Pick a clock, any clock.

After listening to the latest episode of Emmanuel’s podcast on the History of GNOME, nostalgia got the better of me, and I decided to dig out the GNOME 1.4 usability study that we ran at Sun Microsystems in March 2001, and make it available online again.

So in all its Web 1.0 glory, here it is. I haven’t updated any of the links, but I’ve also uploaded the participant script that the report refers to.

(As a bonus, for those of you reading on Planet GNOME, that hackergotchi is a lot closer to how I looked in 2001 than how I do in 2019, too.)

Solaris 11.4 released

Congrats to my colleagues in the Solaris team who released Solaris 11.4 today. Despite the 11.x moniker, this is actually a major Solaris release; Oracle has just decided to go down the perpetual macOS X / Windows 10 version numbering route from now on. (This development is unlikely to faze Solaris veterans, who have been using SunOS 5.x since 1992.)

Being the first major Solaris release in 7 years, it’s also the first to ship with a GNOME 3 desktop. So thanks, as always, to everyone in the GNOME and related FOSS communities who made that possible.

On a personal note, this version also ships the last significant Solaris project I worked on, which during development was known as the Analytics WebUI, but now goes by the marketing-approved moniker of the Observability Tools System Web Interface. It’s always nice when something you’ve worked on sees the light of day, and it’s even nicer when you know somebody else will have to deal with any complaints 😊

It’s alive!

For those of you who like to peek over the Linux fence from time to time, Oracle has just publicly released the first version of Solaris with a GNOME 3 desktop (3.24, to be precise), in the shape of the Solaris 11.4 Public Beta.

It’s been a few years since I was part of the Solaris desktop team, so this was nothing to do with me. But I did work on the Solaris Analytics BUI for two or three years, before moving on to Big Red pastures new.


Edit: Since writing this post, I’ve been re-hired by another UX team at Oracle. I apologise to anyone who thinks this makes me a Bad Person.

Sun badge photo, August 2000
Sun badge photo, August 2000

Seventeen years and a few months after I joined Sun, today is my last day at Oracle.

I was already a grizzled 7-year usability veteran when I moved to Ireland in 2000 to work on GNOME for Solaris, and by extension, try to help the GNOME community figure out how to focus on and deal with usability issues. While it’s been a handful of years since I last actively did that, I’m posting this from our latest build of GNOME 3 on Solaris, so I guess I didn’t completely break everything.

Presenting Sun's GNOME usability study results, GUADEC 2001
Presenting GNOME usability study results, GUADEC 2001

I’ve no idea what I’ll be doing next, but I do know it’s been a privilege to work with some of the smartest people in tech, not least in the the GNOME community, and the related open source projects that I worked on over the years. So to all of you reading this, thanks for that.

If anyone’s looking for a UX designer based just far enough outside Dublin that he’d prefer not to have to commute there every day, you can find me on LinkedIn, or any of the other places on the interwebs you’d expect. (As an emeritus foundation member, I even still have a gnome.org email address… but don’t use that as I haven’t updated my .forward file yet!)

End of Line?

I know this has been discussed a few times in recent years and until recently I’ve been vaguely against it, but the amount of spam we’re now seeing in the usability mailing list moderation queue is greatly outweighing the number of actual posts (probably by at least 100 to 1). When we do get a ‘real’ post, it rarely gets a reply from any of the currently-active designers anyway.

If it were up to me, I’d say it’s probably now about time to put it out to pasture, to be reunited on the Obsolete list with its illustrious ancestor, its workhorse brother and its weird uncle that nobody talks about.

A New Experience

Today, after a fraction over 12 years, I bade farewell to the Solaris Desktop team to join Oracle’s Systems Experience Design team, a.k.a. sxDesign, which has a wider but still largely Solaris-focused usability remit.1

There’s been a good deal of overlap and collaboration between the two teams over the years anyway, so it’s not exactly a step into the unknown. The elders among you will remember the GNOME 1.4 usability study I presented at GUADEC in 2001, for example, which was primarily the handiwork of a previous incarnation of sxDesign… I pretty much just turned up at the end to steal the glory for the Desktop team. In your face, people I’m going to be working with now!2

While this pretty much brings an end to any ‘day job’ involvement I still had in the GNOME community (which has been basically ‘none’ for the past couple of years anyway), it certainly won’t be the end of my interest. If anything, I’ll probably be using GNOME more often again, albeit the trailing-edge enterprise-stable version we currently ship with Solaris 11. But I’ll certainly be keeping a keen eye on the GNOME 3 releases too, and continuing to call for its inclusion in Solaris as soon as is practical :)

1 A move I was first approached about making in about 2003, I think… who says I’m rubbish at making snap decisions?

2 I’m not really. They all left years ago.

I’m not going to GUADEC…

Is there a badge for that? :)

This will only be the second time since 2001, when I revealed how many users in our study had asked what the fried egg on the GNOME menu bar meant, that I haven’t made the trip. Other than the very first GUADEC in Paris, which happened just before I joined Sun, the only other one I’ve missed is Stuttgart in 2005.

So it feels a bit weird not to be going this year, but only a bit. It’s been a while since I made a useful contribution to anything GNOMEish (unless you count the daily ritual of deleting spam from the usability list admin queue), GNOME 3 seems to be getting along just fine without any of my suggestions, and for the time being I’m not even working on any desktop projects in my day job. So this time, I suspect, I probably won’t be back at GUADEC for a while… unless it makes a return to Dublin of course :)

Y’all have fun now!