Brilliant and very useful for FreeBSD, IMHO

Johnson David DavidJohnson at
Tue Apr 8 11:49:00 PDT 2003

On Tuesday 08 April 2003 10:34 am, Gary W. Swearingen wrote:
> Johnson David <DavidJohnson at> writes:
> > Frankly, the expections set forth by the reviewer are unrealistic.
> > She
> True, but with few exceptions, it's only unrealistic because the many
> people with the moderate skills needed to do the job are unwilling to
> invest their time on the job.  (I include myself in this category.) 
> I'm not sure why this is.  The most skilled and ambitious seem to
> prefer hacking the guts of the OS or leading their own application
> project.  I suspect that the job of improving the User Experience
> requires too much difficult human interaction by designers, etc.

The reason I said her expectations were unrealistic was because they 
are. As prime, and overwhelming, evidence is her OWN satement that not 
even Windows XP met her expectations. If the prize jewel of the 
dominant line of desktop operating systems can't meet her requirements, 
then how can we?

This is not to say that FreeBSD can't be improved, or be made much more 
accessible to the casual user. But meeting her requirements is going to 
be much, much more difficult. She has not put forth Windows as an 
example desktop system, but as a *standard* to be met. Not even Mac 
OSX, which everyone agrees is aptly suitable for newbies, will meet her 
requirements in full.

> I've observed a couple of Linux distribution developments which make
> me think that the problem of "ease of use" is more one of desire to
> do the job well than one of huge difficulty/manpower.

Having surveyed the Linux landscape, and having once lived there, I have 
come to the conclusion that most distros define as "ease of use" as 
"simplicity". But a UNIX like system is a complex system. You cannot 
make it simple. I haven't tried Lycoris or Lindows, or any of the more 
recent Windows-like Linuxes. But when I hear stories of Lindow 
defaulting to a password-less root login, I don't think that's the way 
we want to go.

I have tried some of the slightly older "easy" distributions. They seem 
to suffer one of two maladies. They either strip away functionality to 
the point that intermediate or advanced users start to suffocate, or 
they cover the underlying complexity with layer after layer of dialogs 
and wizards, to the point that it becomes much more complex than it was 

My first example was Corel LinuxOS. It kept blowing up on the install 
because it kept trying to probe my video card, even though the XFree86 
documentation clearly and distinctly says not to do so. When I finally 
got it installed via an undocumented text-mode installer, it was so 
stripped of functionality that it was unusable. My latest example was 
Redhat. I friend had just installed the latest one and he needed help 
with getting it on the network. I found no less than three 
configuration dialogs on the main root menu dealing with network 

> Even without better automating the install process, the FreeBSD
> installer could be greatly improved with *relatively* little effort.
> The thing is just un-polished and unfriendly.  Several confusingly-
> different ways of navigating menus; use of esoteric, undocumented
> terms, poor help system, poor explanations of what's happening at
> each step, etc.

Of course! You have no disagreement with me there. But on the other 
hand, I have found the FreeBSD installer to be much easier than the 
newbie-oriented Mandrake installer.


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