Much discussion and gnashing of teeth over at Slashdot on Do We Really Hate All New GUIs?
Yes, we do. That is, unless our only contact with computers is as phones and tablets, which is apparently now the majority. So we accept that for them and agree they should have what they need. It’s not an input device, but an output device. You want stuff to display and make noise, and your only input may be vocal, using it like a telephone. But don’t try to foist that crap on people who use keyboards and mice.
As correctly noted elsewhere, the difference between GNOME 3 and Unity is insignificant from the user perspective. Both have completely destroyed all standard expectations for desktop users. The developers gleefully assert you will love it, and come near to calling for a Predator drone to shut you up if you don’t love it. Open Source has always been somewhat unconcerned with user reactions, but that has slowly drifted over to open hostility.
And God forbid we should simply keep it working for more than a week before adding new features and geometrically larger quantities of new bugs to go with it. GNOME 2 was adequate, but it was never even moderately bug-free. KDE 3 seems to have come close, but nobody had time to every quite finish the job, because the developer-centric model caters to the brilliant ideas of creative genius and users be damned. When you can point out what’s wrong with KDE 4, they tell it’s a feature, not a bug. Sound familiar? Get a clue, KDE developers: We want simplicity where we want it, and options where we want them. If you choose to ignore our peculiar mix of needs, and pursue your own bizarre wet dreams, we will go away.
It’s not just my own position, but of every user I’ve talked to: Nothing will ever top KDE 3.x as the very pinnacle of what Linux GUIs might have been. As noted in the comments on the Slashdot article, it matters not a whit that most users never touch the majority of features. Each user has their own selection of must-have features from the common set typically available, and damn you if you try to remove them. There is simply no good reason for dumping on users and abandoning that truly lovable desktop model for anything else. The KDE folks have only themselves to blame for their stupidity. All those “new” features were a regression away from actual usability. Now it’s just a shiny toy for junkies. You could have easily kept the interface when moving to QT4. Don’t pretend you’ve done us any favors. (I’ve previously commented I know about the Trinity Project, but I don’t believe there are enough people working on it for it to be viable; it needs most of the current KDE folks who have no interest.)
Having examined the GPL in all it’s manifestations, and read the crotchety religious self-righteousness of its founders, I still don’t understand what kind of arrogant hatred it takes to refuse to negotiate with hardware vendors on behalf of users. No, RMS and his friends simply make impotent demands, so users have, at best, horribly inconvenient work-arounds for a lot of common hardware. The few vendors who actually like having more users are permitted to put a non-GPL “blob” in the kernel and those vendors trust you not to examine the code. When Open Source people start thinking about users instead of their petty electronic gods, perhaps it will mean something and Linux will see something more than a 1% user base among computer users.
How about the way Apple used to deal with some tech support calls? “You don’t need to know how to do that.” Such was the response to asking how to change some settings which hindered your work flow. Nowadays you simply don’t have the option to call and ask such questions. I reject any discussion of Apple which does not assume the basic fact it’s always more about fashion and coolness than actual usability. Most of those even conscious of computer technology agree with me. I’ve used Macs enough to know they shine in only one place, and that is graphics applications. If that’s really important to you, then Mac is a blessing. Otherwise, your only reason for touching one is sheer hateful arrogance, and we who have no use for it hate you back.
Windows is the Borg. They hate users, too, but at least realize users are a useful commodity to deliver to advertisers, their real customers. Because of that, MS has in the past done some decent work, in realizing the user has to get something done or they won’t hang around. Right now, Windows 7 is about as good as it will ever get for people who actually need a computer. Windows 8 will go down like Vista and ME for those of us who don’t want or need to touch a tiny screen. I’ve shifted all my work over to Windows 7, because the control and security of Open Source simply isn’t worth the trouble any more.
I’m tired of futzing with computers. I have work to do, a calling from God. I have tech support clients in my computer ministry who need as much love and support as they can get, and it won’t come from anyone who actually makes this stuff. I have enough work explaining what computers can and can’t do. If you want my support, the least you could do is stay out of my way. Aside from something like Ubuntu 10.04 with some tweaking for kids’ computers, I have no use for Linux. I realize those who actually do work with computers are probably a dwindling population, but we happen to have more mass buying power than the cell-phonies and tablet-heads still. Ignore us at your peril.
Addenda: It occurs to me one final word is needed. Back when Windows 95 first appeared on the scene, a lot of folks never noticed just how much MS had invested in UI design testing with all those human behavioral scientists. Their aim was to examine what users wanted to do, liked to do, and could be persuaded to do with a computer keyboard and mouse while interacting with what was on the screen. You’ll notice it really hasn’t changed much up through Windows 7. Boring? Kiss my patootie, because that’s how humans operate. It’s the best compromise between what ought to be and what can be. There is no sin in aping the Windows layout and functions in terms of GUI design. No two people like exactly the same thing, but the mass of humanity can at least find their own place in that common user experience package.
When enthusiasts stop trying to remake humans into their image of how users ought to be, when Open Source developers realize they do not represent the cream of humanity in their wacko “innovations” and begin to care about the rest of the human race, then they’ll stop making such dramatic changes in the desktop. Just once, how about fixing something which worked so well?