Tuesday, March 31, 2009

the truth in cars and computers and savviness

Once you learn driving skills on the standard driver interface equipment you can drive almost any car, no sweat! Once you learn computer skills on the standard user interface equipment you can use almost any computer. The question remains though, are you savvy? If you are a regular driver and car owner, it is safe to assume you know more than how to turn it on. At least know how to check/add oil, fill wiper reservoir, and change a tire.

Usually on computers the management is more involved and requires savviness on the user's part. Savvy means to know, comprehend, to understand. It's a strange word, like having geekness or nerdiness and can range from minor casual involvement to an obsessional technical guru. Maybe there should be skill levels with appropriate colored mice. The yellow mouse beginner, then green mouse, red mouse mid level, brown and black mouse, the ninja mouser and the click-fu master, tweaker monks, code saints.

Getting back to Linux, many of the MS school of PC have said Linux requires skills beyond the standard training. This is an echo from older Linux masters who most likely were commandline skilled. Desktop Linux is not new but because it is just now reaching into the mainstream of desktop computer users, the emphasis on graphics/mouse skills is a new school of Linux PC. But to tell you the truth, there are not many computer users who are savvy. Seems mostly green mousers in the world, and a lot of folks never go beyond using what was on the PC at purchase.

Cars and computers.........MS and Mac are commercial products, Linux is a do it yourself kit car. With Linux you can have it built for you or build it yourself. You can get paid support service or get support off the net. This flexibility drives people crazy. With all the various levels of skilled people all talking about Linux, it is hard to grasp the narrowed scope of desktop use. Even I get overwhelmed talking to Linux enthusiast who are mainframe and server trained, they just go way beyond my experience. I don't bore and stroke engines, just hang the fuzzy dice, yet I too love Linux. Believe me I've had the same "in depth" experience with electrical engineers, they actually love the details. Me, though I understand some concepts, just flick the switch.

Linux as an OS provides endless fascination, but to most desktop users, the applications are the draw. Without applications, computers and doorstops are very similar. Linux has great applications that need to be exclaimed and explained to the user world.

I am hoping the top Linux distros gets a group of hardware vendors to push the ability to run Linux. Then offer a complete solution of hardware/software and support. The price can be reasonable and still provide the liberty and freedom of open source systems. I think the desktop PC in a big case should be left to the case modders and servers. We already have laptops both compact and convenient. What's missing is the desktop that doesn't take up much space. Not the bookshelf PC, but a full-size keyboard with the PC under it using laptop technology and also being able to use any display or two of your choice. Here's a picture..........

I would market this as a Linux Desktop PC and load it with varying options. So Red Hat/Suse/Ubuntu could offer their stuff on approved and proven hardware. The hardware vendors would market partly through the Linux OS companies who offer hardware/software/support in one package. Though you could still buy the hardware or the software separately, the ability to go to say, Ubuntu, and get a complete system would be sweet.

The problem has always been with the influence of competing software companies trying to capture the desktop market by forcing hardware vendors to design and sell equipment optimized to only run their products. There only two ways to go with this, either hardware vendors hold fast to multiple operating system transparency or offer product lines that support each operating system specifically.

Then we have to redefine "the shelf". When people go to buy a computer at a store, usually at a convenient place that has a name, what is on the shelf. Linux folks have to decide, the Apple model or the Best Buy model. In any case online sales can't beat being able to touch a working system on a display stand and a customer asking "Can I take this home?". Linux has been on the "build it and they will come" mode and needs to consider the "carrots on sticks" mode. Marketing is about show and tell, creating wants and needs. Most people who would buy computers (at a store) have no idea of who or what Linux is, at all. It's the savvy who care. The few, the chosen, the savvy.

If you hang around Linuxville long enough, your savviness quotient will rise. And if you find your self expressing inner geekness (where did that come from?) don't say I didn't warn you. Each OS shapes a user's computing personality. Alas, we are so impressionable.

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