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Re: Desktop normalization (fwd)

On Tue, 24 Nov 1998, Aaron wrote:

> > Who said standard *prevents* you from doing so? I am last one to consider
> > conserve-it-in-the-plastic MS approach. Just implement modifiable
> > standard. Irreplaceable standard - that is the problem definitely. 

> As I implied however, one purpose of a standard (and a primary motivation
> of the LSB project) is to give potential developers a "still" target, if
> you will, rather than a "moving" target. 

Yes. Problem is, what you propose gives developers multiple targets.  Even
one moving target is still better than whole bunch of targets, some
stable, some moving. 

>If we were to supply such a 
> standard or GUI development, and at the same time encourage users to
> disregard it, we would be defeating the whole purpose of the standard.

In mission statement I read that purpose of standard is increasing

> Certainly standards should be modifiable, but not unilaterally.

Well, if you modify your desktop then you definitely modify
standard unilaterally. 

> A standard,
> at any one point in time should be solid and immobile; 

Not necessarily.

>otherwise what's
> the point?


> > Not at all. Just having default wm and standard xclock does not prevent
> > you from replacing them, does it. 

> Ahh, but a "default" wm and a "standard" wm are two different things. However, I
> don't think it's in anyone's interest to attempt to mandate either

It is in everybody's interest to point at interoperable default.

> (for instance, fvwm2-95 may be better for beginning users who
> are accustomed to a Windows interface, but mwm may be better for users 
> accustomed to Solaris, etc). The standard wm is best left to the free market.

Even then many people want to use different desktops. Then developers
will make compromise, which leaves those other people on the ice - either
employ this de facto standard or don't use app. That's MS way.

> > > This is exactly what has turned
> > > many away from Microsoft and Microsoftesque (new word ;-) products, 
> > 
> > Frankly, I do not see many people doing that. If anything, it is reverse.
> Well I'm afraid I do see many people doing that. I'll take a leap of faith and
> say that most of today's Linux users were previous users of DOS/Windows.

> Nonetheless, your statement belies a more serious misconception, IMHO; that
> we should borrow from the success of Microsoft by doing what Microsoft does.

I don't know how exactly you define borrow; however we definitely need
to learn from it's success and from mistakes of traditional Unix vendors.

> In fact, I'll wager that the blossoming of Linux is in a large part due to
> the fact that there are different motivations and different ideas behind
> the movement. 

>If we begin to adopt the techniques of Microsoft (specifically,
> by catering to the lowest common denominator by mandating user interface at
> the expense of customizability and control), then we weaken the foundation
> of Linux's success.

But lsb at all *is* such denominator, isn't it? Call for participation:
"The application of the standard will be that any program that runs
successfully on the reference platform can be expected to run on all
Linux systems. If they don't, the distribution creator must either fix
a problem with their own distribution, or convince us that there's a
bug in the sample distribution which violates the standards."

I am not calling for favoring some solution. I just recognize the need
that would allow creating such standard that would allow developer to
develop single package which ideally would run in all Linux environments
(maybe even with X or Berlin instead of it for example). 

This does not extinguish competition between various vendors and
solutions. If anything, they are afraid of competition right now - in fear
of alienating user base. They have to choose some subset of users, or
develop for multiple groups. Consider Netscape linked statically with
Motif and dynamically with Motif for those who don't have it and for those
who have it. 
> > Statistically your opinion is rare.

> I don't think so. After using mwm for a year, I know many friends at school
> who are eager to use fvwm or Afterstep or even twm.

If Linux makes it to headlines, it means it moves out of it's traditional
niches; so requirements change. Rules of game are no longer like
they used to be.

> > Priority one for most users is working out of box.
> > Customization is long down the list of priorities.

> I would dispute this. While it is very important that a system work out
> of the box, what keeps a user using it is how well the system works period.

What keeps user is low initial cost and investment of work into solution.
That's what fills Bill's pockets: ease of installation and constant
need for correcting PC. Famous Wintel maintenance costs. That's human
psychology: once you invested a lot of work into something, you
tend to regard this solution as better than other ones. 
I am not claiming we need to act the way MS does; we only need
to take into account mechanisms that made it successful.  

> I
> think that includes customizability. A user is happier with a system they
> know, and have the oppurtunity to tailor it to their specific desires and
> needs.

But not at cost that is too high. Traditional Unix way is simply
too expensive. 

> To again use my school as an analogy, mwm is provided as the default
> wm to allow entering students (most of which have never used Unix at all)
> to actually use the resources in a sane way, and to allow for an introduction
> to those resources in a universal way. However, to deny students the ability
> to modify their environment to suit their own preferences would be a tragedy.

There is no need to do that. 

> "Out of box" experience lasts for about a month, I'd say, and that's about
> how long it takes many people to realize how poor a design Windows is.

People love novelty, so they want to keep installing new things and don't
want to fight it each time. They want to install 10 things, want it to
work out of box, try it, then throw away 8 or 9 and stay with one or two
of choice. 

> Yes,
> it works out of the box, but when it's time to graduate from beginning user
> to experienced user, there's nothing there to allow that transition.

wrt Windows, yes.

> That's why I would place "out of box" usability as a burden to the distributor/
> vendor, and I'd say that 99% of that burden can be filled with default
> configurations, as the distributor/vendor sees fit.

Unfortunately no. Someone wrote on freshmeat editorial: try to take
ten rpm's, convert it with alien and run it on debian without any
change. I have fought 'alien' many times, and frankly I find such
work a waste of time. I would hate to see repeat of this when
it comes to GUI.  

> But forming a standard
> may fill the burden, but damages the underlying strength of the product.
> Some have posed the argument like this: supply the "standard" environment, 
> and allow the user to change it. But how can developers be expected to
> know what to develop for if even the standard is no gauranteed to be what's
> in use? Labelling, for instance KDE the standard is misleading to the
> developer if most people use, for instance GNOME or GNUStep.

Favoring some particular solution is dangerous and unnecessary indeed.

> > I am really sorry to say that, but you are proponent of taste, not
> > usability.

> If allowing me to modify my environment means that I can be more
> productive (which, IMO, it does), then you better believe I am a
> proponent of usability. 

For you. Not for vast majority of users. Vast majority just wants
it to do the job on ACCEPTABLE level. Sophistication is hardly

> > >The idea that people should be
> > > able to customize more than just their screensaver and desktop colors is
> > > one not to take lightly. Unix uses are used to customizing everything,
> > > from their emacs modules to their shell aliases/functions.
> > 
> > If so, what is the point of standardization at all? Why not leave *all* to
> > end user?
> Exactly my point. ;-)
> Standardization should never be its own motivation. It is a necessary evil,
> IMO, and should only be employed when the benefits outweigh the costs. 
> I don't see how mandating a user interface provides more benefits than the
> costs of alienating users (users who have become accustomed to Linux [and
> Unix in general] providing for extensive customizability).
> > Everyone needs usability out of box to a certain extent. Where
> > this extent is depends on personal taste. You are entitled to your taste.
> Apparently I am not, if a standard is going to tell me exactly how I'm going
> to do things.
> > But the problem is that if LSB sets tradeoff between working out of box
> > and customization to be skewed too far in the direction of customization,
> > relatively few people will want to use it.
> But I don't think out of box usability is the intent of the LSB. 

Mission statement:"The goal of the Linux Standard Base (LSB) is to develop
    and promote a set of standards that will increase
    compatibility among Linux distributions and enable
    software applications to run on any compliant Linux

>But not a standard on look and
> feel, but rather a standard on services provided by the environment.


> I'm
> just wary that in the process of standardizing these GUI services, we
> get tempted to drag in specific implementations of those services,

No specific implementations. It's not only about holy wars; it's about
legacy code. Suppose app developers write for some generic UI
specification; then if some day berlin matures enough, there won't be as
many legacy problems (ideally no problems) in moving old software to new

> rather
> than interfaces (for instance, if we specify that the GUI provide a means
> of performing Drag and Drop [according to some standard, such as xdnd],

Oh yes. One thing that is CRITICALLY necessary is universal drag and
drop. I do not especially miss it; casual users miss it.

> > I've had such experiences with
> > users for which I installed Linux (for free). "Why is not there one way to
> > do it"? "Because it is assumed people will do it different ways". "I don't
> > care HOW it is done, I only care to get it done".
> Well, I think how it is done is a very important question. To disregard this
> is to throw away all the reasons to even use Linux. No doubt that Windows
> can do most of what most people require of it.

> However, the fact that Linux
> can do most of that, and do it better, is a strong endorsement. 

Correct. But that does not invalidate view that linux needs to be able
to do most of what most people need. IOW, linux needs also to be able
to do what Windows do - and more. Linux capability has to be superset
of Windows capability, not unrelated set of capabilities. 

> > >I hesitate
> > > to say which environment or window manager is in greater usage, and to base
> > > any standard upon one which is not (or just barely is) is to upheave the
> > > entire process and at the same time lose credibility where it counts:
> > > the users.

> > You can not loose more credibility in eyes of user than in the
> > case when product does not work out of box.

> Certainly you can. There are many users who have already taken the system
> out of the box. If we throw away their concerns, then we must ask ourselves
> what audience are we providing for? We may attract new users, but if
> in the process we alienate old users then we are playing a dangerous game.
> Windows is good at attracting new users (mainly because it's what comes up
> when they start their computer out of the box), but I think it has a poor
> track record at keeping their interest.

> Most Windows users will tell you
> why they use Windows, not because it's enjoyable, but because it's the
> only option they see available to them. 

Then our experiences are different. IMHO more than half of users enjoy
Windows for one purpose - ease of use. Less tweaking necessary. If that
means lower productivity, so be it. Solutions change so often that
realistically user does not even need to maximize productivity, because
before learning curve saturates user jumps to a new version or new
application. What's the point of learning something in depth if tomorrow
it will be thrown away and replaced with something different? Low initial
learning cost is what is most important in environment that changes

>For instance, if a workers' company
> has standardized on Word 98 format for all their documents, then the worker
> will be hard pressed to use anything but Office 98 on Windows. I assert that
> this fits most continuing Windows users, they use it because it's the only
> thing they can use. Is this the model we want to duplicate?


> > > What does a standard based, for instance, on KDE mean if only
> > > 30% of users use it?

> > That depends at what "market niche" you aim. There is no simple
> > answer to this question.

> Well, unless that standard applies only to a single "market niche", it
> is a very valid question (rhetorically speaking). If the standard applies to
> the entire market, and not just a niche, then the question is easy to answer;
> that is, if the implementation standardized on is important only to a 
> certain niche, then it means nothing in the standard. If KDE is only useful
> to beginning users (hypothetically speaking), and LSB applies to all users
> and developers of Linux, then KDE has no place in the LSB.

Specific solution has no place in LSB - agreed.

> > > A company which expects KDE will be encouraged to
> > > write KDE-only features into their product, because they will falsely
> > > believe that everyone can handle that functionality.

> > A company that is so clueless deserves to die.

> To accept other than my presumptions is to place a burden on companies
> so large that they won't be able to meet it anyways. For instance, let's
> say that, although X11 is the GUI standard for all Unices, 

What if you want to swap to different GUI? Is not X11 a bit like Windows -
you stick with it because you have to? If there were kind of HTML for user
interface, moving to different GUI would be more practical, kind of like
having new browser does not mean that all web pages on whole internet need
to be rewritten. Some features will gradually evolve out, that's all. 

>a company is
> in the mindeset that somewhere, someone may not be using X11, but rather
> may be using Berlin and therefore they must place parallel efforts in
> developing for *both* protocols. 

Purpose of standard I ask for is exactly what would eliminate such need.

>Well, demanding such from developers is asking
> a little too much, I think.

Then take a look at what you propose: it is exactly variety of protocols
for developers what your proposal effects in!

> > It's like being customer and producer. Person has only several roles as
> > producer and hundreds roles as customer. Most of the time customer does
> > not want to spend a lot of time customizing every feature.  Some
> > researchers from NY were interested by so called "flashing zero syndrome". 
> > Most VCR users did not even bother to set clocks in them.  In their
> > opinion VCR is supposed to have play, rewind, ff, and stop/eject buttons,
> > and any additional complexity is not only unnecessary but unwelcomed. You
> > may scoff at that, but that's the way MS does it and huge numbers of users
> > are willing to hand over their money to MS for doing precisely above. It
> > would be equally unwise to disregard that as to be slave of such
> > mentality.

> Using your example, is there any reason to standardize how the clock looks
> or even how it's programmed? More importantly, is it necessary to standardize
> where the play button is located, or what the stop button looks like? 

No, it's not. It only is necessary to specify that these four buttons
acting this and that way *are* required, with explicit note that it's only
extendable minimum. A little like HTML standard; companies take what they
want from it, and implement extensions if they want to. A bit like frames
came into existence (regardless whether somebody likes the idea or not).
Standard as base to be extended, with free market on top of that. You want
to write all-browser compatible Web page? Go ahead. You want to use
netscapisms (I avoid them), go ahead.  But there *still* is HTML base to
begin from, not big nothing and each company implementing totally
different standard. In fact, at the time there were many online services
implementing everything by themselves; then it moved to HTML. Do you see
competition extinguished? If anything, it flourished *thanks*, not
*despite* HTML. 

>I don't
> think anyone wrote in stone that the symbols we see on just about every
> VCR, tape/CD player, even computer movie player had to be as they are. They
> are that way by convention; because the developers of the products 
> decided that following the convention was in their best interest, to preserve
> usability. 

>Likewise I believe fully that Linux vendors will act in their
> best interest to preserve ease of use in order to increase their user base.

If there is absolutely *no* agreed information on what to start from,
then it would be like each browser company writing their own unique,
close to noncompatible HTML version.

> The fact is, they are doing just that; and slowly, but surely, these issues
> will be addressed. If Red Hat discovers it can increase its user base by
> supplying a simpler default configuration, then I assure you they will do
> it.

> I myself cannot attest to Red Hat's current default wm configuration
> I happily altered it to my own before ever even typing 'startx'.

Me too. Problem is, this is not solution for casual user - and this is
environment that linux starts to move into. If something is not done about
it, linux will get very, very bad publicity once 'novelty hype' cools
down. People will not be so friendly to us forever. 'Five minutes' of
linux will some day end; and then linux will be expected to do what
windows do, and more. If linux does not provide that on this day, whole
thing will finish much like OS/2 - gradual fading away.

> > > These are good things, IMHO.

> > It's like every diagnosis in social science: some do, some don't. Depends
> > on taste.

> Well this can be said about anything, but I think it's more of a
> filibustering argument than anything.

No, it's only suggestion that UI *is* like underwear - very personal
thing. But nevertheless, mass production here is still necessary. Few
people are going to sew their own. 8-)

> Nonetheless, if you're suggesting that
> people don't want to be able to choose their own interior decoration, I suggest
> that taste or not, you're on the losing side of the argument.

Not in as big extent as you think they are. Few people actually want to
carve every detail in their interior decoration. They settle down
compromise between customization and using massively produced
off-the-shelf things. 
> > > I don't think the LSB should standardize something simply because no
> one > > will do it. These groups haven't worked out their differences
> because they > > are preliminary and experimental.  > I am not sure if
> there is such a thing as software that is not > "preliminary and
> experimental". The only fully finished products seem to > be obsolete.

> But there is a such thing as software that is "mature." LaTeX, for example,
> is mature.

..and dead on mass market.

> Xlib is mature.

..and everything important happens elsewhere.

> The Linux kernel is mature. 

Most of it, yes - but still in constant development. I'd say
that major factor in linux success is ability to provide *both*
stability in even-numbered versions and rapid development in odd-numbered
versions. But this stability is a stability on the edge of change - "when
new stable kernel?".

> GNOME is not mature. KDE is not mature. Even CDE is not mature.
> Therefore, they shouldn't even be considered for inclusion in the standard.
> Nonetheless, I don't think they should be even if they were mature, on
> philosophical grounds.
> > 
> > > Eventually, one will become dominant and
> > > the other will be made compatible or will become obsolete. This explains why
> > > most window managers offer some means of understanding Motif "hints". Motif
> > > is dominant, other products must accomodate.
> > 
> > >That's the way the free market
> > > works and I would hesitate to attempt to suppress this tendancy. Again,
> > > I think LSB will be much more successful if it sticks to a role of
> > > codification primarily and specification only when absolutely necessary.
> > 
> > Agreed. The only problem is settling down WHAT is absolutely necessary. 
> > Some say "desktop is add-on product". Tell something like that to Mac
> > user. 

> I don't argue that the desktop is important land, but I argue that
> standardizing on a specific desktop environment is a bad bad bad idea.

VERY bad idea. Anything but that.

> If one desktop environment becomes dominant, then it will become the
> standard. If one doesn't, then there is no place for a specific one in
> the standard. Again, the services provided by the different environments
> certainly warrant standardization efforts, once those services are deemed
> important and their interfaces mature enough to extract the necessary
> information for investigation and development of the proper standard.
> As for the desktop being an add-on, I wouldn't put it those terms. I would
> say that there are different components to an operating system, and one
> of those components is (by necessity) a user interface.

And thus there needs to be some abstract definition of it. Developer
writes single package, drops it in, and it comes out on every desk 
in various flavors, being consistent with particular flavor.  

> One type of user
> interface is the graphical user interface. In some cases, alternative
> user interfaces are not an option, such as for MacOS and Windows. In the
> case of Unix, there are alternate user interfaces, namely the command-line
> interface. Believe it or not, it still has its purposes (noting that, indeed,
> even the Unix GUI is CLI-centric), and many people (myself included) find
> many common tasks easier to perform in a CLI. 

You do not need to convince me; aside from Web browsing I do everything on
CLI. That is simply faster. But it's not about me - it's about linux vs.

 Marcin Krol

Hiroshima 45                   Tschernobyl 86                      Windows 95

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