Tag Archives: gui

Writer’s Guilt



Every creative person before me has identified and dealt with a little issue that I’m going to call Writer’s Guilt.  Writers Guilt occurs in two distinct–yet definitely intertwined–forms.

It occurs to me that everyone with a creative pursuit must go through this ordeal and come away making a choice in either direction.  I have yet to make that choice, and end up doing 50% on both sides of the coin, rather than picking one and going full force.

What can I do about this?  Let’s first identify the two sides of the story, then we’ll do a little research to find out what ways other writers suggest to get past this social and personal road block.

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Piracy – Or How To Ruin An Industry

There has been a lot in the news lately about the trial going on regarding popular BitTorrent tracking site, The Pirate Bay.  Currently, the Swedish court system is determining whether it is illegal to provide a service that merely allows users to point other users to [possibly] copyrighted material without the rights-holder’s consent.

Much is to be said about this broad topic, and whether or not The Pirate Bay is simply providing a service, and not discriminating against nefarious use by its users; or whether they are running a business that continues to profit from the undermining of the MPAA and RIAA profits.

If one thing is clear from this trial, it’s that the industries are wasting their money.  Not only has the prosecution had their collective heads up their asses during this whole debacle, they have proven time and again that they not only do not have evidence one way or the other, but also that they refuse to hire legitimate, well-rounded “expert” witnesses who have done their homework.  Way to further dwindle your profit margin there, big industry!

This whole trial is diverting the public from the key point in the “illegal” file sharing mindset: If it is easier to pirate your product than to legitimately purchase, you are doing something wrong.

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Software Spotlight: Synergy

I wanted to change things up a bit from the droll rants and incoherent ramblings. Today, I’d like to spotlight a program that I use on a daily basis, and kind of “share the love” with anyone wanting to streamline their computer use.

The Synergy Project is a software component that provides KVM functionality through a server-client software product.

Do you have multiple computers that you use constantly, and have a whole bunch of keyboards and mice laying around your workspace? No need to buy expensive KVM hardware, just download and install the Synergy software to your PCs, regardless of platform.

Not only can you share one keyboard and mouse across multiple computers, the clipboard is constantly shared across the setup, allowing you to easily move text and URLs from one machine to the other.

The Setup Process
Using the plain server/client setup, things can be a little hard to handle on the OS X/Linux side. With the Windows version, there is a nice GUI application for configuring both the server and the client.

With the OS X and Linux versions, configuration must be done through the configuration files, which use a fairly cryptic format.

Well, not to worry, there are GUI tools out there. On OS X, I use Mac OS X Synergy Configurator. With Linux, I find that the QuickSynergy program works wonders.

My Setup
I use two computers on a regular basis. I have a G4 iBook that sits next to the monitors for my desktop PC which dual-boots Ubuntu and Windows XP, which runs the Synergy Server.

Using the GUI tools, it couldn’t be easier to get things up and running.

I use this software the entire time I sit in front of my computer setup, and it couldn’t work better. This software has allowed me to successfully unclutter my workspace, with only one keyboard and mouse across the platform.

So, go, download the software and get started right away.

On Interface Design

Lately I’ve been thinking about the way we interact with computers. The concept of the keyboard and mouse is such an abstract idea, that I can understand why it’s daunting to new users. While neural interfaces may be a bit far into the future, I think we can find a happy medium between the abstract concepts in use today and the ultimate in the future of computing.

I think that current multi-touch technology (see iPhone or Microsoft Surface) is definitely a step in the right direction. Being able to manipulate objects onscreen using your most recognizable input devices (i.e. fingers) is the way to go for current technology.

One major problem I have with multi-touch interfaces is that they still use archaic concepts for manipulating objects. Instead of creating a system from the ground up, it’s basically a retrofit for a concept that’s been around since the 1950s.

While I understand the concepts and why they work with people’s minds, they were created originally to provide a basis for knowledge workers to switch from physical pen-and-paper systems. The concept of files, folders and the desktop all stem from this original set of concepts.

Think of the Children
Have you ever tried to teach a child how to use a modern operating system? A child goes through life learning things in an organic manner that reflects the inner workings of the human mind.

How do you teach a child, who has interacted with the world in a direct manner with immediate results, to learn this whole new world view set in a virtual environment? Obviously, I’ve been asking myself this question while thinking about how to introduce my 2 year old to computers in the future. Maybe by the time he’s ready, we’ll all be using whiz-bang multi-touch interfaces, and the idea will be moot.

Now, that said, of course I’m going to teach him about “modern” GUI concepts, and sit him down in front of a Linux or Mac OS X environment (I couldn’t imagine the damage he’d be able to do with Windows), and show him the importance of these concepts, as well as the abilities of the command line.

What to do?
It’s important to teach our children to draw a line between virtual worlds and the real world, but why does there have to be such a steep learning curve?

Where the “modern” GUI and even the multi-touch interfaces fall flat is in their ability to relate to real-world objects and situations.

What we need in interface design is a completely new set of concepts and core interactions. Microsoft Surface and the iPhone may be steps in the right direction, but as I stated before, they are still built with the idea that you have once used these concepts in a normal keyboard-and-mouse context.

Interaction with virtual objects should be handled just as they are with physical objects to start with. Our brains are not confined to learning in strict folder-and-file systems. Our brains are extremely complex and capable relationship-driven machines.

More relationships, fewer abstract concepts.
This is where I see post-modern computer interfaces going over the next 10 years. I realise that this kind of approach would require some high system requirements, but technology is growing at an astounding rate, and will surely be able to deal with the requirements of such a system in the near future.

Computers should, in the future, be based on natural concepts, rather than abstract concepts that take time to learn.

Just as the modern computer is based on abstract concepts, today’s learning systems are also based on age-old “tricks” to get our children to learn things that are needed in life. Learning systems should be more organic, teaching through association rather than repetition.

There is a great deal of research and reading materials that take on these concepts, but they are far from being adopted as a core structure of our learning systems.

This is something that’s really piqued my interest lately, and I would love to go into some field or venture that takes on some or all of these concepts.