Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 10th May 2010 10:03 UTC, submitted by robertson
BeOS & Derivatives Two news items about alternative operating system news in a row? What is this, Christmas? In any case, the Haiku project, the darling of OSNews (hey it's okay now), has released its second alpha release. This new stable development release contains some serious improvements over the first alpha.
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RE[2]: Making progresses, but...
by Neolander on Mon 10th May 2010 19:58 UTC in reply to "RE: Making progresses, but..."
Neolander
Member since:
2010-03-08

Single group of developers
I like the way everything works together in a desktop operating system where the kernel, GUI, and API have all been designed together. It has a sort of "solid" feel to it. One example of this is, I can click and drag almost anything onto anything in Haiku and have the expected result. (file onto application icon, selected text into another application window, image onto the desktop...) Hmm... I realize I'm not making a very good point, but anyway, that's how I feel when using Haiku. ;)

I can understand that. GUI developed separately from the kernel on Linux feels just horrible. I've learned programming with Delphi (RAD development on top of Windows API), and have been the "unified" feeling of it ever since.

Free and open source
Also, free and open source software is important to me, so even though Windows and Mac OS X are made by single companies, I am not interested in them.

I agree that the issue is relatively important. That's not a major selling point for most users however, and won't make any difference for a Linux user.

User in control
Haiku does does not have the concept of being "busy". There is nothing equivalent to the Windows hourglass, the Mac OS X pinwheel, or the (rarely seen) Linux hourglass. Haiku doesn't even have a mouse cursor for that. The user is always in control.

Well, on VirtualBox at least said user has to wait from time to time. ;) But I suppose that you talk about the hourglass without the mouse pointer attached to it, the one that forbids you from doing anything, and then you're totally right. No program-accessible functions should *ever* allow slowing down the UI to the point where it does not respond to user input. User control is more important than performance on a GUI system.

There's one area where Haiku does this the wrong way, though : startup, where the mouse pointer is already there while you can still do nothing useful and have to wait for some time before UI gets actually loaded.

Nice user interface
I found the GUI to be very pleasant to look at and easy to learn. The major different I found was how the deskbar works, but you can click and drag the little "handle" to make it look like GNOME or Windows if you want.

Didn't know about that. The Windows/GNOME way of doing things is a waste of space, though, so I'll keep it as a vertical panel. What I found while playing with the deskbar, however, was an option that I was deeply missing : always on top. For the user to stay in control, the deskbar must stay easily accessible. With always on top, it feels clunky though (windows are not resized in order to stop going behind the deskbar), it's clear that it's not the developer's preferred options. It's sad, I think it should.

Other things which I dislike about Haiku's UI...
-> The tabbed windows border. It would become something useful if I could move the tab all around the window (including around the left, right, and bottom borders) and create tabbed windows in the way the newer KDE 4 does, but at the moment it's just harder to grab windows border with nothing in compensation.
-> I miss windows grabbing with Alt + Click in the middle of the window. It's one of the few powerful and distinctive features of Linux's window management.
-> I dislike the ways file browsing and management is done currently, because...
1/I get tired of seeing "mount" menus everywhere. Is mounting and unmounting really such an important task ?
2/The current way of managing file icons is not Fitts-friendly. To make file management an easy task, icons must be bigger, so that they can be targeted easily even when you move the pointer with little precision. Use of list views does not allow that. 16x16 icons have very low readability and are hard to target (especially in 1280x1024).
Moreover, icons in folders are a mess as soon as you stop using list view, just like in older releases of Mac OS... And just as annoying. Last issue with icons : apparently, you can't have a global setting for all folders, which means that if you want to get rid of the list view, you must go into each and every folder, one by one, and change this settings. This is horribly bad.
3/Spatial file browsing is bad as a default settings. It fills your desktop with loads of windows that you don't care about, and once you've done with it you must close all those windows, one by one. That mistake was introduced by older Mac OS too, if I remember well... Some people like it, most do not, hence don't make it the default.

Good default settings
I like how the default settings are very nice. I find that Haiku has a good balance of "setup everything nicely for me and don't let me mess it up" and "give me the power to do whatever I want on my computer". I am often tweaking Linux, or in other words, working ON Linux instead of working IN Linux. I don't find that to be the case in Haiku. (Or Mac OS X)

I tweak Linux and Windows more than Haiku myself, that's true. But I've still some issues with default settings, as shown above...

Good default API
As a software developer, I like the standard API that is included on all Haiku installations, which includes widgets, graphics, and sound.

That's one of Haiku's selling point as a developer, sure ;) But it does not improve everyday user experience...

"Clean" software packages
There are philosophical differences in how software is packaged and run. There isn't really a concept of an application being "installed". Instead, all of the files for an application just sit in a directory. To "uninstall", just delete the directory. You could put all of your Haiku applications on a USB drive, stick it in any Haiku computer, and just run the applications right off the drive. I know Linux software can be setup to run like this, but in Haiku it is expected.

It's true that it's simpler. But I wonder if this behavior is here to stay when Haiku devs begin to have security in mind. Good security without some kind of installer is difficult. I'm personally a packet advocate : it allows caring about security and centralized software management, without introducing some "next" hell...

Edited 2010-05-10 20:15 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2

Neolander Member since:
2010-03-08

have been missing*

Reply Parent Score: 1

cb88 Member since:
2009-04-23

You can slide the tab on the window press shift or control don't remember which also you can drag windows by thier borders...


Another thing Alt+click is an X11 feature... not Linux since you get it on solaris and bsd too I think anyway

Reply Parent Score: 1

Neolander Member since:
2010-03-08

You can slide the tab on the window press shift or control don't remember which also you can drag windows by thier borders...

Yes, I know that. But I think this ability is close to useless at the moment, the benefits don't overcome the drawbacks.
What I would like it the ability to create *real* tabbed, grouped windows. Something like http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCL_6YNgc8w (around 2:20). This, imo, would make more sense than current tabbing features.

Another thing Alt+click is an X11 feature... not Linux since you get it on solaris and bsd too I think anyway

You're right. When I said linux, I implicitly meant the kernel + whole library&app set you get in the average distro. Forgive me for that.

Edited 2010-05-10 20:43 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 1

DOSguy Member since:
2009-07-27

The tabbed windows border. It would become something useful if I could move the tab all around the window (including around the left, right, and bottom borders) and create tabbed windows in the way the newer KDE 4 does, but at the moment it's just harder to grab windows border with nothing in compensation.


You can drag the tab by holding SHIFT, but it stays on the top side. I really like your suggestion of being able to drag the tab all around the window, though.
Recently I saw a video that demonstrated the grouping of multiple windows into one, just like KDE can do, but I don't think this functionality is in this Alpha release.

I've been trying the new Haiku release for the past few hours and although it isn't perfect, it has been a very solid experience so far. ( and yes, I'm enjoying it in my lappie's native resolution ;) )

Edited 2010-05-10 20:52 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 1

DOSguy Member since:
2009-07-27
drcouzelis Member since:
2010-01-11

For the user to stay in control, the deskbar must stay easily accessible.

I think the idea is that by using a "tab" on top of each window it allows the deskbar to always be clickable, even when a window is fullscreen. If there is a window covering the deskbar, you could right click (or middle click, I can't remember) the windows's tab to push it behind everything.

It would become something useful if I could move the tab all around the window and create tabbed windows in the way the newer KDE 4 does.

Moving the tab all around the window is an interesting idea. As for now, you can slide the tab along the top of the window by holding the shift key. I'm sorry, I can't remember if they plan on adding the functionality to group windows into a single window with tabs, but I think they are. You can simulate it by placing windows on top of each other and sliding the tabs around, but I agree that having the functionality built in would be very nice.

I miss windows grabbing with Alt + Click in the middle of the window.

It's there. I think it's shift + ctrl + click, but I can never remember. I always have to hit a bunch of key combinations before I get it. ;)

Spatial file browsing is bad as a default settings. It fills your desktop with loads of windows that you don't care about, and once you've done with it you must close all those windows, one by one.

Haiku has been the only OS where I've tried sticking with spatial file browsing. It's been good for me. It behaves correctly, for example, by remembering the location and size of every window. Sometimes I find it nice to have the "trail" of windows open. Sometimes, when I know I what I want and want to get to it quickly, I just right click on the folder and "drill down" through the menus to get it. Also, I sometimes just double click on folder after folder while holding the "opt" ("Windows" key), which will close the last window I was in while opening the new one.

By the way, I love the "resize" button of each window. I never use the maximize button in any other user interface, but I find I use the resize button all the time.

Edit: Eugenia had an interesting comment about spatial file managers here:

http://www.osnews.com/story/7344

But I wonder if this behavior is here to stay when Haiku devs begin to have security in mind. Good security without some kind of installer is difficult. I'm personally a packet advocate : it allows caring about security and centralized software management, without introducing some "next" hell.

You may be interested in reading the discussion on package manager ideas for Haiku:

http://dev.haiku-os.org/wiki/PackageManagerIdeas

Edited 2010-05-10 20:58 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 1

Neolander Member since:
2010-03-08

I think the idea is that by using a "tab" on top of each window it allows the deskbar to always be clickable, even when a window is fullscreen. If there is a window covering the deskbar, you could right click (or middle click, I can't remember) the windows's tab to push it behind everything.

Good to know, though I still feel a bit critical about this :
1/Contrary to the always on top behavior, it is highly non-discoverable. If you don't know that it's there (and, as a new user, you probably don't know), good luck finding it or even having the idea to look for it in the manual... That's fine for power-user tricks (like opening an app-menu by middle-clicking on the desktop in kde 3), but deskbar manipulation is something you have to learn very early in the process of getting used to haiku so it doesn't fit this category...
2/If several windows are covering the deskbar, you have to put them behind one by one. You should act on the deskbar itself, not on the windows. As an example, I think of my girlfriend : she doesn't like tabbed browsing (because it often makes she close all tabs accidentally. She uses Safari, yeah...), so she just opens a lot of browser windows. As far as I know, there are other people who browse the web this way (generally old-time IE 6 users who never took the time to learn about tabs and overcome the disgust it may inspire first). That's a typical case where your desktop can be filled with such windows, covering the desk bar.

I'm sorry, I can't remember if they plan on adding the functionality to group windows into a single window with tabs, but I think they are. You can simulate it by placing windows on top of each other and sliding the tabs around, but I agree that having the functionality built in would be very nice.

Tried a bit out of fun, but it looks like a hack, not like something I'd do in everyday life. Windows still move independently (Ie there is no unified tab controls like "close all tabs" and some way to move all tabs at the same time), and tab moving + windows resizing in order to get a tabbed window is too much time-consuming to be something that I'd do all the time.

It's there. I think it's shift + ctrl + click, but I can never remember. I always have to hit a bunch of key combinations before I get it. ;)

Tried harder because of this post, and indeed I finally found it, it's Ctl+Alt. I feel better now. Just something : this may be a bit subjective (like everything I say about UX), but I think that using two modifier keys for an everyday shortcut is a bit too much (I dislike it as much as I dislike Ctl + Shift + Z shortcuts in KDE apps and Alt + Shift + Tab shortcuts in every windows manager). Why not use this "Flag key" on the bottom of every current keyboard which only waits for someone to use it for all system tasks ?

Haiku has been the only OS where I've tried sticking with spatial file browsing. It's been good for me. It behaves correctly, for example, by remembering the location and size of every window. Sometimes I find it nice to have the "trail" of windows open. Sometimes, when I know I what I want and want to get to it quickly, I just right click on the folder and "drill down" through the menus to get it. Also, I sometimes just double click on folder after folder while holding the "opt" ("Windows" key), which will close the last window I was in while opening the new one.

Well, since most people are used to non-spatial file browsing, why not make it work the other way, ie flag key for opening the new window and simple double click for opening the folder in the same window ?

By the way, I love the "resize" button of each window. I never use the maximize button in any other user interface, but I find I use the resize button all the time.

Didn't try it much at the moment. Only tried in WebPositive, and it provided a full screen behavior (making me mentally scream "hey ! Where's the tab gone ???" for a second). I agree that there's room for improvement in windows resizing buttons though (on those new very large screens, fully maximized windows feel clunky, though it's fine on 17-inch screens). Can you please quickly explain me what Haiku has to offer in this area ?

Edit: Eugenia had an interesting comment about spatial file managers here:

http://www.osnews.com/story/7344

Well, I understand her point of view, but I dislike the way she dictates how one should organize his/her files.
1/For some things, I need a big hierarchy. Typical exemple : my OS dev folder directory structure.
Top : Blog/ Code/ Doc/ Results
Code/ : arch/ bin/ debug/ include/ init/ lib/ process/ support/
arch/ : x86_64
x86_64 : bootstrap/ debug/ include/ init/
bootstrap : include/ lib/

That's a 6-level directory structure, however I can explain why I need each level :
-1st because I have several things to store in the OS dev area
-2nd because otherwise there's code everywhere in the main folder and it's a mess. I hate messy folders.
-3rd because I plan to go multiplatform
-4th because otherwise it's a mess, again.
-5th because it allows to quickly locate the main source files.
2/Since when does the machine's capabilities decide for me ? I'm the user. It's the slave. Doesn't it work that way ?

You may be interested in reading the discussion on package manager ideas for Haiku:

http://dev.haiku-os.org/wiki/PackageManagerIdeas

Interesting thoughts, but I don't think that having two ways of managing programs (installed and non-installed ones) is a good idea. Non-installed (and hence non-updated) software would become the norm, because locating /boot/apps would be too slow compared with simply unpacking the zip file. It could be interesting, however, to be able to try a package in a sandboxed environment before installing it. This makes trying an inherently clunky behavior (you cannot save any data and so on), so that users install the app in the end, but it offers the possibility of doing so...

Edited 2010-05-11 06:13 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 1

StephenBeDoper Member since:
2005-07-06

There's one area where Haiku does this the wrong way, though : startup, where the mouse pointer is already there while you can still do nothing useful and have to wait for some time before UI gets actually loaded.


On the old AthlonXP 2800 that I use for Haiku and BeOS (not exactly a powerhouse machine), the mouse cursor is visible for maybe 2-3 seconds before the desktop appears.

What I found while playing with the deskbar, however, was an option that I was deeply missing : always on top.


Haiku Menu > Deskbar Settings > Always on Top.

The tabbed windows border. It would become something useful if I could move the tab all around the window (including around the left, right, and bottom borders)


Not sure I see the utility to moving it elsewhere on the Window (on the left or right sides, the text label would become vertical - and therefore much harder to read quickly).

but at the moment it's just harder to grab windows border with nothing in compensation.


Even without stack-and-tile, the title tabs are still useful - mainly because they make it possible to have a group of arbitrary windows that overlap, but are still easily-accessible because the tabs are visible.

I miss windows grabbing with Alt + Click in the middle of the window. It's one of the few powerful and distinctive features of Linux's window management.


I'm fairly certain that someone released an input_server plugin to implement Alt-drag a few years back, but sadly I can't remember the name.

1/I get tired of seeing "mount" menus everywhere.


"Everywhere"? By my count, the "Mount" menu exists in exactly one place: Tracker's right-click menu.

Is mounting and unmounting really such an important task ?


Sure, if you have multiple drives/partitions, or regularly insert & unplug removable media.

2/The current way of managing file icons is not Fitts-friendly. To make file management an easy task, icons must be bigger, so that they can be targeted easily even when you move the pointer with little precision. Use of list views does not allow that. 16x16 icons have very low readability and are hard to target (especially in 1280x1024).


Honestly, I can't say that's ever posed a problem for me in a decade-plus of using BeOS and Haiku. Files can be dragged by the text label too, as with just about every other GUI filemanager in existence.

Moreover, icons in folders are a mess as soon as you stop using list view, just like in older releases of Mac OS...


Ctrl-Shift-K.

And just as annoying. Last issue with icons : apparently, you can't have a global setting for all folders, which means that if you want to get rid of the list view, you must go into each and every folder, one by one, and change this settings. This is horribly bad.


That "problem" is a side-effect of a intentional feature: namely, the way that Tracker preserves folder window size & display settings. But yeah it would be nice to have an "Apply to all folders" option.

3/Spatial file browsing is bad as a default settings. It fills your desktop with loads of windows that you don't care about, and once you've done with it you must close all those windows, one by one.


There are 2 keyboard shortcuts & 1 modifier that make that issue trivially-easy to avoid.

Ctrl-Opt-Up: open parent folder & close current folder
Ctrl-Opt-Down: open selected sub-folder and close current folder, double-clicking a folder with Option (Win-key) held down accomplishes the same thing.

That mistake was introduced by older Mac OS too, if I remember well... Some people like it, most do not, hence don't make it the default.


Spatial file management has been the default in BeOS/Haiku since long before the term "spatial file management" was even coined. Given that most current Haiku users probably former BeOS users, that default makes sense.

Maybe that will change in the future, but even then I still think there's a benefit to exposing new users to a file management approach they may not be familiar with. Sure, some will hate it and immediately change to single-window mode (which takes all of 5 seconds). But there will also be people who come to prefer "spatial mode" and appreciate having been introduced to it (speaking as a spatial file management "convert" who used to prefer 2-pane/single-window file managers).

But it [good default API] does not improve everyday user experience...


True, but a good API can enable/ease the development of software that DOES improve everyday user experience.

Reply Parent Score: 2

Neolander Member since:
2010-03-08

On the old AthlonXP 2800 that I use for Haiku and BeOS (not exactly a powerhouse machine), the mouse cursor is visible for maybe 2-3 seconds before the desktop appears.

Okay, so it's just a Virtualbox-specific bug (on my Athlon64 3000+, with ~500 MB of virtual RAM and 64MB of virtual video ram, it takes around 20-30 seconds to fully load desktop + deskbar + tracker).

Not sure I see the utility to moving it elsewhere on the Window (on the left or right sides, the text label would become vertical - and therefore much harder to read quickly).

No, what I'm talking about is using tabs on the left and right side but with horizontal labels. If you wonder why this may be useful, compare how much apps the deskbar with default settings (vertical list of horizontal buttons) can show with how much it can show when it's put at the bottom of the desktop. This would allow much more tabs to be put on the side of a window. Currently, you can put 3-4 tabs side by side as a maximum, with tabs on the left or on the right, you could make ~10-tabs windows easily.

I'm fairly certain that someone released an input_server plugin to implement Alt-drag a few years back, but sadly I can't remember the name.

It seems to have been integrated (see previous pages in discussion), sadly someone thought that Ctl+Alt+Click was smarter in meantime...

"1/I get tired of seeing "mount" menus everywhere.


"Everywhere"? By my count, the "Mount" menu exists in exactly one place: Tracker's right-click menu.
"
Right click on desktop + Deskbar menu. I thought I had seen more, though. IMO, it should be in only one place, or, even more nice, not appear in menus unless an option is set somewhere...

"Is mounting and unmounting really such an important task ?


Sure, if you have multiple drives/partitions, or regularly insert & unplug removable media.
"
Problem is that manual drive mounting is a geek-only feature. Normal users don't manually mount/umount their partitions everyday, they just have them mounted automagically as needed and unmount them through a right-click menu. As an example, Windows automatically mounts drives/partitions, why some linux desktops do not but show an icon for the unmounted drive/partitions and mounts them automatically when you want to access them. I prefer the second option myself : it's not resource-intensive, it works without the need of going through some manual mounting (and hence learning about mounting), and it's easily discoverable too...

"Moreover, icons in folders are a mess as soon as you stop using list view, just like in older releases of Mac OS...


Ctrl-Shift-K.
"
Alt+K (Ctl+Shift+K does not work, so I suppose that's what you meant) still leads to messy results, just like mac OS classic.
1/It does not reorganizes the icons on a grid, it wastes space everywhere...
2/...and hence icons finally get out of the window, leading to the need of scrolling or resizing the window.
Random example of both : http://yfrog.com/jmmesshp

That "problem" is a side-effect of a intentional feature: namely, the way that Tracker preserves folder window size & display settings. But yeah it would be nice to have an "Apply to all folders" option.

Yeah, or a way to disable per-folder display settings, like in Windows XP.

There are 2 keyboard shortcuts & 1 modifier that make that issue trivially-easy to avoid.

Ctrl-Opt-Up: open parent folder & close current folder
Ctrl-Opt-Down: open selected sub-folder and close current folder, double-clicking a folder with Option (Win-key) held down accomplishes the same thing.

This still means that spatial browsing is not the preferred way of browsing files : you have to learn some keyboard shortcuts or play with preferences in order to do otherwise.

My problem is with having this used as a default setting. But then, as you said...

Spatial file management has been the default in BeOS/Haiku since long before the term "spatial file management" was even coined. Given that most current Haiku users probably former BeOS users, that default makes sense.


Actually, that argument, while perfectly valid, is one of the things that make me less enthusiastic about Haiku than as usual : in the end, wouldn't bearing the BeOS legacy have the same effect on it as the one bearing the DOS legacy has had on Windows for a very long time ?

Maybe that will change in the future, but even then I still think there's a benefit to exposing new users to a file management approach they may not be familiar with. Sure, some will hate it and immediately change to single-window mode (which takes all of 5 seconds). But there will also be people who come to prefer "spatial mode" and appreciate having been introduced to it (speaking as a spatial file management "convert" who used to prefer 2-pane/single-window file managers).

Maybe, though ergonomically-wise it's generally better to make people use the knowledge which comes from using other OSs, in order to reduce learning pain. However, you're right that applying this principle everywhere is bad for innovation. I dislike spatial browsing because of my love for big hierarchies in file storage, but it may be better in the long run.
That's a design choice which I, and many potential users, happen not to like. Let's see how well it'll perform in the future ^^

True, but a good API can enable/ease the development of software that DOES improve everyday user experience.

Only if you can make usability-aware devs use it, which requires more usability in the whole OS first ;) That's a chicken and egg dilemma, isn't it ?

Edited 2010-05-11 16:50 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 1

dragossh Member since:
2008-12-16

Well, on VirtualBox at least said user has to wait from time to time. ;) [...] There's one area where Haiku does this the wrong way, though : startup, where the mouse pointer is already there while you can still do nothing useful and have to wait for some time before UI gets actually loaded.

There's your problem. VirtualBox. Believe me, native Haiku is so fast that you will not believe your eyes. Even with VESA and 100% CPU Haiku won't make you wait one bit.

What I found while playing with the deskbar, however, was an option that I was deeply missing : always on top. For the user to stay in control, the deskbar must stay easily accessible. With always on top, it feels clunky though (windows are not resized in order to stop going behind the deskbar), it's clear that it's not the developer's preferred options. It's sad, I think it should.

I always use Auto-raise. Nice balance between having the Deskbar out of the way and still it being accessible.

The tabbed windows border. It would become something useful if I could move the tab all around the window (including around the left, right, and bottom borders) and create tabbed windows in the way the newer KDE 4 does, but at the moment it's just harder to grab windows border with nothing in compensation.

Shift-click should to the trick ;)

1/I get tired of seeing "mount" menus everywhere. Is mounting and unmounting really such an important task ?

Other than volumes, I didn't see any Mount and Unmount menu items.

It's true that it's simpler. But I wonder if this behavior is here to stay when Haiku devs begin to have security in mind. Good security without some kind of installer is difficult. I'm personally a packet advocate : it allows caring about security and centralized software management, without introducing some "next" hell...

There is no "next" hell in Haiku ;) If you ever get the chance to install a .pkg, you will see how fast it is to install one. Double-click, install, done. Just like in Linux.

Reply Parent Score: 1

Neolander Member since:
2010-03-08

"It's true that it's simpler. But I wonder if this behavior is here to stay when Haiku devs begin to have security in mind. Good security without some kind of installer is difficult. I'm personally a packet advocate : it allows caring about security and centralized software management, without introducing some "next" hell...

There is no "next" hell in Haiku ;) If you ever get the chance to install a .pkg, you will see how fast it is to install one. Double-click, install, done. Just like in Linux.
"

Yes, that's what I improperly called a packet in that post (I know that the good word is package, but both words happen to be translated as "paquet" (reads as [päkè]) in French so sometimes I make the mistake).

Packages are the best way of distributing software that I know of. It works with *or* without a central server, it doesn't require everyday admin access for some untrusted "installer" program, it's easy to install and behaves in a consistent way across multiple software...

Edited 2010-05-12 15:05 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 1