Ubuntu gets a facelift: More appealing to the first time user?

Ubuntu gets a facelift: More appealing to the first time user?

Summary: Though the next major version of Ubuntu (10.04) will include a whole new look, it isn't enough to sway users from their Microsoft addiction. Thoughts

TOPICS: Open Source

When I started using Ubuntu, granted the first time was when I went open-source for a full 48 hours, the interface was dark, a little depressing, and reminded me of a depressing sewage works. But not anymore.

The new user interface - though not radically overhauled - reminds me of the transition between the vibrant, fauvist-style blue XP interface, to the see-through and transparent Vista interface.

Ubuntu 10.04 will be the next major version of the popular open-source operating system. This refresh may be indicative of the creators being more user interface and experience aware, and with a new logo and branding mechanism, this looks more like a brand overhaul as well as a new-look operating system.

But, for the first time user, it breaks me to say that this isn't enough.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes highlights most of the reasons, from little or OEM support to the end user, no gaming support and the distribution differences. But there are more that worries me.

There is still a load of confusion aired over drivers, hardware support and installations. The in-built software center makes it relatively easy to install a set amount of programs and applications, but the wider aspects from basic Windows use would cause the first time user to struggle.

The initial hump from overcoming the Windows obsession will be far too difficult for many - the simpler things rather than anything else. The addiction we have to Microsoft technology isn't necessarily a bad thing but it only works if you can get your hit - whether it be a money issue or an availability issue.

Improving boot-up times or the installation experience, even to tweaking the lighting and the overall user interface isn't enough. Linux is still a niche market and students aren't gusty enough to embrace it yet without a real killer feature or alignment to what they are already used to.

Topic: Open Source

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  • Ever evolving Linux, Ha!

    For over a decade Linux has been sitting at the precipice of Victory, finally a viable and fitting alternative to that awful Redmond, WA based juggernaut.

    Um, well, I thought so at Mandrake 7.0, then 8.0, then I sort of moved back to Windows (okay I never moved away, I admit it) because of all silly and selfish reasons, I wanted to be able to print a document. Yep, that was what drove me away from Linux and back into the filthy clutches of thy cyborg we know and love as Bill Gates (imagine the image of Bill Gates at Slash Dot right now).

    So now Linux can print, even read thumb drives, and if you know how to hack it or if you have just the right installation you can even play HD Movies.

    Point being is that it is still just a side show. There are the voisterous children (yeah, of all ages) who go on and on about how they dumped Windows, but they don't tell you about what they either didn't need that Windows does provide to many users and/or what struggles they had to endure to save that average annual cost of about $60 for an OS.

    $60 is based on what it would cost to upgrade every three or four years, perhaps for some like me it is lower, but that is a safe ball-park-like number.

    I spend $60 a month of fast food - a month! Wow, but I cannot imagine being so damned cheap as to limit the usefulness of this modern appliance we know as a personal computer just to avoid MS getting a small chunk of change from me.

    That doesn't even begin to scratch the surface on why business doesn't want to embrace Linux (well business does but it cannot afford the high cost of Linux....yep, you read that right, the high cost of Linux).

    So my final thought is a question, does a face lift really do squat to improve the viability of Ubuntu or any of the other myriad flavors/versions/distros of Linux?
    • "I spend $60 a month of fast food - a month!"   That says it all.

      Better stick with with windows man, you'll never be able to get what Linux is about.
      Great Kahuna
    • You must have...

      been using a really old distro not to be able to print. I have many clients on PCLinuxOS, Mepis, Ubuntu and Mint that run their machines seamlessly. A lot really depends on needs, and one simple question the local tech can ask the client that can save a lot of pain is, "what do you use your computer for?" I ask this of all my clients willing to switch so that I can put the best distro and best setup for their needs.

      Ok, Linux isn't for everyone, I'll agree with this. Some have proprietary apps that simply won't run in crossover or WINE, others may have issues with change. But a competent setup and a tiny bit of education for someone who wants a great alternative is key. Bottom line is Linux works for those who want it. Yes it does need polish but so does windows and Mac. You would be hard pressed to find an OS out there that is perfect (or perfect for everyone).
    • Well, I think you should....

      continue to spend your $60/month on fast food and give some of your money to MS. And no, I am not impressed.

      You do come across as a total jerk however for critizising people who choose differently, be it their food or their SW.

      Shame on you, but you are probably too thick to get it.
    • If its a side show....

      ...why did you post. Its really amazing to me how supposedly no one wants or uses Linux but theres so much talk about it.

      LOL @ high cost. Yea I pay a whole bunch to use Linux. ;-)
    • Look, pal.

      Windows is for retards and old people who are too stupid to figure out how to use a card swipe. I cannot remember a time when my Linux system could not print, and anyhow, it would have been the OEM's fault for not providing drivers anyways. I can play HD movies, if they are in Ogg Theora out of the box, and all other formats by installing a couple small RPMs. Say what you will, but windows sucks at networking, and is a nightmare trying to do anything deep and serious with.

      Hail Linus!
  • RE: Ubuntu gets a facelift: More appealing to the first time user?

    Looks like Ubuntu is taking even more elements from OS X on this one.
  • Linux needs to be like Open Office

    The reason OO has become as popular as it is, is because the developers more or less made it look and act like Office XP. In fact, a lot of people who hate the Office 2007 ribbon have been driven to at least try OO.

    That's what Linux on the desktop needs to be. You right-click on something and a Window-similar menu or function has to appear.

    Even the Linux "Start" button leaves a lot to be desired. If different distros can't even agree on a uniform Linux way of doing something, then use some common sense and copy the way Windows does it.

    There is no magic here. If you are trying to gain market share at the expense of Windows, then those Windows users will reasonably expect it to more or less ACT like Windows.

    If the Linux ecosystem doesn't care about Windows users and wants people to switch "just because".... well that route has been tried for the past 10 years and has only resulted in Linux inching forward slightly year by year.
    • HELL NO!

      I dumped windows for many reasons, one of them was an utter dislike for its user interface.
      Great Kahuna
      • I second your hell no.

        For the same reasons.

        [root@localhost ~]#
    • Mac OS X does fine

      I disagree. Mac OS X does just fine without attempting to copy the Windows UI. Linux can too. IMHO, what Linux needs to do is offer a killer experience for certain groups of people.

      On the Mac, it can be argued that the UI is geared towards artists and other graphics professionals. They have gained a reputation for being the best OS for the creation of content. That has allowed them to carve out strong communities of users that then evangelize the product.

      Linux, I would argue, already offers that experience for programmers. After trying all three platforms, I've come to the conclusion that if you develop software with anything other than Microsoft's tools (which are, just to be clear, very nice), you should be working on a Linux computer. The availability of free, very high quality tools and the ease of their installation/configuration is simply awesome. Much, much better than what Mac OS X offers. (If you develop on a Mac, then you develop for Mac. There is no hope of a wider market. Most of the toolkits on Linux, in contrast are cross platform. Moreover, I much prefer Qt to Carbon. IMO, C++ is a better language than Objective C.)

      But they need to expand. Linux, for example, could become the best tool for students. Or for sound professionals. Or for engineers. Or ... someone. But it would require very careful analysis of how that group works and then a combination of software products that is precisely tailored to offer an excellent experience.

      In fact, it might be argued that this is how Microsoft came to dominate enterprises. They looked at the frustrations of corporate IT and then strove to meet them.

      If I had to recommend a place to start, I'd look at students at universities. I've currently been writing a book about professional and scientific writing, and the open source tools available to scientists and writers on Linux are absolutely incredible.

      If Dell, HP or one of the other groups were to create beautiful hardware and then combine it with a distro really tailored to meet student and researcher needs (using both open source and proprietary software) and then heavily promoted it, I think it would be *very* successful.

      If anything, the biggest problem with Linux right now is that it tries to be everything to everyone (e.g., Windows) and fails in the process. If they were to offer an exceptional experience to one market, they could use the growth and revenue to branch out and conquer others. This is what Apple has done, and they've been very successful (and evil).
      Rob Oakes
      • Some good points. but "Biggest problem"

        The "biggest problem" in my mind is that much of the FOSS crowd is trying to kill Microsoft rather than simply please users. O-O was an attempt to kill MS Office revenue.

        The focus for many in the FOSS crowd is to take down MS. That's just a bad motivation and doomed to fail. That just ends up further entrenching MS. What FOSS needs to seek to do is give the best possible experience it can. Out Apple Apple. Rather than being the alternative to MS.
    • If Linux was like Windows....

      ...I'd probably shell out the money for a Mac. I left Windows because it doesn't work well and will never return because it lacks features. I'd never go back to the start menu vs the well organized Gnome menus. They make sense.
      • No one is attacking your choice

        But my point is... what is the goal?

        To gain marketshare by getting Windows users to purposely switch?

        Or to hope that some of the users that are unhappy with windows try Linux instead of Macintosh (and I don't know a stat, but I would assume unhappy windows users are single digit % otherwise there wouldn't be any windows users left).

        Because that is the core of the issue. Competing with OSX for the 2% of unhappy Windows users is not a receipe for success. Simple math. Not a large enough volume of people.
      • I've not used the start menu since Vista

        Now I just type the first few characters of a word in the app/doc's name or contents and hit the found app/doc.

        No more wasting time sorting all my apps into cascading menus and then trying to remember where the hell I put stuff.

        Start ... wor [Enter]
        Start ... Visua [Enter]
        Start ... Pai [Enter]
      • Reminds me of New Coke

        I myself think that being "like Windows" is not a particularly good idea.

        I remember New Coke basically being Coke's answer to Pepsi. The result was that not only did they not get any converts from Pepsi, but they also lost some of their own customers, and both for the same reason--if customers wanted to drink something that tasted like Pepsi, they would be drinking Pepsi.

        Besides which, I think that a lot of what holds some people back is "that one application" that they might not believe is available to them in Linux. I've set up Yellow Dog Linux on a PS3 before, and the hardest part of that was the installation--everything else was ready to go. I think that the user interface is easy enough on its own, and if you show that to people, it doesn't necessarily have to be like Windows.
        Third of Five
  • RE: Ubuntu gets a facelift: More appealing to the first time user?

    If Ubuntu started behaving like Windows, I will switch back to Windows ! I don't mind spending 60$ per annum. Money is not the reason why I switched to Ubuntu.
  • RE: Ubuntu gets a facelift: More appealing to the first time user?

    This is like putting lipstick on a pig. They finally took my advice and got rid of the poop brown smeared wallpaper. That is a good first step, but just a little too late. Too bad its still linux underneath so you will have the same problems as before. No one wants linux.
    Loverock Davidson
    • Microsoft is fortunate...

      for having such talented advocates. Their strong dedication really make up for their lack of education and common sense.
      Great Kahuna
      • Nice . . .

        I'll have to remember that one!!