Free Software paradigms and usablity

Discussion in 'NZ Computing' started by dhbayne@ihug.co.nz, Mar 29, 2005.

  1. Guest

    http://dotgeek.blogspot.com/2005/03/free-software-paradigms-and-usablity.html
    Free Software paradigms and usablity

    I am restoring an old Westminster valve radio, turning it into a
    valve-amplified network-aware MP3 jukebox. My original plan was to
    write an MP3 playing daemon that would be controlled over the network;
    this plan has been superseded since I discovered Xine. The Xine control
    panel is a thin GUI client, which connects to the player through a
    socket layer. So, the GUI can run on one machine, and control another.
    It's marvelously over-engineered for every-day single-machine use, but
    absolutely perfect for this application.

    This got me to thinking - what is it about Free Software that lend
    itself to this type of use? The answer: it's not Free Software that's
    responsible, it's the UNIX paradigm. Specifically:

    1. Modularity. Typically, UNIX tools are small and self-contained,
    designed to be invoked individually or through scripting 'glue'. For
    example, I use Grip to rip music from CDs into Ogg Vorbis format. Grip
    itself is simply a GUI front-end for tools like FreeDB, OggEnc and
    CDParanoia.

    2. Network orientation. For a long time now, UNIX machines have been
    networked. Thus a lot of UNIX applications are designed to take
    advantage of this. A great example is X Windows, with a separate client
    and server separated by a socket layer - or of course Xine, or if
    you're into games there's FreeCiv (which might be of interest to the
    gaming crowd at Pharos).

    3. Developer orientation. UNIX has long been a haven for developers.
    Most UNIX-like systems nowadays come with a wide range of compilers,
    development environments, shells, debuggers and scripting languages.
    There are three reasons for this: many UNIX systems are used for
    development or by developers, a lot of UNIX software is shipped in
    source code format, and the many modular utilities that make up a UNIX
    system need scripting glue to hold them all together.

    People tend to forget that there have been collaborative free software
    projects in existence for years in the CP/M, DOS and Windows worlds,
    and for microcomputers before that. The two things that have improved
    the productivity and quality of those projects is the Internet, and the
    availability of desktop machines sufficiently powerful to run UNIX-like
    operating systems like MINIX, *BSD, Linux and Mac OS X. The actual
    philosophy behind Free Software is of secondary importance (just don't
    tell E.R.S.) It's enough that developers want to work together to write
    cool stuff, and then give it away.

    However, the average desktop user is not a UNIX developer or sysadmin.
    He doesn't have the time or experience to use command-line tools to
    build and install software, and certainly has no idea how to grep
    logfiles, unpack tarballs, or modify Makefiles to reflect his setup. As
    shocking as it seems to UNIX aficionados, he probably doesn't even have
    a preferred text editor whose inner secrets he knows better than his
    significant other's.

    So, before embarking on a new Free Software project, you should ask
    yourself: am I targeting desktop users, or UNIX-heads?

    If the former, then make sure your project has a GUI, a sensible
    default installation, a first-time wizard for per-user configuration,
    decent HTML help, no arcane dependencies, and is shipped in binary
    package form. Work out what platforms you support, and target them, to
    the exclusion of others if needs be. Opera for Linux is a good example
    of this type of software - and note, it's not Free but commercial,
    which implies robust market & customer needs analysis.

    If the latter, knock yourself out with configure scripts, makefiles,
    weird or cutting-edge library dependencies, and humorous error
    messages. F-Prot Anti-Virus for Linux is a good example - it only
    installs into one place, requires a bunch of Perl modules from CPAN,
    and generally behaves as though it was written by someone with a long
    beard who dresses in suspenders. Once you've got it installed, you can
    schedule a daily scan by hacking up a quick shell script in
    /etc/cron.daily. Just check the logs in the morning to see if anything
    was infected. Easy enough for the target market.

    But whatever you do, don't sit in some halfway-house. Don't produce a
    project that's aimed at desktop users, but that is shipped in source
    form, comes with all documentation in a manpage and a README, requires
    a friendly RHCE to install, and requires 100MB of bleeding-edge
    libraries. Likewise, if you're targeting UNIX-heads, don't bother with
    graphical configuration wizards - just ensure the location of the
    configuration files is clearly specified in the manpage, and the
    default configuration files are clearly commented. Put the effort where
    it's needed, into functionality, detailed documentation, and
    wide-ranging platform support.
    , Mar 29, 2005
    #1
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  2. Axle Guest

    wrote:
    > http://dotgeek.blogspot.com/2005/03/free-software-paradigms-and-usablity.html
    > Free Software paradigms and usablity
    >
    > I am restoring an old Westminster valve radio, turning it into a
    > valve-amplified network-aware MP3 jukebox. My original plan was to
    > write an MP3 playing daemon that would be controlled over the network;
    > this plan has been superseded since I discovered Xine. The Xine control
    > panel is a thin GUI client, which connects to the player through a
    > socket layer. So, the GUI can run on one machine, and control another.
    > It's marvelously over-engineered for every-day single-machine use, but
    > absolutely perfect for this application.


    This is far superior, and it doesn't have a great dea to do with UNIX
    It uses any browser to control the streams to multiple players.
    http://www.slimdevices.com/su_downloads.html
    The server is open source perl and totally cross platform.
    Apart from the awesome hardware player, it comes with a java software
    client player called Softsqueeze which you can download from the servers
    http interface.
    The java client can be run headless for a player if you like.
    Any client player is controllable from any browser.
    I also run slimp3slave which is a linux console client player.
    Any Winamp or similar player can also play the stream, (but not select a
    playlist).
    Its full of addons contributed by the user community, some of which
    become part of the default server package.
    http://www.slimdevices.com/dev_plugins.html
    To install in Linux I drop the server into a directory. To install in
    Windows I run the installer.

    Upstream developers in Linux produce software to be packaged. You can
    get it from the farmgate or packaged at the supermarket.
    Its useless to gripe about the choices you have made either way.
    Axle, Mar 29, 2005
    #2
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  3. Bling-Bling Guest

    On Mon, 28 Mar 2005 15:48:34 -0800, dhbayne wrote:

    > Once you've got it installed, you can
    > schedule a daily scan by hacking up a quick shell script in
    > /etc/cron.daily. Just check the logs in the morning to see if anything
    > was infected. Easy enough for the target market.


    Nah - just get the cronjob to parse the logs afterwards and then send you
    an email summarising the results. :eek:)


    Bling-bling

    --
    Computers are like air conditioners -- they stop working properly if you
    open WINDOWS
    Bling-Bling, Mar 29, 2005
    #3
  4. Duncan Bayne Guest

    On Tue, 29 Mar 2005 13:48:32 +1200, Axle wrote:
    > This is far superior, and it doesn't have a great dea to do with UNIX
    > It uses any browser to control the streams to multiple players.
    > http://www.slimdevices.com/su_downloads.html


    Thanks, I'll investiage it. I've also been pointed at this brand spanking
    new valve amplifier kit:

    http://s5electronics.com/gpage1.html

    > Upstream developers in Linux produce software to be packaged. You can
    > get it from the farmgate or packaged at the supermarket.
    > Its useless to gripe about the choices you have made either way.


    I'm not griping about the choices I've made - I'm trying to make the point
    that software that's good for UNIX fans like myself isn't good for desktop
    end-users (at least without serious repackaging), and vice versa.

    --
    +-----------------------------------------------------------------+
    | Duncan Bayne phone (+64) 027 2536395 email |
    | ============ icq# 115621676 msn |
    | |
    | web http://duncanbayne.blogspot.com/ |
    | http://dotgeek.blogspot.com/ |
    +-----------------------------------------------------------------+
    | "The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly |
    | is to fill the world with fools." |
    | |
    | - Herbert Spencer. |
    +-----------------------------------------------------------------+
    Duncan Bayne, Mar 29, 2005
    #4
  5. Axle Guest

    Duncan Bayne wrote:
    > On Tue, 29 Mar 2005 13:48:32 +1200, Axle wrote:
    >
    >>This is far superior, and it doesn't have a great dea to do with UNIX
    >>It uses any browser to control the streams to multiple players.
    >>http://www.slimdevices.com/su_downloads.html

    >
    >
    > Thanks, I'll investiage it. I've also been pointed at this brand spanking
    > new valve amplifier kit:
    >
    > http://s5electronics.com/gpage1.html
    >
    >
    >>Upstream developers in Linux produce software to be packaged. You can
    >>get it from the farmgate or packaged at the supermarket.
    >>Its useless to gripe about the choices you have made either way.

    >
    >
    > I'm not griping about the choices I've made - I'm trying to make the point
    > that software that's good for UNIX fans like myself isn't good for desktop
    > end-users (at least without serious repackaging), and vice versa.
    >

    You get the fresh stuff at the farm gate.
    Good choice.
    Axle, Mar 29, 2005
    #5
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