Being as it’s developed originally by software developers for software developers Linux is only now placing importance on winning the average user over. Usability for the masses has never been a huge concern, and things were optimized for the professional before everybody else. A good example of this can be found in the open-source 3D application Blender, which was originally developed alongside 3D artists, in order to make things they did quite often easier. A good idea it would seem, but now that it’s free for everyone a lot of work has had to go into it to make it friendlier to more casual users. The same can be said of Linux in general. While developers and even the most average users don’t care if a KDE application doesn’t look at home in Gnome, it might prove a turn off to more fussy users. Of course this is assuming nothing has gone wrong on their installation path and everything works as it should.
Ubuntu’s recent deal to accompany Dell PCs provides the solution to these possible installation and compatibility woes. Users will receive the same experience as Windows or OS X users upon starting their machine for the first time. Even without this Ubuntu provides a Live-CD that boots into a Gnome desktop. Installation is merely a matter of clicking an ‘Install Ubuntu’ desktop icon. This control takes first time problems completely out of the equation. It is interesting to note that Linux’s open-source ethic, which allows anyone to browse the inner workings of their system, actually benefits everything from usability to personal security. Since everyone can potentially offer improvements it isn’t only hackers, looking for a way in, that are examining the operating system closely. As a result Linux quickly changes, and the technology behind a usable system is constantly being improved upon.
At the end of the day Linux is all about choice. For developers and power users this is a good thing, as it lets them set up things exactly as they want to have them. Unfortunately average users have to take a back seat because the practicality of the interface doesn’t take a high enough priority. In this way the lowest common denominator isn’t appealed to, users either have to learn to use or completely avoid Linux. This is in contrast to Windows, where things are designed with the average user very much in mind. OS X attempts to make the best of both worlds, making accessing programs easy but providing a bit more under the hood, without the flexibility of choice. By virtue of choice alone Linux may be the best option if neither Windows nor OS X sit right, and as it gets easier and easier to install it should become a more and more viable option.