Re: [Usability] Screensaver and idle time

--- William Jon McCann <mccann jhu edu> wrote:

> Hi Joachim,
> Joachim Noreiko wrote:
> [snip]
> > This caused us a number of headaches in the UI
> review,
> > and the more I think about it, the more illogical
> it
> > seems, for a number of reasons.
> My recollection was that the difficulty in the
> review was related to:
>   1. This feature having a cross-module scope
>   2. The specific language to use for the label text
> (session and idle)
> By cross module scope I mean that this is one
> example of a different 
> kind of problem then we may be used to.  As the
> desktop becomes more 
> integrated it will become increasingly difficult to
> maintain preference 
> panels that are per-application. 

They may not be per-application, but they should still
be per-topic.

> For example,
> gnome-screensaver and 
> gnome-power-manager are two distinct modules with
> fairly well defined 
> roles at this point but the policy/preferences UI
> needs to become more 
> integrated.  Exactly how this integration will occur
> I don't know.

Agreed, and neither do I :)

> > Firstly, we couldn't work out a good way to label
> the
> > controls. That should be a red flag to begin with.
> > The order that springs to mind is:
> >  [*] Use the screensaver
> >    - start it after [-------] minutes
> >    - lock the screen
> > That's the way the user conceptualizes it: do I
> want
> > the saver or not? Supposing I do, how do I want
> it?
> > The current way is quite simply backwards, and the
> > logical way is not possible because of what the
> > controls actually do.
> Maybe.
> > Second, I am currently writing the docs for this.
> > What do I say about this slider?
> > "Use the slider to set the screensaver delay time.
> The
> > screensaver will" ... um, no, it won't!
> > "Use the slider to set the session idle time"...
> > meaningless jargon that users don't understand.
> > "Use the slider to set the computer idle time"...
> I
> > don't want my computer to be lazy!
> > "Use the slider to set the time that your computer
> > must be unused to count as "... to count as what?
> > Again, I am depending on jargon.
> Right, we haven't come up with a good way to
> describe this.  This is 
> partly due to the problem I described above in that
> this function is 
> scoped wider than just screensaver stuff.
> In the UI review we just gave up.  We probably
> should have tried harder 
> to get this right.  Sometimes there just isn't
> enough time to get it 
> perfect.
> Perhaps we could have used "desktop" instead of
> "session" and "inactive" 
> instead of "idle" to avoid *new* jargon.

I am wary that the word 'desktop' is already
overloaded. Writing the UG, it's been hard to
differentiate between:
- desktop the thing at the back of the screen
- desktop the universe
- and the Desktop menu

> Or perhaps if we had this slider in the same dialog
> as the 
> gnome-power-manager screen and computer suspend
> sliders, and we don't 
> care to advertize a desktop wide idle/away setting
> we wouldn't have to 
> make the distinction that it is the baseline idle
> time at all.

That would be a more logical place to define idle
But I'm not sure how users would feel about having to
open two pref tools to set up their screensaver.

> So, do we care to have an integrated desktop-wide
> idle setting?  I think 
> it is useful.  I'd like some other opinions on this
> though.  There are 
> lots of technical reasons why we'd want this which
> for the most part are 
> either presence/communication related or boil down
> to a contract with 
> the user that after this time applications should be
> free to do stuff 
> that might otherwise piss the user off (eg. run
> backups, rebuild 
> databases, etc).  But this is a usability list... So
> why might this be 
> nice for people to have.  Well, there would only be
> one place that 
> someone has to set this instead of in a screensaver,
> in a power-manager, 
> in a chat client, in ekiga, in a backup client, etc.
>  I think it also 
> makes the Desktop experience more personal in that
> it gets closer to 
> knowing what you think.  We already can detect
> presence by proximity 
> using bluetooth without using something as crude as
> a time slider bar. 
> However, until we can ask the user "Is there
> anything else I can help 
> you with for now?" we need to use a slider bar and
> try to detect the 
> human activity from input devices.  So, that time
> slider bar has to go 
> somewhere and it has to be described somehow.
> > If you can't explain something cleanly and simply,
> > then there is probably something wrong with it.
> Probably more accurate to say there may be something
> wrong with it.
> > The user opens the Screensaver prefs to do one
> thing:
> > set the screensaver properties. When the
> screensaver
> > starts, what it shows, and whether to lock the
> screen.
> > That's it.
> > We should not be overloading these settings with
> other
> > things.
> I agree.  This is partly due to the name of the menu
> entry, yes.
> > Thirdly, there is no logical reason to tie
> screensaver
> > activation to session idleness.
> > The user may want several things to happen when
> the
> > computer is unused. I can think of:
> > - mark IM as away
> > - show screensaver
> > - power down monitor
> > - hibernate
> I think we disagree here.  I think there is a clear
> reason for relating 
> screensaver activation and session/desktop idleness.
>  In fact, that has 
> always been the case.  Just because there may be
> other things that are 
> also interested in the session/desktop idleness
> doesn't mean that it 
> shouldn't be related to screensaver activation.

I don't think it's a two-way relationship.
If idle, then screensave.
But not always screensave then idle, as in my example.

> > The last two have to go together. But why tie the
> > others? 
> > If I set my monitor to power down after 10
> minutes,
> > and my screensaver to show after 15, then I won't
> get
> > to see it. Tough.
> No not tough - wrong.  Why on earth should we allow
> settings that are 
> meaningless?  That is super confusing.

We can tie them together somehow: warn the user when
they set the screensaver time too high that they won't
see it. (OS X does this by the way.)
Or grey out the far end of the slider, with a label
'The monitor is set to power down after x minutes
[Open Energy Saving prefs]'.

> > But the first two have no predefined order.
> > For example, suppose I run BOINC as a screensaver.
> I
> > want it to start early on, say 2 minutes. But I
> might
> > be in front of my PC reading paper documents while
> > that is happening. I want GAIM to be able to
> return me
> > to the desktop if one of my contacts comes online
> or
> > messages me, so I don't want GAIM to mark me as
> idle.
> I don't mean to insult you but I hardly think this
> is normal behavior. 
> Most people don't sit and watch screensavers. 

If people don't like to watch screensavers, why do we
have so many different ones? Why do people download
them and install them?

Anyway, that isn't quite what I said. This is the
scenario I had in mind:

- I am at my computer
- something from the real world distracts me: a
colleague, incoming post, a phone call
- my screensaver starts after a few minutes
- I am still sat in front of my computer. I want to be
contactable by IM, and I want GAIM to return me to the
desktop if I receive an IM.

My general point is that a number of things should
happen when the desktop becomes idle, and a
desktop-wide idle time is indeed a useful notion.
But users may want some of these things to happen
before that. Starting the screensaver is one of them.

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