March 24, 2003


Filed under: Archives — mhoye @ 12:00 pm

Check out this week’s Onion. Seriously.

Today, one of my classmates observed that when they’re wearing
hands-free earpieces, it’s impossible to tell people who are on their
cellphones brokering stocks or whatever from the crazy people who
wander around the downtown core talking to themselves. My man Yandu
turned this into a problem-solving tool just by turning it on its head;
he suggested that we could get rid of all the crazy people by giving
them cellphone earpieces. That way they’d fit right in.

Update: I’m in Roosters at Carleton right now, proving my
thirteenthirtysevenness by being able to use an NT box without a mouse.
Better still, it’s only got older versions of IE and Netscape on it,
too; no Phoenix, no Mozilla… It’s
really retro, like the pane of my browser window has been shattered and
reassembled into a stained-glass pastiche of its intended appearance.

It’s really surprising how badly crippled the Windows UI is without
a point-and-clicky type device. I’m kind of used to it, or at least I
know what needs to be done – I’ve been doing this for a long time, and
I guess I’m numb to the tooth-pulling experience of having to install a
COM port and a mouse without being able to actually click on anything.
Still, it’s been a long time and I see that if anything, the experience
has gotten a lot worse. One woman here was openly surprised that I was
able to make it work at all, with that fairly basic part missing.

I can’t imagine what the whole computer experience must be like
for people who can’t use, or can use only, a pointing device. Unless
there’s some pretty heavy-duty and completely unused juju under the hood
in these things, there’s no way I can see to even hook in a passable

One of the things that I like most about Linux is that the most
powerful tools in it can be accessed from the command line. Let’s be
clear about the fact that the command line sucks as an interface; it’s
a throwback to the social structure of old-school shamanism, when only
the priest-king knew the secret way to summon the spirits. As powerful
as it is, we all kind of realize that the CLI isn’t really advancing
the cause. It’s OK for the geek sect, but if Joe User ends up having
to type something into a command prompt there’s not much to be done
except lighting a candle and remembering his machine fondly. But one
of the ideas that I cherish most from all of my hypertext work is the
idea of graceful degradation; do things precisely right if you can,
but if not, do things the next best way available. You really don’t
have anywhere to degrade to in a G-only UI, though.

I’m going to be looking at SVGAtext 1.9 this evening, just
as an experiment to see if I can give my machine a few more ways
of falling out of one thing and into another. I like the idea of
graceful degradation as an engineering paradigm, more than just
as a data manipulation process.

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