[clug] Choices and Linux

Paul Wayper paulway at mabula.net
Sun Apr 1 04:32:02 GMT 2007

Hash: SHA1

Ian wrote:
> Anyway, it occurred to me that this principal may be part of the
> reason that Linux hasn't taken off as much as we might expect given
> the average quality of a Linux system. Ignoring the people who don't
> care about their OS and are "happy" with whatever the store they are
> in at the time recommends they use, it strikes me that the initial
> choice is fairly easy (Windows, Mac, Linux or
> Other-not-so-well-suited-to-desktop-use). Choosing Windows or Mac is
> usually the final choice that they will make (Well, Windows leads them
> to home basic, home premium......, but that's still only out of 6). On
> the other hand, the initial choice of Linux leads to another choice
> with literally hundreds of options choosing a distro, and would
> discourage a lot of people from choosing Linux.

I totally agree with this.  And I'd also add that the market up until fairly
recently has consisted of once choice based solely on what platform you run:
System ? for a Mac and Windows for a PC.  The bewildering variety of flavours
and shapes of Linux now makes people hold off until they _have_ to choose.

I note that in their testing, people weren't _compelled_ to make a choice of
jam.  This is probably why they made the choice to not buy jam - because they
could put off the decision.  If they were compelled to buy jam, or if it was
choosing a superannuation fund or car insurer, then it might be quite a
different test.

The criteria we use to choose what distros we, as Linux users, tell people
about is probably not the same as the criteria they'd use to choose
themselves.  We go for things like what window manager it uses, what packaging
system it uses, whether 'non-free' packages are available, types of kernel
options, license and so on.  Non-Linux people probably choose on window
manager, initial software setup, colour scheme and what support they perceive
they'll get.  Maybe they don't like the brown of Ubuntu or the blue of Fedora.
  Maybe they have a friend who runs Gentoo that can help them with it.
Babbling on to them about the packaging methodology and window manager memory
requirements and the merits of iptables over netfilter (or vice versa) is
almost certainly meaningless.

Maybe we should just offer four options:

* Ubuntu
* Kubuntu
* (Your favourite GNOME RPM-based distro here)
* (Your favourite KDE RPM-based distro here)

You can further reduce that down to two if you're making a personal
recommendation to a friend, based on what distro you already run: your distro,
or a distro with the same packaging method and a different window manager.
And even then I'll bet that people just go for the same as what you have...
because they know that you can support it the best.

> Personally, I like choice, at least in areas I'm familiar with, but
> this story was certainly an eye-opener for me.

In the past I've sided with Hugh and his One Frickin User Interface point of
view.  I still do, with the following expansion:  I'd rather have choice than
have another person's coding standards or methodology rammed down my throats.
 If I have a choice, I'd like a benevolent dictatorship: the best minds in the
programming community working together to make a GUI standard that everyone
can work with.  But if I can't have that, then give me the freedom to choose
one that I like and suits my way of thinking.

Choice is our best point, IMO.  You can choose a distro that suits your level
of ability.  Very rarely will that result in being locked in, such that you
can't run what other Linux distros can run because of some inherent problem
with your distro.  And you can always move your data over and use it under a
different distro.  There are plenty of other good reasons, of course.

The other aspect is, of course, that every time you make a list like the one
above, or on Make The Move, you get all sorts of people piping up about how
great their own favourite distro is and how superior it is in all sorts of
ways to everyone else's choice and how much it deserves to be mentioned in the
list you've just made.  To which my answer these days is the rather harsh "are
you prepared to do all the support for the entire CLUG list for this distro?"
I had an interesting conversation with a person a while back who shares with
me the dubious distinction of having begged for help with a Linux problem and
offered money to anyone prepared to give up time to fix it.  Like me, he had
been disappointed with the absence of response.

Because what people really want with changing over to Linux is someone to hold
their hand and ease them through the process of changing over.

Apropos of support, anyone here from BluePackets?

Have fun,

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