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Linux, to be (Like Microsoft) or Not to be? 476

David writes "Stephen Shipman delivers a very articulate and concise view of how Linux fits in server and end user environments. He expresses his view in response to Nicolas Petreley's 'rant' in Linux Journal. He points out the subtle implications of efficiency versus consistency." From the article: "[...] efficiency (as measured by keystrokes) isn't the only metric for ease of use. Consistency must also be taken into account. Microsoft has made a lot of hay (and green) by flogging consistency".
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Linux, to be (Like Microsoft) or Not to be?

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  • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) * on Monday March 13, 2006 @02:30PM (#14909351) Homepage Journal

    Microsoft doesn't get it. There are things in Windows XP which are still as idiotic as ever. This isn't evidence of a superiour product, but the result of understanding. The Registry is once again a completely backwards way of contending with things, and worse, you sometimes have to get into the Registry to change things which should be straight-forward options in personalising your computer.

    Then there's the Single User aspect, all over again. No matter how they pass XP off as a multi-user environment, it carriest considerable baggage of being single user - case in point: the pop-up key-stealer, when apps suddenly thrust themselves forward and steal a keystroke for the [ignore] [retry] [cancel] [OK] whatever prompt and vanish if it meets the input expectation.

    What I repeatedly hear from Mac enthusiasts is how quickly a new user can sit down and get right to business, without thinking half as hard where things are or how settings work. Microsoft made a big deal out of bringing a tonne of people on board to advise them and examine their user interfaces, but I grow increasingly skeptical that these were actually people flown to a nice resort, given fine amenities and still shown what Microsoft thought they should see, rather than simply gaining some real inside, i.e. "so what's the thing you most dislike about Windows/Office/Etc.?" Rather like a homeless guy will be your best friend if you give him a few bucks.

    Consistency must also be taken into account. Microsoft has made a lot of hay (and green) by flogging consistency".

    They also have become extremely overconfident because success came too easily. Note many of their recent failures. And may I be among the first of many to recognise Origami as an utter flop. Looks neat, but it's a niche player, same as Tablet Computers. It's too big and too small at the same time. Once again a complete misunderstanding of the market.

    Linux should strive to be efficient and easy to use, not mugging one of the most inexplicably frustrating environments ever.

    • Just one comment, how can you say Origami is a total flop - AFAIK there's no units out there to buy yet at all. Just some hype on engadget etc, then some disappointment when it wasn't what they thought it was...then some interest when they saw the new interface.
      • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) * on Monday March 13, 2006 @02:54PM (#14909605) Homepage Journal
        Just one comment, how can you say Origami is a total flop - AFAIK there's no units out there to buy yet at all. Just some hype on engadget etc, then some disappointment when it wasn't what they thought it was...then some interest when they saw the new interface.

        It was years ago that I bought into every shiny new wizzy tech that came along. It took years to wear away my blind otimism that new==better. After spending a good amount of my own money and many long hours fighting with things to make them do what I needed experience etched it's way into my assessment of new, wizzy tech. I don't mean to come across as cocky or smug, but I think I've got to the point where I can take a look at something and determine if it's going to be useful and easy to use, or another exasperating time fighting with it to do what I need, not what the designers thought i should have.

        One of the reasons I like being a programmer is writing my own tools. There are tools which will kinda-sorta do the things I need, but often more or less and not quite what I had in mind.

        I look at Origami and see effectively a big Palm Pilot or smaller version of a Tablet Computer. It will no doubt be popular with anyone a laptop, tablet or Palm/PocketPC doesn't quite work for. On the last few flights I've been on and the last few conferences I've attended I have seen zero Tablets and few, if any, PDA size tools. Everyone hauls around a laptop. I think that's a pretty clear indicator of what the general population is drawn to. Origami is simply Microsofts misguided way of telling people, We know what you really need, despite many tools like this over the years which have vanished. Maybe UPS and FedEx will adopt them, but what they use looks like it could be run over by a truck and still function.

        I don't think it's healthy to pattern user functionality on the designs of a company which is trying to expand into everyone elses market, instead of cleaning up their own back yard.

    • by Chanc_Gorkon ( 94133 ) <> on Monday March 13, 2006 @02:42PM (#14909488)
      The pop-up key stealing bit happens on Linux too. Ever kick a app off and while waiting switch to the browser and then the one you launched first thrusts itself into view? Happens to me on Linux too.
      • by cbiltcliffe ( 186293 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @03:08PM (#14909730) Homepage Journal
        That's programmable through the window manager, though. With my current setup of Gnome, if I launch a new program, it pops up in the background, rather than in front.
        Best UI improvement I've ever seen in the computer industry. I can start something, then keep working away on whatever I was doing before I started it, and when I'm ready, the program I started is up and running behind whatever I'm currently working on.
        Having said that, it's not so simple as "everything starts in the background". It depends on whether the program has any open windows already, and what layer they're at, whether the program was started by another program or the Gnome menu, and a whole bunch of other crap. The way it's done though, seems to be very good.
        • Yeah, this happens to me on Windows too.

          I wait for something to complete downloading in IE and go to something else, and when IE's done, I get the thing on the taskbar flashing orange. If several IE windows are open, the rollup button flashes, and when I click on that, the one that wants my attention is flashing on the pop-up. No focus stealing involved.
          • That's not the same. When a window changes state in Windows, it flashes the taskbar button. When a new window opens, it pops up in front all the time, unless the program is specifically written to not steal focus.

            With Gnome, you can have newly opened windows pop up behind, rather than in front.
        • That's programmable through the window manager, though. With my current setup of Gnome, if I launch a new program, it pops up in the background, rather than in front.

          I haven't been able to make this work consistently - what steps do you take to make this work? I use a very recent GNOME on most desktops, in several cases latest development. Thanks.

          On a side note, I think it should automatically work like this: If you launch a program and then do nothing - it should get focus. Otherwise it shouldn't. If I act
      • That's a recent 'feature'. Linux never used to be that way, but in copying all of Windows not-so-goodies, that one crept in there somewhere as well, and it drives me crazy.

        And to the responder who said that your version of GNOME doesn't do this, what version are using and what configuration setting did you have to change to get that behavior? Either you are using an older version of GNOME than me, or you have found a configuration option that I have not. To me that is the single most infuriating feature
      • by runderwo ( 609077 ) <{runderwo} {at} {}> on Monday March 13, 2006 @05:43PM (#14911055)
        This has nothing to do with "Linux" and everything to do with your window manager's design and current configuration.
    • by Haeleth ( 414428 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @02:42PM (#14909495) Journal
      case in point: the pop-up key-stealer, when apps suddenly thrust themselves forward and steal a keystroke for the [ignore] [retry] [cancel] [OK] whatever prompt and vanish if it meets the input expectation.

      The what? I vaguely recall that being a problem in Win98, but I run Win2k here, and when an inactive application demands input, it stays right down in the taskbar where it belongs - all that happens is that the taskbar icon flashes to notify me. Surely this is the case in WinXP too? It would seem strange for Microsoft to introduce the correct behaviour in one version of Windows, only to take it out again in the next.

      What I repeatedly hear from Mac enthusiasts is how quickly a new user can sit down and get right to business, without thinking half as hard where things are or how settings work.

      And that's total bullshit. OS X is arguably easier to learn for someone who's new to computers altogether, but anyone who has only ever used Windows before, faced with a Mac, is going to have a terribly frustrating time just trying to resize a window ("I click on the left edge and drag, to make it wider, and the window moves instead! What's with that?"), let alone figuring out how on earth the Dock is supposed to work.

      What it comes down to is, people like what they're used to. That means Mac users love Macs, Windows users say they hate Windows but hate trying other platforms even more, and Linux users can't figure out how anyone can find Linux difficult to use. Which is why it is sensible for Linux to behave more like Windows (KDE), or more like OS X (Gnome) - because with greater familiarity will come greater uptake.
      • "And that's total bullshit. OS X is arguably easier to learn for someone who's new to computers altogether, but anyone who has only ever used Windows before, faced with a Mac, is going to have a terribly frustrating time just trying to resize a window ("I click on the left edge and drag, to make it wider, and the window moves instead! What's with that?"), let alone figuring out how on earth the Dock is supposed to work."

        Not really. I picked all that up in about 20 minutes, had it down well enough to find i
        • Well, then being a new mac owner myself (core duo mini) maybe you can shed some light on a few things:

          What's the deal with the "x" button not exiting the application? What is making it different than "_" minimize in most cases? Why on earth is "x" different than file->exit? Thats one thing I can't get used to.

          Next, why is there no good launch bar mechanism? Am I missing some feature that is there? It seems like Apple just decided that Apple Users only have 2 or 3 programs, so putting them all in
          • A little trick for the "no launch bar" problem:

            1.) Organize your Applications folder by creating subfolders. This step is not necessary, but in my opinion it makes the whole thing easier to use.
            2.) Drag the Applications folder onto the Dock. Put it to the right of the separator bar.
            3.) Right-click the Applications folder in the dock and get easy access to all your apps. Left-click it to open it in a Finder window.
      • It's been a while since I used win2k, but I can assure you that the problem does still exist in WinXP. I was cursing that behaviour just last week.
        • I'd have to agree. Windows XP still has this stupid behavior. Particularly frustrating is Microsoft applications not making themselves modal for certain dialog boxes, or the modal feature not working like it should. I've had to change my password on at least one occasion because a password dialog that should have been modal was not, or the modal feature didn't work correctly, resulting in my googling for my password. I'm not paranoid, but I'd assume that search keys are stored somewhere easily accessibl
      • As a new (and still part-time) Mac user, I independently discovered the "it just works" thing about the Mac. I'm primarily a FreeBSD user, so I can look at this from a somewhat neutral perspective.

        When I am finished installing Windows, I still have a lot of work left ahead of me. I need to grab a couple of manufacturer's CDs to install drivers, one of which is required in my case to have a screen resolution higher than 640x480 VGA. I double check my hardware manager that all hardware conflicts are resolved.
      • And that's total bullshit. OS X is arguably easier to learn for someone who's new to computers altogether, but anyone who has only ever used Windows before, faced with a Mac, is going to have a terribly frustrating time just trying to resize a window ("I click on the left edge and drag, to make it wider, and the window moves instead! What's with that?"), let alone figuring out how on earth the Dock is supposed to work.

        Not in my experience. Everyone I've ever seen switch, including myself with 15 years Wind
      • The what? I vaguely recall that being a problem in Win98, but I run Win2k here, and when an inactive application demands input, it stays right down in the taskbar where it belongs - all that happens is that the taskbar icon flashes to notify me. Surely this is the case in WinXP too? It would seem strange for Microsoft to introduce the correct behaviour in one version of Windows, only to take it out again in the next.

        Mmm... that's a good question. I can assure you that, in XP, it happens. The only time I g

      • because with greater familiarity

        OK, please demonstrate where being a copycat is the sure path to overwhealming success. Even Microsoft Windows 3.1 stopped at monkeying the MacIntosh GUI; it still had many un-MacIntoshlike features (and guess what? I first came to Windows from a Mac, and surprise, surprise, I had a learning curve!)

        will come greater uptake.

        Listen to yourself, will you? We're GIVING IT AWAY!!!!! Hello??? What is the benefit of conquering the planet, here? To what end? Granted, some suppo

      • by Arker ( 91948 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @06:51PM (#14911589) Homepage

        Which is why it is sensible for Linux to behave more like Windows (KDE), or more like OS X (Gnome) - because with greater familiarity will come greater uptake.

        This just can't be left alone. It's so very wrong.

        KDE will do a decent imitation of windows or mac, or it can even be configured to act more or less like a proper Unix gui as well.

        Gnome is mac-and-windows-like in that it refuses to allow the user any choice, but other than that it's no more mac-like than KDE set to mac-like behaviour.

    • XP is six years old...

      Vista is pretty much multi-user on the Unix level - even moves home/profile to a "Users" subdir! The problem is applications which still stuff datafiles in folders on the root. I can name some media players and download managers here.

      LUA will bring the windows GUI to - at least - SUDO level, with a more granular and flexible access control mechanism than simple *nix permission bits. I wish ACLs and LDAP were better integrated on the *nix side. Sit down, OS X! I wasn't talking abou
      • by tpgp ( 48001 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @03:18PM (#14909836) Homepage
        XP is six years old...

        No. XP is 4 1/2 years old.

        XP SP2 is a year and half old. And I still can't do lots of things (like full use of a USB thumb drive) using a non-priviliged account (not to mention that the default install on my Microsoft-partnered laptop came with the user accounts having full admin priviliges)

        Your 'Vista will fix it' argument is quite frankly, the same thing I've heard about XP SP2, Win2k, NT4, & NT 3.5. It wasn't true for those operating systems and I doubt it will be true for vista.
      • by fwr ( 69372 )
        You're talking about a future product. Vaproware at this point. I guess we can feel good that Microsoft Windows will finally catch up to the functionality of Linux desktops at some point in the future.
      • Vista is pretty much multi-user on the Unix level

        So in one instance of Vista:

        I could run one copy of IIS in two instances on separate addresses.

        I could run one copy of the Windows Networking service in two instances on two addresses, so that the files and other objects visible in each instance could be completely unrelated... with one only exposing "D:" as "\\servername1\ftp" and the other on the other interface exposing "\\servername2\C", "\\servername2\D", and so on...

        I could run one copy of Active Directory in two instances and serve two completely serapate DNS hierarchies on different interfaces.

        I could create an environment where "C:" was mapped to "C:\chrooted\C" and so on, and even registry access from that environment went to hives in C:\chrooted\C\Windows...?
      • 11 years ago Microsoft was touting Windows 95 as being 'almost as good as a Mac."
        As far as I'm concerned, they're still there. Putting User directories into yet another different directory than they are today isn't going to fix things. MS Windows still has it's soul bound to the daemon of the single-user. It's probably never going to get free.

        (( And as for Microsoft being King of Consistency: I'd say that they are shabby pretenders to the throne. Apple has been and remains secure as rulers of that dom

      • by VStrider ( 787148 ) <`ku.oc.oohay' `ta' `zm_sinnaig'> on Monday March 13, 2006 @06:04PM (#14911215)
        Vista is pretty much multi-user on the Unix level

        No it's not. MS will never make a multi user OS. MS wants one user only per copy of windows. They don't like multi user systems. They don't like thin client systems either. (yes, MS sells a terminal server. They had to get into that cause some businesses wanted to go that route. But they're still doing their best to implant the single user mentality to average users. Their mainstream OS has no such capabilities. Plus, MS terminal server is a joke as you pay both for the server and per user. So all cost benefits are negated)

        God forbid if people find out what multiuser systems really do. Imagine that! Joe Sixpack would start wondering why he needs a copy of windows for each member of his family. Or maybe he'd go wild and just use dumb terminals to connect to the main computer. (for the uninitiated: dumb terminal doesn't mean 'command line'- you can have your desktop as you know it, running super fast on a cheap and light machine, like a pII-200MHz 32mb)

        MS threw dust in your eyes, pretending they have a multiuser OS, just so they don't get behind in the catchwords race. Before you say "but i can have more than one user on my windows machine", can multiple users use the pc at the same time? Try it. Login to your account, then create another user on that machine. Now try to login remotelly with the new user, while you're still logged in with your previous username. Windows will throw a popup, warning you, that another user is logged in and if you continue that user will be logged out. There can only be one!

        And ofcourse, even if MS changes tomorrow and decides to go multi user, there is a single-user culture in windows, that's difficult, if not impossible to change. ie. most windows apps would not work.

    • by man_of_mr_e ( 217855 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @02:48PM (#14909552)
      All OS's have little backwards bits here and there. Gnome has gconf, for instance. MacOS X has some hidden config files you have to get to for (rare) things.

      Compare, say, setting up apache on a typical Linux distribution with configuring IIS on Windows. The difference is night and day. Sure, sometimes you have to dig into the Machine.conf or use a command line tool like httpcfg, but these are rarities, rather than the common case. Also, while there are some GUI configuration tools for apache from various sources, all of them suck rocks through a straw to the point that it's EASIER to look up arcane flags and configuration settings and type them into a text editor than it is to click a button. Typically, it's just a graphical representation of the config file.

      OSX and Windows do a damn good job of making the common stuff easy to configure and use with a nice GUI. On Linux, what config applet you use may depend on which environment you're using. KDE and Gnome both have different stuff, as does SUSE, Red Hat, etc.. consistency may be better (not great, but better) within one particular distro, but not across even two similar ones.

      This is a hot button, though. Lots of people will disagree, because whatever they're doing works for them. it's that kind of myopic outlook ("it works for me, you must be too stupid") that makes it so difficult for Linux to gain acceptance. It doesn't have to "work for you", it has to "work for THEM", and if it works for you too, then that's even better.
      • by Hosiah ( 849792 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @04:36PM (#14910472)
        that makes it so difficult for Linux to gain acceptance.

        I don't give a damn if anybody else but me uses Linux, ever.

        It doesn't have to "work for you", it has to "work for THEM",

        No, it doesn't have to do anything. If it works for me, it's good for me, and if it doesn't work for them, they can go find something that does.

        and if it works for you too, then that's even better.

        Why would we be having a problem if there was a one-size-fits-all solution? I know for a fact that 90% of users out there would die screaming if they had to deal with my machine the way I have it set up - but it's how I like it. See above argument. Since when did Linux stop being about choice and start being about grouping everybody into yet another bunch of Borgs? I made my choice. It's Linux. Others made their choice. It's Windows. So be it. I don't crack into Microsoft's code base and rebuild the MS system to be exactly like Linux. I don't see where a bunch of Windows zeolots have any more right to piss in my Linux so it tastes better to them and ruins it for me.

      • Apache does much more then IIS so of course the configuration is easier.

        The best thing about apache configuration is that you can put comments in your configuration file. Also you can email your configuration file to a friend or a newsgroup for help.

        I'll take apache over IIS any day thank you.

        By the way if you sysadmin is too confused by text files perhaps you should think about getting a new one.
    • by argent ( 18001 ) <peter&slashdot,2006,taronga,com> on Monday March 13, 2006 @02:48PM (#14909557) Homepage Journal
      No matter how they pass XP off as a multi-user environment, it carriest considerable baggage of being single user - case in point: the pop-up key-stealer, when apps suddenly thrust themselves forward and steal a keystroke for the [ignore] [retry] [cancel] [OK] whatever prompt and vanish if it meets the input expectation.

      Of all the things you could propose as a reason for considering it "single user", that's the oddest. It's hateful and frustrating, and more prevalent in MS WIndows than X11 or Mac OS, but it's more prevalent in X11 than Mac OS, and more prevalent in Mac OS than 8 1/2.

      You could have pointed to the single-application-instance shared with Mac OS (which Firefox has imported to X11). Whether it's services, desktop applications, or just logged in users, it takes a huge effort to have two instances of ANYTHING running in Windows.

      Their virtual terminal and user switching required years of development work from Citrix, Xerox, Metaframe, and other companies to figure out what parts of the user environment should be shared, what should be duplicated, and what should be switched from instance to instance... and you still can't have two login sessions under the same user id.

      For applications that run as services there's been even less work done to get around the problems... so it's actually more cost effective to build "blade" servers or run multiple copies of the OS in virtual machines than to run multiple webservers or other applications in the same instance of Windows.

      I mean, I had a 486/50... this is a machine that wasn't powerful enough to run one instance of even NT 3.51... and I was running multiple webservers on different addresses under the same kernel. This kind of thing is routine and easy in UNIX, because it was designed for multiple users (and thus multiple instances of every possible resource) from the very start.

    • XP's things aren't the funniest (clinical): Were they not going to consolidate XP into a couple of core types?"

      They seem to be breeding like coat hangers in a dark closet.

      As for all of the discussions about Windows vs. Linux (and the varios Linux UIs), the game has become cutthroat (for those of you who are athletically inclined), not 1::1. Larger boxes (e.g., are server issues, but that's a different sandbox. The desktop has now become Linux, Windows, and Apple. Although many are claiming to set re
  • by mcsestretch ( 926118 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @02:35PM (#14909410)
    It's not Microsoft's continual flogging of consistency that bothers me. It's that they consistently flog the dolphin.

    Seriously, Microsoft. You'll eventually go blind.
  • by H4x0r Jim Duggan ( 757476 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @02:39PM (#14909449) Homepage Journal

    There's a conference this Thursday, March 16th in Belfast called FOSS Means Business [] where Stallman and Perens are both doing business-orientated lectures, plus presentations by Google, Open Source Academy, and Oracle.

    People trying to encourage IT decision makers to transition to free software have to learn to explain it. Bruce Perens is good at this, but as well as telling people about the value of free software, we have to tell them how to hang on to it - how to not let it slip through their fingers. That's Stallman's angle, as can be read in this transcript of his lecture on GPLv3 [].

    Microsoft isn't top because of their software quality, and free software won't displace them purely based on quality either. We'll win for other reasons.

  • Spamlet (Score:3, Funny)

    by digitaldc ( 879047 ) * on Monday March 13, 2006 @02:41PM (#14909483)
    To be or not to be Open Source, that is the question.
    Whether it is nobler in mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous Microsoft fortune, or to take up your arms against a sea of troubles and by using Linux, end them.
    To die, to sleep no more.
  • Linux is Not Windows (Score:3, Informative)

    by houghi ( 78078 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @02:42PM (#14909494)
    Linux is Not Windows []
  • Linux Registry? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by superid ( 46543 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @02:42PM (#14909501) Homepage
    According to the rant, there is now something of a linux equivalent to the windows registry? Where is that exactly?
  • by Svartalf ( 2997 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @02:46PM (#14909534) Homepage
    Considering that there's really not been any real consistency throughout MS' product offerings or
    anything else about Windows' operating environment:

    - Printing that doesn't work the same from Windows 95/98/Me to NT/2000/XP because of different
    driver rules at the GDI layer.

    - API's that change from one ruleset to the next without warning (the move from 16-bit to 32-bit
    generated at least several API calls that produced nasty results because they used zero as the
    default but in the 32-bit version they used a string for that parameter and they didn't account
    for this in the API...)

    - Consumer WinCE devices being allowed out the door with missing functionalities (i.e. The Uniden
    UniPro 100 PDA was missing the Finder and a few other things- for no good reasons other than they
    were short on firmware memory because of the added recording functionalities- and instead of
    increasing the BOM costs slightly for more ROM capacity, they opted to omit some of the functionalities
    that make it consistent with the other WinCE devices.)

    - Apps don't have any consistent install/uninstall interface. (While Linux IS better in this regard,
    it's got many of the same problems...).

    - Apps often install their own DLLs to prevent being hosed by other apps and Microsoft when they do

    There's tons more. "Windows" only seems consistent because the end-user community sees something that
    "works like Windows" and is therefore familiar- since it's familiar, they whitewash over all the
    issues about consistency and it "being easier to use". Issues that plague them day in, day out.

    Microsoft may talk the talk, but when the rubber meets the pavement, they're not walking the walk- not even close.
    • - Apps don't have any consistent install/uninstall interface. (While Linux IS better in this regard, it's got many of the same problems...).

      Well, I think removing "Program Files\AppName\*" makes more sense than hunting for a bunch of different files in /etc, /usr/bin, /usr/lib and whatnot.
      Placing all applications files (minus user settings) in a single directory is what I actually like most about Windows. Unzipping into a new directory in Program Files, then later removing the whole directory is
      • What you're describing sounds more like MacOS X than Windows. Unzipping in to a new directory in "Program Files"? What Windows applications do you use? The majority I've dealt with seem to be packaged with installers who also touch the registry if not various other places.

        Granted - there are plenty of little apps that can be "installed" in the manner you've described. But then, you CAN do the same thing with *nix applications too if you really want to (not that OSX is doing anything THAT spe
      • by arivanov ( 12034 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @03:25PM (#14909895) Homepage
        I am not a windows user, but I happen to admin a mixed network with 50%+ Windows. With all due respect you are talking BS. This was valid in the days of 3.11. It has not been true ever since. Less then 5% of the applications nowdays will operate correctly if installed by copying because they rely on registry settings put in by the installer.

        Funnily enough the model you are describing works fine on guess what... Gentoo and BSDs. Portage. I personally dislike it, but that is a matter of taste.
      • by pyros ( 61399 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @03:25PM (#14909898) Journal
        Disclaimer: I'm sure a Linux user will soon point out why this Windows paradigm is such a pain. ;)

        I'll just point out that that isn't really the Windows paradigm. The Windows paradigm puts a bunch of keys in the regsitry for configuring the app, seemingly half of which are inaccessible to configure from within the app, and 90% of which aren't removed when the app is uninstalled. If everything was truly self contained "c:\program files\app" and your personal prefs in "c:\documents and settings\pyros\application data\app" then that would be very straight forward.

        You'd still have software publishers including their own favorite version of a common DLL. Such that even if the system copy gets updated to fix a security vulnerability, the app will still be vulnerable without its own update.

        Hopefully you'll notice that my response has nothing whatsoever to do with how anything is done in Linux, and looks purely at the merits of how things are done on Windows.

      • I would agree, if only Windows were set up so that x:\Program Files was a virtual folder to a different partition. Windows blows up? Great, reinstall Windows and, as part of that installation process, have it be able to "reinstall" applications in Program Files w/o actually having to reinstall the app in most cases. Then, we can backup our apps once in a great while, our personal files and data frequently, and Windows' system files somewhere in between, and that a failure in one part does not necessarily re
      • Yes it is if you pretend that the registry doesn't exist.
      • by guitaristx ( 791223 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @04:11PM (#14910276) Journal
        Well, I think removing "Program Files\AppName\*" makes more sense than hunting for a bunch of different files in /etc, /usr/bin, /usr/lib and whatnot.

        And your description here indicates that you understand neither the Windows nor the *nix way of doing things.

        Windows: What if one of those windows applications also installs a service that's running on your box? What's going to happen when you delete "Program Files\App Name"? What about all those registry entries? What about the entry in "Add/Remove Programs"? What about dependencies? To me, this is why users shouldn't be deleting program files, and part of the reason why windows asks, "Hey, this is an executable. You really, really, REEEEEAAAAALLLY sure you want to delete it?"

        Unzipping into a new directory in Program Files, then later removing the whole directory is quick, easy and clean.

        I've never seen this done. Ever. And I wouldn't want it this way. I kinda like having stuff accessible in my Start menu. This is why installers exist - the presence of a piece of software on a system goes beyond just the executable(s) and data files. Software has to be installed into the target system. An engine that sits in the bed of a pickup truck isn't installed, and isn't going to be very useful for moving the truck around.

        Linux: Did you install from source? If so, did the source installation come from a ports tree [] or similar? If so, it created an entry in the package database, which keeps track of how to uninstall the software. If you installed bare source outside of a ports tree, then you're responsible for either:
        1. Keeping the source code around, so you can do a 'make uninstall'
        2. Keeping track of what files were added/removed/modified manually.
        In either case, you're a proficient enough user to understand how to build from source, you should be able to understand how to administer a system with software built-from-source. Talking about binary packages after all this is a moot point - you use the package manager to uninstall the package. Why would you uninstall something using a different tool than you used when you installed it?

        As a for-instance, my desktop system has approximately 380 packages installed. I don't want to scour the unix manpages, makefiles, or anything else (e.g. if I was running windows, the registry) to figure out how to uninstall a program, even though I'm a comptetent, experienced system administrator on Windows, Linux, and a few Unixes. The package management tools on Windows and *nix make it possible to feasibly maintain systems with hundreds (or even thousands, if need be) of software packages installed. In your example, you think uninstalling means deleting the executables and data files. In both cases, you're missing the point - uninstalling an application should be done through an appropriate tool. When you ask the question, "How do I uninstall a program?" for a common user, the answer always is:
        • For windows, it's control panel\add/remove programs
        • For *nix, it's the standard system administration tool you've always used for everything else.
        Don't go mucking around deleting files. This isn't a Linux-only idea.

        Confusing and frustrating in my opinion.

        What's confusing/frustrating about double-clicking on a package (.exe, .rpm, .deb) and telling the prompt, "Yes, please install this" ? What's confusing/frustrating about using add/remove programs (or a similar *nix tool) to say, "Please uninstall this"? I think the disconnect here is not the OS, it's you.
  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @02:49PM (#14909563) Homepage Journal
    It has, as the logical postivists say, "no cognitive content", or at least very little. By talking about "Linux" and indeed "Windows" so broadly, you can make the figures for consistency come out to whatever you want. In either case the largest source of inconsistency is the choice of optional software you choose to put on the system; as it is much more convenient and you have a much wider variety of software you can install on a distro like Ubuntu, naturally you can easily make your system wildly inconsistent. It's because there's so much software, from different sources, that are available at a touch of a button under Linux. A lot of that software is of course really bad from a UI perspective, but even if you restricted yourself to reasonably good software, it's still easy to end up with a LOT of software installed on a Linux box.

    None of which of course applies in the server domains, where you're better off with less UI. Wildly divergent configuration files are bad, but not as bad as wildly divergent GUIs.
  • Foolish Consistancy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Hillgiant ( 916436 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @02:49PM (#14909567)
    In order to assert that Microsoft has made a lot of green off of consistancy over efficiency, Microsoft's programs would have to be a lot more consistant. I hate hate hate that ctrl-tab does NOTHING in Word. UI options are hidden all over the damned place and only some of the settings are stored in the user directory (making portability a nightmare).
  • by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @02:51PM (#14909578) Homepage
    And in what context? That's a tricky question. One thing I'd say for sure is that Linux should most definitely stop trying to be a Windows replacement. Why be limited by Windows functionality and MSFT's overhead? I like Linux, and many of you here would agree, because it's not like Windows.

    Linux distro developers might want to explore voluntary standards for certain types of configurations. Maybe something like configuration assumptions for desktops v servers. Like that commercial with the Easy button? Maybe we have an "easy" configuration for desktop distros that tucks more the inner workings out of sight. But if you take away the inconsistency in the Linux environment, you may be undermining one of its most important strengths.

  • by jd ( 1658 ) <imipak AT yahoo DOT com> on Monday March 13, 2006 @02:53PM (#14909599) Homepage Journal
    HOWEVER, it is important to remember that people do not think alike. What is consistant for one may not be for another. The "correct" UI is one where the applications describe what they'd like the UI to contain, with a skinning engine turning this description into something the user can actually use.

    For example, plenty of Windows users will be quite happy by going to "file" to print or close an application. "Find" is under edit, not view. That's fine for people who think that way and for them it SHOULD be that way. The rest of the userbase shouldn't have to suffer for it, though.

    Myself, I like visuals. The idea of dragging an application window to a printer, OR dragging the printer to the application windows, appeals to me. (To me, drag&drop needs to work by object, not by destination.)

    "But writing all those interfaces would be massively overwhelming!" I'm not suggesting anyone does. Just provide a rational, consistant, standard skin that the majority can use, then provide a powerful enough engine that can handle application look&feel and drag&drop events not otherwise handled. Then write a simple UI editing engine. If people want their own UI, give them the tools to provide it.

    "Most people wouldn't bother." Probably true, but the Open Source dictum is that some will, and that evolution will lead to superior interfaces.

    "How does that benefit company X that sells products?" Easy enough. Every time you're about to release a next major version, look and see whether other skins are doing better than your default. If they are, switch. If that's how everyone sees your program anyway, it won't hurt anyone's ability to use it.

    • I agree with this. I have tried Gnome, KDE, fluxbox and whatnot several times, and I always end up returning to my heavily customized fvwm based desktop environment. Most "experienced" computer users would probably be lost in it (I know my wife hates it). Interestingly, my kids very quickly learned how to use it. They seem to be equally comfortable in my "personal" desktop environment as in Gnome or Windows XP.

      So some people definitely will bother. I bother in such extent that when given a new Windows
  • Let me start this out by saying I am in no way a microsoft enthusiast, I loath their business policies just like almost everyone else here.

    Now let me get to my post. As it stands now, Open source is not ready for average users. There just isnt enough focus on the learning curve. I believe the main reason for this is because of it being free. Developers of open source projects don't hire graphic artists and average joe testers to make sure that their products look good and are easy to use. They put i
    • I'm a Linux enthusiast and I agree with many of your points. I also think that one of the biggest issues is the number of distros, and how those distros differ.

      I installed Ubuntu and it worked great - recognized my nVidia card, loaded and updated fast, etc. I loved it. Then it would hang. The clock also ran 2x faster than it should. Both problems were unacceptable. Went to FC4. Nice, solid distro, except that getting nVidia drivers is painful. Updates suck. I won't go into Mandriva.

      The point is, de
  • Good points... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Spy der Mann ( 805235 ) <spydermann.slash ... minus cat> on Monday March 13, 2006 @02:58PM (#14909644) Homepage Journal
    The goal of Linux as Desktop OS should be to fix Microsoft's design mistakes, not adding their own.

    By rejecting everything in Windows as "evil", they're rejecting many good things like the UI and configuration consistency. Why should we have to rely on MANY DIFFERENT stuff for configuration, when Windows does it elegantly with its Control Panel? (I'm talking about the first tier, not the registry crap - Control Panel would do as well by using .ini files instead of the dreaded registry)

    To configure stuff in Linux, you have an app to configure the screen, another to configure the network, etc. etc. And THIS is the problem with Linux fundies. "Why change it? It works". It was attitudes like this that gave birth to answers like the famous quake 3 under linux [] troll, which originally was a legitimate complaint.

    In comparison, Ubuntu (as we saw recently) has an extensive list of things-to-be fixed [] to make it more user friendly (like hardware recognition, boot loaders, package management), and this was the reason to delay Dapper, so they can finish the ones currently being worked.

    My theory is that Linux needs a critical-mass of user friendliness to replace Windows on the Joe Users' desktops, and Ubuntu seems to approach that critical mass quite fast. Maybe in 3 or 4 years, it will happen.
    • Its not actually accurate to say "in Linux, you have an app to configure the screen, another to configure the network, etc. etc.".

      I mean its partially true, but its actually even more frustrating then that.

      In Red Hat you have system-config*, which is a whole mess of applets to configure A or B. Thats messy. In Suse you have YAST, which last time I looked...well kind of sucked. You certainly couldn't do everything you'd need to from there (although like most of the configuration tool's I'll mention it di
      • Why all these distributions insist on focusing their efforts on rebuilding the same functionality baffles me. I mean I "get" the want to be unique thing. Don't want to copy thing.

        About the only thing which distinguishes any given flavour of Linux from any other is the configuration tools. The underlying programs (X, Apache, Samba, postfix etc etc) are the same, plus or minus a couple of minor versions. I think it might be rather hard for say, Mandrake to compete with RedHat if the only selling point they
  • by StacyWebb ( 780561 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @02:59PM (#14909654) Homepage
    I believe that the main reasons that people have choosen linux over microsoft is the same reason I have, choice. With linux we have the ability to make it appear and work how we want it to, without having to apply third party applications just to provide basic security and functionality. If you like the way windows runs and acts, use it. If you like tweaking your system to become an extension of your personality then I would suggest Linux. Because what it all boils down to is the ability to choose.
  • /etc/rant (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 13, 2006 @03:03PM (#14909685)
    /etc is for configuration files, NOT rants. Rants go in /usr/share.

    GConf is not nearly as much of a mess as this guy makes it out to be. Remember what programs did before GConf? they littered your home directory with .program directories (sometimes they were more well-behaved and left .program.d) and .program files. Theoretically, they read configuration information from /etc/program, then .program, the the command line, each location overriding the previous one's directives. Theoretically. Some programs did it that way, some didn't, and you had to read the manual to figure it all out.

    Remember X Resources? X Resources are another kludge that GConf seeks to replace.* String, or String, all in one big file. At least what overrides what is clearly specified.

    Each program has to provide parsing code for its command line and its configure files, stat() those files manually to determine if they exist, do overriding correctly...

    But the GConf puts these configuration directives in an XML format in clearly-defined places and lets the individual application developers not have to write buggy, poorly-documented configuration management, and suddenly people cry 'registry'?

    What was wrong with the Windows registry was its corruptible, unrecoverably binary format and the random distribution of keys between the system and user registries. GConf does not have executable keys. GConf does not let one user change system preferences unless that user is root. If a GConf configuration gets corrupt, that corruption is localized to the specific corrupt file, and the user can try to repair that file because it's XML and not some undocumented binary format.
  • by Retalin ( 68942 ) *
    I'm getting sick and tired of hearing about how Linux is so much better than Windows. I'm a Linux guy... I run Linux on 90% of my servers I have a Linux desktop but it's all about personal preference people. Linux is not better than Windows for a lot of people... if it were there would be more people using it. It's not about one OS being better than the other, its about what the users want and right now they want Windows.

    If Linux gets to the point where it's better you wont see rants of this nature... yo
  • Shipman's response (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Al Dimond ( 792444 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @03:10PM (#14909742) Journal
    Shipman's response attacks Petreley for saying things that he didn't say. Petreley never said that the Free Software community shouldn't do things in a consistent way, he just said that they should stop imitating Microsoft. Yes, there's a good reason to have desktop environments where ctrl-c copies and ctrl-v pastes. Users expect that. It's also nice to be able to enable emacs/readline keybindings in your desktop apps, because a different kind of user expects that (fortunately gtk+ makes it quite easy, though I don't know how to do it for qt-based programs). There's no reason that when Microsoft decided that blue gradient toolbars were a good look for Office OO.o had to make the same awful decision, and there's no reason to duplicate the registry. That's what Petreley said. And Shipman claims that that makes him some kind of hacker-elitist that wants new users out, when that's simply not the case; he says in his article that skimming the cream of Microsoft's ideas is good!

    We always hear the smug statement that those that don't understand Unix are doomed to reinvent it badly. Perhaps those that don't understand Windows are doomed to reinvent it even worse. If we don't understand what's useful and what's not in Windows we'll continue to duplicate some of its good ideas and some of its bad ones, and some will be completely out of context with the goals of our Unix-like Free operating systems. If you want Free Windows, wait for ReactOS to finish its code audit and contribute to that; that is the place to really duplicate all of Microsoft's design decisions, for better or worse, in the name of ABI compatibility. Our Free environments should make the best decisions and offer a choice. Everyone likes to pose vi/vim's editing style against more Windows-like editing styles and claim one is superior, citing "efficiency" or "consistency". For some people a text editor should be consistent with the other programs they use. They should run nedit, or the MSVS editor, or kate. I'm in my editor enough that it only needs to be consistent with itself, and as efficient as possible; vim is a good choice for me. Petreley doesn't call for kate to be vim-ized; he simply says that OO.o shouldn't have those garish blue gradients in its toolbars.
    • Well, it all started when Microsoft didn't understand the Macintosh, so the reinvented it badly, so now most Linux GUIs are bad rip-offs of a bad rip-off! No wonder people complain about Linux usability!
  • Consistency (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SCHecklerX ( 229973 ) <> on Monday March 13, 2006 @03:13PM (#14909775) Homepage
    Unix: Everything is a file. Microsoft: All kinds of different metaphors, none the same version to version.
    • Good point on the engineering level, but the user interface needs work.

      Doesn't necesarily need to clone MS, but Linux distros should work harder to present an internally consistent user interface.
    • What file can I read from to take a screenshot?

      Which file do I write to to PING a given network address?
    • Re:Consistency (Score:3, Informative)

      by Foolhardy ( 664051 )
      Actually, at the kernel level, almost everything that is a file in UNIX is also a file in Windows NT. Disk files, sockets, serial ports, pipes, raw devices and busses, the display (see \Device\Video0), serial and parallel ports, USB devices, network disk files, the null device, etc. Look in the \Device directory with WinObj [] or WinObjEx []. All of the Device objects dispense File objects to represent connections.

      There are some things that aren't files, like process information and configuration information (re
  • by Hosiah ( 849792 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @03:16PM (#14909815)
    Even have it for a journal entry [].

    Bottom line: if you want Windows, you know where to get it, and you're welcome to it. I've never twisted anybody's arm to use Linux, and it is an act of collosal stupidity to turn Linux into "I Can't Believe It's Not Windows!(TM)" just to make users of one system feel more at home. I could see having one or two distros be "ex-Windows-user-friendly"; that's fine, that's choice, that's what Linux is all about. Steamrolling *all* of Linux into a Windows-clone takes away *my* choices of wanting a system as different from Windows as possible.

    Thank God I'm not the only one screaming this into the void anymore. People are finally starting to wake up. Where have you all BEEN for five years?

  • One of the points of Linux is that each distributor/user has the full freedom to make Linux work the way that we want it to.

    I'm not forced to put the Xgl Desktop [] on my file server, and I'm not forced to use the console screen to do my text editing. I can put the Umbutu desktop on my friend's desktop and a smoothwall install on his firewall.
    And best of all, I don't have to write to Washington for permission to start the computers.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 13, 2006 @03:28PM (#14909927)

    Linux: An operating system kernel.

    Microsoft: A multinational corporation.

    Unless the laws of reality turn in on themselves, I do not think Linux is going to become anything even remotely like Microsoft.

    Linux got to where it is today by being both better and different from Windows, not by trying to be a cut-rate knock-off.

    To play devil's advocate - Linux did get to where it is today by being a cut-rate knock-off. But it was a cut-rate Free knock-off, and it was a knock-off of UNIX, not Windows.

    Linux has since surpassed many competitors in many ways, and has killer features that no longer relegate it to being a "cut-rate knock-off", but that's what it grew into when it became more than a hobby, and that's what enabled it to become as popular as it did in the mid-to-late 90s.

  • I think it would be a huge mistake for Linux to imitate Windows or any Microsoft product. Windows is ass-backwards. It is system and application centric, not user or document centric. Sure, XP has some features that seem to have been made in an effort to move towards serving the user - i.e., the dumbed-down default settings for start menu - but that is just a sham. It is a thin veneer on top of a rough, unfinished, mindless interface - at least as mindless as Microsoft's current leadership - that sees the
  • Linux useability? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dedeman ( 726830 ) <dedeman1@yahoo . c om> on Monday March 13, 2006 @03:45PM (#14910080)
    Ok, I'm neither an expert using MS (take your pick) or Linux (take your pick). In an attempt to diversify my understanding of Linux, I started using RedHat 7.2, many years ago.

    It was a slow, long, widing road, but I've learned, using a certain amount of perseverance.

    It is the perseverance that the "average" user is lacking. Tell me how many of the following terms/words the shopper going to Best Buy or Circuit City are willing to learn: Source, Binary, Compile, RPM, apt-get, x86, X11, /etc/blah/blah, port(ed), API, drivers.

    There are more, but I can't think of anything right now that would add to user/consumer confusion when all people want to know are things like "Can I use the internet with this", "I need some word processing", or the more experienced user that know that a hard drive size is measured in bytes, and the processor speed in herz.

    Microsoft makes many things automated. Want OS updates? Go to, or click on the "Windows Update" icon. Want driver updates? Go to manufacturer, get drivers for 2000/xp OR 98/ME. No pointing to mirrors, no compilation, no source, no RPM, no Yum, just "Do It Now!", wait for the icon to appear, double click, make a sandwich, reboot.

    That's what Linux is lacking. Does anyone realize this?
    • by NullProg ( 70833 )
      Microsoft makes many things automated. Want OS updates? Go to, or click on the "Windows Update" icon. Want driver updates? Go to manufacturer, get drivers for 2000/xp OR 98/ME. No pointing to mirrors, no compilation, no source, no RPM, no Yum, just "Do It Now!", wait for the icon to appear, double click, make a sandwich, reboot.

      That's what Linux is lacking. Does anyone realize this?

      You really need to check out Ubuntu or SuSE 10 if thats what you want. Don't call Linux lacking because you
    • Re:Linux useability? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Hosiah ( 849792 )
      That's what Linux is lacking. Does anyone realize this?

      Gee, no, I don't realize it. Could it be because you're wrong?

    • by killjoe ( 766577 )
      "That's what Linux is lacking. Does anyone realize this?"

      No because you are lying both about how easy things are in windows and how hard things are in linux.

    • by Nasarius ( 593729 )
      Want driver updates? Go to manufacturer, get drivers for 2000/xp OR 98/ME.
      wait for the icon to appear, double click

      And this is a good thing?! The Linux approach is typically: if it's supported (and it usually is), it already works. No need to go to the hardware manufacturer's website. If there are kernel updates or third-party drivers that can be installed, your friendly local package manager handles it.

      I have a hard time believing that your average user can navigate half a dozen different websites

  • by Orion Blastar ( 457579 ) <orionblastar&gmail,com> on Monday March 13, 2006 @03:53PM (#14910143) Homepage Journal
    Just like his rants in Infoworld and IWETHEY forums, he is short sighted and cannot see the bigger picture. I tried to comment on his rant, only to see that Linuxmafia had removed the ability to comment in an attempt to censor critics of Mr. Petreley.

    Anyone who took Information Systems or Computer Science knows that you develop software to the needs of the customers, you don't just tell the customers what they need. If your customers want a software that is easier to use, or works a bit like a Windows counter-part, you develop it for them. Find a need, and fill it. Quite simple.

    Take Linspire for example, their success has been that they made Linspire work a lot like Windows does, so much that they have helped switch people over to it. While critics claim that Linspire is a commercial Linux, Linspire did give away free copies via BitTorrents at times, and the install CD costs $50. Linspire has also helped bring Linux to the masses with their $300USD Linux PC sold at discount stores. What has Mr. Petreley done to bring Linux to the masses, over that be a Mad Prophet of Linux who spouts out negative things?

    Ever wonder that Mozilla Firefox and Mozilla Thunderbird are popular because they work a bit like Internet Explorer and Outlook/Outlook Express? Why there are even Windows versions of those software programs to help ween users off Windows and onto Linux where they can use the Linux versions of those programs. Novel Mono helps bring a .NET development environment for Linux to help Windows developers use existing code for Windows over to Linux, without having to re-learn a new language.

    No, Mr. Petreley, we will help people decide to convert to Linux by meeting their needs, rather than ranting and raving and yelling at them. Your way does not meet their needs.

    Take Mac OSX for example, see how it tried to catch up to Microsoft Windows when Mac OS 9.0 and Copeland failed to do so. See how Microsoft tries to make Windows Vista work like OSX. Linux is not the only OS on the block, as Mac OSX now runs on X86 hardware (Apple branded Mactel boxes) which could take marketshare away from Linux.

    No rather, Linux needs to evolve in order to adapt to change. Customers are changing to wanting software that is easier to use, and works like Microsoft Windows. Refuse to adapt to change, and risk becoming a dinosaur. Would Mr. Petreley like Linux to become the next Plan 9 type operating system? Different from Windows, but hardly anyone uses it? Don't focus on the negative, but on the positive. If you are not meeting customers' needs, someone else will.

    Besides a registry if done right, need not bite us on our behinds. Make it an OSS database based registry on MySQL, Postgres, Firebird, etc. When I developed software I had a fax program that used a most recently used name and number list. The way Microsoft does a registry is a flat file, which is sort of like using an INI or Text file. If I stored 50 names on a file, it took a long time to load and sort them. When I migrated to a database, I was able to use more than 50 names, and was able to load and sort them faster.

    See the bigger picture, learn to grow and evolve.
  • by cexshun ( 770970 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @04:31PM (#14910439) Homepage

    Seriously, out of all the things to borrow from MS, the 2 big desktop managers copy the start menu. It has to be the most un-intuitive GUI feature in the history of the GUI.

    I dislike Nicolas Petreley's arguements as much as the next guy, but I hate it when I try a new distro and have a start button staring up at me. E and XFCE users will site bloat and memory leaks and lag all day. Me, the reason I use E is that there's no start menu. I click, the menu is there. Now _that's_ intuitive!

  • by Hosiah ( 849792 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @05:27PM (#14910902)
    If you let us Linux geeks take over Microsoft and turn it into Linux, we'll let you turn Linux into Windows. Then everybody will be happy?

    By the way: Could one of you Windows users, any lovely one of you at all, explain to me why you're so hot to use Linux if Windows is all you love? Because whatever's lacking in Windows that's making you switch to Linux, shouldn't you just stick with Windows and complain to Bill gates to give you what you want - whatever it is that you're not getting? I mean, come on, Microsoft is getting your money - surely you have more sway with MS than you do with a bunch of hobbyist hippies who are doing it for free, anyway?

  • by ajs318 ( 655362 ) <sd_resp2.earthshod@co@uk> on Monday March 13, 2006 @05:55PM (#14911151)
    At the end of the day, you're damned if you do try to imitate Windows and you're damned if you don't. If you try to be like Windows, that can mean copying inherently broken behaviour -- and will lose you friends in the "keep it pure" camp. If you don't try to be like Windows, somebody will complain that Linux is "too hard" {i.e. "not like Windows"}. If you try to make an application finely customisable, you end up driving people away because it's "hard to use"; if you don't include options to change things, you end up accused of "dumbing down".

    I can only really attribute the "problem" to Microsoft's dominance in the marketplace combined with the popular mindset, which deems that "ignorance is bliss" and eschews learning to do something very hard, very well in favour of instant gratification with a half-arsed job.

    That's why I think it's important for distributions to specialise. At the moment we have Ubuntu and Mandriva for people who want everything easy; Slackware and Debian for server administrators who feel the need to ride the metal; and Red Hat and SUSE for people who would rather pay someone else to do the donkey work. Not to mention hundreds if not thousands of less well-known distributions, catering to niche markets {self-booting mini-CDs, distributions tailored for antique hardware, retro gaming kits, movies on a self-booting CD, Linux on a USB stick and so forth}. One distribution simply can't be all things to all people.

    One thing I would like to see would be a GUI front-end to the configure, make, make install process. It's distribution-agnostic, sometimes even architecture-agnostic. Now that processor power is so cheap, the only compelling reason not to compile locally has been mitigated. A graphical front-end would look a little bit like a Windows InstallShield installer. What puts people off source tarballs isn't so much the idea of compilation {though that's where they will inevitably transfer the blame}, as the thought of unresolved dependencies breaking the process. There's no reason why a properly-put-together automake/autoconf package should not be able to detect everything it needs at the configure stage. Linux allows you to mix and match libraries to an extent; so if a particular application imperatively requires newer libraries than are already installed, that need not be a problem. The installer should be able to determine for itself whether it's possible to download and install its own dependencies, and proceed automatically if it is safe to do so.

    Of course, probably before the GUI source installer goes mainstream, we will need a reliable developer tool for creating self-installing packages; analysing libraries and creating a dependency database. Although this sounds like a huge effort, it probably will be more likely to succeed than any attempt towards achieving cross-distribution binary compatibility; binaries were never really meant to be compatible, source was always meant to be compatible.
  • by Master of Transhuman ( 597628 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @06:13PM (#14911281) Homepage
    I mean, both sides are as usual exaggerating the value of their positions.

    What matters is functionality and usability. If Linux can match Windows in functionality, and if Linux is easily usable, it doesn't matter whether the technigues used are the same as Windows.

    It only matters from the viewpoint of those people who wish to lure Windows users into using Linux. While it is true that most people, as one of my instructors likes to say, "use computers because they have to, not because they want to", this doesn't need to have any significant effect on Linux adoption, provided that the functionality and usability are there. Re-training is not that big a hassle IF properly done.

    Most corporations are not going to switch to Linux just for improvements in usability or even functionality. They are going to switch for other reasons: cost, security, flexibility, lack of vendor lock-in. They will only switch for functionality if that functionality is mission-critical. Once the decision is made, people will either be re-trained or required to learn the new systems themselves.

    Comparing vi and Microsoft Word on keystrokes is abysmally stupid. Vi is an overly complicated mess of un-usability. The learning curve is so ridiculous that nobody but a geek would even try to use it. The same applies to Emacs. Neither of them is intended to be a word processor, which is by definition designed for end users, not geeks. Even if Word needs more keystrokes than vi to do a particular task, this says nothing about why those keystrokes were chosen. While I wouldn't doubt that Microsoft designers are less capable of designing efficient keystrokes than Linux designers, just comparing the keystrokes doesn't tell you why it was designed that way. There may have been good reasons for using those particular keystrokes. My point is that comparing two totally difference systems - even if the function being compared is identical - based on keystrokes is utterly irrelevant to the usability issue, and by definition irrelevant to the functionality issue.

    There was recently an article elsewhere about how GIMP wasn't as good as PhotoShop. As usual, everyone said it didn't need to be as the GIMP developers didn't care about that, and further, that no one had the right to ask that GIMP be equal in usability to PhotoShop as that was abrogating the rights of the GIMP developers to go their own way.

    This is incorrect reasoning. The issue is whether GIMP is intended to be the best graphics program in terms of functionality and usability. The second - and different - issue is whether it can be recommended to Windows users as a replacement for PhotoShop in order to lure Windows users to Linux. The two questions are entirely different. If the GIMP has functionality and usability problems - and it does either when COMPARED to PhotoShop or in some cases on its own merits - then it should be changed to solve those problems . Whether the GUI is changed to look like PhotoShop or not is not relevant EXCEPT to those people on Windows who don't want to learn a new GUI. THAT is not the GIMP developers problem, clearly. But if the GIMP developers do not INTEND to develop GIMP to the same level of usability and functionality, they should say so, and people should then stop recommending the GIMP as a replacement for PhotoShop.

    It does OSS no good to recommend OSS products that do not adequately replace their Windows counterparts. It's okay to recommend OSS products that are less functional for those people who do not NEED that extra functionality. It is not okay to recommend OSS products for those people who DO need that extra functionality. Saying that GIMP is a replacement for PhotoShop without specifying the limits on functionality and usability is not helping OSS because when the faults are experienced, the new user will feel cheated. Any recommendation of OSS software to users of other software should acknowledge any significant differences in usability or functionality. That is, if the product doesn't do a certain thing, say s
  • by Maljin Jolt ( 746064 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @06:30PM (#14911415) Journal
    I don't need uniformity of lookout on Linux. I run admin stuff on console 1, KDE apps in KDE on virtual terminal 7, Gnome apps in Gnome on virtual terminal 8 and OpenGL 3D accelerated games in Fluxbox on virtual terminal 9, all on the same box AT THE SAME MOMENT! Do not tell me nonsenses about efficiency versus consistency of user environment while playing Warzone 2100 and reading Slashdot at the same time.
  • Linux is a great OS for people who want to get to know their computers. It is also a great OS for people who just want to get things done. People "just using" their Linux box are in fact contributing something, even if they never contribute code or documentation or anything the rest of us see.

    They are contributing numbers and support. And numbers and support are more important than most people have yet realized, IMHO.

    I made (well, am making) the switch to Linux because I am tired of others owning my data (e.g., MS 0wnz my email since only their application can access it for me). The more I think about this, the more I believe that open, unencumbered, and standardized data formats and protocols are vital to our future documentary heritage.

    Unfortunately vendors of proprietary operating systems and applications will likely always break standards - and certainly will do so behind closed doors - in an effort to gain every single bit of competitive advantage they can. And that threatens our future documentary heritage.

    We are moving, slowly slowly slowly, to an electronic world. We must conserve and protect that documentary heritage now before it becomes endangered. Open source is a great enabler - perhaps a necessary enabler - of this conservation.

    The more people we get "just living" on open source systems, the more people who will be "just using" open and standardized systems (as we get them built and out there). And the more people there will be thinking about these issues, thinking about the viability of open source and wondering why they ever considered paying a vendor to hold their data hostage.

    Users who are "just users" make open source spread into and beyond the mainstream. And that's where we need it to be to protect our own data and our documentary heritage.

    One day, we will wonder how we ever let vendors control our information. That day cannot come, IMHO, until we no longer depend upon them. That takes many, many, many "just users" consuming and loving what a few thousand motivated developers and writers and testers and project managers have done, even if they never actually think about them or make contributions in the expected or desired way.

Trap full -- please empty.