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SEUL: Init'l survey stuff - org'n (looooong. Sorry.)

This message is getting really long - I've summarized the 'survey' in a
separate email message and will send that out shortly. We can use that
as the 'clean' copy.

[Watching Linux watchers watch Linux...]
> I think this is a neat idea, separate from the survey idea. I have no
> idea how I'd start quantifying the process of sitting there watching
> somebody work, especially without disrupting their activity. On a different
> note tho, it would be pretty straightforward to write a little background
> daemon that keeps track of the use of the computer, which windows are
> used and how much, etc. We would write the app, then go find a couple
> hundred volunteers who would grab it, run it in the background, and forget
> about it for a while. It would periodically (manually or automatically)
> submit reports to us, along with the user's description of him/herself
> (experienced, cad worker, irc junkie, whatever) so we can categorize it.
> There's certainly a lot of space for data in there. I wonder if we could
> make enough use of it for it to be worthwhile.
     I guess it depends on the question you want to ask. On one hand,
having some basic info on user activities would be useful. On the other
hand (tekkie mode: ON), keeping a large ('blind') repository of user
activities would probably be a boon to further development in that we
could see via the survey just how intensively linux is being used. If
some sort of error tracking mechanisn were integrated, it would
facilitate getting rid of kernel or application bugs, etc. [ie. log
startup, poll every 120 seconds to open sessions, log shutdown - logs
without shutdown are crashes, etc.] (tekkie mode: Off)
     Please set me straight if I'm off the mark, but does this sort of
resource currently exist? If not, man, it would be useful to build...

     Seems to me though that we're starting to see two avenues opening
up for the group: the online user survey and the user monitoring
project. IMO, both of these projects are worth pursuing as they will
both provide needed information which we couldn't otherwise get. Given
that both projects seem to fall within the mandate of our group, we
should be able to pursue both of these.

[Survey stuff...]
>>User Info
>>     Experience with OS, which OS used, how long, what uses
> OS's. Plural. I'm curious about experience and uses of all sorts of
> os's -- linux, dos, os/2, win31, win95, winnt, mac, other unix (should
> we just lump them? probably not quite that much.) User info will also
> include name, email address (contact info), age, profession, income (?),
     Yeah, we _need_ to get a good idea of the demographics of potential
users - it would give an excellent marketing tool to the advocacy
groups, and would probably be useful to linux-friendly commercial
software companies.

> Additional section: System Info
> as per Karsten's suggestions:
>  - do multiple people use this system?  At same time/ w/o logging out?
>  - do you have a computer network? (Opens option for NCs or terminals)
>  - is user privacy important (one user can't read another's stuff)
>  - is user security important (one user can't change another's
> files/settings)
>  - do you have access to tech support/skilled users
>  - current eval of tech support issues
> I think this section could use a lot of fleshing out, and could be the
> main part of the survey, if we can figure out what we need to ask. The
> privacy question is a very good way of approaching the issue of
> enforcing permissions at the OS level. I'll give some more thought to
> coming up with more examples of this.
     Agreed. I guess we're at the point where one of us should be
collecting these emails to keep a draft survey list up-to-date and
available. I don't mind doing it - but I'm starting to think that such
an animal might better be hosted on a web page rather than just sending
it via email all the time. 

>>Word processors
> ms word, wordperfect, latex, applix's wordprocessor, staroffice's...
> how many do we list? I guess we ignore editors (emacs, vi, etc) in
> favor of word processors -- things that can produce well-formatted
> stuff on paper.
     Good point.      

>>     Uses: Which of these are important / not important
>>        WYSISYG: 1-4
          able to read other file formats:
          Spelling check:
          font choices:
          able to integrate graphics

> >
> >Spreadsheets
> >     Experience with ss's, which ones used, how long
> >     Uses: Which of these are important / not important
> >        Carrying out simple calculations 1-4
> >        Being able to copy formulas across a range 1-4
> >       Using predefined formulas (ie. Average, Min, Max, etc.) 1-4
> >        Being able to read and save other formats 1-4
> >        Being able to do some statistical analysis 1-4
> >
> >Databases
> >     Experience with db's, which ones used, how long
> >     Uses: Which of these are important / not important
> >
> >Programming Languages
> >     Experience with pl's, which ones used, how long
> >     Uses: Which of these are important / not important
> >        Simple scripts to automate common tasks 1-4
> >
> >System Utilities
> >
> >... and so on. What do people think?
> So basically we're trying to get a user profile, and through that we
> get a better sense of what we're trying to sell Linux to. I guess it's
> not an unreasonable approach. I'm wary of delving too far into the
> details of eg which database system the person uses or how much experience
> they have with python, because it's not as apparent to me how I'll use that
> information to figure out what that user *wants* in his ideal system.
> (Granted each user wants to have the tools that he is familiar with
> installed on the system. But I'm more concerned with which functionalities
> are desired rather than the names of the desired applications.)
     What I was aiming at was to get a good idea of what functionalities
are sought by the user; Granted, we would have to build the survey in
such a way where we wound _NOT_ having to infer these functionalities
from the software choices but rather directly from the survey questions
     I share your wariness about getting too deep into details of
'uncommon' (ie. something not generally used by the average user)
programs; I originally saw the db's, languages and system utils as being
separate optional surveys and wanted to include them for the sake of

> I'm also wary of turning this into a "please list the applications you
> want in an operating system, so we know what to package with the
> kernel". Granted that's a worthwhile goal, but it's a different
> question from "how can we make linux better?"
> Here are some brainstormed ideas for other things to ask. We'll have to
> put some effort into couching them in terms similar to the questions
> Karstin lists above.
> This is pretty much off the top of my head; I'm going to go sleep soon,
> since I've been up way too long and I suspect I'm incoherent. :(
> How important is:
> * being able to use (read/write/both) other file save formats
> * being able to get (and modify) the source
> * reliability (doesn't crash often)
> * prompt bugfixes (or hey, bugfixes at all)
Reminds me of what you call someone who does beta trials for MicroSoft -
A crash test dummy...

> * backwards compatibility (can i run old apps? do they run well?)
> * being able to install/uninstall/upgrade single applications cleanly
> * dependency checking (is there a windows counterpart to this?)
     Don't rightly know. Then again, I can't say I know exactly what
dependancy checking is; I'm willing to wager that it's the checking for
the modules refered to / required by the program while being compiled or

> * being able to run it on old/slow hardware
> * consistent user interface (things behave the same way even comparing
>   between two separate applications)
> * PnP support in hardware
> * availability of a wide variety of apps (commercial, freeware?)
> * software/hardware vendor support
> * being able to connect to the machine remotely
> * being able to run graphics remotely
> * running servers (mail, httpd, samba, telnetd, ftpd, etc)
> * speed!
> * using a system that is compatible with your neighbor's
> * being able to run something like doublespace (dynamic disk compressor)
> * being able to taskswitch between applications quickly

> (I'm trying to think of windows plusses here too. Somebody who actually
> likes the thing want to help me out? :)
     Hey! I resemble that remark!! :-)

     One thing (amongst others :-) NT has that you haven't mentioned for
linux is a good 'inspection' or diagnostics program (winmsd,
f'rinstnace) to give you access to all the system information you need
(hardware / software / IRQ's / DMA's / etc.). Some of this would be
simple to implement under linux, but (forgive my ignorance - I still am
learning linux) the seeming lack of centralized repository of system
information (Registry). Mind you, there are all of the *.rc's, and I
imagine that even these could be searched for and through for requisite
     Given that we're aiming to make linux attractive to those who are
not all that familiar with the system, I think it is also important that
users can find the information they need about their system quickly.
This may be a useful 'first recommendation' for software for linux in

> (Actually, I should be trying to think of plusses for every OS -- os/2,
> mac, etc as well.)
 (mac) using a system which protects the user from making potential
dangerous changes to system configuration

Pete St. Onge - McGill U.  Limnology - Fun with Ropes & Buckets
pete_st_onge@iname.com         http://wwp.mirabilis.com/4322052