I was getting a bit tired of saying the same things over and over to friends on the net. I was getting tired of repetitiously posting in forums the same sentiment over and over. Yet, just like getting a second wind in a long and tiring race…my tiredness melts away and I find myself feeling refreshed and anew. What the subject of this rant has to say and what I have to say in the paragraphs below are NOT written to start a flame war. I am a user of Ubuntu and a strong supporter of all Debian based distros. This article is written to allow insight into where I believe Linux needs to go to succeed. I’m not out to win any popularity contests…I’m not out to garner a bunch of page hits to generate ad revenue. I’m just out to help the Linux community and rant a bit when I find a subject that strikes a nerve. The subject at hand is Why Ubuntu is NOT New Linux Users.
Notice that I say New Linux Users as apposed to just New Users. A new Linux user would be one that is new to Linux on as a whole. A new user would be one that is trying Ubuntu for the first time not crossing over from another distro or another *nix OS. So let’s be real clear up front that this isn’t about those that have Linux knowledge trying Ubuntu for the first time. This is about your mother-in-law or grandmother or aunt/uncle who, if they tried Linux, would be doing so for the first time ever. This is about my Wife, who tried Linux for the first time ever last year. This is about all of those people who possibly haven’t even heard of Linux before. This is the target audience. This is who all programmers and application designers should keeping right in the middle of the bullseye. Not convinced? Let’s chat a bit more about it.
We can only move forward toward acceptance if we allow everyone, no matter what their preconceived level of experience with technology is, to understand Linux. Apple understands this. Google understands this. Both companies offer easy to use interfaces to their software and if you look under the hood what do you find? *nix. That’s right. Unix and Linux. Novell is a company that is beginning to get it. But why aren’t individuals? Why aren’t more distros?
The target audience for Linux to gain acceptance on the desktop…that is, to make it mainstream..is to appeal to even the most technologically challenged user out there, and make Linux as easy as point and click to operate.
Ubuntu is making great strides toward making Linux good for the desktop. There are others out there that one could argue are doing a fine job…PCLinuxOS, OpenSuse, Mandriva. However, when someone hands a new Linux user a disc, most likely it is Ubuntu or TheOpenCD. Are you doing that person a favor? I don’t think so.
Ubuntu isn’t a distribution that is set for any new user. The average user wouldn’t be able to tell you how to clear a cache, let alone what spyware or adware is. Don’t think I’m right? My wife asked everyone in the office where she works why they don’t use Firefox as a browser. None of them even knew there was something called Firefox that was an alternative to IE. And that’s just one part of open source. Imagine what else they haven’t heard of!
The average computer user does not possess the technical expertise to drop to a command line and issue commands…nor should they be asked to. Yet that is exactly what Ubuntu demands to allow its users to do simplistic things such as surf the net.
For example, say that a webpage requires JRE to display correctly. Windows and IE offers an auto download or manual with double click install. Many distributions of Linux come with Java already installed. For Ubuntu…you have to drop to a command line and sudo to install it. What new Linux user is even going to know to do that? What new Linux user is going to feel comfortable doing that? Of course, let’s say that the new Linux user is sporting a nice Ubuntu 5.10. That’ll fix that sudo stuff right? Wrong. Automatix be damned…you still have much command line stuff to do.
Needless to say, until Ubuntu can provide an experience that is only one or two clicks away, it will forever remain second best to distros such as PCLinuxOS and SimplyMEPIS. It simply cannot compete against distros that work right out of the gate for new Linux users. Remember, new LINUX users…not just new users in general.
In closing, if Ubuntu works for you…that is great. I’m glad you’ve found a good distro. Ubuntu works great for me as well. As for my mother-in-law, wife, sister, uncle/aunt, etc…when they decide to give Linux a try and I want to really showcase how easy it is and how fantastic it works…you can bet that I won’t be showing them Ubuntu.
NOTE: For those of you emailing me constantly about Automatix being the save all for Ubuntu…remember one thing. To install Automatix, you have to drop to a console/shell. Enough said eh? The resolution seems to be part of the problem. I also really think the URL for the Automatix package is about the most non-professional URL that I’ve ever seen a debian/ubuntu package hosted on. I highly doubt my mother-in-law would be hyped up to visit that URL.
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