Friday, March 30, 2007

Linux, Windows, Mac, and Usability...

Today (2007-03-30), there was a post on concerning the difference between Linux, Mac, and Windows and what Apple and Microsoft got right, but the Linux community doesn't get...

While admittedly, I did not read the article it linked to, reading the summary and some of the comments on OSNews brings about a bit of a stench. Why? Because it is the same arguments over and over and over. Don't get me wrong, the Linux community has come along way on the Desktop, but at the same time they just don't get it. That is...

I've used Windows for years, and dabbled with a Mac from time to time. (I'm even thinking about getting a Mac for home use now.) And I use Linux full-time at home, and part time at work. I do have a Linux Desktop system at home, and I do love it. But at the same time there are numerous things that I hate about it. Any how...going back to using Windows...

Windows has had usability guidelines for a long, long time. It use to be part of the requirement for being able to become a certified Microsoft Developer (MCSD) - it might still, I don't know; the last I looked at that was 1999 and I haven't considered it since. Part of those usability guidelines ensure that users can use the system multiple ways - keyboard AND mouse by default - and define a very specific set of standards (ALT+F4, ALT+F1, ALT+F3, WinKey, ALT to get the menus, etc.) and they make Windows very easy to use. In fact, I can usually do a lot of things faster in Windows than I can in X under Linux because of the keyboard shortcuts - X is very dependent on a mouse being available for use - God help you if your mouse dies in the middle of an X session. Mac is pretty good too - they have standards behind how the Guis are designed and layed out, and standardize their keyboard/mouse intersction as well, though it does not work quite like Windows does (e.g. the menu is not so easy to get to [last I checked], so it can be harder to figureout what the keyboard shortcuts are to do stuff).

Linux, on the other hand, is this wonderful world of customization - which is fine for experienced users that have used the system for years. But what the community simply does not get is that you have to have some kind of standard. Customization is great, but you can't drive the system by default using both the mouse and the keyboard - one or the other. KDE and GNOME and the other Windows Managers and Desktop Environments simply do not do that by default. So unless you spend the time to get the entire system configured to do so (which will take a long time to do) you don't get it.

The Linux Desktop could be greatly advanced by the managers standardizing. Even Mac and Windows are quite similar is many respects; but Linux is way out there on its own. Of course, Linux probably inherited that from its Unix brethren, with whom it shares a lot of its idealogoy.

So please, for the sake of the Linux Desktop make the standard UI sane and usable. Make it work by default so that I can hit the Penguin Key (or Windows Key, for those of you with a Windows Keyboard instead of a Linux/Penguin Keyboard) and bring up the KDE or GNOME menus. Give some continuity to the interfaces by default and make it well known. It's great that you adopted ALT+ to get to menus, but now give us some standardization to other programs besides ALT+TAB. Give us access to the system, and make it easy to use.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Free the Arists from DRM and make the world a better place...

Help make the world a better place in every way you can.

This really should be what we all try to do - making the world a better place; and there are many, many ways to do so. First of all, start by treating those around you with respect and being nice. Secondly, uphold the laws the land so long as they are just and fair and God-honoring. Third, be a civil servant. It's great to have beliefs, but you also have to do something with them. In democratic and republic societies (e.g. the USA, Canada, and most (all?) of Europe, as well as a number of other countries) this means voting, petitioning, and joining together to make the laws and society better for all.

So, why am I writing about this now? Well, the Free Software Foundation though its Defective By Design "division" offers us all the chance to get on board and help put an end to DRM (e.g. digital rights management that has only ended up - and can only end up as - ditigal rights restrictions). DefectiveByDesign is putting together a petition for Apple's CEO, and Disney's board member Steve Jobs, calling his "bluff" concerning his open letter that was distributed a few weeks ago pertaining to the DRM in iTunes. Mr. Jobs basically said that the DRM is there because the labels (e.g. Warner, EMI, etc.) demand it and won't let music be distributed without it, so far as on-line goes, so Apple has to put it in there to make them happy, and, by the way, opening up FairPlay (Apple's DRM scheme) will not work, but will only make it harder to make FairPlay work - or something like that. DefectiveByDesign is calling for Mr. Jobs to (i) allow artists who are not bound by the labels to be able to distribute their music and movies on iTunes without DRM if they desire, to (ii) do what he can at Disney to get Disney content DRM free, and to (iii) work with the initiatives to repeal the USA's DMCA.

If you're interested any of this, then please go to and look for the open letter to Steve Jobs; I've also tried to include a direct link here:

Sign an Open Letter To Steve Jobs

Be careful - you only have until March 31, 2007 to sign it. On April 1st, they are delivering it to Mr. Jobs - apparently including a jester's hat with it too. So please, if you want to make this world a better place, give artists their freedom, and help everyone to be able to get out of this DRM nightmare, then please join DefectiveByDesign and sign their petition. It'll do the world a favor.