foobar on computers, software and the rest of the world

A new push for desktop Linux

, posted: 12-Sep-2008 06:02

The GNU/Linux desktop can deliver a very mixed experience to the user: On one hand, you have very functional desktop environments, such as GNOME or KDE, with state-of-the-art features, capabilities, graphical effects, eye-candy and wizbang-ery (Compiz). On the other hand, you have apparent idiosyncrasies, such as different fonts and menu layouts, look and feel in your main desktop applications. Different maturity levels of your apps and different 'corners' of your desktop environment. Little niggles here and there, which don't quite seem to add up.

These disparities and inconsistencies are borne out of the diverse background of the various developers that have worked on the many aspects of the desktop environments and applications. The greatest strength of the GNU/Linux world is this diversity and flexibility. On the other hand, it burdens the desktop with an uneven user experience that is hard to comprehend or handle for those who are used to a more unified environment, such as Apple's desktop, or even Windows.

Mark Shuttleworth, the founder of Canonical, and thus the man and money behind the popular Ubuntu distribution, has vowed to change this. His goal is to make the GNU/Linux desktop competitive, even with the much lauded Apple desktop experience. He set the goal of delivering a user experience that can compete with Apple in two years.

Apparently, he wants to put his money where his mouth is:
If we just showed up [to the upstream Linux and desktop developers] with pictures and prototypes and asked people to shape their projects differently, I can’t imagine that being well received! So we are also hiring a team who will work on X, OpenGL, Gtk, Qt, GNOME and KDE, with a view to doing some of the heavy lifting required to turn those desktop experience ideas into reality.
That's exactly what it will take. Apple's desktop is good because all is done out of one hand, and with great attention to detail. Rather than accommodating every possible option and preference, of which every developer has their own unique set, the developers there at Canonical will be compelled to work towards a single, unified goal for desktop experience. It won't harm the typical flexibility and diversity of open source, since everyone is still free to fork and change. But at least out of Canonica/Ubuntu we will hopefully get a smoother and more unified user experience. And all of this will be available to the entire GNU/Linux community, of course.

So, then, will 2010 finally be the year of the Linux desktop? Smile I for one am looking forward to an even better GNU/Linux desktop experience.

Other related posts:
Munich already saved millions by switching to Linux
Smooth sailing with the Karmic Koala
A Linux distro for Cuba

Comment by Allan Kirk, on 12-Sep-2008 06:45

Forget Linux.

When you need a degree in IT to install Flash to use with Mozilla on a Linux computer, you can forget Linux as a viable alternative to Windows or a Mac!

Author's note by foobar, on 12-Sep-2008 07:00

@Allan Kirk: You need a degree for that? Really? YOU may need a degree to install Flash or 'use Mozilla' on a Linux computer. Most of us, though, just select Firefox from the drop down menu to start it, or can follow a one-line instruction to install Flash.

Comment by George, on 12-Sep-2008 07:01

For Ubuntu to be competitive, they first need to fix a few annoying issues, like crashing web browsers thanks to Flash incompatibilities, and better support for drivers. I would suggest to any prospective Linux user, check out all the distros. They are not all the same. For instance, Linux Mint (which is 98% similar to Ubuntu) will offer you a different experience altogether. Still, I look forward to bigger and better developments in the Linux community.

Comment by Sammy Ironleggs, on 12-Sep-2008 07:45

This is fantastic news. I have been using Ubuntu for about 2 years now. I think it is a great operating system. I have had my issues and have had to work hard to get things working right. I DO NOT have a degree in computer science. My Linux experience is self taught. I enjoy my Ubuntu OS.

I am a teacher and I am quite disappointed in the government spending millions on Microsoft products when they could have saved probably 90% of that money by moving to Linux. Maybe (but I doubt it) in a few years time when Ubuntu takes its place among the other two powerhouse operating systems, the government will see its error and give Ubuntu (or any other distribution of Linux) a try.

Comment by Troll, on 12-Sep-2008 21:33

"When you need a degree in IT to install Flash to use with Mozilla on a Linux computer"

What about: "Forget Flash as it isn't an open source so it's impossible to debug and fix after a crash which is quite often no matter what platform you're using"?

Comment by JoeBloggs, on 13-Sep-2008 17:37

@foobar Even according to that link there are a myriad of exciting problems and fixes that can arise and need to be performed. It's hardly the sort of user experience that I would opt for. Until Linux can become point and click (what the vast majority of computer users want and are used to), it won't become 'popular'. I've given Ubuntu a fair chance but I find I spend too much time configuring x and fixing y and reading z manuals on Google for it to be a productive environment for either work or play. There needs to be some SERIOUS improvement in compatibility and installation with software and hardware too. This isn't all the fault of Linux as an OX either, it's just the way the cookie crumbles.

In other news, I was impressed when I heard Air NZ changed to Linux on their systems. The touted cost savings and reliability. If more firms start moving we might see some serious dollars being invested in uniformity.

foobar's profile

New Zealand

  • Who I am: Software developer and consultant.
  • What I do: System level programming, Linux/Unix. C, C++, Java, Python, and a long time ago even Assembler.
  • What I like: I'm a big fan of free and open source software. I'm Windows-free, running Ubuntu on my laptop. To a somewhat lesser degree, I also follow the SaaS industry.
  • Where I have been: Here and there, all over the place.

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