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Re: Initial survey... some thoughts

On Wed, 17 Jun 1998, Roger Dingledine wrote:

> question from "how can we make linux better?"

From the developmental point of view I liked to see it from this point: 

We need some new kind of people to *test* linux to get new ideas how and
which way to develop it. 

One possibility is to find out, which kind of people in general use
computers and what they do with it... But that is already probably known,
because we can gather ready made facts, about how many of different
operating systems and applications are sold worldwide? 

So, one possibility is to find out these kind of users' profiles and to
show that linux can do the same and something more and cheaper and better? 
We coulkd perhaps try to ask, what is missing in people's systems?

(To take in consideration the kind of applications I personally mainly
in my opinion at present it isn't a question of a wordprocessor being
better or worse (for example word or wordperfect) but 'taste' and PRICE. 
Earlier I got used to wordperfect, but it was easy to shift to use msword,
because WP didn't work on this old mac, but msword did. I can easily do
the same things with both of them. (Earlier I used an IBM-clone at work.)
(The person, who instructs the users of wps here at this university is
said to instruct people only in WP's use now, because it is now so much
cheaper; one year ago it was otherwayaround.)) 

The other way to look at it could perhaps be to take the linux more or
less as it is now. See, if it can do the things people do in general, make
different packets for different user profiles, find a group of new people
to give it a try... I mean we don't need to make it much better, but easy
to take in use... I have something quite similar in my mind as RH or
suse, but basic installation should be easier as well as the

Linux can already beat the others in one important area: price. Perhaps
that is already enough given we make it easy enough to install by normal

the problem is that even many people whom I know, who have
used a computer 10 years as their main working tool have never installed
any os or even application themselves in their computer. It is an other
person (the person in charge of all this working-place computers) who has
done all the program installations. Probably the only way to spread linux
here is to get it on some new computers they buy.  

All those people, whom I know to use a computer at home, bought the
machine with an os (you know which oss)  already installed. Why should
they change it? They already paid it and and it is easy to buy more
applications if they need them... 

So the 'normal end-user', who is capable and willing of installing an os
her/himself is not existing? 

(I just asked a friend (, who has probably a little bit
more experience with computers than I,) if he wanted to try my RH5 on his 
machine... he doesn't have a cdrom-drive... forget it... Probably the
installation media is important as well...)    

> Here are some brainstormed ideas for other things to ask. 
> 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)
> * 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?)
> * 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 think that all the properties listed above are important. And it is
perhaps not the right question to ask, which one is the most important or
how important it is. Probably it is better to try to do things that way,
that the user can select himself an user profile considering networking
and applications and such things, which are yes/no choices. I mean such
things which are already available with linux (like the existing
distributions already do.) But probably those kind of properties should be
made possible to install by just answering 'yes'... In my opinion all the   
things, which some developer invents can be important to someone. It is
perhaps difficult to know beforehand how important something is, before
people have used it? 

The other way to ask about things is to ask, where the problems are with
people's systems. To ask, what people are doing with their machines and
what more they wanted to do and try to give them solutions to their

> --Roger