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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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  • 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 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'.
  • 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.
  • Link. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Omicron32 ( 646469 ) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:27AM (#6813775)
  • Re:XP FUD (Score:3, Informative)

    by oni ( 41625 ) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:31AM (#6813835) Homepage
    Where is the major difference here? That's right; there's none.

    I'm sorry but I have to disagree. Try explaining to someone over the phone how to install a printer or alter network settings. The dialog boxes and even the places you go to bring up those dialog boxes are very different between 98, ME, and XP.
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • Re:simple (Score:2, Informative)

    by Luscious868 ( 679143 ) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @10:51AM (#6814107)

    I like SuSE's option. If you choose to install GNOME it's availble on their login menu, but is not the default choice when you're presented with the login menu for the first time. So Joe Sixpack will probably start with KDE but eventually wonder what the hell GNOME is and check it out (if he opted to install it otherwise he'd be clueless about GNOME and think KDE was all there is and there wouldn't even be an issue).

    I just started using Linux so I speak from newbie experience when I say that it's not like the KDE / GNOME / Windows user interface are so differen't from one another that it's hard to figure them out. You click on menus that lists programs and differen't options (i.e logoff, restart shut down) and you click the programs on those menus to launch the programs. The basic windows functions are the same (the minimize box, restore / maximize box, close box), click the window bar at the top to drag, etc. We're not talking rocket science here and although there are subtle basic differences I don't think the average user would find the UI basics all that much more complex in one over the other. It's the more advanced users that can do more advanced things in Windows that would have more trouble, but if they are intelligent enough to search google, RTF and just click around and check things out they should have no trouble making the transition. I didn't really have any problems learning the ins and outs of KDE and I didn't read anything. I just messed around in KDE until I figured things out.

    I haven't used GNOME as much as I would like to yet but in KDE everything is where I would expect it to be. Editing the menu's in KDE is as easy as editing programs in the Start Menu is in Windows. Editing the desktop theme, colors, look, feel, etc. is just as easy as it is under Windows and offers you even more customization options. Which is actually a bad thing considering how horrid the average Windows user's desktop ends up looking after they choose their own "custom" colors and icons and use a picture of their dog for their desktop wallpaper ... I shudder to think of what they would do in KDE.

    On a related note, the only real issue with Linux for Joe Sixpack IMHO is installing software. The average user is going to have a bitch of a time downloading and installing software or updating their systems. Yast2 in SuSE makes it easy to update your system but I wasn't very happy with the functionality. Downloading / installing new software and individual updates using RPM is a pain for the average user, even w/ Kpackage, because of dependency hell. I ended up using apt4rpm w/ Synaptic wich works wonderfully but you've got to be able to edit the default sources.list file which would probably be confusing for a newbie who's used to clicking on an exe on a web page and choosing "Run" when IE prompts them and havign the program launch and install itself. Granted you could just use Debain, but SuSE really is a good distro for a newbie. I bought my copy at Best Buy, installed it without any problems (it detected all of my hardware, my broadband internet connection, configuring the firewall was very easy, etc). SuSE should include apt4rpm preconfigured w/ Synaptic and host their own repositiory or at least include a preconfigured sources.list file. Apt w/ Synaptic makes getting new software and updating your existing software easier than it is under Windows!

  • Re:Exactly (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 28, 2003 @11:23AM (#6814480)
    It wouldn't hurt if you spelled inflammable and flammable correctly. You could also tone down your self-righteous diatribe against us ignorant bastards. Then again, you probably would have called for Webster to be burned at the stake.

    The problem with Linux desktops is that there is no universal default so the casual (not ignorant) computer user has no hope of being able to sit down at an unfamiliar workstation and get some real work done.
  • Re:Good idea (Score:5, Informative)

    by ILEoo ( 538065 ) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @12:13PM (#6815038)
    There's this thing called freedesktop [] that defines common standarts on Drag and Drop etc. Gnome & Kde are starting to follow it. and even xfce 4 [] is compatible,so it's even easier to cross use things
  • 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 working proffessional with a lot of geek skills (used both as a hobbieist and on the job) but I dont have the time to figure out all the nuances and get Linux working on my desktop. I have tried installing Linux many times over the last 4-5 years (Mandrake, Redhat, Corel, etc) and every time I end up eventually wiping the computer back to Windows because I need to get something done with it and I still don't have it working properly. From spending forever trying to figure out why a particular app wont compile, to fighting my way through dependencies, to trying to get my etc/hosts file to work right with a DHCP setup, to getting the right video drivers working, to ripping my hair out over samba not working, to trying to recompile my kernel, to KDE running incredibly slow, to trying to get sound, to trying to get my extra mouse buttons remapped, etc.....and thats not even dealing with applications. I don't even have the time to mess with applications and try to switch over my general computer usages because any spare time I do have is spent just trying to figure the basics out. A user shouldn't have to be experienced with Linux just to get it up and running. I've used all the 'easy-install' distros. I don't have wierd obscure hardware, and I have yet to have an installation where everything worked.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 28, 2003 @01:23PM (#6815770)
    If the average user does not want freedom of choice, then they should look elsewhere.

    It's certainly what I want. But it would also be wonderful if the Linux community could see the value in having a unified default configuration common to various distros.

    By this I mean not only a default GUI and set of applications, but just as importantly, a system configured to a common standard of security by default.

    This way, we get the best of both worlds. The default installation is (from a hacker's point of view) relatively boring, but also very stable, very predictable, very secure, and very easy to deploy on a massive scale. Of course, each distro will also want to promote all of its features that diverge from the default capabilities. So this model should include a standard location in which specialized distro features can be easily enabled and explored.

"There is no distinctly American criminal class except Congress." -- Mark Twain