Re: More Political Stuff

On Fri, Aug 25, 2000 at 06:23:56PM +0500, Sean Middleditch wrote:
> Also, GNU/Linux isn't even close to ready for the desktop.  

I do get tired of hearing this meaningless phrase.  Who does this
mythical desktop that we're supposed to be ready for belong to?  I have
been using X on my desktop for the last 3 years, exclusively for the
last 2.

50% of the desktops at my work run RedHat and about half of those are
using Gnome.

I would imagine that my father could install and use a Linux
distribution without too much trouble, if he was so inclined.  My mother
could not, but she could not install any other OS either.

Which one of the above is "the desktop".

> Even if GNOME was complete, there are still way too many problems.
> The whole issue of "root" for example is confusing to newbies.  You'd
> be better off developing a stable gnome-su and whatnot so that there
> is never a need to open a terminal and su as root.  If someone has to
> do that even once, then the desktop isn't ready.

The concept of "root" may be confusing to some newbie users, but there
are a lot of desktops in the world where knowledge of root is
unnecessary.  Offices will have an administrator, who will be very
grateful for the ability to stop users tinkering with the system.  I
have had the misfortune to administer a network of NT workstations - i
found it next to impossible to make everything except the user's home
directory read-only, and it kept leaving world-readable copies of user
profiles lieing around.  Unix/Linux has a much stronger concept of a
user/administrator split and in many cases this is a very desirable
split, and with competent administration it is possible for users to
exist happily with no knowledge of what root is.

I admit that there will still be a lot of home users where people don't
have the skill or enthusiasm to install Linux on their desktop.  Perhaps
Gnome is not ready for their desktops, but there are a lot of desktops
which for which it is ready.

In my experience, the single biggest hinderance to installation of Gnome
is the lack of applications for handling MS Office file formats.

> GNU/Linux is also extremely unstable, in comparison to other
> UNIXes.  While Linux itself doesn't crash that often (in 1.5 years of
> use, I've it crash once, and that was because of a faulty patch I put
> in), almost all of the software on it does.  XFree86 locks up, a
> lot.  Even the old 3.3.x series.  

I think this is hardware dependant.  I know a lot of desktops running
XFree86 that have no stability problems, and only a few that do.  Is
this noticably worse than other UNIXes' X offerings?

> Most of the 'stable' GNOME crashes a lot.  

I find a few components slightly unstable, but "crashes a lot" is not
how I would describe my desktop.  Earlier Gnome releases were much
worse, however.

> You can throw in all the nifty programs you want, all the office
> software you'd ever need.  But other OSes already HAVE all that.  So
> what would be the point?  Really, the two reasons I stopped using
> Windows was the crashing and lack of control.  I have lots of control
> in Linux, but not by using a GUI: GUI's dumb the system down, no
> matter WHAT you try to say, it's true.  

My desktop has several gnome-terminals open, which are no dumber than a
console.  A GUI doesn't dumb my system down.  Here are a few examples of
how it makes me more productive:

o It allows me to put nicely formatted (netscape, xdvi) documentation on
screen next to my editor.
o I can view the progress of a task in one window whilst working in
o I have a modem monitor which shows how much traffic is flowing down
the line.
o A panel showing the time, CPU usage, and a volume control on hand -
very useful for taking phone calls.
o I can view text in a variety of font sizes.
o I am able to fully configure applications like sawfish to exactly how
I want them using a GUI tool, without having to wade through pages of

> The stability is only apparant if you run in a console, too, or run
> the venerable x-lib software most distros still come with.

This is not true.  Yes, the x-lib software is very stable, but then
again, so is a lot of the Gnome software.  I find the ease-of-use gains
far outweigh the few niggling bugs.  I can change settings like font
size on my Gnome terminal using an easy-to-learn preferences dialog.  I
don't have to edit a text file by hand.  I have nothing against text
config files - they are often very useful - but they do take longer to
figure out than a GUI config tool.

> OK, that was a large rant about GNOME/Linux/etc. all in one.  Really, I
> tend to bitch a lot, but aren't these valid points?  Are these kinds of
> things taken into consideration by most developers?  What reasons do we
> truly give people to use GNOME?  

Different people use it for different reasons.  I use Linux over Windows
because I have experienced the same frustration with using unstable,
dumbed-down software that I'm sure many others have.  I use Gnome over
Xlib/KDE because I like having a consistent, decent-looking, easy-to-use

But there are a lot of different types of user with varying skill
levels.  There is no simple divide between clueful and clueless.  There
are a lot of computer enthusiasts who like to play with computers, and a
lot of them are coming over to Linux/Free software because it puts them
back in control of their computers, and allows them to contribute their
computer skills to joint development efforts.

> Yes, I use it.  But I'm not
> dumb.  Windows is still easier, KDE is still faster, more stable, AND
> easier...  GNOME is trying to put together a million features, a million
> pieces of software, and we're rushing it.  

I don't see that anyone is rushing it.  The few times that I have used
StarOffice I have found that it sucks like the biggest hoover ever
invented.  I find AbiWord development isn't going to stop just because
StarOffice is GPLed.  It already has advantages over StarOffice,
including the fact that I can be writing a document within 3 seconds of
hitting the icon to load it.  On the contrary, AbiWord development
stands to be boosted by the availability of some of the StarOffice code,
most notably the Word importer.

If AbiWord development seems slow, then this is only an outward
appearance.  There is a lot of progress, and the guys writing it put a
lot of effort into making sure that they are writing a properly
cross-platform word processor Done Right.  The 1.0 product should be
very usable, if slightly feature thin, but once it gains advanced stuff
like tables we will have a free, light, powerful, *properly*
cross-platform word-processor.  I think it would be hard to overestimate
the potential of such a program.  


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