Re: Great SWT Program
In article <1191814150.101702.122330@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>,
On Oct 6, 2:23 pm, blm...@xxxxxxxxxxxxx <blm...@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
Both assume that you're willing to do a certain amount of learning
before being able to operate them. I think that really is kind of
the bottom line here -- in my pre-Windows experience, I expected
that with every new program I would need to learn a little
about its user interface before being able to do much with it.
This seemed normal. It's not the norm any more, true, but ....
See recent huge post in which I mention your apparently having gotten
used to it. People were, at one time, used to having every little
bacterial infection be a potential killer, too, before the invention
of antibiotics, but I wouldn't want to turn the clock back.
Nor would I, but relying on the efficacy of antibiotics, and using
them at every opportunity, has apparently had some negative effects.
get used to it" isn't much of an endorsement in my eyes.
vi versus emacs may be a worst-case comparison; all the
other interactive programs I can think of share at least some
keybindings with one of those two popular-in-context editors.
Yeah, right, I just *happened* to pick the worst case purely by
Oh, did you? I assumed you had done it on purpose, to make my
preferred set of tools look as bad as possible.
Of course, which keybindings something shares with vi, which with
emacs, and which are completely novel will be another fun guessing
game where the prizes you can win include a wide variety of valuable
beeps, error messages, destruction of data, and even a free trip to
the psych ward of your choice. :P
There's also the matter of configuring things by editing text files
rather than pointing and clicking, and -- probably some other
commonalities I'm not thinking of right now. It's really more
a matter of mindset, I think, than of specifics of the interface.
Leading, no doubt, to conversations like: "Why don't you turn those
off if they annoy you?" "You can turn them off? How? Please tell
me!" (to paraphrase something that seems rather familiar today...)
Yes, I've had conversations like that with people struggling with
one of the old tools. And?
[ snip ]
My idea is that it's a good thing to broaden the horizons of
people who at least in theory are trying to get an education.
It depends on what they are trying to get an education in. Physics?
Computer programming? Hair-pulling frustration and the joy of slowly
going insane? If the third is one of their preferred subjects of study
then I'd encourage them to try vi or emacs too! ;)
I was thinking mostly of people enrolled in a degree program in
computer science. I think there might be value in exposing everyone
to some computing platform other than the dominant one, but unless
we can find a way to get around the "only 168 hours in a week" limit,
I wouldn't make vi exposure mandatory for everyone. It's not a high
priority for most. For people in a CS degree program, though --
I think sending them out into the world knowing only one platform,
the one they came in knowing about, would be wrong.
Insisting that my ways of doing things are the best or only ways --
that would be obnoxious and might backfire as well. But I don't
think I'm doing that; rather, I'm saying "here is another way,
here is why I like it, if you want to learn more it helps a
great deal to have a local expert at first, and I'll play that
role if you like." As a rough estimate, I'd say maybe 5% to 10%
of the students I talk to show some interest in learning more,
which I think is not bad.
Hrm. Maybe the psych department needing volunteers and offering free
credits to anyone that drives themselves mad and then checks in with
them? :) OK, enough cute barbs, even if they are serious, it probably
helps a great deal if you are not insisting that your ways are the
best or only ways, the way you sometimes do on usenet. ;)
I don't think I've ever done that, and I resent your saying so,
even with a smiley.
start out with something like "Charmap sucks! I use vim and love
No, it didn't. I expressed (semi-mock) puzzlement at your
reference to CharMap and mentioned the tools I use, mainly as
an attempt to point out that "not all the world uses Windows".
How is this different from calling attention to other people's
use of names and acronyms you don't know?
And to paraphrase something you said elsethread -- this may
seem strange to you, but I don't usually say that some piece of
software sucks without trying it, and to the best of my knowledge
I've never used CharMap.
[ snip ]
You mentioned Star Trek in
another post, so perhaps you remember the scene from one of the
movies, in which the crew of the Enterprise goes back in time,
and Scotty tries to use a Mac by picking up the mouse and talking
into it? And we've all heard the stories about (l)users using
CD drives as cup holders.
Don't believe everything you read in alt.folklore.urban.
No! Some of those stories aren't true? (I do wonder if any of
I have some good stories from my own
very early exposure to Windows. Want to hear about the time
I wiped out the whole Windows system directory by clicking on
the wrong icon? and not one that said anything about installing
stuff or formatting drives either.
You're joking. You didn't hit "delete" or drag it to the recycle bin?
And didn't get a confirmation dialog?? Someone must have rigged the
machine, or it was running something really broken, like Windoze 1.0.
Windows 95. The circumstances were a little unusual. Okay, the
This was a public-lab machine at a university other than the one
where I work now. I wanted to compile and run some Java programs
developed under some version of Unix, to test the claims about
platform independence. These machines were configured such that
compiling/running Java programs involved bringing up a terminal
window, running a .bat file, and then invoking the Java compiler
and JVM from the command line.
I was curious about what was in that .bat file, so I went pointing
and clicking my way through the file explorer (is that the right
term?) for it, and eventually found it. I had observed that
clicking on the icon for other kinds of text files opened them
in a text editor, so I figured clicking on the icon of a .bat
file would open *it* in a text editor, and I could look at it.
Wrong! Clicking on the icon for a .bat file *runs* it. (You
probably find this totally intuitive and obvious, but to me it
was not. "Principle of Least Surprise" anyone?) I forget the
details, but my vague recollection is that the .bat file started
out by deleting some files, which would be harmless enough if
it was run in the expected environment, but when run in whatever
environment is associated with clicking on a file's icon ....
Nothing seemed to happen when I clicked the icon. At first,
anyway. Then the desktop background changed, and the icons on
the desktop started to disappear, and .... Well, pretty soon the
machine was in a state in which I figured the thing to do was
apply the "universal software fix" (reboot). The boot process
started out normally enough, and then at some point halted with
an error message about a system directory not being found.
I, of course, was horrified that the system hadn't defended
itself from my ignorant mistake -- no proper multi-user system
would behave that way! But of course Windows 95 is not exactly
any kind of multi-user system .... The people running the lab
assured me that all the machines had their disk contents reset
(from a "good" system image) every night, so no harm done.
It was a learning experience in many ways -- about what happens
when you click a file's icon, about the difference between
single-user and multi-user systems, etc., etc.
Unix of course is susceptible to any clumsy entering of rm /rf *
(particularly in the root directory)
Only when running as root; you're meant to be smart enough ....
and will happily eat itself alive
without warning you or prompting for confirmation first, of course,
but usually Windows is a bit smarter. (Macs let you delete the
"System" folder, last I checked, but hang in self-defense; when you
reboot the machine it's not hosed because the delete never happens. I
guess newer ones will not even hang, but merely complain that the
files in that folder are in use or something. I think modern Windows
behaves analogously and says there are files in use so the directory
cannot be deleted.)
Once you figure out the general paradigm, sure, it's relatively
easy to pick up new applications. But what I'm saying is that
that's true in the old-time-tools world too
I call BS on this claim, once again. Unless there's a "general
paradigm" that explains the keybindings in things like vi and
emacs ... and you can explain it in a paragraph or three ...
Well, then how would you explain the fact that I was able to
learn at least one of those old-time tools (gnuplot) without a
By "paradigm" I have in mind something broader than keybindings.
I'm not sure I can define it better than that. Maybe another
(And my opinion is that GUIs
hide that fact under a pretty interface, which I find somehow
worse than tools that make it clear from the outset that they
aren't going to be usable by total novices. But that may well
be sheer prejudice on my part.)
What about tools that actually ARE usable by total novices (if not
with as much power as by experts, at least with more than zero power)?
Shockingly, on the GUI side of the great divide such tools actually
Sure. And they certainly have their place. I'm not disputing
that, and I never have. What I've been saying all along is
that there is also a place for tools that require some learning.
Ideally a tool would make it easy for novices to do simple things,
but still provide a lot of power and flexibility for non-novices.
My feeling is that usually one has to trade off one to get
the other. <shrug>
B. L. Massingill
ObDisclaimer: I don't speak for my employers; they return the favor.
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