Stuck with the mistake

It’s been some time since I last posted something. Had been busy gathering data for the OLS paper and once that was done, got some time to look into the couple of months old CPU-Hotplug issue. There are some more items to be done there, hopefully will get some free time this month.

Read this post earlier today:

How easily people can confuse monopoly with standards.

When someone says Linux is not user friendly, I ask “Compared to what?” and they say “Windows”. My question is, what if someone who has worked on Linux all his life was shown a windows box? How will he/she feel about it?

Given the fact that number of schools today, in the name of “Computer Education” bias the young and impressionable minds by teaching them the basics of Microsoft this-or-that product and tell them, “Children, Windows is an operating system. Operating system is windows”, how justified are we in blaming everything to be a problem with Linux? I agree, there are a number of issues that can be improved in Linux. Whether it is the kernel, or the applications, there’s always that scope. But accusing that “Linux is bad because it does not behave like windows” is a stupid thing to do.

To give you an example, I have a young nephew who is not that much exposed to computers. His only knowledge of a computer is restricted to “Computer has a monitor, a processing unit, a keyboard and mouse”.

The last time he came home, I was working on my home PC which has Fedora 8 on it. He wanted to see how the “Computer” works. I showed him a couple of things. Simple things such How to use the calculator with different base systems, use Firefox to browse the internet, what games are available. And yes, I showed him Compiz Fusion. He spent the rest of the time browsing through my pictures and videos. Didn’t call me for help. Not even once.

Next time I met him, he told me about this “computer with a My Computer on the desktop” that his friend had. He told me how stupid was this browser with no tabbed features on it. How everytime he wanted to do something, it asked him thousand times “Are you sure you wanna do this?” and how irritating the whole experience was.

So, that brings me back to the basic question, does it make any sense in comparing two different operating systems, when you are already have a biased opinion in favor of one of them?! How can you expect such a comparison to be objective? Is the way to make Linux operating system a more user friendly one by mimicking what windows does, or by educating people about Linux?

I guess, these are things one needs to understand before doing Experiments on the girlfriend or grandma.

PS: One of my friends wanted to connect her windows laptop to my Hathway modem. When things didn’t work, she insisted on rebooting the modem. On doing that, things started working! Hmm.. must be a Bug Feature. Because on Linux, I just need to set the static IP using my Network Manager! It doesn’t ask me to reboot the modem 🙂


About gautshen

A jack of many trades of which , Linux Kernel Programming puts food on the table. Also pursuing his PhD in the area Theoretical Computer Science at the Chennai Mathematical Institute. Is an avid reader interested in the Hindu traditions and philosophy. Loves Bicycling and Good Music. Name is Ranjal Gautham Shenoy.
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7 Responses to Stuck with the mistake

  1. theG says:

    Nice one! We keep forgetting that windows and linux is not an apples to apples comparison. You might even want to talk about Open Office.

  2. wanderlust says:

    >>How easily people can confuse monopoly with standards.
    says it all

  3. MRES says:

    Nice one… and a point I left on that ‘girlfriend experiment’ blog. Linux is Linux, you can’t make it ‘better’ by making it more like a less productive OS. I hear the same complaint from new OS X users… ‘make it more like Windows’. It’s a stupid argument – if they want to use an OS that’s more like Windows, why don’t they just use Windows? If they hate Windows so much that they want to try an alternative OS, why complain that it isn’t Windows?

    My favourite analogy to answer this ‘make it more like…’ syndrome is a little story about buying a new car –

    Imagine your old car has the windscreen wiper switch stalk on the left of the steering wheel and indicator switch stalk on the right, but your new car has them the opposite way around – do you (A) Never use your indicators and windscreen wipers again (B) Claim your new car is useless and hate it because it’s not exactly the same as your old car (C) Get used to the new way of doing things over time?

    I’d guess most people would go with Option C, thus proving we’re highly adaptable creatures capable of these minor interface changes – it’s a shame that people can’t see that it’s the same with computer OSes.

    In most cases where people persevere with switching to Linux or OS X from Windows, once they have become used to it they find they ARE much more productive and often understand much more about how their computer works (filesystem, directory structure etc). I have friends who are totally non-tech-savvy who have switched, and later told me that they actually understand Windows now that they don’t use it (it always used to baffle them completely – partly because everything was hidden from them behind wizards, shortcuts and the like).

  4. Vishwajith says:

    isn’t life is too short to unlearn and learn new tricks to solve an already solved mundane problem ?

    Unless desktop-linux is only targeting users who are using a computer for the first time, it would be good to be intuitive for existing Win/Mac users.

    Open office looks a lot like Office-11,,, all look like .. its not a coincidence .. its always better to avoid forcing a user to learn new tricks, especially when the existing UX is not very counter-intuitive.

    Now, you can read this comment and say “this guy wants Ubuntu to restart at every s/w config change”, or think if we _really_ need to change existing users’ work flows.

    (btw, I still wonder why Open-Office takes such a long time to Open 🙂 )

  5. karuna says:

    Awesome post!!

    But then people don’t like change! There is some sort of a mental block (for most of them) and for others its about getting work done.

    PS – guess i got some bias!!

  6. theG says:

    Vishwa, well, if everything was the same, where would the difference lie, why have different products? FWIW, windows is not really intuitive. Its just that most people have been using it for years and they think it is “intuitive”. Had you been introduced to Linux first, then you would have said Linux is intuitive and not windows. Look at the example ego has given, about his cousin.

    Now, I just want to know what is intuitive about “Are you sure you want to do this?” when I obviously am asking him to go ahead and complete an action.

    I think Karuna hit the nail on the head when he says people don’t like change. It is human nature. Do you want to know why Windows is winning now? Inertia. People are too used to its form of user friendliness. Anyway, the way vista is going, its just a matter of time before linux beats the crap out of it. (If not for simplicity and user friendliness, then for simple economic reason!)

  7. Vishwajith says:

    I think you read it wrong… I never said windows is intuitive.
    I just said “it would be good to make it intuitive to existing mac/win users”.
    Otherwise, people would just not change… not because windows is better, but because they are intimidated by the learning curve of using a new system (inertia as you said)

    PS: I too don’t want Ubuntu to restart at every s/w config change, nor do I want it to show a security warning for every action of mine.

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