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Hazardous or good arguments about desktop usability

Fredag 01 desember 2006 07:48, skrev Andreas Tille:
> I never ever understanded the attraction of KDE regarding
> usability.

Usability is a huge field to cower. It's not exact science. But there
are guidelines and experiences out there. This experience you
could utilise. I think the OpenUsability project[1] is real good. A
nice interview with Jan Mühlig[2] gives a summary of the work:

1. http://openusability.org/
2. http://dot.kde.org/1164982554/

I need to warn Andreas Tille and others using arguments as "I never 
understand the attraction of KDE regarding usability." Such statement 
don't address usability at all. Unfortunately it could even fuel the 
Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) stating that Linux desktop as 
inferior to Windows and Mac.  Even if Andreas does not wan't that, 
Microsoft and their fans know to exploit this. They falsely belief 

  "With Windows you get one solution, you have one desktop who
   everyone knows. It's easy to learn. You don't need to educate
   users. Switching to Linux is just much more expensive".

It's even worse. The Microsoft fans get help from "Linux purists"
talking negative about other desktop solution. Of course Andreas, your
statement was just a personal viewpoint. Your intention was not to hit
Linux. Anyway, In my experience the statement about KDE has wider
ramifications (and likewise if the same had been said about GNOME or

* Let me explain.

It's reported that Miguel de Icaza and Nathaniel Friedman has visited
different school district, planning to deploy KDE desktop, and tried
to get them over to GNOME. There are still scarce resources when it
comes to deploy large free software installations in schools. Instead
of reusing knowledge and experiences to win new municipalities over
from Windows, they uses their resources to fight Linux and free
software where Linux it's already winning. 

When Miguel and Nathaniel attacking other free software solutions,
they also fuelling the FUD against Linux. They present the common
beliefs amongst Windows purists, helping them to promote products from
Microsoft. So what Miguel de Icaza and Nathaniel Friedman have done is
good news people betting their salary on Microsoft. The Microsoft
purist will do whatever it takes to stop Linux. They will tell that
Linux is not ready for the desktop. You have probably heard all the
other FUD too. Microsoft marketing department don't need to use
billions discrediting Linux, the Linux users does it them self.

As reported earlier (at the Norwegian Skolelinux list), also the
Novell sales organisation discredit free software developers, talking
unfavourable about contributions done voluntarily.  Sales
representatives from Novell says that the translations done in GNOME
sucks, because a potential customer discovered the term "kill" in a
menu (not translated to Norwegian as it should). This customer was
using Windows. Then Linux was not acceptable on the desktop. This is
one of the reasons the head of Novell in Norway characterises
Skolelinux to be a kid room project, and warns about the long haired
free software developers.

Strangely, the quality work done with KDE translations in Norway
already removed the "kill" in menu items long time ago. It was
replaced by the Norwegian word "avbryt" (en: kill -> no: avbryt). We 
also gave feedback on our language lists, wich is shared by translators 
of free software, also the GNOME translators. But Novell did not 
contact the free software developers. Instead they discredit the 
voluntary work, not telling us, just complain and diskredit other Linux 

Side story: Novell promotes GNOME as their enterprise desktop. That
was one of the issues that made Novell loose the Munich case to
Debian, insiders tells me. After Munich had required KDE, Novell told
that they would ditch the KDE support. If Munich should choose SuSE
they had to change to GNOME. The city did not want to be looked in
once more. That was one of the main arguments against upgrading to a
newer version of Microsoft Windows. Munich also evaluated the
enterprise capabilities in KDE to be better than GNOME. Just a couple
of weeks after Novell ditched KDE they told that they had included it
once more. IBM and SuSE put a lot of money into winning this
case. An smaller German firm won the contract with Debian. 

This shows that Linux looses when free software people discrediting
free software contributors and solutions. By favouring one desktop
solution on the cost of other solutions, you are attacking a major
strong point on Linux. I've compiled a list of usable arguments to
prof that Linux is as good, or even better than Windows:

  -- Whether the windows system are Gnome or KDE, both desktops are
     completely understandable and useable for people. 

     1. Schools using Skolelinux are satisfied with the choice, and
        would do it again[3]. Kids experience that Windows XP is more
        difficult to use[4]. Reports from schools tells that it's more
        easy to switch from Windows to Linux than to switch from
        Windows 3.11 to 98 (many schools still uses Windows 98).

        3. http://ec.europa.eu/idabc/en/document/3373
        4. http://reallylinux.com/docs/linuxforkids.shtml

     2. Usability report states that Windows XP is inefficient
        compared to Windows 2000. Fabian von Schéele and his team

          [...] faster processors and the latest operating system does
          not automatically lead to an increase in productivity. As
          the study demonstrated, this can in fact be
          counterproductive, a result which cannot be ascribed to the
          users' lack of familiarity with the new software.

          5. http://computersweden.idg.se/2.139/1.44327 
          6. (pdf page 41)

     3. Two days of training is enough to switch from Windows to Linux
        on the desktop, which is the same as what most enterprises
        budget for a Windows/MS Office version upgrade: one day to
        acquaint users with the desktop, and one day to introduce the
        OpenOffice suite.


  -- Having different desktops is a good thing. Computers are used in
     a variety of situations from mobile phones to large computer
     clusters. To choose just one software supplier is hazardous.

     1. If your company uses a supplier of mission critical tools. An
        oil company will not by drills in a marked with just one
        single vendor. It's a requirement that there are two different
        vendors when buying drills.  Computer departments stating that
        they will stick to Windows, are an hazard to their
        business. When it comes to communications, industry or other
        businesses, everyone takes the multi vendor approach. Even
        Linux does that. Why do you by all your mission critical from

     2. This richness of choices makes it possible to tailor the
        desktop to different users and groups of users. A healthy
        competition between different desktop projects makes it more
        easy to find a desktop tailored for your need. Schools,
        municipalities, public and private companies has deployed
        Linux desktops with success due to the tailorability.

     3. The Portland Project[7] makes it easy to configure and give
        native look and feel on Linux desktops. That makes developers
        choice of GUI-tools less important. They can chose the
        developer tools they want, and support native look and feel
        without excluding others.

        7. http://portland.freedesktop.org/wiki/Portland
        8. http://www.linux.com/article.pl?sid=06/10/11/1355201

     4. If you using Microsoft, it's is no thing as one desktop. It's
        at least 7 different desktops launched the last eight
        years. The different versions are not compatible. Major
        products as MS Office just runs on two versions of
        It's was not maintainable to install MS Office 97 on Windows
        XP. You can't maintain MS Office Vista on Windows 2000.  In
        general Microsoft does not support older versions of Windows
        with their Office suite or developer tools.

        Free software usually support all versions since Windows
        98. One example is OpenOffice.org which makes it possible to
        delay Windows upgrades with 2-5 years.

  -- When using Windows only, your organisation should probably update
     the hardware every 3-4 year, Microsoft says. Gartner says 5 year
     before upgrading Windows hardware. Using Linux you can use the
     same hardware for 8-10 years. Huge real life deployment and use
     of Linux shows a decrease in hardware cost by 50% compared to
     Windows. Linux uses less memory, states independent reports.

     When changing to MS Active Directory and Exchange on Vista, it's
     64 bit support only. You have to ditch your 32 bit
     servers. Computer department in general does not calculate the
     real cost of upgrading to the next version of Windows, when they
     complain about the cost switching to Linux. Many computer
     department has not calculated the operational cost at all. 
     Independent reports done shows that Linux is 80% cheaper when
     comparing software cost. Linux is 50% cheaper comparing hardware,
     and 20% less expensive comparing cost of maintenance.

* The important highlights

-- The desktop is about having easy access to basic applications as
   browser, e-mail-client, multimedia tools, educational programs
   etc. It's not about KDE, GNOME or Xfce. People focusing on one of
   the desktops over the other is dangering our effort getting free
   software deployed.

-- At least half the Linux users use an other desktop than what you
   prefer (or the persons you know). To choose one desktop over
   another could alienate a lot of users. It's hazardous to depended
   on one single vendor. To favour one single desktop is counter

   All the desktop effort with Linux proves the success, utilising the
   tailorability for different users. In a world with different
   people, we need to make different solutions addressing the
   different needs and expectations. Proprietary software licenses
   does the opposite. Just read the Microsoft End User License
   Agreement, and you will see that you can't tailor the system to
   your end users need as easy as with free software.

-- The strongest part of Linux is the desktop competition, where
   developers, users and others makes evolutionary
   improvements. Working together in a joint effort, learning from
   each other, will improve the Linux desktop even better. 

   In my view developers and users should spend more time learn what
   could be gain by joining projects as OpenUsability:


   It's about bridging the gap between developer and users. I've got
   an old article on that from Jonathan Grudin, who now works for

To end my line of argument about choices, I'm addressing an important
issue, making the improvements available for all:

   Some "free software" projects also treat software as it is a "dead
   end". The tailoring done in the project is not committed upstream
   to the source. Patches and improvements are stopped along the
   way. In my view projects as LinEx (Extremadura), Ubuntu, meDUXa
   could do more making patches easy available upstream. This was
   debated at Debconf 6:


   I know that both Ubuntu and meDUXa targeting this. Ubuntu is
   improving. LinEx has told me their interest in contributing
   upstream to reduce the maintenance cost. meDUXa will release willow
   the Debian recommendations. I hope that everyone takes the time to
   commit contributions upstream. It will make tailoring and choosing
   the preferred solution more easy for everyone.

Best regards 

Knut Yrvin

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