Where Do YE Send Netbook Users Fer Help?

In honor of International Talk Like a Pirate Day, Linux Journal presents:

As a Linux evangelist, I find myself in an interestin' quandary. Thar be many new netbooks bein' sold wi' Linux pre-installed, but often th' way Linux be installed be nay what I’m used t' seein'. I’m nay sure if that’s a good thin' or a bad thin'. I understand th' reasonin' fer custom interfaces, but 't has some disadvantages. Love 't or hate 't, as a Linux community we be havin' t' be able t' handle these things gracefully, or we lose all th' potential impact we gain wi' pre-installed Linux.

Why Companies Customize th' GUI

* Netbooks be tryin' t' fill a specific gap between notebook computers an' handheld devices. A simple interface t' access full programs makes sense.
* Wi' a standard “Start” menu, new users might assume they could install anythin' they download from th' Internet... fer Windows
* Fewer software options means fewer technical support issues
* An' lastly, Linux makes 't easy t' customize, so 't’s temptin' t' do so strictly fer brand recognition

Why This Frustrates Linux Geeks

I can only speak fer myself on this matter, but I can imagine many o' us feel th' same way. When a user asks a question about th' Eee version o' Xandros, or th' Aspire version o' Linpus -- th' question almost becomes unique t' that machine as opposed t' a general Linux question. Sure, th' Eee uses a customized version o' Xandros, which be based on Debian, but once 't’s gone through them revision levels, most issues be Eee Xandros specific.

I often struggle when helpin' users o' these new netbooks, on accoun' o' e'en tho 't’s Linux, 't’s still foreign t' me. Aye, I usually manage t' point swabbies in th' starboard direction, but 't turns ou' t' me more challengin' than questions regardin' standard, common distributions. How does th' wireless tray app work in Ubuntu? I gotcha covered. In Fedora? Same deal. In Xandros EeePC? Well, 't’s a weird combination o' 2 applications that both sit in th' task bar. 't’s almost familiar, but nay quite.

Don’t get me wrong -- I’m happy vendors be pre-installin' Linux. I’m nay e'en angry that th' versions be highly customized. 't jus' takes more learnin' on th' part o' Linux geeks that get asked support questions. I’m curious, how do th' Linux Journal readers feel about th' new GUI interfaces on Linux netbooks? Be they a wise move by vendors, or be th' straight up Linux installs wi' Gnome or KDE a better decision?


Shawn Powers is a Linux Journal Associate Editor. You might find him on IRC, Twitter, or training IT pros at CBT Nuggets.


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alphakamp's picture

I understand why these companies are creating custom desktop environments. It makes sense if their selling point for these netbooks is "It's a big pda with more functionality!" But the masses will come to expect linux to always look like what ever they used first. Meanwhile vendors selling linux desktops are using gnome/kde, thus confusing average Joe even more. IMO average Joe doesn't care what he is using as long as it works and I think the netbooks is doing a good job at promoting linux in general. But I don't fear that desktop choices will degrade linux the eyes of average Joe and Jane. It just might scare them :(