Linked by Adam S on Wed 30th Apr 2003 07:26 UTC
Linux Lately, we've all read a lot of articles about desktop Linux - so many that it's getting hard to tell them apart. One says "Why Linux Sucks," the next "My Success With Linux." Even Michael Robertson of joined the fun with his "Why Desktop Linux Sucks, Today." But very few people have proposed anything radical, and I believe that's what's needed to take GNU/Linux to the next level.
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Some comments
by Quag7 on Tue 29th Apr 2003 19:20 UTC

I do like the idea of overhauling installers. What would be nice to have an installer with some of the defaults the author mentions. Most installers do this to some degree, but not to the level of granularity I'd like.

I'd like to see stage-based installation which would have reasonable defaults for DE (I think KDE is a better choice for a default - and this is coming from a Gnome user), editor (nano), standard partitioning.

But I'd like to see the following on *each page* of the installer:

Button: More information - what is all of this?
Button: Install default / beginner
Button: Advanced configuration - GUI
Button: Adanced configuration - Command line

I think an ideal distribution could reasonably cover the entire range of installation possibilities, from something simple like Mandrake's install, to something very granular like Gentoo's. Most installers I've seen give you the Beginner-Advanced-Custom option at the beginning, and this affects the entire install process. I think it makes more sense to do it per page - on the partitioning page, the software install page, and so forth. The idea here is that nothing is forced on the user if they don't want it, but they can get a totally brainless, automatic install if they want, or mix and match. I imagine mixing and matching "skill levels" would be quite popular, depending on your level of expertise. Never should control, however, be taken away from those who want it. This is one of the things I absolutely hate about Windows.

Also, I really think all distributions ought to use something like portage, ports, or apt-get. I really think this is the best way to handle dependency issues rather than clogging up a hard drive with unneeded libraries. It would be nice to see two standards emerge that all vendors would emulate (they could additionally build their own packaging systems but it would be nice to see a standard) - one for installing precompiled packages with dependency resolution, and one for downloading and compiling source. (This is complicated of course because of different directory layouts and the like, but you could have a distro-specific configuration file which would tell the package system what dirs are where).

Even though these systems are not perfect, they are so drastically better than dealing with RPMs that I really would like to just see RPMs done away with completely. I can't even imagine using a distro that I had to mess around with dependencies and the like, after using distros like Debian. In my opinion, the lack of decent package management is the #1 problem with most distros, and this problem *has been solved*, it's just a matter of other distros adopting it and coming up with a standard. I am prejudiced toward Gentoo's system, but this should be discussed and debated, in terms of an overall standard.

Second, I'd like to see a developer project dedicated to fixing *dumb inconsistencies* in DEs - one perhaps independent of the KDE and Gnome projects, that has an interest in integrating things. The continuing inconsistencies of things like cut and paste ("clipboard") is intolerable. I'd do this myself if I knew my ass from my elbow in terms of code. I sense that these things aren't very interesting to developers (which I understand). It's dirty, tedious work, though, that has to be done.

A personal peeve is font handling, which seems needlessly complicated, in terms of making anti-aliasing work properly (which I have had problems with using multiple how-tos, on different distros. Maybe I just have bad luck or am incurably stupid), and dealing with different kinds of fonts. One big problem is I have absolutely no interest in understanding how fonts work; I just want my screen to be readable. ttmkfdir, mkfontdir, adding paths to the XFree configuration, setting environment variables (as with Gnome) to turn anti-aliasing on, etc. is just irritating to me. I'd obviously like to keep all of this in a format where people can still granularly tweak things and set things up, and as allergic as I am to automation and GUIs for configuration, this would be the one exception, and I'd like it to be standard across all DEs. (I know GUIs exist now for this - I seem to remember KDE has one, but I'd like to see this standardized across DEs).

As for offering a variety of apps, no problem doing this but only if the user selects an "Advanced" or "Custom" install option. For beginners, the easiest and most popular set should be installed.

Now as for getting people to use Linux. My theory is that the single greatest factor that would contribute to this cause is Microsoft coming up with a licensing scheme that completely eliminates piracy. I've noticed that quite a few people I know simply pirate Windows. If everyone had to lay cash down for it - especially something like a yearly fee - I think we'd see a pretty significant migration of people to free operating systems. I'm not saying I hope this happens, but if it does, I think this will drive people to Linux and the BSDs.

There will always be a segment of the population who will not use Linux no matter how good you make it, how Windows-like you try to make it, or how much you cater to their every whim. Just as there are people who have made Linux advocacy a religion, there are tribes of very bitter people who have made bashing it a life-mission. I'm not sure anyone should care about catering to them. If people want to pay money for Windows, that's up to them. As a matter of fact, I'm not sure I care about Windows, or Windows users at all, anymore. I'm not sure the energy spent on winning hearts and minds is worth it. If we're all using Linux because it's so great, why should we care? I really don't. I advocate Linux to people I know who would benefit from it and enjoy it and be turned on by it, but not universally. A lot of the things people want to make Linux do (be more Windows like) is not in my personal interest, and I wonder how much it's in the interests of any Linux user, or if it's of any interest to most developers (I doubt it). It's gotten to a point where installing Linux is easy enough that people who still complain are probably never going to be happy, and probably wouldn't significantly benefit from using Linux. I really don't like Windows, but it seems to work for a certain segment of the world.

As I watch the development and user community, it is becoming increasingly obvious that winning over Windows users is not relevant to the success of Linux. I wonder what kind of music fans people are who are always harping on market share. I listen to what I like, regardless of how many other people like it.

I take a similar attitude toward my OS.

I think we should mainly focus on making Linux better for Linux users.