One man’s meat is another man’s poison. user interfaces.

GUI/UIs are important. It’s often crucial.
People use Kate instead of emacs or vim although vim and emacs are more powerful. But using emacs/vim is not that intuitive as using Kate.
There are many other comparisons. So, why do (open-source) developers neglect the UI?
From my point of view, making UIs is kind of boring. Mostly, it’s redundant, time-consuming and not decently abstracted.

Redundancy: Sometimes you’ve made a proper simple CLI. It works really fine but not for your users.

Time-consuming: Some clever frameworks generate parts of the UI for you. That’s pretty nice. Though, if you don’t have a suitable framework and your data isn’t modeled correctly you have to do it manually.

No decent abstraction: I think that’s a deciding point. Which UI is right? Which UI is wrong? If you are working on a DBMS you know which output is right or wrong. If SELECT user_id FROM user returns nothing although there are thousand entries, you know that is wrong. Its behavior is bad. But you don’t know if it’s bad if you put the calculate button on the left or on the right. There aren’t really metrics for UIs.

So, what can we do? Delegate the work. Look for someone who loves creating UIs. If you are working in a large (software) company there are probably UI-Designers. In open source projects UI-Designers are rare. Maybe because most open source projects don’t attract designers. Many websites are simple and pragmatic and designers aren’t attracted. It’s a vicious circle.

Time for intervention. Looking for someone on a flashy graphics board and maybe introducing him into the basics of a graphic framework.
They will love it because they are working on a great project and you will love it because you can concentrate on the code.

Update Here’s an article and some great comments about visual artists in open source: Pin Stack.

Modern games of dice

Dice by Darren Hester

Motion-Twin who are developing haXe have released a new game called My Brute. There are two goals in this game. Firstly, you fight against other players (3 times per day). Secondly, you should motivate people to play this game with you as their referee. It’s a neat little game. A main problem is that referee stuff. Many people create simple bots to increase the amount of their referees (called pupils) to get more powerful. Also, I heard that there are vulnerabilities on client side. That’s a no-go for flash games. Users can manipulate their memory to gain even more power.
Apart from that I love the main idea. You “play” a random character against other players. Sure, it’s just a extended version of games of dice.
It’s a pity that no strategy really helps and that you can only play three times per day.

I’d like to see a improved version without this referee stuff and an other fight system. You should fight as long as you want to, respectively, your character is able fight. E.g. you can fight as long as your life points are greater than zero otherwise you must wait four hours. And you mustn’t fight against characters with a much lower level than yours.

My OS History

I’ve found some old blog posts about installing Debian Linux on my notebook in July 2006. So, I decided to visualize my OS history. Some dates, especially those before 2003, are estimated.

These are only operating system which I have used longer than five months.

my OS history

The Numerati – Maths is everywhere

You buy things on amazon, search for latest news on Google and write a new blog post on blogspot. These companies are highly delighted when you do this. Not only because you bought a product or clicked on an ad but also they can gather information about you.

Today information is a very important product. Many companies exist only because of this information flood. But why? Why was information not so important hundred years ago?
Stephan Baker gets to the bottom of this change. He investigates several different areas of your daily life and the importance of the Numerati. In The Numerati he shows what people are doing with this data. How they construct mathematical models of customers and electors and why you’re maybe a Right Click if you own a fast broadband connection.

It’s not a textbook but nevertheless very interesting. Anyone who wants to know what you can do with people’s data should read this book. It’s short and stimulative.