Are You Intimidated By Breakfast Cereal?

By Caitlyn Martin
September 4, 2010 | Comments: 113

An article by Graham Morrison for Tech Radar UK this past week struck a bit of a raw nerve for me. It was one of a type we see periodically in the tech press and the title pretty much tells the story: The trouble with Linux: there's too much choice. To Mr. Morrison and all the others who have written articles like this one I say: Hogwash!

I pose the following questions to Mr. Morrison and to all the others who share his views. Are you intimidated by the breakfast cereal aisle in his supermarket? After all, there are so many choices. Isn't it confusing? Should we all just eat corn flakes? Would you like to go back to the days when Henry Ford famously said, "Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black"? After all, wouldn't buying a car be easier if there were fewer makes, models and colors available? How about clothing? Wouldn't life be simpler if we all had to wear the same uniform?

Mr. Morrison went on:

Recently, the Fedora distribution decided to dump its long-standing photo manager application, F-Spot, in favour of an upstart called Shotwell. Shotwell doesn't have anywhere near the features, stability or stature of its precursor. But it doesn't use Mono either - the .NET-inspired framework that many people love to hate thanks to its third-party association with Microsoft. As a result, thousands of new Fedora users are going to think that the best photo management application on Linux has about as much functionality as Microsoft's image preview.

Fedora didn't drop F-Spot. It is still in the repository. The fact that they chose Shotwell as their default for the iso doesn't mean that F-Spot has been somehow banned or that users will assume it is the best photo application for Linux. Windows users know about having application software choices so why would they think Linux is any different? Mr. Morrison's claim about what thousands of Fedora users will think assumes that they are all dim bulbs. Maybe he should just speak for himself and not project onto a large user community. OTOH, since Fedora has millions of users perhaps a few thousand will be confused.

Fedora wasn't alone in its decision to switch to Shotwell. Ubuntu has done the same. Adam Williamson of Red Hat explained the reasons for the change in his response to Mr. Morrison's article:

...we'd contest your characterization of F-Spot and Shotwell. We switched to Shotwell because we think it's a better project, simple as. We found F-Spot was very slow and buggy when dealing with large collections of images, and Shotwell handled this much better. We also preferred Shotwell's interface.
Part of the arrogance inherent in articles like Mr. Morrison's is the assumption that the author knows what is best for the Linux community as a whole and that the author's preference should be the universal choice.

Mr. Morrison says he is confused and after 12 years he still doesn't understand how software is installed in Linux. All major distros have graphical package managers that work essentially the same way and all have a search feature built in. He says "many of us are utterly confused by the choice." Please speak for yourself. I am very comfortable with installing software in Linux and most people I introduce to Linux are as well within days. It doesn't take 12 years! I've always thought the ability to find most anything you need in the repository of a better distribution and the lack of a need to search the web or stores for software is one aspect of Linux that is actually easier and more user friendly than Windows. I suppose having all those choices in one place is what Mr. Morrison finds confusing.

Choice is one of the greatest strengths of Linux. It is not a weakness. The fact that we can choose from a selection of desktop environments, for example, and tailor them to suit our needs rather than the Windows one size fits all approach is something we should be touting, not wishing the choices away. Besides, there is nothing preventing any user from sticking with the default desktop of their chosen distribution. I, for one, am glad I don't have to eat corn flakes for breakfast every morning. As the French say, "Vive le différence!"


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113 Comments

Thanks Caitlyn!

What an excellent retort. I read the original and wondered just how much the author used Linux as I couldn't understand how one could use it for 12 years and not understand software installation.

Thank you for the breakfast cereal analogy.

It seems to me that when someone, like this Graham Morrison guy, is claiming that Linux's weakness is that it has too many choices, that there's some sort of agenda hidden in the background, some push to unify Linux under the umbrella of a single distribution or some nonsense like that.

Furthermore, it seems to me that this Graham Morrison guy never heard of LSB (Linux Standard Base). Now, while I run Debian (testing/unstable branch), Debian, as part of the LSB, must be able to properly deal with the RPM package, via the "alien" package. Hence, Morrison is talking out of his [badword] since he is obviously not aware of the LSB

Good article, Caitlyn. Sometimes the chuckle-heads need to be called on the carpet.

Why does everyone think that choice is a bad thing? As a further example for this article I'd like to add books. I recently wanted to learn about landscape design, I typed that into Amazon and was given the choice of hundreds of books! Surely one book should suffice?

There are far too many people stuck on the Microsoft model. If we have choice, it breeds competition to produce better and more feature rich software, those that are weak fall by the wayside.

You could even argue that choice during an election is also confusing, better to stick with one political party and be happy with them!

@kevin - Well, the LSB is flawed.

While I am grateful for it, it could be far better applied.

It's a little too implementation-specific. Instead of specifying some standards for package managers, libc, and whatnot, it outright dictates what must be used specifically, killing off choice.

For example, for package management, instead of saying "support for X feature and Y protocol via Z format," which would have allowed a much more wide selection of package managers, they said, "You must all use RPM."

Why they felt the need to even bother specifying glibc. Just saying a libc is enough since they're all standard anyway.

Debian isn't LSB compliant by default: It uses apt and eglibc instead. Alien's great and all, but LSB-compliance it brings not.

I'm just glad I only see the "choice is confusing" people in online blogs and forums. I'd hate to have to interact with them face-to-face.

After all, with that kind of attitude, one might wonder when the last time they purchased a toothbrush and toothpaste was.

I started a similar rant when I read Morrison's article, but figured someone better-known and less prolix would tke up the torch, and voila! :)

Bah, who needs choice. Let Morrison stick with an Apple ][e or a CPM machine. Didn't need those faster-processor or GUI choices either. Viva la 5.25" floppy! Or maybe he'd rather stick with room-sized vacuum-tube machines instead of the "personal computer" choice...

It is true that a monoculture where every computer was and remained the same, would make life so much easier for the user.

Malware writers would also have a much easier job. One code to control them all.

It would also make the controlling entity happy, whether it be a company or government agency.

I prefer not to put all my eggs in one basket. Diversity enhances survivability.

Thanks Caitlyn. Well said. I have thought the same thing many times over the years. People who make the claim that there that "The trouble with Linux: there's too much choice" are simply excusing an obscene perverted marketplace in the computer/software sector.

When I drive down the highway I don't just see Ford....or Toyota.....or any single car make. I see a myriad of brands.

When I walk through my local supermarket I don't see just one brand of any item. Again I see many different brands and choices.

In fact when I shop for anything I have many different products to choose from.

But....when I walk into my local computer retailer to buy a computer it will come with only ONE choice. Microsoft Windows. Heck! I don't even get a choice as to which version. Its only going to be the one Microsoft wants me to buy at the given moment.

This is completely wrong and I would have to really strain my few remaining brain cells to think of another sector where such a perverted monopoly situation exists.

The author of the article you referenced is simply excusing a market situation that should have been ended by regulators worldwide A LONG TIME AGO.

I'd prefer the analogy of "there are far too few healthy choices" when browsing for a linux distribution because most are sugar laden respins of other popular distro's, "%200 more glucose compared to ubuntu!" one box exclaims... it's great to have choices but eliminating some of the crap in our diet would help.

@budious: One man's "unhealthy crap" is another man's dream distro.

Linux distributions are basically a free market. Even if it was a good idea to have fewer distributions, nobody could stop the new ones.

New Linux distros don't come into existence because of the will of some executive officer or council of GNU elders. The come into being because someone with an idea decides to implement his idea using Linux. Some succeed. Some fail. Who's to say my respin of Debian isn't the better mousetrap that has the world beating a path to my door?

This meme seems to circulate the blogosphere every 6-12 months it seems; I hope the guy or gal who is planning the next great distro isn't listening.

Although I enjoy listening to the Tuxradar podcast as much as anyone, I have to agree that Mr. Morrison's article is way off!

Personally, I very much value the choice of distro and/or apps available that I can use and then tailor to suit my needs and to suit the hardware I'm using. I think Mr. Morrison forgets this aspect of GNU/Linux use. It runs on a huge variety of devices in all sorts of circumstances, so needs that wide variety of choice. Although Linux on the desktop is very important, it's not the be all and end all!

Confused by breakfast cereal?

This is going to be one of my prime retorts in the future :))

I only wish *I* had thought of it first.

Fantastic analogy and reply, Caitlyn.

I don't buy your cereal argument. Cereal isn't software. There's a difference between taste preferences and failing to function (although I know a lot of software development managers who don't understand that distinction).

Does your breakfast cereal crash when you try to burn a CD with it? My CD burning software does. I hear that it works under some desktops. If only it had been tested under more. Or perhaps it was installed wrong. There were four ways listed in the GUI menus to install software on the last distribution that I used, along with five different shipped desktop options, at least a dozen ways to burn a CD, ... Did the folks that built the distro test all of the combinations? Very unlikely, and it shows. This isn't an isolated incident. Linux on the desktop, for me, is clearly less stable and usable this year than it was a few years ago.

After that same dozen years of using and contributing to Linux, I've come to a conclusion that's similar to Morrison's. I'm not arguing against choice, but I do believe that the degree of choice affects the usability, quality, and stability of what gets out there. There are lots of ways in the Linux environment to do almost anything. In many cases none of them really works very well, or they don't work on a wide range of configurations. The range of choices is broad, but sometimes not very deep.

Denying the problem by slamming the author of columns like Morrison's is not going to change this (although it's a classic in the community). Having an agreed upon core that extends beyond the kernel could, by providing needed focus on those core components. If you want to make your choices outside that core (or even change it out yourself), go wild. But I'd love to have an environment that I can depend on working. It's been a while...

Well... I don't buy your "it's all broken" argument. No, my CD burning software doesn't crash the OS or even X. In fact, in all the years I've run Linux I have never run into that at all. Indeed, this is the first time I've even heard of it and I do Linux consulting for a living. So, yes, something is wrong in your configuration somewhere.

In general, with the distributions I am currently using I have everything working in a very problem free environment. I've been able to replicate the results I have for clients with very different needs and usage patterns than my own.

I don't believe I am denying anything. I'm certainly not saying that your problems aren't real. My environments (plural) are all very stable. Am I making better choices? Maybe. I don't know.

What I do know if that reducing choices won't fix buggy software. The two are not directly related. I honestly feel Mr. Morrison is way off base and, in all honesty, so are you.

I really have to ask: what distribution(s) are you using? I could make an educated guess if it's one of the major ones. If you don't mind please let me know. There are some distros out there that are quite popular despite being frequently problematic and there are some less popular ones that are highly stable and reliable.

I think you're being too defensive and overreacting because you like and understand Linux. You've probably been using Linux before there was so much choice, so you had time to develop a preference and choose a side. Put every Linux distro in front of someone who's never used Linux before and see what happens. I can't keep up with what my Linux friends use because they frequently decide they don't like on distro and switch to another. Experienced Linux users, and Linux advocates such as yourself, aren't the people with a choice problem. That doesn't mean that other people don't have a problem.

Go into a store to discover that your favorite cereal is no longer produced, but there are 10 similar alternatives you haven't tried. How long does it take you to make your decision? Now, think, among all those decisions, what are the differences? How many different companies present those ten alternatives? Reading the ingredients doesn't really help. Looking at the pictures doesn't really help. Select based on price? There are slight differences in price, but what does that have to do with you liking the product?

This isn't theoretical musing. Experiments have shown over and over that outside of a pre-existing preference, several slightly different options for the same thing make choice much harder. Indeed, Consumer Reports makes a whole business about evaluating mostly similar products to help people decide. Ignoring that does a disservice to new users.

Actually, I think it is those who want to limit choices and, in effect, limit freedom are the ones who do a disservice to both the Linux community and newcomers alike. I also don't believe for half a minute that the choices make it hard on newcomers.

There are two main paths into Linux. The first, and by far the easier approach, is to buy a computer with Linux preinstalled. This is how most non-technical users get Windows as well. Taking this approach usually means a system that is well configured and fully working out of the box. The number of distros available then becomes a non-issue since only a handful of choices are available preloaded.

The second path into Linux is to install it yourself. That immediately implies a more technically astute user or someone who is going to get help from a more technically astute user. For such people the choices are immediately less daunting.

Assuming the second path, the vast majority of distributions can be eliminated out of hand or would never be considered. If you don't need a distribution localized for the Czech or Slovak languages you are very unlikely to choose Greenie, for example. If you first language isn't Vietnamese you are not going to choose Hacao. Similarly, you are not going to choose a narrow specialty distro like Astaro or CloneZilla for a general purpose machine. You probably aren't even going to run into distros like these. By the time you look at the reasonable choices for a newcomer that are truly general purpose you probably are already down to maybe 8-10. Not so intimidating anymore, is it?

For the sake of discussion let's assume that I am wrong and you and Mr. Morrison are right and choice is overwhelming. OK, who is going to decide which distros stay and which go? You? Mr. Morrison? How can you dictate what should and should not be developed?

Finally, if choice is a real advantage for experienced Linux users as you state, why should the existing community give up those choices and options? If we wanted Linux to be like Windows we'd run Windows. Choice and freedom are two of the main reasons for choosing Linux in the first place.

It is very easy to throw stones and criticize as Mr. Morrison does. If this is a problem (and I don't believe that for a minute) then what is the solution? There is none. Choice and freedom are part of the very nature of FOSS software. If you don't want choice then FOSS is not for you.

Don't try to make Linux into something it isn't and never was intended to be. Linux isn't cheap Windows. It's a completely different paradigm and choice is very much a part and parcel of what makes Linux what it is.

But, you don't install Linux or buy it preinstalled. You install a particular distribution, each with different goals and ways of doing things. That's the problem. Which distro do you choose? You keep saying Linux like there is only one thing.

It's fine to have choice, but that doesn't mean there won't be negative side effects.

First, Linux *IS* only one thing. It's the kernel. In addition, any application for Linux can be made to work on any distro. The only question is how much work is involved. The difference between distros is what they choose to package.

Second, if a newcomer sticks with a preloaded distro (that usually means Ubuntu or SUSE) or sticks with the major, popular distros (the only ones they are likely to know about) then they all have the same general purpose goal.

Finally, and this will be the main theme of my next article, the GPL guarantees there will always be choice and it will always be somewhat chaotic. I've asked this again and again and nobody has an answer: if you want to limit choice how do you do that with the licenses Linux is released under? How do you do it without eliminating freedom and taking Linux proprietary? I maintain that you simply can't, which makes the whole "too much choice" argument moot. It also means perpetuating that argument becomes an argument against Linux and FOSS.

Having used Linux for 11 years, having watched forums and seen the chaos caused by Linux's countless different package managers, network tools, configuration systems etc. I know all too well what Graham is saying. Linux's complete lack of unity and cohesion on the desktop is the biggest cause of it's almost trivial desktop marketshare, after all these years. Some people, like the author here, are in full denial - and unless they wake up to the problem, Linux's marketshare will be equally tiny in 10 years.

Choice of apps is good. Every distro having its own user management tools, for instance, is pointless, duplication of effort and makes desktop Linux horribly fragmented. When you're writing a tutorial and have to say: "In Mandriva open the Control Center, but in SUSE open Yast, or in Ubuntu go to Foo and Bar" it's clear something's very wrong.

Users don't want fifteen different config tools and deb vs RPM and KDE vs GNOME and su vs sudo and all the other horrendous fragmentation that plagues desktop Linux. Users want a coherent, cohesive experience. Linux needs a unified front to ever get any serious market share.

Please read my response to the comment directly above yours as it applies to what you wrote equally well. Once again, you are trying to make Linux something it isn't. I'm not "in denial". I understand what Linux and FOSS are and how they differ from Windows and MacOS.

Please also see the parallel discussion at: http://lxer.com/module/forums/t/31008/ tracyanne hits the nail on the head.

Linux market share is not tiny. Linux and UNIX have held a majority share of the server room for over a decade. Linux is very competitive in embedded devices. It is also making great strides on the desktop/laptop/netbook. According to ABI Research Linux regained 32% of the netbook market in 2009 despite being next to impossible to find in brick and mortar stores. Dell claimed a similar figure for their netbook sales in 2009. Netbooks were around 12.5% of total desktop/laptop sales last year, which means in netbooks alone Linux captured 4% of the desktop market. Add larger laptops and desktops both from companies like Dell, HP (their business line) as well as smaller boutique vendors. Depending on whose numbers you believe Linux was anywhere from 5% to 8% of desktop sales worldwide last year. Since those are sales numbers that does not include people who buy a Windows system because that is what is available on sale in the local store and then load Linux.

Yes, Windows still holds between 84% and 89% of the market and is a de facto monopoly still. Considering that two years earlier they were somewhere around 95% it is clear that Linux is growing nicely despite lots of factors stacked against it.

The number one reason for Linux not growing more is the absolute lack of preloaded systems in stores. That is the way most users get their OS. Choice is not the problem nor is it holding Linux adoption back in any way, shape or form.

Finally, again, the same question I asked Joe Snuffy: Who decides which projects to kill or prohibit? How do you enforce that? FOSS software, including Linux, is all about freedom and choice. You take that away and then it no longer is free or open or Linux.

I run a community computer support group. Dozens of people have told me how they've tried Linux and given up, because every distribution has its own way to do core tasks. They try to follow tutorials and have major problems because configuration tools, package managers, filesystem layouts etc. are different. It's madness. I know so many people who've tried to love Linux but given up because it's such a fragmented mess at the core level. Why on earth should adding a user via the GUI be completely different between Mandriva, SUSE and Ubuntu?

All the people I know who gave given up on Linux for this reason are statistical proof for me (and others) that you are living in denial of why people really don't stick with Linux. Many companies (such as Dell) have tried to push Linux but given up when demand falls, because people find it such fragmented mess. It had the opportunity to provide a coherent desktop experience and failed.

But hey, choice is always good right? Wouldn't it be great if we also had lots of slightly different kernels, and C libraries, and X servers that all worked a bit differently and were incompatible with one another?

Of course not. This is why your argument is broken. Choice of top-level apps is good; fragmented core components and tools is bad. Talk to people who've tried Linux and left and you'll learn this too.

No,sorry, I won't learn your little fairy tale. I don't know what your agenda is but your facts are way off. Dell certainly hasn't given up on Linux and has, in fact, expanded their offerings.

Regarding people staying with and giving up on Linux, let me put it this way: most people do NOT distro hop. They pick one and if they like it they stick with it. My experience, which I dare say is more than most considering what I do for a living, is that if people stick with Linux they wonder how they ever did manage with Windows. If they don't give themselves a chance to learn and give up quickly then they are gone. They are gone not because there is too much choice but because they stick with what is familiar and are unwilling to deal with any learning curve.

Finally, once again, there is no way on earth to change this. The nature of the GPL and similar licenses and free/open source software (FOSS) requires openness and freedom. To quote Adam Williamson again, the folks on your side of the discussion "are tilting at windmills." Since FOSS licenses make it impossible to restrict programmers and distributors, whatever the consequences the freedom and the diversity it breeds cannot and will not change. Considering the steady growth of Linux I still don't see a problem here.

Linux will never be like Windows. Get over it.

Simply dismissing the concerns of users is not good, Caitlyn. You know Linux users, but not why around 98% of computer users do not use Linux. These are the cold, hard facts:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usage_share_of_operating_systems

Linux has been going for nearly 20 years. GNU longer. We've had a decade of talk and hype about Linux making it huge. (I was part of it -- I was a huge Linux fan for so long.) Seriously, 1.25% desktop market share after a decade of hype is comically bad. It's pretty much trivial.

I've gone out and talked to a LOT of people who tried Linux and the overwhelming criticism is the complete lack of unity and cohesion on the desktop. This makes no sense Caitlyn:

1) You're dismissing the real concerns of those who've tried Linux and given up
2) You don't seem to understand how bad low-level fragmentation is in an OS (as said, who would want multiple kernels, C libraries etc. all working differently? Even Linux advocates accept there has to be some unity there)
3) You are supporting a (lack of) overall design that has resulted in a 1.25% market share after a decade of hype. Dell dropped Ubuntu after lack of demand:

http://www.pcpro.co.uk/news/359740/dell-drops-ubuntu-pcs-from-website-for-now

I can't find Ubuntu boxes on the Dell UK home computer site at all.

I'd like Linux to succeed. The difference between us is: you're looking at the tiny fraction of users that you know and assuming all is happy. I'm looking at the 98% of people who don't use Linux, and asking WHY.

I'm getting an answer you're ignoring, and when Linux's desktop market share is still around 2% in another decade, perhaps you'll look back and wish you'd listened to what former users were saying after all.

When you don't have facts to support your arguments you make some up or quote Microsoft FUD. First you had Dell "giving up" on Linux. You quoted an article that has been proven false. See: http://www.itworld.com/open-source/115316/calm-down-dell-not-throwing-ubuntu-linux-out and, of course, the Dell website at: http://www.dell.com/content/topics/segtopic.aspx/linux_3x?c=us&l=en&cs=19 Yep, they are offering Linux netbooks, laptops and desktops as of today.

Now you trot out the oft debunked 1-2% number. Thank you for doing that. An article on market share numbers and how they are manipulated is long overdue. I'll skewer that myth presently.

I am not dismissing anyone's concerns. I am saying you are misrepresenting what the real concerns are. Repeating yourself over and over again won't make your statements any more accurate.

There is only one Linux kernel. It can be configured any number of ways but there still is only one. Sorry, bloke, but there is no fragmentation there.

Do I support FOSS and the very nature of free and open source software? Of course I do. What you are asking for is to limit or restrict development, in other words, turning Linux into something decidedly not free. I don't know of anyone in the Linux community who seriously supports that.

I am very surprised by the terms "seen the chaos caused by Linux's countless different package managers"
You quote two (*rpms and *debs, I could add 4 of them -parduses ones, gentoo's portage). One can notice they all have about the same fuctionalities : when I read a list of apt-get commands on UBUlinux, I know packages with the same beginning of names are likely to be used on a Centos(or SL) or Mandriva box... (cf http://www.armadeus.com/wiki/index.php?title=Toolchain#Prerequisites_for_Linux_installation : lists of software can be almost automatically deduced) It is like speaking sometimes french, sometimes spanish or omericon... The only flaw I see with *rpms is that they do not have apt-zip (can make a *sh| *bat file to download, from a connected box, even if it is under W$ [wget.exe exists] , everything one needs for an unconnected one) nor apt-rdepends (can draw the dependencies of some softs). But, else, I am satisfied with *rpms - I choosed to use them, after some hesitation- and know I would not suffer that much if I had to use other package managements).
Under Windows, there are at least 4 (not the *rpm|deb dichotomy) package managements which coexist : *msi, R ( http://www.r-project.org/)'s package management, QT compilation and cygwin's *tar.gz.... That does not make Windows worse....

And, from what I read, there is not such a difference between Suze yast , Mandriva Control Centre and Centos pup (I sometimes use the last two)....
Perhaps, in the next 11 years, you will find the difference between the __function__ (a switch is used to put light on/off) and the __appearence__ (a switch can be made blue, red, square.... without affecting the way most people use it, after a generally very small training time.)

Caitlyn, I can't agree with your analogy. I find choices of breakfast cereal to be quite daunting. The only thing that seems to be common among cereals is that they are all poor food choices. I do agree that choice is good overall and encourage it with operating system choices. After spending many years in a ISP support role, I have to agree with both of you. Choice is good for those who are really into their computers but not always so much for those who treat their computers as an email appliance. To each their own.

I don't agree with you. Choice is absolutely for everyone, including those who only need e-mail. I used Evolution mail until it came to a crawl due to too much mail in my mailboxes. Sure I could buy a new more powerful computer, but I found I had to switch instead. That does not mean I want the distribution selecting the e-mail client of my choice as the default. I think Evolution is a great client that showcase the system and is good enough for most.

Choice is necessary in everyday life. All cereal is not bad, though I agree most choices presented to you are bad. I frequently use organic granola cereal with natural yogurt (not the artificially sweetened mostly sold today), and combine it with honey and bananas. Don't think there are much breakfast that can be healthier.

I do a times use OpenOffice and the default packages provided to me by my distribution, but I have typically preferred the more lightweight alternatives such as Abiword and simply use videolan VLC. We are talking of basic things here. I am not advanced in music, document editing or heavy in photography etc. It is good that the distribution has made a basic selection and they know that people wanting more will find it.

I am absolutely happy they are replacing F-spot with Shotwall as it is said to be more lightweight and faster. Just like Microsoft still shipping with Notepad as the default text editor, I much rather prefer this and other basic choices, than heavyweight ones if they can be avoided, and F-spot happens to be heavy weight as it requires mono with all those added complications that bring to run.

Just think about it next time you look at cereal - there is no more one Cornflakes - you might not even be able to find the one you used as a child, now fortified with X new vitamins and so on - have they not learned yet that less is more? They even list the the nutrients WITH milk though they cannot possibly know if you use fortified- or light- or skimmed milk, or maybe even natural yogurt, soymilk or something else instead of milk.

Well we sure have a good example of how no choice can affect things. IE is a good example. There was only one browser for many years and as the years passed things started stagnating since there was no alternate choice for Microsoft to make an effort at making a better browser. Firefox had to come along to get Microsoft to work on taking IE forward.

I'm an IT professional using 100% GNU/Linux (http://www.microlinux.fr). I know my way around CentOS, Slackware, Debian, Fedora, openSUSE, Gentoo, and more than a dozen other distros. But I think the breakfast cereal analogy is somewhat misleading. 1) You don't have to learn the difference between different cereal administration tools before eating them. 2) Some brands of All-Bran aren't incompatible with your special version of milk. 3) Upgrading the milk level doesn't result in all the corn suddenly disappearing. 4) You don't have to choose between either sugar OR honey but can have both. 5) You rarely recompile your wheat grains before pouring them into a new brand of breakfast bowl.

Cheers from the sunny South of France.

You have used my analogy to pretty accurately describe what professional Linux administrators, particularly those who work on multiple sites for multiple clients, have to go through every day. That was a very nicely done. You're in France? If you are a French native I must say that you have a much better command of the English language than many native speakers.

Your points, while accurate, really don't apply to the consumer desktop where a typical user will use just one distribution and primarily use GUI tools. I don't think the breakfast cereal analogy fits the server room or the Linux professional but it does fit the consumer market rather well.

Actually, I'm Austrian, so my first language is german. But I've been living in France for the last twenty years, and so it comes that I'm publishing books in French. My "Linux aux petits oignons" is a cookbook-style introduction to GNU/Linux and the command line Unix tools under the hood. I'm a fan of english literature, hence my klutzy knowledge of the language.

My feeling about the wealth of Linux distributions is definitely ambiguous, to say the least. On the one hand, I'm glad to stumble upon some "great unknown" distros like Salix, Slitaz or PartedMagic. But I can be quite exasperated by the sheer number of futile respins of major distributions that don't offer anything new except the default desktop wallpaper.

Until recently, I've been using CentOS on desktops and servers. Right now, I'm playing with the idea of moving to a combination of CentOS (servers) and openSUSE+KDE4 (desktops). If I was the only one to use Linux here (understand: if I had no clients), I'd be running Slackware with Enlightenment 17 on 64-bit hardware. But I try to use on my own machines what I install on my client's computers.

@Caitlyn:


The premise of your article is amusing, but I believe it's completely false. Please read:


http://www.columbia.edu/~ss957/whenchoiceabstract.htm


People do *not* want more choices, and get more confused / less likely to make any selection at all once the number of options passes five or six.

I don't doubt that what the researchers describe is true for some people. I do doubt that it is true for most or even all.

Regardless of whether it is true or not, the fact remains that Free software licenses like the GPL guarantee a wide variety of choices. If we want Linux to remain free the choice will remain as well, for better or for worse. I, personally, still find huge value in choice and freedom.

Well Caitlyn, I have built a career around FOSS, so I also value choice and freedom. Let's be sure we are not confusing the dichotomy.


Take a look at distrowatch sometime and look at the top 100 OSes (30 - 40 of which are realistically used by a substantial user base). Is this good for GNU/Linux? Many forks upon forks exist "because they can", not because they're fundamentally different from their upstream OS. Now put yourself in the shoes of a new user and tell me the staggering number of options aren't intimidating.

Realistically? Realistically a new user is not going to choose from DistroWatch. They will use what is preloaded or, if they install for themselves, what is popular or what is recommended by a friend. So.. realistically the DistroWatch list is irrelevant.

Let's say for a moment I bought your argument. How on earth do you restrict development under a FOSS license? If this is a problem how do you tackle that? I've asked that repeatedly and, of course, nobody has an answer. The nature of FOSS licenses makes limiting choices absolutely impossible. The only purpose of even raising the issue as a problem is to denigrate Linux.

No, Caitlyn, the world is not so black and white. Raising the prospect that 100+ distros might not be in the best interests of advancing FOSS is rather different than "denigrating" the technology that comprises my livelihood.


I don't defend the original author's article that you're responding to, but neither do I agree with your contrived cereal analogy. (And I've pointed to studies that illustrate my point.)

Well its quite obvious the Mickeysoft Droids have found this article.

Let me see if I can sum up their arguments.....

Its morning. The typical Windows user wakes up, takes a shower and goes to their dresser to get dressed. They open the underwear drawer...............hours later they manage to pick an underwear to wear for the day. Life goes on.

Its morning. The typical Linux user wakes up, takes a shower and goes to their dresser to get dressed. They open the underwear drawer, pick an underwear to wear for the day. Life goes on.

Decisions decisions.........life can be soooo hard for some people unless big daddy corporation makes all their decisions for them.

When I first saw it, I'd actually stopped reading the Morrison article after the first paragraph, assuming it was FUD. In the popular desktop distros for non-expert Linux users, package management is simple and intuitive, but Morrison began with "Those of you not familiar with Linux won't be familiar with the way it lets you install new software. After 12 years with Linux, neither am I."

Accordingly, I didn't give the article another look until reading this one-and the comments.

Having now read the article, I disagree with Morrison's point, though I think it easy to lump in other Linux difficulties and treat them as a problem of choice.

There are a couple of kinds of problems to speak of. One is with respect to good implementation. Here there is a definite tradeoff between choice and scale.

Another, though, is in adoption. On the desktop especially, the overwhelming market share of the two desktop leaders provide them with some security. It means anyone switching to something else must change, and deal with learning new ways of doing things, likely problems in reading some of the files created previously using MS or Apple applications, a system that manufacturers of hardware don't provide a cd to install drivers from (so either the drivers aren't available or there's something else new to be learned.)

Those migration problems aren't due to there being too much choice-though it might seem like it to the overwhelmed person trying to migrate. In my opinion, Gnome is easier to use than Windows, but it is different and so for people already used to Windows there is something new to be learned-which in itself creates more difficulty for some. (I'm not looking to enter a desktop war. I regularly use Gnome and KDE and have used XFCE in the past and like all of them. They have their own strengths, and ease of use imo is a strength of Gnome.)

Choice is a strength. If one tries a distro on old hardware and it doesn't work properly, then there's still a good chance another distro will. If a beginner feels the need to stick a toe gingerly in the water by installing inside Windows to avoid partitioning, then there are distributions that allow that. If a desktop is unsuitable for any reason (new version not fully developed; speed, choice, features ...) then for some people having alternatives is a welcome relief. Someone with an old P3 and 256MB (or less) RAM isn't going to run one of the more inclusive distributions using KDE or GNOME-but there are still alternatives.

My experience has actually been that choice has been useful. I mostly use old hardware and for me it has sometimes been easier to switch distributions to match the hardware than try to figure out the tweaks necessary. It's really easy to stick a different livecd in the drive to see if it works.

OTOH, if one is considering marketing (and of course there isn't really much marketing of most free (as in beer) desktops) then the marketing would be much easier with a single choice. To that extent I do think choice is a hindrance, but that doesn't seem to me to be the point Morrison was trying to make.

While i understand the need for different distro's
I think the cereal analogy is a bit misplaced.

Take this ad (running here in australia)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9D52e4TaFk

The marketing teams understand that people don't like
having too much choice in milk...so many to pick!
and some of them can't legally be called milk.
We only ended up with so much choice after
de-regulation, i guess linux is a bit de-regulated
too in that sense.

If you know what milk or milk-inpsired product you're looking for, then go for it.
But not everyone does (otherwise there'd be no point
to ads like this), likewise not everyone understands
why there are so many versions of linux or why they
each have different configuration tools.
they just want a linux that looks and tastes like
a real linux :)

Don't get me wrong, choice is a wonderful thing, but there are times when it's good to have less.

Oh come on, these parallels are silly. It's clearly a more complex choice with far more impact than choosing between rice or corn puffs!

To take the cereal parallel, how intimidating would it be to pick cereal if you might discover two weeks later that your choice of cereal means you cannot have a microwave in your kitchen, or have cannot have a filter coffee machine, or cannot eat oranges... And you don't have access to the information to understand which will mean what. How long would you hesitate then?

That's how it feels - start with linux on the desktop and you will invariably find out fast that no matter which you choose, there will be desirable apps that cannot easily run on the distribution - due to either the desktop environment libraries, or the sound system choice.

And if you are migrating from, say, macOS or windows, and have apps you are used to and would like to find good substitutes for, imagining for an instant something like a good image management tool and a good screenshot-taking-and-annotating tool, well you're kind of out of luck. The best we have in each are for different desktops... it takes a lot of tweaking to get both working at the same time, and you better have a good machine.

I love the choice and diversity we have, but we have to realise it is confusing, and because the impact of choices often is hours of struggle and/or reinstalls, it is intimidating!

Your wrote: "That's how it feels - start with linux on the desktop and you will invariably find out fast that no matter which you choose, there will be desirable apps that cannot easily run on the distribution - due to either the desktop environment libraries, or the sound system choice. "

I have not found that to be true. With any of the major distributions I can run pretty much any application I want. The only exception I know of are those designed for the enterprise which keep old libraries in place for a very long time in the name of stability. Then there are certainly cases where I cannot run the latest apps. OTOH, those distributions are not targeted at the consumer desktop and are poor choices for most desktop users for a whole host of reasons.

You say it is intimidating to have the choices. What is the solution if Linux is to remain Free/Open Source? The only thing worse than having lots of choices is having those choices restricted and freedom curtailed.

It's spelled «différence».

Mais, oui! I thought I had corrected that last night. Thanks for pointing it out again.

I dont want to side with Mr Morrison but I have started to feel that there is not so much "too much choice" rather than "too many clones".

Its getting hard to find the right distro, because alot share the same thing's and tend to differ based on artwork, community and the odd few changes to the OS. The main at fault is derivatives or "based on" distro's.

What would be better for Linux as a whole is to have the distro's clearly different but still known as linux.

For instance, recently I have been looking for a distro which is unique in look, down to the actual Desktop enviroment. Problem is they are all basicly remstered distro's where the Desktop Enviroment is always gnome, kde, xfce, blackbox, fluxbox.

Maybe each distro should have just 1 GUI, and no derivative version.

When I want a good Gnome enviroment, I install ubuntu because they have it right. The enviroment is beautiful and they make the best of gnome. But they should drop xubuntu lubuntu and kubuntu.

The same with KDE enviroment, I use mint. Because they have it right too.

There can never be too much choice, but those choices should be clearly different. Yeah GUI's are meant to be shared. So why not have 2 maybe 3 Majour Distro's using a certain GUI such as Gnome, another couple use KDE, another couple use XFCE. Or preferably each distro puts actual time into making themselves different and modify the desktop enviroment.

Its come to a point where I am considoring 10.10 netbook remix for my Gaming PC, purely because its the only distro I have seen with a unique enviroment.

I looked at the article you referenced. The person is either an idiot or a troll. In either case I don't think his article deserved an answer.

Earl

Too much choice equates to a loss of freedom? With logic like that day become night and evil becomes good. In fact, that article reads like an MS PR memo.


The Yugoslavians had only one choice of an automobile, the Yugo. I don't recall many rejoicing in that lack of choice.

Only in a totalitarian condition is lack of choice considered a benefit.

Who can predict which distro will "win out", even if one will. If a distro "wins out", how long will the "victory" last as we know that nothing lasts forever. We make the future as we go along, so no one can predict it with absolute certainty. In the case of most Linux users, their allegiance to a certain distro is elusive. Because Linux is free, the barrier to entry (and exit) is low.

I agree with your overall point and love the choice in Linux. However, your choice of analogy was hopelessly flawed. Breakfast cereal is known, harmless and easy. The worst that can happen is it tastes like crap and you lose a few dollars. For most people, computer operating systems are unknown, dangerous and hard (most people use Windows, remember). Nobody is intimidated by breakfast cereal, so nobody is intimidated by all that choice. The majority of people I know are intimidated by computers, and so the choice is exponentially more problematic because it multiplies unknowns. Add to that the inevitable qualifiers (it will work fine, unless you've got some hinky hardware...), and every choice becomes a minefield. Sorry, but true. That's why the vast majority of people stick with what came on the box.

My analogy is not flawed and holds up really well, in fact. You are absolutely correct when you state that typical users stick with what is on the box. Anyone who actually installs Linux is more technically astute than typical users and they are unlikely to consider the computer "dangerous" or "hard". What doesn't hold up is your description of Linux users.

Yes, average users did get Linux preinstalled on netbooks at one point in stores and it is still available that way online. For folks who buy Linux preinstalled choice is not an issue. They can stick with what is on the box.

So... for typical Linux users choice is no more of an issue with software than it is with breakfast cereal. The so-called average users are not going to migrate to Linux unless it is available preloaded or they get help from a friend. Consequently, my analogy holds up just fine.

I guess any analogy can be made to hold up if you define it narrowly enough, but at that point it becomes uninteresting. If your universe of "average users" is people who installed Linux on a box that didn't come with Linux, or that version of Linux, then your analogy holds. Expand it out by a bit -- say people who are interested in installing Linux but don't know much about it -- and your analogy falls apart. I was one of those people. It was an issue. When people learn I use Linux and I try to sell them on trying it out choice is an issue. Linux puts a knot in their shorts the way Kashi never will.

But go ahead and sleep tight in the knowledge that your analogy was shiny. A good editor would have told you you aren't doing Linux any favors.

I'm going to ask you the same question that all of you who want to restrict choices can't seem to answer. How do you restrict those choices? Who decides what choices are valid and which ones aren't? How many is too many? How did having choices impede you?

Don't worry. I'm not accepting sane answers.

I was disappointed when Ubuntu stopped including GIMP. I use Ubuntu and I use GIMP. I can install software, so it did not have an adverse affect on me.

It seems that the appeal is to the lowest common denominator among computer users. These users need choices made for them. They are unlikely to navigate GIMP.

An end user would probably find the best experience with Picasa. It is not "free", so it is a non-option.

The choices made by the makers of a variety of distros is about licensing. The end user will be unaware of this.

I am not intimidated by Linux, but I can understand those that are. There is an elitist attitude among Linux people. There is a lack of empathy for the skill set of the average user.

GIMP is still included in the Ubuntu repository and can be installed from your choice of the Software Center, Synaptic or apt-get. It just isn't part of the default installation. So... Ubuntu still includes GIMP.

I would also suggest that if you are running into "elitist" attitudes and "lack of empathy" you are hanging around on the wrong forums. The LinuxChix Techtalk list is particularly good for newcomers and they do not discriminate based on gender. Men are welcome.

I think both arguments are valid. I've been a Linux user for 15+ years and have used other Unix variants longer than that. I'm also a professional programmer. I used Linux as my primary desktop for more than 10 years but finally got sick of it and switched to Mac OS. I still use Linux on most of my servers though, along with AIX, FreeBSD, ESXi, and Windows. Truthfully, most of my graphical computing is now done on my iPad.

There are two main reasons I switched from Linux as my desktop: bugginess and poor user interface. Both these problems are directly related to fragmentation, aka to many choices, as programmers all want to do their own thing and do the fun (hard) parts instead of working out clean APIs, making good user interfaces, and killing bugs. There is nobody with vision guiding the overall project and maintaining quality and uniformity. They spend more time working on gee whiz features than writing good software.

It's great to have options but there needs to be a stable core with a strong vision. The number of options available is one reason I use Linux but there is a much more stable core there and strong leaders. The Linux desktop needs that.

You know, I must be missing something. That, or I must be blind to something. My desktop isn't buggy at all. Things work precisely as I expect them to. Sure, some early KDE 4.x releases were buggy and some beta releases of Xfce were as well but mostly, for me, things just work.

I've used Aqua (the MacOS GUI) and I frankly don't see what all the fuss is about. Yes, it can be pretty. Yes, it works well. It's better than GNOME or KDE? Really? Sorry, I don't see it.

I think some people really want to find fault and so they do.

i am a newcomer to linux. i downloaded ubuntu inside windows about a year ago, and after about 3 weeks wiped windows out and have been using ubuntu exclusively. i am not a tech, i am one of those who was very intimidated by computers. no longer. i love the freedom of choice that it offers. different desktop, i can do that, no sweat. too much glitz and stuff, i can fix that if i want to. more stuff, i can do that too. sure, i have made many mistakes along the way, but, i don't have to call a tech guy who asks, "how much are you willing to pay for me to help you?" talked my daughter into trying it, same story. love s it. too many choices? only for those willing to stay with vanilla, no chocolate, no strawberry, no rocky road, vanilla fudge brownie, etc. i work in the food industry, 95% of my customers order the same items every time. if you get in a rut, that's where you want to stay. it's comfortable, no worries, no stress, no choices to make. safe, and secure. i chose to try something different. and every time i run into a newbie to computers, i steer them to linux. start them right and then let them make the choices they want.

This article is one of the most bizarre things I've ever seen. Making a comparison between the vast underlying complexities of Linux distributions, and something as trivial as breakfast cereal, is almost mind-bogglingly silly.

To those who say choice is always good: no it isn't. It wouldn't be good if we all had the choice to kill anyone we wanted. Sometimes order and cohesion is more important than choice. This is lost on most Linux users, but sensible folks know it's true.

I gave up on desktop Linux because of its nightmarish lack of unity. I battled for years but couldn't be bothered wrestling with every little distro and package and script and config file doing things in their own, NIH ways. Linux on the desktop is full of good technology but there's no vision, no order, no unity - it's a horrible, fragmented mess and I chucked it all away. (And ridiculous flaws like my graphics card not being detected, and landing me at a text prompt, when even Windows 95 knew to fall back to VGA16 mode.)

Of course, Caitlyn is always right, I must be inventing this, as must everyone else who stopped using Linux because of it's terrible fragmentation. She's also right and the mighty Wikipedia is wrong on market share, of course, and she's also right about Dell, despite the fact that on the UK, French and German Dell websites, there are NO Linux machines in the Home/office section. That's not what you call Dell pushing Linux.

Those Linux 'advocates' like Caitlyn who flat-out refuse to listen to evidence, and put their fingers in their ears and say 'laa laa laa' when confronted with the truth, are perhaps the biggest reason why Linux went nowhere on the desktop. Nobody wanted to accept the flaws, take responsibility and make it better.

"I gave up on desktop Linux because of its nightmarish lack of unity. "
Well, I never had issues with desktop linux : when I have/had to choose a desktop environment, I ask :
"which DE is the last buggy?" and I choose the least buggy one (in 2003 it was KDE, now, it is obviously Gnome).
If they were unified, I would be dependent on the latest and greatest bugs.... and "terrible" fragmentation is a blessing in this respect.

As far as wikipedia (oh, there are no IT links : is your "laa laa laaa" browser iexplore.exe?) is concerned about linux market share, I would like to advise you, before quoting wikipedia, to verify that its figures are updated and internally consistent (i.e there are no obvious differences between the Franch, the German, the Spanish and the Omericon versions: it happens sometimes, making wikipedia's "facts" not that well verified) .

OTOH: there are people who are good designers, but cannot manage with apt-get and its frontends, even if they are graphical. Telling the GIMP can be found "on the depos" is telling the pooor guy who needs the GIMP:
"you are unskilled to download the software you need, but it exists". If I awoke very hungry and was told I had to walk 1000 km to find coffee, bread and butter, I wound not be that happy.

"Telling the GIMP can be found "on the depos" is telling the pooor guy who needs the GIMP:
"you are unskilled to download the software you need, but it exists". If I awoke very hungry and was told I had to walk 1000 km to find coffee, bread and butter, I wound not be that happy."

Well....first I would simply go download Gimp if I wanted it.

Second, if I "awoke very hungry and was told I had to walk 1000 km to find coffee, bread and butter" I would get up and starting walking rather than starve to death while you would apparently give up, sit on your ass in a confused stupor, and slowly starve to death because the decision to do anything would be too much for you.

Making choices is part of being human, being alive, and survival of the species.

"Well....first I would simply go download Gimp if I wanted it."
Well... As 50% of the PCs are not connected to the net, downloading Gimp is not that obvious..... In the last century, it was the origin of GNU linux distributions on CDs/DVDs (it was not a matter of PR, but of shipping useful applications to everyone)
As skilled drawers might be poor downloaders (and might not know what package managers are), depriving them of good application in favor of ...... is the best way to promote linux.

"Making choices is part of being human, being alive, and survival of the species."
I suppose you are skilled in
* growing coffee
*package management
* making milk
*downloading files (and their dependencies)
* baking bread.

As the trend in human species is rather getting specialized, your pseudo darwinian pompous conclusion is irrelevant

Pardon me, but 50% of computers have no network connection? Today? Where? In a remote part of a developing country? I'm going to call B.S. on that one if you don't have a link or source.

Ubuntu, almost like Windows, comes with very few applications. It clearly assumes you are going to have some sort of connectivity. Installing GIMP is just a matter of clicking on Software Center (a nice, clear name even for a newcomer) and searching on photo editor. That is MUCH simpler than Windows.

"Pardon me, but 50% of computers have no network connection? Today? Where? In a remote part of a developing country? I'm going to call B.S. on that one if you don't have a link or source."
I was very suroprised by this figure, which I read in 2009 in wikipedia administrators : they wrote that 50% of the computers , at a a world scale, had no (or poor) IT connectivity and that they should put wikipedia on CDs or DVDs. I forgot the link (very sorry), but the figure was low enough for me to remember.... and half of my relatives have no direct access to the *net* -live in rural places (one never talks about on the net, why?) in a European *developped* country-

"Ubuntu, almost like Windows, comes with very few applications. "
Well, that is very nice reason to boycott UBU linux *and* Windows (I use W$ only for cross compiling, for 8 bits microcontrollers : 32 bits seem to be well supported by linux).

And the GIMP installer, on windows, comes with all the dependencies (apt-zip can work on command line, if one has a poor connection/no *direct*connection , and generate a download *.bat : but it is little known and might frighten newcomers). That makes it much easier to use than getting ca 20 *debs from an internet café or friends....


I wo not comment Iphbear "philosophy" and cut-and-pasting : I suppose he is an expert in "getting off his holy ass" in milk downloading, coffee installing, bread managing ... in civilized countries, one prefers getting specialized (avoids a lot of mess).
And it is not the point of *me* not being able to choose from a menu... but of ordinary users.

"I suppose you are skilled in
* growing coffee
*package management
* making milk
*downloading files (and their dependencies)
* baking bread."

No, but I am skilled enough to get off my ass and go get those items when I am starving.

Apparently you're not.

LOL. You know, I've been working with Linux professionally for more than 12 years, the last four as an independent consultant. I don't know how many people and businesses I've worked with where I was the person setting up Linux for the first time. While most people and businesses did stick with Linux and knew what they were getting up front, there is always a relatively small percentage that don't like it and go back to Windows. In all the years I have NEVER heard the word "fragmentation" or the word "standards" used in an explanation of why someone didn't like it.

I agree with Trépignant de la Talonnette: I don't believe a word of what you are saying. It reads like a Microsoft fanbois churning out excuses of why Linux will never be any good.

Did you even read the article I linked regarding Dell? The change on the UK website it TEMPORARY according to the IT World article which I linked and they are still taking orders for Ubuntu-based machines. I provided a link to where Dell is prominently featuring Ubuntu on their North American website. Clearly, though, the three European countries you cite are the center of the universe and the rest of the world doesn't count. FWIW, there is still one Ubuntu machine on the UK website too so your claims for that site are bogus.

WikiPedia is well known to be full of errors. I looked at one WikiPedia page that put Linux market share at 4% on the desktop based on 2005 data. Funny, I provide the name of a research firm and a hardware vendor who provided 2009 data. You provide WikiPedia without a link and without sourcing. Nice. I refuse to "listen to evidence"? When did you provide any? My article on market share will be published this evening and will link more evidence than you probably will care to plough through.

Are you making it up? Probably. Do I believe you are accurate about anything? No. What can convince me that I am wrong about something is documented evidence. You provided none of that, only invective and hyperbole. I doubt that will be convincing to anyone.

Good article Caitlyn and I think your analogy was fine but of course some will twist it in all directions to try and prove you wrong and that is the trouble with analogies.
It also amuses me within the comments, the number who professed to have used Linux for years and then have given up because of fragmentation. I am sorry but I don't believe them. I run full versions of PCLinuxOS and Fedora and run about ten other OS within virtualbox. It is always interesting to see what else is happening with the likes of ReactOS and other different OS's.

And these are the same Microsoft drowns who had NO choice but to buy Vista and then buy the upgrade (Windows 7). O, what choice did they have? Apparently none as far as they can see. And they have the audacity to tell a F/OSS user they have too many choices.

I would start by asking the question. Do we really need another smart-phone OS?

For the Microsoft shills that are here saying it's too many "Linux" choices.
Well, you just made the case for why the consumer market DON'T need another smart-phone, aka (WP7). Hence, there is already too many (Android/Linux-base) choices. Right? Too confusing?

So why do we need another smart-phone OS? Wouldn't that confuse the average consumer. Hence, too many Android commercials on TV, I don't know which one to buy. I know this, it won't be a WP7, because another choice will only be confusing. That leaves out WP7, because of the 7 ± 2 rule someone stated above.


Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Very good point! Its so obvious I am surprised so many overlooked it.

So according to some of these posters Linux supposedly has too many confusing choices, but on the other hand sticking with the single choice of Windows is OK by them because.....its not confusing.

On the other hand I am sure those same posters are going to say quite the opposite if we were to say for instance......

Its too confusing to have a Playstation and an XBox. Nintendo is enough choice for us.....or

Its too confusing to have a Nokia and a KIN based cell phone. Android is enough choice for us.....or

Its too confusing to have a Microsoft Mouse and a Kensington Mouse. A LogiTech Mouse is enough choice for us.

Yes Ladies and Gentlemen, we've entered the strange Twilight Zone realm of the MS apologists version of George Orwell's 1984 "Doublespeak" where black is white, and up is down, and choice is ok.......for everything.......but the corporate monopoly's operating system product.

Choice is a bad thing only when YOU end up making a bad choice. Only then is choice regrettable.

Actually, the fact that someone had the choice is never "a bad thing" even if the actual choice they made is regrettable. For proprietary operating systems (i.e.: Windows, MacOS) is the system vendor makes a bad choice you are stuck with their bad choice. At least if you make a bad choice you had a choice to begin with and may be able to learn from your mistakes and choose differently next time.

I would like to draw your attention to a different line of argument. If there was only 1 or 2 or 3 standard distros, how would the world look like. Remember the days when Suse was all proprietary and RedHat moved out of the consumer desktop. Mandrake decided to also go as close to proprietary as was possible. Debian was too old. What did the ordinary linux desktop user have? Along comes Ubuntu promising 100% free for always without any Pro version. Any guesses why it became everyones darling in such short time even tough it was nowhere near Mandrake's desktop experience.

Ubuntu stayed within the same boundaries as other desktop distros. ie You could only install the CD before you use it. They also moved at same time with other distros in making Gnome as the only choice fully supported when all polls consistently showed that most ordinary desktop users were using KDE.

Then PCLinuxOS (and a couple others) rose in popularity on the try and install philosophy from the same disc. Taking everyone along in the same direction. PCLinuxOS and other user oriented distros also did not care too much about the pure GNU philosophy and included as many drivers and other software that they could. They showed what can be done. Result ? Everyone else followed to the extent they could.

These are examples of what a vibrant and diverse environment can do for benefit of ordinary users when the distros do not listen to their userbase.

Some people are so dense or ego-centric that they cannot think or see beyond their own nose. That is why we keep hearing these thoughts asking everyone to use only one distro or environment or software.

Over the years things have only got better as block after block of the Linux puzzle has fallen in place. The latest piece is the Gmail video and voice chat plugin that works in Linux also. Remember the time that Skype was the first and only software to give us Video and voice chat access to the other side in a clean and easy to use manner. It had problems too and never bothered to give the latest features to its linux userbase. Guess what is the reaction that other messngers will show. They will also give us video and voice on their web clients.

That is what variety and choice gives us. Monoculture is not for Linux or its users (old and new).
:-)
A Happy Linux GUI user.

We can argue back and forth but we may overlook the underlying problem: Why does some people get "overwhelmed" by choices?

You see, this is not limited to software, but also permeates throughout our daily life as a society. Making choices has much to do with our desire to excel in our lives, a gamble of fate of some sort. When it comes to tangible objects or things that costs us in real monetary terms, we usually measure and cast our choices on the economical value, both real and perceived. But what about something that is truly free and cost almost nothing to duplicate like free software?

The way I see it, it's greed. We always want what we think is best for us, something that would give us the advantage in the increasingly competitive livelyhood. When faced with so many choices of which some of us have no means to know and measure the merit of each choices, of their virtues and vices, it's only natural to fear of making a wrong choice. Understandable when we are talking about which school should we enroll our children, what should we wear to the important meeting, what car would allow us to commute more economically, or should I buy that expensive ride or jewelry to increase my chances to have an attractive spouse?

Yet it is very different when it comes to free software because FOSS cost us next to nothing and furthermore the freedom (as in free speech) begets it's own virtue by allowing our creativity to flourish, even beyond the realm of computer codes and mathematic algorithm. It encourage sharing, generosity, humility, and in some cases, self enlightment.

In FOSS term, those of us who has more adventurous spirit would not be held back in fear by our greed (or in some cases, pride) to simply be better than everyone else, and instead will welcome this multitude of "path of adventure" that we can pick and choose to our hearts content.

I know I sounds naivé and foolish. Heck I'm not even sure I get my point accross since English is not my native language. I'd simply want to point out the root, the source of all the confusion. And If my words offend any of you kind readers, I humbly apologize for my ignorance


For people who are MSFT users,don't consider themselves techies,but might like to try Linux - are there really that many choices? There are good reasons that Ububtu and Mint are number one and three in popularity. These distos might not might be the big hits with long term Linux pioneers but you can use either without ever going to a command line.

The biggest problem with converting to Linux is that you are about 100 times less likely to have a friend you can just call up and ask a question as you can with Windows. Please don't say just go to the help forums - few really want to go down that route.

By the way just how popular do you want Linux to be. Its fine where it is now to me. (No more people on the lifeboat please) I like hackers not targeting my computers.

"Please don't say just go to the help forums - few really want to go down that route."

One of the things you have to do to successfully migrate to Linux is give up Windows or MacOS ideas and be willing to use the resources that exist for Linux. That does mean using community support, as in help forums and mailing lists. If people are unwilling to go that route then Linux really is not for them.

I wonder how MacOS users manager. They have a desktop market share comparable to or only slightly higher than Linux depending on whose numbers you believe. It is again unlikely that your friend our your aunt or whoever you might call for Windows support uses a Mac and yet nobody complains about a lack of Apple help.

"For people who are MSFT users,don't consider themselves techies,but might like to try Linux - are there really that many choices?"

This is more or less exactly what I came here to point out. There is a pretty-well-established "default" choice for the kind of user who wants to try Linux but can't handle choices.


Just grab the box of "Count Ubuntula with Marshmallow Gnomes[1]" and don't worry about the others until one feels more comfortable dealing with having control over one's software.


There, "choice" problem solved. It's no different than Windows™ users trying to "choose" which version of Windows to get. XP Home? XP Professional? Vista? 7 "Starter"? 7 "Professional"? 7 "Ultimate?" Server 2008? TOO MANY CHOICES, ARGH! In practice, though, most will just end up with whatever "home" edition is most readily available and not agonize over the other choices. Same goes with Linux here.


([1] I was GOING to suggest Kubuntu, on the off-chance that the KDE-haters at Graham Morrison's magazine might see it and have a conniption, but that would be silly.)

One of the reasons Microsoft is unsuccessful at extinguishing Linux. Take a guess. It's too many choices (No one/uno to sue). Hence the key to Linux survival against the monopoly.

They are not complaining that there really is too many choices(aka Windows 7 sku(s)). What you hear is frustration that Linux won't play there little monopoly game. If Linux doen't play, they can't win.

corrections:

They are not complaining that there really are too many choices(aka Windows 7 SKU(s)). What you hear is frustration that Linux won't play their little monopoly game. If Linux doesn't play, they can't win.

The article and comments (that I read) demonstrate that there are those persons out there - like Mr.Morrison - that have a platform to make fools of themselves, but making outrageously stupid and false statements.

I certainly question his "expertise" and rather, lack thereof, and his motivations - that clearly speak to preferences towards mostly Microsoft Windows or maybe Apple Mac OS X.

Tech publications really need to better vet their article writers for competence and integrity.

Caitlyn,
I see you've stirred up the MS fanbois and apparently have drawn fire from the every present MS "Technical Evangelists". Lovely little creatures, but digital terrorists all the same.

I've been using Linux for only 12 years and remember very well the 2004 Gartner estimates of 4% for Linux on the desktop, and predictions it would be around 8% in 2008. On February 25, 2009, no less than Steve Ballmer gave a presentation during which he showed a slide of USA desktop market shares. Her said that Linux was a greater threat to Windows than Apple. He also showed a slide which presented the Linux desktop market share as being slightly bigger than Apple's, known to be 10% at the time. With the failure of VISTA and the lack of Win7, despite their OEM desktop control, to enthuse XP users to convert, the only folks taking up Win7 are those buying new hardware.

Not only is Linux gaining in the desktop environment, FOSS server share continues to do well. SecuritySpace, a Canadian firm, shows server shares by domain, too, which makes interesting browsing. One realizes that the VAST majority of spam and malware attacks come from the that small,19% of servers still running Windows.

Lastly, the kind of attacks experienced by journalist Joe Barr, and recounted in his article, SLIME. What Joe didn't know in 1996 was that Microsoft had formed a gang of astroturfing attack terrorists, to which they gave the euphemism "Technical Evangelists". Microsoft employee Jame Plamondon created the techniques used by that gang, and when the Combs vs Microsoft trial outed his techniques he did a mea culpa. The Comes-3096.pdf gives all the dirty details. Those tactics, first documented by Joe Barr, and solidified by Plamondon in 1997, have been seen recently in the ODT battle, the ISO standards battle, attacks on the OLPC project and many other recent examples. Having failed to totally eliminate Linux and FOSS from the adoption by personal, government and corporate users Microsoft has attempted to subvert FOSS standards committees.

This argument is a sword that cuts both ways; be careful that in the same stroke you are not posing an argument against common standards.

Actually, in a way, the GPL license and others like it DO work against common standards. Any compliance with such standards is voluntary and if a developer wants to go another way there is nothing stopping them. For example, the Linux Standards Base (LSB) specifies rpm as the standard for software packages. Less than half of existing Linux distributions follow that standard.

Would I want to see this change? No. As much as I see value in standardization I value freedom more. Let the market decide whether a standard is good or not.

This 20 minute video talk is very interesting in how it highlights factors relating to real life choices

Sheena Iyengar on the art of choosing
http://www.ted.com/talks/sheena_iyengar_on_the_art_of_choosing.html

Excellent article, very funny, thank you.

I'm somewhat puzzled with people saying that they can do deliberate intelligent choice but they prefer not to, and for some it even give them problems to do those choice and educate themselves.
Just glancing at the comments in this articles is somewhat weird, you would think that readers on oreilly.com would be wiser, more educated it is obviously not the case.

@Emma: I don't think it's about wisdom or being educated. Some has a stake in tearing down Linux. Some see Linux as a threat. Their agenda rules their thinking and their responses.

This is a rather sad episode. I'm sorry I do agree with Morrison, in general he's right, and this does not give you the right to claim I'm a MS fanboi or some such other childish nonsense. I use Kubuntu 100% as my OS to do freelance work. I've had my Fiancée move over to Ubuntu (she finds it a more polished environment), she in general likes it. But there are times when it's entirly frustrating for me to say to her.. ah yeah well that bit works in that app and that other bit works in the other.

For instance Empathy allows better desktop integration, works fine with MSN etc. But wait for it, it doesn't support file transfers via MSN. I'm used to these annoyances, but a user who doesn't want to spend their life reading man pages and subversion commit logs to find out when "critical feature missing" is added doesn't care WHAT distro or WHAT app they are using. Users do things.. and if we have 5 different ways to do things but not all cover all aspects of the task then we do ourselfs as FOSS supporters a disservice which is the general jist of Morrisons article.

And before you say you shouldn't use such and such protocol because it's proprietary etc. then try working with the rest of the world who does. Its an unfortunate side effect and sometimes we get left behind because rather than finish one project a new one was started. No one is trying to limit anyones choice, but it would be better for us as a whole if we didn't dilute our efforts!

Ok,
I use Ubuntu and I IM transfer files with MSN-windows, I use Pidgin.
I see things the other way around MS stuff works sometimes and sometimes it doesn't, that the way Microsoft application interact most of the time.
They are trying to get better though, getting rid of ActiveX, for MS project for instance...

But yes it is true Microsoft have a long way to come before they can use good protocols and build rock solid applications.

Also support is non-existent in the Microsoft world, while Linux enjoy the most friendly community since software were invented, this is what it is ... sad I know... But hey if they are happy like that.

Well there's the problem. You use Pidgin, no longer the default IM app on Ubuntu for example. Empathy is not finished but was replaced. Choice lead to a less functional utility replacing one based on some other factor like looks/usability. Same with the example in Graham's piece about Shotwell, it can't do all F-Spot can. Same with MEdia players, some play DVDs well some play other stuff better.

Choice is fine when each app can achieve the same result, much like Caitlyn's point with the cereal, but in reality each app doesn't not cover the same functionality. In fact before they reach 100% feature parity with the proprietary example someone has started their own project and effort is divided again.

With your IM example how do you write a simple how to on setting up your contact lists, you either give a complete how to for every IM app (which could go to hundreds!) or you stick to a "best" choice.

Why is using a Pidgin a problem? Why is using something other than the default app a problem? Why is it so important to you that choice be suppressed and that people use a default dictated by a software vendor? Many FOSS apps not only reach feature parity, but many exceed their proprietary equivalents. Your "best" choice may not be mine yet you argue for eliminating choices. Kind of self-defeating, isn't it?

I will ask you what I have asked again and again and again. How do you restrict or cut down on choice without eliminating the very freedom that makes Free and Open Source Software what it is? The simple answer is that you can't.

I see what you are saying, but in Ubuntu you have a features called Packages those provide you with dozen of thousands software ready for you computer.
Unlike Windows you don't have to scout the web for countless hours.

I'm guessing one day Microsoft will do that too, but they are so far behind.

So pidgin is 3 click away (or so).
Nobody use a Microsoft OS with it's default program, you have to customize tons of programs find them, sign-up, get one or two virus doing so,

The thing with Linux it is way easier to install program, I understand that the readiness and the choice might be overwhelming for somebody used to have no choice and living in a white and black world but I think one can do it.

If you are such a Linux advocate and user why do you post Microsoft propaganda on both of my recent articles and do so repeatedly and at length? You may call it "childish nonsense" to call you a Microsoft fan or supporter but your numerous words and posts certainly argue that it is true.

You say you are no one is trying to limit choice yet people are arguing for precisely that. Either you aren't reading, aren't comprehending, or are deliberately choosing to ignore what doesn't suit your agenda. Oh, and yes, I believe you have an agenda. With one or two casual posts disagreeing with me I wouldn't say that. When it gets to five or six...

Choice is not a "disservice" to FOSS. There is no way to not "dilute our efforts" due to the nature of the GPL and compatible licenses, a fact that Morrison and you and others making this argument choose to ignore. How would you change that without making the software something other than free?

Regarding IM clients, the Linux clients that work with MSN seem to do just fine for me. If they don't for you then of course you have the choice to use Windows. It seems like an awfully drastic choice considering the malware and the security issues for "better desktop integration" but it is your choice.

Do you read what you write? You are claiming I'm an MS Propogandist? If you knew me then you'd know how laughable that is. I'm not for limiting choice, what I am against is the continual lack of completing projects we seem to go for.

- Like jumping to a new photo tool before it's reached feature parity.
- Using a new IM client when IT DOES NOT have the features of the client it is replacing
- Inventing yet another media player that doesn't quite do everything

Your failure to admit these facts is disrespectful to all of us who really want Free/OpenSource software on as many machines as possible. The attitude of sticking your fingers in your ears, thinking people are attacking you and simultaniously not admiting there may be a better way to do things is childish at best. I called your comment childish as you said "fanboi" maybe if you'd added M$ or windoze you could have added the negative stereo-type icing on the cake.

Being critical of how things are done is not unpatriotic for the FOSS cause it's the opposite. Choice is all good but we shouldn't change app defaults for retrograde-upgrades.

I didn't claim you are a Microsoft propagandist. I accused you of acting like one.

Like everyone else you ignored my question. How do you limit the number of choices with a license like the GPL? How do you restrict new projects or tell developers what to do without eliminating the freedom part of FOSS? You can't! Read the licenses! Can't you see that?

So, you are demanding the impossible, like the man who demanded to be taught all the worlds' knowledge while standing on one foot. My saying what Mr. Morrison wrote or what you write is nonsense is not ignoring facts or sticking fingers in my ear or childish. It is understanding what the F in FOSS means, something you clearly don't get.

I very much get it. The vast majority of non-geek users will use whatever is the default app in the distro. The distro by setting that default essentially blesses what everyone will consider the best app for the job in the eyes of regular folk who don't care how many different apps there are but just want to get on with it. By picking, in this case Shotwell over F-Spot, they have effectively given a (at this moment) less feature-full app in it's position. In my opinion the distros should strive to get the best software in there, effectively forcing competition/quality, but the user shouldn't bear the brunt of it either. The distros should have said to Shotwell, "we like where you are going but until you have a comparable feature list we can't swap out F-Spot, but keep going and you are going to get there!", rather than swapping it out before it is ready leaving a poor impression on behalf of users.

Taking the IM example, Ubuntu went from being able to do MSN text and file transfers to just doing Text.. essentially looking like it's got worse. By promoting utils before they are ready just leaves us with a bunch of half finished tools. Distros should help drive the competition but not reward folk till it's actually ready.

You limit choice by saying if it's not good enough it doesn't get in.

No, you don't get it. You are saying non-geek users are dumb as rocks and can't figure out how to install or try out other applications. You seek to dictate to Canonical (the makers of Ubuntu) when they can or cannot change their distro. You ask them to decide what is "good enough" according to YOUR standards, not theirs.

Once again, you don't get the F in FOSS at all. If Ubuntu started limiting their repository that way another fork would pop up that had no such limitations and part of Ubuntu's community would leave. That has already effectively happened with Linux Mint. It would just happen again.

What you are arguing against when you argue against choice is arguing against freedom. You are arguing against the very nature of what Linux is by design. You are arguing for what amounts to the proprietary model. That is a change that will never happen.

If you think Linux is horrible because it has too much choice then you are, of course, free to choose something else. You are not free to impose restrictions on FOSS development. The licenses simply do not allow that at all.

I don't assume anyone is "dumb as a rock", but people in general can't be bothered in most cases. They want to get on the internet, send that file to their grand child, look at that video. They don't want to get stuck in compiling the latest SVN version of mplayer, testing which IM client covers all there needs or logging out of Empathy, firing up Pidgin, transferring a file then logging out and back into Empathy again.

I think 2001's SuSE Professional DVD box set is calling your name in all it's 27 text editor, 7 web browsers etc. etc. glory.

I don't think anyone is trying to limit your ability to kick off your own Linux From Scratch project but most people just want to "Get Stuff Done". There is nothing wrong with a distro limiting choice.

Oh BTW buying a Linux machine (netbook) in Europe is not easy and Dell are a farce, having tried to do it for past couple of weeks. You folks in the US are seriously spoilt. Best I could manage was to go to novatech.co.uk about one of the only places where I could get a OS-less machine (no Linux possible). And Dell do a per country decission by the manager in that country whether they want to promote Linux or not and in general it's only done via phone. What Geek uses the phone to order a machine, you want to see the kit and use the website.

You must not have looked very hard for Linux in Europe. It took me less than a minute to search and find a vendor:
http://www.tekmote.nl/epages/61504599.sf/en_GB/?ViewObjectID=935271

Sorry, no sale on how us spoiled Americans can have Linux and you can't. It's more nonsense. Oh, and if that really were a problem many of those American vendors will happily ship internationally.

Finally, dismissing one of the largest PC makers in the world as a "farce" does not help your argument one little bit. There are plenty of other manufacturers and vendors to choose from thanks to the free market and a wide choice. Once again, choice is good.

Ah so I should get a netbook with a "3 Cell Lithium, continuous operation: 1,5 hours, under saving module: round 2 hours." wow that's great compared to a decent one which can expect 9hrs or so... and oh wait a Longsoon processor, which is sure to be barrel of laughs with non standard architecture. I don't want a 2nd class piece of kit just because I don't want to pay MS tax. While some vendors *may* ship outside of the US many will not, you'll get hit by a very large duty, the keyboard will be "wrong" as will the plug. Now what happens when it goes wrong, who pays the shipping for return to manufacturer?

I'm sorry but you are being dismissive over something you have very little knowledge, googling something and actually buying it are 2 very different things. Dell deserves no special treatment. I'd quiet happily pay them, I spent 2 weeks trying to organise it, but they made it next to impossible. Glossing over these issue and pretending things are better than they are is not helping any of us.

I actually do want a Lemote machine but that is another issue.

I am not glossing over anything. I simply took one vendor out of a LONG LIST of results. You are the one who is ignoring facts that don't match your agenda. Oh, and you're done dominating the discussion. You've had plenty of posts to make your point and are repeating yourself over and over. If you want to be dismissive in further posts please feel free to write your own blog.

I'm an "old school" unix geek, and I think open source software is awesome some of the time, and entirely useless and annoying most of the time. Much of it lacks direction, and as cool as I thought Linux was at first, the continual forking upon forking of distributions is irritating.

I've given up playing with Linux at home, and for a while, thought that my only option for my general-purpose-I-don't-want-to-think-about-administrating-this-box box was going to be windows. Having been a windows admin, I was less than pleased with that arrangement, but I didn't want to spend hours installing and evaluating Linux distros in my spare time. So I went with a mac, and fell in love when I opened my first terminal window.

Yes, the mac is built on open-source products, but the interface is consistent and pleasant. It doesn't require poking around in the internals to make it look less like one thing or another.

My husband has an Ubuntu box in his woodshop to run his cnc router, because that's the distro that the cnc software was written for. My co-workers have asked why he doesn't run x distro or y distro instead, and I always give his answer as "This is known to work. If I use another distro, even a slightly different one, I'll spend hours tweaking it so that I can get work done."

Choice, especially choice of the magnitude of Linux distros, doesn't make people happier, it makes people less sure that they made the right choice, and gives them buyer's remorse.

This wonderful anecdotal story means nothing and choice does not "give them buyer' remorse". Most users are not distro-hoppers. For all the choices pick any of the major distros and stick with it and suddenly there is no issue. The idea that distros take hours to tweak and that this is somehow necessary may have been true a decade ago but it isn't now.

You don't like FOSS and you admit that choice is part of the nature of free software. Isn't it wonderful that since you don't like FOSS you are free to make the choice not to use it? Would you like that choice taken away? You argue for limiting other people's choices so why not restrict your own?

honestly in all respect i think youre arguement to be flawed.i can point out a case with most opensource games.choice is good but not always.i would take 5 high quality products over 500 childish code anyday.any opensource gaming project is forked constantly losing developers and quality over time simple to get individual satisfaction for a small group and eventually the main project gets dead.really why do you think people use windows,surely 93% of the people are not dumb or dont know anything about linux.linux takes too much tweaking for even simple things.people prefer productivity over some extra freedom.and linux needs to get a united front for major companies to show interest in linux and start producing commercial software for linux(canonical is doing a commendable job in it).free software only gets so far especially for games and multimedia editing and creation.once a commercial environment is established with decent high quality software(sorry to say shotwell is a lame excuse for a photo manager,f-spot was miles better)linux will start to grow automatically grow.and for that we need atleast a common order of progression of kernel versions ,X org server versions(this messes games badly) and a common library of dependencies.and i see that you disagree with almost everyone that does not agree with your view.people have choice,so please stop thinking that whatever you say is correct and godlime

Of course I think my opinion is correct as do most of the Linux community. I ask again: how would you restrict choice? Who would decide what can and cannot be used? Should we all be restricted to your choices? Clearly the Fedora and Ubuntu developers disagree with you about Shotwell.

"93% of the people" do not use Windows. Steve Ballmer, the CEO of Microsoft, claimed it was 83% at the Windows 7 launch. The real number is probably around 80%. Are Windows users dumb? Did I ever say that? I don't think so. However, your assertion that most do know about Linux is completely contrary to my experience. Most Joe and Jane Users have no clue whatsoever what Linux is.

You like proprietary software and Windows? Fine. Don.t try to restrict the choices of Linux users. If you don't like choices then Linux is not for you. The GPL, the license the Linux kernel and most Linux distributions are released under, guarantees that choice is here to stay.

http://tuxradar.com/content/podcast-season-2-episode-18

Go to 45 minutes in
they deal with Caitlyn's argument. A point is made that according to wikipedia's own stats, only 1.8% of visitors are running linux. closer to the 2% thats the generally accepted fact

First, you are commenting on the wrong article. This one is about choice, not marketshare. Second, a WikiPedia webcounter is not a definitive source. Third, it is not a generally accepted fact. It is a widely believed myth. How can Linux market share be 1.8% when Linux share of desktop/laptop/netbook sales is around 8%? It can't be.

P.S.: Please, no more off topic comments. They will simply be deleted.

Hi Caitlin,

I agree with a lot of the points that you are making. Linux is not Windows and people are trying to look at it through that lens.

Linux is free and open source as you had mentioned. I appreciate the fact that it is very configurable and that an individual has the freedom to create their own OS. Linux is a natural for the tweakers (not meth addicts btw) and power users.

However, the kernel can be appreciated in a larger scope as well.

It does not prevent a developer from creating a more user friedly or even a proprietary distro. Some distros could be more user friendly for the other ~90%. The nettop and embedded systems are good examples of where this type of "progress" has been made.

I expect there will be some desktop distros which will further the trend. If these specific distros find it in there best interest to agree on some degree of standardization... good for them.

The common analogy I have heard is to Lego though--not breakfast cereal. Some people will want a tub of loose pieces, some will want a diagram and some custom pieces for a specific build type or types, others want a large custom piece with some loose pieces for decoration.

I like the diversity of the community and expect that it will continue to grow.

Linux is what you make it.

Here's an excellent talk of the paradox of choice by Barry Schwartz.

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/barry_schwartz_on_the_paradox_of_choice.html

The cereal analogy is weak at best. When I select a breakfast cereal, I am making a choice that I will live with for what, a week?

Graham is a long term Linux user, enthusiast, writer, etc. He wants Linux to grow past the 2% uptake that the current linux model has succeeded in attracting. We've tried status quo for more than 10 years. Perhaps it is time to try another approach.

Linux marketshare is way beyond the 2% he quotes. Using the Wikimedia web counter as a single authoritative source in the face of so much data to the contrary is beyond silly. Start with a false premise and you will invariably come to the wrong conclusions.

What other approach would you like to try? How do you limit choice without taking Linux proprietary? How do you do it in the face of the GPL and compatible licenses? I ask that over and over again and nobody has an answer. Why not just suggest turning night into day or lead into gold?

Great response Caitlyn.

I agree with you that choice is one of the strengths of Linux. But I think there is room for improvement in the package management systems -- not functionally so much as in the way in which the packages are described. "Many" choices can become "too many" choices when users cannot distinguish one from the other.

As an example:
If I see "Whole Grain Corn Flakes" next to "Frosted Corn Flakes", I can determine which better meets my needs. If, however, I see "Kellogg's Fruit Loops" next to "Post Fruit Loops", I really don't know which is better, or how they differ. I'll either guess or try both. I understand that trying both is "free" in Linux, but it still takes time. If I can at least increase my degree of confidence that my first choice is the best for me, that would go a long way.

As a Linux user for years, there are still times when I am looking for software to do something that I am not very familiar with (for example [dvd|video] encoding). If I go into Synaptic (I use Ubuntu), I will see tons of choices, mencoder, handbrake, acidrip, etc., etc., etc., and I might not know which to choose. I do not want to install them all if I can avoid it. I would like to be able to easily compare them. Currently, I have to go to each project's home page to really dig into the features -- because the descriptions in the package manager are frequently inadequate. Maybe if there could be some more structure in the descriptions of the packages, users could compare them more easily. I think that's a tall order, but maybe it can be done.

By the way... différence is feminine, so it would be "Vive la différence"


UPDATE: As I think about it, in Windows, if I want similar video encoding software, I would also have to go to the project's home pages and do the research, sure enough... But because we have repositories of software, this is an OPPORTUNITY for Linux to shine, by enhancing the current package taxonomy with schemata for software categories to help users with their choices. Just a thought.

NATURAL SELECTION
A couple of distros will probably naturally come to be dominant on the linux desktop whether through superiority or just by being seen as the default.

For most consumers new to linux, ubuntu (for better or worse) is the default choice as it was for me. This works fine and many people are happy with it.

People who don't want choice or change will probably stick with one distro for years - so how would the existence of other distros upset them? Forums are usually distro-specific anyway.

From Ubuntu I learned more about linux and distro-hopped all over the place with old, spare machines - but this was my choice.

No-one has to be confused if they don't want choice just go for the default

It seems that everyone who has an issue with this article is repeatedly ignoring the driving central question. If you think choice is a problem, you CANNOT solve it. If you did, then Linux would no longer be Linux and FOSS would no longer be FOSS. It is a MOOT issue. It will NOT change. So stop bitching about it. It doesn't matter if everyone or no one "realizes" or admits there is a problem. IT CANNOT BE FIXED.

Second, everyone bitching about choice is NOT the average user. They are clearly by their own admission, (in order to even realize a problem at ALL) - DISTRO HOPPERS. The average user will not distro hop. They will make a choice and work with it.

These naysayers of choice are themselves NOT MAKING CHOICES, they are constantly changing their minds and then blaming their woes on the availability of options. If too many options is a problem, then why they haven't chosen ONE and stuck with it is beyond me. Seems like that would solve their "problem," See, no more choice. You've already made it.

I'm a newbie to Linux. I'm only 4 years old in this sandbox. I came to Linux via a book with a live CD of Ubunutu at Barnes and Noble. I was interested. I skimmed several books on the shelf and made the CHOICE of Ubuntu 6.04 (Dapper I believe)

I've since used CentOS at school with NO problems or learning curve. I've played with several lightweight distros looking to restore old hardware to life. I have yet to encounter any problems of choice. I explore options and then MAKE a choice.

The naysayers here are correct but their terminology is wrong. They DO have a problem with choice. They can't make one. But their arguments are against OPTIONS as if the options are bad, because to them, since they can't make a choice, options are bad. It forces them to make a decision and to deal with it.

Yes, lots of people have this problem. Linux is not here to solve that problem and never will. If you can't make up your mind, and hate making a choice, Linux is not for you. If you simply don't like to be forced into living with a choice FOREVER, and hate stagnation, then Linux IS for you.

But talking about it every year is pointless and moot. It simply isn't going to change.

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