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In The Beginning Was The Command Line, Updated

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the keeping-up-with-things dept.

Operating Systems 416

Unqualified code-monkey Garote submits his annotated version of Neal Stephenson's In The Beginning Was The Command Line, updated to discuss UI design theory and fill in some of the gaps from the last five years. (And yes, he has been granted permission from Neal to do this.) There's plenty more to cover of course: Will the command-line last only as long as the keyboard? How will desktop search technology change our workflow? What about the 3D interface? Scroll to any random paragraph in the essay and you'll find something worth expounding on. What's ahead for the next five years?

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416 comments

Fp Again, Yo (0, Offtopic)

repruhsent (672799) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262728)

OMG FP BITCHES

FIRST POST ON SLASHDOT?! What an accomplishment! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11263073)

Your life has been completed now. I'm glad sitting around and waiting to "FB" tickled you so. I'm sure we're all impressed by such an accomplishment. Kudos...

I thought it was something else... (4, Funny)

sgant (178166) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262735)

I thought in the beginning was the "punch card".

Talk about a bad UI!

Re:I thought it was something else... (1)

bsharitt (580506) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262752)

I thought it was toggle switches and blinking lights.

In the beginning there was the soldering iron... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11262763)

and a few days later Adam had a nasty accident that was due to his nakedness...

Re:I thought it was something else... (5, Funny)

Criffer (842645) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262777)

Punch cards? You were lucky! All we had were toggle switches where you programmed individual bits; one at a time, until memory were full. All 512 bytes of it!

Re:I thought it was something else... (1)

The_Mr_Flibble (738358) | more than 9 years ago | (#11263018)

Toggle Switches ??? Shear luxury All we had where jumper cables and thankfull for it.

Re:I thought it was something else... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11262935)

(To keep this posting short and not digress into the arcane & obscure, I will ignore Charles Babbage's & Vannevar Bush's work.) Programming of very early devices was done via hard-wiring control panels. The punch card was for data. The days of your punched card decks containing JCL, programmes and data to be fed to the program (via //SYSIN cards on IBM systems, don't remember about any of the 7 dwarves) came later.

And I'm not getting into considerations brought by the use of drum memory -- to get an idea about those, read (IIRC) "The story of Mel" in the Jargon File.

Personally, I believe that today's kids studying IT/CompSci could use:
(a) typewriter lessons, and
(b) should be forced to used batch systems fed via punched cards for a few mandatory courses
To learn to *THINK* before they start coding and to be careful when they type to avoid a googlefroopillion typos.

Re:I thought it was something else... (2, Informative)

Hasai (131313) | more than 9 years ago | (#11263012)

NAK. In the beginning there was the Difference Engine, with all it's cogs and sprockets. Then there came the first electronic machines, filling whole basketball courts, maintained by undergrads with shopping carts full of replacement vacuum tubes and programmed by lengths of wire pushed into sets of holes in a punch block. Punch-card machines were ripped-off from the Census bureau and hooked up to the computers so the scientists could get rid of the damned punch blocks. Command-line came about when someone thought up the idea of hooking-up an old Teletype machine to the cantankerous computers.

Best Slashdot sig ever read (4, Funny)

Petronius (515525) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262745)

"I was raised on the command line, bitch"

GUIs? (3, Funny)

Kippesoep (712796) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262750)

What is this GUI thing you speak of, you young whippersnapper? I'll use a command line 'til my dying day, pounding the keys with my cane if I have to.

Hopeful (3, Interesting)

dsginter (104154) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262751)

What's ahead for the next five years?

Hopefully, some higher power will pick an OSS desktop, create some interface and application standards and we can all start dumping Windows. Until then, my Linux migration ends at the point where I have to pick gnome or KDE (or even something else).

Which one should I pick and why?

Re:Hopeful (3, Insightful)

koreaman (835838) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262784)

For newbs like yourself (I'm not saying this in an offensive way) I would recommend KDE.

Or try Fluxbox if you have an older comp, but it's not very similar to Windows.

Re:Hopeful (-1, Flamebait)

Chemicalscum (525689) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262919)

Why should you ever have to make any decision in your life? You don't want choice, you don't want freedom, you want to be a slave, i.e. a typical american.

Re:Hopeful (1)

Norgus (770127) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262955)

Damn hippie!

</average american slave>

Way to influence (1)

poptones (653660) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262961)

Why didn't you just insult his mother while you were at it?

Thank god some linux communes have moved troglodytes like you off to the edges of the village.

Watch out for the hyaenas...

Re:Way to influence (1)

Chemicalscum (525689) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262999)

Like most of the rest of the population of the world I am just sick of you american whingers.

Still it's all been said before in '77: I'm So Bored With the U.S.A. (Strummer/Jones) Yankee soldier He wanna shoot some skag He met it in Cambodia But now he can't afford a bag Yankee dollar talk To the dictators of the world In fact it's giving orders An' they can't afford to miss a word I'm so bored with the U...S...A... But what can I do? Yankee detectives Are always on the TV 'Cos killers in America Work seven days a week Never mind the stars and stripes Let's print the Watergate Tapes I'll salute the New Wave And I hope nobody escapes I'm so bored with the U...S...A... But what can I do? Move up Starsky For the C.I.A. Suck on Kojak For the USA

pick anything (4, Insightful)

poptones (653660) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262928)

as a former windows power user who transitioned completely only about a year ago, let me offer this advice:

Pick up an ubuntu cd, give it a partition, and use it more than the two minutes it takes to conclude it's not windows.

Seriously. Forget windows is even there for a week. Pretend someone stole your old computer and all they left you with is this weird piece of shit doppelganger that sorta looks like your old pc, but everything's just a little "off."

Accept the fact transitions are not always easy, and give this doppelganger a week of your computing life. Then go back to windows.

And make sure you have some clean clothes handy, because you're going to need a shower afterward.

Re:pick anything (2, Interesting)

youngerpants (255314) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262991)

Actually very good advice (if completely off topic)

I was (and still am) a windows power user who was going up the very steep learning curve of learning Linux some 5/6 years ago. I could do "some" stuff with it, but it wasn't until my main PC died and I was left with my Linux laptop for a couple of weeks that I all of a sudden Just-Got-It tm

These days all operating systems are all pretty much the same as far as I am concerned, XP is a great desktop, Linux is a great server, Sun is a great number cruncher and I still miss CP/M :)

Re:Hopeful (4, Informative)

BladeMelbourne (518866) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262950)

Xfce [xfce.org] is an excellent choice, although not at widespread as GNOME or KDE.

  • Much smaller download
  • Lower memory usage, responsive UI (ideal on P2, P3)
  • Very simple to use, but powerful enough for most power users

It doesn't look too bad either ;-) My only complaint is with the file manager, so I use Xfe/Xwc instead. It comes in Fedora Core 3 if you don't already have a Linux distro installed.

Re:Hopeful (1)

turgid (580780) | more than 9 years ago | (#11263031)

Try them all for a while. Try KDE, GNOME and XFce. If you're feeling bold, try GNUstep.

You can install them all and run your favourite. As long as they're all installed, it doesn't matter which one you run, you can run all the applications for each, since you have all the support libraries and daemons installed.

The great thing about unil-like operating systems, and FOSS in particular is the healthy choice, competition and collaboration.

If you've been brought up in the Windows monoculture, this is a huge culture shock.

I don't run a desktop environment. I run a plain old window manager on Linux and Solaris (WindowMaker). I use GNOME and KDE apps, Java apps, Gtk+ apps, Motif apps, Qt apps, Fltk apps, you name it, often all at the same time, over the network on different hardware architectures (64-bit RISC, 64-bit x86, 32-bit x86) using X, VNC and the plain old text terminal.

This is the power and flexibility of the modern unix world.

Re:Hopeful (1)

pentalive (449155) | more than 9 years ago | (#11263234)

Everyone else has given examples.. here's mine

Blackbox.

Small/Fast/not windows-like at all

saves resources for your programs!

http://blackboxwm.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]

As long as the keyboard? (4, Insightful)

checkitout (546879) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262757)

Keyboard ain't going anywhere. Expect it to exist for as long as there are words to type.

Re:As long as the keyboard? (3, Interesting)

md81544 (619625) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262840)

The keyboard isn't sacrosanct... granted, we'll always want to be able to enter text (at least those of us belonging to the rebel alliance will).

I can't imagine ever having speech recognition being good enough for a programmer, it would be too slow to have to say "cout less than less than quote capitalised Hello comma world less than less than quote semi colon", and it would make the workplace an awful noisy place :-)

But what about the non-invasive "thinking caps" featured recently in a story? Maybe one day we'll be able to simply "see" the word or line and it will be entered...

Re:As long as the keyboard? (1)

koreaman (835838) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262998)

cout<<"Hello, world<<";
I think you meant to say "backslash n" not "less than less than" again.

Re:As long as the keyboard? (1)

Monsieur_F (531564) | more than 9 years ago | (#11263241)

Wouldn't it be "cursor left cursor left backspace backspace cursor right spacebar e n d l" ?

Re:As long as the keyboard? (3, Interesting)

perkr (626584) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262849)

And why would that be the case considering how long time it takes to be proficient in typing? Surely, it is possible that an alternative text entry interface would emerge in the future.

For example Dasher [cam.ac.uk] is pretty cool, and there are other (in fact numerous) alternative interfaces. See for example Masui's on-line bibliography [pitecan.com] .

Re:As long as the keyboard? (3, Informative)

reachinmark (536719) | more than 9 years ago | (#11263014)

Dasher is pretty useless:

Experienced users achieve writing speeds of about 34 words per minute, compared with typical ten-finger keyboard typing of 40-60 words per minute.

Experienced dasher users can peak at 34 wpm.. experienced typists can often peak at more than twice that on a qwerty (not to mention a Dvorak layout [mit.edu] ). And imagine using Dasher for coding - Dasher works well for writing words, but fails totally with the symbols and syntax used in programming.

Some users might be able to work without a keyboard, but I can't see a future where nobody will want a keyboard...

Re:As long as the keyboard? (2, Interesting)

buro9 (633210) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262903)

You couldn't say them?
Or think them?
Or look at something and have the brainwaves converted into words applicable to that which you're looking at (or have bound to that image).

The command line will only be around as long as there is a keyboard... and the keyboard won't live forever.

Re:As long as the keyboard? (1)

NoData (9132) | more than 9 years ago | (#11263040)

the grandposter sez:

Keyboard ain't going anywhere. Expect it to exist for as long as there are words to type.

That's a tautology. Maybe he was just making an oblique joke?

Re:As long as the keyboard? (1)

Vo0k (760020) | more than 9 years ago | (#11263043)

Typing for a skilled typist is both much faster and easier than speaking. Especially for prolonged periods of time.

There's a rather long while till we get reliable thought-controlled interfaces, and even then they may need some extra training. How many more thoughts you create than you actually say/type? You cull most of the plans before they take any serious shape and are converted into words. Untrained thought-writing would be just a feast of spurts of senseless text and undoing them.

Reliable voice recognition may replace the keyboard in some cases, but even then it won't necessarily replace the command line. It's easier to form a command sentence than to call options being displayed on GUI.

say "changedir /usr/src/linux; copy vmlinuz /boot"
versus
"my computer, open. drive C, open. Windows, open. System32, open. kernel32.dll copy. parent. parent. parent. paste."

Re:As long as the keyboard? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11263089)

The command line will only be around as long as there is a keyboard...

Because I couldn't say them, or think them, and want to review the command before initiating it?

That's like saying that books should disappear because of audio tape.

Re:As long as the keyboard? (2, Informative)

David McBride (183571) | more than 9 years ago | (#11263097)

You couldn't say them?

I've tried. You just can't get the same degree of bandwidth and precision of expression from speaking as you can get typing individual characters at a keyboard. Especially if you're trying to code something.

Re:As long as the keyboard? (1)

krunchyfrog (786414) | more than 9 years ago | (#11263098)

As long as there will be command line switches, there's going to be keyboards.

shutdown -r now

dir /s/a

format c: /q/u/v:volume /c

ipconfig /release

ipconfig /renew

Re:As long as the keyboard? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11263121)

Considering that writing and reading are in themselves (ancient) technology which where developed as an (arguably complex and difficult) solution to a communication problem.

Considering also that still only a minority of the human population can use this technology to an advanced level, and even there *both* parties need to be able to handle this technology.

Maybe in time a new technology will not only replace the keyboard, but reading and writing as well? Audio and video could become the standard mode of interaction online given enough processing power and bandwidth with a low enough latency.

There are obstacles: searching audio and video streams is much harder then searching character streams. Indexing has the same problem, limited audio interaction is however already posible (only because it is used to augment the current GUIs it does not add much, to be honest, it barely works at all. Mainly because there is no shared semantics between an AUI and a GUI).

I believe it will come... most likely before everyone on this planet learns to read and write.

Re:As long as the keyboard? (3, Funny)

zulux (112259) | more than 9 years ago | (#11263184)

Keyboard ain't going anywhere. Expect it to exist for as long as there are words to type.


lol - u r gr8.

From the 3D Interface Article: (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11262758)

"Evolution optimized homo sapiens for wandering the savannah - moving around a plane - and not swinging through the trees. Today this evolutionary bias shows in comparing the number of people who drive a car versus the number of helicopter pilots: 2D navigation (on the ground) vs. 3D navigation (in the air)."

What absolute, total, bollocks. Cost of helicopters vs cost of cars has not figured into this tit's thoughts, then?

Re:From the 3D Interface Article: (1)

klmth (451037) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262939)

Besides, Homo Sapiens is hardly a hardy wanderer. 40km by foot per day is pretty much the best pace anyone can maintain over a length of time. Many animals migrate far further. No, Homo Sapiens was optimized by evolution for staying put and using tools to his advantage.

Re:From the 3D Interface Article: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11263246)

I think the phrase "moving around a plane" might have tipped you off that this was not the most thoughtful of articles...

If we really were optimized for moving about a plane, clearly that would apply to helicopters as well.

Not NS's best work... (3, Insightful)

MadMorf (118601) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262765)

I read this book when it first came out and I have to say that I was quite disappointed.

His insistance that Windows doesn't have a command line shows a deliberate distortion of the truth to try to make his point.

Any REAL Windows Admin knows this is false and it's a prime way to identify an Anti-MS zealot.

Anyway, it hasn't stopped me being a fan of NS, but it did disappoint me in a big way.

Re:Not NS's best work... (4, Insightful)

RenatoRam (446720) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262813)

Anybody who has used the unix comandline for REAL knows why even experienced admins think that windows lacks a commandline.

No completion, no reverse-search in history, no pipe filters (and no, pipe more does not count), and so on...

Sure, if you install cygwin you get a lot of the stuff you have on *nix, but this simply proves the point: to have decent commandline tools you have to install a POSIX emulation layer.

Re:Not NS's best work... (1)

MadMorf (118601) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262859)

Anybody who has used the unix comandline for REAL knows why even experienced admins think that windows lacks a commandline.
No completion, no reverse-search in history, no pipe filters (and no, pipe more does not count), and so on...


Personally, I find completion a huge pain.
And with DosKey there is a CLI history, easily accessed.

Most of what *nix users use on the command line are add-ons and most have equivalents available for Windows.

Not saying the Windows CLI is perfect, but it is there and quite usable.
In my book, anyone who can't use it has no right to claim to be a SysAdmin.

Re:Not NS's best work... (2, Interesting)

RenatoRam (446720) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262970)

Doskey?

No, you obviously don't know what we are talking about.

Press CTRL-R and some letters: the history is searched backwards for that command. Press it again and go back for other occurrences.

doskey... pah!

And we are NOT talking of "addons". Most of the pipe filters are part of the basic binary apps.

Sure, if you are on a Digital Unix 4.0 machine you are pretty much stranded with the oldish and poor userland utilities, but on modern linux CLIs all the things I'm talking about are there FOR SURE.

Installing a *nix app in my book means "windows has a featureless cli".

Oh, and please, try this on windows:
$ for file in 'ls image*.jpg'; do echo "Processing $file..."; mv $file 'date +%d%m%Y'-$file-image.jpg; done

...and this is without checking manpages, and really only a very simple example.
(yes, I know about the backticks, but I have no time to search how to post those in slashdot)

Re:Not NS's best work... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11263232)

for %a in (image*.jpg) do (
echo Processing %a...
move %a %date%-%a-image.jpg
)

Works under cmd.exe (Win2000 and XP) - no /? screens needed, either.

Apart of that: cmd.exe features a history (up/down arrow), filename completion (tab key) and history searching (F8).

Re:Not NS's best work... (1)

MikeBabcock (65886) | more than 9 years ago | (#11263127)

PS Windows XP has tab completion.

Re:Not NS's best work... (1)

forgotten_my_nick (802929) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262938)

I felt the same way. The book wasn't that groundbreaking or correct at all.

Re:Not NS's best work... (1)

jalefkowit (101585) | more than 9 years ago | (#11263150)

Remember, he wrote this in 1999. The state-of-the-art "enterprise" version of Windows then was what, NT 3.5?

Windows has come a long way since then. Keep the essay in context.

Re:Not NS's best work... (1)

MadMorf (118601) | more than 9 years ago | (#11263221)

Remember, he wrote this in 1999. The state-of-the-art "enterprise" version of Windows then was what, NT 3.5?

NT 4.0

the command line already survived the keyboard (4, Insightful)

mrjb (547783) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262766)

People use the command line nowadays to control servers by SMS. Spoken commands, as well, are likely to follow a command-line type interface. Just uttering "Tea, earl grey, hot" in expert-mode is a lot less infuriating then "press 1 for tea, press 2 for coffee, press 4 for chocolate milk, press 5 for cola, press 6 for beer" -- (6) "Press 1 for lager press 2 for stout press 3 for ale" (1) "press 1 for hot press 2 for cold" (2) "Press 1 for alcohol free press 2 for alcohol-rich" (2) "Press 1 for carbonated 2 for cat-pee" (and so on)

Re:the command line already survived the keyboard (2, Insightful)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 9 years ago | (#11263036)

OTOH having to specify "hot" for a cup of Earl Grey shows an inherent design flaw. Hell having to specify "Tea" is over the top. The only piece of useful information in that command is "Earl Grey".

Note that Picard never specifies Milk and/or Sugar either. The computer is smart enough to know his preferences for that but not smart enough to realize he wants it hot? Pah.. 25th century programmers!!

Re:the command line already survived the keyboard (1)

shreak (248275) | more than 9 years ago | (#11263226)

Maybe he typically takes it cold?
Maybe "Earl Grey" typically refers to playing his favorite TV show.

=Shreak

The demise of the graphical user interface... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11262768)

The current state of the human interface to computers works well because there is an extremely limited number of commands a computer (or computer program) understands. As computer sophistication improves and functions increase in complexity, the "point and click" interface will become too cumbersome. It is inevitable that the typical user interface will evolve toward the same one used between humans for everyday interaction, e.g. the spoken word.

IMHO

Re:The demise of the graphical user interface... (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262838)

>>It is inevitable that the typical user interface will evolve toward the same one used between humans for everyday interaction, e.g. the spoken word.

Great now not only will I not be able to understand the guy speaking to me, but my omputer won't either.

Spoken word only works for SOME interface uses. I use it to play chess. writing a document I can type many times faster than I can speak. Unless it's for a ~20 word memo. Then I simply memorize it.

I see a blending of the the two. I also traditional keyboards going only to those who write long documents. with multi function keypads for primary interface control.

Re:The demise of the graphical user interface... (1)

perkr (626584) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262885)

Re:The demise of the graphical user interface... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11263145)

What you say is absolutely correct. Actually, speech recognition is raised to a fine art in at least the one system currently in use that does it well (the human brain). How many times have you participated in a conversation where two or more speakers communicate effectively, even though there is a variety of accents, cultural backgrounds, and even a mixture of different languages involved? The question is, can computers duplicate that function without being self aware? I think they can eventually (no doubt in the ubiquitous "five years from now...")

Future ? (3, Interesting)

mirko (198274) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262773)

There are many ways to predict the future, I personally think the monitors will be everywhere, from our flat's walls to our clothes' sleeves.
It'll still be flat (2D) and people should now realize that what counts is the input.
For years, we only had one focus at a time and this should change, thus allowing drastical changes (imagine if several networkedusers have a focus on an app at the same time... impossible ? who remembers the Acorn "Spheres of chaos" where 4 users could play on the same machine at the same time ?).
So, I'd go for a more practical approach to a 2D interface (I was thinking of some itnerface that would ban both scrollbars and overlapping windows by magnifying the active zone of each focussed elements while reducing the others thus making these still visible, ergo invokable)...

voice commands (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11262783)

Sooner or later most computers will accept voice commands.

Voice commands are a type of command line.

Re:voice commands (2, Funny)

turgid (580780) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262936)

Sooner or later most computers will accept voice commands.

Please no! I find it difficult enough making myself understood to other human beings.

Re:voice commands (1)

Dicky (1327) | more than 9 years ago | (#11263188)

And, not that it's an issue around here anymore, can you imagine what an open-plan office full of people talking (swearing, pleading, etc.) at their computer would be like? Nightmare... particularly if some of them are Scottish...

Re:voice commands (1)

youngerpants (255314) | more than 9 years ago | (#11263002)

"type" of command line

gettit

I'll get my coat

Monad (4, Interesting)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262796)

When seeing an article like this going on about command line histories and 3D desktops, it's interesting that a major new feature in Microsoft Longhorn will be the completely new shell code-named Monad [wikipedia.org] . Hm. Better late than never, I guess. I wonder why they see a need for it though; aren't they trying to move away from a command line? Maybe it's an attempt to get back users having switched from Windows. Who knows, but that sounds a bit strange too, since it won't be very compatible with a *nix shell either. :-/

IMHO, it's one of the strangest and most surprising moves in Longhorn.

Real computing (4, Interesting)

Himring (646324) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262799)

I studied English lit and ancient Greek in college. I gained the best understanding of grammar, syntax and sentence structure from Greek. Breaking down those huge words, looking at a language from scratch -- it has helped me the most in English. It's tough now to not see Greek in English words. I view prepositional purposes from the Greek model and all parts of speech came into light through Greek (queue the "it's all Greek to me" jokes).

When it comes to computing, I started out at the command line. True computing, to me, IS the command line, and I gained the most understanding of computers from it. I prefer to use Linux that way (I don't load a GUI). "Windows is a good terminal" is how I think Richie put it, and although the GUI is here and necessary, real computing will always be from the command line. I will admit Lynx never replaced a GUI web browser for me, but someone who really knows the command line (and therefore the OS) can run circles around the mousey admins....

Re:Real computing (3, Funny)

Ph33r th3 g(O)at (592622) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262863)

As a fellow language nerd, while "queue" (as in "queue the 'it's all Greek to me" jokes) works, particularly with this audience, I think the word you're looking for is "cue." (See some discussion here [google.com] )

Re:Real computing (1)

Chatsubo (807023) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262954)

"can run circles around the mousey admins...."

IMHO the command-line hackers are usually in far worse shape than the mousey ones.

Let's organize a posse (1)

SpaghettiPattern (609814) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262804)

I love my CLI. My idea of a GUI is xterm. I cherish the way the X copy buffer works. Other than that I don't need no steeeenkin' pictures on my desktop. Honestly.

In fact, let's organize a posse ... and go out and lynch the bastard that invented the frivolous curses. And let's get Steven Wozniak and Steven Jobs too. They started it all. And, and, and....

That's a funny white jacket. Why are there no buttons on the front? What's the syringe?

Oh ... (1)

max909 (619312) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262811)

Sounds like a Matrix Startup :D

I remember my ole cobol prof. (5, Funny)

roegerle (694906) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262818)

"The only good thing about windows is I can run multiple sessions of DOS."

GUI in Windows (1)

British (51765) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262835)

While I like a GUI for day-to-day tasks, I really wish cmd.exe in Windows2k and XP didn't fall by the wayside. Remember when DOS used to be fun to zip around in? That was back in DOS 5/6 days. It seems to have fallen to a heavy state of neglect by MS. Too bad, since sometimes it's easier to navigate around in cmd.exe in a pinch.

Re:GUI in Windows (1)

0utRun (772783) | more than 9 years ago | (#11263215)

> Remember when DOS used to be fun to zip around in?

No.

And when were "DOS" and "fun" ever used in the same sentence?

Manipulating 3D UIs' (1)

nemsan (819279) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262837)

As the article said current input devices are in efficient. What abot using some kind of glove similar to that of the glove from 'Minority Report' That would seem to make nvigating it much easier

You don't get it (3, Funny)

truth_revealed (593493) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262856)

Three digits were turning to zero for God's sake! We're lucky to escape with our lives. Remember what happened to people in the year 1000? Of course not - because they did not adjust their computer code to handle Y1K and they all perished.

Re:You don't get it (2, Funny)

truth_revealed (593493) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262872)

See - just thinking of Y2K made me post to the wrong story.

Urgh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11262858)

If Jakob Nielson's useit.com [useit.com] is ever linked to again on Slashdot, I will add "127.0.0.1 slashdot.org" to /etc/hosts

Nielson is not the voice of usability. Most of his ideas are outdated and severely limit the possibilities that advances in technology have made possible. I would like all people with any interest in HCI or usability to question every one of the highly subjective (and questionable) "facts" that Nielson promotes.

The UseIt [useit.com] article is 6 years old. The advances in 3D desktops, screen resolutions and HCI devices have improved since then. Link value = 0 --Blade-Melbourne

And the CLI still rules... (1)

KiloByte (825081) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262878)

The GUI may be easier for a granny-type user, but face it, we still don't have anything better than the good old command line.

The pros and cons of a GUI are:
+ easier for a beginner
+ faster to use if you're not used to the program in question
- not scriptable
- memorized commands work faster than well-known menus
- you can't do anything that was not thought of by the coder

In other words, GUIs work only until the moment you begin to need to repeatedly do the same or similar tasks.

Re:And the CLI still rules... (1)

NardofDoom (821951) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262918)

My GUI is scriptable. Of course, I use a Mac.

Re:And the CLI still rules... (1)

lisaparratt (752068) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262957)

1) Funny, my Mac GUI seems fairly scriptable through AppleScript.

2) Memorised commands often take longer to type than the short sequence of keys required to navigate well known menus.

3) Unless the clever guys behind bash, zsh, or whatever have added an AI agent lately that programs for you, you can't do anything with a computer that hasn't been thought of by a programmer.

Re:And the CLI still rules... (2, Insightful)

KiloByte (825081) | more than 9 years ago | (#11263066)

1) is a valid point. The thing is, Macs are next to non-existant around here, and software developers like me simply have no choice.

2) One word. "alias".

3) Bash is Turing-complete, and if it's not enough, you can always extend it. I've once made a playlist by mpg123 `perl -e 'xxxxxxxx'` where xxxxxxx was around three screen lines long :p
On the other hand, show me an explorer.exe/KDE/whatever way to say "change all the filenames in this dir to lowercase". Or even "rename all these files from *.foo to *.bar".

Re:And the CLI still rules... (1)

lisaparratt (752068) | more than 9 years ago | (#11263141)

2) 3 words: "configurable hot keys"

3) That's irrelevant - it's not an inherant property of command lines, but of programming languages. As such, it can be achieved via the aforementioned AppleScript.

They can even be "written" graphically with tools such as the forthcoming Automator [apple.com] , which is just one in a long line of visual scripting tools.

Eventually (2, Interesting)

Bruha (412869) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262883)

Interaction with a computer will evolve to the point that we think and the computer picks it up. It's plausable that our very thoughts could someday be tuned in much like you can pick up someone's bluetooth network from a short distance away which leads to major privacy concerns. However if we become closer and more intergrated into machines with enhancements it could very well be that we give up on privacy for the benefits of group mind (What one knows all know).

Re:Eventually (1)

OblongPlatypus (233746) | more than 9 years ago | (#11263147)

Um... since when was the set of plausible things not a subset of the set of possible things?

Re:Eventually (1)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 9 years ago | (#11263233)

However if we become closer and more intergrated into machines with enhancements it could very well be that we give up on privacy for the benefits of group mind (What one knows all know).

We are the BORG. Prepare to be assimilated.

Natural Language (1)

odyrithm (461343) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262899)

Natural language, one of man's greatest achievements, even I'm no master.. command line employes natural language.. OK so why all this hype about the next best thing? if you ask me the command line *IS* the best thing.

Re:Natural Language (1)

lisaparratt (752068) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262986)

No, a command line does not employ natural language:

bash-2.05b$ could you find a picture of a dog and print it out, please?
bash: could: command not found

Re:Natural Language (1)

odyrithm (461343) | more than 9 years ago | (#11263172)

I ment Subset of Natural Language, or something to that degree.. meh

Still flawed, since there is no reference to OS/2 (3, Insightful)

lwriemen (763666) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262905)

Let's face it, without OS/2 there never would have been a Windows 95. Rising competition from OS/2 caused Microsoft to release a very cut down version of Cairo, and step up it's anti-competitive strong arming of IHVs and ISVs. Competition from Linux is the only reason stability has increased in Windows, and is driving MS to address security issues. Apple still has very little competitive influence, since it doesn't look to expand much outside of it's niche market. OS X was surgery to stop the bleeding, not a grab at extra marketshare.

Desktop Search? (4, Insightful)

ThosLives (686517) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262914)

For the life of me, I still can't quite figure out what all the hype is about desktop search.

I can understand the hype about searching for things on other folks' computers (such as on the internet) because I don't have a priori knowledge about where to find some information.

When I store things on my computer, however, I already (at some point) know where that bit of information is. I created my own "filing system" optimized for the way I think. You might say it's some sort of O(1) function to find something (now, navigating to that something might be a little more difficult). The human brain is way better about managing the location of objects than a computer (so far) in terms of retrieval.

Think about it: the word "search" connotes looking for something you either think or know exists somewhere, but you don't know where. If you know where something is, you don't search for it but just go and grab it.

Now, of course there are times when you haven't used something in so long that you might not remember where it is, and I can see how a search might come in handy for that. But if most people use computers like I use them, they use a small subset of the things on their computer very frequently, and the rest is archived away. I would have to say that less than 5% (that's a 95% confidence interval - it's probably way less than that) of my total computing experience (on my desktop) is spent on trying to find stuff.

Does anyone out there know how "desktop search" is supposed to improve the way I do work when most of the time I am either creating new data (programs, documents, etc.) for a specific purpose or playing games? Am I missing something about the power of "searching" in general?

Re:Desktop Search? (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 9 years ago | (#11263190)

### For the life of me, I still can't quite figure out what all the hype is about desktop search.

I for one have around one million files in my home directory alone, doing a simple 'find' on the filenames alone takes like 10-30mins, searching for file content is way bejoint was is tolerable for interactive use. A proper implemented desktop search on the other side could give me results in a fraction of a second.

Now how does this improve the work flow? Simple, ever tried to find some letter, email or whatever that you typed a few month ago? With a proper desktop search you could simply type-ahead your way directly to the email in a matter of seconds, without it you will have a half an hour trip throught all kinds of old data.

More importantly such a search will not only be usefull in case you 'lost' stuff, it might in addition to that also make it faster simply to reach stuff. No more clicking through multiple levels of directory structure, just type what you want and the computer will show it.

Due to the lack of desktop search on Linux I today tend to simply use google when I search for my stuff, sure only works for stuff that I have published on the net, but for those its way faster then trying to hunt down on my harddisk.

Re:Desktop Search? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11263235)

Futurenews today!: Efficient desktop search methods become the lifeblood of the computer industry as desktop storage capacities continue to increase exponentially. Now that each personal data center usually exceeds 100 terabyes of usable storage space and routinely includes copies of the Library of Congress, the history of Man, the life and medical history of immediate family members, as well as wireless recording capability for the daily life events we all prize so highly (to name a few), fast and organized retrieval of that data has become the next "big thing" in the desktop space.

2009/03/23 17:30 UT

Obligatory "Desktop Search" Troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11262921)

"Desktop Search" is for idiots who don't know how or are too lazy to organize their own damn data!

Even if you have a lot of data, if you can devise consistent schemes for organizing and take the little bit of personal effort to keep things up (it's not that hard, really), then you can find anything of yours pretty quickly.

Quicksilver (not the book) (1)

smartin (942) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262929)

For those of you with Macs, check out Quicksilver. I think this is the future of the command line, at least for most users. Quicksilver basically lets you type command lines from the UI. What you do is type Command-space and then a series of characters that narrows a seach of your machine. You can lauch programs, open files with the appropriate application, visit URLs and pretty much anything else via plugins. It doesn't completely replace the command line but it comes close.

Hardware vs software business (2, Insightful)

DrSbaitso (93553) | more than 9 years ago | (#11262949)

As the author points out, comparing Apple and MS isn't quite fair because MS is in the software business and Apple the hardware business (mostly). However, this is misleading:
Why would Apple want to switch from making $100 off the sale of a computer, to $10 off the sale of an OS? Their market- and mind-share would have to instantly increase by ten times just to break even on that move. Linux is downloadable for free -- why would any company deliberately compete with that? Even Microsoft is bailing out into other markets, as fast as it can.

The size of the profit (even if I believe his numbers) is irrelevant without considering both the number of units moved and the size of the profit margin. In MS' case, even if they are only making 10 bucks a copy on XP (which I highly doubt), the marginal cost to make it is like 50 cents, so they can essentially print money. However, he's right about the longterm viability of the operating system business; but if he doesn't think that Apple would switch places with MS from a pure business standpoint, he's wrong.

Flashing buttons - yuck! (1)

jemnery (562697) | more than 9 years ago | (#11263020)

From TFA:

"Make it easy to evaluate the current state of the system" ([1] p. 188). You can do that by providing feedback in the form of messages or flashing buttons.

I thought we'd finally got rid of horrible VB apps with coloured flashing buttons, and the dreaded BLINK tag on web pages! Is he suggesting we go back to this?

We will always have a command line! (1)

KennyP (724304) | more than 9 years ago | (#11263050)

It's for the old farts like me that grew up pre IBM PC. Hell - I'm pre-Apple ][e. My first PC was an OSI C1P, circa 1978. Graphics? Aren't that what the paper and my crayons are for?!?!?

We will always need to be able to access the underpinnings of any OS. I can't see OS's becoming so powerful that they are voice-only activated. The keyboard - for me, is still faster than speaking.

I refuse to manage our email cluster with a GUI. It's faster for me to TCB from the command line than it is to wait for X-Server to come up.

Kenny P.
Visualize Whirled P.'s

Re:We will always have a command line! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11263171)

The keyboard - for me, is still faster than speaking.

That's why in the near future fossils like you will be phased out for next generation of evolutionarily superior voice system operators: teen girls with cell phones.

Command shells could stand improvement (4, Interesting)

Junks Jerzey (54586) | more than 9 years ago | (#11263106)

I'm a die hard command line user, yes. I have no delusions about it always being better than a GUI--I use both--but I do a significant amount of work from the command line.

What's peculiar to me is how crusty and stale most command line environments have become. Most UNIX users swear by bash, which isn't even as nice as 4NT for Windows. Feels like there's a lot of room for improvement here. For example, how about capturing all of the output per command, then quickly allowing you to scroll through a list of previous commands and jump to its output? Or getting away from overly static command line windows and instead having something like a simple text editor, where you can move around in a "document" and press Enter at any time, with the output always appearing below it (some language interpreters work like this). And shell scripting languages are irrelevant these days, so a shell doesn't need to be bulked up with such commands. Just use Perl or Python (or whatever) for that sort of thing.

Note again, I'm not trashing the command line. I'd simply like to see it move forward.

Re:Command shells could stand improvement (1)

koreaman (835838) | more than 9 years ago | (#11263138)

Design it yourself :)

Make sure you send it to me when you finish

Be careful about using metaphores (2, Interesting)

dasunt (249686) | more than 9 years ago | (#11263126)

When comparing a industrial strength drill (hole-hawg:unix/linux) to a normal drill (consumer-drill:windows/mac) the commenter writes:

What's more powerful, a hole-hawg, or a five-speed consumer drill with large grips, a safety shut-off, and a built-in level? The hole-hawg, obviously. But which would you rather use to drill, say, five hundred chandelier mounts in a ballroom?

I have to go with the tool that has a good chance of drilling 500 mounts. I don't trust fancy consumer drills to survive drilling many large deep holes.

Which, I think, also applies to unix/linux. I don't get all misty-eyed and sniffly at the thought of using a shell and good ol' CHUI tools. Nope. I use them because they consistantly get the job done quicker and easier than other tools.

The problem is that a lot of these nifty tools are scary, in meatspace and in cyberspace. They also require some training before use -- a steep learning curve. Take a bolt extractor (looks like a very corsely threaded thich screw with a square end for the wrench). Hand one to the average person and they won't know what the hell its for. But with a little knowledge and another simple tool (a good drill and a bit for metal) its rather useful to take out a broken bolt. What about a cutting torch? Screw up, and you'll be seeing grandma and Elvis. Learn to use it correctly and you'll be able to remove a drum from a vehicle with rusted out brake hardware, or to cut through thick chunks of iron.

Are these tools a little macho? Perhaps some of them (cutting metal with fire is damn fun). But is that why these tools are in use? No, these tools are used because they get the job done.

I have money in the bank, and I spend enough time in front of a monitor to be able to justify the purchase of software tools if they were able to fulfill a need that OS tools could not (and a certain proprietary OS is an excellent software tool for running proprietary games).

This commenter reminds me of someone who got into OSS because OSS was "cool".

Imagine someone who decides that he'll learn vim because hackers use vi (or emacs). He looks at a cheat sheet, figures out what i, a, hjkl, and :wq does, and is content at being a "hacker" for the next six months. Afterwords, he discovers some nice commercial IDE and, sick of the lack of features he finds in vim, decides to go with the commercial IDE. After all, he knows that vim can't lookup man pages for functions, jump to a function declaration, change its indentation style, edit multiple files, integrate with compiler errors, or a host of many other things that the commercial IDE can do. He sits back convinced that those OS lusers are fooling themselves, the same way he fooled himself.

The Annotation has Degraded the Original (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11263168)

Stepehenson's original article was in many ways a dispassionate review of past history. Where it was particularly brilliant was in its insights into behaviour.

The annotation has added a lot of "Microsoft is Evil" commentary, while glossing over the past shortcomings of Apple. It detracts from the original.

Another example of entropy, I guess.

The ultimate UI (2, Interesting)

funkymonkjay (840915) | more than 9 years ago | (#11263175)

All this discussion made me think, what is the ultimate UI? An obvious answer is another human or humaniod. We will use all of our natural channels of communications, with negligible learning curve. Obviously such a system requires great break throughs in AI.

Ignorant young pups... (3, Funny)

RoboOp (460207) | more than 9 years ago | (#11263177)

Keyboards were for secretaries.
In the beginning there were a bank of switches.
AND WE LIKED IT LIKE THAT.

If you couldn't be bothered to translate the error codes from hex and look them up in the manual, who needed ya?

Now scram. It's grandpa's naptime.

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