Covered Topics

Please see the list of the topics I've covered. It's located near the bottom of the page. Thanks for stopping in!!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A Sticky, GUI Mess - More Form Over Function

Richard W.M. Jones, a programmer who works for Red Hat, had a quite interesting blog entry today. You can find it here:

In few words, he gives the new Windows 8 "Metro" user interface a real bashing, saying that "it's even worse than GNOME for usability." If it's worse than GNOME 3, we're all in big trouble. Those who have regularly followed my blog for the last few months know what I think of GNOME 3. GNOME 3 is unusable on my laptop, though the same quad core machine runs Windows 7 with all its graphics just fine. Richard indicated that Red Hat will include the new GNOME shell in its upcoming RHEL 7 release, and expressed his concern that they may lose some loyal users over this decision. Let's hope Red Hat will actually clean it up its implementation of GNOME so it works properly.

Microsoft Office 2010 - Tied Up In Ribbons:
Lately, I've been using a borrowed computer from work to complete some assignments. The machine is running Windows 7 and MS Office 2010. I'm using it to edit some Word documents with the "track changes" feature - which isn't, to my knowledge, duplicated in Open Office. The work machine has what Microsoft calls its new "Fluent User Interface." I haven't seen this "Fluent User Interface" on my own laptop, which is a year old yet came with Windows 7. Their "Fluent User Interface" consists of a new "ribbon" which runs across the top of the application window, replacing the usual and customary toolbars that Windows and LINUX users alike have grown to recognise as standard. It's not just a feature of Office, the 'Paint' program I used for saving the screen shot below also has it.

The thing I noticed immediately while using Office 2010, besides their new ribbon, was that I couldn't find spell check. There is no "Help" dropdown menu, and no, not even an "Edit" dropdown menu, either. The "Help" dropdown menu has been replaced with a little blue question mark that I didn't immediately notice in the low contrast coloring of the ribbon. Eventually I found the Spell Checker in a very non-intuitive place: A dropdown menu called "Review".

So, as GNOME did with their latest creation, Microsoft had to take something I previously could access in a fraction of a second with ONE mouse click and make it into an operation that now takes several seconds and two or more mouse clicks. After a considerable time getting acquainted with the new regime I can now, more or less, get my work done.

What's The Rationale For All This?
I spoke with a colleague at work who has worked in IT for many years. His comment was that "all the 'old school' folks who have written all the stuff we have used for years are all starting to retire. All the twenty-somethings who grew up texting on their iPhones are now getting software development jobs and starting to impact the industry."

All I have to say about that is I hope and pray that some companies will consider those of us who do NOT want their PC to look like an iPhone, and who simply want to continue to get their work done.


  1. I've only read and seen screen shots of Win 8, Most comments are negative but thats to be expected because like anything Win 8 is different and is going to take some getting use to. And its not like Win8 is Vista ... I bought a new desktop in the Vista era. Vista didn't last long enough for there to be anything to backup.

    About Words Ribbon and icon based GUI, I think the reasons for icon gui isn't JUST that old code writers are retiring (or dieing off) and being replaced by writers of the smart phone era. I think it has more to do with the *customer* coming from the smart phone era and the customer being more comfortable with similar interfaces. From what I've read at ZD-Net thats what Microsoft is trying to do with Windows 8, provide a consistent interface across numerous platforms. Really can't blame them as it seems to be what the customer wants (or needs).

    What I keep in mind is how when you and I and your friend started in computers people either studied or worked with computers, were a hobbyist who didn't mind tinkering with code, or you bought an Apple.

    Today their all "take them home, plug 'em in" toaster type appliances.

    About Gnome 3, I'm somewhat new to Linux and am not sure I could pick 3 out of a lineup. Between two laptops I have set up to duel boot between Win7 and: Ubuntu with Unity, straight Debian, Mint Debian (LMDE), and Mint 12 with KDE on two machines. Though I've had Ubuntu the longest it's the Linux I've played with the least, probably because of Unity. Can those bars be moved around? Doesn't matter, I didn't like it. But Ubuntu did load and run with very little interaction from me. Ubuntu, the Windows and OS-X of the Linux world?

    Debian and Mint Debian are pretty much the same, except LMDE updates-upgrades to a 3 kernel and the initial update is a headache (change the repository urls before updating would make it easier), and LMDE is a rolling thing so ... LMDE also uses the Debian and Mint repositories which is a plus.

    Which brings me to Mint 12. Yeah ..... I have 12 installed on both the wifes HP lap with Athlon (duel core single thread) and my Dell lap with i5 (Duel core duel thread) and the difference is day and twilight. Mint 12 is fine on the HP but not so much on my more advanced Dell. 12 has never shut down without having to use the power button, seems my processor is getting the jiggles after the shut down script tries loading the wrong drivers ... What? I don't have time for this.

    But Mint 12 looks Pretty, really Pretty, which brings me back to Gnome 3.

    A standard yack yack in Linux forums is how to mainstream Linux and what I've read of Gnome 3 is 3 is trying to bring the visual experience of Win-Apple and Smart Phone to Linux, which is sort of ironic since phones and OS-X are pretty much Linux.

    But anyway, the short of what I've gathered is Gnome 3 is an attempt for Linux to become more appealing to the masses.

    Problem is Gnome 3 is still Linux and Linux does not lend itself to the toaster mentality of the masses. THe last problem I solved was with my Dell 360 BlueTooth, spent a long time trying to figure out why no Linux could find the hardware. Then I booted into Windows and turned on the adapter, restarted the machine in LMDE and golly, there it is. ? WHAT ?

    The masses won't put up with that.

    1. You make some good comments - thank you for your feedback!

      Truth be known, it is likely the problem is BOTH what you said about customers as well as my colleague's comment about older v.s. younger programmers.

      Not all of us are ready to embrace the "iPhone" look on our desktops. I just want my stuff to work properly and to be able to find what I need to do my work. The "iPhone" and "ribbon" stuff needlessly ADDS to my work and slows me down - it does NOT make me more efficient at getting things done!

      You point to the issue with your Dell 360 BlueTooth. I agree whole-heartedly - they need to spend LESS time on fancy GUIs and MUCH MORE time on making things work reliably - the FIRST time.


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