Monday, June 29, 2009

The Linuxville save the Linux desktop user campaign

OK, ok, enough of my black digital artist manifesto talk, but I do try to engage folks in the deeper thought life from time to time. The Internet has a way homogenising certain words to where you can not find what YOU are thinking of. Search engines are like shepherds and users like free range chickens or cats (I know a little about cat herding).

Here in Linuxville there is still the anguish cry for Linux learning materials that are less all inclusive. I think the zeal to teach Linux is overshadowed by an overbearing desire to explain it all (in detail), wither a user wants it, needs it or not. What am I talking about? In the Microsoft Windows world a regular desktop user is not subjected to the full knowledge of system administration and server maintenance. In the Linux world, the mere mention of the idea of Linux evokes expectations and conversations of servers, networks, and system administration. Interest in Linux infers you are savvy enough to comprehend the complexities and the inner workings and of course there is no other way to learn Linux.

In the MS Windows world you can get a whole book that illustrates life on the MS Windows desktop. In Linuxville a chapter or two is dedicated to the desktop user. Proof, you want proof? You can find MS Windows desktop specialist as a profession. They are experts in user support. In Linuxville the System Admin does it all, there is no Linux desktop specialist. It is a catch 22 situation, which comes first the Linux desktop users that need support or the simple focused training to allow a sizable user pool to exist. There is no separation of user and admin in the Linux explanation. In Linuxville you are promptly told you have to "administer" your own Linux PC. How is this different than administering your own MS PC?

I will bring up cars again. I don't need to be a mechanic to own and drive a car. Besides driver training and a few maintenance things the only other thing is to be able to say the car sounds funny, rides funny or the lights keep flashing. The sense and feel of the user's experience is required by mechanics to properly fix the problem, both the physical car and the drivers perception (feels funny, something's wrong) are addressed. So, in reality you don't need the knowledge or the understanding of a Linux system admin in order to use a Linux desktop. We should sort out what is useful for users, say it, illustrate it and save the deeper explanations for another book. Actually we have those deeper kinds of books already, in abundance.

We say there are enough MS Windows books out there and Linux is just like Windows. You and I know that skills are transferable but the average Joe/Josette does not think like that. You have to explain things in the context in which they exist. If you insist that Linux is just like MS Windows, you instantly start the comparison mill. If it is not "just like MS Windows" you already lost a potential Linux user. Just show folks how it works, let them conclude "hey, it's just like MS Windows!!", but don't you say it.

So, the Linux desktop consists of GUIs and Applications supported by tweaks and tricks and seasoned with annoyances and gotchas. If there is a GUI way to do it, stop there. The extended, alternate and workarounds are all in the Linux Bibles of various titles. The parts of Linux on the server have all been explained too much, we need to focus on the user side. The problem is that there aren't many desktop Linux book writers. Mostly Linux is on the web. You could say Linux is greener and paperless compared to MS and Apple (you never thought of that!). And that's another line of thought. But extensive books on various types of Linux applications might be appreciated, like business apps, graphics apps, etc. Not because they are popular but because users have free access, acquisition, unlimited user rights and the manuals are online rather than printed in a book. The printed published page is still more respected and regarded than works readily available online, ask any library patron.

Perhaps paper books are not your thing and you have the tools and the info to teach us, I myself am very fond of instructional tutorials and ebooks. Collected tutorials on a CD is an exceptional way to teach/learn Linux applications. Short videos cut to the chase and free you from lengthy explanations. Make a thin book with some by whom info and references, then put the CD in the pocket. As much as I like YouTube, if you treat this similar to regular publishing there is more a sense of on the shelf permanence. Great and useful things that exist only on the net can and do disappear.

Ebooks in the .PDF format are wonderful. If you haven't seen the Fullcircle Ubuntu magazine, you have no idea what I am raving about. Nice size, full colour and full of user experiences, it is an eye opening publication.

Now, who wants to carry around a bunch of CDs especially with the rash of netbooks out there? The jump drive is overly handy. You can download this info to the jump drive and view it on whatever PC device you use. Your entire collection of reading/reference material can be put on a handy jump drive. Think utility belt like Batman's or a Scouts merit badge sash or a bullet bandoleer only with jump drives.

If you have a really good product there is no reason you can't charge a little for the info. I know we in the Linux realm have gotten use to free files for everyone, but we either bilk folks with a outrageously high price or endlessly beg for donations. I prefer a token price and asking for support. In all, printing on paper, though not the green thing, is more apt to make money for the writer/publisher. I think effort deserves compensation if I get convenience and help.

Here in Linuxville we need to rely less on the virtual idea. It has devolved into a kind of lazy assumption of "it's posted, it's out there, you have the liberty to get it or not". We should package and present or package and deploy in ways that are practical and convenient for others. Web pages are good for user chatter, back and forth, for intros and brief encounters, but less good for presenting a body of work. Ebooks are more like real publishing. Maybe not as impressive as having a wall full of printed books, but just as effective and you can use the wall space to display my art work.


kubuntu101 said...

Just curious about what distribution of Linux you are using.

It's true that Linux distributions have gotten more user friendly.

But still there are a lot left to be desired.

But it still beats using Windows.

In Windows you're like a fire fighter locked in constant battle against viruses and malwares.

Anonymous said...

Arnold, great blog, we think alike. I have been a Linux user now since Dapper Drake (2006) and the hardest thing to find is the howto's for any software that has not got a Windows version. I also would happily pay for a "Dummy's" guide too.
I have seen the Full circle mag and PCLinuxOS do one too (which is also a good read)and have to say a mag written by the people for the people does have a certain appeal.
Adding you to my blog list, I like your thinking.

rnojonson said...

I am using Ubuntu 9.04. I have used Xubuntu, Fedora, Mepis, Wolvix, Puppy, DSL, others. The differences are minor and the applications the same. I have nothing against Linux on the server or in corporate settings, it is just that Linux is always explained in that light by folks skilled in the art of system administration or programming.

There is a stigma attached to being a Linux newbie. And some still can't believe Linux was meant for a single computer for personal use.

I can appreciate all the work behind the icon, don't expect or require me to comprehend it all, I just click the icon. My life is in the applications.

I have seen Linux for Dummies, it is just a brief version of a Linux bible. The handiest books are the Point n Click series by Robin "Roblimo" Miller.