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Old 09-01-2006, 06:25 AM   #1
nutthick
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The Problem With Linux Desktops


I've been using Linux for a year now. Recently wiped my laptop and have taken the opportunity to dual boot XP with Slackware. The more I've been using Linux, the more I'm growing to love it, but I thought I'd share a few of my problems and expectations with you, as someone new to the desktop, in the hope that it might spark some discussion and improve Linux in the future. I'm going to be showing my naivety here, but I'm not claiming to be a Linux guru or anything near it. I just want to share with you my thoughts on coming to a Linux GUI as a newbie. Sorry if I'm covering old ground, but I feel like a rant.

This isn't a KDE bashing exercise, I think what they're doing is great, but they just happen to be the desktop I'm using.

First off, I'm using Slackware 10.2 on a Sony laptop (PCG-GR214MP if you're interested) and have decided on KDE as my desktop of choice, purely as it seemed to be the most popular. I'm dual booting with XP.

The first problem I came across, which even I found overwhelming, was the sheer number of applications included with KDE, even more once I'd upgraded to 3.5.4. If I want to check my email, I don't want to have to graft through 5 different packages to find out which one is best for me. As a new user I wouldn't care, I'd like the distributor to make some decision for me and give me what they think is the most appropriate at the time. Having to put in brackets what the application is, after the title, only highlights the problem. KMail, Mozilla Mail, Thunderbird, it's just too cluttered. I realise that this doesn't promote open source and give everyone a chance at choosing what package they want, but if the installation problem was addressed, then this wouldn't be an issue (more on that later). A new user needs a simple desktop, allowing them to email, surf, write a letter etc. From what I can see, my current KDE must have over 100 various software packages installed. Apple recently ran an ad campaign highlighting a problem with Windows is having to remove all the unwanted software from the machine, when you get it out of the box. Windows have it good!

Installation is my next issue. I realise that all distros are slightly different, but the installation procedure in Linux is in a dire state. Some companies have addressed this with their own formats, but you don't want your user to have to sift through a multitude of Linux downloads to find the correct one. Even giving a Linux box to some techy friends, with no Linux experience, and asking them to install a piece of software would cause them some problems. Compiling your own source, on the command line, isn't user friendly, and downloading dependency upon dependency isn't an attractive prospect. From my experience over the last few days, every piece of software I've downloaded has needed a different method to get it installed. If we could come up with some more generic way of packaging up software, even the source, then the distros could write their own wrappers to interface to it. This would allow the users to just click to install, and allow the distros to maintain their individuality. If my naivety is showing here, then I'm sorry, but I still haven't come across how to install software easily.

Hardware installation is one we all know about. When I build a new Linux box, I go to great efforts to make sure my hardware will be picked up by the installation. As for trying to install my wireless card and printers, forget it. . Again, isn't there some standard that can be adopted, to bring some uniformity to the process, so I can download and install a driver easily?

Diversity seems to be Linux's greatest strength and weakness. There are some great features out there that we can be proud to have and the ability to decide how you want your desktop to operate is fantastic. But the lack of coherence, particularly with backend tasks like installation, is stopping Linux progressing to becoming a main home PC player.

Despite all my negativity, I'm writing this with Linux so something must be right, as I could have just hit Enter and booted into Windows. I am using KWord though, as I couldn't get Open Office to install....jeees!
 
Old 09-01-2006, 07:02 AM   #2
ethics
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I started analysing and responding to you point by point, i got halfway and suddenly wondered. Have you sat down and thought why should your wireless and printing be made 'easier' (what is 'easy' anyway? it's always defined by a users ability and common sense)? Why should Linux standardise across the distros? Why does it need to be the mainstream PC player?

I see a lot of people with this attitude and it puzzles me. Personally i like using it, i don't care whether 75% or 5% of the worlds user base uses it, it works for me. Some distros may be pushing for large scale desktop acceptance, some i don't believe are.

Your rant seems totally futile to me (especially since some of your gripes are incorrect, like package management ) You're saying that it doesn't do exactly what you want and how you want it to do it, and that why hasn't it been sorted yet?.

Me, i'll take the choices anyday
 
Old 09-01-2006, 07:19 AM   #3
nutthick
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Why does Linux have to be some little clique, the exclusive rights of those who have the time to sit down and work through the command line? The more people who start using linux, the quicker it will develop and mature. I like the concept of linux, but I don't want to have to spend an hour trying to get some small piece of hardware to work. I want to enjoy the UI, not have to leave it every 5 minutes to make some change. I understand that open source, takes time, and generally the quality is higher, but it seems that the desktops are trying to run before they can walk. Fundamental features are being ingored, that is preventing wider adoption. The more people switch to a linux system, the more mainstream development attention will be focused improving what we have.

If struggling to make things work floats your boat, then I guess developers should give up now.
 
Old 09-01-2006, 07:20 AM   #4
DotHQ
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I have never loaded Slackware, but I've heard plenty of good stuff about it. Maybe it is geared to a more experienced user.

On the other hand, I started with Red Hat, and have been happy with that. Maybe rpm is the package management facility your looking for. It could not be easier to install a piece of software (rpm -ivh anysoftware.rpm).

I've loaded gnome most of the time but have tried kde also. Linux, like Unix, is more command line driven. You can do everything and control options best from the command line. I love that feature. I could use either gui and what I do most in either is open terminal windows or a browser or two.
 
Old 09-01-2006, 07:34 AM   #5
Hangdog42
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You very obviously need to read this.
 
Old 09-01-2006, 08:22 AM   #6
oneandoneis2
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Try Ubuntu: It only comes with one application for each task, and its laptop support is about the best you're likely to find.

Plus Slackware is aimed at people who want to compile source code, which you apparently don't want to do. . .

When it comes to installing KDE, by the way, you mostly only want "kde-base" if you don't want a ton of extra apps to be installed.
 
Old 09-01-2006, 08:24 AM   #7
ethics
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nutthick
Why does Linux have to be some little clique, the exclusive rights of those who have the time to sit down and work through the command line? The more people who start using linux, the quicker it will develop and mature. I like the concept of linux, but I don't want to have to spend an hour trying to get some small piece of hardware to work. I want to enjoy the UI, not have to leave it every 5 minutes to make some change. I understand that open source, takes time, and generally the quality is higher, but it seems that the desktops are trying to run before they can walk. Fundamental features are being ingored, that is preventing wider adoption. The more people switch to a linux system, the more mainstream development attention will be focused improving what we have.

If struggling to make things work floats your boat, then I guess developers should give up now.
It doesn't have to be anything it can be what it, or it's user wants it to be, that's the point, it doesn't have to be one or the other, it can be all or neither.

You may not want to do things a certain way, others will, hence different distros catering to different demographics of people. You setting up a desktop machine with email clients, browsers and an X server have totally different needs to someone setting up a webserver with no X. The choice is the users.

Quote:
Fundamental features are being ingored
Which fundamental features? and who has decided they are such?
 
Old 09-01-2006, 10:05 AM   #8
timmeke
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Quote:
The choice is the users.
As is the choice of OS and Linux distro. Slack is traditionally more for "techies", to say it in your words.
Try something like Fedora, Suse or Ubuntu and you'll be a lot more happier with your Linux.

As with all the software, there are distros for everyone's taste. Just pick the right one, next time...
 
Old 09-01-2006, 10:41 AM   #9
Michael_S
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nutthick
The first problem I came across, which even I found overwhelming, was the sheer number of applications included with KDE, even more once I'd upgraded to 3.5.4. If I want to check my email, I don't want to have to graft through 5 different packages to find out which one is best for me. As a new user I wouldn't care, I'd like the distributor to make some decision for me and give me what they think is the most appropriate at the time. Having to put in brackets what the application is, after the title, only highlights the problem. KMail, Mozilla Mail, Thunderbird, it's just too cluttered. I realise that this doesn't promote open source and give everyone a chance at choosing what package they want, but if the installation problem was addressed, then this wouldn't be an issue (more on that later). A new user needs a simple desktop, allowing them to email, surf, write a letter etc. From what I can see, my current KDE must have over 100 various software packages installed. Apple recently ran an ad campaign highlighting a problem with Windows is having to remove all the unwanted software from the machine, when you get it out of the box. Windows have it good!
There are big differences between the 100s of apps pre-installed by some versions of Linux and those from Windows. Many Windows pre-installed programs require you to pay extra to run. Others run automatically, which slow your computer down. Some pop up registration wizards and prompt you to sign up for email newsletters.

The Linux apps are off until you try them. They don't cost anything to use. They don't ask you to buy more stuff or register for email. They don't run in the background, wasting energy and computing resources.

If you want a simpler set of items, try Ubuntu, Freespire, or another distribution aimed at quick setup for a less technical user. You can do anything in those that you can do in Slackware, Debian, or Linux from Scratch. The latter are just more geared towards the power user that likes to tinker with everything.

Quote:
Installation is my next issue. I realise that all distros are slightly different, but the installation procedure in Linux is in a dire state. Some companies have addressed this with their own formats, but you don't want your user to have to sift through a multitude of Linux downloads to find the correct one.
Debian, and the variants built on it. Once Debian's tool "apt" is set up, all you do is type "apt-get install foo" and it will download and install the program "foo" for you. "apt-get install ghc6" got me a haskell compiler to try. "apt-get install wesnoth" got me an awesome computer game to play. "apt-get install gnome" gave me the GNOME desktop to use. But I didn't like GNOME, so I did "apt-get remove gnome" and it was automatically uninstalled for me. KDE also includes a visual program called Adept, I think, which gives you a nice GUI for apt.

If there is a license or setting you have to pick during the install, apt will present you with the question during the setup. You don't need to look for anything. I've used seven or eight distributions, but once I was happy with apt I've never looked back. It is incredibly convenient - better than anything I've seen on Windows.

Other packaging formats have things like apt. Slackware has a software package tool called pkgtool, but it doesn't automatically download or install things. Linspire and Freespire use apt and also Linspire's pay download service, called Click 'N Run (CNR).

Quote:
Hardware installation is one we all know about. When I build a new Linux box, I go to great efforts to make sure my hardware will be picked up by the installation. As for trying to install my wireless card and printers, forget it. . Again, isn't there some standard that can be adopted, to bring some uniformity to the process, so I can download and install a driver easily?
Hardware support is tough because companies make big profits selling parts to hundreds of millions of Microsoft Windows users and tiny profits selling parts to hundreds of thousands of Linux users. As the number of Linux users grows, vendors will make better drivers available for Linux, and more open source programmers will write their own.

My best advice is to search around online for the information on the best distributions for hardware detection. I haven't had to install a fresh distribution in a long time, so what worked best for me a few years ago may not be useful today.

Quote:
Diversity seems to be Linux's greatest strength and weakness. There are some great features out there that we can be proud to have and the ability to decide how you want your desktop to operate is fantastic. But the lack of coherence, particularly with backend tasks like installation, is stopping Linux progressing to becoming a main home PC player.
No. The inability to run Photoshop, Quark, F.E.A.R., Battle for Middle Earth 2, Quicken, TurboTax, and about a thousand other Windows-only programs on Linux is a problem. You can run many of those programs on Linux thanks to programs like wine and codeweavers, but not everything (and especially not the DirectX gaming software). Of course, this is the same incompatibility that blocks Windows viruses, adware, and spyware. So it's not all bad.

The fact that only a few regular computer stores around the country have Linux PCs as display models is also a problem. I can walk into 20 different computer stores within an hour drive of my job and look at 10 different Windows XP PCs in each one. Millions of home users won't start buying Linux until they can see it in action at the computer store.

Quote:
Despite all my negativity, I'm writing this with Linux so something must be right, as I could have just hit Enter and booted into Windows. I am using KWord though, as I couldn't get Open Office to install....jeees!
Good luck. I absolutely want some versions of Linux to be 100% newbie friendly. Many are getting there - but they're not there yet.

Last edited by Michael_S; 09-01-2006 at 10:46 AM.
 
Old 09-01-2006, 12:45 PM   #10
tkejlboom
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Actually, I've had a lot of fun with Linux. I started using it for work, because I was given some Unix scripts and I didn't want to rewrite them for Windows. I guess I actually decided it was easier to change operating systems, and so far so good.

Ease of installation:
I've loaded it on my home PC, my laptop, and rather expensive workstation PC for 3D medical image rendering that had fallen into disuse(No one's noticed that I've borrowed it yet!). My point being, I either didn't intend for the hardware to work with Linux when I acquired it, or I had no say in what hardware configuration whatsoever. Except for the broadcom wireless drivers in my laptop, Linux was actually easier to install than Windows was. Try installing Dell raid drivers for Windows with no floppy disk drive. They still want a floppy! <shudder>

Too much software:
The problem with the software that comes with most windows PCs anymore is the assumptions about the generic PC user. They assume the average person purchasing a prebuilt Windows PC anymore is clueless. It's not that there is too much software. The problem is that the software is of little or no value, but has an inordinate cost due to the fact that it is all setup to run on startup because the assumption is that the average user is to stupid to find it in the start menu. It's condescending, offensive, and really cripples performance.

Package Management:
Perhaps you should have tried Debian. It use apt, which is phenomenal. Touching on the software issue again, my copy came with half a dozen front ends for apt, so it was hard not to stumble upon one I liked(Synaptic, btw). I just pick one of the 20,000 packages listed in my repositories and it builds the dependencies all by itself. For the rest, I've found that alien often works. That's only caused minor disasters, and it's my own fault. I tried out several of the dozens of Adobe Reader analogs that came with my distribution, and so far all of them have worked better, faster, and offered greater functionality than the original. It's easy to uninstall them if I decide I [don't want one, but they are each about 1/30 the size of Adobe Reader, so why bother?

Variety:
I don't know about you, but where the manufacturer has a driver, I tend to favor it over the generic drivers that come with Windows. Generic is cheap and easy, but only if everything is generic. Even Intel offers special drivers and apps for generic video cards that offer more functionality. When you have so many choices, sometimes you make the wrong ones, though. That's the best part about Linux. It's free. Try a different distribution.
 
Old 09-01-2006, 09:39 PM   #11
drkstr
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Ugh. One more person complaining about the fact that Linux isn't more like windows. Linux isn't a windows replacement, if you want everything to be done for you, use windows. If you want control over what your computer is doing, use Linux.

It's just a matter of preference.

regards,
...drkstr
 
Old 09-01-2006, 10:13 PM   #12
debiant
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Build your own distro... Develop programs that you like... modify existing FREE SOURCE CODE... if you are unwilling or unable to do any of these, than I don't see how you can complain about an operating system that is free (price and development wise) Almost every program in Linux can be built from the source code by you and optimized for your sysytem. Freedom is not free it comes at a price (where have I heard that before). Speed, efficiency, stability, these things come at a price as well. I have no problem with certain distros targeting or enhancing their software for newbies, in fact I admire their efforts (to me it would seem a pointless and daunting endeavor for an operating system built for power) but to say that Linux as a whole should do this, when the power of Linux is it's diversity and ability to be modified is like saying that A steak house should be more like a fast food restaraunt.

If you do want someone to listen to your voice, go to the forums for the distro you choose. Be proactive.
 
Old 09-02-2006, 10:25 AM   #13
robbbert
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Quote:
first problem [...] was the sheer number of applications included with KDE
As already mentioned, that's not the case with (the default) GNOME on Ubuntu. After logging into Ubuntu the first time, there's a clean, straightforward desktop.
Quote:
Even giving a Linux box to some techy friends, with no Linux experience, and asking them to install a piece of software would cause them some problems. Compiling your own source...
Ah, come on. On a Ubuntu (or other Debian-based) system, it's absolutely simple. There is a graphical software manager, it's searchable, you can install "something" you've found, any dependancies will be resolved, and installing will never break your system.
It's even much easier than on Windows, where you have to gather installation programs from different places.
I've installed 10 GB of software on my Ubuntu system now - everything is intact - and I've never had to compile it.
Quote:
As for trying to install my wireless card and printers, forget it. .
Some of the hardware vendors are piggies. They'll sell you their stuff, but don't tell you it doesn't work for all systems. - Thus, when buying hardware next time, ask, does it work for Linux, too?
There's not too much about it, there are alternative vendors for almost any piece of hardware.
Quote:
Diversity seems to be Linux's greatest strength and weakness.
You can always go for a more mainstream distro, like Ubuntu or SuSE. (There have been many bad experiences with the current 10.1 version of SuSE as an exception, but, as a fact,) you should be able to resolve common tasks - like installing OpenOffice - on these distributions in a breeze.

If you're just an end-user who doesn't want to compile anything, but instead, wants to have a functional desktop (including a decent file browser, web browser, mail client, office, graphics program, etc.) out-of-the-box, why don't you check (K)Ubuntu, SuSE, MEPIS, or some other beginners distribution? - These distributions may be polished, and everything's neatly in place, but at the same time, they're fully-fledged Linux variants: You can extend them as you like.
 
Old 09-02-2006, 04:05 PM   #14
Bob3
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As already mentioned, the most widely recognized drop-dead simple installs are offered by Freespire/Linspire (the Click & Run service is FREE now) and for a tad more "involved" yet still click-through-simple, is Ubuntu.
I've been selling Linspire machines to senior citizens & other folks that just want to mess with the online basics & they've been as happy as clams in mud.
 
Old 09-02-2006, 04:53 PM   #15
robbbert
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Quote:
as happy as clams in mud
Hey, I'm not a native English speaker, and I'm going to learn this cool idiom!
 
  


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