Weekend summary & GUI Thoughts

The weekend is ending and my new term starts tomorrow. Actually this a good thing because I got interesting classes like Local and Distributed OSes and two classes about Software Engineering, which sound all kind of interresting.

This weekend started with me going mad about my emails. You know, as a kind of interrested person you get lots of mail, mostly from mailing lists. Last week I started getting some mails from my friend (worm) Sven and he didn't stop. I let all my email go through a german freemail provider, because they got spam filtering and virus protection and all the stuff and why should I do stuff myself when I can outsource it :-). I used to have my virus protection turned off (with a Linux system your always “secure”) and had no problems till those Sven mails started (those mail all got stuck in the spam filter, but with about 100 a day my spamfolder got messed up and I needed far too much time to scan for false positives). The result till now that from 700 mails I got since frieday 5 p.m. about 220 were svenish. That's too much. The problem is that my mailprovider sends me a warning for each mail if it has a virus in it, so I got 220 virus warnings :-(. But I'm still better off, because on the one hand I see on first sight the false positives in my spam filter and recieving a 2KB warning is better than recieving a 300KB Virus mail over a 64K line.

The next thing is again Curses::UI. I didn't really start writing the tests for all modules, but I finished the POD test. Starting tomorrow I'll write a test for a widget a day, I can't stand more boring things at one day. So I'll be finished end of this month. Actually there is a bug in Test::Pod docu, because it does not export plan which is mentioned in the SYNOPSIS. The other thing I did was trying GraphViz::ISA, which is a nice module for visualising ISA relations (Actually the whole GraphViz thing is a very nice module for visualising any kind of relation). The problem is that it does not support showing relations for multiple modules but shows only the tree for one module. I wanted it to show the whole Curses::UI Widget set and ended up doing a real nasty hack to make it do so. This actually looks quite nice, but I'd like to do it more cleanly and have it in GraphViz::ISA for later use. So I can add this to my TODO list. Will be fun.

The last thing I did this weekend was thinking about usability. I had the nice experience that a friend of mine bought a new computer (with the “usual” WinXP on it) and asked me to help her getting started. Actually I wasn't needed that much because Windows was doing a good job on helping her. She always went like “I want to do bla bla bla” and the nice interface in Explorer always had the right shortcut (like “copy folder”). This and an article I read on slashdot about “Y” (Yet another X replacement) made me wonder about the way computer interfaces are designed today. The first thing I actually never realised was that most of the X apps (if they are not from the same desktop package) look always different. For a person like me, that on the one hand just uses software and on the other hand has the Matrix-like view on apps (just seeing widgets and imagining the underlieing code) this does not matter. For people new to computer it does. They need to do things on the same way in every app. The other thing is that interfaces should be more task-based. Everyone knows that Mozilla is a webbrowser, Evolution is an email suite and OpenOffice is an office suite. But you want to “browse the web” and not “mozill” or “read your email” and not “evolute”. That's kind of stupid. Maybe all thos small Icons should vanish for some (ordered) task list. That would help people a lot more than a taskbar which actually never mentions a single task, but program names. I know that it is part of the creative process to give the program a name, but this does not help people and usability. Maybe we should redefine desktops and stop stealing what M$ already has.

The last thing for this rather long summary is an idea a friend told me. He's starting to get used to the Linux world and has some interesting ideas. The best one he had till now was that one thing that is needed for Linux is something like the MS Office assistant for all of X (or KDE, or GNOME) to help people getting started. You can actually combine that with the “task based user interface” I talked about erlier, because if you can ask you Computer about how to do something it usually get's a lot easier. If you can tell your Computer “I want to move a folder” he can give you good (desktop dependend) hints. That's always kind of hard for people which don't have a clue about things like file systems, permissions and all the rest. They just want to do it, so let us help them do it.