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Linux for normal people - Arvind Narayanan's journal [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

Linux for normal people [Mar. 29th, 2006|08:43 am]
Arvind Narayanan
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My parents (and sister) run linux. Now, that's great most of the time, as long as they are doing email, browsing, chat and document formatting. No viruses, no spyware, no crashes to worry about. And GNOME is definitely more intuitive than windows to people who are familiar with neither. So I think I do less tech support for them than I would if they used windows.

However, the minute they want to do anything that the box is not set up to do (like, I don't know, install software or get a new device working), it's hell. It invariably involves messing with command line stuff, and doing tech support is like trying to help a blind person traverse a minefield... over the Internet.

And while we're on the topic, the new GNOME release is great feature-wise but also one of the buggiest since the 1.x/2.0 days.

[runs off to file bug reports]
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2006-03-29 07:54 am (UTC)
Think about people who don't have fat pipes. Installing stuff via apt or yum is out of the question.

The trouble with new devices isn't the drivers -- its the user interface. If it's a mike, there are about a zillion different channels to control in the mixer and you have to select some appropriate combination of them for the damn thing to work. I have trouble doing this myself. If its a music player, it won't mount correctly due to some weird permissions problem. If its a camera, the images had better get automatically imported or else they can't figure out the interface. You get the picture.
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[User Picture]From: sunson
2006-03-29 10:58 am (UTC)
Talk about the mic, I still don't know which shit controls what. I like dumped my alsamixer settings into a file called "recording.alsa-settings" and "quality-playing.alsa-settings" (because with the mic turned on, even when the mic was disconnected, there would be some low level noise).

but I totally understand what you mean.

We'll be there... someday.
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2006-03-29 12:10 pm (UTC)
"because with the mic turned on, even when the mic was disconnected, there would be some low level noise"

yeah, weird stuff like that has happened to me too.

"We'll be there... someday."

I don't know. Audio has been common in home computers since before linux existed, and software mixing has just barely started to work (dmix is shipped by default with ALSA, but not sure if most distros enable it). If all the current problems are fixed someday, there will be a hundred new ones. Seamless Palm/iPod syncing, DRM, other stuff we can't even think of yet.
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[User Picture]From: sunson
2006-03-30 03:51 am (UTC)
Agree. Audio is one big beast and I think Windows/Mac seems great because big players write their software on Windows/Mac.

iPod... I can't even "relate to" how people use iTunes. What is so cool about it? rather, what is cooler about it than gnupod? gnupod is a mind-altering software... a la emacs, screen, etc.,.
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2006-03-30 04:51 am (UTC)
Most people don't want their mind altered by software -- just the opposite. They just want to listen to their music.

One of the hardest lessons in usability is that the best software is one that its users don't even perceive to exist.
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From: nearfar
2006-03-29 10:17 am (UTC)
A well setup Windows system with firewall, virus scanner, disabled-administrator, etc.. is another option.
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2006-03-29 12:02 pm (UTC)
That is definitely an option.

But no matter how well you protect it, there is always the risk that things will suddenly and mysteriously go kaput, and there's nothing you can do to fix it. Plus it is slower, and involves violating copyright.

Considering all that, I would much rather have them put up with the inconveniences of linux.
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[User Picture]From: rfc9000
2006-03-29 12:03 pm (UTC)

GNOME? naaah.. Its as limited in features as xfce, and way more bloated than KDE. whats the point?
Nothing can beat KDE IMHO :)
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2006-03-29 12:12 pm (UTC)
KDE is the ugliest piece of software known to mankind. One look will make user interface designers commit suicide. Good for masochism and little else.
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[User Picture]From: rfc9000
2006-03-29 12:24 pm (UTC)
beautiful/ugly is subjective
moreover as long as something is configurable, you can make it as beautiful/ugly as you desire to
but if something is not configurable, then IMHO something's wrong about it.

PS: I had enclosed my previous comment within <flamebait> </flamebait> tags, but I just notice that LJ has gobbled up the tags :D
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2006-03-29 12:45 pm (UTC)
You completely misunderstand what ugliness is. I'm not talking about the look. At all. Configurability is in fact one of the things that makes KDE a nightmare from the usability point of view.

We can argue about this all day and not get anywhere. I will just observe that a lot of former Mac interface designers now work for GNOME. Do either of us know more about usability than them?

If you wish to argue further please make sure you've read, at a minimum, this and this. Also note that I happen to know what I'm talking about.

Finally, I will point out that KDE has in fact been moving in GNOME's direction for the last few release cycles.
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[User Picture]From: rfc9000
2006-03-29 01:11 pm (UTC)
I worked in Novell for a year during the time when they bought Ximian and with it lots of the GNOME developers. So I've heard/read/argued enough about this usability v/sconfiguration debate :)

I think this whole removing_options = better_usability argument is bullshit. Removing options is only good for retards.

PS: AAMOF I dont like Mac's gorgeous looking but rigid and non-configurable UI.

PS2: Linus Torvalds shares my opinion that GNOME is for retards :)
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2006-03-29 01:20 pm (UTC)
Ok, if you've argued with GNOME developers for a year then it is even more clear that it is pointless for us to argue. I have nothing against your using KDE, but I would like the right to use GNOME myself without being called names.

And BTW, the pope shares my opinion about cars.
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[User Picture]From: rfc9000
2006-03-29 01:32 pm (UTC)
And BTW, the pope shares my opinion about cars.

:D

BTW, coincidence or what but both the Pope and Linus's middle name is Benedict!
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2006-03-29 01:48 pm (UTC)
Heh, that's pretty funny :)
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From: nearfar
2006-03-30 05:32 am (UTC)
Stop configuring the color of the window title bar and go write some cool app or listen to music. :-)
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[User Picture]From: haran
2006-03-29 07:06 pm (UTC)
FWIW, The new default Gnome theme, ClearLook (or something to that effect) fails miserably in Fitts Law. The Maximize\Minimize\Close buttons do not occupy the edge of the screen and cause all sorts of pain when you want to throw your mouse to the corner to close the window.
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2006-03-29 07:14 pm (UTC)
I know. I've filed bug reports. They won't listen. What could be more natural than 'throwing' your mouse to the top right corner to close the window?

Similarly, most gnome apps put the scrollbar ONE PIXEL OFF of the right edge of the screen. 'Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory', as Joel Spolsky called it. Fortunately firefox doesn't have this problem.

Anyway, there is exactly one window border theme 'Esco' that gets the edge-of-screen behavior right.
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[User Picture]From: rfc9000
2006-03-29 08:08 pm (UTC)
What could be more natural than 'throwing' your mouse to the top right corner to close the window?


Alt-F4 - close
Alt-F9 - minimize
Alt-F10 - mazimize
Alt-F11 - fullscreen

for maximum productivity, simply stay away from that stupid mouse. KHotKeys (or whatever the GNOME equivalent is) is your best friend!
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2006-03-30 04:43 am (UTC)
Hey, stop calling people stupid. Yeah, I know about the keybindings. I'm not a moron. Frankly, this is starting to get annoying.
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[User Picture]From: rfc9000
2006-03-30 06:28 am (UTC)
oops .. that was totally unintended
I called mouse stupid, not people.. anywayz.. im really sorry..
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