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Windows is a Better Desktop?

The suits must be in charge of this one.

Steve Jobs gave Bill Gates prototypes of the original Macintosh to work on a spreadsheet for the Apple computer. Although Gates' company Microsoft did come through with Multiplan, they spent even more time probing the beige box and trying to figure out ways to steal it.

What's a wonder is that they did such a cock-up job of it: aside from the bugs, hangs, and crashes, aside from the inexcusable security record, Microsoft Windows remains far and above the worst user interface in the world of modern computing.

And 90-95% of the unwitting computer users of the world are suffering as a result.

It therefore comes as a shock to learn that Novell, owned enough by Snow White and owners in turn of SuSE, have begun a 'better desktop' initiative the skinny of which would seem to be to make Linux more like Windows than it already is (which is considerable).

Many are the Linux and Unix users who migrate to OS X simply because the 'desktop' is so much better. OS X has a fantastic interface, but GNOME and KDE - to put it bluntly - are 'teh suck'.

GNOME and KDE both suffer from less than adequate development tools. What with the work that's already gone into them, there is little hope they can ever be scrapped for something better - such as what Apple have to offer.

But now IBM, who own an influential (not to say controlling) interest in both SuSE and Novell, advise Novell to buy SuSE, and Novell, long 'out of it' with their NetWare, are staging a comeback with what they call 'Open Suse'.

Even the emperor in his new clothes was never so naked.

Novell have up to now conducted five so called 'usability tests'. These tests take ordinary people / computer users and film them taking on rocket science tasks on the behalf of Novell. The five tests so far are as follows, together with the conclusions Novell's crack team of suits arrived at.

1. Login

  1. People expected the username and password fields to be visible at the same time.
  2. People expressed confusion by the lack of a login button.

2. Desktop Shortcut Creation

  1. Launcher creation dialog in Gnome is very unintuitive for creating shortcuts to installed applications.

Sees nothing wrong.

3. Time and Date Settings

  1. The method for accessing the date and time config is not discoverable.
  2. Users assume that the root password request requires them to log in to the desktop as root.
  3. Double-clicking on clock applet does not open date/time configuration as it does on Windows.

4. Mail Attachments

  1. The send / receive button is unintuitive.
  2. Evolution is hard to discover as being the mail application.
  3. Attachment list is hidden by default, though attachments are added.

5. Font Properties

  1. No major issues found.

Almost anyone's reaction to the above is 'they're used to Windows'. Finding people in this day and age who have never seen a computer before and who Novell have the time to educate in the basics so they can take even these simple tests is futile - 90-95% of the users they get for these tests are used to Windows. (And perhaps Novell were excluding people who'd used other platforms, but what other platforms are there? Would an OS X user condescend to these tests?)

Simply because people are 'used to' a (bad) way of doing things is not justification for maintaining poor standards. With anything new, people need time to learn. The cottage industries that popped up to teach people unfathomable features in Microsoft products have made billions.

For that matter, 90-95% of computer users don't even know what 'root' is - and they've probably never logged into a secure system in their lives.


  1. Observations 1.1, 1.2, 3.2, and 3.3 are all attributable to brain damage from overexposure to Windows and other Microsoft products.
  2. Observation 2.1 assumes there is a desktop and there are such things as 'desktop shortcuts', which exposes the open source fetish with aping everything in every Redmond release.
  3. Observation 3.1 is easily remedied (if it need be) on any platform.
  4. Observation 4.1 is highly ironic, as it is Microsoft's detestable Outlook which uses such a stupid system in the first place and if open source have copied even this then they deserve to be tarred and feathered.
  5. Observation 4.3 indicates poor design. Certainly Apple Mail will always show attachments 'inline' (in the message itself and placed wherever the user wants in the message itself) but then again, working with the substandard tools open source have for their 'desktops', this is not surprising.
  6. Observation 4.2 hints that perhaps 'Evolution' is not an accurate description of the mail client.
  7. That both popular Linux desktops flatter Windows by copying Microsoft's horrid design is a known fact. That they should go even further was not expected; instead it is frightening.
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