[linux-elitists] Re: Yet another mozilla atrocity

Karsten M. Self kmself@ix.netcom.com
Mon Oct 6 23:00:36 PDT 2003

on Tue, Oct 07, 2003 at 12:11:15PM +1000, Martin Pool (mbp@samba.org) wrote:
> On  4 Oct 2003, "Karsten M. Self" <kmself@ix.netcom.com> wrote:
> > on Sat, Oct 04, 2003 at 01:58:37AM -0700, Jason Spence (jspence@lightconsulting.com) wrote:

> > > User: "My computer is broken."
> > 
> > Look, let's try to get this accross as succinctly as possible.
> > 
> > When I'm making love to a woman, what I want to hear isn't "My Name",
> > but *my* *name*.  And I certainly don't want some outfit tattoing "My
> > Lover" across my forhead for her.
> (This sounds better as Isaac Hayes.  Thankyou for livening up this
> discussion. :-)
> > You see the distinction?
> I think I do[0].  The distinction is that you're a person, rather than
> an inanimate object, and they are treated differently in English.
> Many people consistently say "my car" rather than "car" or "JRH-301"
> or (the slightly autistic) "Martin's car".  On the other hand, always
> saying "my wife" rather than her name sounds a bit patronizing.

You're getting there.  But are still missing a key point.

"My foo" is, for want of a better term an anonymous local identifier.
It works, for small values of foo.

It stops working, very quickly, in any of the following situations:

  - You have two foo.  Now you have to distinguish foo1 and foo2.
  - You're talking to someone else who has their own foo.
  - You're talking to someone who's dealing with a large number of
    people who have foo.

As cases in point:

  - I've got seven computers in my house.  Six of which work.  Are all
    of them "my computer"?  No, they're navel, ego, fritz, jung,
    superego, id, and reflex.  They're also time, gateway, aptproxy,
    wwwproxy, and printer.

  - I've got a cat.  He's "my cat", "the black cat", "Chandra",
    "stupid", "lovebuzz"[1], etc., depending on who I'm talking to, and
    noting that this is very often myself.

  - I've got a car, which is more specifically a truck, the Toyota,
    XtraCab, <license plate here>, or as tracked by the Bureau of
    Automotive Repairs, a 14-digit VIN.

> The rules for this are probably different in other languages, and
> they're complicated by Unix systems having more salient and
> anthropomorphic hostnames than on other systems.

Not specific to 'Nix.  I think this was a trend of minis in general:

  - Organizations had more than one of them.  You had to distinguish
    among them.
  - Systems were multi-user.

This differs from, say, mainframes and PCs, for the most part, in that
few organizations had multiple MFs _or_ accessed them indpendently of
subsystems (e.g.:  "Sabre", or "Oracle Financials", or "A/R"), and until
fairly recently, PCs running Microsoft operating systems were considered
(regardless of actual capabilities) as single-user systems.

In the first case:  you didn't have to distinguish between hosts,
because everyone connected to the same one, or didn't even see the
system as a host.  In the second, only one person connected to a given
system, and didn't have to distinguish among them.

By contrast, most Unix systems existed on networks with one or more
other boxes, and users would connect to one or more of these.  One of
the ubiquitous shell modifications (speaking of configuration changes)
is to code the system name into your shell prompt and/or terminal window

And there *is* an analog to the "My Computer", "Network Neighborhood",
etc, nomenclature:  "localhost" and "localnet".  The first refers
universally to any of, the latter less globally to the local
portion of the local network interface, assuming there's only one
interface.  Note though that the term is used in a descriptive sense
that's true:  this is the local host, or the local network.

"My Computer" runs into all sorts of problems when:

  - It's not your computer.  It's your boss's / partner's / client's

  - You're using remote access tools and have two, or three, or four
    desktops all claiming to be "My Computer".  Distinguishing between
    these meaningfully becomes a task in itself.

  - You're trying to figure out what the actual hostname is.  Most
    legacy MS Windows systems are assigned a default, machine-generated,
    unpronounceable, nonintuitive name.  Yes, it's there in %HOSTNAME%
    or some such environment variable.  But it doesn't register with the
    system's primary user, isn't readily visible, and while it can be
    useful information, takes some work to prise out of the system.

And of course:  now legacy MS Windows systems _are_ becoming tacitly
multi-user, if only in the role of print/file server, but also as
application servers, and in some cases as VPN / virtual terminal server

> In various places in software there is a naming pattern of "my
> $widgets" referring to widgets specific to the subject, either the
> current user or some other object.  I don't love it, but it's not a
> terrible pattern.  At least it makes it clear how the widgets are
> being selected.

This is a localization prefix:  'my' is a modifier in Perl, 'self' in
Python, which specifies that scope is local to the current calling
routine, object, or module (slight technical butchering).  I rankle
slightly at "my", but can live with it.  "Self", of course, has a long,
distinguished, and exhaulted history, and is a moniker to be worn

The use of both is similar to the anonymous local identifier referenced

> Anyhow, I think this is more of a reasonable difference of opinion
> than any kind of gnome conspiracy.  If you would like to get into
> drafting some text on what naming patterns should be used I'm sure
> they would welcome your thoughts.

First:  there is _one_ useful function that "My Computer" serves.  This
is in a support context, where the support tech can tell the
victim^Wuser to "(right|left|middle) click on the 'My Computer' icon".


  - "Computer" should carry the local system name, or just the name
    "Computer" or "System".  When I'm forced at gunpoint to use legacy
    MS Windows systems, this is frequently one of the first tweaks I

  - Other icons should identify themselves concisely, specifically, and

The grave usability error that Windows makes (covered IIRC in Greer, et
al's "CyberInsecurity") is is throwing up multiple "friendly", but
overall _arbitrary_ levels of indirection between the user and the
underlying system.  It's not that computers are so hard to
understand[3], but that Microsoft, both out of an attempt to make things
easier _and_ to sow confusion (I suspect both goals) has _created an
intentionally confounding user interface_.   People get confused, be
cause that's a design goal, concious or otherwise.

> [0] Though I don't understand where the tattoo concept comes in,
> unless you're arguing that there should be no text names on computer
> screens.

Not at all.  Just that for someone else to point at _my_ car / house /
cat / lover and say "My Car" is, well, insipid.  Likewise their labeling
it this for me.

At some fundamental level, this, as a marketing/branding tactic hits me
so globally _wrong_ in the same way the words "consumer", "user" (bonus
points: someone *really* needs to find an alternative), "loved ones",
"product" (as in a wine company referring to its vintages as "product"),
"choice" "innovation" (largely meant with an unspoken "our" or "non" or
"screwing you out of your wallet), "conservative", "personalization",
and a whole host of other grossly overused market- corp-speak terms just
make me want to puke.  Give me back my dognammed language!  But that's
another topic.



1.  Before anyone calls the SPCA or SPLA[2], that's a reference to his
    exceptionally affectionate personality and strong tendency to

2.  L is for Love.

3.  Well, they are in the totality, because they're complex systems.
    But at core, it's still processor, memory, storage, and I/O.
    Microsoft hides this by confusing the whole lot.

Karsten M. Self <kmself@ix.netcom.com>        http://kmself.home.netcom.com/
 What Part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?
  Backgrounder on the Caldera/SCO vs. IBM and Linux dispute.
-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: not available
Type: application/pgp-signature
Size: 189 bytes
Desc: Digital signature
Url : http://allium.zgp.org/pipermail/linux-elitists/attachments/20031007/851b72d1/attachment.pgp 

More information about the linux-elitists mailing list