Monday, March 24, 2008

Widescreen is theft

Everything has to be widescreen these days. In a TV I'm all for it. On my computer it's theft. Screen sizes used to be 1024x768, 1280x960, 1400x1050, 1600x1200 or even 1920x1440. Now they are widescreen and the resolution is 1024x576, 1280x720, 1400x787, 1600x900 and 1920x1080 (or thereabouts, sometimes they're 16:10 not 16:9). See, they didn't give us wider screens, they gave us less tall screens! They stole our pixels!

If my primary use of computers was looking at movies or TV this would be fine. But it's not! I web-surf, read and write e-mail, edit Wiki pages, work spreadsheets, program. For all of these more lines on the screen is better: it results in less scrolling and better overview.

Friday, March 21, 2008

KDE4 - ooooh, that hurts

I have been using KDE since before Gnome was usable (and Gnome is still not usable ;-) KDE has the useful property of having nice defaults and a good interface to change them in. Whenever I install KDE anew I only need to click around for 2 minutes or so before it's not only usable but cozy. Also KDE people seem to know such classics as "Apple User interface guidelines" (I hope that's the title, I have version 1 in a box somewhere and Amazon does not seem to have it) which has had a tendency to make their GUI usable in other ways too. So when I switched to Ubuntu I naturally started using Kubuntu, the KDE desktoped version of Ubuntu.

KDE4 was finished some time ago. When it was first made available for Ubuntu it would not install. But it installed when I tried just now (quiet easter days...).

OW! It's in need of some serious tweaking. I shall have to yearn for 4.1 I think. Meanwhile I'll use KDE3.

After using it for 30 minutes I can say that it is very slick looking. Animations and sound effects where ever. But it is so broken. Let me count the ways:

  1. The "K" (start) menu is now a scrollable window into the application hierarchy. This makes it TOTALY un-navigatable! One of the basic tennents of UI design is that the user should be able to recognize where he is and how he got there. The new K menu gives the user such a small peep hole into the K menu structure that it's totally unusable. True, it has a "search" function where I can enter either "irc" or "konversation" to find my IRC client, but I would still claim that it fails the "mom" test. My mom would not be able to use the new start menu. Even if I helped her over the phone it's not easy enough to use as she can't see where she's at.
  2. I like to have the system bar ("kicker" in kde3) vertically on the rigth side of my screen. It was easy to adapt in KDE3: Adjust the clock size so it fits, the task icons just show, with no text so I can recognize the tasks in the task bar. Perfect. The KDE4 "panels" clock is not size-adjustable and gets cut off. The task thingys are elongated and evenly spaced over the whole task-bar part of the panel, I have no idea why. Not tested in the vertical setting I expect.
  3. There is a "new devices" widget in the panel that is some kind of plug and play manager. When I held the mouse over it a window poped up. When the panel is in the vertical-right position practically the whole of the popup window is outside the screen.
  4. The "log out" widget for the panel does not adjust well to the "tiny" or "small" settings. In KDE3 it re-arranges the "lock" and "log out" icons to fit better, in KDE4 they are resized to "micro" and impossible to see.
  5. The KDE4 panel lets me add "widgets" (I'm not sure this word is a good replacement for "applet" of KDE3), and the widgets appears on the panel somewhere. Re-arranging them seems not possible.
  6. Where did the kde-mixer applet go? I need my sound mixer in the panel!
  7. The new Konsole program has a totally cool way of changing settings. When I mouse over an alternative the window changes at once. BUT, it can't recall from instance to instance that I don't want to see the menu bar. Really not!
  8. I want to use ALT+LEFT and ALT+RIGHT to switch desktops dammit! I don't care if this is a oft used application shortcut because I never use it.
  9. There is no "disable all sounds" button in the notifications control panel. The only thing I want to make sounds is amarok. My desktop needs to be quiet... After growing weary of turning off sounds one by one a while I found out that if I switch tabs I can disable sound-effects entirely by disabling the sound-sub system. I'm sure that's not intuitive. I would hope to be able to disable sounds from the place I can see them enabled.
That's enough I think. Back to KDE3 for me.