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OS oversight

greasemonkey + windows XP + last.fm
  (+5, -3)
(+5, -3)
  [vote for,

I have been using computers for 20 years now, and the usability issue still seems undervalued. I propose a piece of software called 'Oversight' , which monitors your behaviour and some of the OS 'vital signs' like running processes, cpu usage and so on. Oversight will try to improve your user experience all the time by using modules - sort of like greasemonkey scripts for your OS. It will ask you before installing each module, and may notify you each time a module does it's thing with a gentle unique audio signal. FOR EXAMPLE -

example 1) you have installed some new toolbar for Internet explorer. after restarting, the "startup timer" module notifies you in a small baloon that startup time for IE has increased by 50% over the average for the past week. pressing the baloon presents you with options like uninstalling the toolbar, performing a system restore or ignoring.

example 2) classic problem: you double click the Photoshop icon on a 3 year-old computer. Photoshop starts to load, and you, the unknowledgable, wait 5 seconds and double-click again thinking the computer is 'not working'. On a regular computer this would lead to 2 instances loading at once. But "double-start" module uses information gathered by "startup timer" to make a gentle warning sound and suggests delaying the start of the new instance until resources have cleared. (this should work the same with buttons or any other unresponsive behavior that occurs when the cpu usage is high)

as the computer learns your behaviour it downloads more "recommended" modules using Last.fm's methods of community cross-recommendations, and suggests them to you before installing.

one of the premises of Oversight is that most common computer errors can be solved simply by Googling the error message...

example 4) your computer feels sluggish. suddenly the "process monitor" module notifies you that precess X is consuming 200% more memory than average, and requests permission to send the file CRC for analysis. you press OK, and after a few seconds you are notified that there was a bug in the new version of X (you have recently upgraded) , and this is a common problem. there is a patch available for this bug. you press OK, and the patch is downloaded and installed.

I envision this program running on seperate hardware like a 500mhz processor and 500mb of flash memory. this way it is impervious to crashes and viruses etc. its own OS would be a stripped-down linux version.this way system startup time can be also monitored.

by the way, check out "superfetch" functionality in vista, it is a quarter-baked version of this idea.

example 5) you have a bi-lingual windows installation. a common problem for users is typing web addreses (or other text) in the wrong language by mistake. there are a few utilities that can help. Oversight would detect a bilingual OS, and automatically download a module which scans your typing patterns for frequent corrections and non-vocabulary words. if found, it will suggest installing a recommended utility.

you may also "heart" the performance of a module if you think it did something useful (again , like web radio) or press "no!" if you are not satisfied with an automatic action.

supershnitzel, Nov 02 2008


       (-) I don't think it's realistic that these problems will coexist with software smart enough to diagnose them, but not to fix them. The problems are caused largely by complexity, and this is making things more complicated, not less.   

       So, to me, this belongs in the to the field of "software that magically fixes whatever mistake I last made, but not by actually solving the problem." We have quite a few of such attempts here.
jutta, Nov 02 2008

       using that logic you might say that Greasemonkey is a tool to magically fix whatever mistakes the web designer made. the reality is one size does not fit all. nerds , who spend more time at the computer, deserve a custom-fitted experience, just like motorists who like to tweak their car. On the other hand, my grandma would just like to read her email uninterrupted, and does not care about flexibility. she needs decisions to be made for her (no dialog boxes!), even if they're only right 95% of the time.
supershnitzel, Nov 02 2008

       I think i'd prefer the problem to be sorted out "already". It seems to me that this would add a feature. It's a bit like having a task running on the system which clears out the RAM to provide more space, but in doing so may start using virtual memory or cause other programs to do so. I think minimalism is better. Having extra messages might also make it harder to extract the salient information.
When i turned on a micro in the early 'eighties, it booted in a few seconds, partly because everything was in ROM, but nowadays you have to wait ages. That really should not have happened, and not to put too fine a point on it, it's just stupid.
nineteenthly, Nov 03 2008

       As fun as Greasemonkey is, I'm sure it falls under the intention of the quote (and here, I fail slightly, not being to remember the actual quote, nor who said it - but I think it might have been Douglas Adams. Anyway, will have to paraphrase here:) "You spend 10 hours fiddling about in order to automate something that would have taken 5 minutes do to naturally" - which is fine. But if you write a script that "sits" on top of someone else's software, then you can't be surprised when that software changes slightly, or is re engineered out of all recognition.   

       All that said, I do quite like the auto-Google idea - I've managed to make a living by essentially performing Google searches on obscure error codes, and then fiddling about in an uninformed manner until things start working again. What really amazed me this weekend, was that I was able to apply this in the field of plumbing, and fixed a rather annoying leak that had been bugging me for a few months now. OK, there wasn't an actual error code - but otherwise, the same thing. Anyway - yes, I don't see why, on error, your browser of choice spawns a new tab and runs a google search on the available information. And not just because it saves me a few button clicks, but because it encourages people to post their solutions to issues/problems they have. That being said, BBs are only as good as the people who post to them.
zen_tom, Nov 03 2008

       [19thly], If you want speed you'll have to pay for it. Take a look at SSD hard drives.
Spacecoyote, Nov 03 2008

       What i need is a properly supported old O/S with properly supported old applications running on new hardware, or possibly an embedded O/S. I don't have to go as far back as the 'eighties for a reliable computer, just a decade back when i was running Janus and DOS on a computer manufactured five years previously, which was utterly solid and reliable and didn't crash once from the day i bought it until the day i reformatted the hard drive and installed Linux six years later.
nineteenthly, Nov 03 2008

       I vote we bring back DOS.
MikeD, Nov 03 2008

       I didn't like DOS. I think of it as a rip-off of CP/M. VMS was OK and at the time i was overawed by CP/M, but i was a teenager then. Unix is OK, but more because it's a standard than for any other reason.
nineteenthly, Nov 03 2008

       I'm afraid that such a program would be kept so busy Narking on bloated and defective programs that would itself become bloated and acquire neuroses eventually retreating into the registry occasionally busting forth with a bunch of error messages relating to the end of the world or commit suicide.
WcW, Nov 03 2008

       Troubleshooting problems is an art not a science, whether the problem is mechanical, electronic, logical or social as [Zen] would attest to. Many times having more information just confuses the issue.
theGem, Nov 03 2008

       [19thly], try FreeBSD or if you want to go the DOS angle, FreeDOS and OpenGEM.
Spacecoyote, Nov 03 2008

       The program could have the right to automatically charge a credit card a small sum for identifying and maybe fixing the problem. It would make a gentle warning sound when this occurred, like "mmm-mmm."
bungston, Nov 03 2008

       I've used FreeDOS but not FreeBSD. I have driver phobia.
nineteenthly, Nov 03 2008


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