14 December 2007

Open Source's Big Opportunity has a Tiny Problem

I've been extolling the virtues of the Asus EEE PC and its ilk as exemplars of an important new class of computers; but Jono Bacon has spotted a problem:

One of the distinctive traits of EEE PC, and many other sub-notebook, MID and smaller computing devices, is that they run with a smaller screen resolution than typical desktop machines. I am pretty sure that most desktop machines that people are running Linux on will be running on a minimum of 1024×768, and likely a higher resolution. One of the things that I have noticed in recent years is that an increasing number of Open Source applications look terrible on lower resolutions.

Fortunately, it's readily solvable:

We need better testing, bug-reports being filed, and users actively checking and ensuring that software works well in lower resolutions. I also believe it forces us all into a world of more intelligent, usable design - hugely tall windows crammed with a million preferences or super-thick toolbars are not usable interfaces. One could infer that having to be conscious of lower resolutions will make us think more about the usability of our applications and ensure we don’t cram a million-and-one buttons into a window.

Amen to that.

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