Computing As A Geek's Toy - Psychology, Philosophy, and Licenses

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venam
Administrators
Hello nixers,
Have you ever felt like desktop computing, or computing in general, especially interfaces be it UI or UX, has taken a turn into convergent thinking?
Have you ever felt like you got bored of the same type of screens all the time, that there was no souls or fun in it anymore?

Well, you're not alone because many of us feel the same way. Many of us are looking back with a nostalgic eye at previous era and the hype and excitement of possibilities that were in it.

From the time were computers barely started having enough resources to run a program. To the time when computing was highly influenced by the gaming world. To an era of digital skeuomorphism and graphical computing possibilities. To the time of the dot-com bubble and the possibilities that the web and interactions could provide.

It's not rare to not feel "positive" about your desktop experience, to want to spice it up. It's no coincidence many people in this community feel like they have to customize their environment to their personal needs so that they can have a connection with it.

Recently on IRC, we've had a go at revisiting software like compiz fusion, and old-school X programs like Xmountains, Xantfarm, Xroach, Xneko, among others. Nostalgia aside, these software are interesting, half between gaming and half between useless-but-human alternatives. They add this touch that is often missing.
This type of thinking is also often found in the demo-scene, inspiring itself from the limitations of the hardware in a frenzy of wonderful demos that shout "hey it's possible". Fun, games, and toys might be frowned upon but this is where creativity is found!

I don't have a real aim with this thread other than throwing philosophical ideas out, but if you've ever felt like these days you are stuck in a box created by layers of "good practices" bump this thread with your opinion. Share your ideas on this topic, let's brainstorm. Share what you think are the reasons why these sort of things happened and why they don't happen anymore. Do you feel like computing is fun and games today?

And here's a bunch of interesting links I've gathered that are somewhat related:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AItTqnTsVjA
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5teG6ou8mWU
https://medium.com/@donhopkins/pie-menus-936fed383ff1
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neko_(software)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r3ooSiw83a8
https://www.accursedfarms.com/uploads/mo...3c9e9e.png
https://hardware.slashdot.org/story/16/1...t-once-was
https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/a...re/478167/
Ramiferous
Nixers
Agree 100%

Lately, I've been participating in a thread over on another forum where package requests are being responded to and accepted by developers. Most of the packages I've requested have been frills or things to spice up the desktop experience. I was surprised to see these were well received requests. It goes to show we all share the need for connection with our computer. I'm happy to say that (upon request) phillbush's xnotify has now been packaged and is being maintained in pkgsrc :)

I guess I'm only mentioning this because I initially feared criticism from a community of developers when requesting arguably useless features be added to an operating system. Useless, perhaps in the eyes of serious programmers who want to sink their teeth into stuff that helps them become more productive, not things that keep them distracted from their work like "the old-school X programs". But I'm not a programmer/developer at all. I like to think I contribute in other ways like reporting bugs or contributing to projects with ideas and requests for new features. But I digress...

I suppose this is a good thread to share "Toys" that we've found along our journeys.

I've only recently stumbled across pscircle which isn't new, but isn't ancient either. I like wallpaper scripts like this. I was actually going to start a separate thread with the specific focus on wallpaper scripts... What do you think?
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“Maybe you have some bird ideas... Maybe that's the best you can do.” - Terry A. Davis (R.I.P Percival)
vain
Long time nixers
Maybe there are “better toys” these days. When there are 3D printers or Raspberry Pis with LED panels, let alone smartphones with lots of sensors, then maybe writing xroach isn’t that interesting anymore?

Also, at least in my experience, there used to be the PC. The single one computer in the house where nerds could spend all their time. That was the single place where “the magic” happened, that single thing you built a connection with. Today, there are a ton of devices (at least in “western” countries), tablets, smartphones, smart-TV, laptops, PCs, consoles, whatever. So it’s not only “3D printer vs. xroach” (a matter of “quality”), but also the sheer number of things.

It certainly got more boring. The fact that I run a tiling WM where there’s essentially no pixels left for such toys, doesn’t help either.

I don’t know, good question. Where did all the fun go?

Maybe we simply don’t need xroach anymore when you can spend countless hours on imgur.com.
jkl
Long time nixers
A computer is a tool, not a toy.
venam
Administrators
(06-11-2020, 01:24 PM)jkl Wrote: A computer is a tool, not a toy.
That certainly does explain a lot of your attitude and behavior in your replies /s.

Thanks for the feedback, however I think you've missed the main premise which is that creativity and divergent thinking arise from play. It isn't something I'm throwing out there based on nada, but something based in years of research, see:
Play in the Peter Pan ape which is a really funny paper.
Bounce: How the Ball Taught the World to Play
Redesign my brain
The good work of Isabel Behncke
Your brain when playing
Developing young children’s creativity: whatcan we learn from research?
Play is more than just fun, by Dr.Stuart Brown
And the rest of the massive amount of literature on the topic.

I'm sure you know better than this.
jkl
Long time nixers
Hmm. But if the old problem of limited resources is already enough reason to "play", wouldn't it be adequate to try to work with a computer with as few ressources as possible?
neeasade
Grey Hair Nixers
I saw this link today and thought of this thread: https://sysdevs.org/cows.webm
freem
Members
(06-11-2020, 03:26 PM)jkl Wrote: Hmm. But if the old problem of limited resources is already enough reason to "play", wouldn't it be adequate to try to work with a computer with as few ressources as possible?

This... yes, I think this is more or less where my remaining fun is: writing code that aims at stopping wasting resources. Because I think OSes nowadays just work on the idea of wasting resources (overcommit anyone?) being normal rather than the exception.
I personally have fun trying to push my system to use as less resources as possible, not in having as much graphical gadgets as possible on screen, which I must confess have never thought about as being "fun".

Now, I don't say those should be forbidden. If people wrote them, it's because they interest those people at least, and if they share the code, hey, why not? But now, I would not include them in a distro I'd build. Not because of productivity: otherwise, I'd just keep going with mainstream, since "productivity" usually "rhymes" with "immediately". Just because, well, *my* fun is toward minimalism and stuff I can maintain and repair all by myself. And the more code there is, the less likely I'll be able to maintain stuff by myself.
venam
Administrators
I think the idea is more overarching than this.
It might be more related to novelty and all the possibilities that a new situation put upon you, making you want to try things, to test, to play to find out what can be done.
That's the case in both freem's minimalist scenario and vain's SoC and single board computers.

Maybe we find current computing "not-fun" because it feels like a well-known box, like an aristocratic society of well-mannered folks with fixed rules and behaviors.
Ramiferous
Nixers
(07-11-2020, 04:53 AM)venam Wrote: I think the idea is more overarching than this.
It might be more related to novelty and all the possibilities that a new situation put upon you, making you want to try things, to test, to play to find out what can be done.
That's the case in both freem's minimalist scenario and vain's SoC and single board computers.

Maybe we find current computing "not-fun" because it feels like a well-known box, like an aristocratic society of well-mannered folks with fixed rules and behaviors.

This is where I'm at, but I agree with all of the above comments. I also attempt to keep my system free from resource hogging applications but that doesn't stop me from installing a bunch of crap that I don't need but still enjoy. For me, it's the exploration of things, the excitement of "what can I do with this" etc.. But as I mentioned above, I'm not a programmer or developer. Therefore, I think it kind of depends on how you view your PC. Is it a toy OR a tool? For me, it is a toy. I bought an old ThinkPad because I wanted to run NetBSD and see what I could learn. I have a work laptop too which is running stock gnome3 on pop_os. I don't feel the need to tweak that machine because it serves a higher purpose and I don't want to risk breaking it. My ThinkPad on the other hand, if I bork it, I reinstall and the fun begins again.

I know not everyone has the resources or the time to have a toy machine, but I would highly recommend it. Even if playing to you is just hacking code etc.
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“Maybe you have some bird ideas... Maybe that's the best you can do.” - Terry A. Davis (R.I.P Percival)