From: Earle Martin Date: 01:52 on 16 Apr 2004 Subject: Guest rant from ESR This may be old news to some of you, but I thought it seemed apropos. "CUPS, the Common Unix Printing System... [is] a system which despite its superficial pseudo-friendliness is so undiscoverable that it might as well have been written in ancient Sanskrit." http://www.catb.org/~esr/writings/cups-horror.html
From: Chris Nandor Date: 16:02 on 18 Apr 2004 Subject: Re: Guest rant from ESR At 1:52 +0100 2004.04.16, Earle Martin wrote: >This may be old news to some of you, but I thought it seemed apropos. > >"CUPS, the Common Unix Printing System... [is] a system which >despite its superficial pseudo-friendliness is so undiscoverable >that it might as well have been written in ancient Sanskrit." > >http://www.catb.org/~esr/writings/cups-horror.html And perhaps a counter-rant is in order: http://daringfireball.net/2004/04/spray_on_usability http://daringfireball.net/2004/04/sundry_spray_on
From: peter (Peter da Silva) Date: 19:23 on 18 Apr 2004 Subject: Re: Guest rant from ESR While we're throwing around counter-rants, here's a reasonably appropriate one I wrote a while back: http://scarydevil.com/~peter/io/stupidsoftware.html
From: peter (Peter da Silva) Date: 20:16 on 18 Apr 2004 Subject: Re: Guest rant from ESR "The user interface -- the entire user experience -- should be designed first, and the underlying implementation should be built to support the design." Yes and no. Like every other broad statement, this one is only partially true. I'd say it's maybe 20-30% true, which is actually pretty good as broad statements go. But you gotta draw a line somewhere and say 'OK, this part is the bit we're designing around the GUI, and these parts here are what we're building that on' because otherwise, well, you get Mac OS 9. CUPS is a crappy example. The parts of CUPS that are embedded like a cyst inside Mac OS X printing need to be ripped out and refactored and shoved back in with a better user interface. "Now you connect to port 631 or whatever it is and finish the configuration in Safari" is an abomination. Mac OS X itself is a good example. Particularly when you compare Mac OS X to Mac OS 9. Mac OS, the classic Mac OS, is a perfect example of what you get when you design everything from the ground up around the user interface. The first version barely had an operating system underneath, and you had people declaring there shouldn't be one at all. The result was fifteen years of increasingly frantic attempts to provide operating system services in the user interface, then realising you need an OS after all and wedging it in bit by bit without breaking anything. Redesigning an application platform that's been badly factored without breaking working applications that have made broad assumptions about the environment is *hard*. Apple finally gave up and started over with OS X, Microsoft has managed to avoid this by spending more money than anyone else in the world on adding layers of ugly paint to hide the layers of ugly paint undereneath, Commodore-Amiga didn't survive long enough, but their decision not to enforce shared-versus-private memory in apps was clearly coming back to haunt them... and they started with what may be the best designed personal computer OS of the '80s or early '90s. So even when you DO try and get the factoring right, you can end up with a mess. But if you just start at the top and work down you're guaranteed to end up with something that's fatally dependent on your original UI decisions. Oh, and figuring out where to draw the line, that's tough. Thompson and Ritchie back in 1969 managed to find a good place to draw the line for the user interface of the day: the command line. They had an OS that provided file, scheduling, and I/O services to applications in a way that hid most of the complexity, and they had a command line user interface built on top of this that ran applications but ignored everything but their input and output while they were running. It was a good mix, for command lines. The X-Windows people tried to use similar factoring in X11: you would have shells, the window manager and the X server, that launched programs and hooked windows together and let the user decide what program he was going to interact with... and left everything else to the application. The OS, they were running on top of that... and whether it was VMS or UNIX they treated it like that old 1969 OS. This didn't work, because it wasn't enough to let the applications just throw anything they wanted to at the user. They were experimenting with GUIs, so they provided a pretty bare-bones GUI toolkit and let anyone else develop their own. So pretty soon you have everyone in the world making their own toolkit, and none of them worked well with any of the others. Apple, now, they took the old Apple II and CP/M approach to the OS, and spent a lot of time designing the best toolkit they cood on top of as small an OS as they could get away with. Good user interface, applications worked well with each other ... one at a time, and it just worked. Problem is, it wasn't very flexible. And 15 years later OS 9 was still crippled by comparison with other operating systems ... plus it was bigger and slower as well! You can't go with spray-on system architecture, either. You need to break things up into chunks that are small enough for people to deal with. OK, that's subrant 1. "It all boils down to the fact that most aspects of Mac OS X are not designed to be configurable or replacable; they are designed to be usable, and to fit in with the design of the rest of the system." Subrant 2, short form... there's a lot of design decisions in Mac OS X that's clearly there for *branding*, not because it's an essential part of a good user experience. Apple has at various times done a lot of work to make the Mac OS environment configurable in a way that is entirely under the user's control, not the developers. The fact that I can change one default and get rid of the "metal" look in any properly designed Cocoa application, for one obvious example, is just the top of the iceberg. All the theming people are doing on Mac OS X is based on things Apple has been putting in Mac OS since OS 8. The fact that these things are not available to the user has nothing to do with them being "designed to be usable", it has to do with the Apple BRAND. My Mac OS X desktop doesn't have the Apple Brand... the "mighty blue apple" and the pinstripes and jello... but it's no less usable than yours. It's not the applications that fit into the design of the system that aren't configurable and replacable. It's the mavericks like iTunes and the new Finder and Quicktime Player. If they were all well behaved Cocoa applications they would fit better into the design of the system *and* be more configurable. Whether or not the design flaunted the Mighty Apple Brand.
From: Gavin Estey Date: 19:02 on 18 Apr 2004 Subject: Re: Guest rant from ESR On Apr 15, 2004, at 8:52 PM, Earle Martin wrote: > > http://www.catb.org/~esr/writings/cups-horror.html > ESR falls into the same category as alien abduction people. They're generally nice enough people if you can steer them away from their delusional, self-centered ranting. There's nothing you can do to persuade them that they're full of shit so the best thing to do is to escape their singularity of madness before you're sucked in for good. Gavin.
From: Thomas R. Sibley Date: 19:23 on 18 Apr 2004 Subject: Re: Guest rant from ESR Gavin Estey wrote on 04/18/04 14:02: > On Apr 15, 2004, at 8:52 PM, Earle Martin wrote: >> >> http://www.catb.org/~esr/writings/cups-horror.html >> > > ESR falls into the same category as alien abduction people. They're > generally nice enough people if you can steer them away from their > delusional, self-centered ranting. There's nothing you can do to > persuade them that they're full of shit so the best thing to do is to > escape their singularity of madness before you're sucked in for good. * lapses into uncontrollable giggles * Tom... ...suddenly realizing for the first time that it doesn't seem possible to configure Thunderbird to use a different date format when quoting in replies... MM/DD/YY is pure hatred.
From: Philip Newton Date: 08:23 on 19 Apr 2004 Subject: Re: Guest rant from ESR On 18 Apr 2004 at 14:23, Thomas R. Sibley wrote: > Gavin Estey wrote on 04/18/04 14:02: [some stuff that's not relevant for this] > > Tom... > > ...suddenly realizing for the first time that it doesn't seem possible > to configure Thunderbird to use a different date format when quoting in > replies... MM/DD/YY is pure hatred. That *is* pretty idiotic for a piece of software. And I would have thought, especially, that the Thunderbird people would know better - somehow, a little part of me expects open software to be a bit more sensible when it comes to configurable date formats.  or whatever other buzzword you prefer: OSS/OSI-approved/Free Software/... Cheers, Philip
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