September 23rd, 2008


Sometimes, you get what you need

Someone sent me a link to this post entitled "Desktop Linux suckage: where's our Steve Jobs?" and it tickled something in my booze shattered brain. Actually, it tickled three thoughts. Sometimes I wonder if my brain works entirely in parallel because it tends to operate as either off or a screaming cascade of constantly collapsing and expanding thoughtwaveforms. It occurs to me that that this is very much a fork bomb. And that if my brain does run in parallel then I can guarantee it has race conditions.

So, the three somewhat related thoughts were:

  1. When the Gnu project started up people said that it couldn't do more than replace Unix utilities. Then there was emacs and people said that that was the very limit of the ability of free software teams to work on apps. Then the Linux kernel came along and people said "Well, fine but you can't produce enterprise class Desktop apps" and then OpenOffice got made and now people have conceded that particular point but have pointed out that it's all well and good but the fundamental model of Free and Open Source Software (i.e that there's an itch a programmer wants to scratch) pretty-much precludes having a usability person in the mix from the start and that this means that free software will always look fucking gash. History tells us not to underestimate the ability of open projects to evolve. Note: this history is truncated, inaccurate and intended only for illustrative purposes only

  2. Despite the horrifically broken app building model utilising the unholy trinity of AJAX, HTML and HTTP we seemed to have hit a fairly happy center ground between UI designers and programmers. If someone had proposed a programming language in which, in order to create a GUI app you had to use one scripting language on the front end, another language on the backed, do everything using largely stateless function calls and then create your GUI, which has no standard widget set, by dynamically generating a verbose, textual markup language by concatenating strings together ... you'd have quite rightly bitch slapped like they talked dirty about your daughter. It's like people took the worst features of X, Swing and a whole host of other GUI ideas, threw away the good bits stuck it all together using peanut butter.

    Yet that's the state we're in at the moment and weirdly it's working out quite well - we're getting pretty looking web apps and the trolls doing the backend and the eloi doing the pretty bits need the minimum of contact. Hell, with mashups et al they need never even meet. Frabulous joy!

    Interestingly we seem to have wended our way into a situation quite close to the original MVC model (i.e not what Web Framework people call MVC) and also, rather fascinatingly, sort of what Microsoft wanted with VB and COM.

  3. In making Linux and the other free Unixen ubiquitous on the Server we may just have killed apps on the Desktop. Which I guess means that Linux on the Desktop becomes obsolete. Which I suppose means we win after all. Maybe.