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GUI Software Editorial Linux

Linux vs. Windows: Choice vs. Usability 1083

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.

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

      by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:28AM (#6813794)
      It would be beneficial to both KDE & GNOME if they got together and sorted out a single standard things that both have in common.
      • A theme engine for rendering widgets, scrollbars etc. XP & OS X have this and it's
      • Icons for toolbars
      • Metrics
      • Usability guidelines
      • Menus and icon properties

      At the end of the day, most people don't give a toss what the name of the thing running their desktop is, or why KDE is better than GNOME or vice versa. They just want a consistent desktop and a consistent set of apps running on top of it.

      Of the distributions so far, Red Hat has clearly gotten the message. The RH9 desktop with bluecurve theme throughout is a wonderfully put together desktop. It's only when you contrast it with the slapdash Mandrake desktop for example that you appreciate the difference that consistency makes.

    • 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 ;)
      • 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 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.

        • It certainly appears that Pro-E [] runs on Linux. I believe Unigraphics does as well, but their site was much more difficult to navigate. At least something [] from them runs on Linux. CATIA doesn't appear to run on linux yet, but with IBM as the main US distributor hopefully that will change soon.
      • 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.
        • Re:Good idea (Score:3, Interesting)

          by qtp ( 461286 )
          "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."

          But in my expirience, users will choose a window manager that suits them and then stay with that. Your argument would be valid if you were not talking about a feature that is consistant throughout a given windowing environment, but is reduiculous if you are claiming that the choice of windowmanager makes using Linux (more accurately, X11) more difficult.

          If you had used the
      • 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:5, Informative)

      by anthonyrcalgary ( 622205 ) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:36AM (#6813916)
      I would vote for KDE too.

      I think the article is stupid, but Apple has won a LOT of support through standardization. Not only of what they look like, but how they're laid out. They've got very, very specific GUI guidelines [], and that's a Very Good Thing. They're purely voluntary, but they create a consistancy between software included with the OS and 3rd party software that is unmatched elsewhere.

      If KDE (or whoever) were to come out with similar guidelines and most people were to follow them, Linux would benefit. Every non-OS X UNIX would benefit.
      • Re:Good idea (Score:5, Interesting)

        by AntiOrganic ( 650691 ) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:55AM (#6814143) Homepage
        KDE has Human Interface Guidelines already, and they're really completely nondescript and aren't very cohesive at all. Gnome 2's are really much better and even match Apple's fairly well, in my opinion.
      • Re:Good idea (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Quarters ( 18322 )
        Apple's guidelines were born of a lot of time, R&D effort, and sheer determination. The were an excellent source for Apple developers up through MacOS 9.x. With OSX Apple themselves seem to be turning their back on the HIG and doing things in a haphazard, way with no thought towards re-use of GUI ideas or code or following any sort of standard UI practice. Apple's HIG documents are quickly becoming useless dinosaurs----by no one's fault but Apple's.
    • Re:Good idea (Score:3, Insightful)

      by R.Caley ( 126968 )
      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.

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

      Gtk (GNOME) is free and open. It has a "safe" feeling. However, it's not really cross-platform* and is not very polished (the C API sucks and the gtkmm interface is still rough around the edges). It is a valid choice because of it's freeness. Hence the reason why we have GNOME.

      QT (KDE) is not free and in fact it is way too expensive for most normal uses*. Not everyone wants to release their stuff as GPL. However, it's the best cross-platform GUI toolkit avai
    • 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 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.
    • 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 but based on XML interfaces) and less app centric. This will allow more decoupling between GUI and actual applications.
    • Re:Good idea (Score:5, Interesting)

      by arivanov ( 12034 ) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @11:11AM (#6814342) Homepage
      Blah, blah, blah, blah using different GUIs blah, blah, blah.

      Well, a Windows user is capable of making a choice. Do not consider a windows user to be a moron by definition as he/she aint.

      I have several ex-windows users around me which are by all means linux users now. When I say by all means they are using it. They are not administering it, configuring it, tweaking it or in any other way wasting their time. They actually use the machine for work.

      And guess what they use - good ole Windowmaker with the standard brushsteel Debian theme (yes they have tried Gnome, Kde, XFCe, whateverE and they hated every moment of it). After all, people severely understimate the extent to which people like their machine being fast (even when it is a PIV at 2.4) with half a gig of RAM.

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

      by Skeezix ( 14602 ) <> 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.

  • 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.
    • 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. :)
    • 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 t

  • 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.
    • 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 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.

      • Those of us who want Linux on our desktop have it on our desktop, those who don't... well... don't

        I want Linux on my desktop, but yet don't have it. Why? Aside from the typical 'applications' cry which will eventually be resolved (hopefully) - it's because it doesn't work. I like the thought of having an OS that I can tweak and control every aspect of. I like the idea of *NIX instead of NT. But I am not a programmer; I am not a CS grad. I am not a 13 year old with too much time on their hands. I'm a worki
    • 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 h
    • by forsetti ( 158019 ) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:22AM (#6813700)
      That is true -- Linus/Linux is not out to attack the MS monopoly. But RedHat, Mandrake, Suse, $FAVORITE_DISTRO are. RedHat, for example, has already recognized this issue, and started attacking it with 'BlueCurve'.
    • 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...
      • Re:Exactly (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Ender Ryan ( 79406 )
        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 compan

      • 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.
        • Re:Exactly (Score:3, Interesting)

          I'm a Gnome user myself, but let's face it, KDE is more similar to Win32.

          Many companies actually choose GNOME for exactly that reason - it's NOT like Win32. KDE looks too similar to Windows, and users expect it to behave in exactly the same manner (which, of course, is impossible). GNOME keeps a clean, consistant interface with far fewer options and commands than KDE, as well as easier to spell and pronounce names (Konquerer? Kontour?). GNOME doesn't look like windows, and it doesn't act like windows - so
      • Re:Exactly (Score:3, Insightful)

        by edunbar93 ( 141167 )
        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 pie
  • by Anita Coney ( 648748 ) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:15AM (#6813601) Homepage
    My father-in-law worked as a travel agent at one time. He said travel agents never give more than three choices to a client. If you gave them more, they'd have to go home and think about it.

    People don't like making choices, it takes away time, energy, and they risk being wrong. That's one thing Windows (and Apple) does well, all choices are made for you.

    The problem I have with the post is that it does NOT have to be a zero-sum game. If someone wants to make a distro of linux that provides limited choices, what's stopping them? Why does every distro have to be limited in choices. That mentality makes no sense.

    • 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

  • 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.

    • Re:A thought (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ClippyHater ( 638515 ) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:41AM (#6813974) Journal
      Do we then really want to take over the desktop?

      I think having a majority of desktops running Linux would be a huge boon! No more searching to see if ALSA supports your latest/greatest sound card, no more searching to see if the latest/greatest graphics card is supported and has full hardware acceleration in 2D and 3D. When you "own" the desktop, suddenly device manufacturers find it prudent to write the drivers for you.

      No more Wine/what-have-you to run some of those fantastic commercial apps under Linux (and spottily at best for some). The manufacturers will find it in their best interest to do a straight port to Linux to get to the most users.

      So, IMO, yes, we do want to own the desktop

      If we have to become like Microsoft to defeat Microsoft, then what's the point?

      If by "become like Microsoft" you mean suddenly having questionable business practices, then obviously you don't. If you mean writing easily breakable software, you don't have to do that either. Why would we have to become like Microsoft??
    • Re:A thought (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Mr_Silver ( 213637 )
      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.

  • 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?

    • Re:i disagree (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Dynedain ( 141758 )
      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.
  • 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@ntlworl[ ]om ['d.c' in gap]> 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.
    • 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.

      Please note my minor but very important corrections to your statements:

      Would it be fair to say then, that Red Hat has a right idea trying to make a standardised GUI using the bets bits o

  • 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.
  • by TonyPyGarthno ( 173860 ) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:18AM (#6813643)
    its called the terminal =)
  • the complaint (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hitch ( 1361 ) <> 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.
  • XPDE (Score:3, Informative)

    by cjcormack ( 689855 ) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:19AM (#6813651) Journal
    The Desktop Environment is a great idea for people switching from Windows, it's not an exact clone, but will give users a more "friendly" interface (friendly to someone used to windows! not - i've dug myself a hole here... help!!)
  • by BMonger ( 68213 ) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:20AM (#6813663)
    I've installed various distros of Linux (Redhat, Pogo?, and one other (maybe Slackware?)) and maybe it was just my total lack of patience but it seemed like I could get something to work on one distro and not on another. Graphics card would/wouldn't work, ethernet would/wouldn't work, sound would/wouldn't work. I actually started keeping a notebook around to write down the methods I got things to work. Sometimes it'd work again and sometimes it wouldn't.

    Then once I got everything working I'd have to figure out which GUI(s) were installed on it. Sometimes they'd work and sometimes they wouldn't. Mostly due to video card issues I'm sure.

    Then if I got the GUI to work I couldn't figure out head from tails how to get programs installed. Most everything that I downloaded it felt like I had to build or download from CVS or some weird junk like that.

    Eventually I gave up on wasting my time and went back into Windows. Then my Windows machine bombed out (CPU overheated I think) so I scrapped it for parts and now am over joyously running Mac OS X. Yeah it's more expensive, yeah I *used* to have a one button mouse, yeah it looks like a lamp... whatever. I know I have a good and solid OS underneath all those fancy widgets (which is why I wanted to install Linux in the first place) and I have those fancy widgets (which is why I always went back to Windows). Everything works and to get applications installed I just copy them into a directory and voila! Yes on occassion some random freeware/shareware program doesn't work for some reason or another. But overall I think it's a good middle ground between Linux and Windows.

    I'm not by any means knocking Linux. I know most a good 25% of the people here probably can get it to run in their sleep and I applaud you for it. But I just don't have the patience I suppose. It's not that I'm afraid of breaking something. It's just that after a weeks worth of trial and error it sorta makes you discouraged.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Blue Curve (Score:4, Informative)

    by nege ( 263655 ) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:25AM (#6813740) Journal
    This is up to the distro owner, in my opinion. There is no standard "Linux" install, you run a distro. And the most popular is probably Redhat, and they DO have a standard look and feel, called blue curve. I think they have done an excellent job with it for the end user, and even though I do not care for it personally, I still have a choice to go download and configure a different WM. Redhat will continue to improve on their standard look and feel, and I always look forward to newer editions to see what they have made better.
  • 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 image ( 13487 ) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:33AM (#6813875) Homepage
    It is worth considering that "attacking Microsoft's home user monopoly" is not necessarily a core goal of Linux. In fact, one could rightly argue that the one core goal of Linux is the original goal -- to provide a free, open implementation of a UNIX-like operating system. Competing with a huge commercial entity such as Microsoft (or Sun, for that matter) is a incidental goal sponsored by some particular individuals within the Linux community and certain other corporate entities (RedHat, Lindows, IBM, etc).

    Granted, there are huge gains to be seen when Linux-based systems do compete with Microsoft for the home user. The price-point of RedHat, Debian, and even LindowsOS, systems are certainly going to have a positive impact in the market vis-a-vis the pricing and licensing models for MSFT. And the relative security of Linux-based systems vs. Microsoft systems will ultimately force a shift in MSFT's strategy of preferencing convenience and feature-set over security and reliability for the home user.

    But we shouldn't overlook that Linux, as an open-source, community driven project, isn't interested directly in competing with anything. We've seen various products, such as Gnome, KDE, etc., emerge to provide capabilities on top of Linux that do directly compete with MSFT, but it is important to remember that those are not core Linux values, but rather a fortunate by-product of a environment that is legitimately tired of a marketplace almost fully co-opted by a corporation that leverages it's (near) monopoly position to the utmost.
  • by 7-Vodka ( 195504 ) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:33AM (#6813879) Journal
    "...the open source community must recognize"
    The open source community must do this, the Free Software community must do that, Slashdot users always say this, blah blah blah..

    I'm sick and tired of people trying to tell everyone what "NEEDS!!!" to be done so that morons using windows will deem our desktops worty enough of them to use.

    1. I hate to break it to you but the 'open source community' doesn't all write software for the same reason. I'm sure most individual developers could give a rat's ass if people migrate from windows or not, as long as they are happy with their work.
    2. We are not one person with one attitude, the strength of FREE SOFTWARE is in the collaboration of people with different motivations. Free Software is like a ratchet. People pull in all sorts of directions but the GPL makes sure *the software* keeps going in one direction -->> improving.
    3. If we standardize, we loose our strength which lies in DIVERSITY, without which the above would loose momentum.
    4. There is NO way to standardize, how are we going to forbid distros from adding other wms?
    5. He's arguing we should give up the one ideal the majority of us agree upon, freedom, just to get some useless users to switch?
  • by EvilTwinSkippy ( 112490 ) < minus physicist> 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 forming ( 413168 ) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:37AM (#6813932) Homepage
    The whole "Standard GUI" is far from the problem. It may be a small part of the problem, but the lack of a standard GUI isn't what keeps the average user away! I have never heard someone say "I would like to try Linux, but there are just to many choices of GUI's."

    I think the one major thing that keeps users away from Linux is the fact that you can't just go to the store and buy some software or hardware and just put it in and it magically works. Sure there has been a lot of progress made in this area but it is no where near what it is for those other operating systems. If more hardware vendors would start releasing drivers for Linux and these software companies would start porting there applications to Linux this would be a whole new ball game. Without some help from the rest of the PC industry Linux never has a chance at cutting in to the MS monopoly.

  • 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.

  • lifestyle gumdrops (Score:3, Interesting)

    by epine ( 68316 ) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:45AM (#6814034)

    There are two things I hate about this article. The first is that it is a straw man attack. The second is his premise that no one think too hard. The users won't think hard, he won't think hard, so why should anyone else? I can agree with the first two, but I don't think it follows for the third group, those of us who conduct the development process.

    I've never had any patience for the "take over the desktop" mantra. Satisfying the general public is the most difficult task in programming. Where this does this notion come from that importance is measured in eyeballs? I thought we ditched that one after the dotcom implosion.

    The general population is not a fixed target. What was "obvious" to a non technical person in 1985 is far different than what is "obvious" to such a person now. Even if we all agreed that "one size fits all" would improve the landscape (over my dead body) "one size" is a moving target.

    Finally, uniformity is a marketing process, not a development process. Leave the developers alone. For once, Apple had the right idea when they packaged FreeBSD in a translucent gumdrop (the gumdrop stands for the amalgam of two incompatible user interfaces, one nested inside the other).

    Let's get down to brass tackies: there is a large segment of the population which is relatively careless about where they double click (beer goggles, teenage pregnancy, reality TV). These people are well served by Outlook and Explorer. There is another group that is more fastidious about how they conduct themselves. These people are better served by any other mail client and Opera/Mozilla.

    The choice is not about windows managers, it's about lifestyle, and that choice doesn't go away no matter how you package the underlying technology.
  • target newer users (Score:3, Interesting)

    by b17bmbr ( 608864 ) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:48AM (#6814064)
    Where I teach,I hear fellow teachers, and even students, look befuddled and apprehensive (ah the big words) when using windows. Most of these are for want of a better term, newbies. They are computer illiterate. So they haven't become dependent on the windows GUI. Plus, since they know so little about comptuers, anything is going to be difficult, UNTIL, they learn how. Linux will have a harder time in users who are used to, but not savvy with, windows. They know where their apps are, where their files are, and not much else. They will be unwilling to "change". However, most of this "is linux desktop ready" is crap, because, if you put somehting in front of a worker, er um, employee, and say, use it, they most likely will. As long as microsoft can have mindshare, that PC=windows, then it will be tough. But, newer users are not going to have the problem. "Oh, you click on the big K. Thanks"
  • 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 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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. 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 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 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.

  • true but. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dash2 ( 155223 ) <(davidhughjones) (at) (> on Thursday August 28, 2003 @12:00PM (#6814889) Homepage Journal
    This guy is completely right, but it's not as bad as he thinks.

    First, there are serious efforts being made to interoperate between the major desktop - e.g. [].

    Second, Linux's first desktop target, according to industry analysts, is very large corporate desktops - where Linux's security, the ability to have defaults set by a sysadmin, and low TCO are winners. In this space, Linux doesn't have to be perfect - nor does it have to allow users to install "any old application". It just has to be good enough.

    I suspect that as Linux desktop developers' experience grows from these initial big installs, they will develop the capabilities to move into the mainstream home market - which is much more picky, has user demand for much more varied apps, and also doesn't make much cash. But even if this doesn't happen, I don't mind if Windows maintains market share here. So long as its total monopoly is broken, that is the main thing.

  • by brettlbecker ( 596407 ) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @12:04PM (#6814950) Homepage
    I don't know about anyone else (and from the amount of Linux vs. Windows articles here, it seems I'm in the minority), but I am getting sick and tired of having Linux compared to Windows. I'm tired of the "battle for the desktop"; I'm tired of "Linux needs to be able to be used by my grandma". I'm tied of "Linux needs a single desktop so it's more friendly to new converts".

    From the beginning, Linux has been about choice. That is one of the main, major features of the free software movement. I hate it when people constantly say, "well, we need to make it easier for people who use Windows to switch to Linux..." No we don't. I used to use Windows. I got sick of it. I switched. I wasn't all that tech-savvy... I didn't even know about the different desktops. I just picked one, tried it, look at another, tried it... went back to the first one. Along the way, I've learned about all of this stuff, but at the beginning it was the idea that something was out there that did things *differently* from Windows that was appealing.

    Linux, the whole free software movement, has come this far on the merits of stability, cost, scalability, and user *choice*. We don't have to bribe people from Windows by making Linux look and feel the same way--I hate how Windows looks and feels. This community just has to keep on with what got it here in the first place, and people will continue to switch.

    And if they don't, well, fine. Because it's a choice. And, frankly, I couldn't care less if your grandma can use Linux or not. Same with Joe Sixpack, whoever that moron is.

    Stop with the articles that try to tell the free software community that it's better to be like Windows, that it's better to unify this and unify that and make everything all even-keeled and solidified. The antithesis of a single answer, the opposite track of Windows is what started it off on the road upon which it has come so far.

  • by ratboy666 ( 104074 ) <fred_weigel@ h o> on Thursday August 28, 2003 @01:19PM (#6815716) 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, 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.


    - Family IT Admin since '95.
    - 3 Linux, 6 Windows 98 boxes
    - 1 server
    - 5 locations (Sault Ste. Marie to Detroit)
  • by Arandir ( 19206 ) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @01:45PM (#6815997) Homepage Journal
    Several thousand years ago, the nation of Israel did not have a king. They were a free people. One description of their political system could have been "anarcho-theocracy". But all the nations around them had despotic kings. So the people went to their wisest member, Samuel, and asked him for a king. He warned them that a king would tax then, draft them, murder the best generals so he could sleep with their wives, bankrupt the economy by building guilded temples, instigate civil wars, and divert public funds for the promotion of foreign religions. But the people were adamant. So they got their king.

    Skip forward to the modern day. The people of Linux look around them and see slavery, subjugation, domination and product activation everywhere but in their own OS. They started to grumble. "It's not fair that they live in squalor with MSDN subscriptions to tell them what to do. We need a king as well!" So they went to their wisest and said, "Place a king over us, to tell us what desktop we must use! The people of Windows mock us because we have choice. The people of Apple mock us because we are free. The people of Sun mock us because we don't meekly follow orders. Give us a king!"

    And so the wisest relented and gave them a king. And the king sent his soldiers into the land to enforce his will. The new desktop would be Knome. Any who used KDE or GNOME would be banished. Any who used XFCE, Windowmaker or Blackbox would be arrested. Any who programmed for Qt, GTK+, Fox or FLTK would be pilloried. Distributions who offered their users a choice were stripped of the LSB certification.
  • by JonKatzIsAnIdiot ( 303978 ) <{moc.oohay} {ta} {0002_1624a}> 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.

Mommy, what happens to your files when you die?