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Re: <nettime> OFSS01: First Orbiten Free Software Survey
Amy Alexander on Tue, 23 May 2000 18:00:36 +0200 (CEST)


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Re: <nettime> OFSS01: First Orbiten Free Software Survey


> > All that said, the open-source movement seems to be waking up,
> > albeit slowly, to the needs of the end-user. The article at
> > http://sendmail.net/?feed=interviewkuniavsky entitled "It's the
> > User, Stupid", was interesting.... It was ironically, posted on the
> > website of sendmail, one of the most notoriously difficult-to-use
> > open source programs....  c) The article, addressing basic usability
> > issues, appeared in January 2000. Just curious - what took them so
> > long?
> 
> They were probably avoiding the issue because they know that, in the
> case of sendmail, user-friendliness is a lost cause. :)
> 
> But why not consider KDE or GNOME, two high-profile projects that have
> made huge efforts to appeal to non-technical users?
> 
definitely, those are more oriented toward end-users than sendmail. that's
clear, and it makes sense, though i do like to bring up this issue of
'server-side stuff for everyone' because that puts distribution and
control over content into the hands of more people.
true, sendmail and other mail servers have gotten more and more likely to 
work for people out of the box now, so people must be working on this.  
i think finding and installing a user-friendly linux distro 
and getting mail and web servers running is a lot more feasible for a newbie now than 
it was a year ago. 

anyway, as for KDE/Gnome... yes, they are very user-oriented, but even so,
i've had problems with both of them that were sort of typical of
open source trickinesses, (for lack of a better term.) and that led me to 
wonder again, if the end users were assumed to be programmers or at
least sysadmins. 

for example, the kde problems i had : after your previous post about
KOffice, i wanted to try it on my RH6.0 system. (last year's version.)
there seem to be no RPMS (binaries) for it, because it's a year old
distro. so i tried to compile it from source. but it said i didn't have
QT installed. (i do but it's the old version.) so i found where they said to 
download QT from . it took forever to compile but it compiled fine. 
but i got the same message from KOffice. so i did an ldconfig. 
then i tried again to compile Koffice but it gave me errors  
in a different place, and i realized it didn't like my version of KDE. 
since KDE comes in many different pieces (core, libs, etc...) i didn't
want to dowload and install all those RPMs, (i like to use RPMs
for these things rather than compile from source, and anyway, who knows
what lurked if i tried to compile another one! :-) ) so i just decided
to forget about Koffice til i'm ready to upgrade RedHat. (which will happen
after i've researched that 6.2 doesn't have the severe bugs that
6.1 had, and when i have time to do it.) but hey, 6.0's only a year old! :-) 

now, of course, me being a linux lover and an experienced unix user, i can
handle these little disappointments (though i wish i didn't
spend so much time fiddling with them instead of my project ;-) ). 
for me, the main problem is, i know others who
want to use it, who have projects that would be well-served by a unix
environment, etc.  many of them have basic unix experience - some of
my past and present students, e.g...  some of them
have already dove into linux on their systems, with varying
results... so i have to be cautionary
about my recommendations to them, knowing they will run into
problems like this installing even a word processor, and will have to
be prepared to understand docs like the KDE Faq (which is well written
but, how would they understand lines like:

"3.4. Where can I find information on compiling Qt or the KDE libs?
For Qt, have a look at the file INSTALL in your Qt root directory."

(how would they find their QT root directory?)

so i think, if people are happy with the apps that come with your distro,
they are in good shape, because there are companies out selling distros 
to average people, and so they get that bundle to work...  
but when you try to add things outside the distro, which
many people will need to do, it is still a geek's
world, largely. there are all sorts of reasons for this (i don't think
kde sells a Koffice CD of course... ) 

again, if that's the intention, then that's the intention. but then, i think
we have to temper the "Open Source for Everyone!" trumpeting with a little bit 
of explanation.

-amy

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