Wednesday, 26 November 2008

It's the interface stupid

Over the past few months I've been blogging about things like Zonbu and Easy Neuf, building a whole range of linux vm's, installing linux on old ppc imacs and also playing with a little Acer Aspire One I've got on loan.

Building the imacs was useful - it demonstrated just how little cpu and memory you needed to run a desktop to do the standard things - a bit of text processing, web mail, google docs, and in my case a usenet news reader for the two posts a week I'm interested in. I'm now convinced that an eight year old machine can make a perfectly useful web centric device.

Likewise having built various vm's I've come to the conclusion that gnome and xfce are usable windows managers. Fluxbox and IceWM, both of which work and use even less in the way of resources than xfce are uable, but their a bit rough round the edges, and the desktop manager needs to be slick. Apple did this with aqua and convinced a whole lot of people that unix on the desktop was a viable option precisely by not mentioning unix and hiding it behind a nice interface. Microsoft to an extent tried to sell Vista on the idea that it had a slicker look than the XP interface, and of course we all know that the version gnome that ships with ubuntu has more than a passing resemblance to XP.

Interfaces need to be intuitive, and while they can be different from what people are used to they can't be too different - and everyone knows xp.

And that takes us to the Acer Aspire. A fine machine - so fine I might even buy one, but the interface, based on xfce is dumbed down - so dumbed down it doesn't look like a 'real' operating system, and consequently makes the xp version of he aspire look like a 'proper computer'.

Run xfce natively and it looks like a 'real' machine. The functionality is exactly the same, the applications work the same, but the interface makes it look second rate.

Now linux has a scary reputation out there involving beards sandals and unfortunate trousers. As I said, Apple got away with things by not mentioning that OS X is really BSD, so I'm guessing Acer decided that using Linpus was simple and wouldn't have a support load - the fact that if you want to do something sensible, like install skype, you're back playing with the command line shows that its dumbed down too far - a simple version of xfce (or fluxbox - after all if you can develop linpus you hve the resources to sleek up fluxbox) would have been better.

It makes it look like a real computer - and that's want people want, they want to look different, not a freak.

1 comment:

dgm said...

It turns out that a number of other distros run on the Aspire One, including Debian. Follw the link and go to the bottom of the page for information on OpenSuse and Ubuntu, to name but two.