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February 17, 2007 4:31 PM   Subscribe

Simplicity v. Complexity Torvalds strikes. López Godwins. Torvalds submits patches!
posted by clawtros (51 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Excellent use of the donnybrook tag.
posted by matthewr at 4:41 PM on February 17, 2007


This is why we have KDE.
posted by public at 4:42 PM on February 17, 2007


all right then.
so how about some C++ vs Eiffel flames from the 90's?
posted by nj_subgenius at 4:42 PM on February 17, 2007


You mean like these?

If people spent as much time complaining about languages as they did writing useful libraries for them we might all be a whole lot more productive.
posted by public at 4:53 PM on February 17, 2007


Indeed.
posted by nj_subgenius at 4:57 PM on February 17, 2007


It's enough to make a fella go back to DR-DOS. Almost.
posted by Smart Dalek at 5:11 PM on February 17, 2007


Gary was a real engineer. Hats off to his memory.
posted by nj_subgenius at 5:19 PM on February 17, 2007


You can't right-click in GNOME? I've always used KDE, had no idea. Wow. Even the Mac will use right buttons these days.

I suspect this particular argument will be the source of much popcorn consumption among the geek crowd, but is of, um. Hmm. How to put this charitably.... "of limited interest to the rest of the world". Yeah, that works.

Hopefully I didn't break anyone's understatement detectors. :)
posted by Malor at 5:22 PM on February 17, 2007


nerd fight!!!!111
posted by chillmost at 5:22 PM on February 17, 2007


Interesting. I am impressed by Linus' generosity there. If these patches get accepted, I'll have to give GNOME another chance some day. I gave up on it years ago when they made it far too complicated (or maybe impossible, I never did figure it out) to configure things the way I liked, all in the name of keeping things simple.
posted by sfenders at 5:37 PM on February 17, 2007


I spit on Gnome and KDE.

*PA-TOOEY* *PA-TOOEY*

I use fluxbox.
posted by _aa_ at 5:39 PM on February 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


KDE? Gnome? Pah! Luxury. There were nowt like that when I were a lad. We used xterms on twm and we were lucky to 'ave it. You lot and your pansy lilac-scented desktops and frilly windowshade behavior. Now quit ye'r moanin' or you'll get back of my 'and.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:40 PM on February 17, 2007


I'm using gnome right now.

<plays with mouse>

Right-click seems ok to me.
posted by gurple at 5:44 PM on February 17, 2007


Is this something I'd need a computer to understand?
posted by aberrant at 5:48 PM on February 17, 2007


Right. I had to get boot DOS at ten o'clock at night half an hour before I went to bed, edit my config.sys, work twenty-nine hours a day on autoexec.bat, and pay Microsoft for permission to go to work, and when we got home, Bill Gates would kill us and dance about on our graves singing Hallelujah.
posted by jewzilla at 5:49 PM on February 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Nada más, esto para LINUS para que piense.

LINUS, NO SABES LEER ESPAÑOL, ¿A VER SI VAS A SER IDIOTA TU TAMBIÉN?


Can someone do a better job of translating this than google, por favor?
posted by jikel_morten at 5:50 PM on February 17, 2007


Understatement detector...no longer responding...smoke...coming out the back of it...WHAT THE HELL DID SOMEONE SAY?
posted by uosuaq at 5:52 PM on February 17, 2007


Aren't all the cool kids using beryl these days anyway?
posted by empath at 5:55 PM on February 17, 2007


Nada más, esto para LINUS para que piense.

LINUS, NO SABES LEER ESPAÑOL, ¿A VER SI VAS A SER IDIOTA TU TAMBIÉN?


Translated:

Nothing more, just this for Linus, for him to think about.

Linus, can't you read spanish, are you too an idiot? / are you an idiot too?


Aah, Spain. The funniest country ever.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 6:05 PM on February 17, 2007


So - what was the argument actually about? Last time I used Gnome, which was a couple weeks ago on Ubuntu, you could right-click things just fine.

Is this about some underlying logical behaviour, or something that would be apparent to users if they went poking about?

A print dialog is mentioned... but how is that related?
posted by odinsdream at 6:06 PM on February 17, 2007


You know who else used GNOME?
posted by quarter waters and a bag of chips at 6:07 PM on February 17, 2007 [3 favorites]


hah! ... back in my day, it took 5 burly men to program a computer ... that's because the punch cards were made out of rocks and we had to chip the holes out and carry them into the feed with the help of wooly mammoths
posted by pyramid termite at 6:09 PM on February 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


So - what was the argument actually about? Last time I used Gnome, which was a couple weeks ago on Ubuntu, you could right-click things just fine.

Torvalds thinks the behavior of the right mouse button should be configurable. He doesn't use context menus and wants to be able to map it to some other window action.

Me, I don't understand why people bother to install Linux when they're just going to make it into a half-assed Windows clone — I use a real window manager and I don't have any use for some monolithic "desktop environment" — but to each his own.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 6:14 PM on February 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


IshmaelGraves: Wow, Ion intrigues me. Thanks for the link...now to throw 'er into slackware and give 'er a ride.
posted by dozo at 6:25 PM on February 17, 2007


I like that GNOME is simple. If people want to use KDE that should be fine with the GNOME people. I see why they are a little pissy that Linus says that everyone should use KDE.
posted by grouse at 6:28 PM on February 17, 2007


The argument is not about the lack of a right-mouse button action, or double-clicking on the title bar of an application, it is about the fact that these are viewed as "special events". Putting them in that context discourages application developers from customizing that mouse action to their application. If they would provide standard actions, it would mean a lot less work in the long run (even though it might be a little more complicated) and a much more flexible interface component.

The simplicity argument stems from the fact that (it appears) GNOME developers would prefer the same action/menu across ALL applications rather than provide an easy mechanism to customize it.

It's one example, but there are a lot of them. GNOME isn't horrible by any means, but you definitely don't use it for it's customization capabilities.
posted by purephase at 6:31 PM on February 17, 2007


I'd like to second Ion as a window-manager. It certainly isn't for everybody, but I really enjoyed it.
posted by odinsdream at 7:10 PM on February 17, 2007


I understand what Linus is saying about Gnome and do mostly agree with him but I still use Gnome for my desktop. It works for me and generally stays out of my way. I do wish that you could configure the window buttons so that middle click on maximize did vertical maximization and right click did horizontal. Both WindowMaker and Fluxbox do that and I always found that very handy.
posted by octothorpe at 8:01 PM on February 17, 2007


Ah, if only they would complain about GPLv3.
posted by Monochrome at 8:07 PM on February 17, 2007


Linus said this, some other guy said, that, blah blah blah.

All that really matters in any significant way is Windows.
posted by jeffamaphone at 8:10 PM on February 17, 2007


I love how GNOME fucks up all of the things that KDE does right, and KDE fucks up all the things that GNOME does right. And they both just fucking love to make their own crappy {g|k}-prefixed versions of each other's crappy pointless programs.

Me? I generally use GNU Screen (Why use Ion if all I'm using are shells?), I use Fluxbox+kuake a lot on Xvnc instances, as a backup WM, and on computers that other people don't have to use.

Xfce 4.4 (just finally released last month), as a desktop environment, is really fucking perfect. They finally got everything into a perfect state. Really, it's flawless. I think they have won the war.

I've been using it in my netbooted computer-lab LAN party setup for a few months, and it's totally getting deployed as the default on all our linux machines sometime soon.
posted by blasdelf at 9:15 PM on February 17, 2007


All that really matters in any significant way is Windows.

This is a curious statement; guess it depends on what you mean by 'matters'.

As far as my (computer) life goes, Windows could never have been invented (using the term very loosely) and things would be little different, other than perhaps I wouldn't have this cool split keyboard and optical wheel mouse between me and my 20" iMac right now.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 10:03 PM on February 17, 2007


Mi Volvo es rota.

[note: this comment is only for geeks who drove the Palisades parkway in the early 90's.]
posted by ZenMasterThis at 10:40 PM on February 17, 2007


Well, my favorite window manager will always be gwm (which finally has a new version! Try it with the vtwm profile--an infinite virtual desktop is so much fun! Well, it's more fun if you know a little lisp), but as I've gotten lazy and computers faster, I've found myself using WindowMaker and finally KDE.

GNOME, I've always found somewhat distasteful. I'm not sure whether it was the esthetics, or the shrill politics that started it off, but now it is definitely the obscene lack of configurability. I mean, their goals seem laudable, a causal user shouldn't be assaulted by dizzying array of options, but when I tried to configure the appearance of the desktop and window decorations, I was totally shocked at just how limited it had become. It's fine to have a default behavior with less accessible advanced options, but it should accommodate my quirks and working style within reason.

I've often disagreed with Linus' judgments, such as that bitkeeper debacle, or the embrace of SELinux over RSBAC and grsecurity, and let's not mention gpl3 or the stable branch, but he's really done a superlative job of managing the kernel.

I'm actually sort of glad someone's finally spoken up about the direction GNOME has been going--well, someone with a very prominent voice, that is. It's sort of refreshing to find that your thoughts are shared by someone else.

Now there's just that strange embrace of Mono that I find disquieting.
posted by cytherea at 12:33 AM on February 18, 2007


Not good. I'm sure Torvalds found it easy to make the right-click configurable but he misses the point of keeping the Gnome Desktop a predictable user experience. The last thing needed in the Linux desktop world is having someone swap distro and then discover that the computer no longer works as they think it should. I think consistency is key here. Otherwise, casual users may get scared back to Windows.
posted by seanyboy at 1:10 AM on February 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


seanyboy, that's mostly a BS argument. If the defaults are the same, and the user is responsible for changing them... then they're not going to get scared if things are different on another machine, because THEY changed them, and can do so again.

You essentially never have to use another user's account, so you're not going to get stuck with someone else's customizations that you don't like/understand, either. A fresh profile is just a useradd away.
posted by Malor at 1:24 AM on February 18, 2007


If the defaults are the same
My point is that between different distros, the defaults won't be the same. The favoured "Linus" distro won't act in the same way as the recommended "Gnome" distro. An advanced user could change those defaults back, but for a basic user that isn't an option.
posted by seanyboy at 1:39 AM on February 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


I sympathise with the GNOME developers. Consistent user experience IS important, and it's something that the community development model finds very hard.

It sounds like the GNOME team have crafted their API to enforce their policy decisions. Torvalds' patch removes the policy, and leaves the API as a blank slate. The GNOME team should have the balls to reject his patches, and tell him to go and install KDE.

(Personally, I use Xfce.)
posted by mr. strange at 1:46 AM on February 18, 2007


I've always been a begrudging KDE user, but the latest Amarok releases have made me realise I love it.

I hope KDE 4.0 doesn't end up being a GNOME 2.0-style rewrite which blocks all useful development for years.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 2:55 AM on February 18, 2007


IshmaelGraves : "Me, I don't understand why people bother to install Linux when they're just going to make it into a half-assed Windows clone"

If it helps you understand it, I'm used to and satisfied with the basic user interface of Windows, but not so much with the security. I have absolutely no interest in the DRM crapfest that is Vista. Windows XP works fine for me, but I realize that, since I have no desire to ever install Vista, one day in the future my XP will be unsupported and outdated, so I'll need to switch operating systems. Doing that at the last minute would be very stressful ("Gah!! I have to finish this document by tomorrow, and I have no idea how to operate this damn OS!!"), so I've installed Linux on a spare computer to play with and get used to until eventually I can switch over to it as a Windows replacement.

So, long story short: there are some of us who use Linux instead of or in addition to Windows, but not because we're unsatisfied with the Windows user interface, but for other reasons.
posted by Bugbread at 3:10 AM on February 18, 2007


Meh. I use GNOME. It has my terminal icon on it. That's about all i need.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 4:35 AM on February 18, 2007


Linus is right but not visionary here. Autocad was visionary.

Autocad had four main interface components, pulldown menus, sidebar menus, dialog boxes, and its command line; however, the actions using the first three initiated command line scripts which the user could watch. As a consequence, Autocad had maybe the "smoothest" learning curve ever developed, i.e. no bumps.

By comparison, Mac OS X has many more intuitive features providing for most normal activities, but the user hits a brick wall when they want something wierd. For example, your standard p0rn watcher must learn both perl and applecript if he wants to script downloading all his sites movies before going on vacation.

You could take autocad's approach to the whole user interface: develop a X-like client-server based GUI where

1) front ends are normally scripts uploaded into and compiled by the GUI, but faster stuff is handled by libraries and a back end.

2) front end scripts are written in some langauge which functions well both for programming and quick command line interaction.. Haskell may be the only realistic choice here.

3) users may open mini shell windows attached to any program, granting them full access to the internals of its front end, and allowing them to watch the front end script's behavior.

If you had such a system, you'd find that far far more of the users learned how it worked.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:20 AM on February 18, 2007


My point is that between different distros, the defaults won't be the same. The favoured "Linus" distro won't act in the same way as the recommended "Gnome" distro. An advanced user could change those defaults back, but for a basic user that isn't an option.

That doesn't appear to be the case. A Linus-preferred GNOME would have exactly the same default behavior as all other default GNOME distros. It would simply have the ability to change what happens when you right click.

He wants the ability to customize, not a different thing by default.
posted by Malor at 6:01 AM on February 18, 2007


I tried Gnome once, for about a half-day. The most egregious example of why a mandated "consistent user experience" is a problem is the "Add Printer" dialogue. I have multiple printers at work, and the organization has standardarized on a particular model. Unfortunately GNOME provides absolutely no way to name the printers anything other than by model name, even though the underlying printing subsystem (CUPS) does. So, I ended up with three different "HP LaserJet" printers and no way to know which was which.

This is not a "complicated" feature that would confuse a user; it's just a decision that a developer made. So I switched to KDE.
posted by djfiander at 7:02 AM on February 18, 2007


He wants the ability to customize, not a different thing by default.

Then he can patch his own version of GNOME.

Seriously. Here's my opinion, as an old-school sysadmin who used to talk both Sys-V and BSD.

We're not users. What we want is *wrong* for the average user base. Period.

Every time we make decisions like "Well, let them configure something like that", somebody does, and some user tries to use it, and they run right back to Windows or OS X, because Windows and OS X doesn't do things like that to them. Support guys get pissed off, because they'll say "right click anywhere on the desktop", and for that user, it doesn't work.

Rules.

1) The vast majority of the people don't give a flying fuck what windowing system they're running. They need to run applications.

Get it? They don't care what revision of what system on what OS they're running. NOT. ONE. BIT. They need to run the app.

2) Extension: If they *notice* what windowing system they're running, you've done something wrong.

3) Extension 2: If they notice what windowing system you are running because it has made it harder to run the application they need to run, you've done something very wrong.

4) Having dozens of windowing systems may seem like a feature, but it isn't, esp. if simple things like cut-and-paste do not work correctly. Anyone who's ever had to deal with I42C1 understands the problem set. Anyone who says "just pipe the output into this filter and read it back" doesn't.

5) The reason Mac fanatics are so intolerable is that they don't have to get this. They know that certain things just work, and they get VERY PISSED OFF when you break them. See the OS X Betas, and the reaction to things like "what do you mean there's no apple menu?"

Infinite configurability is ideal for one class of people -- the clued in developer -- and is bad for everyone else, such as the Spreadsheet or CAD whiz who otherwise doesn't give a damn about computing, the support gang that has to support nineteen different windows resolution, etc. etc., ad nauseum.

Configurability is good -- if it can be controlled, and if there's a fast way for Joe User to reset to the (not "a", the) default state. Otherwise, what infinite configuration frobs do is rapidly annoy those people who you are counting on to abandon Windows for your "superior" desktop.

They don't give a damn about your superior desktop. They want to run the apps, get the work done, and go the fuck home to their wife and kids. Computers are as important to them as the stapler and the sawzall in the garage -- useful tools that are supposed to do things quicker so they can go home to important things.

So, Linus doesn't like that you can't frob every knob in GNOME. Fine, don't fucking use it. (I don't.) But insisting that the correct answer is to have a zillion knobs is not correct.

Then again, this is the guy who breaks production kernels and then tells sysadmins that it is our fault for not buying the right hardware. Surprise -- we all agreed, and we went and either called Sun, IBM, or downloaded FreeBSD -- because not only does Linus not understand production users, he doesn't understand production sysadmins.

1) A legendary horror. The full name is "Interclient Communication Convention". You thought I18N was bad? Internationalization was easy.
posted by eriko at 7:09 AM on February 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


eriko, you might want to read the actual argument. Here's the original thread.

As a summary: users really need to print duplex, collate and staple. KDE & CUPS ( & Mac & Windows ) have supported this for years. Gnome doesn't because the extra options are clutter and would confuse users. Linus was frustrated by gnome because the inability to reconfigure the frame right click made it unusable on his laptop, and "would confuse users" seems to be the excuse for all (and only) gnome's shortcomings (rather than "send me a patch"). 1000 comment slashdot thread. Lots of fuzzy verbiage about simple = good, countered with crippled = bad and simple != crippled, countered with simple + !crippled = hard, countered with, fine, but simple + crippled = !simple^2, etc.

Oh wait!

It turns out duplex collate and staple, AND right click configure WERE always intended to be in gnome, but it was too hard to code them. Discussion eventually dies down to discussion about what PPD options should look like in gnome print dialog.

One year later.

Hostile response in spanish to one of Linus' year old posts in spanish, calling him a Nazi. Linus tries to explain crippled != good, etc. Someone suggests Linus try gnome for a month. Linus responds with patch to enable right click configure + make code elegant.

eof, for now
posted by cytherea at 7:53 AM on February 18, 2007


strike that extra "in spanish". thanks.
posted by cytherea at 7:56 AM on February 18, 2007


Then again, this is the guy who breaks production kernels and then tells sysadmins that it is our fault for not buying the right hardware. Surprise -- we all agreed, and we went and either called Sun, IBM, or downloaded FreeBSD -- because not only does Linus not understand production users, he doesn't understand production sysadmins.

But that's always been the case with Linux. They make no guarantee that the latest kernel rev will a) work on your system and b) not break ABI compatibilty. That's why there's an entire market for "enterprise Linux" involving distros that never ship kernel upgrades and why you won't get support from anyone if you run a commercial application on an new or tainted kernel.
posted by cmonkey at 9:29 AM on February 18, 2007


jeffburdges wrote: If you had [an observable system as in AutoCad], you'd find that far far more of the users learned how it worked.

Also HTML.
posted by ryanrs at 11:39 PM on February 18, 2007


Yes, XFCE does what it needs to do with not much of the crapness of KDE or GNOME, and keeping quite a few of the good bits of GNOME.
posted by zog at 5:19 AM on February 19, 2007


Then again, this is the guy who breaks production kernels and then tells sysadmins that it is our fault for not buying the right hardware. Surprise -- we all agreed, and we went and either called Sun, IBM, or downloaded FreeBSD -- because not only does Linus not understand production users, he doesn't understand production sysadmins.

I'm not sure I agree with you about the rest of it -- it's well-reasoned, but I think it's overstated -- but this part I COMPLETELY agree with. Linux is no longer suitable for use as a production server in many cases. It is very unreliable, and is moving far too fast to ever settle out.

If you want to TRUST the machine, do one of the BSDs or Solaris. Linux is mostly a toy at this point. It's the super-advanced whiizbang flying whatchamacallit with every feature in the world, but which falls out of the sky on alternate Thursdays.

At one point, you could bet your life on Linux; at this point, you'd have a better chance playing Russian roulette. (And that is not hyperbole: the kernel devs took a survey and found that 20% of their users are 'presently impacted' by a kernel bug. They were HAPPY with that result.)
posted by Malor at 6:52 AM on February 19, 2007


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