Gnome, GTK and the rest

I freely acknowledge my biases:

I think that operating systems should work well out-of-the-box for consumer users. I think that is a minimum requirement for any desktop environment marketed to consumer users.

I think that too many Linux enthusiasts miss the forest for the trees, so consumed with the power and customization possibilities of Linux on the desktop that they forget that Linux on the desktop is not going to grow market share unless and until Linux is suitable for use by consumer users who want an operating system that works well out-of-the-box without customization beyond the basics.

You suggest that users who want an operating system that works well out-of-the-box, beyond changing backgrounds, working through the settings menus, and adding/removing applications through a GUI interface, and neither have nor want the level of knowledge needed to go beyond that are "lazy", "unwilling to learn" and "ignorant'. Your statement encapsulates the attitude of too many Linux enthusiasts, and it is exactly a case of "looking down our long noses are users who aren't."

So, "How to address the notion ...?"

A good place to start might be to accept consumer users as they are and meet them where they are -- users who expect Linux to "just work" in the way that Windows, MacOS, Android and iOS "just work" -- and rid ourselves (as best we can) of the notion consumer users who have no interest in joining the Linux culture are "lazy", "unwilling to learn" and "ignorant".

I realize that my view that Linux on the desktop should work well enough out-of-the-box to meet the needs of consumer users who don't want to develop Linux skills is about as popular in the Linux community as dog droppings on a hot day, but I don't think that Linux desktop will grow market share until at "beginner" distos are good enough to do just that.

Explain to me where your assumption of "Beyond the settings" comes from?

There is a huge difference between using the settings and users demanding that systems and programs do the work for them. There is a huge difference between putting in some effort and demanding "I don't want to have to learn" "I don't want to have to use the CLI" "I Want this, I want that."

This is not "joining the Linux Culture", Tom. It is a willingness to Use The basics. No one at any point said anything whatsoever about all users having to turn into programming gurus. You shifted the goal posts in order to support your attack of "looking down their nose."

The thing is, what this statement does is shifts the responsibility of the user onto those that provide support as a derogatory statement- that something is "wrong" with Linux users that expect users to be responsible and willing to learn.

Not so. It shifts the responsibility from consumer users -- people who want an operating system that "just works" -- to the developers who provide operating systems. "[T]hose that provide support ..." are caught in the middle.

I think we are debating a lot of undefined variables, here.
Let's take this forum as an example: How many users join or refer to the forum daily to resolve issues - things not "just working."
Out of how many total users?
I think this is a critical point: Most (The vast majority) of Linux users experience no problems with AMD or Nvidia graphics or Ultra-wide Monitors. But occasionally, some do.
Or in this recent case:

A bit of additional programming was needed.

This is as true on Windows. Mac experiences this less, because Mac provides the machine along with the OS. But it still runs into conflicts and trouble in spite of having Fuller Control.

So really, we would be hard pressed to say that on the Linux Desktop, things don't "just work."

The concept of "I just want it to work" sounds reasonable on the surface, but carries some hidden assumptions. For example; A Car.
A person may buy a car and if the alternator goes out, or the engine is run without an oil change - they claim it does not "just work." This is not unusual.
I see this all the time. They don't do maintenance as outlined in their owners manual - but shift the blame onto the producer under the very reasonable sounding expectation.

There is not one bit of the above that expresses an attitude of "looking down ones nose" on people. Rather, it expresses an attitude of frustration at those who shift the burden of responsibility.
It is not elitism to hold users to a reasonable standard. It is not elitism to say, "This is Linux, Not Windows."

The question is whether or not expecting Linux consumer-users to learn CLI, to learn how to install printer, graphics and wifi drivers into the kernel, to learn how to replace basic tools like file managers, to learn the differences between deb, Flatpak and Snap installations, and so on, is a "reasonable standard".

I think not. I think that a Linux "new adopter" distro, out-of-the-box, should "just work", with no user customization required beyond changing backgrounds, working through the settings menus and making selections reflecting the user's preference, and adding/removing applications, in each case using a GUI interface rather than a CLI interface. I think that is what "new adopters" expect, I think that the expectation is reasonable.

No, perhaps not, but you are approaching the nub of the problem. The Linux community has to answer this question for themselves: Are we willing to make the necessary changes to the Linux desktop environment to accommodate Windows users who are coming to Linux, or are we not? Are we willing to accept them on their own terms, that is, users who want to use the computer rather than learn the operating system beyond the absolute basics, rather than on our terms?

We can expect to see an increasing number of users considering migration from Windows to Linux. How many of them are going to bounce into the Linux culture -- change the DE, change the file manager, change this and change that, use the command line rather than GUI -- and say "Not for me. I just want something I can use."

I suspect that the percentage of potential adopters who will take a look at Linux and decide "This is Linux? Not for me ..." is, as things now stand, going to be a lot higher than the percentage of potential adopters willing to climb the learning curve just to use Linux rather than Windows or MacOS.

I think that this falls under "reasonable." After-all, users must know the differences between files on Windows and Mac.
Is it really too high an expectation for people to learn the differences between one file and another file? How are they to know the difference between .docx and .pdf?

This is also "reasonable." There is absolutely no reason to think that a user cannot or should not learn a valuable and essential tool. This falls into the point raised between myself and Kedrik, above: That conditioning to only accept one limited tool (GUI) is by no means reasonable. Linux helps undo that conditioning.

This one gets more interesting. I think your statements have merit, here. However, the point in this is how it compares to linux vs. Windows and it must be pointed out that Windows users struggle just as heavily with getting Printers to work on Windows. And that is odd, when compared to Linux which has far more variety.
But getting Wifi and Graphics to work? I agree with you there. That requires extensive programming knowledge to solve.

The only reason to learn this is if the user wishes to. Linux offers options, choices and variety and this should be celebrated, not used as an argument against Linux, somehow.
And there is nothing whatsoever that is unreasonable in users knowing how to replace, install, upgrade or downgrade tools. That's user control over their Own System.

My answer to this would be "no."
Their terms are unreasonable and hazardous. This becomes apparent looking at Drivers on the road and licensing. If Dept. Of Motor Vehicles operated in the same way as Windows, we would have ten times as many wrecks on the road.
A user is responsible to learn.

Take GIMP: Should we expect users to open Gimp and without any training or learning, start cranking out images? No.
Can we expect this of Blender? No.
Any Office Application (Windows or Linux)? No.
You have to learn how to use them. You cannot demand that the app opens > Magic Happens > You get what you want.
They just work, but they require learning. Pandering to a lack of desire to learn does far more harm than good.

What if we applied this standard of entitlement and expectations toward our Educational Facilities? Our Universities?
How many students complain bitterly that the work is hard and the path to acceptable grades is difficult?
Should our Universities ask themselves if they must meet the students on the students terms of less learning, less responsibility, less work?

My point of view on this is a lot like Dating.
If I read a girls profile and it says, "I deserve..." "I expect..." "I want..." I'm passin' it by.

Windows damaged it's users with its use of "easy" to make them complacent to its control. With treating its users like they are too intellectually deficient to do anything and they need it done for them. Linux is a path to fixing that. Damaging Linux won't fix anything.
And to what end do we want to draw users away from Windows anyway? Money? Is this a competition?
Users come to Linux. Of their own free will - because it meets their needs. You don't see ads for Linux on T.V. People seek it out for a reason and emulating; or even becoming... as Broken as Windows is will Kill Linux. There would be no point in migrating to Linux if it is just another Windows.

That's the nub of the matter, isn't it? The Linux community is not going to accommodate Windows and MacOS users who expect an operating system to useable out-of-the-box, permit reasonable levels of user customization through menus, be "plug and play" with respect to monitors, graphics and wifi drivers, and permit surface to deep configuration through GUI interfaces.

It isn't a big deal. Linux originated out of Unix, and dominates the server market. The consumer desktop market is peripheral, a niche that is the domain of enthusiasts, and will remain so.

The nub of the matter is that you are stating this as if none of the above is the case. It is the case.
You cannot claim that Linux does not do the above. I realize that the forum sees those who do not just have everything immediately work out of the box, which may skew perceptions; I remind that if you visit some Windows forums, you will see a very large number of Windows users having the Same Problems; with obscure and vague error codes like "This performed an illegal operation 0x00001".
In Linux, if you get an error, it usually tells you what is wrong: "missing dependency, leaving unconfigured." You have a better chance of doing a netsearch on that and narrowing it down than you do with "illegal operation".
Although I could make a strong argument about : permit reasonable levels of user customization through menus - Gnome is the worst on this. But in fairness, ZorinGroup has done a remarkable job of re-adding that ability. In spite of gnome-extensions. But even so, KDE, XFCE, LXDE, Cinnamon, Mate all offer that functionality in Full Force.

This is why I am pointing out the difference in attitudes. Because there is a clear difference between a user saying, "Can I get help installing my printer?" and a user saying, "Can you set up my printer, and I want it done my way, and I don't want to have to learn anything or understand how it works. I just want it to Just Work without effort on my part."

And... I must point out for the record, that very, very few people join this forum with that type of mentality. I can name - Two.

The vast majority of users show a willingness to learn. Many display hesitation or fear about using the terminal, but with some encouragement, they get in there. Many express apprehension, but are happy to overcome it.
This being the case, at least based upon the majority of users we see that do migrate- It begs the question as to whether Linux needs changing? But this bias may be due to us only seeing the users that Choose Linux to suit their needs.

I support about 45 Windows computers -- three are my own, two are my husband's, 21 are the railroad's, and the rest for family and friends, mostly older people who use computers but are not interested in the technical ins and outs.

Windows 10 has proven remarkably stable among the computers I support. In the last year, I've seen two Windows error messages among all those computers, one the result of a defective external USB cable on a friend's computer, which was easily resolved with a replacement, and one on my Dell Latitude 7390, which resulted in a Dell technician replacing the motherboard and then the processor. Neither had anything to do with Windows. I had to do a destructive Windows rebuild on one computer last year, after an otherwise intelligent friend fell for a "support" scam, installed malware, and all hell broke loose. Lucky for him, we was diligent about backing up. But that's it for this year. A number of the Windows computers I support have been running stable for years -- several going back to 2014-2015 without a glitch.

I've had similar personal experience with Linux. I've been running Solus Budgie (a curated rolling release) on a production computer with no errors or issues since 2017. I don't support any other Linux computers, and Solus is known for stability and curated updating, so I can't compare between the two operating systems.

But we keep coming back to the core question: Why should a Linux user need to know more about Linux than a Windows user needs to know about Windows, a Mac user needs to know about MacOS, or a smartphone user needs to know about Android or iOS?

And why, in particular, should a Linux user have to know how to use CLI in order to use Linux? Windows, MacOS, Android and iOS have been designed so that the CLI is rarely (never?) needed to do what a user needs to do to keep the operating system up and running and healthy. Why is Linux the exception?

You wax on and on about the fact that there is a learning curve to all software, and you make the point that operating systems are no exception. Of course there is a learning curve, but some curves are steeper than others. And none except Linux require a user to learn CLI.

Just imagine what would happen if a new GIMP user could not learn the program through GIMP's GUI, but instead had to learn to use GIMP with CLI? As good as GIMP is (and I used Photoshop for years before cutting over), if GIMP required CLI in order to configure it, nobody -- and I do mean nobody -- would bother to use it at all.

Or word processors. I think that WordPerfect 5 for DOS, with inline formatting by code, was the best legal document processor ever developed -- the level of formatting precision available in that product has never been matched by the GUI word processors. But who would install it or use it today?

You have had much more luck than I. I worked for Sega; and for the Home Depot doing the computer support on the Paint machines, and kitchen Design.
There was no two or three problems a year on this and I was one member of about 150 people doing this. Granted, we covered more than 25 computers... but the principle is the same. In fact, I might point out that supporting a fewer number of computers increases the odds of getting through unscathed.

Because on Linux, they have the Option to know more, to seize control of the machine that they, not Microsoft, owns.

Why not? IS there something Wrong with using the terminal? Does it strain something? Does it harm them? Is it somehow exceptionally difficult?
What, really, is the difference between using the Terminal (Other than it being faster, easier and having far more power) and needing to learn how... and using a GUI application and having to learn how?
I repeat my Blender example here. Or how about CAD? Or my mechanical diagnostic software? It all works out of the box, but I have no chance of using any of it without learning all their ins and outs, settings, functions, commands...
At least with the Terminal, I can directly enter any valid command, unlike a GUI where I must seek it out and figure out where it is hidden in some setting, some menu, which button to push - assuming that the GUI app supports that command at all.
Why is there something wrong with the user using the terminal? Where does this rejection come from?

Windows Conditioning? The less control you have, the more they have.

Again, this utter rejection of the CLI, as if it is terrible or wrong or so very hard. It is none of those things. If you are biased against it, fine. But not everyone feels as you do. But if you feel that way - You CAN do most things in Linux without ever opening a terminal and there are users on this very forum who have commented how they have not used the terminal in several years of Linux use.
They always look for and find a GUI that supports what they want to do.
Software Store.
The list goes on.
We encourage the use of the terminal because it is easier and faster and more efficient, productive and helpful.

I don't need to imagine:
And I didn't break my brain any doing it. And you point out word processors too but I will make the point:
You are going to extremes. The Linux Desktop does NOT put forth only a Text-based Browser, Word Processor or Image editor. So your argument is moot. It puts forth the very things your statements imply are lacking, but aren't.
It is true that visual work would make a visual editor, like Gimp GUI, much easier to use. That doesn't mean you are required to use a visual interface for "apt install gimp".

I am one of those users. I seldom use CLI either in Windows or Linux except for low-level disk operations where I prefer CLI to Disk Management or Gparted.

As you note, a user can do most things in Linux without opened the terminal. My question is, since that is true, why does almost every answer given in the Support section of this forum (and this is typical of most Linux forums) default to command line instructions, rather than GUI instructions?

Because it is easier? For you and me, maybe, but not for a newcomer from Windows or MacOS. Not by a long shot.

Let me present you with a challenge to close my part of this discussion.

As you know, I make a point of showing users how to make the changes they want to make through Zorin menus and other GUI interfaces. I do that because I think that most newer users are better served by learning how Zorin works than following command line instructions.

So why don't you do the same for a limited period of time -- say 48 hours?

I have answered this:

I disagree- Many users join the forum and say, "I am new." I am a noob"
Yet, they run the commands just fine. Your claim that Newcomers from Windows cannot handle the terminal falls on its face in light of my experiences helping thousands of people on the ZorinGroupforum and the new Zorin Forum.
As well as the occasional else where, like ASKZorin and XFCE forum.

Challenge not accepted. I often give GUI instructions and answers which even a mild peruse through my posts will show. But I have no reason to do as you suggest. Users generally do not balk at the terminal and unlike you and Windows- I do not believe that they are too intellectually deficient to handle it.
We are all better served by each of us using our talents and skills- with the variety and user options that Linux is known for.

honestly, I love Zorin OS but I think they can do more with KDE Plasma. For example, ik Cutefish OS is a MacOS copy, but they have cleaned up KDE Plasma a lot!

If Gnome was ever to be replaced in Zorin OS Core, here are my thoughts on which DE should replace.

  1. KDE Plasma
  2. Cosmic
  3. XFCE
  4. Pantheon
  5. Others

@tomscharbach, I may be eating crow and groveling you apologies for all the "Why isn't this working" Wifi problems I am seeing lately.

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...out of the box. You mean :wink:

Also Sound always works ...out of the box. :disappointed:

To be fair, I wonder the percentage of new installs that come here for help, the percentage that face-palm and go back to Windows and the hopefully vast majority for which it straight out of the box.

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Tom has a solid point, there. Doesn't mean I back down on my claims... But it is a solid demonstration of things that should work, not only out of the box... But after multiple attempts to fix it!

A point:

If I need to check a users grub file:
"Please enter in terminal sudo nano /etc/default/grub and relay the contents of the following line."

Pretty direct and simple, right?

Doing this the GUI way on Gnome, however, is anything but direct or simple.
And they will need the terminal, anyway.
First... Open the terminal. Enter in sudo -i to elevate to root. Then launch Nautilus from the terminal with nautilus. To do this purely GUI, I would have to first walk the user through all the steps to add python and a nautilus-extension to enable the "Open as Admin" function in the Right Click menu - that Gnome removed. And adding Python is easiest from terminal, too... Pop it open and enter in sudo apt install python. Whereas navigating the Software Store brings its own issues... so let's ignore that hurdle and focus on the issues with Nautilus and Gedit.
But if we go the above route, Gnomes Nautilus is even more confusing...
Because instead of following the directory tree as other file managers do, I cannot just Up Arrow three times to get to / (root) and then move along the path to /etc, then /default...
No, in Nautilus I must move to the Left pane and select Other locations. Then, Computer. It makes no sense and if often leads to confusion. But if we successfully navigate that and we get to /etc/default/grub, double clicking it to open it will open it in Gedit. (I have removed Gedit from my machine)...
Gedit is worse than Nautilus is. If you hit ctrl+f, it pops down a sliding search window that vanishes itself while you are still reading. How many users have complained about this... the search window keeps disappearing. While other Text Editors have a toolbar with a Clearly Marked Back (Undo) button, Gnome removes all this. There is no toolbar and no Undo button. There is a keyboard shortcut, assuming the user knows it (ctrl+z) but if they do not, they may make a mistake, not know how to fix it and I do not know about it because we are going post by post over a net forum.
Gedit is chock-full of the Tools being hidden.


sudo nano /etc/default/grub

Take your pick.

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I understand that Linux is set up so that the CLI interface is more often than not simple and efficient, and that the CUI interface is more often than not arduous, overcomplicated and inefficient. Your example is a near-perfect example of how clumsy, inefficient and difficult the Linux GUI interface is compared to the CLI interface.

DOS and its successor CLI interface in Windows Powershell is also simple and efficient. But Windows, unlike Linux, has developed a GUI interface that is quite good, and (as @Kedric pointed out and you don't seem to dispute) can do just about anything that the CLI interface can do, often as simply and quickly.

Windows and MacOS users are used to working with a powerful, efficient and simple GUI, because Windows and MacOS have a powerful, efficient and simple GUI. And that's what they use, because it is both powerful and usable.

So what happens when Windows and MacOS users, conversant with a good GUI interface, encounter Linux?

What happens is that they quickly learn that the Linux GUI is just as clumsy, inefficient and difficult as your example so aptly demonstrates. What message does that send to potential adopters?

I suspect that the percentage of potential adopters who will take a look at Linux and decide "This is Linux? Not for me ... " is, as things now stand, going to be a lot higher than the percentage of potential adopters willing to climb the learning curve just to use Linux rather than Windows or MacOS.

If Linux wants to grow beyond enthusiasts and break into the consumer market, Linux has to make a concerted effort to do what MacOS and Windows have done over the last two decades -- rethink and reimagine the GUI so that it works for consumers.

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I only very recently moved over to Linux from Windows. I read your words, but I am confused by them.
I mean, I am not some Linux enthusiast that has used Linux all my life and have little experience with Windows. Admittedly, I do not know much about Windows 10. Because everytime I look at it, I find it overwhelming. But prior to Zorin OS, I had never used any Linux Distro in my life.
Even so, using Windows is still fresh in my mind and memory.

And my memories of Windows are very different from what you describe.
I find Windows GUI to be clunky, lacking, inefficient. I often struggled to find settings, how to change things, where to find options and so on. I was constantly looking up "How-To's".
More importantly, troubleshooting on Windows is a tooth-pulling nightmare.
Vague, unhelpful error messages and vague unhelpful tech support.

I often felt just as lost on Windows- but without any knowledge or help with the command prompt, I didn't solve the problems.
I gave up. I either went another way or wiped and reloaded... I spent far more time on Windows giving up on a solution than ever finding one.
At least on Linux, I had phenomenal help with learning the Terminal.

I think you make some strong points, though not necessarily in the same vein that I am taking them.
I firmly believe that Gnome, etc. is headed in the wrong direction.

Let me give you an example: eBay.
eBay was first in the market. Because of this, it is the Dominant online auction. Hands down. The reason for this is very clear and has nothing to do with Brand Loyalty... It is simply because - that is where all the buyers and sellers are.
Attempts to create an alternative competitor to eBay run aground of this problem. It's exceptionally difficult to take a chunk of the market because... Sellers run into too few buyers elsewhere to make enough money to support the effort. Buyers therefore, find too few reliable sellers on those alternative auctions.

Another example: Windows Phone. Microsoft wanted to get in on Androids lucrative market. And let's be honest... MS should have known better... But they tried. And failed.
Because all the apps are on Android. No one wanted to make apps for Windows phone - the audience was too small. The audience was small because there were too few apps.

Gnome is now making that same exact mistake. They wish to emulate the Windows Style Mobile Android Market. They think it is successful, so they should do it, too.
That market is already taken.
Worse still, you cannot run a desktop like a Mobile App Machine.

For Linux to succeed, it must be different. Different from Windows. Different from Mac. And especially, different from Android.

What you suggest is Linux failure - that it's different... I say is its only salvation.

One final point: Gnomes other failing is that it has this "Vision." Fine. The problem is is that its vision is not an Option. Gnome is removing choice and options, forcing all users to align with Gnomes vision, like it or not. The Current Linux Set up includes XFCE, Enlightenment, KDE... It includes OPTIONS and Choices... Gnome wants to do away with all that. Desperately. And that difference of Linux is being threatened, now.
Which means Linux is being threatened because without those things, Linux has no appeal.

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I don't have any expectation whatsoever the Linux is going to succeed in the consumer market, that is, increase market share more than a point or two.

The large, corporate, mainstream Linux developers like Canonical treat Linux on the desktop as an adjunct to business products and services**, and the smaller, more consumer-oriented don't have the heft (financial or staffing) to develop a Linux desktop that will have broad appeal to consumers, try as they might.

The target market for Linux on the desktop -- the market from which new Linux desktop users will come -- is the market that is now using Windows, MacOS and Chrome.

I don't know whether Linux can best target that market by focusing on GUI or CLI, similar but better or different. I think that Linux needs to move in the direction of increasing GUI rather than CLI, but I could be wrong.


** Look at Ubuntu, for example.

The opening screen focuses on business products, not Ubuntu as a desktop. Work through the menus: "Enterprise" focuses on business products, not the desktop. Likewise "Developer". "Community" focuses on support and support issues. Not a word, in any of those topics about Ubuntu as a desktop solution, or even Ubuntu screenshots. A consumer looking at those topics on the Ubuntu website would have no reason to think that Ubuntu even is a desktop solution.

Finally, a brief mention of Ubuntu Desktop shows up in "Download", but again, in contrast to Zorin's website, as an example, the mention doesn't market Ubuntu as a desktop solution.

I suggest that Ubuntu's website demonstrates Canonical's vision for Ubuntu, and it isn't as a desktop solution.