Linux needs usability

Here is something I posted on Slashdot, bad spelling, grammar mistakes, and all. The topic is Linux standardization and suggestions of finding common ways of doing things, which some people take to mean one standard window manager, one way to install programs, etc.:

No one needs to convince me, they need to help me (Score:3, Interesting)

by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 15, @04:24AM (#4891015)

There are a helluva lot of comments of the vein, “if you don’t want to learn Linux, stay away.” It is obvious to some but not many of us here that the problem is not that people don’t want to use Linux, it is that they want to be able to USE Linux. As a relatively new Linux user (although I’ve used a lot of Nix tools in Mac OS X) I find it incredibly frustrating that oftentimes I want to do something in the CLI, I have no idea how, and I don’t even know where to start looking. Friends tell me commands to run like they should be obvious, but how would I know them except by being told? And I absolutely hate it when I want to, say, change my resolution and I have no idea how and a friend refuses to help me because he knows how to do it in Red Hat and Mandrake but he’s never used Debian and he doesn’t know nor care to know the “Debian way.”

The posts about “lowest common denominator” are right now, and here is an example. When you want to change the host name of your machine, you run the command “hostname” as root followed by the new name. Ta dah, its set. This works, as far as I know, on all Linux distros. On Mac OS X, you use the hostname command, and it doesn’t stick on reboots. Why? Because the Mac uses a differnt configuration file and its not documented under man hostname.

What do I want as standards? I want you to be able to add new ways of doing things, with new features and better usability and nicer functionality, but I still want my old commands to work, even if their deprecated. Or at least point me in the right direction.

That is what “standardization” means to me…a unified method of handling user interaction. I don’t care if you use Gnome or KDE, I just want to be able to access all my apps from each. I don’t care what you write your programs in, I just want to be able to use keyboard shortcuts for “cut” and “paste” and “save” that are the same. I just want my window themes to apply. I just want the widgets to look the way I set them. I just want the “Okay” button to always be on the right. Or the left. Whatever.

Please, standardize. Look at the Apple Human Interface Guilelines, and make something better, something that projects and apps can put a sticker on their website proudly saying, “I’m usable!”

That’s all I, a Linux newbie, ask.