When I got the idea to write this article I decided to do some searching and see what other people were saying about ease of use in Linux. I found the results of my searches to be less than fruitful, see for your self:
What came up were a few useful writings but nothing significant in terms of Linux ease of use. It has been said that 2003 will be the year of Linux on the desktop so why isn’t there more information out there about Linux ease of use? Hopefully, this article will explain why.
One of the keys to getting Linux to break out in the desktop operating system market is going to be ease of use. If something is a burden to use people won’t use it. But, Linux wasn’t originally created with ease of use in mind. In fact, Linus Torvalds created Linux as a replacement for minix because he seemed frustrated with using minix while a student at the University of Helsinki. Back in 1991 when Linus started building the first versions of the Linux kernel, ease of use for the random computer user wasn’t in mind. Why, because random computer users were virtually non-existent. Either you knew PCs well or you were learning more about them everyday. It was originally considered a hacker’s operating system (back when hackers were hacking code for good and not widely considered evil beings). As a matter of fact creating a GUI for Linux probably wasn’t even in Linus’s mind when he first started coding Linux. A friendly GUI for everything seems to be the most acceptable implementation of ease of use. So eventually window managers were created to work in Linux and desktop environments for Linux took off. The Linux community is at the point where the afterthought of ease of use is becoming a big issue because the dominance of Linux in the server room is obvious but the dominance of Linux on your desktop is non-existent the only way for that to change will be to improve ease of use in Linux.
One of the many reasons I’m moving to Linux is because I’m tired of the cookie cutter ease of use environment Microsoft has created. Like the great Albert Einstein said in 1977, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” The same holds true with desktop environments. Microsoft is one of the biggest promoters of Linux in a way. They keep making their GUI dumber and dumber while system administrators, computer technicians, and geeks around the world get smarter and smarter. Ease of use in Linux is typically custom created by the user, to the user’s specifications. This is a huge selling point of Linux, in my opinion. The fact that I can start with nothing and end up with exactly what I want because I put it there is one of the key reasons I like Linux.
Linux system integrators and distribution makers are making a huge push in the ease of use department. They’re smart though, you can use their cookie cutter idea of easy to use Linux or you can start at the bottom and work your way up. The other nice thing about the Linux community is that there are numerous distributions all with a different idea of ease of use. This means that there are a multitude of Linux cookie cutters while Microsoft still has one. I am by no means saying that Linux should not be made easier to use, it should be. But, people should always have the option to create their own ease of use, if they want to. The key to Linux ease of use will not be one vision of what ease of use is. That is what Microsoft wants the Linux community to do. The key will be multiple ideas of ease of use incorporated into one using the best ideas from all involved while giving users the option to use just one or any combination of those ideas, while still giving the user the ability to fully customize that ease of use environment.
Implementation of ease of use often times sacrifices security. So many Windows users have easy to use, insecure environments. Linux is security oriented and Linux users enjoy that inherent security. The Linux community should not even think of sacrificing the security of Linux operating systems to make them easier to use. This has been done already in Windows and Windows users and system administrators around the world feel the pain of that ease of use implementation more and more everyday. The biggest hurdle in making Linux easy to use will be to make it easy to use and secure at the same time.
Linux wasn’t designed to be easy to use. But, the beauty of Linux is that it can be made easier to use. The Linux community will make things as simple as possible, but Linux shouldn’t be made simpler.