Saturday, December 12, 2009

Could Linux Use Some Bells and Whistles?

Is Linux just too quiet to attract mainstream users who are used to the siren songs of bells and whistles? Or do Linux bells and whistles run on a frequency Windows users can't hear? "One person's 'bells and whistles' are another person's 'this is too different for me' impediment," suggested Slashdot blogger Barbara Hudson. For example, "the desktop cube just blows [Windows users] away."

With the Season of Giving hard upon us once again, it's a safe bet that many of us are thinking about glitter. Not just glitter, but glitz, sparkle and shine, jingle, bells and whistles.

Such, after all, are the qualities gifts -- and the holidays in general -- are often expected to have, and manufacturers of everything from ornaments to iPods do their best to make it happen.

What, one might ask, about operating systems? Should they, too, have shiny, splashy, gotta-have features to make them sparkle in users' eyes?

'What Are the Killer Features?'

That, indeed, was essentially the question posed by blogger Simon Brew at Linux User & Developer recently, and it's sparked quite a discussion on the blogs.

"What are the defining features and characteristics of Ubuntu?" Brew began. "Or Mandriva? Or openSUSE? What are the killer features that are born to illuminate point-of-sale material and tedious slideshows the world over?

"What's... the 'killer app' that's going to get the world excited about Linux?" he asked.

Invisible Appeal?

Brew's answer: "There aren't any. There is no single feature to adorn the covers of magazines. There's no whizzbang gadget to turn the computing world on its head," he wrote. "Instead, the major appeal of Linux, for me anyway, is that it's content to be an operating system."

That, in turn, is a good thing, he concluded: "After all, isn't the best operating system the one you hardly even notice is there?"

The topic must have struck a chord with residents of the Linux blogosphere, because many of them had a lot to say on the matter.

'I Feel the Same'

"Nice article, and I would like to say I feel the same," wrote dhysk in the comments on Linux User & Developer, for example. "Unfortunately the idea of an operating system without bells and whistles as a default [is] one that just doesn't work as a whole."

The reason, dhysk added, is that "to most people an OS IS the computer itself."

On the other hand: Linux "is what you want it to be," opined cwrinn. "I feel this is the 'Bells and Whistles' in a Linux system."

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