Alright, so I swore I was only going to write about positive or interesting experiences here, but this entry is one exception, I’m sorry.

Just now, I wanted to eject a cd from my Solaris machine running s10_61 and JDS. So, without thinking I dragged the CD to the trash can – as is the standard method on OSX which I tend to use most at home (my mac is faster than my PC, otherwise I may well use Solaris instead)

So, having done that, nautilus popped up this dialog box :

a screenshot showing a dialog box that's being too clever

Now, I might have been trying to delete the volume, but I wasn’t – I was trying to eject it : and the error message even suggests that it knows I was thinking along those lines. Yet, I still have to click the “I’m sorry I was being stupid” button and then go and do what it suggested instead. I would respectfully suggest that this (hacked up in the gimp) would be a nicer dialog box when people try to drag volumes to the trash can :

Okay, it needs to be a little more clever, knowing which volumes are removable media and which aren’t, but you get the general idea. It’s little things like that that could make all the difference, especially when aiming for the easiest experience for people migrating from another desktop system.

There’s loads of good books about this sort of thing – my favourite being Don Norman’s
The Philosophy of Everyday Things
(since renamed to “The Design…” as the original name caused some confusion to bookshop owners who would end up putting it in with theories on life, the universe and everything.) If you haven’t read it, get yourself a copy, if even just for the excellent cover illustration.

And just to close, here’s a suggestion – if you’re writing software that interacts with humans and you detect an error condition where you suspect the user may have been trying to do something else, where it makes sense, give them an option to perform that task. In general, I think GNOME kicks ass in this area – there’s just a few places where it could do better.