Desktop normalization

Marcin Krol lug at
Tue Nov 24 02:40:57 PST 1998

On Mon, 23 Nov 1998, Aaron wrote:

> I was deep in meditation when Marcin Krol awoke me by saying:
> > 
> > For heaven's sakes, no! Even bad standard is better than lack of standard.
> I don't think so. With a lack of a standard, one has the option of weeding
> through available products/implementations for a "best-of-breed" product.

Who said standard *prevents* you from doing so? I am last one to consider
conserve-it-in-the-plastic MS approach. Just implement modifiable
standard. Irreplaceable standard - that is the problem definitely. 

> Usually, a de facto standard will emerge this way. With a bad standard, one
> has only the option of using a bad product.

Not at all. Just having default wm and standard xclock does not prevent
you from replacing them, does it. 

> This is exactly what has turned
> many away from Microsoft and Microsoftesque (new word ;-) products, 

Frankly, I do not see many people doing that. If anything, it is reverse.

> > beyond me. OSS is no better at avoiding unnecessary redundant
> > effort than commercial software.
> I don't use KDE because I like fvwm2 (and I've only begun to tinker with
> Enlightenment). At school, mwm is the default (soon to be mwm w/CDE). I
> had to change my wm there to fvwm2.

> I think this is what gives X its
> greatest strength, that I can choose a completely different look and feel
> by simply plugging in a new window manager. 

Statistically your opinion is rare. Priority one for most users is
working out of box. Customization is long down the list of priorities.
I am really sorry to say that, but you are proponent of taste, not

>The idea that people should be
> able to customize more than just their screensaver and desktop colors is
> one not to take lightly. Unix uses are used to customizing everything,
> from their emacs modules to their shell aliases/functions.

If so, what is the point of standardization at all? Why not leave *all* to
end user?  Everyone needs usability out of box to a certain extent. Where
this extent is depends on personal taste. You are entitled to your taste.
But the problem is that if LSB sets tradeoff between working out of box
and customization to be skewed too far in the direction of customization,
relatively few people will want to use it. I've had such experiences with
users for which I installed Linux (for free). "Why is not there one way to
do it"? "Because it is assumed people will do it different ways". "I don't
care HOW it is done, I only care to get it done".

> Standards should never attempt to define themselves.

Agreement here.

> Standards should be
> codifications of de-facto standards, much like law is often the codification of
> commonlaw.

Here as well...

> I don't think the purpose of LSB is to steer the course of Linux
> or Linux environments. I think it is to codify and unite the many similar but
> yet unique aspects of Linux. Where two disparate technologies clash but need
> to be standardized, then a means of cooperation has to be developed. 

..but not here. Take a look at Emacs vs. Xemacs. Means of cooperation
do not *have* to be developed. They *may* be developed. And usability
suffers. For DIY hackers it does not really matter, but for vast
majority of users it does.

>I hesitate
> to say which environment or window manager is in greater usage, and to base
> any standard upon one which is not (or just barely is) is to upheave the
> entire process and at the same time lose credibility where it counts:
> the users.

You can not loose more credibility in eyes of user than in the
case when product does not work out of box.

> What does a standard based, for instance, on KDE mean if only
> 30% of users use it?

That depends at what "market niche" you aim. There is no simple
answer to this question.

> A company which expects KDE will be encouraged to
> write KDE-only features into their product, because they will falsely
> believe that everyone can handle that functionality.

A company that is so clueless deserves to die.

> In fact, they will
> not do very well in the market and will gain a distaste for the platform
> in general. 

Not exactly - they will get distaste for their product only. 

> I will go a little further to say that GTK should also be included
> as a standard toolkit, only because the de facto standard, Motif, is
> commercial-ware and wouldn't fit in the standard at all. That's not to say
> that a developer couldn't develop for Motif, but they will be aware that
> GTK is gauranteed to be available, while Motif is not. I don't think the
> end result is that much different (except that GTK is [supposedly] themed).
> > 
> > > Of course this is all just my opinion, and not a very important one
> > > really.
> > 
> > Of course you are entitled to your opinion. Everyone is. But also there is
> > this problem of standardization. Having variety of window managers on X is
> > like burning the house to roast a chicken: you gain something but loose *a
> > lot*. 
> No, it's like being able to choose what color your house is, the furniture
> in it, where the furniture goes and what you watch on the TV of your choice.

If it is your home, that is. If you checked in at hotel for one night and
were asked to fill two hundred cryptic forms how your room is to look like
then you would spend whole night in reception instead of in the room. 
Customizability - fine. But some default needs to be provided for majority
of people who do not want customization really. 

It's like being customer and producer. Person has only several roles as
producer and hundreds roles as customer. Most of the time customer does
not want to spend a lot of time customizing every feature.  Some
researchers from NY were interested by so called "flashing zero syndrome". 
Most VCR users did not even bother to set clocks in them.  In their
opinion VCR is supposed to have play, rewind, ff, and stop/eject buttons,
and any additional complexity is not only unnecessary but unwelcomed. You
may scoff at that, but that's the way MS does it and huge numbers of users
are willing to hand over their money to MS for doing precisely above. It
would be equally unwise to disregard that as to be slave of such

> These are good things, IMHO.

It's like every diagnosis in social science: some do, some don't. Depends
on taste.

> I don't think the LSB should standardize something simply because no one
> will do it. These groups haven't worked out their differences because they
> are preliminary and experimental.

I am not sure if there is such a thing as software that is not
"preliminary and experimental". The only fully finished products seem to
be obsolete. 

> Eventually, one will become dominant and
> the other will be made compatible or will become obsolete. This explains why
> most window managers offer some means of understanding Motif "hints". Motif
> is dominant, other products must accomodate.

>That's the way the free market
> works and I would hesitate to attempt to suppress this tendancy. Again,
> I think LSB will be much more successful if it sticks to a role of
> codification primarily and specification only when absolutely necessary.

Agreed. The only problem is settling down WHAT is absolutely necessary. 
Some say "desktop is add-on product". Tell something like that to Mac

 Marcin Krol

Hiroshima 45                   Tschernobyl 86                      Windows 95

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