A tricky situation in malone bug 60995

Matthew Paul Thomas mpt at canonical.com
Sun Oct 21 19:04:48 UTC 2007

On Oct 22, 2007, at 7:08 AM, Martin Olsson wrote:
> Matthew Paul Thomas wrote:
>> A confirmation alert is usually the worst possible solution to any 
>> design problem. People treat it as an interruption rather than as a 
>> serious question. (Some horrid Web sites already do this, with 
>> JavaScript alerts of the form "Are you sure you want to navigate away 
>> from this page?")
> I agree that confirmation is often a really bad solution. This is 
> because of human "habituation". Who actually writes "rm thesis.txt" 
> and then press "y" to actually do the delete? Everyone writes "rm -f 
> thesis.txt" and then a split second later they go "nooooo".
> This problem was fixed nicely on Windows using the "Recycle Bin" 
> concept but on *nix there is no good standard solution yet afaik?

There is. It's called the Trash. It even has a freedesktop.org spec.

> Imagine what would happen if someone suddenly checked-in a change to 
> the "rm" command that removed the "-f" option, and motivated this 
> change by saying that "oh, but people are losing data so we must make 
> it harder to loose data". And typically you have much more data in a 
> file than you have in a form.

The sort of people who use the terminal are used to the assumption that 
most terminal commands make -- that when you tell the computer to do 
something, you will never change your mind. That's partly why the 
developers of operating systems, Ubuntu included, strive to reduce the 
number of times people have to use a terminal: because graphical 
interfaces can be made more obviously forgiving.

> And to justify this crippled BACKSPACE key you still would have to 
> explain why this is not a problem on Windows ("the main platform of 
> ignorant computer users")? Why is it that Firefox on Windows still has 
> this "really serious data loss problem"? Maybe it's because if someone 
> made a change like this in Firefox on Windows people would be 
> converting back IE "en masse".

Windows users are accustomed to losing data.

> Of course, this is Linux so people don't have a choice (unless they 
> want to go proprietary and use Opera).

Or Epiphany, or Konqueror, or Galeon, or Seamonkey, or even the Firefox 
about:config value that determines what Backspace does.

> Because, as long as Windows has BACKSPACE==BACK there will be tons of 
> newbie users coming over that all expect BACKSPACE==BACK. Every single 
> one of them will be *annoyed* and *confused* when they discover this.
> ...

And Mac users switching to Ubuntu are annoyed and confused when 
Command+M doesn't minimize the window, and Windows users switching to 
Mac are annoyed that Command+Tab works differently from Alt+Tab, and 
Mac users switching to Windows are annoyed and confused when Tab 
uselessly focuses something they can't type in, etc etc. They're 
different GUI dialects, get over it. If we try to make all our keyboard 
equivalents consistent with other OSes, we'll end up swimming in 
CUA-style mediocrity.

> ...
>> There is no dataloss for Web sites that allow caching, but there is 
>> dataloss for sites that use HTTPS, such as wiki.ubuntu.com.
> Yea, I agree that HTTPS/bank sites cannot cache their data. I would 
> prefer to have a dialog in this particular case, just like how there 
> is existing dialogs for stuff like "do you want to resubmit your POST 
> data?" and so on.

So you agree that it's a really bad solution, but you prefer it anyway. 
Citing one of Firefox's most long-standing and embarrassing bugs
<https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=112848> as an example to 
emulate doesn't really help your argument.

>> One alternative would be to make "[" the shortcut key for Back.
> ...
> The problem with this particular idea (of using "[") is that on any 
> non-english keyboard the "[" key is really hard to use. On my keyboard 
> I have hold AltGr and then press "8" to type a "[".

That's a good point. On reviewing the various keyboard layouts, I think 
perhaps "," would be better for Back, and "." for Forward (despite "." 
requiring Shift in some layouts).

> Anyway, my point is that key bindings are like public APIs. Even if 
> they are quite bad you cannot just change them. Microsoft and Windows 
> and long understood this but as Linux starts to get actual users it's 
> important that Linux understands this too (for key bindings).
> ...

Microsoft doesn't know squat about designing keybindings. Why did they 
choose Ctrl+V for Paste -- by far the most popular command in Microsoft 
Office -- when (in QWERTY layout) it's difficult to reach with one 
hand? Why does Ctrl+X mean "Move To..." in Explorer and in Excel, but 
"Cut to Clipboard" everywhere else? Why is the Windows standard 
keybinding for Close (Alt+F4) so awkward and so little-known that it's 
a common source of IRC pranks? Why does Explorer have a single-key 
equivalent for Move to Recycle Bin (Delete), and then by default put up 
a confirmation alert (thereby missing the point entirely), instead of 
having a less accident-prone keybinding to begin with? Why does 
Backspace mean Delete in most places, Up in some, and Back in others?

Ubuntu's keybindings repeat some of Microsoft's mistakes, but that's 
not a reason to repeat all of them.

Matthew Paul Thomas
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