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Make Linux "Gorgeous," Says Ubuntu Leader 688

OSS_ilation writes "They say beauty is only skin deep, but when it comes to Linux and the free software movement, people like Mark Shuttleworth think looks have an important part to play. On his blog and an article on, Shuttleworth and a slew of open source end users say that the look and feel of open source is also a matter of wider acceptance among enterprise players who are used to Windows, yet crave Mac OS X and the functionality of Linux. 'If we want the world to embrace free software, we have to make it beautiful,' Shuttleworth said. "We have to make it gorgeous. We have to make it easy on the eye. We have to make it take your friend's breath away.' With the early success of Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10, Shuttleworth and company may be onto something."
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Make Linux "Gorgeous," Says Ubuntu Leader

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  • Imagine... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Nrbelex ( 917694 ) on Monday October 30, 2006 @03:52PM (#16646855) Homepage
    A person who has never used a computer turns on three which are arranged in front of them... A Windows box, a Mac box and a Linux box... all look identical on the outside. They receive no prompting. Which do they begin to try to learn to use?
    • It doesn't matter what they first go up to.

      The point is that the "feel", and that means deep, cognitively focused ergonomics, matters more than eye candy.

      Candy rots your teeth.

      If something looks good and it communicates function and state well, then that's fine.

      Remember: beauty is skin deep, but bitch goes right down to the bone.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by shmlco ( 594907 )
        Why can't you have well-designed ergonomics AND great eye-candy? Why deny that both serve a useful place at the table?

        Another thing that's needed is something similar to Apple's original User Interface Guidelines, so that all of the applicatons on the platform are consistent from both a usability and visual standpoint.

        Having consistent dialogs, button placements, menus, and so on tend to make a platform a LOT more accessible.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by mbkennel ( 97636 )
          Of course you should have great ergonomics and eye candy.

          Mark Shuttleworth said that the problem that Linux didn't look good enough.

          That's not really entirely true, it looks OK. But the ergonomics still suck really hard for
          many things. It works reasonably nastily.

          Comparing to Windows isn't remotely good enough.

          When it starts to be an ergonomic horse race between Mac OS X and Billionaire
          Linux, then that's progress. We're about as far in that direction as Afghanistan is sending turbaned men to Mars.

          In fact
          • by shmlco ( 594907 )
            "We're about as far in that direction as Afghanistan is sending turbaned men to Mars."

            Yeah, like the US has a program either...
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by mbkennel ( 97636 )
              No kidding. I don't think the US has even thought about the turban part.

              Not enough TurbanWare makers in the districts of the appropriation committee congressdroids.
        • by jdray ( 645332 ) on Monday October 30, 2006 @04:54PM (#16648101) Homepage Journal
          Here's one problem indemic to the open source paradigm: Things like "beauty" or "ease of use" or "how you ought to do things" varies widely from one group to another. Getting everyone that develops an app for Linux to agree on one set of interface standards makes for a pretty steep uphill battle. Take a look at Gnome versus KDE: Where does an "Okay" button belong on a dialog box, left or right?

          The opportunity that the open source community has is to leverage the capacity for development that has made FOSS a viable contender for hard drive space to develop something entirely new in computing. Projects like Open Office and the GIMP are great, offering alternatives to commercial software where options weren't available before. And development of those products should continue, but to what end? Sure, there's value in being able to provide a drop in, no training required replacement for the Microsoft software stack if it can be done with open standards and security. But if all you're doing is following the development of major software vendors, you're relying on them to set the pace of innovation. Even the venerated Linus Torvalds made Linux because he wanted to have a Unix-like system running on his commodity hardware (yeah, yeah, let the hatemail come).

          So, tell me, where is the group that comes along and says, "Here's a new way of using a computer. Everyone come help us build it, it's gonna be great" ?? Why, after all these years, am I still forced to use the paradigm of paper-based documents (PDF, RTF, e-mail, web) to communicate most information, even if it never hits paper? Why do I have to gather information by reading text, line by line, down a page? Where's the visual depth to our digital world? Where's the alternative information delivery?

          And I'm not calling for a bunch of new input or output devices that will change the way we work with a computer, though those are needed as well. Given what we have (mouse, keyboard, monitor), we ought to be able to come up with something better.

          Take, for instance, the Civilization IV interface as a model for systems administration. Replace cities with servers, continents become networks, nations become domains, etc. Pan and zoom around your network, click on users to see what they're up to, double click on servers to look at their configuration and make edits to it, adjust automation, etc. etc. User apps have other opportunities for data navigation, communication, resource location, etc. But we've got to get ourselves off of the paper paradigm first. How do we do that?
          • by shmlco ( 594907 ) on Monday October 30, 2006 @05:33PM (#16648867) Homepage
            Unless you're planning on creating a new ideomatic language and teaching it to the rest of the world, we're kind of stuck with that whole letter-word-sentence-paragraph thing. Which gives rise to the idea of a page or document or file or folder that encapsulates a bunch of them.

            Most sites or interfaces that try to overlay reality with other metaphors fail, usually because the metaphor doesn't communicate (why is the home page the "Town Hall"?) and because most graphical systems aren't as dense as text. To take your example, do I want to navigate a virtual building trying to find Fred's desk, or is it faster to find Fred in an alphabetic list and click on it.

            I actually expect search and metadata (aka Spotlight) to take us further than 3D spinning virtual worlds...
          • by budgenator ( 254554 ) on Monday October 30, 2006 @08:00PM (#16651109) Journal
            Yeah like I really like how in windows app where hitting OK sometimes closes the present window and sometimes opens the child window.
            How about how if you open your browser, a single click on a hyperlink follows to the links URL, but the file-manager that looks just like the browser needs to double-click the links (shortcuts)?
            Here's a good one how about downloading an executable to a user's desktop, then right-clicking and run-as admin, ever try that it don't work, Windows says admin has insufficient privileges! Then you get sneeky and down-load it to a shared folder, and run-as, but that still doesn't work, you have to copy it into the shared folder, I've pleaded with every windows guru for 3 years to tell me how to do that, nobody knew! as far as I can tell I'm the only one! This is so unintuitive, admin is untrusted and to make a file shared, it has to be moved into a shared folder, and downloading into the shared folder doesn't count!

            I don't want to to things the "new" windows way, I want some sanity, I want the old tried and true, rational, expandable Unix way!
      • How is this a troll? He's almost totally right and a killer line in the end too. I'd add that performance matters, too. So an eye candy interface that takes noticeably a toll on *perceived* performance is not so advisable IMHO. But I don't call on keeping linux graphically simple and performant. Linux is not an uniform environment, can be a stark command line on the server, a light desktop on the old machine and some eye candy on the latest hardware. Let hackers and designers loose and keep the best ideas.
    • Re:Imagine... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Mikachu ( 972457 ) <> on Monday October 30, 2006 @04:12PM (#16647215) Homepage
      It really doesn't matter. You're not competing against a world that has never seen a computer before. You're fighting against a world where Windows owns the market share, and Mac OSX is often shunned aside, where Linux is called the nerd OS.

      So essentially, Mark Shuttleworth is right. It's not enough to be just barely the best in anything when the market leader has almost all of the market. You have to truly jump miles above the market leader before people will notice. It's unfortunate but true.

      How do you think the Apple iPod worked so well? When it came out, nerds said "less space than a Nomad, it's shit." But what happened? If you really compare, the iPod blew the Nomad away in terms of ease of use and beauty. Not to mention marketing, but that's a different story altogether.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Kookus ( 653170 )
      Windows DUH! Because it automagically boots up by default without asking for a username and password!
    • by Kjella ( 173770 )
      Q: Which do they begin to try to learn to use?
      A: Any. But whichever they choose, they're probably going to stick with because they're not going to bother to learn another. The collorary is that most people run Windows, and most kids are raised on Windows. Is "D:\" any more or less logical than "/my/mount/point"? Not really. But living with Windows for over a decade means you think in terms of your "c-drive", "d-drive" etc., I still find linux's file system well... odd.
      • by caluml ( 551744 )
        I still find linux's file system well... odd.

        Please surrender your card to the nice man who will show you out.
      • Deep inside the Windows NT/XP kernel, it maintains an object namespace very similar to a Unix filesystem. You can use WinObj from [] to navigate this object namespace. Notice that under the 'Global??' folder you will find the entries 'C:' and 'D:' and so on symbolic linked to the appropriate file system. Also, '\Device\*' in the object namespace is very much like '/dev/*' on Unix.

        It is evident that drive letters under an NT kernel is just a DOS compatibility after-thought. The kernel doesn't

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by RAMMS+EIN ( 578166 )
      ``A person who has never used a computer turns on three which are arranged in front of them... A Windows box, a Mac box and a Linux box... all look identical on the outside. They receive no prompting. Which do they begin to try to learn to use?''

      The one that finishes booting first?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by gardyloo ( 512791 )
      Obviously not the Mac, since it has only one mouse button and can't be as good as the other two...
  • by Salvance ( 1014001 ) * on Monday October 30, 2006 @03:53PM (#16646879) Homepage Journal
    Finally, someone who is addressing the root cause of why Linux continues to trail market leaders in desktop share. In addition to making it "beautiful", developers need to continue adding out-of-the-box widgets/features to prevent someone from ever needing to modify a script or enter a terminal window if they didn't want to. If they could address both of these 'issues', Linux would have a fighting chance against Windows desktops.

    IMO - Microsoft doesn't dominate because it is better, it dominates because of great marketing and ease of use (even for groups such as the disabled). My grandmother can use XP Home, but if I have Linux up, she completely freezes. Sure, there's some grandmas that know perl scripting, but who wants to jump in and start compiling code just so they can play bridge with their friends over the net?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I dispute the hard to use part of Linux. Yes it's a bugger to get working sometimes but so is Windows. How many of us here provide tech support to otherwise intelligent people who have a complete blind spot when it comes to using a Windows box. If Windows breaks in a confusing way how many non-geeks do you know who can sort it out? My dad is the only one I know and I support a lot of family, friends and co-workers.
      • by DaveJay ( 133437 )
        It is harder to use. I know, not once you've LEARNED it, but look: if I go into a store, buy a digital camera, and ship it to a person who has never used a computer before, they can read the installation instructions and get it working. You can't do the same with Linux, because the non-techie documentation level just isn't there. On Windows or Mac I can shove in a CD, it can automount, and install the software itself; Linux software generally does not do that.

        Try to think of this as a good thing: you don't
    • Can your grandmother rid the computer of virii and worms? Fix it when its utterly broken? If not who fixes her computer when it breaks?
    • I'd settle for less widgets and chrome for better usability.

      I'm not exactly a novice when it comes to computers, but after deciding to try Kubuntu (Ubuntu didn't run well on the computer I was using) I decided it wasn't worth the hassle when I spent two days trying to mount a network drive hosted on a Windows machine and have it reconnect automatically whenever I log in.

      IIRC, the "solution" involved editing at least two files and creating a third, and having the password as plaintext in at least two locatio
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Salvance ( 1014001 ) *
        I couldn't agree more ... the unfortunate thing is that any time I make similar suggestions to Linux programmers or just tech groups in general I get responses like "PEBKAC, not my problem", or "If you can't do XYZ, then you're not smart enough to be using a computer", or even "if Linux were easy to use, there'd be less jobs for support guys like me". These are REAL responses I've received from legitimate Linux developers.

        As backwards as it sounds, I really think the Linux world needs to find some inves
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Under Gnome, click on "Places" and then on "Connect to server". A dialog will now open. Set the service type to "Windows Share" and fill in the "server", "share", and "user name" fields. If there is a domain, fill in the "domain" field too. Hit "connect". You now have an icon on both the desktop and in the Places menu named after the folder. Click on it. It will ask you for a password and it will give you the option to save it in your keyring (it's encrypted, btw). All Gnome applications (including
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      That's funny, because most people get scared when the hear that they are using Linux. Try running KDE, plopping your friend in front of your computer, and seeing how hard it is for them to figure out what to do. I have done this several times, and people almost immediately adapt to: 1.) Using Konqueror 2.) Using GAIM 3.) Using OpenOffice 4.) Playing music. When something works differently, or doesn't work, they just shrug it off, assuming that it is simply some error or bug, the same way they shrug off
      • by stubear ( 130454 )
        Put that same person in front of Linux and ask them to install an application.
        • by grcumb ( 781340 )
          Put that same person in front of Linux and ask them to install an application.

          [On Ubuntu Edgy:]

          1. Click Applications
          2. Click Add/Remove...
          3. Select software package.
          4. Click Apply.

          No muss, no fuss, no trawling through a million websites. No click-through I-own-your-firstborn licenses. No viruses. And no Spyware.

      • by dodongo ( 412749 )

        In general, though, Linux has been usable for the average person for years now.

        Agreed, wholeheartedly. I didn't believe it myself; I started using Linux several years ago, when its install-and-use-ability was just turning the corner. If you count SuSE 8 as particularly usable, I guess. However, just the other day, a roomie of mine who is as close to computer-naive as 20-somethings come got some nasty viral whatever on Windows. Another roomie of mine who's a computer geek suggested she install the new ve

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by styrotech ( 136124 )
          Agreed, it isn't computer novices that find Linux Desktops any harder to use than Windows. It's the more experienced Windows users that generally find Linux harder to use. They have preconceived notions about how computers are supposed to work and have forgotten how long it took them to pick up their current Windows knowledge. They underestimate how much new stuff they will need to learn when moving to a different system.

          eg: I'm very experienced with both Linux and Windows, but still get lost and confused w
      • by 14CharUsername ( 972311 ) on Monday October 30, 2006 @05:11PM (#16648403)

        Linux is great for beginners. And its perfect for experts. But it doesn't work very well for those people in between... the "Power Users". They get on a linux box and the first thing they say is "where's the C drive?" Then next its "where's Program Files?" Then they bitch about when stuff is installed it gets spread all over in places like /usr/bin, /usr/share, /usr/lib, /etc, etc. (see what I did there?).

        For beginners its great. "where's My Documents?" "How do I get on the Internet?" "How do I log out?" After a few minutes they figure these things out and are on the way.

        The experts get to the console and type ssh, rsync, grep, sed, find and the like and they're in heaven.

        But the "power users" have so much knowledge of registry hacks and all the little things that you have to do just to make windows work. They know that the hard drive is C: and if you have more than one hard drive, the second on is D:, if not then D: is the cdrom. Apps are installed in their own folders under C:\program files\ (unless you specified something else in the installer) but you can't remove them by just deleting the folder, you have to go to add/remove programs in the control panel. If that doesn't work then you nuke the app from the registry and then delete the folder in program files. To all the "power users" out there, that is how computers are supposed to work. Show them anything else, then they are just as helpless as the beginners. They don't want to give up all that windows specific knowledge without a fight.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Bugmaster ( 227959 )
          Well, I'm a "power user", and I disagree with your assessment. I'd love if Linux gave me simple answers to the following questions:

          * Where should I save my work ?
          * How do I read files from a CD ?
          * When I install programs, where do they go ?
          * Speaking of which, how do I install something ?

          Windows provides answers to these questions in form of GUI. I can click on the CD-Rom icon, I can pick programs from the Start menu, I can add/remove programs using the GUI tool, and I can save my files pretty much anywhere
          • * Where should I save my work ?

            In your home directory sorted in whatever way makes sense to you - or on an NFS share used by a lot of people for collaborative work named after the project, division or whatever - not F: M: or whatever windows shared drive which may differ between desktop machines.

            * When I install programs, where do they go ?

            If you get something that isn't available with the distributions package manager it depends on what it is. Local stuff only to be used on that computer goes in /usr/lo

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward
          For beginners it's easy indeed. Power users can adapt. But experts (on the windows side) are the hardest to convert.

          Not only not knowing where stuff goes, but they also need to find suitable replacements for everything. Visual Studio? Learn other editors (vi/emacs), IDEs, debuggers and compilers (gcc?). The windows APIs we're used to? Gone. The widgets (winforms/winfx/whatever)? Gone. The frameworks? Gone. C#? Learn another language. Scripting languages you know? Learn perl instead. SQL Server? Learn anothe
    • Finally, someone who is addressing the root cause of why Linux continues to trail market leaders in desktop share.

      And by "market leaders" you mean "Microsoft". Whether Linux trails Apple is subject to debate.

      IMO - Microsoft doesn't dominate because it is better, it dominates because of great marketing and ease of use (even for groups such as the disabled).

      Nope. Microsoft dominates because it has a monopoly on the desktop. That means that just about every ISV and OEM has to consider Microsoft in their busine

    • Finally, someone who is addressing the root cause of why Linux continues to trail market leaders in desktop share

      It seems to me there have been three general problems with Linux on the desktop:

      1. It's hard
      2. It's ugly
      3. It lacks applications

      A lot has been done a lot to solve these issues. I would say many distributions are easier to set up than Windows. I would even say that the default setup of Ubuntu, SuSE, and Fedora are all prettier than the default blue Luna theme in Windows XP (which I've always thoug

    • by JustNiz ( 692889 )
      >> developers need to continue adding out-of-the-box widgets/features to prevent someone from ever needing to modify a script or enter a terminal window if they didn't want to

      *sigh* that path leads to the same bloat that is driving pweople away from windows.

      I don't want my computer to continually assume I know nothing. Why must GUI's have to be dumbed down to suit the lowest common denomiator?

      I'm waaay more productive under Linux than windows precisely because of the conciseness of linux. Also because
    • prevent someone from ever needing to modify a script or enter a terminal window if they didn't want to

      The other side of the coin is, don't make the terminal window hard to get to. I've seen a few Linux Distros and MacOS that put the terminal window buried in some menu somewhere, in order to pretend that it doesn't exist, and hide it from the regular users. The terminal window really is the best way to get some things done, and shouldn't be hidden just because some people think it's old fashioned or hard

    • n addition to making it "beautiful", developers need to continue adding out-of-the-box widgets/features to prevent someone from ever needing to modify a script or enter a terminal window if they didn't want to.

      I've begun a few projects in that regard.

      One sore spot is the lack of GUI inkjet printer utilities for printers other than HP. I've created a program called Stylus Toolbox that acts as a front-end to escputil, the command line Epson printer utility that comes with Gutenprint (formerly called GIMP-Pri

  • by blackcoot ( 124938 ) on Monday October 30, 2006 @03:57PM (#16646949)
    and when things don't Just Work (tm), make it Really Easy to Fix (tm). gui eye candy is nice and all, but it does no good if the underlying software is flakey and generally hard to use.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by nadamsieee ( 708934 )

      From TFB (the fine blog):

      Of course, "pretty but unusable" won't work either. It needs to be both functional and attractive. Rather than bling for bling's sake, let's use artistic effects to make the desktop BETTER, and obviously better.
    • And on which operating system do things just work and are really easy to fix? Let's see:
      • Windows XP
        • BSOD's after a common hardware failure (drive motor stopped spinning).
        • Lacks focus-under-mouse; attempts to resolve do not work very well.
        • Install new video capture card. Buggy drivers, no source code available. Issue is never resolved.
      • Mac OS X
        • Plug-n-play devices work right away. Finding drivers for everything else...
        • Development tools? A recent development. 3rd-party software gives me problems un
    • I agree with one of your points, and it is one of the main problems I have seen with the several Linux distributions I have tried. I am writing this from my Ubuntu 6.06 laptop installation. I just recently removed Windows completely on favour of Ubuntu after it told me that "Windows cant prove the legality of this installation" and it did not allowed me to enter to MY computer even in the so called "safe mode" after I added 1GB of ram (WinXP).

      The previous is to show you pissed off I *am* of Microsoft offer
  • by johnrpenner ( 40054 ) on Monday October 30, 2006 @03:57PM (#16646953) Homepage

    Fortune Magazine: What has always distinguished the products of the
    companies you've led is the design aesthetic. Is your obsession with design
    an inborn instinct or what?

    Steve Jobs: We don't have good language to talk about this kind of thing.
    In most people's vocabularies, design means veneer. It's interior decorating.
    It's the fabric of the curtains and the sofa. But to me, nothing could be
    further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a
    man-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers
    of the product or service. The iMac is not just the colour or translucence or
    the shape of the shell. The essence of the iMac is to be the finest possible
    consumer computer in which each element plays together.

    On our latest iMac, I was adamant that we get rid of the fan, because it is
    much more pleasant to work on a computer that doesn't drone all the time.
    That was not just "Steve's decision" to pull out the fan; it required an
    enormous engineering effort to figure out how to manage power better and do
    a better job of thermal conduction through the machine. That is the furthest
    thing from veneer. It was at the core of the product the day we started.

    This is what customers pay us for--to sweat all these details so it's easy
    and pleasant for them to use our computers. We're supposed to be really good
    at this. That doesn't mean we don't listen to customers, but it's hard for
    them to tell you what they want when they've never seen anything remotely
    like it. l []

    • by Khomar ( 529552 ) on Monday October 30, 2006 @04:30PM (#16647601) Journal

      I wish I had mod points for you, because that was exactly my first thought. There is a huge difference between software that looks beautiful and software that is beautiful. A well designed application need not have visually fantastic features -- in fact, often the most "beautiful" applications have very simple interfaces, but they are very intuitive and a joy to use. I have not actually used a Mac in over a decade, but I am tempted to get one just because of the care Apple seems to take in everything that they do. In Windows Vista, Microsoft is doing exactly what Mark Shuttleworth has called for. They are trying to cover up the flaws and problems with Windows without actually redesigning the system.

      The problem with Linux for me has been its clunky feel. Most of the applications felt like hacks. There was no coherent organization for system tools, or there were multiple collections of applications that seemed to do the same thing but with slight differences (equivalent of two apps to change the screen settings, but one sets the resolution and background and the other the background and color settings). The applications felt poorly designed and half-baked with inconsistent interfaces. Now granted, it has been a couple years since I last touched a Linux distribution, so things may have changed since then, but somehow I doubt it. Installing new software was a chore, and was never as simple as it should have been. It seemed that most applications were even worse in Linux than in Windows for scattering files all of the file system. Many applications required edits to text files for configuration which while making some configuration possible to automate from the command line does not make things easy to use for the casual user (where was the config file again?).

      Really, from what I understand of OS X, Apple came much closer to what really needs to be done -- a complete revamping of the structure of Linux. Create a consistent, simplified and enforced directory structure to make application and driver installation much easier to manage. Replace all configuration with graphical tools while leaving the power of the command line available for those who wish to tap into it but out of plain view. Create a consistent user experience with well thought out conventions that create an atmosphere of familiarity throughout all applications that run in the system. Unfortunately, I am not sure that this is possible in the open source arena because you almost need a more totalitarian organization system to enforce it. Transforming Linux into a real competitor with OS X and Windows will take a great deal of organization and cooperation -- something that Linux seems to lack, especially when you consider how many flavors of Linux there are. Unity has never been their strong suit, but to accomplish what Mark Shuttleworth is suggesting, they will need a unified effort from the core systems all the way to the MP3 player to make it happen.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 30, 2006 @03:59PM (#16646983)
    ...goes all the way to ring 0.
  • by augustz ( 18082 ) on Monday October 30, 2006 @04:00PM (#16646995) Homepage
    Imagine having a clean and clear desktop. Make things a little bigger for your mother. Make them a little smaller for the numbers nerd.

    When you buy that ridiculously high resolution dell laptop, all the icons and text doesn't shrink to the size of warnings for health meds.
  • by ArcherB ( 796902 ) on Monday October 30, 2006 @04:04PM (#16647075) Journal
    While Ubuntu is relatively polished and most of the stuff "just works", the default baby-shit-brown color scheme is hideous.

    So, while I would agree that Linux needs some beautification, I don't trust anyone at Ubuntu to do it!
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Spug ( 886818 )
      It's beginning to get more orange.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by injury0314 ( 797702 )
      I totally agree, that the color scheme is hideous.

      So when I upgraded to ubuntu dapper for my parents back home, I made an effort to set up a better color scheme.

      To my surprise, when they began using the computer, they were disappointed that it didn't come with the ubuntu color scheme they love so much. And no, they have had other os'es and distros setup in their computer Win2k,XP,Mandrake,Debian.

      So, maybe it just boils down to people's preferences.
  • As DHH from the Ruby on Rails project says: "Beauty leads to happiness. Happiness leads to productivity. Therefore beauty leads to productivity." That's a bit trite, but the principle has some truth to it. Similarly, a beautiful, clear UI that balances respect for the user's intelligence with an emphasis on simplicity means that as a community, FLOSS developers are taking other human beings seriously, taking themselves seriously, and care about the social impact of their work. Shuttleworth is dead on.

  • Possibly offtopic, but just to show there are nice looking apps for Linux: I just put up a new screenshot for LiVES on Freshmeat []

    I think it looks very nice these days. Of course, being functional and stable is more important, but it doesn't hurt to look good too :-)

  • Doubtful (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mpapet ( 761907 ) on Monday October 30, 2006 @04:10PM (#16647189) Homepage
    In principal, I agree.

    In practice, it's not what makes people switch. They will switch when there is an overwhelming need for something that is not provided by their current PC.

    Otherwise, they don't switch.

    Despite Apple's temporarily high visibility (pre vista media onslaught) these days, they know from experience getting people to switch even -if- you have a beautiful desktop and good advertising marketing budgets is tough.
  • But why must Linux or FreeBSD or whatever appeal to the average person? We as open source developers don't have limitless time and resources to spend making our software usable by everyone, or EZ enough for grandma to use.

    There is no problem having an OS primarly designed for experts to use (as Linux was originally). Why must compromises be made so that Linux can be prettier and easier?

    Sometimes I think Linux/UNIX developers get suckered into a marketing/commercial mode of thinking, where somebody points ou
    • The issue for me is when someone demands that ALL developers drop what they're doing and start working on feature X to accomplish the goal of market domination. I don't particularly *want* market domination for linux. This is why I actually like Mark Shuttleworth and Ubuntu: he saw the need for his own itch to be scratched and started a foundation to scratch that itch.

      Personally, I write scripts that execute from the command line to add functionality to my box; I don't see the need to add a GUI to a scrip
    • The beauty about open source software is that it can be anything that the developers want to make it. Want to create the ultimate OS for computer experts and hackers? You got that. Want to create the most usable OS that ever existed? You got the underlying infrastructure, just build on top of it. Want to create the ultimate research OS for systems research? Just take out the file system, memory management algorithms, schedulers, etc. and make your own. That is the beauty of open source software. It

  • I'm not sure if I'd run a server on it, but with a built in x11 server and the vast majority of debian packages ported for install OSX already has this. The beauty of OSX and the functionality of OSX from a desktop point of view (sound works, flash works, peripherals work immediately and always) on generic pc hardware would be pretty nice however.
  • Maybe we should make Linux fabulous... just fabulous!

    --Bruno, van "Funkyzeit mit Bruno"

  • Ain't gonna happen (Score:5, Insightful)

    by melted ( 227442 ) on Monday October 30, 2006 @04:13PM (#16647255) Homepage
    Too many people need to give up their egos, use GUI toolkits they don't like, and admit they don't know jack about what looks good and what doesn't.
  • -1, Doesn't Get It (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hcdejong ( 561314 ) <hobbes&xmsnet,nl> on Monday October 30, 2006 @04:14PM (#16647267)
    People don't crave OS X because it's beautiful, but because it Just Works. The beauty of OS X is way beyond skin deep. To achieve it you need things like consistency, subtle cues that inform the user of what's happening, you need to remove clutter etc.
    You need to think about every element of the UI not in isolation, but in relation to all the other elements. Mere eye candy just doesn't cut it. Shuttleworth sort of admits this in the blog entry, but bulldozes over it earlier on, when he says I'm not talking about inner beauty, not elegance, not ideological purity... pure, unadulterated, raw, visceral, lustful, shallow, skin deep beauty.

    Sorry Mark, but you're starting at the wrong end here. You need inner beauty, in the shape of e.g. a consistent framework, and at the most fundamental level, just plain consideration of how the user interacts with the application, before you can start working on the skin.

    And that is why Linux distributions as we know them will never compete with OS X. You'd need to toss X and its bazillion GUI toolkits, and replace them with something new. Then you'd need to organize a Human Interface Police, whose job it is to kick developers who don't follow the guidelines. And I suspect that won't go over well among the Linux developer community with its "free to do whatever the hell I like" mindset.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dodongo ( 412749 )
      I don't understand why you'd need to toss X, per se.

      And I would also point out that Ubuntu does make a concerted effort to ensure the GUIs it uses operate off the same toolkit, and they do push for strong unified look & feel.

      Apple needs HIG police, too, so says iTunes vs. Safari vs. Preview vs. Mail, for example. You're telling me that's the gold standard in uniform look-and-feel? My, we all have a long way to go, don't we? And that's just their in-house development, let alone goodies like MS Office
    • People don't crave OS X because it's beautiful, but because it Just Works.

      I get exactly the opposite responces when I ask people why they like Macs. "Because it's so pretty!" And they spend lots of time complaining about the infamous beachball of death. 'Just Works'? I think not. Even with Apple controling the hardware they still can't keep the machine from seizing up running only their own software. ... Linux distributions as we know them will never compete with OS X. You'd need to toss X and its bazillion
    • You'd need to toss X and its bazillion GUI toolkits, and replace them with something new. Then you'd need to organize a Human Interface Police, whose job it is to kick developers who don't follow the guidelines.

      There's nothing wrong with X, no one is forced to use multiple toolkits. One toolkit and one Human Interface Guideline is exactly what GNOME is. Apps that don't follow the HIG [] don't get accepted as 'official' GNOME apps. In fact, GNOME is striving for everything you suggest, they're just not comple
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by RAMMS+EIN ( 578166 )
      I don't agree with you. While I personally find it much more important that things Just Work, a lot of people care about eye candy. Thus, eye candy is a good thing to spend energy on. Even if this is at the expense of other things, it might still be a Good Thing; for example, Ubuntu could be the Gorgeous OS, whereas Mac OS X would be the OS that Just Works.

      Looking at the way things are, I would say it's rather the other way around at the moment. OS X is definitely more attractive than Ubuntu as far as looks
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Overzeetop ( 214511 )
      People don't crave windows because it's beautiful, they crave it because it runs their software .

      Aside from nicking the discs from the office (do people still do that in todays IT-managed world?) for home use, the bulk of the apps on the net are for win machines. Maybe I should clairfy - the bulk of the precompiled apps are for win machines. [insert virus joke here].

      Make all my stuff run on another platform, and I'm in.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Just Some Guy ( 3352 )

      And someday, if they try really hard, OS X will be nearly as self-consistent as KDE is today. When the Mac equivalents of KIO slaves are universally supported, for example, I' d actually consider switching to OS X. Until then, it's too flaky and ad-hoc for me to take it seriously

      Just for a the sake of a differing opinion.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by syousef ( 465911 )
      Okay I'm a Windows user primarily, but I've used KDE, Gnome and fvwm. I've also used Macs but not regularly for some time I'll admit. A couple of years ago the company I was working for bought an eMac for testing. I found the UI to be cumbersome and clunky. I certainly didn't think it was useful and it'sn ot just because I wasn't use to the Mac. (I wasn't use to KDE or Gnome, but I loved KDE, and could get along with Gnome most days).

      Why do Mac users go on and on about how useable and intuitive they are? I
  • We have to make it take your friend's breath away.

    In short, he's proposing that Linux disks ship with:
    • Vacuums
    • Halon canisters
    • Wire garrotes
    • Or, in the case he's merely refering to halitosis, Tic-Tacs

    Or maybe I'm overthinking this one.
  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Monday October 30, 2006 @04:15PM (#16647295) Homepage that it has to be applied regularly. New major version of the software, new config dialogs, new wizards, new documentation? Better start redoing a lot of polish. Also, let's not forget that a polished turd is nothing more than a polished turd. Polish is only something you need when you already have a solid product with rough edges. So while I think Linux could use a layer of polish in a few places, I hardly think it's a big driver. Yes, people will flock to Ubuntu over other distros with a little polish. But is that really what drives adoption of Linux as a whole? I think it's more hard questions like:

    - Does Firefox work on most webpages?
    - Does OpenOffice interoperate well with MS Office files?
    - Does GIMP support 16-bit color/CMYK separation?
    - Does Thunderbird interoperate well with our exchange server?

    The really hard work is being done all the time by the people making fundamental improvements to their applications. What Ubuntu is doing with polish is more like maxing the performance for the Olympics. While it's important to get the most out of the foundation you have, it's the foundation that has to improve. Though I suppose this is a case where I'd like to eat my cake and have it too...
    • Somewhat unrelated (Score:2, Insightful)

      by NineNine ( 235196 )
      Does Thunderbird interoperate well with our exchange server?

      Why would anybody want to do this? Take a full-featured office management server and strip it down to basic email because that's all the client can handle? Huh?
    • by Coryoth ( 254751 )
      The issues you raise have various levels of "solution" already existing, some harder than others.

      Does GIMP support 16-bit color/CMYK separation?

      Still in the "coming" category unfortunately. It sounds like GEGL at last has some legs again, but... On the other hand if you want 16-bit color and CMYK you can use Krita [] right now.

      Does Thunderbird interoperate well with our exchange server?

      I can't speak for Thunderbird interoperability, but Evolution works with Exchange [], and the quality of that integration and int

  • Sooo (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Klaidas ( 981300 ) on Monday October 30, 2006 @04:18PM (#16647337)
    Sooo, if Mark said that "pretty" is a feature, will we see less members of the I-hate-vista-because-a-lot-of-people-will-use-it-a nd-also-it-looks-nice-so-it's-even-worse-and-it-ha s-nothing-my-good- old-terminal-couldn't-do club?
  • The problem with Linux isn't the lack of eye candy. In fact, GNOME and KDE have far more eye-candy than OS X does, IMO, and I say this as a Mac user. Have you seen the XGL effects in GNOME, for example? Or the Beryl desktop? These themes are very nicely done and their eye candy amount is very large, almost to the point of superfluous in some aspects (do we need effects for everything. My only problem with Linux eye candy is the bad fonts available (Bitstream Vera is far uglier than Lucida Grande or Tah

    • by rayde ( 738949 )
      one of my biggest complaints about the Linux UI's is the poor quality of the fonts.. somebody with deep pockets *cough* shuttleworth */cough* needs to buy the rights to a couple _really_ nice fonts and open them up. that would go a long way towards making Linux easy on the eyes.
  • by Tom ( 822 )
    Beauty is important. That from someone who is a commandline freak. But ever since I switched to OSX, I've learnt that eye candy - well designed - can make a lot of difference. The polished look of OSX makes both windos and Linux look like amateur toys.
  • Those are certainly a ton of eye candy and they already run on Linux (but are not yet all out of beta, but that will soon come.) In fact, this old laptop I'm typing on is happily running AIGLX and Beryl and it has led more than one person to think that I hacked OS X x86 onto my laptop.

    I'd think that the best thing to do to get Linux widely adopted would be:

    1. Hammer the corporate and organizational angle very hard. People do a lot of work at home and if they use Linux at work or school, chances are that the
  • In the last 3 years, I haven't seen any ugly desktops from the major distros, such as RH or SuSE. They may not be beautiful, but they aren't ugly.

    Make shit work! Let the user get shit done with no bullshit!

    "Make Linux 'Gorgeous'" is delusional rambling of someone living in a Linux world bubble, where everything seems known and obvious: "well, it's already easy to use, but it's still not popular?!?! Well, shit, why is that? Oh, I know, it's not beautiful enough! Quick, more transparent terminals!"

    Too often w
  • It has been said a million times before and likely to be said a million more. A unified GUI and look'n feel are really necessary for business and beginner users. They need to feel at home to use their tools. For many of us, using Linux is more about using Linux or not using Windows more than it is about getting things done. And so for us, it really and truly doesn't matter if everyone's desktop experience is different. We'll tweak it until it's what we want. But for the rest of the people, it has to b
  • Better yet (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cereal Box ( 4286 ) on Monday October 30, 2006 @04:35PM (#16647725)
    Instead of making it look "gorgeous", how about focusing on making Linux look "consistent"?

    Windows and Mac OS sure didn't achieve their easily identifiable "looks" by promoting dozens of inconsistent GUI toolkits.
  • "We have to make it gorgeous. We have to make it easy on the eye. We have to make it take your friend's breath away"

    Linux geeks, FYI, your CLI and text editor of choice isn't gorgeous, no matter what you may think.

    Personally, I like the fact that Ubuntu finds my 802.11g card, it's just a shame I can't set up WPA without opening up some conf file in a text editor and/or figuring out the chicken-and-egg problem of downloading packages to make my network connection work.
  • by Theovon ( 109752 ) on Monday October 30, 2006 @04:44PM (#16647917)
    I agree that appearance is important. Humans function better when they have pleasant environments. It's also true that Linux distros often really suck when it comes to basics of HCI and even simple artistic elements that would make things a lot more pleasant and usable.

    But it really bugs me when people talk about aesthetics while the internal structure isn't sound. I'm happily using Dapper Drake, but it wasn't trivial to setup correctly with some of the hardware I wanted to use. But there's the recent slashdot article that mentions the upgrade nightmare when going from Dapper Drake to Edgy Eft. And there are even more fundamental problems with Linux. The graphics system in Linux is held together with duct tape. It's just WAY too easy to break, and there is no kind of structure to it. There should be APIs and standard mechanisms for handling graphics devices in a general, but they just don't exist (and don't tell me about DRI -- it's only one step in the right direction). I'm told that there are many other facilities, like networking, that aren't a whole lot better.

    Look at it this way: If Microsoft had gotten their shit together in the beginning and written a decent operating system, rather than cobbling DOS and some other crap together and sticking a GUI on top, then more of us would be using Windows. Instead, they shipped us crap, we figured that out, and we moved on to other systems. For a very long time, Mac OS (9 and before) was all surface, with an embarrassing OS under the hood. One of the few operating systems that was actually ENGINEERED well from the ground up was BeOS, but that didn't fair well against Microsoft's marketing.

    The fact is, "Linux" lacks coherency. It's not "Linux." It's a Linux kernel, some GNU tools over there, X11 bolded on over here, GTK or Qt slapped on over yonder... No two groups actually get together and decide to come up with an elegant system. Instead, they compete with each other, end up working around each other's mistakes, and then leave it up to the distros to try to make it all work together. Ha.

    I'll just tell you a dirty little secret from my experience with writing device drivers: The NT kernel's interfaces for handling devices like graphics cards, network devices, printers, and pretty much anything else you want to use, they put Linux to shame. NT may not perform as well, be as stable, or be as secure as Linux, but it's engineered with vastly more coherent internal structure. Linux is good code with poorly-designed interfaces, while Windows is lousy code with well-designed interfaces (actually, POSIX rocks, but I'm talking about kernel structure and device management).
  • Linux is already gorgeous - it's based on Unix. And Unix is a recursive acronym for Unix Is Sexy. Have you seen her picture? She's kinda hot. See article here: []
  • Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

To write good code is a worthy challenge, and a source of civilized delight. -- stolen and paraphrased from William Safire