back to article The web is past peak innovation: It's all negative returns from here

In all the years I have been using FOSS software, the most common complaint I've seen about FOSS software is that the "design" is "terrible", "laughable" or some witticism about forks and eyes. What's interesting about this criticism isn't its longevity, that's to be expected since for most of the people registering this …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lynx

    For the win.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Lynx

      Speaking of which, why is there a gigantic and useless picture of a cat-on-keyboard up there?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Lynx

        Cat pictures are never useless.

        1. sixit

          Re: Lynx

          "Cat pictures are never useless"

          Only true when they're pictures of Lynx. And panthers.

  2. You aint sin me, roit

    "Design is how it works"

    You only have to say that to people who are more concerned about how it looks.

  3. Geoff Campbell
    Linux

    And yet...

    > In an article about the birth of the iPod, Steve Jobs said: That’s not what

    > we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is

    > how it works."

    Which is fine, except that Apple spent, and still spend, *vast* resources on the look and feel, and the initial advertising for the iPod was all about that external look with pretty much no mention of function.

    GJC

    1. whatevs...

      Re: And yet...

      Slogan for iPod; "1000 songs in you pocket".

      First advert: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mE_bDNaYAr8

      Geoff, you are wrong.

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: And yet...

        How do those things not fall out of his ears?

    2. Static Cat

      Re: And yet...

      Design is 'how it works' is it? Hmm, must be why the original iphone couldn't even send picture messages :)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: And yet...

        "...must be why the original iphone couldn't even send picture messages" Didn't need to. Email old chap.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: And yet...

          ""...must be why the original iphone couldn't even send picture messages" Didn't need to. Email old chap."

          How did a guy with an iPhone and no e-mail address use e-mail? There's a reason MMS existed.

          1. dajames Silver badge

            I know this one!

            There's a reason MMS existed.

            Was it so that the cellular network companies could charge an eye-wateringly extortionate amount of money every time someone sends one?

            There's a reason that I deliberately never set up MMS on my phone.

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Re: I know this one!

              So how did people pass things like pictures around when they had nothing to their name BUT a cell phone number?

              1. pnony
                Facepalm

                Re: I know this one!

                Fire off a text message instead: "Oi, mate, I want to send you a picture, what's your email address?"

    3. Jared Vanderbilt

      Re: And yet...

      Apple didn't spend a dime on the original iPod "look and feel". They copied the original iPod user interface from Creative, then ponied up $100M (after a court judgement) to Creative for the license to use it.

  4. DavCrav Silver badge

    These stupid vertical scrolling websites

    This seems the right place for a rant about these websites that have decided to put their entire website on one page, and you have to scroll all the way down to find anything out, interspersed with full-page photographs, as if someone took a magazine and glued all the pages end to end.

    It's stupid, it's terribly slow to load, fairly slow to scroll, difficult to find anything, and I hate it, and hate you for making it. Hyperlinks are not a scarce resource. Use them.

    1. Erik4872

      Re: These stupid vertical scrolling websites

      Agreed - I hadn't looked at the non-support side of the HP website for quite a while, but went looking for a new printer last night. Holy crap, that was the most content-free web page I've ever seen. You need to find the magic "show all" link in tiny print off to the side to make the scrolling photo montage go away and bring you to the list of printers. Even then, it's rendered as a set of massive tiles that you have to scroll down through.

      I'm hoping this is just a trend that's in the process of peaking, but I'm still waiting for someone in the design community to say "stop the insanity!" No one has come forward yet.

    2. Static Cat

      Re: These stupid vertical scrolling websites

      but don't over use them like those crappy '20 must see X Y Zs' websites that have half a sentence per page and would probably take, if I ever bothered to stick around the ad madness, another 50 pages just to see those 20 amazing things.

    3. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: These stupid vertical scrolling websites

      Website designers now answer to marketing and marketing has always had their heads up their asses.

  5. Whitter
    Unhappy

    I call BS

    No bad design?

    Never used Lotus Notes then?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Microwave ovens seem to illustrate the trend to style over function.

    After 50 years of development it would be expected that the functional basics would be perfect. My primary requirements are 800w, stainless steel inner cavity, digital panel, and good ventilation to prevent high condensation when cooking. Trying to buy one has proved impossible so far.

    Adverts and sellers' listings are all about the exterior finish - it usually takes some research to find the technical details. Very often buyers' reviews reveal disturbing numbers of returns for doors that don't close properly, high condensation, sticking buttons, hard to release door latches, interior cavity coating peeling in a short time - and even bursting into flames.

    1. Warm Braw Silver badge

      I don't even want a digital panel. A knob that you turn to set the cooking time is a far more appropriate interface. And why does there have to be a clock? The whole point of microwaves is that they cook stuff quickly. The only point of a clock would be if you needed to set it going on a timer a few hours before you arrived home. Some idiot obviously thought - hey, look, we've got this numerical display, why don't we make it flash annoyingly whenever there's a power cut.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        "A knob that you turn to set the cooking time is a far more appropriate interface. And why does there have to be a clock? The whole point of microwaves is that they cook stuff quickly."

        The catch being that something that cooks stuff quickly also means you can OVERcook something quickly. And if you're nuking something enclosed, like a sausage, you DO NOT want to overcook it or you'll be spending the night cleaning the innards out of the innards of your microwave. Clocks allow for precision, which is pretty important in fast jobs with little margin for error.

        1. the spectacularly refined chap

          Clocks allow for precision, which is pretty important in fast jobs with little margin for error.

          No, as the OP was at pains to distinguish, a timer allows for precision. No need for a clock...

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            No, as I was trying to point out, how do you dial in exactly 1 minute, 20 seconds on a dial? A digital clock timer with keypad makes it pretty damn easy: 1-2-0-START. Easy, peasy, and dead easy to redo. That's the definition of precision. Try doing that on a dial with only 15-second marks on it...

            1. DropBear Silver badge

              WTF, who said anything about a dial...? Have you never heard about digital timers, do you not know the difference between a timer and a clock, or are you just pretending to be dense for the heck of it?

            2. SImon Hobson Silver badge

              > how do you dial in exactly 1 minute, 20 seconds on a dial?

              Why would you ever need to ?

              In all the nuking I've ever done, "give or take" 10 seconds on that would not be an issue. There's variation in the amount of ${food}, there's variation in composition of ${food}, there's variation in where on the plate ${food} is put, ...

              For me, bung ${food} in nuker, guestimate how long it'll need, turn dial - see how it comes out. If I underestimated then I give it a bit more. As for stuff exploding, two things ...

              For sausages - prick them first.

              For everything, just cover it then when it does explode (baked beans are good for exploding) then it's only on the cover that you drop in the washing up bowl along with the rest of the pots.

              Two knobs is pretty much the epitome of basic functional design. Everyone can use it without a manual, it's clear what the settings are, and it's simple. At work they got a new microwave, and it needs a notice on the wall as it's really not as simple as 1-2-0-go. Epitome of poor functional design, because while it (if you like that sort of thing) looks OK, it needs more button presses than makes sense to "just use it" - simple things like having to select the power level (never seen anyone use other than full) every time before selecting the time.

              1. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

                "In all the nuking I've ever done, "give or take" 10 seconds on that would not be an issue. There's variation in the amount of ${food}, there's variation in composition of ${food}, there's variation in where on the plate ${food} is put, ..."

                When I use the microwave to soften butter, 10 seconds is easily enough for most of the stick to go from hard to liquid. Sometimes having precision is useful.

                If you never use it for that particular task, I can see why you wouldn't care.

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              No, as I was trying to point out, how do you dial in exactly 1 minute, 20 seconds on a dial? A digital clock timer with keypad makes it pretty damn easy: 1-2-0-START. Easy, peasy, and dead easy to redo.

              And what, makes it "exactly" 1 minute 20 seconds and not 1 minute 20.015 seconds or 1 minute 19.994 seconds? How often in cooking does ±5 seconds actually matter where microwave ovens are concerned given the radiation power can vary from ~500W to 1.2kW and varied by way of PWM or analogue control?

            4. Wilseus

              "How do you dial in exactly 1 minute, 20 seconds on a dial?"

              On mine, you turn the knob clockwise one click, then push it in and turn it clockwise for 20 clicks. Easy.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          And if you're nuking something enclosed, like a sausage, you DO NOT want to overcook it or you'll be spending the night cleaning the innards out of the innards of your microwave. Clocks allow for precision, which is pretty important in fast jobs with little margin for error.

          Throwing bangers in the microwave at 6AM or at 6PM and cooking for too long will yield the same result. Power control and timers are what prevents them from being literal "bangers".

      2. Schultz

        " I don't even want a digital panel. A knob ... is a far more appropriate interface.

        My microwave has exactly what you describe: a knob to set the time and a start and stop button.

        There are, of course, a multitude of other buttons. But they are all labeled in Korean and I haven't bothered to figure out what they say. Life can be so easy ...

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: " I don't even want a digital panel. A knob ... is a far more appropriate interface.

          "Life can be so easy ..."

          Until you blow up a sausage in it. Life is never easy for long...

          1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

            Re: " I don't even want a digital panel. A knob ... is a far more appropriate interface.

            Charles, what is it with you and sausages and microwave ovens? I'm starting to sense a theme here.

    2. Wilseus

      I have a microwave oven with most of the features you are talking about. It must be getting on for 40 years old: my granddad bought it when I was a very small child. My grandmother gave it to me many years ago when she replaced it with a newer (inferior) model. It has two knobs, one to set the time and one to set the power level, and has an electromechanical countdown timer like the ones you used to see on tape recorders. It's only 650W though, as was the norm back then.

      The thing weighs an absolute ton and needless to say it's still going strong today.

      It's very similar but not identical to this:

      http://img.class.posot.es/en_gb/2015/12/02/microwave-oven-20151202174321.jpg

      1. druck Silver badge

        @Wilseus

        Get a microwave leak detector, as the seals on a 40 year old model are likely to be shot. That may also be why your WiFi gets slower when heating up a meal!

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: @Wilseus

          Or just leave a few eggs in a bowl on top for a week or so and see if they magically become hard boiled.

      2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Ditto washing machines. The sole method of using should be: close door, press GO. When I last replaced my washer the salesdroid gabbled away saying if you want X you press Y, if you want A you do B and C, it will even do E, F and G if you set W, Z and Y. Arrghhh!!!! NO! Stuff clothes in drum. Add washing powder/liquid. Close door. Press GO. FULL STOP.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "Ditto washing machines. The sole method of using should be: close door, press GO."

          OK, so you use the same single setting for every single wash job, even for whites (which usually mean bleach) or heavily-soiled or large jobs (meaning you probably need extra soap and wash time)? When it comes to washing, one size does not necessarily fit all, which is why I LIKE washing machines with lots of settings, so I can dial in just the right setting for the load I have on hand since no two washes are the same.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
            Joke

            "no two washes are the same."

            Maybe he's single and has a wardrobe full of jeans and black polo/turtle necks?

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "It has two knobs, one to set the time and one to set the power level,"

        Oh, you mean a variable magnetron? I'd love to be able to get one like that. Unfortunately, on pretty much every modern microwave, the "power" setting is effectively a variable pulse width square wave instead of an actual variable level, ie it pulses full power on and off instead of truly changing the power level as per a "proper" microwave oven used to do.

  7. sabroni Silver badge

    People use beautiful things

    In terms of user interfaces, if you want people to use your software it needs to look appealing. Users will stick with a beautiful system that's not behaving much longer than with an ugly system. That gives them a chance to find a successful route through the product.

    It doesn't matter how great something's internal design is if no one uses that thing. Of course the inverse applies, a beautiful front end to a non-functioning system is pointless. As with most things, a balance is required.

    1. tony2heads

      Re: People use beautiful things

      I beg to differ.

      For getting work done I go with function over 'beauty' every time. My garden spade looks pretty rusty but works, nobody will gaze in admiration at my screwdriver set and it is the same with the software I need. I prefer CLI over GUI --unless-- the GUI has some real added value for the extra screen space it uses.

      My data reduction is run with a CLI (which can be easily scripted) and save the pretty stuff for showing the results.

      The appealing looks maybe useful for selling games (yes I'm thinking of Kate 'Game of War' Upton) but does not help the game quality.

  8. Alan J. Wylie

    posting using w3m

    Just for the hell of it!

  9. LDS Silver badge

    There are basic rules for good UI design...

    .... which a lot of software ignore. It's not a matter of taste. It's lack of a basic knowledge. And it's not just limited to FOSS software, albeit there it's more visible, especially when relying more on volunteers work. Sometimes because the underlying widget library has issues too, sometimes for the lack of precise guidelines about how to develop an UI. On Windows, more or less Microsoft sets the standards, and most just copy - those who don't or have a good design dept., or are Lotus Notes.

    On macOS, it's the same with Apple. It's on Linux you may feel the lack of a "leader" who drives the standard, and competing desktop managers and widgets doesn't help.

    I know a lot of good programmers who are totally inept at creating good UIs, and some work with me. You have to keep them away from working on UIs, simply. And let those who have a knack for it develop the UI. Also, delivering a great UI takes a lot of time (especially if a good visual designer is not available) and a true understanding of how users are going to interact with the software.

    Then there's the issue when marketing people are involved - they are another category who doesn't understand basic rules. Their main idea is attempting to deceive the user with a "great" visual impact, at the expense of anything else. The need to support touch interaction on a single site maybe shown on small devices led to too large elements for whoever looks at the site on a 30" screen...

    On product web sites, it becomes also a way to hide information. The less, the better, the visitor will not be able to compare your product with competitors, it will be stuck into your boastful four large words assertions your product is the greatest of all. And you don't know where to click to find the info you need...

    1. Not also known as SC

      Re: There are basic rules for good UI design...

      Was this one of the reasons behind WPF? Programmers could get on with coding the functionality while the design was handled elsewhere?

      1. theModge

        Re: There are basic rules for good UI design...

        I rather assumed with WPF there would be designer types playing with expression blend whilst I smashed code out in visaul studio. The new person, for it is a dull but simple job if both sides have designed to the same spec (as if that ever happens), makes the bindings happy so it all joins up.

        Never bloody happened to me though. Always see programmers designing interfaces, including myself, with variable results at best.

      2. LDS Silver badge

        Re: There are basic rules for good UI design...

        IMHO you need "UI developers". They are software developers with a good understanding on UI design and its development. They are intertwined enough you need someone skilled enough in working on the UI widgets, and the code that drives them. Graphical designer can draft the initial layout and then feed the required elements like images, icons, etc., yet because an UI is not fully static but reacts to user interactions and those changes are driven by code, you need someone skilled at designing and implement those changes and interactions too. Graphical designers used at static layouts are IMHO far less proficient in handling software UIs, and splitting the work between two people may slow down work and deliver not good UIs because of "split brain" situations.

    2. Updraft102 Silver badge

      Re: There are basic rules for good UI design...

      "The need to support touch interaction on a single site maybe shown on small devices led to too large elements for whoever looks at the site on a 30" screen..."

      PAY ATTENTION HERE, Microsoft!

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: There are basic rules for good UI design...

        But remember that Microsoft has to cater to STUPID. And by that I mean people who keep asking the help desk, "What's a mouse?" yet are expected to use these things to do important stuff...like benefits filing or taxes. And since you can't fix stupid, teaching them is pretty much a lost cause, so stooping to their level is the only way to get through to them.

  10. Dr Stephen Jones

    Wuh?

    It is hard to tell what the author objects to, since not one example is cited.

    Perhaps the next one will enlighten us all.

    1. Jim Mitchell

      Re: Wuh?

      I found that this article was poorly designed.

  11. Erik4872

    Give me functionality any day

    There are 2 extremes in the design camp -- Jony Ive and company would absolutely love a completely blank, flat, white rounded rectangle surface that only responded to finger gestures the user had to memorize...and only responds by vibrating, -maybe- speaking, and changing the color of the surface. Most software developers I've worked with prefer a text file as the only means of configuration. (I wish I could post a screenshot of one of the GUIs our dev team cooked up to test an admittedly complex system...it looks like the control panel of a fighter aircraft with over 100 buttons, checkboxes, etc. all squeezed onto one massive page.)

    The big problem is that something like a phone or computer now has to be designed for the absolute lowest common denominator user. People using smartphones are, for the most part, non-technical. They just want to use Facebook, SMS and the web with absolutely no visible configuration items. The problem is that this leaves the techies out -- we're stuck with a non-functional UI that we have to guess the right finger gestures on or find the hidden "drawer knob" that's usually light-grey on white. And once we get that drawer open, the controls are dumbed down as well.

    I think an ideal solution would be to skin applications to have a techie mode and a dummy mode...hide all the functionality under the covers and build two user interfaces. You have to have both - computers and phones are no longer the exclusive geek toys they were. Personally, I'd love to see simplistic terminal UIs come back where it made sense...IBM midrange and mainframe come to mind due to their ease of understanding what to do even if you've never seen the system before.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Give me functionality any day

      "I think an ideal solution would be to skin applications to have a techie mode and a dummy mode...hide all the functionality under the covers and build two user interfaces. You have to have both - computers and phones are no longer the exclusive geek toys they were. Personally, I'd love to see simplistic terminal UIs come back where it made sense...IBM midrange and mainframe come to mind due to their ease of understanding what to do even if you've never seen the system before."

      But remember Murphy's Law. Inevitably, a dumb user will switch the app to Expert Mode and get hopelessly lost. You just can't win, but since the stupid users outnumber the smart users, guess who wins?

      1. Tim Seventh

        Re: Give me functionality any day

        That may be true, until it reached beyond the typical casual user.

        The developer mode in smartphones are pretty well hidden that currently I have not seen a single casual user accidental found it or clicked a setting from it.

    2. Trilkhai

      Re: Give me functionality any day

      Computers/GUIs 25-35 years ago were far more functional & usable for everyone, though, even though programs rarely shared more in terms of UI elements than basic menus. I think that it was due to three basic things:

      1) Resource limitations forced mainstream software to focus on the functions that would meet most people's needs, while specialty programs handled the edge cases. As a result, top-level menu items, a couple dozen icons, and a decent options dialog could usually cover most elements without overwhelming the user.

      2) Insofar as there were any design trends, they were about giving users quick access to & control of program functions, whether through toolbar buttons (with easily-identified color icons) or menu items. IOW, there was no crowd pushing to cram everything in a series of nested menus — with flat monochromatic icons at best — hidden behind a small enigmatic icon.

      3) Most importantly, there was enough competition between software publishers that part of the bug/alpha/beta testing teams' job was to identify aspects of a UI that might confuse or annoy users, and the company took feedback from buyers seriously. They didn't make changes just for the sake of having something new to do or have the attitude of "we know what's best, anyone that complains is clearly just afraid of change" that is prevalent today.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Give me functionality any day

        "Computers/GUIs 25-35 years ago were far more functional & usable for everyone, though, even though programs rarely shared more in terms of UI elements than basic menus."

        You have to consider that, 25 years ago or so, the average computer user would probably be considered a geek: a distinct minority. Now, everyone and their grandmother not only have a computer but are expected to use it in their everyday lives for things they usually did another way but can't anymore. Which means the competency level of the typical computer user fell sharply, and designers have to cater to stupid because they're in the majority.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Give me functionality any day

      "finger gestures"...are the spawn of the devil! A stupid idea, especially when first touted as "mouse gestures" and, in many cases, you had to "teach" the software which gestures you personally wanted to use for each function. Fine if you only ever use one computer, but pointless when you use a different one which either has no gestures configured or, worse, another user chose different gestures.

      At least on a touch screen, a few basic ones like swipe to scroll in direction x, or pinch in/out to zoom in/out, work quite well. But why would we go "back" to having to learn arcane things to get a PC to do something? At least at the command line, you have to learn actual words which can be memorable rather than some strange shape or pattern which most people find quite difficult to master.

      And don't get me started on the ever changing icon designs with no text and often little in the way of information as to what said icon actually does, especially if there's no mouse over popup label.

  12. Lotaresco
    Mushroom

    Not one "web designer"

    ... has a clue about interface. I estimate that the number of "web designers" who have read "Tog on Interface" is zero. I'm basing this on the fact that just about every web site that I visit that requires user input is fundamentally broken. Controls that are shotgunned into the page, buttons that are off screen unless one scrolls the page with input fields that fill the page so that there's little clue that the important thing is somewhere where the user can't see it (Yes DVLA, I mean you). And the worst sin of all, controls that are greyed out when active and offer no feedback when clicked.

    All would-be "web designers" should be forced to subscribe to Ask Tog and to buy the book. They should also ignore the fact that his own website is a bit poor, to say the least.

    Lets face it, "web designer" is right up there with "telephone sanitizer" and "PAT tester" in the list of jobs for people who are going to end up on the "B" Ark when the giant mutant star goat appears to eat the planet.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Not one "web designer"

      The webmaster died back in the 00s. It was replaced by the "developer" and arcane scripting languages for no real reason except to provide job security to "developers" and marketing took over the control of company websites and treated it just like any other media.

      In another post to another article, I told a story about how marketing made an HTML email, coded it badly and wanted to blame Outlook for the problem and did not like it one bit when I showed them the code was the problem. Because as a tech support guy, I wasn't supposed to know the holy secrets of web design. What they didn't know is that I was building websites in the last century and I didn't flying a fuck if they looked bad when they were trying to blame the IT department. I found the problem in 5 minutes.

      I got out of website design for the same reason I got out of DTP, pay was dropping and morons were the bosses.

    2. silver darling

      Re: Not one "web designer"

      yes, that Asktog website is 'a bit poor to say the least' . Applying some basic print desgin principles would improve it immensely.

      If mr tog can't design a dirt basic website so users can quickly scan through the content to see where they want to go next (check a dead tree tabloid for how to do that) why would they consider any further exploration?

      He needs a lesson in how to make text content readable and attractive. He needs a web designer.

  13. Howard Hanek Bronze badge
    Linux

    Question

    I wonder if the color of the straw used to create your straw man argument affects it's perception? It's size? If it wears a cute hat? The type face used in it's publication?

  14. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "Taste aside, though, the Ubuntu desktop is very functional. It works quite well."

    It only works well if what you want is what it does. If you want something else then it doesn't. However one of the good things about open source OSs is that you have a choice.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      "It only works well if what you want is what it does. If you want something else then it doesn't. However one of the good things about open source OSs is that you have a choice."

      It's also the BAD thing about getting simple users to use your OS. Think decision paralysis. And they outnumber you.

    2. DropBear Silver badge

      "...you have a choice"

      Do you now? So where's the traditional paradigm Gnome 2 desktop (like MATE) that has a notification area that DOESN'T enlarge notification icons along with the launcher ones as you increase the panel height, allowing to group them tightly in a corner? You know, as windows did for, like, forever? For the record, I didn't invent this (I just slowly go crazy using it) - there are multiple bug reports decrying exactly this issue. The last one I saw ended bitterly with "I'll be over there rewriting that @#$#$% applet" - unfortunately, the guy forgot to mention where exactly that might be.

      In my experience, twenty settings or twenty pages full of settings makes exactly fuckall difference - there will still not be any settings whatsoever for the five obviously stupid things the software drives you crazy with. Oh, and "fix it yourself" is precisely as dumb as suggesting to design and operate your own 747 if you don't like the legroom of the existing ones: not an actual option for most people.

    3. ecofeco Silver badge

      "Taste aside, though, the Ubuntu desktop is very functional. It works quite well."

      I missed that part. The Unity interface just adds a useless layer to workflow. "Works well" my ass.

  15. Buzzword

    Remember how Apple "just works"?

    People didn't start switching to Apple products because they were shiny. They switched because they were fed up with being bombarded with notifications: you need to reboot to install updates, you need a new mouse driver, you need to pay $39.99+tax to upgrade your free trial version of McAfee, your copy of Windows isn't genuine, you need to download the !CrashSpam!Toolbar! for Internet Explorer. Some days I felt like I was doing more work for Windows than with Windows.

    On Windows, uninstalling an application means finding its custom uninstaller or digging through the Control Panel, running the uninstaller, then being told that it was unable to remove everything because there's a stray .ini file in the folder. On the Mac, uninstalling an application means dragging its icon to the trash can.

    On Windows, closing the lid and re-opening it means every application pops up a warning message: network path not found (because it takes a few seconds for the network to connect), printer not found, and why haven't you rebooted for updates yet? On the Mac, closing the lid and re-opening it means finding everything just where you left it.

    That's what good design means. It's not just the shiny / pretty side: it's making it all work together.

    1. Trilkhai

      Re: Remember how Apple "just works"?

      "On Windows, closing the lid and re-opening it means every application pops up a warning message…"

      Is that a newer problem? I haven't used Windows since I switched to Linux 8 years ago, but I don't remember running into that problem on my Win 98, 2k, or XP laptops...

  16. Lotaresco

    Ubuntu

    "Taste aside, though, the Ubuntu desktop is very functional. It works quite well. So to say it's poorly designed is only true by the shallowest definition of the word "design""

    I'll call BS on this one also. Of course it's difficult to say *which* Ubuntu desktop is being discussed because we're into airy-fairy arm-waving here, however the 14.04 LTS desktop that's on one of my servers should be preserved as an example of "How not to do it". Other than the slack handful of applications that are configured as part of the default installation it is near impossible to find an application and run it. A GUI that forces the user to resort to a command line isn't doing its job properly. Windows 10 is more usable and I hate that.

  17. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Moving On with AI and IT Command and Control ...... at a Quite Phenomenal Rate

    The web is past peak innovation: It's all negative returns from here

    Oh, p-l-e-a-s-e, you cannot be serious. Sublime Internet Networking things and Greater IntelAIgent Games to Play are only just launched and getting started ……. Ding-a Ling-AIRing

    Mass Virtually Destructive Weaponry for 21st Century Socialism and Leading Elite AI Socialites/CyberIntelAIgent Agencies? Hmmmmm, …. now there’s a grand master novelty and brilliant possibility.

    To think not, is to miss heavenly opportunity and extraordinarily render oneself a powerless spectator to rapidly unfolding future events/serial zeroday situations, and that is a stealth which is mind-blowingly awesome.

    Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius -- and a lot of courage -- to move in the opposite direction.” …. Albert Einstein

  18. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    I was recently using a slow connection to a forum I frequent and it was suddenly obvious why the forum was slow even on a faster connection. As the page loaded all the user avatar picture filled the whole screen, then resized to little one-inch piccies. All the avatar pictures next to the posts were the full-size humongous source files, img-sized to one inch square instead of supplied as one-inch square pictures.

    How on earth does making a website do that even get as far as coming out of the coder's fingers?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "How on earth does making a website do that even get as far as coming out of the coder's fingers?"

      Probably because any program that could be used to resize that thumbnail is likely to get exploited by hackers and used to pwn the server (didn't El Reg report on that a few months back)? How do you win in such a world? No program can do just one thing because hackers will just change the one thing it does. What man can make, man can break.

      1. Lotaresco
        Megaphone

        Idiots are the root cause of security flaws

        "Probably because any program that could be used to resize that thumbnail is likely to get exploited by hackers and used to pwn the server "

        Only if implemented in a half-arsed way by some idiot.

        Last year I encountered a CMS (name not mentioned to protect the guilty) that offered the facility to resize a thumbnail for publication. It was how it did it that was the problem. Some idiot thought a really good way to do this was to push the uploaded image to a VM where it was opened using the default application for that filetype. The software then did a screen capture and then downsized the screen capture to a thumbnail. All this was done in an account with admin privileges.

        Among the many flaws with this "brilliant" idea was that if the item uploaded was an executable file opening it on the server caused the file to executed with admin privileges.

        We contacted the vendor. Their response was "No one has ever complained about this before, so we don't attach any importance to fixing it."

        However it is both possible and relatively easy to resize images to a given size without leaving the door wide open to an exploit. Easier in fact that the monstrous way that vendor had chosen to do the job.

        1. DropBear Silver badge

          Re: Idiots are the root cause of security flaws

          "No one has ever complained about this before, so we don't attach any importance to fixing it."

          Aviation industry mentality. A problem even if known, even having caused near-misses before, doesn't exist until a plane crashed because of it (preferably killing everybody on board, just so we know it really is serious). Once the obligatory crash took place fixing the issue can be justified (so we can sanctimoniously claim all those people didn't die for nothing), but definitely not before - have you got any idea what it costs to ground all planes of that type for a few hours of retrofitting an improved cargo door latch or rudder drive nut?!?

          1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

            Re: Idiots are the root cause of security flaws

            Methinks idiots are also the root target and market for security flaws. And it is a stellar source which keeps on giving.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Idiots are the root cause of security flaws

            "have you got any idea what it costs to ground all planes of that type for a few hours of retrofitting an improved cargo door latch or rudder drive nut?!?"

            Quite a bit actually since a plane that isn't in flight isn't making money, so there's a fiduciary responsibility to keep planes flying as much as possible. Plus there's the matter that delays can result in missed connections, foiled flight plans, complaints from fliers (frequently business-oriented fliers who have businesses attached to them and usually aren't flying under contracts so can change airlines--with the blessing of the business--if necessary), loss of face and money to compensate those missed connections, and so on. You have to make the cost of NOT fixing it worse than the cost of fixing it before they'll finally get down to doing it. Most times, that requires force of law (like an Airworthiness Directive, which grounds planes if they're not complied on pain of huge fines) to make it that expensive.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Idiots are the root cause of security flaws

              "so there's a fiduciary responsibility to keep planes flying as much as possible."

              I'm really beginning to hate that word "fiduciary". It seems to be a lazy way of saying "profit is everything". In the example given, it the duty of the company officers to not only try to make a profit, but also to ensure said profits are not wiped out by a crash and the resulting compensation claims.

              1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

                Idiots into fiduciary responsibility are a root causal route for security flaws?!.

                Quite so, John Brown (no body), and in such a remotely controlled madness are all manner of fools easily led down the artificial garden path and astray to be pwnd and effectively rendered extraordinarily powerless and practically worthless.

                Think sheep in the company of wolves/swimmers in seas and the see of sharks.

              2. Charles 9 Silver badge

                Re: Idiots are the root cause of security flaws

                " In the example given, it the duty of the company officers to not only try to make a profit, but also to ensure said profits are not wiped out by a crash and the resulting compensation claims."

                Not if it's cheaper to pay off the claims...

        2. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Idiots are the root cause of security flaws

          "Only if implemented in a half-arsed way by some idiot."

          Which happens to be THE NORM.

          "Do one thing" sounds nice until you realize the typical result is "Do one thing WRONG."

        3. LDS Silver badge

          Re: Idiots are the root cause of security flaws

          Screen capture to resize an image? It looks something clearly made by someone with no clue about image processing (and most of programming), and/or greed to buy a decent image processing library, if you don't like the FOSS ones. But, in some ways, he or she adopted the Unix programming model... <G>, albeit, I guess, the VM was running Windows...

        4. Miss Config

          Re: Idiots are the root cause of security flaws

          Back before I was personally even aware of the concept of GUI I knew of systems designed with at least an attempt to cater for the ( hypotheteical ? ) most stupid user. The term used for such systems was 'idiot proof'.

          ( I was cynical enough to think there was no such thing. )

          Since the term is conspicuous to me by its absence from this article I presume the 'designs' in question are made by people unaware of the very idea. And that means they design FOR THEMSELVES.

          ( So since 'everybody knows' what the F5 button is for we''ll redesign it to do all sorts of 'obvious' loading. )

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Idiots are the root cause of security flaws

            "Back before I was personally even aware of the concept of GUI I knew of systems designed with at least an attempt to cater for the ( hypotheteical ? ) most stupid user. The term used for such systems was 'idiot proof'."

            I thought it's been said that you can't make something foolproof/idiotproof because the world just goes you one better. How do you account for the kind of stupid that presses a button clearly labeled "DO NOT TOUCH!" simply because it's there?

  19. sixit

    Ads? Bad JavaScript? Where???

    FlashBlock + NoScript + Ghostery on Firefox for the win!

    I'd sooner use IE5 than Chrome these days, too. Google + Chrome are a large instigator of this issue.

  20. SImon Hobson Silver badge

    And no-one has mentioned Microsoft's online Sharepoint where the question one thinks to yourself when opening it is "I wonder how much crappier they've made it today". It seems that any time there's a Y in the day they'll change the UI "because they can" - and it's usually for the worst, and as pointed out above, usually to make it work on tiny screens and screw anyone trying to use a proper screen.

    And as mentioned above, DVLA - the epitome of a piss poor website where the "designer" has some fetish for wasted space painted white.

  21. Lee Mulcahy

    >>> Open source was simply, presumably, the best designed tool for the job.

    Or, quite likely, the cheapest...

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