Why do it? I am asked this question more often than I expected, even by existing Linux users who I expected to know as well as I the reasons for building a next-generation desktop Linux for the home user. So here are some of my reasons for thinking that we must spend the effort to create a better desktop on Linux than any existing version now has. Editor’s Note: Due to a technical glitch, the first segment of this article was ommitted for some readers. If you missed the “why” section, before, you can read it now.
- Microsoft has a virtual monopoly in the desktop operating system market and has famously abused that advantage. I don’t think paying $150-200 (US) for an operating system upgrade every couple of years or paying an effective “tax” on the purchase of a new computer to buy the operating system to go with it is acceptable. Especially when the available alternative needs only a little work to be just as valuable to the home user.
- The security and stability of Windows have been less than what we want for the mass of home machines currently connected to the Internet. Any time a large number of PCs can be attacked and potentially taken over, they represent a huge distributed denial of service (DDOS) weapon. Currently Windows is a vulnerable target which updates slowly. Linux is a harder target and can be made even more so to better protect not only the home user but also other users and businesses from those machines being taken over and used as a weapon.
- If you are already a Linux user, you want to attract the body of commercial software vendors to develop for your platform and developers follow the platform with the users. If you are a Linux user, why would you not want access to the tens of thousands of software packages available to Windows users now (i.e. Adobe Photoshop, games like Morrowind and Battlefield 1942, KidPix, and QuickBooks Pro)?
- In reality, the differences between the capabilities of the latest versions of Linux and Windows XP are far, far less than their similarities. A couple of years worth of work, if it is focused in the right areas, could close the gap and give users more choices.
- The cost of the operating system is an additional barrier to the availability of machines to low income people. Every small amount that can be removed from the overall price makes it available to more who could benefit from having a computer. Also, older machines are often still perfectly useful for many purposes but they need up-to-date operating systems rather than the aging copies of Windows 95 or 98 that came with the hardware. If the updated operating system is free and appeals to end users, that hardware becomes more appealing because it doesn’t require an investment of additional cash to bring it up to date.
- It upsets me to even have to address these issues but they are definitely out there. Some of the Linux population is composed of people who are simply bigoted and selfish. These two excerpts from online discussions about a tool to ease Linux configuration say a lot:
Make it easy for lazy people? Nahhh!
Use FreeBSD as an example and take it from there. This is for people who know the insides of their systems and not for superficial types who just want a slam-bang-thank-you-ma’am OS. FreeBSD requires a “relationship”, a commitment, and not just a one night stand. This is not for lazy asses. The market wants people who know what they are doing, not people who know how to use a GUI. If you want dancing clips, Einstein and doggies, stick to XP! Guess that’s what all the envy is about.
Ok, this is justified elitism if you ask me.
Ever since the lamers have come to discover us Linux/BSD users having fun in the corner, there have been many attempts to send our communities down the drain. I learned how to use Linux and BSD, the MAIN APPEAL of these operating systems is that they are 100% customizable! That includes the implications that MY SYSTEM IS MINE, and very little like the next guys! So, I had to adapt to this philosophy so can YOU! Don’t tell a thirty year old technology it needs to change because all of your loser buddies coming from windows do not realize if you bring over that crap from Windows, then Linux WILL no longer be better than Microsoft Windows!! You people are just stupid, and pissed that you cannot understand the material so you and some of your MCSE buddies or your lame CS degree figures you have clout in this market arena and start throwing ideas to corrupt a working system. Why the hell [from one of the BSD mailing lists] FreeBSD/OpenBSD needs a GUI based installer would be totally degrading the quality and functionality of the current installer. Some friggin newbie was crying because RedHat had a GNOME installer and some flavour of BSD didn’t. The GUI, ease of use does not, never has and never will equate to “better” or “advanced”. The functionality of the working code is what constitutes what is better. Not “How stupid a person can be, and still use this device”. Frankly, I don’t give a damn about the stupid people, you all can rot in hell and suffer the restraints of Microsoft Windows for all I care. Don’t come here dragging your Microsoft problems with you, remember why you converted in the first place.
These two geniuses are referring to making a system easier to use for technical users, we didn’t get to hear their open-minded opinions about how making Linux easier to use for non-technical users would eternally destroy it but I can assure you that they (and others like them) believe that very thing. Making Linux more accessible has not destroyed it yet and it’s not going to. It started out as a better operating system and it’s going to stay better, the addition of additional layers of GUI which can be turned off or never installed in the first place for power users doesn’t damage Linux. On the other hand, if your only goal is to make sure that Linux stays a private club and you don’t want “just anybody” to be able to be a member, you don’t want to hear my opinion of your motives.
The how is covered in dozens of points below. They cover areas of Linux that need lots of work to meet the needs of both new computer users and existing computer users who are only new to Linux. They also cover ways to better think about the task in order to get better results than what we have in the existing distributions which are all variations on a theme: KDE and GNOME on top of the Linux kernel w/ various GNU tools included in the package (though unlikely to be run by the typical home user).
Realize that the operating system is not a goal unto itself.
Users have programs they want to run and the operating system is nothing more than a means to an end. Other portions of the OS may support activities that the user will perform outside of any application (e.g. setting sound volume or backing up files) but these activities are still only conducted to facilitate the main goal of running their programs.
Corollary: The user does not care what operating system they run as long as it runs the applications they want to run. All other things being equal they will and should make choices based on support, price, ease of use, etc.
apt-get and rpm are not installation systems for real world software.
Uninstall needs to be easy and natural.
Guessing about what packages are needed is not helpful. Most people see a given piece of software as a unity. If it has options, they expect the installation software to explain those options and offer installation choices.
End users should not have to pick between more than 70 different distributions in order to know what to install.
There should be basically be Main Street (home desktop), Wall Street (business desktop), and Server distributions. Since it is completely impractical to force companies, groups, and even individuals to stop churning out new distributions as quickly as they can beg a cute logo out of a friend, these could each be like the Linux Standard Base (LSB) is now. Each one would be a complete set of minimal requirements. A set of applications, menu items, directory layouts, etc. that are specified quite rigorously. Distributions could enhance from there in specific areas that are already set aside for areas of improvement and innovation without confusing a new user who just wants to buy “Linux For Dummies” and sit down with his new “Linux” machine to start using it. If the user knows it’s a distribution based on “Main Street” he/she can count on finding certain things in certain places and being able to get started with minimal pain.
Unified base requirements could get a lot of distributions to consider the idea of joining together just as United Linux is doing now. You can say what you like about the motives behind United Linux but they are going to have advantages by doing security patches and upgrades only once (already a difficult thing to keep track of). After all, isn’t that what we all got by having GNU do the utilities for us and Linus build the Linux kernel? There was a base we could build on to get something that was actually useful. Let’s extend that base.
Basic system functions and settings should be a substrate supported by both KDE and Gnome (as well as any other GUIs that might come along).
That includes but is not limited to:
- The menu items on the “Start” menu
- File extension/application associations
- Mime type associations
- Clipboard handling
- Control panel items
- Event sounds
- A way to display notification icons in the “system tray” and associate actions taken on them with actions in programs
- Registration of keyboard shortcuts that cut across all applications (i.e. Ctrl+Shift+I means “get the next instant message” no matter what application I happen to be running at that moment)
- A standardized notification mechanism the user can set up to connect to email, IM, etc.
- Standardized themes (both visual and audio)
- Drag and drop of file names and data that would otherwise be directed through the clipboard (i.e. as an alternate mechanism to the clipboard)
- A shared “trash can” where deleted files are placed. It should also have a shared mechanism for specifying where the deleted files came from and where they should be restored to if the user desires to do so.
- Program install/uninstall
All of the above must be documented and ideally available via APIs so that the desktops use them as well as install programs and languages like Perl, Python, and Java can make use of the functions to more fully integrate themselves into whatever GUI environment they are run under.
If the configuration method for a piece of software is “find this configuration file and edit it” then it might as well not have options.
Most users just won’t do it or couldn’t do it properly if they tried.
Whether it really is or not, the shell prompt is going to be viewed as evil by the vast majority of users. Many did not use MS-DOS and if they did, did not enjoy the experience. At this point you are better off avoiding it any way you can.
That doesn’t mean it has to be removed, just deprecated. Power users (and all users become power users given long enough) can start to make use of the power of the command line eventually.
Don’t let a program suffer from sprawl if you don’t have to.
Ask yourself if the application you are creating really needs items copied to multiple directories, followed by editing multiple files, followed by running multiple configuration programs.
A perfect example of this is configuration of a desktop Linux system. On Mandrake I have a configuration program that comes from Mandrake that lets me set up many things. But then there’s another one for KDE or GNOME (whichever I happen to be running) and amazingly neither of them really covers all the configuration I expect to be covered.
Pretty does count.
If you think it doesn’t look at people’s general distaste for all things Unix/Linux and their current love for the Mac OS X. The Mac OS is BSD with a pretty face. What we are shooting for, what we must shoot for, is Linux with a pretty face and not owned by just one company.
Corrolary: That means all fonts have to be anti-aliased. I hope that’s not a news bulletin, but the time for any other option is over.
Jargon is our enemy.
Look at what you are writing. Think about anything the end-user may see. If it talks about computer languages, operating system parts, or tools that were originally intended for sys admins or developers then it may as well be a collection of random words stuck into the sentences like MadLibs.
Here is an actual example of a screen I was presented with when I installed Gnome on a machine running Debian Linux. Keep in mind that while I have virtually no experience with Linux, I am a professional software developer and have been doing PC development under Windows and DOS since 1987. I still had to read it a couple of times to get the gist of what it was telling me.
If you actually know what defoma, libpango, a symbolic link, and dpkg-reconfigure are, award yourself some special gold stars. Either way, pretend you don’t (substituting the words lumptylump for defoma, ruppa for pango, and uwig for dkpg might help) and re-read that screen. It’s one of the purest, most unadorned examples of stupid nonsense I’ve ever been treated to, and it is exactly what you cannot thrust in a user’s face.
Games are more important than you realize.
MS-DOS hung on much longer than expected (including Microsoft’s expectations). One of the reasons for that was games stayed on MS-DOS. After DirectX was organized and it conformed to the needs of developers (rather than some of Microsoft’s earlier attempts which largely conformed to the needs of Microsoft) it began the move of games to Windows. Users came with it.
If there is anything the SDL and OpenGL do not do or do not do well, let’s make sure they do it. There needs to be a major program underway to make it easy to have Linux be a painless platform to develop for at the same time the Windows version of a game is being built.
If Linux does not support the hardware they want, users will not support Linux.
That means all hardware. Scanners, printers, joysticks and other gaming devices, video cards (esp. those with 3d capabilities), USB, USB 2.0, Firewire, digital capture cards, web cameras, keyboards (including those ones with all the extra buttons for media control, etc.), digital cameras, pen tablets, mice, etc., etc., etc.
The peripherals all exist, again not because having them is a goal unto itself, but because they facilitate running some program the user actually cares about.
Hardware manufacturers cannot support an operating system if they cannot be sure what they have to support. That’s why sound, printing, etc. all need driver standards they can work with and for those standards to be completely adopted so they can be sure that implementing one and only one driver will get them support for all Linux distributions.
Linux sound support is unacceptably fragmented.
Every program should be able to use the sound playback device as though it were the only application attempting to use it. The results of that should be mixed between all inputs.
There should be no other option. The idea that starting up a sound server is something optional is insane. You have to have one, it’s as basic as having X to arbitrate the use of the screen.
The plethora of sound solutions should disappear. There has to be one final arbiter of sound for all applications that need to use it. If there is a leading solution now, we should adopt it and add in anything it is missing from some of the secondary systems. That means that the next version of XMMS or KDE doesn’t support aRts, eSound, and OSS. Nor do they each pick just one separately. This only works if only one is picked and everybody agrees on which one it is.
Ask yourself, “What brand should a Linux desktop show?”
This is a question that was raised recently by RedHat as they attempted to unify the two most popular Linux desktops (KDE and GNOME) so they would look and behave more alike.
BTW, the answer is… Linux. The brand of the operating system that the user is running and identifies with. “I am a Linux user.” “I have Linux on my machine at home.” “Does this program run on my computer? I run Linux.”
Note: I didn’t say KDE, GNOME, or the name of any distributions like RedHat or Mandrake. The brand that the user needs to identify with is Linux, don’t confuse him by making it anything else. If you aren’t comfortable with the penguin as a mascot, avoid him and just focus on the name or things which are task centric rather than brand specific. For example, the KDE desktop does not need a little K with a gear behind it on their desktop menu. Something more appropriate would be “Start” (ala Windows), “Programs”, or even “Linux”.
Is any Linux distribution you have ever run set up to help a true beginning user? That is, one who has taken home his/her first computer and the white box shop he/she purchased it from slapped a Linux distribution on there because it was free and they could include a complete set of discs and promise free productivity software like OpenOffice.
Ever sat down to think about what a computer experience needs to be for a user like that? For one thing, the computer has to ask a lot of questions and do so in simple words that anyone with a grade school education can understand. For example, when I stick an audio CD into my machine for the first time how should a home edition of Linux behave? My belief is that it should ask the user whether he/she wants to play the CD or pull the music off of the CD to be played later. Likewise, in a home environment I think “My Music”, “My Pictures”, “My Documents”, etc. should be prominent right on the desktop for the user to find.
Remember that beginning users are more comfortable learning one way to do any given thing, whether it is ripping a CD or closing a program. They can learn more than that as they become a power user but you also have to remember that the power user of the word processor isn’t automatically a power user for downloading pictures off of a camera. If wizards and other helpers come up frequently and can be turned off individually and at the user’s discretion, the user can set his/her own pace for learning his way through new applications and new uses of the computer.
Corollary: Don’t be afraid to be aggressive in your use of wizards and help. The power user can turn it off easily enough.
Users often think in terms of tasks rather than software. They want to “share their files”, not configure Samba. They want to “get the pictures off of the digital camera”, not run gphoto. So menus and user desktops need to cater to helping the beginning user find what he needs to accomplish a given task.
Because users don’t stay beginning users forever, put a simple splash screen at the beginning of all your GUIs that says the name of the application and its version. Then people can begin to make the association for themselves that they use program X to perform task Y. Then they can graduate to just running the program when they are ready to do so.
Put some thought into the programs you choose to build. Do we need another text editor? No. That category is collapsing under its own weight. Build something that does what iMovie does on a Mac or something that tells a user what the weather, news, and sports scores are every morning. Just pick something different that covers some of those tasks that aren’t already well covered.
Create a list of tasks you think people want to perform and run it by the real users you know. Ask Grandma, Grampa, little Timmy, anybody you can think of who doesn’t even know what the words Perl, compiler, or even Linux mean, what they want to use a computer for. Then start making it easy for them to do those things.
Here’s a starter list I’ve been compiling for you to start with. A poll that asked real end users to rank all these in terms of importance would tell you a lot. They could also add write in candidates that would probably quickly identify another 20 or so worthy of being on the list.
- Visio-like Diagram Editing
- Weblog/Simple Website Editing
- HTML Editing
- Download Photos, Scan Them, and Maintain Photo Albums
- Listen To Audio CDs
- Rip Music Off Of Audio CDs
- MP3/Ogg/Wav/etc. Playback
- CD/Audio CD/VCD/SVCD Burning
- Word Processing
- Browse The Internet
- Personal Finances (ala Quicken)
- Perform Simple Photo Editing
- Make Greeting Cards And Other Personal Printing Projects (ala PrintShop)
- Instant Message
- Watch Videos
- Watch DVDs
- Download Music And Other Files
- Personal Information Management (Addresses, Calendar, Tasks, etc.)
- View Pictures
- Compress/Uncompress Files
- Protect Their Machine (Personal Firewall/Anti-Virus)
The idea is for a firewall that is as simple to use as ZoneAlarm on the PC and some simple software capable of scanning executables and incoming mail.
On that subject, there is a fascinating myth running around that Linux is immune to viruses. It isn’t. It definitely hasn’t been targeted heavily so far and it has the ability to better protect the user from them (i.e. a virus might nuke all of an individual user’s data but the system would still boot and run and other users of the same machine would have their data protected). But if you think users aren’t going to click on executable files that are mailed to them by total strangers then you don’t get out enough. Like touching the frozen pole with their tongue to see if it tastes like chocolate, some users do it now, and some will always do it, even when you’ve told them not to and they should know better.
- Run A Webcam
- Tax Preparation
- Keep Track Of Recipes
- Keep Track Of Collections (Baseball Cards/Comics/Beanie Babies/etc.)
- Share a Printer
- Share Files
- Clip Art/Fonts
This is not an actual task but it is a good point. My wife pointed out that most people use whatever came with Office or PrintShop or whatever they use. If we have a few discs of royalty free material they can use that can be bundled with a distribution it is just one more thing taken care of for typical end users.
Users are going to have a lot of questions about Linux. Are you prepared to answer all the common ones? Do you have a resource you could turn to that has short simple jargon-free answers to Linux questions like these?
- Can I run all my programs and games on it?
- What is an operating system?
- How is Linux any different from Windows?
- Isn’t Windows (or Microsoft) the best?
- Can I try it out?
- If it’s free, it can’t be any good, can it?
- Who is going to help me when I have problems?
If you aren’t sure if it’s easy. TEST IT!
Actually stick it in a naive user’s hands and watch them use it. Do so silently and record the results. Resist the urge to yank their hands from the keyboard to fire up a console. Let them flounder and figure out how to fix it so they don’t flounder next time.
The audience that could most benefit from Linux in the long run is not going to seek out Linux to install it.
They are the users who limp along with the same OS for years on end because it came with their computer. They do not upgrade when a new version of Windows ships, they get a new version when they buy a new computer.
That means that one of your targets has got to be the white box vendors. Walmart is already heading down this path but every Tom, Dick, and Harry who sells PCs needs to be sold on why burning 50 cents worth of CDs will give them something better to give the customer than nothing or Windows.
The same goes for the “computer guys” that set up the computers for half the population. If you are one of these next door neighbors or family members or friends who does this, you have to be sold yourself that putting Linux on the machine is going to be a better choice than pirating some Windows OS for them or making them go buy a license for it.
If part of your audience is going to be computer users who get a new machine home and it already has Linux pre-installed, there needs to be two versions of the software installation available in the distribution. One for a complete install, and one that installs most everything and holds back on final configuration of things like the network and printers until it is sitting in its new owner’s home.
During my years at Tandy a lot of time was spent on the out-of-the-box (OOTB) experience. We had the software ask special questions the first time it was run, go through tutorials, and teach people about the software that had come with their new machine. Why should a Linux OOTB experience be any less than a Windows one?
Linux installations should be pared to the necessary and sufficient to accomplish end-user tasks.
The typical end user does not require seven or eight different text file editors. One for editing plain text files and a word processor do the job just fine. This requires choices and picking winners and losers in various categories. This flies in the face of much of the Linux wisdom but it’s really the only way for an end user to get started.
Having more discs than Windows doesn’t make you win. Having better software that is better organized, covers more of the end user’s needs, and which is easier to use will win.
Corollary: Too often open source projects are fixing the same problem 50 different ways while ignoring other, equally important, problems.
Basic system administration should be made automatic and assumed for the user.
By that I mean that good habits like automatic backup should be set up by default and the user prompted only for his/her participation in swapping CDs or floppies. System updates for security should be automatic and only require basic approval.
Linux needs to be the first, but not the last, to support a system wide lingua franca of functionality that can be used by any language running on the platform.
XML-RPC, SOAP, whatever, it isn’t important. But what is important is that a Perl application can add itself to the menu whether it is running under either KDE or Gnome and have its application run. The same should be true for a shell script or a Java program. In any of these cases it is important to have the ability to integrate a program written in any language to the level of functionality that is typically only enjoyed fully by C and C++.
Doing so will enlarge the pool of developers and ease the creation of a better version of Linux for the home user. After all, many of the wizards, introductory lessons, etc. that I described in previous entries could be done just as well by developers who are more comfortable in scripting languages rather than C++. That means they’ll not only get done, they will get incrementally improved by people who might be daunted at pulling the latest version of a major application out of CVS to improve it, but who wouldn’t think twice about completely rewriting a script and submitting the updated version.
In conclusion, Linux has come a long way toward being a viable desktop OS for the average user, and the path to taking it the rest of the way is clear. The decentralized nature of the Linux community is an obstacle to achieving that aim, as is the pride of the average Linux developer. A concerted effort to try to understand and serve the beginning computer user will be necessary, as will be a subjugation of tribal allegiance to a particular distribution, desktop environment, text editor, or programming language, with all their associated quirks and differences. The key is beginning that “virtuous cycle” wherein users are attracted to the platform, which in turn attracts developers, which then clears the way to attract more users, and so on. Only as far as that cycle continues will Linux be a viable replacement for Windows on the home desktop.
About the Author
John Munsch is a software designer/developer with 15 years experience in the industry. He is currently working for a pharmacy software company and on his various projects (including some open source) that can be found through his
website at www.JohnMunsch.com.
good article from someone who knows what Average Joe wants. Now the question is, who’s gonna deliver it?
With Linux, I’m not holding my breath. There’s just too much ‘baggage’, and I’m not even sure it will ever find itself on the desktops of the masses, or even if it needs to. In fact, I’d put my money on a BeOS-derived resurrection before anything of substance actually occurs in the Linux camps regarding a truly ‘newbie’ Windows desktop alternative.
You can read all “how?” stuff but unless you click “View Entire Article” you may not know why I think it is important.
So if you question why I wrote this in the first place, you might click that link to see if any of my “why?” points sways your opinion at all.
Correct me if I’m wrong here. Isn’t the next Linux kernel (2.6) including ALSA support by default? There is a backward compatibility layer that makes OSS programs work with ALSA. Currently Linux sound can be pretty hard to configure (especially with some cheap on board sound). My hope and expectation is that ALSA support will improve once it is the standard.
I could no agree more with the author. My father is an oem, and would live to include linux as an option. But the mentioned short comings in the article are true (mostly). Lindows does a good job — but needs more work.
John, I read the entire article. I understand your reasons, but there are alternatives to Linux that I reckon will get there before any real action happens on the Linux desktop front. What makes me think that? The snail’s pace development of a truly usable Linux desktop for the masses.
They’ve been talking about it for so long (years), promising so much, saying that it’s here, and yet…
I agree that for basic home/newbie users, a pretty interface is necessary but unlike your assertion, KDE, Gnome, whatever, don’t all need to have a Start/Programs/Linux button, the window managers should be allowed flexibility. Ford, GM, Chrysler, etc don’t all have the same symbols for functions, neither are the buttons in the same location but yet people still figure out how to put the car in gear, turn on the lights, change the radio volume, etc.
What makes me think that? The snail’s pace development of a truly usable Linux desktop for the masses.
This is not true. In the last 2 or so years, a lot of improvements have been made. The pace of development has been amazingly fast, if anything. A whole lot of stuff still remains to be done, and I am sure that they will be addressed sooner than later.
Oh, the author forgot to mention compatibility with Windows Networks. Most businesses aren’t likely or even able to replace their windows desktops all at once. Most would probably do a pilot project. Being able to integrate seemlessly into Windows networks is going to be important.
Who the hell are you and what are you doing on OSNews trolling about what Linux should look like?
Ok, that was a bit harsh. I’m planting my money in and around Zeta for the time being – a much nicer desktop OS shall grow from there than Linux could ever become.
Great article, it really shows why linux has not succeeded on the desktop, and it made me realize how it is a 100 miles from doing it aswell. Technical superiority is not enough, and when you see how much of what is needed to succeed, that has been acomplished in the last two year(almost nothing!) it makes me loose hope in linux…..
I’m a heavy user of multiple OS’s. You name it, I either work with it or run it at work or home. Even still, I stick to things that are easy. Distros that are easy to install, customize, and most importantly ‘meet my task needs’ are what I go with. I couldn’t agree more that Linux needs better direction if it is ever to have mainstream use.
I loaded up XP for my parents last year. They have successfully:
1) Played music and ripped MP3’s.
2) Installed a printer.
3) Attached a digital camera and printed photos.
4) Got on the internet and successfully used multiple internet apps.
5) Installed and used multiple apps, and some games.
The point here isn’t to praise my parents, it’s to point out that I would never in my right mind have loaded ANY linux distro for them expecting those items above to have happened. I think it coins a new term …
“Linux … it’s not your parents operating system.”
The blessing of Linux is there are multiple ways of getting things done, from word processing to window managers. This is also a curse. When I spent two weeks using my Linux box while my Mac was in the shop and was I daunted by the bazillion choices I had and the general fustration of sound configuration (Note: I Love Linux).
I disagree with a Windows centric UI tho I understand the motivation behind it. Making things simpler mis alwaysa good idea. Let there be options for power users they can turn on.
I think Linux needs a UI that says “I’m Linux” rather than a Windows knockoff. If build simplicity in for a new user then the rest will follow.
It is all well and good if the clueless newbies want to stupify their systems. But all this talk of Grand Unified This and That scares me. The idea of having only a few distributions is just dumb, frankly. I happen to use a very obscure distribution, and that is fine. It is how I like it. I don’t care if it isn’t ‘friendly’, though others might, in which case they can pick another distribution. The choice of text editor is purely a matter of persional preference. Why limit users to whatever choice the distro cabal happens to prefer? By elemenating choices, you defete much of the point!
It seems that you want to keep the new user ever in the state of newness. This is a bad strategy. Let us face it: The computer is a complex device. The user should not be expected to use it without a little knowledge and intellegence. You don’t expect anyone to be able to drive a car with no training, nor do you want to elimitate all but one or two kinds of cars so that people will not be confused by the choice. Why then do you do this with computers, which are much more complex than cars? Let the user learn. Make the user learn. He will be happier and more productive in the end. And whatever you do, don’t try to standardize to the extent that you force whatever Joe wants on everybody else.
linux_baby, I disagree with your assessment. Though I think a lot has been done in the past few years (though not nearly enough), there are huge barriers, virtually all of which were addressed in the article. I don’t see a third of those suggestions/recommendations being tackled in the next 5 years, to be honest with you.
David, I partly agree with you. If one takes the time to learn about his computer, he will be more productive. For people that use their computers a lot, this will be worth the trouble. For people that don’t use their computer a lot or that just don’t want to learn we need a good standard desktop.
As for me: please, let me have a choice of window managers, browsers etc.
David McCabe, I think you lost the point of the ease-of-use bit. John was saying that for newbies, choices should be limited (I agree). As they learn more, they can customize all they want. You are looking at things from your (geek) perspective. Not that there’s anyting wrong with that, but given a choice of 50 programs that do the same thing, what does a newbie think? That is too much choice too soon. Those choices should be made when one is comfortable making them, or feels the need for them as their needs or taste dictates.
The defautls should be limited, simple, easy-to-use and standard. Where the user takes it from there is up to them and what they prefer in their own time, and as their needs dictate.
I’m talking from the point of view of the above average user, also a developer, but not a kernel hacker or something, and still one who wouldn’t like complexities where they are not needed.
I think that all users, novice and advanced alike would agree on stuff like not needing that much simple text editors!
Re basic system functions shared between KDE and GNOME: http://www.freedesktop.org exists to define some standards for them, and RedHat already started patching KDE and GNOME a little in order to make them work together (i.e. shared mechanism for handling tray icons). RedHat also patched some programs (KDE, GNOME, OpenOffice, Mozilla, etc.) to work using the same printing system, and render fonts using the shared standard Xft2.
Re installation and RPM hell: some programs do have an installtion program (“# make install”) which works pretty well, asks what’s needed, checks the system and installs the appropriate stuff. This is how it is with Windows (InstallShield etc.), which doesn’t make it right, but still… If only in Linux there were graphical installers and not command line “make install”.
Re configuation files: some things do need such configuration files to maintain customizability (e.g. Apache), some need such files for extended tweaks but a GUI for regular configuration (XFree86), and of course some things should be easily configurable well via the GUI (e.g. printers)
Re shell is evil: I think shell is ok (I use it in Windows as well), and there are some good things you can do with it, but what should be eliminated is the requirement to use the shell, especially for basic tasks like the aforementioned installations. The point is not that it should be supressed, but rather that you could do all that you need without resorting to using the shell!
Re pretty does count, standartized theme: all fonts to be anti-aliased… like forcing all the programs to use Xft2, right?
RedHat’s unification of KDE/Qt and GNOME/Gtk themes is great (stop bashing it people!). Not because my KDE and GNOME desktops look almost identical, but because I can run KPPP in GNOME or XMMS configuration in KDE and not care that they use different toolkits!!
Re jargon is our enemy: yayks!! Now that’s scary! Couldn’t understand almost anything…
Re games are important: I’m developing a cross-platform (Windows / Linux) game using SDL and OpenGL
Re hardware support: it’s important to have binary comptability between distributions, so that I wouldn’t have to compile stuff to make my digital camera work, and the manufacturer wouldn’t have to expose some patents by giving the source code (now those who don’t expose the source and do provide the drivers for linux have to compile it for every distribution and kernel version!!!)
Part of the problem is that users expectations for software installation are, well … skewed and rather naive. Back in DOS days, yeah all you needed was a .COM file with everything shellacked in there and it’d run. Great.
But, computing has gotten more powerful and advanced since then. Programs aren’t self-contained. Code reuse is rampant (“omg no!” you say, misguided), and shared libraries are actually shared. Programs are often just clever front-ends to libraries these days. They aren’t the old .COM files you may remember, they are better – allowing your system to run leaner and to make things less complicated by having a consistent set of functionalities.
The users shouldn’t be continually lied to about what’s going on in their system. They should know that every application is a SET of components, not some huge monolithic black box. And while perhaps the current Linux solutions aren’t the most user-friendly, they treat applications in the most “correct” way, as far as I’m concerned. They see them as components that are related, and not independent blocks. So, while perhaps in terms of presentation and interface to the user DOES need to be worked on, I don’t think that the packaging systems are at fault for being honest about what an application really is.
>>The user should not be expected to use it without a little knowledge and intellegence.<<
>>Let the user learn. Make the user learn. He will be happier and more productive in the end.<<
Yes, BUT thanks to the widespread adoption of the web – the PC is increasing viewed as just another entertainment device – like a DVD player. It SHOULD be easy to use for those who NEED it to be. Most people do not want to learn about the inner workings of their computer, and truthfully they don’t care.
>>You don’t expect anyone to be able to drive a car with no training, nor do you want to elimitate all but one or two kinds of cars so that people will not be confused by the choice. Why then do you do this with computers, which are much more complex than cars?<<
Actually, yes we do, at least with very little training. The only thing we expect someone to do when driving a car is to drive it, fill it with gas, and maybe change the oil. Everything else is handled for them. Tell me, do you know how to manufacture gasoline or refine oil? No? How about replacing your transmission, or replacing pistons in your engine? Using some Linux programs, if you don’t know exactly what you are doing, is like manufacturing gasoline or replacing a transmission. While this has gotten better in recent years – there is still a long way to go.
Just like most people use their cars:
Open the door, turn on the engine and off we go; if there is something unusual, the car will be taken care of by a mechanic, AAA or whatever.
Power users might see their computers like they see their car.
Average Joe sees his computer like he sees his microwave. He doesn’t want to read the instructions, isn’t interested in the thousand and one configuration options, all he wants is to put a bag in, close the door, hit a button and get popcorn out.
A master carpenter might be very picky about the size of his hammer, and the type of nails he’s using, and the wood he’s hammering into, and…and… The rest of us just see a hammer, nail, piece of wood and get to hammering.
A computer is just a tool, let the “experts” worry about fine tuning whatever “exacting” standards they have, but let the casual user pick up and go.
I loaded up Linux for myself last year. While relatives were here, they successfully:
1) Played music and ripped MP3’s.
2) Used my printer.
3) Attached my digital camera and printed photos.
4) Got on the internet and successfully used multiple internet apps including sites like barney.com, ofoto, ebay, and hotmail.
5) Used multiple apps, and some games.
Everytime the come over, the first thing they do is head for my computer. They love the themes, and are always complementing it’s speed.
The point here isn’t to praise my parents, it’s to point out that I would never in my right mind have traded ANY linux distro for XP and have expected those items above to have happened. I think it coins a new term …
“Linux … it’s everyone’s operating system.”
I agree with most of the article however, I don’t see why we should transform linux in a copy of windows, trying to do this is having already lost the battle. This has been said better than i will ever be able to say it, check these links :
when Interfaces go crufty – http://mpt.phrasewise.com/stories/storyReader$374
why the current interfaces aren’t as good as you may think
Microsoft, Innovation, and linux – http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,4149,768274,00.asp
why it would be a bad idea to try and turn linux in nothing more than a pale imitation of windows
It’s not just joe users that require simplicity, people that actually have use linux at work want simplicity as well, i can only speak for myself, but comparing the time that is required to configure a vpn under xp and on linux, installing a network printer, dns server etc, i mean, i don’t want to spend all day messing through stupid little config files, this kind of configuration should be done automatically, wizards save a lot of time.
are useless, you configure something once and forget about it. No big deal in either OS.
I am reading quite some feedback here which I don’t agree with.
a) First of all http://www.freedesktop.org standards are neither approved by ANSI or DIN. I would rather call the writings there ‘suggestions’. Please don’t come up and try turn the facts. These are NO standards. If you follow the discussion on certain GNOME mailinglists then most of the time only 2-3 people talk about some “STANDARDS” and after a while it shows up on there because they didn’t come up with better alternatives. Sometimes it looks like better BAD solutions than no solutions. It is claimed that KDE shares most of it but that is partially true.
b) Many people here split the userbase up into novice, advantage and expert. This is right – but we talk about Linux all the time here. You can’t turn Linux into an easy to go Desktop Operating System and make users belive how easy everything is. Needless to mention that a lot of people simply don’t want it. Sure if you use a plain distribution like Redhat you may be satisfied with what is offered but there is still a lot of things that even a novice user HAS to know about linux to get things running correctly. There are a lot of situations where the novice user hits his head against a wall because he does not go any further.
c) People are talking about GNOME here as if it’s the only Desktop that everyone uses. But this isn’t the case. Compared to the overall Linux users the GNOME community is rather little and on the long run you don’t get through with all your wishes and changes that you GNOME people like to see how linux should mature. A lot of normal people won’t be happy with these ideas and make this public.
I am neither favoring KDE nor GNOME but I know both Desktops very well and I must admit that both Desktops have their pros and cons. My general point is that people tend to categorize users TO easy. It’s easy saying ‘hey we get the ultimative cool desktop on Linux for the Novice joe user and the poweruser’ but you always make the same mistake. You ignore the fact that the base OS is COMPLEX, COMPLICATED and nothing for JOE USER. there is only one case where linux may become interesting for JOE USER. The time when JOE USER wants to become a POWER USER.
Look on what plattforms GNOME is available, SUN SOLARIS, FREEBSD, LINUX (and many more) needless to say that the first 3 named ones are more complex (even for experts) than the last named one. I think that this discussion about novice and professional users together with linux in one sentence is rather bullshit.
Anyways I wish everyone a happy new year.
I’m sorry but this is a huge outburst of skepticism which I believe will not happend and frankly i hope it does not. Why not use a word processor instead of a text editor?? Because text editors are not just used for writing a letter to auntie sue. The are mainly used for editing configuration files, code.. etc. For example, I prefer vi for writing python code, emacs for c/c++ and ee for config files.
Basic system administration tasks should not be made WIZARDISH. That is one of the main reasons why windows is such a sham for sysadmins. You make decisions but ultimately you don’t know what changes have been made. The editing of text files is so much simpler. When editing most *nix config files, its usually just a matter of seeing where the gaps are, filling them or commenting/uncommenting lines that are well explained within the file.
I agree that the EU market needs the option of a Low. I.Q distro. What the change your suggesting is so radical that I believe would be missing the point of why *nix is superior to win32.
Ultimately though, I think that there should always be newbie and HARDCORE!!! distros available.
Please Aitvo, stop. You don’t troll tactfully and its starting to grate on my nerves. Every time I read a post of yours, I can almost see you sitting at your computer chanting “Linux Can Do No Wrong!” over and over again.
You havn’t offered anything useful to this thread aside from re-wording someone else’s post into the opposite of what their experience was amd labeling it as your own. Furthermore you’re over simplifying things with half baked notions that you configure something once and forget about it. You don’t do that with everything.
Here are a few I know that are not like how you say:
FTP servers – the entire interface for vsftpd is CLI and config file driven… adding new/banning old users? …playing with .conf files.
Webserver – adding a new server? one with a new .dso module? … playing with more configs.
Icecast – adding new music? playing with config files.
So rather than adding nothing to the threat other than to show that pretty much view linux as nirvana. Why not give specific examples of why you think certain things are unecessary to change? Or even explain why you feel the current suggestion is not better. Geez, your going to give everyone the idea that Tampa (where I live too) is the epitome of Denial-ville.
Another ‘task’ to add to the list. I am pretty sure that the end-user isn’t going to know how to make menuconfig and set up SCSI support just to bund a CD. Auto-detection of CD-RWs isn’t too great at the moment, either.
Linux will transform into a real desktop OS. It doesn’t matter what the childish anti-social geeks think or want. The only thing most of them have ever done for Linux is writing yet another IRC client. Every important part of the Linux OS is already in the hands of professionals who know what quality software is. For example easy and painless driver installations are not a sign of “stupidification” but of quality sofware. Spending a whole week to configure your system is not “power using” it’s pervert geek S/M. “Power users” just like normal users use the computer to get work done ™. They use it as a tool and not as a toy. They don’t wet their pants while trying to get their soundcard working. Really just ignore these “I’m so elite and you’re stupid” fools. They are stupid losers and they have nothing to say. GNOME, Evolution, Mozilla, OpenOffice, Nautilus, etc. all big commercial distros are controlled by cooperations who care about cooperate and end users. Let the loser geeks rot in the cellar. They have nothing to say.
No no no no no. No eliminating choices. AGREEING ON DEFAULTS. Have the choices be reletively transparent to anyone who isn’t interested in them. And to those who are interested, have it be as simple as them saying ‘Hey, I want some options here’ ala clicking on ‘advanced options’ or something like that.
Average Joe wants something that just works. Go for it… But let’s not alienate the power users who can tweak their piece of hardware to do some incredible and astounding things, or simply to adjust it to their needs.
In a nutshell? Make it easy for those who just want it to work. Leave it powerful and customizable for those of us who are ‘power users’.
How? Use defaults for everything. Make them work – Period.
Anyone who wants more than what they’re served on a silver platter, can have it… Just a mouse click or two away (or keyboard shortcut to a console;))
“there is only one case where linux may become interesting for JOE USER. The time when JOE USER wants to become a POWER USER.”
In times where important essential rights are threatened by things like TCPA, Palladium, etc. there is an other much stronger reason why Joe User becomes interessted in Linux. That is freedom.
The wish to have a system which is controlled by you and not the other way around is nothing which qualifies Joe as power user.
Yeah, I haven’t touched a config file since October. You magically move to SERVER functions even though we are having a discussion about Linux desktops. Guess what, My Fuji Camera was supported out of the box, as was my pocket zip, Linksys wireless (The PCMCIA version), my USB mouse, and every single other piece of hardware in this notebook. I reworded the comment yes, and it is still true, I have done it with those very results. Sorry bubba, I’m not trolling those that claim it’s not ready for the desktop are. It may not be ready for THEIR desktops, but it’s definately ready.
A lot of the changes you are proposing involves large sets of modifications to third party applications (many which has little to nothing to do with Linux, except for the fact that they can run under it) such as XFree, Gnome, XMMS etc. What about those of us who are not using Linux, but are using those applications? And what about Linux users not using XFree, but rather Accelerated X or some other X server. Sure it would be nice with a neat graphical control panel with all settings, but since Linux, and Unix, systems provide a freedom for users to select, and use, multiple applications – many of which are providing the same basic functionality, but in different packages – it would be hard to impossible to create a single settings application. A much better approach, imho, would be to create a configuration applet standard, and a small application that could load all those configuration applets (one for each application requiring configuration, installed together with the actual app) and generate a nice control panel. (GUI or CLI)
Btw, look at the FreeBSD sysinstall application, it may not be a fancy GUI but it provides settings for the entire system, ranging from disks setup to package administration and XFree configuration.
Talking about FreeBSD (and this goes for Net and Open as well) the package manager is outstanding, either you download a package yourself or through the official package collection and when you try to install it all dependencies are automatically solved. (and unlike dpkg it does not try to reinstall something that has already been installed outisde of the package manager).
A very satisfied FreeBSD user who has a hard time understanding why osnews continuously reefers to most GNU and Unix applications as Linux apps. (Btw, Linux is just the kernel, the complete OS is GNU/Linux).
Low I.Q distro? *ROFL* Quite a lot of smart people use Windows/MacOS. In fact most of them do. The difference is that they have a life. That means they rather not spend their time sitting in the cellar trying to get their scanner working. Every stupid kid can learn to use Linux. It’s just that most people (smart or not) don’t want to waste their life reading man pages. We have girl/boyfriends and such stuff, you know.
Linux is complex yes. But MacOS X or Windows XP are just as complex under the hood. The trick is to abstract/hide the complexity behind a nice interface. Redhat, Ximian, Sun etc. will do this for Linux. You can’t stop it.
FH: <em>> The PC is increasing viewed as just another entertainment device — like a DVD player.</em>
Well, view it as you will, a PC is a general-purpose numerical computation machine. Appliences are available to those who want them. But let us not distort one thing because some people want it to be an entirely different thing. Each device for its purpose: A DVD player or `web applience’ for brainless entertainment, a PC for what will you, but the core design of PC operation should not be mutilated for people who are wanting to use it without proper training or time.
FH: <em>> Actually, yes we do, at least with very little training. The only thing we expect someone to do when driving a car is to drive it, fill it with gas, and maybe change the oil. Everything else is handled for them. Tell me, do you know how to manufacture gasoline or refine oil? No?</em>
I’m not asking for kernel hacking here. But I do want them to know that red means stop, green means go, don’t drive in a turn lane, use the correct gear for the terrian, etc. These things they learn in a class and prove they know with a test. I will not redesign the road system so that any idiot who’s never touched a car before can hop in, press a button at random, and suddonly by swept away to wherever he wants to go. That’s just silly.
“Basic system administration tasks should not be made WIZARDISH. That is one of the main reasons why windows is such a sham for sysadmins.”
Yes I agree with you, I don’t particularly like wizards, but there is a between ground, and not just wizards or text editing of config files.
“The editing of text files is so much simpler. When editing most *nix config files, its usually just a matter of seeing where the gaps are, filling them or commenting/uncommenting lines that are well explained within the file.”
Yes I know this method quite well, and I like it a lot. Specifically because I know what has been changed. However, there is no reason to force people to sift thru 9pages of commented out lines looking for the one they really need to uncomment. Futher more the documention included in the file is a brief synopsis at best.
Again, why not implement a UI for configuration that is much easier. Right now it seems to be like this:
Scan thru *.config file, full of lines like this one:
##Uncommenting this will the set the uis to an int value.
While simultaniously looking at other window of man pages so I can get at least a basic understanding of what setuis is.
What is wrong with have a specific UI tool for setting up a programs options. For instance, have a options menu for selecting/unselecting options that you want. There is no reason why this can’t go an parse the .config and make the necessary changes for you. Futhermore you can integrate it with the help system so the you don’t have to open multiple apps just to figure out what a specific flag does. Plently of programs in linux do this already – gftp, and lokkit are two off the top of my head.
Anybody putting out a Linux distro who is thinking about making it a desktop OS should be made to read this article. Brillant.
And the screen cap of technical jargon had me laughing so hard I cried. Technical writing is a component of my job which is why I find bad technical writing so funny … when I’m not on the receiving end of it. (And, incidentally, bad technical writing played a part in why I found my 1 month trial of Corel Linux a few years back so incredibly frustrating. In several very important places TFM and reality had only a passing acquaintance.)
> Power users might see their computers like they see their car.
> Average Joe sees his computer like he sees his microwave.
Well sorry, Joe, but I don’t care how you ‘see’ it. A car is a car wether you want it to be a microwave or not. And a computer is much more analogus to a car.
Kreechah, I agree with you, but the question is: Can they? Will they? He has suggested ‘deprecating’ the shell, which is a very bad idea. The user will be happier if he knows the shell, and does this deprecation make the shell less viable to use?
“You magically move to SERVER functions even though we are having a discussion about Linux desktops.”
Does that mean that windows XP home and pro are server versions of their product? I believe those are advertiesed as for Home users and those have web and ftp servers included with them. Granted not the safest to use – but definitely easy to setup.
As for the average joe not using a server function on his desktop like FTP or Apache fine, my views may be off. However, in my experience, there are quite a lot of average joe college students doing exactly that with the random ftp shareware proggie they cracked so they could setup ftp shares for IRC channels.
> However, there is no reason to force people to sift thru 9pages of commented out lines looking for the one they
> really need to uncomment.
So instead they shift through 9 tabs of check boxes and text fields looking for the one they really need to check. And they can’t even grep or i-search.
> While simultaniously looking at other window of man pages…
While simultaniously looking at the slower-than-tar and incomplete HTML help or tooltips.
Could someone explain to me how GUIs make this stuff easier?
“Does that mean that windows XP home and pro are server versions of their product? I believe those are advertiesed as for Home users and those have web and ftp servers included with them. Granted not the safest to use – but definitely easy to setup.”
No, however we are talking about the average user. The average user doesn’t even know that he or she can serve websites with XP. 😉
“As for the average joe not using a server function on his desktop like FTP or Apache fine, my views may be off. However, in my experience, there are quite a lot of average joe college students doing exactly that with the random ftp shareware proggie they cracked so they could setup ftp shares for IRC channels.”
I agree, however these folks will manage to configure their computers and expect to make changes when need be. Even FTP and WWW are configure once for the most part, unless they are in the development cycle.
It sounds like the author wants BeOS. I don’t have the time to go into this articles’ contradictions in detail, so I’ll just pick one -device drivers:
HW Manufacturers should be able to write a single device driver for all Linuxes (paraphrased)
This implies that the ABI (because you don’t mean the API, surely; users don’t want to have to compile the thing!) has to stay still for everyone – 2.2, 2.4, and 2.6, not to mention 2.8, 3.0, ad infinitum, because HW manufacturers come and go, with no change or improvement.
They have to cope with developing drivers for (or losing support for) DOS, Win3.1, WinNT, Win9x, WinME, WinXP, from the Microsoft stable alone. If they want to sell to MacOS users, they need to develop a MacOS 9 and MacOS X driver, at the minimum. If they want those remaining OS/2 users to buy their hardware, they have to write an OS/2 driver.
This is a choice on the part of the hardware manufacturer.
If they also want Linux support, you seem to be proposing that I go to http://www.my-hw-vendor.com/linux, click “install” and get a driver which will run on my Linux distribution.
Do you care to explain how this could be done, so that I could use, say, a USB Scanner, on my Intel laptop and my SPARC desktop? How exactly would that binary be composed?
Maybe the Linux developers should redesign all the architectures Linux supports, so that they will all accept a single binary format?
We already have one major vendor taking this approach – nVidia. I was *so* thankful when my nVidia card died, and I had an excuse to use my i815’s onboard SVGA. With the nVidia binary driver, the machine kept crashing unexpectedly (hmm, similar to Windows, where drivers are the most likely culprit for a crash. Strange you’re advocating a move towards the Windows model). Of course, I couldn’t ask LKML for any support – neither they nor I know what is in that module. Now I’m back to Linux’s own i815 driver, it works perfectly, but if for some reason it did not, I would be able to get support for it.
Linux (and this article is a great example of why phrases like GNU/Linux should be more common – Linux is the kernel, RedHat, Debian, etc, are Linux+GNU+Other Stuff but the author only sees the Linux buzzword) does not need to kowtow to hardware manufacturers for support. Linux is not sales-driven, HW manufacturers are sales-driven. Therefore it is the HW vendors who need to embrace Linux (if they want Linux users to buy their hardware), rather than Linux crippling itself for the convenience of HW vendors.
As I said, I don’t have much time, but this is a long enough response to a single point mentioned in the article … If you want, say, Lindows, to take this approach, then write to them, and convince them of your ideas.
I like the shell, and I know how to use it. A lot people don’t though, and don’t really want to learn, and I respect that. Basically, I think the author of the article just meant that the shell shouldn’t be at the forefront of the operating system, and shouldn’t be an absolute necessity for average Joe.
In other words, have it where average Joe could go for years and not ever have to touch the console, but still have it there, to the side, out of the way, with all of it’s functionality, for those who want to get under the hood and do something with it.
I guess it would depend on what market you went for. When I sold computers (I owned the business), I specialised in machines that were $NZ5000 plus. That is, systems running a *NIX/*BSD or Linux, with quality components like serverworks chipset motherboard, ECC memory, dual Xeon etc etc.
If your father sells to Joe Blow, I think the best he can hope for, is 15% of consumers wanting a machine with Linux. Until companies move to a non-Microsoft alternative, people won’t move.
There is so much talking about making Linux better suit begining computer users’ needs. And it would be nice if some of them (those, who care) could try Linux. In fact there are some distributions who are seeking that goal — Lindows, Lycoris, Xandros and some others. But it is important to care about what experienced Linux users need, too. So, can someone write an article about what a real hardcore Linux geek needs and publish it on OSNews, that all the world could see that Linux isn’t only for newbies? 🙂
I have no trouble understanding that message, even though I’ve never heard of Pango or Defoma before. Just use your brain a little bit…
Pango must have something to do with fonts, and it keeps a file with a list of font-related configuraions. Defoma must be some kind of tool to help manage the said font configuraion. See, it’s easy.
Newbies must be made to learn this sort of analetical thinking, rather than glaze over as soon as a new word pops up, than call me or just randomly click stuff unil the scary message goes away. In order to use a computer, the user must assert some reasioning skills. Therefore, we should not attempt to let people use it without them. The user doesn’t have to know a lot, but the user must have an additude of figuring things out and learning.
This is a huge rock in the middle of Australia, hide under there.
BEOS IS DEAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Get it. It is dead, gone, finished, un-recoverable. It is about time people stopped flogging a dead horse. If you turned around and said that QNX RTP has a future, then atleast I could see some positive/optimistic truths in the statements, as it has all the qualities for a winning OS.
No, I am not a BeOS basher. I bought 4.0 when it was first released, then bought 5.0 Professional when it was released. Unlike you, I have seen the result. All I can say is that I threw $400 in total to a company that was poorly managed, and a lack of any technological arguments to why the baby should be thrown out with the bath water.
Had they started with a BSD/OS base (from Windriver), and then built a GUI ontop, then, IMHO, they would have had a more sucessful time converting people over.
Linux (of course) 18% 6567 / 18%
Windows only 27% 9550 / 27%
i appreciate your point on your folks being able to accomplish all those basic but nifty (for the masses) tasks.
but i don’t think your parents represent the majority.
i’ve done so much consulting work for soho users that i’m inclined to stick with the belief that most users are dumber then sticks when it comes to computers.
sure i’ll find a guy who installed his own printer, and setup his mp3 mobile device.
i also cleaned off 3 trojans, removed at least two spyware executables, deactived about FIFTY items running in the tray…removed a proxy that he had somehow been added to, removed bugbear, and disabled microsoft client/server services.
this is not a way for me to defend linux or anything.
i do in part agree that out of the box, xp might be easier for most.
so basically linux is still out of reach for those who can’t setup stuff.
but i’ve setup my aunt and uncle with debian.
i did all the configuration for them.
1. surf the web and send email, spam & ad free. (showed them how to enable/disable popups)
2. access the games that are on the system, i.e. gltron, tuxracer, minesweeper, all the card games etc. installed a few extra for the kids.
3. rip CDs and make mp3s
4. type of txt documents, spread sheets
5. burn CDs
basically…after i was done with it…i put all their icons on the task bar, and ran them through all the stuff.
they are quite happy, and the machine was very stable and problem free.
no ads, no viruses, no trojans, their 2 gigahertz machine actually runs like a 2 gigahertz machine because they are not inundated with bullshit. no websites can take over their desktop.
Yes it did take some work on my part…but i’ve imaged their system partitions…so that if it gets jacked, i just restore the image.
is linux for diy and out of the box?
but i see the potential…it’s there. a couple more years will go buy and things will be better…not worse.
i’m not even sure if anyone should be in a hurry or rushed.
xp works for most…but there is a great alternative for some.
My parents run Windows XP, and the most they use is a scanner, which is supported by Linux. Here is a clear up:
I loaded up XP for my parents last year. They have successfully:
1) Played music and ripped MP3’s.
People don’t rip MP3s. Ask Joe and Jane, and they wouldn’t have a clue what you’re talking about. My mother puts in her Seekers (its an Australia “feel good” music group from the 1970’s). She doesn’t give a toss about Mp3, ogg, wma or what ever tla you can throw at her. She wants to listen to her music and type letters and check email.
The only people I know who are into Mp3’s are teenagers, who have the knowledge to use what is available on Linux already. If you say to me that someone can’t use GRIP, then god help them, because I don’y know a program easier than that, which rips and compresses whilst playing the CD.
2) Installed a printer.
what is so hard with loading up KDE Admin? or better yet, my brother, who I have setup with FreeBSD 4.7 simply clicks on a short cut, and it taken directly to http://localhost:631 so he can see the printing progress. As for setting up printers, he was able to do it himself using the wizard that comes with CUP’s. He is happy that is computer now doesn’t freeze when compiling papers for his University entrace assignments.
3) Attached a digital camera and printed photos.
Again, the majority of people you parents age don’t use Digital Camera’s, even so, wouldn’t it be easier to hook up the camera to the printer and bypass all the download, open and print crap all together?
4) Got on the internet and successfully used multiple internet apps.
Can do that with Linux already. All the person has to do is make sure that Java is installed, which, since most people don’t install the OS, they get the same person who installs the PCI card or what ever, they’re the ones who setup and install the OS.
5) Installed and used multiple apps, and some games.
Can be easily done in FreeBSD. I’ve already taught my brother how to use /stand/sysinstall and the portage system. btw, my brother has no computing background, his main forte is Chemistry. Same situation for my sister who is at university who is majoring in Art History and English. She is able to do all what my brother can.
That is one thing I do like, the MacOS GUI, especially the first version of the MacOS Server that was released. It was very cool.
What I would like to see is a AmigaOS like interface for Linux, which doesn’t carry all the bagage of Windows. The only aspect I don’t like about MacOS X, like Windows XP, is the childish interface, even the classic Windows, it is stil childish.
When I want to use a computer, I want to have a boring interface that is straight forward, like IRIX’s 4DWM or CDE, which both use Motif. I especially like 4DWM as it takes the good aspects of MacOS + AmigaOS and produces a snappy desktop.
I would PAY (a small amount) for a HIGH QUALITY Amiga like GUI for Linux. 🙂
Agreed to a certain degree. Lets look on the other side. You spend $NZ3000 on a computer, wouldn’t it be prudent to ensure that you get the most out of your computer by learning and utilising all its capabilities?
For me, why spend money on something when all you are going to use it for is as a glorified type writer and internet access box, you might as well buy a type writer and get a Internet Terminal running QNX or some other embedded OS.
People have been comparing computers with cars and microwave ovens – cars can (clearly) kill people very easily; microwaves can destroy themselves easily enough (just put something metal into it) – computers are, compared to these, far more benign.
CARS:Most people need to spend a few months learning to drive, from a certified instructor, before being allowed onto the road.<BR>
If “Nobody told me that “# rm -rf /” would kill the machine” is a reasonable complaint, does that mean that “Nobody told me that driving at 150mph would be likely to kill 5 people” is proof of the car’s poor design?
Microwave Ovens:These come with a book, as do PCs, which most people do not read. They are rather simpler to use than a car or a PC, and the main things you need to know, are: Do not put metal in it; Do not put dehydrated items in it.
That’s pretty straightforward, and it’s a single-purpose device. PCs are multi-purpose devices.
On another slant, the “My Parents” theme:
My parents, my wife, my sisters, all got me to configure their PCs for them, whether Windows or Linux. My brother seems to have done his own quite happily, but that’s 5/6 people (83%) of my immediate family prefer to have a geek configure their machine, than do it themselves, regardless of the OS.
My wife uses Linux because I refuse to pay for a Windows license, and refuse to steal one. If she was prepared to pay for Windows, she can have it; while she’s happy with what Linux offers, she keeps that.
In both cases, so long as the machine is configured properly, allows access to the web and email, word processing and spreadsheets, from a single click, they don’t care what the OS is.
If they had to configure the OS themselves, however, they’d be staring at a blank screen still, whether they’d chosen Windows or Linux.
This subject keeps coming up, because people say “I’ll try Linux … ooh, hard to install.” They seem to have forgotten installing Windows. Install Windows, easy enough. Job done? No. Get the printer’s CD-ROM, find out what version of Windows you have, find that part of the CD, click on a .INF file? Maybe the setup.exe file? Or let Windows find the “Best” driver for you? Maybe you should go to the vendor’s website, though, for the latest version? Download that, get WinZip, unzip it, see what’s in it, find a setup.exe or .inf file, pick one, guess what to do, finally get the printer configured. Repeat for your sound card, video card, scanner, camera, etc etc etc. Oh, but do get your Mobo driver first, because it might have some stuff which changes how the others work.
People seem to have higher expectations on Linux usability as compared to Windows, when it is touted as a technically superior OS, not an easier OS.
If we were discussing BeOS, or Windows from a Linux user’s perspective, I could understand this attitude, but the only way this could be achieved would be if you bought a sealed black-box machine with Linux preinstalled and configured on a ROM. (I still like my BBC Micro, which did this, but we need something more flexible these days)
>>>i also cleaned off 3 trojans, removed at least two spyware executables, deactived about FIFTY items running in the tray…removed a proxy that he had somehow been added to, removed bugbear, and disabled microsoft client/server services.
my point here was that xp is very easy for the masses to accomplish basic tasks…because of the “out of the box” ease of use….but there is a price.
if anyone here claims to be ignorant of that price…you are doing so just for the sake of being a troll, or flamebait.
sure i use xp and i don’t have any problems, but we are talking about how well the ignorant masses are served.
sure linux is not easy as pie…but it’s not that far off either.
and xp? the masses do have a price to pay for their free lunch (i.e. not really having to invest time in learning how to TRULY operate their computer)
1. If they want an entertainment device, they should by several single purpose devices to cut down on complexity, hence the rise of Internet terminals.
2. You should know how Petrol is refined, in terms of of producing Diesel, Petrol, the gunge used on roads etc. IIRC, that was covered in Forth Form Science under hydrocarbons, which covered how petrol is defined and process. IIRC, around the age of 13/14 years.
You give the example of a carpenter, now, I am no woodwork guru, however, I take an interest in ensuring I buy a quality hammer, and, IMHO, the best equipment I have picked up so far is Stanley. Sure, you can buy the cheap stuff, but don’t expect it to last the distance.
Webmin can do all that stuff. If you did a bit of research, you would know that the default interface for configuration of stuff in SCO Linux 4.0 is Webmin, you would also know that the majority of things can be done quite nicely via a webbrowser or a wizard.
I don’t know how oil is refined, but I know to put unleaded in my car, not diesel. It was a decision I made when buying the car, aware of the car-cost/petrol-cost/environmental tradeoff in the purchase. So I had to know something about how these things are (if not how they work).
And I had to remember it, and remember it each time I fill up. It’s not difficult.
(Americans stop reading here….)
We’ve all seen the American police shows, where some idiot gets into a car with a bottle of whisky and a shotgun, and an IQ of 3. Do we really want these people in a car? Do we really want him thinking the PC is the DVD player?
You should atleast know the additive which increases the octane level of unleaded petrol.
Basic chemistry that most people should have learnt. It isn’t complicated. I’m not asking you describe the chemical make up of cyclohexane for goodness sake.
Please, understand that this is not a troll. But it seems to me like submissions to this website are written by untechnical folks that seem to think GUIs are the be all and end all. Furthermore, they don’t understand the techincal end (which is one of, if not the, most important aspects of the topic).
This is an excellent article – well, it’s a really bad article, but could provoke some excellent discussion, like the discussion (can’t find the link) on newsforge.com which ended up becoming http://www.theopencd.org/
This discussion could come up with useful things, too, but the format of “reply to the whole thing” means that interesting threads cannot be built up independantly.
If OSNews.com had threading, it could become a crucial site – as is, it’s an interesting place to see *nix vs. Windows idiocy.
I don’t “know the additive which increases the octane level of unleaded petrol.” So shoot me.
I do know what a red light and a green light mean, and the difference between first and fifth gear. I know what a clutch does (and have had that critical experience of learning how to use it effectively, by stalling enough times when I learned to drive).
I don’t ask that PC users know the details of how RAM and hard disks work, but that they know the difference between them. I’ve lost count of the number of people who’ve bought extra RAM because they didn’t have enough disk space to install another program. Of course, it doesn’t solve the problem. I’m sure a mechanic could (frequently does, for all I know) make fun of me for not knowing the details of the fuel I use, but at least I know how to use my PC, and how to drive.
I used to drive a VW Polo, and tinker with it a lot. Now I drive a Vectra, which has a “computer-controlled” Engine Management System. This benefits me how? It turns on a EMS light on the dash, so I take it to the dealer, who plugs in his (closed) gizmo, and says “It’s revving too high, that’s £80 to fix”, or (honestly) “It’s reporting a fault in the AirCon system, so it’s running in a less economical mode” – the car does not have aircon. If I had access to the system (or car) I have paid hard cash for, I could fix such a bug, but because the car I own is controlled by buggy software I do not own, I have to pay someone to fix a “problem” which did not exist in the first place.
That’s a difference between cars and PCs – I would never be forced to pay a vendor to fix his own bugs, but with this car (made by Vauxhall, aka General Motors, a big enough company) I have to pay the vendor to fix their own bugs, or live with unreliability and an economically unfeasable system. That reminds me too much of Microsoft, but (to give them credit) they tend to fix their bugs for free, if 3 months too late.
Listen a lot of the things could be a hell of a lot easier.
There are easy solutions to half the issues listed if the distros had the balls to really seriously try. Then again there are problems that are not going to be resolved quickly because this is open source.
Lets take the four most frequent bitches about linux.
1. Software Installation
If RH8 had apt capabilities built into their package installation program, you could for example download any old rpm and if there was some sort of dependency missing it would tell you and then start the downloading the required packages. Correct me if I am wrong but Mandrake already even has something like this.
Right now I have so many bloody libs on my box 90%+ of anything I download in rpm format and I doubleclick on will install with no issues but you cannot expect an average user to deal with this for sure.
2. Hardware support.
Ok, you could say this is a lost cause, after all, you are pretty much at the mercy of the hardware folks. I remember the dark days of Apple when some hardware folks did not even bothering support Macs until the iMac came around. However, if the United Linux, Mandrake, IBM and RedHat COMPANIES came together as a group and asserted their corporate influence I think the situation would improve over night. There would still be some proprietary drivers but that is going to be the case anyway.
3. Admin tools.
SuSE is better than most for server as well as user related Tools. Redhat in my opinion the easiest to use tools and the best set of user centric desktop-focused tools. Every distro should have:
NIS client/server setup tool
LDAP client/server setup tool
Network shares tool that let you export and import samba and nfs shares with an option for advanced options for those admins running a server. The hell with the NFS server tools available for most distros and swat is nice but if you are going to do the tool do it right. I got this idea from the Ximian Setup Tools.
Http server tool.
DNS setup tool.
Time server setup.
Mysql or preferably a postgres db server setup tool and yes I mean it.
Some distros have some of these but any major service you can put on the box should have a good graphical configuration tool or you should stop bothering and wasting your bloody time and just include the best configuration tool for *nixes around, webmin.
4. Slow gui.
This one is odd. I find linux faster than Mac OS X. A bit slower in terms of application startup and responsiveness in the apps than XP. However, in terms of responsiveness under load better than XP. I have said before that the Xfree86 guys, the gnome and kde folks, the guys in charge of gtk, qt , OpenOffice and the mozilla folks should all be locked in a building and not allowed to leave until they figured out how to make the gui experience better for the user. Yes, have better kernel frambuffer support would help but it ain’t all the fault of X. The widget tool set, window manager folks and the desktop folks all have a little bit of the blame to hold. BTW, it ain’t as fast BeOS, faster than Mac OSX and a bit slower than XP unless you run more than 4 Microsoft products at once and then Linux is more responsive. Yes, Outlook is still a frickin’ resource hog and IE too.
In general, linux is still an alternative OS based on opensource work and projects. Linux is based off of thousands of little projects mostly hosted and worked on by volunteers. RH, SuSE and Mandrake all just package those projects up add a couple of cool setup tools and maybe a theme and then tell you to go to it. Don’t be fooled.
I like Unix. I like the command line. The cygwin tools and every other unix toolset on NT solution feels like a hollow hack. I like having a dozen choices and like being able to make my desktop look different every other day of the week for months without hitting the same window manager. I am a tinkerer. I do not mind looking through a Hardware Compatibility List before buying a peripheral. I live with the annoyance. I don’t randomly install programs off the net. If I want an app, I look to see if it is in the apt list of apps in synaptic (a gui app) click on it and then click install. I know that is soo hard and difficult and unreasonable but I do not mind. There are limitations and things that you live with when it comes to XP. I am not going into it because I will not on the OS-bashing trek.
It all depends on what you like whether or not you will like Linux. I use it at home and work and enjoy it. Then again I am Unix sysadmin with 7 years of IT experience. My wife likes it too because linux has more desktop games (Tetris, Mahjong and others right out of the box than XP).
Just remember that the distros are still trying to put the polish on something that is the collective effort of thousands of different projects created by almost millions of different programmers all over the world and make it feel like one unified OS. Good luck. I got into linux because it was different than Windows and I liked Unix.
Linux will never be enough like Windows to please half the people posting here and they should stick with XP.
Well…as usual, this seems to have degenerated into a Win/*nix battle. With of course, some people espousing BeOS in the middle…
But, here goes. I’ve used Windows in the past and I use Linux currently. I am very happy with what Linux offers – BUT – I know that there are lots of things that Windows does better.
1) Linux is the underdog. This means that in order to grab market share it has to be *significantly* better and cheaper than Windows. This is one of the things that will accelerate change. Right now, although some components of Desktop Linux (DL) are good, others are woefully inadequate.
2) Linux is crufty. This is both a good and bad thing. One major good point is that older unix based applications can be moved to Linux with relative ease. This is part of the reason why Linux has had such great success in the server space. Its much easier to move to Linux that say…move to Windows. The bad thing is that you have much much less flexibility with which to rework the system and incorporate new ideas.
3) X11. Well…what can I say. I use X, but I’m none too fond of it. ‘Cruftiness’ definitely applies to X. It needs serious rework. It’s slow… It suffers from a lack of focus sometimes… I would be _extremely_ pleased to see an alternate windowing system such as Fresco replace it, but I am pragmatic. Video card drivers, toolkits etc, all center around X and for all this talk [me included], we seem to be doing very little work to help X alternatives.
4) Lack of standardization. Very big deal. There is no standard sound daemon. Check out mediaapplicationserver.net for something that looks like a credible replacement for both ESD and aRTS. In the 2.6 kernel ALSA and OSS will be included. Its a good guess that OSS will be used for a long long time. There is no standard printing system. There is no standard packaging system. Even though the filesystem is ‘supposedly’ standardized – the reality is far different. Each distro has their own ideas as to how to deal with packages.
Many Linux proponents will state that this is not a problem. Although I like Linux, I think this is a *major* problem. A software developer has to work overtime to support/write code for all the various Linux systems out there. You should not have to worry about which printing system will exist on a specific person’s computer or what sound server they’re running. You should know that there are defaults that are being followed by the community. Most packagers will get around this by writing software for specific distributions (works on RedHat 7.x, SuSe 7.x etc). Other’s will lose out…
5) Software installation. I use apt-get. Yeah its easy. But I’m not in luck if I don’t have a Debian package. From that point on, things disentegrate. Usually to get what I want, I build it from source. _No_ user who wants to get _work_ done will do that. I understand that approach. No, I do not think the Windows approach will work. Why not? Because Windows programs are self contained and a lot of Linux software is dependent on libs provided elsewhere. I think Linux software will require an alternate installation method. Whatever it is – it’ll have to be of the form where people can simply go a website, download, double click and it’ll work. ALWAYS.
Also apt-get works only because of the committed (and large) Debian community…
It’s nice to think of a way in which a lot of this is swept clean and we can start anew. There’s a lot to be said for that approach. But the truth is that Linux does have a lot of momentum and its probably better to work with what we’ve got.
Oh yeah…as Jonathan mentioned above – drivers.
Binary drivers are a fact of life. I prefer free [open] drivers a lot, but I am pragmatic. (I am not however fond of companies that just throw the specs to the wind and say – go ahead – implement. ALthough it is a start).
It would be ideal for people to be able to download a driver and install it. Without worrying if it was copmiled with gcc 2.95 or gcc 3.x or so on. They don’t want to have to deal with that…
I want to thank the author for an excellent article written from the non-Linux guru’s point of view. I get sick of the constant rantings and ravings of Linux-elitists on how making a distro easier to admin is “the devil”. I think a copy of this article should be sent to every developer of every major distro that is attempting to create a viable Linux desktop/Windows replacment.
I just can’t comprehend why people are resist in making Linux a little bit easier to use and more accesbile for the the masses. If you are a true power user, then you can modify any default settings, install/remove the packages, and do whatever else you want….so what are you bitching about? If you want the shell, it should be there. If you want a wizard, it should be there. If that doesn’t work for you, there will ALWAYS be true power user distros such as Gentoo, Slackware and Debian for you to use.
Can somebody tell me (taking about the the big picture here) what harm it cause if Linux is made easier to admin/use for non-techie types?
The way I see it, the easier it is to admin/use, the more people will get a chance to use a free, flexible and excellent OS. The more people that use it, the more MS loses it’s monopolistic grip on the desktop, more ISVs will start porting their apps to Linux, and there will be more hardware support.
John, very good points. You’ve got me rethinking about my computer expectations on a lot of areas.
I hope some strong leadership or ‘glorious’ trend takes off with this article in their library.
“Are we trying to make our own system or everyone’s?”
(Congratulations if you got this far in the comment list….)
I got one of these from BT; they insisted that they come and confiugre the line itslef. They would not touch the PC (Windows 9x supported, nothing else) regardless of the OS. This modem works under Windows, FreeBSD, and Linux.
Of these I know Linux the best, and configured the modem (thanks to http://speedtouch.sf.net/). I became aware that others had problems going through the documentation, so I created http://speedtouchconf.sf.net/ which is basically the existing code plus a script to configure it all. It doesn’t have a pretty GUI; maybe someone else will feel like creating one, if so, good for them. But what I have written, allows a user to run ./speedtouchconf.sh from a Terminal Window (shock! horror!) and get their modem configured under Linux.
I have made life easier for some Linux users. If someone feels that a GUI would be better, feel free to write one – use anything/everything in my script, it’s all GPL.
I’ve offered something, more than I needed (my modem works, thank you). Alcatel (Thomson, now) are less than forthcoming with details about their modem, but a lot of people have made a massive contribution to *nix users. I have added an extra level of simplification. If you fancy going the extra step and making a GUI, feel free. Don’t complain to me that there is no GUI, though. I have given you enough for free, and you can take my code, make it a GUI, and call it your own.
As I have no GUI skills, but understand what is needed to configure this modem, I have offered what I have. If you have GUI skills, feel free to take this script and make a GUI out of it, if that is what tickles your belly-button.
Just taking one concrete example from the wilderness -there are lots of utils like this, which use CLI / textfiles / etc to configure. All of these are (IMHO) superior to the Windows Registry. Any documentation on that? Please? For anyone – developer or user?
I have no trouble understanding that message, even though I’ve never heard of Pango or Defoma before. Just use your brain a little bit…
Pango must have something to do with fonts, and it keeps a file with a list of font-related configuraions. Defoma must be some kind of tool to help manage the said font configuraion. See, it’s easy.>>>
Okay, that bit wasn’t so hard to figure out. But that still doesn’t help me.
“Something to do with fonts?” What kind of something? Will this change other settings on my computer? what will it do for my fonts? Figuring out that it has “something to do with fonts” still leaves 98% of what I’d like to know unsaid.
“Some kind of tool?” What does this tool do? Why do I need it? Can I get by without it? Will it play nicely with the other tools in the box. Is it a screwdriver but I really need a wrench?
It’s like saying “Milton’s line ‘Silence ye troubled waves, and thou deep, peace!’ illustrates spondee.”
You can deduce that “spondee” has something to do with the line in question, but unless you consult a search engine, a dictionary of literary terms, or are an english major that sentence, though grammatically correct, has very little meaning.
Does spondee describe the emotional effect produced by the line? Verb tense? The syllables in the line? Time period in which Milton wrote? Something to do with the number of times the letter S occurs? Was it a very spontaneous line?
And keep in mind that while in the midst of an OS or program install one generally does not have the luxury of reaching for a dictionary of Linuxary terms or the option to do a google search.
There are three types of people that ever bother using linux:
1. They have used Unix at school or work and they want *nix-like OS at home. Linux is easier to install and maintain than BSD or Solaris x86 at this time in terms of GUI tools and such and makes an excellent choice. After all, linux started off as a unix style desktop OS for x86 machines.
2. There are people who simply do not like the Windows way of doing things interface wise. They might like linux or they may not it all depends. They will either like linux, use BeOS or something else like Mac OSX. Like I said it all depends on their individual experience with linux or the other alternative OSes available.
3. There are people who hate Microsoft. This is the category I feel that the author is in. Most of these individuals want linux to behave just like Microsoft products without the MS tax. For the most part, these people end up hating linux. They will hate linux now and they will hate it three years from now no matter how easy it becomes. Why? Linux will never be Windows and should not be. There is already one Windows out there and in little ways both KDE and gnome are trying to look beyond the Windows way of doing things while copying the best qualities of XP and other OSes.
Does this mean that linux shouldn’t become easier to use and have better software installation and gui tools?
No. I have stated my opinions on this in a previous post.
Does this mean that I am just a MS hating troll? No. If XP does the job for you or if you are a serious PC gamer or if you just like XP for goodness sakes use it and forget the politics.
If you want to learn a different way of doing things and you understand you are dealing with an alternative OS then try linux out.
BTW, on another topic, boyo said that he should be able to download a driver and not worry which gcc it was compiled with and he is right. I could make excuses by saying that this is just the early stages of implementation of distros using this version of gcc. I will not. I will say that RedHat should have re-compiled the Nvidia stuff themselves as best they could and donated back to Nvidia a rpm with the proper scripts to force its loading on startup so people would not have to muck with the nonsense of recompiling the source rpm themselves. Bad RedHat in this regard. Distros are not huge powerful companies and they should not assume the universe will blindly follow their lead. They need to help the HW manufacturers out in this regard.
However, the one excuse I will make is that many manufacturers did not have proper working non-glitchy drivers ready for the XP launch either. I have heard the horror stories of having to search like mad or deal with drivers that would just not work.
BTW, that was not MS’s fault but the HW folks not catching up in time.
RedHat should have re-compiled the Nvidia stuff themselves as best they could
RedHat are not able to do this while nVidia refuse to release their source.
I installed RedHat 8.0 on my machine with a nVidia card, it seemed to install the XFree driver, which didn’t work too well (because NV won’t say how it works) so “upgraded” to NV’s own driver, which killed the machine, regularly but unpredictably.
what is important is that a Perl application can add itself to the menu whether it is running under either KDE or Gnome and have its application run.
As I said earlier, I wrote a shell script (http://speedtouchconf.sf.net/) – it should *not* be part of GNOME, KDE, or any other desktop. I cannot even conceive how it could be. It’s a run-once, then forget it script. Even a common script, if everything you download threw itself into your menu, you’d be overloaded.
Personally (though I use IceWM, so I’m not “typical”), really good stuff gets into my toolbar because I’ve used it enough that I can be bothered to edit the config file to give it an icon – this idea of icons on the “desktop” makes no sense to me whatsoever: That MS hack of a desktop button to minimise all windows so you can see the desktop in order to see other icons? C’mon! I’ve got less that 12 icons in my taskbar for my key apps, including MGT, from which I can launch anything else (for ee I’d want to select a directory, then choose files with a `find . -type x -size x` command, anyway.
I agree with John’s article in the main and it’s obvious that not everyone had read it completely. On the issue of defaults and making things easier for the first time user, for example, John never said to *eliminate* VI, JED, emacs and the zillions of other text editors. He said to simply choose one as the easiest-to-use DEFAULT.
In other words, pick one text editor (please!) and let the newbie see that one, and that one only, when he/she clicks the programs menu. As the newbie gains experience, he/she can learn about the other choices and use them if they prefer.
On the issue of making the OS easier to use: I, too, am a long-time PC user. I started with DOS 1.0 on a Zenith Z100 and progressed on up to Windows 98, at which point I switched to Linux.
This is Deja Vu all over again for me in some ways. When Windows was first introduced, it was deprecated by the long-time DOS users. “Too simple.” “People should LEARN how to use a computer, not just click icons.”
The SAME arguments. EXACTLY the same that are being used for Linux now.
What John is saying is spot on. The botton line is, if you want Linux to remain a niche operating system (perhaps gaining dominance in servers someday, though even that’s not guaranteed), then keep it hard for the newbie.
If you want it to succeed, make it to where the average user can *USE* his/her system without jumping through hoops.
It’s just that simple. John’s article is dead on the money.
Sorry Steve wrong answer.
Parts of the source is not free and I think someone will correct me on this I am sure that part of the source rpms comes in binary format.
In this story on OSnews the author goes through the pain of recompiling the rpms for the Nvidia drivers for RH8 no less.
The ltmodems also had to be recompiled and forced no less to work initially with RH8 because part of the source rpm was in binary format.
..over the last decade there’s been a huge push to get the message across that using a computer is (or can be) a simple and rewarding experience. Microsoft, Apple, IBM and others have advertised for years along the lines of “..just click here and you’re away”, which has helped to make computing rapidly and readily accessible to non-technophiles. Just look at the web and the way it’s evolved over the last 7 or so years…not to mention how easy it now is to navigate and search for information with sites like Google and Yahoo.
My point is…you can’t expect people to go backwards when it comes to ease of use…nor can you hide behind some of the irrelevant elitism of some of the posters on this and many other linux-centric sites with lines like “well you don’t just jump in a car without taking lessons first”. Like it or not, the pc WILL become just another consumer device, so it needs to start acting and working like one. MS and Apple know this and are doing everything they can to get it there.
I agree with the tagline “Linux is for everyone”…but some of the comments that appear before this line really seem to insinuate “Linux is for everyone that bothers to spend as much time as I do learning the ins and outs of their system”.
Also, a comment was posted earlier about a driver install under Windows being just as difficult and time consuming as anything else. Sorry, but that’s just rubbish. The majority of hardware installs are a case of plug it in, turn it on, then follow a simple wizard. More often than not Windows will figure out what it is, how it should be setup and what driver to use. I’ve been using RH8 for a while now and let me tell you, trying to get some of my devices to work the way they should has been a frustrating experience.
I’m willing to persevere with it because I enjoy the challenge of it all. I’d really like GNU/Linux to succeed because I believe in the idea behind the free exchange of information and knowlege for the benefit of all, so I’m making sure that my skills are up to date when it does, but it definately ain’t ready for the average user yet.
In a nutshell I guess what I’m saying is that improving ease of use is a no brainer if GNU/Linux even hopes to reach the masses. As they say, the mountain ain’t gonna come to Mohammed.
Most hardcore linux users have the knee jerk reaction I want my OS to remain niche and elite and I do not want it to get easy.
Read what many people refer to as easy. Half the stuff is just please make it more like Windows as opposed to suggesting graphical easy ways of accomplishing linux tasks in a new way or a linux way. Most old-time linux users did not leave windows simply because they hated Microsoft.
They hated Windows and do not want linux to simply be a Windows clone so some silly I hate big bad corporate M$ bugger can proclaim proudly that they do not contribute to the monopoly. Honestly, I have no clue why they don’t just buy Apple and be done with it.
This may shock some of the XP fans out there because it is a fine OS in many ways but they left linux because they hated Windows. They hated the crashes, the blue-screens, the files locked with no apps running, in general the Visual Basic widget hacked fugly windows 95/98, NT 4.0 way of doing things. They hated Windows, not Bill Gates (they love to make fun of him though) and not Microsoft. They know linux will not ever be windows-like enough to satisify the hordes of BeOS refugees, and the M$ hating zealots who grew up on the tit of the monopoly.
Old school linux users learned to like Unix and the command line that the above BeOS, M$ refugees despise. They are skeptical of most tools save the few that have grown outside the distro halls like Webmin which I have used and found to be most complete for server use.
Sure, it is elitist. Sure most the fears are unfounded.
However, I wish that the BeOS/Mac OSX folks would stop all the negative linux sucks use OpenBe-Mac-whatever long enough to add some constructive advice. It would be cool to hear some other views of ways to do things.
Gnome has implemented fontillus which is a drag and drop way of installing fonts that is vew Mac’ish in my opinion. It would be nice to get more such ideas and have people express this to their favorite distros or the bugzilla or their favorite gui project.
Instead there are all the Windows folks just screaming for an add/remove programs clone and whining over binary drivers that are not going to come unless the hardware manufacturing gods deem it necessary to open the specs or shit the binaries down on us from above.
This scares the hell out of the old-timers because it is clear that a lot of people calling for linux to become easier are just fussing that it is not like the OS they just left.
There are other people that have made some very nice suggestions that go beyond simply calling for a clone. Still, people seemed to have a problem understanding why linux folks are so wary of the calls for change.
I have stated the reasons.
No all of them are warranted or real or right but people keep wondering out loud why linux folks hate all this desktop simplification talk and I have told you why I think it is so.
Why do people constantly complain about X being slow without a shred of evidence! Even if X is slow, at least its not vaporware, like the countless Amiga/BeOS/OS2 “revival” projects out there.
It’s not supposed to be, X biggest quality is network transparency, it’s based on a client/server model, wich (basically) allows you to remotely run graphical operations on you pc, however, all of this means just overhead for deskop use, since you don’t need a server if you’re only running one client (desktop). There’s also the sockets issue and other stuff:
Anyway, so that X can behave more “desktop like” they add all these extentions to X and all sort of crap that just made it the bloated frankenstein that it is today.
Just my 32Mb of ram(ts)
I use both Windows XP pro and Redhat 8.0 at home. I would switch to Linux fulltime only if I had these two things –
1. A good CD burner program which is as intuitive as Nero.
2. A reliabe firewall, much like ZoneAlarm pro.
Other than these two things, I am absolutely no gripes against using linux. It has everything I need and it can be configured with only a little bit of tinkering. Frankly, you can’t ask more for the price of free!
That’s what Google is for. Furthermore, if you are installing Pango, you probably know what it is.
Also note how the message is slanted towards using whatsisname, so you have a general feeling this would be the ‘normal’ thing.
I suppose if you wanted to make it really easy, you could make hyperlinks to definitions. But really, how hard is it to fire up the Google Glosery and read a ditty about it?
For CD burning, try K3B. Easy to use and simple interface. Works great under RH8 as well and you don’t have to setup mock SCSI drivers for most CDR/CDRW drives.
> Most hardcore linux users … want my OS
> to remain … elite …
Sure. But that’s silly. With Mandrake, for example, I can blow out everything related to X and just bang around at a bash prompt. Mandrake doesn’t *stop* me from doing things at a command prompt, but they give me the *option* of doing things in a GUI.
> Read what many people refer to as easy.
> Half the stuff is just please make it
> more like Windows …
Sure again; there’s a lot of truth to that. But not in all cases, and it’s certainly not true in my case. I want something *better* (and I do believe that Linux *is* inherently better — even in the user interface: I like KDE’s multiple desktops, for example).
But there is no logical reason why I should be *required* to edit the fstab file in a text editor. Anything that can be done to a plain-text config file can be done via a GUI interface. Again, Mandrake does this, which is why I prefer their distribution.
I tried RedHat 8.0 a couple of weeks ago and was really surprised at how much more difficult it was to tweak. I figured if Mandrake had that nice interface, surely RedHat would, too! I was wrong. When I searched the help and how-to docs on getting it to mount my old Windows partition, for example, it said — sure enough! — that I needed to edit fstab. Why?
You see, if there was a logical reason *why*, after several years, it was still necessary to edit these config files manually, I might understand it. But there isn’t. The fact that Mandrake lets me config my system from the get-go in a GUI is proof to me that it doesn’t have to be that way.
> They hated the crashes, the blue-screens,
> the files locked with no apps running …
… the hangs on shutdown, the need to reboot everytime I
installed just about any program package … I’ve got a list of my own.
> all the Windows folks just screaming for
> an add/remove …
Now, that’s a little unfair, IMNHO. Speaking as a former Windows user, there’s nothing wrong with liking the fact that I can usually insert a CD and have an installed program with the click of a few buttons.
I’m not a newbie by any stretch, but the first time I hit a dependency problem under Linux, I very nearly lost what little hair I have left.[g] And again, I hate to sound like a Mandrake commercial, but their software installer (and uninstaller) is top-notch. And again, if they can do it, why can’t everyone else?
The only reason I can figure is what you allude to: some distributions are AFRAID to do this for fear that they’ll run off the hard-core elitists.
See what I’m saying? Not that Mandrake doesn’t have
problems; it certainly does. There are bugs in its
distribution that still need to be worked out. But the
framework for everything that John asked for in his
original article is there.
It CAN be done, if — as you say — the oldtimers and elitists will finally realize that there is joy in clicking widgets to set up a line in fstab, as opposed to editing the file in vi.
I think this article is *almost* dead on. However there are certain things here that will NEVER happen. One of the things I have to disagree with is the branding issue. Not that it is a terrible idea. It would be nice. But it isn’t the way this community works. It will never be the way the community works. Why?
Redhat has no reason to brand their distribution with anything other than Redhat. Let’s say for instance my brother borrows my computer and it has Redhat 8.0 installed on it. He plays around a bit, likes it, and decides to keep using. The first thing he will do is ask me for a copy of my redhat cds, assuming I’m not around, he would go download them. Maybe eventually he’d try other distros, but a recognizable brand just earned Redhat a user, which is good for redhat and the linux community. Gnome and KDE will continue to have the names Gnome and KDE in their line because guess what! Gnome and KDE are not linux exclusive. They are made to work with a variety of unixes from GNU Hurd, to Solaris, to the BSDs. They can’t go slapping linux on all of their graphics, and why would they want to?
Everything else was pretty good I thought (although some of it is asking a bit much). One of the finest points of the article was the applications suggestions. He is dead on. Why are there so many text editors? All there really needs to be on a distro is a Notepad like editor, an emacs style editor, and a choice between a vi or pico style editor. Nothing else is really needed (most users won’t use anything other than the notepad one). Another good suggestion was clip-art stuff. I may get around to making and/or packaging some of that myself. It is about time I contributed to a community that has handed me this wonderful OS completely free of charge.
As I said before, I apprecciate the article. However, I don’t believe the writer has enough knowledge of typical Linux operatings systems to truly deal with certain subjects. Some things he request already exist, such as DVD support (I prefer ogle). He also asks for among other things email and word processors. Ximian Evolution is an excellent email client that many converts will find strangely familiar. OpenOffice has slowly and quietly become a powerful office suite. Is OpenOffice as good as MS Office? I don’t think so. But MS office sure isn’t $200 better than OpenOffice.
Why does linux have any hope at all at becoming a mass market Desktop OS. An true desktop alternative has already come and gone, or did everyone forget Beos so soon? Why should Linux be able to do well where Beos failed? The thing that killed Beos was 1)MS telling OEM’s that they couldn’t ship another OS and 2) OEM’s actually weren’t interested in shipping another OS. Why would OEM’s embrace linux all of a sudden? What’s changed?
The bottom line is unless it comes bundled with every PC, linux has a snowball’s chance in hell of every gaining any noticable market share on the desktop. The only way you win hearts and minds is to force users to have no choice, and I don’t how you can do that while at the same time upholding the principals of freedom of choice.
BTW the average windows user, doesn’t know what windows explorer is, doesn’t know what a driver is or how to install one, and hasn’t changed any of their browser settings. Your telling me these people are going to be able to use linux? In what lifetime? Shit look at how much better Mozilla is compare to IE. You’d think the fact it doesn’t involve reloading and entirely different OS would make people flock to it in droves, yet it has only 1-3% market share. Explain if people are so eager to leave the MS Internet experience why things like Mozilla and Opera aren’t more popular? People like MS software plain and simple no matter how much you tell them they’re evil or that the software is insecure. Its going to take BillG kicking them in the balls before they conside looking for alternatives, and I heard Bill doesn’t like to touch others so take that FWIW.
BTW, I say this as someone who left windows when Redhat 5.0 came out. I love linux, but I’m not delusional enough to still think linux has a chance of becoming a popular desktop OS. That’s just not gonna happen.
I have read many insults on this and various other message boards about how hardcore linux users don’t want an add/remove program clone. All I have to say is… why? Having a central control panel with which to add and remove programs IS GOOD. I am not saying people should have to use it. But un-install/install logic is helpful. I can see why it is less necessary in a linux environment as most libraries exist on your system already and are shared by the programs that use them. But some programs I install just choose to throw config files all over the place. They stick stuff all my system and it can be a pain to figure out what goes with what program. It is like a shitbomb exploded in my pc. Usually it isn’t worth my time to uninstall something after I add. If I don’t want it I leave it there. I have plenty of space and experiment with different distros enough that it’s never too long before another format anyways. However, removing programs shouldn’t be such a pain.
I agree with most points made in the article. As mentioned in the conclusion, one obstacle to “getting there” is because the linux community is so dispersed, fractionated, divided (whatever the term). And to get a simple task done redefines the old joke about “how many [linux developers] it takes to screw in a light bulb.” What linux really needs is a few talented people working on each task mentioned in the article individually. But to have these developers working, they need money. What it boils down to then, is money. Linux needs a benefactor, someone with a lot of money–i.e. someone with money and ready to croak–who could then hire these talents to work and publish their masterpieces to the community, open sourced/public domain. Something like http://johnvu.net/blog/archives/000002.html“>what . My bias is to have graphic artists hired to spruce up the desktop–make it rival OS X and enviable by all.
> … Linux will transform into a real desktop OS …
No problem with this.
> … Every important part of the Linux OS is already in
> the hands of professionals who know what quality
> software is …
Which ones ? Look at GNOME (This is not Linux but I wanted to make an example here) and the stupid changes that you get in 2.2
– You could choose the Iconsize shown in the panel.
It used to have 16 pixel, 24 pixel, 32pixel … and now they renamed it to ‘S, M, L, XL, XXL’ … How Professional is this ? Now I don’t even know if XL is 64 pixel or XXL I as user need to play triva now.
– Once you could go into the control center and choose things like Themes for Metacity or any other Window manager. You went there looked for Themes and you changed them. Today you need to deal with phrases like ‘Window Border Decoration’ (For all that look confused now it’s meant to be the ‘Metacity Themes’ .. How professional is this ?
– If you don’t care for your system then you don’t care for GCONF anyways but everytime I look at my GCONF dir I need to puke. Even GCONF-Editor reminds me horrible of Window-Registry … How professional is this ?
These were only a bunch of examples this list can easily be extended but you people may be aware of this situation on your own. Please wait until 2.2 of GNOME comes out. I am all for a Desktop that is easy, productive and good to handle but there is no need to Idiotify the people. Make a good Desktop, make a working Desktop but don’t start to act as if JOE user (specially those that switched to an U*nix like system) is a stupid person. What I wanted to show you is that the so called ‘Professionals that know what JOE USER wants is not so professional in first place’.
I want to add one more point to my last posting.
Deal with following assumption:
Let’s say we give JOE USER the new glossary like S, M, L, XL, XXL for the icons. Now half year later this Guy has to do some work for his school or uni and everything he heard was that icons can only be of size S, M, L, XL, XXL now he talks with 5 different people whose 4 of them know the right terminology as it was used for the past 30 years of computer business. The guy says ‘I want some icons of the size XL’ I bet the 4 people will look confused in the first minutes and one of them may ask him ‘Hey wha do you mean by XL ? XL is no valid measurement of Iconsizes. How many pixels do you want ?’ The other guy will look totally confused now because he don’t know what pixels is (maybe he knows) then he replies ‘Sorry I don’t know how many pixels XL Icons are’. What you do with GNOME right now is you split the userbase up by totally re-inventing a complete new glossary. A glossary that doesn’t match the known values of the past 30 years.
There are NO XL, XXL, S, M icons. these measurement values are for clothes only. If you ask me how big an XL icon is then I’d replied double the size of my 17″ monitor.
This is not professionalism this is pure nonsense.
Look at below link. Search for the comment of ‘herzi’ and read it. There are a bunch of even people that contribute to GNOME for many years who point out what they don’t like so please don’t call it a single user problem. http://tinyurl.com/3yce I just post this here in case you want some contexts.
If you look closer you’ll see that it labels XL 80 pixels right there in the properties pane. It’s a NON issue. (I can post a screenshot if you’d like.)
Low I.Q distro? *ROFL* Quite a lot of smart people use Windows/MacOS. In fact most of them do. The difference is that they have a life. That means they rather not spend their time sitting in the cellar trying to get their scanner working. Every stupid kid can learn to use Linux. It’s just that most people (smart or not) don’t want to waste their life reading man pages. We have girl/boyfriends and such stuff, you know.
I have a life, that’s why I don’t spend a lot of time fighting with MS Word for something that will look arse, when I can just type text in emacs/vi and run it through LaTeX and I get professional typographic quality in less time than people spend with Word. It is also why i’m using FreeBSD as my desktop so I don’t have to spend my time reinstalling stuff in Win2k when it breaks all by itself (yes, even with Microsoft signed drivers).
If you don’t want to “waste your life” learning or reading anything new then you will always be clueless. The more effort you put into doing new things the more you will get back. You don’t have to learn the same thing over and over you know…
Linux is complex yes. But MacOS X or Windows XP are just as complex under the hood. The trick is to abstract/hide the complexity behind a nice interface. Redhat, Ximian, Sun etc. will do this for Linux. You can’t stop it.
XP is just dumbing things down, and I will never use an OS that treats it’s users as criminals (the product activation crap).
Can I run all my programs and games on it?
no. but there are some programs and games which are similar to the ones you want.
What is an operating system?
the short and only slightly innacurate answer is that if programs are trains, then the operating system is the points, rails and stations. the real explanation is complicated.
How is Linux any different from Windows?
linux and windows are built with very different assumptions. windows is made by microsoft for people who want the latest programs and games and dont what to know anything deeper about their computer. linux is made by developers all over the world for themselves and is very difficult to use unless you know your computer in detail. linux users don’t switch their computers off every night…
Isn’t Windows (or Microsoft) the best?
‘the best’ is a very subjective term. windows is ‘the best’ at running most software. some may argue that MacOS or BeOS is ‘the best’ at being easy to use. linux (and systems like it) are ‘the best’ at being customised to run complicated tasks for long periods without breaking down or letting anyone break in.
Can I try it out?
sure. go to http://www.knoppix.org and download their CD. its linux without a lot of the hassle.
If it’s free, it can’t be any good, can it?
well, i wonder how many free things you use without realising it… this site is free and its good, winzip is free and good. linux may be made by volunteers, but most of them are very higly trained volunteers.
Who is going to help me when I have problems?
yourself. linux has the advantage of being very well documented. if, on the console, you type “man <something>” where something is the command you want to know about, then an online manual page will appear for it. if you prefer offline help then there are many books already to help you. if you still have problems, but have read and understood all the relevant documentation, then ask on one of several newsgroups and mailing lists for this topic. make sure to choose the “newbie” list, as often the main “linux” list is for discussions about linux, not giving help. read the FAQ for the list/channel as this will tell you if there is an etiquette for the list/channel.
1. do we really need to appeal to end users?
2. do we really need people like you writing these articles?
i mean, i can think of good reasons to bring more end users in (and they are all ethical) but everytime i read articles like yours telling OTHERS what they have to do i get frustrated…
I started using Linux in 1998 (it was a RedHat) because i wanted the freedom to do what i wanted the way i wanted, that’s why i can say that all this standardization is not a good thing, i don’t want to do my stuff the way RedHat decides or the way SuSE wants, but i want the choice.
Of course an end user wants just things to be done, that’s why RedHat or SuSE (or Mandrake) exists, you’d better talk of improving those distros or create one by yourself with the things you like instead of talking about “improving linux”, i think you understand this means nothing. Try to go to BMW and tell them to “improve the engine” while you meant “improve your car”, i don’t think they’ll understand. Just remember LINUX IS JUST THE KERNEL!!! if you want an easy to use OS talk about distributions, you want an easier RH or something else? don’t tell us, tell them.
What drives OpenSource development is need and fun, maybe nobody needs an easier Kmail, but maybe SuSE needs it, so tell them to improve the application, not the community.
To say it short, the comunity only developes what needs (that’s why Linux is useful) not what the market needs, you’d better talk to someone who must survive in the market (like some commercial distro)
The article raises some useful points, IMHO. Good thing someone has had the trouble to organize ideas. If more people did this on every topic Linux needs improvement our problems would be 50% solved by now.
OTOH, arguing wether Linux is fit or not for the desktop is moot. Three different store chains hit the news recently as they were going to sell Linux desktops. I´ve been to two of them and they are really for sale. KDE-based desktops, possibly with Gnome installed, too.
Linux is ready to be sold. Is it ready to be used? I think so. If someone wants to use other systems, at least with me, no problem. I even don´t want Microsoft to “die” (by I´d like to see 3 or 4 other desktop alternatives doing well, which would lower MS´ market share to 33% at most).
BTW, when can you say the dawn ended and the day really started? Linux _is_ ready. Windows users are afraid of it because it means change. My advice: get used to Linux while you still can get an edge. Sooner than you think you´ll see that learning Linux won´t mean much — as some 140 countries will be actively using it.
It´s something more or less like using the imperial units system (which Americans wrongly call English system of units): you can choose to use something weird and inefficient, but don´t ask others to use it, too.
just another point…
the Add/Remove stuff is already in KDE, look at the KDE package manager, or if you a re a Gentoo user like me, look a t Portage, you even have KPortage on the GUI side, nothing easier to sinstall an app, fire up kportage, search the app you need (or it’s description) and click “merge” then you have your app installed. (ok it has to compile, but remember, portage can even install binary packages…)