Linux

Linux desktop progress: Innovation vs. power-user backlash

Jack Wallen has been hearing all the guff GNOME 3 has been getting and has decided it was time to stand up for progress on the Linux desktop. Read on to find out if you agree with him.

Recently word spread like wildfire across the net that Linus Torvalds, Father of Linux himself, had proclaimed GNOME 3 an "Unholy Mess." The hatred for all things GNOME 3 didn't stop there. Pundits, grand-standers, tinkerers, and media-types alike went on and on about how GNOME 3 had become nothing more than a failure. At the same time, Ubuntu Unity had been given a similar title as a nearly worthless desktop.

Let's step back in time a year or so ago when KDE 4 came out of the starting gate. Yes it was hampered by a complete rewrite, but like it's GNOME brethren, KDE was lambasted as too buggy to ever work correctly.

From this I seem to be seeing a conclusion on the horizon -- people don't like change. This is especially become apparent in the open source community. But from my perspective, this condemning of change is a bit short sighted. Let me explain.

I want to begin this with a question: Who is the average computer user? Let that question settle in your brain for a moment while I move on.

I think it safe to say that Linus Torvalds is quite far removed from the average user. I would certainly categorize Linus as a power user, a developer, but not the average user. I think it also safe to say the general population spewing hatred for the new Linux desktops are not the average user. Many of them are long-time Linux fans and users who have seen their favorite desktops come and go and are now looking into a crystal ball future they do not care for.

I wouldn't even categorize myself as the average user. I'm not a developer, but I certainly like my desktop a particular way (a way that has been informed by window managers of days gone by). But my penchant for the past does not preclude me from seeing into the future.

These power users and the like tend to migrate to Linux for a number of reasons. One of those reasons is efficiency. It is possible to take a Linux desktop and make it one of the single most efficient desktops you will ever find. These users tend to have fingers flying over keyboards twelve to fourteen hours a day and are, in many instances, the very users that bring Linux to life for the rest of us. Again -- not the average user. But it's understandable why they would want/need a desktop so efficient as to not even remotely get in their way of their work.

And then there is the rest of the user-base. Those average users who really only need the desktop to work and work well. Those users aren't so concerned with how many clicks it takes to get to the chewy center of of their most-used applications. They don't tend to use keyboard shortcuts and they certainly don't want to have to mess with that many configurations.

Do you think those types of users would bemoan having to use GNOME3? Especially once they grew accustomed to the interface. I'm thinking "no."

Every desktop evolves. Even though the evolution of Windows has been held at a bare minimum (it still uses the same metaphor it used since Windows 95), it's changed. And with each iteration, users balked. They complained until they realized that maybe the new metaphor was not only "not so bad" but maybe even an improvement on the previous incarnation.

The GNOME developers took a huge chance this time around and decided there were better, more effective ways to work with the computer desktop. Thus was born GNOME 3. Same thing with Ubutnu Unity (although there were other reasons for this change). But with this progress came strong reaction. The Linux community refused to adopt the changes. Instead they wanted to go back to Classic GNOME. And why not? It worked right? Of course it did.

Since the outcry came in reaction to GNOME 3 I've been caught by surprise. I've always assumed the open source and Linux communities to be on the forefront of progress and innovation. But instead it seems they fear change as much as the next guy.

Look, I've used nearly every desktop you can imagine. And over the last few months I've been working with GNOME 3 and it's not an unholy mess. It's merely different. No, it's not XFCE or Fluxbox. It's not the same as Classic GNOME or KDE, but it is a great example of how the Linux community can innovate and do it well. Is GNOME 3 as efficient as some of the other desktops? Maybe not -- but to those who place efficiency over all else, there is always XFCE or E17. But to those who want Linux and open source to continue to be on the forefront of innovation, I say load up GNOME 3 and get used to it. I bet after a couple of days (or weeks) of use, you will find it just as comforting and familiar as your old wubby Classic GNOME.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

51 comments
fedora11a
fedora11a

I have been programming since 1968. Like everyone else, when I was young, I was always improving things. One day an old timer pulled me aside and pointed out that even though what I had 'fixed' was much better, had I considered how much it was going to cost to train the rest of the staff to do things the new way? I hadn't. Suddenly I realized that if I was going to fix something, I would also have to be sure not to break things for everyone else. If what I had done was indeed that much better, people would quickly addopt it. And those who found the old way met their needs, they were not inconvenienced by the improvement. My only complaint with Gnome 3 is, "When will the amount of work I have to do to establish a working interface which operates just as the Fedora 13 interface does reach zero?" I have no complaint with any effort to improve the interface, but I also need compatability with Fedora prior to Fedora 15. Thank You William C Fay Member Number: 3622339 ACM Professional Member since February 1990

steve
steve

I want a tool that lets me do my job with a minimum of keystrokes (and especially a minimum of mouse clicks). Think about where Unix/Linux came from for a moment. Developers who wanted maximum power from minimum effort. Enter 2 char commands like rm, ls, ln, vi, cd. We don't want a new best friend to chat with, we want to get the job done. I have a single icon shutdown button on my desktop because I don't want a conversation about whether "I really want to shutdown". If I didn't want to shutdown, I would not have pressed the icon! If I want someone to chat with, I will IM somebody or go down to the pub. I want my computer to do useful things with a minimum of instruction. :)

garegin
garegin

the problem is not change. the problem is that gnome and gnome 3 in particular severely lacks customizability. less so that even windows. its just a poor DE. os x really has the best approach of evolutionary change that NEVER has users saying "i hate this new version, im going back to the older OS". gradual change is the best way for interfaces.

birumut
birumut

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bornbyforce
bornbyforce

I am a developer but I consider myself an average user on my judgement. My abilities with programming languages have nothing to do with the effort it gets to launch an app. The "number of clicks" that you did mention in the article are not represented in any of the poll options. Efficiency has a different technical meaning. I am an average user and as an average user I strongly believe that both Gnome3 and Unity have big problems with ergonomics. They are not easy to use, they are not easy to learn and definitely not intuitive at all. I can actually go on and say they are poor imitations of Apple products which I am not a big fan of either. This definitely has nothing to do with my habits from my past operating systems. I found use of mouse intuitive, years after using non-visual operative systems. Replacing a system of gnome-on-top-of-x gui is a nice approach and can solve many Linux problems of the future. I as a slightly advanced user welcome it and as an average user welcome the possibilities that it will bring to my everyday life in future. Also as an advanced user I understand the bugs in these newly made systems are natural part of this development model. As an average user I have already got used to them as well. I made my mind about these two long before I heard about Mr. Trovald's comment. And for the record I have never been a fan of KDE or QT ever. Full stop. All the avalanche of accusations in the article are unfair. I don't like the recent changes exactly for the reasons I am clearly stating. You can not put words in my mouth. It is not about my closed mind. It is not about 10 hours in front of the screen. It is not because I can not see the future. It is not because I am in a hurry to see a matured high quality product. It is because these products suffer from bad flaws in design. It is as simple as that.

rhmccool
rhmccool

While I can see both sides of the efficiency debate (i.e., efficiency versus ease of use) and the concerns about removing flexibility and options versus keeping things simple in order to meet the needs of basic users without confusing them, I think it's important to consider another factor: the investment of time and resources required for people who are experienced with a particular desktop (or any other bit of technology) to adapt to significant changes. Yes, I know that technology changes, that the days of mastering the tools of one's trade once and for all have been replaced by a need for lifelong learning, etc., etc. That's all well and good, but there are a few issues that all software (and hardware) designers need to keep in mind when considering major changes to a product's user interface or general behavior. Learning to use a new tool, or a new UI for a familiar tool, requires an investment of time on the part of the user. That investment is often larger for people who have experience with previous versions of the tool, because they have to break existing habits in order to acquire new ones. This situation can actually make it harder for a formerly proficient user to adapt to the new UI than for a brand new user to acquire familiarity with it. When one couples this with the fact that as humans age we tend to learn new skills less quickly, and need to invest more effort to become proficient at a task, dramatic changes in a tool or its UI can be a significant disadvantage for experienced users. Ultimately, any changes to a tool or UI should offer enough productivity gains (through increased performance or efficiency) to offset the lost time and productivity that will be required for users familiar with older tools or interfaces to become equally skilled with the new tool or interface. If the change isn't great, it doesn't require a great deal of increased efficiency to make it worthwhile. If the change is profound, it should offer great improvements to productivity or efficiency. Anything else just doesn't make sense. Thus, the fundamental question should be, does GNOME 3 offer substantial enough improvements over earlier versions in some key area to make adapting to it worthwhile?

imsoscareed
imsoscareed

All the 'Linux is perfect" goofballs are whining about a their holy grail. What happened? Is Linux not so perfect any longer?

i.hilliard
i.hilliard

I use Linux, because I need to have a reliable system. I won't even look at a new desktop until it has been through three iterations. By then, the bug count should be low enough to have a productive system. Ian

mikifinaz1
mikifinaz1

First users should determine their desktop, it is the users that have to live with it. Second people even Linux users use computer TO DO OTHER THINGS that they want to do quickly and efficiently. Having to cast about to do simple tasks is really a pain in the BUTT! Making the user have to rip out and reconfigure the whole desktop does not make you friends.

bdweiner
bdweiner

the combiz 3D desktop cube is the best desktop I've ever used in 30 years of computing. Nothing is even close.

cavehomme1
cavehomme1

...don't fix it! OK, may be that is going too far, and we all benefit from incremental changes, but the fact is that too many major changes are foisted upon users of ALL OS with the extremely arrogant view of the developers that "we know best" or "it will be good for them. Well sorry, but for many to people stay productive they need stability. Thankfully the great thing about linux is that there is LOTS of choice, and Gnome 2 can still be used on a newer kernel of course. Keep on rolling linux, I would love to use it full time but I need full compatability with docx and other MS proprietary formats, as well as there is simply no tool like Outlook - and Evolution is still a way off, especially syncing with Symbian and other devices as far as I know.

jim420
jim420

I started using Linux in September of 1992. You could say I'm a power user. But it's starting to feel like maybe I'd like Linux a lot better if I was a newbie! X-( I don't fear change. I *like* change .... GOOD change!

janitorman
janitorman

Actually, it's a great idea for a mobile device, all the things you are going to use are right there on the left. That said, yes, it's probably what the future will hold for an interface, HOWEVER if you want to use more than the 5 most common (or however many items you have pinned) it's a pain. GREAT interface for a new user, or someone who spends 98% of their time on their browser and hardly looks at the desktop, HOWEVER I'm not one of those. I admit I'm very "old school" wanting dropdown menus everywhere, options left and right, and I use right clicks, keyboard shortcuts, etc. Therein lies the problem. You can't take the complexity which leads to simplicity (not having to click 5 times to do something) away from someone who's used to it and not hear complaints. Sure, it's usable desktop for some, but I think, at this point, it's not ready for prime time on a desktop. As stated above, it IS probably great for a mobile device. Another point is, I really don't like wide screen monitors. This thing reduces the wasted screen space on the edges while still being usable, so that's a plus. It reduces the wasted space on the right as well if you pin a few gadgets on that side, say the weather center and an analog clock! It's not all bad, but it's better for a BASIC interface rather than a POWER user interface, is the whole point. I personally use XFCE on my Linux machines, and have it customized just the way I want it (nothing right out of the box, for me, anyway, not even Windows machines!)

Greenknight_z
Greenknight_z

If you want to be on the bleeding edge, you've got to expect there will be bugs; everything new usually is a mess at first. If you don't want to deal with bugs, don't be an early adopter. As for me, and for the majority of computer users, Puppy Linux is all the OS you need - easy to use, fast, and light.

mwclarke1
mwclarke1

I think Jack, you have it wrong. I think most average users are the ones to resist change the most. They are not as familiar with the computer, just barley enough to have learned where everything currently is and took a while to learn that. Take an example from Microsoft office, change the way you navigate dramatically and an average user will balk at trying to learn something new. More than 95 percent of everyone in our company has resisted moving from office 2003 due to the new ribbon design, many whom have gotten new computers with 2007 or 2010 installed have re-installed 2003 to use as they could not get use to or time to learn the new interface. As knowledgeable as I am, I too found it so different that I had finally 100 percent moved to using openoffice/Libreoffice exclusively now. Although I would rather work on a Linux machine today, I have always hated UNIX/Linux, I have always thought when the user interface/commands were developed, no one really understood the user interaction at that time, I hate it although I would not change it since that is what I know and I know how to navigate it now, I would not change much now. I am more than an average user, power user maybe, but I do get a lot of response from average users and I think they would be the ones to resist change the most. The exception is for beginning users, they have to learn from a fresh start anyway, it would not matter as much to them, but for the many already average users accustomed to what they know, change is not welcomed much.

Dr. Fowler
Dr. Fowler

One of the common misapprehensions of evolution is that it is universally positive and progressive. In actuality about as many changes are negative as positive and what matters is survival. Whether G3 is negative or positive will have to be seen. For myself, I consider G3 to be a negative improvement over G2 based on observation of a substantial increase in the mean time to accomplish tasks. Perhaps more fundamentally G3 has considerably less command entropy than G2 which may result in a reduced learning time for new users but also a severe reduction in creative possibilities for the more advanced user. I am also concerned that much of the developmental work in Linux is performed by advanced users and if they are alienated by G3, they will 'vote with their distribution' by moving elsewhere. Again, time will tell, but the suspicion is that by adopting a plan of shifting the user base to a broader foundation the organization may find itself with a truncated demographic. Perhaps G3 is the 'Vista' of Linux?

lwgreen
lwgreen

I cannot get a display to work with Unity or Gnome 3 with my AMD3500 & AMD3600 with built in Video cards. Added new NVidia graphics card cannot do an install or upgrade to either of these interfaces that will work. Have reverted to XFCE & LXDE as desktops as they install and work out of the box which is one of the reasons I use Linux.

leutzdave
leutzdave

It's ok to try to implement new interfaces, just don't eliminate the old tried and true one too early, meaning before the new interface has been matured and become relatively bug free. People who have to use their computers for work can't be bothered with broken or absent features. It's just asking too much. I tried hard with KDE4 up thru 4.2 before jumping ship. That's what got me into Gnome, and at that point Gnome was just a bearable and less buggy alternative. IF now you try to force me down that road again, I'm going to have to jump the Gnome ship and either try over again with current KDE4 or go looking for another Desktop Environment. When this has gone on long enough, one becomes a true Guru by foregoing all Desktop Environments altogether and learning to do everything from a terminal command line just to reduce the re-learning demands. When it comes down to it, all you even need a Desktop Environment for anymore is to easily launch graphical programs such as web browsers and graphics editing and to switch between them. If these over-simplified interfaces make even that a chore, then who needs them?

eCubeH
eCubeH

I initially disliked it. As a developer, I really missed having highly configurable tool bars, and I also had a tough time initially finding a good 'authoritative' guide to GNOME 3. Since then, I have begun to like it. The cleaner desktop itself is great - esply when you have to support a user base! Yes there is the need to develop better configuration tools, improve flexibility and vastly improved documentation, but this is just v1 after all. I have to say I have gotten used to the 'flying' windows, and I avoid G 2.xx now.

seanferd
seanferd

I haven't touched Gnome since RH9, and have no vested interest in Gnome. But because a lot of apps require Gnome or KDE libraries, you have to onstall these behemoths if you want to use certain apps. You are right about one thing for sure, Jack. It's the Linux Community, so we may as well stop referring to a lot of this as the Open Source community, since a lot of the stuff will no longer work on BSD or other 'Nix ( http://blog.xfce.org/page/2/ http://gezeiten.org/post/2011/01/Xfce-4.8-on-BSD-flavors) because new frameworks are created, dropped, rinse, repeat. I'm all for new, better solutions, but part of "better" is "stable". I'm not exactly sure what is being dumbed-down specifically in Gnome, but things are being written with less CLI accessibility, and less general control overall. Go on, give people who won't support their own machines, and don't want flexibility and control these options. But stop taking them away from everyone else who cannot write apps or roll their own distro (if that would even help). This isn't innovation by any stretch. I'd happily live in a world without sudo, Unity, or Ubuntu at all for that matter. I'm glad they make some people happy - at least until they want to actually do something with the OS configuration-wise. Heck, people have problems setting alternate DNS resolvers in Ubuntu, which should be simple in an OS that claims user-friendliness for the average user. Go ahead, give them something Windows-like without the price tag. You can even give them those MS "Fix it for me" buttons and help troubleshooting systems that only work half the time. But dream on about giving people systems that require no documentation - it isn't working for MS (but what does MS care, they've gone to the forum help model, they are too big to care, and they already have your money), and it isn't working for Linux distros/desktops/apps. I'll take a slightly clunky system over a polished turd any day.

1roxtar
1roxtar

So many crybabies ballyhooing over desktops that can easily be replace according to your preference. We are talking about Linux here, aren't we? Wasn't it about this time last year that people were whining about their precious Classic Gnome 2.x being outdated and full of bloated old code? Did you expect Gnome 3 to be a reinvention of the same tired old wheel. As with Unity, this really isn't change for change's sake. It's about moving forward and realizing that it's just not about YOU anymore. It's about Linux moving past it's current niche and finally making it out to the general public, as well. Linux has been growing and advancing steadily for 20 years now. Let's grow up with it too.

kelsonv
kelsonv

My first impressions were that they had taken the wrong lessons from Mac OS X and iOS, and gone too far, but I figured, at least they're trying something new, and hey, maybe it'll turn out to be better once I've gotten used to it. I tried for almost two months before I got sick of jumping through hoops to do things that used to be easy. I've never used a desktop that felt so much like it was trying to get in my way and prevent me from doing anything. Ironic, considering that the idea seems to have been to keep the desktop *out* of the way. It just seems like in the effort to make the environment as simple as possible, but no simpler, they forgot the second part.

Olderdan
Olderdan

I like where we're going. Since I've used Gnome/KDE/XFCE/Black/White/Flux{Box} for a very long time (since 1994 for crying out loud) and even eschewed the Windows desktop (on my work XP) for Windows BlackBox (betcha didn't even know that was possible!), I consider Gnome 3 and even Unity a good forward step. But really, the Desktop is *not* where Linux has real problems for regular people. It's a lack of simple and straightforward functionality coupled with resilience. I believe that Linux as a Desktop is at a crossroads. Either decide it's only for the Linux power user who doesn't mind scouring Google'd pages when the wireless craps out or that critical app starts core'ing. Or continue down the path (which has failed for a lot of years by the way) to try to make Linux accessible to the common wo/man. I'm not saying the second scenario is impossible. I'm just saying it's been unattainable so far and these nibble-at-the-edge changes aren't going to get it there either.

essin
essin

It's true that Windows has changed the desktop several times and I've hated every one of them since the one that they now call 'Classic'. So, each time there is a new release I change the settings (and download whatever gadgets are required) so it keeps looking and working like 'Classic". The message is clear, change is OK as long as it's optional. Doing the things that I have done in Windows on a Linux box is just too obscure for the average user. I'm been using Linux on and off for 10 years and I still don't know how to switch display managers, where the configs are stored, how to change them, etc. I've got something that works for me but I don't know how I got it to that point and probably couldn't recreated the steps. That's the issue, not a new GNOME.

linux for me
linux for me

I just loaded up XFCE on my Fedora system. It is not ideal, but at least it is a LOT more usable than Gnome 3. I have been using GUI's on Unix and linux systems, (remember the OSF interface?) since they were first developed and Gnome 3 is the worst. Gnome 2 was the best, with CompBiz. So I will be sticking with XFCE until I can get clean power interface like Gnome 2 again.

matttimpson
matttimpson

My girlfriend's Vista laptop choked to death recently, so I gave her a spare I had with a fresh installation of Ubuntu and asked her to figure out Unity on her own, as a Windows User that's never touched Linux. She uses Firefox for 98% of what she does on a PC, so it wasn't supposed to be a tough test. She was able to sort through a few changes she wanted to make via Google and the various forums, but there's no help on how to work with Unity. What's worse, the continual dumbing down of the various GUI tools (file manager, network manager...) conceal too many options to make them useful. I think the mistake being made here is that new users are retarded monkeys that get confused and angry when you give them more than one button to push. Using Linux is supposed to give you power over your machine, not obscure what you can do with it. Devs need to stop hiding or removing features and just design the best, most full featured software they can and THEN make it EASY for even the most retarded monkey to take full advantage of. Jack, you used to complain about bad documentation and help files. Well, we now have the framework of GUI help that is on par with Windows products... so essentially just as useless. If communities want to innovate in order to attract new users, keep the OS powerful and smarten up the software. For years I used to answer friend/family tech questions about Internet Explorer with "Sorry, I don't use it so I don't know how to fix it. You should use [insert alternative here] instead so you don't have all those problems." Instead complaining that experienced users are change averse, consider what happens when none of them bother to get experienced with the slick, new Linux for Dummies interface. All your new users are stuck trying to figure out a Gnome made by aliens with no help from the user community. Put the controls and thus the power back into the GUI and make the software organized and documented enough that any user, new or experienced, finds it easier to use than the command line, Windows or OSX.

CFWhitman
CFWhitman

There have always been people who promoted one desktop over another. There have always been people who thought that certain desktops were too bloated or didn't have enough features (not bloated enough :) ) or were too cryptic or whatever. This is just about a group of people who used a certain desktop not liking current changes to it. It's similar to when people didn't like the GUI changes in Windows Vista. It's not really a big deal. There are always alternatives in Linux. Alternatives are not so plentiful with Windows (although there's always the Emerge Desktop).

TechRepublicDoug
TechRepublicDoug

I disagree, mwclarke1. We all love status quo, perhaps even more than we love complaining that we don't like status quo. That is why people return to situations that are physically or emotionally dangerous to them. As far as technological advancements, I've found Professionals Techies the worse! We love to inflict change on others but emphatically resist it for ourselves, unless it's the particular thing we're working on, in which case, that's the most important thing in the world and anyone who doesn't agree is a buffoon. To the comment at hand, about desktop, I've come to the point of no longer being Don Quixote, desktops are windmills I no longer tilt at. Whatever desktop comes with the Linux, or new version, I'm installing, that's my desktop, unless there is a bona fide reason to do otherwise. I have other hills to die on, I've got so many mistakes to make in my lifetime, I can't spend all my time on any single one. -doug

seanferd
seanferd

No, people expect thing to get better in newer versions, without losing functionality. What are you, 5?

rpollard
rpollard

Excellent observation. ALL people like no change!!!

CFWhitman
CFWhitman

In distributions aimed at being user friendly it's easy to change the desktop environment / window manager. All you have to do is install the alternative desktop you want to try (like any other program in the repositories), and at the log in screen there is a drop down box with the various choices that are installed. Changing the display manager is often not so straightforward, but it is not likely to be necessary for a regular user since, for example, you can use Gnome Display Manager to launch KDE and vice versa. Do you know where configs are stored in Windows? Just saying "the registry" is meaningless since the registry is a big place that is just as complicated as the file system. Most personal configurations in Linux are stored in hidden files in your user directory (files starting with a "."). They're no more complicated to understand than the registry in Windows (probably less complicated in general). Knowing how to change configuration with a GUI is probably more relevant to a regular user. In general that doesn't seem more difficult or harder to repeat in the major Linux desktops than it is in Windows (of course there are more choices available in Linux).

itadmin
itadmin

Why do people always have to change things? If it works, it works. I've not seen Gnome 3, but I'm quite happy with Gnome 2. On the other hand, the complaints mentioned when KDE 4 came out were many. Now most people who use KDE seem happy with 4. Maybe that will happen with Gnome 3, too. Maybe change should be fed in piecemeal, little by little and not all in one go.

YetAnotherBob
YetAnotherBob

I don't know which distribution you are using, but Gnome 2.X is available in nearly all of them, so you can just grab it and install. good luck,

yaseennoorani
yaseennoorani

The main reason why I have not moved to Unity and Gnome Shell is their lack of customizability and flexibility. They have this thing of 'you have to use our top panel with the global menu whether you like it or not...you have to use that launcher...' etc. These simple choices are the ones that made Linux different. Offering a good interface and setting does not mean forcing it. They should offer what they think is a good set of defaults and then allow for customization like what the elementary project is doing in Pantheon, not to force the global menu on you 'even if you don't want it otherwise go get lost and use your 'old-fashioned' desktop'. I'm sure Gnome Shell and Unity will be successful in some time but they are not for me. For now I use XFCE and enlightenment and hope XFCE don't do a similar thing in 5.0. I'm also eagerly awaiting elementary os Luna. I haven't really complained about KDE because I am not really a fan of it and was not a Linux user in the days of KDE 3.5 (which means I am a fairly new user, only 1.5 years). Another thing, KDE was mainly criticised for bugs from what I've read and Shell and Unity are criticised upon being how they are

Gisabun
Gisabun

If She uses Firefox for 98% of her usage, then she could technically use any OS out there right now. WQhether Windows, Linux or a Mac. Doesn't mean much. The question is if she actually used Windows itself - would she miss it. If she was a gamer [i.e, spend $20+ to buy a commercial game] or professional work [video editing, graphics], would she miss Windows then?

grayknight
grayknight

Your comment on IE problems reminds me to remember to be open to what most people use, and give it a try so I can at least help them some. Most "IE problems" were related to the website being used and going to Firefox did not always fix the problem. My dad likes his software that was made in 2000. The software doesn't like Windows 7 much though, so I've had to use the Windows XP Mode and install it there. The company no longer exists, but he still likes that software better than the others I've found. It is better for those of us in tech to be open to changes and trying new and different things. Everyone has their preferences and other people may have different priorities than we do.

rpollard
rpollard

What about the non-power user? You're addressing your needs but not the majority. You're a typical power user. You're like Tim "the Tool Man" Taylor with the OS. I want more power. That power comes at a cost that the majority can't afford. I'm a power user as well but for years have been blasting Linux for their non-friendly environment. They still won't be ready for the desktop until they stop forcing users to do ridiculous geeky things like compile an app, re-install a video driver every time a kernel upgrade occurs, deal with the command line for configuration changes or installing apps, etc. Giving you the credit you deserve -- I agree with don't dumb down the OS and take away capabilities that are great to have, just make it easier to make those changes. Taking away capabilities from techies is definitely like take candy from a baby... You can easily do it but, prepare your ears from the wrath that is to come!

mwclarke1
mwclarke1

I meant to add more to that rant... My statment was more against avergae users and changes, not specifically on the GNOME3 desktop, I will admit I have not come to a final conclusion on the new GNOME3 desktop at this time. I do believe imporvments are nedded many times, sometimes those include an interface change. When something was bad to begin with then a major change may be good only if beneficial. But to change for the sake of changing when not needed, at least dramatically, can be a step backwards. Change as to come at a given pace, too much too soon will guarantee resistance regardless of the level the user is at.

Sagax-
Sagax-

Personally I prefer a light, fast desktop. Hey, I only see it until I open a program.

BoeBoe
BoeBoe

Agreed with mattimpson. I have not tried Gnome 3, but so far my experience with linux, now Ubuntu 10.04 Gnome, time is wasted sorting through forums for help. Couldn't be bothered with Unity. Change is good in my opinion. However it need to be gradual with most efforts going into fixing previous bugs to improve its functionality and later polishing its appearance. So at the end of the day we could have a rock solid 'it just works' desktop, not a new version every year but still bundled with tons of bugs and half-working parts. One example, network status icon on system tray cannot yet blinks, and it will behave erraticly if change is made to it's config file.

jlwallen
jlwallen

This is a very common issue within the Linux community. Put out the product and then find volunteers to slap together documentation. That's all fine and good with small projects, but a project that is so important as a desktop -- well, that's a different story. Both GNOME 3 and Unity need documentation and need it fast. I'm going to try to start doing some posts here on using GNOME 3 to help people get up to speed.

arlkay
arlkay

Your definition of functionality and the everyday "Just a User" are probably entiriely different

grayknight
grayknight

Though I've used Windows long enough to know where all the configs are (even those not buried in the registry). Windows does have one location, the registry, but "average users" should never touch it, it is too tempting to start messing with, and messing results in broken before too long. Configuring software and OS should be available in multiple ways: application GUI, control panel GUI, CLI, and config files. Generally in that order.

rpollard
rpollard

You've got the secret to change. Unless you have to do a major overhaul because of some outside force that is causing the change, do like itadmin says and do it slowly.

rpollard
rpollard

I believe they are headed in the right direction with Unity. They just need to make the techies happy since they are the ones that will be supporting it. But the average user is not going to want to customize anything except their dock by dragging an application on it that they use often. They don't want to have to go into any .ini, .cfg or any other configuration files and do anything. If they do they just won't deal with it and move to another OS.

Gisabun
Gisabun

Part of IE's issues [on older versions] is the lack of security or standard. The newer version are quite solid [wouldn't say perfect]. I'm using PageMaker 7 in Windows 64-bit and it works fine - I ignored any "incompatible" warnings. Didn't find any. I tell people, if you are use to something, why switch? If they switch to Google Chrome, I wouldn't care - but I wouldn't help them either! At this point making Linux "user friendly" won't make much of a difference. It has a huge climb to get anywhere and if it hasn't done much in the last 10 years , I can't seeing anything change in the near future.

matttimpson
matttimpson

I don't work in my company's support group, but I'm near enough to there and on the que that I pitch in sometimes. For that reason, at work, I decided to use what they use. Honestly, it's made me dislike Microsoft a lot less. Just at work I run boxes with XP, 7, 2k8r2, Ubuntu and regular Squeeze, all for different purposes, all with the main browsers, various remote work and virtualization setups, and I try to alternate between them as much as I can. I also try to not get too used to any one way of doing things as I can. I think my help should get someone through a problem, not require them to take a class so they can finish a project. Back to the topic, I think the right thing for innovators in Linux to do would be to look at what the power users are doing with their work and design GUIs to do all of that, THEN default it down to harmless for the new users so they can't hurt themselves. Why can't someone that knows nothing about their operating system set up a simple website in a FOSS WYSIWYG editor, then (using only the GUI) install LAMP, secure it and get their work hosted (publicly or privately) without having to google around get scared? There are SO many great things anybody can do with the great tools we have available to us. Why do they have to be so hard to configure and use? I read a tweet the other day that (with regard to education) we need to stop asking "How intelligent is the child" and start asking "How is the child intelligent." Let's not assume new users are stupid and incapable. Let Linux make EVERYTHING easy for them.

arlkay
arlkay

I have tried many times to get clients (presently Windows users) to use various linux distros and UI's. I have only been successful in converting one, even though most of the understand that it would save them money and me the pain of some the problems caused Windows automatic updates. I Still have hopes of a UI and system that requires minimal tech expertese for use by the everyday non-techie computer user. Bobk

seanferd
seanferd

If a user doesn't need the functionality, the user doesn't need to use it. Breaking functionality for people who do use it is just stupid. But you are correct: In no way can the definitions for "functionality" and "everyday user" be the same. These are entirely different things. Doesn't matter if they are my definitions or not.

rpollard
rpollard

It should be solid enough to last most of what MS throws at it but it won't last forever. MS likes breaking things. You sort of do care if you won't help them. Otherwise, you would help them. Doesn't matter if it makes a difference in market share. We need a solid 3rd alternative to OSX and Windows. I fell in love with Macs when they first came out. Although it's not perfect, I see so many little things that Apple does that makes a world of difference for the average end user. For a solid 3rd option, we need a user-friendly version of Linux. That's because they care about the end user experience. MS just cares about their bottom line and Linux developers care about themselves. Until they "care" they're never going to understand what is needed for the average joe and it'll always be extremely difficult to use compared to even Windows.

Sagax-
Sagax-

Of the several distros I have tried, MEPIS Linux comes the closest to what you ask. The "everyday user" level is fairly intuitive. Still, the power user has all the tools to which they have become accustomed.

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