19/08/2009

How to Conquer the Desktop

What does Sturmbahnfahrer mean? And who would have guessed the meaning of Stormbaan Coureur? They are different names for the same software: "a simulated obstacle course for automobiles".

Now grab someone off the street and ask them what Linux means. No? A "command-line" operating system is all you'll get from a lot of people. Most people who have used Linux before the year 2000 have had some sort of problem, due to usability, and it has put them off.

Now, ask them what Windows means. Sure, it's an English word and English is fast becoming the language of choice. It has two meanings: "A piece of glass" or "What my computer always says first". People don't know anything about operating systems. What your computer has is what it will have forever, is most people's opinion.

To change systems then is a frightening step to many and many won't be clever enough to understand the concept that something will "exist outside of Windows".

Wubi meanwhile (a program to install Ubuntu "inside" Windows) will just confuse people even more. If they understand Ubuntu is another program, they won't get why they can't just use their own programs.

People don't care about how free or open their system is. They'll buy Windows 7 because they'll probably hate Vista or be forced into it. We had a little legroom while Vista was out since Windows users started looking around for something different.

The thing is, people fear change. They won't move away from what they're used to even if it is fundamentally broken or flawed or just keeps crashing. The only way to wrench people away is to add more small Linux-based devices to the market.
Netbooks are doing pretty well in this area. Due to people not recognising it as a computer (or a laptop) people will be more open to what is on it. The same happened with the iPhone. The software is different, yes, but the hardware is also different, so people feel that they can accept it.

To change people with an open mind (a lot of users are switching already) we need to follow these steps:


0. STANDARDISE!! This is the most confusing aspect. Have ONE standard distro, call it something cool and DON'T mention Linux. Have ONE standard Desktop Environment. Everyone knows how to use it, it's all the same.

1. Have ONE Package manager. That means ONE way of installing. It won't break if more people work on it. Have packages downloadable in a format inclusive of all the libraries. Also have an add and remove panel. Repositories are cool. They have made our software secure. Let's have ONE repository containing only GUI end user applications, named after their use (Image Editor not GIMP) and have essential packages built into the system. No library packages, no dependencies, Just download Image Editor and it works. Perhaps like Acorn or Mac OS, in which you drag and drop the program to your desktop and it works. If duplicate libraries from packages exist, keep the newer. If packages break, the library has dropped support for something, so don't drop it! If a console app exists now, make a standard frontend for configuring it. E.g. Web server package (inAdvanced section) installs Apache AND a STANDARD frontend, All its libraries are there in the package. One package file to install for Web server. One to install
for File Server. And so on.

2. Standard packages. Have ONE text editor. If it lacks features from others, add them. Have a beginner and advanced mode. Etc. Call them "Text Editor" not "nano" or "kate" or "gedit". What the hell are those?

3. Advertising. Advertise like you've never advertise before! PRODUCT! And why you should buy it! It's cool! Let's all get on this.

4. STABLE! If things can break, fix them BEFORE releasing. Ubuntu releases broken products (look at 8.10). Debian delays but releases when finished.

5. HARDWARE! My brother's iPod Nano doesn't work in Linux straight away. This is one thing that will leave people ditching Linux. My 3D games I downloaded don't work. I don't want to have to bother with nVidia drivers. My camera doesn't get picked up. I can't sync to my MTP media player out of the box. Etc.

6. No Command Line. No one should EVER have to type anything into a console. It's simple user-friendliness.

Let's all work on this and soon we'll have a user friendly system, easy to use, ready for the enterprise.

There is an ongoing project to conquer this challenge. Its codename is Xenon and it tries to do all this in the browser. It can be used on all devices and will be installed on small devices. To catch up with development or contribute, please visit:
http://xenon.kevinghadyani.com

4 comments:

P. Static said...

Congratulations, you just invented OS X. :)

On a more serious note, I really believe that the kind of standardization you're talking about is fundamentally incompatible with what Linux is. It would require some kind of centralized control, like OS X has Apple, and Windows has Microsoft. One of the core philosophies of Linux has always been letting a bunch of coders do their own thing, and watching what happens.

Sure, you /could/ create an operating system based on Linux, all standardized and uniform and user-friendly and easy to understand, but do the rest of us a favor: don't confuse people by calling it Linux.

dandart said...

@P. Static
Ooh, noo.. Linux is the LAST thing I'd call it. I want to move away from that. It confuses and irritates people.

Haha, OSX. Well.. I guess, but less DRM encumbered and prettier. And portable. And way more different reasons.

Luka Stojanovic said...

No, You haven't invented OSX, You've invented Android. Problem with your approach is Emax vs Vim problem. Not everyone will agree what should be the "one" program, nor should they. Diversity is what makes progress happened. Of course, not everyone likes to cope with it, so there is always room for making it simpler for those people.

dandart said...

@Luka I'm redoing all the programs in my web desktop to be easier and have the best advanced mode features, that is, the best bits from each. And not have emacs or vi or any existing program.