Solipsism Gradient

Rainer Brockerhoff’s blog

Browsing Posts published in April, 2004

The folks at the fascinating Language Log pointed out a Circolwyrde Wordhord (Old English Computer Glossary):

This glossary, which complements several printed sources of its kind, is intended for Anglo-Saxonists and other speakers of English for whom the language of the computer world has become alien and largely incomprehensible.

We learn, for instance, that a white-hat hacker is a searocræftiga, while a malicious hacker can be a feondsceaða, atorwyrht or even an inwitgæst. No doubt this will be very useful for any scholar who regularly sits at a weorcstede (workstation), exchanges hrædærendgewrit (e-mail), or needs to look at some oftgeacsunge (FAQ) on the woruldwidewebb. Not to speak of cneomæglicgifhordonweald (relational database management) problems, of course. Hm.

The indefatigable Uncle Al has some “new weapons of mass consumption” posted, among them these Dilbert Neologisms:

…Blamestorming – Group discussion of why deadlines slipped or projects failed, and who was responsible.

…Chainsaw consultant – Outside expert brought in to downsize personnel, leaving the brass with clean hands.

…Mouse Potato – An on-line, wired couch potato.

…Percussive Maintenance – The fine art of whacking an electronic device to restore function.

…Seagull Manager – A manager who flies in, makes a lot of noise, craps over everything, and then leaves.


The Advanced Developers Hands On Conference, for the first 18 years known as MacHack, will take place on July 21-24, 2004, in Dearborn, Michigan, USA.

I’ve attended 3 times in the past and written several papers for it. As most of you know, I heartily endorse the conference – it’s smaller, more concentrated, and much more fun than WWDC. The US is off my travel routes for now, so I won’t be able to attend – but I plan to publish a paper in absentia.

I just saw on Jon Rentzsch‘ site that he’s calling for MacHack stories by previous attendees… and he kindly linked to here, too. Thanks Jon, I will contribute some stories in the near future…

skellybootle wrote:


except for the dig at English sports!

…Stan Kelly-Bootle

Stan, thanks for dropping in!

Regarding any and all sports, I invoke the “calm disinterest” clause… icon_wink.gif

Posted by skellybootle:
except for the dig at English sports!
Guess who beat the invincible Aussies in the RUGBY World Cup

Stan Kelly-Bootle

Some weeks ago noted Open Source advocate Eric S. Raymond complained at length about his troubles in configuring a network printer using the well-known Common Unix Printing System (which is, by the way, used under the hood in Mac OS X). He also published a follow-up article with further comments. His main point seems to be that, now that the main technical problems in Unix/Linux have been solved, it’s time to build decent user interfaces on top of the existing solutions.

John “Daring Fireball” Gruber has now written an excellent critique of Raymond’s position, appropriately called Ronco Spray-On Usability:

…UI development is the hard part. And it?s not the last step, it?s the first step. In my estimation, the difference between:

– software that performs function X; and

-software that performs function X, with an intuitive well-designed user interface

isn?t just a little bit of extra work. It?s not even twice the work. It?s an entire order of magnitude more work. Developing software with a good UI requires both aptitude and a lot of hard work. Raymond acknowledges neither.

…the undeniable truth is this: successful open source software projects tend to be at the developer-level, not the end-user level. E.g., successful open source projects have programming interfaces, not user interfaces. Apache, Perl, Python, gcc, PHP, the various SQL databases. The list of fantastic open source developer software is long.

The list of fantastic open source GUI software is short. This is not a function of chance.

If you’re a serious developer on any platform, reading both sides of this argument is a must. Despite my agreement with Raymond in many of his writings, on this issue I side with Gruber. Good user interface design is an art, and must be done first.

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