Adrian Kingsley-Hughes recently wrote about five crucial things we apparently do not understand about average computer users. I decided to respond in kind by pointing out the things that Mr. Hughes and his average computer user Linux and it’s users.
1 – On the whole, users aren’t all that dissatisfied with Windows
Adrian, you are right about one thing – most people who encounter a problem with their computer don’t just go blaming Windws and searching for a new OS. You know why? Because they don’t know any better. Most people are not aware that there are other alternatives. I deal with clueless users every day at my job, and believe me – most of them don’t know about Linux, and think that OSX (and I quote) “won’t not be compatible with all the stuff”. No one really knows that that “stuff” is but they all know they need to be compatible with it.
This is what happens when you have a practical monopoly in place. People don’t switch from windows, because no one is educating them about alternatives. Apple is now making a valiant effort with their ad campaigns, but it’s not enough. We need to start in schools and get them young – show them alternatives in introductory computer classes. We need more big companies and governmental agencies taking the plunge showing an example.
I’m not saying that there are no people who are happy with Windows. It’s just that your assumption (which would be absolutely correct under normal marked contitions) does not apply to a market saturated and overrun by a convicted monopolist.
2 – Too many distros
Oh noes! I have to much choice! Let me cry about it! Seriously Adrian, do you really think that the average Joe User knows the difference between the different Vista editions? Hell no! Users ask me every day which Vista to buy, or is it a good idea to upgrade. Why is it ok for them to ask a tech-competent friend or coworker about choices relating to Windows but not ok to ask which Linux distro is good for them?
Let’s face it – average users don’t know what the fuck they are doing or what they want. They will need help installing it and setting it up anyway so they might as well go with a recommendation of someone who has a clue. Users who do know what they want will appreciate the choice.
Besides, all the distros are similar. All you have to do is to show the users KDE and Gnome and have them pick one. Everything else is pretty much non-essential. Most users won’t even care about package system as they will likely be using some sort of GUI front end over apt or yum to get them.
Oh, and Adrian – what the hell do you want us to do about this problem? There is absolutely nothing anyone can do at this point to change this. This point is moot, because there is just no way to consolidate linux and somehow provide users with less choice.
3 – People want certainty that hardware and software will work
Hardware is a problem. However, I think you once again overestimate the average user. In my experience most users consult any soft of hardware installation with a technical person. I have people come to me with things as simple as setting up printers and scanners – not even mentioning replacing any kind of internal hardware.
Most average users will have no clue what kind of graphics or video card they need. Most people also don’t know what kind of wireless card to buy. So I think it’s safe to assume that a linux specialist would be able to advise people as to what kind of hardware is appropriate for their distro. It’s all just a matter of support.
As for software – it is a non issue. Finding alternatives is just a google search away. Average user does not have very sophisticated software needs. They need something that will let them use Myspace, read their Email, chat with their friends and type documents. Most distros will have appropriate applications conveniently labeled as “Web Browser”, “Email Client”, “Instant Messenger”, and “Word Processor” available on the desktop or from some menu.
Also, more and more things are done online. Fewer and fewer people actually utilize clients for their personal email. Most people I know either use the webmail interface provided by their ISP, or Gmail/Yahoo/Hotmail. Online clients require no setup, and are available from anywhere making them very attractive to clueless users.
That leaves us with just a browser, IM client, and a word processor and miscellaneous stuff such as PDF reader, media player, music player and etc. All of these will ship with the OS, and work out of the box – all the user needs to do is to double click appropriate files, and correct applications will start opening up.
Once again, this is a non issue for an “average user”. For a power user who utilizes many specialized software packages this is a real problem, but then again such a user would be able to do appropriate research to decide on switching systems.
Besides, switching OS is a very significant change, and no one really expects it to be easy or straightforward. It’s kinda like switching from driving a tiny sports car to a big truck with a trailer. Both are cars and do the same things, but will handle very differently so an adjustment period is to be expected.
4 – As far as most people are concerned, the command line has gone the way of the dinosaur
I don’t get what you are saying here? So the ability to use powerful shell applications is a bad thing? No one is forcing anyone to use command line anymore. Last time I checked all the big distros had nice, user friendly GUI tools all the configuration options. Most of them have nice graphical installers too. So I have no clue what are you whining about here.
5 – Linux is still too geeky
Have you actually ever used Ubuntu? The automatic updates system they have really isn’t that different from the windows one. Most users have no clue what are all these windows security updates about anyway. Las time I checked you can also configure Synaptic to install updates automatically very much like windows.
Besides, if you give me 100 random people who aren’t windows geeks and sit them at a windows box for the first time in their life and tell them to do stuff I will bet you that more than half of them will become confused at some point. You don’t think people ever get confused by Windows? Of course they do!
This is a fucking double standard. I get calls from freaked out windows users every day because their computer did something unexpected. Eventually they learn via repetition how to react to certain behaviors, and how to do certain things. But sitting a random person in front of an OS they have never seen before and expecting them to use it without any confusion is just plain silly.
With all due respect Mr. Hughes, you seem to have no fucking clue about linux or the needs of an average user. I think that all your points are either completely inaccurate, irrelevant to the topic (like the CLI argument) or based on false assumptions, double standards or re-hashed FUD arguments that have been debunked many times in the media.
Sometimes I wonder why do I even bother to respond to obvious flamebaits like this one. Yes I know Mr. Adrian is whoring for hits by posting rubbish about linux. But you know what? Sometimes I enjoy a good rant. :mrgreen:
[tags]linux, unix, desktop, users, adrian kingsley-hughes[/tags]