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About FlightGear being user-friendly or not

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About FlightGear being user-friendly or not

Postby Bomber » Tue Jun 24, 2014 7:10 pm

Hooray wrote in Wed Apr 02, 2014 11:58 am:Sorry, I didn't realize that userss with > 1k postings and a track record of over a decade of posting here may not yet know what "git" is: http://wiki.flightgear.org/Git
Which would actually seem to suggest that FlightGear is kinda becoming "user-friendly" :-)


Laugh I nearly wet myself.

Hooray, the way to tell if something is user friendly is to get a user's opinion.... Not to tell him so.

When FG understands there are 3 separate user groups here and adjusts it's development attitude to meet their requirements then FG will be on the way to being user friendly...

You'd have thought someone with all your posts would know the blatantly obvious
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Re: About FlightGear being user-friendly or not

Postby sim » Wed Jun 25, 2014 8:07 am

Bomber says
there are 3 separate user groups here

Tell us who the three groups are.
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Re: About FlightGear being user-friendly or not

Postby Thorsten » Wed Jun 25, 2014 8:57 am

When FG understands there are 3 separate user groups here and adjusts it's development attitude to meet their requirements then FG will be on the way to being user friendly...


Judging from dealing with hundreds of instances of user feedback through different channels, the reality is that there are not 3 different user groups, there are almost as many as there are users.

If users would give coherent feedback pointing a certain direction, then probably most developers would give it serious thought, but the reality is that 'user-friendly' usually (and with exceptions far and inbetween) means 'me-friendly' - people use that term to argue that FG should have features they personally want, that things should be accessible on the channel they personally prefer, that things should be configurable how they think works best... regardless of what other users may want.

For instance, Advanced Weather has been criticized for being too complicated and offering too many GUI options about as much as it has been criticized for being too opaque and not offering enough GUI options to micro-manage weather. The FG project has been criticized in equal measure for not supporting legacy systems enough and for not throwing legacy support out of the window and making all the fancy effects new hardware allows work. Aircraft startup procedures have been criticized as being too complicated and putting users off just as well as not being realistic enough. You get the picture.

There's really nothing users coherently want, except better graphics combined with better framerate, which really is a contradiction in terms just as well.

In several cases when discussing the virtue of a GUI, I asked the user to propose a better one. Usually I then get feedback, which I evaluate and sketch all the features which would be lost with the proposed change and problematic cases of users doing things differently, asking for a revised proposal taking these into account. It pretty much always stops there. Because it's complicated to design interfaces to more complex systems. There's no simple answer to questions like 'What aspects of the environment should the user control, what aspects should he control optionally?' There's no simple answer to questions like 'How do we handle things which can badly mess with memory, but look terrific when you have the memory?' Designing complicated interacting subsystems is hard, and designing the interface is equally so. Complaining about bad design is comparatively cheap however.

Even without any coding skills, people could propose an interface structure - but for some reason, they don't really do once they realize that there are complications down the road.

Adjusting my development attitude to the cacophony of contradictory input coming from everywhere is something I just can't do. Taking into account well-thought feedback from users who think out of their particular box and are willing to really consider the problem as it is rather than as they personally see it is something I actually like to do.
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Re: About FlightGear being user-friendly or not

Postby Hooray » Wed Jun 25, 2014 10:13 am

There's a smiley in my response for a reason, the whole thing was tongue in cheek obviously. And you, once again, managed to hijack a thread, even mis-interpreting my posting just to make your case.
And to be blatantly honest: Any contributor knows quite well how to improve usability, and some of us actually have improved FG's usability in the past.

Then again, there's a camp of half a dozen of people around here currently who'll do pretty much anything to hijack threads and discuss their own agenda.
It's those people that are not just hijacking threads, but also wasting our time - simply because they'd rather get involved in a long discussion with hundreds of postings and dozens of pages trying to talk contributors into doing work for them, instead of just realizing that all this time could have been spent doing something more constructive.

It's fairly safe to say that not a single FG contributor was born with coding skills, let alone niche stuff like Nasal. Still, someone who's able to work with XML-based FDMs (like JSBSim or YASim) should be perfectly able to customize/improve our GUI, because it's also all XML based. It's just another "dialect" of XML. So I find these debates rather pointless.

For some reason, contributors with some kind of "track record" are considered a part of the project and yelled at by others, even if they may not commit directly. I stand by my earlier sentiments that we're all just "contributors" contributing to different areas of the project. Some of us more so than others obviously. And yes, some of us ended up with access to certain infrastructure (git, wiki, forum etc), but that doesn't put us into a better position than others to contribute to the project. Just look at some of the "newcomers" that showed up here in the last 4-6 weeks, some of them have actually become contributors within just a few weeks.

But at the end of the day, I find it extremely pathetic to keep seeing certain people constantly whining about how the project sucks and how it would have to change according to some agenda by a handful of drama queens, while the exact same people constantly prove that what they're saying is completely wrong due to their own degree involvement (lack of) to change certain things, except for having their crusades across sub forums trying to push others into bringing those changes to FlightGear.

Some of fgdata contributors are getting yelled at almost on a daily basis. And apparently the amount of critical feedback is proportional to our involvement. But maybe those doing all the yelling should keep in mind that we're much more likely to be aware of most shortcomings than others are, and that we're probably at least as frustrated about these things than others are - stilll, it's exactly this handful of people who are considered "the project" by forum users who are not willing to get involved directly, trying to push others into doing their work.

All this pointless behavior is really only doing one thing: growing our "ignore" list, for the sake of the project - because we cannot possibly deal with all this b/s, we wouldn't be getting anything done at all. Seriously, just imagine you'd be given commit access, wiki admin access and become a forum moderator - what would have changed for you ? Exactly, nothing - still, others all of a sudden think that you're the one to talk to about all this nonsense, without them also being willing to get involved.

If someone ended up with certain "privileges" it's due to their degree of involvement, not due to the sheer number/size of postings - no matter how true the key message may be here.

To the camp of time-wasters: PLEASE just try the devel list, most of you would be ignored there - but at least that will show you that you are getting a chance to be taken seriously here, and it's your own behavior that determines how things turn out for you. It's NOT the small camp of forum users/contributors who you may disagree with, but who are responsible for many recent fgdata-level novelties.

Recently we were being called a "sect" in another thread, without the OP realizing that even these contributors tend to disagree with each other quite a lot. People keep pointing out issues using words like "elitism" and less polite variants of it - without realizing that the project would be in no better shape without the same people they're complaining about - especially keeping in mind that not a single person who keeps criticizing the project, actually offers to get involved and improve things.

So yeah, sorry for not taking you seriously - but it's not our call, it's yours - entirely so...
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Re: About FlightGear being user-friendly or not

Postby Bomber » Wed Jun 25, 2014 6:35 pm

sim wrote in Wed Jun 25, 2014 8:07 am:Bomber says
there are 3 separate user groups here

Tell us who the three groups are.


Crickey its simple...

1) players
2) programmers
3) modders

I wrote a lot and then deleted it......

"we don't want thousands of players... Where would we be then"
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Re: About FlightGear being user-friendly or not

Postby Bjoern » Wed Jun 25, 2014 6:42 pm

In Bomber's defense: I find GIT for Windows horrible. This isn't GIT's fault at all, but rather the whole setup's. On Linux, I pop open the root console, tell my package manger to pull and install GIT and work away with it, but on Windows, I've got the installer, I've got tons of extra libraries only used by GIT, I've got a GIT console thing...it just feels like there's an entirely unnecessary layer between me and what I'm trying to do (in the form of Window's "NIMBY"* attitude) and it's just disgusting to work with. GIT, GCC and whatever you need to build and pull FG stuff feels much more...integrated in Linux.

As for FlightGear itself:
I'm a MSFS guy. I'm used to MSFS' user interface and way of doing things. FG is very different to what I'm used to, but thanks to Google and the wiki, I've managed to set up FG to my liking, generally use it and enhance it. The question of user-friendliness is a moot point though. Every application, even if it basically does the same thing (flight simulation) has its own philosophy. If one is not willing to wrap their mind around this philosophy, however, he/she is going to have a bad time. I'm not saying that everyone is mandated to become a know-it-all regarding said application, yet just sitting there and expecting to not run into any inconvieniences and getting everything served pre-chewed and pre-swallowed is simply not enough, especially in days where search engines can find just about everything imaginable on the web.
I've needed three tries to get my head wrapped around Linux, by the way.

Not quite on topic, but sod it.


As for the UI:
There way a mention of implementing the possibility to switch planes while in flight some days ago or so. My opinion: Do it! Implement it! Do it, do it, do it!
Also, for what my feedback is worth: Get rid of FGRun. Not because I have double standards and am a lazy bastard who can't get into FG's philosophy, but because it basically splits the whole "setting FG up" process in two - one part FGRun, one part while in the simulator. Now there might be a perfectly valid reason for this (FGRun for essentially a UI for command line options? In-sim for the autosave/preferences.xml? The .xmls being a more recent thing and FGRun is essentially a legacy tool that no one had the time to remove?), but it just feels like a duplicated efforts for merely setting up FG to me.
But as I've said, it's different philosophy, so it might as well just stay that way...unless I find some time to put my mad XML skills to use (if the UI really is entirely XML based).


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Re: About FlightGear being user-friendly or not

Postby Hooray » Thu Jun 26, 2014 12:03 am

It is definitely true that compared to FSX and XP, FG usability leaves a lot to be desired - it's not so much about different philosophies though, it's more due to lack of manpower in the GUI/usability department, but also due to inflexible GUI frameworks that are/were in use. While it is true that Unix/Linux communities tend to favor a more modular approach, i.e. separate tools that are chained together, this doesn't really apply in the context of many external FG tools like FGRun and/or Atlas/Map - it's mainly an integration/coding matter. We've been seeing this in a number of recent efforts: people tend to find it MUCH easier to come up with a new solution from scratch, instead of adapting existing features, integrating their code and keeping it as generic as possible.

That's one of the main reasons why the quality of Nasal code outside $FG_ROOT/Nasal is so poor: many Aircraft developers find it extremely difficult to generalize stuff, think in terms of components, and modularize/refactor existing code. Which is why we have a ton of redundant code that is hardly maintainable - and which is also why people tend to do their own thing instead of teaming up with others, even though they may be working on conceptually similar (or even identical) stuff (e.g. aircraft/instruments, displays, GUI widgets etc).

The "built-in" GUI/launcher is one of the longest-standing feature requests - but it's not just about the GUI (which is rather straightforward in comparison), but about the simulator never having been developed with this requirement, i.e. run-time reinitialization, in mind - thus, things like "fgrun" (and a plethora of other external launchers) were developed, which acted as a front-end on top of FG, so that FG itself wouldn't need to be changed - i.e. kind of a "remote control" using command line arguments. So it's there for a reason - fgrun uses the FLTK GUI library, which while relatively simple, is much more powerful than our legacy GUI engine, PUI.

Still, people have been asking for this for years, and it's thanks to pretty much a single person, Zakalawe, that switching aircraft is going to become possible pretty soon - he handled all the ugly work of cleaning up the simulator internals to make this happen - it's not exactly glamorous work, you gotta touch a ton of places, and you inevitably introduce a ton of regressions along the way.

And yes, even the legacy FG GUI is entirely based on XML and configurable through just editiing XML files - but the collection of "widgets" (GUI controls like buttons, checkboxes, labels etc) is extremely small and very inflexible.

This is something that is currently being addressed by TheTom and Zakalawe, who've both been working on a new Canvas GUI, and a new Canvas GUI dialog called "Aircraft Center", which -while still experimental- is intended to eventually allow end-users to easily download/install aircraft right within the simulator, and also switch between aircraft at run-time without having to exit/restart the simulator.

Thus, adopting Canvas is going to address a number of long-standing issues, but it's obviously a process that only just got started, and it will not happen overnight - 2-3 release cycles are not far-fetched, that's how long the whole migration could very well take, unless there are more people interested in helping.


http://wiki.flightgear.org/Aircraft_Center
Image
(the button next to the image allows you to switch to the aircraft)
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Re: About FlightGear being user-friendly or not

Postby Bjoern » Fri Jun 27, 2014 12:48 pm

The auto-logout ate my original reply, so here's the short version:

Will Canvas someday entirely replace the current FGRun+XML-based GUI?


The other part was about documenting code to make it more accessible for others. I don't know how often contributors do this, but, despite being quite a PITA most of the time, it always helps.
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Re: About FlightGear being user-friendly or not

Postby Philosopher » Fri Jun 27, 2014 1:18 pm

I think it will – the aircraft center has started on that, and Tom's recent work has made it many times more feasible to imagine more complex dialogs as well as James' work on the C++ side. Canvas technically has the capability to do most GUI functions, it just requires a "little" work to be put in to get it there ;). I think we have at least 4 people involved already in seriously using Canvas in the GUI, so there's a high probability that it'll be adopted quite fast (I've already realized two pretty cool dialogs with it ;)).

Btw, some of the problem with FG's documentation is just that it's spread out, even sometimes between the wiki, nasal, and C/C++. I'm personally comfortable with looking things up that way, but I can understand how others might not be ;).
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Re: About FlightGear being user-friendly or not

Postby Bjoern » Fri Jun 27, 2014 5:50 pm

Thanks, Philosopher!

I am content with information being spread acrosse several places as long as they're linked with each other.
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Re: About FlightGear being user-friendly or not

Postby Hooray » Fri Jun 27, 2014 6:56 pm

that is something that people can easily help with by using the wiki
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