Bad design in open source software, part 1

I love open source. Freedom, you can do whatever you want with the code, and so on. However, open source development is generally lacking in one important area: User interface design.

After using Macs for the past few years, the problems inherent in open source software become that much more obvious to me. I think all open source programmers who can afford it should get a Macbook and play around with it for a while as an example of good design, so they can see all the niggling issues in open source desktops that can drive users slowly insane.

I made a short video that points out a very good example of bad UI design. I wrote "part 1" because I may create more such videos in the future as I continue to come across these issues. Many users of open source are quick to forgive these little problems; this is a bad attitude to take because the problems start to add up, making the user experience poor overall.

Computer Critters!

Wow, these are adorable.


I'd guess these were from the 1980s. I wonder who sponsored them? It's amusing that this stuff existed, but computers wouldn't really go fully mainstream until the mid-to-late 90s.

Paying bills with computers? Wow, they were ahead of their time. Could you even do that in the 80s?

Getting pissed off at Apple

So Apple recently added a hash to the iTunes DB on the new iPods which broke compatibility with third party (non-iTunes) software such as gtkpod. They also announce intentions to try to stop iPhone hacking. The iPod hash has already been cracked, but it's the principle of the thing here.

They're also doing stupid things like charging 99 cents to turn a song in your library into an iPhone ring tone, when such things should really be free. And of course, when people find ways around this, they quickly update the software to foil them.

What the heck is going on here? Why is Apple suddenly doing this anti-customer stuff? Apple has always been somewhat expensive, but has always had a hands-off attitude when it comes to hacking their hardware. There's a fundamental right that everyone has to modify and do what you want with hardware you own. Their behavior as of late sounds like something Microsoft would do, not Apple!

Frankly, they are starting to let me down, as well as millions of other enthusiasts who want to do cool things with their hardware. I was actually considering buying an iPhone after hearing all the cool things being done with them, but now that Apple has announced intent to stop the developers from employing hacks to get their software working, I doubt I'll be buying one. If they took a hands-off "we're not responsible if you break it" attitude, that's one thing. But they're actively going to work to *stop* people from doing this stuff. That's a kick in the face.

Sorry Apple, you lose. And I'll surely have this stuff on my mind when it comes time for me to purchase a new computer. Because I want my vendor to support me, not actively try to stop me from doing what I want with my purchases.

So it IS a conspiracy!

Fast food restaurants (in this case subway) will arrange food to make it look like you're getting less, so you ask for extra cheese or meat:

On a related note, Subway never seems to charge me for extra cheese. I'm not sure if it's bad communication between the preparer and the cashier, but I've never once been charged for extra cheese or meat at a subway. I don't feel any remorse or need to point it out, as they're already making obscene profit on my sandwich, but it's an interesting curiosity.

Not so portable...

This ancient SCSI NEC CD-ROM drive actually has audio CD transport controls on the front:

So if you hook a power brick and headphones to it, you can play your music CDs on it sans-computer! It sounds pretty damn good.

Heck, it even has a little illuminated LCD display on it so you can see what track you are on, and the strangest CD loading machanism (rotating door plus caddy) ever created.

It's the world's dorkiest Discman!

I've had this thing for years, but rediscovered it yesterday and figured it might give some geek out there a nostalgia kick. CD-ROM drives were actually SOMETHING SPECIAL back then (mid-90s). Oh yeah, and I looked up the MSRP on this thing when it came out: $599 (got it for much less at a hamfest when I needed a SCSI CD-ROM drive for some old project)

Glossy or matte?

So Apple's new iMac has a glossy display. You have no choice; you can't buy it any other way.

This wouldn't be a problem for me at home or in my office, as I don't have bright lights behind me to reflect. However, for many people, I imagine this would be a huge problem.

How many people have windows behind them in their offices at work or at home? Is there any real advantage to a glossy screen? We suffered with reflections on CRTs for years before flat panels came along with their sleek matte displays which don't reflect at all, and now all computer makers (Apple isn't the only one; look at all the new laptops from HP and Sony too) seem to be obsessed with "glossy is better".

Is glossy better? In any way? I want to be open-minded about this rather than just say "IT SUCKS" without having tried it for long periods of time.

Feel free to chime in. :)

Better late than never...

Krystal can't enjoy her sandwich...

...because idiots keep forgetting to remove useless warnings from the linux kernel tree.

(Read about the meme here if you're going "huh??" right now.)

Sorry Hervy!

Whoops, forgot this magic incantation.

[root@sarabi bin]# ./icecast -c ../etc/icecast.xml < /dev/null > /dev/null 2>&1 &

Ahh, and life returns to normal...

A gallery of fun...

So I've been playing with some new image gallery software, Gallery2. This is good stuff! It has a nice authentication model, fine-grained permission bits to restrict or allow access to photo galleries, and is reasonably fast with a good security track record.

My gallery is here and I've thrown up some random photos and videos I've taken lately, as well as made some customizations to make it easier to browse through photos.

One key factor to consider in web image galleries is browser real-estate. Whenever you view an image, the most essential item on the page (the image) should be as high and to the left on the page as possible. Interface elements (such as previous/next and links to other albums) should be as slim as possible, and information about the photo (such as exif data, links to different sizes and such) should be UNDER and to the RIGHT of the photo when possible.

The reason? If you don't have your browser window sized large enough, you will have to scroll down (annoying) and to the right (ungodly annoying) to see the whole photo. So rather than be able to simply click next and see all the photos as a slide show, you spend half the time scrolling to get the full photo on the screen.

I've already greatly reduced the amount of junk over the photo, and plan to slim down the pane on the left side or possibly move it to the right side so the photo is first and foremost on the page.

Other than that, this is good software, and I will probably keep using it and migrate older photo galleries I have to it as I have time.

Three fileservers retired! Less SPACE!

We retired three fileservers at work recently as part of our consolidation project...


The reason this is worthy of posting is that last one...

Sigh, that's the WORST NAME for a fileserver ever concocted! You can imagine it constantly results in phrases like...

"Is there any space on space?" (aiee!)
"Where is space located?" (above the atmosphere silly! Oh, you mean the SERVER!)
"Space is down." (down where?)
"We need to upgrade space!" (our universe is out of date..)

and so on. GOOD RIDDANCE!! :) The three servers combined only provided about 150GB of total... space. Less heat, less power consumption and the best part for me, three less servers to administrate!

I love our new ZFS based SunFire X4500. Purrrrr.

Syndicate content