Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Linux needs to be less like Windows and more like Mac

Ok, so here's for my latest rant about Linux. I'm sort of over my previous period of maddness and fury having to do with my various linux woes. Since then I have thought a lot about some of the flaws with linux. I have been away from linux for a while because my processor in my desktop had an unfortunate run in with fan failure while I was away and overheating as a result. I have not had the time to tinker with my box, and haven't been home much anyway. So I have been using the computers at work/friend's houses. These are all winxp boxes with a variety of open source applications installed.

There is one exception to this. My boyfriend's room mate has a mac. It is the World or Warcraft box in the dorm room, and as such I spend what little relaxation/game time I have on that computer. Now I have never liked Macs. Going back to the dark ages of computing I always thought Macs were silly, poorly designed and bound to that stupid one button mouse. My opinion of the Mac OS has improved dramatically over the past couple years. The interface is beautiful. I don't like all the eye candy taking up precious system resources, but modern linux distros and windows are both going that direction as well, so I can't complain too much. At least with linux you have the option of picking a distro with slenderness as a design goal. Windows and Mac you're at the whim of whatever you are able to turn off. What has struck me about Mac while using the WoW machine in my boyfriend's dorm room is that if you added a second mouse button (this still irks the ever living innapropriate explitive out of me) it would be a better interface than windows. It's easy to use, responsive, has a logical file system interface as far as I can tell.

Here's the important part. The configuration interfaces are easy to figure out. I mean really really easy to figure out. There is very little you have to tinker with manually, but it is nothing like windows. It doesn't look like windows, things aren't in the same place as windows, the aesthetic is different, the buttons on the top of the program windows are different.

Linux is a nightmare to navigate. If a driver doesn't manually detect, you're probably going to have to go into the text prompt to fix it. Especially if you need ndiswrapper for wifi or something similar. Either it just works or you're going to rip your hair out getting it to work. There is no, well this needs some configuration but the system is standard enough that we could write you a decent graphical interface to do it with. Not with drivers, or for that matter most of the system. Some things aren't like that anymore, samba, cups, x.org. But too much of linux still needs you to go far too deep to get it to work.

Every time someone brings this up the inevitable conversation comes up about linux "becoming like windows". I say we need to be like mac. Not have easy to use config utilities and interfaces in the places Mac has them, but just have them. Make them as easy to use as we possibly can then put them where we think they make sense. Stop worry about "easy" being too like Microsoft. We need to be unique, but start targeting people who are the reason you now have to request a sys restore disk from major OEMs. We are past "Well Linux is easy to install". Who cares if it's easy to install, most people never install an OS, windows, mac, linux or otherwise. The very idea of it terrifys them. We need an interface that Dell would be comfortable putting in a home computer and selling to one of these people. We need a home video program as simple as Mac's, we need a music player as easy and slick as iTunes, and so on and so forth. Before anyone flames me Amarok is great and all, but it looks too much like a program. Audio is one of those consumer electronics things. People want it to looks pretty, and Amarok is just not a pretty program. I'm really hoping songbird fills this void.

Linspire is starting a real honest to god OEM channel program, and god bless them for it. We need more though. Linspire while an ok consumer OS still has K3B as a burning program, and well no offense, but that just doesn't cut the mustard. The wifi support is great, but if you run into anything non standard in a network someone else controlls at a coffeehouse or something you are still out of luck. Xandros is great in some respects, but it looks like you're running something from the Windows 98 Mac OS 8 era, and well that just doesn't cut it either. I don't want to talk about Fedora, Slack, Ubuntu, or any other distros for that matter because quite honestly they are great linux geek distros, and Ubuntu wants to be a distro for the masses, but until it comes with some proprietary sugar coating it's going to be a geek only distro. Like it or not 90% of the population doesn't give two whits about software philosophy and it's time we started admitting that.

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