Public Thinking: How should distros be?

I am putting this in THIS blog because I dont want to confuse the Foresight users. this is more of a public thinking and not fully thought through: In Foresight we constantly discuss how a distributions should be and what people should expect from a free desktop. Today I discussed with Ken the idea to develop a usage centred distribution. So lets say you are a musician – then we should allow people to apply changes that makes Foresight most usable for them. Sometimes this means that you must replace a sound server – and make some things work less well. You might want to add realtime functionality to the Linux kernel, etc.. This discussion was inspired by the discussion that Linus started on Desktop-architects. Some words about his flame war: I think Linus has not chosen his words wisely. But I think he does not want to harm GNOME – no he must love GNOME if he gets so emotional (and even sends patches). I dont agree with him on 100% – but I see his point and its a fact that many people think like him. You can not discuss with a user what he should feel about using GNOME. You must accept the view and you might either change things or say. ok no one wants this besides this user. I really think that GNOME is a very good desktop, although it still misses some functionality. The thing is that this often are just a few tweaks (maybe 3 lines of code) to make it really great. And there are some use cases that it just does not work with. I think there is a danger in focusing on some use cases. As I also pointed out in this thread I think a desktop should potentially target ALL potential use cases. Its up to the user to get along with the possibilities.

So back on the track: The idea is to provide the user interfaces that allow him to configure his desktop. Maybe also whole computer. This is about more than just backgrounds and themes. A user could say:
my computer should be optimized for maximum video performance – as she does video editing – or somebody may want to have a lean desktop that starts up as quick as possible and also wants to have a minimalistic desktop without beagle, etc. – From these use cases one can then decide what to give the user. I think it makes absolutely no sense to start with. We give you GNOME and then tweak. Maybe sometimes KDE or XFCE is better for a specified use case. This has to be tested thoroughly if possible. it should also be able to switch use cases or desktop modes. Right now the best thing one can do is to have different users and switch between different desktop enviroments (with GDM). I think this is just not enough. We have other profiles like power consumption. I think we already see some directions (so evince PDF viewer halts the screen saver during presentation mode – cool!). I often had the problem to get a screen saver while watching a video. I hope these issues get solved similar.

There are many options: Parents might want to have more control about what the kids do on the desktop – and even be able to reset the desktop to a simple state if their kids have messed it up (without having to work on files). Desktop snapshots (like those Vmware does) whould be cool.

The discussion will go on in the future. We are just at the start of this. The ultimate goal for us at Foresight is to give the user the best use experience he can get. And although GNOME is very usable – we are not acting in the sense of the user if we limit ourself. Also lots of new users come to Foresight who want to use either KDE or XFCE. The user experience that Foresight gives should include the full potential of the software world. It should also include commercial applications. Not because it is better then free software but because some users want to use it – and we should make it easy for them to do so. But we also should provide much more documentation on board to help users. To enable them to decide what they should use. For instance tell them about Ekiga although they COULD use Skype. Tell them about the pros and cons.



Filed under Free Software, Linux

2 responses to “Public Thinking: How should distros be?

  1. Just to signal a typo error in the second paragraph “what to gibe the user” is written instead of “what to give the user” i suppose.
    Thanks for all these interesting articles 🙂
    And thank you also to have joined the Foresight community from the Fedora community 😉

  2. thank you and thank you.

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