back to article Linux guru: interface innovation is the challenge

Novell distinguished engineer James Bottomley believes Linux desktop environments need a dose of open source ingenuity rather than ape ideas from Windows and OS X. Bottomley, who also wears the hat of Director of the Linux Foundation and chair of its technical advisory board, says the next challenge for Linux as a whole is to …


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  1. Tanuki
    Thumb Down

    Trailing-edge not Bleedomg-edge.

    I couldn't disagree more. What Linux needs in order to succeed is to be *consistent*.

    From a business POV, 'agile' and 'innovative' interface-stuff maps directly into "staff-retraining costs" and "excess helpdesk calls".

    I really like user-interfaces that stay the same for a decade. Most all my Windows clients are still running XP in "Windows-2000 classic" mode - because it's what their users are trained on!

    In the current economic climate, the last thing any business wants is the prospect of £1500-a-head 3-day courses needed to retrain users in understanding a 'new user-interface experience'.

    Coat? Mine's the one with the PROFS command-reference foldout in the inside pocket.

  2. SmallYellowFuzzyDuck, how pweety!

    Here comes the flames...

    Never understood Linux myself, from what I have seen of it it just looks like a bad clone of Windows.

    Then I go talk to Linux owners and tell them about the latest program I have put on my computer, then the Linux owner says there is a version of the same program for Linux.

    So I ask them if they are going to install said program on Linux then watch the colour drain from there faces as they know it will take several hours of hunting around forums trying to find out what gibberish they need to type into the command line to make the damn program work.

    OK, time to keep my head down, here it comes...

  3. Anonymous Coward

    What does this have to do with Linux?

    Linux is just the Kernel. Gnome and KDE do run on other Operating Systems as well...

  4. Johnny Canuck
    Thumb Up

    Its true

    KDE 4.3 is quite nice, especially opensuse's implementation. Gnome on the other hand looks quite dated. Gnome with compiz can still amaze your average windows user though. KDE 4.3 has a lot of the stuff that compiz does (just not as well done). Enlightenment is starting to look pretty interesting too.

  5. Robert E A Harvey
    Paris Hilton

    Dude, where is my talking computer?

    Spock and Kirk had one in 1966. It's not as though we havn't had the idea in front of us.

    What happened to neural networks. Why can't computers learn what we do? what happened to the blinkcam idea, looking at the menus?

    Look how clever web sites and games have been inventing other ways to do things.

    Dude, where is my anticipating, verbal cues detecting, talking computing? For glod's sake, we have squandered 20 years of hardware extrapolation on doing the same thing as the gem desktop, (and survailence) instead of doing something new.

    Paris, 'cos she always welcomes something new

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Don't f**k it up!

    Microsoft shot themselves in the foot twice in the last couple of years:

    1. They released half-baked and inefficient Vista. This made upgrading impossible for many users, increased costs and created frustration (either financially or in load times).

    2. The changed the interface to Office 2007 and alienated the existing user base.

    At this point, many people, including us, switched to Linux and OpenOffice. The cost of retraining was actually cheaper because OpenOffice was found to be more like Office 2004 than Office 2007... (And we could ditch the licenses too.)

    Yes we could use nicer interfaces, but dont wreck the ones we already have.

    I kind of expect them to do a U-turn - just like they have with Windows 7 (and to a certain degree, Windows CE on netbooks).

    Grenade, for obvious reasons.

  7. Rich 2 Silver badge


    I have thought for a very long time that the 'standard' windows-based environments that we all know and errr... love(?) really belong in the arc.

    Whether it is MS Windows, the Mac GUI, X Windows, whatever, dress it up as much as you want with flashy graphical effects and animated this and that, but it basically hasn't changed **AT ALL** since the guys at Xerox invented it!!

    It's not as if it's actually a good way of working. I find the whole moving between windows, and selecting focus with the mouse, and then going back to the first window because it's been pushed to the back now and you can't see it, and typing only to find you're in the wrong window, and scroll bars that are actually really tedious to use, etc etc etc, a very slow and very inefficient way of working. On my Mac, I use the command line more than anything else. It's faster. It doesn't do anything unexpected. It doesn't have bells and whistles that generally get in the way. It works!

    I'm not suggesting that we all go back to the command line - of course not. But, while the WIMP idea was fantastic back in the early 70's, we really should have moved on quite a lot by now. No, we should have moved on a HUGE amount by now.

    I think the whole thing needs a rethink. It's horrible as it is. I have a few ideas (probably none of which are particularly exciting), but a few things I would like to see in a future interface are the ability for the user to be less precise; the mouse pointer thing is simply way too fiddly and slow for much of the time. In fact, why not get rid of the mouse? - it's WAY too inefficient to keep switching between the keyboard and the rodent. And do something about these overlapping windows getting in each others way!

  8. Anonymous Coward


    "So I ask them if they are going to install said program on Linux then watch the colour drain from there faces as they know it will take several hours of hunting around forums trying to find out what gibberish they need to type into the command line to make the damn program work."

    All of which is, of course, a whopping great lie.

    I can't speak for how your imaginary friends fail to cope with Linux, but whenever I've had to install something that isn't already packaged it's the usual configure, make, make install. It takes less time and fewer brain cells than deselecting all the bundled crapware that windows programs often come with.

    And you know, there's something to be said for not installing random applications that aren't part of a managed repository ...

  9. This post has been deleted by its author

  10. Anonymous Coward

    What it really needs...

    Is a huge reduction in the number of half finished apps that are available for it. If the developers of each of the, for example blog editors, got together and worked together and produced one GOOD product instead of a large handful of OK applications then things would actually be a lot better.

  11. Phil Rigby


    That's true for some programs or something slightly off-the-wall. But for the majority of things - such as Open Office, Amarok (media player), K3B (CD / DVD Burner), Firefox, Xine (movie player) and lots of others, it's usually just a few lines at most - even less if you're running a Package Manager. Apt, Yum, or Emerge can handle downloading and installing apps just fine, and I'm sure there's others.

    There's 2 things I can't effectively do on Linux that I can on Windows -

    1) Talk to my iPod Touch (specifically the Touch), and

    2) Burn a DVD with menus, chapters etc.

    Now #2) can be done, but it's a pain in the arse. Using Nero under Windows is a lot easier. Also to my knowledge, there's nothing yet that can handle a iPod Touch because it doesn't have disk mode like previous generation iPods.

    So if you have Linux friends who panic at the thought of installing software like what you have under Windows, I suggest you tell them to either get a manual or get a better distro.

    Choosing the grenade icon because I just know someone's going to tell me I'm wrong or start yelling "why don't you use Wine?" I know I can use Wine but I prefer to dual-boot for some things.

  12. Stevie


    The problems facing the Linux community are largely of their own making. Linux is a perfectly adequate Unix-like operating system with all that implies: stuff lying around with "known bugs" after 30 odd years because the bunch of accademics that built thebits in question saw something shinier when the job was 95% done. Ask about this and one gets back "good enough" answers. Push harder and you get defensive "well Windows is worse", as though that either made sense or was relevant.

    Linux will continue to be a "poor cousin" until the community decides whether it wants to deliver what it oh so often claims - a better computer experience than windows. That will involve many things, amongst them fixing ancient broken stuff, deciding what the desktop should look like and more importantly how it should behave (this last was an awfully long time dawning on the Linux GUI desiner community) so that people can make it work quickly and then push ythe OS details to the back off their heads because (and this is important) most people do not want, and do not enjoy having, to eff-about with their computer OS. They want to do other stuff, like write letters, build spreadsheets and so on.

    As I've said before, choice is good but no-one would buy a toaster that required one to define the line voltage, shape of bread and colour of the casing before you could get on with the business of singeing bread.

    And you need to get the manufacturers of certain key software packages to port to Linux, (pay attention Linuxfans, another important point coming up) even if you personally have never understood the point of that software. The Novel geek who asked a roomful of people why on earth they'd need a digital camera USB interface two years ago was removing just about everyone on Madison Avenue from the potential audience for Suse 10, and he didn't even know it.

    The same geek also said he couldn't see why they needed to add pivot table support to OpenOffice spreadsheets (the obvious answer, that the product they were attempting to usurp offered them was aparently lost on him, as was any intuitive desire to go find out what they were and why so many in the insurance and sales industries use them). With that he'd just told everyone in the room that adopting his product would make their buyers and sales reps angry with the IT boob who did the job. And he said all this proudly. Waytergo Linuxgeek!

    The problem isn't the interface. It's cultural. Linux will never be what it's adherents want it to be until the community at large becomes more attuned to what the computer *user* world wants. SmallYellowFuzzyDuck is right, and until he is wrong Linux will not be a serious contender for the workstation of choice stakes in business.

    I await the storm of "Stupid Windows Users" posts I usually attract with this sort of posting, but everyone should know I don't use windows or *any* toy computer OS as my yardstick for what constitutes a decent, robust OS.

  13. Brian 62

    Small changes

    @Anonymous Coward: There is a technical definition, and then the colloquial definition, of what Linux is. It will serve you and the rest of the Net if you assume that every time an article says "Linux", they are using the colloquial definition, not the technical one (unless the article specifically says "Linux kernel"). You don't get to make the rules on how a language works, no matter how logical your argument may be.

    As far as the article is concerned, I have to agree with some others here. Linux should not be pushing the boundaries of user interface. It really just needs to lose weight. Most of the buttons seem big a bloated, when compared to the slick looking widgets in other OSes. Themes are not a solution, they just push the issue off to the users.

  14. LaeMi Qian

    KDE at home, Windows/MacOS at work

    I use KDE on GNU/Linux by preference, but at work they pay me to work with Windows and MacOS. All I can say is CLUNKY CLUNKY CLUNKY. The work, ones, I mean.

    Not that Linux+KDE is THAT great (quite adequate is best I'd rate it), but if I must use a tired old 80's user interface model crudely nailed over a 70's OS-App-Data model, I am certainly not going to pay through the nose for a dumbed-down version of what I can download for free.

    @SmallYellowFuzzyDuck - Certainly true at the edge of newness, but for every-day stuff, it is all a few clicks away in the distribution repositories. Think of it as having the entire local software store available for free in your "add-remove programs" control panel.

  15. Toastan Buttar
    Thumb Down

    All OS desktops are just fine right now

    Windows, OSX, GNOME, KDE, whatever: as Tanuki says, you want consistency in your interactions with a computer. Wasn't there something about the best human interfaces being the 'least surprising' ?

  16. Bryan Anderson

    More flames

    What Linux needs is to "just work" like Windows does. Recently bought a new netbook with Vista on it. Scrubbed Vista, installed XP. Everything worked 'cept for WiFi. Quick search, download one .exe file and double click. One re-boot later and WiFi works. Everywhere.

    Tried to install Ubuntu on it. Everything works 'cept WiFi. Googled and found about fifteen different solutions depending on what version of all sorts I was running. Some saying I needed to compile a Kernel or something, others saying I needed to download some script and run it. I'll be honest - I had no clue what I was doing.

    I also know for a fact that my printer and scanner won't work (and no - I am not going to go and buy new ones).

    So what Linux needs isn't new ways of interacting with the OS, it needs to get organised, stop trying to support fifteen different versions of a hundred different distros and get it's act together in making it a real point and click alternative to Windows.

  17. Jason DePriest

    Hey SmallYellowFuzzyDuck

    A good version of Linux will have a package manager that takes care of most of the heavy lifting most of the time.

    Use synaptic or some other apt GUI (for .deb based Linux) and you don't have to type any command-line "gibberish" at all.

    RPM and apt do a good job of chasing down requirements and prerequisites for you.

    Granted, you have to wait for a package builder to create a package for the app you want and the version you want.

    But, once that's done, 95% of the time it should be just a few mouse clicks away.

    You don't even need any external media (no CDs).

  18. Anonymous Coward

    Which flavour?

    As AC above says, Linux is a Kernel, Gnome and KDE are the "stars" of this alternative desktop world. However, it's far easier to have a generic term to use alongside MacOs or Windows.

    Unfortunately, the Linux Guru here has failed to see how Apple have taken on the challenge of the desktop interface and ran with it, surpassing anything that has gone before.

    Linux would do well to copy where Apple have gone, as a massive amount of research and development has gone into, what many consider to be, the best Desktop experience bar none.

    Unfortunately, copying is all that the Linux community is likely to do, until an inspired commercial venture leverages the power of Linux and throws serious money at it.

    Ten thousand disparate geeks in garages, bedrooms, small offices and lounges around the globe, whittering away spare time on a hobby, simply cannot compete with a dedicated commercial interest driven by massive egos , perfectionism and huge wads of cash.

    Canonical is a start, but just look at the flak they get from bearded Linux zealot OS wierdos - Traitors! - how dare you try make money out of this!

    So Linux will continue to flounder on the Desktop until serious money and commercial interest is thrown at it - and really, what is so bad about that?

    I suppose it depends if your a tofu-eating hippy living in lala land, or a realist who understands economic forces are what drives the wheels of change, for better or worse.

    erm, think I need to ease up on the coffee...

  19. Tom Maddox Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    What this has to do with Linux

    GNOME and KDE are the most commonly-used GUIs for Linux and closely tied to that OS. Pretending otherwise involves needless pedantry. As Tanuki points out, consistency is key. I would add to that the ability to get useful system administration done instead of having to drop to the CLI for virtually any configuration task. Not being fugly would be good, too.

  20. Homard

    Good Article

    I couldn't agree more. The windo$e gui is dinosaur technology. Why should we try to emulate it ? Madness !

    Open source innovation already gives us great things. The lovely stable Linux kernel for a start, the wealth of applications freely avalailable, for example Audacity - nothing I've seen for Windows only comes close (Audacity is available for windo$e too). Consider also the gui, where you can have multiple desktops in KDE and Gnome, while in windo$e you only get one. Got a lot of windows open ? Pain finding the right one in windo$e isn't it ? NOT SO with KDE/Gnome - you can organise your windows under different desktops, and suddenly you have precise navigation, and a slick user experience.

    @Tanuki - you have a sensible argument about consistency and training, but do you really think microsoft are consistent ? What about vista, and why do you think your clients still run xp in 2000 mode ? You are also barking mad if you think that letting this situation persist is acceptable. Sooner or later the hardware that your current user base runs on will fail. What then ? As part of support you have to look to where you're going in the future. I would say that a O/S that is likely to work on pretty much any hardware platform that will be developed is a pretty safe bet. Add to that you have an office application suites that you will also be able to run. Sounds like most of your headaches solved ?You are absolutely right about consistent tools being required to get the shit shovelled, but at the same time we need to advance so either we have better tools, or there is smaller pile of shit to be shovelled. Advances require innovation and that necessitates change. :-)

    @SmallYellowFuzzyDuck, how pweety! - thanks for the troll alert - never have guessed :-)

  21. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    Re: SmallYellowFuzzyDuck, how pweety! Posted Thursday 27th August 2009 19:08 GMT

    Here comes the flames...

    " So I ask them if they are going to install said program on Linux then watch the colour drain from there faces as they know it will take several hours of hunting around forums trying to find out what gibberish they need to type into the command line to make the damn program work "

    Aye aint that the wonderful thing about linux, that you can goto your distro's forum and ask howto install or configure something and they give you a line something like :

    "Rm -r ./ Yum ^$"$%*(&^& Http:repo.linux.rpm. (&*%8644908465t6345!$$$$ "

    Then you ask "what about the GUI tool in the popup menu? does'nt that do the same job" and they said "FO newb! GUI tools are for wussies", then they wonder why people dont want to try GNU/Linux

    Grenade... because shortly I'll be getting some

  22. sandman

    Not easy

    Developing good interfaces costs a lot to do properly. Now I can develop a good interface that pleases me and my friends, and I'm sure that many of you can do the same. However (didn't you just know that was coming), to build an interface that appeals to the majority of potential users for an OS is very, very difficult - if you want it to be mainstream that is.

    Both Microsoft and Apple spend a huge amount of money on usability testing and have produced what are the de facto standards for mass consumer OS interfaces. Love them or loath them they are what the majority of people are used to using and woe betide anyone who strays too far from that design model, at least for the near future.

    Good luck with the innovation, but I've got a sneaking feeling that Windows 13 and Apple Tabby might still be dominant in 2020. I will of course be happy to be proven wrong - because that means someone will have come up with something really special.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    No offense, mate, but you need to stop talking to bleeding out of the ears idiots. Software on Linux is way easier to install. 'apt-get firefox', 'apt-get openoffice'. Nothing that easy on Windows. One shows the level of their intelligence by the company they keep, I guess.

    Either that, or I need to stop responding to trolls.

  24. John Freeman

    Linux's biggest problem

    Besides not playing the latest games is that the interface, even with the newest updates, still looks so bourgeois compared to Windows.

    Beer, because its Miller Time.

  25. J 3

    Interface advancements?

    Always welcome. But then the retards come out in force, complaining (more like flaming) that no one will use it because "it's different" (yes), "it's difficult" (no, they just know other type of difficult), etc. Which are both true in a form or another. If on the other hand the interface just mimics the most popular things, then the retards (are they the same as before or a different set, I wonder) yell that it's just imitation, no innovation, why use it if it's the same as before, etc. etc. Which is also true in some form.

    Can't really win there.

    So, the real way to "win" is to use the "Microsoft way", regardless of the qualities or other merits of the software itself.

  26. Anonymous Coward

    The problem as i see it

    Tanuki is dead right. Every system is so customisable there is no standard layout. You can't say "Goto the start button". In having KDE and Gnome you've already lost the consistancy MS has. In addition to the different window managers, every application has a different interface, with different styles of widgets depending on the framework the program was written with. And all of them are different from the corresponding "mainstream" windows program. This is one area where MS has the edge. All windows programs follow the same layout - menu bar, buttons, tabs, window style - everything matched (until recently, but don't get me started on vista or the ribbon).

    This is only one of the major areas that needs to be addressed though.

    The other essential issue to me is the lack of support from software and hardware companies. I have a webcam which doesn't work under linux. I have a server with a RAID card thats as much use to me under linux as a chocolate teapot. When you buy hardware, can you be sure it'll be supported? No? Well, I'll plump for Windows then. When can I install Adobe CS4 on it? MS Office? How about all the lovely specialist software the business i work at uses?

    I admit this is not the fault of distribustions or contributors, but more a chicken and egg situation. When linux gets more users on the desktop, more companies will support it, but until the companies support it, it won't get a good market share. Who's gonna break the cycle?

  27. lucmars

    Yes, consistency first

    That's right the interface should stay the same across the time, nonetheless, if you don't want to know or to understand so, IT is not for you.

    There are always some "unexpected events" when you use a computer.

  28. Goat Jam


    I couldn't be bothered with flames, but I will point out that your trolling attempt was lame and not based in reality.

    For example. Got to work this morning, read my emails. One of them was from Linux Magazine and one article said this.

    "A Little Empathy For Pidgin

    With the integration of the Telepathy framework into GNOME, most distributions are dropping the old instant messaging favorite Pidgin, for the new upstream application Empathy. It's a reminder of the important role that distributions play in making choices for us all."

    Cool I thought. I use Pidgin, never heard of empathy, I wonder what that is like?

    Now, I could have dropped to a command prompt and typed "sudo apt-get install empathy" but that would have been far too difficult, so what I did was click

    System>Administration>Synaptic Package Manger

    I then typed "empathy" in the Quick Search box, click on the empathy entry which tells me;

    "Empathy consists of a rich set of reusable instant messaging widgets, and a

    GNOME client using those widgets."

    Place a tick in the box and click "apply", thirty seconds later empathy has downloaded and installed itself and I now have "Empathy Instant Messenger" in what you Windozers would call my "Start Menu".

    Meanwhile a Windows user would still be somewhere inside the Labyrinthine Windows Install process;

    Find Website>Find Download Page>Enter Email Details>Download File>Navigate to Download Folder>Click Downloaded File>Reassure Windows That You Know The File Is Safe Even Though You Really Don't>Go Through Installer Process, Making Sure You Untick All The Partner Toolbars And Other Crap>Reboot System>Trawl Through Start Menu Trying To Find The Launcher Which Is In Folder Named After The Company That Produced It And Not The Actual Name Of The App>Start The App>Discover It Is Nagware And You Have to Pay To Get The Not Annoying Version>Navigate To Control Panel>Click Add/Remove Software>Find and Click The Uninstaller>Discover That The Uninstaller Doesn't Work>Try To Recall How Long IT Has Been Since Your Last Windows Reinstall And Count All The Other Orphaned Apps That Couldn't Be Removed From Past Such Adventures>If Orphaned Apps > 10 Then Reinstall Windows.

    So, please try and refrain from trolling forums with your lies about installing apps under linux. It might have been true back in 1994 but guess what, we've moved on since then. It's about time Windows did likewise don't you think?

  29. Anonymous Coward


    So they want some fancy interface? Why? Do they expect normal people (i.e. not readers of the reg) - to actually use it? One false move and they'll be exposed to the core only fetishists and command line tweakers get off on.

    Just go back to playing with your distro's and leave the real world alone....

  30. Nick Kew

    @Rich 2

    What you describe is exactly what I hate whenever I have to work on Windows or Mac. Regarding the latter I was very, very disappointed, given the good things I've heard about it.

    Fortunately, X11-based systems are a whole lot more configurable. And have been since before Linus ever started hacking a kernel. Much more usable! In fact some of the windows/Mac-like crap wasn't even default until a few years ago, and presumably came as the KDE and Gnome developers decided they had to look-and-feel familiar to Windows users.

    Recommended reading:

  31. Big-nosed Pengie

    @ people responding to small yellow

    He's a shill, people. Ignorance and misinformation like that doesn't come cheap, and no doubt he's well-paid to post it.

  32. deegee

    other issues first

    I agree that Linux does imho require some serious interface redesign, but I feel there are more pressing matters:

    - I should NEVER have to use a command-line for ANYTHING. It is so 1980's. This is the 21st century already. Computers are supposed to make my life easier. I don't want to have to memorize piles of ancient archaic text cmd garbage or look it up whenever it is needed. I will admit that Linux has been getting better over the years, but it is taking way too long to get over this.

    On Windows desktop and server OSs I'm lucky if I have to go to a prompt twice in one year, everything can be done in dialogs, where it belongs. And this is for over 10 years already with Windows.

    - The OS file system layout and naming is terrible. There should not be dozens of folders with obscure three and four letter names to them, filled with dozens of three and four letter files (slight exaggeration to make a point).

    To some degree XP, but moreso Vista and 7, have got this correct [better]. Long folder and file names, and the entire drive folder layout from root down is more logical and cleaner.

    I can hear the Linux fanbois screaming at this one... :-)

    - I should not have to worry about issues with every distro and every build if I want to install/use/upgrade software etc. Linux-fanbois like to flame MS for the number of Windows versions and SKUs, but truth be told the Linux marketplace is worse and needs a cleanup (which will never happen though).

    Regarding the UI, if Linux wants to actually do something new and better, they need to leap beyond Apple and Microsoft by at least 5 to 10 years and move into a fully-accelerated fully-3D interface. I was hoping MS would push this way with 7, but alas they did not, only adding a few changes over Vista (albeit welcomed changes).

    As a software developer and lead programmer with previous OS development experience, concepts for a full 3D interface is something I have discussed many times with a small group of peers, but it is out of the range of my bank-account to develop.

  33. deegee

    @Goat Jam

    "So, please try and refrain from trolling forums with your lies about installing apps under linux"...

    And you say this after the garbage [and lies] you posted about installing apps under Windows?

    You sir need to come up from under your troll-bridge and be flogged. :-p

  34. Dave Bell

    Fear of Change

    There's certainly reasons to worry about the cost of a change in the UI. But there's a difference between a machine in a business environment, with some sort of centralised management which limits the way a user can change things, and a more personal machine for which user and admin are the same person.

    Linux, we have a choice, and it's not just between Gnome and KDE. Pick one, and you still have a choice in the UI--consider the NBR option, a bit more than just a "theme".

    In the end, I reckon there's a simple answer to all the fears of a new UI.

    New UI, new name. Simples.

    Now, why are Microsoft still calling their UI "Windows"?

    (I think I know why I'm imagining a meekat complaining about all the people asking about computers on the website he runs which deals with architectural daylight admission features.)

  35. why-can-i-not-just-use-my-real-name

    window managers

    @rich 2: agree with you about windows hiding each other, etc. this is what I think: gnome & kde should take a look at tiling window managers like awesome, ion3 etc. Just because they only target themselves at uebergeeks right now doesn't mean the principle of tiling windows is a geeky thing, in fact I guess it is more like what you would expect if you had never used a computer.

    I am an office-type worker, not a dev or anything but I use awesome window manager (awm) on ubuntu and find it a hilarious waste of time if I have to use a non-tiling window manager on another box.

    Course, all awm & co need friendlifying.

    Smiley, because trying to get a bit constructive on improving UIs rather than indulging in flamewars

  36. Tom 7

    good interfaces lead to bad computing

    as a command line programmer I found it amusing when drag and drop came to windows and I could watch people spend ages dragging files over to different directories rather than struggling with a couple of scripts that would do the job for eternity - even on Windows.

    Just a small example but people take the line of least resistance even if its not necessarily in the right direction.

    Its nice just to plug your camera in and have all the pictures automatically downloaded, but then you have to spend the rest of your life winging on forums about trying to get faster broadband so you can e-mail them to people who don't really want to see them because you never learned about compression.

    I must admit its nice, working in an office, to be able to write a document or a spreadsheet that no-one else will really read and tick off a task but it doesn't really get anything done.

    People love easy interface like the Iphones - but check for any improvement in real productivity.

  37. mccp

    @Goat Jam

    "... I will point out that your trolling attempt was lame and not based in reality."

    Neither is yours.

    Empathy doesn't come in a Windows flavour, but Pidgin does. This is how you install it on Windows: type pidgin into the address bar of IE and press enter; the Pidgin site is the first result returned; select the download link that appears in your search results, click to download and execute the installer; answer some sensible questions about the components that you want and where they should be saved; job done.

  38. Svein Skogen

    Ahh, the well known arguments from the penguinistas

    "He's a shill, people. Ignorance and misinformation like that doesn't come cheap, and no doubt he's well-paid to post it."

    This is the usual answer when someone criticises their religion^wkernel.

    Well... I'll bite. What Linux needs sorely is a unified structure. No (sane) application developer will ever dream of porting a major thing like Adobes "Creative Suite" (or similarly sized package) onto a target that often has a so complex dependancy structure you're not surprised if the patch you need is kept under a rock, deep in the woods, and a chiseled-in-stone copy is available on personal request.

    And before you flame me, note the following:

    -I'm used to FreeBSD, Windows, and earlier in life Irix, ache (AIX) and Solaris. (and H-pukes)

    -I know that militant penguinistas are even more dangerous than iFanbois.

    -I've donned my asbestos longjohns before writing this post.


  39. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Meanwhile, .... on the Master Pilot Flight Deck

    For those who know Absolutely Nothing or far too Little about Cloud IT Command and Control for Virtualising Power to Astute Subversioning Systems .... The Internet is the OS, the World Wide Web is the MetaDataBase Source/Information Store and Intelligence the Innovative Driver, with Man the Virtual Machine being Phormed and Manipulated Imaginatively.

    And that would also support the Ages Old Adage, IT is not about what you have got, but all about how well you use IT. And all those bells and whistles for sale, well they are just designed as White Noise to make the Sound of Ignorant Silence, Painfully Profitable?!.

  40. TeeCee Gold badge

    @Rich 2

    "....really belong in the arc."

    Is that your way of saying that they're behind the curve?

  41. Naich

    Focus on the positive

    In my experience, the things that Linux (word used in it's all-encompassing mode) does best are the things that it does differently from Windows. Take Office software - Open Office tries to copy MS Office and is just as big a PITA to use. On the other hand, look at installing software. Using software depositories in Linux is a joy, despite what the trolls say. Open the package manager, search for what you want to do, tick the package you want and your PC nips off, finds it, downloads it and installs it. No hunting round web sites, no registration, no nag screens, no unwanted extras installed that you then spend hours trying to remove. I could go on with similar examples of things done right in Linux (filesystem, updates, Compiz, scripting...), but I won't.

    Basically, what I'm saying is, please don't make Linux like Windows to try to lure away people who don't really want to be lured. I moved away from Windows because I wanted something different. Give people a real alternative, let them see that it's better for themselves and let them migrate, if they want to.

    And ignore the trolls. Come on - if Linux really was as bad as they say, no-one would use it, would they?

  42. QuiteEvilGraham

    @Rich 2

    Good God!!!! Alt-Tab to change focus - who on earth uses a mouse for that?

    Meanwhile, a proper user interface, where real work gets done looks like this:

    Menu Options View Utilities Compilers Help


    DSLIST - Data Sets Matching CEE.**.H

    Command ===>

    Command - Enter "/" to select action







    ***************************** End of Data Set list

    I suppose that if nothing else, the GUI paradigm has allowed sufficient numbers into the biz, that we can have silly religious debates which miss the point of the article again!

  43. Toastan Buttar
    Thumb Up


    "for example Audacity - nothing I've seen for Windows only comes close"

    There are better commercial (not necessarily 'Windows-only', but certainly not available as native Linux) DAW packages than Audacity but they're only worthwhile buying it if you're a power user working to tight deadlines. For the rest of us (myself included now that I'm no longer working in a commercial audio environment), Audacity is a fantastic piece of software.

  44. Mike Bell 2

    Could I just say....?

    An OS is just that - an operating system; it's not a religion.

    Oh, and don't feed the trolls.

  45. dave lawless

    the universal tool

    for startera I'm a Plan9 user. We don't have a WIMP interface and we get serious nerd types moaning about it so if they can't cope without icons, what hope for the average computer dolt.

    what i think you will see is the death of the general purpose computer.

    UI innovation does not win the commodity marketplace, it is up to the incumbents to die.

  46. Albert

    Need art students

    My reading of Linux is that technical people get invovled with it when they are at college as it lets them develop their skills and make things the way they want to.

    What I believe is needed is for the same thing to happen in art colleges.

    I bet most computer based students students only know Photoshop and Illustrator and only consider doing work for real world or web, not for the desktop.

    In this environment I also expect that there would be far fewer advocates for Open Source, so the students are not naturally introduced to the alternative.

    If there was a program to introduce GIMP, InkScape, Blender,...(pick your fave) to design/art students with some information on how they can actually get their work seen I expect some will try it and get into it.

    Ubunut is trying with their media examples competition for the distribution, but I only see it targetted at the people who already know Open Source. Why not put posters in colleges, promote on art/design websites.

    Get the designers and artists excited and it will happen. Expecting coders to do design is a dangerous thing...

  47. Anonymous Coward

    Fucking right

    I think it's pathetic that Linux desktops always look like a poor man's Windows XP. Can they really not do any better than that? Jeez.

  48. Grease Monkey Silver badge

    Not so sure...

    From talking to end users I find that most have Windows at home because it's what they are used to at work. As such familiarity is what people are looking for. So what Linux needs is a UI that's familiar to users if it wants to grab any significant market share. Most of our users are on XP these days and stick with the 2000 GUI. Those who are on Vista have something that looks very much like XP. For that reason I like the fact that Gnome comes without all the bells and whistles of KDE4, if they want to stick bells and whistles on there that's fine but best to keep them switched off by default or at least have a simple way of switching the whole lot off and running in "classic mode".

    Innovation in the UI might get the developers all moist, but users don't really care for it. Look at your washing machine, the main control is probably a big dial because that's what people got used to with automatic washers of old. Manufacturers could put a very clever UI on the front of their computer controlled machines, but they don't because people are used to a big dial and a handful of buttons. The same is true of all sorts of devices that people use every day. The market research people in these industries know their customers. The market researchers for the IT industry speak to the wrong focus groups. They pick on geeks who make up an ever decreasing fraction of the user base. Geeks like their gadgets, real people don't.

    Where this UI "innovation" is forced on users, they are not happy. I don't know a single BMW driver who doesn't think that iDrive hasn't made their car harder to live with than the old model.

    The worst bit about the whole issue of GUI "innovation" is that there is no real innovation, all we are seeing is various bells and whistles stuck on top of the same old GUI. So the best bet for developers of all GUIs? Enough with your gadgets and widgets already. Stop. Take a step back and look at the GUI as whole and see if there's any way to make it an easier and more pleasent experience for the user while not removing the familiarity. If you can manage that go right ahead. If you can't just leave it the fuck alone.

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    in defense of smallyellowfuzzyduck

    the installations are one of the reasons why i find linux too annoying to use as well.

    Lets say, for example, the firefox guys release firefox 4 tomorrow and it's going to completely revolutionise the web. With windows i got to the firefox site, click get firefox. double click the installer file that downloads, press next a couple of times and i'm using it.

    for linux, if it's in the package manager then great, it's really straightforward, probably, update the list and click install.

    Of course if, by some strange happenstance, the repository for that distro hasn't been updated yet, thats when the problems start, i go to the firefox site and am presented with 2 or 3 different types of package files, and a load of source code. Probably for 6 different versions. stable builds, experimental branch builds etc. i download one of the packages hoping it's the right one, and double click it, 9/10 times, if anything happens at all, the package manager launches and i get told i need something else, a library with a cryptic name also not in the repository, before it can be installed. If you have to compile it, yes make/make install might work, if you happen to have all the right headers installed already, but why shoudl you have to compile it!

    Somehow, just double clicking on a file and pressing next, seems simpler to me!

  50. SmallYellowFuzzyDuck, how pweety!

    @All those who defended or flamed me

    Firstly, Goat Jam you are a bigger troll than me ok. You know *exactly* what I'm talking about.

    Secondly, Command line interface, I work in a place where there is about 30 or 40 Linux users and I see them all the time using the CLI, it's something I stopped doing in the 90s.

    To me it's people trying out-geek each other with their knowledge of the CLI (Or fighting the limitations of the OS) I would rather just get my work done without having to memorise all these commands.

    Tom 7 you made a very good point there, a graphics interface doesn't mean the work is more productive, but it's easier for general computer use when it's done right.

    We need an OS like Linux to add varierty to what is available, but it has this "Dont apply unless you are a hard-core geek computer God like me" attitude about it.

    Happy face, lets all be good about this ok.

  51. Anonymous Coward

    Enlightenment 17

    The future is here and it's called Enlightenment. It's pure beauty.

    And before people start responding "It's Alpha / Beta code", yes it is but I've been running it as my main desktop interface for a couple years now with no issues. So there :-p

  52. Anonymous Coward

    New UI's - really?


    It is all very simple to say "We need something new and better". But the question is, what?

    IMHO, I think that we all should look at what is done most frequently on a computer in a workplace, in the home, and on the move, and work backwards from that (critics may say that this is basing what we want on what we already have, but I think that is easier than trying to get a quantum leap accepted in the general population)

    In the workplace, most work is, by necessity, text or number based (even in call centres). Even if we had good voice recognition (and I qualify this later), the speed and accuracy of a keyboard device will prevail. I cannot even see screen or touch-desktop emulations working, because there is something reassuring about a key being pressed to it's end stop, with a slight audible feedback. It's here for the long run, and it's cheap. And you can type and talk at the same time.

    I could see the mouse be replaced, but you will always be working on one thing at a time (at least if you are trying to do it well), so focused windows, or virtual sheets of paper with the current one on the top is natural, and easy for "computers-as-tools" users to comprehend. So, touch screen or gestures can work here, but windows themselves will prevail.

    Voice recognition is out. Really out, unless you want your office full of chattering fools working in an environment more like the Bird House in London Zoo. It's possible that you could use throat mikes, or lip reading software, but that will require people to learn to talk without making much noise. Difficult. And of course, if we get decent context based speech recognition, much of the call-centre based work would just disappear, a much larger change than that of a computer UI.

    In the home, we use computers for web browsing, and entertainment (games, music, photo's etc.) These things could be accessed by a number of new interface technologies, but this will be driven by the home environment and available hardware, not by clever interface. We will be using IR or wireless remote controls (or possibly gestures, maybe our mobile device as the controller) in much the same way as a Windows Media Centre or MythTV (or for that matter a Wii or an Xbox360 with wireless controllers). There will be, of course, a keyboard substitute for those who use mail, blog or tweet, but much of this will be done on a mobile. In the log run, we should be able to interact with the environment with voice command and feedback. This would work in a home environment, because it is quieter than an open-plan office.

    Things will be based around a large display device (or even display devices - imagine your home centre being able to display on any TV in the house, so you can keep watching your media as you move between the kitchen and dining room like you used to do with broadcast TV), but will still be mostly single tasking per person in the house, with background multi-tasking and pre-emptive pop-ups. Top layer 'windows' will still be the most natural interface for visual information, although much other stuff could be spoken.

    On the move, we use the phone, messaging, and media. We already have iPhone like devices which show much promise. Voice recognition will be limited, because of background noise (although think throat mike again), but gesture based interfaces, like we are now seeing will become the norm. Again, only one thing active at a time, with backgrounded multi-tasking, and pre-emptive popups.

    OK so this is my view, but I have always been form-follows-function, and this is how I see people continuing to work in the near future. Until we really get a new Man-Machine interface (HUD or direct like 'Neuromancer' (William Gibson), 'Oath of Feality' (Larry Nivern/Jerry Pournelle), or 'Ghosts in the Shell' (Shirow Masamune)), we're stuck with windows, pointer devices, and some voice recognition.

    Arguing about what should appear on which task bar, how the window borders look, and the fonts and colours is really just a diversion from the real problems , like why do we still not have decent context sensitive speech recognition after nearly 40 years of research and goodness knows how much improvement in CPU power and storage! I would love to be able to 'talk' or otherwise interact with my 'mobile' device, which could then interface to my home or office environment as appropriate (I once read a story about a smart book which could do all these things which developed a personality, but alas, I have forgotten both the title and author).

    Time for a beer, I'm sure.

  53. Andrew 14

    Web interface

    That statement would have been directed in part at the likes of Google.

    "Go ahead and try the web as the UI for Android. We'll be covering your back."

  54. viet 1

    Ok, I'll bite.

    Linux is not Windows ; and hopefully, won't be in any near nor far future. Neither is it Mac OS X. All complaints I read here are comments by people expecting to have a free-as-in-free-beer Windows clone. Not going to happen, better switch to ReactOS now, folks. I admit Mac OS is a decent desktop, but then again, Linux evolution is orthogonal to Apple engineering methods in every respects : open dev / closed dev, all possible hardware and some more / closed platform, etc., and IT IS THE REASON WHY linux and mac os have similar market shares albeit targeting different sectors.

    On to the fine points :

    - Consistency : Linux is consistent ; more so than windows. The learning curve may be steeper, but it's mostly completely additive. You barely ever re-learn to do something. New methods to do the same things can appear, but when all else fails, you've always got a bash and vi. To enforce consistency business wide, just stick with a major linux vendor, Ubuntu-LTS redhat or novell, and you're warranted consistency for *years*.

    - CLI : you can spend months *not* touching a CLI in linux. You do so because it is *faster*. The flip side is you can't use a CLI without knowledge, and knowledge means WORK. So, if you want to pull out guru things in a GUI, you'll always get spanked by the bearded CLI wizard standing at the next desk. It's a common pattern in humanity : cavemen began by small icons on their cave walls, then men went on to hieroglyphs, and then invented alphabet. And thereafter, the CLI was born. GUIs are backward. They slow you down and limit you expression capabilities. You can choose to be lazy, but you can't be both lazy and respected. And this is really the crux of the problem here : everyone with a few tricks up his sleeves can *look like* a Windows wizard, because the whole system is so obfuscated that changing a couple of keys from an internet recipe in the registry gives instant guru status, and sends chill down the spine of normal users. You can't get away like that with Linux. Either you really know what you're doing, either you look like the moron you really are. This removes the carpet under the feet of many individuals among corporations, undermining their little power, and this is clearly not acceptable to them. They'd rather have everyone else struggle with a GUI than losing their position on the social ladder.

    Linux has come a long way since its inception. The same debates creep in time after time, but the truth is Linux *is* successful *because* it is *different*, not in spite of being different. Desktops are really only a part of the computing world at large, and in many other sectors linux is on par with the competition. I am personally satisfied I can do all my everyday work with linux, I like KDE 4.3 for what it is, and so far the only desktop application I might need that doesn't really exist is a good OCR. I can live without, though.

  55. Goat Jam


    OK, the whole "Labyrinthine Windows Install Process" was obviously a bit of an exaggeration, and a funny one too (I think) Nevertheless, I'll bite.

    After firing up my WinXP VM I type "pidgin" into the IE address field


    The requested URL could not be retrieved


    The following error was encountered while trying to retrieve the URL: http://pidgin/

    Unable to determine IP address from host name pidgin

    The DNS server returned:

    Name Error: The domain name does not exist.This means that the cache was not able to resolve the hostname presented in the URL. Check if the address is correct.

    Hmmm, It is IE6 after all (I don't use Windows for web browsing and I dont use IE, so I've never bothered to upgrade). Having said that I don't recall ever telling Windows Update NOT to upgrade IE so I'm not sure why I'm still on IE6. I don't take a hell of a lot of notice though because I rarely fire XP up so maybe I did at some point in the past. Shrug, whatever.

    In any case, maybe I should try chrome, which I have installed.

    Indeed, Chrome does come up with pidgin as the first result. Within the pidgin group is a "Download" link so I click that.

    Chrome dutifully informs me "This sort of file can harm your computer, are you sure you want to continue?" My options are "Save" or "Cancel"

    I click save.

    I can't remember where Chrome downloads to but there is a "Show all downloads" button so I click that. It shows me a list of all previous downloads including pidgin.

    I click pidgin and am warned again "The publisher could not be verified. Are you sure you want to run this software?" Options are "Run" and "Cancel"

    I click run.

    It asks me to choose a language. Why? Linux progs NEVER do that. If my system is configured for english then english it shall be. Anyway, I click english.

    "Welcome to the Pidgin Installer! It is recommended that you CLOSE ALL OTHER PROGRAMS!"

    Ummm, why?

    Click next to continue. get presented with the GNU public licence. Click "accept"

    The next screen is "Select components to install" complete with a active directory style tree representation with a bunch of items selected or not selected for whatever reason. I'm sure Grandma will have not trouble understanding that screen. Click next.

    "Choose Install Location" Why? Surely there is a conventional and consistent place for apps to install to. Why should I choose or care where it goes? Click "Next" because I just don't care. If I want to know where it is later I'll type "which pidgin" into the console and be told.

    "Setup will install pidgin into the following folder. To change the folder click browse and select the appropriate folder" Hold on, didn't we just do that? Click "install", watch the purty progress bar.

    "Install complete, click finish" Click "Finish"

    So, while I agree that I didn't have to reboot or deselect the spyware/toolbars or even reinstall Windows (yet) it wasn't the most granny friendly process ever. It still took FAR longer and was more potentially granny befuddling than Synaptic>Select>Apply was under Linux.

    But if you're happy with the way Windows works then more power to you. As soon as I can buy a PC at retail without having to buy Windows I will surely leave you to use the OS of your choice, just as I would like to use the OS of my choice, without paying for one I don't choose to use.

    That seems fair to me.

  56. George 24

    Yes please

    Please develop the GUI, find better ways of using the desktop real estate, faster ways of scrolling etc.

    Unfortunately, this is not the Linux problem. Make it easy to use. Make installers that work, make uninstallers that work, agree on a standard, get the manufacturer to release drivers for TUX straight away. Those who still pretend that any flavour of Linux just works has not tried to run it on the latest hardware or install software that is not in the repository.

    Unfortunately, it is still M$ in front, then Mac and then Linux (despite its superiority as an OS).

    At home I run Ubuntu because I love tinkering. At work, its the old M$.

  57. northern monkey

    @Fucking right

    Are you telling me this

    looks like a poor-man's XP??

    Enlightenment (something you seem far from having experienced) has always been at the bleeding edge of linux WMs - and before you start saying 'it copied the transparency from windows blah blah blah' it's had transparency since I first encountered it about 10 years ago, when the most exciting UI innovation microsoft could come up with was a colour gradient in the window border!

    And as users above have commented on how difficult it can be to achieve things in linux they're obviously taking advice from the wrong forums - the beauty of linux (at least some distros) as it stands is that there is the easy GUI way to do something and the build from source satisfying all your own dependencies rebuild your own sodding kernel way. If people can't see that this is why linux is so powerful and attractive to some users then I'm not entirely sure why they have a register account. Linux has come a long long long way from the days when you had to run xf86config to setup xwindows and just keep your fingers crossed that your monitor wasn't going to blow up.

  58. Cameron Colley

    Still don't see waht all the fuss is about.

    I've never understood this obsession with bells and whistles interfaces -- the first thing I do with Windows, KDE or Gnome is turn off any fancy transparency and wobbly effects. I also get rid of any additional task bars that take up real estate. Some things are also much easier and faster using the command line -- that is unless you're too stupid or too lazy to use it (that goes for Windows and Mac users too).

    I agree with those who say what Linux needs is to work out of the box on more machines and with more devices. When I talk to people about using Linux that's all they're generally worried about and those that do get it working "out of the box" generally get to like it.

    @deegee: You may not use the command line on Windows but enough of us admins do that MS have brought out a new command-line language for us to use called PowerShell. Scripts and the command line are the most efficient way to carry out tasks and Microsoft admits this too.

  59. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects 1


    "What Linux needs is to "just work" like Windows does."

    WTF? icon here.

    Recently bought a new netbook with Vista on it. Scrubbed Vista, installed XP.

    Bad Joke Alert icon here.

    This is the bit that earned the fail icon.:

    "Everything worked 'cept for WiFi. Quick search, download one .exe file and double click. One re-boot later and WiFi works. Everywhere."

    With Intentional Explorer? -Which in this public library has a tick on the [save my short and curlies for the next holder] box, please? And this thing gets wiped at night I think (anyhow it doesn't have WiFi which at least shows someone in the nexus has had his thumbs hammered at least a trillion times.)

  60. Dave Lawton

    @Rich 2 WIMP

    For something that does address some of your issues, try RISC OS - written for the ARM cpu.

    It ain't perfect, a lack of software development being the main stumbling block, but you can try it under emulation to get a feel for it.

    More info here

  61. magnetik

    @northern monkey

    Er, TBH that screenshot is pretty crap, like something taken from Mac OS 8 or earlier. I ran Enlightenment about 8 years ago and the version was 0.16 back then, just as it is now. Seems that its development pace is as slow as ever. Anyway Enlightenment has always been big on effects and small on practicality.

    I've been running KDE desktops from version 0.8. Just installed 4.3 and am utterly underwhelmed. I'd much rather use my Mac. I gotta agree with the article. Linux desktops should be pushing new boundaries instead of aping the likes of Windows and OS X.

  62. snafu


    "...Linux would do well to copy where Apple have gone, as a massive amount of research and development has gone into, what many consider to be, the best Desktop experience bar none..."

    That could be said of Apple during the classic Mac OS era: they had an Humane Interface Group doung actual UI development and testing back then. Nowadays, OS X' desktop is a mess, with lots of glitzy things band-aiding the user experience.

  63. northern monkey


    Er, TBH, it sounds like you're never going to be happy with anything unless it comes with an Apple sticker on it (and has a stupidly high price tag and absurdly restrictive licensing to boot). And are you kidding me with that mac os 8.0 comment - it looks like windows 3.1!

    And one last thing you're obviously not so good with the reading, that was from Enlightenment 0.17, and it's 0 because much like emacs it's very modest and never wishes to call itself perfect (unlike windows, for instance, which microsoft seemed perfectly happy to charge people an arm and a leg for an alpha copy of version 7 aka vista)

  64. mccp

    @ Goat Jam

    OK, so clearly a version of IE that was released in 2001 (wikipedia) may not make the search and install quite as simple as I stated. Chrome is better, but as it won't allow you to execute a file without downloading it first there is an extra step - you just have to click on the downloaded file in Chrome's status bar, not search through your downloads.

    You make some good points - especially about language selection - but these things are only there because the publisher of this installer decided to leave the default settings when creating the install package, they aren't intrinsic to Windows.

    In general I'd agree that installing an app from a managed repository is very simple and often better than Windows, but only when the app (or version) you want is in the repo and that you don't get any incomprehensible errors. However, the Pidgin installation I did this morning is typical of well over 95% of my experience with Windows installs. Under Ubuntu I reckon at least a third of my installs can't be done by a simple apt-get.

  65. Anonymous Coward


    "Secondly, Command line interface, I work in a place where there is about 30 or 40 Linux users and I see them all the time using the CLI, it's something I stopped doing in the 90s."

    Yeah? Even when it might be quicker? There's a bunch of stuff I can do from the command line in the time it takes your favourite GUI to load. It's not a question of having to, but wanting to, for reasons of simplicity and efficiency.

  66. Geoff Mackenzie

    CLI old fashioned?

    In real life we all invest years of effort learning linguistic interaction, despite having point and grunt down cold almost immediately. Point and grunt works fine for simple requests, but more complicated and subtle communication requires us to resort to language.

  67. Anonymous Coward

    @Dude, where is my talking computer?

    I don't know, but if you ever acquire one please let me know.

    > Spock and Kirk had one in 1966. It's not as though we haven't had the idea in front of us.

    Ah, we had the idea but in order for us, the consuming public to buy this stuff business had to get involved and we all know that business is where life's third-raters go to <strikethrough>die</strikethrough> work.

    > What happened to neural networks.

    Researchers are still researching them.

    > Why can't computers learn what we do?

    Because we are very complex, barely understood machines, whereas computers are just stupid entities doing what they're programmed to do.

    Hmm. Maybe that should be the other way around?

    > What happened to the blinkcam idea, looking at the menus?

    Dude, have you seen the size of the headpiece? (

    > Look how clever web sites and games have been inventing other ways to do things.

    Er, maybe I'm wrong but input devices seem to be mainly limited to things you can hold in your hand (mouse, keyboard, game-controller). AFAIK no web site or game has introduced anything as revolutionary as the computer reading your brain waves or responding to your verbal commands. The nearest I get to the latter is repeatedly shouting the same word at telemenu systems.

    > Dude, where is my anticipating, verbal cues detecting, talking computing?

    As far away as a full understanding of the human brain.

    Or you could try Naturally Speaking if you particularly like the computer typing all the wrong worms.

    > For glod's sake, we have squandered 20 years of hardware extrapolation on doing the same thing as the gem desktop, (and survailence) instead of doing something new.

    Yeah, well that's what happens when business gets involved: You just keep getting more of the same.

  68. Anonymous Coward

    Gnome Dev idiots

    This is typical.

    After Gnome developers insisting that incremental upgrades are the way to go, they've now gone all "me too" (after KDE's major revision) and now they want change just for changes sake.

    The new supposedly workspace based system they working on is utter, utter crap that doesn't make the slightest bit of sense and makes things far for awkward and difficult (not that they care because, hey, it's new, different and shiny). It's an answer looking for a question that was never asked.

    Gnome has great potential, but there are so many outstanding issues that the devs simply refuse to address (or even accept completed patches for) that it feels like it's stagnating. However, that's no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Just fix the issues and interface would be significantly improved.

  69. deegee
    Thumb Down

    The penguins just don't get it...

    All of this talk about "don't change the interface" and "keep the CLI because [FOR ME] it is faster" etc...

    And you wonder why Linux is not being adopted rapidly or more widespread?

    The fact is that the average user does NOT want to have to deal with that archaic hassle. There are more average people and users out there than there are IT people and admins, and the average person does NOT want to become an admin. Faster means nothing if you have to learn dozens or hundreds of silly-worded cryptic command strings.

    Have you ever wondered why most people don't program the clock on their VCR/DVD? Now you expect these same people to learn and use archaic CLI?

    Did any of you even read the article or understand what this is about?

    If any of you were using computers back when the GUI started to take over on numerous platforms, removing the use of CLI was one of the main pushes from the entire industry due to massive complaints by all users of the old cryptic DOS-like systems.

    And if you are all trying to tell me that Linux is so much faster than Windows and OSX, then why does it take too long for a GUI to load so you need to use the CLI instead?

    @Cameron Colley

    "You may not use the command line on Windows but enough of us admins do"

    I'm a corporate IT person managing three corporations in two cities. There is no reason why I should be forced to use a cmd interface to get things done on a desktop or server computer.

    Three or four clicks through ControlPanel or AdminTools to get to what I want via GUI is not that big of a deal, and it makes training, telephone support, etc., considerably easier and faster.

  70. jevs

    To shut down MS Windows... have to click on a button called 'Start'.

  71. Bryan Anderson

    @I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

    <me> "What Linux needs is to "just work" like Windows does."

    <you> WTF? icon here.

    Why WTF? In *MY* experience, Windows just works. I have never had trouble installing hardware or software, installing or re-installing the OS on my own or any other persons PC. I have NEVER been able to get a fully working install of any Linux distro - there's always something that doesn't work. So in *my* experience, Windows "just works" and you are in no position to "WFT" about MY experience.

    <me> Recently bought a new netbook with Vista on it. Scrubbed Vista, installed XP.

    <you> Bad Joke Alert icon here.

    And the bad joke is.....? I prefer XP of Vista. End of.

    <me> "Everything worked 'cept for WiFi. Quick search, download one .exe file and double click. One re-boot later and WiFi works. Everywhere."

    <you> With Intentional Explorer? -Which in this public library has a tick on the [save my short and curlies for the next holder] box, please? And this thing gets wiped at night I think (anyhow it doesn't have WiFi which at least shows someone in the nexus has had his thumbs hammered at least a trillion times.)

    Unfortunately I simply have no clue what you're on about in that last paragraph. I don't recal actually mentioning my browser, public libraries or my short and curlies.

  72. ClickMonster

    re: CLI Old Fashioned 28th August 2009 13:50 GMT

    Interesting arguement but you miss the point ... what happens to it if I say "But a picture paints a 1000 words".

    Point and click. Drag and drop ... these are all intuative gestures which is why 3 yr old kids can manage a mouse ... I doubt there are many 3 yr olds that can manage CLI.

    It may be more powerful, it may be quicker but it is a pain in the ar$e to try and learn.


    My opinion ...

    I'm not a big Microsoft fan .. I so wanted Ubuntu to be accepted in my household but it wasn't (and not because of GUI issues). Too many things didn't work properly and to fix each of them took too long trawling forums for contradictary advice and dropping down to CLI? No thanks.

    Tron was a cutting edge film in its day but now it looks shite. Around the same time I was carefully typing out Basic programs from magazines to get computers to do stuff ... why should I still have to do that?

  73. Alice Andretti

    Useful features ignored because "too much like Windows"

    "X11-based systems are a whole lot more configurable."

    Maybe for geeky things, but for simple everday things, I'm not so sure. Several examples come to mind.

    Example 1. You can't drag-select multiple items in list-view in Ubuntu (Gnome, Nautilus), and none of the developers seem to care.

    Nearest workaround I've been able to find is the clunky idiotic click-shift-click workaround, but for Christ's sake, I've been able to drag-select list-view items on my old Macs for almost forever, and Windows has that functionality too, so why can't Ubuntu do it? Ubuntu allows drag-select in icon view, so why can't they do it in list view too? (And who in their right mind uses icon view anyway, unless it's for pictures or something, but I do all picture-editing stuff on my old Macs.)

    Is it too complicated for the non-paid hobbyist programmers to figure out, or are they just being stubborn because it would be "too much like Mac" or "too much like Windows"?

    I've actually *seen* one instance where a developer actually cited "too much like Windows" as a reason for not including a different (unrelated) much-requested feature that many Linux users wanted. He even came right out and admitted that yes the requested feature would be useful and good, but since it might remind people of a Windows functionality, it would be uncool for Linux to have it too. Nothing to do with copyrights or patents or anything, just plain foolish pride. Cutting off their nose to spite their face.

    Seems to be one of the drawbacks of not getting much/any financial rewards from their efforts, is that evidently many developers don't give a rat's ass what users want. Must be an ego trip or something, why they even bother to write software in the first place. Or, just boredom, aka something to do.

    Example 2. In Ubuntu + Gnome, or in KDE for that matter, how does one adjust the height of window title-bar thingies, and size/height of menu items, etc? I can easily do all that in Windows XP Pro (I like to make most of those things tiny, to give me more room on my already-big monitor or "just because"). Is it just something I missed in Linux, or is there an obscure command-line way to do that, or is there in fact *no* way to custom fine-tune such GUI things in Linux? It's easy in Windows, only a few clicks.

    Although I suspect that most Windows users never change any of that stuff and probably aren't even aware that it's possible (some users have so sense of curiosity and never poke around in menus etc), but for those who do want to customize such things, it's nice to have the option. But as far as I can tell it's *not* configurable in the Linux distros I've tried.

    Example 3. Last I checked (a few months ago), I still could not find a mere-mortal-understandable way to make keyboard shortcuts (for opening apps) in Ubuntu *except* for the very limited number of things that appear in System > Preferences > Keyboard Shortcuts. It would be nice to have an easy quick way (as in Windows XP Pro) to make keyboard shortcuts to open gedit or Geany or even the silly Gnome solitaire game (which seems to be much more winnable than the Windows version, hmm), or the System Monitor or whatever else. Yes, it allows me to set keyboard shorcuts for browser, calculator, email (useless since I only use webmail), log out, and a whole sh1tload of useless audio stuff (I don't do any audio whatsoever on Linux - again that's what my old Macs are for), and a few other minor things. One time, somewhere, I read of some arcane convoluted complicated way to make keyboard shortcuts, complete with other users complaining that such things shouldn't be necessary since it's ridiculously easy in Windows - I seem to recall that when I read the instructions, my eyes glazed over and I fell into a stupor ;) and haven't pursued it since.

    But once again the too-often heard open-source attitude seems to be "STFU you whiney moron lusers, it's either our way or the highway, write your own if you don't like it, or go screw yourself and quit complaining, or go back to your loser PC or preschooler Mac" or whatever. :(

    So much for open-source innovation and Linux GUI improvements.

    Example 4. Screenshots. Why do I have to jump through ridiculous hoops just to get a screenshot of a pulldown menu? If evil horrible Windows ;) can do it automatically, why in the hell can't Ubuntu?

    Seems to me that some open-source developers (Windows as well as Linux) are just being stubborn and *deliberately* withholding useful asked-for features in some sort of sadistic passive-aggressive attempt to spite the users.

    A couple of years ago I spent quite a few months (almost a year I think) using KDE, and it seemed rather needlessly idiotic too, although for different reasons which I don't remember now. I found myself cussing at the damn thing quite frequently.

    Never did understand the "KDE is like Windows" thing - didn't seem that way to me.

    KDE seemed kind of dumbed-down and not very configurable at all, and I only used it out of desperation when a Windows virus made me all paranoid about Windows.

    So, because of all the above (and other things) I have yet to be convinced that Linux is "more configurable" than other OSes. Compared to, for instance, XP Pro, Linux seems far *less* configurable in the things that matter to ordinary users.

    Also, trying to get rid of all the bloat (System > Administration > Synaptic Package Manager) to delete crap that is absolutely useless to me, such as all the stupid Evolution and Pidgin space-wasting stuff (that Linux partition is fairly small at the moment, and besides it's the principle of the thing), is an exercise in futility besides wearing out my hand from way too much clicking on stuff only to find out it's part of something else which probably shouldn't be deleted.

    I'm sorry, but as to rolling my own Linux, I'm not a genius, and unless I can go to the library (or find online) a COMPLETE and 100-percent ACCURATE and highly detailed STEP-BY-STEP instruction-manual-for-dummies ;) on how to put together my own Linux thingie without all the bloat, that will remain out of reach.

    What's with all those frickin' dependencies, anyway? And why do I have to keep *all* the Gnome games when I only want *one* of them?

    I haven't yet got up enough nerve to see what happens if I delete important sounding stuff such as "ubuntu-desktop" - sounds rather serious, and at the moment I'm not in the mood to have to reinstall the whole damn thing again.

    Although, to be fair - at least Linux complete reinstalls are much faster than Windows reinstalls, but that's only because I don't have to install very much in Linux, since it's only used for browsing, downloading offline Windows anti-virus updates ;) for the Windows box, quickie webpage edits if I'm too lazy to transfer files to one of my other OSes, and that's about it (seeing as how Photoshop and Corel Painter don't run on Linux, and my printer doesn't work with Linux either).

    The only reason I was ever interested in Linux at all, is because I needed a modern OS for online stuff, and I don't regard Windows as sufficiently secure (even when tweaked, running under a Limited account, etc.). So I put up with Linux crap, for the time being anyway, because I haven't yet found any other satisfactory semi-secure alternatives. (Or, at least the *illusion* of security, not sure which it is.) After way too much experimentation with different distros, I 'settled' for Ubuntu (which is still awful, although not as bad as it used to be) because it was the only distro that had good hardware support for my silly little old PC - at least the video works at the proper screen res without having to fight the damn thing (unlike other distros), so it's not *all* bad :)

    I *still* would like to be able to drag-select items for copying to a flashdrive though (sorry to harp on that again), to transfer to other machines. But the legendary Linux configurability (or lack of) makes such a simple take-for-granted-on-other-OSes thing *not* possible. Yes, it's trivial, but...

    It's all the little things that add up to make a complete picture as far as usability and user happiness ;) and - as an extension of that - probably OS marketshare too.

    Now, what *I* want to know is, why isn't there a Reg icon for a Devil Penguin? There's a Devil Bill Gates icon, and a Devil Steve Jobs icon, but no Devil Penguin... hmmm... Is it because it's "not fair to pick on the underdog"? I suppose that's a good a reason as any...

  74. mikebartnz

    By Anonymous Coward Posted Friday 28th August 2009 10:09 GMT


    in defense of smallyellowfuzzyduck #

    By Anonymous Coward Posted Friday 28th August 2009 10:09 GMT

    the installations are one of the reasons why i find linux too annoying to use as well.

    Lets say, for example, the firefox guys release firefox 4 tomorrow and it's going to completely revolutionise the web. With windows i got to the firefox site, click get firefox. double click the installer file that downloads, press next a couple of times and i'm using it.

    for linux, if it's in the package manager then great, it's really straightforward, probably, update the list and click install.

    Of course if, by some strange happenstance, the repository for that distro hasn't been updated yet, thats when the problems start, i go to the firefox site and am presented with 2 or 3 different types of package files, and a load of source code. Probably for 6 different versions. stable builds, experimental branch builds etc. i download one of the packages hoping it's the right one, and double click it, 9/10 times, if anything happens at all, the package manager launches and i get told i need something else, a library with a cryptic name also not in the repository, before it can be installed. If you have to compile it, yes make/make install might work, if you happen to have all the right headers installed already, but why shoudl you have to compile it!

    Somehow, just double clicking on a file and pressing next, seems simpler to me!


    Once more someone who doesn't know what they are talking about. Without even leaving the file manager I can go to the Firefox download site and download the file firefox-3.5.2.tar.bz2 uncompress it then run the program and when the next version comes out I delete the old directory and do the same again.

  75. Werner Donné

    The Aqua shell can't be matched

    Apple sets the stage when it comes to desktop design, more than ever. The open source world will never match the, because it has no unity of vision and no professional designers. Why a non-developer bother with a Linux desktop? Because at first sight it seems to be free. That is not very relevant, however, for a tool that will be used for several years.

    I would even advise developers to use Mac OS X if they want a proper UNIX system.

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