Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The fallacy of choice

I'm sure by now I don't really have to describe in detail this phenomenon: Whenever you criticize a luser about his choice of OS, he'll inevitably come back with, "at least it gives me choices." Choice in window manager, choice in terminal application, choice in file manager, choice in desktop environment, choice in kernel version, you name it.

This "choice", as loudly as it is trumpeted, is a key reason that Linux has not made it on the desktop. Let me attempt to show you why.

Every argument for "choice" is usually accompanied by a statement along the lines of, "there are many different kinds of users that prefer different choices, therefore we need to support all of them." In terms of distribution of choices, given 10 choices, this statement implies the following type of distribution.

In other words, ten equal choices with ten roughly equal-sized groups each preferring a different choice. For some limited version of the world, this may be true (for example, existing people who are FOSS users already, fighting amongst themselves). But if you look at the general population at large, I claim a different picture emerges:

Here, the blue represents the people who don't care about a particular choice, and actively do not want to have to make a choice. They just want things to work. They will take "working" over "choice" in an instant. They essentially want the developers to make choices for them.*

Linux and FOSS so far have optimized for the former picture of the world, not the latter. In doing so, they've concentrated on inserting abstraction layers and decoupled mechanisms at every layer of the stack: kernel, graphical toolkit, command line shell, terminal program, text editor, office suite, window manager, desktop environment, sound system, etc. etc.

In adding choice after choice, Linux moves farther and farther from what the mainstream user wants.

Furthermore, any developer will tell you that each time a new layer of "choice" is added, the possible number of configurations multiplies. This means more untested configurations, more bugs, and more brokenness. Not necessarily due to incompetence of developers, but rather simply due to the sheer number of configurations that are possible.

So not only does the addition of so many choices alienate would be users, it also makes it difficult for developers to create tested, working configurations. It's a double whammy. Obsession with providing choice it every level actively works against efforts that would otherwise push Linux to provide what the mainstream wants.

Look at OSX. The amount of choice you have in OSX is minuscule compare to what you get with Linux. Yet, do you see the majority of mac users complaining? Look at the internet, look at how IE still has a huge market share. People like to think that it's because people don't know any better and that they need to be educated. My experience says otherwise. People don't care. They want what works for them. For the vast majority of cases IE works for people. It may not be optimal, but people just don't care.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Even current lusers don't want choice between two or more options that are broken. They want a working baseline, and then they want to be able to make all the choices they personally care about. Unfortunately, there are very few projects that are concentrated on developing this working baseline. Instead they usually try to build one small piece of the puzzle, then make it interface with as many other parts in numerous and useless ways.

Let's look at the server side. Why does Linux succeed here? One of the big reasons is that there is a working baseline. Everyone knows what it's called: LAMP. If in doubt, start with LAMP. Yes, there are still other options. Different webservers, different databases, different programming languages, even different OS'es (WIMP anyone?). The point is that if you don't want to make any of these choices, and instead you want a proven base starting point, you have one.

Unfortunately on the desktop side, no such "non-choice" choice exists. In addition, there are many more pieces that need to work together to provide a friendly experience. What is the LAMP of the desktop? Whatever it is, it's going to have a lot more letters. I claim it still doesn't exist. Everyone disagrees what the desktop should be. Everyone wants choice. Everyone except the mainstream users that the desktop is supposed to be built for.


* In some sense, distros try to do this. But this fails for a few reasons. 1) There are too many distros. 2) Distros aren't the ones with the expertise to make the right choices.

302 flames:

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Jonnan said...

The comment about "Working Baseline" is probably the most important part about this - I think the real world is neither of the piecharts you described, in that most people want a default setup . . . except for this one area they know really well and want tweaked exactly the way they want it.

The problem is there's no guessing what that area is till they've worked with a baseline for awhile.

But yeah, I'll sit around and be insulted for awhile - I'm just a user anyway - {G}

Richard said...

"The fallacy of choice" is surely a phrase from the communist handbook? Isn't it up there with "We will decide for you, you don't need to vote"? Sure, I get the whole "this is an OS and that is the government" thing, but choice is kind of what capitalism is all supposed to be about.

Anonymous said...

The Paradox of Choice.

It's a book.

Buy it, read it, maybe you'll understand that this blog post is 100% correct.

(Yes, I said buy it. Sorry if that offends the freetards.)

Damien said...

I think this probably applies even more to the mobile phone domain, with all constructors except apple insisting on having 42 models with random combinations of features and cryptic names…

42 said...

1) determine number of people who actually code/sysadmin as % of general population.
2) ?
3) profit!

the solution to 1) is about as far in market share as any current distro is gonna go, because nobody else cares, has the time, has the geek skills, etc. otherwise the rest of us will pay the MS/Apple taxes to get actual shit done to avoid having to dick around with our computers all day, trying five different distros to decide which one to use, then deciding which window mgr to use, blah blah blah. fuck that.

Mike Peter Reed said...

From what I've seen (admittedly limited by the finite laws of the length of a human life), gOS goes some way to making choices for you. First, it looks like OS X (rather than aping Windows or CDE like every other distro I've seen), second it hooks into on-line apps where choice is more limited, or, stuff is easier to choose because it's easier to use (how else do you explain people with a gazillion Facebook apps installed?!)

Anyway, if I didn't need Boom Recorder nor Final Cut then at this moment I think gOS would certainly be on my shortlist of distro choices ... especially since I have a lot of time invested in google apps already anyway, in an attempt to make myself "free" from the OS (oh yes and a prisoner to google, but hey ho, they make it easy enough to export your data elsewhere at the next paradigm shift ....)

Peter in Japan said...

Has the iPhone, that lovely third platform, passed Linux yet in market share yet? (Becuase I've got a whole shitload of absolutely mind-blowing apps (by which I mean, applications that do something for me, not just a program I can use) in a very short time, most of which were free (but some were cost - gasp! - $4.99 or $9.99), which turns my phone into something more useful than I could have ever imagined. When I had KDE on my EEE PC, I was like, oops, can't buy software since none exists, I can't solve problems easily, I can't install software that does exist without several days of learning how packages work, there's no shareware, there's nothing as simple or pleasant as Mac OS X or even Windows.

Clearly, well developed and reasonably priced software in a competitive environment where no one can abuse things by owning too much of the market is good. Fragmented but free isn't so good.

Anonymous said...

Know thy user
for he/she is not us.

Anonymous said...

Having close to 10 years of combined usage of Linux and the BSD's, and spending my 3 recent years of OS X, I strongly disagree with your notion that you with OS X have "miniscule" amounts of choice compared to Linux. Did you ever use OS X? More than just minimizing/maximizing the Finder window when visiting an Apple Store, that is...

Amit Patankar said...

As an active user of both Windows and Linux, IMHO the Linux community is too absorbed in bashing Microsoft and its policies. Instead it should focus more on understanding what an average user wants from a desktop OS and drive the future of Linux development that way.

Kent said...

TOTALLY and completely correct here! Like USB configured peripherals..that 'just work'.. I spent extra money on a stereo headset with microphone that was USB instead of standard microphone/speaker plugs..it works..it just works..plug it in..it works..THAT is what Linux distros need to aim for.. to some extent PCLinuxOS seems to do for me anyway.. Ubunto does to some extent..and the rest..less and less..
THE Linux distro that comes out with the single solitary goal of 'just working' for the average 'user' of computers.. THAT distro can take over..
JUST WORKING is what Windows does best after all! For 99% of Windows users..or MORE!.. it just works.. like it or not..and to a great extent I don't! I hate the cost..WAY to high for what you get and don't get! For the price of a complete Vista Ultimate you SHOULD get ALL of the Office Suite Professional..not WORDPAD for cripes sake! What a joke.. Sure you CAN use Ooo.org but why? Why wouldn't M$ offer a bundle..IF you buy the OS you get the full suite of Office apps for a minimal cost.. HELLO!!
THAT is what Linux does well...ok the LINUX community..
FWIW..YMMV..etc etc etc...

Marcos El Malo said...

//I suggest you reread the accounts of Exodus in the Old Testament and learn how their freedom came with struggle and hardship.//

OK, I finally get it. Stallman is Moses. All this time I thought he was Stalin. My eyes are open now. Linux is the One True OS, and all other OSes are false OSes.

Anonymous said...

I love this article, and your blog in general. It contains mostly constructive crtisism and brings about many valid points and ideas about the weak spots of GNU/Linux.

This one about the ridiculous amount of of Choice and embracing the Choice was so good I had to refer to it on my website:
http://www.bitburners.com/articles/there-is-too-much-to-choose-from-in-the-world-of-linux/4094/

Daskalos said...

In Windows you have choice... in Linux you don't

In Windows you can choose between Photoshop, PhotoPaint and others. In Linux you have Gimp

In Windows you have CorelDraw and Illustrator and othrs. In Linux you have Inkscape

Harish said...

Mainstream, mainstream,

I don't think that "mainstream" is the target group of this whole GNU and/or Linux development.

The target group is the woman or man who has the knowledge to "choose". The target group is the group which gives value to "freedom" -in the sense of Free Software- . You can like this fact or not, but in some time and way we have to make it clear, that if you value your freedom _and_ you can educate yourself to some degree where you can make choices about the software and hardware platforms you want to use _then_ GNU/Linux is for you.

And not for some "mainstream".
There are other social groups who make the choice to _not_ open themselfs to "mainstream". Punks, Heavy Metal gals and guys, the Gothic scene and also the "real" hackers - about whom we normal computer users read only in the newsletter in direct connection with the FBI - all these are groups who _do not_ want to be mainstream. This is their choice and god dammit it is their fucking right to make this choice to close up to the fuckers out there because they do not understand what Punk or Metal is about.

I don't want the mainstream to come to Linux. Because they don't understand.
Will Linux be stopped developing when the mainstream - and with it all the magazines and podcats and web-sites - stop reporting? NO.
Even GNU/Herd is actively developed today. Okay, the development is slow, and it is making not so much "bling bling". But this is good. You don't get overcrowded by pissed on brains who scream all day "We want to click here and we want to click there because we are too stupid to even write a line on the terminal".

In the not so distant future we will see that developers will go to the side line operating systems because there they get the silence to develop what they want. Not what a fucking crowd of mainstream with shitful of brain wants them to develop.


Typical Marxist-Linuxist(ML) bullshit. If you dont have the time to go through code and learn how to use linux you are a moron ! Thus those who dont use Linux dont want freedom and those who want to get things done by just clicking are idiots who dont value freedom !

What this ML has to realise it the mainstream who want to get things done , and whom he derides are not idiots exactly ! They are heart surgeons, physicists, professors, engineers and a lot of other things who are busy with other things and who want to get things done asap. They dont want to worry about choosing the kernel and the shell and other things coz they have patients to worry about , students to teach and machines to be developed , and not because they are morons !

And if freedom is the issue , it should encompass all areas of life and not just software ! We should stop drinking coco-cola and start drinking open cola , make our own colas, ride open motorcycles , which we make by putting together several parts on our own , we have the choice of which carburettor to choose and which engine to choose and which axle configuration to choose , etc , and then use open pencils (make your own pencils) make your own chairs and tables instead of buying them as you have the choice of which wood to use , which saw to saw it with (and make your own open saw !) and well keep doing everthing on your own ! You would then need 240 hours to finish what would take 24 hours ! Thats why business came up with each person contributing to society and you compensate him with money.

Yet this simple thing is beyond the reach of the brain of the Marxist-Linuxist ! He keeps raving about choice , choice , choice and ok well then I choose windows ! But no I cant make that choice as i dont have the source code of windows ! Neither do I have the detailed drawings of my motorcycle ! Why doesnt he rave against it ?

Harish said...

Mainstream, mainstream,

I don't think that "mainstream" is the target group of this whole GNU and/or Linux development.

The target group is the woman or man who has the knowledge to "choose". The target group is the group which gives value to "freedom" -in the sense of Free Software- . You can like this fact or not, but in some time and way we have to make it clear, that if you value your freedom _and_ you can educate yourself to some degree where you can make choices about the software and hardware platforms you want to use _then_ GNU/Linux is for you.

And not for some "mainstream".
There are other social groups who make the choice to _not_ open themselfs to "mainstream". Punks, Heavy Metal gals and guys, the Gothic scene and also the "real" hackers - about whom we normal computer users read only in the newsletter in direct connection with the FBI - all these are groups who _do not_ want to be mainstream. This is their choice and god dammit it is their fucking right to make this choice to close up to the fuckers out there because they do not understand what Punk or Metal is about.

I don't want the mainstream to come to Linux. Because they don't understand.
Will Linux be stopped developing when the mainstream - and with it all the magazines and podcats and web-sites - stop reporting? NO.
Even GNU/Herd is actively developed today. Okay, the development is slow, and it is making not so much "bling bling". But this is good. You don't get overcrowded by pissed on brains who scream all day "We want to click here and we want to click there because we are too stupid to even write a line on the terminal".

In the not so distant future we will see that developers will go to the side line operating systems because there they get the silence to develop what they want. Not what a fucking crowd of mainstream with shitful of brain wants them to develop.


Typical Marxist-Linuxist(ML) bullshit. If you dont have the time to go through code and learn how to use linux you are a moron ! Thus those who dont use Linux dont want freedom and those who want to get things done by just clicking are idiots who dont value freedom !

What this ML has to realise it the mainstream who want to get things done , and whom he derides are not idiots exactly ! They are heart surgeons, physicists, professors, engineers and a lot of other things who are busy with other things and who want to get things done asap. They dont want to worry about choosing the kernel and the shell and other things coz they have patients to worry about , students to teach and machines to be developed , and not because they are morons !

And if freedom is the issue , it should encompass all areas of life and not just software ! We should stop drinking coco-cola and start drinking open cola , make our own colas, ride open motorcycles , which we make by putting together several parts on our own , we have the choice of which carburettor to choose and which engine to choose and which axle configuration to choose , etc , and then use open pencils (make your own pencils) make your own chairs and tables instead of buying them as you have the choice of which wood to use , which saw to saw it with (and make your own open saw !) and well keep doing everthing on your own ! You would then need 240 hours to finish what would take 24 hours ! Thats why business came up with each person contributing to society and you compensate him with money.

Yet this simple thing is beyond the reach of the brain of the Marxist-Linuxist ! He keeps raving about choice , choice , choice and ok well then I choose windows ! But no I cant make that choice as i dont have the source code of windows ! Neither do I have the detailed drawings of my motorcycle ! Why doesnt he rave against it ?

Kent said...

Well put..Marxist/Linuxist.. very true.. some of these Lusers are very much like that..those that are trying to port Mainstream programs to Linux..they seem to get it.. the whole WINE crowd.. I use AutoCAD and Inventor and SolidWorks and could use ProE etc.. ALL on Windows.. so what choice do I have in Linux..not much.. QCad..HAHAHA.. not much of a CAD program really..better than none!
There is Blender..but that isn't CAD.. but I suppose it could be worked into a decent Parametric Modeling system.. havn't seen anyone do that yet though..and I have to make money so I don't even have time to learn HOW to turn Blender into a ParaMetric Modeler..so..
Choice..eh?
IF Linux is ONLY about Choice..the choices are limited..
Sure if there is a simple machine like the ASUS EeePC then Linux works..but look how many are opting for higher priced version with Windows XP ..why? Choice! Ability to use the programs they are used to!
OK..they can get used to Linux if they HAVE to..but why?
Choice equals change..and human beings as a whole hate change!
Need a HUGE advantage to make that change! Some sort of incentive.. something MORE than just choice..when MicroSoft starts porting it's Office Suite to Linux..or AutoDesk starts porting AutoCAD to Linux.. and lo and behold..the Gamers start figuring out that they COULD be writing their games to LINUX!
Hmmm..games on Linux.. now maybe THEN Linux goes mainstream!
As we play so we work!!!
FWIW..etc..
Draughty!

Kirby Uber said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kirby Uber said...

here's the thing. there are some assumptions on the place of linux in your argument and observations.

sure, there is a large majority of the linux community, a wide and diverse community i might add, that talks of the Linux Desktop as a holy grail.

it isn't, and i hope it never becomes that.

linux at its inception was a free UNIX-like OS for the PC platform. of course it has become more than this, to different people.

the rabid ubuntu camp, much like rabid mac fan-boys, want their preference to some how "win" out in popularity.

i say, with popularity and wide appeal comes mediocrity. thus the dynamics of linux are revealed. if shuttleworth wants to fund a easy to use OS based on linux that attempts to clone the usability of OSX, more power to him. there is a wide audience for this. those that don't want to/ can't afford to line apple's coffers, or microsofts for that matter, this is a great solution.

however, for those of us that are attracted to linux for being off the beaten path, for requiring cleverness and effort, there is slackware. pride from making your machine hum efficiently and with grace by your own labor.

with luck, not every person sitting at console wants it to "just work" with out knowing the whys.

that sort of linux makes geeks.

i happen to like geeks.

the power of linux remains in its ability to be what you want. will that make some or many people shy from it? i hope so. there are tons of options for that user.

the option for people like me, is linux. real linux.

if we can avoid the "one OS for all" mentality that option will always be there.

Kent said...

"if we can avoid the "one OS for all" mentality that option will always be there."
WOW...LUSER Extroardinaire.. OH sorry..maybe that word is too big for a LUSER.. my mistake..but everyone else will understand..
What a joke.. I mean to state the obvious is one thing..but this .. this is absurd!
One OS for all? Never has been.. Remember UNIX? OR Mac OSX ..or even Windows..are ANY of those ONE OS FOR ALL?
NO.. but they do offer usability in their own ways...
WHEN and ONLY WHEN.. Linux gets to the point that it gains the respect of the mainstream community then it will be a real contender.. know what the problem is..I actually understand why Linux is a good OS..I just don't get why so many Linux lovers don't get the idea that it is NOT PERFECT.. I want to be able to install Linux on a computer and hookup a simple 56K modem.. and then dialup the internet.. I can do that in Windows 95! Why not LINUX? OK..I also want to run AutoCAD on Linux..or SolidWorks.. can I? NO!!
Why..not a big enough user base for them to port to!
Come on.. lets get Linux up to snuff..or at least be honest..
Sure those that want to tweak can..go right ahead..but don't go telling the rest of us that we should not want an OS that 'Just Works!' In time Linux might get there..in fact..it might be now..or at least it is coming close..in some apps anyway!
BUT until I can fire up and do whatever I want in some main stream programs..not going to be a full contender!
Games..I keep telling you ..GAMES..make a Linux distro that will be the GAME programmers dream! Do that..EVERYTHING else will follow! M$ has everyone fooled into thinking that it is the business apps that drives the OS of choice..HA..GAMES!!

Kirby Uber said...

yeah you're the sort of guy i am talking about.

thanks for the visual aid.

Kirby Uber said...

and it's Extraordinaire.

8)

Kent said...

HEY..you're right.. it IS.. extraordinaire..guess I forgot to spellcheck.. LOL..
By the way.. hope being right felt good..because when it comes to thinking that Linux as a 'Just Work's OS' is a BAD idea..you are 'JUST WRONG!'
You the guy I saw on the side of the road trying to make his own tire after he had a flat? Must be..
..from your 'Visual Aid'!
Draughty!

Kirby Uber said...

8) you made me giggle. alot. ;p

Draughty said...

What kind of fancy chickens you work with Kirby? I design poultry equipment!

blackbelt_jones said...

Kent wrote
"if we can avoid the "one OS for all" mentality that option will always be there."
WOW...LUSER Extroardinaire.. OH sorry..maybe that word is too big for a LUSER.. my mistake..but everyone else will understand..
What a joke.. I mean to state the obvious is one thing..but this .. this is absurd!
One OS for all? Never has been.. Remember UNIX? OR Mac OSX ..or even Windows..are ANY of those ONE OS FOR ALL?


So here's a big word that you apparently don't know, Kent: "mentality".

"One OS for all" and "'one os for all' mentality" mean two different things. I've rarely seen anyone mock someone so viciously while proving himself to be such a colossal asshat.

Anyway, let me say it again.

Linux is not for everyone. Right now, support is spotty, though a lot better than it was a few years ago, and if you don't have the technical background, (lord knows, I didn't.) you have to invest a lot of time up front to make it worth your while. If you stick with it, it may pay you back you back with interest. It did me.

You don't have to be a power user to use Linux, but in my opinion, you need to become something of a power user (let's define that as able to use the CLI from time to time) to make migration worth your while from a usability perspective.

If you're not willing to learn the CLI and to use it occasionally, Linux may not be for you at this time, unless you have a political reasons, or maybe you're trying to to save money by squeezing out the best results out of some old hardware, or maybe if you just have limited needs.

You don't really need to use the CLI to run Linux these days, but with Linux, but that's where the power and the fun is.

Windows has a command line, but Linux has more applications, and it has a real command line culture. With Linux, the CLI is the sweet spot. That probably sounds crazy to a lot of people, and that could be a sign that Linux is not for you. Migrating to Linux is probably less of a hassle than it was six years ago, when I made the leap, but it's too much of a hassle not to go for the sweet spot.

It's much easier to learn than people seem to think, but anybody who isn't interested ought to be left alone. And anybody who is interestedought to be helped generously.

When Linux gets more users, and therefore more support, more people will find it hospitable, but one thing Windows is better at is being Windows. Right now, if you try to run it as if were Windows, you'll probably manage if you're patient, but the occasional problems with hardware support, and the lack of familiar software choices, will always make it seem second best.

Draughty said...

OOO...another thing Luser's are good at!
Throwing around meaningless acronyms.. OK CLI isn't exactly meaningless..but it sure is 'geek-speak' if nothing else..
Mind you, I AM a GEEK.. and was approached by the Geek Squad to work for them in truth!
I build computers..worked with IT and am a computer aided draftsman..
SO...believe me..I am familiar with a command line..and unlike most can use it in Windows..
Sure...using the command line is handy at times..and is best left for Admins or SuperUsers depending on the particular app or instruction being applied.
MOST..simple word that it seems an awful lot of LUSERS don't understand.. but it means 'majority' ..so MOST of the people out there using a computer don't use the command line..why do you think that may be?
WHY? Because Apple started using what is referred to as a GUI ..know what that is? Graphic User Interface..and as a suggestion..next time you use an acronym.. explain it to those whose current culture doesn't use the one YOU use ok? .. anyway..as the story goes after the MAC GUI came the big ripoff of the M$ GUI ..also knows as WINDOWS.. gee..didn't see too many people flocking to DOS did we.. OH..that is Digital Operating System and the underlying code to Windows for those unfamiliar with the OS history!
OK..back to the point..DOS was strictly command line.. it didn't win over the world..WINDOWS did!
SO..why start beating an old worn out drum like CLI?
This particular rant was based on CHOICE..and that MOST users are not going CHOOSE to use a CLI or a command line or .. well LINUX ..until they have the CHOICES they WANT!
..hey as usual..for what it is worth..and if you don't like it.. no skin off my bones!
Draughty

blackbelt_jones said...

Draughty said:

OOO...another thing Luser's are good at!
Throwing around meaningless acronyms..


Technically, I'm not sure that "Luser" is an acronym, but it's close enough that I find this pretty ironic.

This particular rant was based on CHOICE..and that MOST users are not going CHOOSE to use a CLI or a command line or .. well LINUX ..until they have the CHOICES they WANT!

You really like your ALL CAPS, don't you?

So choose something else, okay Einstein? What do you expect me to do about it? Did you get the part where I said it's not for everyone? I put it right in the beginning so you wouldn't miss it. It's pretty much the point of all that I say, but you seem to be a little slow, so I'll say it again.

Not for MOST users? I don't really know about that. I think that with just a little bit of tech support, a lot of everyday users, mostly people who have never heard of Linux, could do quite well. You know the type: email, web surfing, not much more. I bet that with a pre-install and a little support, my 70 year old parents would do quite well, better than your average 20 year old who wants to play WoW and Halo 3.

I think a lot of office workers could probably do quite well with Linux, but I'm not experienced enough with Open Office to defend that point, it's just a conjecture.

But for most people whom I would expect reading this, I think you need a little bit of CLI for Linux to be worth the hassle, until there's better commercial support. Mind you, you can function okay, but it's a second stringer. If you run Linux like Windows, it's basically Windows with more hassles and inferior hardware and commercial software support.

And yeah it sucks for Linux, but I think that's how it is right now. If you're willing to explore the CLI, which is not that hard, Linux becomes the powerful OS that transforms ordinary geeks into raving fanboys. It'll save you all the time you invested in it, and keep saving you time after that. Otherwise, you might want to check back with us in a few years.

Because Apple started using what is referred to as a GUI ..know what that is? Graphic User Interface..and as a suggestion..next time you use an acronym.. explain it to those whose current culture doesn't use the one YOU use ok? .. anyway..as the story goes after the MAC GUI came the big ripoff of the M$ GUI ..also knows as WINDOWS.. gee..didn't see too many people flocking to DOS did we.. OH..that is Digital Operating System and the underlying code to Windows for those unfamiliar with the OS history!
OK..back to the point..DOS was strictly command line.. it didn't win over the world..WINDOWS did!
SO..why start beating an old worn out drum like CLI?


See, it's not the 1980s anymore. The CLI and the GUI are not separate, competing entities. You don't have to choose between the two, and anyone who does is denying themselves a useful option. "Strictly command line" is a bad deal. That's not what I'm talking about.

In today's Linux desktop distributions, the command line is not (usually) a separate interface. It's a powerful versatile desktop tool integrated into the desktop, e.g. Konsole, Xterm, or Gnome-Terminal. This is radically different from the big bad black blank console screen, because you don't have to use it for everything. You only use when it can save you some time, and cut through some nasty drudgery-- and in turn, that also means that you don't have to learn all of it to use it.

So yeah, GUIs are are great, I love my GUI, in fact, I use shell commands to program my GUI, and I use my GUI to launch shell scripts.

But the CLI can do some things faster, and a little shell scripting will automate some of the most boring repetitive processes to operate while you do something else. You don't even have to understand the commands. I once found a tutorial for turning .avi files into isos for DVDs. I didn't understand the commands, but I simply copied and pasted them into a script, let it run, and I could do twelve of these DVDs one after another, the machine running while I slept.

But the GUI remains intact.

I'm fully aware that it sucks for Linux that one of its greatest practical advantage is something that most people aren't going to to voluntarily pursue. I think it's misunderstood. I think it's a bad rap-- but that's another issue.

I'm just trying to be straight with everybody. I've read posts in here by people who feel cheated, swindled, and I'm trying to address this. Linux needs users. Users will solve these problems, but unless we're straight with everybody, we're just setting people up to fail.

Kirby Uber said...

so not to be that guy? but, like, DOS? it's Disk Operating System.

*cough*

i'll stop now.

Draughty said...

Really????????

blackbelt_jones said...

Whew! I'm very relieved that you're not that guy. I hate that guy!

I don't know, are you saying that DOS is just another meaningless acronym, so fuck you, Mr. Doesn't-Like-Acronyms?

Actually, there are very few meaningless acronyms. Whether it's CLI, DOS, SCUBA, or MILF, they all mean something.

You know, this is really my fault, for trying to get all technical in the middle of a discussion of Computer Operating Systems.

Anonymous said...

the problem is: your large fraction of users does not want to make a choice, but they complain afterwards, if a feature is missing. Which could have been avoided by choosing the program, which is right for them, reviewing the featurelist.

Anonymous said...

Completely agree with the author. Linux lovers will never want to change. They will prefer the choices. With so many comments, I just realized that Linux will never make it in the desktop(to actually compete with Windows and Mac). If you dont see that too many choices are hurting Linux, then there is no purpose in even trying to explain. I tried Linux for years, With all the problems and the lack of new hardware support(like 3g cards), I just gave up and move to the Mac. Nice linux core with all the goddies and a working,solid, and consistent UI + on top of that really cool hardware. Is sad that with so many people, the OS will never be a windows killer.

Draughty said...

Far be it from Linux lovers to acknowledge that too many choices makes it impossible for quality commercial software providers to port to Linux.. sad isn't it?
The vast majority of historic development of computer software is on the commercial side..whether it be office suites or CAD ..or CAM or whatever..and how do you port to a Linux Distro..that might be dead in a month or two..or a year.. or whatever..
OK they could develop their OWN distro..and ship with the Software..hmmm AutoDesk Linux WITH AutoCAD.. gee wonder what THAT would cost..so much for FREE ... point is that if the Linux people don't figure out that too much choice is stopping proliferation of Linux on the desktop..then the whole thing is stuck in the hobbyist world for those of who are willing to dabble with it..
Does anyone really want Linux to remain the Commodore 64 of the 21st Century?ledst

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When I bought this dell, I got one two choices: Windows or Ubuntu. That was it. I turned it on, and it worked, no questions asked. The mac my girlfriend just bought asked way more questions than my linux box.

Sure, you can change a lot of things easily in linux, and if you really work at it, in theory you can change anything. But I don't think these choices are presented in such a way as to bother anybody.

If you buy a computer with ubuntu on it, it doesn't pester you, asking you what window manager you want, or what distro, or what terminal, or anything. It just presents a (fairly standard looking) desktop interface, and lets you get on with your computing.

If you have special needs, are particular, like choices, etc., you can fiddle with it, and make loads of choices, but I don't see how those choices are foisted on you.


As for people who don't have linux yet, sure, you have to pick a vendor, but this is not hard for people to understand, and I don't understand why people complain about it. People don't complain that CD players suck because there are a variety of vendors, and they're all a little different. People know how to deal with this (they usually just ask someone technical which one is the best for them), and generally appreciate that there's competition going on.

OK, thanks for letting me organize my thoughts at you. Take care, - Jason

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Alejandro Guizar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alejandro Guizar said...

> IMO most of the people that use Linux are people that use it because it's free as in beer not free as in freedom. It's either because they can't afford MS or can't use pirated MS software.

IMO most of the people that use windows is people that is either retarded, have an IQ less than 75, or don't know better. Yes, my claims are groundless, but so are yours. I can tell you that (1) I can afford as many copies of Windows as I could possibly want, (2) I'm not interested in piracy and (3) I am using Fedora and Ubuntu, despite having a license to Windows which came, much to my annoyance, with my laptop.

Because, to the discerning eye, Linux is simply so much better than Windows. Touche.

Alejandro Guizar said...

> That is, it's so complex to exercise the choice, that you need to train yourself into a developer to do so. The power-user is being killed off.

Ridiculous. I am not a Linux developer, regrettably. I simply lack the background. I earn a living coding Java apps, and would not know where to start coding a native Linux app. The best I could do is port an OpenGL racing game I wrote in C++ back in college. Still I am a very proficient Linux power user, I have never had to recompile a Linux app from source, let alone modify the code to do something useful. Your argument is totally fallacious.

Alejandro Guizar said...

> The difference between Mac OS X and Linux or *BSD is OS X just works, and the other pure open source systems doesn't.
Relax yourself.

Linux (Fedora 15 and Ubuntu Lucid) just work here. I am perfectly relaxed. Are you on your next OS X upgrade fee? Even though you can't even set a common font face/size that most, if not all, apps will respect, and end up reading tiny ass text? Why would you OS X folks pay for that? Absurd.

cc aa said...

You percent is out way out. People running non IE web browsers tell us that. Its basically 30 percent of the market at this stage and growing. Might correctly the graphic Linuxhater to show the truth instead of creating a new myth.
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Anonymous said...

Write "gnome", "kde", "unity", "xfce", "lxde" each in a tiny scrap of paper, shuffle them, pick one without peeking, use this DE and don't ever look back. There's the no-choice you want. Then you can stop whining, just pretend choices don't exist. Better yet, have scraps of paper with "current windows" and "current OSX", and never install anything that is not default, so to be sure.

latinaussierichard said...

Linux is a "Frankenstein" system.
I have been saying for years, they should have one and only one operating system. Concentrate on that.
This nonsense of choice to users that are not technical people will never ever capture the market of MS or Apple.
The Linux community is their own big enemy, blind people that cannot and refuse to see the reality.
Wake up guys, you are supposed to be intellectual coders with knowledge who spend time hating MS and Apple. I do not like them either, but they still are there, and where are you??????????

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Anonymous said...

Hi 2015!

Probably the concept of "worse is better" is misunderstood. I understand how to release fewer features and avoid marginal behavior is a good idea, which is also called cholesterol software counterpart. It also leverages the network effect on the market. Release it and do it now!

Here you will find a vast list of real problems of Linux on the desktop:


http://linuxfonts.narod.ru/why.linux.is.not.ready.for.the.desktop.current.html

Enjoy!

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