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Looking at the computer experience

Filed under
Linux

I want to start at the basics. Just like when I first went to computer networking classes and we worked on Novell Netware. Yeah, it's been awhile.

Question, what is a computer?

Answer, a computer is the material components connected together to perform specific tasks. ie... motherboard, memory, processor, video card, usb ports, serial ports, monitor, printer, mouse, keyboard, etc...

Question, what is an operating system?

Answer, an operating system is a collection of software that allows all the material components of a computer to communicate and interact. It creates an environment in which other software applications are able to interact with the computer in order to perform their intended purpose.

Question, what is an application?

Answer, a software application is software that works to allow a person or another program to perform tasks. It interacts with the operating system and the computer to complete those tasks. ie.. a word processing application allows users to type on a computer as if it were a typewriter then perform other tasks for editing, storing and/or printing those document files.

Now as I was going through my training as a network technician/administrator those years ago, our world, as network folks, dealt primarily with the computer and the operating system. Few end user apps really held much interest or use for us except where they related to connectivity, network access, etc...

Back then, Windows was still in DOS and by the time I was done, Windows for Workgroups 3.11 was the new thing.

Believe it or not, Netware wasn't altogether too different from Linux in my opinion. It was all command line, you had dang well better make sure your syntax was correct and people still complained that Windows wasn't playing nicely.

Back then we talked about our role as support providers for users on a network. What do people "do" on a computer?

People need to access or "log in".

People need to create and store files locally and on remote network servers.

People need to access services and devices both locally and remotely such as printers.

Back then, there was somewhat of a divide between systems. Local computers were said to run a Disk Operating System. Servers ran Network Operating Systems.

Local computers ran Windows or Apple. They were focused on the GUI and that's what the typical user saw and interacted with.

Servers ran Unix or Netware or the like and were command line oriented and it was considered a digital sin to suggest using a GUI on a server.

Now Linux is based on Minix which is based on Unix which is historically known as a network or server operating system.
My perspective is that Linux is suffering from the same problem as Windows and even Apple to a degree, but mostly Windows which is trying to be everything to everyone. Essentially, it wants to be the powerhouse, stable and reliable server operating system but be a user oriented, local machine operating system at the same time.

Let's go way back to mainframe days for a minute. The server operating system had to be a multi-user system by the nature of it's design and implementation. Lot's of people sitting at dumb terminals all logged in to the server and frequently, the same apps, at the same time.

Windows came in and initially, reversed that. One computer meant one user at a time. There was no way you were going to log in multiple users simultaneously. MS had to adapt Windows as it went along when they realized that the "one computer, one person" rule they had set wasn't going to be sufficient.

Linux is coming from the opposite direction. It has multi-user access natively built into it. It IS a server OS before it is anything else. The adaptions have to come from the single user end for Linux.

Hundreds of Linux distributions have been created trying to make that ideal mashup of Linux into a single user like OS.

Why do people use computers? To do things, to complete tasks. What aspect of the computer do people interact with the most? The apps that allow them to do those tasks.

Linux needs apps. You might say that Linux has apps, thousands, tens of thousands of them. You would be correct. At the same time, Linux developers who want Linux to be used by people other than technicians and developers need to understand that the average user wants "pizazz".

Finally, we have some apps that are nearing that goal. Open/Libre Office is one for example. Thunderbird, chrome, firefox. We need more however, many more.

In terms of solving the ideal single-user system for Linux, I think Android has the ticket. They make use of the powerhouse capabilities of the server operating system, but only show the user the stuff they want to use, the apps.

A smartphone is not a laptop or desktop and people like to keep familiar things familiar. The efforts by many developers to turn desktops into smartphone look-alikes is going to backfire because end users are usually smart enough to know they are not using a phone.

To be honest, I don't think Linux will hit it's desktop "sweet spot" until the main user interface/menu is voice driven and frees the monitor real estate up to show the user only the apps they tell the computer they want to see.

More in Tux Machines

Embedded/Devices

Leftovers: OSS

  • The FCC Builds Open-Source Video Calling For The Deaf
    The FCC has gotten behind a new platform that helps the deaf talk to each other over video link. The idea of Accessible Communications for Everyone, or ACE as it’s being called, is that it lets all kinds of different apps talk to each other. It’s kind of how you can email anyone without worrying what app they use, only for video, and text and audio, all together.
  • Why Intel made Stephen Hawking's speech system open source
  • NodeConf EU all set for blarney in 'Nodeland'
    It's NodeConf EU time again -- the third annual gathering of what is hoped to be 400 of the top influencers in Node.js at Waterford Castle from September 6th to 9th.
  • 3 steps for planning a successful open source meetup
  • Starting in September, Chrome will stop auto-playing Flash ads
    Google has announced that, beginning September 1, Chrome will no longer auto-play Flash-based ads in the company's popular AdWords program
  • Apache Software Foundation Makes Lens, a Big Data Tool, a Top Level Project
    Whenever the Apache Software Foundation graduates an open source project to become a Top Level Project, it tends to bode well for the project. Just look at what's happened with Apache Spark, for example. Now, the Foundation (ASF), which is the steward for and incubates more than 350 Open Source projects, has announced that Apache Lens, an open source Big Data and analytics tool, has graduated from the Apache Incubator to become a Top-Level Project (TLP).
  • Intel Pumps OpenStack Up
  • LibreOffice 5.0.1 released, to keep the momentum going
  • First Update to LibreOffice 5 Lands
    The Document Foundation today announced the first update to the milestone LibreOffice 5.0 released a few weeks ago. This is a bug fix release bringing over 75 commits since version 5.0 was unveiled August 5. It is recommended that those using the 5.0 branch upgrade their LibO installs with today's update.
  • Salesforce Aura ventures into open source -- to a point
    Salesforce's splashy new UI, the Lightning Experience, is more than a pretty face. It was built with Aura, the company's open source UI framework, available for use independent from Salesforce's services. With Lightning -- and Aura -- Salesforce emphasizes how users can design applications that not only look great, but plug into more than Salesforce. Where, then, does Salesforce's open source offering end with Aura, and where do its own services begin?
  • Infosys talks open source, cloud and value
    Last year, when Infosys hired Abdul Razack to own the company’s platform division, he came with a mandate to use open source first. Eleven months on and Infosys Information Platform (IIP) is flourishing with 120 projects on the go, some proofs of concept, many moving to production, but with open source at their heart in most situations.
  • Eclipse Foundation Moving to Donations to Support Open Source Projects
  • Intel invests $60 million in drone venture
    Intel is investing $60 million in UAV firm Yuneec, whose prosumer “Typhoon” drones use Android-based controllers. Intel Corp. CEO Brian Krzanich and Yuneec International CEO Tian Yu took to YouTube to announce an Intel investment of more than $60 million in the Hong Kong based company to help develop drone technology. No more details were provided except for Krzanich’s claim that “We’ve got drones on our road map that are going to truly change the world and revolutionize the industry.” One possibility is that Intel plans to equip the drones with its RealSense 3D cameras (see farther below).
  • Friday Free Software Directory IRC meetup: August 28 [Ed: out fo date now]
    Join the FSF and friends every Friday to help improve the Free Software Directory by adding new entries and updating existing ones.
  • What Will Become of the World’s First Open Source GPU?
    Dr. Karu Sankaralingam, who led the team’s effort at the University of Wisconsin, where the project is based, says that building an open source or any other hardware project is bound to incur legal wrangling, in part because the IP almost has to be reused in one form or another. Generally, he says that for open source hardware projects like this one, the best defense is to use anything existing as a base but focus innovation on building on top of that. He says that to date, AMD has not been involved in the project beyond a few individuals offering some insight on various architectural elements. In other words, if the team is able to roll this beyond research and into any kind of volume, AMD will likely have words.

Security Leftovers

  • Friday's security updates
  • Security updates for Thursday
  • nsenter gains SELinux support
    nsenter is a program that allows you to run program with namespaces of other processes
  • Iceland boosts ICT security measures, shares policy
    Iceland aims to shore up the security of its ICT infrastructure by raising awareness and increasing resilience. And next to updating its legislation, Iceland will also bolster the police’s capabilities to tackle cybercrime.
  • A Project to Guarantee Better Security for Open-Source Projects
    Open-source developers, however, can take steps to help catch these vulnerabilities before software is released. Secure development practices can catch many issues before they become full-blown problems. But, how can you tell which open-source projects are following these practices? The Core Infrastructure Initiative has launched a new "Best Practice Badge Program" this week to provide a solution by awarding digital badges to open-source projects that are developed using secure development practices.

Hortonworks and NSA