You lost me... can you dumb it down a bit more...???

Story: Why Gnome, Ubuntu and the like don't understand "usability"Total Replies: 10
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Jun 16, 2011
9:25 AM EST
LOL you lost me after the first few paragraphs... zzzzzzzzz... sorry...

I'm a power user of Ubuntu, love the new Unity interface (warts and all), there's a lot less mousing... and I find ways to do what I need to get done within this interface. People I've showed Ubuntu to with Unity, who are CASUAL computer users running Windows, were very excited to realize that they could use the same Linux distro I do... because of the dash. With a few pointers they can navigate Ubuntu and do what they need to do... and NOT feel hopelessly lost...

And they feel like kings and queens to think they can use the same Linux distro that I do, and I am a power user.

Is Unity a *dumb down*...??? Maybe, but it makes MY experience more pleasurable, and if it can sway others to dump Windows, then more power to it... And I am a big proponent of *less is more*... and Unity is simple and dare I say elegant...??? Well, if not elegant yet, then its well on its way...

At least Canonical is making an effort to welcome into the Linux fold those people who are casual users...

Jun 16, 2011
9:37 AM EST
I might have to give Unity a try.

At least it doesn't have the stigma of KDE.

Jun 16, 2011
10:39 AM EST

Quoting:I might have to give Unity a try.

At least it doesn't have the stigma of KDE.

You are so impatient. Just give it a bit more time, please.


* So as to avoid confusion brought on by mispronunciation of your alias leading to the belief you are somehow related to those ferocious beasts of yore. That is, despite your menacing ROAR, you are a sweet singer at heart.


Jun 16, 2011
10:39 AM EST
> At least Canonical is making an effort to welcome into the Linux fold those people who are casual users...

Agreed. I have no idea if their Unity interface will be successful or not. But if that's their goal with it, it's worth trying. They should try not to alienate their existing user base in the process though, so maintaining the old interface for those who want it is probably a good idea.

Jun 16, 2011
10:41 AM EST
kwint said it right - learnability and usability are orthogonal for any advanced technique. Kitchen physics is easy to learn, but doesn't fit many situations. Quantum is truly a PITA to learn, but think of the power!

@masgeeks: tl;dr is no excuse ;-)

Jun 16, 2011
12:09 PM EST
[very serious]


I can argue a business model where sending most of the former base users of Ubuntu to the exits can and should be viewed in a positive light. What does retaining the base (of more knowledgeable) users contribute to a new direction when on average those are mostly skeptics? Perhaps only in a negative sense can they be seen as contributors. That is, should those users revert to the older UI and then post to the new, casual users on the superiority of the older Ubuntu how does the new direction and priorities gain by their presence? If the more skilled are not enamored with Unity (or whatever), who helps these users when they encounter problems? In such a scenario the retention of the unconvinced base undermines Canonical's goals and its chances of being successful in its pursuit. Thus, sometimes it is better to retain only the committed, believers and suffer the loss in raw numbers when the change in course is radical.

In a more philosophical view, I remember the term either 'Beggars [should | could] not be choosers' and since I have never contributed financially to Linux or a distribution what I am taking is a gift. While I have been a fairly long time user of Ubuntu i have known I was going to exit. However, without rancor or claims I was being abandoned. My last update was not even to the former LTS, because I could see their direction, instead I chose a version that had a shorter life and near its end I installed Mint. Soon I will upgrade to the latest version of that distribution. Nonetheless, I can see they intend to follow Ubuntu's model for the windows manager, hence, when that version becomes unavoidable I shall change distributions again. It's not that I am so skilled that I spend time tweaking my installation, but I just do not wish to lose the option to make my own changes when I perceive the need. Moreover, making changes without resort to deep searches for the hidden keys that allow such changes is my base requirement.

I will try to keep the last point brief, however, let me apologize for the length of this screed.

As we have seen in another thread, converts or true believers can unintentionally create a storm of ill will with their demands that Linux actually be set on the road of World Domination. The latter should still be perceived as spoken in jest, since the creator of Linux said (approximately) all operating systems suck, but Linux sucks less. Moreover, that is not an unalterable law of the world or the universe, hence, a bit of humility is warranted.

Let me arbitrarily end here.

[end of very serious]

As always jd,



Jun 16, 2011
12:41 PM EST
masgeeks: I don't have to explain it, because in fact you explained it far better than anyone!

There were Windows-users, and they were easily able to learn how to use Ubuntu. Just like I said, Ubuntu is aiming for 'new' users, offering a low threshold to enter.

And like you said:
Quoting:At least Canonical is making an effort to welcome into the Linux fold those people who are casual users...

That's exactly what I was trying to say! They're welcoming new, casual users. Because otherwise there's no way for them to reach the 100 Million Mr. Shuttleworth wants to reach.

However, though, if you would really heavily use the software day in day out, like doing lots of multitasking, switching between windows and applications, starting and quitting lots of programs, would it still be the best solution possible?

Yes, I'm thankful to Canonical for making Linux approachable! And for them to really, really look into the 'learnability' aspect of usability. And spending time and efforts of choosing the best way to do things. That's all great! And something other distro's haven't done to the same level, as of yet. Maybe Linspire, but sadly it failed. Errr, sad for the 'casual Linux user' who's mostly experienced with Windows, that is.

And yes, I'm thankful there's also other distro's which are a PITA to configure, a nightmare to update but once done, you know all silly details you shouldn't care about, you know there all settings are - more than you ever liked to learn about and most of them never used, and you can use them for about eight years without having to reinstall once (if you're on a rolling scheme). OK, have to admit, in eight years I reinstalled twice, but one of those times was because I bought a new computer and the other time because I accidentally pulled the power cord when glibc was installing, and having no decent backup. You see, everything has its benefits, and the article was not meant to celebrate. Though we should.

No, the article was meant to put those flame wars about UI's in a better perspective. Like "Linux is not for everybody, and I have to use the CLI!" Well, AutoCAD is not for everybody too. But it's still a great program. The casual user doesn't want to use it and is better of with MS Paint (or XPaint), the everyday user would detest paint. Once I tried to do a quick technical drawing in MS Paint... What an enormous nuisance!

So if you as an experienced Ubuntu user feel at home but so do new users, all the better. The article is more aimed at those complaining about Gnome and KDE dumbing down, and those complaining about programs like 'vi' and /etc-files being hard to use.

Looking back at it, the title doesn't cover the article, I'm a bit sorry about that. But clearly it seems, there are those two ways of thinking like described, and clearly, projects / companies like Apple, Ubuntu and Unity belong to the first category.

I'm sorry, I'm a bit done with 'dumbing down' today, as today in a discussion I actually had to explain most botnets exist of Windows computers. So no more Jip-en-Janneke language for me today. But if you still don't understand what I'm trying to tell and want to discuss, that's okay. It's because people like you who critizise what I write, I see my own writings were flawed, and because of such eventually become a bit wiser. And older... Ouch.

Jun 16, 2011
1:12 PM EST
Actually Txt, your are absolutely correct that it sometimes necessary to abandon existing customers when seeking to take your product in a new direction. However, it's not something a company should undertake lightly, and they should always be upfront with their existing customers about what they're doing and why. So far, I don't think Canonical has done that.

> I remember the term either 'Beggars [should | could] not be choosers' and since I have never contributed financially to Linux or a distribution what I am taking is a gift.

Well, I've paid for at least a couple of Slackware versions over the years (3, I think). That's nowhere near the number of used, but I haven't been a complete freeloader. And I've offered support in various forums for both Slackware and Red Hat (back before Fedora) over the years, though not anytime recently (mostly because those forums have largely disappeared).

And I agree that for non-paying users, if Ubuntu's new direction doesn't please you, then you should simply move to another distribution. it's not like there aren't lots out there to choose from.

> Well, AutoCAD is not for everybody too. But it's still a great program.

I know a number of people who would argue that point, Hans. :)

Jun 16, 2011
2:37 PM EST
I partly agree with you. From a users point of view, yes, you're certainly right. But not necessarily from a developers point of view. I try to explain what I mean. My own project, you can use it in the same way as you would have 15 odd years ago. But that is, because it still blends in perfectly with the current architecture. However, if you do a complete makeover with a complete new architecture you might - as a developer - not have that choice and, true, your users have to go through the transition. That's painful, but often not avoidable. Rather that than to make an ugly kludge that will come to haunt you later - see the Bell Labs reports on software decay. I think it is in the users interest too to have a clean design. Less bugs, now and later after maintenance.

Still, a radical change in design has its own risks. Your program may in the first stages not have the same stability and features as the "old" version, simply because you started from scratch. That's what happened with KDE4. In that case (I've been through a similar transition when I changed an entire VM) you'd rather wait a bit longer than to release it before its time. Another lesson that KDE4 learned the hard way. I hope Gnome3 doesn't make the same mistake. That would be a shame, because it shows IMHO some really new and daring DE paradigms.

Jun 16, 2011
4:39 PM EST
Can't argue with that Hans (B)! It's also about resources.

I think both AutoDesk and Dassault have the money and capabilities to - when they introduce a new way of interfacing - also add the 'old' methods to their 'new' program. Even when they do a partially rewrite, they put back in the old abilities - most of the times.

But demanding from a bunch of developers who just code because that's their hobby - to keep all old interfaces intact as a backup / alternative to the new ones, might have been a bit too much to ask. It's a difficult decision, because it's a bad idea to build on something which is 'decaying' - nice way to phrase it by the way. So, many people are wondering on why KDE4 was not gradually 'added' to KDE3, because by such means the old interfaces /functionality would have stayed intact for longer. But that's probably another discussion, one we had a few times too many.

JD: Yeah, the ACAD dislikers, tell me all about them! I spend at least 24 hours a week next to one of them. The type of people wondering why you would enter the length and angle of a line before you draw it, because with todays parametric drawing programs you can change them later on, and add relations. Thing is, once I found myself working with Pro/Engineer, and if I did more than 20 lines at a time, I wasn't able to draw a line anymore because the program could not decide which of 120 relations to add. Because if it added one relation, the other 20 lines also changed - and they tried forming new relations among each other, leading up to a number of possibilities among the level of the faculty of 120 I guess. No need to say it brought my dual core workstation to a grinding halt! Something which AutoCAD never does, I honestly have never been able to make it 'stuck'. I even drew 100k lines back in '05 or so on a single-core, and still no problem. You could make great 'spirograph'-like stuff, something the modern programs are not able to do! Ah, why preach to the choir; you as a Slackware user probably know why some people enjoy the CLI and doing it the old fashioned trusted way.

So I really came to like AutoCAD, as it's one of the only programs in which you can draw using the keyboard a lot, and it's WYSIWYG. I have to work with some CAM-program daily now where 'keyboard' was an afterthought. Sometimes there's some way to do it with the keyboard, but which key's may be different from minute to minute, and lots of time, there's no keyboard shortcut defined for menu items at all. Neither is there a way to appoint keyboard shortcuts.

Which means if I want to script it, the easier way out is to just write an AutoIT script (after all this is on Windows 7) to fire VI opening the plain-text file in which the all CAM-operations are listed, and then performing some vi-macro magic on it. Because I'm not familiar with vi-scripting though, but this 'ugly hack' works pretty well for me. And it makes me like the 'ease of use' of vi, even if it's about the hardest things I ever tried to learn(ed). And it's not because documentation lacks!

Jun 16, 2011
5:30 PM EST
Quoting:I'm a power user of Ubuntu, love the new Unity interface (warts and all), there's a lot less mousing...

And therein lies the difference. I've spent a goodly amount of time over the years perfecting a desktop that does not require that I memorise special key combinations. If I can't navigate around my desktop (with multiple monitors and 9 virtual desktops) with only the mouse, then it can't be done. I prefer it that way, there no special key combinations required.

Both Unity and GNOME Shell take that necessary functionality away from me. Neither filts particularly well with my Multiple monitors, and GNOME Shell, at least, does not recognise any monitor other than the primary one, I can not get previews of the other monitors.

On the other hand Unity is a pretty good tablet/touch screen desktop.

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