User friendly Free Software Desktops

Josef Dalcolmo dalcolmo at
Wed Jul 18 15:23:26 UTC 2001

I said:
> > When installing Debian, I never know which packages of many equally
> > appealing ones I should use. [...]

MJ Ray said:
>> This is why we have reviews sites.  There is a reason to
>>, you see.  It would be nice to see more competition for
>> it.  Asking your LUG can also help and help you know that you can find
>> later help. 

lpenet at said:
> IMHO, people should not have to stay aware of Linux
> development to be able to configure simple things. Localization, for
> instance, is a nightmare for "normal" users. 

Although my first Linux installation was sometime around kernel version 1.0,
I still think I am a "normal" user since I am not a developer (I am an EE).
Until today I haven't even been aware of a site called "", and 
none of the HOWTOs and docs that came with the latest Debian system seems to 
point to it (I haven't read all of them though).

Sure, I could have signed up with a LUG. The really normal user would not even 
know what the acronym means, and this is my point. Why should I have to 
surround myself with experts, just to do an installation of an OS on my system.
I can install Win2000 in a couple of hours, then configure it to my tastes 
within days. It took me about a month of work on my new Laptop just to install 
all needed components (like PCMCIA) (the laptop does NOT have the latest 
hardware, it is rather at least 2 years old in terms of hardware).

Please do not get me wrong. I appreciate the free software movement very much, 
partly because I get something for my own use, partly because I share the 
concerns of many to become too dependent on a single company.

I simply think that the current systems are still more designed by programmers 
for programmers, but not for average users (given that it is often a spare 
time effort, that is quite understandable). The average computer user is not 
only interested in the applications he needs to do the job, but also in the 
ease with which he or she can install and maintain the system. Part of this is 
documentation which is up do date and says to which version of a system or 
part of it it belongs.

For example I know, if I want something done at startup under Windows, it 
belongs either into config.sys or autoexec.bat. On Debian I have still not 
fully understood what do do, simply because the original docu describes an 
obsolete method, or refers to a system used in other distributions, and 
because instead of a good HOWTO there is a voluminous specification, which I 
do not understand. Telling me that this is the SysV way of doing things, did 
not help.

And why is there documentation in info, man pages, the USER's guide, HOWTOs, 
miniHOWTOs, in the installation folders and probably more places distributed, 
and only some of it is listed in the GNOME help browser.
Apart: do you think the average user knows how to read a .txt.gz file?

The problem is that most of us do not have the time to keep up with all the 
info that is still necessary to run a Linux system. Therefore, it is perceived 
as inadequate by a lot of potential users. This is more serious than having 
the latest spiffy technology.

MS has understood this. People want features they can actually use without 
becoming software experts themselves. For years MS has had succes with that, 
even if users had to put up with a less stable and less well performing system 
than Linux.

- Josef

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