Posts Tagged 'failures'

It’s time to face it: Linux is not coming to the desktop. Ever.

While it was great fun trying to convert my mother to Ubuntu, this experiment ended up in a complete failure. Linux is not ready for the desktop, and never will be, too.

After I installed Ubuntu, she did give it a few tries. However, as can be expected when one gets to know a new operating system, she was not immediately at home at her new system. For example, as she was used to from Outlook, she expected new emails to automatically appear in her inbox, while Evolution expected her to click a button. Sure, Evolution can probably be configured to check for new emails automatically, but what did she know?

The problem was not that she found the way Ubuntu did things better or worse than the way Windows did it. No, the biggest hurdle was that she did not at once know how to do what she wanted to do. And instead of asking me how to perform certain actions, she quickly rebooted into Windows to do whatever she wanted to do.

As time passed by, she would no longer even bother booting into Ubuntu – she’d rather go straight to trusted ol’ Windows. Occasionally, she’d use Ubuntu per my request. However, not having used it regularly, she’d already forgot how to receive new emails, giving her yet more reason not to boot into Ubuntu next time. I’ve now reached a point where I no longer even bother trying to make her give Ubuntu another shot, as I know it is not really voluntary anymore.

So, Ubuntu is not the promised Linux distribution that will bring open source to the desktop. However, I do not think this is because Ubuntu is not good enough. Heck, even if Microsoft were still shipping Windows ME Ubuntu would not conquer the world.

On the other hand, I am sure that in a few years, my mother will have shelled out a lot of money to purchase Windows Vista and a computer that can handle it. In fact, she will even get to learn how to use it.

Why? Because Windows Vista will be forced upon her. Heck, she, and most “normal consumers” with her, never expected anything else! In a while, a lot of her applications will no longer work on Windows XP (e.g. virus scanners), and even Windows XP itself will no longer be supported. She will start receiving .docx documents that she cannot open in XP. Slowly but steadily, Windows Vista will be shoved up her throat.

When that happens, the easiest step to take is to buy a new computer. With Vista. Without her data. It probably is a lot of work to transfer all her documents, and I have already decided that I won’t be the one to do that. However, data or no data, she will be using Vista.

She will also have to put up with the quirks of Vista like she does with XP’s now and didn’t with Ubuntu’s. She will get to learn how to retrieve her newest emails and she will learn to click the Windows logo in the bottom left-hand corner instead of the “Start” button.

Bottom line: most people, including my mother, are not going to switch operating systems unless they have no other choice. It’s just more effort than their computer is worth to them, which they’d rather solve by coughing up a lot of money. Better functionality is not desired as their current setup just “works” (i.e. it does what they have learned to expect it to do), and ideological superiority is not worth the effort either.

I will keep maintaining the Ubuntu installation on my mother’s computer, though. When her Windows XP installation starts to deteriorate and she is thinking about buying a new computer, she might use Ubuntu as a temporary solution until she bought herself a new system. And perhaps, just perhaps, she will like it so much that she will abandon the idea of a new pc for a few more years.

Besides, a friend from my football team approached me of his own accord, asking which Linux distribution I’d recommend to him as he’d like to give one a spin. I recommended Ubuntu, but 7.10 did not work for him due of some graphics driver problem with which I cannot help him either. However, he is willing to try again in two months, when 8.04 is released. There still is hope 🙂

In reply to comments

The following comment by byrningbunny is a very accurate illustration of my conclusions:

Vinno, the old do want to learn new things. A few generations ago, we were the ones that pushed the production of desktop pcs, video games and personal apps. (Not to mention your bosses who created the departments and some of the companies you work for.) I think he’s on to something here. I’ve been interested in changing for years (enough so that I clicked on this link), but my experience with Windows has been so fraught with frustration that the idea of trying something new, with which I’ve had no experience, and with which I have little prospect of support if my computer doesn’t work properly, is clearly enough to keep me from making the move.

Who really has time to do the research and discover all of this info? And why would they? What would prompt them to do so? Honestly, Linux has never been presented to the general populus. It’s a techie secret and I’m guessing you all enjoy that. Step outside for a sec and reread these comments from an “old person’s” perspective. A dual-boot OS?!! Really. How many of your parents have any need to know that is even possible? It sounds very condescending. So now imagine you are a non-techie, old person who needs support. You don’t know the correct terminology and the first question anyone ever asks you is, “is it plugged in?” How anxious would you be to join in the fray?

I’m just saying . . .

This article also resulted in a few comments, the general gist of which I am a bit disappointed in. They mostly seemed to be motivated by a personal preference for a certain Linux distribution. I’ve tried to reason why I thought Ubuntu has not convinced my mother, and concluded that this is a problem with any Linux distribution, or every operating system that is not Windows, for that matter.

Also, I do not appreciate comments about my intellectual capacity. Thanks.

Anyway, I’ve replied to all the points made that I read up till now:

To all those who are saying I should’ve used a different distribution: you didn’t get the point. I can repeat this experiment for ever if I were to use all Linux distributions/BSDs. It wouldn’t have mattered, my mother wouldn’t be convinced.

Perhaps KDE might be more familiar with the menu in the bottom left, but it is still greatly different. It wasn’t just the email retrieval problem – she also didn’t know were to find her documents, etc. All other operating systems are just inherently different.

Plus I think that you are judging by one user experience whether the Linux desktop is ready or not. That’s just rubbish man – talking crazy here.
It’s all about habit. People are creatures of habit.
Your mom was probably using M$ Windows for all of her life. Its not that easy to just switch to Linux a long time Windows user. And believe me Linux is ready it is the Windows users who are not ready because of their monolithic minds

Exactly. Even if Linux is “ready”, it’s not coming to “the” desktop. Right as it says in the title.

If you are trying to push an operating system on someone, you could at least find out how to freaking open mails automatically in a program and help them out with it. How hard would that be?

Yes, I have supported my mother helping her to do things as much as possible. However, this meant that she first had to call me (if I even was around), which means waiting, which she didn’t want to do. I did a lot of configuration, I really did, and you can read about that in the previous posts.

Also, I wasn’t really trying to “push it on her”. In the beginning, she seemed open to the idea, so that’s how it started.

Technology is still new, the old wont want to learn new stuff but few generations and we all will be using linux.

A few generations and we won’t even be using computers the way we do today 😉

In fact, I’m really wondering how I’m going to keep up once I’m 50 years old 😛

My mom uses only Linux. SuSE 10.1, because that was what I was using at the time. She had used Windows 98 for FreeCell and the Internet. She enjoys more games on Linux and uses Thunderbird and Firefox. I’ll be back home for her 80th birthday this summer and will set up a web-cam and ssh so I can log in remote to add new features and games. Her PC is dual boot but she never uses Windows.

But that’s not really average, is it? Most people nowadays (or at least, here in the Netherlands) are used to Windows XP, being the only system they have ever used. It’s vendor lock-in that is hurting Linux’s uptake.

Also since your article was about ubuntu wouldnt it have been more accurate to title it “ubuntus not coming to the desktop ever” rather than linux.

No. In the article I’ve clearly outlined why I think Ubuntu did not manage to convince my mother, and it wasn’t because of it being Ubuntu. It was because it wasn’t Windows, because it wasn’t forced upon her. This holds true for all Linux distributions.

Unfortunately, what you said is true: Most people will default to their familiar OS/technology. That’s why we still have fax. But hopefully, that’ll decrease more and more, and the barriers become more broken down.

I hope so too 🙂

Just one question: Why did you want your mother to use linux? If she is fine with using Windows it’s allright. You’re talking about OS not religion. There’s nothing wrong with using Windows. People are used to and that’s OK. They probably even like the danger of viruses and wasting time for systemadminastration like defragging etc.

If you really wanted to make her switch to linux you would have had to talk to her: About FOSS, Restriction, Community, Security etc.

I did. I tried to make her use Ubuntu because she was open to the idea in the first place. Unfortunately, she has changed her mind now that she knows the effort it requires. Apparently, even if she might like the ideology behind open source, she does not think it is worth it.

However, rest assured that I will keep stressing the moral advantages of open source 😉

About those cheap computers…

A few people have pointed out that Linux might still enter homes through being pre-installed on cheap PC’s, and I have to admit that that does sound viable. In a few years, this might be a way that my mother still gets to use Linux.

When people buy a cheap computer, they are expecting to have to invest a bit more effort and thus might be willing to get to know their new system. The danger is that the experience on these low-end machines will be associated with the operating system, thus making them unwilling to run it on their high-end machines. But let’s not be pessimistic and assume their is a bright future for Linux ahead 😉