A few months ago we ran a poll about the most important non-free Linux apps. We had over 8,000 votes in that poll and we consider the results pretty interesting. Interesting enough to push Linux’s market share if a distro capitalized on them?Right now, the users of the 3-5 most popular Linux distros have to either search the internet for guides like this one in order to get an idea how to install non-free software, or they have to figure out how to use the distro’s package management and how to enable certain repositories. In the case of Ubuntu also exists an easy-to-use utility that will download most of these apps for you and install them. But even in this case, the user must know of its existence and must know how to install it in the first place.
These are major hurdles for new users, even if they sound trivial to most tech-oriented OSNews readers. These hurdles contribute in a big way to some users who try Linux distros to go back to Windows running scared. This is an issue that at least the big-5 distros (Ubuntu, Fedora, SuSE, Debian, Mandrake) must provide an easy solution to. It is the time to do so!
And that easy solution must work in a similar way to this:
1. Via a GUI app found on the /Administration menu that lists the 10 most wanted proprietary applications and asks the user to check the boxes of the apps he wants to install. Show a license agreement that waives the distro off any legal problems and then download and install the requested software.
2. When a user tries to load an mp3 or a .wmv, have patched your multimedia apps (e.g. Sound Juicer, Rhythmbox, Banshee, XMMS, Totem) to inform the user why they can’t play these files and ask if he/she wants to download the codecs. If the user says “yes”, show the license agreement that waives the distro from any legal problems and download/install the requested software. If installing the MP3 codec, also install the required Gnome mp3 profile so users can actually rip in MP3 with Sound Juicer.
According to our poll and some good guessing, here is the list of software that distros must work towards easily installing them and make the lives of their NEW users easier. Because when the user goes over this hurdle — a major hurdle for most –, I believe that most users will actually STAY in the platform rather than running away after the 10-minute geek tour of “that thing called linux”. Give them one more reason to stay!
1. System software
– ATi drivers
– nVidia drivers
– WiFi drivers and firmwares
– Other popular drivers
– MS Fonts
2. Multimedia support
– Several libs
– MPlayer codecs
– Real Player
3. Macromedia Flash
4. Sun Java
5. VMWare Player
6. Adobe Acrobat Reader
9. Skype (and maybe the Gizmo client too)
10. Google Earth
I hope that at least Ubuntu is reading this. As I explained, having these packages scattered on their complicated package manager GUI app under a disabled repository, or the EasyUbuntu script that doesn’t come by default, is not good enough. This functionality must be “right in the face” of the user after installing the OS! Make the (newbie) user happy without putting the distro in a legal danger.