I came across this “review” of Ubuntu Linux 8.04 Hardy Heron this morning. The reviewer doesn’t go and review it as a Linux user. Instead, he sits his girlfriend in front of it and has her perform a series of twelve tasks. He didn’t tweak the install at all. He only created an account for her. He added no software. This is simply a base install. Basically, he wanted to rate the usability of the new version. The article made for a great read.
Now, the comments are split about 50-50 with half saying that this was a great read and a great experiment in the usability of the “most usable” Linux distribution. The other half weren’t so kind. They went on saying that if she wasn’t used to Windows, she’d be able to use it just fine or that if she wants a usable *nix, she should use MacOS X. It’s the stuff you hear over and over from the zealots. It’s stuff that just doesn’t need to be said. The fact remains, however, that the vast majority of people who would care have used a computer before (very few people in the civilized world have not) and the vast majority of those came from Windows. It’s a good test, if you ask me. His conclusion is that it’s not ready for mainstream desktop use. I agree with him, though I’ll take it a step farther and say that it’ll never be ready for mainstream desktop use. That’s not a bad thing. I like Linux for what it is and what it does, but because there are so many different distributions and so many different window managers and desktop environments, without a lot of tweaking, it’s just not for the average computer user. Sure, distributions like Ubuntu do most of the tweaking for you, but you get only the tweaks they deem necessary. Without a nice budget like Microsoft of Apple have, it’s not an easy task. The best suggestion the author makes is having an initial window open up (much like in Windows and I think MacOS X) that asks you what you want to do. It’d be a nice welcome screen that lists various tasks and helps new users find what they want.
I originally found the article on Slashdot.