Every new year is proclaimed “the year of GNU/Linux”. For me, this has been reality for the last three years. But every time you hear someone say that, someone else will promptly drop the question “is GNU/Linux ready for the desktop?”
I now, since a couple of nights ago, believe that to be the wrong question. It is a relevant question to be sure, and for a lot of people, including me, the answer is a resounding “YES!”
But a couple of nights ago I got a call from an old classmate. She had computer trouble. Her son had caused a minor accident, with the result that the webpage she was currently browsing now showed up at 50% scale. Her son had accidentally managed to have Firefox zoom out, making the text tiny.
Before presenting what I believe to “the right question”, let me just first make it perfectly clear, my classmate is not stupid in any way, she’s simply just an average computer user which, for one reason or another, doesn’t stray out of her usage patterns. I.e. she never explores the features of her system or applications. That is fine, not passing judgement, just making an observation. If anything she has proven to be an attentive “student” at those times she has come to me for help.
But immediately after trying the most basic of things (restarting the application) and realizing that the problem persisted, her next thought was “oh well, I guess I’ll have to stop using that website”. I am glad she had a change of heart, and called me instead, since it was an easy fix. But now, presenting my very own question:
“Is the user ready for the desktop?”
I, obviously, think this was an easy fix. Her knowledge, or lack thereof, made her second reaction be surrender. “If at first you don’t succeed… surrender?!” Obviously, for her this wasn’t an easy fix. Now I don’t have any statistics on the subject, but small things like this seem to happen all over my circle of acquaintances (ok, it doesn’t happen nearly as often in my group of friends from ITU, but sometimes is actually happens there as well). Either I have a nack for befriending computer illiterate people, or … well frankly, users aren’t ready for desktop computers.