Discussion about the needs of everyday users

Registered by Krishna Sankar

Ask users not geeks, what they would want in their next OS by some form of user participated initiative. What would they want the next OS to do, if there were no boundaries?
Paraphrasing Mark's words - talk with users in a systematic fashion to find out what they really need; we have to do more than just jump over the bar set by other OSs, we have to play to our strengths and deliver something surprising.

Adding more insight, how would the next billion people use the computer and how can we preempt that revolution? (It is not as esoteric as it sounds, but the concept is powerful)

A related work is Ubuntu for the One-Laptop-Per-Child (OLPC) project. The technology substrate (i.e. OS footprint,...) is challenging but the next level foundation application substrate is more challenging. IMHO, this would include some form of MANET, zeroConf, and a few others … What are we going to do about it ?

One example is the proposal https://launchpad.net/distros/ubuntu/+spec/easy-to-use-wiki

A good article in O'Reilly - http://www.linuxdevcenter.com/pub/a/linux/2006/06/01/switching-back.html
on why someone prefers Linux over MAC !

Two things chromatic(the author of that article) misses are the wireless support and zeroConf aware apps ! (Both on many of our ToDo lists)

The [http://radar.oreilly.com/archives/2006/06/ubuntu_linux_a_threat_to_mac_o.html follow-up article] is a must read !

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Could the comments be moved to a Wiki page, please? The whiteboard got too crowded by now.
-- Sascha Silbe, 2007-06-18

I think an important point for non-geek laptop user is to have a full support of their laptop energy feature (cpu frequency scaling, and so on...) without having to do many complicated things (installing amd's drivers require a kernel compilation). It is a real shame that many laptops have their autonomy reduced for up to the quater under ubuntu compared with windows.

Another thing many users told me they wanted, is not having to enter an admin password each time they want to install an application. So maybe a way to install app only for the user, with synaptic (maybe just certain non risky apps) would make them happy.

I'm a non-geek. I want a working PIM. Evolution sucks. It's buggy as hell and looks ugly (not fully GNOME-compliant). Check my "feature" request: https://features.launchpad.net/distros/ubuntu/+spec/improve-evolution
Thank you!

Agreed, and I'm a geek. Evolution is the single obstacle to me adopting Linux permanently. I'm not holding out any hope of it getting better, either. I might switch if Mozilla Calendar ever becomes stable.

I am a geek, but not of the dev-breed. My -jitsu instead lies in philosophy media and other esoterica not important here. What I would truly love to see is some form of package-manager level support for open content, such as Librivox.org's audiobooks, Project Gutenberg's ebooks, WikiMedia (are they CamelCase?), Wikibooks' textbooks and in general the rest of the public domain material that is worthwhile on the web.
What I suggest is some sort of a community organization and content filter that allows for free speech.
The means and systems for creation (audacity, GIMP, etc.) exist, but decent methods of distribution do not. That will take some Dev-Fu IMO.
My email is <email address hidden>, and I am interested in making this happen.

I think a great way of getting users to tell us what they want is by having them vote on it. We already have tons of specifications, several of which I've been waiting to get implemented but they keep getting pushed aside. Why don't we provide users with a list of maybe 100 possible new additions, have everyone vote on them and then implement the top 3.

What we need is a standardised list of questions to ask people. Then, the results can be compiled and patterns can be recognised.

2 features I think "non geeks" might find essential:
ability to reformat/erase USB pen drives from right click menu
ability to arrange desktop by attributes other than name from right click menu


The non-geeks I know use their PCs for:
1) email (mainly webmail)
2) WWW (mainly myspace)
3) IM (mainly msnm)
4) Digital Camera's (resizing / transferring to web sites / emailing / printing of photos)
5) MP3 Players (the non-geeks I know are not hardcore mp3 addicts yet all own mp3 players)

*Cover these 5 bases and all of the non-geeks I know would be more than happy to switch from Windows XP. I'm not saying Ubuntu does not cover these bases, just that it should focus on making all 5 "just work". --bluecat9

What users need is for their hardware to work. I've had two friends try to install and run Ubuntu only to remove it after having trouble with their monitor resolution and their network card. Sure hardware should just work but what if the system detects incorrectly? If my hardware didn't work I'd use windows too. We need better system tools for configuring video, device modules (drivers), network, etc. This should be a priority as no one will use Linux if the OS can't run properly. We need to give users UIs for OS management before making wizards for enabling desktop effects. Focus on the OS before the applications.

As a long time mac user I see the complaints about the lack of of user friendly hardware/system configuration and keep getting reminded of the Extensions manager from the classic Mac OS. For those of you who never met EM, it was a graphical tool that allowed a user to enable system extensions (control panels, drivers, startup items and other stuff) by ticking them on a list.

Most extensions were supplied with clear names, icons, categories and short descriptions of what they did so that a user could work out which extensions they needed and which they could safely turn off. Users could also specify custom sets of extensions and switch between them by a pull down menu. For example I used to have a lite set with all the extensions I needed just for work, a compatibility set with just the original factory set and a game set with open GL, quicktime and networking extensions.
Another feature of EM was that you could load it at startup before the Mac OS had fully booted and turn extensions on and off, change sets etc. This was very useful for hardware trouble shooting.

On Ubuntu a similar program could be useful for optimising memory usage and boot time as well as trouble shooting and it would be so much easier and quicker than manually editing config files. Of course, this would be running counter to *nix paradigms that have been around for decades... I'm not holding my breath for you guys to do this. :)

Never ever having to open the terminal, edit text config files, or see console log messages. I am a terminal junkie, but even fairly competent users have been trained to think "monospace text = scary." Displaying a pretty graphic during boot rather than scrolling lines of text went a long way towards making it less scary. A user should never even have to know that there is a command line or that configurations are stored in well-commented text files to use Ubuntu.

Might this be better suited as a marketing initiative? Could somebody be appointed to organise the taking of surveys, people who know how to relate non-geek requests into blueprints could take surveys and forward them to someone appointed to oversee the blueprints development.

I agree to all of this, in particular with printing issues. Printing in still a nightmare!!!
Maybe this is the roadmap to solve BUG#1.

Ubuntu really needs a window-version of the agt-get tool. Apt-get is the one killer feature. As I first saw it, it totally overwhelmed me. But non-geeks a) don't know that this program exists and b) avoid using the console. The window-version should give examples for programs that may be useful to install (for example MP3 support for ubuntu), but also have an input-line where you can type the name of any program you wish to install.
--EDIT-- It already exists, look for synaptic,gnome-app-install,adept,kpackage... --simontol 2007/10/19

start key on keyboards implented, at least to pop up the gnome menu and at best to include shortcuts like start+r or run etc
better laptop powersaving
better support for stability features - eg my lifebook has a shock sensor which shuts off the hard drive based on vibration; however only windows supports this
easy way to edit some of the more frequently accessed config files eg mounting drives on start-up etc...most non-geeks fear the command line! in fact i think the command line more than anything else is what scares people away from linux..

From what I have seen the biggest hurdle for most new users are the naming conventions. When a user runs the update manager or even synaptic to et a program and are faced with terms like 'frontend,' WYSIWYG, emacs and other such things in the names and descriptions, they tend to get scared and confused, back off because they are not sure what they are doing. There was an article somethere about this.
What I see is that the everyday users don't know all of the basics. For example, simontol didn't know about the GUI apt-get program installed by default. We need a first startup window that introduces new installers (people who aren't upgrading) how to do the basics with Ubuntu. --adamorjames 2008/01/19

- The point is that common users do not need to know anything about apt-get, neither none commands. Years ago that was utopia, but now we are making it possible. I use CLI as a better and fastest way to do the jobs, but new and home users might not need to know even it exists. That is one of the points to expand Linux; and now it is begining to be possible. So, don't make effort to explain hoy to use the shell; just allow common users to do what they want without using it.
Adam, some GUI and fancy tutorial could be a great idea, although, please, dont make it pop up from the beggning, just like the annying windows one; instead, make a visible shortcut.

-- alcockell 2008-06-09

Umm, speaking as a new Ubuntu user, but one who is used to a package-managed environment at work - I'd like to ask what would be the best method for non-geeks to be able to raise Enhancement Requests.

EG - I *like* the way that a lot of apps are packaged.. but would not feel comfy about installing except from the Ubuntu repos... but there could be other apps out there...

Adobe Flash is now available as a package - how about other apps? A user may not be comfy outside Synaptic - but knows there is <xyz> app - how to request that this is packaged up for Ubuntu?

I really don't agree with "Never ever having to [...] see console log messages. [...] A user should never even have to know that there is a command line or that configurations are stored in well-commented text files to use Ubuntu." and "common users do not need to know anything about [...] none commands." I think they must not but they could know how it works, and it works with command lines and config files. When you make a GUI frontend, please don't try to think what the user should do or not with it, just give an access to all the background functions. And let the user see the console log with drop down menu for ex. (sorry for my english, I'm french speaking)


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