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GUI Software Editorial Linux

Linux vs. Windows: Choice vs. Usability 1083

Posted by michael
from the i-thought-premium-price-meant-premium-service dept.
ThaReetLad writes "In this article at DevX, Executive Editor A. Russell Jones makes the case for a standardised GUI for Linux. He argues that the promotion of choice of GUI as a positive feature of using Linux is detrimental to its chances of attacking Microsoft's home user monopoly. From the article: '...the open source community must recognize that its primary goals: freedom of choice, freedom of source code, and freedom to alter applications, are not the goals of the average user.' In particular he argues that the choice of desktop between KDE, Gnome, IceWM etc, is not one that a former windows user, even a fairly technically competent one, is going to able to make an informed choice on, and that they should not be forced to make that choice in order to get good use out of any applications they might want to use."
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Linux vs. Windows: Choice vs. Usability

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  • Good idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mao che minh (611166) * on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:10AM (#6813543) Journal
    The advancement of KDE and Gnome can occur beneficially without the standardization of either. Despite this, it would be much to the benefit of all Linux companies if they all worked together on one standard desktop, instead of leaving it up to the community. The Open Source community will continue to make new GUIs and make the existing ones better, but Linux companies should be interested in making the best possible operating system for both the server and the work station (what sells).

    The server side of things is coming along nicely. The work station side is severely behind the competition, and the reason is directly linked to the failure of all parties to strategically target the GUI togther, instead of independantly using different GUIs that are never really that much better than another on any given Sunday.

    If I had to choose, I would vote for KDE.

  • by Tyler Eaves (344284) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:12AM (#6813569)
    Most of the newb friendly distros through one of KDE/Gnome in as the default choice, which works fine for someone who doesn't know any better.
  • by tomhudson (43916) <barbara@hudson.barbara-hudson@com> on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:13AM (#6813578) Journal
    Every few months, someone else comes along and argues that Linux needs ONE desktop interface if it's going to combat windows.

    Kind of /funny/stupid/, since M$ changes interfaces every couple of years, and touts this as a usability feature (new, improved interface, blah blah blah).

  • simple (Score:2, Insightful)

    by feed_me_cereal (452042) * on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:13AM (#6813580)
    In particular he argues that the choice of desktop between KDE, Gnome, IceWM etc, is not one that a former windows user, even a fairly technically competent one, is going to able to make an informed choice on, and that they should not be forced to make that choice in order to get good use out of any applications they might want to use."

    Easy, they don't have to make a choice. They can just use whatever default GUI their distro installs. What is the problem with that?
  • by Doesn't_Comment_Code (692510) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:14AM (#6813583)
    Windows has the same problem. The Win98 desktop is NOTHING like the XP desktop. Each edition they release is a little different in terms of menu placement, control panels, what's where... The only advantage is that they release one at a time, so there is only one current OS. But to go between Windows machines, you still have to adjust and know what you're doing.

  • by cjcormack (689855) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:14AM (#6813586) Journal
    Surely this is the job of the distributers not the developers.
  • by flend (9133) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:14AM (#6813589) Homepage
    Certainly the big Linux companies are in competition. They appreciate the need for a standard desktop, not only from a useability point of view, but from a branding point of view.

    The best example is RedHat's bluecurve, which I'm sure they'd like to be seen as `the' Linux desktop for the enterprise.
  • by thud2000 (249529) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:15AM (#6813594)
    How many times have Linus or others said that the goal for Linux is NOT to attack Microsoft's monopoly, but simply to provide a freely usable and stable UNIX-like operating system for anyone who wants it. These analysts can't seem to wrap their minds around the fact that "Linux" is not just another company out to rule the desktop.
  • One System (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MikeHunt69 (695265) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:15AM (#6813607) Journal
    It does make sense, even simply from the angle of more people working on one system, rather than solving the same problems seperately.

    But which to choose?

  • A thought (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rknop (240417) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:16AM (#6813618) Homepage
    Whether or not I agree with the conclusions, for the time being let's accept them for the sake of argument.

    Suppose that the current goals of the open source community (freedom, choice, etc.) are inconsistent with GNU/Linux taking over the desktop.

    Do we then really want to take over the desktop?

    If we have to become like Microsoft to defeat Microsoft, then what's the point? *If* we were just another proprietary software company, then, yeah, sure, that's the right thing to do. Since, after all, the ultimate goal of any company is just profit. The open source community is very different. The community isn't going to get rich and retire. They're mostly in it because they like the software and they like the freedoms. Changing the things you like to something you don't like so as to win a competition that may come down to little more than a pissing contets seems counter-productive.

    In any event, it's moot. The mere fact that open source has the freedoms it has means that choice will simply not go away. Yeah, KDE and/or Gnome may become the "advertising standard" that we use to draw people away from Windows desktops, but unless legislation makes free software illegal, things like X and FVWM and all the other "oh it's so confusing save me from having to choose" things that we hear whining about simply aren't going to go away, because the people who write them want to write them and won't stop in the name of some corporate strategy.

    -Rob
  • i disagree (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tennguin (553870) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:16AM (#6813619) Homepage Journal

    This may come as a suprise to many people here but some people LIKE the way linux works. Just because Windows has a lions share of the market doesn't mean it has a superior design... I think a certain company's business practices are more likely the reason why.

    I for one beleive that that users would eventually become acclimated to which ever desktop they choose, but that choice shouldn't be stripped away; it part of this communities appeal.

    KDE and Gnome act fairly predictably now; I'm not a fan of Redhat's bluecurve at all. Why bother packaging two desktop enviornments at all if both are coded to behave identically?

  • Ya know what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BHearsum (325814) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:17AM (#6813620) Homepage
    I don't care if we attack Microsoft's monopoly, or takeover the desktop. Since when do I care one bit about 'the average user'? I'm using Linux because it works for me, if Windows works for someone else then let them use it. If you take away the choice, then to me, you're saying that one size fits all, which is completely untrue.

    Besides, there's already distros that have 'standardized' certain desktops for their userbase. Most converts I know are happy with that...

    Don't take my desktop away.
  • Red Hat.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chicane-UK (455253) <chicane-uk@nOSpaM.ntlworld.com> on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:17AM (#6813625) Homepage
    Would it be fair to say then, that Red Hat has the right idea trying to make a standardised GUI using the bets bits of (predominantly) GNOME and KDE?

    Having used Bluecurve'd GNOME over other versions of GNOME, it really is a superb piece of work.. definately the way forward imho, and a huge improvement over the standard.
  • Third factor... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Channard (693317) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:17AM (#6813635) Journal
    There's a third factor that should also be taken into consideration - that of just how easy it is to completely mess up an install of the OS. Even if you have an OS that is completely user friendly, making it easy to do whatever you want, if the users have access to essential functions of the system, they *will* mess it up. An ideal OS would be user friendly, secure *and* even the most determined good intentioned meddler would be unable to make a dent in it.
  • the complaint (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hitch (1361) <(gro.reetehporp) (ta) (hctih)> on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:18AM (#6813646) Homepage
    is that there are lots of apps out there that just don't work well without certain UI things installed. I don't have a MAJOR problem with this, but for a while there it was REALLY frustrating to find an app the was KDE only and required the installation of all the KDE libraries and Qt widgets etc. just for a little POS progream. Understand, this was back when I had a 1GB hard drive, and installing all this junk was taking up a lot of room for me - but even now, it just feels like a lot of bloat. Don't get me wrong - I'm not any bigger a fan of Gnome. I don't use either. I do, however, like GTK. as such, I'm far more likely to install the gnome stuff than the KDE stuff. what would be NICE is if gnome and kde were more like "skins" - write a program, include the hooks - and depending on whether someone is using gnome or kde, it comes up as gnome or kde. I know this isn't how these things are written, and this'll never happen, but it'd be nice.
  • by v_1matst (166486) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:20AM (#6813661) Homepage
    I can't agree with this more. Those of us who want Linux on our desktop have it on our desktop, those who don't... well... don't. I do not understand this mission to have linux as a "valid" desktop operating system. People who use it know it works (quite well in fact) and find that it suits their needs. To Joe Blow user, Windows might very well suit their needs and they find no need to go to some other system just because it isn't a microsoft product. There are people out there who have used Linux/UNIX variants and say "hey, that's great... I'll stick with windows" and I am having trouble finding anything wrong with that.
  • by randyest (589159) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:20AM (#6813662) Homepage
    Well, one, or the other, in this distro, or that one. But no standard one. I think the point is that newbies don't always choose well, and sometimes the problems arising from a bad choice of GUI (which maybe just the default selection) turn people off of Linux, or confuse them because something they want to do seems to be easier in the "other" GUI.

    It's a decent point, but I can see compromise in the Middle East coming sooner than a merger of KDE and Gnome. :)
  • Wassat? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fluxrad (125130) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:21AM (#6813671) Homepage
    So the argument goes something like this:

    "In order to beat Windows, which all Linux users think sucks, they should try to make it more like Windows."

    Yeah. That plan's not doomed to failure.
  • by KevinIsOwn (618900) <herrkevin@@@gmail...com> on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:22AM (#6813693) Homepage
    Exactly.

    As this guy said the goals of the open source community are " freedom of choice, freedom of source code, and freedom to alter applications" and if they aren't goals of the average user that's a tough break. If they can't use one of the desktop environments like KDE or Gnome now why would they be able to use a "standardized one?"

    Maybe the best solution to the whole "average user" problem is to make a dumbed down KDE/Gnome that are "easier" to use (although I don't think they are really all that hard to use as it is, and things like lindows make linux even more useable)
  • why do we care? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bokmann (323771) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:24AM (#6813726) Homepage
    While I'm all for standards, yes, it is a fact that the goals of the Open Source movement are not the same as the average end user. IF they WERE the same, then I doubt the open source movement ever would have started in the first place.

    Why is this a bad thing? Can't we have different goals? While I'd like a little more acceptance, I'm fine with the fact that I will probably always be in a minority of operating system users. I'm also in a minority by having an above-average intelligence.

    This is not a zero-sum game... I don't care if Windows or Linux has the larger market share... I just care if I can get my job sone with a minimal amount of hassle.
  • Best quote... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blixel (158224) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:24AM (#6813727)
    From the article:

    "The average user doesn't know--or care--about the underlying operating system, the idea of GUI interfaces, the various types of file systems, or about any other "technical" aspect of using a computer."

    I think this is the best point of the article and the point most often overlooked by technically savvy people. Pick your analogy, driving a car, building a home, operating a microwave or television, etc... The general public cares as little about computers as "we" do about how our cars operate. We just want to get in them and drive.
  • Arguments (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GiMP (10923) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:25AM (#6813744)
    1. Linux is not an operating system like MS Windows, it is ONLY a part of the operating system.
    2. A product most similiar to MS Windows is a Linux distribution, which IS a full operating system.
    3. Users chose their Linux distribution (OS), the Linux distribution (OS) choses their desktop environment.

    Ultimately, the user is given a choice of many different operating systems based on linux providing application compatability.

    Just because it is different than MS Windows doesn't mean it doesn't work, doesn't make sense, or can't succeed.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:27AM (#6813778)
    A few days ago (25th) I bought a new scanner. Its a basic scanner (CanoScan lide 20) and I tried to do some scanning on both windows and linux.

    With windows, plug into USB port, inserted the TWAIN driver disc. It installed a load of extra crap such as this crappy image manager (although it was easy to change to irfanview, and had to be rebooted. Windows tended to crash when I scanned at high resoloution (over 150DPI).

    With linux (mandrake version), plug into USB port, run ScannerDrake (mandrakes scanner setup utility), and a Scanner icon appeared on the desktop. Clicking the icon brought up a twain like interface known as XSANE, it was all point and click. I was able to scan at 400 DPI without crashing.

    So all the FUD I heard about getting a scanner to work by editing text files, recompiling kernels, modprobing (whatever that is) were non existant. Maybe in Sadistic distros like debian and gentoo, but not Mandrake.
  • Re:Good idea (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bigman2003 (671309) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:28AM (#6813780) Homepage
    The post above (and the one above that) are an excellent example of what needs to happen before Linux becomes a bigger desktop force.

    Concessions need to be made.

    But that almost goes against the 'choice' that everyone wants.

    Unfortunately, if Group A wants KDE and Group B wants Gnome- somewhere along the line someone needs to decide which to use. Some people will be unhappy, but it is necessary.

    Windows GUI is not perfect, and it never will be. Some features are in there for new users, and some for more experienced users. It can't be all things, to all people. Unfortunately, they don't have an interface that tailors itself to your individual needs.

    So, having a single GUI will help the development- but it will lessen the choices.

    It's a dilemma...
  • by Dot.Com.CEO (624226) * on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:28AM (#6813789)
    Windows has changed aspect exactly once, when Windows 95 was introduced. Even then things did not break - you could stil close a window by double-clicking on its icon on the top left of its window. Almost ten years later you can STILL close windows like that. The changes made in XP are purely cosmetic, a bit more color here, a bit of a curve there - that's all. I have not met one person who looks at an XP desktop after using Windows for years and gets lost. Ever.

    Gnome and KDE on the other hand is another story altogether.

  • by quinine (20902) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:28AM (#6813795) Homepage
    Then the onus is on the company doing the embracing to set the standards. This is no different than in a Windows environment, where an organization must choose its applications. Though many businesses are content to standardize on Microsoft entirely, there are many that pick and choose to create a standard work environment.

    There's nothing wrong with a company deciding that all Linux desktops will be Red Hat running KDE, but if I go home and install Gentoo with GNOME they can't even try to tell me I can't do that.
  • by Zocalo (252965) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:29AM (#6813799) Homepage
    Actually, I think Red Hat really realised the crux of the problem first; it's not the WM that's the problem, it's the look and feel. Hence we got Bluecurve, and now we have a plethora of popular themes being ported between KDE and Gnome. Some of these ports are so good I can log out of KDE, switch to Gnome and my desktop, widgets and applications are identical in both WMs, regardless of whether they were written in GTK or Qt.

    Why standardise on a single WM and toolkit when you *can* have your choice and make it?

  • by cK-Gunslinger (443452) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:29AM (#6813804) Journal
    No, I wouldn't say that the Windows interface has changed at all in the past 8 years or so. Win95, NT4, 98, 98SE, ME, 2K, and XP all have the same interface. Maybe some colors and styles have changed over the years, and some extra "features" have been added, but there is still a "Start" button. There is still "My Computer." Right clicking on the desktop will still bring up "Display Properties." There's still a taskbar with a clock in the corner. All these things have been stable for years, and users can feel very comfortable with any of these versions of Windows for 90% of thier tasks.

    KDE and Gnome may be pretty similiar, but try switching from KDE to IceWM. Everything changes.
  • Re:Good idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bigjocker (113512) * on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:31AM (#6813843) Homepage
    This WorkStation thing is a big problem that can (and currently is) hold back more adoption of Linux in the desktop.

    We have reached a state where almost every WorkStation job can be performed efficiently on Linux, with a great selection of apps and tools that compare and in a lot of cases surpases their Win/Mac counterparts, but (unfortunately) the users have been taught to rely a lot more in the OS/Desktop than it should be, instead on the applications that implement the functionality.

    If you ask Joe User "what is windows?" he will start talking about the task bar, the Start Menu and a lot of images that user has fixed in his mind. If you try to push linux on them, you must have a familiar look that they can be used to, even when they sit in a different computer. I'm not talking about us geeks but the everyday users that ultimately stack up to give Windows the 95% (or so) in the Desktop market.

    I have said it before and will continue to say it, Linux has been ready for a long time for the Desktop, the applications are ready and even a lot of users are ready to use it, but the main goal of Linux is also holding it back: choice.

    It's a complicated issue, the freedom of choice is what got us to use Linux, and I love to use gFTP and Evolution on KDE, but that freedom of choice is also scaring potential users away.

    My vote goes to KDE too ;)
  • Usability my butt (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:32AM (#6813867)
    There is nothing wrong at all with the current desktop environments. Here at work(yes we have over 150 linux desktops) we use KDE. Now the end user has only the control over his desktop that I wish to give him. When we deploy a new app I put a icon on everyones desktop. If they need a default printer setup I do that for them as well. Now the guys that are running these systems are production workers for the most part. Most of these guys have never even had a chance to touch a computer before. The funny thing is that I never ever ever get any support calls they run what we give them.

    In a enterprise environment you would have to be a damn fool to go load linux on every desktop. In our enviroment everyone runs via remote X and in the enterprise this is the only way linux should be deployed.

    A guy with a icon on his desktop does not care what the desktop is.
  • Exactly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FreeUser (11483) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:33AM (#6813874)
    How many times have Linus or others said that the goal for Linux is NOT to attack Microsoft's monopoly, but simply to provide a freely usable and stable UNIX-like operating system for anyone who wants it.

    Exactly. This entire rant (the Article itself) is basically a characterization of the "People are confused by choice. We should get rid of democracy and diversity, and have one leader, one people, and one empire." Oops, guess I just ran afoul of Godwin.

    All of this exemplified the "dumbing down of America" (which is really the dumbing down of the developed world, something Europeans are just starting to wake up to, I think, as this phenomenon is certainly no longer limited to the United States, if it ever was), and the pervasiveness of the mindset that ignorance and laziness should be pandered to, rather than fixed through education, epitomises this.

    The point being that, yes, freedom does entail the responsibility and the requirement that you think for yourself. And yes, thinking is WORK. In other words, is Freedom antithetical to laziness? Absolutely. But it is far better to give up the allegiance of the lazy and illiterate than it is to give up our freedom of choice simply to make their lazy lives a little easier.

    Of course, the reality is that this false dichotomy is exactly that: false. GNU/Linux neither requires, nor would benefit from, having less choice ("one desktop"), nor does failing to do so make it impossible to appease the lazy and illiterate if that is one's goals (and there are distributions which aim to do exactly that) ... it is sufficient to have one or two defaults (KDE and/or Gnome), which is exactly what we have. I give my friends and family KDE and they are happy with it. I myself generally use KDE, but sometimes I get bored and decide to try out Gnome, Enlightenment, Windowmaker, Flux, or something else. I enjoy that freedom, and I'm not going to give it up (or negate it) just to pander to the illiteracy or laziness of some reluctant ex-windows convert.

    A default is enough, and almost every distribution under defaults to one desktop or another. Beyond that, the user can educate themselves and make a choice, or stick with the default, but the idea that those of us who prefer something other than the default (whatever it is ... KDE or Gnome most likely) should give up our projects and devote our energy to working on or testing what others have chosen "on our behalf" is utter and complete nonsense.

    1) We aren't out to destroy Microsoft, we're out to enhance our own freedom. Microsoft has become the enemy because they are out to destroy us, and to take away our freedom.
    2) It isn't our responsibility to pander to the ignornance or laziness of others. It is their responsiblity to learn, or not, as they see fit.
    3) Freedom has built into it responsibility ... it is neither designed for, nor applicable to, those too lazy (or uninformed) to excersize it.

    Then again, I always thought changing the verbiage from "Infammible" to "flammible" to appease the ignorance was a profoundly idiotic move...
  • by EvilTwinSkippy (112490) <yoda&etoyoc,com> on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:35AM (#6813901) Homepage Journal
    Fooey. What do you mean by choice? What do you mean by usability? I have a +7 vorpal clue-by-four for the next person who tries to tell me there is one and only one solution for everyone's needs.

    Frankly, I like to find out what the actual requirements are before I go shooting off what the best solution might be. Granted, 9 times out of ten the requirements are "Cheap and I want to use it for years" and in that case it's Linux hands down. Secretaries have been using Mainframe Green-Screen apps for decades. What interface is "usable" is a matter of training.

    I would also like to point out that all of the research into the current WIMP interface was evaluated on 4 year olds, not adults. Most adults actually need a more verbal interface, as our thought patterns are generally arranged in the form of ideas. WIMP is artificial and clumsy. The only GUI that is on it's face intuitive is a touch screen, but judging by the fact I have the ticket kiosks to myself at the movies, how intuitive can it be?

  • by aliens (90441) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:36AM (#6813913) Homepage Journal
    We certainly can make things customizable/replaceable when starting with a default.

    The thing is Linux does does not have a default. And that's his point. I sit someone down in front of Windows they recognize it. The goal is to sit someone down in front of linux and they'd go, "oh it's a linux machine" and know what to do. The problem is I take a dozen linux boxes and each one is vastly different. One runs KDE, one Gnome, one IceWM, etc.

    That all said there will never be a default. Redhat will want to do it one way, Mandrake another, Knoppix another. So the entire discussion is moot. Linux will never be the desktop competition for MS. Redhat maybe, or Mandrake possibly.

    What you'll hear is not, "oh this is Linux. I know it" Rather it will be "oh this is Redhat"

    And that's the way it is.

  • by MrEntropy (75478) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:39AM (#6813952)
    I would also add that is is important for developers to see a standard environment as well. For instance, if I am Adobe looking to port Premiere to Linux, which toolkit should I use? Qt/KDE? GTK/Gnome? Which distro should I target with which version of gcc and runtime libs? Red Hat? Suse? You can't just pick one, the user may not have that environment installed, and even if it is all statically linked, it may not behave/look the same as the rest of the user's environment. All of this translates to extra expense and hassle in development, which I suspect is a lot bigger turnoff than any GPL hangups people may have. As much as we may bash Windows for changing the environment, at least the Win32 API has remained consistent for the developer.

    We may argue that we have all of the Open Source apps we need, but there is still no decent DV video editor such as Final Cut Pro or Premiere. Photoshop is light years ahead of GIMP in features and usability. Roxio has a very full featured and easy to use CD and DVD burner on Mac and Windows, nothing in Linux really compares. Until we make it easy for the developers AND show a market by attracting home users, I don't think we will see these types of apps ported.

  • Choice and flexibility are always a positive attributes for consumers, markers of the power for the end user.

    Let's not forget that Windows has a lot of customizability and sells on that merit. For example, setting fonts, colors, everything with visual tools are a selling point of MS applications and the OS itself.

    Linux should be marketed as an operating system that is more powerful than Windows and it should promote its data center roots. Web sites that offer Linux services and distributions should do well to look at how the differences between cheap tools and better tools are marketed.

    Users can understand that with choice comes complexity, and, while you may not have the --whole-- market, you can grab the high end of it, grab the people that --care-- about software. They in turn will drive the lower end of the market.

    Always target power users, make them happy, and you will not lose.

  • Re:Good idea (Score:3, Insightful)

    by R.Caley (126968) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:43AM (#6814003)
    The work station side is severely behind the competition, and the reason is directly linked to the failure of all parties to strategically target the GUI togther,

    Ah, yes, I remember CDE.

  • by yintercept (517362) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:44AM (#6814012) Homepage Journal
    I concur. The big advantage of Linux is that there is choice. This ability to chose is Linux's competitive edge. Tossing out the competitive edge because you don't have the market share you want is absurd. Companies that follow this type of path generally put themselves out of business. Quite frankly, i have never be thrilled with either KDE or Gnome, and believe the kick ass linux GUI is still waiting its creation. Having an open architecture that allows different GUIs to evolve is the ultimate competitive edge. Choice is good.

    Linux's niche market is extremely strong right now. Rather than do it wrong because some people hate Bill Gates so much that they would make any compromise to hurt their enemy, I would rather see people accept that evolution takes time. Allowing multiple GUIs allows for long term evolution of the GUI.

    In the long run, Linux is served better by having multiple GUI options. We should be arguing for more not fewer choices of desktops.
  • by 13Echo (209846) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:48AM (#6814076) Homepage Journal
    Many open source software programmers aren't writing their programs for the average user. They are writing free alternatives to commercial programs, and generally are writing them because there is no such program that is available on the platform. They are writing them because they feel that there is a need for such a program, because, perhaps, they would like to be able to use such a program. Functionality comes first.

    And really... Why should they write them for the average user? The average user has Windows. The average user has MacOS. If the average user wishes to use Linux, they have plenty of options that better cater to their needs. A Mandrake, Lycoris, Suse, or Lindows install will best handle their needs. But, the average user is not going to install icewm (as this goon noted in the article). Why would they?

    The writer's comments about "weather or not software will work" are pointless. You don't have to be running Gnome to allow have Opera (QT based) work. You can run Mozilla (GTK w/custom XML) on top of ther QT based KDE. Merely having libraries is all you need. The UI can be whatever the user wants to use. I've not found an exception to this. Sure, things may not look uniform, but that's because QT and GTK (and others) use different libraries for skinning and such. They do, however, work.

    As far as I am concerned, the typical "rules" of the "average user" do not apply on free platforms. We write software for our needs. We share it with you as well. Most of us, dispite having some dislikes for Microsoft, don't care if Linux dominates the desktop. If the software doesn't suit your needs, then you're probably using the wrong tool for the job (there are plenty of reasons to use Windows). We want choices though. We won't make your mind up for you, and we don't want to. If that's what you want, then you're using the wrong tool for the job.

    Go to Redmond to have someone tell you what you should want.
  • by yerricde (125198) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:51AM (#6814105) Homepage Journal

    If you install the GNOME libs, you can run GNOME apps in KDE with the KDE window manager's window decorations. If you install the KDE libs, you can run KDE apps in GNOME with the GNOME window manager's window decorations. If your distribution has made default widget themes for GTK+ and Qt with similar-looking decorations (Red Hat's default theme is an example), and if GNOME and KDE libs agree to handle drag and drop in a compatible manner, users often won't notice much of a difference between GNOME apps and KDE apps.

  • by cnelzie (451984) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:52AM (#6814114) Homepage
    Sure you can do somewhat decent desktop publishing, sure you can handle programming tasks, and quite a few other desktop tasks...

    However, you are making the same mistake as everyone that spouts that rhetoric. That mistake is quite simple to overlook, because you likely haven't been exposed to it...

    The mistake is the lack of Manufacturing software, like CAD/CAM systems, Quality Analysis systems and other extremely important engineering and design software.

    Catia, Unigraphics, Pro-E and other world-class CAD systems simply do not run on Linux. Control software for Coordinate Measuring Machines (CMM) is only available for the Microsoft Windows platform. That software often controls the basic construction of a manufacturing companies IT infrastructure.

    It's the idea of 'incompatibility' and the desire to have a homogeneous network structure that 'forces' many companies to utilize an entirely Windows based network.

    Get Catia and Unigraphics as well as the other software I mentioned to be fully supported and released on Linux and then there will be nothing stopping Linux from hitting the desks of the manufacturing industry.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:53AM (#6814128)
    The call for standardization is not anti-innovation. It is about basic commonality of functions and consistent user experience. That's what Apple got right with the Mac early on, and MS caught onto after a while.

    I've been a Linux/BSD user on the server side for over 10 years. I love it, but I've never really tried it on the client side. I have too many wild applications that are windows based, and there haven't been alternatives.

    Well, this last month, I've tried to use the Linux desktop on the side (Knoppix and RedHat 9). Some of the things that struck me were the lack of Cut & Paste across applications, the random UI menu structures, and non-obvious icons.

    While I was pretty impressed with Open Office and the fact that things actually worked (considering my past experience was 8 years ago that's rather expected), it was the utter lack of polish and UI consistency that struck me.

    Think of it this way, if the linux desktop is so great, why can't I can copy text from my shell window into my e-mail app and web browser? Why can't I drag a file from the file manager into my e-mail message and have it become an attachment?

    Developers: Please work for a standardized functional UI implementation. A common API for cut & paste, consistent top level menu labels, clear and common control icons, and maybe even a structure for drag and drop.

    There's lots of textbooks about designing UI's, and sure it's a lot more fun to do your own thing. If you expect any kind of broad recognition for your work, or people to tell you what a great job you've done, then the final product needs to merge into something bigger--a consistent UI across the desktop from the desktop manager to the applications and utilities.

    Standardization means I can use your app without having to start from ground zero guessing at what functions mean and can apply knowledge from other apps. Things work the same and can interoperate. These are the things that will make the desktop suceed. These are the things MS learned from Apple and implemented to make Win95 and above a successful desktop (yes, marketshare==success).

  • by alexhmit01 (104757) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:56AM (#6814160)
    The problem is the term Linux. And RMS's GNU/Linux DOESN'T improve things at all. It is an issue of branding.

    Linux is a kernel. Yeah, the systems use GNU tools for System (UNIX, user space stuff) level things, but that isn't the issue.

    The ideal would be to DROP Linux from the branding effort (like MS dropped NT from their branding when they wanted to make it the mainstream system, otherwise consumers don't want to pay for "pro" level software).

    If RedHat develeped three platforms:
    RedHat Advanced Server (powered by Linux)
    RedHat Workstation (powered by Linux)
    RedHat OS (powered by Linux) [hey, shell out $20k for branding consultants, I'm not a naming guy)

    note: Mandrake, SUSE, and anyone else that wants to play should do the same.

    then RedHat would be promoting RedHat as the OS. They could then standardize, and utilize Linux's brandawareness in the "powered by" portion, without this problem.

    The "open source" effort is about freedom, and a consequence of that freedom is choice, which I see as a benefit. However, that isn't "useful" for end users.

    For Example, you should be able to go into a store, and pick up a CD not for "Linux" (requires glibc X.Y+, Linux kernel 2.X.Y+, etc.), but for RedHat, or for Mandrake, etc., then you would accomplish what this guy wants.

    RedHat should have a standard look and feel across their consumer and workstation OSes. You should be able to buy "Redhat compatible" software (requires RedHat 9.0 or higher). Now, tech companies could STILL release "software for Linux," but the box could state RedHat 9.0 or Mandrake 9.0 or higher.

    In that case, there is NO need to drop KDE or GNOME or whatever. Hackers can do whatever they want. However, the "commercial" install should include RPMs or whatever for whatever distribution they want.

    RedHat should have a logo certification, as should Mandrake and any other players.

    To have the RedHat logo, you should have to sport a "blue curve" look and feel.

    In addition, the "installation" programs should rethink the options a bit.

    Sure, the Server piece should let you super customize it, and maybe a free downloadable ISO "hacker edition" as well. However, installation options should affect applications, NOT libraries.

    I should be able to target a certain edition of RedHat (or Mandrake, or SUSE), and KNOW what libraries are installed. It is absolutely REDICUlOUS how many libraries are options.

    Real simple, if KDELIB isn't installed in the "base," then KDE apps aren't "supported."

    The problem isn't an issue of technology existing (afterall, Windows has had Progman/Explorer replacements forever), it's an issue of the branding.

    Getting software for "Linux" requires knowing what libraries are installed.

    Getting software for Windows or Mac OS X requires knowing what version is installed.

    I may need to have Jaguar or 10.2.3 or higher, or whatever for my Powerbook software. I never need to have a particular optional library installed.

    And THAT is why Linux is having trouble on the desktop.

    Leave the technologists alone, but "Linux" companies, reorganize your installation/brand awareness if you want the desktop, corporate or otherwise.

    Alex
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:58AM (#6814184)
    From what I can tell, the Lindows distribution is doing just what this guy suggests: taking linux and making all of the choices for you to the point where everything seems seemlessly integrated. And they are doing quite well at it.
  • by AchilleTalon (540925) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:59AM (#6814196) Homepage
    Excuse-me, aren't you confusing a little bit the customer and the vendor?

    Vendors don't like to let customers make choices, because customers facing choices need to think about it. And vendors don't like to see thinking customers leaving there business place. They interpret this as a lost sale. And, sometimes, it is.

    On the other side, customers sometimes are asking for advise, so, they do not expect to deal with 100 possibilities, they asked someone else to skim this confusing situation for them and came back with a short list or a single choice.

    So, Linux distros vendors are acting like advisors for the customers. But, the problem is not resolved at all, which distro should I pick?

    You may choose a distro which let you make many choices or a distro which will make them for you. Something like: Default, Custom, Expert Install for Windows.

    But, anyway, all this has nothing to do with the Open Source movement and rather than with trying to force people to adopt your stuff and buy it.

    I still think variety is not a problem nor a issue. After all, cars are coming in a large variety of colors, size, form, performance, etc. And you are even allowed to modify it if you wish and respect legal issues.

  • by rsheridan6 (600425) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @11:00AM (#6814210)
    If everyone else is using Windows, you're sort of stuck with it yourself. I'm running a Linux desktop and the problems with it are strictly related to the fact that so many people assume you have Windows - I can't get support from my DSL provider, can't reliably open a .doc, and can't run the CD that comes with a textbook (unless it happens to work with WINE - an iffy proposition).

    Also, a few websites don't work (they were tested on IE only). If MS gets much more market share we can expect them to subvert HTML/Javascript with IE only features, which will mean that you have to have IE to access the web. With the demise (finally) of NS Navigator 4, that seems possible to me.

    But if we get just 5-10% market share, we cannot be ignored. Only a website run by morons would shut that much of its potential audience out, and people would stop using .doc as a standard, more games would be made for Linux, etc. That's why it's important that a certain number of Joe Blows switch from Windows.

  • by cryptochrome (303529) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @11:01AM (#6814213) Journal
    Apple's been doing this forever, with the latest incarnation being in the Aqua Human Interface Guidelines [apple.com]. Apple has put a TON of money and effort into creating computers that are easy to use. They've tried to promote good interface paradigms and discourage bad ones, both in house and with their developers.

    Here Linux developers are confronting one of the prime insights of GUI design - a consistent interface is essential to the user's ability to use different applications. There's no need to rack your brain over learning and remembering every different command in different programs, if they follow a consistent, organized, and intuitive pattern. That's why themes aren't built into the OS or even encouraged. That's why there is countless arguing over how metal-style iApps are bad, and ought to go with the less-eyestrain-inducing pinstripe default. And that's a big part about why Mac OS users are so loyal.
  • by LMCBoy (185365) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @11:01AM (#6814217) Homepage Journal
    Linux is not a product, it is a community.

    ...the open source community must recognize that its primary goals: freedom of choice, freedom of source code, and freedom to alter applications, are not the goals of the average user.

    Who cares? The user can either join our community, or they can stick with their OS product. Yes, it's a shame if they choose the latter, but I want to make this very clear: it's that individual user's loss, not our loss. We gain nothing from users who consider Linux a mere product, we need active community members, not "customers". Why should we kill everything great about our system just to attract some MS customers, who may very well be perfectly happy with their current OS? We are not in competition with MS, even though they may be in competition with us.

    Well, that's my opinion anyway, I could be wrong.

  • Re:Good idea (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lodragandraoidh (639696) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @11:03AM (#6814241) Journal
    I Don't think its a 'dilemma' because the open source / free software developers will never standardize the GUI interfaces - precisely because people have come to like particulars of their given environment, or want the flexibility to change.

    Commercial Linux packaging companies might decide to create a 'standard' GUI - but that will not slow down current and future interfaces from continuing to be developed.
  • Which choice? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by skandalfo (623756) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @11:03AM (#6814243)
    "...the choice of desktop between KDE, Gnome, IceWM etc, is not one that a former windows user, even a fairly technically competent one, is going to able to make an informed choice on, and that they should not be forced to make that choice in order to get good use out of any applications they might want to use."

    A lot of people don't realize the fact that there's no choice being forced, actually.

    Since major distributions (RedHat, Mandrake, etc...) began unifying the look & feel of the two main desktop environments (GNOME, KDE), and the developers of these environments began working together in order to improve the interoperability of the programs developed for both of them, I think things are getting better and better.

    Users may run at the same time programs developed for GNOME and KDE and they'll work flawlessly together, so there's no actual need to choose.

    Look & feel is the easiest issue to address; perhaps behaviour of widgets and applications (at least for these two major desktops) will keep converging; current efforts on HIGification and freedesktop.org seem to provide hope on this.

    Unless someone writes some other abstraction layer that sits above both GNOME and KDE libraries, it's the developers the ones that are forced to choose... but this shouldn't be a thing to jeopardize desktop acceptation, however.

    Only the main office applications (OpenOffice) remains, but Ximian has already done some work on it. It may be true that the issue isn't yet fully resolved, but we may be sure that, at least, the problem is fully understood and that there are competent people addressing it.

    To be short... I'm convinced that we are on the right track, and that a home GNU/Linux desktop won't be a strange thing in some years.

  • Re:Good idea (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DrXym (126579) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @11:05AM (#6814260)
    I have Mandrake 9.1 running on my laptop and RH9 on my desktop. Mandrake 9.1 is a dogs breakfast by comparison. I appreciate it for other reasons, but Red Hat beats it to death for general polish and then some.


    The issue is that they seem content to slap together a generic KDE with a bunch of homegrown tools and think that's enough. Consequently, you have a confusing clutter of apps in the menus with names that are Kompletely Kryptic and Konfusing, a "Mandrake Control Center" vs a "Control Center" (wtf?), duplicate apps that seem to do the same thing (e.g. two floppy disk formatters, multiple RPM management apps), a help system which offers help on KDE but not Mandrake, "Drak" tools that ask you if you want to apply the changes when you haven't done anything, and numerous other silly and slapdash faults.


    By comparison, RH9 is a beautiful and simple desktop. BTW I'm not comparing the underlying KDE & GNOME here, I'm comparing the amount of effort that has gone in afterwards to clean and polish things up.

  • Re:Good idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CaptnMArk (9003) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @11:05AM (#6814261)

    I am the author of icewm, one of the choices :)

    For one choice only, I would choose mozilla ie. the XUL toolkit.

    Why? Because XUL is XML and not directly dependant on C or C++ bindings.

    Because I simply don't see the problem of C vs C++ toolkit choice resolving itself any time soon. And there are other choices too, like Java Swing, and whatever mess they will do with C#/WinForms/Wine.

    What we really need is a more abstracted core desktop, more document oriented (and more like www.nakedobjects.org but based on XML interfaces) and less app centric. This will allow more decoupling between GUI and actual applications.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 28, 2003 @11:10AM (#6814328)
    >> One of the major roadblocks for Unix was the lack of one single standardized platform for applications.

    Errr, no. It was the vendors actively working to keep anyone's product except their own from running on their hardware and forcing vendor lock in that fragmented the UNIX market. Vendors restricting choice.

    >> Linux seems to be following along the same line, although on a different parallel. To compete head-to-head with Microsoft, Linux advocates should standardize the platform.

    Already done. You can choose the distribution of your choice and never expend a single brain cell over their defaults.

    >>by A. Russell Jones, Executive Editor
    >>During the recent LinuxWorld conference, Linux proponents loudly celebrated Linux' increasing importance in the world of software. It's true that Linux has made great strides in becoming a standard part of the computing landscape, but it has made far more inroads into the Unix space than into the Windows desktop space. Despite that, there's simply no doubt that the desktop--and Microsoft--are the current target of many open source software projects. These projects are conceived, executed, and extended to compete with Microsoft's desktop applications.

    Most Linux developers could care less about Microsoft. Microsoft has been playing catchup for the past 2 years behind Linux, if you ask me. Their radical GUI changes in XP are a direct result of trying to look like Gnome and KDE.

    >>They're making progress, too, particularly with early-adopters and in IT-mandated vertical application environments, but as these projects mature, they're going to have to compete head-on with their far better funded and user-tested Microsoft counterparts on average users' desktops. To compete successfully, Linux needs a standardized platform and robust installation mechanisms so that users can choose software on its merits, without worrying about whether the software they want works on their particular Linux flavor or GUI choice.

    I never worry about if software will work or not, it just does. Linux is great that way. KDE, Gnome, Windows, whatever, I can run all that software at the same time in the same screen on my Linux box.

    >>A GUI Decision
    >>Linux is a kernel, an operating system--not a complete operating environment in the sense that Windows is a complete operating environment. The tradeoff is one of choice. Windows has a single interface (true, there are variations between versions, but those are largely transparent to users). In contrast, Linux has no built-in GUI interface. Users are free to choose among many commercially available or free GUI X-Window interfaces, such as Gnome, KDE, and Motif, each of which provides a different look and feel.

    It's a funny thing to wrap your head around, but this choice thing... GOOD IDEA!

    >>Unfortunately, to some degree differences in GUI X-Window interfaces extend to the programming interfaces as well, meaning that software developers must either support multiple GUIs or choose which GUI(s) they plan to support. Because the interfaces are slightly different, application developers generally target one or two primary GUI programming models. Supporting many GUIs isn't just a simple process of including one set of libraries or another; it's often a frustrating and error-prone exercise in writing GUI-specific code. While these applications may run on non-targeted GUI interfaces, vendors often guarantee support for only one or two.

    No developer ever has to make this choice. KDE apps work just fine under Gnome and visa versa. The GUI is all the X Window System, just everyone can choose their own window manager. You really want to freak people out, kill the window manager that you are running, and start another one and watch your apps all go from one desktop, to being embedded in the screen, to a new desktop.

    >>The multiple-GUI problem illustrates a basic difference in Windows and Linux. Windows has one gener
  • Re:Good idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NaugaHunter (639364) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @11:11AM (#6814344)
    but (unfortunately) the users have been taught to rely a lot more in the OS/Desktop than it should be, instead on the applications that implement the functionality.

    The human interface is far more important that the implementation behind it, and this is universal across all technology. Think of cars. If the steering wheel, radio, pedals, etc. are all in accessible places, how many people really care how they work the car? Or the phone - how many different keypads are there? Have you ever seen a light switch on a wall that went left-right and not up-down? There are a number of 'better' keyboard layouts - has anyone not included QWERTY and survived?

    The human brain functions on pattern recognition. A consistant interface allows the brain to function at a 'higher' level. Let me explain - you don't think about how to walk, chew, or scratch an itch, right? You just think "I want to go there" or "Mmmm" or, usually, nothing - I sometimes don't even really I have an itch as the brain as already recognized that it should be scratched and done so before the message reached my conciousness. A consistant GUI allows a user to think "Close this window." An inconsistant GUI forces the user to think "To close this window, I need to find the X. It was on the right last time, but that's a Circle. Oh, there it is on the left. Click."

    Having to think about every single action is very frustrating, whether it's a new GUI, a new video game, or even a new VCR or Microwave. And this is exactly what people have to deal with in switching to Linux - learning a new set of patterns, which requires think about them at the beginning. It's been my experience that average people barely understand the computers they currently use - they were taught 'Click here, then here, then here'. It's virtually impossible to teach them a new interface if they never knew why they were clicking in the old one.
  • Stupid argument (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BenjyD (316700) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @11:12AM (#6814347)

    As a first step, open source proponents should band together to create a standardized Linux/GUI combination as a single platform...

    Why do so many people think that there is some sort of "community" with a single voice that produces open source software? All there is is a bunch of people writing projects. How are they going to enforce development on one standard GUI? Send RMS and ESR round to developers' houses with baseball bats?

    Open, free software has no ruling class, no control. Everyone does what they want, and if somebody else finds it useful, or wants to help out, then that's great. But trying to enforce standards? It's impossible to acheive and not even desirable if it were.

  • Stagnation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheAncientHacker (222131) <TheAncientHacker@@@hotmail...com> on Thursday August 28, 2003 @11:13AM (#6814367)
    Let's not forget that (IMO) the "competition" between KDE and Gnome, for example, helps to drive innovation in both; Who the hell wants the Linux Desktop to stagnate like some others?

    But in reality, the Linux desktops are stagnant.

    The only time any "innovation" occurs is when either Microsoft comes up with changes to their desktop and then, as if by magic, KDE and Gnome "compete" by rushing to see which of them can "innovate" by making an exact duplicate of the Microsoft innovation first.

    It's sad that in all these years of Linux, this topic comes up each year or so and the debate always becomes a fight between:
    • We should have a single standard desktop that looks exactly like Windows - oh, and Microsoft is evil
    • We should all be Free to choose between multiple desktops... that all look exactly like Windows - oh, and Microsoft is evil
    Perhaps if somebody would actually offer a BETTER desktop than Windows - you know, one that was easier to use but more flexible - there'd be a reason for actual users to switch to something other than Windows. But that would require innovation rather than blindly following the leader while chanting "I'm an individual" and we know that never happens.
  • by Sleepy (4551) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @11:18AM (#6814429) Homepage
    The fact that there is no clear and obvious choice for "which" desktop a newbie will use is not the biggest problem with Linux.

    (I use "problem with Linux" generally... personally I use one desktop environment, but do not want to see the other go away).

    A bigger problem is the difficult of application developers SUPPORTING BOTH (gnome and kde) DESKTOP ENVIRONMENTS WELL. By that I mean registering with both environments, object/component re-use, drag & drop and other events, etc.

    Because this is so difficult, almost no one does it.

    Freedesktop.org has been good at *gradually* pushing for a merge of "standards" (like clipboards, shortcut icons etc) but not so quickly for my taste.

    If I develop and install both KDE and GNOME applications, there should be NO REASON for me to care about petty things like file dialogs, for example. Microsoft sorted this out *years* ago... common dialogs take the appearance of the OS version you are on. I should be able to easily write a GNOME or KDE application (doesn't matter), and conform to some "file dialog API", and then it works best with whatever the end user wants.

    Why do people get so caught up in trying to bash the other desktop, to the point where "cooperation" between GNOME and KDE is lip service (individual exceptions made here.. I'm saying there's no big push to cooperatively develop API's).

    There is no point in talking about which desktop is "better", or "if there can be only one it should be X". No one is going to budge and everyone has good reasons for preferring one environment over another. If you NEVER want to see standardization, keep fighting over this point. I'm convinced that some folks against standardization actually advocate "all or nothing" approaches because they are unpopular ideas with no risk of getting what you wished for...

    Another opportunity for very close work between KDE and GNOME is internationalization. One team could span both desktops and probably offer some valid suggestopms and complaints to developers on how the desktop interfaces could be tightened and made more alike (without sacrificing the individuality that both desktops currently embrace). I could be totally ignorant on translation projects... it may well be that there are many people doing translation for both desktops.

    There is just no much that could be standardized: file dialogs, toolbars, installation utilities and front ends, "services" (admittedly a lot of this belongs in INIT but we have some in the desktop and login managers anyways...), interfaces to device drivers (some KDE apps use "formerly GNOME" library gPhoto.. there's a success case), and so on..

    Just because you feel your side is superior does not excuse one from working well with others who do not share your views.

    Just my $0.02. Flame away if you like.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 28, 2003 @11:19AM (#6814430)
    It's spelled ridiculous, numb nuts. Sorry, but this is a slashdotism that I simply cannot stand.
  • by xant (99438) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @11:19AM (#6814437) Homepage
    Choice isn't good for the user, it's good for the market. It's true that no user wants to make a choice they don't have to. To paraphrase Marvin Minsky, "The more similar two choices, the harder it is to choice between them, despite the fact that the choice is less important by the same degree." This is indeed the case when presenting the user a choice between Gnome and KDE. But that's not what "choice" really connotes in this case. Gnome and KDE are competing for mindshare, and competition is what makes both of them get better and better.

    Each one of them continually tries to one-up the other, to support more and more features that the other is trying to implement. It is the competition between KDE and Gnome far more than the competition between Linux and Windows that drives the goal of finding the Next Big Thing for desktop environments. And both of those environments have introduced features that other desktops did not have, including Windows! Windows XP users: notice how Windows XP puts links to recently used applications in the Start Menu now? KDE has had that for ages. Without the competition between Gnome and KDE, the discovery and implementation of those features would slow down drastically.

    As to the ridiculous claim that everyone has to be presented with an interface that's familiar to them, if that were true, Microsoft itself wouldn't revamp the look and feel of Windows with every major revision. Furthermore, if that were true, no invention on the desktop would ever happen! Wildly different approaches (OEone, to name one) must be tried so we can continue to seek the perfect interface, and approaches with minor differences are practically going to be absorbed into the user's mental framework as soon as they're encountered.

    Users are willing to learn. They all understand that, when sitting in front of a new environment, they're going to have to learn something new. Some people (in general: younger people) like to learn new technology and welcome new environments as a chance to try new things. Other people resist the idea, but they will still do whatever's necessary to learn to use the tools they have available; that is, whatever's in front of them.

    That means that minor differences between Gnome and KDE--and they are minor, when you compare the time to learn them to the lifetime of a typical workstation installation--are irrelevant, and therefore the user's choice between the two environments is irrelevant. Choose for them, it'll work out in the end. Most Linux distros already do this, giving a default which the user can change.

    And stop kicking this horse corpse about applications. Every modern Linux distro includes the libraries necessary to run both Gnome and KDE apps, regardless of which environment is on the desktop.
  • by twitter (104583) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @11:21AM (#6814448) Homepage Journal
    Micorsoft is trying to influence those they consider influential. They would brainwash their developers to keep them enslaved and have them to scare off newbies. There's nothing very new here. It's really all the same bullshit, "freedom is just too hard."

    Russell Jones starts with the same tired arguments that choice is bad and that free software developers can't make an easy to use interface. You can change out "easy to use interface" with "operating system", "kernel" or "quality software" to realize that this is a very old argument [blinkenlights.com]. It's been BS before and it's BS today. Someone makes a choice for the neophyte, and there are free intefaces just as easy to migrate to as the next crappy M$ interface [kde.org].

    Bob's twist on this is aimed at stemming the flood of developers asway from M$ junk by turning reality on it's head. He tells us that developing applications for multiple window managers is just too hard. That's silly. Why would anyone continue to pay Micrsoft licenses when there's many free GUI deveopment kits of equal or better quality available? He complains, "Supporting many GUIs isn't just a simple process of including one set of libraries or another; it's often a frustrating and error-prone exercise in writing GUI-specific code," as if Microsoft's interface were any better or less frustrating. He admits that programs written for one window manager run on others, can he say that for Win32 crap? No, he can't. In fact, you are lucky if your MFC program will continue to run from one version of Windoze to the next and even low level API calls are known to change. The whole "including libraries" FUD is a baseless projection from Microsoft DLL hell. When you open your eyes, what you see it that the more you rely on Microsoft the more painful your world is. When you get away from M$, you see how inadequate their tools really were.

    Keep on comming, windoze developers, the water is fine. Freedom does have it's drawbacks, but they are nothing like those encountered in the Windoze world. You will never know just how easy and rational things are in the free software world unless you try it out. The fact is that Marketing morons can not and do not make software that's easy for their users of their developers, they make software that screws both.

  • Re:Good idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ichimunki (194887) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @11:26AM (#6814527)
    Well, there's no reason that distribution vendors can't do as Red Hat has done and essentially do their best to merge the two major desktops in terms of look/feel and default appliations. Personally I don't give a rat's hindquarters what will get Linux a bigger "share" of the desktop. This is the flawed thinking of the open source movement, that somehow things like "market share" are measures of success.

    Not true. Absolute freedom in the software is what's important. As long as we have that, any GNU/Linux vendor in the world is free to cooperate with other vendors and standardize or not standardize as they see fit. A properly functioning economy (both in terms of money and ideas) requires lots of small companies (suppliers) all competing for the dollars/yen/euros/attention of the consumer.

    At this time, however, the majority of GNU/Linux users (fortunately) value freedom and choice. Any move to "dumb down" the GUI or make it more rigid without providing a big red button that says "click here if you want to take back complete control of your system" will simply alienate the current user base (that would be those of us who contribute dollars, time, or money to groups like the FSF, Debian, KDE, or even SUSE or RedHat in the form of buying the box sets).

    Personally I feel like users expect too little from their systems, and too little from themselves as well. Computers are complicated machines that require a certain level of know-how. If the user wants simple, I don't see how they can go wrong with existing distributions like Red Hat.

    The idea that we should "start with a standard GUI" (to quote the article) is nonsense. What we need is to demonstrate value to users, both in terms of the value of freedom (which is pooh-poohed in this article, I think) and in terms of the excess funds spent on proprietary software that users are only using minimally (you know they hit the main 10% of the features, but the other 90% they paid for go to waste). Plus, the real need here is to get preinstalled systems out there at affordable prices and offer some decent support and training options. If people can't walk into Circuit City, Fry's, or Best Buy and pick up a GNU/Linux system, forget it. Look how well Apple does against that, and they have extremely polished, monolithic systems with some of the best ad campaigns known to man on their side.
  • Re:Exactly (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ender Ryan (79406) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @11:26AM (#6814534) Journal
    That is possibly the best post regarding LInux desktops I have read in over a year. Thanks.

    I'd like to add to that, that distros themselves are competing with each other, and part of that competition is delivering the best desktop they can. Take RH for example, they have unified (sort of) GNOME and KDE and created a very usable desktop. SuSE, Mandrake, etc., all have their own default desktop.

    My point is that Linux doesn't compete with anyone, although Linux distrobution companies might. Said companies create their own desktop, and it has nothing to do with GNOME, KDE, E, WM, etc.

    BTW, I am a command line man myself. I run GNOME but don't touch a single GUI config tool, except for GNOME itself. But today I have been playing with a server that came preloaded with RH 8, and from what I've seen so far, it is an excellent desktop. Everything is so simple and easy to configure; it's easier than windows. It's even got a complete set of tools for setting up all the server software.

    To reiterate, the competition lies with the distros, not the community, and the distros have their own desktops that compete against windows and other distros.

  • by Get Behind the Mule (61986) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @11:27AM (#6814537)
    A number of people have already pointed out the flaw in this article: Most people buy their Linux installation from one of the distros, and the distros all install a default desktop -- Gnome or KDE or whatever. As the author himself states, casual users rarely change their interface defaults, so these people will just stay with their default setup. And if they never know or care that they had a choice, then so what.

    But I want to add something about the subject of open-source Unix and GUIs. Just a few weeks ago, I finally got my first box with MacOS X. I know, I'm way late saying this, but ... a Unix kernel and a Mac GUI, the perfect computer! Absolute fucking paradise. For the first time in my life, I can work with a sophisticated, well thought-out user interface, and at the same time pop up a bash shell and exploit all of the technical power of a Unix command line.

    I'm a big fan of the open-source efforts to build Unix systems, but I must say that they have struggled badly and unsuccessfully at their efforts to create good user interfaces. Sorry, but Gnome and KDE and all the rest really do suck (and don't even get me started on proprietary offerings like CDE). Then along comes Apple, big ol' proprietary closed-source look-n-feel-lawsuit Steve Jobs & Co., and puts them all to shame.

    I think this guy with the article may be misunderstanding his own point. The trouble with the GUIs of open source Unix systems is not that there's too much choice. It is, unfortunately, that the open source developers have proven to be very, very bad at building GUIs.

    Some of the posters so far have stated quite bluntly that open source developers just don't care about GUIs. So OK, score a point for honesty, I guess. I for one am certainly technically capable enough to deal with the likes of Gnome and KDE, but gawd, why would I want to if I can use something as good as MacOS X? Why make your life any more difficult than necessary? MacOS X is the proof, you see, that a Unix interface doesn't have to be so second-rate; if you try, and you know what you're doing, then you can make the user experience with Unix into something thrilling.

    I think there's something else besides lack of developer interest that holds back the user interfaces in open source Unix. There's a whole class of people working a field called usability, who spend all their time figuring out how people work well with computers (and other devices). They've built up a whole field of research, and even run empirical experiments to test ideas, giving test subjects an interface to work with and observing what they do with it.

    It seems to me that open source developers and the usability people live in almost wholly separate universes, hardly aware of one another's existence. Apple, on the other hand, has been working with these people for years and it shows. I would like to see Gnome & KDE and the rest succeed, but until they start taking usability issues much more seriously than they do now, corporations like Apple will remain way ahead of them.
  • Linux != Windows (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Seanasy (21730) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @11:34AM (#6814606)

    I've always had the impression that, as far as the desktop goes, it's not a question of Linux vs. Windows. I think it's Red Hat vs. Windows or Suse vs. Windows. Linux is just an underlying technology. Nobody talks about Mach vs. Windows -- it's Mac vs. Windows.

    Linux is a technology. So are KDE and GNOME. People who will use Linux when it has a mature, suitable-for-the-masses GUI won't need to know or care that Linux runs their computer. And they won't need to know or care if it's the KDE desktop or the GNOME desktop. In fact, such information will probably only confuse them. They'll identify their experience as Red Hat or Suse or Mandrake. Not Linux. Not KDE. Not GNOME. Because they won't care and shouldn't care.

    Maybe a Red Hat program will run on Suse. Maybe not. It'll be a lot like OS X compared to other Unices. An average OS X user only uses Aqua apps. But, the more adventurous have the means of running X11 apps and other CLI utiltities. It could be the same with Red Hat compared to other Linuxes. An average Red Hat user might only use apps designed for Red Hat. The geeks will know that they can install extra libs and run all the Suse apps, too.

    Standardizing desktops isn't really necessary. One may come out dominant. Natural selection will decide that. What the Linux desktop is waiting for, I think, if for a company to take one of the technologies and brand it. They could make some essential apps a la Apple iApps, drop all reference to Linux, KDE/GNOME and present a single coherent experience to the user.

    I think coherent experience is the key without the bother of what libs do I need? That's not the job of the Linux developers or even of KDE/GNOME developers. They're just providing raw materials. A coherent desktop experience should come from someone who can synthesize those technologies and present something new, unified, consistent, unique.

  • by iSwitched (609716) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @11:39AM (#6814650)

    No mod points today, or you'd be +1.

    Your point extends far beyond manufacturing packages. The "Gimp is as good as Photoshop" and similar rhetoric shows how far there is yet to go in the realm of apps.

    In fact, I'd say that the recent offering from Redhat and others have taken dramatic steps in easing the issues that this article sees as so important. The desktop environment installed by default on these recent distributions is likely to seem very usable indeed to any reasonable person. In my opinion, the consistent GUI has arrived, sure more work needs to be done, but the framework is there.

    The problem, as you've put so well, is that people become tied to the apps they use. What they use at work becomes what they want at home. It always seems to surprise the average geeks that rank-and-file users don't want to learn a new, unfamiliar app to do a task they feel they already know how to do, and as one who focuses on usability and GUI design, I say why should they?

    Until that singular arrogance on the part of many Linux advocates (even some, dare I say, who read Slashdot) can be done away with, until more people are willing to scream "the emperor has no clothes!" Linux on consumer and (as you point out), many business desktops, is doomed to lag behind.

  • Re:Good idea (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Skeezix (14602) <jamin@pubcrawler.org> on Thursday August 28, 2003 @11:41AM (#6814672) Homepage
    If I had to choose, I would vote for KDE.

    And I would vote for GNOME. You see, that's the problem. Neither project is going to give up their work. Neither platform is going away. I know for a fact the GNOME developers are very proud of their work and are convinced that GNOME is the desktop of the future, but I'm sure the KDE developers feel the same way.

  • Re:Good idea (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jtev (133871) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @11:45AM (#6814722) Journal
    Damned straight, we don't need to bow to the pressure to use a sandardised anything, we need to improve our marketing and SELL CHOICE. I don't care if the unwashed masses are put off by choice, give them a good default, make choises easy to find, but also easy to avoid. I personaly love GNOME, but KDE has good points to, do I think any less of a freind of mine who likes KDE? No, but I do love GNOME. I also loved Enlightenment 0.16, and when the E folks come out with their next version I'll be rather willing to try it out. Think of it this way, in everything but computers consumers love choice they like to choose their cars, their airlines, their greasy burgers, after all shouldn't we just standardise on one fast foot resturaunt, then you could get McDonald's fries, Wendy's frosties, Burger King's hamburgers, and Sonic's limeade all at one place, but that doesn't happen, you get 4 different resturaunts that you can choose which food element is most important to you, and go to and get passable choises for the rest of the items consumers understand choice, and they aren't afraid of it. They simply need to be educated about the choices out there.
  • by andy_geek (522404) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @11:47AM (#6814740) Homepage
    Yet again, people are really spending energy wringing their hands over just how we can have a Linux desktop overtake Windows and thus solve the world's problems and blah blah blah...

    What a total waste of time and energy. That ship has sailed. Linux-heads should use whatever GUI or shell they want, but focus on creating the GUI for the next killer app. Micro$soft already has established itself as the (albeit majorly flawed and utterly ugly) standard in this arena. Again, I sound like a broken record here, but Gates and Ballmer are not worried about Linux (or anyone else) chipping into their desktop dominance (server and enterpise dominance is, obviously, a whole other story). Instead, they are spending time R&D'ing (or, more likely, deciding on what other companies' technologies they are going to cherry pick and prey upon for themselves) the future of the computer or the 'net or what have you. Yup, they will do a shitty job. But if they're spending their energy on tomorrow and we're spending our energy on yesterday, who do you think is going to "win", exactly?

  • by Savage-Rabbit (308260) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @11:54AM (#6814826)
    ... is quite as galactically stupid as Microsoft/Apple seem to think. Microsoft for one has been very reluctant to introduce new features on its desktop. Just for example it has Microsoft years to finally produce a usable virtual desktop manager and even then it is not a part of the standard Windows XP installation. It is hidden on an obscure webpage deep inside the Microsoft website under the label "Power toys". I have introduced quite a number of "average Windows users" to the MSVDM and none of them took more than 60 seconds to grasp the concept of Multiple desktops.
  • by clifgriffin (676199) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @11:55AM (#6814833) Homepage
    I know Windows inside an out. My first computer had 2mb of RAM and a 200mb hard drive with Windows 3.0. I had to everything in DOS of course because Windows 3.0 would crash if you tried to add more than the minimum amount of Program Groups or do anything productive.

    I've climbed the windows ladder and I consider myself a very advanced user. I understand how computers work and I've spent the last 2+ years repairing them as part of my job. Basically: I know windows inside and out.

    This article really hits home with me. I have a friend who has been pushing me to switch to linux. He's an uber geek who's been using Linux since Red Hat 1 and now uses Slackware 9 and OpenBSD. With his influence, and my love of adventure and something new I explored several distributions of Linux. Starting with Red Hat, Mandrake, Lycoris (yuck), Debian, and finally Slackware.

    All of the reasons I was told I'd love linux didn't ring true for me and really harmed my tolerance for it.

    Here are some reasons that I was told I would love Linux.

    1. Freedom from MS.
    Well that's all well and nice, but as a competent windows user, I personally am indifferent with MS. I don't like their bullying tatics and screwing of Java, but I like their OSs and Windows XP Pro hasn't done me wrong...in Beta, RC, or RTM. Freedom from MS sounds like "Freedom from the occult." and isn't going to win over very many competent windows users. The users that may be lured in by this are the people that don't know how to use their computers, and consequently blame MS for every computer related problem they have. What they really need is a nice etch-a-sketch.

    2. Free as in free speech, not as in beer.
    For me, my experience with Linux was based on it being free...and free as in beer. Here again, the marketing seemed to target me similar to how TV evangelists do. Linux isn't a religion, but I'd be darned to tell the difference from the rantings of most Linux enthusiasts. I don't really care what kind of "free" it is. I'm willing to pay for quality, that isn't the issue with me.

    3. Freedom of Choice
    I like freedom of choice, but the choice offered by Linux is freedom of doing whatever you want with whatever you want whenever you want. While that may make the true uber geek's heart race with excitement, for me it is an obstacle...especially as a new Linux user. What boot manager do I use...Lilo or Grub? What Window manager do I use? Besides the standard KDE and Gnome there are 13,000 other glorious choices for you! This doesn't make sense to your average windows user. For many windows fans, the standard interface is a feature. I can write software and know without a shadow of a doubt that Windows will run it. I don't have to support a variety of popular window managers all with non standard features. As I began my journey with Linux I was parlyzed by choice, not freed. Most users want consistency, not an Operating System that begs you to choose between 100s of possible configurations.

    3. Open Source
    I was told that Open Source was fantastic because if I found a bug I could actually fix the source and recompile. How great is that?! Well to most users, that is meaningless. Even though I have development experience, and have a few pet projects I do on the side....there is no attractiveness to the idea of fixing someone else's code. If Linux users were smart they'd portray Open Source not in a "you can fix the bugs" light, but in a "you are freed from stringent licenses and can truly use the software to YOUR benefit (be that modifying to your delight or whatever)" light. I love Open Source software, but it has little to do with being able to fix someone else's coding problems.

    4. Lastly, Those Hidden Suprises
    My first linux outing was with Red Hat, Mandrake, and Lycoris. After using these 3 I was ready to dump Linux forever. All of the things I'd been told were so great about Linux had been meaningless to me and all I was left with was an Operating System generally harder and more confusing to use than
  • Re:Exactly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by redtoade (51167) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @12:14PM (#6815052) Homepage Journal
    This post is the epitome of why Linux is failing on the desktop! This argument isn't about Linux! It's about migration.

    All of this pseudo-intelligencia, philosophizing garbage demonstrates how isolated most computer science geeks (and thus developers) are from the majority of computer users. Inevitably, the entrenched Linux community balks at standardization. That's just a fact. Somehow they derive their collective self image as software rebels. Linux is the icon for the anti-establishment, "we are not part of the normal world and proud of it," the internet is ours DAMN IT" crowd. Well get over yourselves. As Linux is adopted into the work force, more and more home users will adopt it also. AND THAT'S what this discussion is really about...

    This isn't about Linux users! The majority of computer users use Microsoft Windows. So any decent designer would immediately recognize how easy it is to smooth out the learning curve by drawing on the one thing that almost all computer users have in common: familiarity with the gui. Windows users don't care about computers. They don't spend their days dreaming about kernel compilation... and they never will. They typically go to work, do their job and go home when they're done. Most don't turn computers on at home. Most don't have CompSci degrees... or any college degree for that matter. Most just want to use their computer the way they use their TV: turn on, watch, change channel, turn off.

    If televisions were packaged like Linux distros: where components arrived in separate shipments, the consumer was responsible for complete assembly, the instruction manual's chapters were scattered all over the internet, with no two television sets having the same controls nor receiving the same channels... there would still be some self righteous jerk screaming how standardization would be the end of the world! And only a small percentage of isolated geeks would be watching TV expecting the rest of the world to lose their technical ignorance. Get real.

    The expectation you have of the user to close the distance between what they know and what you want them to learn is naive. That's not how industries produce consumable goods. And like it or not, Linux is now part of that economy. Despite whatever philosophies you chose with which to see the world, supply and demand exists. If you choose to ignore that fact, I guarantee that there's someone else out there that's not so short sighted waiting to take over where you stopped short.

    What really pisses me off is the throngs of Linux minions who scream that standardization is limiting freedom of choice. No one is saying that the desktop needs to be locked down to one gui! What is being said is that the default gui should be the same across all distros. That's not very difficult to do despite the KDE vs Gnome debate. You pick KDE. End of story. I'm a Gnome user myself, but let's face it, KDE is more similar to Win32. But so what? I would expect the distros to still have both standard and advanced installation options. The standard would be an out of the box vanilla KDE install. The advanced would give you the choice between desktops. Why is that so difficult? Answer: it's not. It's a pissing contest. No one wants to favor one desktop over the other. Linux users feel their sense of rebellion being flushed down the toilet as more and more non-Linux users cross over. Tough.
  • by Dewin Cymraeg (607476) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @12:20PM (#6815120)
    Surprised I have to say this, but Linux is a kernel, not an OS. Standardising the GUI for a kernel would be like an engine designer specifying a car's shell shape. The problem is precisely in trying to market 'Linux' as an OS rather than as an OS component. However, I think the biggest problem has more to do with the suitability of Linux (as a kernel) for desktop machines. I read somewhere that changes have been made for 2.6 for providing better UI response - only time will tell whether this improves the user-perceived performance, which is what users (including myself) are interested in. Excellence on the desktop means performance as much as it means usability. When I start Mozilla or Firebird, I want it to appear immediately, not have to count to 10 first. Where are the latencies? In the app? the GNOME environment? X itself? Is X really a good model for fast performance? These are the questions we should be asking.
  • Re:Best quote... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 28, 2003 @12:27PM (#6815183)
    Computers are the exception because of the generalness of the tool. Think of the devices that a computer can easily emulate or, in some cases, completely replace:

    • Typewriter
    • Video game console
    • DVD player
    • Stereo
    • Calculator
    • ...
    This doesn't even touch on the specialized applications that used to be covered by multiple tools, such as drafting boards and the accompanying utensils that go with them.

    A computer's interface and functions have to support all of these specialized tools. I'm not saying that someday the "man behind the curtain" will be hidden to normal users, but having hooks to support so many different things definitely makes the machinery much harder to hide.

  • Re:A thought (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mr_Silver (213637) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @12:32PM (#6815228)
    Do we then really want to take over the desktop?

    Yes we do.

    Unless of course you want to spend the rest of your life limiting your hardware purchases to what works with Linux.

    Personally I'd rather pick the best specced bit of hardware (say graphics card) for my needs, puchase it and take it home knowing full well that it'll have all the drivers on the CD and be supported if you have to phone up with a problem.

    Not something that will happen if Linux remains in the niche market.

  • by 2toise (688494) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @12:34PM (#6815246)
    What about commercial releases agreeing to standardise on a default setting, that it would ship with? Anyone who wanted to could mess with it, but anyone who didn't know better would see something familiar?
  • by bninja_penguin (613992) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @12:34PM (#6815255)
    I have said it before and will continue to say it, Linux has been ready for a long time for the Desktop, the applications are ready and even a lot of users are ready to use it, but the main goal of Linux is also holding it back: choice.

    Okay, this statement, coupled with the main link to the article, which states "freedom of choice, freedom of source, etc. etc. is not what the average user wants..." says to me that Linux is progressing just fine. If the average user does not want freedom of choice, then they should look elsewhere. If my freedom of choice is taken away, then Linux is no different than Microsofts offerings, because Microsoft targets the lowest common factor of computing. By "standardizng" on one desktop, one word processor, or what have you, how is that different than Microsoft? Before you say well download and install the GUI you want, or AbiWord instead of OpenOffice, or whatever, that is already an option for those running Microsoft offerings. At work I have OpenOffice running on Win2K, and not MS Office, but will the average joe do that? I think not. If the average joe wants an average OS, with no choices to make on how it acts, then stick with Microsoft, that is what they excel at. If, however you want freedom of choice, and you do care about how it acts, then by all means use Linux. Linux is NOT about displacing Microsoft from the number one spot for desktop OSes, it IS all about empowering the individual user!
    Linus says all the time he's out to make the best OS for his use, NOT for the average joe. If you or the average joe wants to use his stuff, fine, but it's no sweat off his brow if you or the average joe doesn't want to. Linus understands the fact that these machines should be our tools, not the other way around.
  • Re:Good idea (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BrokenHalo (565198) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @12:36PM (#6815272)
    The whole point of the issue is that we do not want a "standard" rammed down our throats.

    Microsoft has had years' worth of value in promoting their products as so-called "standards", and many of us have had enough.

    If "someone" were to decide that the "one true" interface was going to be KDE or Gnome or whatever, many happy users of open source software would object, and rightly so.

    If that means that Linux will not overtake Windows on the desktop market, then so be it. Let's face it, most Windows users will not even consider switching anyway.

    The whole point of the open-source initiatives is to allow the user to make choices. Most (or at least many) users want to be told what to do, not to make choices as to how to do it.

  • by kermit6306 (568489) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @12:38PM (#6815283)
    Linux has a windowing system. It's a good one. It's the one Unix has. It's called the X Window System. It's not a really a GUI in and of itself. Open layers built on top of it provide nice looking interfaces. X is more "standard" than any other windowing platform out there especially Win32/MFC. It's open. It's multi-vendor. There are free implementations. There are commercial implementations. It's a standard. Microsoft Windows is not a standard.
    The problem this author and most people who make this argument have is that they are so locked into one way of thinking about computing; they try to force things to go a certain way; The Redmond Way. The fact of the matter is, right now, Linux is a Unix work-a-like, not a Windows look-a-like. As for what users want; Linux users want the same thing and Unix users. Power and Simplicity. Sometimes that means a specially tailored system out of a base standard. If anyone tries to take that away then will probably be burned. Forcing a high level GUI standard under the notion of progress is dangerous. They probably need Linux to be more interoperable with the Unix system than with Linux. A successful "Standardization" will break that. Anecdotally, any users who dip their finger tips in a system comprised of a Linux kernel, a GNU userland and an X GUI framework want openness and choice, not monolithism and information hiding. Want more users? Keep doing what Unix and Linux has done. Keep building more powerful software. Users will come. I came. You came.
  • What the author of this article misses is that the various OSS groups (Like the *DM people) aren't a competing company trying to take over market- and mind-share. They are people who are doing what they want to do, (freedom of choice) what they have the basic natural rights to do, (survival and the pursuit of happiness) and what they're sick of others telling them they're not allowed to do. (Microsoft being a big violator)
    <soapbox>
    Irregardless of what you think of the state of the U.S.A. today, the founding fathers had the same basic idea, do what you want to do (freedom of choice), do what you have a right to do, (survival and the pursuit of happiness) and they were sick of others telling them they're not allowed to do that. (British crown and Parliment)

    In both cases, had those in power actually *listened* to the complaints of those they were actively ignoring, and if the "underdogs" didn't have rable-rousers (Sam Adams for the American Revolution, Noel Godin of the anti-MS crowd to name just two examples), the entire thing may have simply come to a footnote in history. "There was a problem, it got solved, moving on."

    The "American Englishmen" of the 18th century were in such a small minority compared to the rest of the British Empire that their complaints and way of doing things were completely ignored by the average British citizen. On the same token, the average Windows user couldn't care less what a bunch of weird geeks do, they just want to live their lives.

    The average computer user has no idea what goes on under the hood, nor are they aware of the many times that their computer use has been compromised by those who hold the keys to their computer (the OS vendor). Those of us who do know better realize that by leaving these keys in the hands of a select few, those select few can (and have) become corrupted. You doubt? Take a look at the whole "Digital Rights Management" fiasco. DRM is all about the profit of a select few, NOT the real rights of the people who's "Digital" material is being "Managed."

    On the plus side, the minority gets a victory every-so-often. Going back to DRM, most DRM schemes have failed miserably, for the simple reason that the uber-geeks (the tiny minority of computer users who read /. and similar services) have spread the word about the restrictive nature of these schemes.
    </soapbox>
    It's no wonder he doesn't understand why we (the geeks in the OSS community, yes even the "users") don't make Linux more Windows-like, because he's thinking in dollars and cents and mind-share. The whole point to OSS is freedom, not figures on a ledger.
  • Freedom of Choice (Score:1, Insightful)

    by n6kuy (172098) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @12:41PM (#6815314)
    .. is what you got.
    Freedom FROM choice is what you want!
  • Re:Good idea (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Phillup (317168) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @12:51PM (#6815411)
    Well... in one way they have standardized.

    They run on X.

    So... perhaps the answer is to rework X.

    I personally think that I should be able to use which ever interface I want... but, there is certainly some core functionality that could be abstracted out to a common layer, IMHO.

    Perhaps this would be a good way to start? Standardize some of the functionality that is common... and perhaps provide a "Common Interface" API for programmers.

    I personally think of Gnome and KDE as toolkits for application development... and not as a Desktop GUI, mainly because I can run Gnome apps on my KDE desktop... and vice versa.
  • Re:Exactly (Score:3, Insightful)

    by edunbar93 (141167) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @12:58PM (#6815490)
    and the pervasiveness of the mindset that ignorance and laziness should be pandered to, rather than fixed through education, epitomises this.

    1) That's like saying when you design a car, you should make its operation as complicated as possible in order to force the user to learn how it works. Most people - not to mention engineers - will say that this is an insane design methodology.

    2) Just because you *know* how the thing works, does not mean that you should be forced to take the time to glue all the pieces together just to make it work. This is laziness on the part of the developer, not on the part of the user, and as such, the extra time *not* spent by the developer to make the install easier and faster is multiplied by the number of users the software acquires. The end result of this is a massive waste of time and resources that could have been fixed at the root instead of at the leaves.

    3) People with knowledge and experience are typically worth more per hour than people without knowledge and experience. As a result, it is *more * important not to waste their time. If installing a program takes an experienced technical user hours when it could be modified by the developer to take minutes, what could possibly be wrong with that?

    Making things easier to use does not pander to the ignorance and laziness of others. It saves time and money. It makes people more productive. And most of all, NOT making things easier to use is the way of the ignorant and lazy designer. Your arrogant attitude is invalid.
  • Re:i disagree (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dynedain (141758) <slashdot2NO@SPAManthonymclin.com> on Thursday August 28, 2003 @01:00PM (#6815504) Homepage
    This may come as a suprise to many people here but some people LIKE the way linux works

    Point me to one person that likes the inability to cut-and-paste accross applications. The problem with Linux is not so much in how it works, but where it doesn't.
  • Re:Good idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BigBlockMopar (191202) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @01:06PM (#6815572) Homepage

    I Don't think its a 'dilemma' because the open source / free software developers will never standardize the GUI interfaces - precisely because people have come to like particulars of their given environment, or want the flexibility to change.

    In a sense, precisely the flexibility and diversity of console applications and daemons which makes *nix ideally suited to server duty, is exactly what makes its mass-adoption on the desktop difficult.

    On one hand, it's great that there might be 50 different ways to implement cut-and-paste functionality, but the end user doesn't care as long as he can cut something from one application (say, OpenOffice) and paste it into another (say, Gnumeric). On my Linux workstation, that's tough.

    Never mind the lack of OLE support. Stuff that Windows users take for granted - Windows Media Player embedding in a PowerPoint presentation - has been around since Office 95, and yet I've never been able to get xine or mplayer to launch from an Impress presentation.

    These are the hurdles which will need actual in-stone standards to overcome, and some of them will probably require work right down to the very architecture of the window manager in order to implement.

    And we have to overcome them, in order to make Linux a viable alternative operating system for any casual user who does more than read e-mail.

    I have a rant on the subject [glowingplate.com]. It's a bit dated now, but trying to work as a "regular" user in Linux - without writing shell scripts or firing up gcc - I can't get done what I need to get done. We don't need more eye candy or stuff like that. We need decent apps that don't feel like the works in progress they admittedly are and don't silently close if you run out of disk space. We need volunteer UI designers to walk into offices and seniors homes to find out how we can make a more user-friendly and consistent UI without alienating the power user.

    And we need to support at least every UI feature of Windows 2000 and its central apps. Let's think about it - in a field which moves as fast as IT, I'm suggesting we should use the OLE capabilities and consistency of a three-year-old product as a role model. Why? Because there are still things which Windows 95 users can do in three mouseclicks that would require firing up gcc.

    Like it or not, every end user is going to compare KDE/Gnome/whatever to their experience with Windows. They don't care that the Linux kernel never crashes if the KDE crash handler is popping up every 5 minutes or if applications lack features they require.

    Think of the end user with every single line of code that you write. Take a picture of a technically inept parent or aunt and stick it on the side of your monitor to remind yourself.

  • Missing the point (Score:2, Insightful)

    by aelfwyne (262209) <lotherius.altername@net> on Thursday August 28, 2003 @01:09PM (#6815602) Homepage
    I think a load of people here are completely missing the point.

    1) The issue isn't necessarily just getting noobs to start using Linux instead of Windows.

    2) Making Linux more desirable to more people benefits Linux by encouraging hardware vendors to support Linux, which can never be a bad thing. (Guess I should check again to see if my 160gig UDMA 133 drive is recognized on a newer distro...)

    3) Making Linux more desirable does not require making Linux less customisable or eliminating any choice.

    4) The problem for many is what I call the "Hassle factor".

    I'm no technical neophyte - I've used Linux in various flavors at various times since 1994. I'm in the camp with a lot of people though - I use Windows most of the time for daily use. Why? Hassle factor. It has nothing to do with a "standard GUI" or "choice" or "lack of choice". But fixing those things will reduce the Hassle factor.

    Say a user follows good advice and uses a distro like RedHat or Suse (Suse 8.2 is my current favourite). They then install a KDE desktop.

    It looks pretty, sure. Does some nice things. They're past the point of desktop choice, but the hassle factor is over.

    What are the things the user is going to have a problem with? These are the things that need the most attention.

    In my experience, helping neophyte friends get into Linux as well as my own experience:

    1) Getting connected to the internet. PPP utilities still suck. They work sometimes, sometimes they don't. They aren't easy to find, as Linux still often assumes you're on a LAN. Many distros include more than one. Cut it to one, and put the shortcut in plain view on the starting desktop!! Or set it up during install, and put the startup link on the desktop!.. I will credit SUSE on one point - it configured my DSL connection via DHCP with very little effort. But I still had to login to the administrator mode on Yast to get it to do it. Why? Hassle...

    2) Menus, menus, and more menus. *THIS* IMHO is where we need standardization. All WM's should share a central repository for basic "start" menu lists. Most WM's give such a menu - but apps on one won't find their way onto the other. I've seen mumblings about such ideas, but it never actually seems to work. When I install an RPM of an app, I don't care if the app is written in QT and my WM is Gnome, vice versa, or even if it's an old Motif-style app - I want the app to register itself on my menu. I don't want to have to hunt down the executable, which could be in one of twenty different places, and add it manually to the menu. Hassle.

    3) Better desktop and menu shortcut creation. This has improved MUCH in the last few years. But I still discovered when using KDE that I can't just go to a folder, find an executable, and drag it onto the desktop or the menu. Sure, I can make a link to the desktop. But it's not an "application" link, it's a link to a file. So I can't set the same properties as if it were an application link. And customizing the menu isn't drag-n-drop simple like in Windows. Sure, I know how to do it. I create a new application link, and browse to the executable... set a bunch of values by hand, then I have a proper application icon. But why? Hassle.

    4) Source archives. Yes, I know how to ./configure, make all, make install, etc. Many people don't. Even if they're able to read the README.install or whatever, it's a big hassle. I understand source archives - you can target much more varied versions of Linux with them, which is necessary since there's so much variation. Okay.... How about a good - and standard - system for installing these source archives? It should be as easy as installing any RPM package. No reason why those stops (configure, make, etc) can't be automated. In fact, Redhat does this with source RPM's to some extent. But first, it's not a standard that's adhered to much, and it's not flexible. Why not simply take the standard tarball, and add an installer script that can be detected and launched by
  • by ratboy666 (104074) <fred_weigel@@@hotmail...com> on Thursday August 28, 2003 @01:19PM (#6815716) Homepage Journal
    Reading articles like this boils my blood:

    The first assumption is that ''Open Source'' competes with Microsoft. Of all the idiotic ideas! Redhat competes with Microsoft. Mandrake competes with Microsoft (etc.) Certainly not Open Source software. That just is.

    If you like it, use it. Just that simple. And leave your pre-conceptions at how the ''system'' is supposed to work at the door, please (that's *not* your computer, btw).

    Next, we need a single standard GUI for Linux. What a load of crap!

    Let's see -- when I installed Redhat 9, (and 8, and Mandrake), it installed a desktop for me. It works. Happens to be the one I want, too, but that doesn't matter. NEW LINUX USERS JUST USE IT. Why? Because when you install Microsoft, you get a single GUI too. There are methods for replacing the Windows GUI, but the level of user A. Russell Jones is addressing won't do it.

    Next item. If using RPMs with Redhat 8 or 9, things work EXACTELY like Mr. Jones is promoting. End of story. What a load of FUD.

    Most of the software is supplied (that is, on the same CD set). There are exceptions -- like how to get mp3s playing (but there is a clear link, and download of an RPM to install). And that makes setting up a system very straightforward

    Setting up XINE is a bit more difficult...

    However, since Linux is *not* pre-installed, and the typical user does not install (because someone in the family is the ''resident geek''), it isn't difficult. The machines just work.

    And that is the most important thing. That the computer does its job; easily and conveniently.

    The key points for ''casual user'' are that:

    1 - Linux is just as easy as Windows

    2 - It's cheaper

    3 - You friendly neighbourhood support geek is happier when you use it -- make remote administration easier.

    4 - No more Outlook worms, MSBlaster.

    5 - If you have teenagers that just NEED the latest PC games and elite 'net experience, you go with Windows (and reload your machine every 3 to 6 months -- I just ghost 'em).

    As a hacker, I am happy to see people use my software. My commercial stuff goes into embedded systems (like DVD players). So I get paid. I don't compete with Microsoft! I *like* them. I own MSOFT shares.

    As an informal family IT support person, I wish that MS Windows had sensible remote management. I still have to support Windows 98, you here? Actually, I use Windows 2000 Professional as my Windows test-bed at work, but I don't know any of the remote management stuff. All I know is that 98 doesn't have it. So, I prefer my ''users'' switch to Linux. It's easier on me (in the long run). If they have DSL or Cable (broadband), I schedule backups for them. If they buy hardware, I install the drivers for them. If they need a new application, I set it up for them. Just like a company IT person.

    For my own hacker needs, I can choose what GUI to use (and what filesystems, encrypting or not, and vi vs. emacs. etc. etc. etc.). Doesn't matter to others -- they are going to use OpenOffice.org, not (vi|emacs)! They are never going to touch a configuration file (they CAN'T, because they don't have the root password -- well, they do, its in an envelope with instructions to open it if I die, or in case of emergency). And when/if they learn enough, or they just want it, they can have the root password, their sysadmin badge (or tee-shirt), and get into the meat of the Open Source Movement.

    Ratboy.

    - Family IT Admin since '95.
    - 3 Linux, 6 Windows 98 boxes
    - 1 server
    - 5 locations (Sault Ste. Marie to Detroit)
  • by Minna Kirai (624281) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @01:22PM (#6815758)
    It's not like the command syntax is different.

    $setenv EXTRA_CFLAGS -g
    bash: setenv: command not found
    $ make |& tee makelog.txt
    bash: syntax error near unexpected token `&'
    $ tcsh
    % for i in *;do make -C $i clean;done
    for: Command not found.
    i: Undefined variable.
  • Re:Good idea (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Darth Hubris (26923) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @01:29PM (#6815825)
    The whole point is the interface is not for YOU, and not for "the Community at large". It's for an average user who's been using MS software all their lives. I think a spruced up IceWM would be just right, but that's my opinion. It's small, fast, fairly uncomplicated, and looks like the interface they are used to.
  • Distros (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jagasian (129329) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @01:35PM (#6815883)
    This is why we have distros. For example, people use Redhat because they pick and choose what they think the best software components are for the job. They also pick the default window manager.

    I am using basically a completely default Redhat 9 install, and I never had to choose one window manager or another, in order to get usability. Sure, Nautulis kind of sucks for browsing files, but if you turn off all previewing, it is usable.

    Anyway, it is the Distros job to make the tough choices. Some distros choose to make more of these tough choices than others. Redhat, Suse, and Mandrake make lots of choices for the user... while Debian, Gentoo, and Slackware make very few choices.

    If a user wants an easy ride, they go with one distro out of the first set of 3. They are all effectively the same in terms of usability.

    If a user wants freedom of choice, then they go with one of the other distros (actually there are hundreds of distros to choose from I just listed my favorites).
  • by Bob Uhl (30977) <eadmund42&gmail,com> on Thursday August 28, 2003 @01:54PM (#6816102) Homepage
    The fundamental error this columnist makes is twofold: first, that there is no monolithic `Linux corporate entity'; second, that the goal of this non-existent entity is to convert everyone to Linux.

    `Linux' (really, free software in general) is not a person; it is not a corporation; it is the emergent product of thousands of developers. There is no central direction. There is no-one to enforce any silly dicta which come down the pike. It's freedom, baby: everyone doing his own thing, and thereby producing something great and Free. Sure, it has rough edges, but it's truly Free.

    Even if one looks at the `Linux' community as a self-directed organism, is its goal conversion from Windows? Is its goal dumbed-down software? No: the goal of the free software community is freedom--and we have that. It is for proprietary software users to come to us; not for us to come to them. If users wish to remain lusers, so be it: we will help them become better, but we will not worsen ourselves.

    How would he--or any other person advocating uniformity--propose to enforce a common standard on all? By violence? The basic issue is that we do not all agree on what is good. I like Ion [cs.tut.fi]; you like fvwm2 [fvwm.org]; he likes sawfish [sourceforge.net]. Which would you choose? Each has its pros and cons. Each is infinitely better than the utterly loathsome metacity.

    As long as there is freedom, there will not be uniformity. Since freedom is the highest good of free software, free software will never be uniform. Particular collections might be (witness the GNU Project, whose tools mostly follow the same conventions), but the whole will never be.

    This is a good thing, because freedom is good, and choice is good, and people are different. To those with brains, freedom and choice are exhilarating--who cares for those without?

    BTW, WTF's up with /. not respecting &dash;?

  • by JonKatzIsAnIdiot (303978) <a4261_2000@nOsPam.yahoo.com> on Thursday August 28, 2003 @02:10PM (#6816269)
    "the choice of desktop between KDE, Gnome, IceWM etc, is not one that a former windows user, even a fairly technically competent one, is going to able to make an informed choice on"

    Picking your window manager or desktop environment is easy. What so hard about:

    1. Picking KDE/Gnome/Enlightenment/IceWM ... from the login menu
    2. Clicking on the icon in the lower left corner to see what programs are available (if it's there)
    3. Clicking on the icons to see what they do.
    4. Trying a few right-clicks to see what happens.
    5. Deciding which one you like.

    IMHO a far greater problem facing new users is figuring out what software they need. Many free software projects do a terrible job of representing themselves to the user community. When a user visits a program's web site, they want to find out if that software will fit their needs. If the features and capabilities are not spelled out clearly, the user may go elsewhere, or assume that his only option is commercial software.
  • Re:Good idea (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Arandir (19206) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @02:19PM (#6816364) Homepage Journal
    Let's not stop there! Besides mandating only one single GUI toolkit, let's mandate one single programming lanaguage! Make everyone use Ruby (my choice, since it's my turn to be dictator today). Ban Java. Forbid C. Persecute users of C++. Arrest Lisp and Haskell programmers. Tar and feather Perl and Python perverts.

    The multitude of incompatible programming languages is holding Linux back from its rightful place as the New Monopoly Operating System!
  • Win what? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jonner (189691) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @02:42PM (#6816629)
    Microsoft will win what? They've made it abundantly clear that they hate freedom and choice and anything they don't control. They've called GNU/Linux and the GPL unamerican and subversive. Have they managed to stop people from using Free Software? Have they managed to stop people from dumping their chains in favor of Free Software? What or how are they going to win?

    Just because most people don't run GNU/Linux on their desktops and probably never will doesn't mean that Microsoft will win. It seems that in their eyes, they are losing. Would they react so violently if they felt secure in their software dominion?

    Free Software has the advantage over proprietary because its users and developers don't have to care about market share and profit margins. There is plenty of commercial development of Free Software, but the software itself won't die just because it isn't profitable. Are you concerned for the fate of Mozilla now that Netscape decided it isn't profitable? It's probably slowed down a little. That's a lot better position than IE would be in if Microsoft stopped pouring money into it.

    Another strength of GNU/Linux is that it doesn't have to dominate any market to succeed. Microsoft is threatened because quite a few servers and a small number of desktops run Free OSes. GNU/Linux, *BSD, GNOME, and KDE have been succeeding for years simply because people are using and developing them. They have never been threatened by Microsoft in the way the Microsoft is threatened by them.

    A winning scenario for GNU/Linux would be one in which there was true freedom of choice and no single group dominated. There would be plenty of room for proprietary developers in such a world, as long as they interoperated with everyone else and provided good value and service to their customers. Of course, there probably wouldn't be many proprietary products that could long survive in such an open market.
  • Re:Good idea (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 28, 2003 @02:43PM (#6816641)
    May I point out that cars are standardised to a high degree the stearing weel is not in the middle, the break is to the left of the gas, the gages are layed out in a fairly standard way, there is a rearview mirror in roughly the same relitive place on both the Geo and the Sab. as for fast food there is a curious homogony there as well that can't be denied.
  • Re:Good idea (Score:3, Insightful)

    by babbage (61057) <cdeversNO@SPAMcis.usouthal.edu> on Thursday August 28, 2003 @02:49PM (#6816725) Homepage Journal
    Damned straight, we don't need to bow to the pressure to use a sandardised anything, we need to improve our marketing and SELL CHOICE.

    In other words, "Don't bother FIXING IT you damned slobs, SELL IT!"

    Choice is nice and all, but as Perl well demonstrates, just because there's more than one way to do it doesn't mean that 90% of those ways aren't wrong. "Choice" and "correctness" have very little to do with each other, as anyone even moderately well read in UI research could tell you.

    The really great thing about OSX's Aqua interface is that it restricts choice. At first this can feel constricting, but once you give in & go with the flow, you realize that the defaults are actually pretty efficient, and more importantly you're not wasting your time fiddling around with all the settings: we've all got more important things to do than hand-craft the bestest wickedest GUI theme evahhh!??!?!

    Sadly, many Linux (esp Enlightenment) users don't seem to agree with that. That's their choice... :-)

  • Re:Good idea (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Wavicle (181176) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @03:01PM (#6816859)
    This is the flawed thinking of the open source movement, that somehow things like "market share" are measures of success.

    [...]

    As long as we have that, any GNU/Linux vendor in the world is free to cooperate with other vendors and standardize or not standardize as they see fit. A properly functioning economy (both in terms of money and ideas) requires lots of small companies (suppliers) all competing for the dollars/yen/euros/attention of the consumer.

    Competing for dollars/yen/euros is the same thing as competing for market share. That's how "market share" is a measure of success. How many companies spent millions of dollars on Linux development because it had server market share? How much better is Linux today because of that? Market share is a very real measure of success.

    Absolute freedom in the software is what's important.

    That may be what is important to you... To the average person what is important is: ease of use, compatibility with existing software, ease of obtaining new software, and cost of ownership. If we want to remove Linux's barriers to the desktop, those are issues we need to wrestle with.

    Personally I feel like users expect too little from their systems, and too little from themselves as well.

    This is the sort of reasoning among Linux users that creates a barrier to acceptance of Linux on the desktop. Should automobile designers assume that users should select their own gear ratios and rebuild their transmission themselves? Users don't care about how their system works, they just care that it works. It's nice that you are comfortable being a mechanic, not everyone has the least interest in being one.

    Computers are complicated machines that require a certain level of know-how.

    No, that is fundamentally wrong, and apple has shown this in spades. "You need a certain level of know-how" is a poor excuse for a system that isn't designed with the average person in mind. If a person has little trouble learning to use windows, but does have trouble with linux, the problem is with the software, stop blaming the user.
  • by Grishnakh (216268) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @03:10PM (#6816936)
    Then let them continue to pay through the nose for every new version of Windows, and suffer through all its security problems. No skin off my ass. Hopefully MS will jack up their prices even more, and all these "average users" who don't care can shell out even more just to keep using their software.

    Meanwhile, users who DO CARE about their freedom will switch to an OS that offers that, and will reap the benefits.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 28, 2003 @03:49PM (#6817325)
    I agree with much of what you said, but at the end of the day, where has it gotten Apple? They're not greatly increasing market share with that beautiful face which is OS X. The reality is, it's just not happening. If the arguably best gui can't take market share from microsoft, then making a great gui for linux is obviously not the answer. Clearly, the cost and the limited hardware are big factors here with respect to OS X but I don't think that tells the whole story. The real hurdle for linux is the difficulty in interoperating with the overwhelming desktop king which is microsoft. That's a situation that will only change gradually.
  • by DunbarTheInept (764) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @03:52PM (#6817363) Homepage
    What the hell's the point of using an alternative to Microsoft if that alternative contains exactly the same problem the original has - lack of choice? The arguments between KDE and Gnome are what I like about Linux, and I'm glad they're both there. I don't want to live in a world where everyone has to use linux. I want to live in a world where *I* can use it even if my coworkers and friends use something else. Yes, that does mean Microsoft has to lose marketshare (since they are the biggest proponents of OS lock-in which prevents that scenario from being possible), but if we have to turn Linux *into* Windows to do it, then that's not really a win.

    Here's an example: I used to prefer Gnome over KDE because gnome was more capable of making the UI look like what I wanted. Now that Gnome has gotten onto the one-size-fits-all bandwagon and removed useful features, I've gone the other way and prefer KDE. Without that kind of choice out there, I couldn't do that and I'd be stuck. (And the manifesto-like explanation as to why pisses me off since it claims features I need are just pointless toys. (I don't consider outline-drag to be a toy. I consider opaque-drag to be the toy that eats CPU cycles needlessly. The Gnome manifesto seems to disagree, claiming that since all machines these days are faster than a Gigahertz, it's pointless to worry about it, but that's the same sort of wasteful mentality that makes me despise Windows. Just because I have lots of clock cycles doesn't mean I want to be wasting them on the UI. I'd rather have useful programs in the background crunching away using them.)
  • Re:Good idea (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Skeezix (14602) <jamin@pubcrawler.org> on Thursday August 28, 2003 @04:05PM (#6817495) Homepage
    well, ego is a big part of it, but not the whole story. The point is the GNOME developers are very proud of their work as well they should be. Likewise, the KDE developers feel the same way. There's a lot of blood, sweat, and tears that have gone into both projects. How could anyone realistically expect one of the projects to be abandoned?
  • by jbn-o (555068) <mail@digitalcitizen.info> on Thursday August 28, 2003 @04:26PM (#6817789) Homepage

    How ironic it is that in order to gain the pratical advantages Jones wants us to have, we must leverage the freedoms the free software community has fought so hard for over decades--the very freedoms Jones downplays:

    To do that, the open source community must recognize that its primary goals: freedom of choice, freedom of source code, and freedom to alter applications, are not the goals of the average user. [...]

    They don't care that they can't see or change the source code to their current programs. They don't care that they don't actually own the software, as long as they only have to pay for it once. They don't care that most of their software comes from a single source. In short, they don't care about the fundamental issues behind open source software at all. But they do care about price, quality, availability, security, simplicity, and interoperability. Supply these, and open source will be the software choice.

    Software freedom is championed by the Free Software movement (hence the name "Free"), not the Open Source movement. Perhaps Jones is unaware of the philosophical differences between these two movements [gnu.org]. The Open Source Initiative has done valuable work in bringing people to freedom by endorsing free software licenses (including the GNU GPL, the most widely-used Free Software license). However, the Open Source movement focuses on telling business that they can develop better programs by making their source code available to the community of hackers willing to do good work without charge. This is considerably different from backing the freedoms to share and modify programs that, in turn, allow us to enjoy these practical advantages.

    The Free Software Foundation tells us that we need more freedom talk so when we bring people into the free software commnuity through practical gain we give them a reason to stay with free software--when some proprietor offers a temptation (which might offer a better practical advantage), they'll be able to recall that software freedom is the one advantage proprietors can never provide.

    Increasingly users do care about software freedom, though perhaps it takes some bad times with a proprietor to make them think about the ways in which the non-free alternative is poor. This is why we see governments pushing for Free Software, like the Brazilian government is doing [slashdot.org]. You don't get government officials like Peruvian Congressman David Villanueva Nunez writing a scathing letter to Microsoft [slashdot.org] and standing behind Free Software (not Open Source, as he was clear to point out) without understanding the advantages of self-reliance and freedom.

  • by sasquatch zeke (702495) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @05:34PM (#6818616)
    These Windows vs Linux vs X discussions almost always end up confused. People argue right past each other because the arguments starts WITHOUT EVER AGREEING ON BASIC ASSUMPTIONS.

    Like in mathematics, if you don't set out initial assumptions, no one knows whether or not they should agree with your conclusions.

    A lot of invective and heated prose goes into posts about how "Linux needs to change in way X" to "win" against Microsoft. But consider the assumptions that go into these posts:

    (1) Linux and Microsoft are competing. Are they really? How much do the different operating philosophies and divergent costs of operation endear them to entirely separate groups of people?

    (2) It is possible to "win" against Microsoft. What does winning mean? Does it mean that MS is wiped off the surface of the planet? Does it mean that Linux attains a market share greater than MS-Windows in the home/business/server market? Would it be good enough for Linux to reach the desktop market share and support level of Apple's Macintosh line?

    (3) That there is a good reason to want to "win" against MS, other than simple dislike for the company, its buggy software, and its business practices. Too often posts about "winnning" devolve into tirades about how awful Windows is and how Linux needs to change in ways X, Y, and Z to make it a suitable replacement. What would it mean for Linux to change in this way? I'm not sure it would necessarily be good. Most of the arguments I've seen on this issue center around

    (a) Standardization
    (b) Ease of use

    Some standardization is useful. For example, when Linux distros adhere to the Filesystem Hierarchy Standard, it makes moving between distros much easier and compiling packages much simpler. The real question is: "How much standardization is useful, and how much is unneccesarily restrictive?" For example, I personally do not want to see one window manager or desktop defined as standard. Part of the richness of the Linux/Free Software movement is being able to try alternatives and figure out what is best for you. Defining standards in this will only marginalize those WM not selected. Besides which, there are often underlying standards which these types of programs adhere to (Such as ICCM compliance for WM) which guarantee at least a certain level of back-end predictability.

    Ease of use is, to some people, identical with standardization. Many of the arguments for standardizing on one packaging system, one window manager, one file system, etc. are based on ease of use. But ease of use is about more than just never having to figure out a new interface. Would you want to use your automobile's driving interface to control your washing machine? Or a chainsaw? There are good reasons why different tools have different interfaces, and no reason why software tools are exempt from these reasons. Moreover, the best interface possible for a tool is not always easy to pin down. Why do two different driers have two different interfaces? Part of determining the best interface for a tool is having room to experiment. In addition, what constitutes ease of use varies from person to person. Why do we have handicapped ramps for buildings? Why was braille invented? Why do some people prefer to read books to learn while others learn better from listening to lectures? Why do some people prefer to look at lists of files in text while others prefer fields of icons?

    (4) Linux is not a corporation. What gets labelled as "Linux" is really a lot of different software (No, I am not just an RMS troll.), developed by a lot of different people. How does anyone propose that this be standardized? How can anyone expect that a large set of software developed by groups of people acting independently be forced into a particular mold? And, vitally, who is going to call the shots as to what shape it would take? I don't think Linus is up for that. I suspect that this point of view is antithetical to RMS's core beliefs. I doubt that an
  • by dododge (127618) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @07:16PM (#6819549)
    a Unix kernel and a Mac GUI, the perfect computer!

    There's a big assumption there: that the Mac GUI is actually something the user would prefer.

    Personally, the Mac GUI drives me batshit, for much the same reason as the Windows GUI: it won't let me interact with partially-obscured windows. And yes I do find myself wanting to do this quite often (and unfortunately am reminded of it the hard way whenever I use one of the Windows machines in the office).

    The single-menu-bar design that the Mac GUI has pretty much mandates the "current application" concept, so it's not like they can trivially add a focus-follows-mouse option like most X11 windows managers have.

    <rant>
    But wait, it gets worse! Mac users will sometimes tout how great Apple's support is for multi-head systems. And it's certainly true that from an OS viewpoint it works quite nicely: the monitors don't need to run the same resolution, or even at the same color depth, and you can easily adjust their relative positions with a configuration panel.

    But have you ever tried to use a multi-head Mac? A friend had a dual 1600x1200 Mac, which I did spend quite a bit of time with. The second display was almost useless, because the "single menu" implementation only put the menu on the top of one screen. So if you were working with an application on the "other" screen, getting the pointer to/from that damn menu was a major trek. I asked several folks who were much more familiar with the Mac GUI if there was any way to get the menu to appear on all screens, or perhaps follow you between screens automatically, but none ever had a solution. Mac GUI enthusiasts will talk about how Fitts's law makes the menu easily accessible, but frankly Apple's multi-head implementation completely b0rk'd any benefits from Fitts.

    And don't even get me started on the hardware. Take for example the Studio Display (tube) monitors, which are PC VGA compatible (well, mostly; apparently they don't like certain Shuttle motherboards), but can only be adjusted for things like screen size and position via USB -- and Linux doesn't seem to even see them as a device on the USB bus, much less have a driver to talk to them.
    </rant>

  • Re:Good idea (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DaAdder (124139) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @07:26PM (#6819609) Homepage
    Comparing users and developers now are we? I think you've been on /. for way too long.

    I think the real issue is presenting the average user with a consistent UI experience.

    Most people do not *want* to choose, they just want things to work. Developers however need to be very picky and choose the right tool for the job.

    Huge difference.

    Heck I know what I'm doing and *I* don't want to make a choice. I want my computer to work. If I then decide to change some later on I willl. The more choices and options out there the better. But initially this is not the case.

Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them. -- Bill Vaughn

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