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Journal: An easy-to-use linux distro

Journal by Stary
Well... so this discussion got me thinking a bit (more than usual ;) and I figure I'd post this. So here's my view on what major drawbacks all current distros share. Note that I'm avoiding the obvious and mainly technical issues here like hardware support and detection.

Filesystem layout
First off the filesystem, as found here. Most of my opinions are explained in there, and most negative answers go at something like "the filesystem should be hidden". I don't think it's good enough. The easyness of the system should scale.

What I mean with "scaling" here is that when I bump up a switch saying "more controll" or pull a slider for "advancedness", I shouldn't have to get a shock when confronted with a filesystem of cryptic names - etc usr var bin sbin (etc ;)

A system that scales properly lets new users first get to feel at home in their "restricted" zone which pretty much only involves "my documents", "my pictures", "my music", "my downloaded files", or whatever you want to call them, an office suite, a web browser, and an email reader. From there you could go on to more advanced programs, more configuration options, access unveiled to the entire home directory, and to the entire file system. I would like it if you could gradually explore your system and learn, becoming a good admin without reading through 300 HOWTOs.

The filesystem is a big part of this - do you actually know what stuff goes in /usr/bin and what in /bin, what in /usr/local/bin, what in /usr/local/something/bin, what in /opt/something/bin? I've read the FHS, and I'm still not entirely sure of all of those. The net effect is that stuff just goes wherever it wants to go... not where it should go according to the standard. Also it matters in the standard if I install it, if it comes as a part of my distro, or as an optional addon to the distro - which makes a mess since one single program can end up in three different places depending on when it was installed and how.

Installers
A truly easy distro also needs a good, clean, smooth graphical installer. This includes an easy way to find what software is actually available for install, and an easy way to install software found on the web (for instance) simply. The installer should also support an amount of configurability in a way that "scales" as mentioned above. This means going from the simplest "to install xyz, press ok" to configuring exactly everything.

This is not necessarily as easy as it sounds. Preferably, this installer should be able to take on an unknown package and use it's configure script to actually build it and install as it should be installed (regardless of where the package configure script would like that to be), transparently to the user.

In the microsoft world, a few installers made by different company, all with the same look, have become standard. A linux distro simply can't rely on the fact that every possible software should either make the distro-specific install file itself or the distro people should make the install file for everything. It works now - but might not when/if linux start getting really popular and every user starts pouring out VB apps for linux.

Applications and their names
What happens the first thing after i install KDE? I "hide" most of the entries from my app menu. Why? I do not want all the gazillion email clients and so on - I use mozilla. Mozilla however does not get added into my menu - I need to do that myself. Now that belongs to the installer's work above - so let me go on to their names.

I run win2k on some boxes as well so let me compare:
Win editors: Notepad, Wordpad
KDE editors: Kate, KEdit, KWrite

Win scheduler: Scheduled Tasks
KDE scheduler: KCron

Win media: Windows Media Player
KDE media: aKtion!

It goes on like that... now almost everything is named KMyApp... which is nice, since it breaks alphabetical sorting and makes the user have to "cut off" the first letter to get a reasonable insight into what the program actually is. And anything that isn't named after the damn toolkit it uses/DE it belongs to (which users aren't interested in), is probably named off the walls.

How about a test. Which name sounds most smooth, WinAmp or XMMS? Ecks-Emm-Emm-Ess or kss-umm-umm-ss or ksms might work fine, but i like words that sound like they belong to the english language or at least have their roots in it. As for naming stuff KWhatever or XSomething or GMyThingie, it's just unclever. I don't want WNotepad or WCalc or WPaint - You use the names Notepad and Paint. Only in case of ambiguities you say Windows Notepad or Windows Paint. And wordgames like aKtion! or Konqueror are maybe amusing for some geeks but that's pretty much a sign you need to get out more. Users would rather have an app they can pronounce, and if it's really a part of the base system (as in KDE apps), it should have a name that at least hints what it's used for without extra crap tucked on.

A hint to this is that I use Windows Explorer to "explore windows" (at least it's a hint) and most users use Internet Explorer to "explore the internet". I do not, however, use konqueror to konquer KDE or to konquer my filesystem or the web. Of course, some of this is charmy - but X, K, G isn't good starts for it - WinAmp is a windows amplifier - fine. XMMS is a messy goo of unpronouncable unguessable meaning, even if it has similar meaning as a base.

Now I shouldn't rant on about this... name your apps however you want. But any easy distro will totally need to revise the KDE menus to actually say what things are used for and not what whacky letter combo amused their developer.

Application amounts
This is also a controversy. Wanna have apps on linux... fine. Port Visual Basic. Yes, alot of crap comes out of VB, but let's face it, some good stuff do as well, and alot of people learn to program on VB. A whole lot of small db-interface-type-app companies also program in VB - which would give all their customers the choice of linux all of a sudden.

Summary
Alot of people dislike what I'm saying. My guess on this is that some would like linux to stay l33t, and some have a hard time taking critique and new ideas. Saying that the FHS should go for desktop linux is not so popular. Saying that VB should be ported also usually gets critique. Still nobody has come up with any other solution to the FHS issue than to hide the entire filesystem from the user.

With all the talk of an "easy" linux distro, but none reaching anywhere near the goal, these are my thoughts - like it or not. Thanks for your time.

Whoever dies with the most toys wins.

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