Bog Roll :: unix/gui

It's Not Magic, It's Work!

31 Mar 2009

Desktop Adapted For Grandma

Someone in my LUG posted this today: Shopping delivered to Great Grandma, by Ubuntu Linux. It's a great example why most IT instruction and use fails miserably. People are not taught useful things in a way they can understand and use. Most of the time people are badly taught something that is not useful and then expected to make sense of a complex and badly designed tool. No wonder most of the time people fail.

If people are properly taught how to do something useful and given appropriate tools they do on the whole find it much easier! In this case Grandma managed to get on with Linux having failed miserably with Windows...

This is something I have been going on about for a while... Desktop Adapted for Dad.

23 Sep 2008

Desktop Adapted for Dad (4)

My Desktop Adapted for Dad talk has been accepted at this year's Linux'08 meeting. I now have to extend and expand it from about 20 to 45 minutes. I have some extra pieces to add to the story, screen shots and I think it will be okay.

I also have to complete my rsnapshot talk for the next HANTS-LUG meeting and my lean-six-sigma improve stage toll gate review for tomorrow...

23 Nov 2006

Desktop Adapted for Dad 2

I've finally posted the text of my Desktop Adapted for Dad 2 article on the Debian Administration site. The article is available on line already but it's a PDF which is not as easy as a web page, plus on the site it will get syndicated and collect comments.

21 Nov 2006

New PC...

I've never had a new PC at work. My first PC was only weeks from being decommissioned, had I started a month later it may have gone to silicon-heaven. When it died suddenly a year or so later it was replaced with a marginally younger machine that was it's self due to be replaced.

When our Exchange system was upgraded this August I was unable to use my PC to send or receive email as the installed version of Microsoft Outlook was incompatible with the version of Microsoft Exchange we are using. They couldn't upgrade my PC because there wasn't enough disk space on it to install Outlook.

On Friday my new PC arrived. I've spent the last two days gradually installing all the essential software that's not included in Windows XP: Cygwin, Putty, Firefox, XML Spy, Opera, Programmer's File Editor, Zinf, VNC etc etc. My next challenge is to turn off all the cruft that comes with XP, and make it usable. It's a very disruptive process making a desktop system usable and not helped my Microsoft's poor choice of defaults.

Compared with setting up a KDE desktop, XP is painful and primitive in the extreme. I suppose I mustn't grumble, I've got a new PC - which is reasonably fast even considering how slow XP makes everything and I'll get to avoid Windows Vista for a while.

16 Nov 2006


I use Amarok as my media player. It's a big fat KDE package, but it does the two things I want very well. First it's good at organising my audio files, second as a player it shrinks down to the task bar and stays out the way.

Basically I don't like most other media players because they do stupid things when I want them to just play audio - like visualisations, and/or they have poor cataloguing capabilities.

31 Oct 2006


A colleague at work said that if he had any more problems with Windows his son was going to upgrade him to FreeBSD. Given how crappy Windows is, I'm surprised he hasn't been upgraded to FreeBSD already. If it's running KDE, Firefox, Thunderbird and OpenOffice it'll do most of the things that Windows can, only it'll be secure, reliable, quick and free.

22 Oct 2006

The Dolphin File-Manager

In a Linux magazine I saw a review of Peter Penz's Dolphin, a small lightweight file-manager for KDE. It's much smaller and simpler than Konqueror. It's not yet available in Debian, so I downloaded it and tried to compiled it myself. I had to pull-in over 110 MiB of development libraries for C++, Qt and KDE, but it compiled okay, and runs fine. I asked aptitude to flush the unused libraries afterwards, and I've got my space back too.

As good as Konqueror is, it's a bit of a fat tool, and I don't use or need a full fat file-manager most of the time. I mostly use the command line to maintain my box and when I use a GUN I like things to be simple and obvious. Dolphin may be the tool for me - we shall see.

04 Jun 2006

All fiXed

I decided there wasn't much to break, so using dpkg I forcibly removed lots of conflicting packages. I then manually downloaded new ones, one at a time, installing them with dpkg. I manually resolved the conflicts, one at a time, and after a few were installed the hard way, aptitude was able to pull down the rest automatically.

In the process I wrecked my nvidia GLX settings. I fell back to the open source nv driver, which is okay for 2D, but useless for 3D. A few minutes to download the latest nvidia package, and module assistant fixed everything up for me. snafu...

Today I tried to upgrade my Debian "Etch" box. The upgrade fell over in a heap, and now X doesn't work. Thankfully the rest of the system is okay, only now apt-get/aptitude doesn't know how to fix it. Ho hum, the life of a tester is often fraught with difficulties, but I suppose I put up with them so that my better half doesn't have to!

15 May 2006

Computers Too Hard To Use...

There is an interesting discussion on Slashdot Can Ordinary PC Users Ditch Windows for Linux?.

The problem with most of the comments is that they fail to take into account two key facts: most users don't know how to use/install Windows to start with and what they do know is often so illogical that they need to unlearn it to make sense of Linux/Unix/Mac.

It's in Microsoft's commercial interest to keep their user base ignorant, if people realised how much of a ride they were being taken for then they may not be so keen to pay out the huge sums to Microsoft every year for more old rope.

03 Apr 2006

Desktop Adapted for Dad

On Saturday I gave a short talk to my LUG about my experiences in setting up my step father with Debian. After the talk and discussion I've been asked to write my experiences up as a short article for Interfaces - the magazine of the British HCI Group. Cool.

13 Dec 2005


It's official, even Linus now recommends KDE over GNOME. Actually it's a storm in a tea cup but over on /. it's generating an awful lot of hot air.

I don't care what people use and I'd happily use either GNOME or KDE in preference to Windows any day - though I do prefer KDE to GNOME. I prefer KDE not because it's got more eye candy than GNOME - which it does - but because I can turn things off if I want. GNOME is okay but too restrictive for me, I just can't turn things on or off to make it the way I want it.

09 Sep 2005


I'm running Debian Etch as my desktop system. Every few days I update the software on it, with the latest versions. When it's a big change I cringe and hide behind the sofa in case something breaks horribly. So far running testing, I've been caught out once in 12 months but it's still stressful changing big pieces of a working system.

Today I upgraded from XFree86 to X.Org. I was worried that the funky nvidia drivers would break, and I'd be left without a functioning GUI. After a few minutes it's all done, and X is running again.

Many thanks the the excellent work done by the Debian people!

26 Aug 2005

Eye Candy

One of the annoying things about Windows XP, is the excessive eye-candy that makes the GUI run like treacle on a cold day. I've turned it down, and it now runs a tad faster, but nothing like the speed of Windows NT4 or Debian/KDE.

KDE is popular with some people because like Windows XP there are lots of fancy GUI tricks. On the whole I find most GUI eye-candy tricks annoying. I like KDE because I can tune it - turning most of the eye-candy off. One of the reasons I don't like GNOME is because tuning the GUI is harder.

19 Jul 2005

Future Linux Desktop

In this recent series* of articles on a future Linux distribution "I'm Batman" make some very insightful observations. He also misses some essential points.

I think some of the problems addressed are also present in Windows and Macintosh OS X, and Linux/Unix is no better or worse in respect to many short comings in the GUI.

I also think some of the observations are also misguided. Computers are complex multi-user, network aware systems, even the average home system is now quite complex. This does make system management complex, but attempts to "dumb it down", for example as Windows does helps to explain the very high level of malware afflicting Windows systems.

I strongly recommend anyone with an interest in the future of Linux on the desktop to read these articles and the various comments and follow-ups.

* The Linux Desktop Distribution of the Future: