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The Future Of The GUI? 237

Graymalkin sent in a nice article written for fairly novice folks comparing Mac OS X, Microsoft's upcoming .NET, and Nautilus's respective user interfaces. Considering all 3 are still vapor, it'll be even more interesting to read an article like this in a year, and compare it to this.
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The future of the GUI?

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  • Go use a Mac from 1984, and try to do a normal routine of opening documents, editing, saving, copying files, etc. Now use one from 2000. There's a HELL of a difference in terms of what those two OS's are capable of doing!

    I still would classify this as fine-tuning. It's not like the difference between CLI vs. GUI.

    Define "everyone else." No, really! Do you mean the management types?

    They would be my first target for sure! I am quasi-management myself (but still code) and find it frustrating to get things done dealing with other managers who hide behind email all day. I'm also probably jaded from using enlightenment for the last couple years.

    I'm definitely oversimplifying the issue; probably anyone who reads this website qualifies as someone who needs their desktop to work, but I'm betting the majority of office staff (especially managers) do not need to sit and stare at a screen all day and they'd probably be better off for it. (as would the company)

    And I really believe that some time in the next 10-20 years you will see the desktop computer go away except for those who do the content-generating/coding - people will have some other, much more convenient way of accessing information from the net or whatever takes its place. Until then, I cringe every time someone spouts off about the sexy new eyecandy on their desktop.

    If I really thought about it I'd probably come up with some better way to make my point, but I've sat here long enough. ;)
  • Let us not forget that a UI is a communication chanel to the user. Many of the later shells have become excursions in what is technically possible, and forget the user.

    An interface should give the user some indication on what to do, and somewhere to do it. The basic function of what to do could be explained in the manuals, like mouse clicks, etc. But the rest of it should be visible.

    For example, the CLI emulates a teletype, with a few standard hacks. The CLI brings to the TTY, the notion of redirection of output, a programming interface, and pipelineing. Once mastered, the CLI can prove to be a powerful workhorse.

    In a windowing system, you can run multiple CLI sessions. You would be very upset if commands made in one session affected another. This is called leaking. Yet, different command lines could be logged to the same log file, what is going on would be clear if different names are used: consider the IRC sessions, for example.

    What makes GUIs scary is that it is all too easy to hide things, and move them from place to place. The interface varies from user to user, and from vendor to vendor, and from version to version.

    A small UI, like the Win3x shell, makes a dandy thing if the main activities is to launch intensive applications, like games, or to load different users, or to install hardware and software to the OS. The shell is small, and fits nicely into ram, and is more userfriendly than a command line. A fixed shell makes it easier to describe in manuals, for one-time tasks like installation, or rare activities like fs maintainance.

    Once into an activity, you can then load the shell of your choice (on a user by user basis), and your customisations for that user. This can be a full set of widgets and hacks designed to allow programs to integrate.

    What happens now is that each new version of Windows seems to say `lets make Windows look like OS/2 v 1 [so we got Program Manager and File Manager]. Let's make it look like v 2.0, so we get Explorer. Let's make it look like Netscape, so we get the Win98 explorer thing. And let's make it look like the Adobe interface, so we get this Win.NET thing.

    So if you want to do any nice things, you have to learn the weird languages that make the different shells tick, or just leave them alone.

    And so you see why, despite the power of the shells, most people use them in much the same way as the dodgy little menus that came with the DOS machines in the late 80's. Use the shell to start programs. All the rest of the shell is so much lard.

  • I use my right button menus all the time, and I think they are very intuitive, and a very good idea. I think the problem is that no one explains it to most people properly. The right button brings up a list of all the actions you can take upon whatever you've clicked the right button on, while the left button selects on the first click, and when you double click, it executes the default action (which is bold in your right button menu).

    Now, obviously no one here really needed that explained to them, but I've done lots of teaching basic windoze, and I've found that is a rather good way to explain it to people. People use it if they're taught how.


    Terradot [terradot.org]

  • Y'know, I've wondered this for a few weeks now and I'm finally going to ask: How the hell do you people get your posts to show up in that god-awful font? It is truly jarring to be reading along with the usual proportional /. font and then hit a fixed-font message - it makes me think I've hit a troll ('cause the letters sort of look like all-caps compared to a proportional font).

    What gives with that, anyway?

  • by Chanc_Gorkon ( 94133 ) <gorkon@@@gmail...com> on Thursday December 07, 2000 @10:21AM (#575011)
    Try to reinvent something? Does it need reinvented? Maybe. WIMP GUI interfaces will be around for a LONG time. Why do some computer people, or marketing execs insist that learning how to use a computer is hard?? It's easy once you know it! If someone is too timid, or quiet that they do not ask for help with their mega super de duper computer right after they first buy one, then TUFF! Is a pencil intuitive? What if you have never seen a pencil before? I look at my 20 month old son and he still has problems coloring, or learning how to move his crayon across the paper (he's a little behind in development, but heck he's not even 2 yet!). A baby has never seen a pencil before, has to be taught how to use it just the same as he will one day be taught how to use a computer. Maybe it will have a super de duper LEET interface like .NYET, or maybe it will be a os that has a command line yet ( LINUX LINUX LINUX!! ). Point is, if someone has no initiative to learn the current interfaces, then what makes us, or the media think they will want to learn the new interfaces?? Why is it when some people get to some ages that they think they never have to learn another thing in their life to be productive? I have accepted that I will be a life long learner, it's about time that others accept it as well.

    I am not saything there is not anything wrong with the new stuff, I am just saying that the old stuff ain't bad either. At least they work.

  • I think it will be a cold day in the Valley before Apple go near handwriting recognition again. 8-) Have you used handwriting recognition ? It's horrible; you can't do it mobile, you can't do it quickly, and some of us can barely scrawl anyway. Handwriting recognition is not where it's at for new interfaces.
    Anyone that has ever used Newton 2.0's handwriting recognition will tell you that it was/is really amazing. It even recognized my terrible scrawling. It was mobile, it was quick and it worked wonderfully. The Newton just got a bad rep with the original release. The first one deserved it, but the systems with Newton 2.0 just rocked.
  • Err, gnustep isn't innovation. It is copying/cloning Next. Berlin is rather innovative but it isn't even in the catagory of vapor yet. It is in such extreme alpha state that it is practically not worth mentioning. It is FAR, FAR from being end-useable, plus it will suffer, unfortunately, from the huge dependence of almost all things linux on X.

    I would LOVE to ditch X and go with something smaller, faster, better, but unless the major distros get behind Berlin, it will be ready for prime time around the time that Golgotha is (yeah, right - but even then golgotha is so much more developed).

    How many guys are working on Berlin? Two? Three? I'm holding my breath on it's release in even beta format, I tell you.

  • Has it occured to anybody but me that ever since Win95, the next version of Windows has been said to have these new, advanced capabilities with impressive beta releases, and then when it all gets down to it, they ship the same old, same old?

    I mean, really. Those screen shots, with a tweak here and a tweak there, look like the really early Win98 show-off-ware. And they've been having ideas about design ever since MS Bob! All that MS has come up with is a few tweaks here and there to the interface, a little gloss, and a lot of hype.

    I think that the GUI needs to get OUT of my way, not in my way. If I want news, I'll look it up. If I want my buddies, I'll pull up my buddy list.

    If we are going to not have windows that overlap, I want there to be $100 tablet computers that I can spread out over my desk, not a single $2000 computer with a single monitor.

    Having said that, OS X has some good new tweaks to the interface. It's no revolution, but I think that Aqua is doing a better job at evolving the GUI.
  • Gnome and KDE are crap compared to these interfaces, the only good features they have they stole. They are handicapped by strong direction and lack of interface testing. UI is VERY VERY hard, you don't just slap together whatever comes to mind and expect it to be usable to the general public. All gnome and kde amount to are extremly complex interfaces built by COMPUTER EXPERTS that try to be beginner interfaces at the same time and fail miserably. You can argue that gnome and kde are great, but you allready know and understand the concepts behind them. From the outside, it's pretty much worthless. Plus they are discovering all the problems msft discovered during the early phases of its switch to componant software. MSFT took the plunge and now they are coming back in a big way after working out all the problems. Gnome and KDE have just begun their journey.
  • You raise an interesting point, worth considering further. I'd suggest that all interfaces limit the user's actions in some way or another. Or perhaps it's more accurate to say that all interfaces make certain operations easier and others harder.

    GUI: viewing a list of files, selecting a bunch of them, and moving them elsewhere is quite easy

    CLI: In a strict, single screen CLI is more difficult to view a list of files (list may scroll off the top of the screen), select multiple files (must type each name correctly), and them move them

    CLI: With the typical suite of *nix tools, it is fairly easy to examine (more, less, head, tail) and manipulate (cat, vi, |, perl voodoo) documents for a variety of actions

    GUI: Must load word processor, then open documents, then manually accomplish each action

    But in each case, it *is* possible to accomplish the task. It may just be difficult.

    The trick, or perhaps the key, to a good UI is making the most common and most important operations trivial, and providing a good set of tools so all other operations are not overly difficult.

    But to do that, requires a good understanding of what people do and how they'd like to do it. I'm concerned that, at least in a few minor cases, UI designers don't know understand how many people work (or maybe I'm just odd).

    - Easel will auto-iconify folders based on its content. Thus, a folder of music files gets a music icon.

    That would be great if I organized my files by type, but I organize by content. Thus, a given folder is usually a mixed group of filetypes that all share a common (abstract) theme, like "my web page" or "my thesis" or "games". Auto icon-ifying based on filetype will most likely give me misleading icons for most of my folders.

    - MSN Explorer, a partial, proto-UI for the next version, has a persistent media player.

    Why? I listen to music about 50% of the time I work on a computer. And when I am listening to music, I don't want the media player visible anymore than I want my stereo on my desk/couch/lap when I'm working and listening to music. I want to start the player, and then not have to think about it again.

    (I could think of something for Aqua, but I'm tired of writing :)

    But despite my minor quibbles, hopefully the majority of the GUI features of these new guys will allow the important stuff to be done easily.
    D. Fischer
  • by leereyno ( 32197 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @09:11AM (#575017) Homepage Journal
    Why are you afraid of cookies? Is Big Brother(tm) watching you?

    (Big Brother is a registered trademark of Microsoft corporation and is used without consent.)

  • Is it just me or does the future of GUI's seem to be just a "pretty" version of the old modal menu interfaces? Remove the purty graphics from the .net and all you have is list of options. Does the fact that you click on them instead of pressing a number really make it any different?

    The same question applies to both Aqua and Nautilus. In both cases, their "only on list at a time" approach to file browsing reminds me of a gohper interface with graphics. Am I the only one that see it like this?
  • by ichimunki ( 194887 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @10:31AM (#575019)
    Hmmm. Completely objectively, I use Enlightenment to manage my Linux X windows. It is certainly innovative to a level that I find lacking in both Windows (unless they've vastly changed the GUI in Win2k, which I've not yet used) and Mac OS.

    A docking bar with a mini-preview-snapshot deal for each "minimized" application. Multiple virtual desktops, with a small map with previews of each application. The ability to scroll over the edge of the screen and have it flip up the next window.

    No start bar. No task bar. No stupid menu bar stuck across the top of my screen. No silly pull out control bar. No shortcut bar. BUT a configurable start-type menu that appears anywhere on the background that I left-click. How much more innovative should Linux be before it is released from this myth that the Linux GUI is nothing more than a copy of windows & macintosh?
  • If the Mac's invention of the GUI, "put a dent in the universe" it was only by falling into a very large Xerox-shaped hole.

    [...snip...] We all like to rag journalists for being clueless and gullible....

    I like to rag Apple-bashers for being clueless and gullible! You know, the simple-minded idiots love to think "Apple just copied Xerox." Their brains are just too wimpy to handle the truth.

    As a public service, I am providing the whole text of an article by someone who was actually there, Bruce Horn.


    Origins of Macintosh Interface

    Xerox and the Origins of the Macintosh Interface

    by Bruce Horn bruce.horn@alumni.cs.cmu.edu

    About Bruce:

    Any number of people will try to tell you about the origins of the Macintosh, but Bruce Horn was one of the people who made it happen. From 1973 to 1981, Bruce was a student in the Learning Research Group at Xerox, where Smalltalk, an interactive, object- oriented programming language, was developed. While there, he worked on various projects including the NoteTaker, a portable Smalltalk machine, and wrote the initial Dorado Smalltalk microcode for Smalltalk-76. At the Central Institute for Industrial Research in Oslo, Norway, in 1980, he ported Smalltalk- 78 to an 8086 machine, the Mycron-2000.

    At Apple (1981-1984), Bruce's contributions included the design and implementation of the Resource Manager, the Dialog Manager and the Finder (with implementation help from Steve Capps). He was also responsible for the type framework for documents, applications, and clipboard data, and a number of system-level design decisions. Since then, Bruce consulted on a variety of projects in the late 1980's at Apple and received a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Carnegie-Mellon University in 1993. He continues to work as a computer science consultant with Apple and other companies.

    Where It All Began

    For more than a decade now, I've listened to the debate about where the Macintosh user interface came from. Most people assume it came directly from Xerox, after Steve Jobs went to visit Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center). This "fact" is reported over and over, by people who don't know better (and also by people who should!). Unfortunately, it just isn't true -- there are some similarities between the Apple interface and the various interfaces on Xerox systems, but the differences are substantial.

    Steve did see Smalltalk when he visited PARC. He saw the Smalltalk integrated programming environment, with the mouse selecting text, pop-up menus, windows, and so on. The Lisa group at Apple built a system based on their own ideas combined with what they could remember from the Smalltalk demo, and the Mac folks built yet another system. There is a significant difference between using the Mac and Smalltalk.

    Smalltalk has no Finder, and no need for one, really. Drag-and- drop file manipulation came from the Mac group, along with many other unique concepts: resources and dual-fork files for storing layout and international information apart from code; definition procedures; drag-and-drop system extension and configuration; types and creators for files; direct manipulation editing of document, disk, and application names; redundant typed data for the clipboard; multiple views of the file system; desk accessories; and control panels, among others. The Lisa group invented some fundamental concepts as well: pull down menus, the imaging and windowing models based on QuickDraw, the clipboard, and cleanly internationalizable software.

    Smalltalk had a three-button mouse and pop-up menus, in contrast to the Mac's menu bar and one-button mouse. Smalltalk didn't even have self-repairing windows -- you had to click in them to get them to repaint, and programs couldn't draw into partially obscured windows. Bill Atkinson did not know this, so he invented regions as the basis of QuickDraw and the Window Manager so that he could quickly draw in covered windows and repaint portions of windows brought to the front. One Macintosh feature identical to a Smalltalk feature is selection-based modeless text editing with cut and paste, which was created by Larry Tesler for his Gypsy editor at PARC.

    As you may be gathering, the difference between the Xerox system architectures and Macintosh architecture is huge; much bigger than the difference between the Mac and Windows. It's not surprising, since Microsoft saw quite a bit of the Macintosh design (API's, sample code, etc.) during the Mac's development from 1981 to 1984; the intention was to help them write applications for the Mac, and it also gave their system designers a template from which to design Windows. In contrast, the Mac and Lisa designers had to invent their own architectures. Of course, there were some ex- Xerox people in the Lisa and Mac groups, but the design point for these machines was so different that we didn't leverage our knowledge of the Xerox systems as much as some people think.

    The hardware itself was an amazing step forward as well. It offered an all-in-one design, four-voice sound, small footprint, clock, auto-eject floppies, serial ports, and so on. The small, portable, appealing case was a serious departure from the ugly- box-on-an-ugly-box PC world, thanks to Jerry Manock and his crew. Even the packaging showed amazing creativity and passion -- do any of you remember unpacking an original 128K Mac? The Mac, the unpacking instructions, the profusely-illustrated and beautifully- written manuals, and the animated practice program with audio cassette were tastefully packaged in a cardboard box with Picasso- style graphics on the side. Looking Back

    In my opinion, the software architectures developed at Xerox for Smalltalk and the Xerox Star were significantly more advanced than either the Mac or Windows. The Star was a tremendous accomplishment, with features that current systems haven't even started to implement, though I see OpenDoc as a strong advance past the Xerox systems. I have great respect for the amazing computer scientists at Xerox PARC, who led the way with innovations we all take for granted now, and from whom I learned a tremendous amount about software design.

    Apple could have developed a more complex, sophisticated system rivaling the Xerox architectures. But the Mac had to ship, and it had to be relatively inexpensive -- we couldn't afford the time or expense of the "best possible" design. As a "little brother" to the Lisa, the Macintosh didn't have multitasking or protection -- we didn't have space for the extra code or stack required. The original Macintosh had extremely tight memory and disk constraints; for example, the Resource Manager took up less than 3,000 bytes of code in the ROM, and the Finder was only 46K on disk. We made many design decisions that we regretted to some extent - even at the time some of us felt disappointed at the compromises we had to make -- but if we had done it differently, would we have shipped at all?

    The Past and Future

    In many ways, the computing world has made remarkably small advances since 1976, and we continually reinvent the wheel. Smalltalk had a nice bytecoded multi-platform virtual machine long before Java. Object oriented programming is the hot thing now, and it's almost 30 years old (see the Simula-67 language). Environments have not progressed much either: I feel the Smalltalk environments from the late 1970's are the most pleasant, cleanest, fastest, and smoothest programming environments I have ever used. Although CodeWarrior is reasonably good for C++ development, I haven't seen anything that compares favorably to the Smalltalk systems I used almost 20 years ago. The Smalltalk systems of today aren't as clean, easy to use, or well- designed as the originals, in my opinion.

    We are not even close to the ultimate computing-information- communication device. We have much more work to do on system architectures and user interfaces. In particular, user interface design must be driven by deep architectural issues and not just new graphical appearances; interfaces are structure, not image. Neither Copland nor Windows 95 (nor NT, for that matter) represent the last word on operating systems. Unfortunately, market forces are slowing the development of the next revolution. Still, I think you can count on Apple being the company bringing these improvements to next generation systems.

    I'm sure some things I remember as having originated at Apple were independently developed elsewhere. But the Mac brought them to the world.

  • GNUstep and Berlin both suffer similarly from the problem that neither provide much an "upgrade path" from where people are now.
    • Berlin inherits approaches from Fresco and InterViews; this doesn't provide any ability to run any existing code.

      Your Gnome apps? Would need to be completely rewritten. Ditto for the KDE apps.

      Everything needs to get recoded using OmniORB, C++, GGI, and the Berlin libs.

      As a result, jumping to Berlin means losing all the GUIed applications that you might be running now, from StarOffice to GNOME to Netscape to KDE.

      If you run Berlin atop GGI atop X, then maybe you can run some of those concurrently...

    • GNUstep has similar expectations of your adopting Objective C, DPS, and LibFoundation.

      It makes you jump through the hoop of applying DPS to everything, which will be quite wonderful for anything that should be WYSIWYG, and which may represent a big "who cares?" for other sorts of applications.

      It has the merit over Berlin that there may be some existing NeXTstep and OPENSTEP applications out that would be an "easy port away," and might have a bit more ability to play well with existing X apps.

    Unfortunately, both suffer from the same daunting problem that in order to make them useful, there's a whopping lot of code that needs to be written. And they're pretty useless until both libraries, services, and applications get written.

    GNUstep is somewhat closer to usefulness, with the added merit that there are parts of it (namely the DPS services/libraries) that can be usable with other graphical environments.

    In similar senses, Linux and the BSDs are not particularly "innovative," as they all "merely" represent Yet Another Unix Clone. In contrast, EROS [eros-os.org] is a truly innovative OS kernel design, but since building a user space to go along with that is daunting, practically nobody uses EROS.

    Innovation is pretty cool and all, but I'm just not sure that it actually represents something deployable.

  • For exampl MacOS-X is using a base linux kernel

    Nope, it's Mach.


  • More innovation has come out of development on Linux than from M$ and crApple combined.

    Okay. Let's play a game. You name something innovative done on Linux and I'll tell you the source it originally came from or was inspired by.
  • When putting together my software base, I tend to look for the leanest, fastest, and simplest programs I can find that meet my needs. Although I might keep some feature-laden stuff around, I don't use it on a regular basis. (Heck, I usually do my web browsing in Lynx, only switching to NS when there's a page I really want to see that doesn't work in text mode. I don't switch very often.)

    In my opinion, a feature that I don't use is a feature that gets in the way. Since the GUI is what lets me interact with the program, anything that gets in the way can cause me to be extremely annoyed. I just don't have much tolerance for fluff. (Explains why I avoid gnome and kde.)

    I'm not saying that a good program can't have lots of features, just that it's hard for programs to include a lot without having some of them get in the way. If your program does 5 things, chances are that every user will use all of them. If it provides 500, everyone will find that 475 of those things are useless to them. Every program needs a way of keeping those 475 things somewhere where they won't be bothersome.

  • by praedor ( 218403 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @09:16AM (#575026) Homepage

    I must admit I just don't get Eazel (yet). It appears to me that all it is is a file browser. What the hell do I care about a fancy file browser? I have that with konqueror, and honestly, I can't see any real difference other than look (HUGE icons, like everything in Gnome...WAY too frickin' huge like everyone has vision problems).

    Would someone explain to me why Eazel, a mere file browser (web browser?) is in the company of full GUIs like the doze interface IDEA and the MacOS X reality? It is just an app that can be run on an interface system...like gnome or kde for instance.

  • Yeah, and what's gfm (Gnome File Manager) for then? They make it sound like Gnome was just in total useless disarray before the saintly Eazel came along, and that Eazel is essentially synonymous with the Gnome desktop. I mean, Gnome is a lot more than just one file manager/browser. Seems to me that Eazel is at best a peripheral player who is nicely writing some Free software for Gnome hoping to capitalize on it later. Hardly responsible for Gnome as a whole.
  • Most problems most people find with today's GUI's are problems because most computers today running GUI's are running windows.

    The problems you describe with the icons--Macs don't have those problems. Apple didn't have any dumb DOS filename extensions they could use as a lame argument for not making the icons recognizable, so the file icon *had* to convey what type of file the user was looking at. All you have to do to undertstand what type of file you are dealing with on a mac is LATFI (Look At The Fine Icon). Getting to the argument about the executables and files having the same icons, in most cases, macs have different icons for files and executables. Getting to the whole application integration thing, macs have always been able to do this. A mac file has two basic properties, a creator type and a file type. The creator type says what program the file "belongs" to, and the file type is the file type (jpeg, mp3, etc). When you double click on a file icon (let's say an MP3), the mac will open up the file in MacAmp. Double click a word document, the document
    Most of the things you describe in your post are things that macs have been able to do for years. The whole application integration thing has been tackled by applescript, a plain english type of scripting language that has hooks in a great many mac programs. The file/folder system is not a bad system, but it needs to be implemented consistently, like it is on a mac. On a mac, every object is consistently manipulatable. I can choose a different icon for just *one* file of a certain type. If I have a britney spears MP3, I can change the icon from whatever the default mp3 icon is to a pile of dog poo (seems appropriate). I can have the ability to change the icon for a single folder, as well. Every object on a mac (with the exception of trash) is a folderitem--it is either a folder or something that fits in a folder. It can be easily modified, changed, deleted, or moved. Contrast this with windows, where there are regular files/folders, and then there are files/folders that have special "behaviors". Files/Folders like My Computer, Dial Up Networking, Control Panels, Printers, My Documents, etc. These files/folders don't act normally, so they break consistency. Any GUI that breaks consistency with itself is going to be user hostile.

    I fail to see why Miguel is so damned impressed with Microsoft.


  • by Junks Jerzey ( 54586 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @08:15AM (#575033)
    What a pud. More innovation has come out of development on Linux than from M$ and crApple combined.

    What are you talking about? Completely objectively (I am a user of Windows, Linux, and the Macintosh), the GUIs for Linux are more attempts to outdo Windows than anything else. You won't find much in terms of amazing human engineering or honest innovation, just more doodads.

    Very unfortunately, the "we must beat the evil empire" attitude has hurt Linux development in a number of ways. Isn't Linus always saying "there is no war"? Doesn't anyone listen?
  • by josepha48 ( 13953 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @08:16AM (#575036) Journal
    Lets face it. The desktop is good for now, but OS X is not really bringing anything new into the arena. Sure they are makeing OS X run with protected memory and some other features. They are improving the GUI (some may think otherwise), but they are still where they were back when they started. You still have icons, a mouse, and applications, that do the same thing they used to with a few more bells and whistles.

    I think that the GUI is going to need to take another leap and a few bounds, before it actually improves. What OS X really needs to introduce is voice input. Mac has always had great graphics capability. They are showing commercials that show how easy it is to hook a video camera to the system. They need to push some kind of easy to use send mom the video campaign. I started sending my relatives mp3s of me talking to them already rather than a typee letter. Sure they are larger, but it si almost like a one sided phone call. The technology is here and a 1 meg donload over 56k is about 5 minutes, which is not that bad. If Mac could make this the NORM, then I think it it would be a leap in the right direction. If they could make it standard with voice input, even if it is as a side assistant then it would be real cool. Like prody parrot or something.

    If nothing else Mac should introduce handwriting recognition devices as part of its top of the line machines.

    I don't want a lot, I just want it all!
    Flame away, I have a hose!

  • by cydorg_monkey ( 259983 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @08:18AM (#575038) Homepage
    every minute a computer user realizes that eye-candy sugar coated user interfaces are a waste of time and computer resources and detract you form whatever it is you were trying to do before a shitty user interface got in your way.

    check out this [students.tut.fi].
    Note that this is not a lame link to goatse.cx or otherwise dried up joke.

  • ... as someone who started out with Macs, went to Windows, and finally to Linux, MacOS X is IMHO the best of all worlds as long as they continue to allow access to command line and the ability to hack the interface.

    I know it's sort of a lame reason to really like an OS. Stability and functionality should be (some of) the most important issues. But I have to admit the only reason I even tried Windows 95 was when I saw that you could replace the shell and use apps like Litestep [litestep.net] to totally change the experience. I simply hated MS Windows, but realized the need to get to know it. After that, of course I would be interested in Linux and want to get to know it, since so much of Litestep is based on GUI's used with Linux and Unix. And that helped me get over my admittedly irrational fear of working command line, really hacking the way a computer works, etc.

    /me ends overshare

  • OK, I have to take issue with this stat.

    I can't understant how anyone can get by without right-click, especially in Windows. I right click everything. Copying/moving/deleting files, viewing properties of just about everything... and for Quake of course, you need at least 3 buttons plus a scroll wheel.

    The basic premise of UI and feature design given today's busy desktops is that if it's not on by default it might as well not be there. Very few users change defaults, or even know it can be done. Same with right-click. Very few users know about it or what it does since most of the time right-clicking goves you nothing or nothing useful/understandable.

    I think it's just a matter of experience but you can't change user behaviour easily and it's just one of those 'obscure' things most people don't know about.

  • by spicyjeff ( 6305 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @08:04AM (#575048) Homepage
    Last I checked you could purchase an OS X Beta CD for $29US to run on your G3 or G4. And in a few months the full OS will be available to everyone.
  • by British ( 51765 ) <british1500@gmail.com> on Thursday December 07, 2000 @09:19AM (#575051) Homepage Journal
    All I ever ask for in a GUI is hot keys. I use them as often as the mouse. That's the only thing I can think of that helps me speed up productivity, whether it's Ctrl C/V/X for cut n paste in just about any app(as well as ctrl+shift for more specific cut n paste) or Alt-Tab switching, I use them all the time. Even the weird ones that make you contort your fingers.
  • by leereyno ( 32197 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @09:21AM (#575053) Homepage Journal
    While the job of revamping Macintosh and Windows obviously belongs to their respective stewards, the same can't be said for the upstart Linux system. Nobody owns this Unix-based operating system built around the code first created by Finnish programmer Linus Torvalds.

    Uhhmmm, actually Linux is owned. Different portions of it are owned by different people. Linus Torvalds owns parts of the kernel, as does Alan Cox and many other people. The GNU utilities are probably owned by the FSF rather than the individual coders who created them. The fact that all of these pieces of code have been licensed under the GPL in no way nullifies anyone's ownership of them.

    So many people confuse the GPL with something being in the public domain. If a piece of code was in the public domain, the GPL would be unenforcable. It is only because individuals do own and hold the rights to the code they have created that the GPL has any meaning at all.

    Something that a lot of people don't realize is that code licensed under the GPL can be licensed by its creator under other licensing terms which are incompatible with the GPL. Users of that code, who use it under the GPL, do not have such rights, but the copyright holder does. So the next time someone tries to tell you that you can't license your own code to anyone else once you placed it under the GPL, tell them to go study copyright law just a little before they start running their mouth.

    Lee Reynolds
  • by Bob Uhl ( 30977 ) <eadmund42@nOSpam.gmail.com> on Thursday December 07, 2000 @11:13AM (#575055) Homepage

    I started sending my relatives mp3s of me talking to them already rather than a typee letter. Sure they are larger, but it si almost like a one sided phone call.

    And a thousand thousand secretaries found their god...

    What a senseless waste of bandwidth. And to think we once took issue with a 10K uudecoded files.

    Not to mention that voice recognition is stupid for the current phase of computer. Sure, it would work great someday with an AI to speak with. But given the current state of our art, can you really imagine what a voice interface would be like. 'computer, remove all files ending in .o' Whoops, it heard 'remove all files.' Not to mention that it's ever so much quicker to type rm *.o...

    Imagine the cacophony of a voice-run office. `Jim, can you quiet down--I'm getting bleedover from you.' `What's that? I can't hear a thing in here.'

    A computer is a tool. We don't talk to our hammers, nor to our cars. We talk to carpenters and mechanics. Until a computer is as intelligent as a man, or even a dog, really, what's the point of voice recognition?

  • If what you say is true, .NET actually sounds much worse than I thought. First, XML is just a buzzword, one of an infinite number of ways to represent data (it is a useful interchange format, to be sure, but what other vendors does Microsoft want you to interchange your Windows configuration files with?); it does not make object sharing between apps or OSes any simpler than what is available now (read: badly done), it simply makes it more structured for reuse (read: badly done and shared). What you're really saying is the big deal is that all configuration files are accessible and modifyable. I don't believe it but, my goodness, wouldn't that be a absolute support nightmare? It's nice to have a somewhat configurable system, but giving the users the ability to tweak absolutely everything is a disaster waiting to happen.
  • by msuzio ( 3104 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @08:22AM (#575064) Homepage
    One thing that strikes me on reading all of this is how the GUI deliberately restricts and channels the actions the user may perform -- "Here is the metaphor, you must make your actions fit this model".
    Both Aqua and .NET very much present a set of actions, a set of ways to show your data and interact with it (I reserve comments on Nautilus, I can't really draw any conclusions on it from the article). For instance, .NET offers different "levels" of user (Basic, Intermediate, presumably "Expert"). Within these, it seems like you can edit some aspects of what that levels means in your interactions with the GUI.

    But what happens when the desired action isn't made available? When I decide I'd like to be able to drag one document on top of another and concatenate them? (cat doc1 doc2 > doc3 in good old CLI world). I cannot.

    It seems like the "dream" GUI really is the CLI / pipe metaphor taken to the next level -- put data in this widget, output it to that widget, send the results of that to my Web site. If only that were possible and easy to use! *That* is the next stage for me -- a visual environment where I am free to hook up components in a meaningful way, and save that "hookup" as a new widget of it's own (The "spell check, reformat, ftp" widget).
  • with all the platforms, and platform bashing aside i feel the future of the gui will be very strong. however, and apple has seen this, a nice user oriented gui with an administrative backend (ie: bsd/console) makes it a powerful contender.

    i dont know what will happen with .net, but i do think two main things are the key to success. a good, solid, stable gui with plenty of configurability, and a good, solid, stable backend, which you can administer via a console.

    console/gui hybrids are starting to gain popularity (ie: BeOS, QNX, OS X, etc..), and i feel its important that companies continue along those lines.

    a gui cannot do everything, which is why many prefer console. however, millions of users (like your parents, grand parents, etc..) have no clue about bash, csh, or what have you. for them there is the gui.

    systems comprised of both, as in OS X, and even Nautilus, among others know this. so the trick seems to be...how to make the gui easy enough for your mother, while still retaining its roots for you, and/or other power users.

    sorry if this seems more like a rant then anything else...just my two cents worth i guess...

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @11:26AM (#575069)
    One of the things they mention as a feature they want for .NET (it sounded like eventually, but they might want it right away) is to have one "entry field" where you would do whatever you wanted to - write a letter, e-mail, or paint a picture (I presume) and it would figure out what you were trying to do. Basically, God Emperor of Office Assistant.

    I think that approach is fundamentally flawed, and the constant instance that it is the right thing to do infests all Microsoft products. There's such a thing as the right tool for a job, and just as I would not start framing a basement without a hammer, nails and two-by-fours I also would not start a task of any sort by simply starting to work and then figuring out what tools I need as I go along.

    Even in Emacs, greatly and wrongly derided for being the kitchen sink of all applications, you choose a mode to work in before you actually start work and thus many task specific features are made available to you.

    My other thought was that while .NET and OSX and that other thing seemed nice, they really had nothing at all innovative. I like OSX and the concept of various levels of user interfaces in the other product sounded great, but these are all just re-hashing of ideas we have seen before. Granted they might be very GOOD rehashing as we have learned through iteration, but they are not really unique.

    It's time for some real experimentation. Where are the 3D GUI's? What about a GUI with a lite-brite set used for application control?

    One of my own crazy pet theories is that the world of comics offers much in the way of possibilities for computer GUI's. After reading "Understanding Comics" by Scott McCloud over the years (sorry, too lazy to produce a link right now) it really seems that somewhere lurking in the mechanism of how readers perceive flow and structure in a comic has something interesting, new and relevant to say about the way humans interact with computers.
  • No start bar. No task bar. No stupid menu bar stuck across the top of my screen. No silly pull out control bar. No shortcut bar. BUT a configurable start-type menu that appears anywhere on the background that I left-click. How much more innovative should Linux be before it is released from this myth that the Linux GUI is nothing more than a copy of windows & macintosh.

    What you are describing is the standard X interface from 1987. The trouble is that raw X--or raw X prettied up with alpha-blended windows--is not close to the usability level of the Windows or Mac, primarily because there are no interface standards. Desktop environments, like KDE and Gnome, are attempts to make Linux more luxurious and pleasant. But that movement, from raw X to desktop environment, is pretty much a "Microsoft is doing it so we will too!" game. That's what this thread is about.
  • by SquadBoy ( 167263 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @09:24AM (#575078) Homepage Journal
    This from Neal Stephenson [cryptonomicon.com] explains why almost all of our current UIs are crap myself I find myself in console more and more often also I find that when I'm helping someone I take them into the CLI. It is in many ways just easier now I know this is not for everyone but the limitations of a GUI make it impossible to create something that is *really* good.
  • After which the article immediately notes:

    "(Gates is well aware of the irony--the old command line, left for dead, is back!)"
  • by Chester K ( 145560 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @11:40AM (#575083) Homepage
    Is a pencil intuitive? What if you have never seen a pencil before? The only intuitive interface is the nipple. After that, it's all learned.
  • We listen. So do the people running the KDE and GNOME projects. Remember that pretty much every modern GUI is somehow a rip-off of the original by Xerox. This includes both Windows and MacOS, as well as most Unix GUIs. As for KDE and GNOME, both have (IIRC) publically stated that their first objective is to match Windows and MacOS in usability terms before they move on and start trying new things, although both are already doing some new things... Windows (the versions I've used, at least) doesn't nearly match the number of interface options available with either KDE or GNOME.

  • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @08:29AM (#575093)
    But there is a war. Or at least a serious competition

    I'm not so sure the "beat the evil empire" thing is altogether bad. I agree that most efforts seem to be an attempt to out-Windows Windows and that probably isn't inherently good. However it does provide a competitive influence as a driver. Windows sets a benchmark to beat. Right now linux is beating that benchmark in some ways and has a ways to go in other areas. But without Windows (or some similar dominant system) I seriously doubt that linux would be getting as much development effort as it is. You have to admit that there are more than a few developers working on linux simply because they don't like Windows/Microsoft.

    Linus himself may not be at war, but for better or worse a lot of linux developers certainly are.

  • by Non-Newtonian Fluid ( 16797 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @08:30AM (#575094)
    Is it just me, or does .NET feel like a dumbing down of the Windows UI to AOL levels to other people too? Perhaps, I'm not thinking outside the box enough, but where's the desktop? Where do things get done? Does anyone have more info on how the .NET desktop works?
  • Did you check out windowmaker?
  • by gelfling ( 6534 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @11:55AM (#575098) Homepage Journal
    When I complain that the whole metaphor for desktop objects that virtualize objects like 'folders' instead of oraganizing around work or processes or workflows or the logical reason for collecting objects... I get flamed for CWG (computing while geezer) and that everyone young has no trouble with this. I'll reapeat myself. The entire notion of organizing a GUI around "LOCATIONS" on a PC is completely bogus. The entire notion of creating a desktop on your PC is bogus. I don't want to organize something on my PC I can't organize in the solid world. That's why I have a PC. I don't care about folder names or file paths. Other than the fact that it is a kludgey mnemonic for ME to assign context to a collection of objects it has no bearing. The GUI, to be useful must have two basic attributes: First it has to be event driven so that the appearance and function change with events that trigger it. So the GUI takes on visual attributes that are useful for say document processing vs. ftp vs. backup administration. So that File, Edit, View..... actually have some real context built into them and mean, do and appear like different things depending on what I'm doing. Print for example has no meaning if the app if WinAmp so why would not put EQ there instead (silly example but you get the gist. And second, the GUI has to be flow, or if you prefer, event sequenced context driven object oriented, organized so that if I have 35 different file objects related to task "project 1" and they have different formats and sources, I can collect and use them in-flow without having to open each app and laboriously open-review-cut-paste......print.

    Why for example do you have to start an equalizer and then drag artifacts up and down or side to side. Why not just have a functional driver that allows you to 'other mouse button click' swipe the pointer anywhere in any direction to do something like increase volume? Why can't we make use of 'tics' small dedicated mouse movements that trigger discrete events like poping a document, print, pan left-right.
  • Thanks Steven. I appreciate your work. I found this article to be pretty fair. I would have liked to have seen some talk about KDE and better distinction between GNOME and Nautilus, but that's not very realistic given the space limitations. And the red arrows in the online version are cool. I had actually submitted this article to Slashdot, with a link to your homepage [stevenlevy.com], but either it was rejected or somebody beat me to the punch.

    PS. I can't wait until the new edition of Hackers is released! I've been looking for it for a couple years now.

  • and why is the common Java joke - write once, debug everywhere.

    That debugging effort does not come cheap. If people wrote their JVM's right, it shouldn't be necessary.

    But it is.

    therefore, it is CHEAPER, in the long run, for a developer to write for one platform only - and if they can eliminate all the other platforms through strategic chicanery, they have all the benefits of single-platform development, without the drawbacks (missing large market segments).

    Of course, as we all know, this does ignore the needs of the user. Well, who cares about the needs of the user. If they've got a wallet, that's all the developer needs.
  • Wow, that's cool. I didn't know that Apple gave Xerox stock. I understood that Xerox (this was at the PARC center, I know it's redundant, it just sounds stupid otherwise) was letting pretty much anyone use what they made (this is comming from the biography on Steve Jobs, I forget which one)

    You'll have to do a bit of searching, but if I remember correctly, Steve Wozniak discusses this at his site -- http://woz.org [woz.org]. He started getting a lot of emails when Pirates aired, and I believe he covered this topic in at least one email that was posted to the site.

    - Scott

    Scott Stevenson
  • This was an MSNBC link, right? Not Segfault?

    Are they serious? That has such a Austin Powers, "hilariously frozen in time and don't know what's going on in the rest of the world" sound to it. I can just picture Gates in his silver Dr. Evil suit, explaining to his assistants the potential of the (making quote marks in air with fingers) "commands line" and the "laser".
  • anyone who says that they believe that voice recognition has a strong future in computer interfaces is trying to sell you something.

    I for one do *not* want to have to speak "Netscape, open pr0n site" aloud at the office. For example.

    nuff said?

    The next advance in human-computer interface has already been described in cheezy SciFi tv shows. Holographic displays which can expand to many times the size of their transmitter (which you could wear or carry in your pocket), and respond to physical interaction. Actually, I think I first read about that in Greg Bear's Eon book. (it was used to augment human communication - but in a weird way). Until this technology is invented for real - I don't see anything else really improving on what we have now in a meaningful way. Yes, voice recognition can play a role, but it will probably not be significant. Macs have had speech recognition built into the OS for years. Who actually uses it?
  • I've always liked the flexibility that OS/2's WorkPlace Shell afforded me. I could modify the right-mouse-click menu to include links to all the apps I used. This menu popped up anywhere I did a right-mouse click. No need to move the mouse pointer to some silly dock or to the start button on a start menu - always right there wherever my mousepointer already was. Schweet.

    I'd rather not have any screenspace taken up by a dock.
  • Yeah, handwriting recognition is a kludge to get past the limitation that you can't slip a keyboard into your pocket.
  • All I know is, with Office 2000, those supposed "smart menues" that only show you stuff that you normally use are a complete pain in the ass. I'd rather have all the options visible, and intelligently organized.

    As far as your idea for CLI/pipe metaphor? It's been done - years ago, some shareware guy made something for the Mac called "filter-top", it extended text processing to a drag-n-drop system. It seemed all neat and everything, but I just never found a use for it, so I didn't read the docs thorougly. But it did look like it had some pretty cool potential. Maybe he's still got a web page out there somewhere?
  • Considering all 3 are still vapor, it'll be even more interesting to read an article like this in a year, and compare it to this. Why, that's actually a good idea. You guys get dinged a lot for seemingly "recycling" articles from time to time, but you've identified a legitimate reason to do exactly that.
  • by Mononoke ( 88668 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @08:32AM (#575121) Homepage Journal
    I remember some stats from msft that roughly 95% of users dont use their right-click menus in windows.

    Wow, so 95% of the users could get by with a one-button mouse?

    Some company should come up with a one-button mouse.


  • "Creating the interface for the Mac was like being in a jungle with a compass that worked one day a month, not knowing if you were headed for a river or a mountain or a snake pit," Jobs says now. "And thinking there might be a pot of gold at the end, but also not sure if it wasn't a pot of fool's gold."

    sounds like the old Atari 2600 Pitfall game ..
  • Why does everyone keep making these GUIs look so much like damned cartoons. And why incorporate so much unnecessary shit? What ever happened to a simple GUI that is functional and doesn't look like it was designed to entertain 5 year olds.
  • "They need to push some kind of easy to use send mom the video campaign. I started sending my relatives mp3s of me talking to them already rather than a typee letter. Sure they are larger, but it si almost like a one sided phone call. The technology is here and a 1 meg donload over 56k is about 5 minutes, which is not that bad. If Mac could make this the NORM"

    Then I hope I don't know any mac users. With anything from 20-200 mails pr. day I rather not have even a small percentage of these as large binary objects.

    Beside, I read much faster than anyone can speak legibly. Having to listen to a spoken message is rather tedious compared to reading it.

    It's nice to have the ability to send audio in mail (allthough it got nothing to do with the GUI/UI in general but rather just that part of that interfaces you to mail), mut it must not be made default.
  • And his prophet is Levy.

    Sorry, that's a little cruel. But whenever I see a piece by Stephen Levy it always starts out with a rant about how Jobs et al. changed the world. Whereupon my eyes glaze over and I have to go do something else.

    I mean, even if it were true, I'd be a little tired of hearing it.


  • If by describing OSX as Vapor, you mean freely usable in its Beta form, then I guess you're right. Somehow, I'm thinking you're not, tho. I mean, come on, Eazel's entire existence is a collection of screen shots thus far, and .NET is barely a framework-in-progress...

    Having tried Nautilus myself I can say its very usable already, if you ignore the slowth and occasional crashes that is. I've also noticed that Nautilus' performance and stability is increasing week by week (yes, more so than with Mozilla), the only thing I'm hoping for is that they put in some more threading.

    As for .NET, that is indeed barely a framework-in-progress though their MSN browser already exists though I doubt the ``universal type-in line'' will ever work... it will certainly not be welcomed by Microsoft's target audience, the people who want pretty things to click.

  • You're stupid. I am, too. Just about everyone is.

    Who ISN'T a member of least one small minority of users that find feature X in application Y useful to them. It's bound to happen in any application/OS with thousands of features and millions of users (no bug count jokes, please). WTF should we chop it out?

    (end comment) */ }

  • by Lt_Kernal ( 11104 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @08:35AM (#575130) Homepage
    Here's the deal...although the interface now may look clunky (which I admit it does), the .NET strategem includes XML. And what does this mean to you? It means that the whole damn interface will be extensible through just some simple (or not-so-simple, depending on your preferences) editing of XML configuration file(s). This means that your entire GUI, not just the window hangings, not just the widgets...the WHOLE thing, will be extensible to any document format that's supported under XML. I know Apple has got XML configuration down in Mac OS X, but I don't think it's as widespread throughout the OS, as in Microsoft's case. And since ALL MS products are moving to the XML base, theoretically you should be able to click on a link, see your most commonly used Office documents, and then have one of them "materialize" on your desktop, workspace, whatever, SEAMLESSLY. Imagine having several programs/documents open at the same time and be able to seamlessly operate between them, as if they were one program.

    And you think Enlightenment is customizable? Heh. MS isn't playing here. This is gonna be a BIG thing.

    And think of this...once the .NET frameworks get ported to other OSes (think Linux), this same extensibility will be there in all .NET platforms, with the same commonality features. No more Windows, Linux, or Mac specific GUI's. One person's interface on a Linux box will be able to be used on any other platform. Just copy the XML config files (and the appropriate extensions) and you're done. No porting necessary.

    They're going for COMMONALITY here people. They realize the money's not in the OS any more, it's in the applications. As long as you have the .NET frameworks on your platform, the app will work.


    Imagine going to the store and buying Microsoft Office .NET and just having it run on your Linux box...no modifications needed.

    This, I think will be a very exciting thing.

    -Kevin, MSCE+I, MCT
  • This is something I screwed around with a bit when I had a Mac. I liked the power of unix pipes and redirects and was wondering if a graphical implementation would be interesting so I grabbed codewarrior and wrote a rudimentary graphical interface to pipe and redirect.

    I wrote some small applications that did a few limited examples of unix commands, like grep, cat and sort. I didn't aim for full functionality at all (well, except for cat I guess).

    The gui interface was a number of boxes that you could drag files or commands into. So you could for instance drag a file into the first box, set the next box to a pipe, drag the grep application into the box after that, double click it and type in the word you were grepping for, set the next box to a redirect, double click it and set a filename.

    It seemed like a neat idea but I didn't keep my PowerMac long enough after that to really go anywhere with it. My eventual idea was that you'd be able to drag AppleScripts into it to, and for instance do a pipeline that would perform filter operations on a set of files using PhotoShop.

  • Exactly!! There was the Doom wired to act as a "kill" client, but why couldn't you do more desktop things in something like Quake? I think I might remember which room something was stored in (spatial and categorical memory being used) rather than just a directory path. And, you could use teleporters to handle symlinks.
  • There was an Ask Slashdot [slashdot.org] about this.
  • "We want users to be able to run applications without even knowing it," says the company's vice president of interface technologies, Kai-Fu Lee

    You think after the rash of virii this sort of thinking has already spawned, they might rethink it? Not a chance. Just wait for the next level.

  • So, you will be more productive in an office loaded with people yacking at their computers? You will like your environment more when people have to chatter at their computer? Noise, noise, noise and lots of distraction.

    Send private emails via voice. Eh? What's the point of making them private then if you are going to broadcast the content to the office/coworkers, etc by yacking out loud to your computer?

    Ever work in a scientific lab? Want to try to do scientific data manipulation, paper writing, etc, by having to talk out loud - along with all your fellow labmates? Wont work and totally undesireable. We have 3 computers per lab bay in my bio lab. They are used constantly. I don't want to be distracted with the constant chatter that would be required to handle a primary voice-driven interface. I would have to yell "SHUT THE F*CK UP!" all the time so I could think and get my research done.

  • Mac should introduce handwriting recognition devices

    I think it will be a cold day in the Valley before Apple go near handwriting recognition again. 8-)

    Have you used handwriting recognition ? It's horrible; you can't do it mobile, you can't do it quickly, and some of us can barely scrawl anyway. Handwriting recognition is not where it's at for new interfaces.

    I want wearable computers that can take notes in meetings at reasonable speeds. I want cameras that know how to email images, and where the speed-dial directory is (filtered already to those people I'm in the habit of sending images too). I want adaptive interfaces that only need two buttons and know that if I've just had a phone call from a client I'll either want my notebook or my phone dialler.

    Handwriting ? That's too inherently bandwidth limited.

  • The article appeared in this week's issue of Newsweek. (Unfortunately, if you go to www.newsweek.com, it takes you to MSNBC.) The interesting thing I noticed was that the screen capture of Nautilus is completely different in the print version, while MacOS X and Microsoft .NET are the same as in the online version.
  • I mean, come on, Eazel's entire existence is a collection of screen shots thus far

    This is simply untrue. You can download Nautilus PR2 [eazel.com] and test it and the Eazel services out. In addition you can download hourly RPM builds of Nautilus [eazel.com]. I've been running these for a few weeks now and it's coming along nicely.

  • OS X is NOT vapor you moron!

    Server has been out for over a year (okay, not relevant to the GUI discussion) - and X consumer has been in beta for two months with tens of thousands of users. Nothin but screenshots is vapor. Actual CD's is substantial.

    An uptime of 3 weeks for a beta - is phenomenal (disclaimer - I'm used to Windoze and Classic Mac OS; my new e250 at work is doing pretty well too ;-))
  • Well, you took the words right out of my keyboard. As much as I like linux - unless I want to play some game linux is the only thing I use for EVERYTHING else - it is NOT innovative. Don't get me wrong, I like it and it is nicely functional, but everthing in it is cloned from old unix or copied from windoze or the mac. The Gimp? A clone of photoshop. KDE and Gnome? Both borrow heavily from windoze (and one could argue from OS/2 Warp). You can even make KDE pretend to look like Aqua OR the old MacOS.

    As I think about it, I can't bring to mind ANY innovative design or software package that is really something only in linux and not preexistent in windoze or the mac world.

    I will keep on using linux, that is a fact, but I honestly cannot say there is innovation there. It is a good game of catchup, but not of "catch ME!" with linux. Certainly not yet, at any rate.

  • We say we want to revolutionize the user experience, but when it comes right down to it, we're out of ideas.


    You do not understand the purpose of GNOME and KDE. They are not intended to be good GUIs! They are not intended to be revolutionize the user experience. If you go into them expecting that, then yes, you are going to be disappointed.

    Listen to Miguel some time, and he will tell you exactly what he is doing with Helix, and his reasons really apply to all the GNOME/KDE stuff. This software is intended for infiltration. They are deliberately intended to be like Win9x, so that Win9x users will feel at home. The purpose of these GUIs isn't to make Unix easy to use; it's to make Unix familiar to former Windows users.

    Once you understand that, then you will appreciate GNOME/KDE more for what they are. And yes, you will also become restless and wonder where the real innovation is happening. And I can't help you with that, because I don't know either. But KDE's lameness doesn't prove anything, except the obvious: software that deliberately attempts to be lame, will succeed at being lame very well.

  • by aardvarkjoe ( 156801 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @08:55AM (#575165)
    I've talked to several 'computer illiterates' (ranging from never touched a computer, to people who are still on dos 5.0 computers, to people who have always used win9x as their typewriter), and have found that they agree on a couple different points about UI that would make things easier:

    They need to be able to see what things are. Right now, our system of icons just doesn't work well enough -- see the iloveyou, which apparently was partly perpetrated by the fact that the text icon looks similar to the script icon. (At least, that's what I heard.) Documents often have the same icon as the related executable. When the icons are small, they're had to identify. Etc, etc. One person suggested that they'd like a color-coding system: for instance, all text/word processor documents are green (or shades of green), perhaps along with an icon to identify exactly what type it is. Executables are red. A directory window full of music might have a blue border around it, but the documents folder has green. Nautilus makes a big deal of quickly seeing what information is where; perhaps this will be a good step.

    The other thing they want is application integration. For instance, if they go to file/open, and open a text document, they want an editor. If they then open an MP3 file, a player should show up. You should be able to click a button in your spreadsheet program and have it sent via e-mail to everyone in your address book. This, of course, runs counter to the unix way of doing things in a lot of ways -- lots of small programs that each have their seperate task. (Disregard that if you use emacs, of course :) It seems that M$ has the jump on everyone there, with the mentality that every program should do everything. (I think it makes for shoddy software, but apparently a lot of people like it.)

    To make the unix way of doing things more attractive to these people, I think the best move is to make sure that all programs work together in a standard way. Right now, we have the GNOME and KDE projects that try to set standards, but what if we think a bit bigger? For instance, a body could be chosen that could set exacting standards for how specific applications work. (For instance, an e-mail program can be invoked like so, reads a global address book from such-and-such, etc.) Then, I can imagine (for instance) a toolbar or global menu that has a send e-mail button on it. If you press it, the system tells the current application, "The user wants to send something via e-mail." The application returns what it is they want to send (for instance, the current document.) Then, it's sent to the e-mail program for processing. You could switch from one program to another and continue to use it in the same manner you always have been.

    I don't know if that's the best way of doing it, or exactly what kind of interface and technical details would be needed, but it's definately within our grasp. (And here I am, the one who usually says that we don't need to pander to the Windows users, but ... hey, I think this would be useful too.)

    Finally, about this stuff about getting rid of the files/folders analogy: all the people I've talked to say "don't." As has been pointed out, there's a lot of data on a computer. Some sort of hierarchical method of organization is necessary. I've heard suggestions of organization based on type of data, rather than by what's related to it (like we generally do now), and that may be doable, but the folders analogy makes sense to them. Until someone can give a convincing alternative that makes more sense, we should hold on to it.

  • It's beta, I've used it. Anyone can purchase it. That qualifies as vapor?
  • I suppose this quite usable beta's of ASP+ and the .NET stuff and C# im using are just my imagination... yes thats it... I hate bias like that without obvious and ismple fact checking


  • by gorgon50 ( 245003 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @08:09AM (#575182)

    I've been using MacOS X PB for a few months now and I still for the most part don't like the interface (too much fluff). But... I really have started to loose the sense that I'm running individual applications.

    The windows from any 'application layer' can be interchanged (I can have a browser window from IE, then a terminal window, then my Macster window, then another IE window, etc.)

    I rarely end up using the 'desktop' to search for applications anymore as I've but 99% of my most used Apps in the dock...

    Anyway... strange sensation...

  • by SubtleNuance ( 184325 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @02:18PM (#575183) Journal
    Not to make a federal case of it, but should the browser be an adjunct to the interface--or should it become the interface itself?

    God help us.

    and maybe the results will infuse new energy into the aging PC itself
    sarcasm.start(cluelessauthor); What we need to do is replace PC's with a better - more NOW! - interface... yeah! Video, Sound and Text dont cut it anymore... we need a new paradigmn man - we need to think outside the box...sarcasm.end(cluelessauthor);

    What a load of crap. Dont get me wrong, I love change, I love to see new technolody and real innovation - but does anyone else get the feeling that there is a force right now in computing pushing 'change' for change's sake? I dont get it, Im pretty convinced that the PC 'idea' is still a pretty good one. Other 'technology devices' have value for specific functions, but its pretty hard to argue that the power and adaptability of a PC. A PC has a lot to offer to those devices in order to 'empower them' to some degree. Short of creating all 'tech devices' equal (making them 'self-aware' and 'self-discovring' in an adhoc 'peer-to-peer' network) I cant see the PC being replaced any time soon.

    As for the first quote above - what a horrible prospect... havnt these people ever heard of XWindows? I mean, isnt the browser a replacment for the 'network portability' of an X App? How much 'easier' would life be if a browser was an XServer - or tech of similar mind... just an idea...

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Great Caesar's Ghost!
    An on-topic first post!
  • by jafac ( 1449 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @09:50AM (#575191) Homepage

    'nuff said.

    no. not 'nuff said. The money is not necessarily in the OS, and never was. It's in control. Domination. The middleware. The platform. Sure, MS may port to other platforms, to get seats - but don't believe for one minute that that will not be used as a migration tactic. Cross platform development doubles the developer's costs. Even with Java. If .NET exists on other platforms, it will be to lure people into dependence on .NET. Then, when .NET achieves dominance, they will slowly decrease cross-platform parity. Certain features won't be implemented on non-windows. Performance and stability on non-windows will lag. The disparity will ramp slowly, until people who may have been on other platforms, slowly migrate to windows to mitigate their own support costs. Cutting development costs on MS's end is the main goal, but dominance is a sweet side benefit.

    Same shit, different day.
  • by Non-Newtonian Fluid ( 16797 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @08:39AM (#575194)
    A couple of groups have attempted to produce a crude graphical interface [for Linux], but until a new company named Eazel came along, no one was willing to take the step to create a world-class interface...

    Really? I guess the definition of "crude" is subjective, but I don't know where the "no one was willing" bit comes from. I guess both the Gnome and KDE folks are trying for a barely mediocre interface, too fearful of what the fame and fortune of being "world-class" might bring them....

  • by tewwetruggur ( 253319 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @08:41AM (#575196) Homepage
    I must admit that I like Apple's stance on NOT integrating "browser" features into the GUI... that's what pisses me off the most about Win98 - it just looks stupid, particularly when 90% of the time, having the browser features there are meaningless. If I want to peruse the web, I'll use a browser. If I want to find a file, don't give me IE/Netscape/Mozilla/Opera et al... give me something simple that can sort the files by whatever I want.

    And, just my opinion, but I felt that particular prototype of .NET looked damn dumb - very busy, much like a poorly laid out web-site or magazine.

    I'm really curious to hear other opinions on this... I've never really heard a really good argument as to why every damn window needs to look like a browser, or why some people have this driving desire to get away from "simpler" GUI layouts.

  • That isn't the only thing that isn't vapor. Nautilis is coming along real nicely, and from CVS its almost usable. (Albeit a pain to install.)

    Microsoft .NET has beta products ready for download, including a copy of the C# development kits. Most of this stuff is going to be here within a year.

  • The point the article was making is that Eazel is a "revolutionary" GUI. We all know KDE and Gnome, while they are "world-class" GUIS, are basically trying there hardest to replicate the Windows 9x look&feel.
  • by jon_c ( 100593 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @09:00AM (#575204) Homepage
    What you saw there was bassicly MSN Explorer, which is in effect, IE with a pretty (dumbed down) skin.

    .NET, from what i understand isn't supposed to take over the GUI, it's a framework for writing windows applications that work well in a client server model. and IMHO more of a extension to there current API's.. look at GDI+, ASP+, C#. nothing really new here. just improved.

    As for a new Windows GUI, take a look at Whisler screen shots, it's more of the same increamental improvments (aka dumbing down) that's been going on since Windows 95 - slight change in functionality, new graphics.

  • I guess the definition of "crude" is subjective, but I don't know where the "no one was willing" bit comes from.

    Well, people might have been willing, but totally unqualified and incapable.

    I guess both the Gnome and KDE folks are trying for a barely mediocre interface

    If that was their goal, they are succeeding admirably indeed. Keep adding flashing lights and neon spinning 3d graphics, maybe a GUI will magically appear...

  • The other thing they want is application integration. For instance, if they go to file/open, and open a text document, they want an editor. If they then open an MP3 file, a player should show up. You should be able to click a button in your spreadsheet program and have it sent via e-mail to everyone in your address book.

    I know how elistist this sounds, but you pretty much just described OpenDoc. It was a document-centric application technology that shipped as part of some previous versions of Mac OS. There were container applications that could open spreadsheets, word processing docs, graphics, etc. There was even a component-based internet client called CyberDog. It became apparently that the world wasn't really ready to take this concept on yet, though.

    Now, from what it sounds like from reading this article, an ex-Apple guy is championing a similar concept at Microsoft.

    - Scott
    Scott Stevenson
  • I'm not sure what to think about these new GUI designs, I'm finding them becoming more and more cluttered and end up turning off all the 'new features'. Case in point, the interface for Netscape 6, while cool looking, is not easy to read (for me anyway) and for the most part looks cluttered. Lets keep the desktop / app looking clean.

    I don't know about the rest of you but I'd prefer a more basic user interface. It might not be pretty, but it gets the job done...

    How about an HAL 9000 [tbid.com] style interface?

    Capt. Ron

  • not trying to troll, just trying to point out that Microsoft did NOT invent the GUI, that was Xerox, but Apple had the first commercial one.

    And furthermore, Apple had Xerox's permission to use those concepts, contrary to the way it was depicted in "Pirates of Silicon Valley." Apple gave Xerox tons of stock to be able to work with their engineers. I suppose that aspect was not dramatic enough to be included in the movie. Unfortunately, now most of the country has a distorted version of history implanted in their minds.

    - Scott
    Scott Stevenson
  • by bXTr ( 123510 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @08:12AM (#575216) Homepage
    Hey Rob,

    You can download nightly builds of Nautilus at nautilus.eazel.com [eazel.com]. Hardly vaporware.

    Sensual: Running a feather down your lover's body
    Kinky: Using the whole chicken
  • offtopic but....
    To port a C program to Mac/Win/Linux and to do the same with a Java program doesn't take the same amount of time or cost the same. Why do you think there is all this client side Java devlopement?
  • by update() ( 217397 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @10:02AM (#575221) Homepage
    Note the mockup of the "Eazel Nautilus interface" where the Gnome panel is listed as an Eazel innovation. I'd feel sorry for the Gnome developers if they weren't always implying that Unix lacked a GUI until they came along.

    Honestly, I don't understand how Eazel manages to maintain the hype it does for its Emperor's new clothes. They're making a file browser for Gnome. It works OK, it beats gmc and when it's done maybe it will be better than Konqueror. But it's hardly a "graphical interface" in its own right. But they generate such rabidly positive press about their great innovations. Like what? Embedded MP3 playing! And, uh, embedded MP3 previewing! How much funding do they have - $12 million?

    The Bubbling Load Monitor people ought to strike a deal with Compaq or Sony to preload computers with the Bubbling Load Monitor desktop. Until now, Linux users had to struggle with a cryptic command-line interface. But some brilliant programmers are revolutionizing the GUI. Now you can display system load as bubbles! They plan to make money selling subscriptions.

  • Were you trying to 1) log into an NT box 2) bring up that security box thing or 3) reboot?
  • by twisty ( 179219 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @09:02AM (#575225) Homepage Journal
    Last decade I was watching a video of how lyricist and artist Todd Rudgren used the fairly prototypical VideoToaster to make his music video "Change Myself." (Incidentally, he's a Mac Programmer too.) What was surprizing is how his criticisms and insights were far in advance of any VR Conference or journal I'd studied since:

    Interface Should Be Invisible
    Only recently have I encountered this concept starting to surface in places like the Enlightenment WM. If you're running pure E without Gnome, there is no start menu, no status bar, no obstuction to the task at hand... If you're not running something, all you see is the background, fullscreen. The menu comes up when you click. That has its PROs and CONs, of course... If you're running lots of windows, it is too much easier to click what *is* there than what *isn't*.

    Instant Readiness
    "I should be able to pick up my MIDI keyboard and start playing. I should be able to draw five lines on the tablet, at the computer should know it's a staff for composing music." None of this wait-ten-minutes-as-I-boot crap either. BEOS lowered the bar on unnecessary boot times. MS Windows swears that Whistler and whatever follows will boot in 20 seconds and 10 seconds respectively. (I gotta SEE that!) But these stupid enumerations and initializations are not what a computing appliance should be wasting our time doing. Today's sleep and suspend modes are just a hint at *the right thing*, at the ready, and even those aren't as instant as they should be.

    One of the best lines in the video was his description of the Amiga applications of that day. (Like most older European software...) "Some programs were really bad... I mean, CREATIVELY bad! You'd have a maze of buttons, all alike, and somewhere in the center, is the exit!" We've come a long way...

  • > I believe that all of those features have existed in Windows 95

    I beleive that you are clueless. There is no way to forget that you are working with individual applications in windows, because:
    * many apps are still MDI (Photoshop or Excel, for instance)
    * when an application works, there is no way to move its window around.
    * when an app puts a modal dialog (like an open-file dialog), the system become unusable (because you can't move windows around).

    Oh, boy, you are so wrong, that it is not even funny.


  • And since ALL MS products are moving to the XML base, theoretically you should be able to click on a link, see your most commonly used Office documents, and then have one of them "materialize" on your desktop, workspace, whatever, SEAMLESSLY.

    Though I think XML is a great markup language, I am wary of statements should as this. They seem to suggest that *all* information will be stored in XML in the future which is just not going to happen (anytime soon?), I doubt MS will start compiling programs to an XML format or that images (OK, this does exist) or compressed files will store their data in XML.

    What in real life will happen *I think* is that the links will point to an XML file containing the user interface, when a widget is then clicked the XML files will say what code to call.

    A good idea perhaps but nothing new. Mozilla already has this in the form of XUL files, it could possible be tweaked to do just what you described (or does so without tweaking?) but it won't happen because its market share isn't large enough anymore. Nautilus also kinda has it in the form of Bonobo components, also to a lesser degree but its techicly the same.

    Imagine having several programs/documents open at the same time and be able to seamlessly operate between them, as if they were one program.

    Imagine having a screen on which multiple programs could be opened at the same time, the program could be moved by dragging the mouse in real time. It would be possible to drag text, images and other data between them as if it were one application. Again, this is nothing new, Windowing systems have been doing it for years via drag-n-drop and cut-n-paste. I bet Microsoft solution will work even worse because as to this date noone has been able to find a a replacement for windows (not the OS), imagine not being able to move your application!

  • Maybe this is getting a bit OT, but this post reminds me of active desktop on windows....what a piece of crap. I've known jillions of windows users, and never have I known anyone to use active desktop. Talk about a useless slow-down of everything. Some might say the same for windows itself.

    "It is well that war is so terrible, lest we grow too fond of it."
  • by phinance ( 210768 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @09:04AM (#575230) Homepage
    From the story:
    OS X may look cool, [Bill Gates] says, but it?s ?just sexy widgets.? To go all the way, he explains, you have to define a new style for a new generation of applications. You have to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to do it.
    Microsoft thinks that the answer might lie in a ?universal type-in line,? an always-active blank space that intelligently processes what the user wants to do at a given moment

    Hundreds of millions on dollars spent on GUI redesign and they came up with the command line.


  • the .NET beta does have the new gui you know, so it isn't vapor..
  • If by describing OSX as Vapor, you mean freely usable in its Beta form, then I guess you're right. Somehow, I'm thinking you're not, tho.

    I mean, come on, Eazel's entire existence is a collection of screen shots thus far, and .NET is barely a framework-in-progress...

    What does it mean to wake out of a dream and be wearing someone else's shorts? (BNL)
  • Actually, I don't expect much change in GUI's in general for the next decade. I see peripherals having a potentially vastly changing face in the next ten years.

    Current GUI's are not all that awful. Sure, some of them are confusing -- but there are others that are not. I can't make heads or tails of a Mac interface (then again, I've never really tried) -- but sit me in front of a CDE or Windows or anything else and it's as comfortable as the command line.

    Keyboards, mice and their current alternatives, however, suck much ass. Cramps, slow input, wilting eyesight . . . The few alternatives that exist today are just as likely to disappear from shelves tomorrow and even when they work, they are either expensive or difficult to operate.

Lavish spending can be disastrous. Don't buy any lavishes for a while.