June 25, 2013

A note on easy to use #Linux OSes

I just wanted to write a little something about an issue an elderly new computer user had today, who came to me for advice.  This is a gentleman I have worked with for the past 11 years, and a week ago he got his first computer and first Internet connection.  I’m not going to mention who he bought his computer from, but it’s a Linux based computer.

Anyway, being known as a Linux enthusiast at work, he came to me in a panic asking me what the password was for his computer.  I told him he probably had to set it, but he said he had never been asked to do that.  So I asked him if he had even been online yet, and he said no, because he needed the password to do anything.  I suggested looking in the wifi manual, because it might have been the wifi passkey.  He said it wasn’t.  So I asked him if he had tried any others, and he said he had tried all the ones he had been given, but none had worked.  All he knew was it had to be in capitals.  I told him I was at a loss, because there were many passwords it could have been.

And therein lies the problem.  I try to give thought to UI and UX design.  I give my production laptop with whichever version of Simplicity I am working on to a friend of mine who has no idea about computers, Linux or the Internet, and let him get online, only giving him my wifi password.  I then let him do whatever he wants on it.  If he can’t, I have failed, and I redesign.  Asking for “A” password isn’t useful.  Especially if you’re marketing your OS as easy to use.  You should specify which password it is you want.  This is why I don’t say Simplicity is easy to use or aimed at x, y or z demographic.  It’s just a lot more straightforward making the move from Windows or from nothing than it is to something like Unity in my view.

Anyway, just wanted to get that out of my system.  It’s not aimed at anyone in particular, just bad UI and UX design annoy me.

Two more changes to Simplicity Linux!

So, unlike other distros (yeah, we’re looking at you Ubuntu), we listen to the community.  Sometimes they’re not always vocal.  Sometimes they vote with their feet.  Or rather their mouse clicks.  And we have noticed a massive drop off in downloads since we added advertising to the links for the alpha downloads.

Whilst we’ve made some money (11 cents to be precise) from these adverts, we
1) Don’t think it’s paying off and
2) Would rather have lots of downloads rather than any amount of money

So as of now, the ad sponsored alpha links are gone for good.  We might bring them back, as in you can choose to support us, or you can choose not to support us, but either way, you get a choice.  Perhaps that is the model we should have gone for in the first place, but hey ho, you live and learn.

The second change is more dramatic.  As of now, all Simplicity Linux releases going forward, including the 13.7 Beta and Release editions will contain TOR and Polipo.  They will autoboot, and will be running in the background.  We could include Vidalia, but we don’t want to.  The point is this: if you’re fed up of PRISM, Tempura, and general shenanigans going on with your traffic, you can use TOR to hide yourself a little better.  Whilst TOR and Polipo will be running, we will not enable them in Firefox by default.  That is your call to make.  If you want them, the hostname will be and the port will be 8123.  Just pop that into Firefox’s proxy settings, click apply to all connections, then go and be anonymous.

The Simplicity Linux team strongly oppose PRISM and Tempura and any other method of data collection of the general public on a mass scale.  This is our way of sticking two fingers up at those who snoop, and protecting our users from being snooped on.  Plus, since we dogfood Simplicity Linux, and we like TOR, it makes sense for us to have it right there!