Before I get blasted for writing this I would like to say that I love Linux. My business is built on Linux and open source software and it generally fills most if not all my computing requirements. Then how, I hear you cry, can I write a blog which starts “The Problem with Linux”? Simple, the user experience, and I shall explain more.
This morning I got a message on Facebook from a client I had seen last night. The issue was that I had installed vlc on a netbook with Linux Mint 11 which did not allow them to record audio from a webcam. Turns out that vlc and webcams don’t really get on (another thing learnt then!!). No problem I will just do some research and find a better program but this is where the problem started. Most of the packages available were from source. Now I have no problem with downloading and installing from source but your average user will. Why can’t we have deb and rpm downloads (which most distributions use) so that users can just go and install the package they want. Yes we have package managers but not all the software your average user wants is already in there. Yes I can charge money for installing software for my clients but it really isn’t the best is it?
Next thing is choice. Personally I think there is too much choice. For example, how many distributions based on Ubuntu or Debian do we really need? Again your average user just wants a system that works and they definitely don’t want to have to choose packages. Most people for example will use Microsoft Word for word processing but you give them a Linux system and suddenly they can have Libreoffice, Openoffice, Abiword etc and they become overwhelmed with the amount of choice. They have come from a Windows system where you are told Windows Media Player does video, Internet Explorer IS the internet etc so they have become molded into this way of thinking.
Next thing is support. I am a Linux Mint user and I must say that the community forum is brillant. Having browsed around some of the other forums I can honestly say that there are some people who take the attitude that if you don’t have the same amount of Linux knowledge as them then you must be stupid. The amount of times I have come across postings from people who think it is ok to post “read the f****** manual” is incredible. How on earth is this helpful to someone who is making the switch from a Windows system? All it does is enforce peoples opinion of “us and them” and that is not going to help anyone.
The command line. Those three words terrify your average user. The command line is great if you need to work with a server (no gui) but does the average user really need to go anywhere near it to do simple tasks? I am not saying take it away by any means but lets not forget that although some of us love to tinker and improve our systems by using the command line most users see a computer as a vessel to get things done. They don’t want to learn how it works they just want to use it.
Why does Linux try and reinvent the wheel? We have software that does pretty much everything we could ever want so why do we need another KDE or Gnome distribution based on Ubuntu, Debian, Slackware etc? We now have Openoffice and Libreoffice where surely it would be more beneficial if all the developers got involved in the same project and took on Microsoft Office?
Why do we need new distribution updates every 6 months? If you told your average Windows user they would have to save all their documents and install another operating system every 18 months (usual life span of the major distributions) they would up and leave. Yes I understand the need to keep packages upto date and have the newest stuff but to me this is just to quick. For instance the world has had Windows XP for 11 years while Linux Mint 12, which is used to run most of my business, will be gone in about 18 months.
Linux will not become more adopted, outside servers, unless the experience for the average user becomes simpler. Recent estimates of desktop adoption put Linux at 1.5% well behind both Microsoft and Apple. To get Linux adopted more we have to start designing for both the average user and the power user.
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