[clug] Choices and Linux

Michael Cohen michael.cohen at netspeed.com.au
Sun Apr 1 08:43:34 GMT 2007

<warning> Long </warning>

Hi Ian,
  Sadly ms Vista (I believe its the new offering from Microsoft) apparently
  comes in a choice of 7 different versions depending on how much money you are
  prepared to part with, not to mention the miriads of choices of other
  microsoft oses like win xp win 2k win 9x, server, data center edition, media
  center edition (this is not an exhaustive list - i know little about windows
  just what buzz words i hear). 

  In some respects they are all similar - no point discussing the different
  types of package managements - non have any. The window managers appear to be
  different though the Xp variety look like a beach ball, the win 2k variety
  look harsh with sharp edges - none are easy to use (who needs more than one
  desktop, keyboard shortcuts? who uses the keyboard anymore?)

  In that respect I disagree with you about choice - microsoft has more choice
  than linux. On the other hand the ms user's choice is more or less made up
  for them by their budget so maybe there is some grain of truth.  

  Although I think that windows people should all migrate to linux in droves
  (it is the better os as you pointed out). I have to present a slightly
  different POV here. Maybe im cynical but in reality who cares? It makes no
  difference to me that my mother in law is using windows or linux... Its
  totally her choice. I cant support an windows system, but could easily
  remotely support a linux system that is the only difference for me.  

  At the end of the day, most people are sheep and will follow other peoples
  choices rather than make their own minds. This is perfectly natural for
  people in areas which they simply have no experience in. For example say I
  wanted to buy a new car - knowing nothing about cars i would probably just
  choose the first one i can afford or someone else recommended. I guess its
  the same for the masses - they know nothing about computers, dont really need
  computers other than do their online shopping or banking, and whats more they
  dont want to use computers beyond these immediate needs. Most lay people dont
  draw any pleasure with tinkering, trying a new window manager, a new editor

  Some people, however, do enjoy using computers. Some are novices at it but
  like to play with different software and have an open mind. These are the
  people who we should be helping. They will reciprocate our help and will
  genuinely have a good go at it. I think its fair to say that all people on
  this list fall into this category of showing genuine interest in using
  computers at a higher level.

  To those people, we have excelled remarkably. There is no computer literate
  person on the planet today who has not heard of linux. If they are truely
  keen to learn new things and make their own choices, it is just a matter of
  time until they try one distro, and then another. They will ultimately
  develop the ability to make the choice thats right for them. And that is
  where choice matters. On the surface all linuxes appear similar - maybe a
  different color scheme or window manager. The subtle differences are the
  learning curve required to use it, the long term maintainability and
  availability of new packages etc.  

  Its a little like buying a bottle of wine - again something i know nothing
  about. I go into the shop and am faced with literally hundreds of bottles. I
  do not have the necessary skills or experience to even tell the difference
  between the difference wines let along pick the one thats right for me... (I
  normally ask the attendant to pick the wine for me). However, a true
  connaiseur - or even a person who tries a few more wines than me - would
  undoubtadly enjoy and appreciate the choice. If I showed interest in wine i
  could start trying out different wines and then develop the palatte to tell
  the difference between them... That is the path a newbie takes.

  In that sense choice is good - maybe the newbies cant appreciate the
  differences just yet, but as they try more and more distroes themselves they
  might learn to appreciate the subtle differences more and make the choice
  thats right for them.

On Sun, Apr 01, 2007 at 01:03:05AM +1000, Ian wrote:
> Hi All,
> I was just thinking about a story that was on Catalyst the other night
> (it was a repeat), about how too many choices can be bad for us. They
> did an experiment where 24 jars of jam were put out for people to try
> & buy, then repeated the experiment with only 6 jars and found that
> while fewer people approached the table, there were about 10x as many
> sales. Their explanation was that when people are faced with too many
> choices, they are less likely to make any choice at all.
> The entire story is available here:
> http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/s1615006.htm
> 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.
> Most of those people that do still decide to stick with Linux need a
> way to narrow down that choice to 7 or less straight away, and there
> are plenty of resources that recommend just a few (Ubuntu, Mandriva,
> Fedora, SuSE, Knoppix, and so on). Of those, I notice that Ubuntu is
> the most popular distro, and also the one user friendly desktop distro
> that has decided to restrict the end users choice in terms of what
> other software they install (unless of course they choose to add the
> universe repository), so instead of having to make a decision as to
> what software package to use for every new task that someone wants to
> do, they have only one or two options.
> Personally, I like choice, at least in areas I'm familiar with, but
> this story was certainly an eye-opener for me.
> On a slightly different point:
> "Narration: More than 7 and our brains have to work much harder –
> grouping the options, making a sequence of decisions. "
> Now, why does that remind me of how a compiler deals with a program
> that uses more temporary variables than there are CPU registers...?
> Cheers,
> -Ian
> -- 
> On the day *I* go to work for Microsoft, faint oinking sounds will be
> heard from far overhead, the moon will not merely turn blue but
> develop polkadots, and hell will freeze over so solid the brimstone
> will go superconductive.
>     -- Erik Raymond, 2005
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