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Does the Linux Desktop Innovate Too Much?

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the billg-at-least-pretended-users-demanded-innovation dept.

KDE 542

jammag writes "The Linux desktop has seen major innovation of late, with KDE 4 launching new features, GNOME announcing a new desktop, and Ubuntu embarking on a redesign campaign. But Linux pundit Bruce Byfield asks, do average users really want any of these things? He points to instances of user backlash, and concludes 'Free software is still driven by developers working on what interests or concerns them. The problem is, the days when users of free software were also its developers are long gone, but the habits of those days remain. The result is that developers function far too much in isolation from their user base.' Byfield suggests that the answer could be more user testing."

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Very Misleading Title for the Topic (4, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414211)

Does the Linux Desktop Innovate Too Much?

I think your title is a bit misleading. When you say "Linux" I think Linux kernel. Like the Linux operating system itself. What the blogger goes on to talk about are just GPL software projects that are intimately tied to Linux. That said, I could install slackware, damn small linux or any number of flavors of Linux that have none of the projects being discussed.

You can chat all you want about Gnome vs KDE and which one is bloating--trust me, that is not something I'm ever going to take a position on. I value my life too much.

I might have missed it but I didn't see anything about people wanting their changes to be seen. That's probably a big problem and you could spend days optimizing the kernel for a better experience but the average user doesn't see anything. Or you could add this awesome UI functionality to some windowing framework (compiz fusion?) and suddenly everyone's seeing it. Pretty obvious what some people might aim for ...

Lastly, I've noticed that some of the more mature products like to move in a even/odd fashion where one release is to stabilize things the next is to add new features the next to stabilize then new features ... ad infinitum. Even kernel development is done this way I believe. So you know people like Shuttleworth are trying hard to make this work. I think the last bit of criticism that's going to help them move forward is "You're innovating too much."

Re:Very Misleading Title for the Topic (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28414247)

When you say "Linux" I think Linux kernel.

But that's why he didn't say "Linux". He said, "Linux Desktop", which I take to mean the entire software ecosystem based on Linux on a user's desktop. It's an appropriately apt description.

It's not a misleading title, if you accept the premise that "over-innovation" is what is causing the disjoint between developers and users. I think it's just more likely that developers don't really understand the users, and for all the merits of free software, there are some things that centrally-managed, proprietary software does better, because the non-programmer professions involved in product development expect to be paid for their services, and most open source projects do not have a workable way to monetize the overall project to cover those costs.

Re:Very Misleading Title for the Topic (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28414367)

But that's why he didn't say "Linux". He said, "Linux Desktop", which I take to mean the entire software ecosystem based on Linux on a user's desktop. It's an appropriately apt description.

Right, because when you're running "Linux Desktop" you're running only KDE or Gnome and using Open Office. I'm certain Linux developers would quietly point you to the door if you told them that Linux Desktop means that. I also think the KDE, Gnome or OO.o devs would point you to the door if you told them that they are Linux Desktop. They work on other operating systems, you know.

Re:Very Misleading Title for the Topic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28414637)

KDE and Gnome (+ LXDE + XFCE) desktop environments really works on other OS's too than just Linux. Even that developers of those projects usually might use Linux (kernel) as their OS, those desktop environments are not part of the OS. So it is really false to say them to be a "Linux Desktops". We really should talk about KDE and Gnome desktop environments if we mean just those two and if we mean all different, then mayby just just Desktop Environments (how to say just window managers?).

At least the Linux OS is graphical OS because it has support for x.org. Without that support coded to Linux, it would not be graphical OS. (or could the framebuffer be counted to be such?) and there is the project where the X is trying to be ran in the Linux OS as own module.
But is it nitpicking to be wanted that those projects are being spoken of the way, what they are and not just "Linux Desktops"? I would not like to be tied as Linux Desktop developer if I would use FreeBSD or Hurd operating systems and the KDE desktop environment.

It is just sad that normal people do not know what the OS is. They believe that Linux is just a kernel and the OS is something else. They do not sort out microkernel and monolith kernel and how they are two different ways to make OS. They buy somekind boxed product what is sold for them as "Operating system" and then they believe that all what came on that CD is the OS. Even that the open office or firefox is part of the OS because it came with that same product.
And they see on the monitor the desktop and all the files as icons and mouse cursor, so the image on the monitor must be THE operating system. And not just the one software what draws all the functions of the whole system as easier way.

Re:Very Misleading Title for the Topic (3, Insightful)

turbidostato (878842) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414487)

"I think it's just more likely that developers don't really understand the users"

What if what happens to developers is that they don't give a damn about what "the users" want or need?

There are developers that do care about your kind of "Joe Sixpack" users be it because their personal inclination or because they are paid for it and then, there are developers that program for a myriad of other reasons and that's perfectly OK. Unless you can point and demonstrate that there are developers that genuinously try to focus on Joe Sixpack kind of users and fail then there is not such a "problem", at all.

"for all the merits of free software, there are some things that centrally-managed, proprietary software does better, because the non-programmer professions involved in product development expect to be paid for their services, and most open source projects do not have a workable way to monetize the overall project to cover those costs."

And now you are mixing apples to oranges. It is not "centrally-managed proprietary software" but "centrally-managed software" as long as its central management does focus on Joe Sixpack satisfaction. Can you demonstrate if even at the logically level only that a centrally managed open source software project focused on Joe Sixpack satisfaction is worse fitted to the challenge than a centrally managed proprietary software focused on the same goal? I don't think so.

Re:Very Misleading Title for the Topic (5, Interesting)

somenickname (1270442) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414607)

This is very true. Having worked at a large software company writing developer tools, we had HIE (Human Interface Engineering) people evaluate everything with a GUI that was shipped to customers. Mind you, this was software written by and for developers so the rules were a bit relaxed but, I have never been so close to committing homicide as I was when I would get e-mails like this in my inbox:

- The black line between widget foo and bar needs to be 1 pixel closer to widget foo.
- The black line between widget foo and bar needs to be color #111111 instead of #000000
- The splitpane between widgets foo and bar should default to 437 pixels wide and not 450 pixels wide
- The vertical scrollbar should scroll 5% slower
- The hotkey for menu item foo should be Ctrl-baz and not Ctrl-bar
Etc, etc, etc.

It took me slightly longer than normal to implement all these changes because I was distracted trying to decide a fitting way to end the e-mail authors life but, in the end I implemented all their "suggestions". I'm ashamed to say that they were right. The product was far more polished after I did all those seemingly pointless things.

To summarize: Developers shouldn't be in charge of GUIs. Even if those GUIs are only intended for other developers.

Re:Very Misleading Title for the Topic (1)

Javaman59 (524434) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414707)

I'm ashamed to say that they were right.

A nice story, and very apt to this discussion! Thanks.

Re:Very Misleading Title for the Topic (3, Interesting)

Jartan (219704) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414823)

Just out of curiosity did you notice that the product was lacking some polish before you made the changes?

Re:Very Misleading Title for the Topic (3, Interesting)

Kjella (173770) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414881)

Honestly, I don't think that kind of UI design is all that critical. If it'd been a few steps higher up like workflow design, then I'm all with you. Like if a user wants to do this, he should [click a button/use a menu/write a command line], after which he should get a [dialog/wizard/use defaults] which should contain [basic options/all options/preview]. Often it gets so complex because geeks design it with a million things to tweak underways from A to B, when most people want the simplest straightest route. Particularly I've noticed that geeks are much better at visualizing certain kinds of results, so they understand what they're doing while others don't. Often what's needed are simple tools to show "where am I in the process?" or "what will the effect of this be?" to go from zero to hero.

Re:Very Misleading Title for the Topic (4, Insightful)

Valdrax (32670) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414271)

I think your title is a bit misleading. When you say "Linux" I think Linux kernel. Like the Linux operating system itself.

GNo/One cares.

Re:Very Misleading Title for the Topic (2, Interesting)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414275)

Does the Linux Desktop Innovate Too Much?

I think your title is a bit misleading. When you say "Linux" I think Linux kernel. *snip*

Yes, misleading, but rather typical of the general misunderstanding that is prevalent. But then again, what value is a kernel to the average joe? So its just easier then trying to explain how it all fits together to a non techie. ( kernel, X, desktop, etc.. )

Even with BSD where it IS the sum of its ( official ) parts, the explanation still gets messy.

Re:Very Misleading Title for the Topic (5, Insightful)

Tx (96709) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414517)

It's not necessarily a misunderstanding. I, and most of my friends and colleagues, use "Linux" as shorthand for "Linux-based operating system". We are fully well aware what the Linux kernel is, and what the operating systems consist of. However that usage is both concise (no, I will bloody well not say "GNU/Linux" every time, andy more so than "Linux-based operating system") and understood to a sufficient extent by non-techies as well as IT people. By all means try and earn nerd-cred by complaining about it if you want, but I view that behaviour as pretty much on the same level as the grammar-nazis here on slashdot - they may be technically correct, but they are annoying and unproductive, and we could get by with a lot fewer of them.

Re:Very Misleading Title for the Topic (1)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414759)

That's all well and good, but one should speak to their audience.

Re:Very Misleading Title for the Topic (5, Insightful)

Jartan (219704) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414859)

In English when a misunderstanding like that becomes "general" or "prevalent" it stops being a misunderstanding and starts being correct. Kleenex and Xerox are the most obvious examples.

Re:Very Misleading Title for the Topic (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28414407)

When you say "Linux" I think Linux kernel.

FUCK OFF YOU ANAL RETENTIVE FUCKING PRAT!!! STICK your LINUX KERNEL UP YOUR ASS and PULL YOUR HEAD OUT and join the rest of the fucking world!!!

Flawed Question (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28414481)

Isn't this just like the question: What would you prefer to do, kill babies for a living, or just eat them?

I strongly disagree with the idea of 'innovation' in a linux desktop. If they were that good, they'd come out with a distro named after a fruit, and have a logo using the fruit, possibly even with a bite out of it.

The real question is. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28414253)

Do future linux users want any of these things?
The publisher of the article hold little or no arguments, nor does he refer to any change to the linux desktop in specific.

Re:The real question is. (3, Insightful)

Klistvud (1574615) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414507)

nor does he refer to any change to the linux desktop in specific.

Well, I, for one, migrated from KDE to Gnome precisely because of this "innovate at any cost" philosophy in KDE. KDE4 was introduced far too soon in the major distros and even promoted to the "default" Desktop Environment in some of them, while still being horribly buggy and crashing all the time. The haste to make the GNU/Linux desktop look cool just made it look bad.

If I could sort of understand this innovation hype while I was a Windows user (novelty sells), I really wish GNU/Linux developers would slow down "innovation for innovation's sake", and invest their energies in making things work smoothly first. Personally, I'd be more than happy with a Desktop Environment that was, say, 5 years old, without bells, whistles, or Compiz, but was *maintained* well -- nay, maintained *aggressively* -- in order to have almost every bug squashed. The only time I'm glad to see innovation is when it's related to new devices/hardware support.

That's just my opinion, of course.

Re:The real question is. (1)

yuna49 (905461) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414623)

KDE4 was introduced far too soon in the major distros and even promoted to the "default" Desktop Environment in some of them, while still being horribly buggy and crashing all the time. The haste to make the GNU/Linux desktop look cool just made it look bad.

In the case of Kubuntu 8.10 and KDE4, one problem is that Ubuntu sees the x.04 ("Long Term Support") releases as stable, and the x.10 releases as developmental. Unfortunately this distinction doesn't hold up in the minds of Ubuntu users who think all releases are created equal. I'd agree that the 8.10 release of Kubuntu was pretty buggy, but the 9.04 release has been pretty stable for me. Sure it has some known bugs (the static IP issue mentioned above is one), but overall it's pretty slick.

I wish either RedHat or Canonical would opt for KDE over GNOME as the default environment. It would force the distro packagers to pay more attention to KDE than they seem to do now. I, for one, find it puzzling why both Fedora and Ubuntu continue to put GNOME first with KDE as the also-ran.

Re:The real question is. (2, Insightful)

0123456 (636235) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414793)

"I, for one, find it puzzling why both Fedora and Ubuntu continue to put GNOME first with KDE as the also-ran."

Probably because Gnome works, and Redhat customers are paying for something that... works.

I tried the latest KDE on Ubuntu recently (not sure which version they're shipping) and while it looked somewhat pretty it crashed fairly often, I found some of the features bizarre and annoying (e.g. the side-scrolling program menu menus) and never found out how to get it to not display the windows on my 1920x1080 LCD with fonts about thirty pixels tall (I have a big monitor so I can display lots of windows, not so I can display windows which appear the same size as if it was a 1024x768 display but use bigger fonts).

I'd certainly be willing to switch, but only if they spend more time making KDE usable than making it look pretty.

Re:The real question is. (3, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414833)

For a long time, SUSE was KDE centric, but since Novell took over they started forcing Gnome onto their SLED (Enterprise Desktop).

And no sooner had they done this than the KDE team decided to trash everything and start from scratch which set that desktop back 3 years in terms of functionality. They "pulled a Microsoft" and put look and feel years ahead of functionality.

Novell sent out this horribly broken version of KDE in their community opensuse product and destroyed their own credibility and that of KDE.

It is doubtful that Opensuse will ever regain the popularity it once had even tho it is technically superior to Ubuntu.

So at this juncture, NO DISTRO TRUSTS KDE anymore, as they have burned the distros so badly.

It will take KDE two more releases to get back to where they were with KDE 3.5, but no one will be waiting at the station by the time that happens.

See foot, shoot foot.

Re:The real question is. (1)

MrHanky (141717) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414911)

Blah blah blah. No one forced you to switch from KDE 3.5 to 4.0. In fact, KDE 3.5.10 came out after 4.1, so it was still maintained and still current a long time after KDE4 came out. It's still available, for free. You can run it with KDE 4 and Gnome apps installed, if you want to.

Mac OS X users seem to have stopped whinging that 10.0 was a useless, slow piece of shit OS that wasn't half ready for regular use. And why not? By 10.2, OS X was quite decent. But unlike KDE 3.5, you can't run modern software at all on OS X Jaguar.

Innovate is the wrong word (2, Insightful)

wampus (1932) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414257)

UI and workflow design and project management aren't glamorous or interesting so they don't get done. Cowboy coding only gets you so far.

Re:Innovate is the wrong word (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414469)

meh, lets just clone the mac interface as close as one can without betting lawyer bombed by apple...

they have the perfect UI, right?

Re:Innovate is the wrong word (1, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414483)

It seems like the Major Linux Distributions have put effort into fancy eye candy for eye candy sake not for usability sake. There are so many details that the Linux community has never really considered to make a major part of the distributions. It has 2 main targets, the complete Idiot user, and the expert user. Between that gap there is really a big hole.

Just recently I needed to switch my network settings from DHCP to a Static IP address. For Windows and a Mac that is a simple task. Fill out the form and it checks for bad input and and the changes go live. For Ubuntu, after digging threw the GUI settings, I had to go to the terminal and put the changes in interfaces file. While I have been using Linux for about 15 years, it wasn't that big of a deal, but still it was annoying that there wasn't a GUI where I could quickly change the setting, while focusing on putting in the right data. Not remembering the name to use for the configuration file, or the format is just an annoyance for tasks that you may not do every day or every month, heck or every year. For this case I was glad I had my iPhone where I could do a quick reference.

There is a gap that is very slowly filling in Linux for people who know how to use a computer however they don't want to remember outdated command lines and poorly documented config file just so they can get work done.

Re:Innovate is the wrong word (3, Informative)

dcherryholmes (1322535) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414571)

System->Preferences->Network Connections->Wired Tab->IPv4 Settings Tab->Dropdown Menu, choose manual, the Add box below lights up.

Re:Innovate is the wrong word (2, Interesting)

Targen (844972) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414653)

While I absolutely agree with the general idea you're referring to, NetworkManager does have a cute GUI that can very easily change, among other things, the configuration of a network interface from DHCP to static, much as one is accustomed to do with other OSes. Granted, I believe this dialog is quite a recent addition to the project; I'm quite sure it wasn't there a couple of months ago.

On a related note, this particular problem is an excellent example of over-innovation on the part of Vista; am I the only one who despises Vista's new network connections configuration GUI? It was perfectly unbroken in XP, IMHO, and they went and "fixed" it.

Re:Innovate is the wrong word (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414693)

If you are someone that's comfortable with ifconfig or /etc/networkm, would you
even notice the GUI if it were there? How long would it take you to notice? How
soon would you go out of your way to do things in a manner other than "how you've
always done them" so that you would notice such changes?

The long time expert Linux user is perhaps not in the best position to evaluate
how good Linux at accomodating newbies.

Re:Innovate is the wrong word (1)

bertoelcon (1557907) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414773)

On a related note, this particular problem is an excellent example of over-innovation on the part of Vista; am I the only one who despises Vista's new network connections configuration GUI? It was perfectly unbroken in XP, IMHO, and they went and "fixed" it.

That was the majority of UI things they "fixed" for Vista and Office 07, none were really "broken", but looked "better" the new way but got hated since that old way was more ingrained since circa Win 95.

Re:Innovate is the wrong word (1)

cyber-vandal (148830) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414721)

It made Microsoft very wealthy.

Re:Innovate is the wrong word (4, Insightful)

Bralkein (685733) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414741)

UI and workflow design and project management aren't glamorous or interesting so they don't get done.

I don't really think it works like that. It's 2009 and by now I'm sure everyone understands the value of good UI and workflow design, but it's quite difficult to do well and I'd be surprised if either GNOME or KDE don't often find themselves without the time or expertise needed to get usability up to the desired standard. Of course I would argue that there are several apps on the Linux desktop with great usability - I personally like Firefox, Dolphin and Okular, just to give a few examples. But I would agree that usability isn't as consistent across the platform as it were when compared to say Windows.

Cowboy coding only gets you so far.

Oh, okay, so the basic gist of your comment is just that the free desktop coders are a gang of useless cowboys hacking together a bunch of buggy, improperly documented crap for the riches and renown which will obviously be forthcoming from such an endeavour. How about you go and read e.g. some blog posts by KDE or GNOME developers, because you will discover that a lot of the people working on such software are passionate and proud about what they do and put an awful lot of thought and effort into trying to do quality work. Granted there are some bad apples in the bunch as usual, but I think that the majority of problems these projects face are down to lack of resources, above anything else. But hey, why not throw around inflammatory, pejorative terms like that.

Re:Innovate is the wrong word (2, Insightful)

wampus (1932) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414827)

The basic gist of my comment was exactly what I wrote. Passion and pride are apparently not enough, you need to attract people who will do what's needed, and that isn't coding at the moment. I would suggest switching off of whatever medications you are currently using if you found what I said to be inflammatory or pejorative.

Re:Innovate is the wrong word (3, Informative)

woot account (886113) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414889)

I think you don't understand what cowboy coding [wikipedia.org] means.

change != innovate (1)

tyler_larson (558763) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414917)

Just because you made it different doesn't mean you made it better.

That goes double for UI.

Most users don't (4, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414259)

All they want is something that will be stable and get the job done, in a consistent manner. Often times the bells and whistles for the sake of having htem just get in the way, and damages consistency making things confusing when they don't need to be.

Re:Most users don't (1)

siddesu (698447) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414791)

That, and also -- while there is a huge wealth of desktop environments on linux, most of the development on most of them stops right about the time they start to get useful. At that point, the developer community loses interest and switches to something else, leaving an excellent prototype, but a worthless product; and a difficult transition path for users who have spent time to get used to the old framework and now have to switch to the new one, which, often, doesn't have the two or three features that made working on that environment a pleasure.

At least I was lucky to stomp on windowmaker and xfce, which are a pleasant exception to that rule. And I would have stayed with windowmaker had development not stalled some years ago :(

Re:Most users don't (1)

siddesu (698447) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414809)

Also, I meant stumble upon, not stomp ;)

Don't want to leave you folks with the impression that I am somehow responsible for the state of the linux desktop.

Re:Most users don't (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28414845)

All they want is something that will be stable and get the job done, in a consistent manner. Often times the bells and whistles for the sake of having htem just get in the way, and damages consistency making things confusing when they don't need to be.

I disagree, when I see what people prefer, I see people seeking out bloated, overly complicated pieces of crap on the grounds that more features are better. It's a shame, but most users don't care about how something was written and the "simplicity is beauty" philosophy is meaningless, modern day programmers are all too happy to entertain this mentality.

As for all this stuff about users and developers being in different camps, all I can say is that maybe free (as in cost) software is the wrong approach.

People who develop for users should be paid for their work. The free model just isn't appropriate for work that isn't "fun".

Doesn't mean it has to be closed source! you can sell open source if you want to.

I find it interesting how people (especially developers) have such strong convictions that software should be free of charge. There's nothing shameful about getting paid for what you do.

not really (5, Insightful)

Bizzeh (851225) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414277)

all the average user wants is to chat via live messenger, check their hotmail account, look at facebook, and check how badly their ebay listings are doing... they generally couldnt give any less of a toss about everything else that is going on

Re:not really (4, Insightful)

jd142 (129673) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414303)

Don't forget about listening to music, watching movies -- dvd playing is still problematic -- and downloading porn.

Re:not really (0, Offtopic)

Elektroschock (659467) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414349)

And better ebay snipers...

Re:not really (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28414381)

The average user is a bratty 16 year old with an ebay account?

Re:not really (1)

bertoelcon (1557907) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414799)

Or an old person, that is the exact description of my younger sister(14) and my grandmother(67) uses for a computer.

Too Much? (4, Interesting)

The_church_of_funzie (940003) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414295)

Bad features die, good ones remain. The alternative is to shove crap into end users throats.
And when they don't like it continue shoving the way Microsoft did with MS Bob aka Clippy
from MS Office. The big difference here is innovation does not occur without failiure. Open
source can afford to make mistakes. Closed source companies have to add useless and failed
features to their products, otherwise the time spend has been wasted and investors may sue the company.

Re:Too Much? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28414413)

fwiw my parents loved clippy. it was a slightly more friendly help system interface.

Re:Too Much? (3, Insightful)

fermion (181285) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414505)

User centric design is the issue. When MS puts clippy in, I don't know how much of that was some developer of pinhead thinking it would be really cook, and how much of it was actually user centric design. Same thing for putting the command to change the desktop on the context menu. Sure, it was something easy to do, and certainly showed those people who made fun of MS for being the only modern OS where one had to reboot to change resolution, but does it serve a rational purpose. One rational purpose it might serve are for those that occasionally need a lower resolution, but that problem has been better addressed through other means.

In the end one has to have a system where best practices win over bloat. Where things that aren't that useful are removed so they do not involve recurring resources at every release. For instance, i know that egos are tied up in the multiple *nix desktops, and all desktops have a right to exist, but significant progress could be made if the community could select on desktop to develop towards, even if means that the solution is imperfect.

Speaking of which... (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414797)

Better be careful - you wouldn't want to goad Microsoft into turning "Clippy Bob" into a Linux app.

Heh, I thought you said;

Closed source companies have to add useless and failed features to public domain projects, to confuse and muddy the waters, otherwise the investors may sue the company.

Continuity is the winning strategy. (5, Insightful)

reporter (666905) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414313)

One thing that Microsoft has done well is to maintain continuity with the past. The desktop of Windows 95 is still available on all consumer versions of Windows up to Windows 7. In Windows 7, you can select the "classic" appearance for the desktop to get the Windows-95 look and feel.

Most people -- except tech geeks -- do not want to learn a new way of doing things once they learn a particular way that suits their needs.

Moreover, learning takes time and money. If your company has 100,000 employees, then training them to use a new desktop can cost millions of dollars.

If GNOME developers want Linux to take a significant share of the consumer market, then they must ensure continuity with the past. Before they embark on the next super-duper upgrade of the desktop, they should spend some time in asking their grandmothers what they want in the next super-duper GNOME desktop. Grandma's advice could help a lot.

Re:Continuity is the winning strategy. (4, Insightful)

Elektroschock (659467) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414393)

I think simple Desktop environment projects as LXDE [lxde.org] show how do it right: focus on speed and responsiveness.

Don't try to be artificially different, don't confuse, do what users want but don't do more; keep dependencies as few as possible, if it doesn't work as intended throw the component away. Do one thing with one application. And most important of all: The Desktop Environment is not the application. It should be like a professional servant, you won't notice him and you don't need to waste your time to command him.

Re:Continuity is the winning strategy. (5, Insightful)

Ed Avis (5917) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414415)

Funny - I've usually seen it's the geeks who take the trouble to turn on the 'classic' look and feel in Windows and get rid of all the cloying eye-candy. Meanwhile non-technical users just stick with the default.

Re:Continuity is the winning strategy. (4, Interesting)

TBoon (1381891) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414543)

That's probably because only geeks care about the extra desktop-real estate gained by reducing the size of window-decorations... Most people use programs at near full-screen size anyway. (Probably partly because of the excessive bloat in window-decoration and toolbars almost requires it to be usable at "normal" resolutions these days. Trying BeOS a few years ago, gave me the feeling of almost doubling the resolution of my laptop, so effective/minimalistic were the windows. And that was compared to "classic" in XP!)

Re:Continuity is the winning strategy. (1)

GF678 (1453005) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414585)

Funny - I've usually seen it's the geeks who take the trouble to turn on the 'classic' look and feel in Windows and get rid of all the cloying eye-candy. Meanwhile non-technical users just stick with the default.

I consider myself a geek but I like Compiz and Aero because not only are they more modern looking than the boring old grey themes of past desktop GUIs, but they also have the benefit of offloading the rendering of the GUI from the CPU and onto the GPU, which in most cases improves responsiveness.

I still like the bling though, but I'm most certainly not a non-technical user. I just don't believe a geek has to insist on a bland desktop. So where can I be pigeon-holed?

Re:Continuity is the winning strategy. (4, Insightful)

mauriatm (531406) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414871)

Funny - I've usually seen it's the geeks who take the trouble to turn on the 'classic' look and feel in Windows and get rid of all the cloying eye-candy. Meanwhile non-technical users just stick with the default.

That's the power of the "default" which is a big deal as well. Most non-technical people don't even realize such options exist or that you do not have to use the default. To be fair though, to Microsoft's credit, often the default is good enough and many don't even care to change it because it will typically allow one to get the job done. Some might say this is NOT the case with some recent changes in Linux desktop environments.

Re:Continuity is the winning strategy. (2)

julian67 (1022593) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414605)

Continuity is there in free desktops in the same way it exists in OS X and Windows....in parts. Gnome and KDE and MS and Apple have all at some point had to accept that backwards compatibility has too high a price, then swallow hard and offer something which upsets a lot of people (even more than usual ha ha). Anyway there's plenty more to the free desktop than Gnome and KDE so it's not even a notable issue for many.

Mostly the article is filler. Precis: is KDE lead developer pissing in the wind? Maybe. Should I mention Ubuntu in every article just for the fanboi hits? Definitely. Are end users uncomfortable with unfamiliar concepts and interfaces? Yes...until they become familiar with them. Is the cheque in the post and will I churn out more turgid hackery next week? Yes and inevitably.

Re:Continuity is the winning strategy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28414709)

lol, claiming windows is consistent across versions. what kind of drugs are you on and where can i get some.

Re:Continuity is the winning strategy. (1)

Draek (916851) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414839)

In Windows 7, you can select the "classic" appearance for the desktop to get the Windows-95 look and feel.

Have you tried it? I have, and it feels less like Win2K and more like a Windows-like KDE2 skin. As far as I know Vista is the same, so it could easily be argued that the Win95 desktop's continuity ended with XP.

Moreover, learning takes time and money. If your company has 100,000 employees, then training them to use a new desktop can cost millions of dollars.

You've got any sources for that? I've heard about employees needing training to switch applications (Word Perfect to MS Office and such), but never for just a switch in desktops, so I'm curious to see whether its truly a concern, or normal people simply don't care as long as the apps stay the same. MS' regular desktop redesigns certainly suggest the latter.

What do I owe the user again? (3, Insightful)

Gopal.V (532678) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414323)

The essential problem with free software is that most of it is written to scratch someone's itch. Usually, the ones who start off coding to fix their problems are the developers. Over the last decade that I've used linux (and other f/oss) on my desktop, I've seen a radical shift in how the developers are influenced to do what a user wants. More so, I've seen the system favour the ones who have user focus rather than dictate from their ivory towers and yell back "sure, send me a patch & we'll talk about it". You did your bit and the others stepped on those to get where they want ... and with GPL in place they didn't really step on your toes.

Essentially, you didn't owe the user anything for real. The user paid in attention & respect. The developer did what the user wanted as long as he (or she) wanted the respect. Over that, it was just about fun when it was Y2K days.

It'd be vastly different if someone paid me for it. Well, yes ... someone does pay me to churn out F/OSS code, I deal with vastly differently from my other projects.

Re:What do I owe the user again? (1)

forkazoo (138186) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414453)

The essential problem with free software is that most of it is written to scratch someone's itch. Usually, the ones who start off coding to fix their problems are the developers. Over the last decade that I've used linux (and other f/oss) on my desktop, I've seen a radical shift in how the developers are influenced to do what a user wants. More so, I've seen the system favour the ones who have user focus rather than dictate from their ivory towers and yell back "sure, send me a patch & we'll talk about it". You did your bit and the others stepped on those to get where they want ... and with GPL in place they didn't really step on your toes.

This is basically what I was thinking. Free Software has no obligation to conquer the market. It doesn't need to increase sales. It's an emergent community, not unlike the "gray goo" of micro machines from so many SciFi novels. If the users want something specific, they can hire somebody to do it.

In the end, it all goes back to Adam Smith's writings on Economics. The baker doesn't bake his loaves because he wants you to have a full belly. He does it because his is selfish. He just wants your money. That enlightened self interest make the world go 'round. Likewise, the KDE developer doesn't have to write code for the sake of conquering the world, or suiting users. He isn't obliged. He writes code because he wants to use a good Desktop Environment. That's what it boild down to. He's a greedy bastard. And, that's enough.

Or, for another analogy, Zombies don't have a master plan for world domination. One zombie just wants to eat your brain. That's enough to make zombies scary. He's not thinking about the brain after yours. He's not thinking about all the brains he'll eat next week. One zombie doesn't have to worry about broad strategy. Going brain by brain is the strategy, and it works.

If developers work on whatever they feel is important, Free Software eventually wins, just like the zombies. If people don't like new things, then they pay attention to old things, and work from the old version to fix things. Free Software can never get worse. Old versions never get discontinued. Free Software is an always expanding ecosystem, and it grows with every line of code that is shared with the public.

Re:What do I owe the user again? (2)

RCL (891376) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414615)

If developers work on whatever they feel is important, Free Software eventually wins, just like the zombies. If people don't like new things, then they pay attention to old things, and work from the old version to fix things. Free Software can never get worse. Old versions never get discontinued. Free Software is an always expanding ecosystem, and it grows with every line of code that is shared with the public.

Oh, come on, fork KDE 3 and go on with its development. Or fork KDE 4 and bring it back to be more KDE 3-ish.

What you are missing is that certain level of organization is required to manage projects as large as that. And if you don't like the direction that some Free Software project is heading in, you cannot fork it without forking the entire organization behind it. And it's so much easier to just switch to something else.

Re:What do I owe the user again? (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414927)

And if you don't like the direction that some Free Software project is heading in, you cannot fork it without forking the entire organization behind it. And it's so much easier to just switch to something else.

Damn! I wish I had mod points.

The common answer shouted back to the users by the KDE team has been fork 3.5 and STFU. They know full well this is essentially impossible.

What few patches that are released for 3.5 usually involve gutting what was there and substituting KDE4 apps. Konqueror file manager has been gutted and in its place you get the foisted, half functional Dolphin dressed up in a window that says Konqueror.

This bait and switch is accompanied with the gratuitous claim that Dolphin does everything Kong does. Well DAH!

Re:What do I owe the user again? (1)

turbidostato (878842) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414527)

"The essential problem with free software is that most of it is written to scratch someone's itch."

The proprietary software is for the most written to scratch someone's itch.

Oh! you meant "someone's *own* itch"! Well, that's the case with proprietary software too. It's only that free software tends to focus on someone's own technical/functional/motivational itch while proprietary scratch someone's own financial itch.

"Free Software" vs "Open Source" vs... whatever (3, Insightful)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414333)

When I think of Free Software, I generally think of the community were the developers are the users are the developers. "Open Source" still smacks of the buzzwordism of the late-90s, getting corps. to invest in opening code under the assumption that they'll be able to get free work out of some sort of "community" while lowering their development costs.

What's wrong with the developers working on what the developers are interested in? If I (the royal 'I' here), am not being paid for my time or more code, then "users" should just be glad that 'I' have decided to make the fruits of my labor available to them, too. Perhaps I just don't get this mentality that it's some sort of competition between 'Linux' and Microsoft and Apple, and that we have to compete for desktop marketshare for some stupid ass reason. I just don't really see it as that big of a deal. Maybe for a company like RedHat, it is, but that's not me.

The concept that the developers are 'innovating too much' and 'alienating the user base' just seems akin to someone crashing a frat party and then complaining that all they're allowed to drink is the Beast.

Re:"Free Software" vs "Open Source" vs... whatever (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28414395)

WTF is the beast?

Re:"Free Software" vs "Open Source" vs... whatever (1)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414437)

To clarify, 'beast' is the slang term for Milwaukee's Best, which is a particularly nasty so-called beer, which costs about $7USD for a 24-pack of cans, which at most schools, at least mine and any other where I ever went to a party, the fraternity houses stock up on to provide for guests at parties who are not special enough to be entitled to the good stuff, or smart enough to know they should bring their own anyway.

Re:"Free Software" vs "Open Source" vs... whatever (1)

Elektroschock (659467) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414401)

Your forget the open source development ecosystem which is so much more efficient.

Re:"Free Software" vs "Open Source" vs... whatever (2, Interesting)

infinitelink (963279) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414737)

It is a problem when the developers are trying to make a consumer desktop, however; last I checked, many big Linux-related projects (including both Gnome and KDE) are gunning just for that; so no, your statements are not valid here.

There are, of course, exceptions: but none of those are what this is talking about.

Re:"Free Software" vs "Open Source" vs... whatever (3, Interesting)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414861)

Yes, but /why/ are these projects "consumer desktops", or supposed be? Back in the day, they were just doing their thing. KDE started because people thought it might be nice to have a desktop system for Linux, and CDE was expensive. GNOME started because KDE wasn't technically "free software" due to Qt licensing issues.

RedHat jumped on the Gnome bandwagon, started paying devs, and sort of took the lead. A similar situation occurred with KDE, iirc. The way I see it, the community projects got hijacked by the corporate Linux pushers, and then people are complaining about the stuff that hobby hackers are putting into projects.

If having some "consumer" desktop that gives warm fuzzies to people when they're looking at computers in Best Buy is so damned important, than maybe RedHat, Novel and others ought to just pull an Open Group and write said desktop, rather than attempting to exercise overbearing authority over projects that were started without them.

But I am not now, nor have I ever been an influential figure in f/oss, and my contributions have mostly been fairly insignificant and flown under the radar unless you were specifically looking for them. However, if I ever get around to releasing something intereting that's worth being hijacked by IBM, who for some reason leaves relatively in charge rather than forcing a coupe, makes the project and international sensation and then puts me in a position where people I've never heard of are making demands that I add features to support their "mission critical" b.s. or design it to look the way /they/ want, I'll tell you right now -- I'm going to be kind of pissed off.

Re:"Free Software" vs "Open Source" vs... whatever (1)

infinitelink (963279) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414921)

And that's why people avoid FOSS heads: I'm familiar with CEOs who's companies try to avoid people associated with FOSS or OSS. Thing is, nobody is saying it's "supposed" to be (so cool off hot head); thing is, a lot of people have decided to make it a goal--the simple explanation is it's fun/a goal. Lots of people are aiming for "the year of the Linux Desktop", often vainly mind you, but let them have at it, and enjoy it, and tinker, and try. If RedHat, IBM, etc. hadn't jumped on board, however, much of this stuff would never have been funded. Here's a bunch of devs who're more sensible that got together to discuss all things Linux desktop, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YoYL4R3Te2s&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fcmpstuff.blogspot.com%2F&feature=player_embedded [youtube.com]

I remember.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28414361)

Being terribly annoyed with one of the Linux distro's GUI's because I just couldn't tell when I had something selected, and when not. Oh, I could tell the difference between the modes when changing them, but I was honestly unsure when I had it enabled and when not.

Anyway, what's needed is not so much user testing as developer listening. All the testing in the world won't get you anywhere if nobody is looking through it.

yet another implicit "oh noes, not windowz" rant (4, Insightful)

GreatBunzinni (642500) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414365)

Oh yes, another self-righteous rant attacking the directions of free software projects just because they have the audacity to venture far beyond where windows stagnated a decade ago. The article's author doesn't say much besides criticizing projects such as KDE, GNOME and even Ubuntu for their ideas regarding the desktop. And he does a bad job at it, to boot. For example, the author criticizes KDE for the audacity of thinking about implementing social networking features into the desktop. Is that supposed to be a bad thing? I mean, what's the difference of having an application such as windows live messenger constantly running and implementing some sort of widget that performs the exact same task? At least with KDE their implementation follows standards which are open and it doesn't force plenty of ads down our throats. What's wrong with that sort of innovation? Absolutely nothing. And his criticism of GNOME is pathetic. I mean, he criticizes GNOME not for innovating but for rewriting it. He hasn't absolutely any detail to grasp on and in fact the only thing he can muster about GNOME is "its final form at this stage is anybody's guess". Is that what the author perceives as innovation? And more to the point, who exactly is the author to make authoritative judgments about what the users want or don't want? His he a psychic? In fact, where was the author on these past dozen years of the desktop windows? I mean, after all these years windows is incapable of offering extremely basic stuff such as the ability to set any window the user wishes for to be always on top. And what about the ability to scroll a window without changing the focus to it? And what about getting rid of that really annoying bug that, when a user launches an application, keeps the focus on the former application while the newly launched app is placed on top of every window on the desktop? Fixing those bugs would also count as too much innovation? The article isn't worth the read. Nothing to see here, move along.

A Benevolent Cat-Herder-for-Life is good for Linux (4, Insightful)

schwaang (667808) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414379)

The best of the Apple experience is polished, user-oriented, and "insanely great" because it takes a Steve Jobs to set the vision and make every component answer to that design. That's hard to do in the FOSS world.

So I, for one, am glad Mark Shuttleworth is attempting to put some top-down focus on a user-oriented set of goals into the Ubuntu desktop. Linux has not lacked for technical innovations, it has lacked for a unified vision that elevates the end-user and a chief to get developers to sign on to that vision. Go Mark, go!

Re:A Benevolent Cat-Herder-for-Life is good for Li (1)

lena_10326 (1100441) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414445)

It's more than hard; it's impossible. Consensus cannot be achieved in any group of decisions makers > 1. It's a problem that will never be solved completely--only to a percentage.

Re:A Benevolent Cat-Herder-for-Life is good for Li (1)

FishWithAHammer (957772) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414525)

Unfortunately for Linux (which I'd love to see kick ass and take names), Shuttleworth is interested in consensus over quality too often. To do what you're saying, you need a hard-nosed, damn-near-messianic figure who is willing to fight tooth and nail to realize exactly what he wants. This is not really very compatible with open source to begin with, and Shuttleworth is not that guy anyway.

Re:A Benevolent Cat-Herder-for-Life is good for Li (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28414925)

Sounds like Jobs is the kinda person you think you need.

Re:A Benevolent Cat-Herder-for-Life is good for Li (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28414687)

It is just sad that Mark Shuttleworth has not done anything speacial for desktops environments. He use Gnome. Almost all what he does, is to rule the default configuration for Gnome settings. Default set of applications to be placed on menus and installed on system. Default Ubuntu theme and so on. But hey, Canonical did try to innovate new notification system. Too bad that it was shutdown by every usability expert. You could not include any actions on them, like when you got new IM or Email message. You could not just click it's "Read" action. You needed first open the application. When you got notification of new media device plugged, you could not just press it "Open it". You needed launch filemanager and then click device to be mounted and opened. And when you moved mouse over balloon, it was transparent. And you could have only one by time shown. Idea is that the notification does not drawn users attention from more important things what he is doing!

It is nice how notification system is not even for notification, it is just pushing you "Hah, you got new message, but I will not show it for you". KDE4's own notification system (knotify) is much better and even has actions. When user gets new email, he can just click the notification because it has already drawn the users attention for itself, so why not allow user to execute the notifications reason right away? At least knotify even allows different levels of notifications, like should user be notified of thing X or Y.

Seems that only Ubuntu fans are promoting Mark Shuttleworth as he would be invented whole good "Desktop Linux". It is just too sad that even on 1990's there was Corel and other distributions what made exactly the same thing as Ubuntu. The reason why they failed, was that Gnome and other open source software were not ready for normal users. MS and Apple was fighting and MS and Netscape was fighting and MS and IBM was fighting and no one didn't even hear about Linux desktops until 2002- it turned that great applications started to be used on Windows world as well.

Re:A Benevolent Cat-Herder-for-Life is good for Li (1)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414695)

If you are looking for a Steve Jobs equivalent in the Free Software or Open Source worlds, I think that is more Theo de Raadt than Mark Shuttleworth.

Tough Love (2, Insightful)

headkase (533448) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414383)

I'm prefacing this with the fact that I ran Linux as my only OS for a year (SuSE 9) then I switched back to Microsoft. Linux and GNU are a superior development process - inclusive and plural - but Microsoft right now has the superior ecosystem. When everyone uses it everything gets written for it especially entertainment wise. How does Free go about breaking this lock-in? I know for me if it wasn't for entertainment software I would be all over GNU. Wine steps in and fills that void somewhat but currently does not have enough compatibility to bring me over to the good side. I like Linux, I want to use it, but my games don't play in it and thats the only thing that keeps a closed OS on my desktop. Way back in the early '80s a machine was introduced called the Commodore 128. It was the successor to the Commodore 64 machine and it featured a full compatibility mode with the 64. The issue was that most 128 owners ran their machine in 64 mode therefore the 128 never caught on as no one would make software for it. I see Wine as having a flavor of that situation but since it is contained within a Open OS other applications can run concurrently so that pitfall is lessened. To me, Wine is the application that deserves focus in Linux development because it has the potential to break the dead-lock and provide the bridge from Pay to GNU.

Where else have I seen this? (1)

curmudgeous (710771) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414409)

...developers function far too much in isolation from their user base...

Where else have I seen this? Oh, yeah, *cough* Vista *cough*

Scientotechnology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28414441)

As the scientotechnological state of the world advances, we will need more and more innovation to keep up our competitiveness, and GNU/Linux is no exemption; therefore: no it does not innovate too much; its innovation is a direct consequence of the state of science and technology in today's society.

Disconnected? (1)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414535)

The result is that developers function far too much in isolation from their user base.

I'd like to introduce you to Word 7, Vista, and Alien Arena. (Incompatible files, WTF, and no Help)

Re:Disconnected? (1)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414551)

For that matter, I'd like to introduce you to Slashdot. It keeps asking if I want to disable advertising...actually I want to disable disabling advertising.

What is Innovation (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28414555)

When you break compatibility with everything that currently exists just for the sake of being new and different, that isn't innovation. Unfortunately many times when this happens it ends up getting called innovation because nobody has the guts to call it what it really is. Oh, but we have to scrap the old design because it wasn't forward thinking enough. Then in two years time, scrap the new one for the same reasons.

Thus "innovation" get a bad name, particularly among those on the receiving end who never asked for it to begin with.

Then you get articles like this which assume that it is even possible to have too much innovation because of the false connection between innovation and breaking things.

Re:What is Innovation (1)

Ash-Fox (726320) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414659)

When you break compatibility with everything that currently exists just for the sake of being new and different, that isn't innovation. Unfortunately many times when this happens it ends up getting called innovation because nobody has the guts to call it what it really is. Oh, but we have to scrap the old design because it wasn't forward thinking enough. Then in two years time, scrap the new one for the same reasons.

And yet my KDE3 applications run fine in KDE4. I'm pretty sure I could compile KDE2+KDE2 applications and run KDE2 applications in KDE4.

Flash! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28414567)

Linux 10 years old. Still full of itself.

Wirefeed at 11.

what they really need (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414577)

What they need to put the most effort into are the biggest problems or they'll turn into a Microsoft product. All kinds of fancy features and new tricks are nice and all and you can't get away with having 0 of them but they need to fix the core complaints and problems to attract the most users.

Users should expect to have a say if they pay (1)

ploppy (468469) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414629)

Free software is still driven by developers working on what interests or concerns them.

If it is being developed in the developer's free time then this should be expected, The software is effectively a hobby which the developer enjoys and users benefit from. Innovation is enjoyable, maintenance isn't, and users if they aren't paying should expect this. If they want reliable long term maintenance (or any other "boring" issues) they should consider playing for support, like in any normal business relationship,

If I (as a spare-time software developer) gets asked to do something I'm not interested in, I may not refuse, but it gets placed at the end of a priority sorted list, and it can stay there for a long time. However, If I can see that it is of use to a large amount of users I will usually do it, but it is as a favour and it shouldn't be expected (I get annoyed when I feel this is the case).

Why should a developer be expected to do something users want, if the developer has no interest in it, and the users aren't willing to pay or at least make a donation? It's not expected in other aspects of life, and so I don't understand why it is increasingly being expected in free software.

Re:Users should expect to have a say if they pay (1)

ploppy (468469) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414815)

Besides someone's needless continuity breakage/stability disruption is often another's necessary innovation. Often I've been begged by some users to implement something which they badly need, but then got criticised by others for yet another incompatible version. You can't please everyone all of the time.

Innovation doesn't need to be the evil twin of stability, it unfortunately often feels that way in free software IMO due to lack of resources. I, for example, as a free software developer only have the time to support the latest (and 'greatest') version, and so all users are forced to use it whether or not they want the latest features. If I made enough money from the software to pay developers, I could support the last couple of versions or when adding features I could implement a backwards compatibility option. However, I can't do this.

Linux's ability to fail (2, Interesting)

erroneus (253617) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414633)

There are critics and pundits on any side (Mac OS X, Linux and Windows) but of all of them, Linux has the lowest position and therefore has the shortest distance to fall. This gives Linux a unique "coming from behind" perspective and gives it a unique ability to fail without serious consequence. We all see what happens when Windows fails (Vista?) but what happens when Linux fails? Little to nothing really.

The reasons for this fact are various but it is rather undeniable. So is all the innovation bad for Linux? Nope. If there is failure, then the portion of the failure is discarded and hopefully a lesson was learned. And the value of failure is also tremendous when it comes to Linux. Linux gets the value of all failures in all three OSes if the developers involved are observant. And recovery time from failure? Almost zero in the case of Linux. People just keep on keepin' on.

The next killer feature... (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414655)

When you realize that a feature is a killer one, one good enough that you can't figure how you lived without it before? Think in simple things, like browser tabs, extensions or things like that. And maybe more important, what is a "killer feature" for you could not be for someone else (i.e. for me could be menussh and nagstamon under gnome, or firebug and some of other extensions that depend on them for firefox, as i said, could depend a lot on what you do).

But maybe more interesting could be thinking how would be things if there was no innovation. following the same reasoning.

Seigo has gotten it all wrong (2, Interesting)

QCompson (675963) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414657)

Aaron Seigo thinks he is embarking on a bold new vision of the desktop, but so far, he's produced only developments that inhibit productivity. Making everything into desktop widgets (including social networking fads like facebook) isn't a bold new vision of the desktop environment... it's glitzy eye-candy. Seigo peppers every idea he has with colorful language like "new paradigms" but his ideas so far are hardly innovative. Desktop widgets? Already done. Animations? Compiz did it. Creating folder containments and extra desktop views? No one ever asked for it, nor apparently like it. He is a man with solutions in search of a problem.

The only thing that KDE4 has accomplished to date is to offer less features than 3.5, and make everything slower and a little more mouse dependent.

I didn't RTFA (or 99% of the replies), but... (1)

tmp31416 (1460143) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414663)

...but from what the summary tells me, TFA seems to cover something I've been complaining about for some time.

Free DE developers seem to concentrate on new whiz-bang features and seem to forget the basics.

Things like integrated font+layout+printing management/support.

Too often, WYSINWYG from screen to paper. And too often, in Free DEs, I'll get microscopic fonts on the screen from pages that display just fine with Windows or OS-X based programmes. And don't get me going on simple font management

These are just two and a half of the "basics" that the Free DEs should concentrate on before getting new obscure "plasmoids" (or whatever). It's as if FLOSS developers don't use KDE/GNOME/XFCE/etc. for their daily, huh, chores and only use GNOME/XFCE/KDE/etc. as some sort of "grown-up playground" and nothing more.

I am now at the point when I do not believe anyone that says they only use {(Linux distro)|(one of the BSDs)} as their desktop. I know I could not, and it's not just because of web content. Guys, I beg of you: please make sure all the basics necessities are covered, THEN go for the bells and whistles.

Let the innovation continue! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28414675)

The only way to get to the next step in computer tech is to innovate like crazy - 99.99% of those innovations will fall flat... but that .01% that doesn't? THAT is the future.

No - don't slow down. If anything speed up!

What innovation? (1)

MBCook (132727) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414701)

In the past few years we've seen Expose, Spotlight, Time Machine, Aero Glass, and Growl, QuickSilver, and other innovations.

None of those have been in linux.

From my point of view, Linux has been getting better, but I wouldn't call it innovative. I don't remember hearing about any relatively innovative things on the Linux desktop.

The best I can think of is Ubuntu shipping the new notification mechanism, but that sounds a bit like Growl for OS X to me. I give them points for shipping it so everyone has it and it's not an incremental add-on.

Linux doesn't target the average (1)

hessian (467078) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414723)

The average user wants their computer to "just work" and be what their friends use.

This person would be happy with Windows 95 or probably even Mac OS 9 (if they remember not to hold down the mouse button, which freezes the system).

The average person uses Microsoft Word, IE or Firefox, Microsoft Outlook or Thunderbird, a chat client, maybe Photoshop, and plays video games.

If something goes really wrong, they want Microsoft or the Geek squad to fix it, and don't seem to mind being sheared of a few hundred bucks a year.

They don't care about much else.

Linux desktops are doing the right thing in targeting the power users: these are the people who want cutting edge features. They are also willing to spend more time configuring their systems.

If you target the power users, the others will imitate them, but it will take some time.

In my experience, the best Linux promotion you can do is what HAL-PC used to do here in Houston, which is to invite people to bring in their computers and have an expert help install the Linux operating system.

But what's missing from tfa? (1)

julian67 (1022593) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414761)

It occurs to me that the author failed to acknowledge the single most interesting recent development in the free desktop which also happened to be completely commercially driven and successful; the interfaces designed for the Acer Aspire and Asus EEE PC netbooks. They are totally unlike anything produced by Gnome, KDE or shipped by any of the well known distributors. They are certainly not what most people would want on a home desktop or a big laptop but when you use them as intended, on a device with a small screen and relatively limited expandability, they are very impressive. They do what a good GUI should do, that is they let the user enjoy the device's capabilities while letting them ignore/forget/not care about what lies underneath. I was quite impressed playing with these things in the local store and I downloaded Linpus Lite to try for real on a regular laptop and I could see that it is extremely well thought out and coherent and nice to use. The people with a strong need and desire to have OEMs ship their product in huge numbers produced something utterly different in concept and execution to KDE and Gnome and it worked well enough for them to ship millions. It's not just the different desktop concept that is interesting to me, more interesting is seeing how raw commercial incentive takes the same set of tools and drives in a completely different, almost opposite, direction and produces a very well defined and valid solution.

Probably not (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414765)

Having more features than the average user cares about hasn't hurt Windows or OSX.

The answer is almost certainly "no". When you're not in first place, it's almost impossible to "innovate too much", as long as you can keep things usable. People will find out about the cool new features that they will absolutely love, and the ones they don't care about...they won't notice.

But they want to be able to get work done, and feel like they've made a good decision giving up their current OS in order to use Linux. Microsoft trying to expand their user base to the entire known universe requires one approach. Trying to convince Microsoft users that they can do it faster, cheaper, easier, better requires a different approach.

That means: make it work with the hardware or forget about ever being widely used on desktops.

He did not understand Linux at all. (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414789)

Linux is not at all about the average user. It's about having a choice and about having a professional OS.

Luckily, by having a choice, you can make it a consumer OS too. Or whatever you like.

Nobody forces anyone to use the new things. He can live in his primitive little world and stifle progress as long as he likes.

So if anything is wrong, it's that someone thinking everything is like in Windows, where you have only one choice, and everything has to be dumbed down, until you have to be dumb to be able to use it, is getting a voice in any media. The whole thing is a complete joke.

Maybe /. should read this article (1)

cjjjer (530715) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414869)

Just give me a list of articles and the comments to them, screw all of this fancy graphics and layout for comments.

shi?T (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28414877)

FreeBSD'S

This seems a bit backwards (5, Insightful)

malevolentjelly (1057140) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414899)

Last I checked, Linux desktops were loaded with exciting new innovative features but failing on extremely basic tasks.

Perhaps the community should be asking whether it's more important that we add a fun new Swirl effect to switch to another desktop or if people would rather have a sane and complete GL API. Do we need the entire desktop to be rethought or should we simply settle for having a sane and unified sound solution?

I would have to agree in saying that the desktop linux community is getting way too ahead of itself if they think they're innovating themselves away from the mainstream. Read the NYTimes article on Ubuntu Linux and tell me whether or not they even mention innovation- They viewed it as a free but lower quality alternative to commercial systems that was very attractive but failed during basic maintenance tasks.

Why create an Earth-shattering new desktop-web interaction paradigm when users would probably rather have sane and cohesive documentation?

Here are some no-brainers, if you want to see linux improve:

* Now that OSS 4.1 is open source, drop ALSA. It is a proven failure. PulseAudio obfuscated the problem to the point of ruining audio in linux, specifically when low latency is required.

* Support forward-thinking projects like Wayland instead of putting another car on the fail-train that is X. X is architecturally inferior to WindowServer and Windows' display layer for desktop-oriented tasks. A simplified windowing system that puts graphics first and drops the cruft would go a long way in making linux seem modern and easy to maintain.

* Write documentation sometimes. Format it well an ship it with your projects!

Or, if you're really clever:

* Realize that open source != linux. Look at desktop-oriented free software sytstems like Haiku and imagine a world where Linux can be built into an excellent server (or mediocre workstation) and desktop users can have a system purpose built for their priorites! There is no rule that says that linux needs to be the only free system. With the magic of things like POSIX, we can write software that runs on either!

The strength of open source should be versatility, not futility.

Dream big.

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