Is Linux nearing XP usability?


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turkishdelight

I've tried several Linux distros, but I've had difficulties with all of them. The distro I'm most interested in is Ubuntu, which is very good, but not perfect.

You should know that I'm writing this from the point of view of a person who's been using Windows for most of his life, and has gotten very used to Windows. I've only known Linux for a year or three and have only begun trying out distros for about a year. Oh, and sorry if this post is too long :p I just didn't want to create a whole other thread about what Linux could improve.

Stuff Linux could improve

1. Lose the hard installations

One con of Linux is that in 99% of all cases, you absolutely must read the software's documentation before you attempt to use or even install it, if you're a total Linux n00b like me. Now, I understand that documentations were meant to be read, but flipping through man pages and multiple readme documents isn't my idea of a quick and easy installation. Being used to Windows' point and click installation, I've been utterly confused about why Linux must still drop to the terminal level and execute a shell script(s) to install an app. In Windows, a user would simply double-click the single .exe file (note the use of an extension that gives some clue to the file's purpose) with a nifty icon and click through a series of prompts.

The lack of a dedicated installation location (or at least a default installation location) is also a put-down. How can a user install software if there's no place for it to be installed? If there is a place for apps to be installed, why hide it under something like /usr/bin/blah/asdf? Why not make it something simpler, like /programs or /bin? Why must it be (in many systems) shoved under the user directory? It's not a user's app, it's for the system.

I commend, however, those who made graphical, binary installers for Linux that work under all distros without complex tweaking or compiling from source. I understand that 1337 coders or people with the patience to read INSTALL will know to open a terminal, cd to the download directory, type ./install, hope something usable comes out, etc., but Windows-weaned users probably won't. I have to emphasize that installers should be binary, not source. I know that source is more compatible, but don't all Linux distros run the Linux core underneath?

As for package managers, that's a great innovation, except that distros don't tell you whether they have apt or yum or something else. How can you know?

2. Don't mask shortcut names

Every Linux distro I've tried has attempted to change the desktop/etc. shortcuts' names to reflect their purpose. Why? Why must it be "Internet Browser" instead of "Mozilla Firefox" or something? I know that for novice users this may be handy, but why not make a tooltip, for example:

Shortcut name: Mozilla Firefox

Tooltip: Internet Browser. Version 1.0.6.

Plus, if that's supposedly a friendly feature (which is thoughtful, but not my taste at all), why must the apps be so hard to install in the first place (see number 1)?

I know that on Windows, I sometimes have to alter my expectations to suit the app I'm using (for example, I have to remember that the new tab key in Maxthon is Ctrl+N, not Ctrl+T as it is in Firefox), so if I don't know what the app is...you get what I mean.

3. Produce more/better drivers

This is an inherent issue with Windows users switching to Linux; the default drivers are usually adequate or good, but they don't always bring out the full capabilities of the hardware. For example, my Logitech MX510 has all the buttons active and working under Ubuntu, but I haven't found a way to configure what each button does. The Mouse control applet doesn't help that much. Granted, developers (often independant ones) have to work to develop drivers when manufacturers don't, and that's both good and bad.

4. Offer one app for one purpose

This is very hard to achieve, but it has been done, mostly. For example, I don't like to juggle three text editors, four graphics editors, two music players, and more in a typical Linux installation. However, I also do not want to have only one app installed that doesn't meet my needs. This is basically up to the user, though...

In addition, I just don't like KDE's and GNOME's (and...) interfaces and the surprisingly long startup times of Linux compared to Windows. The rest of my gripes are pretty much very minor.

But if Windows fits your needs, than certainly there is no reason to switch.

I agree; I'm just curious about Linux and its capabilities right now :)

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Deanobear

It amazes me that some people are still so uneducated about Linux.

I'm a graphic designer, since the mid 80s, used mac, pc, even old linotype typesetting macines.

I have completely moved over to linux. I use Scribus (with icc color management) for my pagelayout, Inkscape and Karbon 14 for vectors, and most of my photo work is done in Gimp. Tho I must admit that I do run Photoshop 7 on crossover office, just to convert my gimp rgb into cmyk, the moment gimp supports cmyk ... photoshop will be removed.

I never have to reboot because an application has halted the system, something I cannot say when using NT/XP.

I make my living on my linux box and I'm only sorry that I didn't do it a little sooner.

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Barney T.

Hi mzhao,

That was a well thought out response. I commend you for such a thorough post.

My experience is that most hardware (in the newer distros... especially the noob friendly ones) are automatically detected and configured. In Mandriva 2005 LE, everything that was on my laptop (laptops are notoriously tricky under Linux) was configured from the start. USB wireless mouse, touchpad, wireless NIC card, everything! The same went for SuSE, XandrOS, and others....

You can install whatever package you want to in Linux. Linux is all about choice and you can install one or eight different packages for the same purpose (like CD burning). Or you can try them out and remove the ones you do not like or want.

My experience with Linux is that it is marginally faster than than Windows, but this is based on your computer configuration, services running, etc.

True, Linux distros have a bit of a learning curve when you first get started with it, but there are many that are completely noob friendly with package managers, GUI interfaces for everything, and point and click useability. It is all in what you want to do with your OS.

Barney

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aries123

Well i use mandrake linux as well as xp and i like it but i think its a longway off windows. :no:

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dotRoot
In addition, I just don't like KDE's and GNOME's (and...) interfaces and the surprisingly long startup times of Linux compared to Windows. The rest of my gripes are pretty much very minor.

I agree; I'm just curious about Linux and its capabilities right now :)

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Most of your post is opinion stuff. Not invalid of course. But this one I just couldn't let get away.

Windows boot times "seem" faster. MS actually loads the desktop background image and the taskbar (explorer obviously, but it is still loading at that time) AND icons. All the while everything that you have to start up when Windows does is starting...all at once. So yes it loads into the desktop 'faster'.

Linux on the other hand loads all of your apps in your startup in order, not at the same time. It gives you a slower boot appearence. However, it isn't always the case. Depending on what your Windows installation loads at startup and what Linux loads at startup will vary the boot times.

With Linux you can take out almost all of the apps it will load at startup if you want to, just like Windows. To compare a Linux bootup time to a Windows bootup time on the same machine to have comparable apps loaded on both. Although it is unrealistic, so is expecting one OS to load more and different things and expecting them to boot at the same time.

Everyone's experience is different. On my servers I have WMs installed, but it doesn't load them at startup or XWindows for that matter. I just don't need them. I can't really compare that to a Windows OS running on a server with the same specs, because Linux would boot faster, but Windows has to load more.

Comparing boot times in the sense I'm talking is to actually try to really compare which one actually will load the comaparable amount of stuff. For real world, like I said, it just depends on what you load.

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Barney T.
Well i use mandrake linux as well as xp and i like it but i think its a longway off windows. :no:

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That doesn't tell us anything. Mandriva 2005 LE has done everything for me that Windows did, without the restrictions.............. for free.

Barney

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ujjwal

Startup time would also depend on the number of services started up, and, if you count the time to boot into X Windows, the desktop environment / window manager you use. My slackware box here takes 22 seconds to get to the login screen, and about 4-5 seconds to get into X Windows and start IceWM. This is on a 266 MHz, 128MB RAM system :)

If you don't like KDE/Gnome (neither do I), you have many alternatives, like XFCE, EDE, IceWM, *box, Fvwm, Sawfish, Enlightenment etc.

But yes, you make many good points in your posts, especially about binary installers, things like Firefox and OO.org are using them, that can be expanded. It would be good for binary installers to place the program in a single directory in /usr/local, ask the user whether to create links in /usr/local/bin, and before installation, list the dependencies required, check that they are met (by checking for the actual files, and not querying a package manager), and then place a file in the install directory, containing information about the files created, so that they can be easily uninstalled.

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dotRoot
But yes, you make many good points in your posts, especially about binary installers, things like Firefox and OO.org are using them, that can be expanded. It would be good for binary installers to place the program in a single directory in /usr/local, ask the user whether to create links in /usr/local/bin, and before installation, list the dependencies required, check that they are met (by checking for the actual files, and not querying a package manager), and then place a file in the install directory, containing information about the files created, so that they can be easily uninstalled.

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I guess your point about using the package manager's database is that its because the file locations can't be dynamic? Well the functionability is there. I guess its just because nobody has gotten around to it yet. I mean package managers are pretty much brand new. Things take time to developement. There are a lot more features that need to be worked out before putting in dynamic locations first.

As for the reason behind /usr. Its sort of a legacy thing. /usr used to be mounted on the largest harddrive in UNIX, because it was where you put everything user related. System files would be on a smaller drive typically and would be in the / directory. This was all because of harddrive prices back in the day. Almost all used this common practice so it just sort of stuck like that.

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ujjwal

Well my point was that if the installer had to query the package database, it would immediately become distribution specific, and that has become the complaint of many new linux users.

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markjensen

I know that many people new to Linux (99+% from Windows) complain about "this distro uses apt-get, and this one uses yum, and this one...", but frankly it is a non-issue. Knowing which package management tool is used is a matter of all of 30 seconds. From then on, you just use it. yum install celestia isn't that different from apt-get install celestia.

And, there are advantages to a package manager. Specifically, it manages the packages. So, you do an apt-get update and everything you installed with apt-get is updated.

Using an independent loader smacks of the Windows way of doing things, where there is no central "update my entire system" feature. Plus, this initiative will likely generate about 4 or 5 different installers - which is a worse situation than 4 or 5 package managers.

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dotRoot

It would also be good to note that on all the "RPM based" distros that the package managers all use the same database anyway. So you could in effect have yum and apt-get on the same system and use them both without stepping on each other's toes and installing stuff that's already installed. Both will also remove apps that the other one installed fine. The only execption is the atrpms repository's apt4rpm now makes it a major headache to have yum installed with apt-get for whatever stupid reason. But if you are using that repository chances are that you aren't just some Linux new user anyway.

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Crimson Behelit

apt-get install xmms = yum install xmms = emerge xmms

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EduardValencia

usability?,very very far away my friend

adding t this,the linux community will have to double effort to even get to the toes of Windows vista,in terms of technology and compatibility

just my 2 cents

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Riz360

As someone who has JUST NOW logged back in to XP after inadvertantly causing a Kernel Panic by disabling a service in Vida Linux (gentoo), I would say no my friends, linux is not even close just yet, and screw usability for a second, what about performance? Simplicity? The ability to JUST WORK ?

EDIT: Woo! Just noticed my warning levels gone! Time for a name change methinks. :D

Edited by Lucifer360
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Crimson Behelit

I'm sorry guys, Linux is as usable as WindowsXP.

There are some characteristic of the OS that still need work (as many people have mentioned above) . Once Linux has booted into a GUI (specifcally KDE or Gnome) the Linuxbox is just as usable as a Windowsbox. Sure, there will be a slight learning curve ahead of said user, but the same can be said about a Wintel user switching to OS10.

Linux is as usable as Windows XP.

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Kreuger

I think what it comes down to is a lot of people are afraid to try something new because what they're used to "works" for them. It's amazing to see how ignorant people can be and how quick they are to judge something without prior testing/usage or any form of experience required to make an equal and fair statement about how a product works for them. As previously stated, Linux has a bit of a learning curve. All it takes to get used to it is some patience, time and an open mind. That being said, anyone who will not give it a free run with those factors can stay with Windows all they want.

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Riz360
I'm sorry guys, Linux is as usable as WindowsXP.

There are some characteristic of the OS that still need work (as many people have mentioned above) .  Once Linux has booted into a GUI (specifcally KDE or Gnome) the Linuxbox is just as usable as a Windowsbox.  Sure, there will be a slight learning curve ahead of said user, but the same can be said about a Wintel user switching to OS10.

Linux is as usable as Windows XP.

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I'm sorry but thats you argument? All you've done is state that the Linux Equivelant to Windows GUI is as usable without backing it up in anyway. And used bold text to further support your opinion.

I can do that....

Linux is'nt as usable

A noobie can figure out how to work windows and with time if errors occur learn to fix them with the use of the internet and GUI tools.

If an error occurs its likely that the Linux user will be forced to use a command line interface. While that may not be a problem for most linux users it just makes the learning curve for noobies steeper.

so there we have it...

Linux is'nt as usable

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Crimson Behelit
I'm sorry but thats you argument? All you've done is state that the Linux Equivelant to Windows GUI is as usable without backing it up in anyway. And used bold text to further support your opinion.

I can do that....

Linux is'nt as usable

A noobie can figure out how to work windows and with time if errors occur learn to fix them with the use of the internet and GUI tools.

If an error occurs its likely that the Linux user will be forced to use a command line interface. While that may not be a problem for most linux users it just makes the learning curve for noobies steeper.

so there we have it...

Linux is'nt as usable

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I'm sorry you mistakened my post as an arguement... you're welcome to stick with WindowsXP.

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Riz360
I'm sorry you mistakened my post as an arguement... you're welcome to stick with WindowsXP.

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I use linux about 90% of the time...Windows when it is absolutley necessary i.e. conectivity with Nokia phone or games.

Now considering BSD and BeOS, as the flaws of linux are taking their toll

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Malisk
I know that many people new to Linux (99+% from Windows) complain about "this distro uses apt-get, and this one uses yum, and this one...", but frankly it is a non-issue.  Knowing which package management tool is used is a matter of all of 30 seconds.  From then on, you just use it.  yum install celestia isn't that different from apt-get install celestia.

And, there are advantages to a package manager.  Specifically, it manages the packages.  So, you do an apt-get update and everything you installed with apt-get is updated.

Using an independent loader smacks of the Windows way of doing things, where there is no central "update my entire system" feature.  Plus, this initiative will likely generate about 4 or 5 different installers - which is a worse situation than 4 or 5 package managers.

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I don't even use a command line tool for managing my packages, so it's basically like an "Add/Remove Programs" for me, that can also install third party programs.

If Linux is as usable as XP? For one thing, it depends a bit on the distro, not the kernel. There are hard to use distros, and there are easy to use ones. But there's an obvious transition one need to make, but don't mistake that for lack of usability. A Linux user would have some trouble wrapping his mind around all concepts in XP, too. You don't really see it happen though as basically everyone is introduced to XP before Linux. It also matters what you wish to use it for. If your Linux OS is supposed to be for mom & dad to read/write mail, surf the web, and write documents and spreadsheets in, it's dirt easy to use, for example.

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Malbojia

You know I see this as an Apples and Oranges conversation take it to OSX vs XP and XP vs Linux and OSX vs Linux they're are built different made differently and used for different purposes.

But you know what pleased me the most about it. I had customer come in and said I'd like all these parts, very nice ones to add. Then when I offered an Operating System. He asked if i could install Slackware for him really quick with a description of his partition layout to be joined on the samba network.

My jaw hit the floor an educated man that knew of choices.

I asked whats wong with Windows XP he goes never used it at all.

Then I slated to ask 9x series he went nope. Then I ask what where you using during those years. BeOS, BTRON and NeXT.

I really popped this one out their and said what was the last operating system by microsoft you used he replyed

Windows 3.11 for workgroups and it made me run out to get more ram.

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markjensen
I don't even use a command line tool for managing my packages, so it's basically like an "Add/Remove Programs" for me, that can also install third party programs.

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Even that "add/remove programs" panel is more difficult than synaptic (which is a GUI application manager, in case you weren't familiar with it). I typically post a screenshot and explanation, but I have done that a few times this month, and can't be bothered to look it up and re-post.

As for your other comments regarding how difficult it can be to compare "Linux" to Windows, you are exactly right. There is no one "Linux" to compare to. There is Gentoo (or LFS!) through Linspire, and everything in between. People will complain about too many choices in Fedora, but the lack of choices in Xandros. XP is pretty much the same from one PC to another.

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VLR

No one needs to answer as simple question like that with a best-seller lenght like post...

NO! :)

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insurektion

Linux has made great stride but still has a few more years to go before becoming comparable to XP or OSX. Full NTFS support. Better package manager. More intuitivity and media handling (as well as the hardware) would put Linux in a good fighter spot. But it still needs real software support.

I mean regardless of what anyone says The Gimp has nothing on Photoshop. A few real base applications for linux and it would def have a great shot.

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Mike Douglas
As someone who has JUST NOW logged back in to XP after inadvertantly causing a Kernel Panic by disabling a service in Vida Linux (gentoo), I would say no my friends, linux is not even close just yet, and screw usability for a second, what about performance? Simplicity? The ability to JUST WORK ?

EDIT: Woo! Just noticed my warning levels gone! Time for a name change methinks. :D

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So you played around with essential system files and it stopped working? PEBKAC.

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