The forbidden taboo topic
Friendly greetings to all:
I want to discuss a radical idea. I realize some of the readers here won't be able to deal with my bizarre concept. My idea will probably make many others uncomfortable, because I want to discuss a taboo subject, one that can't be discussed without being quickly silenced or shouted down.
Let me try to introduce this difficult subject by suggesting a metaphor. Imagine a planet where you *can't* just jump in a skysaucer and go. Some skysaucers need a pleen adjustment, and others have a non-standard flrtz configuration. Some need to have the frobnator pumped three times, and other skysaucers require fizbin pressurization.
On the other hand, *x-cruisers* are easy. If you dare point out you can just jump in a x-cruiser and go, you will be told "Skysaucers work just as well. You just have to adjust the pleen, pump the frobnator, configure the flrtz, or pressurize the fizbin as needed. You must also study the manual, and play around for a few days so you know when to ignore the manual. But otherwise a skysaucer is just as easy to use as a x-cruiser. And besides, x-cruisers are made by a billionaire, so they obviously suck."
On Earth, we know it's handy to be able to use any stove without taking it apart. It's useful to be able to operate any television contacting a message forum. I can step into almost any automobile, turn the key and drive away. And I don't have to open the hood.
But, *here* is the heresy that will bake your noodle: A regular guy can't install Linux successfully without assistance, period.
To prove my point, I recently installed six different Linux distros onto a wide variety of PCs. Old and brand new. Slow and fast. Mainstream and clone. And after at least twenty different combinations of Linux and computers, without going to the command line, my success rate was less than 5%! I have tried multiple times over the years to run Linux, and the results have always been the same. It won't install without fussing with it.
Be very clear. This isn't a slam on Linux. Once installed, it's pure heaven. I've got a dual boots on several laptops I use in class. But the part that the Linux community can't grasp is, Linux won't crush Microsoft until millions of ordinary people can *install* it.
Surprisingly, every person I've talked to wants to point the finger somewhere else. They assume I'm a newbie. (Nope, been a pro geek for decades.) They claim it's a particular distro. (Nope, tried six different flavors.) They blamed a particular chip or peripheral. (Nope, I tried seven different machines.) It couldn't be a bad download, or a bad disk, either. What they couldn't grasp is, every other operating system I'm familiar with can be installed successfully by a sensible person 98% of the time. Linux's success rate of 5% is simply unacceptable.
This has nothing to do with Windows. I've been in the computer business a long time, and I can tell you that my grandmother could install Mac OSX properly, every time. DOS, Amiga and Apple II's operating system installed correctly almost every time. I have installed or updated mainframe OSs, and they work correctly almost every time. (Don't bother telling my your favorite flavor installs flawlessly. I know better. I'll bet $1000 that DOS, MacOS or Windows will install without intervention on a random computer. Would you stake $1000 on a hands-free install of Linux? No. That's my point.)
Here's a real world example. In my last computer class, I demonstrated Linux to a class of fourteen A+ and Net+ certified students. They were impressed that it would start from a 128 Mb USB memory key. They were blown away with how cool it looked and all the powerful free software that was included. They were totally gung ho on Linux.
But then they attempted to install Linux. Only one succeeded and everyone else failed. One took home the Fedora disk and tried it on his home PC. But the automatic partitioning clobbered his existing OS and took 10 Gb of music files with it. These students went from being enthusiastic about Linux to swearing off it forever.
Several times, Mandriva installed IN GRAPHICS MODE perfectly well, but then wouldn't RUN in graphics mode. They asked me, if the installer can interface with the graphics card, why does Linux completely choke on it, with no simple options for fixing the problem? Good question.
After 28 years in this business, I can say that *pride* kills software. Lotus was the first killer app, but it died when they didn't listen to computer users. Same with dBase, Wang, WordPerfect, Quark: They were undeniably #1, but they didn't listen to the regular guy, who just wants a working machine.
Pride is what keeps Linux in the shadows. Prideful users who respond to questions with "you don't have a clue about Linux" and "you just have to read the manual". These fibs are told because pride keeps Linux users from admitting: it won't install unless you fiddle with it at the command prompt. And that turns off the vast majority of users. Little wonder why the computer industry refuses to take Linux seriously.
Linux is *better* that Windows in many ways, and your average guy would jump the Microsoft ship in a heartbeat. (Linux is FREE, after all.) But the Linux community needs to make an installer with obvious features like a "back" button. There should be more "help" buttons, and they shouldn't lead to a blank screen, either. Put in the disk->start the computer->presto, a working Linux desktop.
Open your eyes and read your average support board. Even a guy who has been in the business for decades can't make out half of the jargon, abbreviations and esoteric commands. Plain language explanations are hard to come by, and almost never what to do if the magic incantation fails. Average users try that just one time, and then run back to Windoze.
Matthias Ettrich, father of KDE, had the right idea. Get the desktop to work in a cohesive way. Make the user experience consistent and intuitive. What works in one place should work in another. I know this is basic user interface stuff. But as we all know, interfacing with normal humans is kryptonite to your average Linux programmer. Kudos to Matthias for making Linux more approachable. Maybe someday, when Linux has completely replaced Windows all over the world, we can thank Matthias or somebody who did the same thing for Linux installation.
If people can't install Linux, they can't be blown away by it.
No operating system can succeed solely on a hatred for Windoze.