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Ask Slashdot: Are Linux Desktop Users More Pragmatic Now Or Is It Inertia?

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the beards-give-a-+50%-modifier-to-inertia dept.

GUI 503

David W. White writes "Years ago ago those of us who used any *nix desktop ('every morning when you wake up, the house is a little different') were seen as willing to embrace change and spend hours tinkering and configuring until we got new desktop versions to work the way we wanted, while there was an opposite perception of desktop users over in the Mac world ('it just works') and the Windows world ('it's a familiar interface'). However, a recent article in Datamation concludes that 'for better or worse, [Linux desktop users] know what they want — a classic desktop — and the figures consistently show that is what they are choosing in far greater numbers than GNOME, KDE, or any other single graphical interface.' Has the profile of the Linux desktop user changed to a more pragmatic one? Or is it just the psychology of user inertia at work, when one considers the revolt against changes in the KDE, GNOME, UNITY and Windows 8 interfaces in recent times?"

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I'm using FVWM... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46130619)

Desktop, what that?

Re: I'm using FVWM... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46130697)

twm ft ckassic w

Re: I'm using FVWM... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46130715)

Hah! Spelling mistakes make it , well, "classic"

Re:I'm using FVWM... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46130717)

Feeble ftw!

Re:I'm using FVWM... (4, Insightful)

JMJimmy (2036122) | about a year ago | (#46130929)

good for you. To answer the question though I think it's psychology of efficiency. If the tools aren't efficient for the brain to categorize/understand it's not practical as an interface (desktop or otherwise). The problem with Metro isn't that it's different, it's that it's too much visual clutter for the brain to process quickly. This is reflected in GNOME/KDE in that, while neatly organized, it relies on memory association of images to functions. Icons are everywhere these days so those associations aren't as strong or that part of the memory is overloaded to access efficiently. Non-graphical interfaces suffer from something similar in the ability to remember all the commands and their associated flags.

The classic desktop organizes things in groupings, lists, etc and while there's icons associated the overriding organization of alphabetical text gives shortcuts for the brain to compartmentalize information where it can or to simply analyze because all the information is there (where KDE/etc you must hover to get all the info one icon at a time)

Re:I'm using FVWM... (2)

buswolley (591500) | about a year ago | (#46131001)

What i'd like is a terminal with an integrated visual file browser.

Re: I'm using FVWM... (2)

JBell4 (740892) | about a year ago | (#46131051)

Norton Commander...

Re: I'm using FVWM... (2)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46131127)

GNU Midnight Commander.

Frist! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46130621)

Using spectrwm..

I use C++ (0, Offtopic)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | about a year ago | (#46130635)

it is twice better than C because it has two +, which makes all my applications twice as fast. Only use desktopes and youtubes and websites made from pure C++. Or you aere a stupid old person idiot.

Re:I use C++ (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46130657)

Would be funny to have a "Score: --1" for your post.

You forgot (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46130707)

Gay,nigro,gipsy,faggot,child... What else might be offensive??? As for C++ 'user'? you don't seem to be to sophisticated really. Desktop choice is absolutely secondary. I use whatever is required of me at work. At home i use whatever supports the tools i use to achieve my goals. I would never judge somebody just by the fact that their system was produced by Microsoft, Apple, Sun or whatever... OS is a base, dependency to run TOOLS. We have no choice sometimes (most of the times) which OSes we use, because software vendors make that choice for us. I am forced to use Windows at home simply because Adobe is not supporting Linux. At work i jump between various incarnations of Linux and Windows of all sorts and ages. Because that is required of me. And it's not my role to name somebody 'a stupid old person idiot' just because he is using the software of his choice.

Classic Desktop (5, Insightful)

BasilBrush (643681) | about a year ago | (#46130655)

What is a "Classic Desktop" and in what way are the other GUIs being discussed not "Classic Desktops"?

Re:Classic Desktop (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46130671)

I RTFA and didn't quite find the answer to your question.
I think it means users are conservative. Other than KDE users, most people are using something that undoes GNOME's "upgrades".
Me, I use KDE. But that doesn't mean I don't use several GNOME apps. Disk space and RAM are cheap enough nowadays that you don't have to choose one or the other.

Re:Classic Desktop (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46130673)

Classic desktop means start menu + taskbar, or something close to that.

Re:Classic Desktop (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46130899)

Classic desktop means Amiga-style desktop, where the initial icons are which disks are in the drive, and double-clicking them opens a window containing more icons. This is adapted to Windows 3.0 which uses the same concept in Program Manager.

Start menu + taskbar = Windows 95 desktop, not classic desktop.

Re:Classic Desktop (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about a year ago | (#46130913)

Classic desktop means Amiga-style desktop, where the initial icons are which disks are in the drive, and double-clicking them opens a window containing more icons.

That came from the Mac, not the Amiga.

Re:Classic Desktop (4, Informative)

aliquis (678370) | about a year ago | (#46130711)

Yeah, KDE is a freaking classic desktop. At least as long as you don't switch to the tablet look of it.

Gnome to has always tried it's best to show a familiar look until 3/shell.

Re:Classic Desktop (2)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about a year ago | (#46130905)

At least as long as you don't switch to the tablet look of it.

Why would you want to do that?

Is there a new rule that desktops have to look the same as tablets now? Why wasn't I consulted?

Re:Classic Desktop (2)

aliquis (678370) | about a year ago | (#46131033)

One reason for doing so would be that you're running KDE on a tablet.

Another one could be that you're running it with a touch monitor. Either at home or say presentation kiosk somewhere.

A third alternative because you like the clean look of it.

A fourth could be that you decided to develop it because it could be done using Plasma and you're checking it out.

A fifth that you by accident / curiosity clicked the Activities widget and picked it.

And so on.

Lots of reasons. I'm totally fine with such an option existing and I think it works well.

Re:Classic Desktop (3, Insightful)

transporter_ii (986545) | about a year ago | (#46130733)

Posting this from Ubuntu 10.04 LTS, and I consider pre-Unity as a "classic desktop," and it is Gnome.

Seriously, I have nothing against change, but I think there should be a cross-distro standard desktop that JUST FREAKING STAYS THE SAME. There should also be bleeding-edge environments for more adventurous people. Why shouldn't people have a choice? But it would be nice to install most any popular version of Linux and get a standard desktop.

Re:Classic Desktop (1)

ArtForz (1239798) | about a year ago | (#46130819)

TFA doesn't say... my guess: "something that has roughly the same interface metaphors as win9x".

Re:Classic Desktop (1)

rasmusbr (2186518) | about a year ago | (#46130917)

TFA doesn't say... my guess: "something that has roughly the same interface metaphors as win9x".

Yup, or System 7 / OS 8 / OS 9. These interfaces did rule the personal computing world back when the personal computer was an easily definable device that sat on your desk, so I think it makes sense to call them classic if we're talking about personal computing.

Re:Classic Desktop (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46131123)

Actually, TFA does say, and yes, it's "something similar to the interface of Macintosh" or, if you want an option from a decade later, Windows 95.

I think you're thinking too hard and the author is (5, Insightful)

aussersterne (212916) | about a year ago | (#46130837)

using too many words. He means that users of personal computers (as opposed to mobile devices) want simply a "desktop."

As in, the metaphor—the one that has driven PC UI/UX for decades now.

The metaphor behind the desktop UI/UX was that a "real desktop" had:

- A single surface of limited space
- Onto which one could place, or remove files
- And folders
- And rearrange them at will in ways that served as memory and reasoning aides
- With the option to discard them (throw them in the trash) once they were no longer needed on the single, bounded surface

Both of the "traditional breaking" releases from KDE and GNOME did violence to this metaphor; a screen no longer behaved—at least in symbolic ways—like the surface of a desk. The mental shortcuts that could draw conclusions about properties, affordances, and behavior based on a juxtaposition with real-world objects broke down.

Instead of "this is meant to be a desktop, so it's a limited, rectangular space on which I can put, stack, and arrange my stuff and where much of my workday will 'happen'" gave way to "this is obviously a work area of some kind, but it doesn't behave in ways that metaphorically echo a desk—but I don't have any basis on which to make suppositions about how it *does* behave, or what affordances/capabilities or constraints it offers, what sorts of 'objects' populate it, what their properties are,' and so on.

I think that's the biggest problem—the desktop metaphor was done away with, but no alternative metaphor took its place—no obvious mental shortcuts were on offer to imply how things worked enough to allow users to infer the rest. People have argued that the problem was that the new releases were too "phone like," but that's actually not true. The original iPhone, radical though it was, operated on a clear metaphor aided by its physical size and shape: that of a phone—buttons laid out in a grid, a single-task/single-thread use model, and very abbreviated, single-option tasks/threads (i.e. 'apps' that performed a single function, rather than 'software' with many menus and options for UX flow).

Though the iPhone on its surface was a radical anti-phone, in practice, the use experience was very much like a phone: power on, address grid of buttons, perform single task with relatively low flow-open-endedness, power off and set down when complete. KDE4/GNOME3 did not behave this way. They retained the open-endedness, large screen area, feature-heavy, and "dwelling" properties of desktops (it is a space where you spend time, not an object used to perform a single task and then 'end' that task) so the phone metaphor does not apply. But they also removed most of the considered representations, enablements, and constraints that could easily be metaphorically associated with a desktop.

The result was that you constantly had to look stuff up—even if you were an experienced computer user. They reintroduced *precisely* the problem that the desktop metaphor had solved decades earlier—the reason, in fact, that it was created in the first place. It was dumb.

That's what he means by "classic desktop." "Linux users want a desktop, not something else that remains largely unspecified or that must instead be enumerated for users on a feature-by-feature basis with no particular organizing cultural model."

Re:I think you're thinking too hard and the author (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46131079)

After 20 years of experimentation, the conclusion is that the desktop metaphor is probably too complex for the average user. Power users appreciate floating windows, file hierarchies, multiple screens, notification bars, hierarchal menus etc. Meanwhile the more typical user maximizes one window at a time, clicks icons, and saves everything in the same place. The "phone/tablet" model is much closer to the average person's mental map of how a computer should work.

The problem is that Linux users are 'power users' almost by definition so KDE/Gnome were terrible places to experiment with replacing the desktop metaphor.

Re:I think you're thinking too hard and the author (3, Insightful)

E-Rock (84950) | about a year ago | (#46131167)

I wish I could disagree, but I help so many users that run one program full screen. I just sit back and shake my head as they constantly switch from one program to another instead of arranging the program windows to see everything they need at one time.

It really start to piss me off when they have two monitors and switch between two programs, both on the main screen, both full screen. Then they wonder why it takes so long to get things done.

Re:I think you're thinking too hard and the author (5, Insightful)

aussersterne (212916) | about a year ago | (#46131171)

Except that the desktop cannot work using the phone/tablet model because user expectations do not suggest that metaphor when they sit at a desktop.

Even if the desktop metaphor was too complex to master, users still sit down at a desktop and think, "now where are my files?" because they intend to "do work in general" (have an array of their current projects and workflows available to them) rather than "complete a single task."

As was the case with a desk, they expect to be able to construct a cognitive overview of their "current work" at a computer—an expectation that they don't have with a phone, which is precisely experienced as an *interruption to* their "current work." KDE, Gnome, and most recently Windows 8, made the mistake of trying to get users to adopt the "interruption of work" mental map *as* the flow of work. It's never going to happen; they need to be presented with a system that enables them to be "at work." In practice, being "at work" is not about a single task, but about having open access to a series of resources about that the user can employ in order to *reason* about the relatedness and next steps across a *variety* of ongoing tasks. That's the experience of work for most workers in the industrialized world today.

If you place them in a single-task flow for "regular work" they're going to be lost, because they don't know what the task is that they ought to be working on without being able to survey the entirety of "what is going on" in their work life—say, by looking at what's collected on their desktop, what windows are currently open, how they're all positioned relative to one another, and what's visible in each window. Ala Lucy Suchman (see her classic UX work "Plans and Situated Actions"), users do not have well-specified "plans" for use (i.e. step 1, step 2, step 3, task 1, task 2, task 3) but are constantly engaged in trying to "decide what to do next" in-context, in relation to the totality of their projects, obligations, current situation, etc. Successful computing systems will provide resources to assist in deciding, on a moment-by-moment basis, "what to do next," and resources to assist in the construction of a decision-making strategy or set of habits surrounding this task.

The phone metaphor (or any single-task flow) works only once the user *has already decided* what to do next, and is useful only for carrying out *that task*. Once the task is complete, the user is back to having to decide "what to do next."

The KDE and GNOME experiments (at least early on) hid precisely the details necessary to make this decision easy, and to make the decision feel rational, rather than arbitrary. An alternate metaphor was needed, one to tell users how to "see what is going on, overall" in their computing workday. The desktop did this and offered a metaphor for how to use it (survey the visual field, which is ordered conceptually by me as a series of objects). Not only did the KDE and GNOME not offer a metaphor for how to use this "see what is going on" functionality, they didn't even offer the functionality—just a series of task flows.

This left users in the situation of having *lost* the primary mechanism by which they'd come to decide "what to do next" in work life for two decades. "Before, I looked at my desktop to figure out what to do next and what I'm working on. Now that functionality is gone—what should I do next?" It was the return of the post-it note and the Moleskine notebook sitting next to the computer, from the VisiCalc-on-green-screen days. It was a UX joke, frankly.

The problem is that human beings are culture and habit machines; making something possible in UX is not the same thing as making something usable, largely because users come with baggage of exactly this kind.

Re:Classic Desktop (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about a year ago | (#46130843)


i don't tinker much with the old laptop my kids use for games, but that's because i don't have to... it doesn't do anything but games (they love supertux and dink at the moment... hopefully they'll eventually get into freeciv, but they're 7 and 5 so strategy is probably still boring)

the debian desktop i use myself has been tinkered with, and a while ago the system hard disk got corrupted. there were a few files i needed to recover and luckily i was able to login under single user mode and copy those files to a nas drive, but after installing a new hard disk it took a while to get it back up and running to something that resembled what i had before. a lot of my data is kept on nas drives anyway but it takes a while to remove all the bullshit (gdm3,network-manager,etc), set up fstab, get nvidia graphics set up for dual screens, get mysql (yeah i know i suck) to read my databases off the nas via nfs drive (involves changing mysql gid/uid to match nas), change gconf settings, set up iptables, static ip, resolv.conf, hosts, hosts.allow/deny, php/mysql/apache settings, passwd (set shells for non-human users to /etc/false), conky, gnome2 panels, sagasu, aurora (firefox alpha), etc. most of those files i have backed up on nas, but i always like to go through them manually anyway to make sure things haven't changed since my backup.

i'm not sure that it's any more a pain to set up a linux desktop than windows (at least openoffice is installed already in debian), but it does take time. also depends largely on what you want to do. mine is a dev box so there is a bit of mucking about to get that working off a nas with 4 mirrored disks. setting up my kids laptop would normally take only a fraction of that time since all i have to do is install a few games (except it's a toshiba tecra a2 with a bung optical drive so to reinstall it i have to set up a boot server on my main desktop and put an install image on a usb stick because the laptop doesn't boot directly off usb - that is definitely a pain in the buttocks).

Re:Classic Desktop (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46130889)

Madre Di Dios. What a fucking pain.

I know this sounds fanboish, but on OS X, assuming you've backuped up the drive with a reasonable (free) program like SuperDuper (OK, the name is stupid), you just install the new drive, boot to your backup, use SuperDuper to clone the backup to the new drive, unplug the backup and reboot.

Even Adobe stuff (may their mothers burn in Hell forever for spawning the evil bastards) works without futzing around. Heck, if Lotus Notes ran on OS X it would work as well.

Not to mention the ease of backup / restore / modify VMs of other operating systems using Parallels. I just don't understand why other OS makers can't just make a '1 button' restore system like OS X. It's seems like such an obvious thing to do.

Re:Classic Desktop (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a year ago | (#46130857)

What is a "Classic Desktop" and in what way are the other GUIs being discussed not "Classic Desktops"?

Tail fins & Chrome.

Well, scratch Chrome.

Re:Classic Desktop (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46131113)


... users were generally in favor of a classical desktop -- one with icons on the desktop, and a menu and widgets on the panel, all of which they could forget about once they started their applications.

Macintosh. Amiga. GE/OS. OS/2. Windows 95. BeOS. NeXT. GNOME. KDE.

No, UI designers went crazy. (5, Insightful)

Michael Krummel (3521527) | about a year ago | (#46130675)

Linux users just haven't fell victim to the mass hysteria of solving a problem, which never existed. Apple designed an appealing desktop, and as their market share increased, Microsoft began throwing UI designs against the wall. Then people started buying phones and tablets, so designers decided no one wanted a functional desktop anymore. Gnome 3 decided to screw everything up, then Ubuntu decided they wanted everything screwed up in a different way. KDE made the same traditional desktop demand more resources, making it unusable.

Re:No, UI designers went crazy. (0)

dltaylor (7510) | about a year ago | (#46130713)

Of course, the Mac desktop is just a hi-res version of the Amiga (toolbar at the top for the active window, task bar, ... were all Amiga desktop features). Windows 2000 had a clean, usable desktop. What you said about GNOME, Canonical, and KDE is all that needs to be said.

So far, I can still run a "Classic" GNOME, but I do miss OpenLook.

Re:No, UI designers went crazy. (4, Informative)

BasilBrush (643681) | about a year ago | (#46130761)

Of course, the Mac desktop is just a hi-res version of the Amiga (toolbar at the top for the active window, task bar, ... were all Amiga desktop features).

Temporal anomaly in your argument. The Mac launched Jan 24th 1984. The Amiga didn't launch till 1985.

Re:No, UI designers went crazy. (2)

Michael Krummel (3521527) | about a year ago | (#46130823)

I would agree, that visually NeXT had more in common with the Amiga direction than Apple. OS X is not based on any previous Apple OS. I'm not sure that Amiga was the inspiration for what NeXT was doing, but they did have the same user base (video/sound editing).

Re:No, UI designers went crazy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46130971)

GUI timeline article at Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]

Amusingly the GUI originated at Xerox and everyone copied from them, with refinements and/or hindrances of course.

Side note to Microsoft: Did you ever figure out that it wasn't a "Start" button that your clients wanted but a "button" to click on to start a mouse/keyboard browsable cascading program menu? After all, you labeled such a menu as "Start" back with Windows 95 and continued it through Windows 7.

Re:No, UI designers went crazy. (1)

jbolden (176878) | about a year ago | (#46130777)

Microsoft was talking about the shift away from desktops towards tablets in 1999. What happened in 1999-2008 was that sales were still solid and no one wanted to endanger the core product by making the radical shifts needed for a dual purpose system. You can agree or disagree with Microsoft but let's not pretend that tablets were not something Bill Gates was focused on heavily as the next step of the GUI from pretty much the time the Windows 95 GUI got the kinds out.

Re:No, UI designers went crazy. (3, Interesting)

Michael Krummel (3521527) | about a year ago | (#46130847)

If they had such a head start, why have they failed so miserably?

Re:No, UI designers went crazy. (1, Interesting)

Billly Gates (198444) | about a year ago | (#46130875)

They didn't want a Windows 8 disater so they made the UI as desktop one complete with a non touch friendly start button.

The Office team sabotaged it too by making sure the fonts were not LCD friendly for freaking 7 years. They didn't like the tablet.

The infighting at MS was INSANE during Balmers tenure. Now it is starting to change but out of necessity as the fruity company they laughed at and left for dead is more powerful.

If I wrote that last sentence in 1999 I would be laughed at and modded down as a -1 troll for being an Apple fanboy. Yeah like Apple is ever going to be a billion dollar company HA etc. But Apple made both while MS assumed everything would have to be the same as people who buy their software due so because they are familiar with them. Not because they are better to non technical people like those who make purchasing decisions.

Re:No, UI designers went crazy. (1)

Sable Drakon (831800) | about a year ago | (#46130891)

Too bad they royally screwed the pooch in making that dual-purpose system and left us with Windows 8 in a barely functional state for either mode. My hopes for Windows 9 are thus: *Dedicated environment modes: If Win9 detects that there's no touchscreen on a system, then it should default to the Win7 desktop experience. If a touchscreen is detected, ASK the user what they want during initial setup. *Dynamic environment swapping: This is more for the newer Tablet/Laptop convertable/dockable machines. If the system detects that it's undocked or in a tablet mode, ask the user what they want the first time and offer the option to default to it from then on. That way if you want Metro while undocked, you've got it. The moment you dock up, revert to the Win7 desktop immediately. *Finish the Metro UI: It's confusing, incomplete, and still needs a lot of work before it's ready for everyday usage.

Productivity (5, Insightful)

mrbluze (1034940) | about a year ago | (#46130681)

Everything has to do with productivity. Sure we all like a bit of novelty and it's fun to tinker with new features of a desktop or user interface, but the majority of these innovations are never used (if the user has the choice), but the recent Linux desktops (Gnome mostly) have forced a new set of heuristics on a user base that increasingly uses Linux for productivity and not just tinkering.

It's a waste of time to have to learn a new way of doing everything when the existing ways work already. That is why 'classic desktop' is favored. It works, and although new things might work, they have not proven to work better.

Re:Productivity (5, Insightful)

gronofer (838299) | about a year ago | (#46130797)

It's a waste of time learning new ways to do things if the old ways actually work better and are more productive. I wouldn't mind going through a learning curve if there was actually a benefit at the end of it.

Re:Productivity (2)

crutchy (1949900) | about a year ago | (#46130911)

i agree... change for the sake of change or for the sake of increasing sales of new machines demanded by said change or for increasing sales of training/certification courses... makes sense for microsoft but not for users

ribbons were completely stupid... they are fixed to the top of the screen, on screens that more often than not have a widescreen aspect, and they are big by default (i know you can shrink them, but that also shrinks their utility). so you end up with less vertical real estate for working in, but that real estate is unusually wide, which means that a lot of it is wasted. i wouldn't be surprised if professional typists using word 2007+ everyday uctually turned their monitors 90 degrees to portrait mode, so that with ribbons they still get as much of the screen as possible for the document they're working on. i guess one good thing that's come out of ribbons is increased demand for openoffice/libreoffice.

Re:Productivity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46131189)

Still trying to drive that message eh? The world has moved to Office ribbon (2007 and greater) and that bit of UI innovation has been incredibly successful. Pretending it isn't true doesn't make it so.

Re:Productivity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46130811)

People are just too lazy to learn new ways of doing things. It has nothing to do with the new ways being more or less productive.
Tiling window managers are more productive but they are not popular since learning one might take you out of your comfort zone for a few hours.

Re:Productivity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46131081)

People are just too lazy to learn new ways of doing things. It has nothing to do with the new ways being more or less productive. Tiling window managers are more productive but they are not popular since learning one might take you out of your comfort zone for a few hours.

Tried it, didn't like it, went back. Nothing productive about that.

Revolt against changes? (5, Insightful)

Camel Pilot (78781) | about a year ago | (#46130687)

I don't see it as a "revolt against change" but a revolt to changes for the sake of change (enter gnome 3 and windows 8 as exhibit A and B).

Re:Revolt against changes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46130895)

Kids these days... expecting you to change because they see the world through the lens of their own superiority! It's like politicians telling me I should accept anything they believe is good for the economy in the absence of any data or rational analysis notwithstanding their party's ideology.

Whatever happended to the promise of critical thinking skills? Was it all gobbled up and spit out by pollsters and focus groups who expect that every noob's experience should dictate the level of desire to upgrade and thereby support M$ or Apple (becuase it's good for their stock price)?

Re:Revolt against changes? (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | about a year ago | (#46130975)

I smirk and giggle when I see XP users all pissed off and furious at MS in slashdot of all places which *historically* gets excited about change and new things. I think in my eyes it proves people will resist change no matter what as there is no reason to actually go out of the way and install XP on a new i7 after spending 2 weeks running hacks and reversed engineered drivers to get it to boot?! It is because they like the pretty blue taskbar and green hills and being in a familiar environment. ... do not tell me it is because of old software. Most non enterprises do not have that problem but I knew a few will chime in with Corel CdCreater or something in a reply but that is not anywhere near the 20% who still run it and fear leaving.

Also what I do not understand (FYI for the record I do not run Windows 8) why metro is all ewww where is my start menu!! But the same users are perfectly fine running an android phone?

That doesn't make any sense other than inertia of muscle memory where your brain assumes it MUST have a start menu if it sits on a desk. Unless someone else can explain it to me?

I also question how people buy new cars and not freak out if the radio is the same too? I do not understand human behavior.

Re:Revolt against changes? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46131143)

Android has a start menu, it's the Home button.

Re:Revolt against changes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46131169)

I can explain it for you.

An Android phone and a PC are dramatically different tools that are used for dramatically different tasks and styles of interaction. I want a start menu on my desktop because I use it as a handy way to get to dozens of different programs and system settings on my system. On my phone, the screen is too bloody small and my fingers are too big for a start menu, so the UI presents programs via a different mechanism.

Do you expect your microwave oven and your stove to have identical UIs? How about your bicycle and your car? Or your bedside clock radio and the amp in your living room sound system? Of course you don't, nor should you.

Re:Revolt against changes? (4, Insightful)

Pentium100 (1240090) | about a year ago | (#46131187)

Most XP users use it because their current PC is good enough for what they do and they do not want to reinstall Windows or buy a new PC. If not for DX11-only games, I would still use XP (built a new PC in November) on my old PC. The 3GB RAM was a bit limiting, but not enough to 1) spend a lot of money on new hardware and 2) the pain of reinstalling Windows.

As for why Metro is bad while Android UI is good: Metro UI is good UI ... on a phone or tablet, but not on a desktop. Just like I would not use Android UI on my desktop, I will not use Metro UI too.

A tablet has a relatively small screen and is operated by touch. You need big buttons so that it is easier to touch them. A desktop has a large screen and is operated by keyboard/mouse. Metro UI places 5cm x 5cm or larger buttons, while I can easily click 1cm x 1cm icons, so it wastes screen space and makes me move the cursor further.

A tablet is usually used for one task at a time. I use my desktop with many windows open, most of them overlapping. If I had to use one full screen window at a time, I would be much much slower. I full-screen only two types of software - video players and games, everything else runs in windows that are usually considerably smaller than the screen.

The start menu takes up a small portion of the screen, but allows me to choose from many items. The start screen takes up the whole screen (there goes my context) and allows me to choose from a smaller list of items. Oh, and desktop programs are not on it by the way (at least for RTM Win8, don't know about Win8.1).

Another gripe just with Windows 8 UI - it gives no indication that some text can actually be clicked to do something.

Different interface for different devices (that have different uses). After all, I would not want to use this [theonion.com]

Re:Revolt against changes? (1)

Ardyvee (2447206) | about a year ago | (#46131193)

Different devices, different expectations. Then again, I haven't really made much use with metro. What I saw from Unity (briefly interacted with it at school) is that it works well enough for using one or two applications at a time. It seemed confusing, though. Specially trying to find some things.

The inertia of muscle memory (3, Interesting)

Nutria (679911) | about a year ago | (#46130695)

I'd like to have something like the Win 7 Start Menu, but XFCE with the Panel on the bottom is (a) Good Enough, and (b) easy on the brain, since I frequently switch between my Linux box and the company's Windows 7 Enterprise laptop that sits right next to it.

What works best. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46130699)

My house has vertical walls. Works best.
My car has four wheels. Works best.
My Windows desktop is XP. Works best.
My Linux desktop is metacity. Works best.

Re:What works best. (3, Insightful)

crutchy (1949900) | about a year ago | (#46130943)

My car has four wheels. Works best at the moment.


what about if a car came along that didn't have wheels? would you not buy it simply because it didn't have wheels?
wheels on cars only works best because you haven't experienced anything better... but that doesn't mean that wheels will always work best.
change for the sake of change sucks, but innovation stems from change and innovation can also lead to change for the better.

Why the obsession with desktops (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46130703)

Why is there so much focus on the desktop - is it really that important? I tried the main ones out (unity, lxde, cinnamon, xfce, gnome2, gnome3, kde) and the differences are cosmetic. The desktop is just a launchpad for something else. I use unity, not because I like it, but because it's the default with the distro I use, and I use that distro because it's popular (on the assumption that it's easier to find solutions to problems with it) and has good hardware support (I don't really know anything about computers...). I read a lot of hate about it that I don't really get: the programs are just a bunch of icons on one side, and.... that's it.

I also use windows 8. I have to admit I don't like the interface, but other than that it's a fine operating system I think, and a nice improvement over 7 (underneath). But then all I use it for is running other programs, like most people...

All of this obsessing about what greets you when a computer turns on is counterproductive: I think it's part of the reason we have so much change for the sake of change.

Re:Why the obsession with desktops (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46131145)

The desktop is just a launchpad for something else.

Sure, if you only use one application at a time.

Pragmatism (5, Insightful)

bscott (460706) | about a year ago | (#46130709)

If you can't have a consistent experience across even one day, why get too reliant on customizations and shortcuts?

Back in the day, I had to switch between Data General (terminals), MacOS, and Amiga keyboards and UIs on a daily basis between work and home. These days, of course, everything has changed - now I bounce from Linux to Android to OSX, and more than occasionally Windows too. It's just never paid off to build a super-custom setup when you can't stick with it.

I use Linux for my main desktop at home partly because it is so quick and easy to reinstall - just keep your data on a backed-up server and you can virtually forget about maintenance or troubleshooting. Get used to the default setup and just reinstall whenever you run into something you can't work around - 15 minutes to get back to a familiar desktop is quicker than any full restore-from-backup I'm aware of. (I actually like Linux internals but every time I learn something, I end up forgetting it before I need it a second time; it gets frustrating...)

I'm aware I'm giving up a fair amount of potential productivity and convenience. I don't care any more. I'm just happy when I remember not to try and touch the monitor on my wife's iMac.

I got friends and colleagues who, for example, use Dvorak. More power to 'em. They're younger and more stubborn than I, and most of the time they have one laptop they use both at home and at work. As a wise man once remarked, I'm older now, I got to move my car on street-sweeping day, I can't be doing just anything I want any more...

Re:Pragmatism (2)

Michael Krummel (3521527) | about a year ago | (#46130927)

Dvorak frightens me in much the same way as people giving me new types of oranges to eat. It is a brave new world, and I may be a coward.

Change vs. Churn. (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#46130737)

I'd say it has less to do with any change in user tastes and more to do with the apparent move from a situation where the present state of interfaces is bad; but improving (which, fairly obviously, creates enthusiasm for new stuff) to a situation where most of the improvements have been mined out; but there are still UI designers around, so they've just been changing random things in some horrible mockery of genetic drift.

When version N+1 was probably an improvement, getting motivated to go poke it until it works was easier. Now version N+1 may have some cool new feature; but it'll probably have 8 regressions, the pointless removal of something you liked, and probably tentacles. Why bother?

Re:Change vs. Churn. (2)

Uecker (1842596) | about a year ago | (#46130999)

I wasn't really unhappy with Linux 10 years ago and a few years ago Ubuntu and other even started to polish it up to be really nice (remember project 100 paper cuts?). I don't know what happend then, but at some point it all went downhill.

They started to constantly break my user interface, by randomly changing things, removing features, or just creating new bugs. Now I am even scared to upgrade, because some programm I rely on might not work anymore (or just disappear because it was coded against some obsolete freedesktop standard), or might miss an important feature which was previously available.

it turns out (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46130741)

that tinkering with an OS all day is not very productive.. it is like constantly cleaning your house and moving the furniture but never doing anything productive except tidying and fixing....

great for retired people and iconoclasts and trustafarians and none of the above type people....

for bored IT people waiting for the next mind numbing problem, it was fun for awhile.. in the end, you gotta go to work.

Beg The Question Much? (5, Insightful)

Freshly Exhumed (105597) | about a year ago | (#46130765)

"Pragmatism" versus "Inertia"? What a strange choice that doesn't align with pro/con argumentation.

FWIW, let's look at a continuum of Linux/Unix desktop users instead. We know that a core group will tend to prefer a minimalist X-Windows desktop such as IceWM for the least impact on hardware performance. Many users prefer desktops like XFCE, Razor-QT, LXDM, and others that offer lightweight but fuller and more integrated experiences than the truly minimalist ones, acknowledging that the load on a system tends to increase as more features are included and deciding strategically to suit their usefulness-efficiency preferences. At the other end of the spectrum are those users who want an entire desktop environment in which all the bells and whistles are integrated into a particular look and feel, as characterized by KDE and Gnome, but understandably with a heavier load on the underlying hardware. So, I suppose pragmatism enters into such choices. To each their own, and having such choices is wonderful. Inertia? There are those who will say "I use KDE because I learned on it and I'm used to it", but this also is a pragmatic choice and not one of "inertia".

Summary of Linux on the desktop (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46130769)

GNOME: the desktop that COULD be awesome, if only the dev team actually cared about performance, polish and a reasonable feature-set. Overall this desktop has the best feel and most potential, but sadly it is never quite realised.

KDE: at first this desktop seems powerful and feature-rich, but after a week of using it you realise how little its devs care about usability and sane defaults. Not everybody wants to make a career out of tweaking their desktop.

Unity: has SOME nice usability aspects, but it is only properly supported on Ubuntu, and Ubuntu is an extremely buggy OS.

Xfce: fine for very basic use, but lack of proper OS integration (like GNOME) and some annoying bugs make this desktop unusable.

LXDE: almost total lack of OS integration. It's more like a collection of recommended packages for a minimal X desktop than an actual DE.

Cinnamon: GNOME done badly. Sure, you get your somewhat classic launcher and panel, but it just feels clunky compared to Windows, GNOME or Unity.

MATE: what can one say about MATE? It does the job and GNOME 2 was great in its time, but the desktop is starting to show its age. Probably the sanest choice for getting real work done, but not as satisfying as more modern desktops.

Summary: if GNOME would stop reshuffling the deck chairs and spend a few releases on performance, polish and features real-world people care about, they could easily become the most popular desktop. They've done 99% of the work, but for some reason are blind to that crucial last 1%. Given that this is probably never going to change, the Linux desktop is pretty much an exercise in futility and inefficiency.

Re:Summary of Linux on the desktop (3, Informative)

caseih (160668) | about a year ago | (#46131053)

Mate devs, however, aren't resting on their laurels. Mate is being adapted to integrate with the OS more, and use more modern, up-to-date, and maintained libraries. No one was maintaining GConf anymore, and GTK+ and Gnome moved on to GSettings with a Dconf backend. Now Mate 1.6 uses Gsettings instead of Gconf. A natural progression (though I wish gsettings used plain text files instead of dconf), and it works well. Also there is movement to migrate Mate to GTK+3.

Whether or not this duplicates effort with regards to Cinnamon, and if it can be kept up I don't know. But Mate is fairly feature complete even as it stands. GTK+2 still works fine for now. It's not going to stop working on its own accord. Things like Wayland will likely force its abandonment, but time will tell.

Re:Summary of Linux on the desktop (2)

realityimpaired (1668397) | about a year ago | (#46131179)

Summary: if GNOME would stop reshuffling the deck chairs and spend a few releases on performance, polish and features real-world people care about, they could easily become the most popular desktop. They've done 99% of the work, but for some reason are blind to that crucial last 1%. Given that this is probably never going to change, the Linux desktop is pretty much an exercise in futility and inefficiency.

You may want to take a peek at elementaryOS. A few of my friends, on seeing what I've done with my laptop, have described their "Pantheon" desktop as "Gnome that doesn't suck". Pantheon was originally forked from Gnome, though it's taken a life of its own... as of now, it's only officially supported on elementary, where it's the default DE.

Unity's been tolerable (2)

atari2600a (1892574) | about a year ago | (#46130773)

Whenever I leave my [former-]chomebook in the bathroom when I take a shower & everything's still running right except for the mouse, I can get by until the next reboot without using it. IMO, that's a clean interface. That said, out of the box you already pretty much require unity-tweak to fix all the shit they got wrong. The opacity settings, the workspace layout, etc....

Re:Unity's been tolerable (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46131117)

Whenever I leave my [former-]chomebook in the bathroom when I take a shower & everything's still running right except for the mouse, I can get by until the next reboot without using it. IMO, that's a clean interface. That said, out of the box you already pretty much require unity-tweak to fix all the shit they got wrong. The opacity settings, the workspace layout, etc....

You might want to blacklist your mouse for USB powersavings.

Don't know about you guys... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46130779)

But I want a linux system "that just works" and a DE that doesn't frak up my workflow. I seem to be getting the opposite on both counts in the last few years.

Re:Don't know about you guys... (1)

M1FCJ (586251) | about a year ago | (#46130855)

Come on... KDE... It's not the old KDE 4.0.

Re:Don't know about you guys... (2)

csirac (574795) | about a year ago | (#46131141)

I've been a Gnome user since around 2001, to say things were pretty rough back then is an understatement... In 2012 I switched to KDE. I finally had a machine with 16GB ram to run it on (FWIW KDE seems slightly better at running on limited hardware now, but stil..) Its defaults made me angry, though (especially Konsole - seriously, no keyboard shortcuts to hit a specific tab? Tabs at the bottom [oposite edge to the menus and titlebar]?) but I can actually repair it a lot quicker than fixing Unity/Gnome.

It's been this long and they still can't make KDE remember the orientation/resolution/relative position of any monitor that isn't the primary one - if I'm going to suffer through that sort of thing I might as well give i3-wm a proper go. I was able to use it productively for a whole day recently, which is more than awesome and xmonad lasted for me.

"Classic?" Or Just Uniform (1)

rueger (210566) | about a year ago | (#46130785)

When I look at all of the major variants mentioned - Gnome, KDE, Windows, Apple - I honestly don't see any great difference.

All of them offer:
- A desktop
- some kind of task bar (top, bottom, left, right - doesn't really matter)
- some form of menus for getting to stuff
- some kind of file manager application

There may be some things that are very different from one to the other (Lord knows that when I switched to a Mac I found some of their choices thoroughly obscure) but in the big picture most desktop systems are similar enough that Joe User can go to one or the other and figure out how to check his Yahoo mail account without problems.

As for why the GNOME variations seem to be prevalent? It's because some form of GNOME desktop was included as the default for the first widely popular "works out of the box" distros - Ubuntu, and Mint. the Son of Ubuntu.

People didn't install Ubuntu/Mint because of GNOME; they installed GNOME because it came along with Ubuntu/Mint. And 95% of those Linux users won't muck about and try different desktop systems because what they have just works.

Re:"Classic?" Or Just Uniform (2)

M1FCJ (586251) | about a year ago | (#46130863)

Actually it is more political than you imagine.
KDE was not pure (L)GPL, it had dual licencing for money etc. It was the biggest FUD ever pulled successfully, even Microsoft failed to do something in this scale.

All of this is now over 10y ago but that's what really created the GNOME project. And they won't be finished until all functionality of KDE is completely removed from your desktop, leaving you with a single mouse pointer, single mouse button and a single window, full screen.

Re:"Classic?" Or Just Uniform (2)

pla (258480) | about a year ago | (#46130959)

Actually it is more political than you imagine. KDE was not pure (L)GPL, it had dual licencing for money etc. It was the biggest FUD ever pulled successfully, even Microsoft failed to do something in this scale.

And here, you make the mistake most FOSS advocates make - You actually believe (or at least, "care about") what you just said.

I like open source. I use open source. I've rolled my own kernels, I've even modified them to fix an early broken multi-PCI bus enumeration routine. And yet...

I don't give the least fuck about the "purity" of your license. I'll pirate Windows if it works better than Gnome, for all I care, though of course I (and most people) would far, far prefer to stay legal. So if KDE has only a hint of "IP" taint, vs the abomination that we call "Gnome", hey, y'know, KDE does what I want better, so I use it.

And that last point doesn't just apply to Linux. Microsoft would do well to learn it themselves - I don't care in the least about price or legality or what "other" platforms it works well on... I just care that my desktop OS behaves like I expect, and lets me do what I want to do.

Re:"Classic?" Or Just Uniform (1)

csirac (574795) | about a year ago | (#46131197)

Nothing the GP said was incorrect - perhaps you've misread it. I thought GP was referring to the FUD/backlash against KDE which lasted many, many years longer than the actual licensing dillemma itself (less than a year?).

So yes, politics/belief/FUD drove the creation of Gnome, and that mis-maneouver by Qt/KDE project - despite being quickly rectified - had repurcussions that lasted much of a decade, despite the indifference of pragmatic users such as yourself.

Tell me about pragmatic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46130791)

We still revolve around the "release" paradigm when we should be doing "updates" instead. Except those updates can break the system and upgrading to the next release definitely will. The rivalry between GTK and Qt is threatening to destroy app compatibility while patents and ideology prevent "just works" media playback and graphics acceleration. Desktop icon themes are a badly-implemented joke in the name of customizability. Just last week I was showing someone how the ALSA mixer can have additional columns extending off the screen but not indicate such a state exists. The Linux kernel desperately needs a 32-bit compatibility layer. And this is just the start.

We're not going to have a Linux desktop unless we figure out a UX that works, and the only way that'll happen is if you rob the users of their precious freedom and make your own desktop software suite. Canonical seems to be the only people in the room who have figured that out.

Because it's not groundbreaking any more... (1)

ralphtheraccoon (582007) | about a year ago | (#46130805)

Common Graphical Computer user interfaces haven't really changed that much in the last 15 years, in general.

In general, there's:

- a single place for starting common applications
- a place for starting more unusual ones.
- windows full of files which can be manipulated with menus, dragging, and dropping.
- some method of switching between those applications.

And so people will naturally gravitiate to the variant of this scheme which is most familiar to them.

There's a lot more 'mainstream' users of open source/free desktops these days, and most of them don't actually want the fun hacker 'computers, and interfaces in general are interesting problems, lets hack and play with the concepts and see what we can invent'.  They just want something they can use straight away, and customise as much, or as little, as they want.

I'm using awesomewm, and find it almost perfect for me - but largely because it didn't require too much hacking to get it very familiar. (tiling, virtual desktops, 'command space' textual launcher...)

However, if there was a new, interesting, and different model all together, I'd be fine testing and playing with it for a few weeks - but for a very long time now I've not really seen any new paradigms which offer anything interesting (from a conceptial point of view).  Things like unity, or gnome3, or whatever, only offer the same boring old models, shinier in places, but more limited in others.

Partly, that will be because the type of applications that we're all running — no matter what desktop — work the same way.  If there was an entire suite of programs that worked in another manner altogether, perhaps with circular pop-up menus, any element dragable and dockable into any other, objects having interactions, not applications... then we'd have something more interesting.  But that's an awful lot of work - creating an entire new desktop paradigm.

What are the unique selling features of each desktop system?  Why would I *want* to change what works?

Is it really that hard to figure out? (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about a year ago | (#46130827)

Linux users have the option of choosing a different desktop environment or window manager. So, if a concept is unwanted or immature, users can and will migrate elsewhere. There's usually not a great risk involved, maybe the programs you use will be less integrated in your new DE/WM. Part of this is a resistance to change. It's something that happens to basically all humans. Another part of it, though, is that end users have a fairly reasonable choice in the matter, unlike on Windows or OS X, where there is only one path forward, at best having some kludge solution that may or may not be reliable.

Re:Is it really that hard to figure out? (1)

TheloniousToady (3343045) | about a year ago | (#46130933)

Linux users have the option of choosing a different desktop environment or window manager.

I predict that 2014 will be the Year of the Linux Desktops. ;-)

unlike on Windows or OS X, where there is only one path forward, at best having some kludge solution that may or may not be reliable.

As a recent victim of Windows 8, I've just tried the"Start 8" add-on, and it looks promising. I hear that "Classic Shell" also is good. So, it looks like we have multiple paths forward. I don't know if the add-on approach is what you mean by "kludge", but that seems to be quite popular in other cases, e.g. Firefox. Since I'm used to the Windows 7 interface nd basically like it, it's nice to have a form of choice that helps me get back to where I once belonged.

OTOH, every time I try out a Linux distro, one of the first questions to think about is "Gnome or KDE"? I've tried both in the past, and I still don't know the answer to that question - even for just me. Sometimes having only one path forward (with some options) ain't all bad.

Counterpoint (5, Informative)

Tailhook (98486) | about a year ago | (#46130829)

I just (five days ago) spent two days huddled with a half dozen other developers in the corner of a large conference room filled with IT people in Chicago. We were testing our various implementations of a new protocol that we expect to see in wide use during the next two years.

I had brought a brand new laptop, for various unfortunate reasons, on which I had just installed the complete stack of software I needed night before in the hotel room. I put Ubuntu 13.1 on it because I happened to have that particular distro on a flash drive that was at hand just then and I was in a hurry.

Things worked out. The laptop worked well and I got my part done. Thing is, I spent that rather intense period of time using Unity. For development and testing of software. Really.

I get it. Unity is fast and effective, particularly on the limited real-estate of a laptop screen where you end up switching rapidly among full screen applications.

I've avoided Unity like the plague on desktop hardware were I have multiple, large displays, and I think I'll continue doing that. However on a laptop that is not running external displays Unity works pretty well. You can navigate quickly with mouse or keyboard and avoid fussing with things. The fixed position of the large icons (although too large by default) on the sidebar is particularly useful.

So, bust out the fangs and hate me down with your mod points; I found a use for Unity and said so on Slashdot.

Re:Unity caused me to switch to Windows (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | about a year ago | (#46130997)

How great for you. You admitted it does not work except in a limited netbook like sense for 1 task.

I do more and do not like where linux is going. So in 2011 I switched to Windows 7 and never looked back ... until Windows 8 :-(

Re:Counterpoint (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46131061)

Nice try, but you made one crucial slip-up.

I put Ubuntu 13.1 on it ...

There is no such release.

Ubuntu releases are numbered for the year and month of the release. Those releases are consistently made semi-annually, in April and October, thus the 2013 releases are known as 13.04 and 13.10. There was no January release. Even if such a thing existed, it would have been known as 13.01, not 13.1.

Now return to your alternate universe and leave us to bicker in peace.

Re:Counterpoint (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46131131)

Nice to see some love for Unity for a change, but one thing I really dislike about it is how slow the navigation between windows is. I'm mainly using gnome-panel (with Compiz) but I have to use Unity a few times per week. It's annoying even on small screens since I can't simply line up different windows (from the same application or not) in the task bar on the top, ordered in the way that makes most sense, and treat them exactly like web browser tabs (which I do on small screens with gnome-panel).
Canonical has made both mouse selection and alt-tabbing a two-step process, which nobody can argue is efficient compared to what pretty much anyone else offers.

captcha: adultery

The Pragmatic vs Tweaking war rages on (3, Interesting)

shellster_dude (1261444) | about a year ago | (#46130835)

I always end up going back to a customized XFCE, but about every 6 months, I decide to try something else, and usually end up wiping my system and reinstalling before I'm done.

My wife has a mildly customized XFCE setup, and she loves it. It almost never gets changed or tweaked.

Re:The Pragmatic vs Tweaking war rages on (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46131159)

I always end up going back to a customized XFCE, but about every 6 months, I decide to try something else, and usually end up wiping my system and reinstalling before I'm done.

My wife has a mildly customized XFCE setup, and she loves it. It almost never gets changed or tweaked.

I like the way my customized xfce desktop works and looks. For a supposedly minimalist interface it can be gorgeous and certainly it is flexible. I can't imagine switching away.

A Few Points (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46130853)

This summary struggles to make sense. Some editing would have been good here!

Many/Most Linux distributions today, just work. It's quite a bit different than 5 years ago and a world of difference form 10 years ago. There is FAR less need to tinker and struggle to get stuff working. Which is good because my patience was wearing thin. I should never again need to see or know of Xorg.conf

Desktops seem to be changing for the sake of change. Gnome3, Unity, iOS, Windows, have all brought change without value. Gnome3 is a developer powertrip. Why was it necessary to switch to all flat blended color everything in iOS, was there any sort of usability issue with previous versions? Windows 8, a touch tablet interface on a desktop PC, whether you like it or not! That's a bad idea.

Users aren't interested in re-learning how to use a desktop or table/phone every 18 months. They find what works for them and they do not appreciate some wet-behind-the-ears wannabe developer imposing some ludicrous change to the desktop just because it looks cool, so long as you don't actually focus on the content. i.e. Transparency everywhere and faded pastel font colors.

Perception = Marketing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46130877)

... while there was an opposite perception of desktop users over in the Mac world ('it just works') and the Windows world ('it's a familiar interface').

The assumption that my perception of any OS can be dictated by the marketing slogans of clever Madmen is anathema to any geek I've ever met and most users interested in understanding the systems they pay for and use. Am I alone in rejecting this premise or merely thrust into the background by authors who make their living from the 'controversy'?

Most drivers prefer gas right, brake left (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46130893)

Change for change's sake is distracting. A computer is a means to an end.

What Do You Need a Desktop For (4, Interesting)

Greyfox (87712) | about a year ago | (#46130903)

What do you need a desktop for if all you ever do is launch a browser? Ok, that's a somewhat simplistic version, but I have about 4 applications that I ever launch from icons. Everything else takes place in a terminal. So I don't need some sluggish-ass desktop environment. I just want a reasonably fast, reasonably intuitive window manager that has the ability to do focus-follows-mouse. Every time I've tried Unity, it's failed in at least 2 or possibly all three of those requirements. Gnome 2 with a decent window manager used to work reasonably well, but even back then the configuration process was a little too much like editing a Windows registry for my taste. I don't know anyone who likes the direction they've been going. KDE seems to work reasonably well, but has a long startup time and is still really more than I need. I'm currently back on Enlightenment, which loads in about 2 seconds on my desktop and has everything I need installed by default. I have my 4 icons set up, usually have a bunch of terminal windows open, and am able to work effectively in it.

All those other guys can keep their all-encompassing UI vision. I don't want their kool-aid. I'm glad I get a choice in Linux. I may have to occasionally beat my head on the computer for days at a time when something stops working, but at least I can avoid having some corporate assholes or desktop environment programmers who like the smell of their own farts ramming their bullshit down my throat.

post internet stock crash (4, Interesting)

jbolden (176878) | about a year ago | (#46130919)

I think it has a lot to do with when you came up. When I came up with computers in the 1980s and 1990s we had hard problems and solved them. It was a world of rapidly growing IT spending, with IT taking on more and more tasks. After Y2K the technology sector began to get very conservative, the focus was on cost cutting and reliability. Far more like the world of the late 70s and early 80s in Mainframe and Minis that the PCs had replaced. What's exciting now is that mobile devices have brought back that enthusiasm for change and excitement again. They haven't caught up with desktops but at least they are creating a generation of developers who are used to a market that grows and expands rather than stays put at minimal cost.

I watch the threads on any kinds of change whether it be ubiquitous computing (Windows 8), IPv6 (networking), Wayland, the new hardware designs... and there is a pervasive pessimism among younger IT, a terrible can't do attitude.

Back in the 1990s when Linux was coming up we had sorta GUIs die: FVWM, AfterStep, SawFish, AMI-wm, Openlook (olwm), blackbox... Systems grow change and die leaving behind better ones. What's terrible is that the new generation wants stagnation. Either Gnome 3 succeeds or it doesn't. But regardless of what happens the work on Gnome advances the ecosystem.

Is it just me? (1)

sootman (158191) | about a year ago | (#46130921)

Does the summary make sense to anyone?

Desktop != tablet != touchscreen (2)

Selur (2745445) | about a year ago | (#46130935)

The more I look at the whole changes in OS-UIs lately, the more I get the impression that the whole cross-platform thing got lost it's grip to reality.

Sure I like my tablet, my smartphone, my laptop,... and I live with the smudged display I have on my tablet and my smartphone, since the do not really bother me. Probably because I can easily overlook these smudges, but since I can't overlook them on my normal monitor (or laptop display; or my glasses for that matter), I'm no friend of UIs which seem to be designed for tablets&smartphones but get presented to my as 'new' and 'easy' interfaces for my normal displays.
I like the idea of having one back-end, but I also like different frontends for different tools.

-> I get that some designers like their tablets and think that one UI should rule them all, but I don't agree with it.

New desktops are crap (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46130939)

They are just badly designed or have irritating flaws.

GNOME went to reinvent what turned to be a half-assed tablet UI lacking even basic features that desktop users expect (where is my terminal?? why you can't even log out unless there is more than one user in the system - wtf?).
Classic version also doesn't have half features of the old GNOME2 (which also sometimes strived for too much simplicity, but was still a nice, if a bit minimalistic, desktop).

Unity needs work to even get to GNOME2 levels of. I haven't used it much, but you notice quickly a lack of polish. It also somewhat follows similar design idea as GNOME3.

KDE4 - most similar to the "classic" desktop, but mixed up with stuff that was hyped some time ago (like widgets). Add to that unnecessary controls (rotating icons), and overall bad theme layout (this might also be a fault of Qt), and you don't get a pleasant visual experience. but maybe most usable of the three mentioned.

Windows UI was a bit too simplistic, so Unix GUIs added a few tweaks, like virtual desktops, that worked fine.
The new Metro is crap. I'm writing this from 8.1, though I only use Metro as a start menu and so far it doesn't bother me.

Maybe OS X has the best and most polished desktop around, but notice that they dialed back compositing effects that some time ago they used to produce a "wow" effect (compare this to compiz which had that moment too).
Also the system has some silly limitations - why can't I open more than one calculator? Oh because OSX only runs one instance of each application.

Desktops can these days be considered a solved problem and a mature area. The time of reinventing the wheel here and do radical redesigns (like GNOME3) have long passed, and these attempts often end up in something too experimental or too inferior. Desktops in almost any commercial OS are these days designed by big teams of _designers_, which we are often lacking in the free software world (even those in corporations also manage to screw up, like with Metro). Results of this disparity are desktops that we have now. Copying other UIs worked, but rethinking one not so well.

"Desktops" are crap period (1)

Arker (91948) | about a year ago | (#46131005)

It was a lousy metaphor when first proposed and it remains a lousy metaphor today.

And ironically while the article defines a "classic desktop" with icons on it (how gauche!) it goes on to mention WindowMaker, which offers a root window metaphor instead. That's my personal favorite.

"Desktops" in the sense of KDE or GNOME are just too creepy, too cluttered, too always trying to make you do things their way. They include WAY too much garbage I will not use and do not want. KDE *is* more tolerable than GNOME for me (since Gnome 2 at least, bleah) but it's not really what I want. It's still too much in the way and it's still doing too much.

Even E tries too hard, though it's a lot of fun. FVWM and the like are functional but too ugly to really make me happy. WindowMaker is the best, minimal, functional, and still gorgeous. Everything a Window Manager should be.

A long time ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46130951)

I have found Linux desktops to be fairly stable over the past decade. I don't think that's because the changes/tweaking/breakage has stopped, but because I've drifted back from the cutting edge. Desktop Linux distros can be as minimal or full featured, traditional or weird, cutting edge or stable as the user wants these days. So I don't think the Linux comunity has suddenly become pragmatic, we just have every flavour of the rainbow from which to choose. People can run desktops as unstable or as practical as they want.

So, no, existing Linux users aren't changing. What has happened is the community has grown from being a fairly small group of tinkerers and developers to a significant sub-section of the total population. Most of those people aren't the tinkering type, they are the "my computer should just work" type and so that is what they use.

Linux UI as drying cement (1)

sqrt(2) (786011) | about a year ago | (#46130967)

What exactly is a "classic" desktop anyway? Are we talking classic Windows? Classic Mac OS? There's a constellation of UI paradigms which work. Some of them are mutually incompatible, you can't use them simultaneously. If you want to come up with something new, it has to actually work better than what we had before. If it merely works "as good" as what it's replacing then users won't be happy. You're changing things for the sake of change. So from those choices you pick the ones you think work best together and create a DE out of them. So we get Gnome Shell, KDE, XFCE, et al. Then there are the numerous eccentrics, throwbacks, and masochists running things like Awesome, DWM, Trinty, or any of the others which don't even add up to 1% all together.

I don't think Linux users are getting more pragmatic. The different camps have mostly just solidified around their own "classic" vision. There's 3-4 different main camps now depending how you choose to slice it, and numerous sub groups and forks if you drill down deeper. It'll always be more fragmented, contentious, and fluid than Windows or OS X. That's a good thing, as long as you have the wherewithal to navigate your way between all the various spin-offs and cousin projects spawned when the devs make a boneheaded change for change's sake. Gnome 2 users need to know enough that MATE is their upgrade path, etc.

I've actually been using Unity these days. It's level of polish and completeness is better than anything else I've found and it replicates the features I most enjoy from OS X. I had to install a less offensive theme and icon pack, change the system font to Lucida Grande, but after that it's a very nice desktop. I only have a few criticisms: you can't move the dock to the bottom; the search features aren't as simple and elegant as Spotlight, lenses are over-engineered and pointlessly complicated for what the achieve even if it's a more powerful tool overall; and there are a couple minor GUI glitches which I've come to find unacceptable after spending so much time in the pixel-perfect world Apple has created.

Perhaps classic does mean outdated (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46131013)

Maybe it means that it works in a way that is more conducive to the way people want to do something than other alternative, thus far, have proven to be.

Think of the front loading clothes dryer, the stylus based design of writing implements, sit-down toilets, handle anchored blades on knives... all are old, old, designs, but nothing thus far has been proven superior. To me, the Gnome 3 approach was an admirable attempt with outside the box thinking, but one that doesn't beat the original, sort of like pen that fits on your fingertip. I had one of those, it was a fun, interesting idea, but in short order I was back to writing with my pen based on a design that was thousands of years old.

The Gnome 3 developers would have been aghast.

The key is that it now works (2)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | about a year ago | (#46131037)

In the past(late 90s early 2000s) the various machines that I had barely worked. So I noodled and fiddled until the machine was just the way I liked it. But then at some point, I largely stopped. Basically the machines were powerful enough that tweaking didn't buy me any critical functionality or performance to make it worth my time. Also the defaults for almost any OS are close enough that my total "tweaking" might take 5 minutes or less from a default configuration.

In many ways I think that it less that we don't tweak as the machines are coming pre-tweaked.

Obviously this is not for everyone as we all know those people who must spend a full day getting a new machine just the way they like it.

But if I had a new machine built from scratch tomorrow I would say that 50 percent of the few minutes of tweaking would be spent changing the IDE defaults for a few keys and whatnot. The bulk of the rest would be eliminating stupid default icons and putting up a few that I frequently use (Terminal, etc)

I just spun up a raspberry pi and with the arduino IDE sitting right on the desktop I'm not sure that I'll make a single change at this point. Any changes going forward will be 100% in support of critical functionality.
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