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It is "only" the kernel! Why Linux is not at fault when a distro lacks something

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#1
What I often hear and read is the phrase "Linux is not user friendly", or other phrases in which some lack of something is subject of complaint. Although I might have some understanding for these misgivings (dependant on the circumstances), it also seems to me that folks stating as such don't have a clue about what "Linux" actually is. It is not an Operating System (OS), nor a component of an OS that users directly interact with. So there is no need for Linux to be "user friendly", because it runs - as a manner of speaking - "under the bonnet" ("under the hood" for Americans). It is a system kernel, of which the name is in this case used as an umbrella name (to refer to the OS family or platform as a whole). This name is "GNU/Linux", sometimes simply "Linux".
 
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#2
The OP is quite a bit a work in progress, I will adjust thing dependant on what others suggest in this thread.
 
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#3
Indeed, I keep on seeing "not user friendly enough yet" a lot in various places on the innernets, but never anything concrete on how exactly it's not user friendly.
example:
I ran Mint for a while and ended up going back to Windows 8. Linux IMO has a LONG way to go before its user friendly enough for Joe Sixpack. However I hope it does some day. It was cool to mess with.
I wanted to reply on this thread with a request to point the most important parts that lack user-friendliness. But... yay for this thread! :laugh:

These claims I keep on seeing seem odd to me. Especially because I know a lot of "average people"[1], whom I introduced to several Linux distros. Yet they managed to install it themselves with no problems at all & use it. And they tank me for introducing it to them and emphasize how user-friendly and well thought-out it is. Another interesting fact - I introduced most of those people more than three years ago. And "mainstream" distros went much more user-friendly over that time.
My practical findings seem to contradict what some people tend to say on some places on the innernets.

I get the feeling that "not user friendly enough yet" mostly comes from people who spent a lot on Windoze and in their habit, treat GNU/Linux systems exactly as if they were Windoze and thus, get various problems & get confused. Of course - it's not Windoze. Thus, needs to be used a bit differently. Switching systems requires a lot re-learning. Let's admit it - we all resist change, whether we realize it or not.
Alas, when I see "Linux is not user friendly enough yet", very often I end up reading the sentence as "GNU/Linux is not similar to Windows enough yet.".
So yeah - how exactly it's not user friendly enough?



[1] Talking about people who at the time were likely to press f+1+1 keys when told to "press f11". i.e. People who'd normally need a LOT hand-holding to find their way through a new system. Surprisingly, Ubuntu & Linux Mint (the distros I showed them) were user-friendly enough for them to find their way around. And indirectly educated them a lot, too.

P.S. More than six years ago, I tried to use GNU/Linux for the first time. I failed all over and had many problems. I was angry at it and kept thinking "why is it so badly done?". But after a couple of days, I realized - "the problem is between the keyboard and the chair. The problem is in me."
To me, that was the second-most-important breakthrough I made in the field of using computers. It was like a form of enlightenment. The system itself was patting me on the shoulder, wanting to get my attention, so it could show me the way. Yet I was too thick-shelled and too focused on the thought that I can't be the wrong one here, so I did not notice it. But when my shell cracked and I realized the system was showing me the way all this time, but I was simply ignoring it. Indeed - like an enlightenment.
 
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#4
My grandmother used mint for awhile, and she had no problems. She just used to to access google, aka the internet.

Personally, I struggle with linux a bit if I am doing anything beyond the internet. Same as I do on osx though.
 

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#5
Well, you have to ask yourself, "What do you use your computer for?" More often than not, people aren't used to the how different Linux distros and window managers work. It's not that Linux in general is hard to use because if launch something like Firefox, Chrome, Steam, or any other application that has a version on both Windows and Linux, they're going to be practically the same. I find that people get bent out of shape when they don't know how to find something or to "tell Linux" how to do something. Now I will say that if you do install, say Ubuntu, on a machine that doesn't have full hardware support, you might be fighting with it a little bit to get everything to work. That is a shortcoming of many Linux distros and that it's usually harder to try install drivers or kernel modules for particular hardware. In most cases though, I've found that Ubuntu (for both desktops and servers,) typically support just about all the hardware in the box, even on my 3820 machine. Heck, even FGLRX gives you the option to run Crossfire in Linux (how good it runs is anyones guess, but it is there!)

So, with application support aside, I don't really find Windows any harder to use than OS X or various distros of Linux.

Also, just because you don't use something on a regular basis (like Windows,) you can't expect to be able to take up a Linux distro in a day, because it's not Windows. It is different and there are things you're going to have to learn about it. So for everyone who says that "Linux is hard to use" has probably been using Windows for many years, so you're already set in your ways and if you were to use, say Ubuntu, for the same amount of time you've been using Windows, I'm sure you'd get pretty good at using it as well.

It's like saying, "Riding a bike is easier than driving a car, but I've only driven a car for a week where I've been riding a bike for 8 years." It doesn't make sense.

My grandmother used mint for awhile, and she had no problems. She just used to to access google, aka the internet.
I'm willing to bet that her experience with Windows was pretty minimal too, right?

More than six years ago, I tried to use GNU/Linux for the first time. I failed all over and had many problems. I was angry at it and kept thinking "why is it so badly done?". But after a couple of days, I realized - "the problem is between the keyboard and the chair. The problem is in me."
+1: You explain this very well. You're very right and someone who has never used Windows before might feel the same way.
 
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#6
I worked a lot with Unix a long time ago, and I truly loved it (and Hated MS ofc, but I was a young padawan that time, and I do not harbor hate in my hearth anymore:p).

The problem was that (even for me who was quite an experienced user already) sometimes things took a lot of time to accomplish while it was much easier to do the same in windows (NT), because somebody somewhere already wrote an application with a GUI, which made things easier.
I still have a Linux install on all my machines, and I can see that the userbase and the number of the available applications/scripts are much larger now, but it's still boils down to the fact that there is very little out there what you can't do with Windows, (and it's still the most used OS too)

Of course you won't really run servers with Windows, but I assume you are talking about workstations for regular users here. Well they might indeed feel Windows more comfortable, and they might be right to be honest.

ps.: On the other hand, Unix/Linux is fun if you know what you are doing, and let's not forget that it's mostly free and open-source, which is what we all desire;]
 
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#7
Sure it would not hurt to add a interactive tutorial on the first run of ubuntu, mint, pclinuxos, etc.Something like how to use the file manager, how to change settings, what desktop items do.
 
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#8
+1: You explain this very well. You're very right and someone who has never used Windows before might feel the same way.
That's funny to hear.
Before moving to Linux, I was a die-hard Windoze user. I used Win 3.11 before I learned to read. About the time I learned to read (I was 5 y.o.), I got a computer at home and ran DOS on it, until I got Win95. After that I was running windows-only for more than ten years. :laugh:

but it's still boils down to the fact that there is very little out there what you can't do with Windows, (and it's still the most used OS too)
Hmmm... whenever I boot to Windoze, I have a great feeling of being restricted by it due to the sheer amount of things I can't do on it.

Sure it would not hurt to add a interactive tutorial on the first run of ubuntu, mint, pclinuxos, etc.Something like how to use the file manager, how to change settings, what desktop items do.
I believe this was already done and is. Not that people pay any attention to it, though. Human nature at its worst laziest...
 

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#9
The GUI may be nice and intuitive on any particular distro, but if the industry support just isn't there, then it's not user friendly in this critical aspect.

And by industry support, I mean the way Windows has support, where 99% of all applications or hardware devices are designed to run on it. If you gotta start worrying about the manufacturer not supporting a device under Linux and then start trying to hunt down some spotty third party driver that probably won't work properly or has only limited functionality, then that's very user unfriendly indeed.

This is the basic reason that I don't use Linux and stick with Windows and its BS product activation DRM and will be the same for most people. It's a really unfortunate chicken and egg situation that Linux has never been able to break out of for one reason or another.
 
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#10
Hmmm... whenever I boot to Windoze, I have a great feeling of being restricted by it due to the sheer amount of things I can't do on it.
Did you read my post? I was trying to talk from the pov of a "average" workstation user.
Yes, there are many great things what Linux does better, but not much of those are things what a simple user would appreciate that much. For example: Installing without restarting is great, but a normal user won't install things that often, and restarting with modern systems (running on Sata3+ SSDs) only takes a few seconds anyway.

The two points where Linux might be considered better here are (again, from a normal user's pov):
1, the fact that users can move all of their settings between different systems via the /home folder,
2, and also the fact (which I already mentioned) that the OS and the software are free on Linux.
The rest is not really interesting for a simple user, and Windows offers more (Zillion localized and supported applications all around the world, compatibility with more hardware, more games, better helpdesk and support, etc)

Yes there are many other things like open-source code, or better desktop customization possibilites, etc... but those are pretty far from "easy to do things" for somebody who are not experienced. My mom can't do shit with Linux desktop systems and she tried many times, while she can find her way in Windows just fine. Well, she loves android which is also Linux, so this is the point where OP is right, and why we love Linux after all, but as a desktop operating system for people who are not power users, it's just not friendly enough imho.
 

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#11
About "Linux is not the OS!": Didn't that discussion die like ten years ago? Linux is the de facto term for GNU/Linux. Everyone knows this, if you see a newbie saying "I don't like Linux" you do understand they do not mean "I don't like that particular kernel". It's just the way it is, not matter what Stallman says.

About it being user friendly: Try to move beyond what is already installed and what exists in the standard repositories. Try to install a game you want to try that needs a version of GTK that is not in the standard repository, which in turn need some Pango component (or something) not in the standard rep, see how your attempts to install everything breaks the desktop environment.

That is fun, and interesting, but not something I recommend if you just want it to work. I try different distros on my netbook from time to time (light distros of course), and quite often it is some little thing that doesn't work as it should. Like the wlan drops the connection, battery indicators are uncertain, power saving settings are iffy, mousepad gestures only work sometimes, etc etc. The good thing is that these things are fixable if you either have the knowledge to begin with, or the time and interest to aquire the knowledge.
 
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#12
Games should not even depend on GTK, blame the dev of the game instead of the platform. Would you blame e.g. Sony for a bad port of GTA N to the Playstation O?
 
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#13
About it being user friendly: Try to move beyond what is already installed and what exists in the standard repositories. Try to install a game you want to try that needs a version of GTK that is not in the standard repository, which in turn need some Pango component (or something) not in the standard rep, see how your attempts to install everything breaks the desktop environment.
Yeah, I know what You mean. I've been in a similar situation a few times.
But then I learned there are easy workarounds for this w/out breaking anything whatsoever.
 

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#14
Games should not even depend on GTK, blame the dev of the game instead of the platform. Would you blame e.g. Sony for a bad port of GTA N to the Playstation O?
If the game would break the OS because I tried to play it I would TOTALLY put some blame on Sony.

@Vinska: After literal days of searching, because I got interested, it turned out the easy answer was: "Don't bother". Not exactly, I got it running and I ended up installing a different distro from scratch, so there was probably something fishy going on, but still. Linux very much demands more from the user than Windows does. This is a good thing obviously, if you're into that sort of thing, but it does no good at all if all you want to do is use it and have everything working without having to wade through documentation.

On the other hand the more user friendly distros have more and more functionality by default, so it is changing (and has for quite some time), but as of right now, it is not an everymans desktop OS. It could have been, if it had gone the way of Android, which wouldn't be a good thing.
 
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#15
what game was it, BTW?
 
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#16
I just think the Linux/OSS community as a whole needs to get thier heads out of thier asses and spend less time arguing and more time innovating!!!
 
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#17
I think that the issue with Linux is all the forking that goes around. A package for Ubuntu won't necessarily work with Fedora or Mandrake (is that one still around?). I've still got to find a piece of Windows software that doesn't work in W8. Even the old ass MS gif animator and lview95 work flawlessly.

I'm sure that there are some out there that don't but if they don't work even with compatibility mode then surely they relied on bugs or undocumented features (like Simcity for 3.11 that relied on a memory bug to run).

Sure you can compile sources to create packages for your distro but that's another wall for joe average to surpass. Not everyone has time/interest in learning the command line.
 

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#18
I think that the issue with Linux is all the forking that goes around. A package for Ubuntu won't necessarily work with Fedora or Mandrake (is that one still around?). I've still got to find a piece of Windows software that doesn't work in W8. Even the old ass MS gif animator and lview95 work flawlessly.

I'm sure that there are some out there that don't but if they don't work even with compatibility mode then surely they relied on bugs or undocumented features (like Simcity for 3.11 that relied on a memory bug to run).

Sure you can compile sources to create packages for your distro but that's another wall for joe average to surpass. Not everyone has time/interest in learning the command line.
THHHIIIIIIISSSSSS. And this again. There are games that don't work with modern 64 bit Windows, but otherwise it's all good. A friend still uses a C++ IDE/compiler he bought 1995, with Windows 7.

@vinska Battle for Wesnoth, bizzarely.
 
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#19
I've still got to find a piece of Windows software that doesn't work in W8. Even the old ass MS gif animator and lview95 work flawlessly.

I'm sure that there are some out there that don't but if they don't work even with compatibility mode then surely they relied on bugs or undocumented features (like Simcity for 3.11 that relied on a memory bug to run).
Can list quite a few that I personally found out to be broken with Win7 and onwards. And even more that are completely broken only on x64 versions of Windoze.

Sure you can compile sources to create packages for your distro but that's another wall for joe average to surpass. Not everyone has time/interest in learning the command line.
Things that aren't provided as either official or at least unofficial packages are such things an average joe won't ever need. "If it has source available, someone already packaged it and put up for availability."
The only reason an average non-dev joe would want to build things on one's own, other than individually targeted compiler optimizations & custom build options, would be using bleeding-edge code without waiting till someone packs up a nightly build or something.
Yes, there are some proprietary tools with no source available, but those are not something an average joe would be concerned of.
Edit: there are simple tools for converting between package types, BTW. I personally used one of those, too. For Red Hat packages of proprietary development tools, to transform them into Debian packaged. It worked really well.

A friend still uses a C++ IDE/compiler he bought 1995, with Windows 7.
That is the most horrible thing I heard over the last few weeks.

@vinska Battle for Wesnoth, bizzarely.
Do I smell that transition between gtk2 and gtk3, that was done in the Ubuntu world some time ago, along with someone either:
a) grabbing a build for the wrong GTK version
b) forgetting to pass a compiler flag to use the same gtk version the system uses
?
 
Last edited:

Frick

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#20
That is the most horrible thing I heard over the last few weeks.
Agreed, but it proves the point.

Do I smell that transition between gtk2 and gtk3, that was done in the Ubuntu world some time ago, along with someone either:
a) grabbing a build for the wrong GTK version
b) forgetting to pass a compiler flag to use the same gtk version the system uses
?
Yeah that stirs the memory. Which also proves the point. I, as a user, should not have to deal with that sort of thing.
 
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#21
Yeah that stirs the memory. Which also proves the point. I, as a user, should not have to deal with that sort of thing.
Which brings me to the question:
Where did You get that all-breaking package from?
 

Frick

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#22
Which brings me to the question:
Where did You get that all-breaking package from?
It had something to do with Pango. Different GTK version required a different Pango version which ... required something else, I forget exactly what it was. But it was when I tried to install either that Pango version I needed or the thing Pango needed the desktop broke. I still had the command line though, so I got to try Lynx, which was great.

Yes it's obvious I did not know what I was doing, and did something very wrong somewhere. The point is this: I just wanted to try that game. I think the fact that I managed to break the desktop was great, that I could still use the OS (CL) was even better and shows just how powerful, and fun, Linux can be. It's just not for prime time in a world with people that don't care, don't want to care and are not interested or have the time to develop that kind of interest.
 
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#23