User/administrative testing: $DESKTOP

Hi all,

I guess this is the ultimate Bad Conversation Topic on nautilus-list, to
rival politics, religion, porn [1] and gymnastics (in ex-Soviet republics).

I've been working on a prototype/demo for a large rollout of GNOME desktops,
so Nautilus has been one of the major, user-visible demonstration items.

I had to make a decision on the $HOME as desktop issue for 'disinterested,
semi-technical users', rather than myself [2] and the 'interested, highly
technical users' that I work with.

The basic setup involved slim clients that ran all user software, NFS home
directories on the single demo server, autofs, etc. The following things
punched us in the guts:

  - Maildir: for the demo, we didn't bother putting user mail elsewhere, so
    the Maildir directories were sitting in $HOME for each user. Sure, on a
    'real' network, this would all be on the dedicated mail server. But, the
    point stands for users elsewhere. Finding this on your desktop and
    playing with it is 'BAD'.

  - evolution: Evo was a critical componenet for user and administrator
    buy-in, and at least for the moment, it keeps everything in ~/evolution.
    Finding this on your desktop and playing with it is 'BAD'.

  - public_html: We actually called this "Public" for usability reasons, but
    everyone else knows it as pulic_html. Stuff here would appear via webdav
    and html indexes on the intranet. Really handy for lots of users sharing
    things, and seeing them in Nautilus. [3]

  - AdobeFnt.lst: I think that's the name of the symlink. Anyway, everyone's
    using Acrobat Reader, and this symlink bites the big fat hairy yucky
    thing to bite.

  - win: Some users are using Win4Lin, which defaults to putting Windows,
    and essentially your C: drive in ~/win/. Finding this on your desktop
    and playing with it is 'BAD'. It would have been really cool to point
    the Win4Lin desktop ("C:\Windows\Desktop") to the Nautilus desktop, but
    Windows puts ugly crap in there, so we didn't.

  - .gnome-desktop: How on earth are you meant to navigate to your desktop
    directory if it's a dotfile? That's the silliest thing ever. This
    decision, and the .nautilus-scripts one totally baffle me.

How did youe solve it?

  We used the default Nautilus setting and created immutable symlinks from
  Desktop to .gnome-desktop so users could find their desktop folder
  elsewhere [4]. The symlinks are checked and regenerated fairly regularly,

Did users do bad things in 'user testing'?

  Haha. "User testing". Okay, it wasn't very vigorous or scientific, but
  users did do dumb stuff, like deleting their Maildir and evolution
  directories, losing their desktop directory (.gnome-desktop), etc.


  I've loved $HOME as desktop, but right now I'm dogfooding the Desktop ->
  .gnome-desktop setup to see if it's the better way of doing things. I'll
  let you know what I find...

       ... and the sky was filled with what looked like... HUGE BATS!

- Jeff

[1] (Haw haw haw!)

[2] Context: I've been a very long time supporter of $HOME as desktop, since
the very early testing builds from Eazel. I linked the Desktop folder (we
used to have it instead of the abominable ~/.gnome-desktop directory) to
$HOME to see how it would work, and loved it.

[3] There's nothing quite as simple as user-level SMB shares, so this did
the trick. There was a central webdav dir of .desktop files for every user,
and directories for various groups too. This was all auto-generated by a
python script on the server that generated the indexes and the desktop files
from LDAP. Sweet. I'll see if I can release it. :-)

[4] "Elsewhere?" you ask? When users mount their H: drive in Windows, it
points to their home directory. General navigation issues in other software,
etc. Man, I so wish Acrobat Reader was GTK+ or GNOME-ised.

    Ye shall be cursed to fall in love so easily, and yet be so cold of     
                       heart as never to express it.                        

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