[SOLVED]Making Debian more user-friendly

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[SOLVED]Making Debian more user-friendly

Postby Wheelerof4te » 2018-04-27 18:43

Inspired by this old post and the recent update on Buster's release status, I would like to re-visit this topic. We are currently in 27th of April, 2018th. Ubuntu 18.04 has just been released, and it's looking more user-friendly than ever. Snaps are now a thing, and can be installed via GUI too. Now, I know that Ubuntu is specifically targeting new Linux users, but what if that is just a paradigm we made up ourselves?

Does an OS need to be hard? Is someone superior just by virtue of doing stuff in more technical (terminal-style) way? Can't we make an OS that is truly universal, which is made for everyone, every purpose? I think that Debian has made strides in this direction, but Buster could do more. Aside from streamlining updates mentioned in the status report (especially bugfix updates), Buster can provide users with some simple GUI software for managing most of the system. I don't speak about another YAST, just a set of programs that would provide an user with tools which are designed for Debian.
Of course, this approach has one major problem. Debian has a lot of choices. From DEs, to WM and so many software you can't count it. Thus, making these tools available on just one "default" DE (like GNOME), would be counter-productive.
Debian is not Ubuntu and doesn't have to be like it. Then again, if Debian was user-friendly, what point would there be in Ubuntu?

Feel free to discuss at your own pace. I would like to see the comments of new Debian users, as well.
Last edited by Wheelerof4te on 2018-04-28 18:55, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Making Debian more user-friendly

Postby Bulkley » 2018-04-27 19:12

User-friendly generally isn't. The change to daylight savings time provides a good example. Changing the time on most digital clocks requires a degree in rocket science. For our analog clock I manually move the minute hand one full circle. Some cars have electronic displays that monitor engine oil. I'd rather pull the dip stick. I can check air pressure with a gauge. Etc.

What I'm getting at is that the more complex a computer program, the more intrusive presets. Let's not make things unnecessarily complicated.
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Re: Making Debian more user-friendly

Postby n_hologram » 2018-04-27 19:13

tl;dr, A GUI does not intrinsically provide convenience -- Lubuntu 13.xx proved that, because only half the "convenient" GUI features actually worked. It is more convenient, from a development standpoint, to allow enough choice for a) me to run Debian as a complex, headless server, and b) you to construct your own, user-friendly packages or spin of a mothership distribution. The greatest convenience is choice.

This thread is a continuation of findings from an older user, Troll, as was shared earlier by golinux. wheelerof4te made this thread as a response to one of Troll's comments:
Troll wrote:GUI's were created for user convenience. What would you rather do? Type tar xvf archive.tar /home/user/Desktop/ or *click click click*?

A good example here is xarchiver: a powerful graphical, KISS utility with lean dependencies.
A non-example might be anything that violates those three.
But the best non-example one that violates them and forces me to violate them, too. That is why I switched from Ubuntu. If I wanted to violate them, I would still use Ubuntu.

A second example of convenience might be a lean shell script written because a user invested time and two brain cells into basic shell scripting. One could take it a step further and add a custom command to thunar, for a meaningful GUI experience. The whole process would take about ten minutes, tops. The research may be more intensive if one is new; however, research is healthy and necessary.

I think the meat of your vision is near the end. Nevertheless...

We are currently in 27th of April, 2018th. Ubuntu 18.04 has just been released, and it's looking more user-friendly than ever. Snaps are now a thing, and can be installed via GUI too.

Neat.
Now, I know that Ubuntu is specifically targeting new Linux users, but what if that is just a paradigm we made up ourselves?

No, it's one of their projects' goals.
Does an OS need to be hard?

No.
Is someone superior just by virtue of doing stuff in more technical (terminal-style) way?

No.
Can't we make an OS that is truly universal, which is made for everyone, every purpose?

Yes, if you have the choice to do so.
Of course, this approach has one major problem. Debian has a lot of choices.

Choice is not a problem.
Choice is also not a problem if one either a) makes a list of apps that meet this goal, or b) asks a newbie community which types of apps would be most desirable, researches what debian has to offer already, and constructs something like a blog post or metapackage. If it doesn't make it into mainstream debian, a github or the like would be an appropriate approach.
Better yet, why not teach the newbies how to research on their own?
From DEs, to WM and so many software you can't count it. Thus, making these tools available on just one "default" DE (like GNOME), would be counter-productive.
Debian is not Ubuntu and doesn't have to be like it. Then again, if Debian was user-friendly, what point would there be in Ubuntu?

Ubuntu has its own goals, which it can implement due to choice.
You can also implement your own goals because of that same choice. Unfortunately, it also requires work and research. If that sounds hard, imagine developing a distro.
bester69 wrote:There is nothing to install in linux, from time to time i go to google searching for something fresh to install in linux, but, there is nothing

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Re: Making Debian more user-friendly

Postby Wheelerof4te » 2018-04-27 19:59

Bulkley wrote:Changing the time on most digital clocks requires a degree in rocket science. For our analog clock I manually move the minute hand one full circle. Some cars have electronic displays that monitor engine oil. I'd rather pull the dip stick. I can check air pressure with a gauge. Etc.


You give good general examples on simplicity here, but they don't relate to software and using an OS much. While someone with an interest in cumputers might be inclined to "pull the dip stick", and roll up the sleeves, most people would rather use their applications. Because an OS is all about software applications. That's what you use 98% of the time. And that is what the focus should be on.

n_hologram wrote:The greatest convenience is choice.

I agree. But get too much choice and you get the situation we're in. Many distros, with Ubuntu being the most used one. Many distros that don't compliment each other enough to make cross-distro usage viable. It's the same old paradox of choice in which the entire community is stuck in for at least 10 give-or-take years.
n_hologram wrote:A good example here is xarchiver: a powerful graphical, KISS utility with lean dependencies.
A non-example might be anything that violates those three.
But the best non-example one that violates them and forces me to violate them, too. That is why I switched from Ubuntu. If I wanted to violate them, I would still use Ubuntu.

Making programs more complex just for making them complex, you mean? I see the trend, that's why I moved away from Windows (among other things, like ads in my software). Large companies push the consumers towards more expensive, modern hardware as an instrument of economy. Who would buy new PCs if their old ones could run the apps for many years?
Another thing you point out here, is that xarchiver is simple and powerful. You might think so, but think about that new user. What does he think when he sees it? He thinks it's ugly. And by virtue of being ugly, stuck in the 90's look, it must be bad (for him). That's why user-friendlines means the looks too matter. That's why GNOME tries so hard to look good and appealing to the masses. So that people would be interested in trying it out.
n_hologram wrote:No, it's one of their projects' goals.

Not relevant since everyone can use it. More advanced users appreciate the easier no-nonsense way the same as new people do.
n_hologram wrote:Yes, if you have the choice to do so.

Right now I need a lot of skill to do so, and that is the problem (for new users, not me). Choice is not the problem per-se, it is only a problem when porting my imaginary GUI system tools to other DEs in Debian.
n_hologram wrote:Ubuntu has its own goals, which it can implement due to choice.
.
Ubuntu wouldn't even have to exist if Debian was user-friendly in the first place. If Ubuntu hadn't had the need to exist, then Linux community wouldn't be so fragmented right now. It's a cycle that is very paradoxical from our point of view nowadays.

EDIT: To explain further on GUI system tools. We all know that default Debian install doesn't include non-free frimware, right? What if Debian had a tool for automatically notifying user that his computer needs said firmware? Message would look like this (on install or on first boot, doesn't matter):
Your hardware requires certain non-free firmware in order to function optimally. Debian doesn't supply that firmware because of it's policy [link to relevant DFSG], but you can enable the installation of non-free components easily by clicking *I want to install non-free firmware*.

That isn't so difficult to do, right?
Last edited by Wheelerof4te on 2018-04-27 20:27, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Making Debian more user-friendly

Postby debiman » 2018-04-27 20:05

"user-friendly" is one of those words i can never write without quotes.
it's just wrong.
i prefer user-centric any time.
in the long run, empowerment is much more effective than appeasement.
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Re: Making Debian more user-friendly

Postby n_hologram » 2018-04-27 20:41

I resonate debiman's sentiments. This thread doesn't seem to be going anywhere, either. Complain to the devs, not the users. Implement your own thing. I'll help you with organizing, but discussion without action is a waste of my time.
Choice...is only a problem when porting my imaginary GUI system tools
Last edited by n_hologram on 2018-04-28 01:37, edited 1 time in total.
bester69 wrote:There is nothing to install in linux, from time to time i go to google searching for something fresh to install in linux, but, there is nothing

the crunkbong project: scripts, operating system, the list goes on...
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Re: Making Debian more user-friendly

Postby HuangLao » 2018-04-27 22:51

I have a novel idea....use the OS for the benefits it provides. If you want a hand holding distro, there are many options, if you want a lean KISS system there are a few options. One does not use Slackware and ask why isnt this like Debian with all the auto dependencies and bloat (damn, actually some people do ask that).

Likewise, no reason to turn Debian into Ubuntu, that thing already exists. The thing to keep in mind, is the more you do via GUI, the more risk there is of things going hooey, and the more things are "masked/hidden" from the user, the less chance there is that the user will ever know how to fix it or even figure out WTH went wrong. Remember verbose startup, you knew right away what didn't load and why, without that you get a long pause/wait looking at a splash screen.

Good computing consists of keeping things as simple as possible for as long as possible, Great computing is doing the same and with each release making things even more simple trimming more code/cruft...It appears that some think that computing should be like the false stock market that only increases and becomes more complex....

And old Taoist saying: Take the complex and make it simple!
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Re: Making Debian more user-friendly

Postby 4D696B65 » 2018-04-27 23:52

http://forums.debian.net/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=137323&p=671950#p671950

Wheelerof4te wrote:Only problem Debian has is not supporting non-free firmware by default.


You still don't get it

Head_on_a_Stick wrote:Debian has principles[1] and these are considered far more important than pandering to clueless n00bs :mrgreen:

[1] https://www.debian.org/social_contract
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Re: Making Debian more user-friendly

Postby debiman » 2018-04-28 08:23

I suspect Wheelerof4te is going to make their second grand & final exit soon.
:mrgreen:
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Re: Making Debian more user-friendly

Postby Hallvor » 2018-04-28 09:35

If you want a "user friendly" version of Debian, there is always Ubuntu and plenty of other Debian derivatives. As a bonus, you'll even get many exciting new (user friendly) bugs. :wink:
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Re: Making Debian more user-friendly

Postby kedaha » 2018-04-28 10:36

Wheelerof4te wrote:Does an OS need to be hard?

I press the button on the front of my computer and up comes the desktop system. I browse the web with Firefox, send and receive emails, do office work with LibreOffice Writer and Calc and so on and so forth. I am in userland so there's absolutely need for me to do any administrative tasks at all. Using my system is no harder than using the desktop environment and its applications. In fact I'd venture to say that it's much easier than using Windows.
However, when for instance I do work on my server, that's when the fun starts; I am accustomed to doing a lot of stuff using the terminal which I was unable to do when I was a beginner. It took me a considerable time to learn but it is quite unnecessary for anyone whose use doesn't go beyond normal desktop use.
Wheelerof4te wrote:Is someone superior just by virtue of doing stuff in more technical (terminal-style) way?

Absolutely not. And besides, a desktop user without technical expertise in computing may have other, superior skills in, for example, engineering, medicine, music or cooking. The point is that we can, if we wish, share our expertise with others whose expertise is different. I have helped a number of people, including the elderly, to be in a position to simply use and enjoy a Debian desktop system without their having to set it up and configure it themselves. And they have often helped me with other things I'm not very good at. As emariz put it so concisely in this old forum topic:
There is a huge difference between using and administrating a computer, and these task are mostly unrelated. A competent user may never have to perform an administrative task, and a capable administrator may never be a competent user of everyday applications.
That being said, the installation of an operating system is clearly an administrative task. It involves complex concepts like file systems, disk partitioning and usage, device drivers and firmware, microprocessor architectures, package management, etc. Why a computer user should be familiar with these concepts is beyond my comprehension. No matter how competent he is.

A system installer must not be easy but comprehensive. It is a one-time task that must be carefully and diligently exercised by a person with experience in system administration. 99% of the Windows and Mac user did not install their systems and there are countless satisfied, proficient users among them. Why should these same users be capable of installing an entirely different operating system like GNU/Linux? The expectation is not high but naïvely impossible.

Wheelerof4te wrote:Can't we make an OS that is truly universal, which is made for everyone, every purpose? I think that Debian has made strides in this direction, but Buster could do more.

Debian is for everyone regardless of technical expertise. In fact, since it's used for countless servers, even Windows users benefit from it without knowing it! :wink:
Buster is a stage in the development of the next stable release, not a distribution for production use.
Finally, in general I support the idea of making desktop systems more "user-friendly" as detailed in the paper on Debian Blends at motivation, where:
most target users have no or little interest in administration of their computer. In short, the optimal situation would be that he would not even notice the existence of the computer, but just focus on using the application to accomplish the task at hand.

But it should be noted that Debian Pure Blends, unlike Ubuntu, abides by the Debian Free Software Guidelines, so user-friendliness isn't contrary to the Debian Project whose "common cause is to create a free operating system."
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Re: Making Debian more user-friendly

Postby Lysander » 2018-04-28 10:39

HuangLao wrote:
Likewise, no reason to turn Debian into Ubuntu, that thing already exists. The thing to keep in mind, is the more you do via GUI, the more risk there is of things going hooey, and the more things are "masked/hidden" from the user, the less chance there is that the user will ever know how to fix it or even figure out WTH went wrong. Remember verbose startup, you knew right away what didn't load and why, without that you get a long pause/wait looking at a splash screen.


I was going to say this. In short, to make things easier, complex processes have to be increasingly automated. But the more automation there is, the less control the user has over their system. For the first time in a long time I used a Macbook the other day - it was very slick, but it unnerved me how simplified everything was. It caters for particular audiences and particular use-cases. Some people don't want their OSs to be as automated, they want to learn about the internal workings of their system, they want more transferable knowledge. This can come with a steeper learning curve.

Each Linux distro - each OS for that matter - has a specific ethic. Ubuntu's is ease of use. Debian's is free software. Slackware is to be as Unix-like as possible, etc etc. If people want ease of use [or user-centricity] they can go to Ubuntu, that's what it's there for. Surely we are getting back to the fact that there is no one-size-fits all distro. Really we are just going over old ground.

Does an OS have to be hard? The relative 'difficulty' i.e. research necessary and time spent to get OS A working in comparison to OS B is relative to that OS's underlying philosophy and the user's experience. Your question is awkwardly-worded - it may be better to look at it from another angle and say, "what are the reasons for the choices users make in deciding on their OSs?" The disparities between OS types allow different use-cases to be covered. Whether an OS is 'hard' or not is relevant to those use-cases and the experience of the user.
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Re: Making Debian more user-friendly

Postby debiman » 2018-04-28 13:47

there's another aspect to this:

most so-called "user-friendly" distros work well enough, if the user just could leave well enough alone.
but no, everybody wants to be a tinkerer, but at the same time they want a polished GUI utility for everything, and complain when things break.

Like they used to say in the old days:
He wants a shoehorn, the kind with teeth
People should get beat up for stating their beliefs
He wants a shoehorn, the kind with teeth
'Cause he knows there's no such thing
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Re: Making Debian more user-friendly

Postby Wheelerof4te » 2018-04-28 17:10

kedaha wrote: I have helped a number of people, including the elderly, to be in a position to simply use and enjoy a Debian desktop system without their having to set it up and configure it themselves. And they have often helped me with other things I'm not very good at. As emariz put it so concisely in this old forum topic:

I remember seeing that text somewhere, on one old post. Good read.
Lysander wrote:Does an OS have to be hard? The relative 'difficulty' i.e. research necessary and time spent to get OS A working in comparison to OS B is relative to that OS's underlying philosophy and the user's experience. Your question is awkwardly-worded - it may be better to look at it from another angle and say, "what are the reasons for the choices users make in deciding on their OSs?" The disparities between OS types allow different use-cases to be covered. Whether an OS is 'hard' or not is relevant to those use-cases and the experience of the user.

Yes, I see. The user is given freedom to choose, so he can decide on Ubuntu if he needs OTB experience. Maybe it's hard for me to understand, I have read Debian's Social Contract and DFSG. I see what it's trying to do, but my perspective is from the user's convenience, not his choice. Guess I've messed up there :)

debiman wrote:I suspect Wheelerof4te is going to make their second grand & final exit soon.

Nah, too lazy to do that again. And what would you all do without me, anyway? :mrgreen:

4D696B65 wrote:http://forums.debian.net/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=137323&p=671950#p671950

Wheelerof4te wrote:Only problem Debian has is not supporting non-free firmware by default.


You still don't get it

I do. I just look at it from other perspecive, the noobs perspective. But, Debian doesn't cater to the noobs, obviously.
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Re: Making Debian more user-friendly

Postby Bulkley » 2018-04-28 18:05

Debian is not supposed to be user-friendly. What it does is provide basic infrastructure that can be built upon while sticking to principles. Users can take Debian's infrastructure and adapt it as they wish. Take a look at this old chart. About 40% of the chart is taken up with Debian based derivatives. I call that success. (Yes, the chart needs to be updated.)
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