Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 9th Jan 2010 19:52 UTC, submitted by John Mills
Multimedia, AV Songbird, the open source iTunes alternative (which we reported on earlier), has landed a big deal with Philips. The Dutch electronics manufacturer will bundle Songbird with its GoGear line of .mp3 players as the music management and sync tool. While this is good news for Songbird, there are is a catch.
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Ha, Ha, Ha, sane world
by theosib on Sun 10th Jan 2010 00:52 UTC
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In a sane world, we wouldn't need application package managers either. We could drag and drop application bundles like on a Mac. But this kind of thing is impossible with the way Linux distros (besides Gobo Linux) organize application libraries, binaries, and configuration in the filesystem.

But even if Linux WERE sane about the way apps were stored on disk, an application manager would still be useful since it would be a convenient UI that users could use to find trusted apps and (un)install with the click of a button. (Without the underlying crap, they'd just be more reliable. Don't tell me you haven't had Adept crash on you, leaving your system in an inconsistent state!)

People like to have specific apps for specific things. Windows 7 has built-in support for burning discs. Just insert the disc and drag and drop and then click Burn. Same thing on the Mac. But if it's so convenient, why do people still want to use Nero? Because cognitively, it's simpler. Most people don't do well with loose semantics or layers of semantics or too many (intuitive or not) features in one facility. Instead, they like apps that do one thing and one thing well and make all the controls for that thing obvious.

This is why applications like iTunes (not that its UI is really any good) will never die. When you're using iTunes, you're thinking about managing your music. Not you files. You don't have to know or care that songs are in files. (Imagine trying to manage your emails directly in the file manager!) Songs are songs with more metadata than a filename, and you want to drag and drop them as objects, because semantically that's what they are. The fact that they're stored in files is irrelevant. Integrating music management into Finder would be a nightmare, and it's not clear to me where you'd put some features like the music store. In a separate app? Why then not make that app able to manage your music? Hence, iTunes. (I'm the kind of user who knows perfectly well how the music is stored, and I would have no technical difficulty dragging files to an MP3 player that appeared to be a USB drive. But I would hate that. I'd want an app that was intelligent about helping me manage my MUSIC. Remember, some people have tens of thousands of songs in their libraries. That requires some special tools.)

Scientists and engineers have produced massive volumes of research on usability, human computer interaction, cognitive systems engineering, ergonomics, and industrial design. It sure would be nice if more developers were to pay attention to it a bit more.

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