OA - Ubuntu
A blog about Ubuntu, mobile GIS and archaeology

Making progress part 1: A little advice or a question?

Jul 26, 2009 by Chris Puttick

I guess the question needs to be first: do you (the community and individual users) want Ubuntu to be a real alternative for typical home users? You know, not the equivalent of a kit car relative to the every day car of Windows or a Mac, but something the average user can acquire and use without needing technical support to get along on a month by month basis.

If your answer is no, I'm intrigued. Why not? You like it to be hard?Answers on a postcard to "Keep Linux off the desktop", the usual address...

If yes, then I have a little advice. Pages like this:

https://help.ubuntu.com/community/PortableDevices/iPhone

need to start differently. I'll pick on Apple because they have just taken two contented Ubuntu users back to Windows just through the purchase of an iPhone, much to my chagrin, but I guess there are other hardware suppliers out there who because of their ignorance require similar pages  to be up on the help.ubuntu site.

Ok. This is the issue. The first point that has to be made is that any instructions on this type of "how do I use this normal thing with Linux" has to start with a statement along these lines:

 The following instructions are a method for getting your newly purchased/acquired <insert name of gadget> to work with Linux. These instructions may look daunting and to anybody non-technical they probably are daunting; that these instructions have to exist at all is entirely the fault of <insert manufacturer's name>. It would be great if you could contact <insert manufacturers name> and make it clear that you believe they should provide support for Ubuntu and Linux in general as well as for Apple OS and Microsoft Windows.

Maybe you prefer an open solution to every hardware use. Me too, I prefer choice. But where an open solution is lacking, any (Linux) solution is better than no solution at all. The average consumer buys on impulse. They see a thing, they like  a thing, they buy a thing. Said thing should then, like nowadays most any printer, just work when they plug it into their home computer, regardless of OS. Sure, they might need to read a manual and install some software, but they should not have to hack at stuff.

And it is the manufacturers who are at fault, not those who choose or have acquired Linux, and they and the Linux users should understand that. Manufacturers like Samsung have taken to including Linux software and instructions with their printers; surely everyone else should be too?

I'd go further than just that change to the "how to hack my gadget so it works with Ubuntu" pages, and suggest a campaign targetted at Apple et al. where we make our feelings clear. Maybe they don't care. Maybe they shouldn't care. But why not see if we can't make them care? If one Canadian can make United Airlines care, surely millions of Ubuntu users can make Apple cry...



Comments:

Well I think other than a few things ubuntu and linux in general is lacking (iphone support, games and media sharing on local networks (upnp and dnla)) I think it is ready. For most common home users that only use their computers for browsing the web, viewing/editing videos/pictures, listening to music and editing documents. Its an interesting question I have to say. My opinion is that ubuntu is a lot easier to use than windows. My reasoning is that installing software is easier and that ubuntu doesnt interrupt the user with confusing questions. The .exe system is very easy you click on the file and it installs but it lacks the security as well. With the repository system the user can feel relatively safe because its controlled and very hard to break. So users can feel safe installing software from the repo unlike the windows system. The updating of all the software also is handy. The resistance from viruses also makes linux much easier for the common user, I dont even have a virus scanner, the only thing I need is ufw (uncomplicated firewall). So in many cases ubuntu is very suited to the average household. Although the support I mentioned at the beginning need to be addressed.

Posted by Shane Fagan on July 26, 2009 at 01:11 PM GMT+00:00 #

Hmm ... maybe not something quite that confrontational, but yes ... there does need to be a disclaimer. Something saying that this hardware does not officially support Ubuntu, and suggesting that the reader contact the manufacturer.

Perhaps this idea should be on Ubuntu Brainstorm!

Posted by Jared Spurbeck on July 26, 2009 at 04:35 PM GMT+00:00 #

Good idea... I saw a message somewhat like that in a music player the other day, describing why Apple Music Shares will only work if the iTunes server is a few versions old. (For the life of me, I can't remember which music player had this... :X)

Anyways, I think it is a good strategy, because when we have nothing, people will just assume that their problems are due to some design problem with Ubuntu or Linux in general. Having some honest comment at the beginning explaining the circumstances could help keep new users on our side, rather than just assume that Ubuntu doesn't work, and switch back to Windows or something.

Good idea, I hope it goes somewhere. And yes, this should be on Ubuntu Brainstorm. :)

Posted by Ray on July 26, 2009 at 07:57 PM GMT+00:00 #

You can advise the Documentation Team about your idea or modify the page yourself. However, I would recommend you reconsider your attitude to this issue. There are neutral ways of conveying your suggested statement. Blaming and being passive aggressive in a technical document will alienate readers.

Posted by Tolik Simulator on July 27, 2009 at 09:21 AM GMT+00:00 #

@Jared:

no problem with someone more diplomatic rephrasing the statement, I'm not known for my subtlety and tact :)

@Ray/Jared:

if Brainstorm is where it belongs, then I guess I should add it there.

@Tolik:

I didn't edit the page because it seemed to me that all such pages should have this statement or a diplomatic version thereof. I was hoping that blogging it would bring it to the attention of those could make a blanket change, and further hoping that if they agreed/disagreed with the idea (not just the language) they would enter into discussion via comments on the blog.

Having watched two previously contented Ubuntu users spending money to get Windows installed on their computers because of Apple's lack of support for Linux/iPhone users I'm quite sure blame does need to be apportioned appropriately - at the moment it is Linux taking the blame, unfairly. I am completely at one with the idea that something wrong is not always someone's fault, but in the case of lack of support for Linux, it clearly is the supplier's fault; sometimes it is just an oversight, a failure to understand that, for instance, the instructions for attaching your Apple Mac to a cable modem could easily and at very low cost be adapted to become Gnome/KDE instructions (Virgin employees, you listening?). In these cases aggression and clear apportioning of blame may not be useful; however, in the case of failure to provide support for your hardware and then going so far as to prevent historic solutions from working? Not sure there are many options for dealing with that kind of behaviour...

Posted by Chris Puttick on July 27, 2009 at 11:05 AM GMT+00:00 #

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