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Linux vs. Windows: Choice vs. Usability

michael posted more than 11 years ago | from the i-thought-premium-price-meant-premium-service dept.

GUI 1083

ThaReetLad writes "In this article at DevX, Executive Editor A. Russell Jones makes the case for a standardised GUI for Linux. He argues that the promotion of choice of GUI as a positive feature of using Linux is detrimental to its chances of attacking Microsoft's home user monopoly. From the article: '...the open source community must recognize that its primary goals: freedom of choice, freedom of source code, and freedom to alter applications, are not the goals of the average user.' In particular he argues that the choice of desktop between KDE, Gnome, IceWM etc, is not one that a former windows user, even a fairly technically competent one, is going to able to make an informed choice on, and that they should not be forced to make that choice in order to get good use out of any applications they might want to use."

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Good idea (4, Insightful)

mao che minh (611166) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813543)

The advancement of KDE and Gnome can occur beneficially without the standardization of either. Despite this, it would be much to the benefit of all Linux companies if they all worked together on one standard desktop, instead of leaving it up to the community. The Open Source community will continue to make new GUIs and make the existing ones better, but Linux companies should be interested in making the best possible operating system for both the server and the work station (what sells).

The server side of things is coming along nicely. The work station side is severely behind the competition, and the reason is directly linked to the failure of all parties to strategically target the GUI togther, instead of independantly using different GUIs that are never really that much better than another on any given Sunday.

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

Re:Good idea (0, Flamebait)

Lodragandraoidh (639696) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813647)

I have tried KDE and GNOME (as well as a plethora of other non-contenders), and I have come to the conclusion that GNOME is the best.

Initially, I was a bit put-off by the interface. However, I soon found that I could do some interesting things that were not available under KDE. I also found GNOME faster than KDE given the same tasks.

I am much more efficient with GNOME than I ever was with KDE. Perhaps that is just personal taste - but that is how I see it.

Unfortunately, to create 'mass market' appeal for Linux, I agree you will need a 'standardized' interface. The development of this interface should not close the door on innovation in interface design; there should always be choice where Linux is concerned.

Re:Good idea (1)

Ro'que (153060) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813678)

Maybe I'm missing the "big picture" here (freedom of choice?), but I don't know why they can't just work together. Isn't that what Linux is all about? I don't see how working on a standardized desktop would do anything but help Linux in the long run...Sure some of us prefer KDE over Gnome, and vica versa, but the bottom line is they could all get a lot further together than they could seperate.

michael (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6813549)

what's up with you venting your stupid personal business in the dept headlines.. nobody cares or gives a shit about your petty issues.

stop using slashdot as your little soapbox or personal blog. this is not the place.

Talking head moron (1, Flamebait)

BiteMeFanboy (680905) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813559)

Choice IS NOT incompatible with usability. I'm sick and fucking tired of hearing this bullshit from idiot usability "experts".

Let me cluse you in assholes. You can have a standard desktop that everyone uses by default, but it completely customizable/replaceable for those who have the desire and ability.

Re:Talking head moron (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6813611)

Your momma dances for CASH. For cash sucka, for cash.

Re:Talking head moron (4, Interesting)

Epistax (544591) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813617)

We have a standard desktop? Not with linux you sure as hell don't. Is KDE the standard desktop? (flamewar insues) is CDE? (flamewar insues). What are the advantages of emacs and vi? (flamewar insues).

If you can't tell from this why someone who doesn't like geeky things (aka average computer user) is put off by linux...

On a side note I think would be rather nice of distros of *nix and gui's and etc. would specify what they think they should be used for. A given windows distro explicitly states what it is for: Small business, server, home use, hand held, etc. On linux? You've get twenty distros all trying to do everything. Give these people something to grasp!

Re: moron is right! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6813628)

Hey flameboy, get a clue. You're wrong.

Re:Talking head moron (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6813633)

Couldn't agre more.

Besides, there is no point just making another windows. Linux developers should aim at a different market, people that WANT choice and play around, technology people.

People just wanting windows will continue to use windows, not much point in wasting time on challenging that.

Here Here (0)

Breakerofthings (321914) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813636)

Perfectly stated!

I usually let my mod points go to waste; but today, I wish I had some to mod you up!

I do agree that vendors should get together, and put something slick and standardised together that looks and feels like windows (like Lindows has done), to make newbies comfortable until they learn the ropes

But that does NOT mean that I have to lose my choice of KDE, Gnome, Ratpoison, FluxBox, etc. etc.
Has everyone forgotten that those choices are one of the main reasons that Linux/BSD are cool in the first place?!

Let's not forget that (IMO) the "competition" between KDE and Gnome, for example, helps to drive innovation in both; Who the hell wants the Linux Desktop to stagnate like some others?

Re:Talking head moron (0)

Overly Critical Guy (663429) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813657)

So where is it?

Yeah (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6813677)

preach it sister!

Re:Talking head moron (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6813752)

I have just installed XP and Mandrake 9.1 and despite being a linux type, I find the baffling array of things in the start menu, a great deal of which do the same thing anyway confusing (I don't want six email clients, just one good one). To just get stuff done, XP with cygwin and eudora is simple and functional.

Re:Talking head moron (MOD PARENT DOWN) (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6813760)

Let me cluse you in assholes
Troll? Flamebait? You decide ...

osnews (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6813562)

this was on osnews weeks ago? what happened to news when it happens and all that? oh wait ... this is slashdot

So what's the story here? (4, Insightful)

Tyler Eaves (344284) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813569)

Most of the newb friendly distros through one of KDE/Gnome in as the default choice, which works fine for someone who doesn't know any better.

Re:So what's the story here? (2, Insightful)

randyest (589159) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813662)

Well, one, or the other, in this distro, or that one. But no standard one. I think the point is that newbies don't always choose well, and sometimes the problems arising from a bad choice of GUI (which maybe just the default selection) turn people off of Linux, or confuse them because something they want to do seems to be easier in the "other" GUI.

It's a decent point, but I can see compromise in the Middle East coming sooner than a merger of KDE and Gnome. :)

Oxymoron... (-1, Flamebait)

Lodragandraoidh (639696) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813576)

'Technically competent windows user' is an oxymoron.

Re:Oxymoron... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6813623)

no, it isn't.

your "joke" isnt funny.

piss off.

Re:Oxymoron... (3, Interesting)

Ceyan (668082) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813630)

Despite the editor's lack of insight into Linux GUIs, that comment was uncalled for. It's comments like those that stop Windows users (be they simply home users, or actual tech savvy people) from switching over to Linux, whether you mean them or not. Grow up.

Re: every few months... (2, Insightful)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813578)

Every few months, someone else comes along and argues that Linux needs ONE desktop interface if it's going to combat windows.

Kind of /funny/stupid/, since M$ changes interfaces every couple of years, and touts this as a usability feature (new, improved interface, blah blah blah).

XP FUD (-1, Offtopic)

Overly Critical Guy (663429) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813695)

Slashbots love to post FUD that Microsoft somehow changed the interface. Here you are saying it's somehow been changing "every couple of years." Which is, of course, a complete falsehood. The only real change was XP.

XP just made the widgets blue, and gave you the option of moving those system icons on the desktop to the Start menu.

Where is the major difference here? That's right; there's none.

simple (2, Insightful)

feed_me_cereal (452042) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813580)

In particular he argues that the choice of desktop between KDE, Gnome, IceWM etc, is not one that a former windows user, even a fairly technically competent one, is going to able to make an informed choice on, and that they should not be forced to make that choice in order to get good use out of any applications they might want to use."

Easy, they don't have to make a choice. They can just use whatever default GUI their distro installs. What is the problem with that?

Windows suffers same problem (5, Insightful)

Doesn't_Comment_Code (692510) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813583)

Windows has the same problem. The Win98 desktop is NOTHING like the XP desktop. Each edition they release is a little different in terms of menu placement, control panels, what's where... The only advantage is that they release one at a time, so there is only one current OS. But to go between Windows machines, you still have to adjust and know what you're doing.

Re:Windows suffers same problem (1)

wiggly-wiggly (682254) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813686)

I've got to argue with this. The Windows 98 destktop is EXACTLY the same as the XP desktop.

Regardless of chunky buttons and bright colours, there is still a start button, task bar, recycle bin (although it changed position in XP). The close, minimise and maximise buttons are all in the same positions and still have the same symbols.

There is no real difference at all, because if there was you would be hearing about it from all the Joe ServicePacks and technically incompetant users of the world.

Re:Windows suffers same problem (1)

NetDanzr (619387) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813697)

And this is exactly why I got rid of WinXP within days and installed Win98 back on my system. I was willing to sacrifice additional stability for a more user-friendly interface (by "user-friendly" I mean an interface I am already used to). Now if by default Linux came with something similar, I may consider switching.

Re:Windows suffers same problem (1)

javatips (66293) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813771)

I think that if you spend a couple of days in XP you should have found where to change the look & feel to the good old W2K look & feel. There you would have feel at home.

Re:Windows suffers same problem (0)

dhawton (691348) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813774)

You do know that with minimal effort you can set the taskbar and the theme to be "Windows Classic" (or for the taskbar "Classic Start Menu") and it'll look like Windows 2k right?

Re:Windows suffers same problem (1)

dunc78 (583090) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813699)

I may be incorrect about this because I am kind of new to Linux, but aren't there compatability issues between different desktop environments like Gnome and KDE. Some programs will work on one but not the other correct? If this is not correct ignore the rest of this comment, if it is then this is a significant difference, though the desktop has minor differences in different versions of Windows, applications tend to run equally well on both versions.

Re:Windows suffers same problem (1)

Ro'que (153060) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813722)

Win2003 and WinXP are fairly, in fact very, similar in design. Windows 98 and Windows XP are the same operating system, just different versions. Windows 98 isn't supported or maintained, updates are no longer released for it. They are the same operating system, just different versions.

And as far as differences in GUI, you can always just set XP to 'classic' with a few, easy clicks and have your basic Win95 inspired setup.

You can't compare KDE and Gnome to Windows98 and WindowsXP. It's like comparing Kernel 2.4 to 2.5.

Re:Windows suffers same problem (1)

Nurseman (161297) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813742)

" The Win98 desktop is NOTHING like the XP desktop. Each edition they release is a little different in terms of menu placement, control panels, what's where."
While I think the Windows GUI interface changes, the basic way of adding/removing programs remains reasonabley the same. Here is where I think Linux lags. I often see great programs that I would like to try, but I usually am unable to install them after downloading them. Adding a simple plug-in to Mozilla becomes such a task that I find myself simpley booting back into Windows to see the site.

Re:Windows suffers same problem (1)

Serapth (643581) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813776)

Yes, but I think your missing the message on this one. Windows has *one* user interface at a time... Keep in mind, Windows 98 is a five year old ( at least ) OS... comparing it to XP just isnt applicable.

Microsoft has refined ( ok... thats arguable... ;) ) there interface over time. The difference you complain about really isnt anything but an evolutionary change to the UI itself. However, since the Win 9X line of code is now dead... and Microsoft is only working on the XP line... they *have* standardized on one UI. Compare the difference between XP home and pro... and you will see they are oftly friggin close!

Wherease in the Windows world... you have KDE and GNome, and countless other less popular windowing systems. Now only are they different from previous versions ( as you cited MS for doing )... they are massively different then each other.

If you were buying software back in the days of ST/Amiga/800XL/C64... you will rememeber that software for multiple OS's was actually a bit of a pain in the ass! Having to wait a year or more for a port, etc... Having the one dominate OS was a great boon for the average user to be honest... even if you dont like the OS they settled on.

I personally agree that there should only be one desktop environment for linux. Just think how much better it would be if the KDE and GNome teams worked together? Also, there should only be 1 UI component for changing OS settings, not the mishmash of tools we have today. The power user can still work from the commandline... the default install of a Linux GUI, SHOULD NOT have 3 different graphical ways to configure the mouse!!!

Down to distribution (5, Insightful)

cjcormack (689855) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813586)

Surely this is the job of the distributers not the developers.

Companies in competition (2, Insightful)

flend (9133) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813589)

Certainly the big Linux companies are in competition. They appreciate the need for a standard desktop, not only from a useability point of view, but from a branding point of view.

The best example is RedHat's bluecurve, which I'm sure they'd like to be seen as `the' Linux desktop for the enterprise.

People just don't get it sometimes. (5, Insightful)

thud2000 (249529) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813594)

How many times have Linus or others said that the goal for Linux is NOT to attack Microsoft's monopoly, but simply to provide a freely usable and stable UNIX-like operating system for anyone who wants it. These analysts can't seem to wrap their minds around the fact that "Linux" is not just another company out to rule the desktop.

Re:People just don't get it sometimes. (5, Insightful)

v_1matst (166486) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813661)

I can't agree with this more. Those of us who want Linux on our desktop have it on our desktop, those who don't... well... don't. I do not understand this mission to have linux as a "valid" desktop operating system. People who use it know it works (quite well in fact) and find that it suits their needs. To Joe Blow user, Windows might very well suit their needs and they find no need to go to some other system just because it isn't a microsoft product. There are people out there who have used Linux/UNIX variants and say "hey, that's great... I'll stick with windows" and I am having trouble finding anything wrong with that.

Re:People just don't get it sometimes. (3, Insightful)

KevinIsOwn (618900) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813693)


As this guy said the goals of the open source community are " freedom of choice, freedom of source code, and freedom to alter applications" and if they aren't goals of the average user that's a tough break. If they can't use one of the desktop environments like KDE or Gnome now why would they be able to use a "standardized one?"

Maybe the best solution to the whole "average user" problem is to make a dumbed down KDE/Gnome that are "easier" to use (although I don't think they are really all that hard to use as it is, and things like lindows make linux even more useable)

Re:People just don't get it sometimes. (4, Informative)

forsetti (158019) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813700)

That is true -- Linus/Linux is not out to attack the MS monopoly. But RedHat, Mandrake, Suse, $FAVORITE_DISTRO are. RedHat, for example, has already recognized this issue, and started attacking it with 'BlueCurve'.

Re:People just don't get it sometimes. (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813704)

Linux might not be but companies embracing Linux just might have that in mind.

Re:People just don't get it sometimes. (1)

Overly Critical Guy (663429) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813745)

Why limit your ambitions because "Linus said this"?

Re:People just don't get it sometimes. (1)

darkov (261309) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813747)

Whatever, but the point is that those who write the code want it to be used. The more people who use it the better, although not at the cost of doing a poorer job (which is another motivation for programmers - doing it "right" or doing interesting or challenging things). And I think that last bit is the difficult thing. Your average highly opinionated nerd would probably find it hard to compromise on this issue or that. The result is that effort is divided and the user gets a lot of duplication which doesn't really serve any purpose.

Great one. (2, Interesting)

intrinsicchaos (652706) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813599)

This is a great article. As an user with minimal knowledge of Linux, I'm mystified by the sheer array of OS's available for me. What does KDE/RedHat/Gnome have over each other?

It's wise to have everyone rally behind one operating system. That makes it more appealing to the masses. Most PCs have Windows, Macs have OS X, and it's worked superb for both areas.

I run OS X on my iBook, and it is great. However, being an advanced user of THAT, I would definitely be open to installing any other OS on it if I was given the choice.

Give the newbies one operating system, and leave it up to the advanced users to install their own choice of operating systems. Much like Old Navy/Gap/Banana Republic run on a scale of price, run RedHat/Gnome/KDe on a scale of usability, learning curve, and availability of advanced options.

Re:Great one. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6813698)

What does KDE/RedHat/Gnome have over each other?

Nothing. Nobody has anything over any other thing. (in fact your list is like asking "what do Ford/nectarines/Dodge have over each other?")

Do your install, and accept the defaults. You don't have to make a choice.

Re:Great one. (1)

quinine (20902) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813710)

so, uh, what's your plan? to choose one standard and assassinate the developers of the others? It's not like there's one set of developers in linux that are churning out multiple products, there's multiple groups of people, and they each do their own thing. if you think all of them are going to stop doing their own thing so that they can work on the other guy's thing, well.. I can't help you.

Re:Great one. (1)

Hiawatha (13285) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813729)

Thanks for restating the transcendently obvious. Difficult as it it is for some Linux partisans to grasp, most people don't want to have to figure out a plethora of GUIs. We want to turn on the bloody machine and get to work. And this can best be achieved by designing the OS so that it delivers a consistent user experience. Linux still isn't there, and many Linux fans are actually proud of the fact, as if incoherence were a good thing. But if Linux is ever to break through to the masses, a simple, intuitive and consistent user interface isn't just a nice idea--it's an absolute necessity.

Consumers do not want choices... (5, Interesting)

Anita Coney (648748) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813601)

My father-in-law worked as a travel agent at one time. He said travel agents never give more than three choices to a client. If you gave them more, they'd have to go home and think about it.

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

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

Re:Consumers do not want choices... (1)

christopher240240 (633932) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813702)

I've got to say that I agree wholeheartedly. I have found that I get the best response from clients when I only give them a proposal with options A, B, and C in ascending cost order. Only after they choose one of the options do we move forward with the "add-ons" and those are done one at a time, so they can truly make a decision rather than flip-flopping.

One System (2, Insightful)

MikeHunt69 (695265) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813607)

It does make sense, even simply from the angle of more people working on one system, rather than solving the same problems seperately.

But which to choose?

Re:One System (1)

Blaine Hilton (626259) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813730)

This is also the way I see it. If you have 10,000 developers and they are working on 100 projects then each project has only 100 developers. Now if some of those could be combined then it would allow theoretically at least, faster development.

Faster development would lead to increased market share and all of the other things. Now another way to do this is simply to have more developers. Then everyone is happy. I like the way gnuCash stepped up to the plate and asked for help. Many people do not realize how useful just writing some documentation is for the program, even if a person just writes some content in a text file, they do not have to be programming wizards.

Quick few points (2, Interesting)

L-s-L69 (700599) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813610)

1. I like choice its of of the many reasons im a big linux fan. 2. For most people new to linux KDE or GNOME are both easy enough to pick up and use, as these are the defaults for most large 'desktop' distros either should do the job. 3. The biggest problem with newbies not adapting linux is the 'its not windows' factor. My mom has used mozilla and linux without knowing it. When I told her it was linux she started to lose the plot.

A thought (5, Insightful)

rknop (240417) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813618)

Whether or not I agree with the conclusions, for the time being let's accept them for the sake of argument.

Suppose that the current goals of the open source community (freedom, choice, etc.) are inconsistent with GNU/Linux taking over the desktop.

Do we then really want to take over the desktop?

If we have to become like Microsoft to defeat Microsoft, then what's the point? *If* we were just another proprietary software company, then, yeah, sure, that's the right thing to do. Since, after all, the ultimate goal of any company is just profit. The open source community is very different. The community isn't going to get rich and retire. They're mostly in it because they like the software and they like the freedoms. Changing the things you like to something you don't like so as to win a competition that may come down to little more than a pissing contets seems counter-productive.

In any event, it's moot. The mere fact that open source has the freedoms it has means that choice will simply not go away. Yeah, KDE and/or Gnome may become the "advertising standard" that we use to draw people away from Windows desktops, but unless legislation makes free software illegal, things like X and FVWM and all the other "oh it's so confusing save me from having to choose" things that we hear whining about simply aren't going to go away, because the people who write them want to write them and won't stop in the name of some corporate strategy.


i disagree (4, Insightful)

Tennguin (553870) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813619)

This may come as a suprise to many people here but some people LIKE the way linux works. Just because Windows has a lions share of the market doesn't mean it has a superior design... I think a certain company's business practices are more likely the reason why.

I for one beleive that that users would eventually become acclimated to which ever desktop they choose, but that choice shouldn't be stripped away; it part of this communities appeal.

KDE and Gnome act fairly predictably now; I'm not a fan of Redhat's bluecurve at all. Why bother packaging two desktop enviornments at all if both are coded to behave identically?

Ya know what? (5, Insightful)

BHearsum (325814) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813620)

I don't care if we attack Microsoft's monopoly, or takeover the desktop. Since when do I care one bit about 'the average user'? I'm using Linux because it works for me, if Windows works for someone else then let them use it. If you take away the choice, then to me, you're saying that one size fits all, which is completely untrue.

Besides, there's already distros that have 'standardized' certain desktops for their userbase. Most converts I know are happy with that...

Don't take my desktop away.

Re:Ya know what? (1)

mrkrause (690364) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813743)

While you put it a bit more harshly than I would have, you're 100% on. My use/involvement with Linux chiefly about using something like I like to do what I like to do, but, if it happens to stick it to Billy G & co in the process, so much the better.

That said, if SuSE, RedHat, and friends want to sit down and develop a standardized desktop, more power to them. I'd personally rather see a faster/smaller/smarter kernel or some wiz-bang apps first, but to each his own; I'm fine with KDE.

Red Hat.. (5, Insightful)

Chicane-UK (455253) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813625)

Would it be fair to say then, that Red Hat has the right idea trying to make a standardised GUI using the bets bits of (predominantly) GNOME and KDE?

Having used Bluecurve'd GNOME over other versions of GNOME, it really is a superb piece of work.. definately the way forward imho, and a huge improvement over the standard.

BlueCurve? (1)

soren42 (700305) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813626)

RedHat already implements this concept fairly well with their BlueCurve interface. Relatively standard look and feel whether you use KDE or Gnome. Coupled with the easy RedHat install, it could easily be the distro to target the unwashed masses.

Me, personally, I'm a Gentoo man.

restricting user choices (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813631)

"that they should not be forced to make that choice in order to get good use out of any applications they might want to use."
That's partly what good administrators are for. There's no need to reduce choice at the distro level, simply pay your Linux administrators more and you'll get lots of goodness ;-)

Moreover, if corporate users are "guided" in their choice of window managers by their admins at work, then they'll use the same WMs at home eventually, or they'll be ready to explore something else. Either way, problem solved.

Third factor... (3, Insightful)

Channard (693317) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813635)

There's a third factor that should also be taken into consideration - that of just how easy it is to completely mess up an install of the OS. Even if you have an OS that is completely user friendly, making it easy to do whatever you want, if the users have access to essential functions of the system, they *will* mess it up. An ideal OS would be user friendly, secure *and* even the most determined good intentioned meddler would be unable to make a dent in it.

nobody decided (1)

quinine (20902) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813637)

nobody decided that there needed to be more than one desktop solution, it just evolved that way since different developers have different goals. trying to unite them would be like saying, "two oceans are too much. we need to figure out how to merge the atlantic and pacific oceans in to one super-ocean." that's just silly.

that said, the more we can get the different desktops to interoperate via projects like freedesktop, the better off we'll all be.

Choice isn't a problem. (1)

nuggz (69912) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813642)

There are currently 2 main options for new users.
KDE and Gnome, both are very pretty, easy to use and straighforward. I don't think you can go wrong with either one, they are both excellent.

I think the choice is good. For those who care about the differences you can switch, pretty easily now. I started using GDM specifically because it let me start KDE Gnome or another setup very easily.

doesn't linux already come with a standard UI (4, Funny)

TonyPyGarthno (173860) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813643)

its called the terminal =)

That's easy (1)

SoTuA (683507) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813645)

Pha. Just persuade RedHat to switch to KDE as default desktop or SuSE to switch to Gnome...

What do you mean, "holy wars"? :)

IT woudln't hurt to have a unified desktop... but it sure is kind of utopical. I think we are going in the right direction. Either Gnome or KDE will serve as a full-featured desktop, and the ease of use is there (or mostly there).

I'm restricting my rantings to SuSE and RedHAt, seeing as this pleads to "Linux Companies"...

the complaint (4, Insightful)

Hitch (1361) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813646)

is that there are lots of apps out there that just don't work well without certain UI things installed. I don't have a MAJOR problem with this, but for a while there it was REALLY frustrating to find an app the was KDE only and required the installation of all the KDE libraries and Qt widgets etc. just for a little POS progream. Understand, this was back when I had a 1GB hard drive, and installing all this junk was taking up a lot of room for me - but even now, it just feels like a lot of bloat. Don't get me wrong - I'm not any bigger a fan of Gnome. I don't use either. I do, however, like GTK. as such, I'm far more likely to install the gnome stuff than the KDE stuff. what would be NICE is if gnome and kde were more like "skins" - write a program, include the hooks - and depending on whether someone is using gnome or kde, it comes up as gnome or kde. I know this isn't how these things are written, and this'll never happen, but it'd be nice.

Re:the complaint (1)

Hitch (1361) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813670)

ah - and to explain why this is relevant - newb users are going to be really confused (I've seen it) when they go "but why do I have to install this whole set of gnome stuff to run [program]?".

XPDE (3, Informative)

cjcormack (689855) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813651)

The Xp.org Desktop Environment is a great idea for people switching from Windows, it's not an exact clone, but will give users a more "friendly" interface (friendly to someone used to windows! not - i've dug myself a hole here... help!!)

Re:XPDE (1)

cjcormack (689855) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813688)

I meant xpde.org :$

Link. (2, Informative)

Omicron32 (646469) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813775)

Michael, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6813652)

If you would look on DSLReports.com, you would see that Speakeasy IS the best consumer broadband ISP period. If you are having problems maybe you made a mistake. You may not have sent in a support ticket either. With Speakeasy, the help is there, you just didn't go for it.

If you don't think they are good enough then I suggest you look at options such as dedicated T1 or fractional T3 since you won't find anything more satisfying. And yes, because Michael mentioned his DSL problem as part of each of his 3 posts, this is on topic.

Differences? (1)

valkraider (611225) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813655)

Is there any good site with detailed comparison's of them that the average joe user could find?

I recently tried to install Mandrake 9.1 on an old IBM thinkpad Pentium II (My main machines are OSX), and had to choose between Gnome and KDE and IceWM, and had no idea which would be better. I chose Gnome, and the first startup after install the machine sat there at the "Gnome" splash screen cranking the disk for almost 3 FULL DAYS! (72 Hours for the math impaired!). I shut it down and tried again, it cranked for about 3 hours and I shut it down. It has been sitting there cold for a week and a half now - without my having the time to figure out what is going on...

What's my point? The basic home Windows user would just give up at this point. ;)

New users less important than freedom (0)

stormcoder (564750) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813659)

Compromising our values and reducing the freedom of existing users is not worth getting a bunch of non-contributing, ignorant users. If they would like to join the community, that's great but sacrificing the values that are the foundation of free software is not acceptable.

blalablabla (1)

Jondor (55589) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813660)

Choice is bad. Monoculture is good. To beat windows you have to become like windows etc. etc. yada yada yada.. Nothing new here.

And the companies, what should they do with so much choice?! Well, very simple and what every company probably already does. Make a choice. And call it the standard for the whole company. Can't make a choice? Flip a coin. The options on the company desktop are KDE and Gnome. It doesn't realy matter all THAT much.

While I agree there is space for distro's with LESS choice, this is not the way to improve open source. Competition is good and will result in choice. Survival of the fittest etc. And a company which cannot deal with a changing environment will go the way of the dinosaur..

My struggle with Linux (5, Interesting)

BMonger (68213) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813663)

I've installed various distros of Linux (Redhat, Pogo?, and one other (maybe Slackware?)) and maybe it was just my total lack of patience but it seemed like I could get something to work on one distro and not on another. Graphics card would/wouldn't work, ethernet would/wouldn't work, sound would/wouldn't work. I actually started keeping a notebook around to write down the methods I got things to work. Sometimes it'd work again and sometimes it wouldn't.

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

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

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

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

I don't that is the purpose of linux (1)

shawn(at)fsu (447153) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813666)

I do not think that the reason allot of people use Linux is because it is like windows. I do not want a compromise my desktop choices I like KDE, I do not want KDE becoming more like Gnome or Gnome becoming more like KDE. All the desktop managers have pluses and minuses, which is why people chose one over the other.
I also think that going to a one desktop fits all is the wrong approach to compete against Windows is the wrong idea. The beauty of Linux is the beauty of choice, that is it's advantage for the "fight" with Windows; some people use windows and like it, good for them. Some people use windows and say "I wish I had an choice on how my desktop worked, more than just applying a theme" and then they take a serious look at Linux.
I think the Linux community has got to get over this attack Microsoft attitude and just make a product that appeals to those people who are not satisfied with the options that windows provides.

Wassat? (5, Insightful)

fluxrad (125130) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813671)

So the argument goes something like this:

"In order to beat Windows, which all Linux users think sucks, they should try to make it more like Windows."

Yeah. That plan's not doomed to failure.

What about Windows ? (2, Interesting)

subStance (618153) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813673)

Has this guy even talked to the average Windows user ? The most common question I get is "Which Windows version should I use ? NT ? XP ? ME ?".

The average windows user doesn't even know which *windows* desktop they should use, so it's a bit of a stretch to ask Linux distro vendors to solve a problem that Microsoft hasn't been able to solve - if it's even really a problem at all.

This guy writes a lot but says nothing (1)

mr.capaneus (582891) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813674)

Articles like this are a dime-a-dozen these days. I am getting tired of reading about what some dude thinks "linux advocates" should be doing. That really misses the whole point of Open Source. Anyone can do whatever they want with the software and there is no single guiding force that is trying to compete with Microsoft. The Open Source community is just that, a community, not a company that is trying to grab marketshare. Open Source programmers will continue to create what they find to be useful tools. If this talking head wants a standard desktop for Linux, he should put one together and make it so good that nobody wants to use anything else. Otherwise he should just shut up because nobody really cares about what he thinks "linux advocates" should be doing with their time.

Why???? (1)

brent_linux (460882) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813684)

What does everyone think that we have to take Linux to the mass market?

Doesn't it seem that the mass market is coming to us? I mean the number of Linux users grows on a daily basis. The number of people that aren't just "using" their computers, but learning to understand them and operate them correctly is growing. More and more people are leaving MS because of MS than they are because they are looking for something else. Once they do then they find a new system that they like better. Making Linux more like Windows isn't going to attract more people. Making Linux better than Windows is going to make more people stay. IMO a single standard desktop interface is NOT better than Windows, the choice to use what you want and what you like IS.

Experienced user choice (1)

madsen (17668) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813701)

After having used Linux since 1993 I feel like I'm not competent to really make the choice or rather have the time to make a choice so I just stick with what I'm using. But what matters to me is that the choice is there for me to make if I feel like it, not havin to be stuck with something that really doesn't suit me.

There is an actual issue to consider here... (1)

Ceyan (668082) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813705)

I see most people saying that the author doesn't know what he's talking about, how Windows changes the interface every edition, and that Linux is all the better for allowing someone to pick.

That's all wrong. Windows does change it's interface but it still leaves people with NO CHOICE in the matter as to which to use (although you can change it after Windows is installed through themes or 3rd Party Programs). That makes a huge difference to not give someone a choice, than it is to say "This is the default option, but you can also select this desktop." Whether you like it or not there is a serious issue when it comes to offering someone a choice in Linux when they're used to Windows forcing them to use something. It's basic psychology.

Imagine. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6813706)

Imagine there's no Windows,
It's Easy if You Try.
No Screen of Death,
The Color of The Sky (Blue, get it?)

Imagine there's no XP,
it isn't Hard to do.
Nothing to Crash or Reboot for,
And no LuvSans too.

John Lenn(ux)

Choice? (1)

stephenry (648792) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813711)

This isn't about choice, it's about money. Linux on the desktop will never take off before their is some serious investment behind it. Furthermore, nobody will ever switch to Linux unless it's in their interest to do so. What Linux really needs is the development of native high-applications of which there are no suitable OSS alternatives, at a cost comparable or lower than their Windows counterparts.

The one way will take place is through a sufficient, standardised, framework through which applications can be developed. I'm not talking about GTK or QT, but the whole environment surrounding it; and more importantly, one that's not constantly in flux for long periods of time. Once that happens, then a trickle of applications will start to appear.

It's important to notice that for Linux to succeed Windows on the desktop, it doesn't need to displace it entirely. The moment Desktop Linux becomes an option to the consumer, is the moment Microsoft has lost it's grip on it's monopoly.

Choice == Good Thing (1)

muirhead (698086) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813713)

In particular he argues that the choice of desktop between KDE, Gnome, IceWM etc, is not one that a former windows user, even a fairly technically competent one, is going to able to make an informed choice on..
KDE and Gnome both behave enough like each other and windows for a novice user. More experienced users have even more choice.

Choice is always a good thing, even if you choose stick with the default set-up.

OUCH!!! That hurt! (1)

Wvyern (701666) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813714)

It has been medically proven that to think, actually causes a reaction in the brain that is similar to what happens when pain is perceived. Making choices implies the need for thought to make a decision. People tend to avoid pain. There is absolutely nothing wrong with providing the ability to make a choice, for the masochistic)i.e. technically savvy), however a standardized, GUI for complete idiots is going to have to be the default if competition with MS products is the real goal. Any readers who have worked in ID10T support positions will likely concur.

why do we care? (4, Insightful)

bokmann (323771) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813726)

While I'm all for standards, yes, it is a fact that the goals of the Open Source movement are not the same as the average end user. IF they WERE the same, then I doubt the open source movement ever would have started in the first place.

Why is this a bad thing? Can't we have different goals? While I'd like a little more acceptance, I'm fine with the fact that I will probably always be in a minority of operating system users. I'm also in a minority by having an above-average intelligence.

This is not a zero-sum game... I don't care if Windows or Linux has the larger market share... I just care if I can get my job sone with a minimal amount of hassle.

Best quote... (4, Insightful)

blixel (158224) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813727)

From the article:

"The average user doesn't know--or care--about the underlying operating system, the idea of GUI interfaces, the various types of file systems, or about any other "technical" aspect of using a computer."

I think this is the best point of the article and the point most often overlooked by technically savvy people. Pick your analogy, driving a car, building a home, operating a microwave or television, etc... The general public cares as little about computers as "we" do about how our cars operate. We just want to get in them and drive.

It seems sort of evident. (1)

Progman3K (515744) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813732)

It seems sort of evident, now that it is pointed out, that OF COURSE Joe User can't and won't be able to choose something as abstract as a window-manager.

But that's OK; there are projects out there that are trying to develop "simple-user" distros, and others that are for really specifically-targeted technical needs and whatnot.

THAT'S the REAL reason to go with Linux: FREEDOM.

And surely even Joe User can appreciate that on some level.

With Microsoft, ou DON'T get the freedom in any case. Some people in Redmond decide for you.

Surely we can give some equivalent Linux-development group the same role, and they can shepherd the ordinary users like Microsoft can, except that whatever they develop will be open...

It makes you wonder how much of an opportunity this could be for Linux.

I agree... (1)

Wdomburg (141264) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813733)

Let's all standardize on Gnome and Metacity. Oh, you mean some people prefer KDE? Or IceWM? Oh well, nice thought...

I really wish people would get it through their f*@!ing heads that no matter how eloquently you argue that a single implementation would be a good thing, it simply won't happen until everybody agrees on what the best one is, which will never ever happen. Ever. Period.

Even if one of the two primary desktops for *nix (i.e. Gnome and KDE) ever becomes prominant over the other, it's not going to stop people from programming in marginal toolkits (e.g. FLTK) if that's what suits them. And prominance isn't going to come from someone saying "oh, we should really standardize"; it's going to come from inertia, as one becomes definitively more popular (either among users or developers).

But, hey, don't let that stop people from making themselves feel smart by pointing out the obvious.

They don't care... (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813738)

They don't care that they can't see or change the source code to their current programs. They don't care that they don't actually own the software, as long as they only have to pay for it once. They don't care that most of their software comes from a single source. In short, they don't care about the fundamental issues behind open source software at all. But they do care about price, quality, availability, security, simplicity, and interoperability. Supply these, and open source will be the software choice.

Truer words were never spoken.

Blue Curve (3, Informative)

nege (263655) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813740)

This is up to the distro owner, in my opinion. There is no standard "Linux" install, you run a distro. And the most popular is probably Redhat, and they DO have a standard look and feel, called blue curve. I think they have done an excellent job with it for the end user, and even though I do not care for it personally, I still have a choice to go download and configure a different WM. Redhat will continue to improve on their standard look and feel, and I always look forward to newer editions to see what they have made better.

Arguments (4, Insightful)

GiMP (10923) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813744)

1. Linux is not an operating system like MS Windows, it is ONLY a part of the operating system.
2. A product most similiar to MS Windows is a Linux distribution, which IS a full operating system.
3. Users chose their Linux distribution (OS), the Linux distribution (OS) choses their desktop environment.

Ultimately, the user is given a choice of many different operating systems based on linux providing application compatability.

Just because it is different than MS Windows doesn't mean it doesn't work, doesn't make sense, or can't succeed.

Clueless... (1)

Baloo Ursidae (29355) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813750)

Doesn't every major distro ship with KDE as the default now? Given that there's not really any reason for the world to standardize on one desktop environment, wouldn't it be reasonable to say that at least for the forseeable future, KDE is going to be the default WM/DE?

I'm a Linux user and I wouldn't mind (1)

xutopia (469129) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813751)

if Red Hat just stuck with KDE or GNOME and dropped the choices they give. I find it counter-productive to have so many GUIs.

How about us, the current users? (1)

MoobY (207480) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813753)

I'm always pretty irritated by people telling what desktops and the such should look like, based on their experience in windows. Especially those who want to throw away all current looks make me pretty angry. I'm using a mix of programs, with the most differing interfaces and I don't care as I'm familiar with the programs, have put energy into the programs and learned them. I use KDE with full screen terminals, mozilla, evolution, gnuplot, xfig, kprinter, acroread, all with their differing looks, and I cannot think of an alternative universal look that would make the applications any better, as they are currently in their best form possible. At least that is what I think. My desktop may look like an ugly mess of different looks, but this lays at the same basis that makes my working environment powerful (read: competition is good). So don't tell me it needs to change. It's just perfect like this.

Maybe you could start working on a universal look and themeing and the such, but don't let it be a reason for killing off all older code and programs, as they are pretty good. Or what did you think all of us millions of UNIX users liked about UNIX? It's definitely not the looks we're interested in. (Is it obvious that I don't care about making everybody use UNIX, and using that a reason for getting UNIX ready for the desktop?)

As The Architect would say: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6813754)

"...the problem, as you have so adequately pointed out, is choice." Some want it, some don't care. The ones that don't care want the default choice to work instead of crash.

With that in mind, the default GUI for Linux is now fvwm2. You're welcome. Back to work everybody.

Benefits of Usability Testing (2, Interesting)

Ducati_749S (646019) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813758)

One of the things that does help set a good GUI apart from an OK one is extensive, focused usability testing.
While the underpinnings of KDE and Gnome continue to advance, I doubt a great deal is being spent along the lines of usability for the GUI. Whatever your feelings may be towards M$, one thing that can't be argued is the amount of research & testing they put into the design of their UI.
Maybe the next logical step for one of these platforms would be to have a build that focuses on UI design for the non-technical users that makeup the majority of the Windows clientel. Until that happens, I fear these products will fall into the realm of "techie stuff", as my father puts it, for the less sophisticated users.

Nobody here is attacking M$. Or wants to. (1)

Qbertino (265505) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813767)

What's all this war-talk? I have no interest in Linux 'winning' over Windows as fast as possible. What ever that may mean anyway. As far as I'm concerned Linux won the moment I saw Enlightenment Screenshots (I dig eyecandy, y'know? :-) )
Get into your head: M$ isn't an issue with Linux. Hasn't been, and never will be.
If everyone in the Linux community keeps that in mind Linux will be a standard faster than most people expect. I've used both OSes and I consider the Linux Desktop far more usable that Windows. And even though I was a Windows fan some time ago.
Calling the Windows desktop usable compared to current Gnome, KDE, a well-configured FluxBox or MacOS X Aqua is just plain silly.
Just like calling Outlook more usable than KMail or Explorer more usable than Mozilla Firebird. This comparsion is all just unfinished thinking.
The next will hear is that M$ Office is more standards compliant than OpenOffice. And OpenOffice therefor needs to merge with AbiWord to achieve victory.

You're saying that people are 'used to' Windows and not to a configureable system. But that's something entirely different.

this site's gui (1)

urmensch (314385) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813772)

Kind of ironic that this site, "DevX.com - the know how behind development", looks completely broken in firebird. So much for its GUI.

As long as freedesktop.org works out well it shouldn't matter which toolkit you use. This is where themes can come into play in a big way.

Plus, a lot of windows apps i've used don't use MS toolkits but they still manage to integrate into the GUI (Desktop Environment).

This may be redundant... (1)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813773)

But, its not the interface. Trust me, I am in the process of converting my boss over to linux for most of his work and getting Linux in place for a majority of our employees. Except for our graphics people that use Macs.

The reason why Linux has not made much in the way of maintream adoption in the home markets is the fact that there are hardly any major name-brand applications out there like Quicken, TurboTax, and others than many home users use. Hell, if Quickbooks Pro ran on Linux, we proably would only keep a windows box around to test website designs on in MSIE. There maybe OSS alternatives, but the average joe doesn't care and will go spend the $50 at Best Buy in order to get an easy to use product with tech support. Games are the same way. Some companies have made ports to linux, but the selection of popular games for linux is fewer than it is for Mac. And kids use computers more than adults and they use it to play games.

Now here comes the chicken or the egg paradox. Until more people use Linux, companies will not spend the money to port their popular software and Linux will not see an increase in home use until more name-brand applications are ported.

I know because at my last job, we switched to running Maya on Linux rather than Windows and the graphic artists at the company loved it since performance was a little better (only by about 2% on long renders) and it hardly ever crashed. So far I have all our servers switched to FreeBSD and trying to get Linux on white boxes at my new job. The news.com article about Ernie Ball was the kicker that conveniced my boss to give Linux a chance.

So long as the interface is GUI point and click and pretty straight forward, people won't care. Get major applications and games ported to Linux and Linux will sell to the masses.

Tell us something we don't know (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 11 years ago | (#6813777)

Now, tell us why exactly we want more "home users" of the type that want a system that has one button to do everything, and to have it pre-pressed before it leaves the factory? Leverage to get more vendor supplied hardware support, sure, but then we're just going to end up with "linux" systems choked with binary only modules. That's not a system that I'm interested in contributing to.

But I think it's a moot point. Look five years down the line. We'll have actual general purpose PCs running KDE/GNOME/X/GNU/Lunix, we'll have Macs, we'll have Son of XP Pro on corporate machines, and for home users, we'll have Grandson of XBox, the Palladium (or whatever they call it today) crippled Disney controlled locked down, DMCA protected media box running rented apps and rented media.

Microsoft can have the "home user" market, as far as I'm concerned, and welcome to it.

Recent case study of linux usability. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6813778)

A few days ago (25th) I bought a new scanner. Its a basic scanner (CanoScan lide 20) and I tried to do some scanning on both windows and linux.

With windows, plug into USB port, inserted the TWAIN driver disc. It installed a load of extra crap such as this crappy image manager (although it was easy to change to irfanview, and had to be rebooted. Windows tended to crash when I scanned at high resoloution (over 150DPI).

With linux (mandrake version), plug into USB port, run ScannerDrake (mandrakes scanner setup utility), and a Scanner icon appeared on the desktop. Clicking the icon brought up a twain like interface known as XSANE, it was all point and click. I was able to scan at 400 DPI without crashing.

So all the FUD I heard about getting a scanner to work by editing text files, recompiling kernels, modprobing (whatever that is) were non existant. Maybe in Sadistic distros like debian and gentoo, but not Mandrake.
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