[LINK] Eric Raymond on OSS UIs
Richard.Chirgwin at informa.com.au
Mon Mar 8 08:43:18 EST 2004
> As Jonathan writes above, I want Linux for its Unix capabilities.
> I use the desktop in Linux for the following: a browser, email via
> a GUI (but often use pine as well), and then I find I have 10 or 20
> shells open in the six (or eight) desktops.
...this is of course true for you, Rick. But are you (or I for that matter)
the best template for the world at large? To backstep a little: I see OSS
usability as important because Linux is necessary to "free" consumer
computing (not as in beer). But the world at large won't shift without the
GUI - not just because they're contemptable proles; but because the argument
doesn't work for them.
In other words, and IMO: question one is "do we want home users to convert
> Perhaps the 'training' RichardC refers to is shell training, for it is
> in the shell that a *nix worker gets their work done.
Not really, for the reasons above. With the exception of the small business,
the home computer isn't there for heavy, serious work. It's there for
e-mail, some WP, maybe light accounting stuff, school projects - not for
> Long before the
> advent of WIMP and the WYSYWIG paradigms, *everything* done
> by computer
> was done in a shell, and powered by .... plain text. I've seen no
> reason to give up a perfectly workable (fast, efficient, and
> VERY portable)
> working interface/paradigm for one that is far clumsier, non-portable,
> tempermental and resource hungry. You can have your GUI-based
> wizards, fancy IDEs, and the like, thank you very much.
As long as access to the shell exists, your requirements are met; but if the
GUI has bad information design then it's the wider audience that's excluded.
> Over many years of computing, I've gone from teletype to IBM selectric
> to dumb CRT to smart CRT (all mainly mainframe stuff) to Unix and
> its shells to Dec and its VT100 and related shells to the
> early Mac, on and
> on ... to Windows to Linux to Mac/OSX. And the one things
> that has stayed
> consistent and easiest to use across all these platforms is plain text
> and shells (although MS-DOS and its shell language projected
> such attempts
> back to the stone age ... enuf said). There is no inteface
> more powerful
> than the command line interface.
> And librarians, secretaries, information processors, et. al. take
> note: twenty years ago these same jobs were performed by people of
> the same skill level, but all in plain text and via a shell interface.
> With the advent of the GUI, the style changed, but not the substance.
> And we've already discussed many times the dumbing down effect of
> "too much GUI" a la Powerpointitis.
But how much GUI is too much, when we're talking about how to make Linux
available to home users?
To back up a little; my conclusion having read the Eric Raymond essay is
that *information design* has to be addressed; and this isn't strictly a GUI
issue. Any user, trying to do anything new with the computer needs to be
able to find out how to do it. I'll accept an ugly UI if the software itself
is easy to live with.
Let's accept that it's badly done everywhere, both in Windows and Linux
environments. The obvious corollary of this is that if Linux gets ahead in
information design, it gains an advantage that is more obvious to 'punters'
than its more abstract advantages. That surely can't be a bad thing.
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