05 November 2007

Recycle Bin

 Sunday night I was killing some time in front of the TV and between a crazy anime (NDB) and a Seinfeld re-run I stopped for a few minutes on a local station looking at a contest-show "Te crezi mai destept" ("Do you think you are smarter"). There some adults are asked question from the primary school for a money prize and when they fail to answer have to declare "I am not smarter than a 5-th grader".

Here is a women, she choose "Informatics" as a domain and receive the question "How is called the trash can on your computer's desktop" (in Romanian, "cosul de gunoi"). At this point my reaction was to imagine what would happen if I was asked the same question. I know the expected answer, and the only winning option, would be "Recycle Bin" (in English). But I am a GNOME user, and for me the real answer is Trash. So what I would do? Certainly, I would not overcome my geekiness and lecture them about how not all the computers run Windows, how the trash can may have various names, how my own is not called Recycle Bin and how I know their wanted answer but they are stupid.

A moral of this story? Sure, I have a couple:

  • monoculture: real people know computer=Windows, no other OSes exists
  • localization: yup, Windows was localized in Romanian, but nobody cares about that, Recycle Bin is Recycle Bin, not Cosul de Gunoi


  1. Is there a Linux distribution that really focuses on gaining new users ?

    Why don't popular distributions last ?

    Europe's Suse went away from the top, RedHat stepped back leaving the community with a new kind of hat, Mandrwhat faded along with i686 appareance. I'm really happy with the progress in desktop managers, like Gnome, Xfce and KDE, but I'm not happy with the slow progress in distributions. They seem to just focus on packaging everything, create beautiful art and „geeky” words (now come on, fedora, ubuntu? the other just have the name of something you find in your home. an apple or a window).

    I met a lot of Linux users, from beginners to experts and many of them DO NOT recommend it to windows users because they somehow feel proud of the fact that Linux is not used by the majority. So they feel special. So they hurt Linux.

    Maybe Google can do some good about this and get that google phone out with Linux on it.

    Now about that stupid question, I'll give you some questions that I got as part of an informatics exam at a known university:

    „What lies on the hard disk?” (I wrote dust )

    „What is the speed (numerically) of the random access memory?” (I got up and left the exam room)

  2. I wrote a blog post, titled Am I Smarter Than A Fifth Grader. Aside from them using questions with debatable answers, another point is, these kids just learned that information for a test 3 months ago. You learned is 20 years ago and then forgot it because it's not really pertinent to meeting the challenges you face in your adult life.

  3. From what I see, Ubuntu has a strong focus on gaining new users.
    For other distros, like Fedora, the message seems mixed: some want to go after new users, some don't.
    Red Hat may start again going after new users, the release of Red Hat Global Desktop is imminent, we will see after that how the policy is going.

    As for recommending Linux to beginners: would you, alexxed recommend a (any) Linux distro to a newbie who want to play movies, listen to mp3s, play a few games and browse the internet? What if he plan to buy a digital camera, the recommendation still holds?

    Personally I would recommend only to advanced users. To beginners only if they have someone (me?) close to keep their hands.

  4. First, on the subject, if there was such a questions, that means that kids in elementary school are taught in romanian that the thing is called Recycle Bin (english for an existing romanian word)?

    Second, yes I would recommend Linux to any normal user. I'm using Linux since RedHat 6, so I'm not just an enthusiast. I know what's in the box.

    Once everything installed, he can:

    - listen to music
    - instant messaging
    - internet phone calls
    - view/edit office documents
    - play movies
    - watch tv
    - browse the internet
    - download music/movies via filesharing
    - organize picture collections
    - play games that a normal user plays, yes regular users don't want Second Life, but a simple mahjong. You'd be amazed how many people play Solitaire. Flash games are also a frenzy to some.

    I've seen people ready to switch to Linux because of an app, like amarok, or the many available media centers in Linux.

    So what's missing? The Windows logo?
    Why would anyone buy an apple computer with os x on it when they know Windows is the most spread operating system? Because of the cool design outside and inside. In the os there's one application for this, one for that, there is no Second Life or Counter Strike. OMG there is no Internet Explorer. No Yahoo Messenger? No windows this? No windows that? Owners still love it and praise it to others. Make that happen in Linux. Make users care about it. Do not go on with the dual boot thing. Maybe Linux needs a Steve Jobs.

  5. I am not a Linux skeptic, by the contrary, but I won't recommend it to newbies, they will need training before:

    - listen to music: they need here additional direction, as music==mp3;
    - instant messaging: people around me and you use Y!M as the primary protocol and very soon a Pidgin user will come to you asking: that girl want to send me a photo or show her webcam but I can't do that...
    - internet phone calls: this usually means either Y!M which doesn't work on Linux or Skype, which is closed source. Maybe Google Talk, which may be there is a year or so (with help from Pidgin);
    - office documents: an area where I am confident to recommend;
    - play movies: see the first point about music;
    - watch tv: sorry, I don't have experience with this;
    - browse internet: another area where we are OK now;
    - filesharing: is OK after you make him understand that odc is just another dc++ client;
    - organize pictures: is OK until you have to acquire them (one more curse for the scanner on my office);
    - play games: your Second Life example is not that inspired: SL run in Linux, is even Open Source, there is work in progress to have it in Fedora (some dependencies have to be cleaned), but again, CounterStrike and the likes are the problem.

    Wow! and this list comes from a Fedora die-hard like me...