thing that points newbies to new tools. I'm not advocating that philosophy, but it's the thinking when Microsoft invented the "toolbar" however many years ago. (that was a joke. :)) -Erik

Re:I know this will get me flamed, but... (3)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1071023)

I just want to chime in with a couple of points.
First, the design of Linux (and BSD, too) from kernel to GUI, is so totally modular that apprehensions based on Linux becoming a new Windows border on an irrational morbid fantasy. Linux is composed of separable pieces in a way unknown to any other system running on commodity hardware. Comaprisons to Windows and MacOS are empty. This makes it simply unthinkable that your command line/ text file configuration will be taken away from you.
What power--I'd like to ask of the Cassandras--what irresistable authority do you fear will force you to use the GUI to configure your Linux systems? Tell me a little more detail from this dream you have, and I'll show you an impossible boogeyman.

None of the essential services running on Linux or BSD today require GUI only, unreadable configuration files. Therefore to go from "none" to "all" would be a jarring, tree-forking break with the past. Especially since the head of the Linux project is adamantly opposed to the configuration of the OS ever migrating to human illegible formats. And there is no move of which I'm aware within the critical services projects to deviate from tradition on this point. I can't think of any such project which has even included GUI configuratiuon tools as an official part of their main distribution.

Supposing there were forces pushing for the gui-only, binary-only configuration of the OS and services, what power will enforce this on the million Linux distributuions? Say there was ad hoc agreement among the major commercial distros to do this (supposing for a moment they can agree on anything) wouldn't there be a dozen or more new distros launched later that afternoon with opposition to this move as their reason for being?

I never want Linux to become a desktop centric OS, governed by concepts appropriate to GUI and binary configuration. I never want it to happen that one cannot install Linux from a couple of floppies in text mode to a old, lowpower PC and expertly administer a headless server by remote shell. I also want Linux to swarm the desktops of the world with complete, consistent and easy to use GUI shells and applications--for ideological reasons, to make the server-side safer for open standards based computing, and because it will vastly simplify the lives of network administrators, and save tons and tons of money in the process. There's nothing at odds in those two desirable outcomes.

If Gnome/Eazel or KDE together with enduser oriented distributions bring about a future of perloaded Linux systems and widespread adoption, then more power to them. The problems of that kind of success will be preferable to the problems we face today: eg. proprietary systems getting vendor lock on customers, subverting important interop standards, tying platform or application ownership to network infrastructure access...

In short, worry about the Sun expiring next week-end, or comets crashing into the Earth if you must fear unlikely & terrifying events--let's get desktop Linux out to the masses ASAP.

Ease of use isn't the only problem!! (4)

stienman (51024) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071024)

A lot of people indicate that Linux is so difficult to use that the average John Doe can't use it. They indicate that Windows is more intuitive.

This is not true.

I won't argue that Linux is easy to use, but I will argue that Windows has a learning curve. Linux still has a larger curve (longer time to learn) but they are in the same territory.

A few major reasons why Linux isn't being picked up like windows is:
  • Lack of teaching
  • Lack of face to face support
  • Lack of bundling
  • Lack of vender support
  • Lack of business support
The majority of people learning to use a computer still learn to do so in school. There is NOT a computer in every home, nor does John Doe have a desire to fiddle with the computer unless they are bound for geekdom (in which case this post doesn't apply).

Schools use systems and programs which the student is most likely to encounter in their career. These are systems businesses use. Businesses won't give the accountant/secretary/marketing/field service people Linux without training and support. Right now training and support for Linux is less than optimal, AND the boss who selects the systems -bing!- went through business school suckling on Windows. They are unlikely to choose something they are unfamiliar with especially if they know windows will do what they need to do. Also they know that they'll have to train ALL the employees under them if they choose a different system.

So, while I agree that the user interface needs a lot of work to make Linux easier to adopt, I believe there are other things which the Linux community can (and should) focus on which will bring a more rapid adoption than simply focusing on the user experience. Perhaps my point could be more easily summarized this way: Microsoft developed an 'improved' user experience AND they 'effectively' marketed their product to schools/businesses. Ask yourself: Would they have gone further with just the improved UI (and not the marketing/strategy), or just the marketing/strategy (and not the improved UI)?

I would say that their success hinges almost entirely on their successful thrust into their market despite their UI.


With computers, every morning is the dawn of a new error.

Re:Converting people... (1)

Karn (172441) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071025)

I use Linux at work. At one point I missed not having a decent E-mail client for Linux so I switched back to Windows 98. I had it figured out - I would install TeraTerm to do my telnetting, have email in Express, and I could do X logins to a machine if I needed an X desktop.
Suddenly I lost alot of the things I took for granted after using Linux for so long. I lost my beautiful desktop and gained the standard Windows98 look and feel, the one you can't change.
I tried Litestep, but it was no where near as good as any xStep-type window manager. I looked into Window Blinds, but it costs, and I don't think I can justify purchasing that to my boss.

I lost my telnetting capability. I used TeraTerm for a while but I missed how easy it was to move around the system to configure settings. Just to open another terminal you have to go find your shortcut. I missed Eterm!!
I missed all the free software I got to try out. I missed all the flexibility Linux offered me. Little things like your interface statistics that is hidden from you. I missed setting up test services on my machine before I put them on the servers..

If you use Linux you should switch back to Windows 98 to remind yourself why you are using Linux, before you forget.

Re:All GUI's suck. A lot. (1)

wfmcwalter (124904) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071043)

Well, one could credit FDR's science advisor, Vannevar Bush, with "inventing" hypertext (and "hypermedia" too), rather than Ted Nelson. Admittedly, it's made of metal and the size of a house, but that's still pretty advanced thinking for 1945, I figure.

See: here []

Re:I know this will get me flamed, but... (1)

Lucretius (110272) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071044)

I'm concerned that ease-of-use will yank the power and configurability that makes Linux ssuch an ideal OS.

But why does ease of use have to mean that Linux will loose the power and configurability that it now has? A great and easy user interface can easily be developed using the tools that we have already {the window manager, X, desktop environments). You still have the same flexibility and power that you had before, you just have it set up so that it is easy for your average user.

While this isn't exactly what they are doing, it does show that a good user interface doesn't necessarily "dumb down" the program. All of the features that were once there are still in place, its just that it has been covered with thin candy shell that won't melt in your hand (or more specfically the hands of those who haven't been exposed to them before, thus saving them from those funky colors that will appear on your hand if you hold them for too long.... but I digress)

I know that users who know enough can turn off (or just not install) usability features, but my concern is for users who -don't- know enough. I am of the opinion that the fault is less in the hands of the developers and more in the hands of the educators.

Now the only problem in this is that many people would not read the documentation that would be produced, no matter how well written or easy to find it is. They would much prefer to have someone come over and fix the problem for them, as they either lack the time to figure out the problem by themselves or lack the courage to try it themselves. One way that a good UI helps the process is by making it so obvious what to do that there is no doubt in the minds of the user, which is where much the difficulty in designing a UI comes into play.

I guess that's where it all comes down to though, finding a way to balance the strength of linux in its speed and flexibility with the ease-of-use that is required for new users to be able to use the system. A problem much easier spoken about than actual solved.

Blenders Interface *ROCKS*. (2)

torpor (458) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071045)

It is based on this law:

Keep one hand on the keyboard, and one hand on the mouse.

And as such, it kicks serious ass. Yes, it is confusing initially, and yes, it is frustrating if you've been weaned on the fat of other GUI's, but trust me: get the tutorial, spend an hour doing it, and you will have an epiphany about Blender.

I'd be very surprised if, after learning the interface (buy the book! support NaN! Get the tutorial CD!), you do *not* become a Blender GUI Zealot, such as I find myself becoming more and more these days...

BTW, this is off topic, but I caught up with the Blender team at E3 over the weekend - great bunch of guys! They were handing out free CD's with Blender and the tutorial guide, and I have to say - I think these guys are a great example of how Free Software can work.

Re:Converting people... (1)

DavittJPotter (160113) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071046)

Yeah, it's pretty sad that I whacked my 2 GB Linux partition at home. Why? I can't play EverQuest under Linux. I wish I could, but I can't. Plus, all the servers at work that I have to dial into run pcAnywhere. I know there's a VNC client, but all my colleagues use pcAnywhere on their Windows boxes.

My Linux box at work *never* needs rebooting, but I can't *do* much with it yet besides HTML and some word processing, b/c of corporate standards and lack of software. Yes, more ports, PLEASE! I'm not against closed applications - like pcAnywhere, Office - as long as they don't interfere with the OS in any way, shape, or form.

Re:Obvious answers to ease of use (1)

SquadBoy (167263) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071047)

You my friend have clearly never worked a help desk. The average user out there can not figure out *anything* having to do with computers. They are so afraid of the boxes that things that seem common sense to you and me are deep dark mystries to them. Me "Right click on the desktop" a user "Once or twice?" They have no idea about what is going on and your average user is so scared of the box they are not going to play with it at all to figure it out. Documentation is the only answer and yes Linux could use better docs but winders really is *not* very easy or obvious for a end user.

Re:Obvious answers to ease of use (1)

smeat (18128) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071048)

The answer to a lot of what you are asking is being addressed by Linux Mandrake. The new DrakConf tool that comes with Mandrake 7.0 gives you the ability to change your X resolutions with ease. In fact you can run it as a user and it just prompts you for the root password. The default install of KDE that comes with Mandrake has an icon for DrakConf right on the desktop. The program does a lot more than just change resolutions too. It alows you to add users, change services, do package management, configure printers, configure network, and run linuxconf if you can't get it with the tools that are available in DrakConf. In fact DrakConf sounds a lot like a Control Panel under windows that everyone is talking about in this thread. Also the documentation that comes with Linun Mandrake is some of the easiest to read I have found. Fully intergrated with the KDE Help system. Maybe more people should be checking out Linux Mandrake and what they are doing for Joe User.

Re:would somebody knowledgable please reply (1)

divbyzero (23176) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071049)

I would think that in Linux, the API for creating non-disk-based-filesystems would be one of the most heavily used around, so that people could have filesystem-based access to databases, network protocols, the contents of archive files, etc. Unfortunately nobody seems to have done this at the operating system level; instead they waste their time building this functionality at the application level, like in Midnight Commander. I wonder why.

I'm personally going to try my hand at writing filesystem-based access to IMAP mail servers. My plan is to write a proxy that acts as an IMAP client and an NFS server, which can then be mounted using Linux or any other NFS-supporting operating system. By masquerading as an NFS server I can avoid using non-portable driver APIs. Now if only I had time to spend on coding it...


But my grandest creation, as history will tell,

Re:Obvious answers to ease of use (3)

Vanders (110092) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071050)

In fact, it's not as obvious as that. [Ctrl]+[Alt]+[-/+] only cycles you through pre-defined display settings. How do you change the settings? You need a tool such as XConfigurator or xf86config. How do you set the default display settings? It isn't obvious that XConfigurator sets the default display settings to the first selection you make.

X simply can't change resolution on the fly. Is it a limitiation of X? Joe A. User couldn't care less...

Re:Obvious answers to ease of use (2)

ralmeida (106461) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071051)

Another point could be the directory names, what they mean and how they work in relation to the OS and other programs. It can seem a bit intimidating at first ("What the &*$# is a /var? /proc? didn't I already see that doctor?) I know that you couldn't just go and change them, but maybe in the newbie version there could be symlinks to them? This may not be an issue for some people but I know it was for me the first time I saw unix.

I think that C: isn't very intuitive, and people learned how to use Windows after all. Come on, the problem with these guys is that Linux is different, and they don't want to learn something new.

Well, this is my opinion. People usually don't like new stuff (except for geeks, but that's how we learned).


Re:Think different? (1)

Jburkholder (28127) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071052)

Ah, humor - yes... we are becoming somewhat familiar with this concept on our planet. Unfortunately, we have been studying the 'historical documents' of your slashdot for only a short time and have only observed the most highly-rated documents as examples of your humor, and so... we are confused. Signal 11, you are our last hope!

No clue whatsoever. (5)

be-fan (61476) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071053)

Half you people have no clue whatsoever about what makes Windows easy to use. People could care less if the Windows interface is simple, or intuitive. It's easy to use because everyone uses it! The vast majority of people with any semblance of computer background are used to windows. Thus, KDE 1.x is easy mainly because it seems to be a Windows clone. Then you have the segment of the market that is totally new to computers. In that case, UNIX is way out of their ballpark. Sure they can wordprocess or whatever once everything is set up, but not everyone has a sysadmin. It is irrelevant on how easy to use the interface is in most cases. What matters is how easy to use the system is as a whole. Take something simple as adding new fonts. Even iMac people can do it, just drag it into the directory. In Linux, you have to put it into the directory, rerun mkfdir, do cp fonts.dir fonts.scale, and if your adding a truetype font, go to XF86Config and change the fontpath. Or take the example of somebody getting DSL or such. People aren't stupid, at least 50% of users can handle clicking on preferences and changing their IP and gateway. Would you like to walk the same user through doing that in Linux?

Re:I know this will get me flamed, but... (1)

homer_ca (144738) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071054)

>I guess my fear is that Linux will become -- to the non-techsavvy -- another Windows: slow,
>unreliable, frustrating.

The unreliable part is unlikely to happen. There have been a few Unix-based desktop OS's that emphasized ease of use (BeOS, Nextstep, MacOSX), and all the ones I've seen are as stable as Unix should be, and they all gave you a terminal if you wanted to access the the power of the command line. Nextstep had some buggy office apps (remember Lighthouse Software?), but buggy apps still never crashed the OS.

Even though the nontechsavvy MS (or MacOS) user wouldn't know it, a 32bit multitasking desktop OS that crashes all the time is really the exception rather than the rule.

Re:Obvious answers to ease of use (2)

ecampbel (89842) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071055)

Also, once the Windows or Mac user has figured out how to change the display resultion. He or she will be able to configure most other aspecs of the computer using the same metaphores and procedures.

Re:Obvious answers to ease of use (1)

SquadBoy (167263) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071056)

You are right the whole deal in Linux could and must be made easier. I just really really hate this myth that winders is easy. It is not and in fact in many places it is harder because everything must be done from the GUI many times it would be much easier to (as a support person) be able to have the user do a keystroke combo or go to a command prompt and do whatever they need to do. In fact where I work (mixed NT/Netware with some AIX servers)I often take users into the command prompt even when there is a to do it through the GUI. IMHO, Users as a group do not think what we show them they don't read help files or docs. Therefore if it is easy for me to do it with them and for them to get on with whatever they do it is a good thing.

Re:I know this will get me flamed, but... (1)

Karn (172441) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071057)

Wow, you are amazing! That's what ppl seem to be missing. As long as the services don't require some crap similar to a windows registry, everyone can have Linux the way they want it. If you want to edit the /etc/printcap file with vi, you can, and if you want to have a GUI interface to the /etc/printcap file, printtool is there for you. ALL GUI utils can be done like this.

People need to realize that a nice GUI overlayed ontop of Linux will not affect it's configurability. Configurability will be retained, and you will have the OPTION to configure things graphically. If you want to see this in action, take a look at Mandrake Linux's installer..

Obvious answers to ease of use (5)

Vanders (110092) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071059)

If you want to make Linux easier to use, there are some pretty obvious things that could be done straight away:

1. Seperate UI designers from the hackers. Hackers make interfaces for hackers. Joe A. User doesn't want to use a hacker interface.

2. Integrate X more for those who want it. Ask yourself this, how do you change the display settings in X? How do you change the display settings in Windows/Mac OS? Which is easier for Joe A. User to do?

3. Make the documentation easier to read. Avoid acronyms, hacker-ish speak, obscure references, in jokes etc. etc. Joe A. User doesn't want to slog through a load of unrelated documentation to find what he needs.

4. Standardise. Want help on a command program? Is it prog -h, prog --help, or just prog? Wanna guess? Joe A. User doesn't.

5. Instalation & configuartion. Most programs are either source & a makefile, or an RPM/Deb. Some arn't, and use non standard installation routines. Stop it. Try to keep the config files in one standard place (/etc for example).

I'm sure there are more, these are the most obvious. Work on these first, then shine it all up nice & purdy. Remember, Joe A. User will still use Windows, if it's easier to use.

Converting people... (4)

EvlPenguin (168738) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071063)

Well, the main response I get when telling some Windows-using friends of mine about the advantages of Linux, the only reason they're sticking with it isn't because they think linux is to complicated, but rather so they can play games (like Half-Life Counterstrike in particular). This may sound childish, but I bet this is why thousands of others are holding back. To reach the mainstream users, WE NEED MORE PORTS!!!

Re:Obvious answers to ease of use (3)

EvlPenguin (168738) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071069)

Another point could be the directory names, what they mean and how they work in relation to the OS and other programs. It can seem a bit intimidating at first ("What the &*$# is a /var? /proc? didn't I already see that doctor?) I know that you couldn't just go and change them, but maybe in the newbie version there could be symlinks to them? This may not be an issue for some people but I know it was for me the first time I saw unix.

I know this will get me flamed, but... (3)

Proteus (1926) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071071)

Why is there so much emphasis on "friendly" Linux? Granted, there are some ease-of-use items that need work on Linux if it is to be "the Desktop of the masses" so-to-speak. However, I'm concerned that ease-of-use will yank the power and configurability that makes Linux such an ideal OS, IMHO.

I know that users who know enough can turn off (or just not install) usability features, but my concern is for those who -don't- know enough. I am of the opinion that the fault is less in the hands of developers and more in the hands of educators. I think it would serve the community best to concentrate on educating users and providing better, clearer, easy-to-find documentation.

I guess my fear is that Linux will become -- to the non-techsavvy -- another Windows: slow, unreliable, frustrating. We've seen the ease-of-use channel explored. Let's keep our priorities straight: power and flexibility first, ease-of-use second.

That said, I must say that the work described by this article is of high quality... I just hope that it doesn't come at too much of a price.


Re:what's bandley 3? (1)

maggard (5579) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071080)

Bandley 3 was(is?) an office building at Apple. It's where most of the Lisa/Macintosh team worked out of when it shipped.

-- Michael

Re:Obvious answers to ease of use (2)

Avumede (111087) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071081)

You raise good points. I believe (and most UI experts would probably agree) that the Mac and Windows interfaces are still too difficult to use. That is why things like double-clicking and hierarchical directory structures will eventually have to go.

However, the statement that linux is much more difficult to use is certainly true. When designing software, we all need to figure out how people are supposed to know to use the software, and not assume they have read the manual beforehand (no one does this). So, to change resolution, how can the user figure this out:

1) Guess (unlikely)
2) Read the relevant HOWTO
but to do this the user needs to
2a) Be aware that HOWTO's exist
(certainly these are not prominent)
2b) Figure out what the HOWTO dictory is

2c) Figure out how to get to to and read the
HOWTO file
and possibly
2d) How to search through the HOWTO file to
find what they are looking for.
So if they can do that, they now know how to change the resolution. But wait! That was just for the resolution! The bit depth is completely different!

Compare that to the windows users - who has to
1) Be aware of a thing called Control Center
2) Know how to get to the Control Center
3) Figure out that they want to choose the "Display" icon
4) Select from the tab menu

My recommendation, which is possible to do (may require restart), is to put the resolution / bit depth in the Gnome Control Box (or whatever that thing is called).

Eh? (3)

tuffy (10202) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071082)

I think how easy a system is to use depends largely on the sorts of systems one has already used. In my case, I went directly from an Apple][ to a Sparc Solaris box and never used the DOS/Win3.1 interface until I'd already learned X and FVWM (& friends). For me, the notion of using key combos for copying and pasting was completely counterintuitive versus mouse button presses. Windows felt weird, DOS felt brain-dead compared to tcsh and to this day I still don't like having to point & click my way through Windows.

Is Linux hard to use? For me, no. For most people, probably. Conversely, is Windows hard to use? Probably! Just look at all the odd little conventions, icons and little "rules" people learn to get around Windows most efficiently. The fact is, it's not as easy to use as it's made out to be and therein lies the problem.

We need a system that's truly easy to use and not Yet Another Mac/Windows Derivative. I'm hopeful that Eazal can bring us there and give us real ease of use without alienating the power users.

Think DIFFIDENT! (2)

Spud Zeppelin (13403) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071083)

I'm pretty sure that is actually what they are TRYING to say, even if they aren't saying it. Look at it this way: the end user's desktop PC is the consummate "production system" -- so why haven't SCM techniques for other production environments trickled down to them? In particular, "Think Diffident!" -- be afraid, be very afraid, of making changes on production systems where you haven't verified compatibility.

If they can build a system that can determine: "We can't upgrade gFunkyLib on User X933101's PC from version 3.0.14 to 3.1.99, because User X933101 has SmarmySoft's SmarmyMediaPlayer 2.14 installed, and the gFunkyLib upgrade breaks SmarmyMediaPlayer," then they will have achieved the Holy Grail of remote administration for end users -- namely, remote SCM. User X933101 is happy (his SmarmyMediaPlayer still works), or at the very least has the choice: upgrade gFunkyLib as required by LinKongPhooey, the hot new game you were trying to install, or don't and keep SmarmyMediaPlayer running -- and we'll notify you when SmarmyMediaPlayer is supported by the new version of gFunkyLib.

It's not an easy problem -- but it is a key problem in trying to build better systems for people who aren't "the rest of us" (where "the rest of us" are people who dream in awk). It has the added side effect of helping "the rest of us" because newbies with well-configured systems AREN'T going to be the ones getting exploited by script kiddies hell-bent on DDoSing "the rest of us". Again, it's a matter of proper SCM -- "This change is a necessary security fix, and won't break compatibility with anything, so we're installing it for you...."

I'm really fond of eazel. I wish them the best. I wish they weren't in "The Valley that Cost Controls Forgot" -- it would be a very interesting project to work on... but that's another discussion topic entirely.

My opinion only, IANAL.

Re:Sorry again (1)

Chuck Chunder (21021) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071084)

but obviously it wasn't a very good one.
You never know your luck, perhaps someone will mark that up as insightful and you'll get your karma back ;)

somebody knowledgable (1)

pjc50 (161200) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071085)

The HURD is very good at this, with all its translators. I believe it already has an FTP filesystem.

If you're actually going to do this, I think you should look at perlfs [] , which would enable you to play around with it quickly and easily. It's not a perfect protocol, but it's better than NFS (remember, NFS requires all actions to be stateless and idempotent, so you can't do appends and a few other things).

Re:Obvious answers to ease of use (1)

Avumede (111087) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071086)

Uh, sorry my post above is incomplete... I accidently submitted.

I didn't finish the analysis of Windows users need to figure out - the point is, though, the windows stuff is more possible to figure out through exploration, where as in Linux, users may not even be aware that the capability to change resolutions on the fly even exists.

Sorry again (1)

tcd004 (134130) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071087)

This was supposed to be a joke, based on the last story, (OSX coming out late) but obviously it wasn't a very good one.


Re:Obvious answers to ease of use (1)

Mawbid (3993) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071088)

Well, a simple keypress is as fast and easy as it gets, but it's also as obscure as it gets. You don't find that by fiddling around. You can't see that it exists. You generally find out about a key command by reading documentation or being told of its existence.

Easy to learn and easy to use aren't the same, as we've discussed many times in this forum.

Some kind of panel applet that is visible, inviting exploration, and also explains the keypress is a good solution in this case.

Re:All GUI's suck. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1071089)

I couldn't agree more.

Don't get me wrong I think GUIs can be a good thing for certain tasks. But they're no more 'user friendly' than a command line. I remember the pain I went through when going from Win 3.1 to 95 - half my learned shortcuts no longer worked. And 95 was supposed to be 'easier' to use.

I think that having to learn a command line syntax - used to guarantee that a user had a little better understanding of what they were actually doing. It imposed a certain discipline too.

I not so perverse as to think we can turn the clock back and force people to learn CLIs. But maybe we can gain some perspective and give up looking for the 'philosopher's stone' of the perfect, intuitive GUI. You know the one you can give to an Amazonian tribesman and he can immediately use to set up a multi-trillion dollar eBusiness.

To sum up I can't improve on this quote

"The only intuitive interface is the nipple, everything else is learned"


Just don't let the command line fade away (1)

Scott McGuire (4080) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071090)

I like the command line, text based email and news, etc. I'm happy to see a really comprehensive and easy to use gui appear for Windows converts and my mom, I'm just a little worried that as emphasis shifts that way, it will become increasingly difficult for those of us who like the hacker interface to keep using it.

How do we keep the hacker interface alive (and improving) when we are vastly outnumbered?

Re:I know this will get me flamed, but... (1)

Karn (172441) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071091)

I agree with you partly, but do not mistake the window manager for the OS. The GUI you have with windows you cannot escape, where as with Unix you have a choice of window environments. If you think KDE is for wimps and is bloated, don't install it! If you like blackbox, install it! If you don't want a GUI, don't install X. The key here is you have the option.

Choice is good!

Finding your way around (1)

driehuis (138692) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071092)

in windows, you can allways find the answer on your own if you dig long enough. Its in some check box SOMEWHERE. Linux is not like that right now.

Even though I do not disagree with this statement, I'd like to point out the proliferation on Checkmark Online Help. I'm positively sick and tired of online help explaining just what's on the screen anyway (like hitting F1 and getting helpful information like "File: Save: save the file. File: Frobnicate (flurble): Frobnicate the file, using the flurble method"

I find myself using debuggers on Windows apps just to figure out what the dickens is going on. This is sick. Besides, usually the analysis turn up the fact that behind the unhelpful help lies the reality that what I'm looking for just ain't there.

Few hackers have the end user in mind when developing apps, even in the design phase. I'm very happy to see Andy shed his bright light on the development of software for the free Unices!

"Easy to learn" is the point (3)

PerlDiver (17534) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071093)

I agree with you that, for experienced users of each, a CLI is just as easy to use as a GUI. But the fact that GUI's are easier to learn is what enables new applications to come along. Every command-line program has a new command-line interface (Emacs vs. vi, for example) that can take months to learn to use fluently (for some users and some programs, years).

The glory of the GUI is that it enables faster adoption of new programs. A GUI user who knows how to click buttons, drag menus, etc., is 75% of the way to using any new GUI program that is introduced. A CLI user coming to a new program knows how to type (if that), and is only a tiny fraction of the way to learning to use the new program powerfully.

Standardization between programs, as Vanders mentioned, speeds user learning of new programs as well, by increasing what users already know that is applicable to whatever new program they encounter. Apple's "interface police" made it possible for the Mac to do this very well; Windows does it poorly, and Un*x does it not at all.

The power of GUI's comes from the quirk of human memory that it is easier for humans to recognize something (such as, picking an item from a drop-down menu) than to recall something (such as, typing tar xvf foo.tar ). The GUI also enables the human/computer interaction to take advantage of the fact that human memory is spatially based; the user can use their physical memory to assist their symbolic memory (we don't even need to consciously think, "I know that button is over here someplace," we just go there). The ability to memorize not-very-mnemonic command names is not widely distributed in the general population. You and I can do it, but why would we want to when the computer can remind us? I have other uses for my neurons than memorizing all the command-line switches for ls (or worse, the permissions codes for chmod ).

Re:Think different? (Debian GNU/Linux) (3)

Andrew Dvorak (95538) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071095)

Debian [] provides its own "apt" tool. examples:
  • apt-get update - Updates package lists
  • apt-get upgrade - Upgrades _all_ packages to the latest version (if available)
  • apt-get install foo - Installs package "foo" and all packages it depends on
As you can see, this certainly allows joe-user to install or upgrade anything, without much knowledge of the system compatibility specifics. Debian's packaging system takes care of checking the dependancies. There are even many frontends such as gnome-apt [] and console-apt.

Re:Obvious answers to ease of use (1)

Dungeon Dweller (134014) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071097)

Redhat already made it so that the base install makes X your primary interface. It's very well integrated. I don't run Redhat, but from what I have seen. Running it is just as easy as windows if you have a basic understanding of Unix, and that is only needed to administer the darn thing. If you have users set up (redhat does this) and everything else, you can point and click until your wear your mouse our and never understand what a command line is.

Great. (2)

miguel (7116) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071099)

I loved this interview with Andy. Everytime I have had the opportunity to talk to him, I have learned something new.


Re:Interview suggestions (1)

skroz (7870) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071101)

Agreed, and if I had some moderator points I'd spend 'em on 'ya. It would be nice to respond to this interview, asking for clarification on a few points.

Re:I know this will get me flamed, but... (1)

DaKrushr (16560) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071104)

How about this for an idea:

Let the people who are good at UI do the UI thing, and the low-level systems people do theirs!

What an idea... that way stability and power will be retained, with a nice layer of easiness over it :).

Re:Think different? (1)

Jburkholder (28127) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071106)

I disagree. "Think Different" is perfectly appropriate for Linux. You have different distributions, different architectures supported, different OEM's offering pre-installed machines and support, as well as different developers from all over the world writing software to run on GNU/Linux systems. :p

(Not to mention the fact that most of the people who use Linux tend to be, shall we say... "Different") :]

Re:Blenders Interface *ROCKS*. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1071114)

It would be a great example of how Free Software can work, if Blender was Free Software.

It's not. It may not cost you in cash, but's binary-only and proprietary. Recheck the definition of "Free Software" please. (It's on [] ).

Re:Ease of use isn't the only problem!! (2)

Quarters (18322) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071115)

>>Schools use systems and programs which the student is most likely to encounter in their career.

Schools use systems and programs which vendors/manufacturers have either given them, or given them the best deal on.

Re:I know this will get me flamed, but... (2)

emir (111909) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071118)

>There have been a few Unix-based desktop OS's that emphasized ease of use (BeOS

beOS isnt unix even if it can run many unix-like progs (bash, gnu-utils....)

Re:Obvious answers to ease of use (2)

Darchmare (5387) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071119)

That's the problem, though - you're judging interface design on what it is currently. Yes, right now Windows is an imperfect user interface (even MacOS has its problems).

However, I can tell you this: Both are easier to grok for the average person after an hour or two of sitting down and playing. The original Mac was extremely good about this - but it has become somewhat bloated in the race to achieve feature-parity with Windows.

Just because something sucks from a UI perspective doesn't mean you should give up and simply hand the user a 3 inch thick book that they have to keep propped open next to their computer. The trick is to make it easy enough that referring to a manual is an unfortunate and rare occurance.

(And yes, I worked for a couple years on a help desk - answering calls and doing field work.)

- Jeff A. Campbell
- VelociNews ( [] )

Servant 0.95 (2)

buserror (115301) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071120)

Seems strange to me to read Handy discussing interface problems these days. When I was a very very young hacker back in ... -err.. time frame was early mac plus maybe (funny how our time frames are more related to our machine's resources at certain time than to the common y2k-n notation :-)) - I saw Handy's aborted project "Servant 0.95" wich provided a bunch of very cool new features, like multitasking, "transparent" icons, aliases and a lot more. years later "System 6.0" appeared, and it was Servant, without the cool features.
Today MacOS still carries bits of Servant behaviour in the form of it's cooperative multitasking.
I also tried myself all the packages discussed (ie gnome/kde) and even if this needs to start a war, I must give my opinion on this.
Most of what I've seen on gnome/kde and the myriad of window managers around are based on the fact that they are "customisable".
Face it, it's bullshit. It works for the geek. It's totaly incompatible with the end user.
Handy half says it, and doesn't, because I suspect it is the buisiness model he speaks about but doesn't describe that much...
The end user wants consistency, and his boss wants it too, it cuts on courses budget.
Having a spreadsheet and a word processor will not change this.

Oh, flame away, this is my first post :)

Andy to keynote at O'Reilly OScon in July (2)

tadghin (2229) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071121)

I'm really glad you got a chance to interview Andy. I went to visit with him a few months ago, and was so excited by what he had to say that I immediately invited him to keynote at our upcoming Open Source Conference [] in Monterey July 17-20.

He really is a very cool guy, with a great view of the future, and an incredibly engaging thinker. I went down to see him wanting to evangelize him not just to recreate the old Mac desktop on Linux, but to think about how the web, and web-based services, was changing what user interface means in delivering applications today, and discovered that he was way ahead of me.

Andy has so much to share...lots of great experience with a previous revolutionary product, lots of great ideas about the future, and a real passion for open source. I can't wait to see what he and his team come up with. There's a really good chance that we're going to see something that's a real advance, not just playing catchup to stuff that Andy was part of designing 15 years ago.

Well, I don't know exactly . . . (1)

delevant (133773) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071123)

First, I agree with your remark about documenting Linux & educating users.

But I disagree with your point about usability features. After all, if someone can't figure out how to turn off their GUI, they shouldn't be TRYING to turn off their GUI.

I dunno; to use the omnipresent "car metaphor":
Q: how do I rebuild my transmission?
A: if you have to ask, you shouldn't be rebuilding your transmission.

Well, that wasn't very elegant, but I guess it makes my point well enough. The nice thing about Linux is that it can always be customized. A slick UI is just that -- a slick UI. You'll always be able to get into the guts if you need to . . .

As far as speed goes, well, I agree with you there.

Re:Obvious answers to ease of use (1)

Avumede (111087) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071124)

You misunderstand the point you are replying to. You cannot change the resolution or bit depth of the display from any X tool that I know of. You can press Ctrl-Alt-+ and Ctrl-Alt-- to change the resolution only but that's definately not an acceptable way to do things to the average user. In Mac and Windows it's easy. I wish it were so easy in Linux.

Interface Testing (5)

n8willis (54297) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071127)

Man, am I glad to see that Eazel is concerned with actually testing their products with real users. This is something I give dearly for other people to do. Take NaN for instance: Blender is a great program, but it's interface is mind-bogglingly indecipherable.

And every time someone (for instance certain DE teams) talks of copying the interface of a successful program to use as the starting point for their OSS version, I have to roll my eyes. What for? Do we think that the UI teams at Microsoft and Adobe are infallible?

I mean, take a look at the tool icons in Photoshop: half of them are references to wet darkroom printing, something that in a few years it will be nigh-impossible to find experience with among their customers. A little testing would reveal in a matter of minutes that the majority of Photoshop users don't know why there are two tools shaped like a human hand, and two tools that look like magnifying glasses, nor why one of the hands is labelled "Burn" and one of the magnifying glasses "Dodge."

And don't get me started on the 30,000 tiny buttons sitting along the toolbar(s) in MS Word. If it takes a "tooltip" to explain what the icon represents, then the icon is a failure.

Last week's discussion about how programmers don't make good UI designers could take a lesson from this: if all else fails, you test it and see what works. That isn't rocket science. I happen to believe that the major impediment to good interface design in Open Source software isn't an inherent incapacity in the programmer mindset, or a matter of different "personality types", but simply not remembering to think about the interface. Two chapters into Norman's The Design of Everyday Things will convince even the most self-depreciating hacker among us that he already knows a lot about interface design, he just doesn't know that he knows. You're a user every day, after all.


All GUI's suck. A lot. (5)

delmoi (26744) | more than 14 years ago | (#1071129)

A while ago, someone here posted a link to an interview with Douglas Egglebart (I'm sorry, there's no way I'm going to be spelling his name right), the man who came up with the GUI. (A long with a little thing called Hypertext, I believe). To solve a problem, he also invented the mouse. A long with another device, a one handed keyboard.

From the tone of the article, it seemed almost that he was pissed that it had taken so long for his ideas to become reality. When Job's showed him an early Macintosh interface, he said he was upset that it didn't have networking, one of the key components of Egglebart's vision.

One other thing that the story mentioned was the computer he ran at home. It wasn't a Mac, or a Windows box, or even a Linux or other UNIX. He was running his own software, something called Augment. And he was using his one-handed keyboard (you hit 'chords' of a few keys to enter a letter).

A lot of 'hard-core' really seem to prefer a command line to anything else. I don't really believe its just nostalgia that makes us what to do it ether. Using the command line is just a faster way to interact with the machine. And there's a simple reason for that. With the keyboard, you have an infinite number of verbs that you can use to communicate. With the mouse, you only really have 3, 2, or 1 verb on UNIX(with X), windows, and the Mac respectively. This typically means ether "CLICK" or "CONTEXT MENU", where the context menu is another list of items you can "CLICK" on. While looking for a particular file that you forgot about (along with the filename (?)) might be speed up, just about every other type of file operation is slowed down. A lot.

When the interviewer saw the one-handed keyboard he said (something like) "They'd have to make it more user-friendly in order for me to want to use one". At witch point (and I wish I had the quote) Egglebart said that 'user-friendliness' was over-rated. If you weren't willing to learn anything new, you couldn't really use the computer to its full potential.

To be honest, I think the idea of the GUI has been tied to tightly to the misnomer 'user-friendly', and 'ease of use'. When in fact, a GUI isn't anymore easy to use the a command line its just easy to learn. You get to see all the options available to you, instead of needing to memorize commands. But in a lot of ways, what you learn ends up being weaker.

This gets me back to the one-handed keyboard. If you had a device like that, you could have the best of worlds, infinite data entry, and graphical layout. Imagine you wanted to copy a file to another directory. You could click on it and type "cp /wherever" directly into the icon. You could open any folder on the system (just click the desktop and type "open /bla/openthis". (One of the things that bugged me about BeOS was the lack of integration of the GUI and the CLI. It would have been nice to be able to open the folder I was in the CLI in the GUI, and vice versa. You can do this in Windows for god sakes.)

Unfortunately, in keeping with our two fisted keyboard design, we've really, really, limited what we can do with the GUI. Its my opinion that the current CLI/GUI combo is a horrible hack, inflicted on the world by the original Mac, Microsoft, for blindly following Apple, and the Linux Crowd for blindly following them both.
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