Thursday, February 14, 2008

ode to the eye and the hand

I was doing a visual survey of what is on the desktop of users on the internet. That is on YouTube and Google Videos to be exact. Eye candy is what it is known as and who has the best or most extreme eye candy is the rage. It's a GUI mess if you ask me. Does whirling and scrolling desktops mean you have the best OS or the greatest user interface. It's like looking at a popular hotrod magazine. You begin with something your grandpa can drive and wind up with something only Evil Kinevil would approach.
I for one can't imagine the thrill of texting (my fingers won't do that) when the spoken word is sufficient, but here I want to center on computers. Let's see, the whole idea is to point and click. We all do that very well so that now desktop OS developers are pressed to add features that tantalize our senses to the distraction of reasonable use. Of course you don't have to tweak out your desktop and it can just be boringly useful. The argument goes back and forth between the MS Windows PC and the Mac as to who has the better interface, then Linux comes in with "I can do that too and have done it for years". Young folks seem to gravitate to tweaking and fussing with all the bells and whistles like they do with cellphones and PDA's of all sorts. Us older folks like to see simplicity and consistency. The oneupmanship battle is kind of driving the desktop market but you can only do so much with a keyboard and a mouse, or can you? Video screen gymnastics are unlimited or at least we haven't seen the last of it, so who knows how much more the GUI will progress. In my honest estimation, the point and click desktop has become the standard already and it will become apparent to most computer users that any GUI is sufficient and simple enough to do the basics. The apparent persuasion or dissuasion that one maker's GUI or OS is better should be rated on technical terms not based on usability alone. We know that with MS and Mac the GUI is an integrated part of the OS and that with Linux it is separate projects with different flavors. The question that is speculated among the Linux community is what would happen to Linux if it had only one desktop? Would this make Linux better, or able to compete with MS and Mac head to head, or limit Linux by diverting from it's very nature, user choice and development diversity? Some want the focus of a "product" and the accountability of a single vendor. These are not ideas from which Linux has grown from. Does narrowing the user choice to a preferred desktop really serve to improve Linux or just give its critics something consistent for comparison to MS or Mac? We must accept that the MS and Mac have company/product focus and Linux is developed by a community on many fronts. The two ways to arrive at point and click are conceptually different and the efforts can be appreciated by users just the same. Because all we care about is the point and click.

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