Douglas Milewski (dacuteturtle) wrote,
Douglas Milewski

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Linux Thoughts

From Linus Torvalds, "I personally just encourage people to switch to KDE. This 'users are idiots, and are confused by functionality' mentality of Gnome is a disease. If you think your users are idiots, only idiots will use it. I don't use Gnome, because in striving to be simple, it has long since reached the point where it simply doesn't do what I need it to do. Please, just tell people to use KDE.

Disclaimer: I use Gnome at home and like it.

Linus is demonstrating his "programmer centrism" here. He's entirely correct in this statement, yet missed the point entirely. Simplicity <> stupidity.

Which interface you use is all a matter of payback, rather than intelligence. In the discussion on slashdot that follow, three interfaces were mentioned: Gnome, KDE, and shells. In the field, rather than in theory, interface that you choose depends on the payback that you get. Payback depends on which distinctive job that you do. An administrator is completely different from a developer and completely different from an autocad guru or a doctor reading radiology images.

Most system administrators spend most of their time configuring computers and making them more efficient. That's their passion. That's their payback. They spend all their time using the tools that the interface can give them. Their least-common-denominator is the shell. Naturally, the richness of the interface matters to them. Given that interfaces change over the years, verbal memory is more powerful and synergistic with the shell and shell scripting, and that programming and text provide the most consistant and powerful features to an admin, admins gravitate towards a shell interface. This gives them a good payback. The shell is their stock and trade. From this, they can do everything.

For most programmers, the ability to customize their environment to their working style gives them the most payback. The ability to work efficiently, and effectively, is important. They bend the interface to their own working style, so that no matter where they go, they don't have to relearn their whole interface multiple times. Each new computer that they go to, they just drop in their defaults and keep working with maximum familiarity.

For the average user, they get their greatest payback from the apps that they use. Most gravitate towards email and web, or whatever program that they use as their stock and trade. For them to not have full functionality from Gnome or the shell doesn't matter much. What they need is photoshop, or four monitors to read DICOM images, or a familiar email program that handles scheduling. They put their efforts into mastering these tools rather than mastering the OS, or bending it to their will. They get no payback from the shell or a highly configurable interface.

Still other user's do something ELSE that his their profession. X-Ray techs know how to use X-Ray machines and follow their orders. For them, computers are entirely side-tools. They put little effort into learning them because they aren't necessary.

Once you look at it this way, you can see that everyone is actually acting very smart.

My 15 years of field experience bears this out. Techs that hop between computers tend to keep their interfaces default because their stock and trade is the default interface. Server admins swear by the command line. Programmers customize their desktops constantly, always tweaking their working environment to be better. End-users rarely customize anything other than the background picture, and their web browser. However, they usually have some specific app that they work with. Secretaries swear by Outlook and calendaring. My image processors know their processing software. My docs know their image reading software and the dictation system. My trash person doesn't know computers at all, but she knows where the trashcans are.

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