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Re: When Will GNU/Linux Be Ready for Joe User?

From: Circuit Breaker
Subject: Re: When Will GNU/Linux Be Ready for Joe User?
Date: Tue, 18 May 2004 23:33:24 -0400
User-agent: Pan/0.11.2 (Unix)

On Tue, 18 May 2004 21:43:49 -0400, Simon wrote:

> I'm doing a survey.
> When do you think GNU/Linux will be ready for the average Joe?  What
> obstacles must it overcome first?

It already is ready.  The average joe just needs to learn how to think
instead of expecting to have someone hold his hand the whole way through.

One of the things I hated about the "other operating system" was that by
default it was set up with this "let me help you through this difficult
procedure" mindset.  Every damned thing I tried to do out of the box had
some frickin' wizard associated with it.  While this is great for a
5-year-old's first toy computer, this isn't something that an intelligent
person needs to have.

Some things it's good to have wizards for.  For instance, setting up
e-mail or a network connection.  What would be better would be INTUITIVE
configuration windows.  My God, what is so hard to understand about "mail
server login name" that you have to explain to these idiots that "this is
the part to the left of the at (@) sign"?  Maybe it's that I grew up
dealing with computers and specifically BBSes.  Maybe it's that when we
got our first AOL account I noticed that my login and my e-mail address
"on the left part of the at (2) sign" were the same.  I guess expecting
normal people to recognize something so frickin' blatant is asking too
much.  These are things we don't need wizards for.  These are things we
should simply teach people about so they don't NEED the frickin' wizards.
 For me, I actually am more disturbed to use a wizard than to use the
configuration window.  Think about it:  when you're doing your job, or
getting a loan, or signing up for some service or whatever, do you want
someone sitting there explaining things to you, and telling you to "sign
here, here, and here" when you already know what they're telling you and
you already know that your signature goes on the lines marked "signature"?

So, if the "average joe" wants wizards for every damned thing, well,
there are Linux distributions that would suffice.  Mandrake is a good
example.  However, there are many things in Linux that there simply are
no wizards for.  The "average joe" has to be able to learn and think for
himself before he can truly make the most of using Linux, or, even to
make the transition from the "other OS" worth it.  But, he doesn't /have/
to.  Anything the /AVERAGE/ user wants to do, can be done.  Mind you,
some things are not fully 100% cross-compatible, like converting between
proprietary MS file formats and open formats like StarOffice uses, but
the average joe won't need to share word processor files with other
people.  At least, I never did.  I only had one or two professors at
college who wanted homework turned in via e-mail, and they were just as
happy with plain text as with full blown Powerpoint presentations.  In
fact, my last Humanities professor preferred plain text.  

It all comes down to what the average user wants to do.

OTOH, I have always been a tinkerer and that gets me in trouble
sometimes.  Yet, I learn.  It makes me think.  I get stuck, and then I
have a problem I want to solve, and I think until I solve it.  That's one
reason I ditched Mandrake.  It got boring.  It wasn't screwing up.  I ran
out of things to try, short of getting a high-speed internet connection
so I could download tons of stuff.  I also got tired of having the
feeling that I wasn't putting my computer to full use.  I wanted to
expand.  My brain needed some lebensraum, something new to try.

So a few days ago I took the dive and reformatted / repartitioned my
drive to run Debian.  Didn't have to wipe it like I did, but I wanted to
so I could reorganize after having gotten rid of that other OS so many
months ago.  It was an exercise in thought as well as irritation, I'll
admit.  Installing Linux can be hard if you make it hard like I do.  I
demand to install individual packages so I know what's there and I know
that only what I [think I] want or need is there.  By the same token, the
average user will probably see Mandrake's installer screen, see
"Graphical Desktop", "Network Server", and maybe "Game Station" and click
those options and think "gee, this is swell" as it installs the most
commonly used X Windows applications and windowmanagers like KDE, Gnome,
and maybe Fluxbox or WindowMaker along with some form of Apache web
server and some games like Tuxracer and some card games.  All behind the
scenes, all unbeknownst to the average joe who is installing it.

The average joe doesn't even have to know what a hard disk is, to install
Mandrake.  Debian requires a little more of a brain, though.

So, as I consider how long I've been typing this reply, and how
incoherent it might seem (as I've gone through and added to it as new
thoughts came to me, and I've certainly forgotten to add key points I
wanted to make (I'm tired, leave me alone) ), I can sum it all up with a
few key points.  Whether or not Linux is ready for the average joe
depends upon:

     * What you call average.
     * What he wants to do with his computer.  Specifically.  
        (i.e., activities)
     * What he needs to get from his computer to "use" it.
        (i.e., how it helps him; what benefits he receives)
     * What distribution we are talking about.
        (or, are we going to use whatever works best for A.J.?)
     * If something happens to not be perfect, 
        * Will he try to fix it himself?
        * Will he want a wizard to do it for him?
     * Whether or not he is willing to accept Google as a reference tool
     * Ditto Usenet
     * Ditto mailing lists / list archives
     * What kind of software installation he can live with
        (most of the popular distros use some form of installer tool.
         Debian has apt-get / dpkg, Red Hat & Mandrake have RPM, etc.
         Some software simply has no package form as they're not 
         popular enough to warrant the work that would go into it,
         so can our buddy A.J. learn to "./configure, make, make

IMHO, Linux is ready.  It was ready a few years ago when I first picked
up a copy of Mandrake 8.1 from the local Wal-Mart.  Best purchase I ever
made, next to my Dodge Daytona.  Some hardware has limited support, so
you do have to be careful.  This is the price you pay when you're
competing against only the world's largest software conglomerate that
tries to set its own "standards".  Of course, he with the money has the
power to put his OS on computers sold by Dell, Compaq, and
Hewlitt-Packard, to name just a few, making it the most recognized name
in computer OSes, and therefore being the most likely OS for people to
get software for, and therefore the most likely OS for hardware
manufacturers to write drivers for.  Plus, unlike ATI and nVidia and
Matrox, many hardware manufacturers think that by writing drivers for
their hardware, they have to give away all their money making secrets and
codes.  Of course, they *DON'T* have to, as nVidia has shown.  A quality
product will still earn money regardless, so maybe the other
manufacturers are just scared that they can't live up to quality enough
to make money without MS.  I don't know, I don't care.

I use Windows for one thing at home.  Need for Speed 4:  High Stakes,
Need for Speed 5:  Porsche Unleased, Descent3:  Mercenary, Delta Force,
and Viper Racing.

The one bad thing about linux is the game support.  Most of the working
games I have played on linux look like the old DOS games that I ran on my
486-DX4/133 back in 1996.  The others were simply too damned slow with
that OpenGL or Mesa, which were slow in windows, too (but not as slow).
DirectX in Windows seems fast enough, why doesn't Linux have something
along those lines?  Or does it, that's not being implemented by coders?
I see so many games that look like they have kick-ass graphics, but they
require this GL crap that doesn't run worth a flying squirrel's tail on
my system.  I was able to play Descent3 on this AMD K6-2/300 in Windows
running DirectX, but not very well on my Pentium-III 700 in Windows
running OpenGL.  I have yet to find a game remotely as elaborate as
Descent3 that I can play in Linux.  Tuxracer is the closest.  XRacer, the
Wipeout lookalike, is completely unplayable even on my P-III laptop.

Now, I've noticed Debian has ***MUCH*** better use of memory than
Mandrake did.  Mandrake regularly ran me half out of RAM and swap,
whereas I have /yet/ to see Debian hit one quarter usage on either.
Maybe it will run my games better.

I've installed a few.  I'll try them out.

Aside from games, though, Linux has done everything I ask of it and then
some.  It is certainly ready.  I use it for NAT/Masquerade, firewalling,
office productivity, web browsing, Usenet, e-mail, watching TV on my
ATI A-I-W Pro, listening to MP3s, blah blah blah it does it all.  I've
got my instant messaging, which I can get apps for everything from Unix
Talk to AIM to ICQ to Yahoo! to MSN to Jabber to even VoIP applications
like GnomeMeeting -- the Netmeeting compatible program, along with
several others whose names I do not recall (hit google, I'm tired).
There are applications for turning your computer into a PBX switchboard,
a voicemail machine, and even an automated menu-based phone program
thingy.  I forget what they called it.  Can even do fax on demand, IIRC.
As I was installing packages today, I ran across what must have been two
or three DOZEN ham radio related applications, applications for tracking
projects, applications for 

damn, just about everything INCLUDING games (if only I could figure out
how to get DOOM or QUAKE to use the WAD files I got...)  (some other

Is Linux ready for A.J.?  You tell me.  I've been typin for an hour and
it's bedtime.



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