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Asa Dotzler on Why Linux Isn't Ready for the Desktop 958

Posted by samzenpus
from the listen-up dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Asa Dotzler of The Mozilla Foundation compares the explosive growth of Firefox to the anything but explosive growth of Linux and what it needs to do to get there for the "regular user" AKA mom, dad and grandma Bootsie."
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Asa Dotzler on Why Linux Isn't Ready for the Desktop

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  • by the_mad_poster (640772) <shattoc@adelphia.com> on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @07:58PM (#13059173) Homepage Journal
    My general take on Linux, take it or leave it or try to convince me why I should change my outlook.

    Linux is not a bad system, it just doesn't have anything to offer that its competitors don't already do as well or better.

    The problem with Linux is not that it's not production ready, it's that it's a system that doesn't have anything special to offer and has nowhere new left to go. It has taken a large chunk of the market share away from the old, cumbersome UNIX systems, with their painful licensing models and lackluster support, but now it has no more market share to chip at because the supermajority of disk space that is left is in the form of desktops.

    And Linux is just nothing special in that realm.

    I speak authoritatively on the subject because my experience with Linux begins many moons ago with an old system called Linux Mandrake, now called Mandriva Linux. It started with version 5.2, a system forked from the Red Hat 5.2 release. I have since used Mandrake 6.0, Red Hat 7.0 and 7.3, 8.0, 9.0, Fedora Core 2, and variations from SuSE.

    The first version I used was painful. It was a horrible system with a horrible interface and horrible documentation. Managing it was excruciating, and it wasn't uncommon for a seemingly simple change to break numerous systems in unrelated modules and drivers. The GUI was weak, disorganized, and difficult to manipulate. The desktop was hard to customize, and the interfaces were slow and cumbersome. Installing and uninstalling was nearly impossible because packages scattered files across a confusing, oblique filesystem, and it was a very common occurrence to find rpm entries had been corrupted and left unusable.

    These problems I experienced were not uncommon and plagued Linux for years, leaving astute IT professionals shaking their heads, and young, energetic, and idealistic kids suffering under a burdensome system. I think it is fair to say that the rise in Linux use during the IT bubble and the subsequent pop of that bubble is not a completely coincidental correlation. Literally millions of man hours were lost in this time to troublesome Linux boxes and that sort of loss can hit new IPOs hard when it comes time to pay the piper.

    It took many, many years and thousands of developers, but the system finally began to shed its inadequacies and "quirks" and develop into a full-fledged corporate workhorse. The managers who had been shaking their heads warily approached new versions and their confidence was bolstered as the GUIs began to fill out, the quirks began to shrink to the background, and more application support became the norm on new releases.

    Now, Linux is a force to be reckoned with in backoffices and server racks. It is not, however, any closer to dethroning Windows as the supreme ruler of meatspace userland.

    There is a very simple reason for this: it sucks.

    I know, I know, I just finished zipping up the body bag on the "Linux isn't production ready" myth, but we've moved to a whole new realm here. We've gone from the terminology of fsck to frag. From SMP to MMORPG.

    The problem is that everyone knows Windows and everyone's applications already run on Windows. There is no purpose in learning a new system because Windows is now polished and stable, and maintains its original attractiveness through its continued ease-of-use. Like Linux, it has shed its inadequacies and become a competent and powerful system in its own right.

    So, in effect, we have the Windows system which has provided a consistent and simple interface for a decade now, and the Linux system which is an alien world to most people. Both function competently, though Linux still suffers a bit from the problem of glut thanks to its monolothic structure, and neither really offers a serious bnenefit over the other. As Joe Sixpack sitting in my cubicle, I have to think "Well, then why should I switch?" As the IT manager evaluating the cost of switching, I have to ask, "Well, how can you justify the tens of thousands I'll need to spe
    • Mandrake Linux isn't really that old of a system. I remember purchasing the 8.0 distribution at Circuit City just about 2 1/2 years ago.
    • by wolffman1982 (897620) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @08:12PM (#13059260)
      I don't think the collapse of the irrational speculative bubble of the late 90's had any real correlation with those start-ups using cumbersome Linux systems. Rather, the reason peapod/pets/...com failed was because they were given amazing amounts of money to fund business models that didn't make money.

      The VC firms just wanted a company to grow as fast as possible in order to create a profitable IPO. Linux costs were a pittance compared to the misappropriation of money by these .com's.

    • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @08:14PM (#13059272)
      There are 4 major market segments:

      1. Servers
      2. Corporate/government desktops
      3. Mom/Grandma home users
      4. Power users/Gamers

      Linux is making huge gains in the server market. The statistics show that.

      Linux is just starting to gain in the corporate/government desktop market. Expect this to take at least another 3 years.

      Once OEMs are comfortable with Linux (due to large orders from corporations/governments), they will start offering it on desktops suitable for basic email/web surfing. The largest limitation is lack of drivers for new hardware. As this market grows (slowly), that will change.

      Which will, finally, result in power users and gamers having Linux as an option. That means that the latest hardware will be released with good Linux drivers and the games will be available on Linux. The biggest problem here is the Microsoft desktop monopoly.

      Other than that, a corporate KDE or GNOME desktop can be made to look almost exactly like a Win2K desktop so there is no need to worry about training the end users.

      The value of Linux doesn't exist for the last two market segments (both home segments). The value exists for the server market and the corporate/government desktop market. But that value will drive the home adoption as people become familiar with Linux at work.

      The original article is correct in that having a way to capture the info from Windows would be a major boost to Linux adoption in the home segments. But without the hardware/game support, it just isn't worth the trouble for the average user.

      Firefox is worth the trouble of the few websites that don't support it because of all the great features of Firefox (no ad/spyware, very few popups, ad-blocker, etc).
      • by Synbiosis (726818) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @08:32PM (#13059420)
        Which will, finally, result in power users and gamers having Linux as an option. That means that the latest hardware will be released with good Linux drivers and the games will be available on Linux. The biggest problem here is the Microsoft desktop monopoly.

        Uh, no. I'm one such power user, and the problem with Linux is that moderate customization requires intimate knowledge of the command line and Linux's quirks.

        I'm an XP man, but when I used a PowerBook for two weeks, I could easily install and remove programs, connect my external hard drive, and had some interface customizations up and running in a matter of minutes.

        Compare that with my Linux experience: Two months ago, I installed Kubuntu onto my laptop. It's very likely that all of the issues that I ran into are easily fixable, but the solutions were simply not apparent or mentioned on all the help sites I went to. Let me tell you one thing: Most people don't like recompiling the kernel, compiling programs, or compiling drivers. It's probably a simple process (I've never had success with it myself), but it simply should not be required for usability purposes.

        First issue: Installing software. This blew ass. First, I had to find out the name of the package, and tried to use apt-get. This didn't pan out. Then I found out that the servers that apt-get was trying to use were disabled, or something to that effect, so I had to go and edit a text file to allow for this. This pissed me off quite a bit, because had I not been dual-booting Windows at the time, I would have had no way of knowing how to fix it.

        Second Issue: Getting my wifi card to work. This was fairly important, as my connection utilized my campus's wireless. So whenever I had an issue, I had to reboot into Windows and search for it. I never managed to get it to work, even though I have one that's fairly ubiquitous (Intel 2100). After futzing around with the command line for a couple of hours and browsing some sites, I tried to figure out how to install the drivers derived from the intel open-source release. Then I foudn I'd have to compile the drivers or whatnot, and I gave up there until I could find someone experienced in the matter.

        Third Issue: I couldn't get it to sleep. I spent a good 40 or 50 minutes to find out that I needed to recompile the kernel to include support for sleep.

        Fourth Issue: Realizing that I had just wasted my time installing Linux. I could do everything I could do in Windows, except it took me twice as long. Screen space was a serious issue. Using OpenOffice at 1024x768 felt like using MS Word at 640x480. My screen always felt cramped. Image editing in GIMP just sucked. Even when using Photoshop, I felt that 1024x768 wasn't sufficient for some of the stuff I was working on, and using GIMP made me feel like I was working at 800x600.

        Obviously, I'm back to XP. I'm willing to spend the extra $300 to save the time and frustration that I've had using Linux. I realize that pretty much all of these issues are 'trivial', but the fact that I ran into all of these problems in the span of two days seems unacceptable. When I used OSX for the very first time, it took me less than two hours to become proficient. XP took me 4. Linux needs to get to the point where a power user like myself can be quite proficient over the span of a day.
        • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @08:51PM (#13059555)
          You claim to be a power user, but you had problems with your wireless card and power management.

          I said that power users would be the last segment (#4) to move to Linux because they wouldn't be happy until their hardware was supported.

          I run Ubuntu and it runs great on fully supported hardware. But then, I also run my LCD screen as 1280x1024 so I don't have the space problems you do.
          • by the_womble (580291) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @11:15PM (#13060444) Homepage Journal
            Not only will "power users" be the last to use Windows because they want all their hardware supported, but they are also usually specially "windows power users" they have invested a lot in learning how Windows and whatever apps they use do things, but they do not actually understand how they work so their "knowledge" is not transferable.

            This is actually the group who the article call "regular users", real regular users are quite happy with Linux desktops - copy their files over, export their bookmarks and import into Firefox and that's it. This has worked fine for my father, my wife and some guys who worked for me (one is now planning to install Linux at home).

            I also do not understand what he is talking about when it comes to installing applications. There are only three pieces of software I have installed which required anything more complicated than downloading the RPM, clicking in it to start the installer, and then typing the root password and clicking OK a few times. These were: Erlang, Firefox and Thunderbird.

            In fact, bar Erlang (which needed to be compiled), Firefox has been by for the most problematic thing to install.
            • Not only will "power users" be the last to use Windows because they want all their hardware supported, but they are also usually specially "windows power users" they have invested a lot in learning how Windows and whatever apps they use do things, but they do not actually understand how they work so their "knowledge" is not transferable.

              That is complete and utter bullshit. I'm not sure how you're able to make the claim that Windows power users only know how to do things, but don't know how it actually wo
              • by the_womble (580291) on Thursday July 14, 2005 @02:43AM (#13061159) Homepage Journal
                I'm not sure how you're able to make the claim that Windows power users only know how to do things, but don't know how it actually works.

                I make the claim because I have known people for whom it is true. "Power users" known recipes for getting things done, and secondly their knowledge tends to be very narrow.

                I think that you do not understand how people who know absolutely nothing about computers approach them. I would have agreed with your statement at one time, but I have slowly realised how many people get a lot of stuff done by learning sequences of actions, rather than actually understanding what is going on. Yes they do inevitably learn a little (especially if they start writing macros), but it is much less than you might think. If you have absolutely no idea of how computers work, you have no framework to learn from. A computer becomes a black box device that produces certain outputs for certain inputs and that's it.

                Most people do not actually do much configuration beyond installing software (which these days is easy), and setting backgrounds and screen savers (and even there many users call the former the latter).

                As of the narrowness of power users knowledge, let me give you a few examples. Many years ago I came across someone keeping a database in Wordperfect. They knew WordPerfect so they wrote a set of macros to do what they needed. That is a power user in action. More recently I have seen Excel used to circulate information - so that in order to see a single page that you wanted, you had to download an Excel file that ran to several megabyte with macros etc., the file had to be manually copied to the file server at each branch office. Putting the information on a web server would have been obviously better. This was the product of a "power user" who knew how to write VB scripts in Excel but little else.

                As for software installation, I have not used OS X , but I would say that the better Linux distros (such as Mandrake) are at least as easy as Windows - easier if you stick to software from your distro. The hardest are of course very difficult to install (both OS and additional software), but they are designed for a different user base.

              • by indifferent children (842621) on Thursday July 14, 2005 @08:35AM (#13062332)
                I have to say, by far the easiest operating system I've ever installed anything on is OS X. Just open the disc image and basically drag the file onto your desktop or wherever and boom! It (usually) works! After that, I feel that Windows is the next easiest (that might have to do with the fact that Windows programs are so ubiquitous and therefore easy to find... and you usually have all the DLLs and such from previous installs that actually shipped with them. Then again, this leads to "DLL-Hell"...) followed by Linux as being the most difficult to install things on, on average.

                I don't think that you have used any of the Debian-based distros. The Debian apt-get is fantastic (the RPM-based apt-gets are still inferior). You need to know the name of the program that you want to install. After that, it is: apt-get install mozilla-firefox . And apt-get resolves all DLL-Hell-ish dependencies for you (recursively).

                If you prefer GUIs, 'synaptic' shows you lists of all known applications, you click the apps that you want, and synaptic runs apt-get for you.

                With OSX and Win32, you must go out on the Internet and find the packages that you want to install, download them, download any other packages to satisfy dependencies, and then use the 'easy' install procedures (in the correct dependency-driven order). Apt-get wins hands-down.

        • by tehdaemon (753808) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @09:24PM (#13059768)
          Have you ever tried to run Windows on a laptop without the drivers and utilities provided by the laptop maker? I have. The drivers were for XP home and we were trying 2K. Almost nothing worked. We then tried Fedora core 4 on the same laptop. While there were a few problems, most stuff worked. I am posting from Ubuntu, it is easier than fedora (IMHO)

          The problem is not linux, it is manufacturer support. Windows is actually much worse than most linux distro's, but because the manufacturer supports the laptop, it (usuallly!) works fairly well. If they gave the same support to linux it would work just fine.

          • Yes, I have, with decent success. Beyond my modem, I get pretty much everything running fine on a clean install of XP. I wasn't expecting video acceleration, but I was hoping I could at least get my wireless card working.

            I'd read that Intel had released Linux drivers for my wireless card about a year ago. I had figured that such support would have been integrated into Kubuntu, which was the most recent distribution at the time, but I was wrong.

            IMO, if a driver for a wireless card that's as popular as th
            • by Vantage13 (207635) on Thursday July 14, 2005 @01:03AM (#13060822) Homepage
              IMO, if a driver for a wireless card that's as popular as the Intel ones still isn't supported in a default install when drivers were released months ago, Linux still has serious support issues.

              So I suppose when XP doesn't come by default with drivers for hardware released two months ago that it too has serious support issues?

              XP won't come with drivers for hardware that has come out after its release. The manufacturer provides the drivers. So if hardware manufacturers can provide drivers for XP is it unreasonable for them to produce Linux drivers on that same CD? On top of that they go to great effort to provide it in the format requested by MS themselves to be compatible with their OS.

              Is it unreasonable for them to provide a linux driver in the format requested by Linux developers?

              Is it reasonable to blame the Linux distro and not MS even though both haven't included the driver in the default install?

              I don't see how these two situations are really different? XP needs third party driver for your card to work. Linux needs third party driver for your card to work. If anything, it's up to the hardware manufacturer to make sure the user experience is the best it can be. At the moment, they don't seem to be trying all that hard...

          • The problem is not linux, it is manufacturer support.

            Sure you can buy ice cream. Just remember that this ice cream doesn't work with a lot of cups, cones, bowls or spoons. And even if it claims to work, it may only allow you to take bites in 1/2 teaspoon sizes or less. But if you wait long enough, it's sure to improve.

            But it's totally worth it because you're no longer giving your hard-earned money to those bastards at Baskin-Robbins.
        • by tokabola (771071) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @11:19PM (#13060464) Homepage
          Uh, no. I'm one such power user, and the problem with Linux is that moderate customization requires intimate knowledge of the command line and Linux's quirks.

          That's funny, I set up a half dozen systems with Mandrake 10.0 and never had to use the command line once. Sure, there are some things that can't be customized without using the cli, but making those same customizations in Windows often requires editing the registry, or installing third party add ons. Personnally, the cli is a lot easier for me to work with than the Windows Registry.

          To address your "issues",
          First: I guess you missed seeing the graphical frontend for your package manager (can't remember the name of the one for that distro)? You could have browsed a list of available packages (with descriptions and usually a link to the projects homepage, and installe them with a couple clicks of the mouse. Personnally, I find that much easier than driving to the Windows package manager (AKA Best Buy, Comp USA, etc).

          Second: The reason your Wifi card works under Windows is because the maker of your laptop did all the dirty work (like driver installation and configuration) for you. Had you purchased the computer with Linux pre-installed the Wifi would have worked "out of the box" and you'ld be whining about having to make it work when you added the Windows install.

          Third: same as above. Most laptops don't function correctly on the regular version of Windows, either - that's why the maker of your laptop provided the customized install and recovery disc (or partition). Chances are your WIFI and APM stuff wouldn't work "out of the box" with a regular retail version of Windows

          Fourth: it's all in your head. I've never felt that Linux is "cramped" compared to windows at the same resolution. And I vastly preferr the Gimp over photoshop for what I do - mostly web and 3-d textures. If I was a photographer I'm sure I'd prefer Photoshop - but the Gimp's "make seamless" tool makes it so much more usefull than PS for me. That's just a matter of preference - YMMV.

          As for compiling things - you don't need to with most distros. I used Linux successfully and happily for a couple years before I ever had reason to compile anything.

          I think the only real problem you have with Linux is that you don't know how to use it. Once upon a time you didn't know how to use Windows, either, but you learned. Now, however, you're a big bad "power user" and your ego won't let you go back to being a noob and learning Linux. To bad - your loss.

          Tommy
          • by Synbiosis (726818) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @11:47PM (#13060593)
            Heh, this entire thread reminds me of a bash quote:

            <dm> I discovered that you'd never get an answer to a problem from Linux Gurus by asking. You have to troll in order for someone to help you with a Linux problem.
            <dm> For example, I didn't know how to find files by contents and the man pages were way too confusing. What did I do? I knew from experience that if I just asked, I'd be told to read the man pages even though it was too hard for me.
            <dm> Instead, I did what works. Trolling. By stating that Linux sucked because it was so hard to find a file compared to Windows, I got every self-described Linux Guru around the world coming to my aid. They gave me examples after examples of different ways to do it. All this in order to prove to everyone that Linux was better.
            * ion has quit IRC (Ping timeout)
            <dm> brings a tear to my eye... :') so true..
            <dm> So if you're starting out Linux, I advise you to use the same method as I did to get help. Start the sentence with "Linux is gay because it can't do XXX like Windows can". You will have PhDs running to tell you how to solve your problems.
            <dm> this person must be a kindred spirit of mine
      • by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @09:12PM (#13059682)
        Embedded. Cell phones, TVs, dektop boxes.

        Linux excells where Joe Sixpack does not have to fiddle with set up. That includes situations where the computer is not visible to the users (embedded and servers) as well as those where someone else completely manages the box (eg. corporate desktops).

        For the general home user I agree that Linux is a pig. I can't get my PC to play MP3s. The Winmodem needed a bunnch of hacking etc.

    • by aussersterne (212916) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @08:19PM (#13059310) Homepage
      Classic formulation: if you're not interested in adopting the Unix mindset (text-based text processing, pipes, small well-defined tools, a de-emphasis on graphical user interfaces, non-data-processing devices, etc.) then why choose a Unix operating system?

      Linux offers a great deal of value that Windows doesn't. As someone who works with huge databases of text at a major publisher on a day-to-day basis and who has to use both systems at varying times, I can assure you of this. Just because you don't have the needs that justify the Linux learning curve doesn't mean that no-one else does. And even if you can't even see any features that Linux/Unix has that Windows doesn't, it's fairly rich of you to assume that everyone who chooses Linux/Unix over Windows does so simply becuase they are deluded.

      I can honestly tell you that for any number of large jobs in my workplace, two or three commands at a Linux command line replace either dozens of labor hours, dozens of development hours, or the $$$ to purchase a specialized product in Windows.

      What I don't understand is why desktop users who have no need of the "Unix philosophy" of data processing insist on complaining about an operating system that was designed to move DATA (not icons or mouse pointers) around efficiently.

      If it doesn't fill your needs, don't use it. The unfathomable leap comes when you assert that no-one else should either.
    • by flithm (756019) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @08:30PM (#13059396) Homepage
      how the hell did you get first post with so much freakin' writing?

      Did you type this up ages ago, just waiting for the day you could get first post with this?

      As for my comments on your fine post:

      I recently installed Linux on my non-computer literate girlfriend's computer. She was always afraid of Linux because whenever she tried to use my computer it was nothing like Windows.

      I put on a nice easy to use distro, set her up with KDE, and let her go to town. She's now using GIMP, uses it for all her photographic needs (scanning, digital camera). She even sighs when she has to reboot to Windows.

      She was amazed at the little things, like how cut 'n paste works. I could tell she was thinking "why wasn't it always this easy?"

      Or how she can resize an entire "folder" of images with a couple of clicks and no fuss.

      I really don't think it's so much a matter of Linux offering nothing of value that Windows doesn't, because that's simply not true. Linux has tons to offer the average person that Windows doesn't.

      The major problem, as I see it, is that it requires changing the way you think about using a computer.

      When I first started using Linux I got very frustrated for a while, simply because my mind is notoriously bad for resisting change. It didn't like having to re learn such simple stuff. In fact in the beginning I kind of felt like I was a prisoner to my computer. I no longer knew how it worked at all. No idea! How do things run at startup? How do I add a printer? It was all this huge mystery.

      And then, even beyond that, everything is just Done Differently. You really have to change your mindset to become a fully functioning *nix/*BSD user.

      For a lot of people that's a really hard thing to do. But the funny thing is it really doesn't take that long. No longer than a week later my girlfriend was installing her own applications, updating her system, etc.

      Anyway I don't want to give the impression I don't agree with what you said, because that really was a good and well thought out post. For the most part I agree with what you said, I just wanted to add that.
      • When I first started using Linux I got very frustrated for a while, simply because my mind is notoriously bad for resisting change. It didn't like having to re learn such simple stuff. In fact in the beginning I kind of felt like I was a prisoner to my computer. I no longer knew how it worked at all. No idea! How do things run at startup? How do I add a printer? It was all this huge mystery.

        I agree with this 100%. My first linux experience was exactly the same way. Where is autoexec.bat? How do I set my P
      • by Sloppy (14984) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @11:27PM (#13060502) Homepage Journal
        how the hell did you get first post with so much freakin' writing?
        That post is one of TMP's recent journal entries. [slashdot.org]

        BTW, TMP is one of my favorite ranters on Slashdot, but this one .. I don't know. It just isn't angry enough. I wish some Linux-using republican would tailgate The Mad Poster for ten minutes, then pass him on the right-side shoulder while going 90 mph, revealing a bumper sticker on the back of their SUV, showing a penguin flipping him off. Then maybe we'd get a better rant.

        C'mon, TMP, lay off the prozac.

    • by Nailer (69468) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @08:31PM (#13059405)
      • You install it, there's no apps (or crap ones - compare IE to Firefox or Outlook Express to Evolution), or you pay lots of money to get them.
      • You run as root by default, not for ease of use (how difficult is 'type your passsword to continue' that Fedora and OS X do?) but because Microsoft and Windows developers couldn't be bothered fixing things. And you get spyware and viruses as a result, and you fix most, but a few remain, and the whole thing moves like molasses. The SP2 'firewall' still lets in about 7 network ports by default, including those used for some of the major worms.


      That's why I recommend Linux. I don't see either item changing soon either. I've played with Longhorns betas, and nothing's different. It's your computer, you may as well use it. That's why I recommend Fedora.
    • by Eric Damron (553630) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @08:38PM (#13059457)
      "Linux is not a bad system, it just doesn't have anything to offer that its competitors don't already do as well or better."

      It's not what Linux has that attracts me. It's what it has not.

      It doesn't have a philosophy of lock in.
      It doesn't have virus after virus taking my system down if I don't patch it daily.
      It doesn't have a philosophy of limiting my fair use rights.
      But most of all it doesn't have Microsoft with their anti competitive practices and their obnoxious licensing agreements.
    • by Xabraxas (654195)
      I speak authoritatively on the subject because my experience with Linux begins many moons ago with an old system called Linux Mandrake...

      Your opinion is still your opinion no matter how "authoritatively" you speak.

      These problems I experienced were not uncommon and plagued Linux for years, leaving astute IT professionals shaking their heads, and young, energetic, and idealistic kids suffering under a burdensome system. I think it is fair to say that the rise in Linux use during the IT bubble and the su

  • Linux Objectives (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fembots (753724) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @08:00PM (#13059182) Homepage
    It seems Linux has to be "like Windows" to attract a broader user base. I thought that is obvious and has been talked about for many years.

    The thing is, how many of the developers are willing to sacrify what they have built so far in exchange for a bigger market share? Are linux developers really keen to get as many people onboard at all cost?

    I guess what I'm trying to understand is, what are the objectives in Linux? What is it trying to achieve? Is world domination still the name of the game?
    • I'm about to try and sell an old windows user on Linux (dual-boot with windows XP), by having it come preinstalled with about a dozen games and Synaptic on her desktop so that she can get more at will. We'll see how it goes! ;)
    • Re:Linux Objectives (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bedroll (806612)
      Linux doesn't have to be any more like Windows than it has to be like Mac OSX. If devs try to make consistant and logical interfaces for their applications, and make those applications useful, then people will use them. I don't think developers should change things to be more like Windows, because they should be trying to be better than Windows.

      My opinion on home desktops: Microsoft can keep them. I don't want Linux to be screwed up by attempts to make it work like Windows. I don't think Linux needs to ha

      • by ZephyrXero (750822)
        Unfortunately, not every household has someone "with a clue" to be that administator. I'm not disagreeing that you should keep standard user and root accounts seperate, but to pretend that everyone will be able to just figure it out is ridiculous.

        I don't think Gnome or KDE are any more confusing than the Windows interface. What is confusing though is program installation. People like Autopackage and Klik are working to make it easier..but the distro guys aren't willing to give up their archaic repostitory
    • Re:Linux Objectives (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ZephyrXero (750822)
      Well, asking what Linux is doing is kind of confusing because Linux isn't an operating system...it's a kernel. GNU's not an operating system either...it's a userland. But these things are all platforms on which you can build your operating system. Linux systems tend to be similar, but they dont' have to be. The two biggest direvatives of Linux are Red Hat (and other RPM based distros) and Debian (and deb based distros). Each Linux distro has different goals, otherwise they'd all be working together. Some fo
    • by Mornelithe (83633) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @08:39PM (#13059462)
      Was the "objective" of Linux ever world domination?

      I thought it was a bunch of people working in their spare time (and more recently, for corporations) to produce a Free operating system that they would enjoy using/developing, and, in many cases, that other people would enjoy using as well.

      Many people have some political agenda when they work on Free/Open Source Software. Many people don't. Asking "what is [Linux] trying to achieve," isn't a very well-defined question, because "Linux" is not a single sentient entity. It's a community of people with many different goals and ideas.
    • People always say "Linux" like it is one big community all moving towards one ultimate goal. It's not. All "Linux" is, really, is a kernel that can be used as the core of an operating system.

      Look at the comments in the article. Do all the comments apply to all Linux-based distros? Many of the criticisms are not only already known (in a general sense), but also being addressed by some distros. If you look at Ubuntu Linux, for example, they've already taken steps to address many of the issues Asa pointed out
  • insightful (Score:3, Insightful)

    by diegocgteleline.es (653730) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @08:02PM (#13059194)
    So, in order to be a successful desktop OS, linux needs to be more user-friendly. Film at 11.
    • Re:insightful (Score:2, Insightful)

      by nomadic (141991)
      So, in order to be a successful desktop OS, linux needs to be more user-friendly. Film at 11.

      Yes, seems obvious, but most of the developers never seem to actually listen to it when it's said.
      • by cshark (673578)
        I say, let's make a graphic interface for Linux designed around Mozilla, the Mozilla toolkit, and XPCOM. It already comes damn close to being able to do it, and developing apps for it would be a breeze. Not to mention all of the software installation problems that would solve. Besides, I think it would be funny to watch all these pretentious Mozilla guys put in their place with a little bit of irony.
  • He dared to blasphemeth. He hath derided the holy OS on /. and he must be modded down -1 troll into oblivion!
  • I'm tired of this "Linux isnt ready for the desktop" bs...

    To be honest with you, if Linux runs on any *Desktop* it's ready. It may not be ready for Grannies system, but it is running.

    Granted, this comment is totally biased, but hell, I think freeBSD is also desktop-ready. (Linux, FreeBSD, are used on desktops here)
    • by sgant (178166)
      Really...and how do they determine it's "not ready for the desktop"?

      How about setting up someone with Linux already installed on a system? Much like Windows systems that are pre-installed on machines? I know I was the one that always had to go and reinstall windows on many people's machine because it was too confusing for them...so does this mean since people can install Windows that it's not "ready for the desktop"? The same can be said for OSX.

      Any person not familiar with a computer will be confused on
      • And since when does a fricken blog rate enough to be included here as "news"? It's a blog...which is just random masturbation of words for the amusement of the blogger himself.

        There's blogs out there that still claim the world is flat and that NASA faked the moon landings...let's put them on here too! Let Slashdot become the fucking Art Bell of the internet!

        Might as well. I hope Taco is enjoying all the cash that OSDN is paying him. He doesn't seem to care what goes on here anymore.
  • by HappyHead (11389) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @08:05PM (#13059215)
    But my mother and father already use Linux - mostly for the games though.
  • by aussersterne (212916) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @08:07PM (#13059225) Homepage
    All presupposing (as is so often done) that the ultimate "goal of Linux" (thereby attributing to "Linux" intentionality that it no doubt does not possess) is to woo Windows users away from their desktops, rather than to provide a superior computing and data processing platform.

    I am very happy with the latter, which Linux has provided me with for some years now, and if Linux ceases to do so in favor of attempting the former, I'll happily switch to some other platform (until "I hate elitsts" n00bs who want to be elite but don't want to work for it invade and begin to transform-to-inefficiency that one as well, at which point I'll move on yet again).

    Give me efficient computing or give me death. I want to manage my reams of data and my network tasks. I don't care if it jives with the [utterly inefficient] way of doing things in Windows, or if the Windows users care to adopt my methods.

    I just want the powerful tools, unpolluted, task-oriented, intelligently designed, that let me talk to my computer using the language through which it can most quickly and subtly be isntructed.

    It's not an elitist view, it's the view of a data processing pragmatist with a lot of tasks to juggle and a lot of work to get done.
  • it IS ready... (Score:3, Informative)

    by override11 (516715) <cpeterson@gts.gaineycorp.com> on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @08:08PM (#13059230) Homepage
    Windows was never thought of as 'easy' when it first came out. You still had to learn how to use it, what to click to close a window, the concepts of using a mouse, right click, etc. Linux is just different enough from a window PC that there will be a learning curve. Frankly, I wouldnt want another OS that was exactly like windows.

    Anything worth doing is worth some effort. Just sit down with linux for a bit and you will find it can do everything that Windows can do, just a bit different.
    • Yes, but it was possible to learn Windows because there were manuals that were in sync with the code, documentation was available, etc.

      I wouldn't want another OS that was exactly like Windows...but a free (in all senses of the word) OS that was exactly like the Mac, on the other hand...(at least in a user-interface sense)

    • Re:it IS ready... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by asa (33102)
      "Just sit down with linux for a bit and you will find it can do everything that Windows can do, just a bit different."

      My point is that masses of people _won't_ "just sit down with linux for a bit." They'll spend a few minutes on it and decide it's not good enough and go back to Windows. My post covered a few of the reasons for this.

      - A
  • by gelfling (6534) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @08:11PM (#13059251) Homepage Journal
    Project:
    Find a Linux desktop distro which can be installed on a low end PC and function as a credible replacement for Win95/98 which previously ran on that hardware. The OS has to be semi-easy to install, relatively bug free, it has to support a modicum of normal desktop apps that the typical student or home user would use or be able to use, and it has to be relatively straightforward to maintain from the perspective of installing printers and other common devices as well as installing patches or updates. It has to boot in a reasonable amount of time and it has to recover from a 'pull the plug' shutdown with few if any messages or user intervention. No Windows OS software or partitions are preserved.

    Hardware
    An IBM PC750 model 6887 (mod 80H engineering model never marketed). 112MB RAM. 2 IDE drives: 6GB and 4GB. The BIOS limits a single drive to 6GB. A 40x12x16 CDRW. AMDK6-2 400 drop in replacement CPU. D-Link, 10/100Ethernet NIC, Realtek 8129 family. AWE64 ISA sound card. I acknowledge that this is an ancient machine that is neither supported nor can be affordably upgraded. It is theoretically possible to upgrade RAM to 144MB but very expensive. Video is embedded S3VG64+.

    RH based:
    All the RH based distros are very similar look and feel and toolset. They are require significant hardware to run well. They all boot with a failure to start the sound server. If you have the hardware to run them they are probably a good choice for a desktop. General hardware minimum recommendations are at least 128MB RAM and 400Mhz CPU. Practical minimums are at least twice that: 256MB RAM and 700 -1200Mhz CPU minimum and at least 3-4GB diskspace. Some distros check the disk and made the volume a hard requirement.. Generally, from a pure usage perspective there is little to distinguish them from one another. Some had a much easier time installing printers in CUPS for example but I did not install anything significant to see whether one had more success than another. Sound server generally failed on boot. Video cards were generally detected as S3VG64 generic and not '+'; changing resolution was hit or miss. I did not try to install or run Wine. While they install well and have an elegant look and feel they are basically unusable with this hardware.

    ELX - Automatic partition, very clean. This may be an orphan product however good it is.
    Cobind - Very similar, manual partition, low numbered release (0.1)
    SOT/LBA - Very similar, manual partition
    Lorma - Very similar, manual partition. Developed at and for Lorma College. Multiple versions for i386 and 686 but the differences are not obvious on an AMDK6
    OpenNA - Installs but does not run on AMDK6

    Live CDs:
    Most are Knoppix/Debian based distros and with the exception of Knoppix strangely, require user intervention for installation to input manual frame buffer params. These lightweight distros all have more or less the same applications. Individual variations are minor and focus on hardware support or multimedia. There is Knoppix and there is everything else. Knoppix runs very well is very complete, in fact it's a little bloated and runs fairly slow. These distros are all pretty much the same in terms of which apps they have and they run. Feather and DSL really are stripped down, many of their apps are text based in a Window or use Dilo instead of Firefox or Konquerer. Some do not install or run at all. The only unusual one is Puppy which looks almost identical to Win98. Puppy also has a very complicated mode to install on to the harddrive - I'm not sure if it's possible. Video was detected adequately. Most are not numbered version 1.0 or higher

    Peanut - Does not install, does not run on AMDK6
    Feather - Good script for to hard drive. Runs either on CD or harddrive equally well. With a little more RAM you can dump the entire OS into a RAMdisk. Primitive GUI, printer installation is difficult.
    DSL - Very simple, fast installation. Primitive gui. Printer installation is difficult.
    Sl
  • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @08:12PM (#13059256)
    Ma, Pa and Aunt Bootsie are irrelevant. The corporate world is where the money is, and that's the area where Microsoft is most concerned about losing market share to anything or anyone. Right now, people that buy a computer for home use are to a large degree constrained by what they use at work, which is most likely Windows. All this talk about Linux being ready for Joe Sixpack belies the fact that operating system acceptance begins in the workplace and filters down from there. If the idea really is to displace Microsoft, then the place to start is the cubicle farm, not the den. The original IBM PC, all those years ago, gained widespread popularity among the corporate set because it had a ready-to-go set of business applications (and, of course, the IBM name.) Everything else flowed from there ... and it's still true today. Linux really needs (and is getting) some heavy-duty office/business applications and functionality. That's what it will take.
  • PS (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SQLz (564901) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @08:12PM (#13059258) Homepage Journal
    Make sure to tell that to Ebay, Google, Disney, Yahoo, IBM, and about upteen other major companies who have large installations of Linux desktops.
  • I remember learning how to use an Apple ][ computer when in primary and secondary school, and people weren't complaining about the interface, or why the floppy drives took so long to load. People used those clunky, green-screened machines because it had the applications they needed to use, and it was easy to pirate A][ programs.

    The same was true of Windows--it had Microsoft Word (and Office), and also had Lotus' equivalent as well. 3.1 (and 3.11) were relatively easy to pirate. People used Windows at wo
  • by tktk (540564) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @08:15PM (#13059278)
    Windows has the Blue Screen of Death.
    Longhorn has the Red Screen of Death.
    Mac OS 9 had the Sad Mac and the Bomb.
    OS X has the big power button in the background. (And maybe one more.)

    And Linux? I don't know what it's got.

    Linux users need some iconic way to know that they've really fsck'ed up the their computer. Then they can be satified when they haven't seen it in a while.

    We need something....like a dead penguin. Or maybe a slightly stunned penguin. I don't know, get a Japanese manga artist to draw it.

  • Asa makes a lot of good points here. Of course he does. Firefox rules, etc. And Firefox has done some good things.

    I think what most Linux distributions and software packages need, though, is to decide what their target market *is*. There's all kinds of talk about whether Linux is 'ready for the desktop', but never about whose desktop it should be ready for.

    Many Linux distros and packages are ready and working nicely on geek desktops everywhere. They do what those users want them to do. Those users l
  • by Sv-Manowar (772313) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @08:17PM (#13059293) Homepage Journal

    The article seems to suggest that the general idea of "Putting things in the "right" place for Windows users will go a long way" is something that would be beneficial to linux switchers. The many users who have switched to OS X haven't needed this, and in fact have moved to systems where menu choices and design philosophy are significantly different to windows.

    The reason for this not being a problem is that things are laid out in a way that's intuitive to those who just want to perform the action, rather than perform it in the way windows does. From my experience people who mostly use macs find it harder to use windows pc's on occasion than vice versa for precisely this reason. Windows has its usabilit nuances, and cloning them doesn't help people get a better experience from using the computer

    • Right, but don't ya think that she's gotta point on providing some good migration tools? As I recall, that's what Apple does with that "Move2Mac" software they have. Yes, users should be prepared to learn some new paradigms, but their data will still be relevant.
  • by jrcamp (150032)
    Regular People don't want their OK and Cancel buttons reversed -- tossing out years of finely tuned muscle memory.

    I'm really sick about this mentality that seems to have actually increased in recent years. Everybody seems to think "well just because it doesn't work like Windows then it is flawed." We should not (and will not) bow down to these kinds of gripes. The coummunity is in the business of producing better software--not equal software.

    In none of these write-ups do they care to mention viruses

    • We? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by msimm (580077)
      I've been using Linux fulltime on the desktop since 1999-2000. What pisses me off is applications switching between ok/cancel positions themselves. When I don't need to worry about where the OK button is going to pop up in Firefox/Mozilla then I'll start to worry about the rest of the OE.

      I think part of the problem is Linux (as a Unix) is just so damn good on the server. So we get the distro's/developers with a kind of hybrid mindset. There needs to be some kind of official split between the Desktop and t
      • Re:We? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by snorklewacker (836663) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @08:50PM (#13059540)
        I've been using Linux fulltime on the desktop since 1999-2000. What pisses me off is applications switching between ok/cancel positions themselves. When I don't need to worry about where the OK button is going to pop up in Firefox/Mozilla then I'll start to worry about the rest of the OE.

        You can thank gnome for that. They decided that since That Other Desktop Environment was ordering buttons according to the Windows interface convention (of "ok/cancel", "yes/no"), they'd just switch to the mac convention of "cancel/ok", "no/yes". They trotted out some high minded theory about how the lower-right corner of the dialog was "special", and how all these HCI studies (all put on by Apple of course) proved this was an enlightened change ... but as usual for gnome these days, it was just another gratuitous jarring change. End users were told to suck it up and bask in the glow of gnome's superior wisdom.

        So that's why they're backward.
    • by natrius (642724) <niran@ n i r an.org> on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @09:38PM (#13059868) Homepage
      Everybody seems to think "well just because it doesn't work like Windows then it is flawed."

      The article wasn't supposed to be a fair analysis of Linux. New users don't give thing fair analyses. If they don't like the button order and don't want to adapt, they won't use it. That was his point.
    • by asa (33102) <asa@mozilla.com> on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @11:24PM (#13060493) Homepage
      Everybody seems to think "well just because it doesn't work like Windows then it is flawed." We should not (and will not) bow down to these kinds of gripes. The coummunity is in the business of producing better software--not equal software.

      I don't think "just becuase it doesn't work like Windows then it is flawed" and I didn't say anything like that in my blog post. I said that if you want to get Windows users to migrate to Linux, you need to make the transition as easy as possible and that often means making some features and behaviors work like Windows.

      Firefox didn't adopt IE's "be overrun by pop-ups" feature but we did adopt Ald+D to focus the addressbar. We decided it was worth more to the user to give them a pop-up free browser than to try to train them to use Ctrl+L to focus the addressbar.

      It's not one or the other. Pick your battles. For linux to be successful in converting Windows users, it is going to have to make smart decisions about these kinds of issues. I can see approximately zero value in reversing the OK and Cancel buttons and I can see it being a very uncomfortable re-learning curve with a lot of pain when the user gets it wrong out of habit. Where is the value there. Why throw up that difficulty.

      - A
  • by Coryoth (254751) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @08:22PM (#13059331) Homepage Journal
    First of all migration is raised as an issue: "When Regular People fire up the Linux desktop for the first time, the browser, office suite, email client, IM client, file manager, etc, each need to carry over as much as possible of the Windows application settings and all or very nearly all of the user data."

    First of all that's a steep ask, but secondly I just don't think it's necessary. If that was required for people to switch no one would ever move to Apple. It's definitely a nice idea, and in the "nice to have" category, but I don't see that it's a deal-breaker.

    The second point is API stability: "A user should be able to install Fedora Core 4 and go grab the latest Firefox release from Download.com and have it work without the need for finding and installing compat-libstdc++ or whatever."

    This one is fixed - if developers would actually pay attention. Autopackage [autopackage.org] allows developers to package up their application into a self installing executable that can do dependency resolution. At that point not having compat-libstdc++ is the developer/packager's fault: they ought to have included an Autopackage for it in their repository so the installer can fetch it if it finds the right version of compat-libstdc++ isn't already installed. Better still, the people at Autopackage provide relaytool which allows developers to smoothly fallback to other library versions: for example, you can have your binary use the new GTK+ file chooser if it is available, but fallback to using the old one if it isn't. Which is really saying that the problem has been solved, it's up to the developers and people releasing the software to make use of the tools available.

    The third point is preferences: "Gedit has about 30 user preferences spread across 5 tabs in a preferences window -- Notepad has about three."

    Now that's not a great example becaue Gedit does a hell of a lot more than notepad, but I think the point is still very valid. To be fair I think GNOME has been putting in a lot of work on this front, and trying to clean a lot of these things up. That work is ongoing, and we can expect to see continuing improvment. That is, the way forward has been laid out, it's just a matter of continuing down the path.

    The final point is "comfort":"The final major issue is comfort. Linux must feel comfortable to Windows users. Most people using computers today have been at it for a while now and they've been at it on Windows. Don't mess with their basic understanding of how things work."

    I have to say, I think this one is a little dubious. If there is a better way of doing things why not do it? I think constraining yourself to the way Windows does things is a little pointless. There are plenty of things Windows does well, and it's fine to follow those examples, but there are plenty of things Windows does badly, and slavishly copying broken behaviour really doesn't make much sense.

    I think the real point here is: be patient. I think the points are valid, but they are also largely well known, and being dealt with. Linux on the desktop is not going to "take off" anytime soon, but the rate of improvment in desktop Linux is tremendous, and it is making slow but steady inraods. Software installation (which has been the recent bugbear that people complain about) is looking quite good with Autopackage and Smart [smartpm.org], but both of those are very new and it's going to take some time before a lot of stuff shifts over - that's life. GNOME is working hard on the preferences trim down and clean up, and, I think, is workign towards a fairly clean easy to use Desktop. KDE is headed in a different, but equally valid and interesting direction - I think the divergence is going to end up providing some real significant choice. Finally I think once all these bits properly fall into place and desktop Linux manages to make a dent in the enterprise (which seems to be where the major distros
    • by asa (33102) <asa@mozilla.com> on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @11:11PM (#13060425) Homepage
      f that was required for people to switch no one would ever move to Apple.

      This is the third or forth time I've seem mention of this on this thread. I think you all overestimate the number of people switching to Apple. How many users have they actually taken from Windows? A million? Two million? It certainly isn't much more than that. I know it's apples to oranges, but Firefox gets about that many IE switchers _every_week_. How did we go from one or two million users total just a couple of years ago to many tens of millions of users today? In part by making it work the way IE users expected it to work (without dropping innovative and powerful features like tabbed browsing and pop-up blocking.)

      If there is a better way of doing things why not do it? I think constraining yourself to the way Windows does things is a little pointless.

      Why not do it? Because users don't like change. Because sometimes habit and comfort are more important than making it marginally better. Unless you can make a dramatic value addition for the user, change is probably a bad idea.

      I think desktop Linux is looking good, and it's just a matter of time before it manages to carve out its niche.

      I'm a big fan of Linux (and Mac and Windows, too) and I want it to be successful. I didn't write a blog post saying "Linux can't and won't succeed," I tried to point out the areas that I think are conditions for its success. I think there's a big opportunity pre-longhorn to show that we've got the right stuff. That window is closing and things will be much more difficult after that. I think it's dangerous for us to think "it's just a matter of time."

      - A
  • by yagu (721525) * <yayagu@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @08:23PM (#13059338) Journal

    From the post:

    needs to do to get there for the "regular user" AKA mom, dad and grandma Bootsie

    (First off, I'm a little nervous about how the OP knew my grandma's name.)

    If you don't help newbies with linux, especially ones not very technical, then linux may not be ready for mom, dad, and grandma. Applying this standard implies also then Windows is not ready for mom, dad, and grandma. I've spent countless hours (that I can't charge, and I'll NEVER get back) fixing, re-installing, helping, instructing, etc. in a support role for my parents from Windows 95 through Windows XP.

    And, guess what? They're still struggling. Part of this stems from the fact they missed the technical revolution (and lest you diss my parents, one is a Doctor, the other is a Concert Violinist, played in the Pittsburgh Symphony). But most of it stems from the intractable problem of rendering technology intuitive and transparent to the lay-person.

    Interestingly this problem plagues both Windows and linux. Interestingly, for Windows what I've found in coaxing my parents along the learning curve is Microsoft has done much if not most to make Windows obfuscated to my parents. Each new generation has left them re-learning pieces of the environment they had just about almost mastered... (they were this close!)

    But, I do think linux is up to the desktop task for many who use the internet for mostly surfing, e-mail, quick word docs, and simple spreadsheets. And I think linux actually fares better simply for the rock solid reliability. I haven't set up my parents with linux because I live 2000 miles away from them, so I'm a little paranoid that should something really bizarre happen, I wouldn't know who to have help them, while with Windows, though it demands more support, if I'm not available, there's always some quasi-pseudo expert ready to jump in and "fix" things.

    However I have set up others with linux, and I've been amazed... the support calls simply stop! This is for people who satisfy the above criteria: internet surfers; e-mail junkies; and simple "office" tasks. The linux just works. There's probably a larger demographic out there that could use linux than most people think.

  • These same articles have been spewing out for pretty much all of the time that linux has been a major os. Each one adds little to the rest (and this one is no exception); they focus on several things: the difficulty of installing applications, the difficulty of migrating from windows, and the need to resort to the command lines. For the first, in any modern distro installing applications is much easier than it is in windows. In windows, if I want to install an application, I have to find the download, down
  • by AuMatar (183847) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @08:29PM (#13059386)
    What does the average Joe need in a computer? He needs to be able to run a word processor, a spreadsheet, an email client, and a web browser. He needs nice easy to click icons to run those. He needs to be able to automaticly download upgrades. He needs to be able to do so without worrying about security, with some level of stability, and without having to do a lot of administration.

    Lets go down the list.

    Word processor- check. OO is a fine word processor. It does everything Joe User needs to do. It just does so differently than Office

    Spreadsheet- check. OO again

    Email client- check. Evolution or Thunderbird

    Web browser- check. mozilla and firefox

    Easy to click icons- check. Under Gnome or KDE

    Automatic updates- check. The distro just needs to add a cron job to get all available uipdates at 3 am every morning

    Security- check, and far better than Windows

    Stability- check. And when programs do crash, they don't crash the OS. And rarely crash the WM. Better than windows

    Administration- check. Distros set everything you need up for you. And the Admin programs with distros tend to be easier than the Windows control panel.

    If given a pre-installed computer, Linux fits Joe User's needs better than Windows does. Even installing it isn't too bad- distros will pick defaults for you, and take away the choice of WM, email client, etc.

    What some people seem to want is for Linux and all its apps to become an exact Windows clone. For there to be a magical 0 learning curve. This won't happen, and it shouldn't happen. Linux does things differently, many times for good reason. If you use a new system, you need to relearn it. Just like they had to learn Windows at one time. If anything its easier this time around- many of the concepts in Windows transfer over.
  • by obeythefist (719316) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @08:34PM (#13059432) Journal
    I RTFA and it made some good points, and most importantly, they were constructive!

    The author implies that one of the major reason Firefox was successful is the ease of migration. And it's true! Firefox will seamlessly "borrow" MSIE settings while leaving IE there in case you want to go back. This makes it a very comfortable transition.

    Now, I don't think I'm the only windows user who thinks it would be excellent if I could install Linux and have it inherit at least some of the information from Windows. Now, I've seen enough Linux password changers for Windows to know Linux can crack open and interrogate the Windows registry.

    Some really valid ideas in the article. Will people take notice? I hope so.
  • by dr_leviathan (653441) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @08:49PM (#13059532)
    I'm a GNU/linux user (8 years, currently using Debian sarg via Knoppix) and have been recommending GNU/linux to friends and colleagues for years. I recenlty set my mom up with BeatrIX so she could do spreadsheet stuff.

    She went ahead and bought a printer... but she couldn't set it up, so I drove three hours just to set up her printer (an HP OfficeJet 4215 connected via USB)... and failed miserably. The GUI wizard was able to detect the printer model string, but beyond that there was no evidence that it could reach the printer at all. Although the model string had the make and model the wizard couldn't use that information to select the make and model and thereby pick the right CUPS configuration. When I manually picked the make and model nothing happened. I searched all over for something wrong, but didn't know enough to figure it out (I've only successfully set up one or two printers on GNU/linux in my entire career, the most recent success was using CUPS to connect to a SAMBA shareed printer... that just worked and was easier than doing it on Windows 2000).

    Not only did BeatrIX fail but so did Knoppix-V_3.8! I was rather demoralized. Meanwhile my step father (a WindowsXP user) chuckled at the botched attempts.

    Granted, if she had a broadband connection I probably could have searched the internet for tips and tricks and eventually figured it out, however the conclusion I had to make was that my favorite distribution wasn't ready for the vast majority of regular computer users out there.

    My solution will be to buy a !@#$%^&*() OfficeJet 4215 for myself just so I can figure out how to make the stupid thing work, and then make that 3 hour trip again.

    But for Christmas she'll probably get a digital camera and a new struggle will begin. Notice, I'm not optimisitc anymore.

    I LOVE GNU/linux as my desktop, but it sure isn't ready for the masses.
  • by TheNarrator (200498) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @08:52PM (#13059557)
    I started using Linux on the Desktop in about 97 with Redhat 5.2. It sucked, badly. I basically used three applications. Xemacs, Netscape, the Shell and some now forgotten window manager. I used it for Real Work (TM) to build production Linux systems using mod_perl, which was also a screwy system, but that's another story.

    For years I waited anxiously as KDE and Gnome faught their Open Source/Free war. I watched as I envangelized other developers to use Linux and dealt with their machines becoming totally foobared with the audio or video card not working right and having them not use any applications except shells and xload. I watched as Linux fortune's waxed and wained. I kept hoping for a good desktop and a sane system. I did every little update I could, waiting for the fix that would fix everything. I was disapointed over and over again by Ximian and early versions of KDE. RPM was maddening hell. Things were looking good for Linux at that time though. Windows was still unstable and Linux felt a lot more powerful at that time. Linux world in 1999 was a crazy party. Then the low point over the last 10 years for Linux came, Microsoft released Windows 2000. Finally they had a stable reasonable Internet ready operating system that didn't crash. I started hearing a lot of Linux desktop users giving Win2k it's due and switching back. I struggled on. Over the next five years there were bright spots such as Java getting released and stable on Linux and Firefox and Openoffice developing. I used redhat 9 for a long time. Stuck in a barely usable combination of Firefox, OpenOffice, Eclipse and terminal windows. Things were slow though. The system sucked. I even switched back to Win2k at home because I was sick of not being able to play Multimedia.

    This year things have gotten a lot better. I discovered Ubuntu which has a no thinking required install system in apt-get. I have Firefox, Database Clients, JDK1.5, Eclipse (I rarely touch xemacs), KDE 3.4 ,which has finally worked out most of the bugs, Gaim, good hardware support, Linux 2.6, much improved performance. I EVEN HAVE GOOD FONTS, a huge accomplishment! When I go back to Windows XP at home there's really nothing that I get too excited about. Video is still an issue and cut and paste of course, but I don't do any non text authoring, except with open office which works fine, that's about it. Linux really needs to get something like COM/OLE nailed down and it will solve almost all of its problems. Mono and KParts seem to be attempts at this. So I went from 3 buggy barely usable desktop applications on Linux (Xemacs,netscape,terms) to at least 15 or more usable desktop applications. That's certainly progress.

    (Warning: disgruntled unix user rant follows)

    BTW, three things I'm sick of in Linux:

    1. The C Language
    Security Holes,
    Constant Reinvention of the wheel due to lack
    of portability and good component model.

    2. Anti-XML Sentiment
    Delimited Files Are Terrible.

    3. Bloat Complaints
    Are the only people left using Linux embedded systems developers??

    4. Perl/Awk/Sed
    I used it for years, totally ugly, unparsable, etc.

    5. RPM
    More time wasted than any thing else I've ever used in all of Linux.

  • by diamondsw (685967) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @08:57PM (#13059600)
    This link is so critical I'm putting it first: Progressive Disclosure [blogs.com]

    There's a lot of bullshit comments being made already, and the vast majority surround this one chunk:

    Regular People don't want their OK and Cancel buttons reversed -- tossing out years of finely tuned muscle memory. Regular People shouldn't have to learn what /home means or how it differs from My Documents. ... Linux UI fundamentals need a reworking to match the habits that Windows users have been building over the last decade

    Nothing else makes any real reference to being "Windows-like". Toss it out and read that article again. And again. And for anyone who designs a distro, read it, bookmark it, make it your home page, or print it and put it on your wall.

    Asa is saying that Linux *must* be more user-focused, and there's almost nothing in his article except good suggestions that will not remove any of the "geeky cred" or usefulness of Linux.

    Things like (for those too lazy to read the RTFA, or are reading with blinders on):
    • Migration of user settings - even if just basic ones like bookmarks, documents, e-mail settings. Users will immediately feel more at home if their stuff is there and ready for them. Start small with things that are easy (bookmarks, a symbolic link back to their old documents, e-mail settings, perhaps their current wallpaper setting) and continue to build.
    • Simple software installation - honestly, things like synaptic do a lot to help on this, but Linux needs to have a way for someone to download one thing and have it work. If that means that various Linux subsystems need to freeze their API's more, so be it. The Linux Standard Base project was working on this, and it needs to happen.
    • Progressive Disclosure [blogs.com] - Fewer features in front of the user, not more (but feel free to keep an "advanced" button with all the rest). Only show options that are applicable (the settings vs preferences example was excellent). Only show the "major" programs. The file browser/Open/Save dialogs need a lot of work - show the user how to easily get to where they need to be, and by default hide the "UNIXy" stuff - look at OS X for some inspiration.
    • Defaults - Continue refining the "out-of-box" desktop experience (leaner main menus, more familiar default taskbar configuration, cleaner and more "professional" UI - Fedora is doing a *lot* right in this regard). Let it all be customizeable, but the defaults must be sensible for the largest (and simplest) audience.
    • Comfort - This does not mean "like Windows". This means things should work as expected. Drives should mount automatically without any settings or fiddling. Documents should be easy to find. Applications should be easy to install. For God's sake, never allow the X clipboard near a "normal" user (FreeDesktop is working well on that one). Terminology should be simplified ("Home", "Mount", "Execute", and others must go). You should never, ever, ever have to touch a text file, or even hear about something called "fstab".


    So, what functionality is the Linux power user going to lose? None. But you'll make it a lot easier for "normal" users to not only get things done, but have fewer questions for their support staff (you).
    • Asa is saying that Linux *must* be more user-focused, and there's almost nothing in his article except good suggestions that will not remove any of the "geeky cred" or usefulness of Linux.

      Indeed. FWIW, I wrote an article on this [blogspot.com] not so long ago. One of the biggest backlashes was the complaint that "We don't want Linux to be like Windows!" I found this complaint to be humorous, because I never suggested anything even remotely like Windows. The design I suggested was more like OS X, but more advanced, power
  • Asa is right (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jalefkowit (101585) <jason@jasLISPonl ... t minus language> on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @09:10PM (#13059665) Homepage

    Unsurprisingly there's already a lot of "bah, this guy wants Linux dumbed down for n00bs" comments on this thread. Which totally misses the point:

    Linux-on-the-desktop isn't just too complicated for n00bs -- it's too complicated for reasonably sharp users, too. And that's the problem.

    I offer myself as an example. I am not the God of All Things Computing. But I've been tinkering with PCs since MS-DOS 3 days, I've used Windows, Macs, Linux and even CP/M for pete's sake. Today my primary desktop at home runs Ubuntu Linux [ubuntu.org]. I'm comfortable compiling software from source tarballs and rooting through Google for HOWTOs and FAQs.

    In short, I know my way around a computer -- and yet Ubuntu still manages to throw me for a loop more frequently than I'd like.

    Example. The other day I installed the new Deer Park preview of Firefox. For some reason, its installer (bonus points to it for even having a graphical installer, btw) didn't add a shortcut for launching it to my GNOME panel. So I wanted to add one myself.

    Easy? Right? Bzzt.

    On Windows, here's the steps for adding a new item to the Start menu:

    1. Click Start menu button
    2. Navigate to folder where you'd like to add shortcut
    3. Right-click folder name
    4. Select "New Shortcut"
    5. Wizard launches that walks you through finding the program you want the shortcut to point to, and giving the shortcut a name.

    I figured there must be a way to manipulate the GNOME panel in a similar fashion. Nope. There is no direct way in Ubuntu Hoary to add a panel item to the menus through the GUI. Instead you have to open a shell, find /usr/share/applications, and create a .desktop file in there for your application.

    But! You don't have permission to do that by default, so you have to use sudo to create the file. ("You do know how to use sudo, right Mom?")

    And then -- once you figure out that you need to create a .desktop file, and where this file needs to go, and what format this file needs to be in, and you actually go and create it -- nothing happens! That's right, you don't see the item in your panel until the next time you log in, unless you manually restart the X server with CTRL-ALT-BACKSPACE.

    (Yes, you have to restart the window manager, or else it will appear that all your work was for naught. "Just restart the X server, Mom. Mom? Hello? Noob.")

    The icing on the cake is that to find this answer, you have to go through three levels of redirection:

    • Ubuntu tells you to refer to GNOME, since it's their desktop, Ubuntu's just distributing it
    • GNOME tells you to refer to FreeDesktop.org [freedesktop.org], since it's their standard for panel items, GNOME is just packaging it
    • FreeDesktop.org hides the instructions on how to write a .desktop file deep in a standards document.

    ("You do read standards documents, right Mom?")

    I went through all that and finally got my shortcut added to the panel. But how many average users are gonna put up with that? (And Ubuntu does better at this stuff than most others.)

    With all the spit and polish issues that Linux has, Asa is not the only Mozillian to find fault with it; former Moz UI gadfly Matthew Thomas (aka mpt), who's now with Ubuntu sponsor Canonical, recently posted a list of 69 usability flaws in Ubuntu Hoary [slashdot.org], and old skooler Jamie Zawinski gave up Linux for OS X for good [livejournal.com].

    My case was not a case of "user who could not snap out of Windows-ism". I'm more than willing to embrace a better approach when I see it. But this is not a better approach fo

  • I think its ready... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by zoftie (195518) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @09:13PM (#13059687) Homepage
    but there is real lack of desktop applications. People WILL migrate to another operating system if they have the tools they need for whatever they do. Casual users won't bother, anyone who does use internet fairly often, by this time is sick and tired of viruses, worms and other internet grit, that gets into their lives. Now alot of people have always on connections, this implies greater exposure of your computer , when your system, no only not secured, but also runs OS that is very hard to secure , even for professionals.

    Often the hardcore people who still want to play windows games, would make restore DVD of their bare system and reimage drive once a week, to keep slime off the machine.
  • by typical (886006) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @09:47PM (#13059936) Journal
    It will need to install on machines next to Window, leaving that completely intact and easy to return to, and carry over all or nearly all of the user's data and settings.

    Not going to happen. Doesn't happen with Mac OS. Too much proprietary setting information that changes format from version to version. This is a significant convenience, but I do not see it as crucial to adoption. People reconfigure all their apps when they upgrade their computer anyway -- Windows has extremely poor support for retaining application settings.

    A user should be able to install Fedora Core 4 and go grab the latest Firefox release from Download.com and have it work without the need for finding and installing compat-libstdc++ or whatever.

    I'll give that the environment is not perfect, and could be improved, but running a program, getting a list of packages and just choosing what you want and having it all automatically downloaded and installed (with dependencies autohandled, just as they have been for a long time) it's honestly easier to use than the Windows world. I'll give you that not everything is packaged, but I am a developer and power user, and I have only a few binaries in /usr/local/bin (thus unpackaged), and most of those were things that I wrote. Of the others, an nzb client, a readline wrapper to add readline support to apps that lack it (not of interest to the typical user), and a fuse userspace utility are the only things sitting in there. ~/bin contains a few more unpackaged things, but again almost everything was written by me -- the exceptions include a bin2iso converter, a grep colorizer, an ebook converter, a process memory dumper, a Gnutella client that I hack on, a parity file generator, an X11 memory usage analysis program, two interactive fiction game runtimes, a console MUD client, a console UNIX-DOS linefeed converter, a pair of programs to pack and unpack executables for reverse engineering, and a Super Nintendo emulator. A couple of those programs would be interesting to the typical user, but most probably would not. The rest of the binaries on my system come from just usage of yum. I will admit that configuring yum properly to use third-party repositories is a bit of a pain, but it's not *that* hard, and there are step-by-step instructions on dag/dries/atrpms/etc. And that's really the only unusual step.

    The problem comes in when people treat Linux distros as they do proprietary software, which is designed around systems where all the vendors can't cooperate to provide downloads, because they *sell* their software. They start hunting around webpages to download software, when all they have to do is just fire up their package downloader. And compat-libstdc++ and friends get handled automatically.

    Asking them to figure out complex system library and kernel compatibility issues is a one way ticket off of their desktop.

    Is asking them to try synaptic or yum or another package manager?

    I mean, Windows Update has at least as complex an interface, and Windows users are expected to use *that*.

    I guess that some users might want somethng a bit more like Red Carpet -- a package manager that does a bit more hand-holding ("click on this square if you want a program to write letters with, and this one if you want to get games"), but it really isn't *that* complex. It's just different.

    Regular People shouldn't have to (guess or learn enough to) choose between Gnome and KDE when they're installing your product.

    IIRC, Fedora Core lets you choose which desktop environment you want to use every time you log in -- it's not as if trying it out is that bad. (I can't be sure of this, because I just use sawfish+gkrellm+xbindkeys, but I distinctly remember seeing a friend using a vanilla Fedora Core having a menu to select.)

    Regular People don't need 15-20 mediocre games in a highly visible Games menu at the top of the Applications list.

    Actually, I don't think that
  • Installing Programs (Score:3, Informative)

    by natrius (642724) <niran@ n i r an.org> on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @10:08PM (#13060081) Homepage
    I agree with the points Asa makes about migration and installing programs, and of these, I'll address the one where I know progress is being made.

    Installing programs has been a pain for new Linux users for a long time. It's hard enough to adjust to the new paradigm of getting programs from a central repository, and laying an inadequate interface on top of that doesn't help much either. The main problem with Synaptic, the best apt frontend I've used, is that you have to wade through tons of packages for libraries and servers that few end users will ever touch. To fix this, Ross Burton [burtonini.com] put together a program that lets you install and remove programs through a tree that mirrors the Applications menu. Instead of installing some cryptic package, you're adding a menu entry. It may not be perfect, but it's vastly simpler. I'm currently working on expanding the program to let you install any application, [niran.org] among other things.

    The other issue that people have with installing applications is that the repository might not have the latest, greatest version that the user wants. Ubuntu freezes a set of packages and stabilizes them, which is an approach that works for many users and keeps things bug free. For the next version, the backports project [ubuntuforums.com] will be come an official part of Ubuntu, making it easier for users to choose if they want the latest packages or the most stable ones. Users won't have to try to install the Firefox binary that the MoFo provides since they'll be able to get it straight from the repositories, precluding any weird library incompatibility problems.

    Things are getting better.
  • Linux on the desktop (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wakejagr (781977) on Thursday July 14, 2005 @01:21AM (#13060884) Journal

    Every once in a while, I see someone (usually heavily modded troll, insightful, underrated, overrated, the whole deal) who agrees with me. I haven't noticed the "I don't care" platform on this story yet, though there will probably be several instances by the time I'm done typing this.

    Anyhow, here goes: I really don't care what OS people use. I'm a linux person (debian, if you ask (sarge on servers and desktops, if you ask again)) who has even helped a few people switch to Linux from Windows. However, if people are happy to use Windows, I let them. I'll help out family/friends with config issues, but if there's a real problem, they're stuck, as I really don't know (Ok, really don't care to know) Windows config information.

    You want to use Windows? Fine. Why does it have anything to do with me?

    You want me to help you fix your computer? Run linux. Or pay me. Stupid job . . ..

  • Disappointed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Thursday July 14, 2005 @02:22AM (#13061095) Homepage Journal
    The scoop made me think that this would be a nice comparison of what made Firefox get adopted so quickly, and Linux so slowly. Instead, it gives the same old crappy arguments of why Linux is "not ready":

    ``The first issue, migration, is pretty serious.''

    No, it's not. You don't need to run it next to Windows. You don't need to provide the same applications. You don't even need to provide an equivalent for every app. Nor all the games. OS X doesn't have all this. Is OS X not ready for the desktop?

    ``The second problem that blocks massive Linux Desktop growth is stability.'' (The use of "stability" is confusing. What he means is: you can go to a website, download an application, and expect it to run, i.e. binary compatibility)

    This is the Windows Way. Linux has a better alternative: packaging. Applications packaged, tailored, and tested for your distribution. Try Debian. Go through a number of installs, uninstalls, upgrades, and dist-upgrades. Then tell me if you like the Windows Way better.

    If you do like the Windows Way better, there is hope for you. It _is_ actually possible to distribute binaries that work. Opera has been doing it. StarOffice did this last time I checked (a very long time ago). I'm sure there are others.

    ``The third issue is a lack simplicity.''

    The complaint here is that Linux gives you too much choice. Choice is not an antonym of simplicity. Try Ubuntu. Installation requires that you select a drive to install on, create a user account, select your keyboard and timezone, and wait for stuff to install. No hard choices there. Once installed, it has a nice GUI environment with one app for every job. Just because the choices exist, doesn't mean _you_ have to face them. You can have other people make them for you.

    All the 237584704908c34 window managers are for people who like to experiment and try new things. If you don't want to bother with them, then don't.

    ``The final major issue is comfort. Linux must feel comfortable to Windows users.''

    AKA, everything needs to be called the same and be in the exact same place as on Windows. Again, see the earlier argument about OS X. As for the new concepts of mounting and unmounting, have you heard of automount? I believe KNOPPIX uses it, complete with icons appearing on the desktop when you insert a drive.

    So, with all these issues declared junk, what do I think is holding back Linux? Here's my list:

    1. Linux isn't shoved down people's throats. This is why people have to "switch" in the first place. When people start using computers, they run Windows. At work, computers run Windows. When you buy a computer, it has Windows installed. Sure, there are exceptions, but for all practical purposes computer = Windows.

    2. People don't care. Many in the Linux community want people to switch to this "better" system. To most people, Windows works fine. Why fix what isn't broken? This is also why Firefox users are still outnumbered by MSIE users.

    3. The issues you raised are widely _seen_ as problems by people who haven't actually used Linux. Linux has a bad reputation for being user-unfriendly, which is entirely undeserved (and has been for years). One could even argue that the security problems with Windows make Linux easier for non-experts [slashdot.org].

    4. People are not sufficiently aware. They are not aware of how bad Windows is. They are not aware of how good Linux is. They are often not even aware that there is an alternative (they may have heard of Linux, but not understand what it is). If we want more users to switch, we need to educate people.

    As for me, I don't really care what other people use. I've used DOS, Windows, various Linux distros, NetBSD, OpenBSD, Mac OS, and OS X. I like how I can write a program on one of the unix systems, then compile and run it on another. I don't like that it won't work on Windows, and that Windows is missing so many basic things, but Cygwin goes a
  • by Suppafly (179830) <slashdot@supp[ ]y.net ['afl' in gap]> on Thursday July 14, 2005 @09:32AM (#13062839)
    One thing these "linux is not ready for the desktop" type articles miss is that computers in general aren't really ready for the "regular user" AKA mom, dad and grandma Bootsie."

    If you can't get your mom and dad to use windows or a mac, how are you going to get them to use linux?

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