What Adam Williamson fails to understand

Story: Revolutionizing desktops without causing user revoltsTotal Replies: 12
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Sep 15, 2011
3:29 AM EDT
is that an unusable desktop is an unusable desktop, and Unity and GNOME 3, and earlier versions of KDE4 were and are unusable desktops. Users are entitled to complain when their choices are,

try to use the new desktop design that no longer delivers the functionality the old version delivered, and the new functionality no longer fits the user's use case.

change to a different desktop, and spend time trying to learn it, only to discover that while it fits the user's usecase in most aspects, there are areas that simply don't fit or are missing altogether.


Sep 15, 2011
6:49 AM EDT
As much as I (we) carp about M$, I'll give credit where due: They didn't force people into the new desktop in Windows 95.

Granted, it was an install choice, and only a re-install could change it. But it was better than the Hobson's choice we currently have from GNOME and KDE.

Sep 15, 2011
8:03 AM EDT
Quoting:They didn't force people into the new desktop in Windows 95.

Yeah? Well, MS didn't need to pick a fight with its users, they knew their users are going nowhere else. Windows users were locked and there were no other options except Apple, and Apple machines & Mac OS weren't as cost attractive as PCs with Windows. Windows was basically a free download or a copy away if users wanted it.

So I wouldn't go around giving them too much credit.

Quoting:But it was better than the Hobson's choice we currently have from GNOME and KDE.

I have no idea what Hobson's choice is, but GNOME & KDE, at for now, are giving the choice of keeping what you have as long as you need (frozen of course) until the new DE is mature and you have enough time to adjust to it. And don't forget all of the other choices available to the Linux users. Sebastian said "the sea weed is always greener in someone else's lake[ah] :-)


Sep 15, 2011
8:30 AM EDT

A Hobson's choice is a choice with only one option offered.

It originated with a stable owner who offered people renting horses the choice of any horse they wanted so long as it was the horse nearest the door.

That, btw, was a practical matter: It was a way to ensure that certain horses weren't constantly out while others rarely were.

A more modern variant would be the old bit about Model T Fords: Available in any color you want so long as it's black.

Sep 15, 2011
7:40 PM EDT
Apparently, a large part of Hobson's clientèle was made of students (in those days all young males) who were rather notorious for using the horses rather hard. Of course, the worst offenders were precisely those students who wanted to pick out the likeliest (ie. fastest and/or best-looking) horse for themselves.

Sep 16, 2011
9:50 AM EDT
Quoting:A Hobson's choice...

Thanks for the info. Dino. Who needs Wikipedia when we have you. :-)


Sep 16, 2011
7:24 PM EDT
I've known Adam Williamson since his Mandriva days, I've worked with him in the Fedora Project and, while I'm still stung by his Vancouver Canucks beating my San Jose Sharks in the Stanely Cup playoffs, I still think he's the smartest guy in any room he walks into.

I mostly agree with tracyanne's statement about desktops -- functionality was (and is) lacking, agreed, but where we part ways is that I do think that GNOME 3, Unity and KDE 4 were (and are) "usable" desktops, insofar as people could "use" them despite flaws, real or imagined. Judging from Adam's response to Bruce's article, I do think he understands.

Further, I think Adam's response to the article takes a very close look at what GNOME did and why -- much of what he wrote in his comment were things I was unaware of. So while you may agree or disagree with how GNOME developers brought GNOME 3 to life, it does paint a clearer picture of what the processes were.

So while I still don't think GNOME 3's current path is the right one, I understand a little better why they're going in the direction they're going. Thanks, Adam.

Sep 16, 2011
9:11 PM EDT
Quoting:But it was better than the Hobson's choice we currently have from GNOME and KDE.
Given the high degree of transparency in GNOME 3, Unity and KDE 4.7x and the presumption that neither of these are competing for marketshare, another model of consumer/user choices certainly does not apply here; the Theory of Markets with Asymmetric Information, a.k.a. "The Market for 'Lemons'" economic model.

Among the fine websites that describe the renown "Market for 'Lemons'" theory are these pair:

- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Market_for_Lemons

- http://courses.temple.edu/economics/Econ_92/Game_Lectures/11th-Lemons/market_for_lemons.htm

Byfield writes in the piece:
Quoting:On the one hand, free desktops need to innovate steadily, both to attract developers and to stay competitive with proprietary rivals. On the other hand, although many developers disregard users, unsatisfied users may move on and risk reducing a desktop project's influence.
Byfield paints this picture for developers of free desktops vs. their "unsatisfied users" as quite the reverse from the "Market for Lemons" model described and illustrated at sites such as the above. Instead of the quality of free desktops getting dragged down to "lemons" through sub-optimal user choice, the quality of free desktops is likely (and eventually) to rise to the high and acceptable level that users wish to use.

And that perceptive rise in desktop quality and acceptance is likely to be a very POSITIVE development !


Sep 16, 2011
9:37 PM EDT
Larry I disagree, GNOM3# is unusable, for my use case, as is Unity, as was KDE4 (that being the reason I abandoned KDE for GNOME on my desktop). Even though GNOME met most of my requirements I still had to consider what I could do without.

GNOME3 and Unity may one day become usable, though I doubt it, they appear to have decided we must all use tablets and other touch interfaces. On the other hand KDE4 appears to actually - Finally - living up to the promise that got me so excited, and so disappointed, when early versions were released, and not only failed to come close to that promise, but also abandoned all the functionality I depended on.

Sep 16, 2011
9:53 PM EDT
I hear what you're saying, tracyanne, but I don't agree with your definition of "unusable."

Define "usable" or "unusable" -- To me, if it runs and can be used, whether you choose to or not, or even though you might have to learn a whole new skill set (worst case scenario) or if it "operates" but not to in a way you're accustomed to, it's still "usable" -- maybe not by you but by someone.

If it doesn't do anything, can't activate programs, doesn't advance past xorg.conf, or doesn't allow you to do what you need to do because -- important point here -- because it provides you with nothing but a blank screen, for example, then it's "unusable."

The degree to which you can "use" it might vary. But saying that GNOME 3, Unity and KDE 4 were/are "unusable" when people were/are actually using them is inaccurate.

Sep 16, 2011
10:31 PM EDT
As you have pointed out it depends on your definition of usable. For my use case it's unusable. I might point out here that XFce is also unusable, by my defiition.

GNOME 2 is, and KDE4 looks like it might finally have got there... with the exception of the anoying way Dolphin and Konqueror have been implemented, although they are usable.

Sep 16, 2011
10:38 PM EDT
My definition is any interface as limiting in control as Apple, so Unity and Gnome 3 is pretty unusable practically no matter how you intellectually steer it. Anyway, let the market speaks for it self, I will resign my criticism once I start seeing Gnome3 and Unity interface in abundance on tablets. Otherwise it doesn't seem to make sense to design a mobile interface to be used with desktop productivity devices. I'm actually impressed with the Unity eye candies stuff, but I can't see how it will help me on daily basis of computer uses, from my limited tests of Unity and Gnome3, I never thought "wow this makes my life so much easier". I still have a difficult time getting on with Mac OS desktop environment, which Unity tries to emulate.

With that said, even Microsoft is jumping on ARM. It's time for Ubuntu to push for an 'official' ARM version, with their Wayland and Unity. I think their interface will be more received there. (Just makes sure not to get sue like Samsung.)

But I disagree about KDE4 not being usable.

Sep 28, 2011
1:06 PM EDT
tmx wrote:But I disagree about KDE4 not being usable.

By most accounts, the early versions of KDE4 were indeed unusable, for several reasons: missing functionality, but also bugginess and instability. When you expect your computer to run all day without crashing, something that crashes often is indeed "unusable".

That's pretty much all fixed now, finally.

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