Posts Tagged 'user interface'

The Future

Where does the computing world go? I’m not talking just about Free Software, but about the whole industry. Even Microsoft is in trouble here.

What more can we do with computers? What will computers do five years from now that they can’t do today?

Writing documents and university papers can’t get much better than MS-Office, OpenOffice, TeX and DocBook. Each of them caters rather well to their respective markets (except some interoperability issues, which are really rather minor if you put the bizness bullshit aside.)

Music, Movies, Animation? You can’t improve this field much more in the home market, and the high-end market of professional artists and studios is rather narrow. (Although ideas expressed in Lessig’s Free Culture can make it wider …)

Business v1.0 software – databases, billing, CRM, ERP? It is a market of reliability, not innovation.

Websites, communications and social networks? True innovation in that area hit a glass wall long ago, if you ask me. Some websites make up nicer AJAX tricks, but that’s about it.

So i thought that the really innovative thing that can useful on a major scale may lie in the field of Linguistics (disclaimer: I am studying for a B.A. in Linguistics). Speech recognition, text-to-speech and automated translation – all of them are related to Linguistics; none of them can be done right without proper scientific Linguistic preparation.

Microsoft puts “improved” speech recognition into every version of MS-Office, but it is very far from doing it right. Xerox and IBM tried something in their respective (and respected) research labs, but it didn’t see the light of day (at least yet). Google are rumored to be doing something with statistics-based automated translation.

But no-one has anything finalized.

The first one who does it right will rule the whole market for years to come. Of the current players, Google seems to have the best chances to succeed, but it can also be a startup company created by an anonymous undergraduate Liberal Arts student in India, Nigeria or Ukraine. Or Israel?

(Originally published in Bug #1.)

Safari on Windows

Apple released a beta version of Safari for Windows.

Good points:

  • It seems pretty fast, despite its stupid GUI (see below).
  • It loads very quickly.
  • It seems to use less memory – 25MB upon loading compared to Firefox’s 35MB and Internet Explorer’s 31MB (this was a very crude comparison, though).
  • It stole a lot of icons from Firefox, but unlike the Internet Explorer folks, they didn’t take the RSS icon.
  • It’s good for testing sites.
  • It’s Free Software (although i haven’t look at the details of plugins etc.)
  • Ctrl-T and middle-click open a new tab, which is very important (but see below).
  • Hebrew in websites seems to work correctly (but see below).

Bad points:

  • It has a very Mac-style GUI. All-gray tones, flat buttons. Despite this, the browser seems pretty fast (see above).
  • The preferences dialog doesn’t have OK, Apply and Cancel; Closing the window means OK, although in the Windows world it usually means Cancel, which is very confusing.
  • Mouse wheel doesn’t work.
  • Middle click doesn’t close an open tab, which is standard in Firefox and Internet Explorer. It’s pretty annoying.
  • Hebrew text appears in reverse in the GUI of the browser, although it appears correctly in the sites themselves.

The worst point is the mouse wheel. I use it a lot and i surely hope that it’s just a bug and not a stupid feature devised by Apple to make usage simpler (it’s all too easy to imagine Apple UI engineers say something like “Most users don’t understand how to use the mouse wheel anyway and Mac users do very well without it.”) So for me it’s a show-stopper and i’m sticking with Firefox, although it is useful for testing. Hey, i am loyal to Firefox even on Linux, where i can use Konqueror which is the origin of Safari.

A Prayer for the Intranet

O God!

Please have mercy on IT decision makers who pay money for “web application frameworks” that work only in Internet Explorer. I beg Ye: Forgive them; for they know not what they do.

Please grant Thy great gift of eyesight to the blindfold corporate webmasters who install on Intranets which were given to them for keeping “web-based workflow applications” that employ double-click as a means of interfacing with the user. Therefore, be it known to all dearly beloved webmasters: Render the double-click to desktop applications, and to web applications render the single-click. And may the mercy of God be upon ye all.

Yea, verily i say unto ye, my beloved brethren: Give not your trust to marketing people who sell ye “Intranet portals” which make use of ActiveX; For their cunning mind is not of God, and surely ActiveX is the mark of the Satan of the desktop.

O Lord, please guide your sheep unto the true path of Web Standards; For Thou have created many marvelous computer programs which can access the Internet and thus praise Thy great name.