Why is Gnome Crystal Viewer is poorly designed?

Asked by bsalem

I am not an idiot. I have a masters in Geology so I know what a crystal unit cell is and the general concept of specifying dimensions and bond lengths. So why is Gnome Crystal Viewer so hard to use?

It insn't that the obvious things aren't covered in the onlie manual and it isn't that the software should be educational, although given the audience for Ubuntu, maybe it would get the authors more praise if it were. It is little things in the design, prehaps GNOME features in the design, that make it hard to use.

First, there are no working data files that ship with the package, so at least if you wre going to figure out how it works, you might load something to look at and dissect. That ought to be easy to fix. Why not a library ofcommon substance examples, minerals and salts, and some simple organic species?

Second, if you make a mistake the GNOME app penealizes you by resetting the form. It doesn't remember all that you selected.
For example. I wanted to set up the structure for a simple ionic salt, NaCL, which I know has a cubic unit cell. I don't recall the bond lengths or coordiantion, but I expect some help from the application for that. I kept having to respecify that the bonds are ionic because when I made a mistake the form reset that to Unknown. I finally gave up. This app needs major attention to details.

Finally, the feedback feature in Software Center, or is that Crntre, is obstructive. It asks for email and password, which if you get one wrong, you have to type the secret words over. I hate those secret words because I am visually impaired and seeing and typing those is quite taxing. That is why I am posting feedback on the app here as a question, out of frustration with the Software Center.

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Ubuntu gnome-chemistry-utils Edit question
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michael (yellupcm-gmail) said :

Most of Linux programs are not made or maintained by paid people, but by volunteers. I believe that you would be a good person to help with this program. At this site you could probably help a lot.



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bsalem (bruce-euphon) said :

I don't have the expertise to help with job this app does. Canonical can
ask people to adhere to certain documentation and programming standards. It
wouldn't be unreasonable to ask the author supply some example data files.
I may have to go to the package home page and request that such examples be
included with the package, but I don't get why doing that isn't an obvious
need for this kind of application. Little things stand in the way of
acceptance of operating systems and bundles of applications. These issues
impinge on the size of the distro and if it benefits the interests of
making Linux a useful alternative to proprietary operating systems.
Certainly, just adding bloat to Ubuntu of packages that don't help will in
time hurt its reputation.

On Tue, Dec 25, 2012 at 6:31 PM, michael <
<email address hidden>> wrote:

> Your question #217616 on Ubuntu changed:
> https://answers.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+question/217616
> michael posted a new comment:
> Most of Linux programs are not made or maintained by paid people, but by
> volunteers. I believe that you would be a good person to help with this
> program. At this site you could probably help a lot.
> http://gchemutils.nongnu.org/participate.html
> >Participate
> --
> You received this question notification because you asked the question.

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Best samuel (samuel-h) said :

I suggest you go to brainstorm.ubuntu.com and suggest higher regulations for submitting a package to the software center, such as supplying examples, you may also want to make another suggestion about the security question thing.

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Thomas Krüger (thkrueger) said :

I think you have a wrong understanding of the idea of Open Source Software.
Many simple OSS is distributed in the hope that it might help someone, as it helped the author of the program.
You are free to install it, test it, change it, use it as long as you like. That also includes the right not to use it after you found it not helpful. The simple fact that it is included in Ubuntu and Debian (as the original package source) says that there are some people on this planet who find it useful. Also the concept of Open Source is concept of choice, in this case it means that you have the possibility to install the software, even if 99% of the users will never have a reasonable use-case for it. The decision to remove the package from the repositories would require some severe reasons, like, lets say, the software contains a large security hole and it is not maintained for a long while.

Also to argue one of your points: The simple fact, that there is software with low quality available for an OS does not mean the OS is bad. In fact, this would give much more negative points to an OS "we all know", than to Ubuntu Linux.

Also, as a person who has seen a university from the inside, you should know how scientific review processes work.
Most of the rules apply to software development as well. It is completely acceptable to have doubts about the work of other scientists (or programmer). But what you have to do, is to express your doubts and evidence, pointing in an other direction, in the right way.
No scientist or software developer can work based on general criticism without any details.
So please, if you have remarks about a software, and the developers explicitly ask everybody to give their assistance, contact them and state your constructive (!) criticism!

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bsalem (bruce-euphon) said :

Thank You both. I know that packages are supplied at the discretion of the authors as-is, I never suggested that Canonical remove the package. I only offered the view that it could suggest some guideline for what should be in packages to meet general standards. If the analogy is with peer-reviewed journals, they do have similar standards and can and do reject submissions. just as someone at Canonical makes decisions about which packages can be made available to the Software Center.

The reason I opened this as a question was that I couldn't give feedback on that package in the Software Center, and I have not determined that the software author ever looks there or here for feedback, So, maybe on the details of the package I'd be better off looking for a web page on the package written by the author.

I will try Brainstorm and contribute there.

On the issue of choice. I could make a case that the interdependancies between packages is a choice made by Canonical for users of Ubuntu with often very poor documentation. So Gnome Tracker sometimes tops my process list and I have yet to find docs that explain what is in the metadata it collects, which also takes up quite a bit of space in my home dir. There are several man pages that describe what pieces of it do, but nowhere is there an accounting of why we need to run it, if it can be turned off, and how. The size of caches for various applications in one's home dir can be almost half the space there. I know that a good portion of that is browser cache but not all of it. I should file bugs on Firefox and Chrome about better managing the browser cache, that seems to be an all or nothing thing, and, yes, I know that that is NOT Canonical's problem.

I also know that badly designed software ships with OSs, but that in the long run, although Canonical may not be responsible for a package, that supplying a set of poorly functioning or useless packages DOES reflect badly on Canonical; there is a tacit sanctioning in what it included on DVDS or repositories, and that this affects how competing distros and propriatory vendors like Apple and Microsoft compete in the marketplace, even though it is free. I want to help make Linux better, and because I worked at one tine at a company that supplied a supported version of UNIX and eventually failed because it put its limited resources into efforts that didn't support its existence. Ubuntu is a large distribution and I have installed lots of packages, the count is about 4600 on my system. It takes up lots of space and not least in cache files I didn't create in my home dir, so not properly documenting things, or not configuring things correctly or not vetting reasonable standards DOES matter and arguing for freedom and Open Source is fine until you have to really explain why you aren't better than Windows or Mac OS, and you go out of business. Because its free you have to find other ways to keep the lights on.

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bsalem (bruce-euphon) said :

My course of action is to contact the author of the package directly to ask that he include example files in his next package upgrade, I need to go to Brainstorm to suggest this as a standard for packages in the software repositories that need examples.
Maybe I need to file bugs against Gnome Tracker documentation as well.

Revision history for this message
bsalem (bruce-euphon) said :

Thanks samuel, that solved my question.