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Un-met Expectations and End-User Experience with Linux

Posted 11-03-2010 at 07:03 PM by SaintDanBert

I believe that most frustration and disappointment with computer anything stems from un-met expectations. Let me offer a trivial example from the real world.

All of us have put some food product into a micro-wave oven -- bag popcorn springs to mind. We punch the usual buttons, listen for the popping to start then stop, eager to enjoy the snack. Most of us have experienced that burned bag situation when either the popcorn product or the micro-wave oven or both conspire to yield results that have much higher carbon content than we prefer.

Those of us that have above average knowledge of our workstation hardware will have certain expectations for how any distribution ought to work. When that is not the case, we are disappointed and that leads to frustration.
Our beloved developers have added numerous features that will try to do something reasonable with whatever hardware gets found during an install. A recent experience led me to think that this "... feel the hardware and do something ..." approach is missing one useful set of information.
Our installers (and package managers) are not aware of any aspect of what we, the end-user, expects to happen.

Time for another example. My laptop has a built-in SD media card reader. As I understand things, the os-level device does not really exist until I eventually insert SD media. Once the installer runs, the end-user [me] has no idea whether the software actually saw this hardware and would do the dynamic device dance. If, prior to running the installer, the end-user were to name all of the parts they plan to use, the installer could simply report whether these things were seen or not. In the case of the SD reader, the installer could prompt for sample media, then confirm that it saw the device.

I've described this approach in terms of the installer, but the end-user might be better served if this technique were deployed as a separate utility available from the live-media. An end-user wanting to try-out a new distro could run the expectations utility and get some idea about what is likely to work and what might present troubles.
Such a report would likely set the stage of end-user expectations in ways that would benefit most folks. Of course, no one will enjoy seeing a lengthy list of problems and potential conflicts with their favorite workstation and the latest distro edition. At least it will save hours of unscheduled effort when we expect that "... the install will be quick and easy ..."

--Saint DanBert
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