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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Computer for gradma and world domination

This entry was inspired by latest entry in LinuxToday, but refers to such topic as "Computers for gramma" or "Linux on a desktop" in general.

These topics have history now, and they've been "refurbished" at least once per few weeks. The major points of those are twofold (althouth highly interconnected). Those points are being:
  1. Whether my {favorite non-technical member of the family} can easily use computer?
  2. Is Linux ready for desktop?

Please allow me to explain, why those 2 are interconnected.

Well, the first one is well understood. In last 15 or so years, computers transformed from geaky toy to a "in any home" appliance. We do many of day to day tasks with it: We send and read our mail. We read, see and listen to a news. We listen to a music/radio. We watch movies (and sometimes TV). We record music, speech and TV. We play. We talk.

So, if my grandma can operate a TV/VCR, why can't she operate a computer system? Of course she can. In the matter of simplicity, I'll ask anyone who is familiar with computers, to perform the following tasks:
  • Check/Send an email
  • Read/check news on favorite website
  • Listen to a music
  • Watch a movie/DVD (all legal, don't worry)
  • Write a simple document (such as you shop list)
I'd believe that anyone who's been using a computer for at least a month, would be able to perform all these tasks.

Now consider the following: the "Alex computer system" that I asked to perform those tasks on has nothing but pretty picture on the desktop, with the following icons:
  • Mail
  • Internet
  • Documents
  • Music/Movies

Wouldn't you agree, that using only common sense performing the aforementioned tasks would not be too hard? Say, Mail would present some pretty interface to email (or Gmail, Yahoo or anything else - all our email interfaces are alike and pretty self explanatory), Internet would fire up Firefox (or any other browser; and all our browser interfaces are alike and self explanatory), Music/Movies would start something like "media center" application (like Windows Media Center/Tivo/MythTv/Telly, or any other similar application) which is pretty straight forward to use and self explanatory, and Documents will start simple document editor, either local or browser-based (they do have similar interfaces anyway, except MS Office 2007, of course).

Now, I still believe, that no age-related neither intellectual issues have been discussed here yet. It is all very intuitive and common sense.

Just like the TV.

So, at this point, considering all I discussed before, could you answer the following question, please, :

Do you know which operating system "Alex computer system" runs? And more important, does it matter?

This is what I've been trying to explain. I sustain, that there's sincerely and absolutely no importance in which operating system powers the all-powerful "Alex computer system". This, as great result, leads me to the following:

For any such general-purpose computing, Linux-based OS (all you zealots, I know the difference between GNU/Linux and Linux, but I don't want to go into politics for a moment) is completely ready for massive desktop usage, as long as it can be installed and maintained in a way that makes sense to a general public.

Please, note the "common sense" part. I don't think that working with "Start" (or "applications" or whatever) menu is very intuitive (although I have to agree that "Applications" is much better than "Start"). To watch TV, one has to press an "on" and that's it. To play a movie on a VCR one presses "play". That's common sense. That's intuitive.

So here's my initial suggestion to all those aspiring to "prove" to everyone that Linux is ready. Create an application with the following features:

  1. Create a very beautiful GUI with pre-defined tasks, such as those mentioned above.
  2. Make sure it works as stable and as predictable as TV.
  3. Make sure that interface is consistent thorough the applications.
  4. Try it on your not so technical {member of your family} to see whether it is intuitive enough.

Until now, we've been preparing to world domination. Now the final part:

When they are asleep, swap the OS to Linux. Enjoy the fruits of your labour.

Heh, that would be fun and easy. Wouldn't it?

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Richard said...

I think you left out document storage area unless you want them to save everything to the desktop. It would be great to create the system so that it sorts files by type and automatically saves them in the appropriate folders. One for music, video, word processing/text,...

Alex said...


First, no I haven't forgot, and second I thing you're wrong.

The whole idea is for this thing to be intuitive, which means no "folders", "files" or such.

It should be resolved on application level. "Documents" application will help you work with documents (either creating new ones or finding the old ones), "Email" application will work with email, etc.

Just try to forget computer terms, go beyond files and folders.

Think of "documents", "music" and "video".

That is what your grandma has to know. Not files :-)

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