User Experience

Posted on Multiply Apr. 1, 2009, 10:31 PM. Originally an ubuntuforums entry.

Hello. Sashiburi dana…

(If I’m right, the text above means “It’s been a while…”).


Well, it is my first time posting here, after almost two years of using Linux.

Well, I know this will become long-winded, so I’ll put an outline now (so I’ll not be saying things over and over again):

1. First impressions.
2. Why Linux?
3. Personal Views
4. Suggestions
5. Conclusion

Now let’s get rolling.

I. First impressions
The first time I met Linux (and the first time, that is!) is during my third year in high school, when Bill Gates conducted a worldwide raid (well, that’s what the rumors say) on 2003(?) to curtail software piracy. Well, as we all know, Bill Gates’ OS is one of the most pirated (I think the most) software in the world, due to its popularity (please forgive me on this one).
Personally, I would not worry about that thing too much, since I don’t do much computing at that time (well, I don’t have any computer back then ITFP; I just go to the Internet cafe or to the computer lab to do my surfing). But then the admin of the computer lab in school (precisely where I met Linux first) is to lock the lab, reformat all computers to Bayanihan Linux (well, for those who do not know, Bayanihan Linux is a Philippines-made distro, mainly based on Red Hat (I think)), then re-open the lab for public use WITHOUT ANY NOTICE (as far as I know). I know almost all (if not all) of you can relate to my feeling at that time: extreme shock, being stuck in the world of the unknown, the “steep” learning curve.
Long story short: I hated Linux back then. And Bill Gates too. I thought back then, “What the heck with Bill Gates? So picky. Does he think he is that great?” And also I also said: “What the hell? Linux? How obscure. Who uses that? Eeewww!”
Yes, I know. I am one of the many people stuck back then to MS’s grips. You can’t blame me: I only encountered MS products back then: MS DOS during my elementary days, Windows 95 and 98 in my cousin’s computer, Windows XP in the Internet cafes, and Windows 98 and XP on the lab computers before they reformatted it to Bayanihan Linux.
Well, that was back then.
My being tied to MS continued until I reached 1st year college (2007). I still used and worship MS products: Windows as OS, MS Office as the office suite, antiviruses… You know, the typical user. And guess what: before I thought antimalware software existed, I used to throw away malware-laden diskettes WITH DATA to the trash can.
Moving on…
The next time I encountered Linux, this time with respect, is, as I said a while ago, during my 1st year college. Well, forgive me for taking up Computer Science as a course. Basically, all of the computers in the lab have Ubuntu Linux installed, or OpenSuse. Anyway, at first I thought, “Linux again? Boring…” But as the 1st semester progressed, I began to see Linux in a deeper light: what it stands on, what it signifies, what it wants to tell the public. And oh yeah, the OS wars.
Anyways, I did thought of putting Linux back then in my computer when I was infected with the imgkulot virus (I bought a computer back then since I needed it for my course). For those who do not know, imgkulot is a Philippines-made vbs virus that puts pseudo-porn exe files on every folder in every directory it encounters, in EVERY partition, every external media your computer comes in contact with. And think of it, I got infected because of stupidity: I did know that there was malware on my flash drive at that time (heck, I don’t throw away flash drives!), but still, I thought my AV software, Avast! free version, will detect and delete it. Well, I do update the software everyday, so who can blame me? Well, I got to my dorm, plugged in the flash drive with Windows’ autoplay feature on, and well, the rest is history.
At least I knew I was infected. And back then, the virus was HARD, very hard, to remove. I got pissed, and the next day, I went to the university’s computer center and planned to get myself a copy of Ubuntu (I didn’t know about Ubuntu’s site at that time, but I know that UPCC (Univ. of the Philippines Computer Center) gives a free copy of it, together with other Linux distros; you just provide a blank CD or DVD). But they recommended Mint (since I said I am a first-time user), so they gave me Celena (Linux Mint 3.0).
Well, I must say the first days were a pain, especially installing “critical” applications: Wine and GCC. Imagine a Windows veteran installing apps on Linux, and you know what I’m doing: searching Google for the app, going to the app’s site (or to where it is hosted), downloading tarballs, thinking it is the installer, then following instructions on how to “execute” it (but in reality compiling it from source!), then when something goes wring, going to search again on the Internet these things happen, or redownloading again the tarballs… Heck! And I didn’t know there was a very convenient and nifty application called the Package Manager sitting in the menus, waiting for me to click it.
(My God! I’m SO a newbie!)
Well, try to go back to my oldest posts here in Ubuntuforums, and you will see what I am posting about reflects my being a newb.
Anyway, luckily I got over the learning curve, and my addiction to MS products for a while. I’m not a gamer, so it really is not a problem for me to go without games.
‘Til I craved for Vista.
Imagine me saying this: crave for Vista. Well, most EXPERIENCED people will smirk at Vista, but most newbs wouldn’t. Well, who new user does not want Aero, or that slick interface? Sadly, I am one of those newbs.
Also, I had to admit, I am using pirated Windows apps at that time. Well, who wouldn’t want Windows for free, complete with activation keys, and cracked high-quality antivirus software (and other illegally-shared cracked apps) as a bonus? Yeah, you guessed how it is done: Borrowing the OS installer from friends or so-called “friends”, just like what the Linux community does with pratically every distro of Linux, and copying installer files, crack files, patches and serial keys and keygens over the LAN, just like what basically a Package Manager does for the millions of ftee Linux apps.
Well, as I said, I craved for Vista, so much that I installed its Basic and Home editions (pirated of course) on my computer with 512MB ram. Of course it’s slow. And oh yeah, I deleted Linux Mint.
But then, sometime I said to myself, “Enough of this foolishness.” I assessed my needs and said Linux will handle my needs more efficiently than Vista. So I reformatted again and deleted practically the Windows partition, and thus became a dedicated Linux user again, even trying to persuade others to switch OSs.
Then, I bought a 2GB RAM stick, thereby bring my computer RAM to 2.5GB of RAM. And my friend suggested that I use it to its fullest. And you know what that means: installing Windows XP again (and removing Linux Mint again).
So this went on until last year, when again I was pissed with Windows’ slowness and assessed my needs. I thought again that Linux will do things efficiently, and this time partitioned my HD into Windows and Ubuntu Linux. And until now, I’m still in dual boot configuration, since I can’t live without Windows (hey, I’ve games! (Pirated, of course, esp. Spore)). But then, I have learned my lesson, and made Linux as my main OS. I even managed to convert some friends of mine to Linux. Although most of them switched back to Windows, I do have a friend still who uses it on a regular basis. He does have problems (and I do troubleshoot them), but since he switched to Linux (he is in dual boot mode as I am), he is somewhat happier, since the OS runs smoothly on his laptop as compared to Windows XP.

So that’s the introduction (very long indeed). Now the second part.

II. Why Linux?
I’ll just enumerate five.
1. Popularity. I know Linux’s market share’s not that high, and Mac OS X is more popular. But then, what I like is the community backing of the OS. Just what the Mozilla company puts it with Firefox, I do find Linux (every distro so far) to be organic: written and being improved by millions of people, from the famous developers to the humblest end user. What I do like also is that comments are not ignored: they are taken seriously by the community and seen as a path for improvement. Yes, there may be ignored comments and suggestions, and there may be those who are overzealous (Linux fanboys, I’m looking at you), but at least that’s a sign the community is not static, but instead a very tightly-knit and very interactive one.
2. Being free. A very controversial issue indeed, but wherever you look at, Linux is indeed free: free cost (obviously), free imagination (the power to create things and do things how you want, with your imagination (and abilities of course) being theoretically and practically the limits), free association (no company lock-ins), free decisions (able to do things the way you exactly want them), free control (you boss the computer around, not the other way around), free will (more flexibility). Yes, being free is both boon and bane (boon because, well, who doesn’t want to be free?; bane because a very large choice base DOES overwhelm users), but as you go along (and of course being willing to learn), you realize that these things do matter.
3. Responsibility. For me, Linux does help you to become more responsible. Basically, you have the control, so if you break the system, it’s your fault. And you learn from it. Linux users usually don’t make mistakes such as rearranging the files in the WINDOWS folder then calling tech support just because the system won’t boot.
4. Patience. Yes, the counterpart of being responsible. Linux will and does test your patience, especially when things go wrong. But the best part, as I said previously, is that you learn: plus, you also know that there’s a very dynamic community that will help you around, plus an experience to share and the feeling you’re not the only one.
5. Community. Yes, somewhat redundant, but I really think the community deserve a lot of pampering. IMO, Linux would be dead by now if not for the community continuously supporting it, improving it as the years go by. Heck, a month alone packs a lot of improvements, and every distro is constantly having problems which new apps to install, those which should be upgraded, and those which should be rewritten or removed altogether.

III. Personal Views
Personally, I prefer Linux over other OSs, mainly because of the five reasons above. But of course, I do have suggestions and gripes (see next section) about it. Oh well, I am very pessimistic. Let me rephrase that: I do have suggestions and gripes about some distros.
Personally, I miss the following functionality when going over to Windows (sorry Mac fans: I haven’t got my hands personally on a Mac OS, but then I do view it to be in some respects similar to Linux, since Mac is a BSD-based OS):
1. Window shade. This is a very good functionality I recently discovered in Openbox.
2. Always on top. A very handy option for multitasking people like me.
3. Workspaces. Not that much but very handy when many windows are open.
4. Package manager. A Linux heaven.
5. Terminal. My God, Windows’ cmd is very old-fashioned, no wonder MS is ashamed of it.

I do also have problems with Linux, though they are not that hard to troubleshoot. This may be biased, but then I do enjoy the Linux experience over the Windows experience. I do admit I feel the feeling of being in another world while using Linux, the feeling of as if the computer does not dictate what I do, of me being always in control. And I am happy about it.

Now, for the next part.

IV. Suggestions
Coupled with the above is the following suggestions, mostly to the Ubuntu Linux team:
1. Reduce OS size. Yes, 700MB is too big. Personally, I do prefer smaller distros, more of those DIY distros. But then, I do also look for support, so then, after installing the OS, I just uninstall programs and drivers I don’t need then run sudo apt-get upgrade && sudo apt-get dist-upgrade.
2. Try promoting other window managers or desktop environments. Personally, I do think KDE is bloated and GNOME too large and too slow. Thank you for Xubuntu, but then I do think we can do better.
3. Cut backward compatibility. Okay, so this is madness. But then, I do think backward compatibility should be cut back, especially in very legacy systems (maybe 1970s or 80s computers) in order to prevent software bloat, as what van Rossum did with the latest version of Python.
4. Make Ubuntu faster. Though there are many distros optimized for speed, I do think this should be also applied to Ubuntu, since as we all know, it is the most popular Linux desktop distro today (replacing Mandriva). Being fast though sacrifices some other things, so there should be also balance between speed and what the community wants.
5. Promote fast applications. This is somewhat in conjunction with those mentioned above. Usually, fast applications are small and simple, but hey, they do get the job done. But then as I said, there should be balance between speed and what the community wants.

Also, to the community (including me, of course):
1. Spread the word. Very redundant; no explanations needed.
2. Help the devs. Got any ideas? Go to the devs and suggest it to them. Help find bugs. Help beta test software. Write tutorials: short snippets will do.
3. Expose Linux as it is. Don’t highlight good things and dump to the trash existing problems. We shouldn’t be zealots.
4.  Help others in need. Remember, we also were newbies once. Write tutorials: short snippets will do.
5. Contribute by donations, suggestions, code snippets, reporting bugs, etc. you think will be beneficial to the community. (Yes, a culmination of what I have said in numbers 2 and 4).

V. Conclusion (at last!)
As far as my experience goes, my experience have been a very entertaining one. It may be a rocky road, but I did enjoy the bumps. Well, that’s what make life interesting, isn’t it?
Also, as far as I am concerned, the community has also matured as the OS itself. Yes, there are zealots, but at least the community handles them. Also, the community has been very good at responding to complaints, suggestions and recommendations, and I am proud of being part of such a community.
Finally, as we all know too well, what works on you may not work for others. For example, I prefer a slim, fast desktop, while some prefer a full-blown KDE + Compiz desktop.
Kudos also not only for the Ubuntu team, but also for all the people who improve the Linux desktop. As the years go by, I do hope penetration of the market will increase, and more people will be conscious of what Linux fights for, not only just being a free OS suited for the recession, ready to be downloaded off the net.
Also, I wish there won’t come a time we would hear about “pirated Ubuntu, cracked Fedora, WGA-controlled Knoppix, Gentoo activation code”.

So that’s it. My novelette.

Oh yeah, I also plan to post this on my blog, since, well, this IS somewhat a blog.

To the community: thank you all, and I wish we would all get along well. And to me: I hope I don’t make the same mistake again. (You know what that is.)


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