[OT] Debian mailinglists [was: RE: Debian or Ubuntu?]

Steve Lamb grey at dmiyu.org
Wed May 21 02:25:23 UTC 2008

Bart Silverstrim wrote:
> Les Mikesell wrote:
>> But if you have that path in a text file, it becomes a cut/paste

> Are you talking about this operation being done in X? Because that would 
> also technically be utilizing a GUI to assist in the administration :-)

    Or screen, which is CLI.  Or variables, which are programming.  ;)

>> How is anything easier to compare than what diff will do to text files 
>> or a directory of them?

> Honestly? Because I have had cases where I'm scrolling through a listing 
> of a large number of things and the scrolling becomes a solid pattern, 
> and the thing I'm looking for is an anomaly.

> Or I put two windows side by side comparing items visually.

    vimdiff, absolute godsend.  I recently had an upgrade where the patch
files overwrote custom modifications by an admin long since gone.  I was
facing digging through about 30-40Mb of JSP source, hundreds of files... and
did I mention I didn't know the language?

> Okay GUIs aren't easily scriptable. That doesn't mean they're 
> fundamentally flawed for other tasks any more than saying that the 
> command line doesn't easily let me browse hi-res photos.

    Agreed.  But would you say that CLI's the _only_ way one should browse
hi-res photos or would you concede that maybe a remotely displayed display
(program name, not a double word there, honest) which is CLI might be useful?
 Same concept here.  We're not saying that GUIs are fundamentally flawed.
Well, I certainly am not.  We're just refuting Derek's naive assertion that
GUIs are the only way one should configure things.  We're pointing out that
while they are good for configuring a great many things they are not as
ubiquitous Derek thinks precisely because they are flawed for for configuring
other things.

> Preferences are. But there are other benchmarks that can be applied. 
> Usability studies and interface research aren't based on magic.

    They should be.  KDE4 is absolutely abysmal when it comes to usability.
It somewhat mirrors Vista which is universally panned by everyone I've spoken
with.  The OSX's interface, in fact most of Apple's interfaces, drive me
absolutely batty at how stupid, limited and otherwise horrible they are.  This
is because usability studies often throw the device at a neophyte and tell
them, "hey, can you work this."  If they can it's "good UI".  Hogwash.  It's
an easily learned UI.  A good UI lets people do more as they /learn more/.
The CLI is not an easily learned UI but I could not trade the absolute raw
power it affords me.

    A simple anecdote on the difference between easy and good.  Notepad is
easy, I don't think anyone would refute that.  Good?  Not a chance.  The prime
example is the day when a coworker of mine was scripting something in batch
(that's another story) to update the background image on 300+ machines.  He
had a list of machines, one per line, and was culling the cruft and prepending
the copy command one at a time.

    After watching him for 3 minutes I was getting frustrated and said, "mind
if help you with that?"  Got a copy on my machine, loaded it into vim:
:%s/.*\(A\d+\).*/copy image.jpg \\\\\1/g

    Is that easy UI?  Hell no.  Did it take me a while to learn a third
dialect of regex (Perl, Python, vim, in that order).  Oh you bet it did.  But
with 20 /seconds/ of work I saved him over an hour of "easy" UI grunt work.

    But here's the real catch.  Imagine if he had spent 1 hour learning the
"hard" and therefore "bad" UI.  How much work would he have saved in him the
months prior and the months since?

> The tools and techniques often aren't a %100 fit. But on average you can 
> find trends against which to judge the tool.

    Yes.  And as we have shown the trend is that for the tasks we're talking
about a GUI configuration has repeatedly failed.  Don't get me wrong.  I have
once, and will still, argue for GUI configurations.  My perfect example of
poor UI design because of over-pushing text configuration; window managers.
Who in their right mind thinks that a window manager, which has icons to
launch applications, is best configured in a text editor?  Sure, sure, having
them in a scriptible interface makes stuff like the automatic update of
KDE/GNOME menus on package installs workable.  But I'm talking things like
ICEWM or FVWM2 where to get an icon to launch something you *must* fire up a
text editor.  Doubleyew....tee....EFF people!?

         Steve C. Lamb         | But who decides what they dream?
       PGP Key: 1FC01004       |   And dream I do...

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