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Dustin LindenSmith

father | musician | writer

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another usability guru?

jjjiii just hipped me to Boston-based Greg Raiz (bio | blog) who has a hell of a lot to say about software usability, especially from a development standpoint. Since I'm on the lookout for new feeds to test the Google RSS Reader I've been playing with recently, I added this guy's blog to my syndicated feeds to keep up with what he's saying.

He just posted what I thought was a mind-blowing (or at least, VERY clear) entry about what Linux needs to do to kill Microsoft in the usability department and, basically, take over the world in the operating system sphere. Now, I'm a total Linux-phobe myself, although I've always been interested in trying it out because I know that it's an inherently more stable OS (or kernel, or whatever) and I dig supporting open source in principle and practice whenever possible (the LJ platform is open-source too, for those who didn't know -- the code is here). The reason I'm scared to try Linux is because I've heard it's not user-friendly and very command-line-oriented, which I don't have time (although I do have the inclination) to learn right now.

Anyway, he basically threw down what I thought was a very well thought-out manifesto on OS usability in this blog entry, and he had me clapping with joy at his insights, until I read some of the 139 comments on the entry (bear in mind it was just posted TODAY!) that went fairly far to cut down his logic, in my opinion. Now I don't know what to think, but boy, did the guy ever inspire a good discussion.

And I still don't know if I have the guts to try a Linux install. Maybe I'll partition off a piece of my second (older) hard drive and try it out sometime. If a majority of those comments are to be believed though, it sounds like I could derive similar technical benefits with increased usability by getting a Macintosh with OSX on it instead. (As a side note, I know that LJ founder brad uses the Debian distribution of Linux on all of his desktop machines, so if I try anything, it'll probably be that one.)

Incidentally, while reading the comments on that entry, I came across this supposed blog from a Microsoft developer, which appears to be a sham but was funny to read anyway (though tough for me to understand as a non-developer).

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chaizzilla November 3rd, 2005
get thee a knoppix cd to boot linux off :)


chaizzilla November 3rd, 2005
i remain a heavy bash/screen user out of preference for the simple familiarity than ongoing exercise of skill, a la like now, most LJ stuff gets written in vi (^E) opened from lynx opened with urlview (^B) from mutt). i loved configure enough to detest package managers and think debian users were just creepy, but that was after earlier ridiculous adventures compiling (install) stuff on *nix. the tech field has moved on from when it took effort for creative folks to avoid it coz they're smart and picked up enough computer skills for creative purposes to not have to beg for decent jobs where there were also likely to be similar folks for coworkers and employers happy to pile on more free classes (and thus money, security, etc). tech has become so technical that it's not enough to make it work more solidly than easily, or easily than solidly.

that is context for how i learned to stop detesting package managers and especially the creepy debian cult and would love how easy stuff installs on debian if it wasn't so unnervingly easy. i'm used to not really wanting to want a freaking clue what happens while using windows, the best way to relate to it is a tool you can quickly replace (coz you keep your stuff somewhere else) if it's screwing up incrementally. installing grass (humongous gis inherited many versions ago from the military) on debian is easier than installing just about anything on windows. that isn't even supposed to be true, but it is now. windows is definately benefitting from the effort to be good enough to be a heavy decision to leave, so who knows. there's lots more power over on the linux side, but you're a lot more on your own for the motives to use it.

whonowz November 3rd, 2005
I've been a Mac user for about 4-5 years now. If not mistaken their OS 10.x is Linux based (could be Unix). The gui is extremely user friendly (the early Mac gui is what Windows was originally based on) and you don't ever have to use the terminal command line at all (in fact most folks don't). Red Hat and others put out nice gui's as well if you wish to retain the PC platform. Yes, it is extremely stable.

iamom November 3rd, 2005
Yeah, I'm pretty sure that the kernel for OSX is Linux. The main reason I'm loathe to move to Mac, though, is that I'm a heavy user of keyboard shortcuts. I very seldom use the mouse except to launch applications and to click on hyperlinks; most of the menu commands I use are keystroke-driven through Windows. And I've heard that Macs are very mouse-driven GUIs, which isn't bad, just different. So I don't know.

It's not.

(Anonymous) November 3rd, 2005
OSX runs on the xnu kernel - which is basically the original NeXTSTEP MACH kernel with a bunch of FreeBSD and OpenBSD code added to it. Not a drop of Linux to be found.

Also, the Mac is very easily used via keyboard shortcuts. The shortcut panel is quite extensive.

iamom November 3rd, 2005
Of course, right after writing my previous comment, I googled mac keyboard shortcuts and came up with this extensive list. So maybe it's just that I'd need to learn new ones, is all. :)

(Anonymous) November 3rd, 2005
Yeah, I'd had enough with MS stuff, plus my Pentium would give me the blue screen of death just a little too often, for no apparent reason. Thought I'd start small and bought a blue iMac back when OS9 was still king. It was a huge learning curve and for about week and I thought I'd made a big mistake. After the initial shock it's been smooth sailing and went out and bought an iBook when my wife took over the iMac. :-) Upgraded to OS10 and that is really nice. Have also heard they make more software for Mac/Linux now than any other platform. Another nice thing is the relative lack of viruses.

whonowz November 3rd, 2005
Forgot to sign in.

chaizzilla November 3rd, 2005
bsd 4.4 (unix)

hey iamom you might dig this book, i dig it in a fairly non-geek (not tech geek anyway) way:


(Anonymous) November 3rd, 2005
I used to use Mandrake Linux on my old Dell. It's an incredibly stable, and incredibly complicated system. But once you have the basics down it's pretty cool. I found my initial problems had to do with getting all my drivers installed. Before you install it you should know exactly what kind of network card/sound card/video card etc. you have.

Although you do need to know a fair bit of command line commands you can pick them up pretty easy. Also the GDI (at least that's what I beleive it is called) usually has a pretty windows/OSX-ish feel and allows you to run many of the most common commands.

You also have to understand that when you download somthing you have to first compile it before you can use it... At first this can be a be tedious and complicated, but I'd imagine you would pick it up fast.

I guess it's just a matter of weighing the pluses and minuses.


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