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Open-Source Software and "The Luxury of Ignorance" 1471

Bootsy Collins writes "Using the recent experience of trying to configure CUPS on his home network, Eric Raymond has written an interesting new screed on poor design of user interfaces in general, and configuration interfaces in particular, in open source software, entitled The Luxury of Ignorance. A sample quote: 'This kind of fecklessness is endemic in open-source land. And it's what's keeping Microsoft in business -- because by Goddess, they may write crappy insecure overpriced shoddy software, but on this one issue their half-assed semi-competent best is an order of magnitude better than we usually manage.'"
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Open-Source Software and "The Luxury of Ignorance"

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  • by DRue ( 152413 ) <drue AT therub DOT org> on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:07PM (#8404143) Homepage
    Marketing. People think Macs don't work as well - not as much software, etc. It's just marketing - that's what Bill is good at, after all :)
  • by KingOfBLASH ( 620432 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:07PM (#8404145) Journal
    That's not necessarily true. Mandrake [] set up CUPS and just about everything else I've needed with no problems at all. It's all about what you're doing. For some programs under some distros you need to be a programmer to install and / or set them up. Under other distros, and with other programs, it can be a breeze. (Just look at how well Knoppix does!)
  • by jocknerd ( 29758 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:11PM (#8404191)
    I don't think its marketing as much as its lack of marketing by Apple. Sure, they are flooding the airwaves with iPod and iTunes commercials, but they have never run a commercial showing what OS X is capable of. Or iLife. Most people I talk to have no idea when it comes to Apple. They are amazed at how well the software is integrated together and that Microsoft Office can run on a Mac and that they can surf the internet as well. I get so tired of doing Apple's job for them. I really should send them an invoice for all of my PR work.
  • by contrasutra ( 640313 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:12PM (#8404193) Journal
    You mean a bunch of volunteers didn't always think about the (l)users and created a bad UI? Wow, none of us knew that!

    This problem does exist, and is being worked on. C'mon, just look at the GNOME Project. They have a whole team of UI designers working to make it better for the common man. I know ESR has been a big contributor to open source, but in this case: submit a patch or shut up. Identifying a problem we all know exists isn't that amazing.
  • Not only coders! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MikeCapone ( 693319 ) <skelterhell@yaOO ... inus threevowels> on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:14PM (#8404208) Homepage Journal
    It's true that the OSS community needs to beef up many area of the developpement process.

    Software isn't just about the code the same way that a car isn't just about the engine.

    For people to want to use it in the first place, to enjoy it once they've started using it and to stay with it, a "product" needs many qualities.

    This (often) explains why an inferior design can becomes the norm.

    So lets get cracking with artists, GUI/interface designers and and documentation writers!

    I will anticipate the "Well, why don't you do something! Where's the patch?" posts and answer:

    I'm doing what I can with the talents that I have (often amounts to writing suggestions to developpers, bug-reports, spreading the word on new stuff and donations).
  • Flame??? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by stephanruby ( 542433 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:22PM (#8404278)
    Initially, I was about to flame this guy and then I remembered. I still can't get my Linux box to print on a printer (through Samba).

    Either I can take his side and be called an idiot because I'm sure someone will claim to have an easy solution to my problem. That's what someone claimed the last time I mentioned I couldn't get MPlayer working and then of course the suggested solution didn't work. Or, I can stay out of the discussion entirely. I think I'll do the latter instead.

  • Yeah Yeah (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:29PM (#8404345) Homepage Journal
    Designing a user interface to your application, especially if it's just configuration of a back-end server is boring. Most of us are quite happy just to rattle out a simple parser for a simple config file whose sole jobs is to allow us as small a measure of flexibility as we absolutely need in order to get on with the interesting problem of the itch we're trying to scratch today.

    Why does Microsoft do GUI design better? Because if you pay a programmer a lot of money, he'll do whatever boring work you want him to. They may even have some folks who find GUI layout and design interesting.

    There's the problem. Anyone know how to make GUI programming more interesting?

  • by wibs ( 696528 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:32PM (#8404372)
    Every year on slashdot people say it'll be Linux's big year. Yes, that means next year people will say it too. It's partly because of this thinking like yours, that you need to be l33t to even touch the machine, that linux's big year hasn't happened yet. You follow "What is a non-technical user doing with Linux anyway?" with "I like to think of Linux as a sort of technical boot camp." So which is it? Is Linux the end-all of nerdom, or is it just an educational experience on the way to... what?

    The point is that a better UI isn't something that should be frowned on. Christ, I feel stupid for even having to say that.
  • by cicho ( 45472 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:34PM (#8404392) Homepage
    I don't know a general answer to your qauestion, but here's an anecdote. The first time I used a computer was in 1990, in a computer lab at a university in the US where I studied for some time. I needed to type up an essay, and I had never before so much as touched a computer keyboard.

    I entered the lab. To my right, a bank of smaller, friendly-looking Mac Classics (but I didn't know what they were). Menus, icons, mice. To my left, a bank of foreboding but somehow more powerful looking IBM ATs. Green screens with text-mode commands, one of which would launch WordPerfect 5.0. I had to make a choice, and a completely uninformed choice, mind. In really had no idea what was what there.

    I picked an IBM. Someone instructed me to press F3 for help and F7 to exit. I took it from there, and loved it. By the time I left, I must have known much of WordPerfect's help system by heart. I did try the Macs once or twice while there, but I went back to the IBMs every time. I wish I knew why, but I don't. Maybe theys looked more serious, more powerful. Maybe they adhered better to my uninformed mental image of what a computer was supposed to be like. Today I can list all sorts of reasons why I prefer one to the other, but it's mere rationalizing after the choice was made. I guess Macs looked too much like toys to me, while those text-mode DOS screens looked inscrutable, and hence they looked fascinating.
  • by uncleFester ( 29998 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:36PM (#8404403) Homepage Journal
    1 What is a non-technical user doing with Linux anyway? They need to crawl before they can walk.

    well, if you LATFA, you see as the second sentence...

    It has proved a textbook lesson in why nontechnical people run screaming from Unix.

    IOW, if you want to even think of competing with the windows world at the desktop level, you actually have to reduce to the brain-dead level of explanation, support or general UI practice.

    Even technical non-unix people struggle (a manager at work, skilled with Novell (stop laughing) is struggling a bit to learn linux.. and deadrat at that). if semi-competent people have some semi-major with what we, the unix-versed, understand (but may still be tasked by on occasion) how can we ever seriously expect Linux to prove its superiority at the joe-schmoe level?

    -'fester (aix/tru64/hpux/linux geek.. that's in paying order, mind you :)
  • Remember CML2? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Goonie ( 8651 ) * <> on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:40PM (#8404444) Homepage
    For those suggesting ESR should fix this himself, those of you with long memories might remember CML2, Eric's attempt to fix kernel configuration (for the purposes of compiling a kernel from source).

    The kernel configuration system back in 2.4 was crufty and not very user-friendly. So Eric decided to build a new system, CML2. It ended up not going in for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was probably a lot of people don't like him all that much. However, in that case he was practising exactly he is preaching here - making software easier for non-gurus to use.

  • indeed (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rebelcool ( 247749 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:41PM (#8404454)
    And a sure way to guarantee malfunctioning, piss poor quality code is to come in the middle of the project with little knowledge of the surrounding project.

    This is especially true if its a non-trivial piece of software. Several times new programmers have come into software packages I've been working on, don't bother to read the structural documentation or even the useful other code that serves as examples for how to improve and extend upon the existing structure.

    Instead they try and do things their own way, often end up doing things redundantly or breaking something else and just otherwise fouling more than they contribute.

    The best person to improve upon software is the person who designed in the first place! Or someone who's worked on it extensively enough to know the quirks, the reasoning behind non-obvious parts and knows the rest of package throughout.

    Telling a user to fix a poor piece of software is incredibly frustrating and lame to those of us who, god forbid, have other things to do in our lives.

  • by levl289 ( 72277 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:41PM (#8404456) Homepage
    I've held a fairly obvious view for a long time with regards to interface design (be it computer or otherwise):

    Unless you're working under a predefined framework, chances are, your design is going to differ from someone elses when you both attempt an identical solution.
    This isn't an answer on how to deal with this issue, as the answer(s) are everywhere, it's more of a thought process that keeps me from going crazy.
    How many times have you worked with a piece of software or hardware only to move on to another one that was similar in concept, but totally different in execution? It's gotten to the point that I've stopped trying to become an expert at everything, and simply want things to work (maybe I'm just getting older, and have less time and/or memory).
    Maybe that's why companies like Apple have a strong following, with a mantra of "it just works".

    The next time that Joe Administrator is getting cocky with "oh, you didn't know how to configure file XYZ for ABC", remember, they're just being programmed to use an arbitrary interface, thought up arbitarily by some designer.

    And that folks is why I'm working to get out of System Administration, and into programming ;)
    [end rant]
  • by Alpha27 ( 211269 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:41PM (#8404457)
    Unfortunately spliting the difference by coming to a shared comprimise doesn't always work either. There's the chance that one group is more right than the other group, and making a comprimise could end up making the software worse.

    As for a solution, maybe a dictatorship in terms of final word or a democratic vote will work. I just hope there are less forks of properly programs, because it usually ends in duplicated work that could have been better spent doing other things.
  • Re:In related news (Score:5, Interesting)

    by smittyoneeach ( 243267 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:44PM (#8404490) Homepage Journal
    A similar diatribe to ESR's could be written on trying to burn a backup DVD under RH9. Gave up; I just FTP my backup over to my Lose2003 box, where the driver worky-worky.
  • Because he's a USER (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:52PM (#8404546)
    If the user interfaces are so poor, why don't you help fix them? Instead of approaching this in a manner designed to piss people off and create enemies, why don't you say things like

    Why? Because he's a USER. Not a programmer. Developers have a responsibility to listen to their userbase. If you want market-share, then when your users say "I don't understand X", you DO NOT say "well, FINE, fix it yourself!" That is ENTIRELY the wrong attitude. ESR may be confrontational, but you're even more so.

    Why doesn't your approach work? Because they're simply going to walk away. Software is so complex these days that many people, even programmers, couldn't possibly contribute without investing a serious amount of time. Hmm, which is a better use of resources- 12 hours of a user messing around learning your functions, conventions, library calls etc(and probably introducing more bugs than features)- or 15 minutes for you to add the button yourself?

    I know -exactly- how he feels. Countless times I've found software that has a super-spiffy web page, touts how damn good it is to anyone who's reading- but you unpack the source and Jeeeeesuschriiiiiist you can't figure out which way is up- and I've been building and compiling unix packages for almost 10 years(when i was yer age, we had to edit makefile library paths ourselves! None of this automake...) Then, if you get it built, you run it and menus have confusing names, there's no help file, there are secret options nobody mentions that are in the ~/.myprogram directory, and so on.

    The mldonkey p2p client was an excellent example. The developers continuously worked on all sorts of weird theoretical schemes for this and that, while the userbase clamored for a manual(there was none), a description of what each setting did(ditto- the developers would cheerfully add some oddly-named option and not explain to ANYONE what it did), or for features that were common in other clients. Such as the ability to share a file without having to restart the client(shocking!) But hey, you got three different algorithms to pick from for how it managed sources for files. Yaaaay!

  • by The Pim ( 140414 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:56PM (#8404583)
    I think there's just something about printing that turns the minds of otherwise competent developers into applesauce. Printing on unix has been a quagmire for, what, decades? And yet what is it besides 1) converting a document from a standard format to a printer-specific format, 2) sending the document to the device, and 3) (which is really gravy) getting a bit of status back. As ESR says, it's not rocket science.

    My recent experience was trying to print to an inkjet connected to a windows machine. Since it was remote, I decided I didn't need a spooler, so I didn't install cups. Instead, I found foomatic, which is supposed to cut through the many layers of drivers in one slice. Through no efforts (reading several confusing and inconsistent tutorials) could I get foomatic to produce a file in my printer's format. Nor did it give me intelligible error messages. I finally posted to the main list at (lp.general); but in the weeks I've been subscribed, I've not seen a single useful reply to anyone's question!

    Oh, I finally got the printer working. I just have to run gs -DSAFER -sDEVICE=ijs -sIjsServer=ijsgimpprint -sDeviceManufacturer=EPSON -sDeviceModel='escp2-c82' -sOutputFile=out -DNOPAUSE -- , and send the result with smbclient.

  • by darketernal ( 196596 ) <joshk@BOHRtriple ... minus physicist> on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:58PM (#8404597) Homepage
    ... a decent try at best. At first glance it alienates me a _LOT_ less than lprng, which is fully managed with an arcane /etc file that lists configuration directives in no particular order.

    But that doesn't mean that CUPS is all peaches and roses. I had to discover what `foomatic' was in order to figure out how to extract a driver for my Epson Stylus C42UX from a large xml file. Its wizard to create the printers was rather friendly, although a belaguering dropdown box full of stuff I didn't have asked me where my printer was. Luckily it identified itself as USB PRINTER #1 (EPSON C42) so I could choose that - but most wouldn't have the slightest idea of what to choose and just stare at the screen glaze-eyed...

    Really, all I wanted to do was print a school assignment. I fully agree with esr on this issue. This whole CUPS ordeal should have taken me 10 minutes, not 10 hours (on and off) to get working. And it still doesn't fully work, for example with printing to a SAMBA host.

    But CUPS is the best we've got for Unix now. Isn't that sad?
  • by Uggy ( 99326 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:59PM (#8404606) Homepage
    It takes a real man-geek to admit "issues" when installing new software or configuring devices. He loses points for his longish rant though.

    However, I found myself nodding in affirmative at EVERY single step he took during his trouble shooting. I made a lot of the same assumptions (wrongly). The funniest was when he finally figured out he had to configure the server machine to broadcast, and then he couldn't connect to it. HAHA, it took at least 15 minutes of loud swearing for me to figure out how to configure the &*#&#((#&$&^ /etc/cups/cupsd.conf file.

    You know you're in trouble when the first like in the man page is RTFM.

    I swear, if I have to configure another CUPS network, I'll go postal. It works... ssssh, don't touch it, and speak in hushed tones when in the vicinity.
  • Re:My experience (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MarcQuadra ( 129430 ) * on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:05PM (#8404653)
    I agree, but I think someone needs to integrate CUPS and a driver database, hook it into the USB libraries and get a 'plug and play' printing system up and running in Linux. I want to plug a printer in and have it JUST WORK. Leave the advanced stuff to the advanced users.

    I consider myself a serious geek, but I don't have TIME to fiddle with the lame shit like configuring printing or ALSA.

    Now, I DO have to print, and I learned the CLI stuff to get my printer working (and it's a beautiful thing, BTW) but most people lack that initiative. Back when I was a Mandrake and RedHat (read: n00b) user I encountered a lot of dumb shit, I would go to 'add a printer' and end up reading cryptic error messages about libraries and not getting the simple stuff done.
  • by nicfit ( 25347 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:05PM (#8404655) Homepage
    Let's be honest, all the GUI Wizard issues have nothing to do with CUPS, right? They are part of the Fedora Admin/Setup GUIs and we're likely written by Red Hat. -nicfit
  • Re:In related news (Score:5, Interesting)

    by black mariah ( 654971 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:06PM (#8404665)
    Being pretty doesn't make it USABLE, and being ugly doesn't make in UNUSABLE. I was messing with fetchmailconf one day and had everything configured rather quickly. I had no previous fetchmail experience going in, and was pretty new to Linux in general. Usable, but ugly.
  • by BigBadBri ( 595126 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:11PM (#8404693)
    Don't know about fonts, but *nix printing has always been a royal PITA, even for experienced admins.

    If CUPS makes printer setup/management even one iota more transparent, then good on them.

    Raymond is right, though - things like enabling the print queue broadcast should be asked when installing a local queue, and the default behaviour should be to display available queues on the network when adding a new printer.

    To make it on the desktop, Linux has to become as easy as Windows, because most people would rather shell out a couple of hundred (insert currency here) than have to think about making what is after all only a tool do what they want it to.

    I don't mind - I like to tinker, and I like to know how things do what they do. But I'm not Joe User, and it's Joe User who needs to be convinced.

  • by CMoZ ( 733735 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:12PM (#8404701)
    so there are examples both ways. BUT! if ease of use was not a factor then why did it take so long to export all those jobs to India ..... ANSWER! because it's EASY to do it now it's EASY to make people think they're talking to someone local and route the call to India it's the ease of use that sells. Ease of use usually means $$$ in the long run anyways so Easier is cheaper as well
  • by Felinoid ( 16872 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:12PM (#8404703) Homepage Journal
    I know your joking but some people actully think this way so:

    1. We are trying to increase Linux popularity and that is really cool BUT there are still quite a few people that aren't ready for Linux or better put Linux isn't ready for them.

    On this note I'd like to know why people expect a non-technical os when using Linux. By the compaints I'd say many people who try Linux do so just so they can badmouth it.
    The worst excuse ever was "I'm not a geek and I don't want people to think of me as a geek".
    First: If you can confuse the diffrence between software tools and fassion statements your a geek.
    Second: Who cares what software you use?.. outside geeks and os zellots and you'll never win with those.

    Using Windows won't make you sexyer than using Linux.
    PS. Be affrade I've actually got hit on based on my Os prefrence of Linux.. People just assume that means I'm smart. I'm not smart.

    3. Read The Fing Manual before calling tech support...

    5. I like to think of Linux as a cheap MCSE. People mistake me for knowing computers just becouse I use Linux and I don't have to fork it over for a cheap peace of paper.
    PS: I kid.. I'm a Linux Certified Admin ok? I'm not a Techno n00b. But it's not as hard to learn as some seam to think. I know a pair of kids who both learnned Linux before they were 9 and they both have quite a bit to learn before they can consider themselfs computer experts.
  • Re:Bah (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rlk ( 1089 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:15PM (#8404716)
    Sorry, this is one that Eric Raymond should have researched a bit more. Not because the interface he's talking about is any good, but because he's firing at the wrong target, as others have pointed out. I wouldn't expect someone who doesn't know Linux to figure this out, but Eric should have been able to tell the difference between a Red Hat hack and CUPS proper (at least the localhost:631 web interface).

    While I haven't used it myself, the number of complaints about it on the forums (vs. the lack of complaints about Mandrake, SuSE, etc. in this regard) suggests that there's a problem. From my standpoint this is a real nuisance, since a lot of the people blame Gimp-Print for their problems (reasonably enough from their perspective -- I don't blame them for that). However, ESR should know better, and should be able to pick his targets more accurately.
  • by ElderKorean ( 49299 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:16PM (#8404720)
    Recent ASUS motherboard in computer at work. Plug a device into one of the soundcard ports, brings up a dialog box that checks you've plugged when you have into the right hole, and gives you option to work the way that you've done it, or to unplug and reuse the correct hole.

    Saved pulling the computer out from under desk as I accidently used the wrong hole (found it by feel) then I knew what I'd done wrong.
  • by hondo77 ( 324058 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:25PM (#8404794) Homepage

    Well, if ease-of-use is paramount, why aren't Macs more popular?

    Why aren't Porsches more popular?

  • apparently... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ajagci ( 737734 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:29PM (#8404818)
    ESR has little experience with configuring printers under Windows. It can be an absolute nightmare: networked printers are installed by making them local printers and then entering an IP address for the port number, local printers plugged into USB fail to be recognized, you have to select from zillions of nearly identical printer models, etc.

    The way Aunt Tillie gets this to work on Windows is that she calls up Johnny, the good little nerd, treats him to her chocolate cookies, and has him suffer through this problem.

    CUPS itself, for all its internal messiness, can easily presented with a better UI: Apple is using CUPS for OSX (even Apple's GUI is somewhat confusing for non-geeks), and how easy or difficult printer installation is on Linux depends more on the distribution and the UI it has chosen than on whether you use CUPS or LPRNG. CUPS also comes with an internal GUI (web-based) that is semi-decent.

    Sounds like the distribution ESR uses (RedHat?) has a bad printer installation GUI, one that actually is worse than what CUPS comes with; he should complain to his distribution vendor--that has nothing to do with CUPS or OSS.

    I understand the frustration with a lot of OSS GUIs, but in my experience, Windows GUIs are no better, and often worse.
  • by obeythefist ( 719316 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:33PM (#8404845) Journal
    Exactly, if MS engineers and QA guys decided that all they had to do was design an OS and a UI that *they* could understand, they'd end up with something very similar in look and feel to Linux, and it would probably be almost as fragmented. It might not be as good as Linux under the hood, but then if MS had the same UI as Linux did, it would have died out to Apple or OS/2 or just about anything else back in '95.
  • by donnz ( 135658 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:34PM (#8404855) Homepage Journal
    All developers miss the point in my experience. However, I think ER is shooting off at a straw man applying this solely to the OSS community.

    My recent experience with Mandrake 9.1 and 9.2 on two computers were an exemplorary experience in point and click installs. DVD Player, digital camera, modem, video card office network, printer, you name it it all seemed to go. Email, office tools spell checker (non-US non-German) works.

    I am sure I could have gotten into trouble if something had not been recognised or I hit the wrong button or was trying to get a printer server running. In that case I would have done what I used to do when Windows stuffed up - asked an expert.
  • Re:In related new (Score:2, Interesting)

    by GAVollink ( 720403 ) <gavollink AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:37PM (#8404879) Homepage Journal
    I will admit that I'm looking at this from the perspective of the article. There are few total dead ends. Yes, the fact that the dialogs don't follow an established STANDARD does hurt the usability, but I don't think that they are BAD, unless you are absolutely trained to the [Windows/KDE/Gnome/Mac] way of doing things.

    So, I'll concede that they are not the best examples of usability, but I do think that they avoid all of the points that the article was ranting about.

  • by eco2geek ( 582896 ) <> on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:40PM (#8404904) Journal
    (Just look at how well Knoppix does!)

    The funny thing to me about ESR's rant is that I tried running Knoppix [] 3.x (it's a version of Debian that runs entirely off of CD) on my computer and my wife's computer at the same time, and, lo and behold, her laser printer showed up in KDE's Printing Manager on my computer automagically. (The two computers are networked through a router.) I didn't have to lift a finger. So either Klaus Knopper, who put Knoppix together, made sure it was configured correctly, or the version of Debian he used was configured correctly.

    Actually, the advent of CUPS made printing on Linux much easier. I remember trying to get LPRng working on an older version of Red Hat with absolutely no success. (There was this nice GUI-based printer setup wizard that evidently did less than was necessary.) Fortunately CUPS had just come out, and it worked with my inkjet.

    (Of course, Aunt Tillie isn't going to know how to download, unarchive, compile, make, and "make install" CUPS.)

    - e2g

  • Re:In related new (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ealar dlanvuli ( 523604 ) <> on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:42PM (#8404914) Homepage
    Yes, the fact that the dialogs don't follow an established STANDARD does hurt the usability, but I don't think that they are BAD.

    Yes, that is pretty much the definition of a bad GUI program.
  • Re:In related news (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:47PM (#8404950)
    That being said, I wonder why he doesn't port xemacs himself.

    Because he's a has-been. That's provided he ever was. They threw out the code base he helped write when they released Mozilla because the old Netscape codebase was a total loss. So what does he have to his name? xscreensaver? The screensaver that by default has modes that distort your screen instead of concealing it so people can view your screen while you are away.
  • by ( 410908 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:49PM (#8404963) Journal
    Please just remember that part...

    I happen to have recently installed a Laserjet on my gf computer, and it's Win2000, and the whole process took me 5 minutes (1 config failure, 5 seconds of intensive neuronal action and then the right click on the right button)

    I simply used KDE printing tool that came with the nice Knoppix-Cluster cd, and took 5 seconds before hitting buttons.

    Also, please remember :

    COMPUTER WEREN'T MADE FOR PEOPLE !!! Computers were made for experts in companies, the fact that windows is "easy to use" (damn, it hurts !) or even "intuitive" (I actually wrote that ?) has been the main cause of problems, because the configuration was a "One-Size-Fits-All" solution.

    => Most Windows computer are configured almost all the same, default, and so more or less all exposed to the same problems. They work "perfectly" (my hands start shaking) as long as everything is in the "Normal Scope" (everything open and accessible from anywhere, except if you change it, which users don't)

    => Microsoft made 2000 and XP. One is clearly a server Os, where even access to cdwriter for users has to be configured by hand. Many things are accessible, but you have to RTFM a bit and you can get it almost secure (MS notwhistanding)

    XP, on the other hand, is a nice "plug-and-play" thingy with lotsa grease and help so that even Aunt Milly can do it herself (or pester her nephew/son/grandson, as in the 99.99% of real life cases)

    You want an easy to use OS ? get a playstation.
    You want a desktop computer that just works ? get XP.
    You want a hard, rugged and stable server ? get linux.
    You want a nice Linux desktop easily running in no time ? be ready to lose most of your security, or wait some more time... MS had 20 years to learn how an UI should look, and they do extensive usability tests, have specialists, teams, and so on dedicated to the problem.

    It will come in time, but Linux wasn't thought for the desktop, so the transition will take some time. The poor guys making cups did an excellent job as the server works 100% (for me). If you dislike the UI, please follow usual Open source procedure :
    1 / Email the dev and tell him (gently) what's wrong in your opinion and what should be done. If he has the time, he'll fix it. (99% of real life cases ?)
    2 / DO IT YOURSELF AND STOP COMPLAINING FOR CHRIS'SAKE !!! you are a guru Linux wizard, so get emacs runing and do your conf files, or write a better UI.

    Ahh ! No point in this post, but I somehow feel better 8)

    Linux is about choice and RTFMing : always had, server-side, never will, desktop-side...

    If Users knew how to do it, they would be sysadmins...
  • by sydsavage ( 453743 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @12:04AM (#8405047)
    I've tried to configure CUPS. I don't feel so bad about the lack of particular success now that I've heard of Eric Raymond's troubles. This is one project that might benefit from someone forking it and developing interface tools that allow it to work without being such a bane.

    I too have struggled through a configuration of CUPS, coupled with samba printer sharing for windows users no less. A couple weeks later, when OS X 10.3 came out, I was amazed at what Apple had done for a front end to CUPS. It's extremely intuitive, and a vast improvement to previous OS X printer configuration schemes.

    It would be really nice if Apple's config utilities were released back to the open source community.

  • Are you saying... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by rmdyer ( 267137 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @12:11AM (#8405090)
    ...that the only reason Linux continues to exist is because of Linus'es maniacal grip on one kernel version and what goes into it?

    So...just thinking to myself, um, what happens if Linus is...snuffed out? ;)

  • by EvilTwinSkippy ( 112490 ) <[yoda] [at] []> on Friday February 27, 2004 @12:13AM (#8405098) Homepage Journal
    Dictatorships work, so long as we all agree what the end result would be.

    Hence why a gaggle of volunteers can put together and enterprise-worth OS in their spare time.

    Unfortunately, pure R&D is never that clean. You often don't know in what direction a new technology is going to take you. In WWII, the answer both the Axis and the Allies had was to simply fund everything that had a glimmer of a chance, and research everything in parallel. Sure there were a lot of failures, but you also got a lot of radically different and paradigm changing designs. It is the era the brought us Jet powered aircraft, RADAR, cruise missiles, liquid fueled rockets, nuclear weapons, SONAR, and electronic computers. And that's ignoring massive new understanding in industrial production, chemistry, and materials.

    When designing something new and unprecidented, you have to play the field and try alternatives. More productive than a complete fork would be to simply try an idea at a time, and fold the best of breed back into a common reference build.

    Oh wait, the Linux kernel guys already do that. The wiley hackers!

  • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @12:28AM (#8405203) Journal
    Most of us don't have the time

    So? Are people without indebt knowledge of unix worth more or something? You see the problem is that you don't have the time to learn linux BUT we don't have the time to teach you or to write tools that we don't need just to hold your hand.

    There are basically two groups in the linux camp, those who want linux to rule the desktop and server market and those who couldn't give a hoot. When you say you prefer Windows I personally couldn't care less. It is no different then saying you prefer coffee and I prefer tea. If you then go complaining how you really don't like all that caffeine in it or how the coffee bean growers are treated then I will just shrug.

    Just stop trying to turn my tea into coffee.

    Elitist? You bet. May be a dirty word to some but I wear it with pride. If you want windows then run windows. Good luck getting microsoft to listen to your complaints. Opensource can't really be of service to you. By geeks for geeks. Go ask the people who want linux on every desktop. They have the agenda they should give you the code.

  • by jp10558 ( 748604 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @12:38AM (#8405255)
    Yeah, when you have "computer people" who don't want to take the time to mess with Linux cause it is a bigger pain than windows to get to do anything, then you can understand why the average user won't use it.

    I'm a pretty computer savvy person. I'm in my 4th year of college in CIS, and I have taken Sysadmin classes using Linux exclusevly. I have bulit my own computers and computers for other people. I've done networking with routers in Internetworking Classes. I've even done some programming.

    Compared to the average user, I'm the person they come to when something breaks on their computer.

    I loved Redhat Linux for running DNS servers in class, it was great for a mail server or FTP server. It was great for scripting. It was fast, and stable - the multiple user features were head and showlders above home windows offerings in my experiances.

    I don't use Linux at home. I've tried, multiple times, multiple distros. It is simply TOO MUCH TROUBLE. I don't want to fight through dialog boxes that don't seem to do anything after I hit apply. I don't want to deal with install issues, like how do I install this today? I recently played around with mandrake 9.2 I believe. This time I didn't want to totally dual boot etc, so I was using VMWare. I don't know if this is a VMware problem, or a linux problem, but let me tell you - Windows 98 virtual machine... click on file in VM ware, and install VMware tools... bam standard windows installer in the virtual machine, and bam, done, installed. I still haven't gotten the linux script to work right. I've given up. I've since heard that maybe I don't need to install that anyway cause newer versions have automatic support for VMWare.

    The point of my rant there is that until software vendors and developers come up with a clear consistant UI, with things like install programs that you can double click on in KDE and have work,I don't see linux catching on on the desktop.

    The sad thing is I like to play around with linux - to keep up with what's happening, and to stay in *nix mode for servers.

    But when I need to get some classwork done, like write a paper or do a spreadsheet, or when I want to play online - I use WinXP. It's just easier.
  • by EvilTwinSkippy ( 112490 ) <[yoda] [at] []> on Friday February 27, 2004 @12:45AM (#8405295) Homepage Journal
    I won't call you lame, or quitter, or anything like that.

    Though for the record, I had a much easier time configuring Gentoo to play with my Vaio than I ever did with XP. (Sure the new models come with XP, but try upgrading one of the ME models.) I also buy parts that fit Linux rather than fit Linux to the parts I buy.

    Not out of laziness, out of experience. (That $10 I tried to save on too many occasions cost me more than that in time, effort, and components thrown against blunt objects.)

    It's funny. You run cygwin to provide a Linux envirnment under Windows. I run Win4lin to provide a Windows environment under Linux. If the tools work, who cares HOW it's running or what it's running on.

    That is the true meaning of enlightenment.

  • Re:In related news (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27, 2004 @12:50AM (#8405320)
    More fun : Interface Hall of Shame []
  • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @12:55AM (#8405353) Journal
    Opensource is written by geeks for geeks. What people forget this is NOT "by geeks for OTHER geeks" but more "by Joe the geek for Joe the geek and if anyone else finds it helpfull then that is nice". Read the original usenet post on the linux kernel for the perfect example.

    But of course that doesn't sit well with those who have an agenda to get Linux to fight their crusade. Or even worse to get them to not to have to pay Microsoft anymore.

    But it is a sign of the time we life in. Give someone dying of a heart attack in the street CPR and they will sue you if you break a rib. Write an excellent printer sharing protocol and people will only bitch about how they need to read the manual.

    Opensource doesn't just work with developers on one side and users on the other. If it is going to work then we need manual writers, forum guru's, gui designers, beta testers, patch submittrs.

    Users are like customers. MS loves customers because they pay. Opensource is free. What do we care how many customers we have? 1 * $0 is the same as 1000 * $0 but it costs a hell of a lot more to have 1000 people asking stupid questions.

    Rant: Old saying is there are no stupid questions only stupid answers. This was true before the invention of the net. Read any forum and you will see time and time again the same question being asked because the asker can't be bothered to first look. Then they will bitch that noone helps them. Obviously their time is more important then everyone elses. Recently saw the worst of all. 9 pages down a ***** said "I am not going to read all those pages give me the answer". ARGH!

    End rant.

  • we don't have the time to teach you or to write tools that we don't need just to hold your hand.

    Those who want free software to become widespread on computing novices' home computers need those tools. J. Random Hacker may not need those tools on her own desktop, but she needs those tools on somebody's desktop. If those tools are on somebody's desktop, then PC vendors may start to pre-install a free operating system, and the peripheral vendors may become more likely to cooperate with developers of device drivers for free operating systems. Bottom line: By making free software easy to use for people who buy peripherals, JRH would ultimately benefit from a larger selection of affordable peripherals that work with free operating systems.

  • Re:Dream system (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:22AM (#8405517)
    You just described Mac OS X.

    A Mac is *already* a Mac on the front end and *nix (or BSD) underneath. You should check it out. Go into Applications\Utilities on an OS X machine and open the Terminal.

    The next thing you'll see is a bash prompt.
  • by rsheridan6 ( 600425 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:33AM (#8405571)
    That's still a lot better than CUPS. At least you didn't have to become root, read files in /etc, guess which options to change, and restart the CUPS server from the command-line. My experiences with CUPS, and Linux printing in general, are the most harrowing I've had with computers.
  • by tim pickering ( 6930 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:36AM (#8405583) Homepage
    here's my experience with setting up a HP Color LaserJet 4600:

    win 2k/XP - find way to add printer->select local printer->turn off probe for PnP printers->create new port->select standard tcp/ip port->enter printer ip number->click custom device type and then settings->click raw protocol and enter port 9100->enter printer driver info->click a few more next/finish buttons->print test page

    linux (RH9 & FC1) - go to system settings->go to printing->enter root password->click forward->enter desired name and description->select networked jetdirect->type in printer hostname->click on printer manufacturer and then model->click finish and then print test page

    OS X - go to the printer configuration utility and find the printer already detected, configured, and set to be the default

    sure, the linux config could be worded somewhat more intuitively, but windows is a complete disaster for any non-SMB networked printer. the whole having to select 'local printer' to do it is just hysterical. at least linux refers to it as networked.... my only real niggle so far with the RH/fedora printer config tool is that the sharing properties are hidden under the Actions menu and it doesn't let you configure sharing on a per queue basis.

    that all said, the rendezvous support in the HP printer is pretty damn sexy. any mac on the network sees it automatically and understands everything it can do. that's the way it's supposed to be. once i enabled the printer's CUPS support, then the linux boxes were almost there, too. poor windows users still need to go through that long drill, though....

  • by Air-conditioned cowh ( 552882 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:42AM (#8405627)
    "If they were really smart (like, say, Mac programmers) they'd leave the impossible choices in but gray them out, signifying..."

    Greying out menu items is one area open source can actually surpass Mac OSX and Windows. When I try and use a new desktop app I have never used before I am always puzzled why some menu options are greyed out. Everything else I find intuitive. Greyed out items confuse me.

    Why is is greyed out? How do I get to it? Why can't I get to it now?

    What would be really nifty is some tool-tip text saying something like "This menu item is only available when you are in xyz mode."

    Am I the only one who experiences this difficulty?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:46AM (#8405646)
    OSDL is possibly the one organization that could help various projects test their usability. It would be expensive, and we would really need to squeeze large corporations like IBM, Novell/SuSE and Oracle to provide some serious funding. Perhaps the reason they don't is because the developers could still simply ignore suggestions or demands for improvements. Of course, perhaps the major distributions could choose not to include programs that don't meet some minimal level of usability or conform to one of the guidelines listed above. That might provide some incentive.
  • by deadfly ( 39238 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:54AM (#8405683)
    I'm a grain farmer. I don't know the first thing about programming anything and didn't have a computer until Windows 95. My tractor was built in 1967. I'm not even close to being a techie kind of guy, but I had zero trouble getting CUPS going and I kind of liked the GUI setup tool.

    Actually I've never had any trouble getting printing going on linux and I've been using linux since RH 4.2. I never did upgrade from windows95, don't like it. Might boot windows two, three times a year now max.
  • by shellbeach ( 610559 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:14AM (#8405770)
    We blow this stuff off because we want to make it workable for those smart enough to deserve to enjoy it then quickly move on to the Next Great Thing that Needs to be Made Now. We Peter principle ourselves out of making a real headache for MS, which is something we (ostensibly?) want.

    Speak for yourself. The (open source) code I write is written for first and foremost for myself. I'm open to suggestions and feature requests, and even more so to patches, but I'm not going to go out of my way thinking about how to make it fit to the lowest common denominator of users.

    Note: it's not because I'm trying to specifically exclude stupid users, it's just that it takes a hell of a lot more work to create a dumbed-down interface, and that these type of interfaces often make things slower ... and I'd imagine many other OSS coders feel the same way.

    Mind you, I should also add that I have never had the aim of "making a real headache for MS" when programming, and I think that that is a terrible reason for writing code.
  • by tehdaemon ( 753808 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:17AM (#8405783)
    The thing to notice here is how far behind we have left Aunt Tillie. Rule 1 of writing software for nontechnical users is this: if they have to read documentation to use it you designed it wrong. The interface of the software should be all the documentation the user needs. You'd have lost the non-techie before the point in this troubleshooting sequence where a hacker like me even got fully engaged.

    I have some quibbles with this. Mostly it is correct, but I think that it needs fleshing out. First, Command line. Half the time I need to poke around in the man pages to find out what the command I want is called. And when the program spits out an error, like 'you must specify --sign for raw data type' (happened to me today, flac, never used it before, piping data to it from sox) you need to poke into the man pages to learn that --sign is either signed or unsigned , not yes or no etc. Printing all of the options in the error can make error messages way to big. I think the answer here is: command line programs are not for the non-technical, and they are not 'esoteric' Opinions welcome.

    Second, frequently, things are too complecated for the interface to be the full documentation. CUPS is actually a good example of this. CUPS does a lot of stuff, and has tons of options. The interface would look more like a man page than an interface if you took this too far. What the interface should do, and this was mentioned in the rant, is lead the user to the parts of the documentation that he needs to read to do what he wants. And it should be clear from the start just what the user needs to do to sart doing to do the job. CUPS miserably fails at this as the rant points out. Flac did not fail. I had to read the man page, but it told me specifically what I needed to look at. (does the author consider the help screens that CUPS gave to be part of the interface, or the documentation? assuming they had helped of course!)

    On the whole, I agree with this article, but this rule needs some qualifiers, because as stated, it will make GUI interfaces unusable for anyone, including the non-techie people.

    I ran into the same issue with CUPS, and never got it to work.I gave up and just print to a .ps file, and use smbclient to actually print it! Maby with these pointers I can get it to work.....

    "We blow this stuff off because we want to make it workable for those smart enough to deserve to enjoy it then quickly move on to the Next Great Thing that Needs to be Made Now."

    This has to do with psycological personality types. google for INTP and INTJ (the two most common geek types) INTP in particular gets bored with something as soon as they have it figured out. ( I am an INTP BTW)

  • by 0x0d0a ( 568518 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:18AM (#8405788) Journal
    Look. I love the UNIX printing system. It's a real pain in the ass to configure things, but it's also terribly powerful.

    I've used LPR and then LPRng. I get network transparency, ability to batch-print easily (this is *not* trivial...try printing out hard copies of 200 source files pretty printed in Windows). I can manage print queues.

    The thing is, UNIX printing systems are usually lots of little parts cobbled together with some scripts that vary from distro to distro, and then a config GUI that the distro maintainer puts out. The UNIX printing world is terribly disorganized compared to most other things in the UNIX world.

    Can you identify the function of and tell the difference between all of these? LPR, LPRng, CUPS, gimp-print, foomatic, Omni, gnome-print, printman, printtool, desktop-printing, enscript, a2ps, ghostscript, pna2ppa, samba, hpoj, gsview, gv, ps2ps, ggv, redhat-config-printer, printconf, and mpage. All of these printing-related utilities and more have been on my system in the last few years. Keep in mind that I don't even use KDE, and that most distros vary the choice of what to use and you have an interesting set of knowledge to amass. The different print spoolers have different auth systems and config formats.

    On the other hand, I have an old Apple LaserWriter without enough memory to print much of anything. I salvaged it when my old university threw it out. I hooked it up, and started cobbling together bits into a print filter. Sure, it took some doing and learning, but when I was done, all pages on the printer were rendered on the computer (where all the RAM in the world was available), converted to a bitmap and compressed, and sent in an embedded postscript file to the printer. On Windows I would have been simply SOL.

    So, I'm not sure that an all-in-one system would be great. I *do* think that the printing situation could be cleaned up a lot, that the distros *really* need to get together and standardize on an interface (if you want to differentiate yourselves, please don't do it on something as basic as printing, which is a huge impediment to office use everywhere), and that it'd be nice to have some degree of autodetection of intelligent defaults (After a click on "add printer", "You have a Model Foobar attached. The proper driver is being selected.")
  • No wonder (Score:3, Interesting)

    by miffo.swe ( 547642 ) <> on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:24AM (#8405814) Homepage Journal
    Software is bound to be hard to use as long as the developers is making their interfaces. Its also very easy to be blinded since you work on the application a long time and you think things are easy because they are logical to you. KISS is not enough, there need to be a layer of logic ontop of the application in most cases, shielding the user from the computer logic and making things make sense.

    Perhaps its time to invite designers into the developing process?

    That said i dont really agree with Eric Raymond. I work as an admin all day and i more often find Windows harder to use than linux. Windows is very quirky and backwards in so many levels. Try installing a TCP/IP printer in Windows XP and you get the picture, not something for the mere mortals. Linux is in my opinion better than Windows but there are room for improvement. I dont think people should embrace usability Wizard style like windows. Make the apps easy enough from the start instead so you wont need a wizard to be able to do your stuff ey?
  • The truth (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MantiX ( 64230 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:29AM (#8405841)
    The truth is, that despite the intensity of the point, the point still holds truth. I love linux, I have used it for almost 10 years now, and have done everything from kernel hacking, to my own C programming etc.

    However, what began as an enthusiasts project, became an essential part of my work, has now become to some degree tiresome, and laboured. It's simply because binary distribution and configuration designs between OS's varies so much, that it becomes difficult to release software that easily integrates into ANY environment. Permeatations on OS's means many more for the software.

    However, it is up to successful programmers to fix this, and trust me, if it can happen, it will happen with linux, and open source, if not demonstrated by the current wave of self booting, nice looking Linux distro's, the installation menu's these days, etc....sure it needs more work, but it will have it shortly.

    Just think of the next wave of Linux Distro's in 12 months time, how much easier even still they will be to use, install or download software.

    Now imagine 24 months.

    Now compare that to Longhorn?

    Microsoft knows it's coming....
  • by zangdesign ( 462534 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:43AM (#8405885) Journal
    It would be really nice if Apple's config utilities were released back to the open source community.

    If they just gave it back, then what would be the point of owning an Apple computer? By creating the extra value, they are able to charge a pretty penny for it and justify their existence. For that part of it, at least, they are fulfilling the promise of open-source: a level playing field for everyone that they add their own particular brand of value to.
  • Re:KDEPrint not CUPS (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 0x0d0a ( 568518 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:45AM (#8405893) Journal
    This is great for the advanced user but it floods the general user with too many choices.

    I've never agreed with this philosophy.

    Do what ESR did with fetchmailconf. Make all the options available. Just have the ability to autodetect everything you can. You don't need to hide options (this is a hugely irritating factor of Windows wizards), you just need to have intelligent defaults and good autodetection, so that things can work pretty much out of box.
  • Re:In related news (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:55AM (#8405930)
    Wrong. Statistically people who look good looking user interfaces report the usability of interface being better.

    This isn't of course real usability but because people make (their buying) decisions based on their own feelings about usability (and many other things) having good looking interface is important.

  • by BigBlockMopar ( 191202 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:58AM (#8405942) Homepage

    A similar diatribe to ESR's could be written on trying to burn a backup DVD under RH9. Gave up; I just FTP my backup over to my Lose2003 box, where the driver worky-worky.

    No, no! The driver works *perfectly*, it's just that it requires correct entry of hardware parameters in one of the assembly language sources! Yeesh! Don't blame the hard-working open-source developer for your MCSE-like lack of computer knowledge!

    Seriously, though, I'm so glad to see ESR ranting about the state of userland GUI stuff. I've been doing it for a while [], but it's often dismissed as a FUD campaign by people who don't like what I'm saying.

  • by bonch ( 38532 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @03:27AM (#8406030)
    He was obsessed with the Macintosh being a work of art. He was so picky about the look of the damn calculator app, the designer got tired of revising it and made a calculator interface designer for him. The final design Steve made stayed with MacOS up into the 90s. He even had the Mac designers sign their names on the inside of the mold for the casing. That's a mentality I like--the connection between emotion and computing. The creation of a computer that blendds into someone's life as a useful tool and portal to computing.

    What happened to that melding of art and computing? OS X still has it, but without support for x86, it's not exploding like it should. That leaves Linux--and Linux is completely missing the ball here because it's been written by developers for developers, and still is. It's massively technical and powerful for dev-heads, but the other front--the one that Windows lacks--is the intuitive, artistic side.

    But, I fully expect everyone to stick with crappy XFree86 for another 10 years and espouse how great their poorly designed "KDE" and "GNOME" interfaces are. Five years after Longhorn comes out, KDE will finally get around to attempting hardware acceleration and also speeding up the horribly shit-slow app-loading.

    Nobody's artistic about computing anymore, except Apple. We should be too. Obviously, that means rethinking the way people are writing their apps/environments, which ain't gonna happen.
  • Re:In related news (Score:5, Interesting)

    by brandond1976 ( 638849 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @03:46AM (#8406098) Homepage
    I ran into this recently in Debian too. It seems that the open source software just doesn't quite cut it for my TDK drive. I could write cds fine with cdrecord, but it would fail with an "unrecognized media" or some such error when I tried to burn a dvd. I was using dvdrecord (based on cdrecord), but it doesn't work with a lot of drives. The really frustrating thing is that cdrecord supports writing dvds with my drive, just not in the opensource version. You can get the "pro" version here [] it is free for non-commercial use and it works well (there is a readme file with more info).
  • by bonch ( 38532 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @03:56AM (#8406133)
    Linux dev's should start thinking of their apps in terms of allowing users to achieve whatever they want to achieve, be it writing the next great novel and printing it out to hooking up the camera to see the new pictures of their newborn baby. The whole "empowerment" buzzword.
  • by Talcyon ( 150838 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @03:57AM (#8406135) Homepage
    By not writing software for non-technical users the so called 'digital divide' widens so much that we are no longer 'in danger' of creating a digital underclass, but we are guarenteed of creating it. An interface to a piece of software should be elegant, simple and intuitive. If the ATM's we all use had been more complicated than remembering a 4-digit pin and pushing a plastic card into a slot, then the every-day consumer wouldn't use them.
  • Just a dumb rant! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by while(1)fork() ( 704502 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @04:10AM (#8406186)
    I do not say the CUPS interface is good in any way ( I only used it once to set up my printer and it worked for me without problems).

    But thats what I had with WINDOWS:

    1.) Setting up a network printer at work: We have a HP Laserjet in our network which I wanted to use for printing. I tried to add it with the Control Panel. It found this printer on several computers ( there is a list of "AUTO HP LaserJep MP5 on SomeMachine entries there ). Funny enough, the computer to which the printer is connected was not listed.

    If I tried to print on any of the AUTO printers - no go!
    Then I tried to add the printer with "Add printer" and selected "browse for network printer". The computer of interest was not listed and I could not find the printer. The "Aunt Tillie" would have thrown the computer out of the window by now.

    I asked a collegue and he gave me a HP driver setup which scanned for network printers and installed the one it found as if it is a local printer. No help, no nothing told me that this printer needs its own driver to work over the network.

    2.) A friend had a problem installing a HP DeskJet on his computer at home. The auto driver installation from HP seemed to detect the printer and installed the driver. But trying to print always lead to the error "Out of paper". But the self-test of the printer gave a good test print.

    We tried several drivers ( from the WINDOWS CD and from the Website ) but nothing worked.

    A few days later my friend told me he had connected the printer to another interface on his computer and it worked. Duh!

    Conclusion: Windows also sucks at this point.
  • Fine, then... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bonch ( 38532 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @04:27AM (#8406256)
    Fine, then don't bitch about "M$" being the dominant monoculture when you're to lazy to bother making your software usable for other people. If you only want to scratch YOUR itch, keep your software on your private network and don't let major distros pick it up. Understood, Mr. I'm-the-poor-unpaid-volunteer-developer?

    Guess what? Users don't care either. They'll drop your shit like a bad habit and go back to what works.
  • by ctr2sprt ( 574731 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @04:50AM (#8406316)
    The assumption behind #1 seems to be wrong. If you want to configure printers using the "easy" web interface, you need xinetd; but if you need xinetd, you should be proficient enough not to need the "easy" web interface.

    Unless webmin is installed by default, under an easy-to-identify name, it's useless. The people who need it most won't even know it exists, nor will they have the tools to find it. Calling it "webmin" in some menu is worthless - you have to know what it does in order for the name to mean anything.

    As for #3, if you need a tool to set up printers, you're already all wrong. It should "just happen." You plug in the printer, the system spots it, asks it to identify itself, locates the correct driver, installs it, and pops up an unintrusive balloon saying "The printer you just attached is ready to go." Wouldn't that be so much better? If you're worried about losing flexibility, you can always make detailed configuration available - the auto-installer would just go with good defaults - but really, when was the last time you needed to make printer configuration changes in Windows or MacOS?

  • by Eivind ( 15695 ) <> on Friday February 27, 2004 @04:51AM (#8406317) Homepage
    Mandrake 10.0 does it too, I see nothing wrong with it whatsoever so long as it's done openly, in plain view of the user, transmits no information without the users knowledge, and allows the user to say "no thanks" with no negative consequences.

    Mandrake 10, presents (well, atleast the current release-candidate) you, on first login, with a form with around 10 simple questions, "Is this your first Linux ?", "How many computers are you planning to install Mandrake on ?". The bottom of the form has three buttons: "Send answers to Mandrakesoft", "Fill out form later", "Don't send any info."

    I don't think anyone really objects aslong as stuff is done like that.

  • by edunbar93 ( 141167 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @04:59AM (#8406336)

    My answers:
    1. Invisible.
    2. What GUI?
    3. The end users shouldn't even know.
    4. I hate it when that happens.
    5. See 1.

    My end users shouldn't notice at all. Everything needs to be invisible, not just easy to use. Tasks that used to require a good deal of work should disappear into a black hole that we call The Server. Accounting, filing, billing, spam filtering, if it's boring and dull, a computer should probably be doing it instead.
  • by while(1)fork() ( 704502 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @05:04AM (#8406345)
    I installed a GNOME desktop for my wive. She has never used a computer before and just wants to use EMail and WWW.

    The GNOME desktop works perfect for her. There are no obscure things that could mess up the system and she immediately was able to work with the system. I had explain almost nothing to her.

    Before I installed GNOME for her, I had a look and KDE and found it terrific - from the UI point of view. Menus loaded with items rarely used, bloated toolbars and the like.

    Afterwards I had once installed WINDOWS XP on a square patition to run a specific program which only runs on WINDOWS. She had a look at it and - immediately wanted GNOME back. She could not stand the "Lunar" style of XP and also complained about this tiny task bar at the bottom.

    I find that currently there is nothing better than GNOME for people who just want to do some specific tasks with the computer and who do not want to bother with configuration and tweaking.
  • He's damn right (Score:5, Interesting)

    by calle42 ( 90619 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @05:21AM (#8406385)
    While his style is, as usual, not quite professional, the points he makes are right on target. Usability is sorely lacking in most Unix/Linux setups.

    But instead of pointing to various short user-friendliness rants and mini-howtos, I suggest reading a few books, to see what the current state of the art is.

    I suggest the following two, which I am using for my thesis work on this subject as well:

    Donald A. Norman: The Design of Everyday Things []
    This book focuses on everday gadgets and appliances instead of computer interfaces, but the advice Norman gives is perfectly applicable to our field of work. Highly recommended.

    Alan Cooper, Robert Reimann: About Face 2.0: The Essentials of Interaction Design []
    Now this book is pure gold. Excellent advice on user research, goal-oriented design and lots of insight on GUI design as well. Yes, Microsoft gets some praise for parts of their efforts - where they deserve it. They also are criticized properly - just like everybody else - where they failed. If developers would apply at least a little of this stuff, we would have vastly better software.
  • by dogugotw ( 635657 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @05:51AM (#8406463)
    I am ever so glad the a certified linux guru has trouble getting printing to work. My setup makes it seem that things are printing, but nothing happens at the printer. Queue is empty, no obvious errors, no printout.
    Searching for a reason has been a fruitless project. Trying to figure out how to debug landed me at some 300 page troubleshooting page with all kinds of stuff to do files to log switches to throw... yeah, right. I'll generate a PDF, send it to my Win box and print from there.

    What's especially frustrating is that my HP printer/scanner/fax scans just great from my Mandrake box, I just can't print.

    Eric has it bang on dead to rights. Linux scares the crap out of 'the unwashed n00bs' because of things like this - printing is a basic fact of computer life and if I have to spend more than 2 minutes setting up a printer, I am outta there.

  • by martin ( 1336 ) <maxsec@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Friday February 27, 2004 @06:25AM (#8406536) Journal
    There was earlier article that compared *nix and Windows programmers...

    *nix programmers write programs for other programs to use (hence command line arguements that are easy to parse/create etc). Ie they do the guts first, then bolt on an interface later.

    windows programmers write programs for users. ie they write the interface first, then the guts.

    Would be interesting to see how the Mac guys concentrate their efforts.
  • Re:In related news (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dopyko ( 594372 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @06:30AM (#8406548)
    Check this [], a fairly academic review of the usability of open source sofware.
  • by gobelijn ( 574326 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @06:58AM (#8406613)
    Or just split the difference, keep everyone happy, and decide to do both proposals. Hence leading to configuration boxes from hell adorned with approximately seven thousand checkboxes.

    Ah, I see you have discovered KDE's design guidelines.

    That's not funny, it's sad... In a fresh kde 3.2 on my dell desktop, I have an extended "Sony Vaio Laptop Hardware configuration" panel in control center. Wtf? It is not only completely unusable, but KDE is even aware of that, as every option is grayed out and there's a complaint about a missing driver.

  • Central repository (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BenjyD ( 316700 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @08:51AM (#8406877)
    Maybe OSS needs a central repository of OSS development "best practice".

    A collection of technical howtos (subversion/cvs, patches etc), articles on UI design, documentation writing, managing distributed volunteer teams, handling users. Things like "Dos and Donts", articles from experienced OSS developers and users - maybe a little less inflammatory than ESR's, though. A Wiki maybe?
    All this information must be out there, distributed in mailing lists, forums and developers' memories. Surely it would improve OSS quality if new developers sent a few hours reading through that sort of material before starting to contribute.
  • by Anonymous Brave Guy ( 457657 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @09:09AM (#8406949)

    While I certainly agree with you that following standards may not lead to a good user interface for all applications, I would submit that (at least for end user applications on mainstream PCs) it is usually better than not following the standards, and that most attempts to "innovate" are usability failures. To wit:

    Apple and Microsoft seem to throw out their own guidelines whenever they feel the need to "innovate".

    This is true. And as a professional developer using Visual Studio .Net, I'd like to thank Microsoft personally for giving us:

    • properties dialogs with non-standard, or effectively non-supported, keyboard navigation;
    • properties dialogs that change focus behind your back if you switch to another application and then switch back again;
    • "context-sensitive" features, particularly the help system, that make it far harder than it ever used to be to do things because the software is constantly second-guessing you;
    • non-standard File Open dialogs that freeze your system for half a minute while they scan a directory with thousands of files in it, when the default dialog in any other app takes a second to populate;
    • a macro system so powerful that my one-liner "There is a hack here" comment macro takes 30 seconds to load the first time I hit the shortcut key, when it used to be instant;

    and all the other "innovations" that cost me several minutes of my valuable time every day.

    To their credit, Microsoft's developers (at least those I've talked to) do seem to have a genuine interest in improving this, and their hearts are in the right place. Some of the nasty context-sensitive stuff can be disabled in the 2003 version, for example. But a lot of these "usability innovations" gain me nothing, while slowing me down and/or wasting valuable screen real estate.

  • Re:In related new (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dave420-2 ( 748377 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @09:12AM (#8406969)
    I have to stand up for Microsoft here - they adhere to their standards, even when they innovate. Take Media Player 9s interface - avant guarde, it could be said. Non-square independently-skinned window, without the regular XP title bar and buttons. What they did was add the functionality so when the user hovered their mouse where the bar should be, it appears. Best of both worlds.

    That's one thing to be said for Windows - the GUI is tiiiight.

  • Not just the lusers. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by supabeast! ( 84658 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @09:37AM (#8407086)
    Software designers need to realize that the clueless users aren't the only ones who have trouble with the software; plenty of intelligent programmers and sysadmins are just as screwed when it comes to configuring complicated stuff like printing, sendmail, and Apache. The problem is that there are just too many options. Sure we can read the documentation, when we have the time, but there is rarely time to read the hundreds of pages of documentation that go along with a lot of really complicated software packages. It's not that I don't appreciate the flexibility that all the nifty features provided by large software packages, it's just that I rarely use most of them, and don't have time to sift through the documentation.

    If you want to add cool features to the software, go for it. We'll love you for it. But if you want us to actually use the software, stop every time you add a feature, and make sure that you are providing simple, straightforward, easy-to-find documentation, or create a nice GUI. Otherwise I'm left with the options of sifting through my book collection and google results or just using Windows software with a nice automatic setup wizard.
  • by cloudmaster ( 10662 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @09:51AM (#8407159) Homepage Journal
    If you install SuSE 9.0, which is the current release *and* is available for free now, you'll notice that k3b was updated. Presumably you're using the default windowing setup - KDE - and the default install - which includes k3b (which is really about the best darned Linux program I've used recently). Anyway, the new k3b has support for dvd burning, and the underlying tool set includes the dvdrecord stuff. It works. Well.
  • by Jerf ( 17166 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @10:33AM (#8407518) Journal
    I'm going one step further then even the other reply to your post said. You'll have to explicitly ask to send the data, which I'll be asking for as a way to contribute to the project without coding. If you're really paranoid, shut it off.

    If you're worried, don't send it.

    Of course I'll also show the exact data sent, both as a human-meaningful file and as the literal XML message I'll be sending.

    This is nothing like "spyware", which is often installed without clear consent, definately installed without clear knowlege, and secretly ships off information without showing it to the human to third parties often unrelated to the task the program has, if it even has a legitimate task. (As opposed to something like the Google toolbar, which if you intend to turn on the PageRank feature, it has to send every URL you visit to Google to work. Still "spyware" in some sense, but there's no other feasible way for it to work.)

    By my count that's at least five ways this is different from true "spyware".
  • by beforewisdom ( 729725 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @11:02AM (#8407845)
    There have been some very inspiring examples in the OSS community of developers starting to grok user friendly.

    Some projects still do not get it. There is an unconscious assumption that merely wrapping commands in a menu/GUI is making an app user friendly.

    The biggest culprits seem to be projects that port command line tools to a GUI like emacs, x-cdburn, and oracle's sql interface ( not oss ).

    One of the ways a GUI makes an app user friendly is if the GUI takes away some of the need for knowing how to do something in the app.

    X-CDBURN ( name? ) is a good example of this. It is GUI, but the user still needs to know how to use the command line tool commands in order to burn a CD.

    What is the point in wrapping the command-line tools in a GUI then? Those sequence of commands could just as easily be typed into a shell without the overhead of the GUI.

    In contrast there is K3b where a user can burn a CD without having to read a HowTo to learn the theory/practice of making CDs.

    Not to pick on X-CDROAST, other apps do this as well.

    If you are not going to design a GUI that eliminates some of needing to know how to do a task it is not worth porting an app to a GUI.

    If I have to know a string of commands and how to use them Xterm tastes great and is less filling.


  • Let's say it boldly (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27, 2004 @11:13AM (#8407960)
    Linux users/developers spend most of their time ranting about Windows, saying how crappy it is and how great the world could be if anyone was using Linux.

    I ask you then: why the f*** are you constantly trying to duplicate it?
    OpenOffice, KDE, Lindows, Red Hat, Mandrake... and so on and so on...

    You keep saying Windows is bad but all those wares listed above are complete knockoffs of Windows with a little amount of "different" widgets, mostly confusing ones, even the icons used in those knockoffs are identical to their Windows version, sometimes with different colors, the paradigms used are the same troughout both systems (with very little exceptions). If Linux is better than make it better, make it above the rest, it is of no use to have an F1 engine in a Lada.

    The big real hard fact about Linux is that nobody wants it to be usable, people went to Linux because Windows was getting more friendly, Linux users for the most part are people who need to feel like genius and superior because they can set a printer up and you can't, they need to feel that using a computer is hardcore science. More important they need to keep their job, they set Windows aside much like the computer crowd back in the days dissmissed the Mac, because it's easy enough so that a littled-trained user could use and configure it correctly for very decent performance, security and stability (ok maybe not Windows yet...) and that might lead to a smaller IT team.

    Realize this: Windows is a very cheap knockoff of the Mac and Linux (as it is now) is a very cheap knockoff of Windows.

    Windows is bad, you know it, I know it, so try to be different, try do do it right. If all you want is a free Windows then don't pretend you are participating in a revolution, be blunt and do it.
  • Re:In related news (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cloudmaster ( 10662 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @11:48AM (#8408321) Homepage Journal
    Yeah, but it'll recode the thing in divX;) or whatever codec it's using - which is kinda the same if you've got one of those players that plays back dIVx;( or whatever it uses. ;)
  • by billybob ( 18401 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @12:06PM (#8408492)
    I can barely express how much I loathe [Lotus Notes]. As an email system, it sucks. As a document database it sucks. The web interface sucks. Yet for some unknown and ill-conceived reason, the IT people at work picked it to run our internal intranet. I can only assume that someone either got a hell of an all-expenses-paid, 6 month vacation to a tropical destination out of it, got a large infusion of free cash, or were terminally brain-damaged when they picked this software.

    You hit the nail on the head right there. Currently I work at one of the Kroger [] offices, but used to work at the Kroger helpdesk, doing computer and POS tech support. If you didn't know, Kroger is a huge grocery chain that has bought out many other chains throughout the country, currently operating a total of close to 3000 stores nationwide. There are many, many offices throughout the country for all of these stores, and they all had their own email systems, as they were all originaly seperate companies.

    So Kroger decides that everyone should be moved over to the same system, for consistency's sake. I can understand that. That makes sense. Then it was announced that they had decided on Lotus Notes....

    Ok, so tech support sucks. Lotus notes really sucks. Now combine the two together. I had to do tech support for Lotus Notes R5. Can you imagine??? Just put yourself in my shoes. I think at some point, everyone there considered suicide.

    What makes me crack up is the reasons you listed for your company choosing Lotus Notes. Those are the exact same reasons we used to joke about at the helpdesk! Well we had one other one also... someone must have gotten one hell of a blow job...

    Lotus Notes is, without a doubt, the absolute worst program I have ever used. EVER . It cannot do anything right. The interface is horrible. Everything is ugly and poorly designed. It's slower than molasses uphill in January. It eats up nearly all of my paultry 128MB RAM on this crappy computer I have to use, so everything else pages out (Fun!). There is not one good thing about it. I always hear people bitching about it. It's always giving errors when trying to send email. Luckily I used to support it so I know how to fix most of them... EG, "Invalid Document" when trying to send an email. Gee, thanks Lotus, that error message is really descriptive of what's wrong. (If you get this message, you have to delete Cache.DSK and mdircat.nsf in C:\Data\LotusNotes, assuming a default installation. Then re-open Lotus and it will rebuild these files).

    Now I know lots of people despise Microsoft, but Kroger has MS Office deployed throughout their business. MS Office comes with Outlook. Outlook may not be the best solution ever, but at least the damn thing works. Throw up an exchange server is each office, and we're all set. No, instead they probably spent tens of millions of dollars to deploy Lotus on all of our workstations, and not one single person likes it. Since lots of people probably use Outlook or Outlook Express at home, this would have made sense, beacuse nearly everyone is familiar with it.

    Anyways this rant has gone on long enough... And just in case you didn't realize it yet, I fucking hate Lotus Notes :)
  • by Ilan Volow ( 539597 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @12:07PM (#8408503) Homepage
    I have constantly heard stories about the fantastic user interaction dept at Microsoft, and how they have golden temples in the himalayas staffed by Yeti's with PhD's in HCI and cognitive psychology who run thousands of usability tests on software before it's released. Yet the usability of Microsoft stuff remains terrible.

    As I see it, there are three possible explanations:

    1. There are no golden temples with HCI Yetis
    2. There are so many levels of bureaucracy at Microsoft that the user interaction people who could make a difference never actually get to talk to the programmers
    3. The user interaction people have talked to the Microsoft's programmers, and the programmers simply just don't give a damn and don't want to listen to or heed their suggestions
    4. A combination of #2 and #3
  • Okay, then (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bonch ( 38532 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @12:29PM (#8408743)
    Would be nice if someone started up a project like that. :) Similar to the Slicker replacement for Kicker in KDE, even just a website with a design document and prototype shots would be great. I even have sketched prototype designs myself...this is an idea that's been bouncing around for a while now. Maybe this weekend I'll put something up for fun, and link to the site in my sig and get feedback from other people. Even if nothing became of it, the ideas would be out there.

    P.S. Just so people know, I love Linux (recently switched from Slackware to Gentoo for the first time, my new favorite distro). But I yearn for the idea of the "dream desktop"--a completely free, open source Linux desktop that innovates and blows people away with how easy to use yet powerful it is. Intuitiveness. I don't believe KDE or Gnome are achieving that. I guess because I'm a musician (though I program for fun), I look at computers as a tool for art and usefulness.
  • Apply Linus Law (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pavkb ( 247665 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @12:52PM (#8408971)
    What if there was a project whose sole job is to look for this kind of problems. There are projects for documention , drivers, devices, hardware for linux.
    Why __not__ for this. This would requred mostly non-technical people and an efficient feedback system to the project maintainers. And the Linus's "enough eyeball's" Law which applies to the Software bugs would work extremly well in this case, since the core project developers can't do this alone. And at the same token, depending on non-technical end-users to look for these & report would be a wait for ever.
    My two cents.
  • by ktorn ( 586456 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:03PM (#8409118) Homepage
    In an ideal world, where all applications talk the same language, and where GUIs are perfect, you wouldn't need Help installing that printer over the network.
    It shouldn't be rocket science. You have 2 or more computers networked, a printer connected to one of them. It should be as simple as showing you a list of available printers, and you click on the printer to connect to it. Microsoft almost got it right.

    But sometimes you do get stuck, and need that Help button. Provided you're online, the Help button should not open offline documentation, but open an online discussion about that screen.
    When Googling for technical problems, I find 90% of the answers in forums. So skip Google, and bring the forum link to the dialog box! ;)
    Not only will everyone get their answers from fellow users, but the developers will have much valuable feedback to help improving the interface.
  • by Rikardon ( 116190 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:24PM (#8409363)
    The problem with having the "worker nerds" do their thing first is that the very architecture of their system may preclude (or make difficult) some necessary newbie functionality. To paraphrase Alan Cooper, code is to design like concrete is to architecture: once the concrete is poured, it's REALLY hard to change it, no matter what changes you make on the pretty blue paper.

    Ideally, you let the design nerds do some user research before you start coding at all. Who is the target audience? What design metaphors are the already used to using? How much (usually, how little) experience can we assume?

    Then you prototype. Prototyping isn't much different from coding: prototype your designs (on paper for starters), find out where they crash (i.e. where people get "hung"), debug, rinse, repeat. You won't work all the bugs out with a paper prototype, but you can nail an awful lot of them.

    THEN you start coding. And you test and refine as you go, since some things (scrolling, for example) can be hard to simulate with paper. But you can get so much information if you just take a couple of weeks at the beginning and put some thought into your design, and then find some people who are representative of your target audience, and say "You have a printer attached to a different computer on your home network. You want to be able to print from this computer to the printer on the other machine. Here is the first screen..."

    (Spoken, by the way, as someone with a foot in both worlds -- a design nerd who has also co-written a C compiler).
  • by methuselah ( 31331 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:59PM (#8409757)
    I am impressed it only took him one night. I lost three days trying to get cups to work. I now have my own vodoo ritual for getting a printer on another machine to print. I sort of understand his complaint but, If you want something clean, packaged, and perfect buy a completly integrated network and peripherals from someone like IBM. I still do not understand why any individual feels like this stuff has to conform to their standards. It is what it is, no less. I get frustrated daily, I am constantly hosing boxes sometimes I can recover sometimes I can't. So what do I do? I reinstall a lot. If you don't like it abandon it. Life is too short. I for one am grateful that all of this capability with it guts hanging out is available. To me this is an adventure not a task. If you demand professional go and pay for it, don't scream and holler at those who were brave enough to stick their work out there for all to see. If you can't afford it then shut up and take what you can get.My first computer had one floppy disk and 64 kilobytes of memory and displayed 32x16 graphics on a green television screen. It costed thousands and was useless. I'd say the present state of affairs is pretty good. If you want to be critical and demanding then open your wallet not your mouth.For the record I don't care who uses it, I only care that I do.
  • by steveg ( 55825 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @03:05PM (#8410438)
    Sometimes complaining about it *is* a valid contribution towards fixing the flaw.

    As an OSS user, you ARE the Beta tester, developer, end user and marketing department.

    You're right. And guess what? Part of being a beta tester is complaining when things don't work right. Sometimes that is via formal bug reports, and sometimes it's by informally discussing the flaws you can't live with.

    Whether it's Open Source or proprietary software, beta testers are valuable. And not just to tell you where your code breaks, also to tell you where it doesn't work the way they expect it to.

    If it's a one-off that somebody whipped up to perform some task and then released to the public, then maybe it's unrealistic to expect the developer to listen to or care about feedback. If it's a full blown project, with UI, etc., it's reasonable to assume that the developers *want* people to use it. This means that they *should* want feedback. Sometimes they don't, and sometimes they don't listen even if they get it.

    But as long as the feedback is offered in a reasonable manner, this feedback may be the most valuable contribution most of the FOSS community can make. And usability/UI feedback is in many cases exactly what is needed.

    Sometimes it works too. Note that ESR's PPS indicates that the CUPS team has taken some of his advice to heart.
  • Cory Doctorow novel (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Robotech_Master ( 14247 ) * on Friday February 27, 2004 @03:24PM (#8410658) Homepage Journal
    Interesting that this story comes up so soon after I read Cory Doctorow's latest book, Eastern Standard Tribe. (Go to boingboing for the free ebook link.) The protagonist in that book is a user interface designer, because, as he explains in a conversation during the book, engineers know how to make stuff, but they don't tend to have a good understanding of how people actually use it.
  • Re:In related news (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Leperflesh ( 200805 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @03:39PM (#8410854) Homepage Journal
    I have a TDK dvd-burner running under WinXP and had the same issues, until I updated the firmware. Just FYI.
  • by salimma ( 115327 ) * on Saturday February 28, 2004 @03:45AM (#8415304) Homepage Journal
    It's a similar situation to using binary-only kernel drivers, I suppose. Yep, my major problems with sharing that Canon printer via Samba are publishing the print drivers (FC1's cups has an older version of the script) and figuring out I had to recreate the turboprint queue.

  • CUPS rant -- Amen! (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 28, 2004 @12:50PM (#8416848)
    Lord, you can take now -- I've heard it all! A UNIX/Linux guru has finally crashed into the frustrating wall of configuration that haunts many of us. The saddest thing is that most of Linux software is written by CS and EE grads who obviously have never had exposure to user interface design -- and this is not new techology!
    I can remember from the late 1980s that the UNIX vendors were getting together to solve this problem. Not! Still broke.
    IMHO, the only reason that Linux has the [relatively small] desktop penetration it is now is that RH and SUSE have successfully (to varying degrees) conquered the installation problems for most commodity PCs.
    If Linux is to get onto the desktop en masse, it needs a lot of work. First, if you are working on Linux applications, give ESRs "The Art of UNIX Programming" a read. While you will have to wade through the Zen , it has some really good principles for software design in general. ESR's mention of discoverability is only one of a well thought out list of rules discussed thoroughly in the book.
    Next, Linux needs competitive applications in DTP, engineering - well pretty much everything - that is NOT written for sysadmins and hackers. It must be written for the "Aunt Tillie" types, because they don't care to "get their hands dirty." They have a job to do, and they don't want anything in the way. If it installs easily, relatively quickly, and "works as advertised," it will be welcomed with open arms -- and people will pay for it.
    Speaking of price, I am going to mention the unspeakable: profits. Whether anyone likes it or not, nothing in life is free. It may not cost YOU money, but someone had to take their time and money to produce it. If Linux is to be the success we all hope for, it MUST draw investment capital, and it must return a profit to the investors. This is not a "dirty" concept. Please refer to the works of Ayn Rand, Leonard Peikoff, Henry Hazlett, et al for the reasons.
    Think about what is happening, and has been happening for years: While Linux is often touted as "free", most of us paid for a distribution. Not only that, we paid for a machine to run it on, took time out of our day to work on it, put up with installation frustration, mostly half-baked applications, etc. Few are making money from it, and some of them are trying to "lock you in" -- you know, like MS does! Starting to ring a bell?!
    An old adage in computers still holds true: Once you have committed to an operating system, you will be pretty much locked in, because, over time, you invest a lot of money and knowledge in it. IBM used this with their mainframes for years, and their customers got benefits from it: compatible platforms, languages, & software development interfaces. But the cost was portability (and price). MS had done the same thing, and Linux will have to give them compelling reasons to move to "open source."
    As ESR says in his rant, MS may be shooting themselves in the foot, but Linux is cutting off both legs below the knees.
    Maybe part of the group that Linus works for now should be devoted to THIS issue for awhile instead of scaling issues in the server space. It is unglamorous tedium to fix all this stuff, but it must be done if Linux is finally going to make significant penetration into the desktop space.
    Oh, and get used to the idea of paying: IBM is not "supporting Linux" out of a sense of community duty...nor should they! If you want to write stuff for free, fine. You can be certain IBM has found a way to profit from it -- and may just save it in the process.

I came, I saw, I deleted all your files.