[sf-lug] Linux Hater's Blog

Bill Kendrick nbs at sonic.net
Wed Jul 30 17:37:20 PDT 2008

On Tue, Jul 29, 2008 at 06:17:31PM -0700, JW wrote:
> On Tue, Jul 29, Bill Kendrick wrote:
>  > DAMN toothpaste makers and car manufacturers for giving me choice!!!
>  > ;)
> Bill, as a real newbie to Linux, may I offer my point of view?

Oh of course.  I was mostly making a joke.  I really _do_ find, sometimes,
that too many choices are annoying.  However, once I land on that
One Perfect Thing (be it Tom's of Maine 'wintermint' or Kubuntu),
I'm usually pretty happy in the longrun.

> Having tried several distributions, the real problem is inconsistency, 
> flakiness, and reinventing the wheel.

Out of curiosity, what part of the _distro_ is causing this inconsistency?
Is it _within_ the distro?  (i.e., Gimp looks different from KWord and they
both look different from OpenOffice.org Impress?)

Or is it between distros which provide the same interface?
(Kubuntu's K menu has this structure... KDE on Debian has a K menu with
a different structure)

Or is it between the different desktop environments you land in on these
distros?  (i.e., KDE on Kubuntu vs. GNOME (I'll assume) on Fedora vs.
XFCE (I'll assume) on Pupply Linux)

Oooor...  is it something lower-level on the system once it's installed
(Stuff goes in /opt/ vs. /usr/...  one kind of packaging (apt & dpkg) versus
another (rpm and, what, yum?))

Or, is it to do with the differences between the actual installation

> Why do we need to have so many interfaces that all do the same
> thing, so many icons and menus that need to be re-learned each time?

In some cases, freedom.  KDE developed because Qt was a nice UI and
people wanted a CDE-like environment.  GTK+ developed as a MOTIF replacement,
if I recall.  The GNOME created atop GTK+ because of Qt's licensing issues.
(Which are now pretty much moot.  Dear GNOME folks: please pack your bags
and go home.  ;^) )

In other cases, "I can do better"  (Childsplay vs. Gcompris is an example.)
Or, "I have a different goal".  Sometimes it's merely "I didn't know something
already existed." :^)

In many cases, people write code because they enjoy writing the code, and
have an itch to scratch.  Just as other platforms have had zillions of
nearly-identical apps, so does Linux.  (I can name numerous C compilers,
versions of BASIC, word processors, and Space Invaders-styles games... for
my Atari 8-bit. :)  I don't think so much has changed in 25 years.)

> Why so many applications that do almost the same thing and so many
> different file structures?  Even simple things like scrolling and
> clicking are inconsistent within the same distribution, not to
> mention across distributions.

This is why I personally stick with as much KDE-based apps as possible.
They typically _are_ consistent with each other.  I think most GNOME and
GTK+ apps are consistent among themselves as well, but I don't _like_ they
way they work, so I only use a few that I need.  (Gimp and, uh...  nothing
else comes to mind.  Maybe the "Network" config. app.)

> I have had windows plop themselves halfway off the screen for no
> apparent reason, and had no way to recover other than to kill
> processes.

I'd love an example, if only to try to either help, or at least explain
what was going on.  (We all like puzzles.)

Personally, I've found KDE's KWin is VERY flexible when it comes to
window management.  As amusing and attractive as Mac OS X, GNOME on
Ubuntu and Windows Vista are, with their flying and bouncing and firey
windows, at the end of the day I really need something practical, and
KWin is it... it lets me do a lot without using the damned trackpad/mouse.

> The learning curve for each distro seems annoying and unnecessary to
> me.  Again, I am a newbie, but how many newbies are going to go
> through this until they find a distribution they like?

There are no doubt many magazine reviews, YouTube videos, etc. about
the various aspects of Linux, and there are lists like this where you can
get everyone (and their Yellow Puppy Dog)'s opinion.

I'm sure many computer newbies have the same issue with "Windows vs. Mac."
And man, XP vs Vista, even.  Yikes.

> Is there any effort to make the interfaces uniform across
> distributions,


> or do developers reserve the right to fabricate
> totally new gadgets and icons every time just because they can?

Yes as well.  Everything in Tux Paint's GUI was built from the ground up,
for example.  Maddening for me, as the core developer, to maintain.
But I provided exactly what I wanted to, for my audience.

Of course, 6 years later I now find it lacking in many ways.
(Buttons are always 48x48 pixels.  Space for text labels is very limited.
Can't easily swap the direction of the UI for, say, Hebrew users.
Accessibility options that come 'free' under higher-level widget UIs are
not there at all.)

However, because of my audience, it's more important that I provide what
I did, when I did, rather than use something off-the-shelf like GTK or Qt,
which would not be as easy for a 3 year old to pick up, I don't think.

> Yeah, I like having different brands of toothpaste too, but that's
> because they all come in similar boxes, and it's pretty easy to get
> the caps off the tubes.  It's just a matter of how people want to
> spend their time I guess.

It's true.  But if you compare what you get now to what you got 10 years
ago out of Linux, we've already come an amazingly long way.  So it is getting
better.  You're not quite riding a 'bleeding edge' any more, but the edge
is probably still a bit rough.  (Hrm, ouch. :) )

One thing I've found interesting is that the UI environment under a
Windows XP platform is _way_ more inconsistent than the typical KDE env.
I've grown accustom to.

Back when I ran XP on my work laptop at my last job, I noticed major
inconsistencies between numerous tools I used on a regular basis.

  MS Office
  MS Visual Studio
  Yahoo! Instant Messenger
  Windows Media Player

They all looked and felt way different from anythign else on my system.
(Different look-and-feel for things like: window titlebars, scroll bars,
pulldown menus.)

I found it bizarre.  "Uh, don't they have, like, a Windows API to handle
all this?"  Apparently the folks working on Office had their own ideas.
As did the people working on Visual Studio.  Yahoo! IM's scrollbar would
magically turn into the normal, clunky, ugly Windows-style as I scrolled it,
and then magically switched back to a fancy looking bar when I let go of it.
Media Player (much like Apple's Quicktime) felt _totally_ alien.

I've seen screenshots of MS Office on Vista.  It's gotten even worse. :^P

Anyway... man, I can ramble.

"Tux Paint" - free children's drawing software for Windows / Mac OS X / Linux!
Download it today!  http://www.tuxpaint.org/

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