EDIT: Hello from the future! This post is part of the old blog. That means it may be deprecated. However, I deemed it valuable enough to keep around. The new blog starts here!
Beauty is not something we normally associate with software. Or at least that was the case until recently. There seems to have been in the recent years (or maybe even just months) a growing emphasis on "beauty" in the software world, but this beauty hasn't expanded everywhere... yet.
You have projects like LightTable or requests (or any of Kenneth Reitz's projects for that matter). You have languages like Ruby or Python (and their subsequent impact on other languages). You have tools like Sublime Text 2 (it's more than beautiful, it's sublime!) and oh-my-zsh. You have more and more blog posts and/or thought devoted to the subject.
(Don't worry. I won't follow by "but what is beauty?". I mean come on, read Baudelaire or whatnot and find out for yourself.)
I actually think this emphasis is a good thing. I really wish it's not just a fad but a new criterion for Good Software™.
What I want to get at though is a weird thing I noticed about all of that. It's not the binding thread or anything like that, but rather just something I've noticed. It seems, whether you are a Mac person or not, that Apple has fuelled this.
I think all the things I mentioned above are demoed on OSX machines. I am not a Mac person myself so I don't think I have a bias regarding that. It simply seems like Apple emphasizes 'beauty'. The typography, the colors, the performance, the look, the applications - just look at this, it looks nice. Everything seems to just strive to be beautiful.
I know there are a lot of reasons behind why Apple is this way or why it is in great part perceived this way. But I am not here to talk about them really. I want to talk about the OSes I actually use - Windows and Ubuntu.
Today I specifically want to look at Ubuntu.
Ubuntu is not exactly pretty. To be frank most Linux distributions are not pretty and prettiness was definitely not a priority in their conception. Again, I think this was true until very recently. Now there seems to be a desire to beautify Ubuntu. There is this wave of streamlining that Ubuntu is surfing on (with others like Google). Focus is on one graphical interface, on a continuously stable build, on a more unified user experience.
This has to improve even more though. Ubuntu is just as powerful a development platform as OSX. I want to see more videos showcasing a sleek app running on Ubuntu or another open-source platform instead of always seeing it run on OSX. If we want to see open-source grow and thrive it has to be compelling, even delightful.
Maybe some big-bearded people will scream heresy when mentioning the need to have beautiful application, but I am not saying to forgo usefulness and stability. There is probably a way to run shell regular expressions without stabbing your eyes out. I am pretty sure that would benefit us all. Also as seen in Kenneth Reitz's work, APIs themselves can be beautiful.
Incidentally I think the open-source nature of Ubuntu might hinder it a bit in this aspect. When issues like this are raised, the responses often treat the symptom and not the root cause: "Sure you can use colors in vim on your Debian server. You just have to edit these config files , but beware of the version of tool X you use because then you have to use tool Y or ..."
It's messy. It's not pretty. Let's try to make it a bit more beautiful.