A roller coaster improvement for Linux

18 09 2008

Well, I leave the author presentation stuff to the about part.

Let’s just summarise that this very article is what above all pushed me opening a blog. This article takes also inspiration by some posts Bryan wrote on his blog Lunduke.com.

I’m a fresh new Linux -well.. Ubuntu- user. I switched from XP to gutsy after a long career as microsoft user; I started with DOS (before with a Philips MSX) and ended with XP.

Since the moment I cleared my laptop from the OEM XP OS and installed gutsy, a sorta love between me and the penguin distro began. I say love exactly because this kind of relation is getting more and more complex as I dive into this new OS world. By complex I mean that the feelings are often mixed up just like sensations poured into a melting pot. I just love Ubuntu but sometimes I hate it as well. This is why I decided to write down what I, as an unexperienced Linux user, would like to see changed in the next releases of Ubuntu.

First of all I need to clarify one point. The criticisms I move are related to the desktop concept of the distro. I know well, by reading articles and forums discussions focused somewhat to the same subject of this post, that many hardcore Linux users don’t share the same urgency many other feel about one Linux distro becoming enough sharp to penetrate and get a significant slice of the desktop usage market. On the contrary I do think and refer exactly to that. That is to say a desktop oriented distro of Linux dragging out from cellars, lofts and server rooms, to compete with comparable success with the other two main products of desktop environment.

My reduced but day-to-day based experience made me think that despite the clearly visible advantage Linux/Ubuntu has on the other two systems, there are equally important drawbacks.  Here below I summarise them.

1- lack of commercial software.

open source is a great thing, maybe one of the greatest in IT history, but alone it’s not sufficient. People want to play Call of Duty IV, Assassin Creed, Spore, they want to design with Photoshop and so on. This is where politics becomes an important factor. I’m more than sure Canonical’s doing its best to push companies to release Linux versions of their commercial softwares but this aspect has, in my opinion, the greatest priority. One drawback related to this point is that there are several desktop distro somewhat competing one against the other. This is understandable given the nature of Linux, but it’s clearly drawing resources to the whole (above mentioned) cause.

2-Look

In this concern I share the same opinion Bryan’s extensively expressed in his posts and during some episodes of his (and Chris’) show (The Linux Action Show). Every marketing, advertising, p.r., (and common sense) book states that the general appeal is the first information upon what a third party builds his/her opinion on an object. Taking the same example mentioned by Brian, I happened to be at work when they released Firefox 3. I installed it on my XP desktop and got really pleased about the new look. When I got home the first thing I did was upgrading Firefox on my Ubuntu laptop. What a shock to see the uglier look of the same application on my favourite OS! Like Brian, I don’t ask for earthshaking effects but Jeez, what about an elegant, polished and glamorous design? There is plenty of capable artists and designers out there!

3- Application installation

This is perhaps the most annoying thing an user coming from a MS OS faces using Lnux/Ubuntu. I know that my beloved OS has glorious advantages with respect to say XP (synaptic, add/remove app, repositories, package management, etc..) but there are also irritating drawbacks. I just want to download the program, install, double click, next, next and that’s it. I don’t want to stand things like:

– the program it’s not present in synaptic so let’s try and find it somewhere else

– the version of the program present in synaptic is older than that on the web site (i.e. check blender)

– I download the package from the web site (i.e. google earth) I run it and it’s fine. Then I discover I can add the same app to synaptic through medibuntu. I install it and now I have two google earth. Well, I think, let’s me remove the first one.. yes but how..??

– there’s no binary for the program so you have to build it from source.. ehm.. this is not something the average user want to cope or lose time with…

These 3 are those points I think need urgently to be improved because, from my experience, are also those (especially the first two) which hold people to leap from their OS, which maybe they don’t particularly like but are used to, to Linux. I know at least 5 people who addressed me one of, or both, the two issues when I tried to push them to switch to Ubuntu.

Which is your opinion on this subject?

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2 responses

18 09 2008
ubuntucat

I agree with all three of your observations about areas for improvement.

My opinion is that these things are outside the scope of Ubuntu developers’ ability to “improve.” They are not user interface-related. They all have to do with third-party support, which comes with increased marketshare.

As more and more users like me (those who do not need commercial software, cutting edge versions of applications, or applications outside the repositories) adopt Ubuntu and other Linux distributions, there will be a more compelling case for third-party vendors to support Linux users and thus create more .deb and .rpm files or to set up their own repositories for installing and upgrading software.

18 09 2008
wizandchips

@ ubuntucat

Yes, what you say makes perfectly sense.
Nevertheless I still hope some improvement, at least -at first- on the look issue, can turn out in the close future.
I also always enjoy using open source software which sometimes excels to the point of competing with the most entitled commercial software (in my experience Blender) but this is not always the case and the lack of excellent production oriented software in certain areas is surely an important drawback to Linux.

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