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Easier to use?

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Nov. 3rd, 2001 | 02:05 am

So I was helping rampling install some software on her Win2k machine. McAfee Firewall & Virus Scan.

Both products suck, though in rather different ways.

The first Firewall, failed because it couldn't detect the network adapters in her machine, and so we couldn't set any security settings. I of course pointed out that linux was much more likely to let you force it to work. When things go wrong in linux there's a long list of things you can try to fix it

The more interesting "failure" was Virus Scan. The program probably worked, but their user interface was in the trendy "Web interface style", and as a result unusable.

I watch her click in frustration trying to bring up the main control screen again.

This absurd web interface style found mostly in applications that are targeted toward the home user are designed to look as eye-candyish as possible. The result of them trying to brand their product with a unique "look and feel" is a product that is just slightly more comprehensible than a sendmail config file.

No title bar, no menu bar, just funky looking buttons and weird color schemes, and they call that user-friendly?

It reminds me of what people complained was the worst thing about Linux--no consistent user interface.

HA! At least I can force my applications back into having a consistent interface. With this commercial crud that's floating around these days, you're pretty much stuck--and left feeling foolish since you spent real money on something unusable.

If it was a physical product you could at least take it back, but commercial software usually forbids you from doing even that.

My cost of using linux, is submitting bug reports and fixes, and helping others learn how to use it. Much cheaper, and actually more socially satisfying.

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Comments {14}

Clare T. Rampling

Nah, Linux sux too!

from: rampling
date: Nov. 3rd, 2001 02:31 am (UTC)
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Nah, no damn 'puter OS has solved this problem. Every OS I've tried has programs with severely sucky interfaces. I had a terrible time with the Gimp, for example. Very tough to find what I needed. Ick. And GnuPlot -- I dread whenever I have to use it. At least with a stupid GUI you don't have to keep obscure "-x" switches in your head, or look them up repeatedly. But, of course, just *having* a GUI isn't the full answer -- I've even become *extremely* lost on a supposedly "intuitive" Mac. Grrr. It's just that no one really takes the time to carefully design these things, because they don't allow for the fact that user interfaces are Intrinsically Extremely Difficult to do well. Even cameras, microwaves, and VCRs blow what should be extremely simple. The TiVo is close, but bogged down a bit by its stupid words such as "now playing" instead of "recorded shows" and "to do list" instead of "scheduled to record". Sometimes I think I should go into designing GUIs myself. I swear I could do a better job myself....

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Diane Trout

Re: Nah, Linux sux too!

from: alienghic
date: Nov. 3rd, 2001 02:57 am (UTC)
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One of my theories is that no programmer can design an intuitive interface, 'cause as the write something they develop a certain mindset, so whatever they write becomes intuitive to them--regardless of how many people might agree.

As for the ease of use thing on linux... It's much easier to modify a program than to write your own. See, the open source model can pull you in so you can get an intuitive environment. Actually the easiest type of application to wrap with a nice gui is a command line tool.

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Clare T. Rampling

Re: Nah, Linux sux too!

from: rampling
date: Nov. 3rd, 2001 03:14 am (UTC)
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It's not the OS, it's the GUI designer. A very skilled GUI designer can implement an easy-to-use and intuitive system under any OS. I don't see any more great GUI examples in Linux than in other OS's.

Though I will admit that there does seem to be an inexplicable trend towards making software both slicker and stupider -- exemplified by those TiVo titles. They make something slick-looking that has gone so far from what it's actually doing that NO ONE, neither the novice nor the experienced geek, can make any sense out of it. I hate that with a passion! MS did it with Money. What was once a very simple program that I appreciated because I didn't have to spend much time with it, now is a morass of inexplicable overkill that I can't navigate. And I can't seem to make my stupid overkill printer driver admit what dpi it will be using, ever. ICK!

Offta pack....

P.S. Thanx for agreeing to take care of Mira! : ) ! Purrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

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Diane Trout

Re: Nah, Linux sux too!

from: alienghic
date: Nov. 4th, 2001 11:50 am (UTC)
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I thought it was the commercial pressures to make a unique product that looks good that's encourageing all of these bad UI's. Oh yes, and the assumption that home users are utter morons who have to be hand held the entire way, and protected from any possible information.

They need to ship new products, and well, after a while the product looks the same, so it's time for a new face-lift to make things look more exciting. (Regardless if the new look is actually easier to use).

The linux GUI's tend to be bad for different reasons.

My tirade against windows was more about, in windows these days you have to try and use a unintelligable GUI to get something done, in linux if you're stuck with an unintelligable GUI, you can either try editing the config files by hand or find a different GUI.

And yes config files can be obtuse as well, though they tend to have a relatively constant level of obtuseness. The level of difficulty of editing config files doesn't seem to vary as widely as the difficulty of using various GUIs.

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(Deleted comment)

Diane Trout

Re: Nah, Linux sux too!

from: alienghic
date: Nov. 4th, 2001 12:09 pm (UTC)
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That's certainly true... and is a good example of how larger projects can work to keep their package from being incomprehensible. (Except for studing HF, anyone can do that part.)

What I was commenting on was more why the original programmers really aren't able to objectively decide of the UI is usable (or do a thorough job of testing their ccode. As the programmer keeps working on the project they make design decisions and then assume that these things should always hold.

When they're toward the end of the project all of those decisions merely remain assumed, and unquestioned.

So when the creative tester walks up to the computer and pushes all the buttons simultaneously. The programmer might go "You're not supposed to do that!"

It's that list of things that you're just supposed to do or not do that's hard for the people working on the project to analyze.

Or to pick on VirusScan; the proper way to bring up the control application is using the start menu. Yes we installed stuff in the system tray, but those are different programs. Not that we told anyone.

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[you'll find a light, find a friend, find a way]

(no subject)

from: artemii
date: Nov. 3rd, 2001 06:59 am (UTC)
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go linux!

next time we write a grant, i should force you to give me a quote so we can use you as our sample open source advocate. :D

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Diane Trout

(no subject)

from: alienghic
date: Nov. 4th, 2001 11:53 am (UTC)
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Uhm... I might be able to come up with a quote, but do I have to do any of work?

Or is it that you need someone to say:

Purchasing N licenses of Debian Linux: Free
Media cost: <$10

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[you'll find a light, find a friend, find a way]

giggle

from: artemii
date: Nov. 4th, 2001 12:05 pm (UTC)
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no work involved! for our grant proposals we just need people from various communities (open source, digital divide, etc.) to say "hey, i think what this org is doing is great because..." and blather on for a sentence or two about why we rule and, thusly, should be given a grant. :)

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Diane Trout

Re: giggle

from: alienghic
date: Nov. 4th, 2001 12:38 pm (UTC)
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That sounds easy enough... ;)

Though how does that help with winning grants?

And another question, I read earlier that you're running a non-profit, out of curiosity what's it's purpose?

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[you'll find a light, find a friend, find a way]

Re: giggle

from: artemii
date: Nov. 4th, 2001 01:57 pm (UTC)
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we take donated computers, put open source software on them, and send them to international partners (non-profits) and teach them how to use them.

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Diane Trout

Re: giggle

from: alienghic
date: Nov. 4th, 2001 02:36 pm (UTC)
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Wow... I've thought that doing exactly that would be a good and useful thing to make the world a better place. But you're actually doing it...

Hmm... Somewhere I must find motivation... get out of chair, do something more active than reading, writing emails to government, and annoying friends...

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(Deleted comment)

Diane Trout

PPPoE, evil for a reason.

from: alienghic
date: Nov. 4th, 2001 11:59 am (UTC)
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Most of the large scale ISPs seem to like PPPoE. I think one of the windows PPPoE drivers product copy was claiming that their software allows the ISP to reuse their current authentication services. And PacHell, and Earthlink i think both didn't want you to share connections between multiple machins.

So this scheme lets them do less work, and possibly charge more money. That's it's whole purpose. They don't care if it transfers the work to the end user in the pain and suffering of setting up the machines.

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(Deleted comment)

Diane Trout

Re: PPPoE, evil for a reason.

from: alienghic
date: Nov. 4th, 2001 12:34 pm (UTC)
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Resist the Corporocracy!

If your ISP goes under, there's this wonderful development of neighborhood wireless lans. Now all we need is to find ways to link the neighborhood lans together without crossing through PacHell.

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(Deleted comment)

Diane Trout

Re: PPPoE, evil for a reason.

from: alienghic
date: Nov. 5th, 2001 02:18 pm (UTC)
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I do hope they survive...

It'd be really nice for some alternatives to the baby bells to continue to exist.

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