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GUIs for Everyone

michael posted more than 12 years ago | from the you-must-be-this-smart-to-use-the-computer dept.

Graphics 675

An anonymous submitter writes: "A former Microsoft and Creative Labs interface designer has an interesting diatribe on the approach of Linux GUIs on the desktop. Thomas Krul has three Microsoft patents for human factors research into digital interfaces and graphic software functionality. Probably most known for the interface work he had done on Softimage DS and its web site. Though not a technical read, it does provide an interesting note on the approach for Linux on the desktop." And headless_ringmaster notes that Jef Raskin, the guy who designed the first Macintosh and author of The Humane Interface, has a SourceForge project putting his ideas into action.

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FIRST POST (-1, Offtopic)

Chronic Bluntt (579863) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979251)

Yeah biaaatch!!!!!!

Re:FIRST POST (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3979266)

That was good.
Quite speedy.
+1 for delivering with the quickness

The Post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3979254)

Who counts...

FP (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3979255)

Suck it.
Hard, Bitch.

I hate (-1, Offtopic)

skidgetron (593733) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979259)

people that go on here claiming for first post. This'll probably end up like 25th.

fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3979260)

CLiT is gay.

WOOOOO!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3979272)

Last First Post!!!!! WOOOOOO!!! I win!!! I win!!!!

Serious Question... (4, Insightful)

w.p.richardson (218394) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979280)

Are there any aesthetes who have input into GUI's for Linux?

It seems to me that the GUI's available (including KDE) favor substance over style. To make significant inroads to the desktop market, that needs to change. People love flashy things!

Re:Serious Question... (2)

Camulus (578128) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979310)

This is not nessicarily true... Win3.1, 95, 98, NT, 2k were not flashy. In fact, there is a lot more you can do to customize things in X then in Windows IMHO. Not that flashy things aren't a good idea, but ease of use is probably a better thing to focus on. Just think, if every one bought what was flashy most people would have an iMac.

Wrong.... (4, Insightful)

dpilot (134227) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979347)

To make significant inroads into the desktop market, we need to learn how to make it so substance and style don't conflict, so we can have *both* at the same time.

Re:Serious Question... (1)

EvilBudMan (588716) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979353)

--People love flashy things!--

Maybe a disco ball cursor and some men jumping around in space suits for the sreen saver would add some flash.

No, and here's why (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3979361)

Unlike smelly Unix programmer hippies, human factors experts like to get paid for their work. Or course, that is because they actually took classes and developed a skill, as opposed to sitting in their mother's basement and drinking Mountain Dew while creating Sourceforge pages.

Re:No, and here's why (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3979497)

Good point!!! fuck those hippies, and fuck Mountain Dew!!!

Re:Serious Question... (4, Interesting)

kisrael (134664) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979362)

I don't know, I hate flashy.

Here's an example: do "regular users" prefer the new look of WinXP, or the old one? My mother-in-law, in setting up a system for an elderly friend of hers, set the overall system to the Win95 look-and-feel, after I showed her how. She also had the very good idea of clearing off the desktop to a blank background, and putting the icons for 4 or 5 apps right there, so the newbie could avoid the start button altogether for now.

Anyway I hate the new fisher price look, and am grateful that they include the ability to rollback...which of course raises the spectre of using the same GUI for the next couple of decades and becoming an old fogie....

But I don't think the Win95-ish interface is that bad, frankly. The taskbar was actually a throwback to the earliest version of Windows that had the "running programs" all in one place, but that isn't that bad of a thing...running programs should look different from program launchers in my opinion. (That's a mistake I think OSX makes, kind of mixing the two)

Maybe I'm too short sighted about the future of GUIs, but I think th status quo is pretty decent. And for as long as Windows is the dominant desktop, the more Linux acts like it from the UI, the better, since learning new UIs is a pain. (Paradoxically, by making XP look all new and flashy, they may have done Linux a small favor, by opening people to the idea that it doesn't *have* to all look the same as it has for the past 7 years....)

Re:Serious Question... (5, Insightful)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979393)

That is wrong. "Flashy" is the dead wrong idea. The right word is pleasurable, just like the article said.

In a GUI substance and style are pretty closely linked. "Style" is a shorthand for visual features that communicate things clearly and elegantly, in a pleasurable, attractive way.

One of the limitations that the linux GUI is suffering right now is that there are too many aesthetes, actually, who mistake skinning and customization with actual GUI style. Where you put the buttons for the windows and what color the window borders are isn't what's important - it's how whatever symbolic language that the GUI embodies communicates that tasks desired by the user in a way that doesn't provoke anxiety, is unambiguous, and fun.

One problem that a lot of writers about GUIS and HCI - including MS and Apple - often run into is the myth of the pure non-user: the idea that GUIs have to be made to address the people who have a complete blank slate about computers. There are no such things. Like it or not, we have a population that has a history of interaction with computers and that has given them a set of skills and expectations that must be accounted for. I've seen efforts to "reinvent computing" to capture the mythical "Aunt Bertha" market that all run aground of the fact that most people in modern societies already have developed a background of interactive strategies for dealing with computers, and that it's somewhat inefficient for them to completely dispose of it.

Re:Serious Question... (2, Informative)

quasi_steller (539538) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979435)

Enlightenment [enlightenment.org] granted it is currently a window manager, it has quite a lot of style. The new e-17 looks promising though.

Re:Serious Question... (2, Interesting)

Milo Fungus (232863) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979464)

The GUI is one of the things that attracted me to GNU/Linux. I love having four virtual desktops. When I use Windows I always want to switch to another desktop. Then - DOH! - I realise that I can't.

Some people don't really care, but I just love the screensavers that came with my distro. They're so cool! I sometimes just sit and watch my screensaver for minutes at a time. The windows users that I work with are always impressed with what my computer is doing when I'm away from it. And I love having the random screensaver option. No matter how cool your Windows screensaver is, and no matter how much you get a kick out of it when you first see it, you eventually get tired of the same old thing.

I also like how customizable Gnome is. I was very impressed when I first used a png for a shortcut icon. Try doing that in Windows.

These are very small points, and I'll probably have a string of replies mocking me for this, but remember that these are the kinds of things people like. I'm an end user, not a developer. There are some good and unique things about our GUI that attract new users.

Re:Serious Question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3979522)

umm you can have multiple desktops in XP.. just install Power Toys... and screensavers are a dime a dozen, including randomizing ones... a little bit of looking might solve all your problems..

Re:Serious Question... (2)

pmz (462998) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979468)

It seems to me that the GUI's available (including KDE) favor substance over style. To make significant inroads to the desktop market, that needs to change. People love flashy things!

I just set up a new GNOME desktop last week, and, after adding some choice icons, translucent terminals, and a tasteful background, it really is gorgeous. And useful too, since everthing has the right amount of visual contrast, and the taskbar has exactly what I want. Traditional Windows is pretty darn stiff and ugly by comparison, and Windows XP just feels more patchworked-together than GNOME.

guis for me (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3979284)

guis for trolls

Mmm... (4, Funny)

PissingInTheWind (573929) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979291)

I'd rather not trust an "interface designer" that publish green text on gray background...

Re:Mmm... (5, Insightful)

Hornsby (63501) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979369)

I was thinking the same, but then I checked out the main part of his website. It's actually quite nice, and he's done some kick ass interfaces. This guy knows his stuff, and I think he's got a point here.

Re:Mmm... (1)

kappax (588731) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979402)

LOL, take a look at /. all over this /. page i see grey background and green text wtf are you talking about, you must be some sort of command line junky that dont give a filp about GUI

Re:Mmm... (2)

raytracer (51035) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979403)


I'd rather not trust an "interface designer" that publish green text on gray background...

That's the very first thing that I noticed when I went to his webpage, and the very first thing I was going to comment on.

Typography has a very long history of user testing that has helped refine what we know about how to present textual information for maximum legibility . Having a high contrast between the foreground and background color is obviously a key element.
Black text on a white background may not be hip, but it is much easier on the eyes than virtually every alternative.

Re:Mmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3979454)

c'mon, he's l33t cuz he uses all small caps for titles!

not only that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3979491)

What's with the two column thing? Is the right-hand column a continuation of the left-hand column? If so, why does he make me scroll all the way down and then all the way back up? And what does the "(more)" at the bottom of the first column refer to?

I seriously could not figure out how to read his article.

Re:Mmm... (2, Interesting)

ethereal (13958) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979508)

Not to mention makes you scroll up and down the page in order to read all of it. Hint: this interface mode works great for the newspaper, where just your eyes have to move. It doesn't work so great for the web where you have to move the mouse or click keys in other than the normal down-the-page direction.

Why is it that every single Famous Interface Designer who graces the /. front page has demonstrably poor abilities at interface design, and their failings are immediately apparent to all and sundry? Is there some sort of law, like the one followed by clothing fashion designers, that the amount of your fame is inversely proportional to your true ability at your work? Don't any of these people ever try to use the interfaces that they think are designed to be so usable?

And patents - well, we all know how restrictive a club that is :)

Irony (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3979297)

Moderatley interesting read but does anyone else find it a tad ironic that the colour choices on the page make it difficult to read...one wonders how much HCI experience was applied to the article itself...

Re:Irony (1)

fizban (58094) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979339)

Not to mention the fact that after I scroll the page to read all of the left column, I then have to scroll all the way back up to the top of the page to start reading the right column...

Re:Irony (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3979517)

there was a anchor link back to the top!

Re:Irony (1)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979521)

That confused me too. A web page is not a magazine, you freak!

Geez, just look at the stuff he brags [protocopy.com] about. Doesn't he know that fancy controls and themed interfaces stopped being cool two years ago?

Simple, intuative, consistent, that's the way software should be. If the user whines about things not being pretty, reeducate him.

HCI or CHI is a science (1, Offtopic)

currentdirectory (456746) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979299)

Contrary to the popular belief, designing human interfaces to computer is a science. There are many "quantitave" approaches for qualitatively analysing these GUIs. Many universites teach this course.

Let's not worry about who copied who. (1, Offtopic)

tshak (173364) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979316)

So far, Linux-based OS's have advantages over Windows in terms of performance, and some run cute little tab and dock apps that help launch your favorite apps (ho hum) but none of these products (OSX included) have revolutionized or even attempted to improve upon the Windows GUI.
But what did Windows revolutionize from the Mac or Xerox in the first place? Although I personally believe that Windows _has_ innovated in the GUI, it's still a good question to ponder. Another quote that I found funny when talking about the Windows interface, Windows ... It's dumb and arrogant.

Here's a great quote on the problem of Linux on the desktop:

Microsoft will continue to make a better Windows while Linux desktops will continue to emulate them, be perceived as a step behind, and ultimately be a bargin bin item.

Re:Let's not worry about who copied who. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3979374)

Microsoft will continue to make a better Windows while Linux desktops will continue to emulate them, be perceived as a step behind, and ultimately be a bargin bin item.

Unfortunately, everything after the "while" is correct.

Re:Let's not worry about who copied who. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3979414)

But what did Windows revolutionize from the Mac or Xerox in the first place?

In fact, what did Xerox and Mac revolutionize from Doug Englebert? Not much.

In fact, no one has. Thats the problem, and it really seems that it is the problem that author of the rant. He isn't bemoaning Open Source GUI's so much as bemoaning "desktop" GUI's overall. No one has come up with anything better in over nearly 50 years now. We still have a mouse pointer, we still have WIMP, and we still have the whole desktop paradigm (Yes its a sucky word, but I don't care anymore).

The author may not see Open Source projects providing much inovation for the GUI, but thats a little unfair: No one is inovating for the GUI!

Re:Let's not worry about who copied who. (1)

DrFrob (568991) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979471)

Linux GUI's are already far superior to Windows and Macs due to two simple features: multiple desktops, and the ability to select a window without having to click on it (just having the mouse cursor over it).

Might he be onto something? (3, Interesting)

Interrobang (245315) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979319)

When I was in grad school, I did a paper on the Windows interface from an end-user design perspective, and it sucks. Surely there are other ways to handle a GUI that might make sense.

Other people who've weighed in on this subject include prominent researchers like Jpseph Goguen [ucsd.edu] , Terry Winograd [stanford.edu] , and Eben Moglen [immaterial.net] .

Right now I'm not proposing a solution, either, but I am working on understanding the problem.

Re:Might he be onto something? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3979524)

and it sucks

Well, if you would have spent more time on your paper and less time on slashdot, it might not have been so bad.

Does he read his own stuff? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3979325)

How are we supposed to take this guy seriously? We can hardly read his article, due to the low-contrast type.

I agree with this post (0, Troll)

Oliver Newland (596957) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979336)

I was almost crying by the time I got to the end of the article (not because it was so well-written, but because my poor eyes felt like they had been raped).

Re:I agree with this post (1)

kappax (588731) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979513)

wtf are you ppl talking about, What do you all have your screens messed up or someting, i can read this text just fine, no problems at all not a one, try turning the contrast up or someting.

Article "UI" needs some work... (0, Redundant)

dagnabit (89294) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979327)

Green on grey? Ugh. And two columns? Puh-leeze.

I wonder (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3979332)

I wonder if you could make the chicks at Digital Teenz [digitalteenz.com] into an interactive desktop. Then you could click on their wet pussies and play with them using your mouse. Remember Digital Teenz [digitalteenz.com] , No Bullshit Porn!

Good Ideas (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979334)

I don't buy into it 100% but I am intrigued.

I wish there were some more concrete ideas on what this 'new' interface might look like.

I would think it would need to be very maleable. An active interface that is heavenly to one user may drive another nuts. I wouldn't mind 'interacting' with my computer but only at a level and in a fashion that was comfortable to me. I'm willing to bet that what makes me comfortable would be distinctly horrific to many others.

Good broad ideas - I would love to see some implementation.

Also- I don't buy that it such a new thing would so easily knock off windows. He underrates how many have grown very locked in to that way of doing things. It is what they 'know' and it is not real easy to move folks from that.

.

Office Assistant Desktop (1)

T-Kir (597145) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979335)

I think Microsoft realized this when they introduced Microsoft Bob and the Paper Clip family of nuisances.

How to reduce the life of you new computer?

Develop and run the Office Assistant GUI Desktop, and after 5 minutes of being 'guided' by a paperclip, the user 'guides' their computer out of the nearest window.

My thoughts... (-1)

j0nkatz (315168) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979338)

I have had several Creative products and they all were shit. I don't think (especially considering Creative's spotty driver history) I would want this guy designing my GUI.

Everyone knows this (1)

kalidasa (577403) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979342)

Everyone knows that the GUIs on Linux systems aren't impressive, and that the Desktop Metaphor is getting stale. The problem is, no one has come up with an alternative that works. And I don't see any mention of alternatives here, either.

It's a difficult problem. That's way noone has an alternative available (yet).

Impressive, how? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3979412)

With the right theme, or a little gimp magic, Enlightenment can and will look better than anything else out there.

Are we talking features? You can pretty much set up Enlightenment however you want to. Go go themability taken to the extreme.

Are we talking productivity? Heh. Command line wins. Typing out a command will always be faster than dicking about with nested menus.

Re:Everyone knows this (1)

Sogol (43574) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979440)

One solution is to fix the goddamn fonts

GUIs and assumptions (4, Insightful)

Jerky McNaughty (1391) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979344)

I don't put a lot of stock into articles like these because the way I use my computer is so vastly different from others that most people couldn't even sit down and use my computer if they wanted to.

No, that's not "bragging" or me feeling "31337". It's just a fact that over the period of eight years of using UNIX, I've gotten things reduced to the minimum amount of stuff I need with the exact customizations I want.

My desktop has nothing but an xclock (yes, the real xclock in digital mode). My Emacs has no toolbars or scrollbars. All fvwm does for me is decorate my windows and give me a root menu. zsh is finely tuned for my daily tasks with all kinds of aliases.

And that's the thing... UNIX has always given me the capabilities to make my user interface work exactly like I want. This is something most other OSes just haven't given me. If you use Windows, you get a one-size-fits-all interface that assumes you do a particular set of common tasks. For many people, that's exactly what they want, because they do very similar tasks. But for me, I spend my days using a large number of xterms, Emacs, and Mozilla. I need nothing else, I want nothing else. Just give me screen real estate, UNIX, and I'll customize it to my precise needs.

I'd be great if Windows would give you those kinds of capabilities. I find myself frustrated every time I use it. Mostly because it's not what I'm used to, but partially because I can't change the way it works when I disagree with what the human-computer interaction, GUI-gurus have dictated everyone needs.

Re:GUIs and assumptions (1)

MeNeXT (200840) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979430)

Here Here. mod this up. I never have the points when I need them.

Creative Labs? (1, Offtopic)

jra101 (95423) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979348)

A former Microsoft and Creative Labs interface designer

Creative Labs has some of the worst applications I've ever been forced to use in my life. If you have ever owned a Creative MP3 player you've run into the horror that is PlayCenter, which is a painfully slow, horribly skinned, buggy, POS very likely written in Visual Basic.

Then there is their Live!Ware software which is just as bad and comes with all sorts of "fun" things that load at startup as well as several more unusable skinned apps.

---

Creative Labs interface designer? (4, Insightful)

perlyking (198166) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979356)

Oh my god, Creative Labs produce software with some of the worst interfaces i've ever seen!

Freaky... (1)

Smedrick (466973) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979358)

So far, Linux-based OS's have advantages over Windows in terms of performance, and some run cute little tab and dock apps that help launch your favorite apps (ho hum) but none of these products (OSX included) have revolutionized or even attempted to improve upon the Windows GUI. Lycoris is just a simple Windows copy. No improvements, no paradigm shift.


And frankly, the GUI needs it.


It's like he read my mind [slashdot.org]

Re:Freaky... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3979424)

Ummm windows is a copy of Mac OS.

Windows is nothing more than a cheap ripoff of what Steve Jobs created.

so you think that a ripoff is best?

wow... you're dumb. nice to see more dumb people in the world... gives me an easier time getting your jobs.

everyone go to this site (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3979364)

i hate the guy that runs this site so please go e-mail him
scoops@scoopser.net

Take a look at Creative's software interface (3, Insightful)

evilned (146392) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979367)

The guy worked for creative, the live software has a crappy interface, their video card drivers have absolutely horrid interface and dont even talk to me about the infra drive software. So take what he says with a grain of salt.

Original? (3, Offtopic)

Dark Nexus (172808) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979372)

Nobody wants a copy, they want something original
Well, that's obviously not always the case. Just look at Windows. I wouldn't exactly call the Windows GUI much of an "improvement" over the MacOS GUI. Even saying that Win95 was an improvement of the Mac GUI really came down to a matter of preference. There weren't any direct improvements, just differences that people liked more/less.

Now of course the climate is different, Linux is hardly in the same position Microsoft was when they released Win95, but it just goes to show that some people DON'T mind copies.

if you ignore history... (3, Insightful)

Sebastopol (189276) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979373)


great article. it points out one of the interesting things i witness over the past few years with linux guis. namely, the obscurity of the linux o/s, or any o/s for that matter, is difficult to hide with a gui. yes, it may look more appealing and candy like, but as the author says, when the system finishes booting, you're faced with thousands of options.

simply having a solid o/s and a vast open-source community does not make your gui any more successful. it feels that the general consensus about linux guis is: hm, now why didn't that work as well as we expected?

a previous poster asked if there were any aesthetes with input?

here are mine:

1. limit all fonts to a 24 point minimum

2. design the gui for a 3 year old -- make the boot screen look more like palm o/s

3. screw power users -- you want power-user mode, boot to an ANSI console (root doesn't get a gui)

tv manufacturers used to understand this: they even merged on/off with volume, and there was the channel changer. the power user could pop open a a panel to adjust contrast, brightness and hue, though i doubt anyone ever did.

then sony went bananas and added all this digital shit, audio stuff, PIP, sleep timers, gah...

Put your money where your mouth is... (1)

aaronvegh (546815) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979375)

Boy, that was a great column. Not.

A: I can't stand it when someone writes about "how bad" current interfaces are, about how they need to change, without suggesting an improvement. Okay genius, the desktop GUI paradigm sucks, what do you recommend replace it? Until I hear a valuable answer, I'm not listening.

B: His arguments are also specious at best: he tries to compare the current event-driven interface that we know today to the elegance of a waiting cursor on an Apple II? Pragmatically speaking, it's the same thing! Both scenarios are event-driven. This one doesn't hold any water.

Now, if only Jef Raskin would actually produce some content in his SourceForge project, we might actually see something INTERESTING here.

Still needs work... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3979377)

...because if his GUI is gonna have graduated gray backgrounds and teal text, I don't wanna know...

Whats his point? (1)

skidgetron (593733) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979382)

I am somewhat confused as to what this dude is getting at. He sit's there bitching about Linux GUI's, then talks about how great command line is, and proceeds to offer no suggestions at all as to what he thinks is needed. It just seem's kind of pointless to me. I think the biggest problem with GUI's in Linux is the X windows system, and that people should start putting some thought into that...

this man isnt serious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3979383)

or he is overpaid, theres no need that softimage software looks like a nike-shoe. at least, if you like your precious screen real-estate. but the portfolio of this guy is some of the worst shit i have ever seen. and i have seen a lot of mist in my life. this must be the worst.

Is this author too "in-the-community?" (1)

writermike (57327) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979387)

Consumers weigh the cost savings of Linux on the desktop versus the hassle of learning a new system and the availability of desireable apps such as Medal of Honor, Photoshop and others they can purchase at any retailer and/or copy from friends and family.

I'm sorry, but I don't think consumers even get this far. When they want to buy a PC, they go to Circuit City, Best Buy, Gateway Country, et al. And these guys aren't pushing Linux at all. The consumer doesn't even get to the point of considering it. It's just not in their field of vision, for the most part.

That's part of the problem.

If you could walk into a Best Buy and walk up to a display of three computers running Mac OSX, WinXP Pro, and Mandrake (or other), ask knowledgeable people questions, and PLAY with all of the computers, THEN Linux would have a better chance.

Useless site design for the visually impaired (1)

weeble (50918) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979388)

The 'diatribe' is unreadable for those with poor eyesight. A mixture of tiny fonts and a very poor contrast between foreground and background is exceedingly unhelpful.

It may look soulfull and moody but is useless for transferring information, or assisting those interact with the medium (which I thought was the aim of GUI's).

(And yes I know that all these things can be changed in the browser - just as all these things can be changed in theLinux GUIs!)

Re:Useless site design for the visually impaired (1)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979511)

In opera is is very easy, four keystrokes to fix any web page,

CTRL-G
+++

Try it sometime.

You call that an article? (1)

DrFrob (568991) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979398)

He didn't say anything other than, "I miss my old systems, but give me something really fancy and new." He wants a new fancy GUI but doesn't even attempt to make any suggestions about what a revolutionary GUI would do. A very boring read.

Linux == Pleasure (for me, anyway) (4, Insightful)

gosand (234100) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979399)

I found the article interesting, but lacking insight. Consider this:

"It's all about Pleasure."

"I used to derive pleasure when using my Apple, Amiga and sgi because they had a unique personality through various touches and tools that made the interface more cognicent of my existence. Windows completely lacks that interface. It's dumb and arrogant. It's heartless and ultimately disposable."

I don't know about other Linux users, but I do get pleasure in having a desktop with several windows that can all be doing something. I find typing enjoyable and flexible. I can write small scripts to automate some tasks or make some jobs more efficient. I like grep. Compare this to the mouse. The mouse is boring, and very one-dimensional. Without the OS, or a software package, the mouse is pretty useless. That is why there are so many menus (right-click) associated with the mouse. Typing can be melodic, but that click-click-click of the mouse about drives me nuts.

I think what the author is missing is that he thinks the user interface needs to be a GUI. No, that is what Windows offered, and they have pretty much taken it as far as it can go. I am not a Mac person, but I am guessing that the GUI there has gone about as far as it can go too. It's about going back to the basics, back to the keyboard.

Unless of course, someone can figure out a 3D UI like they have in the movies. But that always seems REALLY annoying.

Re:Linux == Pleasure (for me, anyway) (1)

Dthoma (593797) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979460)

"Unless of course, someone can figure out a 3D UI like they have in the movies. But that always seems REALLY annoying."

Wouldn't a 3D GUI take up a good deal more RAM and hard disk space than an old-style 2D one?

If so, someone please tell Microsoft. If I wanted a frickin' 3D GUI, I'd be using Doom, the tool for system administration [slashdot.org] .

Let's see: Xerox = Apple = Microsoft (4, Informative)

sphealey (2855) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979400)

From the article:

Unfortunately, something important is missing.

That something is an Open Source GUI development community who's role is to concentrate on creating a new interface standard for Linux@home users instead of continuing the cycle of emulating the Windows story.

I might take this guy seriously if he bothered to mention anywhere in his essay that the MS-Windows interface is derived from the seminal work done at Xerox PARC and the subsequent refinement by Apple. He speaks as if Microsoft invented the GUI ("next the Party will claim to have invented the steam engine") when clearly this was not the case.

sPh

And your suggestion is..... (3, Interesting)

Tall Rob Mc (579885) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979405)

The entire article seems to focus on the fact that nobody has developed a Linux UI that improves on the Windows UI. However, he fails to mention any specific examples of what can be improved. What does he want to see in a Linux UI that will greatly improve on Windows?

From my Windows XP Pro desktop I can access all of the applications that I commonly use with a single or double click. I can access all of my applications in seconds by tabbing through an easily-navigable menu that is clearly displayed. I can also use this menu to easily navigate to my Control Panel, Printers, and most recently used documents. Sure XP's default setting may look a bit cartoonish, but it seems to work easily enough.

What is it, Thomas Krul, that you want this Linux UI to do that will make it leaps-and-bounds better?

Huh? (2)

Otter (3800) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979407)

1) If you're going to be pontificating on the inadequacy of the Linux GUI developers, you ought to be able to make a readable web page out of a few simple paragraphs of text. That thing looks like the mess Word makes of columns right before you give up and switch to Quark.

2) I considered saying this to this poster [slashdot.org] but decided against it, but since there's a linked article doing the same thing -- the reason "we" haven't implemented a super new interface that's revolutionarily better than existing ones isn't because "we" don't want to, but because it's monumentally hard. If you actually have such an idea, tell us! Meanwhile, those of us who are doing the best we can don't need to be asked why "we" aren't doing better.

What's this guy talking about? (1)

qurob (543434) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979409)


The apple, on the other hand, had simplicity on it's side: one keyboard (maybe even a mouse) and a single flashing cursor on the command line. The concept that impresses people is that with this one continuously flashing entrypoint into the computer (awaiting input) is that even if you left it on for 2,000 years you had the idea that the machine was waiting patiently for your input - the concept that you were communicating with a machinentity that was trying to understand you.

Behold, the power of BASICA!

Re:What's this guy talking about? (1)

RexRuther (221243) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979510)

Was Basica was an apple program. I though it was only a PC program.

WTF? (1)

cbv (221379) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979411)

Windows is not succesful because it's any better, it's success is derived from the fact that the alternatives do not provide incentive for the common consumer to convert.

Yea, right. Windows is successful, because Microsoft bullied any competition into submission.

This is easy (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979417)

His main point seems to be that he misses the Apple ][ command line interface because it had a blinking cursor. I'm sure that it wouldn't be hard to tweak Konsole to blink the cursor in a bash shell. Wait -- if you exit X and go to text mode, the cursor does blink! Problem solved.

I think the problem is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3979419)

I think that KDE has a great interface, especially if you change the icons and clean it up a bit. However, the biggest impediment for KDE users is when they use non-kde apps. For example, OpenOffice looks terrible-- the fonts don't render properly, the colors are all wrong, and it's a strain to look at. Same with Mozilla. I'm sure they can be fixed by installing a different XServer or something, but I mean, thats a complete pain for 99% of users. I think the reason look different is because these applications don't use KDE rendering code, like KOffice and Konqueror do. If we want Linux's various GUI's to be adopted, we need to see that there is a consistent desktop experience. Everthing needs to be rendered the same way-- under KDE, Gnome, whatever. KDE has a great interface, but unfortunatly that interface doesn't extend much further than its own applications.

whoa! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3979420)

Jef Raskin, the guy who designed the first Macintosh and author of The Humane Interface, has a SourceForge project putting his ideas into action.

I'm absolutely blown away [sourceforge.net] !

New Ideas (3, Interesting)

spencerogden (49254) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979433)

I am a little sick of articles and comments that bash current GUIs for being derivative, without coming out with new ideas. It all fine and good to say that we need something new and exciting, like the GUI was to the commandline, but it hardly does any good to complain about there not being something new if you don't present your ideas on what the new paradigm should be.

The most creative thing I have seen are 3D desktops, but those don't seem to be a major improvement over virtual desktops. I guess the next big thing should be computers that you can converse with(not neccessarily with spoken speech) and just tell to do a job, which would be great if we could do it.

I guess I am just tired of people complaining about WIMP derivatives. If there were better viable ideas out there, we could do them, but I haven't heard any.

If anyone would like to enlighten me as to what the next paradigm should be, I would be happy to encourage and help it's developement, otherwise stop complaining until you have an epiphany.

Windows and the Hidden CLI (4, Interesting)

DG (989) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979438)

I think the biggest failing behind Windows (and by implication the Mac that it so blatently stole from) was that it hid the Command Line Interface (or shell if you prefer)

GUIs are well-suited for simple tasks, and are good for the important-task-infrequently-used items, but for items of moderate complexity, nothing beats dropping into a shell.

But by hiding the shell (and making it clunky, as per Windows and DOS) or by removing it entirely (Mac) there is now a huge class of computer users who expect *everything* on the computer to be availible via GUI widgets. The concept of communicating with the computer via a type of language is completely and utterly foreign to them, and is viewed with fear and distrust.

But to ignore the shell is to ignore the greater part of the power of the machine!

It's like all the books in the world were suddenly converted into comic books, and all literature was abandoned. Not that there's anything wrong with a comic book, but they don't deal well with Shakespere or Gibbon.

Celebrate the shell! Bring back the CLI!

DG

Blah blah blah, blah blah blah (3, Interesting)

Skyshadow (508) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979439)

This guy says the exact same stuff that I've heard people talking about since 1995 when I started using X on top of Linux. I don't want to be one of those "why is this news" trolls, but I can't really see what the usefulness of this article is. Did I miss something?

That said, let me address his points: The mistake I see this guy making in his logic is assuming that OSS makes large-scale innovations. In reality, I've noticed that OSS projects tend to borrow a basic framework and when innovate in smaller steps. Linux looks like Unix, KDE and Gnome look like Windows, etc. The difference, of course, is the small changes and nifty add-ons that make any given system more configurable, useful or whatever.

The real strength of OSS is the rate of evolution, not in the ground-up creation. I'm convinced that it takes a small group of well-led, motivated people with an original idea and good planning to make truly structural leap -- think Be. I haven't seen an open source project do this *yet* (not saying it's impossible, however).

So, instead of just doing is shallow-understanding critique of open source development, he should have been discussing a way to allow open source development to make these sorts of large-scale fundemental leaps. That would have been useful.

Drivers and software (2, Interesting)

EvilBudMan (588716) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979441)

I think the main isssue here is not the GUI but if your hardware has drivers for Linux and if all of the software that you want to run will run on Linux.

For instance, Photoshop is not available on Linux. Some CAD and 3D software is also not available. Some of the popular games are not available. When you see those things for Linux, you will have popularity on the desktop.

Notice, I didn't mention M$ Office. There are alternatives for that on Linux. When you see Adobe, Autodesk, and others develop for Linux, business will switch due to cost. Then the consumer will switch too.

Get your head out of the sand. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3979443)

"That something is an Open Source GUI development community who's role is to concentrate on creating a new interface standard for Linux@home users instead of continuing the cycle of emulating the Windows story. Windows is not succesful because it's any better, it's success is derived from the fact that the alternatives do not provide incentive for the common consumer to convert. "

Windows was succesful because it is the only thing the consumer has been exposed too. And the reason is because Microsoft used back room deals and other tricks to keep competitors out of the market place. Until this behavior is complete stopped and people loose money on microsoft stock then not much will change.

"Smart" GUI (1)

TheFlyingGoat (161967) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979448)

Someone should take one of the great window managers out there (Enlightenment? Gnome?) and create a multi-tiered system. Basically, new linux users wouldn't have to deal with seeing all those "advanced" tasks like desktop changers, "attract icons" menu items, and many administative tools on the menus. Just give them the basics. Then, allow the user to customize their interface as their experience grows. Perhaps even make this automatic... as the user discovers more advanced features in the GUI (middle-clicking/shift-clicking), give them some new choices to play with.

Flashing cursor (2)

Rupert (28001) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979449)

So the author's idea of an "active" interface is a flashing cursor? Linux has any number of these from the *shes to the various xterms.

I'm not sure I want my computer to be doing anything when I turn it on. Unless I have multiple power-on buttons like "Form of a Wordprocessor" and "Form of a Web Browser", how is this general purpose device to know what I want it to do? Instant-on would help a lot, but you still have to tell the box what you want it to do.

Perhaps a pseudo-command line is the way to go. Start typing first, and then have the box try to guess if this is a URL, an email, a shopping list or the Great American Novel. It would kind of suck to end up at ItWasADarkAndStormyNight.com [bulwer-lytton.com] , though.

Some good points, some bad. (2)

laserjet (170008) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979450)

I think this guy is wrong on several accounts, though it was an interesting read. For example:


After 20 years of speed and capacity improvements, the computer just doesn't seem any brighter or smarter than it used to. And that needs to change.

What? So the computer doesn't seem any smarter than it was in 1982? Uhh.. not sure how to respond to this, other than to state the obivous. In 1982, GUIs were pretty much non-existant, the OSes WERE dumb (no auto-detect, no learning), etc. This statement is purely incorrect. On to the next:


Linux desktop interfaces provides little that is new, and are dismissed as copies of Windows by the undeducated consumer who does not realize the value of the Linux underpinnings hidden behind the scenes. Nobody wants a copy, they want something original, and that means a radical departure from the desktop analogy.

I disagree. I think businesses and those who want productivity DO want a copy. All GUIs are copies of each other in some way or another. There is an unpublished standard of GUIs that is adheared to somewhat, and copies mean less learning of new things. I would like something revolutionary and new, but I just don't see it happening any time soon.


The apple, on the other hand, had simplicity on it's side: one keyboard (maybe even a mouse) and a single flashing cursor on the command line. The concept that impresses people is that with this one continuously flashing entrypoint into the computer (awaiting input) is that even if you left it on for 2,000 years you had the idea that the machine was waiting patiently for your input - the concept that you were communicating with a machinentity that was trying to understand you.

I never found the flashing cursor of a prompt that fascinating. If it was a better way to do things, it would have stayed around and people would have preferred it. How can one advocate a completely new GUI yet cherrish the CLI? Computers are meant to sit there and wait for you, but a prompt hardly menas the machine is "trying to understand you" - if anything it is dull and more machine like than any GUI.

Linux usability studies? (3, Informative)

deranged unix nut (20524) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979462)

Usability isn't just for the framework, it is also for the individual applications. Windows has standards that are recommended for applications.

First, are there application or user experience standards for KDE, Gnome, X, or command line apps? I know that there are a few de-facto standards on the command line, but is anything codified (especially for gui)?

Second, how many open source projects have done a usability study to see if your aunt, cousin, grandmother, or neighbor can easily use your cool new application or tool without significant assistance?

Formal usability studies are expensive and time consuming, but they do work.

Then again, if you are building a car in your garage, do you just care about yourself, or do you spend the extra week to make an adjustable seat so that it is comfortable for other drivers?

If you want me to move back to using linux as my main desktop machine, you need to make it much easier to install and configure the OS, the desktop, and all of the applications. Linux may be powerful, but I don't necessarily want the power to cut my leg off if I don't spend an hour reading the docs before I attempt to compile and install a new program.

Web Usability ... don't use columns (1)

grip (60499) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979466)

This is not a troll, but can we take seriously a person who extolls the virtues of good user interface design -- but puts his entire essay in two columns on a webpage?

So, I scroll to the bottom, just to have to scroll back to the top to read the second half of the article?

Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad...

Grip

Good points, but... (2)

gilroy (155262) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979474)

Blockquoth the article:
That's why many of us threw out hundreds of dollars of records and diamond needles the day CD's came out.
I'm all for the points the guy raises, but this is a bad example. The adoption of CDs was actually quite slow -- the technology was introduced in 1980 [oneoffcd.com] , but didn't outsell vinyl until 1988 [80sxchange.com] . Indeed, universal adoption of CDs awaited two things: the CD-ROM (turning every computer into a CD player) and the decision not to release on vinyl anymore.

The lesson? The surest way to enforce adoption of a new technology is to disallow other technologies...

Sure but.. (1)

RexRuther (221243) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979476)

The article is nice but he only point out the obvious. Where are the new ideas he is talking about? He didn't suggest any.

Anyone here see Lawnmower Man (1)

Ozor (592387) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979479)

In the Movie Lawnmower man the OS was three dimensional. That movie is 10 years old why hasn't something like that gone mainstream yet?

Notice the "more" link... (2, Interesting)

Java Pimp (98454) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979482)

Here I am reading the article scrolling with my mouse wheel. I get to the bottom of the first column, instead of being required to move the mouse, grab and drag the scroll bar, or repeatedly scroll the wheel back up, he provides a quick link to jump to the top.

Very simple, yet elegant. You don't see things like that often. Small little things like that can greatly improve the end user experience.

Code??? (0)

dynamite d (300507) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979495)

So where is his code? Or is he just another troll whining about what's wrong but not willing to do anything about it???

Unix history vs. Windows (2)

kin_korn_karn (466864) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979496)

Unix has been around for 30 years or so now. a lot of the command line utilities people use today are ports of programs written in the 70s.

There's MORE to choose from in a Unix environment because people have been writing software for it longer. The good software sticks around. Do you know what people used to find files by content before grep? I don't, and I don't care, because grep kicks ass. Would it be better than Start->Find->containing text for my dad, a hater of computers? Absolutely not.

New UI = new applications = new users (2, Insightful)

Nooface (526234) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979500)

As long as developers just try to make a "better Windows than Windows", there will be no major upswing in the adoption of Linux on the "client" (whether you are talking about the traditional desktop, or other environments controlled directly by the user, such as handhelds). Until now, most efforts to develop Linux interfaces and applications have been focused on simply recreating equivalents of existing software products. As a result, mainstream desktop users have found few compelling reasons to switch to Linux because it does not currently offer an experience that is fundamentally any different from that of Windows or MacOS (notwithstanding its lower price and superior reliability). But as truly next-generation user interfaces for Linux emerge, they will enable the development of new kinds of applications that will be difficult or impossible to match on the existing platforms. Such "killer" applications (which are defined as applications that are so valuable that they justify adoption of a new platform simply to gain access to them) will start the virtuous cycle of platform-application interdependency that will allow Linux to break out of the server ghetto and take off with the masses.

Reasons for lack of GUI innovation (2)

Hornsby (63501) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979509)

Linux has traditionally been designed, developed, and maintained by engineers. Engineers tend to be more concerned with function than form, and thus we are all sitting here using a highly functional, amorphous operating system. The introduction of a "standards body" will require people to actually follow the standards. If the standards are widely adopted, we will have a highly functional kernel with a very well formed interface. The current desktop model has been innovated upon long enough. We need desktop pioneers to come forth and INVENT rather than follow the lead of a product we consider inferior. A major paradigm shift on the desktop could be exactly what Linux needs to take it from the point of being "fragmented on the desktop" to being "seemless from the bottom up". I sincerely hope that people get off their asses and make it happen.

Attack the messenger (1)

Mr.Sharpy (472377) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979519)

I'm not saying I agree or disagree, but I think what the author said deserves some consideration. All I'm seeing here is people attacking the man, and not his message. But that seems to be the case any time someone posts something critical about Linux. Criticism is almost always more constructive than mindless ego boosting.

Err... (0, Offtopic)

mccalli (323026) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979520)

A former Microsoft and Creative Labs interface designer...

Err....

Cheers,
Ian

Beyond the green text... (1)

TheLastUser (550621) | more than 12 years ago | (#3979523)

The point is a good one, but I think the Linux desktop community is far more experimental than either Apple or MS.

Some times I think that 90% of the effort put into the Linux platform is in the form of GUI work.

Linux has multiple windowing systems, of which XFree is the most popular. Within the X realm, there are two major toolkits, QT and Gnome, maybe a hundred window managers, countless themes.

All of this experimentation has got to produce some good ideas sooner or later, at least different ideas.

Gnome uses a Corba orb for communication between desktop apps, that's pretty different, isn't it? Works pretty well too. I installed a spell checker and my mail client knew about it without me having to restart it.

I don't think that the writer of this article looked very deep before he labeled the Linux GUI projects, enmasse, as "emulating the Windows story". He probably uses a Mac and only played around a bit with Linux to research this story.

And as for the mobile revolution, who is naieve enough to think that meaningful work can be done on the beach with a IPaq? Isn't this is just some sort of fantasy perpetuated by handheld manufacturers?

Creative GUI's spawn alternatives (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3979525)

In fact, Creative's own PlayCenter GUI for its MP3 players (don't know if this fellow working on it or not, though), is so disliked by users that it has spawned third-party alternatives like Notmad Explorer [redchairsoftware.com] .
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