sharpreader – a windows RSS feed reader. Uses .NET, which is all the rage nowadays, apparently.

It’s beautiful, easily the best RSS reader I’ve ever seen, and that includes the one I wrote :-). Proper OPML export / import (It’s amazing how meny readers get this wrong), the interface, although slightly hard to figure out makes a lot of sense once you get the hang of it, and frankly usability and learning curves can go hang once I can use the thing.

The nicest feature, though, is the threading. I’ll notice which other blogs you read have linked to this one, and will do the litte ‘+’ symbol thing so you can expand them and see all the interlinks. It’s niiiiiiiice. I’m suddenly tempted to go back to “lectern”:/programming/lectern and hack this in somehow, though it’ll be hard. Maybe I’ll write a mac one and steal the niche of NNW. Maybe I’ll write a bad alpha and get distracted by some other project. Yes, that seems to be the best idea.

Software interfaces evolve like this, it’s wonderful to watch. Web browsers are another fairly immature tech that grow “tabs” and other interface things, and that’s nice to watch too, even if they’re stupid. Genuinely new types of apps are rare, I can’t think of many off the top of my head, although obviously once they’re pointed out, it’s obvious…

the broken desktop metaphor

There was a throw-away comment by Dan Hill in an article on Elite about the desktop metaphor and the workarounds we have to use to make it work. Now, I don’t think exposé is a work-around. I think it’s the most sophisticated window-management system I’ve ever used, it’s lovely. But it does hilight something that’s need nagging at me for a while. The Desktop.

Now, essentially, the desktop metaphor is broken. It’s not a desktop at all. It’s far too small, for a start, I’ve heard it described as the airplane seat metaphor. But the most important distinction is what’s underneath all your bits of paper. Suppose you have a real desk. Pick up all the things on it and look underneath them. What do you see? You’ve got a completely blank desk. Ok, now hide all your windows and things from your computer ‘desktop’. Got a blank desk? No? Didn’t think so.

Eventually, everyone needs a hack in their windowing system so that they can get at the desktop. Windows has ‘Minimize All’, or in extreme cases, ‘Show desktop’ (there’s a difference between these two. Try explaining the difference to a non-geek). For me, Windows always seems neatest with all windows either maximized or minimized. The fact that the only graphical way of getting at your hard disk is the ‘My Computer’ icon on the desktop means that you need to be able to get at it easily. Mac OS X 10.2 and before never had a really good solution to get at the desktop. There are various third party hacks but the only decent way I ever used was to Command-Option-Click on the desktop, or Command-Option-H with the Finder focussed. This hides everything except Finder windows. Of course, if there are Finder windows blocking your desktop, you’re stuffed. Ah, well.

Exposé solves this – one button and all your windows get out the way. Yay! Finally they’ve solved a problem Windows solved 5 years ago. (Or whenever, I don’t care).

I’m tired of working round this. I can shuffle through all of my windows with Command-Tab, but I can’t get to the desktop without moving all the windows out the way? This is an annoying special case, and I don’t like it.

New philosophy. Nothing will go on the desktop. Nothing at all. I won’t display drives on it, I won’t save files on it. I’m going to change it’s permissions so that I can’t write to it. My default download folder will be a folder in my home directory. We’ll see how long I last before I go insane.

Update – I follow this up here