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Re: Installer UI advices

From: Sheldon Gill
Subject: Re: Installer UI advices
Date: Sat, 12 Mar 2005 13:29:17 +0800
User-agent: Mozilla Thunderbird 1.0 (Windows/20041206)

Jesse Ross wrote:
Am I right in thinking that your primary objection to an installer application is user feedback and ability to organise files?

If that's so then I think you're looking in the wrong place for a solution.


Flexibility in organising where your applications go is limited by the OS. Additionally, it's actually nice for anyone who needs to work with many different machines if they can find their way around easily. Standardised places help this a lot. It also helps less sophisticated users by helping them with the decision. Users can be free to install the actual app anywhere they want if they tell the installer where to put it.

If you want immediate feedback on where the application has gone I'd have thought the right thing to do is provide that feedback. The desktop/workspace should do something appropriate.

For example; at the end of installation, the icon of the installed application quickly moves from the installer window to a place on the dock.

I'm going to blame all of this on how I was raised. :)

Hmm.. let me start off by saying I, too, have used MacOS classic since the early days. Much regular use from System 6 although the first Mac of my own was System 7.

At the same time, I was using Amiga at home. MS-DOS, Unix, Solaris and VMS elsewhere in varying amounts and level of sophistication.


*Rant mode engaged*

I know that this list has it's share of Mac users, but I don't know how many of them were Mac users before OS X. If there are any, maybe they can tell me if my memory is bad. I grew up on Macintosh. My first computer was an Apple Centris 650 and I've used "classic" Macintosh OSs (7,8,9) more years than I've used OS X. In that system, there was a System folder, which you only touched when you needed to modify the system. Everything else was up for grabs. You could organize it however you saw fit. Of course it was a bitch for standardization, but it was more about freedom of organizing _your_ space, _your_ computer. Once I started using OS X and Linux, I was abhorred by all these folders that meant nothing to me, and were taking up _my_ mindshare and field of vision when I went looking for my files. Why should I have to see any of this crap? Does it have any bearing on just getting my work done? Why can't I throw them away? Why, when I try to put things in them, does it tell me I'm not authorized? It's _my_ computer... shouldn't I be able to put things where I want and move what I want where I want?

Yes, been there. By the same token, how many machines did you support?

Many users would complain about their application not working anymore: Looking at the issue, they had kept the "app" they wanted and thrown out the other "junk" in the folder that they didn't know about and didn't think they need!

Anyone trying to use someone else's computer had a very interesting time trying to discover what apps were or were not installed and where they were. Someone wanted to create a Photoshop document on a machine. There was no Photoshop icon on the desktop. There was no Photoshop icon in the Apple menu. There were several mounted volumes. Where was it? Was it even there?

Oh yeah. Do you have any idea how many copies of SimpleText existed on the average classic Mac file system?

The other thing was organisation and productivity. Many times I showed people my filing system which led them to promptly change theirs. They'd not had the training or information needed.

If its *your* computer for entirely *your* use, you are free to do whatever you want with it. Put stuff anywhere you want. Of course, you need to know what you're doing or it'll break horribly under OSX and Linux and many other operating systems.

If its a *company* computer then its a different matter all together. Corporate documents are filed in the company filing system. That compactus is put in a particular spot and you are expected to put the documents into specific places. Its not *your* decision anymore because it effects others and you need to work together! That means common standards.

There are technical reasons for the file system layout and the impositions. These are outside the scope of GNUstep and difficult to fix. If you want to do it properly and reasonably, you need to re-engineer the operating system and the applications which run on it.

Essentially, if you *choose* OSX or Linux then you've *chosen* their impositions as well as the power.

Sure, you don't know what those other folders are there for. You think they look ugly because they've got short names which are meaningless to you. That the hell is "/etc" ??? Why are there two trashcans?

But think, for a minute, of the classic Mac. Most Mac users had an inate fear of the System folder. That was the place of special Mac magic and only "Admins" and "Geeks" went there! So now you have a few more sacred places. So a few more places aren't up for grabs. A bit messier granted but still conceptually similar.

This is mindset of the typical user. Put the power in their hands to do what they want with their computer, and don't make the computer invade into their lives and space.

Thats right. Thing is, the computer is a complicated device. If you know nothing and sit down to try and use one it's not going to be very easy and its probably not going to be a satisfying experience. Would you let someone get behind the wheel of a car and just go? Using a computer is actually a much more general task and so much more complex. It'd be more like putting someone in a cockpit and letting them try to fly.

The solution many have gone for is to present a *User* level view which tries to hide and manage the underlying complexity. Its certainly easier than trying to re-engineer the OS and the incompatibilities that'd bring.

This invasion of the computer's world into the user's world is not exclusive to *nix. Windows is the same way, so countless people get used to having to see their workspace littered with things they shouldn't have to deal with. I don't think that's right. They should be able to manage their computer as they see fit, not how the computer sees fit. The computer should be invisible.

Not entirely. They should be free to manage their computer within the guidelines and doctrines of the system. If you see your workspace littered with things you shouldn't have to deal with then it's a design flaw. Those things can be hidden. It doesn't mean they don't go away.

This is my biggest qualm with package managers and installers and software you have to use first to get the software you really want (Frederico, I'm not trying to down your work -- you're doing a good job and don't stop because I get into a rant about usability and user-empowerment). I don't know how many times I've done apt-get install somesoftware, and then I can't figure out where my software went to. Maybe it's in /usr/bin, maybe it's in my home folder, maybe it's in the start menu. I have no idea, it doesn't make sense to me. Maybe that's because I grew up on a Mac, and so I see where it was at its best (drag and drop and done) and want to use that everywhere. It's ridiculous how much _work_ I have to do just to set up a Linux machine, and how much hunting around the system I have to do. I've learned a lot about how it all works, but the point is, I shouldn't have had to, and your average, web-surfing end user isn't interested enough and won't take the time to. They will say "this is too hard" and give up.

Hmm.. you were using apt-get. On the command line. You're in an entirely different space to the GUI discussion. So you don't know where things have gone. Thats because you don't know enough about your environment to use it effectively. Its not one designed to hold your hand and pat your head. You decided to use it so deal with it.
If you want to make your life easier, install aptitude and use that instead.
Or forget Debian and go SuSE and YaST.

Setting up Linux and hunting around does require a fair bit of work and knowledge. Yes, it's too hard for a average end-user. It can be made much easier to work with by presenting a better "shell" to the end user.

Choose your OS, choose your consequences.

Why aren't you also complaining that you can't move your files around and change their name while simultaneously editing them?

Why not also complain that if you create a link to a file and then move it, the link breaks?

Why not also complain that you can't use certain characters when you name your file or directory?

(I can go on and on here)

There are ways to make this stuff easier on the end user. It can be done. If it means more programming, or more effort up front for the developers, but it means an easier life for end users, then it's worth it. We tend to do this for ourselves, but if we want to make something that changes how everyday people work and communicate and live and interact, then we need to think of them.

No, better than that. We need to think _like_ them.

When considering the use of our systems, yes. In designing them, no.

They HATE computers. They just want to get some work done. They don't want to think "I'm using a computer" -- they want to think about the paper they're writing, or the photos they're organizing, or the web site they're looking at. They don't want to think about compiling software so that it works for their machine, or hunting down dependencies, or adding repositories to a sources list, or finding out where that installer put their app. They want to be able to download an app, drop it on their machine, and use it and have it work.

Yes, Users want to use. The system should be helpful and supportive and largely get out of their way. You're talking about a Humane Interface ;)

These are big problems to try and solve. I'm not saying I have all or any of the answers. I just think that there is a way to make all of this easier, more invisible. Wouldn't making an open source system that is easier to use than a Mac be an amazing and worthy feat? I want to make something I could give my mom, and have her understand. She's frightened of computers, and I want to make something she can manage and not be afraid of. If I didn't think GNUstep was a great base for that "something", I wouldn't be here.

Yes, its a great base. There is an incredible amount of work to do, though, to get things powerful and yet humane.

GNUstep, though, can't directly address many of the issues because they are incredibly platform dependant and GNUstep is used on many platforms.

There are things which can be done within GNUstep. There are other things which require solutions outside it. For a User, it may not be apparent where an issue lies.



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