Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Commentary: Rumination on GUIs

GUI- Graphic User Interface.

Most people who have used computers for the last couple of decades are used to them.  To the point that most can't understand that we used to have to do everything from the command line (CLI- Command Line Interface).

I like graphical interfaces too.  For a lot of tasks, they make things easy. 

But, I'm a bit "old school".  When I first got into admining Unix systems, we had X Windows, but we still had to do things on the command line.  There were some admin tools, but they were just a layer on top of the command line.  They basically put together the commands you would have used.  You could still go around them.  It could be harder, especially for more tricky tasks or tasks you didn't do to often.  But you could do it.

Further, when a system booted up, you got a lot of text on the screen.  It should you that the system was coming up smoothly.  Or not.  There could be some low level problems that could be shown thru that data, and this helped you resolve that.

Then along came Windows NT.

Soon the bootup information was hidden.  No idea if there were problems.  (you had to hope a system would boot up, and if it didn't, you'd have little info as to why).

Also, all admining was thru graphic interfaces.  Again, this was nice, but you couldn't get around it if there was a problem that could only be solved by doing so.

I have a longtime admin friend who had a particular problem recently with a product that couldn't be solved thru the graphical interface.  And there was no way to get around it and just enter commands.  However, he was able to do so, basically be decompiling the interface.  This is something that your average admin would not be able to do.  But the GUI got in the way.  And the vendor was of little help.

Now, as we move into the "Post-PC" world of smartphones and tablets, I fear we are moving further away from a CLI to a solely GUI world.  For the average user that's fine.  For "power users", this can be an annoyance.  For system administrators (and I include security admins in this), this can be a hindrance if we can't get "under the hood" of what is going on and solve problems. 

I worry about the lack of good deep-level tools for our Post-PC world.

Do any share this concern?


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