Awhile back, Eric Raymond laid out the pain involved in setting up a remote printer using Linux. I came across this post today, which is a response to that, and to the general problem - up to the quoted section below, it's quite reasonable:
But the whole A.T. angle is quite disingenuous. It wasn't A.T. who couldn't connect to a shared printer. It was Raymond himself who couldn't figure it out. Yes, I see the point that if it were so easy and obvious that A.T. could do it, a nerd like Raymond could do it too. But this is putting the horse way in front of the carriage. In what world does the "archetypal nontechnical user" have two computers connected by Ethernet? When A.T. needs to configure a printer, it's going to be connected directly to her computer, not shared over a network.
Hmmm - I don't think this guy has seen real users up close either. My daughter is in a girl scout troop, and I was talking to the co-leader of the troop the other day. They have a home PC, and a notebook the husband uses at work. They recently signed up for cable modem service, and got Comcast to set up a WiFi router for them - this is a standard Comcast service now. These people are not geeks - and yet here they are, multiple PC's set up on a LAN, with a router, and shared printers in the mix. Here's a cluestick - this is becoming very, very common - as I said above, Comcast now offers to set up a WiFi router as a part of their standard installation. The upshot is, it's worse than you think:
Furthermore, the "I thought I was the only one" response begs the question: what planet are these guys from? Isn't it common knowledge that desktop Linux usability tends to suck? How can anyone write an essay proposing to fix this without mentioning, let alone responding to, Matthew Thomas's seminal essay, "Why Free Software usability tends to suck"?
It's not just Linux that baffles people. Go ask around about anbti-virus software, or firewalls - you'll get a pile of "huh, what?" responses. I had to install my neighbor's printer (not a network printer even!) on Windows, because they had no idea how. Linux has usability issues? heck, PC's have usability issues. Even Macs are too hard for most people. Don't believe me? See all those VCR's with flashing 12:00 clocks? There's your evidence - people want an appliance that just works, not a fulltime hobby that they need to tweak day and night. Linux, Windows, and yes, Macs - are all too hard for most people's tastes. The entire industry has quite a ways to go before we get to real "ease of use" as most consumers understand the term.
On an amusig side note, there's a fair bit of irony here:
If there's a glib, nutshell synopsis for why Linux desktop software tends to suck, it's this: Raymond and his ilk have no respect for anyone but themselves.
They have no respect for the fact that UI design is a special talent.
They have no respect for the fact the good UI design requires a tremendous amount of time and effort.
Heh. This from a guy who's site is dark gray with white text. Sheesh. Could you make it harder on my eyes if you tried???. Now, having said all that, there's a really good point down towards the bottom of the post:
It's pretty hard to sell "services and support" for software that fits that bill. The model that actually works is selling the software itself. This is politically distasteful to open source zealots, but it's true - and it explains the poor state of usability in open source software.
Raymond also complains about CUPS's shoddy and inaccurate documentation, but that's just another side of the same glove. Technical documentation is also hard work, and requires talent to be done well. Writers need paychecks, too. (Trust me.)
Very, very true - and it's what Clemens Vasters was getting at here - a post that was profoundly misunderstood - see this response by Ryan Lowe, for example. There's an old adage that says a lot here: You get what you pay for. If you aren't willing to pay, you are far, far less likely to get useful things out the back end....