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The Great Ubuntu-Girlfriend Experiment

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I’ve toyed with Linux since 2002, when I first installed Mandrake. With the latest release of Ubuntu, I was interested to see how far Linux had come since then in terms of being used easily by the mainstream. So, I tricked my grudging girlfriend Erin into sitting down at a brand new Ubuntu 8.04 installation and performing some basic tasks. It’s surprising how many seemingly simple things become complicated and even out of reach for someone without a knowledge of Linux. There are a lot of little things that could be done to make the experience a lot more friendly for non-computer-literate people – some of them easy to implement, others not at all.

Erin was impressed with the heron

Erin’s knowledge of computers is limited to word processors, spreadsheets, Photoshop and a reasonable amount of browsing on the Web. Fairly standard stuff for a university philosophy student. All I did to the system (before leaving Erin at the log-in screen) was to install it and create a user account for her. She had no problems logging in, and loved the stylised heron background. Then I gave her one by one the tasks I’d set her. I didn’t give her any help at all.

First task: Tell me what the capital of Bosnia is.

As soon as she heard this, Erin grinned, rolled her eyes and said “easy!” Her eyes found the Firefox shortcut at the top of the screen, and very soon Wikipedia told her Sarajevo. A good start, the task was completed with absolutely no trouble at all.

Second task: Watch a video on YouTube.

(note: this is a problem specifically with YouTube – it detects whether or not you have Flash using JavaScript and then puts a link to Adobe’s webpage instead of displaying the plugin. Firefox’s standard behaviour is to ask you to install it in an automated fashion. Just bad luck I happened to choose YouTube!)

This proved more problematic. Erin went to YouTube and searched for a Beatles video, and seemed to assume that it would work straight away. When it told her that she needed a plug-in she groaned, but clicked the link they gave her. It took her to the official Flash plug-in page, and gave her the option of downloading a gzipped tarball, an RPM or a YUM.

Flash Download Page

Because she’s using Ubuntu, the RPM and the YUM are going to be of no use – not that she knows this. Erin tried the .tar.gz, and it downloaded to her home folder. It opened in the archive manager, and she extracted it to the default. Then, she was lost. She tried double-clicking the file, and Ubuntu just asked her what she’d like to do with it. The option “run” results in it crashing. No clue was given to her that she should open up a terminal and type ‘./flashplayer-installer’. To be fair, there are links to installation instructions, but the average person acclimatised to Windows is not expecting to have to read complex information before installing a program – all they need to do is double click it. Obviously her attempts with the RPM and the YUM went nowhere. Frustrated, Erin conceded defeat.

Flash Installer Dialog

There are other ways to install flash on Ubuntu, such as by using the inbuilt package manager. Why doesn’t Firefox tell her to do this, or do it automatically like Rhythmbox does with codecs? Ubuntu ship Firefox with their own special modifications, couldn’t this be one of them?

Third task: Download a Spice Girls Album

Erin’s first reaction was to go to the Applications menu, and look first in the Sound & Video folder, and then in Internet. I presumed that she was looking for some kind of Limewire equivalent. Erin has downloaded music using uTorrent before in Windows, so she went and got utorrent.exe from their website. It downloaded, and she double clicked it. It asked her if she wanted to open it with an application, and, confused, she tried to open the executable with itself.

When this didn’t work, she sat frowning for a while before heading to ScrapeTorrent (where I’d shown her to get torrents months and months ago.) She downloaded a Spice Girls torrent and it asked her if she wanted to open it with “Transmission”. She hesitated, then clicked yes. It started downloading immediately to her Desktop. She sat back, folded her arms and gave me a self-satisfied smirk.

Open Torrent Dialog

The only problem I see here is the name of Transmission in the menu. I imagine that her problems would’ve been reduced if only they listed “Transmission BitTorrent Client” instead. How on earth is a user supposed to know what Transmission is? The icon certainly doesn’t help. They do this with “Firefox Web Browser”, so why not Transmission? Weird. They could even just put “file-sharing client”, and when it loads up for the first time a wizard can help the user understand what BitTorrent is and how it works.

Fourth task: Draw me a little picture and save it in three formats.

Erin’s done a fair bit of photoshopping before, and from her attitude I could tell she thought it’d be easy. She went to the Graphics menu in Applications and selected “ Drawing”, which makes sense for anyone uninitiated. However, I think she was expecting a simple Paint-esque program. Instead, she had opened an unfamiliar vector-based illustrator. It took her a long time just to find the buttons to make a line, or change colours. Eventually she made the picture and saved it as three formats. Because she went to “Save As…” instead of “Export…” she could only save it in strange and unfamiliar formats such as odg, otg, sxg. I could tell that she was perplexed as to why she couldn’t just save it in the formats she was used to.

Obviously not having experience with a vector-based illustrator was Erin’s downfall in this task – but, then, how many people have used one? I don’t understand why there isn’t a program like KDE’s KPaint for Gnome/Ubuntu. (Also, why is Drawing installed in the Base package? Seems pretty unnecessary – if only because I don’t know anyone who uses a program like it.)

Fifth Task: Burn an album from my music collection.

Erin knows that my music collection is on the same computer that she is using, in Windows. Before trying to find it, though, she looked for a CD burning program in the Sound & Video menu and found it with “Brasero Disc Burning”. Thankfully it wasn’t just called Brasero. I was impressed with the way it opened straight up to a screen with four big buttons, each with the common tasks anyone would want to do. Erin had no problems working out which button to push, and then it asked her which files to add.

Brasero\'s Welcome Screen

Erin looked in her Music folder (created by default in Ubuntu), and her home folder and the desktop. She avoided the “492.8GB Media”, which is my Windows partition, and the many strange and unhelpfully-named folders in “Filesystem” could only have scared her. She minimised Brasero and went to the “Places” menu for the first time, launching the search program. She tried searching for music in her home directory and music folder, but found nothing, and didn’t try “Filesystem” or “492.8GB Media”. She also told me later that she thought it was stupid that you couldn’t specify which type of file you want to find. Nevertheless, she was unable to burn an album from my music collection.

Search Dialog

No problems with Brasero, their team did well for making it so user-friendly. However, Ubuntu really should be make more clear where the computer’s other partitions are. It should detect if there are Windows installations on the machine and provide well-named shortcuts to them. If this had been done, there wouldn’t’ve been any trouble. Also, the search function should, instead of “Filesystem”, have a “Whole Computer” option. How is someone not experienced with Linux supposed to know that folders like “etc”, “dev” and “mnt” contain all the workings and files on the machine?

Sixth Task: Change the speed of the mouse

No issues here, Erin found “System Preferences Mouse” within a few seconds and the slider bar was right there. Easy.

Seventh Task: Change the theme of the computer.

Again, very simple. Though she moved down to the Ts to find “Theme” first, she saw “Appearance” soon after and changed the theme to Mist. Couldn’t be simpler.

Eighth Task: Find a picture on the Intenet and set it as the desktop background

Went straight away to a website with background images, and grabbed one. Instead of just clicking the “Set as Desktop Background” option in the right-click menu, she saved the image to her home folder and then changed the background from the Appearance menu she’d found earlier. No problems.

Ninth Task: Change screen resolution.

This was easy from the Preferences menu under Screen Resolution, and she changed it to the smallest size available: 720×400. However, she clicked “Keep settings” straight away, and couldn’t work out how to get it back because the screen was too small to display the entire height of the Screen Resolution menu. Eventually I had to do it for her by tabbing through the options.

Messed Up Screen Res

This is pretty ridiculous – you can’t make it shorter and you can’t move it up past the top of the screen. There’s no way I can see of being able to change the resolution using that menu when you’re on a small resoltion – without tabbing to invisible options that you don’t know are there. Maybe I’m just missing something, I’d be happy to be enlightened.

Tenth Task: Photoshop a picture of her face onto my body

She opened Firefox, went to Facebook and found pictures of her and me. So far so good. Then, she opened up GIMP (which had “Image Editor” after it in the menu). Her multiple attempts to maximise each of the purposefully small windows showed that she was confused with the change from Photoshop’s one main window to GIMP’s scattered one. After she worked out what was going on, she just copied and pasted the images straight from Facebook. From there, it was easy, because GIMP has the same icons and functionality as photoshop does for cutting out and pasting parts of a photo. I had to stop her when she started finding out how to match our skin tones: “How can I make my skin colour more like yours, all pasty and yellow?”

Erin\'s head on my body

I don’t understand why GIMP doesn’t just layout its windows like photoshop does. It wouldn’t lose usability, surely, and it would help the transition of first-time-users immensely.

Eleventh Task: Log onto MSN

She went straight to the Internet category of Applications, but was uncertain about “Pidgin Instant Messenger”. She asked “Does it have to be MSN?”. I said, “not really”, and so she opened up Pidgin. It asked her to add an account, and gave her a drop-down box of IM protocols along with inputs for “Screen name” and “Local alias”.

Pidgin Account Adding Screen

Because Erin’s only experience with IM clients has been the official MSN ones, she didn’t understand what a multi-protocol one could do. She thought that “adding” an account was creating a new one on the network. Also, she understandably didn’t know what “AIM” was, which is what the protocol menu defaulted to. Moreover, MSN doesn’t use the term “screen name”, so she obviously wouldn’t associate it with her normal login.

So, she tried to sign-on using a made up username and password, and obviously it failed. She then went back to the add screen and found the MSN protocol. However, she put her login under local alias instead of screen name, but she fixed this the second time around after it didn’t work. Then she was online, able to tell her friends about how much she hated Linux.

The problems Erin had could easily be solved by some sort of first-time welcome screen that explained what Pidgin is, what it does, and asking if she’d like to add and log into existing MSN, etc. accounts. Perhaps changing “screen name” to something more appropriate based on which protocol is selected would be helpful. Also, why does local alias seem like a necessary piece of information required to create an account? Seems like it confuses more than aids a new user.

When Erin tried to quit Pidgin, she pressed the X in the top right, and it went to the notification area. When I told Erin that she hadn’t quit it properly, she tried to quit it by clicking in the lower-left hand side of the screen, where she’d usually find her MSN icon in Windows. She just changed desktops, of course, but eventually she found it in the top-right. When you first close Pidgin it should tell you that you haven’t really quit it and that it’s just going to the notification area and what it will look like.

Twelfth Task: Install Skype

Erin went straight away to I think she was wary after her experience with Flash, but Skype have a great download page for Linux, where it lists different packages for the more popular distros. Ubuntu was at the top, and Erin saved the .deb file to the default location. When it was done, it opened with the Package Install and there was a big button saying “Install”. She clicked it, and it installed. Perfect.

The only problem was, she didn’t know where it went. She looked in her home folder, the desktop and the menus up the top. For some weird reason she didn’t look in “Internet”, where it had popped up. Regardless, after a package is installed, if it’s available in the menu it should say where it is. Or, copy Windows’ “new programs have been installed” bubble that comes out of the Start Menu. Either thing would’ve solved this problem.


The main issue with the desktop experience is that the geeky programmers and designers assume too much from the average user. They assume the user knows about the way in which programs are installed, or how the file system is set out. The average user will not go out of their way to google for help or even read the associated documentation that comes with Ubuntu and its default software. The little information pop-ups and guided wizards are critical to explaining how the user can accomplish the basic tasks they most probably are trying to do.

I’d love to see a welcome screen for the first time you open up your desktop, with little videos explaining a few key concepts to how Linux and Ubuntu work. Maybe it could ask “What do you want to do?” and then explain how they could do this.

Linux won’t truly be ready for the desktop until someone computer illiterate can sit down at a the computer and with little effort do what they want to do. Erin’s intelligent, quick to learn and is reasonably well-acquainted with modern technology. If she had as much trouble as she did, what chance to the elderly or at least the middle-aged stand?

Written by atroche

April 27, 2008 at 8:03 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

629 Responses

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  1. I’ve installed several Ubuntu boxes for people and THE secret is to do the initial tuning for them.

    That means flash, java, MP3 support, Windows media and Quicktime compatibility, etc.

    It’s also handy to tell OpenOffice to save documents in MS formats by default, so when they attach a .DOC file to Aunt Millie she won’t choke like she would with an .ODT.

    Finally, if they have even modest horsepower (P4 with a gig or more RAM) setting up VirtualBox and an XP virtual machine with USB support can be a Godsend, allowing them to run things like Quicken or other WinApps they may already have. This just works better than Wine, m’kay? Get them used to the idea that they should do their general web and EMail in Ubuntu where they’re malware-immune. You can build one virtual machine and export it for multiple users :).

    Jim March

    April 27, 2008 at 9:50 pm

  2. regarding number 9: you can hold alt and lick on anywhere on an application to move it around.

    Amir A

    April 28, 2008 at 4:55 am

  3. […] Source: Content Consumer […]

  4. This was an excellent experiment and and excellent article dissecting it.

    Most computer users are not computer geeks, they are ordinary people who want to perform task(s). Whether or not it’s ‘right’, Windows has massive dominance in the sphere of PC-OSs and if the ordinary user is going to be successfully introduced to Ubuntu (or any flavor of Linux) they need to be able to perform their chosen tasks in an intuitive way. “Intuitive’ being defined as ‘what they’re used to’.

    This experiment produced some concrete (and in most cases relatively simple) fixes for the show-stopping problems the ordinary user will most likely come up with. Congratulations, good show.

    Jim in Chicago

    April 28, 2008 at 6:47 am

  5. That is a pretty interesting experiment. I hope you did treat her well after making her go through all that trouble.

    A few points I’d like to address as my own experience with Ubuntu in the past.

    When the flash plugin was missing I remember Firefox telling me a plugin was missing and it when straight to dowload the package without leaving firefox, a quick restart of the browser and Flash was working. Further more, as you’ve seen when she installed Skype, if Adobe had a .deb file clearly labelled for Ubuntu she would of saved a lot of energy trying to figure it out.

    Even though there are very few applications that give you a first time run walktrough of the features the Help menu should be one thing to always rely on. Just like with Windows applications they will explain in plain English where to find what feature, and what terms mean what.

    I’ll agree that developers need to be able to take a step back and help the un-initiated use their software better.


    April 28, 2008 at 7:28 am

  6. You have to realize though what is user friendly to one person might not be user friendly to another. For every experienced person like a developer which Ubuntu scares off to another distro like Arch Linux, well it is much worse then scaring off your grandma. Why?

    Geeky programmers and designers are the ones who are driving Linux development as you said, and Linux should (and probably will) always cater to them first because of this. That’s why a distro like Arch Linux while having maybe 1% of the users of Ubuntu has (imo) much better quality software. This is because the people who use the distro often also contribute to it’s improvement.

    There has been many distros who have concentrating on “idiot-proofing” their distro but they all fail in the end. The ones who live on the longest is the ones who attract the most geeky people, like Slackware for instance.


    April 28, 2008 at 8:13 am

  7. It isn’t because she’s computer illiterate it’s because she is used to a Windows OS, she’d have many of the same problems switching to a Mac OS. Not in the same way mind you, but similar. I think you’re being too hard on Linux here when Ubuntu 8.04 (which I’m posting this from) has come a very long way in usability and polish. Perhaps it isn’t the systems fault, but the preconceived notions of the user.

    After all, Windows is Windows, Gnome/Linux are Gnome/Linux.


    April 28, 2008 at 8:13 am

  8. Good post, and I totally agree with you on GIMP, why is the layout scatterd?
    (I’m used to it, I use GIMP almost everyday, but still?)


    April 28, 2008 at 8:23 am

  9. Doesn’t firefox show you a message to install flash the first time you go into flash-using site?
    Also, if you go to add/remove program, and search for MSN, aided by describtion there and popularity stars you could install aMSN which is more straight forward for her case. I mean you download MSN/yahoo messenger ..etc on Windows.

    I think this is more of people assuming Linux is Windows. It would be interesting to see what happens if she tried to use Mac OSX. Except that the window partition test won’t be there unless you make it across network.


    April 28, 2008 at 8:36 am

  10. Excellent experiment. I want to reinforce the suggestion in comment 9. above — would love to see the results if you rerun this experiment with a virgin install of OS X. Assuming the ever-patient Erin is willing.


    April 28, 2008 at 10:53 am

  11. I switched my non-techy gf from Vista to Ubuntu 7.10 and she won’t switch back. I had to help her set up her Broadcom wifi card, and she needs a hand with some issues still. But she can manage daily tasks, installing\removing applications, managing music, photos, videos, documents, etc.
    The Linux Desktop is so close to ready for main stream. At this point a non-techy user still needs a techy user to hold their hand, but it’s so close!


    April 28, 2008 at 11:41 am

  12. best regards 3 yr gf!!


    April 28, 2008 at 11:43 am

  13. To make this fair, you should also do these same tests on Windows.

    5 & 10 are impossible without additional software and $ and skype is also not free with Windows.


    April 28, 2008 at 11:45 am

  14. Your conclusion is definitely true. I would love to get off of Microsoft but Linux just makes my family scratch their heads.
    Linux isn’t for everyone but if they want to achieve a larger market share, they should definitely consider dumbing down how users go about doing things.


    April 28, 2008 at 11:48 am

  15. Check out GIMPShop. It’s a hack of GIMP to mirror Photoshop. I don’t use it as I learned GIMP first but I hear it’s good.


    April 28, 2008 at 11:49 am

  16. You don’t have a girlfriend


    April 28, 2008 at 11:49 am

  17. CONCLUSION : LINUX for GRANDMAS – FAIL. Erin, the test subject, was rather tech savy to begin with, however, some very basic things bombed on her. Flash not being installed in Firefox, and being unable to install it, thereby rendinging most sites such as Youtube.. unusable. P2P software client missing… no Limewire equivalent, and having to know a certain obscure Torrent site beforehand (one I’ve never heard of, and I’ve been on the internet since 81) to find a music album and download it. Etc. etc.

    Wait until her computer won’t boot, and she has to run fsk with a bunch of obscure parameters…. yeah… sorry… not ready for the grandma’s of the world. And what’s so assinine about Linux, is nobody care’s about wordprocessors, spreadsheets, Open Office equivalents… they just WANT TO SURF THE WEB and listen to music and watch some video and maybe do some IM chatting. Its that GD simple. If the browser isn’t easy to find, and doesn’t have all the plugins, and and the video player/music player isn’t there and doesn’t have a huge plethora of codecs… and the IM client doesn’t autoupdate so it stays up to date with the always changing IM protocols.. well then, you have EPIC FAIL.

    I’ve screwed around a long time in Linux and am comfortable in it, but I could never recommend it to a noob… its just hell on the command line sometimes, utter absolute hell. Getting such basic things to work sometimes, Samba, or locating where the webserver stores its config files, or even setting up a NIC from the command line…. there is just too many GUI tools that aren’t integrated, or fail or break, and no single good command line tool to do it all. You’re best bet is getting Webmin running as soon as possible on a box.

    Give a noob a linux box, and watch them type “help” on a command line, and look at the glazed look that comes over their face and the utter gibbersish nonsense about some BASH commands lacking paramenters or any explanation about them. Then tell them to use “man [command name] to get info about any linux command, and look at that glazed look again at any man page, which is totally useless garbage for actually figuring out what a command is, what are its typical paraments, and how to use it (for example, to untar a file). Utter LINUX FAIL.

    Granted these things are not exclusive to Linux… Windows and Mac OSX are just as bad. Computers still… are just not ready for non geeky tech people. You literally have had to have been phucking around with these things since the 80’s to really understand what’s going on with them and the mentality to use them.


    April 28, 2008 at 11:52 am

  18. Just to point something out, the way GIMP lays out it’s windows is more similar to Photoshop on Mac OS, where there are several different windows not within a larger window.

    Very interesting article, and I agree that program installation on Linux in general is difficult unless you can find a package or can use RPMs.

    J. A.

    April 28, 2008 at 11:52 am

  19. Excellent experiment indeed.

    I think the zealots are somewhat deluded in thinking Linux has made it far enough to be compared to OS X however. As pointed out by this wonderfully unscientific case study, Ubuntu is still very inconsistent. The UI (not so much GUI, but UI) still has a long way to go to match the usability of OS X.

    Personally, I just don’t get the point. My business servers are *nix for obvious reasons and I spend more time with a command line than a mouse, but I would never suggest it to the average computer user. There’s simply no compelling argument to suggest Linux over OS X or even Windows to average people.

    There’s a lot of truth in the saying “Linux is free if your time is worthless”.


    April 28, 2008 at 11:59 am

  20. Sorry for the second comment (got a little ahead of myself and didn’t finish the article before my first comment) but part of the reason for Pidgin’s faults is probably a result of it having started out as an AIM client (hence the previous name: “Gaim”) and the whole closing window thing is a problem that many people find when using a Mac as well, since cliking the close button on the window doesn’t usually actually close the application itself.

    Basically, Ubuntu (or Gnome in general, not so much KDE) has some of the similar UI quirks that confuse Windows users.

    And I don’t think the issue is so much that it doesn’t guide a normal person through but that that person is much more familiar with Windows, which really doesn’t walk users through all that well either. I get plenty of questions from friends and family asking “how do i…?” for simple Windows tasks as well, Windows is just so widespread that it’s easier to find someone who can help. Not to say that Ubuntu/Kubuntu don’t have a lot of work ahead of them before they can be viable put in front of an average user, but they are a great improvement over anything before them. And lets face it, Windows isn’t all that easy to understand either.

    J. A.

    April 28, 2008 at 12:01 pm

  21. So will any Ubuntu developers look at this and take the time to fix these very small things? It seems like this would not take a developer long to fix most of these issues. I know some of them were application specific but the renaming of the menu item’s could be very quickly fixed. Anyone know if a Ubuntu developer will look at this?


    April 28, 2008 at 12:04 pm

  22. Haha, should have asked her to play an mp3. That would have been classic.


    April 28, 2008 at 12:06 pm

  23. For one thing, GIMP is laid out in the same manner as Photoshop on OS X.

    Also, measuring whether Ubuntu is ready for your girlfriend by her very first experience with it….
    A person learns about packages and such in very short order. If she’d had that knowledge, stuff like Flash would have been easier.


    April 28, 2008 at 12:07 pm

  24. Well…agree with buster…
    I have a client likes to double-click the links in IE


    April 28, 2008 at 12:07 pm

  25. Great article, I think it was very fair and as objective as could be. I’ve got one minor nit to pick, though.
    In response to the statement “Linux won’t truly be ready for the desktop until someone computer illiterate can sit down at a the computer and with little effort do what they want to do.”
    I don’t think Ubuntu is any worse here than Windows. The fact is, she isn’t computer-illiterate. She’s accustomed to Windows, and the way everything works in Windows.
    I’d wager that most people have some level of difficulty the very first time they sit in front of a computer, regardless of whether it’s Windows or Linux.
    People become comfortable with whatever they first learned, and it is more difficult to get them to use something else effectively. In order to switch from Windows to Linux or vice versa, to learn the new environment requires “unlearning” much of what has been learned in the old environment.


    April 28, 2008 at 12:09 pm

  26. #10 I don’t think Erin is a virgin.


    April 28, 2008 at 12:10 pm

  27. Comment to the first poster, Jim March. Your comment reflexs the exact reason people stay away from Linux.

    I’ve installed several Ubuntu boxes for people and THE secret is to do the initial tuning for them.

    Why not make it simple enough so anybody with minimal knowledge can do it?

    John B.

    April 28, 2008 at 12:10 pm

  28. Though I like the idea of this write up and agree some tasks could be even simpler, I do think it’s less of a usability issue and more an issue of her and others being used to “the windows way” of doing things. I’ve actually done a similar test but never documented it. What I did was install PCLOS and Ubuntu and see how easy it was for new computer users to acclimate to Linux, then installed Windows XP and tried that with a similar size control group. It seems each have enough quirks but Ubuntu actually came out on top. It isn’t harder just different and at this point the “mainstream” doesn’t need to switch if Windows is doing what they need out of a OS.

    At some point I would like to do it again with both XP and Vista and document the process.

    Gimpshop could solve the gimp UI issues.

    Just my 2 cents.


    April 28, 2008 at 12:12 pm

  29. […] someone who’s never used Linux. Interesting insight into how ready Linux is for the more | digg story addthis_url = […]

  30. “It isn’t because she’s computer illiterate it’s because she is used to a Windows OS”

    Completely… this isn’t a test of ‘usability’ for Ubuntu, this is a test of Ubuntu’s similarity to Windows. Sit just about anyone in front of an operating system they don’t know about and they wont know about it… by definition. Most people wouldn’t guess that you can install applications as easily as dragging and dropping an icon into your Applications folder in Mac OS X, and in the same way most people wouldn’t guess that “.exe” means something is an executable file (that is if they had thought to turn off hide file extensions), and most people wouldn’t guess apt-get allows you to install and update software.

    Perhaps the author and his girlfriend will be better off staying with Windows if they are happy with the way it is implemented. Ubuntu is a viable option for anyone interested in a more stable and secure operating system… or, you could use Mac OS X with the stability of the UNIX backend and usability that puts Windows to shame.


    April 28, 2008 at 12:18 pm

  31. Hold down Alt to click and drag a window–including past the desktop borders. 😉


    April 28, 2008 at 12:22 pm

  32. Personally I believe it is 100% conditioning. I had a difficult time using my new Mac after years of Linux. I think Windows users are used to constant annoyances and illogical interfaces, that is why they are confused when something intuitive comes along, they expect bad software…


    April 28, 2008 at 12:24 pm

  33. Great read, I have to agree with you and most of the comments.
    I use ubuntu myself and I have to admit I’m a linux newby, one of the major reasons why windows is so successful in my opinion is that a lot of the documentation telling people how to use it, was NOT writtn by the ubergeek that wrote the actual program, It was written by some people with a good grasp of the english language.
    Linux on the other hand has a problem 1. being that its translated documentation comes from finish, swedish, german etc
    some of which is non existant, other documents run into 1000 pages
    very inconsistant.


    April 28, 2008 at 12:24 pm

  34. […] found this article on digg and I found it very […]

  35. If someone tries this with vanilla OS X, it’s likely to be less successful in terms of completed tasks. Getting stuff off the Windows partition is dead easy and Flash is built in, but the image manipulation task will already be very hard using only Preview*, and downloading a torrent or logging into MSN requires additional software. The other way around, there are probably just as many tasks that would work better on OS X (judging from my perspective), like creating a webcam movie, authoring a DVD or setting up a daily calendar notification.
    My point is that this posting shouldn’t be, and probably isn’t supposed to be used for OS comparisons. It’s a really great benchmark of how easy to find and use Ubuntu’s existing features are, nothing more and nothing less, and I hope all the little things will be sorted out too. I still have half a family that should get off Windows before the malware hits them 🙂

    (* My sister has done rather advanced stuff using Preview with the iBook I gave her, though. I would never have tried to use it for more than viewing stuff, being used to Photoshop-like interfaces. Scary.)


    April 28, 2008 at 12:26 pm

  36. I think you made some very good points in this article. I too find that program naming in Linux tends to be confusing and finding a newly installed program in the applications menu can require some sleuthing.

    I do, however, disagree with your final assessment that Linux (you really should have said Ubuntu) isn’t yet ready for the desktop. If anything, I think you just proved that it is very much ready for the desktop. Erin had all the tools she needed for your tasks and more and the computer did not crash or otherwise fail. Clearly, Ubuntu is very much ready for the desktop but like any piece of software there are always improvements to be made.

    Consider how your statement would sound if you said it about Windows 2000. For all intents and purposes Win2k == WinXP, but minus the polishing features that were added over time. Clearly, Win2k was not ‘unready’ for the desktop when it was first introduced, and even today some still prefer it. So, obviously ‘polish’ is not the defining requirement for desktop readyness.


    April 28, 2008 at 12:27 pm

  37. I think the best option is to have something in the install asking whether the user is a first-time linux user, which would turn on all these tips and helpers. I think that as long as these features can be turned off easily, they won’t be detrimental to the more experienced user base. I totally agree that if these features are forced on all users there will be problems. I would probably go to another distro too. But if the designers balance experienced users with newbies well, it could be very helpful.


    April 28, 2008 at 12:29 pm

  38. Check out GIMPshop, its like a hack to the GIMP that makes it look and feel like Photoshop.


    April 28, 2008 at 12:33 pm

  39. Thank you for this wonderful article! My boyfriend installed Linux on my pc about a year ago. I quickly discovered I needed his help to do a lot of what I assumed were basic tasks. My webcam wouldn’t work, I couldn’t play any games I wanted, I had trouble with streaming video, the list goes on. I would spend hours reading how-to’s and manuals and forums to figure out how to fix this issue or that… and when I did find an explanation, it was usually written in terms I didn’t understand. After two months, I reinstalled Windows myself, and stuck Linux in a smaller partition. I haven’t looked at it since. I’m not computer-illiterate by any means, but Linux was built by and for a certain type of computer user, that most of us just can’t be. Give my best wishes to Erin, poor girl!


    April 28, 2008 at 12:34 pm

  40. Skype is free on Windows.


    April 28, 2008 at 12:35 pm

  41. @#12 “skype is also not free with Windows.”
    Is the above out of context/ a typo?
    Because Skype *is* free for windows… calling landlines requires a skype out account, but messaging/calling other skype accounts is free.


    April 28, 2008 at 12:36 pm

  42. I am actually put-off a bit by your article. One of the main things that you did not consider is that a new operating system is new no matter who is using it. If I had never used Windows, certainly I would have some problems with some of the stuff you listed as well. Let me explain a few of your points:

    2) If she were as competent with browsing the web as you said she was, then she should easily be able to use Google … “How to install Flash player on Ubuntu 8.04.” She had obviously never installed a program on Ubuntu before (or didn’t notice the “Add/Remove programs” from the application drop-down menu.)

    3) Great, so you have her using torrents. I’m glad she knows how! I agree that many users may not know what Transmission is but this can be solved from the “Add/Remove Programs” utility. Type in “Torrent” and you get a nice list explaining what everything is. “Oh, Transmission is installed? I’ll just use that!”

    4) This can be a bit confusing. Though, it is again solved by using the “Add/Remove Programs” utility. Type in “Paint” or “image editor” and you get a nice list. Counting off for opening an application that the user was not educated in is not a downside. Apparently, the Ubuntu developers thought that a program as simple as MS Paint would be useless. GIMP works well for simple sketchings but there is a program called Tux Paint (I think its called that) that is similar.

    5) A normal user would not have two operating systems on their PC. Asking her to fetch music from your Windows partition (regardless of its size that you pointed out… certainly she would know right?) is a bit cruel. If she had bought a Linux machine, it would not have Windows on it and she would certainly have organized her music on the Ubuntu filesystem somewhere.

    10) Obviously, not a problem. GIMP is NOT Photoshop and should not be treated the same. You can install CS2 in the latest version of WINE if you absolutely need to.

    11) If she did not know what Pidgin was or how to use it, she could open “Add/Remove Programs” utility and find another IM program. There is one called aMSN that is a clone of the real thing. The other problems are irrelevant and are a matter of personal choice and awareness.

    12) Installing something via the “Add/Remove Programs” utility, when installed, notifies you of where it is located. Also, you can add the Deskbar applet to a panel to quickly find applications.

    Expecting the same things from completely different operating systems is, for lack of a better vocabulary, not cool. First, it is great that you got her to try it for a little bit but regular users are not going to install separate operating systems or know what each application does from the get-go. This is true for users of ALL operating systems. Seriously, how would somebody know whether Nero was a program for burning CDs or a program to research Roman emperors? I find your article to be a cheap shot at Ubuntu and Linux in general. Btw: Ubuntu == Linux… but Linux != Ubuntu.
    I will agree with you on one point, however, a first-time-user window would be nice explaining the layout in front of them immediately when they log in, that way they know exactly where all the menus are and such. Perhaps a small video explaining where to get help as well. Have her try Linux Mint (base d on Ubuntu) and then try to write this demeaning article again.


    April 28, 2008 at 12:42 pm

  43. I consider myself an advanced computer user, have owned and tweaked computers for years. My only experience with Linux was knoppix I used to back up data off my hard drive after a windows crash required me to reformat my entire drive. Im not sure what Ubuntu is like, but having to use terminal to perform simple tasks really irritates me. When I was trying to do things in knoppix all the help I found in forums kept telling you what to type in terminal. It just reminds me of the old dos and even my older commodore 64 and just makes me shudder.


    April 28, 2008 at 12:42 pm

  44. Awesome article, very well-written.

    Whilst Ubuntu, and Linux desktop distros in general, are lacking the intrinsic nature of Windows machines, and do indeed assume too much from a non-tech-savvy user, there are also positive points, like the massive amount of pre-installed apps. This experiment on Windows would have taken alot longer, most of which would have been downloading and installing programs.

    I wish someone would sit me down and do this with me and OSX. I know my way around Windows and Linux fine, I’ve never even used a Mac, and to be honest, from what I’ve seen the interface just confuses me.

    (@buster: Pretty sure XP and Vista include native CD writing support, you can get GIMP for Windows, or could do a simple copy-paste-save with mspaint)


    April 28, 2008 at 12:42 pm

  45. I agree with this article. While I use Ubuntu daily on my laptop and XP on my Gaming Desktop and Fileserver, Ubuntu just needs some welcome menus and easy to find intructions for the average user. I took the time back with 6.06 to learn how to do Linux but some people don’t take the time to google it or go to the IRC/Ubuntu Forums.

    The average user just needs some welcome screens and help setting up and it would make switching quite a bit easier.


    April 28, 2008 at 12:43 pm

  46. […] Maybe it’s very suprising to know that very easy task could be very complicated when it comes to non-tech user. Apparently, what we think easy enough is actually hard to do when the information isn’t clear. Content Consumer had a great experiment on how regular non-tech user (in his case, his girlfriend) doing things in Ubuntu 8…. […]

  47. Having just switched to Linux (Ubuntu) for the first time, I had MANY of the same experiences as your girlfriend, and I think your conclusion about assuming too much for the first time user is spot on. Still, I have the time to enjoy the learning experience and at least now I know how to do 12 things!

    Ronald Paulson

    April 28, 2008 at 12:46 pm

  48. This is a great idea, and now I’m thinking why not moving really to Ubuntu. I’ll miss Photoshop, I don’t like the gimp…


    April 28, 2008 at 12:47 pm

  49. Why do we need more user friendly linux, why not try for more linux friendly users. This seems to me like were going at this the entirely wrong way. We are dumbing down our operating system and measuring it against what we want to be “better than”. Why not instead of demand that stupid users can use linux, educated people to use the full power of linux


    April 28, 2008 at 12:48 pm

  50. I don’t have a problem so much with GIMP’s windows but a recurring issue that keeps coming up in your article is the strange naming of so many programs.

    Geeks absolutely love codenames. Knowing what project a codename stands for or even what obscure reference is behind the name itself makes you feel like part of the elite. Any codename becomes second natures after you’ve dropped it enough times.

    It’s not just Linux. Windows has had its Chicago, Cairo, Longhorn, etc. The difference is that in the Windows or Mac world, the developer gives the program a real name before shipping it. Something suggestive, like Pages or Word. Linux developers are happy to just leave the codename as is for the final product name. You end up with new or infrequent users frustrated because they didn’t know their problem could be solved by Brasero or Pidgin or whatever. GIMP is an acronym of a descriptive name so it doesn’t really fall under this problem. But come on… after all these years, Pulp Fiction still comes to mind when I hear about Linux image-editing. Even though everyone uses the acronym, the full name should be what’s displayed in the menus.


    April 28, 2008 at 12:48 pm

  51. @12

    5 can be done with windows media player

    10 can be slightly done with Paint, but nothing to show off



    April 28, 2008 at 12:49 pm

  52. This experiment is great, but the conclusion is ridiculous. I didn’t know how to install programs when I first started using OS X, and that had no bearing on my deciding whether it was ready or not for the desktop. People who are used to doing things the Windows way should be ready to learn a new culture when they switch operating systems… or just stick with Windows.

    Nothing wrong with sticking with what you’re comfortable with.


    April 28, 2008 at 12:49 pm

  53. Great test you have performed. I have done this myself with a spare machine, 2.6ghg/1.5gig RAM. I have installed Ubuntu Gutsy(7.10) and I let the girlfriend use it as the sole OS. She did ask why it didn’t have windows, I told her because we cant and you must use linux she said ok. I created her an account and I put some icons on the desktop being firefox and pidgin. I said if you have problems ask me otherwise have fun. She is alright with computers, windows experience same as your partner. In the first day she managed to change and customize the theme, backgrounds etc. She got pidgin (MSN) working but later on had issues with yahoo. Confused by what to put in as the login name(this was a bit of Yahoo’s fault and pidgins fault). I helped with that and got it working.

    I also installed the basics, such as flash, java, codecs before I gave her the machine. She did ask about saving images as a different format and we had issues with some websites having users download a PDF document that required users to fill in the form and email the form. This didnt work out well and so we tried the excel download which OO opened but she had some problems filling out portions of the sheet(possibly complex layout). She also was getting upset about changing her resume and how OOWriter decided that she meant to put bullets in and proceeded to do it for her but she didn’t want OO to do it. She had a hard time with that, so about 20min later I helped and we got through it. She was able to get images off a camera by herself, resize them and upload them to myspace, facebook by herself. Out of surprise her dad came over and jumped right on and found the games right away, without any help. He also did some browsing. This has gone on for about 3 months now, and she had just a few complaints, some linux specific and others not.

    I will be upgrading to 8.04 after the initial rush is gone. I am also running vmware server beta 2 with 1 VM and a DNS server using bind. I also have webmin on that machine which this stuff is used only for myself.

    I think ubuntu needs to name the applications better at least to direct users to pick the right one. Also the most important, full understanding from vendors to support, RPM, DEB, custom installer and shell script installers. I went to skype the other day and was happy to see that they supported the most popular package formats and the installation was quick and easy.

    A little bit of user friendlessness screens goes a long way such as welcome screens, and help installing required packages such as flash through firefox automatically. I would like to see an option for installation packages, for example say in the tar.gz if a user clicks on it the archive manager will look inside the package and see a install.txt or a common file which will tell the archive manager to open the file on how to install the application. This might bring up a terminal window to the extracted files or run the installation file if the user wants to. So the process could be click on the compressed file, then a window pops up saying it has detected this package has an installer would you like to run the installer or open the file with Archive Manager. If the user clicks the install button then the application is ran (prompting for password) so a terminal window could come up with the shell script, or a gui app is launched. Anyway just an idea.



    April 28, 2008 at 12:56 pm

  54. Great post. I have to second the comment about the comparison with Windows and Mac OS. I think that of the 10 tasks, each OS would have its problems.


    April 28, 2008 at 12:56 pm

  55. I would have kicked your ass if you made me do that.


    April 28, 2008 at 12:59 pm

  56. Who cares if your girlfriend can use linux? If you use linux and it makes you happy, great! But why must you spread it to everyone in the world? If you don’t believe in using windows because it is monopolist and money-hungry, pirate it. If you think its not secure, give her a limited account with firefox and noscript.

    I will never understand why linux *HAS* to be accessible to the people it wasn’t even made for.


    April 28, 2008 at 1:06 pm

  57. Excellent review!

    I strongly agree with the problem in the application names.

    It’s about time to drop the strange names like “Transmission”, “Brasero”, “Tomboy”, etc, and just describe the tasks: “Torrent download”, “CD Burner”, “Note taking”, etc.

    And the Office menu should drop the redundant/repetitive “” labels, and simply display “Writer”, “Calc”, “Impress”, etc.

    Menu items should focus what people really want to do — not necessarily tool names.


    April 28, 2008 at 1:08 pm

  58. Fair assessment. Eventually with time, I’m sure anyone with the drive to tinker would eventually get it down but those who have experience definitely need trial runs like this to see how average Joe handles the rat maze.

    Also fair input which can be used to work on the next release. TY!


    April 28, 2008 at 1:15 pm

  59. Some quick translations that would make Ubuntu easier for human beings:

    “Transmission” => “Bittorrent”
    “Brasero” => “CD Burning”

    “ Writer” => “Writer” # or “Word processing”
    “ Calc” => “Calc” # or “Spreadsheet”
    “ Impress” => “Impress” # or “Presentation”

    “Firefox” => “Internet (Firefox)”
    “Gimp” => “Image editor (Gimp)”



    April 28, 2008 at 1:15 pm

  60. Both my parents are in their 70’s.
    Dad is on a dual boot kUbuntu 7.04/Win XP and xUbuntu 7.04 on his old T21 laptop.

    Mom is new to computers and she inherited my laptop with PCLinuxOS on it. She has never used a computer before.
    She also learned how to add games from the repositories and installed ALL the board games that are offered.\

    So enough with the ‘is it ready for’ articles.

    I install a lot of dual boots because lets face it….games and the work that it takes to get an XP box setup with the firewalls, anti-virus, anti- malware and other crap is a lot worse.

    Its ok Matthew, you dont understand and that’s why you’ll always be our loveable dunce.
    Its good, its fast, its secure and its cutting edge technology. Its always updated and its free as in beer and as in freedom so you NEVER have to pay for the next upgrade. AND it can help revive old hardware.

    I install different distros (Ubuntu and PCLinuxOS are great for newbies) for family and friends who want free tech support and the time I spend now is cut down by 80%.
    I also helped some students setup about 40 systems at a retirement home. The systems were all hold P3’s that were donated and we managed to get the retirees to grok Linux.
    Its like any other OS except it gives you more choices than other OS.

    And for the searchers of ‘cool’, the compiz demo I give to friends is enough to make most Mac fanbois cry on the inside.

    Version 5 wasnt ready but version 7.04 was the one I felt confident giving to my family. And while I have been installing PCLinuxOS of late, I will definitely be upgrading to version 8.

    Rob Enderle

    April 28, 2008 at 1:26 pm

  61. This is a great article – particularly as I’m tossing up purchasing an eee but need to decide if I get linux or windows xp.

    I think I might try installing a virtual copy of Linux and familiarise myself first, see whether it’s worth going for that option or if I should just stay with Windows XP.


    April 28, 2008 at 1:36 pm

  62. An amazing experience. All linux developers and designers are geek and they assume their targeted customer as geeks. you pointed out right thing. User experience means “Microsoft user experience”. 96% of the desktops are controlled by windows so the windows users expect similar behavior with ubundu as well. They need to include normal user in their User experience team to make ubundu successful. Because 99% percent targeted customers are from windows background there could only 1% moving from other linux flavor


    April 28, 2008 at 1:37 pm

  63. I’ll just say this. I used to have to provide extensive support for my fiance’s XP and Vista systems (one desktop, one laptop). The last support I did on either of her systems was BURNING a Kubuntu install DVD. Not installing it, not configuring it, not explaining it. Just burning it and handing it to her. She managed the rest on her own and she’s always had trouble as a windows user.


    April 28, 2008 at 1:42 pm

  64. What the fuck format is odg, otg, sxg? I’ve used Illustrator, Corel Draw, Freehand and worst of all OpenOffice Draw. svg, svg-tiny? yes…none of the formats you list however.

    I think the comment “who cares if you GF can use Linux” is a good one. Even better would be if I didn’t have to see all the fucking diggs for new release of freetard OSs. Linux on desktop = ass.


    April 28, 2008 at 1:42 pm

  65. Last time I used it, Photoshop was multi-window. Did it change between CS2 and CS3? Oh, and can you alt+click & drag to move the screen resolution thing up to somewhere where the last buttons are visible?

    My mom uses Ubuntu 7.10 (she started on 6.06) and handles it much better than Windows. She couldn’t have installed Flash on Windows either, though…actually, Ubuntu’s the only OS where my family members *can* figure out how to install anything. I didn’t set Ubuntu up any further than I would set up Windows for them, but they prefer it. My mom says it’s easier, and my brother loves Synaptic and the lack of viruses.

    I agree that it needs a “first boot” sequence. Fedora has something for first boot…but I skipped it, so I don’t know what it does exactly. Anyway, a first-boot thing with a “here’s wtf is going on” thing would be good for newbies.


    April 28, 2008 at 1:46 pm

  66. That seemed to go pretty well and is really useful feedback, however, most of the “difficulties” had more to do with being accustomed to windows annoyances, such as searching software all around the web (that’s the problem with flash and torrent (besides the name), and actually, I don’t really know what else can be done about that, as there’s a ‘install/add software’ item at the bottom of the applications menu).
    The drive issue would have been solved if you had labeled the windows drive in the past, the best identificator hal con give to it is the size, as it cannot be asumed safely that sda0 is the windows drive, surely, the owner of the computer would have found the disk.
    I concede you the ‘screen name’ problem in pidgin, it should change to the name used for logins in the network you selected, and that the local screen name shouldn’t be in the create account window, the horrible change resolution window (that’s an ubuntu problem there, gnome’s dialog is only two comboboxes), and the fact that ‘filesystem’ should be something more generic, both in nautilus and in the search utility.

    However, I think it went pretty well, it’s probably a lot better than a ubuntu or mac os user using windows for the first time.
    Also, I see that you’re a big fan of introductions… those are annoying, don’t you remember the tour windows had around windows Me… that nobody use anyway? that’s because those things are pretty annoying, you know? the interface should be self explainatory, that’s all, however, it’s a pretty dificult task, requering a lot of feedback, like yours right here, so I hope some dev reads this and lands a couple of patches in pidgin and nautilus (I’d rather not touch such big projects, as I’m not that confident in my gtk+ skills yet)


    April 28, 2008 at 1:48 pm

  67. I fooled around w. Heron this weekend, and also have to agree that it was mostly wasted effort. Few main points:

    1. I’ve got an ATI video card. I DL’d the ATI driver, and tried to get dual monitor support going. Screen went off the refresh cliff several times, and I had to reboot each time. Now, I get it that ATI’s cards are not open source, but, I just don’t care. I shouldn’t have to make sure my video card is organically grown and politically correct to run an OS. I just want it to work as nicely as it does in Windows.

    2. Java functionality was limited. Again, having to DL Java updates via Synaptec should not be required on a new install. Now, granted, Windows requires the same thing, but it’s a heck of a lot easier to do that in Windows.

    3. No NTFS support. I have a 300GB HDD from my Windows install. Ubuntu couldn’t see it, and I didn’t want to muck around with trying to figure out which cryptically named tool would do it.

    In the end, too much trouble to make it worthwhile. I want to use Linux, I want it to be just as good as OSX or XP, but in the end, simplicity wins, and I reloaded XP and went about my business.

    Will E Kerr

    April 28, 2008 at 1:49 pm

  68. Good article. I must admit for me (being quite computer literate, can build computers and are studying to become a web developer and had used Gimp and InkScape before I used linux) wasn’t the smoothest in the world.

    About Gimp though, it looks like in gimp 2.5 (possibly 2.6) you will be able to choose a one window photoshop like GUI. So that will help a lot of people.


    April 28, 2008 at 1:50 pm

  69. *wasn’t the smoothest *transition* in the world, to linux.

    see above post.


    April 28, 2008 at 1:52 pm

  70. btw, gimp won’t, ever get a full window, baybe ubuntu should switch to that photoshopized gimp, but I think they shouldn’t, for one, photoshop uses multiple windows on the mac and nobody complains, after all, photoshop is supposed to be profesional software, and a single windows is not the most convenient way to use multiple monitors.


    April 28, 2008 at 1:53 pm

  71. Regarding your complaints about Pidgin…you really shouldn’t have any. I’ve recommended it to friends and family (who have varying computer knowledge) and no one’s had any problems.


    April 28, 2008 at 1:53 pm

  72. I’ve included this article and a synopsis of the issues raised in the Ubuntu bug tracker. Please contribute to the resolution of these bugs to help improve the user experience for future releases!

    Ryan Prior

    April 28, 2008 at 1:57 pm

  73. 1) Awesome article. Stuff like this will help make Linux better. I hope every ubuntu dev reads this.

    2) You girlfriend is incredibly patient.


    April 28, 2008 at 1:58 pm

  74. I’ve suggested user acceptance testing in the past, or use profiling in large groups, only to be told, “OK, go do it!” I can understand the mentality, but I don’t personally have that kind of time.

    Yes yes yes

    April 28, 2008 at 2:07 pm

  75. Linux is designed by geeks, for geeks. Why is anyone surprised that it is so bad at interacting with girlfriends?


    April 28, 2008 at 2:10 pm

  76. Instead of making all of the changes that you listed in your post, Ubuntu could package a “Ubuntu Tour” walkthrough to initiate new users with the OS, much like windows XP did. I for one like the fact that Linux isn’t just a Windows clone, and I feel it should stay that way. I expect a review with your girlfriend trying to figure out MacOSX next.


    April 28, 2008 at 2:14 pm

  77. […] someone who’s never used Linux. Interesting insight into how ready Linux is for the more | digg story « Fx-Interest Arizona superdelegate pledges vote for Obama! […]

  78. […] ended up getting the install disc instead of the live disc and she figured out how to install more | digg […]

  79. “btw, gimp won’t, ever get a full window, ”

    you obviously havent read the plans for 2.6


    April 28, 2008 at 2:32 pm

  80. “When you first close Pidgin it should tell you that you haven’t really quit it and that it’s just going to the notification area and what it will look like.”

    ::Hits you with newspaper:: No! No! This is exactly what SHOULDN’T happen. Ever. This leads to the cluttered mess of a GUI that windows has.

    Your girlfriend would have figured out pidgin was in the corner eventually, and at that point she’d realized what the notification area is. Additionally, there are help documents and videos she can read and watch.

    “Resolution windows was too small”

    X allows for Alt+Drag to move windows. This is an X thing, so it works regardless of window manager. Also, it allows you to move them above the top of the screen. Not intuitive, I know, and a fix specific to at least that dialog should be made (since it is the dialog that allows you to control the screen size, after all… it should always work, even if others are broken).


    April 28, 2008 at 2:37 pm

  81. alt+f2
    $ sudo umount /girlfriend

    oh and RTFM of course.


    April 28, 2008 at 2:40 pm

  82. […] Link SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: “Está Ubuntu Listo para Principiantes (Ubuntu 8.04)? Ubuntu, para la novia”, url: “” }); […]

  83. Gah! What’s wrong with you?

    “Regardless, after a package is installed, if it’s available in the menu it should say where it is. Or, copy Windows’ “new programs have been installed” bubble that comes out of the Start Menu. Either thing would’ve solved this problem”

    No no no no no! Clutter annoying needless clutter! Not only will this complicate the code base, but it’s something that’s only needed once, ever. Installed applications **always** show up in the menu unless they’re command line applications. Where the hell else would they go?

    Your girlfriend found it in the menu, and by the 2nd application she installs will come to realize the menu is the first place to look after installing an application. In fact, she’ll learn it’s the only place to look.

    There’s little more annoying that opening a windows start menu with half the application groups hidden and a quarter of them highlighted in amber because something was recently installed. This is sort of needed on Windows because instead of meaningful categories, applications are grouped by product vendor (and honestly, who knows or cares the publisher names of most of their software apps??) If windows had the start menu setup like GNOME’s Applications menu, they never would have needed to do the highlighting crap.


    April 28, 2008 at 2:46 pm

  84. Ah just a heads up. Frostwire is fork of Limewire made by some of the original Limewire developers and available on Linux. Frostwire website has also .deb packages ready for ubuntu [and other distros].



    April 28, 2008 at 2:46 pm

  85. I had some of the similar experiences as her trying out Kbuntu Remix just last night, and I’m an 18 year programmer who’s been using KDE for a year! Issues such as a Display dialog where the Apply button is out of sight, and Firefox flash plugin that does not have a one-click installation, are clearly design problems that could easily have been fixed, so please don’t blame Windows conditioning! I would excuse these problems if I were using some other Linux distros, but Ubuntu is meant to be “Linux for the rest of us”. So just admit that Ubuntu is the most user-friendly Linux distros ever, but it still has some startup rough edges when compared to the Mac and Windows.


    April 28, 2008 at 3:01 pm

  86. i wonder how many of those tasks i’d have managed on an operating system other than *nix?


    April 28, 2008 at 3:13 pm

  87. I’m IT for a number of windows exclusive environments and I’ve been curious about Linux for about 8 years or so. I’ve various distros and books but it’s too difficult to make it functionally useful when you are trying to self-teach yourself. It also doesn’t help when there are much more user friendly and robust programs that quickly make someone productive. Just overall, linux needs to be more intuitively easier to figure out…maybe even taking a look at windows and seeing how they achieved that at least. Don’t misunderstand, I’d love to change over, but not if it’s too difficult to do so.


    April 28, 2008 at 3:13 pm

  88. This was a great experiment that underscores two major points:

    1. If you want to make an OS for the masses, you have to consider your user base FIRST.

    2. Linux, even with the advances of the Ubuntu distros, is not ready for the masses.

    Don’t get me wrong. I love what Ubuntu’s done and how far they’ve brought Linux in general.

    As a lifelong techno-geek, one of the hardest lessons for me to learn was to know when to put my own ideas of how things should be and to replace them with what would be easiest for my customers.

    For example, if Ubuntu is trying to draw market share away from Windows, they’re gonna have to abstract the low-level operations, build out the GUI a little more, and make things more task-oriented for the user.

    If Ubuntu gets past these issues, it’ll be closer to ready for prime-time. If not, it will remain a choice for computer geeks only. This may not be a bad thing, depending on Ubuntu’s goals.


    April 28, 2008 at 3:32 pm

  89. Great article. I’m a Linux girlfriend, and I’ve experienced many of the same things that Erin did.

    About the comment that these experiments should be run on first-time Windows users–AFAIK there is presently widespread confusion among new Vista users. I was confused by many things when I sat down at a Vista machine for the first time, and I’m reasonably used to new and different operating systems by now. Frankly my experience of Vista was strongly reminiscent of my early experiences with Linux OSs. (not trying to make anyone cry…) 😉

    Among the things that I find consistently puzzling and irksome is the filesystem organization (mnt, dev, etc are not descriptive titles). I can never guess what’s going to end up where–also, if I select “run with” and try to select a program from the file menu, it’s an impossible task. I still don’t know where the friendly little .exe files are stored, and no amount of guessing gets me anywhere. I don’t even bother anymore, and instead complain loudly until BF comes and tells me he doesn’t really know either, and that he can search the forums, at which point I sigh and lament what could have been.

    ITA about the “local alias” thing in Pidgin, and the utter impossibility of downloading plugin. I have to use Epiphany for anything with Java and Firefox for anything with Flash ATM. It’s a pain.


    April 28, 2008 at 3:34 pm

  90. To the OP–is that a sash you’re wearing in the pic?


    April 28, 2008 at 3:37 pm

  91. I agree with Kevin above. I think a Ubuntu Tour feature would be pretty handy to convert new users from other OS’ to Ubuntu.

    Its interesting to see that a vast majority of setbacks where adapting to a new OS, not Ubuntu specific. As it was said above, I’m sure a lot of users would take just as long adjusting to a OSX as they would a friendly distro like Ubuntu.


    April 28, 2008 at 3:45 pm

  92. GIMPshop aims to replicate the Photoshop interface to make the transition from PS to GIMP easier.


    April 28, 2008 at 4:00 pm

  93. […] primei mele pareri, am gasit post-ul asta pe web. Este vorba de un tip care s-a decis sa verifice cat de bine se descurca prietena lui cu […]

  94. I find that with only a small amount of coaching from me, the the elderly and middle aged, women actually – men seem to have more trouble, probably because they don’t tend to listen – seem to thrive on Mandriva Linux, after I’ve set it up for them.

    Mind you The get the KDE desktop, so the experience is probably more akin to using a Windows desktop where someone has customised the Menu.


    April 28, 2008 at 4:17 pm

  95. Well, actually, there is aMSN, which is an MSN-only client for that IM network, but it’s not a part of the default install. Rather, it’s available through apt.

    As for Flash, if Firefox didn’t have you grab the flashplugin-nonfree package from the repositories, that’s a bug. It’s supposed to get nonfree plugins from the repositories instead of fetching them from upstream. That said, Gnash (a Flash player and browser plugin made by the Free Software Foundation and released under the GPLv3) should have been in the default install. If it wasn’t, that’s another bug. If it was installed (check


    April 28, 2008 at 4:17 pm

  96. i liked the article but its not entirely accurate,i installed Ubuntu on all of the computers at home and all of my younger brothers get along fine(they are 6,10,and 17).none of them have had any problem that google couldnt solve.and gimp is tricky for someone whos used to photoshop but my brothers seemed to have managed and do fine with gimp,showing them photoshop would probably be more confusing than anything else.


    April 28, 2008 at 4:22 pm

  97. Excellent article and a great experiment. This is useful stuff for the Ubuntu UI designers.

    But the conclusion is somewhat far-fetched (or harsh) if I read that your girl did basically well on about 80% of the tasks (don’t want to be an spreadsheet-hugger here) when she used the system for the first time. Give it another week and I’m sure she will start challenging Windows for how it forces you to work with it.

    I played around with Linux since 1999 or something and if I compare Ubuntu now with the first Red Hat and Suse I managed to install, I must say it has come a loooooong, loooong way. Back in 1999 it was a pain for me as a Windows user to even unzip an archive or install a piece of software on Linux without checking documentation. In 1999 or even 2002 doing this kind of experiment with an average computer user was simply unthinkable. Now it’s a matter of days to get used to Linux and never look back.

    Even if you compare 8.04 with Dapper Drake: the progress is undeniably spectacular. And that’s just, what, 2 years?

    It can still get better. It has to and it will happen. I’m convinced that in the near future, Microsoft and Apple will have difficulties to create a desktop that can challenge Linux in terms of user experience and functionality. Experiments like this can help the Linux community to continue improving the experience and functionality.

    Linux should stay Linux however. There is no point in creating a OSS Windows make-over and call it GNU/Linux. If people want to do things The Windows Way, please use Windows. It would be sad to see the Windows flaws incorporated in Linux just to please those who aren’t comfortable with non-Windows behavior.

    Another thing that is not fair: GIMP is not part of GNU/Linux. It’s an OSS that comes standard with every Linux distro. How many Windows computers come with Photoshop (or MS Office) preinstalled?


    April 28, 2008 at 4:25 pm

  98. pretty sweet. I’m going to put my GF up to the same test 🙂


    April 28, 2008 at 4:26 pm

  99. dude your girlfriend has the body of a dude! and she wears kilts! 🙂

    tony two shoes

    April 28, 2008 at 4:33 pm

  100. @johnb

    I understand the idea that anyone should be able to sit down and set up their pc, no matter what OS is on it, on their own is a nice thought, but even Windows doesn’t “Just Work” on a fresh install. Most people get their computers already set up. This means that they don’t have to install the drivers for their equipment, or install their office suite, or any number of programs that they need or want for general day to day use. I wouldn’t ask anyone to install Windows on their own, or to have them figure out what kind of chipset they have for graphics, or what sound driver they need. Machines take tuning, that’s just the way life is. Same can be applied for many operating systems.
    When they tune themselves, well, IT people may well be out of a job 😛


    April 28, 2008 at 4:42 pm

  101. Stopped reading at ‘utorrent.exe’. This is obviously someone who has been thoroughly indoctrinated by Windows, and is completely unaware of what a healthy OS-market with various different choices would look like.

    Now I recognize that that is the majority of potential users, but in the light of that reality you will have to accept that some re-education is necessary for those people to be able to work with any kind of different OS.

    Meanwhile, this kind of test is like dumping someone who has grown up in a communist state in the middle of New York, watching them fail to deal with the many choices, freedom and responsibilities, and then concluding that capitalism and democracy are inferior because they are to complicated for the subject to handle.


    April 28, 2008 at 4:43 pm

  102. @9

    I’ve run into this problem on the EEE PC, you need to hold alt while left clicking on the window. That will allow you to drag it off screen so you can click on the buttons located at the bottom of the dialog box.


    April 28, 2008 at 4:43 pm

  103. I haven’t read thru all these comments, but for the “Ninth Task: Change screen resolution”…

    Instead of tabbing & guessing, you could have held ALT + left clicked the window to move it anywhere you’d like.


    April 28, 2008 at 4:48 pm

  104. Aside from the selected tasks being pretty trivial, this was a god illustration of Linux Myopia, inability of developers to see the OS from an objective POV. I would have selected a few productivity and important maintenance tasks.

    1. Learn how synaptic and installer works. Install G-streamer codecs and a firewall
    2. install a printer
    3. install O-Ofc, create and print a doc.
    4. mount a new drive or partition
    5. perform a backup procedure


    April 28, 2008 at 4:48 pm

  105. excellent!!!

    i’m not a geek, but know all variations of windows pretty well, and have attempted to use ubuntu for it last 3 re-incarnations, only to be put off by it’s geekiness and fuzzy logic.

    i think you’ve hit the nail directly on the head:

    Linux won’t truly be ready for the desktop until someone computer illiterate can sit down at a the computer and with little effort do what they want to do


    April 28, 2008 at 4:58 pm

  106. this post is about a windows user trying to use linux. but what about a linux user trying to use windows? i mean, linux as their first operating system they learn. most people learns windows as their first operating system, and thats why they very familiar with windows workflow. what about people who never know windows, trying to use it. they must be also some usability problem occur.
    btw, i agree with the user’s confusion on software name in the menu. they (open source developer) should use generic name (Torrent client) instead of program name (e.g. Transmission). Especially in KDE environment, the default setting is showing the program names, which is very confusing (Kedit, KNetwork, Konqueror etc.)


    April 28, 2008 at 5:35 pm

  107. I agree with many of the comments made by the author and the general point he seems to be making, which is that people become familiar with some versions of some operating systems, forms interoperation processes, applications etc.

    The notion that some people find it difficult changing to new Operating Systems is a reasonable comment, though not new. That he’s suggesting ways to make it better is a credit to him.

    However, few people go out of their way to change over to new OSs by themselves. It’s often with a helping hand. Given the complexity of such things, it is likely to remain this way.

    I’ve had mixed success with swapping people to Linux. It varied according to the amount of time they wished to put in and the time I had. If either was of a reasonable degree, then they were successful. If both were low, then it was not.

    The author’s argument is a reasonable one and he suggests improvements or changes to increase the swap-over success rates.

    Good on him and his g/friend.

    My final point is that a great many people I work with (all but a small handful are university graduates) have problems of varying degrees in understanding Windows – it’s all the use where I work – and they’ve been using it for years at work and home. What does this tell us about ‘intuition’ and exposure to an OS? Just that for many people, they’re clueless and they struggle to do anything other than what they’ve been shown. Nothing new in that either.


    April 28, 2008 at 5:56 pm

  108. I am doing those kind of tests since ages, and had very good results with some triks….
    – I usually install all the required software/plugins with all the required setups before getting the user to use the keyboard.
    – I use kde with kde_xp theme
    and the winxp superkaramba bar moving the kde one on topscreen so the user can choose which one is better
    – I use the xp icons theme
    – I change the names in the icons to talking ones
    – for msn I use the one on, pretty much similar and it has webcam and voice support
    my father now uses slackware without any problems 😀 and loves linux.

    renato gallo

    April 28, 2008 at 6:00 pm

  109. the only real gripe a newbie to ubuntu, or any other linux distro for that matter, that really annoys me is the installation of new programs. everything can be learned within a couple of days of tinkering, but program installation is really what bothered me my first time.

    for ubuntu, there are *.deb files out there that installs just like a regular *.exe file, but that is limited to debian-based systems and I’m not too sure about other distros.

    just my two cents


    April 28, 2008 at 6:10 pm

  110. I don’t think there is much assumptions to the user knowing about installation and file system structure in GNOME. I feel the situation you describe is how a user expect the OS to be like Windows.

    I’ve done the same experiment on different friends and family. They find their stuff under Places, and with a hint that they need to install apps through “add/remove” in the menu they don’t get issues with installing random stuff that really are windows apps.

    As for the youtube issue, Firefox really is patched do use the software channels for flash – when the plugin warning displays. I guess the bug is in youtube, because of the javascript usage.

    And last: I wouldn’t be worried about letting your girl use Ubuntu. She seems to find her way easily. Her “problems” are more out of Windows habit than anything else. She’d get accustomed pretty fast. As has everyone I’ve put to use it.


    April 28, 2008 at 6:16 pm

  111. Why don’t you try this same thing with somebody less tech savvy, like somebody tech support normally deals with. These are the people that will have real problems, they don’t even know how to change the them, so how would they do? This was stupid.


    April 28, 2008 at 6:30 pm

  112. I’ve been using Linux for a couple of years now..and I won’t say it has always been easy. Nice experiment you did there. I haven’t used Ubuntu for some time though, (Arch Linux user), however I do believe that Firefox allows you to install flash through the browser itself – without going to Adobe/apt-get.

    About Transmission, I agree with you..the menu name should be Transmission – Bittorrent client. This should also be done for every application that comes in the default, and pretty much every app that installs itself in the menus.

    4th task..couldn’t agree more. OpenOffice Draw seriously needs an upgrade. And perhaps a change in the menu to read Vector Image Editor?

    5th task…agree
    9th task..apart from using alt-drag, I pretty much agree. It’s useless having a huge picture that takes up half the window space.

    10th task..I agree a bit here. Never used photoshop but gimp’s layout can be a bit irritating. What I usually do is put it on a virtual desktop..and set everything to always on top.

    11th task..I believe a nice solution could be changing the text of the options based on what protocol you chose. Thus, you can chose the wording that’s most appropriate.

    12th task. Not so sure I agree with the windows bubble like idea. I’m flummoxed..if she didn’t search under Internet, then where did she search??


    April 28, 2008 at 6:33 pm

  113. X-mas 2006 was rainy where I live. And Vista was marketed. At that moment I ran 8 pc’s on WinXP, and switching was just far too costly.

    So I spent the rainy days trying out Ubuntu, and I’ve met with exactly the same problems and standstills and frustrations. And most of all, I could never introduce this to my family members.

    So I discovered DistroWatch and started to try alternatives. I had ATI-videocards and the many problems they cause. But I’ve tried many distro’s. It became like a hobby.

    This is what I use at the present:
    MEPIS 7 (Debian now)
    MINT 4 (sure will try hardy MINT 5)

    Why I use above and Ubuntu? The author just described it. With the above 3, I’ve a good feeling thru installing, I’ve a logical layout, everything works as it should, my printer is easily installed.

    One exception; finding a scanner (in Europe) that is SANE-compatible. If they exist, they either seem always soldout either way too expensive.

    I don’t use Pidgin anymore, I use Meebo, it gives me more at once.

    I still use OfficeXP through WINE/CrossOver, but more and more I appreciate OpenOffice, and the GIMP, and all the other good stuff that’s awaiting you in the Linux lib’s.


    April 28, 2008 at 6:37 pm

  114. Mac, Windows and Linux distros are all different, but much of the base can be learned by anyone without a closed mind. A far more accurate test would be to take a small child who hadn’t really used computers and mad them do the same tasks on Windows, Mac & Linux.

    Ubuntu is trying to make a linux distro friendly to Windows users. The piece was and interesting test, but I feel the tone is a bit rudely condescending, condsidering the devlopers are trying to cater to people like your girlfriend.

    For the commetors, if you don’t like linux, don’t use it! Simple. If you hate linux people for always speak up in defense of their operating system, spend less time trashing it. There is room in the world for more than one OS.

    As for #75, I’m a girl who uses Linux, who has dated geeks…
    How like a windows user to stereotpye 😛


    April 28, 2008 at 6:43 pm

  115. quote … If she had as much trouble as she did, what chance to the elderly or at least the middle-aged stand? … quote

    Well the elderly and middle aged, this is primarily women I’m referring to (as men seem to have a harder time, probably it’s because they don’t listen), seem to have no problem using Mandriva Linux, after I’ve set it up for them, and given them some fairly minimal instruction.

    I’m giving them a system with a KDE desktop, so the transition from Windows to Linux is not as big a step, as it is going to the GNOME desktop. But for the most part they seem to just accept that that’s the way it is, when confronted with the GIMP, although in the case of Thunderbird or Evolution the comment is often along the lines of it being better or faster, Firefox gets this sort of response as well, in fact the total responsiveness of Mandriva’s KDE desktop is waht generally impresses them from the start.


    April 28, 2008 at 6:45 pm

  116. Worst thing is the need to use Command Line to install Flash?


    Windows users do not understand Command Line requirements. When Linux is 100 per cent GUI then it will be ready for non-geeks.


    April 28, 2008 at 6:47 pm

  117. That was an amazing post; I enjoyed so much!
    Yes, still there is a lot to be done.
    I hope Ubuntu people will see this.
    Probably an option to choose between ‘Migration mode’ and ‘Normal mode’ would do.
    Anyway, I believe that Ubuntu is more friendly for someone that has never seen a computer..


    April 28, 2008 at 7:03 pm

  118. Part of this is true and I agree… but most of the programs are cross-platform, like GIMP or Pidgin, or OpenOffice… and I don’t think because Photoshop is now associated with image editing, someone is supposed to had such an EXPENSIVE software on their computers, or MS Office (which is EXTREMELY EXPENSIVE)… I am right?

    And btw, if I put your girlfriend to do the same tests on a Mac it will be almost the same results! Believe me when I say that I have non-geeky friends, and that their are UNABLE to operate Windows, Mac or Ubuntu!!! I have to do the tasks for them! Unfortunately, people like this will make further in computers if they don’t read a lot and if they do not assume many things (like those from the Pidgin task). This is the truth!


    John Klans

    April 28, 2008 at 7:08 pm

  119. A little correction in my comment:

    “people like this will NOT make it further”

    John Klans

    April 28, 2008 at 7:10 pm

  120. For the second task (YouTube), she could have succeeded if the Ubuntu package manager followed WinZip (or Windows compressed folders)’s behavior — when trying to run an application from an archive, it should unzip the *whole* archive to a temp folder, so that dependencies ( can be found.


    April 28, 2008 at 7:32 pm

  121. I feel a little like Erin when I have to go back to using Windows.

    Ken Jackson

    April 28, 2008 at 7:38 pm

  122. Ofcourse we shouldn’t take windows as a point of reverence, but it would have done a far worse job on some of these points. Installing flash would’ve been succesfull though many would’ve failed this task (but let’s be honest you should have installed that with ‘a fresh installation’ together with the medibuntu repos).

    But burning cd’s from a linux partition in windows? Does a fresh windows install even have a cd-burner? If it does it doesn’t read ext3.

    Could you photoshop anything with a fresh windows install?

    Truely, most non-geek people I know don’t know what a ‘partition’ is. Some not even after I explained them repeatedly.

    Nevertheless an interesting experiment, and some of these improvements are fairly obvious and easy to make.


    April 28, 2008 at 7:41 pm

  123. You have a great girlfriend. Treasure her and don’t force her to install linux too many times!

    Great posting.


    April 28, 2008 at 7:52 pm

  124. This is a very important article, and very well written.

    I really hope that the developers of ubuntu will read this, and enhance their great distribution until its granny-ready!

    good job!


    April 28, 2008 at 8:28 pm

  125. Im a bit of a computer geek, as im a web developer and dabble in desktop programming aswell but when I installed ubuntu, it really doesnt make it clear how to install programs. From memory I realised that I might have to run a command but people who are not good at computers would have no idea about this. If linux is gonna spread to a wider audience, this is gonna have to be addressed


    April 28, 2008 at 8:31 pm

  126. The author is correct in that there are many things in the modern linux GUI’s that must be taught. He has, however, made the incorrect assumption that “Everyone knows how to use Windows”

    Find a person who does not know how to use Windows and subject them to the same experiment on a current Windows installation. Believe me there are plenty of those folks around.

    I think you’ll find that the people who do know Windows, have had help learning it or been taught the use of it in some form of training. Take the same type of person (no Windows experience) and perform the same experiment with the Ubuntu linux Gui.

    This is good stuff. Completing this experiment would be very helpful to the myriad of GUI designers for all operating systems.


    April 28, 2008 at 10:30 pm

  127. P.S. A better solution for Pidgin would be (1) if there are no accounts configured immediately go to screen that lets the user select, “Do you want to use a pre-existing account/screenname or would you like to create a new one?” (2) Let the user specify the network and then ask just username and password. Anything else should be pre-defined. If the user wants to set all the various parameters, they can use an “advanced” option.

    Tom Limonecelli

    April 28, 2008 at 10:31 pm

  128. There’s been a sea change in the Linux world, thanks to Ubuntu. I can’t imagine asking my wife to do anything with the Slackware box I had years ago, but Ubuntu I think would be much easier for her. It is a lot more polished.

    To give one solid example, I was having trouble with sharing a printer from my Gutsy server – and all of the help I was finding online was referring to the GUI tool rather than editing config files with the CLI. That shows you how far the GUI tools have come. On a headless server, it wasn’t much help, but still.


    April 28, 2008 at 10:31 pm

  129. Please, please do not talk the Gnome developers into putting little pop-up and notification bubbles all over the UI for little things like installing new programs, minimizing applications, or welcome screens. That is precisely the reason windows is so freaking annoying. I agree with you there are some good finds here and some room for improvement, but please, lets do it subtlely through the UI instead of adding a plethora of annoying popup messages.


    April 28, 2008 at 10:35 pm

  130. “Erin’s intelligent, quick to learn and is reasonably well-acquainted with modern technology.”

    She’s not reasonably well-acquainted with Linux, and using a new system takes a little time getting used to even for a computer professional.

    If she’d known about Synaptic, she’d likely find it easier to install a program than on a Windows box. Also, I set up a fresh Ubuntu 8.04 installation on a friend’s laptop this Sunday and the Flash Player was there out of the box, so this has been ironed out…


    April 28, 2008 at 10:36 pm

  131. You can move the “change resolution” box to fit on the screen, but it requires a few config options.

    First, you need to install compizconfig-settings-manager, usually through apt, aptitude or synaptic. Then, open up Advanced Desktop Effects Settings, go to “Move Window” at the bottom, click it, then uncheck “Constrain Y”. Now you can hold down alt and drag a window, and you can move it off the screen.

    I think rather than the compiz stuff, you can go to appearance, then visual effects, and then disable compiz by selecting “None”. That should also let you move windows past the top of the screen 🙂

    It’s awful to find :/


    April 28, 2008 at 10:38 pm

  132. Oh yeah, and flash (along with other stuff, including Java) can also be installed by installing ubuntu-restricted-extras, again from either apt, aptitude or synaptic.

    TBH, synaptic needs to be publicized more when using it, so users feel like they need to go there instead of through websites, like in Windows.


    April 28, 2008 at 10:41 pm

  133. More people should try CinePaint (the fork formerly known as FilmGimp). It’s not currently in Hardy, but I’d suggest people give it a try. Apart from not having as silly a name, it’s nicer to throw n00bs at. I fervently await GEGL being good enough for CinePaint and GIMP to be able to re-merge at least in theory.

    David Gerard

    April 28, 2008 at 10:43 pm

  134. your gf did all that? dude, she’s a keeper….


    April 28, 2008 at 10:45 pm

  135. Overall your comments are great on Ubuntu 8.04 and I agree with them. The only thing I have to say about it is that even on windows, with alll the messages a user can get in a day to tell them exactly what is going on on their computer, beginners often get lost. So putting a “new program installed” for example might help some of them, but I don’t know if you’ve configures a windows pc recently because having half the folders highlighted because you installed all the usefull softwares you need is really disturbing to me, and since in linux you can install a lot of programs at a time, this would make a real mess.

    Good job overall!


    April 28, 2008 at 10:51 pm

  136. Next time ask her the name of a Country that begins with “U” and don’t let her use wikipedia… (quote:



    April 28, 2008 at 10:52 pm

  137. I don’t think a 1-person test is representative, anyway there are simpler ways to do things.

    For example, Flash can be directly installed by firefox on a per-user basis when a flash movie is met in a page.

    Moreover, there are distributions out there that provide it installed out of the box if a full installation is performed.

    With openSUSE for example, if you perform a DVD installation, you have flash (for all browsers) and the java virtual machine properly installed, and on 32 bit systems also the Java firefox plugin (no 64 bit is provided by SUN).

    About burning a collection, it’s straightforward with tools like Banshee. Just import the collection and click burn to CD.

    Finally, skype is available as RPM for it, and a simple click on it after having saved the RPM on the desktop starts the installer.

    To conclude, I agree with you when you say Linux has a lot of work to do on the desktop, but some of the problems you cited are distribution specific.


    April 28, 2008 at 10:57 pm

  138. Try making her try windoze without prior experience. You’d see the same show.

    bob jones

    April 28, 2008 at 11:01 pm

  139. I’ve installed several Ubuntu boxes for people, and no one I’ve installed for has had these issues. The very simple reason is that I normally do all the plugin and extra’s installations myself. I do this for both windows and linux installs, as it tends to be less of a headache. I’ve never just installed an OS and expected that everything was going to work out of the box. By doing so, your just showing all of us your extreme ignorance. Here’s my short list of things to install before you give it to you luser. Jave, flash, some sort of pdf reader and all drivers. If your not doing that, then you really shouldn’t try. All lot of people have problems with these things whether their using windows or ubuntu. I’m not going to say everyone has these problems, but had you actually set it up for her, like any compatant tech, then most of these problems could have been avoided. As for pidgin, sorry, but anything new is going to require some explanation. Try sitting grandma down in front of a windows box, when she’s never even touched a computer before. (especially a fresh install with no patches or programs installed) And pidgin isn’t even that hard to figure out. I’ll admit that the first time I used it, I was a little confused at first. But it is fairly straight-forward, and the only reason you would have major problems is if you didn’t understand the ENGLISH LANGUAGE! Now unless I’ve missed the boat here, you’ve just alienated a potential linux user, because your an idiot. PEOPLE ARE USED TO WINDOWS AND NEED TO TAKE A LITTLE TIME TO LEARN AND GET USED TO LINUX. JUST SHOVING SOMEONE FACE IN IT IS LIKELY TO PISS THEM OFF. YOU HAVE TO HELP NEW USERS, YOU STUPID TARD.

    C N

    April 28, 2008 at 11:04 pm

  140. Well, the main problem with this test is that the girlfriend didn’t have much PC experience – only Windows experience. That’s why she wanted to download programs from websites instead of doing this through package manager (THE killer feature of most linux distributions IMO). She was also completely illiterate about the basics – where the files are and why you can’t simply run .exe in linux.
    She assumed she knew something where it would be wiser to google or ask for answer.

    So, this test isn’t about how friendly Ubuntu is to a newbie user – it is about how friendly it is to a windows user which is much worse. Habit is the biggest obstacle in switching OS’s. You stick to the was things were used to be even if there is much convenient way of doing them (e.g. multi-protocol instead of having multiple IM’s).


    April 28, 2008 at 11:10 pm

  141. Interesting experiment. She seems to have done fairly well. Linux is making great strides in usability…


    April 28, 2008 at 11:11 pm

  142. If you ever find a dialog box bigger than your current window, hold down ALT and the spacebar, then click and drag the window from anywhere on the window, not just the menu bar. Of course your test subject wouldn’t know that, but just an FYI.


    April 28, 2008 at 11:11 pm

  143. Linux isn’t Windows, nor is it OS X. Assuming that it is will only frustrate you.

    If you want an OS that does not require some reading by someone (either an admin or an end user), you should not be using Linux.

    I happen to find Linux easier to work with than the above to OSs for what I use it for, and the huge amount of documentation available for Ubuntu makes it very easy to quickly setup a desktop for an end user.


    April 28, 2008 at 11:11 pm

  144. Re Post #7:

    There’s definitely a learning curve going from Windows to OS X, but speaking as someone who used Windows as a teenager, but then switched to OS X halfway through college, it’s much less than the learning curve of Ubuntu. OS X is /very/ user-friendly and the help menu is a) actually helpful and b) easily searchable. Within 4 days of buying my Macbook, I was using it like I had been using it all my life.

    Also, I’ve used Ubuntu on friend’s computer and I still don’t like it. I can do the basics of command line Unix and am proficient with a couple of high-level programming languages. If I can do it by clicking and dragging on my Mac, why would I /want/ to do it through a (more confusing) command-line interface? I know that Linux offers you superuser capabilities that make playing with your computer very fun, but the average user cares about customizing their desktop and not much more.


    April 28, 2008 at 11:13 pm

  145. This reads like Penthouse letters for nerds.
    “I never thought this would happen to me, but…”


    April 28, 2008 at 11:13 pm

  146. Most folks aren’t even as technically savvy as your girlfriend. My 75-year old dad would just ask “what’s skype?”, or say “just show me”.

    1) You’re right – desktop Linux is NOT ready for joe-blow-sixpack.

    2) Not everybody uses skype, downloads torrents, or even creates/edits images on their computers. The people you specifically mention (grandma) barely use a computer at all.

    3) The simple truth is that after the devlopers think they’re done with the distro, they should run usability tests with all levels of WINDOWS users and make necessary changes.

    4) *Real* people (as opposed to Linux activists) don’t care about the politics of open source, the ramifications of the GPL, nor the “purity” of using the command line. they simply want to get their stuff done in the fastest way possible.

    5) Pretty much everyone that starts using Linux today is coming from a Windows background. Like it or not, THOSE are the people distro manufacturers have to cater to. The goal is to make everything obvious and keep them the hell away from the command line.


    April 28, 2008 at 11:14 pm

  147. Hi.

    I agree that this article and its thesis is excellent. All the chosen tasks were appropriate as well, I thought.

    One thing I would like to mention, apologies if it’s been mentioned, I didn’t read all the comments, is that it’s discouraging to continually read about people freezing up when confronting a different OS that uses differrent terms or icons. Although I agree that some program names in the FLOSS world are pretty out-there and completely non-intuitive. Some functions, as well.

    However, if we were trapped on an island somewhere – would we just sit and wait to die, or would we find out how to get food water and shelter that we might survive?

    It discourages and disheartens me to know that people lose their minds when they have to think, on any level, when they are sitting at a computer. What should be taught, or self-learned, is methods, and functions instead of terms like username. Or, pointing and clicking on the pretty pictures. When account name is substituted for username people get stupid. “Oh, NO! Where does my member name go?”

    I am not knocking your girlfriend at all becaus it’s not her doing. The dumbing down of people globally has been accomplished by the MS Windows operating system. People lock up sit in awe because no Clippy exists for Linux.

    I do blame people that maintain this glazed-look, however. We are supposed to be able to put 2 and 2 together to get 4 under any circumstances. However, when a term exists in Linux that is similar but not exactly the same as it is in Windows, the reader needs to be able to figure out ( HELLO – CONTEXT!) what’s going on.

    I blame apathy, laziness, Microsoft, and our posh and self-gratifying society. I would never let my children become so placated and helpless. If they can’t figure a thing out then I haven’t done my job as a Dad. And that’s not happening.

    Again, I thought your article was terrific, as were your tasks.

    What we all need to do next is to figure out how to remind the typical Windows user that they are not a moron, or helpless. Nor should they be reliant on the windows OS to make decisions for them. It cannot be trusted at all. We need to figure out how to remind people that they figured out how to walk and talk – now they need to figure out how to get their brains back.



    April 28, 2008 at 11:15 pm

  148. Ok Minor problem. Some of the issues you are talking about are not Ubuntu issues but Linux Standard Base. Soon the download package issue should be resolvable for flash. When the Linux standard base support more and better sound outputs.

    Next Ubuntu should be able to install a RPM. Reason its a LSB format. It should be a simple point and click if its a LSB package. So that should be come kick adobes ass after Linux Standard Base 4.0 gets release.

    Fifth task transition issue. Really not a fair test. Partitions are placed depended on your distro install. /mnt is normal pace for 3 party systems. Long term Linux users can have equal annoyances returning to windows like where is the etc directory when you have posix services install. Its nicely in a strange location too.

    Yep screen res task 9 should be better.

    Task 10 gimp is adding a function search to improve its usability next version.

    Task 11 lack of transition preparation. pidgin does work on windows. Now user had never used a multi client messaging client before. Nop that was not the problem at all. Person had used a single target client before. So expected treatment was completely wrong. Clean slate person handles that one better.

    Now it would be interesting to put her head to head with kde version of ubuntu or mint. Some of the naming issues is a gnome one. Also most people don’t notice the mouse hover information in the Linux menus.


    April 28, 2008 at 11:16 pm

  149. Nice article. I think several of the issues were just familiarity, but your points about generic naming of applications were a good idea. What I think would be REALLY INTERESTING is to do the same test with a fresh install of Microsoft Vista, and see how her experience compares.

    As an added comparison, if your Ubuntu machine didn’t come pre-installed, and was installed on an old machine, then Vista should be installed on that same machine.


    April 28, 2008 at 11:17 pm

  150. Linux won’t truly be ready for the desktop until someone computer illiterate can sit down at a the computer and with little effort do what they want to do.

    The whole system of a written word using letters won’t be really usable until someone illiterate can sit in front of a piece of paper and with little effort write a book. Hieroglyphs are a much better system.


    April 28, 2008 at 11:19 pm

  151. One more “great article” comment. I’m a long-time Linux user, and I try hard to be aware of the knowledge I take for granted when introducing people to Linux…but it can be hard to remember what you once didn’t know. Thanks to both of you for taking the time to do this and write it up.

    Saint Aardvark

    April 28, 2008 at 11:20 pm

  152. per: “(Also, why is Drawing installed in the Base package? Seems pretty unnecessary – if only because I don’t know anyone who uses a program like it.)”

    Apparently OO.o Impress relies on the Draw package, so I guess I can kind of see this being needed. But like you said, who really uses it.


    April 28, 2008 at 11:22 pm

  153. i almost totally disagree

    flash problem is a youtube problem, as you said, not an ubuntu/linux problem.

    i don’t think the right solution is to change the behaviour of the desktop..
    i think the best thing should be an help screen popping up the first time you install it that explain you the basis and “where to find help”
    with screenshots and stuff..
    so you know you can install software with the package manager (es. flash) and that almost all programs goes in the menù after they had been installed…

    and so on…

    remember: linux is NOT windows! and it doesn’t want to be like windows!

    you here are assuming “easy = windows like”

    to be fair you should compare the behavior of a person that never used a computer..
    or you should find somone that always used Linux, and only Linux and ask him to do something on windows… trust me.. it will be puzzled at least like your girlfriend got puzzled here


    April 28, 2008 at 11:23 pm

  154. Perhaps you should teach your girlfriend how to use google. She would have been much more successful.


    April 28, 2008 at 11:24 pm

  155. […] someone who’s never used Linux. Interesting insight into how ready Linux is for the more | digg […]

  156. Perhaps we have reached the ‘uncanny valley’ where the ubuntu desktop is nearly like Windows, but not quite… leading to unfulfilled user expectations?



    April 28, 2008 at 11:24 pm

  157. If she used Ubuntu from the start, she would have as many problems trying to run Windows as she did running Linux, though I agree Windows does automate more of these tasks. It’s still what you’re used to.


    April 28, 2008 at 11:24 pm

  158. Tasks 2 & 3 would have gone a lot smoother had erin been shown how to use the software installer for ubuntu – Software installation on ubuntu is a lot easier than windows if you know about this – a lot harder otherwise… A five minute tour ought to do it.

    With Regards to task 5 – Had you named the drive when you formatted it – Ubuntu would have used that name for the partition. It defaults back to giving the size when there is no name.
    This could be better but I hardly think it is worse than Windows drive letter scheme.

    I do agree that the gimp and pidgen could be very much made more accesible by your suggestions.

    danni coy

    April 28, 2008 at 11:24 pm

  159. […] switching over to Linux the developers of Linux Desktop Applications should read articles such as this one and take to heart the experiences of the average computer user […]

  160. you’re right! only -after- some tuning my girlfriend is able to use ubuntu. but why? if you power up a new notebook or pc from, say hp or sony, you find a “strange operating system” with a lot of preinstalled stuff, like skype, flash plugin, java and some codecs… do the same thing with ubuntu and your users will be happy. I usually install ubuntu (or other distro) with flash, java, realplay, some other codecs and vlc, some applications (amule, inkscape, scribus and so on) and configure openoffice to save in office format. everything in few minutes. and on this pc one can be productive from (his…) first login.


    April 28, 2008 at 11:27 pm

  161. I noticed some comments that x feature would be new for anyone that hadn’t used OS X/Windows/OS? before. The truth of the matter is that Windows has the bulk of the market share. If Linux is going to grow quickly it will need Windows users to migrate to Linux. This will require that some of the things that Windows does will need to be mimicked on Linux


    April 28, 2008 at 11:28 pm

  162. Well I tip my hat off to you for sharing linux with your g/f.


    April 28, 2008 at 11:30 pm

  163. […] maybe not entirely, I just wanted to draw your attention to this interesting but rather not surprising post . Somebody asked a Windows non-geek user to use Ubuntu for first time (I understood). Kind of […]

  164. I really do appreciate articles, and experiments, such as this.
    I commented about this post on my own blog as well (
    I think this really nailed down the problems behind acceptance of Linux as an alternative to the Windows desktop. Excellent article.


    April 28, 2008 at 11:30 pm

  165. Linux IS pretty much ready. The results of this experiment PROVE(?) this. Some of the application are not!

    GF managed to solve the OS issues (except recovering from small desktop).


    April 28, 2008 at 11:33 pm

  166. Well played. And cute too, not everyone has a girlfriend who will do whimsical usability testing, let alone a cute one.



    April 28, 2008 at 11:34 pm

  167. Hey man. This is a great article with a novel approach!

    I’m a GNOME developer (though with the Translation project, so of little direct interest to you). What you’re describing here are problems more with GNOME than with Ubuntu (which simply uses and modifies a GNOME installation).

    I’d think that you open up some bug reports to fix some of these things! I’d be happy to help get the ball rolling, so feel free to email me if you’d like to do this.

    These are all great ideas, with fixable problems. Email me and we can get the ball rolling!


    April 28, 2008 at 11:34 pm

  168. What shocks me is that you thought nothing of downloading music illegally. Whatever happened to buying it, or ripping it off a purchased CD? You could at least have pretended to do that instead of owning outright that you steal music.


    April 28, 2008 at 11:36 pm

  169. Oh joy, aren’t these sexist undertones fantastic.

    Noah Slater

    April 28, 2008 at 11:36 pm

  170. @117 you can install flash on ubuntu without using a command line….

    danni coy

    April 28, 2008 at 11:37 pm

  171. There’s already an Ubuntu bug ticket open for Transmission’s name in the menu. Apparently it slipped through the cracks before the Heron release, but I suspect this article will help it get fast-tracked for a patch. 🙂

    Charles Kerr

    April 28, 2008 at 11:39 pm

  172. […] The new Ubuntu is great, but probably still not ready for your Mom, or your girlfriend. […]

  173. “I’ve installed several Ubuntu boxes for people and THE secret is to do
    the initial tuning for them.”

    “Why not make it simple enough so anybody with minimal knowledge can do it?”

    Well, the ‘initial tuning’ is basically just installing all of the things that are ILLEGAL to install in the US because of asinine laws. That is not Ubuntu’s fault that they can’t break the law to make the OS more user-friendly. Not while remaining free.

    Decent review. I thought some of the points (menu item names and such) vere valid, some not.

    Just remember, Ubuntu is not Windows. Don’t treat it like it is. If you just take a few minutes to learn how to use it, you might actually realize that this way is *better*. Windows is not the best thing ever, so don’t think that different = bad.



    April 28, 2008 at 11:40 pm

  174. Names

    I agree basically with the confusing names problem but …

    Windows has the same problem ..What do Outlook, Access, Nero do ?

    And I hate the “Simplified” only names idea “BitTorrent Client” is easy to find but which one am I using? and what If I install two are they both called the same …?

    Photoshop is not GIMP and GIMP is not Photoshop, GimpShop is the answer if you already know photoshop ….

    The intro hinting system is a really good idea … but please NOT a tour (no-one will use it) and not a paperclip style helper!

    The Flash Plugin download is an annoyance.. and should be handled better, as skype is ….but this is more than partially to do with Firefox?

    I see the usual “hate the command line”, “looks like DOS”, “long instructions for the command line” people are commenting … please go and use a modern version of Linux… Windows 3.1 looked old fashioned and was clunky as well …

    I use Linux a lot and very rarely open a command prompt (and I write software!)


    April 28, 2008 at 11:42 pm

  175. @67

    1) For complaints about that best to talk to AMD….

    2) main issue here is that there are so many java related packages- but still not too hard

    3) NTFS is definately supported under ubuntu (out of the box) both read and write. Though that may have changed since you used it last.

    danni coy

    April 28, 2008 at 11:46 pm

  176. Well Photoshop behaves exactly how Gimp does on Mac OS. Apparently that way of behaviour is better according to the enlightened Mac artists out there. Personally, that is the thing I hate most about my Mac is how Photoshop does that.

    Don Nathan

    April 28, 2008 at 11:51 pm

  177. You should’ve had her dd the hard drive as one of the tasks 🙂

    The problem is that Windows is so dumbed down, users aren’t used to solving problems for themselves.

    Realistically, how many ‘average’ users have installed Windows before, and actually set it up? You gave your gf a fresh non-tweaked copy of linux. Obviously there are going to be some problems, but most of the problems or complaints you had were not major.

    I can bet a lot of Windows users have had PLENTY of complaints.

    Good article…


    April 28, 2008 at 11:52 pm

  178. when people complain that ubuntu need some initial tuning after a install, think about what kind of tuning is done to a windows install that comes with a computer.

    this is the main fallacy i see when people compare windows and linux. unless your some tech geek that build your own computers, you do not install the os yourself, ever. of the shelf computers today come with recovery media, not windows install media. they basically rewrite the os and bundled software to its factory complete state.

    also, i see that a lot of the problems she is having comes from thinking app = task. as in, i want to draw a image, where is the image drawing app im used to? this instead of something like task -> draw new image, or similar.

    this is a problem thats like a mental epidemic today in computing, and why people mentally deadlock when moving between interfaces and app collections.

    April 28, 2008 at 11:53 pm

  179. “Linux won’t truly be ready for the desktop until someone computer illiterate can sit down at a the computer and with little effort do what they want to do.” – I agree with others, this is an unfounded statement, since a truly computer illiterate person would have similar difficulties in XP or Vista. Unfortunately, it seems your definition of computer illiterate = normal Windows user.

    Also, while some advice on OS modifications like using “Computer” instead of the jargon “filesystem” makes sense, criticisms regarding some programs were unfounded. For example, you criticised the GIMP’s unintuitive UI. For some, it is intuitive….for photoshopper’s, it’s not, which is why there is GIMPShop, which tries to copy the feel of Photoshop.

    Remember though, the aim of Ubuntu or any linux distro is NOT to copy windows, or its look and feel, or the look and the feel of its programs, which is what you seem to be implying (or at least you’re implying that that should be its focus). Linux is just different.

    What I would like to see is a linux-only user (and there are more and more people whose first experience is with linux), and expose them to windows, and see how well they fare.


    April 28, 2008 at 11:56 pm

  180. oh, and i fully forgot to comment on the flash thing. yes its a problem, but not one of usability as much as one of subverting the idea of the web.

    one is becoming more and more reliant on using a proprietary package for supplying what has become a basic feature of the modern web.

    and the best solution, ogg formats in html5, was edited out after corporate pressure.

    yes, ogg would not have been the best choice for quality conscious users. but for the vast majority it would not matter one bit. also, the html5 spec allowed one to stack multiple media streams with priority so that if one had the right stuff available, one would get a higher quality stream. but the ogg formats would be a default failsafe so that one would not need to have flash, silverlight or any other plugin at hand.

    media plugins are the corps number one tool for turning the open web into walled gardens.

    April 28, 2008 at 11:59 pm

  181. Great article. I’ve always said that the biggest problem with linux is that it despite its graphical interface, it still relies almost entirely on the command line to do installations and updates or anything remotely technical. Average users don’t know how to do that, and savvy users like my self think life is too short to google “how to install flash on linux”.


    April 29, 2008 at 12:01 am

  182. like grown ups forget the time they were kids, advanced users, and os designers tend to forget those days ,they were beginning to mess with pc’s,and after all chose to combine their lives with them.some of us wanna use our pc’s while at the same time,not be computer please guys,don’t forget to look back.apart from that, a big thanks to u all.nice article man .thanks… (just imagine how history would be if the Creator was not that “user friendly” to us. “light a fire?Better is too much of a mess.better stick with raw meat,avoid big animals,and move to a warmer land by next moon”)


    April 29, 2008 at 12:09 am

  183. Interesting read, but I don’t agree with your conclusion at all.

    See, your girlfriend wasn’t computer illiterate at all. She knew her way around Windows, an OS she’s had years to learn how to operate. Are you really surprised when she’s confused sitting down in front of a completely different OS?

    Ubuntu isn’t supposed to be Windows. I think it’s incredibly amazing how easy they HAVE made it for Windows users migrating to Linux. But the questions remains, are you expecting Ubuntu to basically be Windows, or will you admit that it’s actually an entirely different OS from the ground up.

    You can do the exact same experiment in reverse, and your Linux-using girlfriend would be perplexed at how weak the Windows CLI is, how unintuitive the menus are and how arbitrary the user interface is.

    As I said, an interesting read but scientifically worthless.


    April 29, 2008 at 12:09 am

  184. […] great if albeit sexist named article about testing the new Ubuntu on a beginner. I would say it mirrors my over all feeling that for the most part the OS works great but […]

  185. OK, what you’ve really been waiting for.

    She’s cute.


    April 29, 2008 at 12:17 am

  186. I think you are forgetting that everyone starts off as a virgin when it comes to computers. Take someone who has never been in front of a MS Windows machine and tell them to do the same tasks. They would have looked at you the exact same way, and Mac OSX would be no different. Sometimes we forget where we started and that things weren’t easy right out of the box. I remember installing my first Windows program. Sure it seems so easy now, but if you have never done it than when it asks, “do you want to create this folder” that is pretty traumatic.

    I think that overall Linux could do a lot to make things easier, but overall the problems she had are only because she is a Linux virgin and likely the same problems she had when she first sat down in front of a Windows machine. Ubuntu has a ways to go, but if a user is properly trained and the machine properly configured than most of this would not have been a problem at all.

    A few more things. GIMP is not Photoshop and there is no reason that they should make their menu look exactly like it. There are hundreds of other programs that people may be used to when coming to GIMP would you expect that GIMP cater to everyone of them?

    Also for Pidgen the local alias is mostly for the XMMP protocol. It allows you to be logged in at multiple locations at the same time. If the local alias is the same than it gets confused. I don’t know if AIM or MSN allow similar things, but that may be why it is included. I will often be logged in 3 or 4 places at the same time.

    I do appreciate the article though. I think it was pretty good and a good experiment. I only take issue with who is at fault. Just keep in mind that we all had to learn once. I think with a little bit of training someone could use Linux just like they are used to using Windows.


    April 29, 2008 at 12:21 am

  187. You didn’t mention one thing – not everybody is an English native. In fact most of the people in world aren’t.

    If I were to install Ubuntu for my mother I would be really scared. Though Ubuntu polish translation is very strong and covers pretty much everything it is still highly criticized (still Microsoft translations are worse 🙂 ). The point is that people using localized software get used to some stupid names and don’t care how far they are from the real meaning.

    Running pidgin, downloading skype or installing flash becomes even more tricky when a not-english-speaking person is suddenly confronted with an English message (in Windows it’s pretty easy – you just click OK whenever you don’t know what’s going on). This is one of the reasons why I wouldn’t try forcing my mother to start with Ubuntu.

    Personally I always stick to the default language version – just not to depend on the translation guys (which often are not geeky enough to get everything right). Unfortunately it isn’t a matter of choice for many people.


    April 29, 2008 at 12:23 am

  188. […] came across this “review” of Ubuntu Linux 8.04 Hardy Heron this morning.  The reviewer doesn’t go and review it as a Linux user.  Instead, he sits his […]

  189. I liked the article and I think it paints a fair impression (I’ve read most of the comments). I ran into the problem of my screen res being too small for a window and didn’t know about the alt-click thing. It’s a good tip, but still.

    I’m trying to set up a little Media centre jobbie for the lounge, and I’ve spent hours so far trying to get it to work ‘right’. Some of the problems were specific (e.g. having to mount my Samba share in fstab, I’m rusty and took me a few times to work it out. What really confused me was that the Samba share appeared in ‘My Places’ so I thought it was a usable, but most apps just show the filesystem rather than places).

    Had to install MP3 codecs, but that was easy, I do love the Install Apps thing – that does rock.

    DVD support was flaky out of the box, and I wanted to rip one (it’s Media machine) and it took my 3 hours of fiddling to install all the packages – in Windows I d/l DVDDecrypter and I was away.

    About every 3rd boot Gnome doesn’t start properly – it works, but doesn’t get a call back or something – I suspect ATi’s drivers, but whatever.

    I had to tweak VLC to play the DVDs properly.

    Most of the problems I’m having are just differences, but a few things leave me stumped and googling for answers.

    Anyway, it’s getting better, and a non-vital PC is the only way to experiment.

    Assuming I can get the system to the point where my g/f can use it as a Media PC (MP3, DVD, Photo) I’ll be happy to see how it performs, but it’s non-trivial to switch OSs, and I admit I’m struggling. What with having too many hobbies and a job to relearn and fight. I’m not saying it’s wasted time, but it’s not there yet.

    Still massive leaps and bounds from my last attempt at a Linux install.


    April 29, 2008 at 12:27 am

  190. […] for the masses? No thanks. I just finished reading The Great Ubuntu-Girlfriend Experiment, a well-written log about the problems the author’s girlfriend had when first sitting down at […]

  191. There is a help section in Ubuntu written for Windows users and many others that would probably help with some of the parts your girlfriend had trouble with, however, it does not pop-up on the first login. Maybe having that happen would be a good start down the road for converts. Also, KDE does some of the things you thought the desktop should do, like reporting that clicking the X only tray’s the application. KDE tends to be easier for Windows converts as it replicates Windows a bit more then Gnome does. Maybe you should let her go at a Kubuntu install. Anyways, good article, those are things that could be easily addressed.


    April 29, 2008 at 12:31 am

  192. I think I am like a lot of people, wanting desperately to get rid of Windows, not wanting Apple, and hoping that someday soon, Linux will be usable by me and people less computer literate than me. I can understand geeks liking things the way they are. I started in DOS, but now I just don’t have the time and patience for that sort of thing. Ubuntu is great at some things, I’ve been tinkering with it for awhile. But IMHO it isn’t ready for the average non-geek user. There is a huge “market” out there for non-Windows, ripe for the taking. Ubuntu is close in many ways.


    April 29, 2008 at 12:33 am

  193. Ask her to download and install a font. That one was hellishly difficult last time I tried Ubuntu. Easy in Kubuntu, however.


    April 29, 2008 at 12:37 am

  194. Excellent post!


    April 29, 2008 at 12:37 am

  195. Well I think you can expect any hiccups when switching to a new OS, I had some issues with MacOSX when I switched from my windows centric world, but I think the difference is after a couple minutes of screwing around with the Mac I could make it do what I wanted to. I installed Hardy this weekend (first time on Linux) and it really isn’t too bad, I didn’t have too many problems with it, but the key is I can’t just mess around with it and make it work, there are no little explanations here and there and tutorials to guide you through things. You need to use Google.

    And yeah it really does annoy me when I know I have something on the Linux machine that can do what I want, but I don’t know what the application name is. I’d agree with the comment that each of the programs should have a descriptive label beside them, like “Gimp (Photoediting)” or something similar to that. Still, I think if someone was FORCED to use Linux for a month they will be able to figure it out by then, the problem is most users, including myself, just want to be able to sit down and know everything and have it all work. Obviously this is not realistic on our part, but when we sit down on the Windows we know, that’s the situation that exists, so it’s hard to pull us into another OS.


    April 29, 2008 at 12:40 am

  196. Put somebody in front of Vista for the first time and he/she will have the same problems. Oh wait, win. doesn’t have Photoshop or Gimp pre-installed on it. 😉


    April 29, 2008 at 12:41 am

  197. Hey, Make your girl friend use Linux for 90 day (no using windows for anything) then Report back.

    I be she will switch back to windows before the 90 days!


    April 29, 2008 at 12:43 am

  198. limewire => frostwire (



    April 29, 2008 at 12:43 am

  199. Great post. I love the objectiveness. And I totally agree. Unish operating systems don’t stand a chance in the real world markets because the USER API not the CODE API are so drastically different.

    I do have to give it to the ubuntu team though in that they’ve created a wonderful product by comparison. But I can see where you’re going and if Linux wants to seriously campaign against the M$ distros they’ll need to appeal to a seamless USER transition.

    In the end average users don’t care about the code or the protocols. On their first dip they’ll want things to act as they always did. Eventually they’ll find all the innovative features and delve into things that make their lives a bit better, but on the surface of it things would be a lot better if there were a “n00b” option or something for the programs run in linux to help transition from windows.

    More users == Better product in time

    Markie Gman

    April 29, 2008 at 12:43 am

  200. For future reference

    System -> Help and Support


    April 29, 2008 at 12:44 am

  201. Great article, reminds me of my first time with Ubuntu. But the comments thread is what I live for. The entertainment value alone is fantastic. A few notes, though:

    1. It doesn’t matter how user friendly Linux/Windows/OSX is. It’s about tech support, the carbon-based kind. With Windows, I can throw a rock and hit three people who probably know how to solve my problem. Macs are a little harder, but still pretty prevalent. But Linux? Unless you enjoy trolling college comp sci departments, you’re probably out of luck. (It’s an exaggeration, I know. But seriously, if you don’t run Linux, chances are good that you don’t know anyone who does, either)

    2. This isn’t about dumbing down your favorite OS. Either Ubuntu wants to be famous and challenge Windows, or it doesn’t. Too many people treat Linux like indie music. Sure, some bands sell out to their labels. But some bands are just make music that appeals to a lot of people. If all you care about is “art”, that’s fine. But be prepared to live in a van down by the river.

    Odin's Beard

    April 29, 2008 at 12:44 am

  202. Best exmples I have seen of what needs doing to improve usability. pity there isn’t an icicle’s hope in hell of any of them ever being implemented by the “if it was hard to write it should be hard to use” school.

    Peter Flynn

    April 29, 2008 at 12:45 am

  203. First of all, great article!

    I consider myself a pretty tech-savvy guy. I grew up with Dos and Windows, having tried every version. I have also spent time with a Mac, and preferred it for some tasks. I’ve worked in tech support, and I’m often the person my friends turn to when they have Windows problems.

    I realize my shortcomings. Though I know how to install all versions of Windows (even Vista), drivers, hardware and software, I’m not much of a programmer. I can play with HTML and even write a little VB, but C still eludes me.

    I tried to install a version of linux (I think it was slackware) 5 years ago and failed miserably. Despite spending an entire long weekend on it, I couldn’t get the PC to boot. I told myself I would try again some day.

    Eight days ago, I installed Ubuntu 7.1 and I’ve been playing with it all week. I purposefully decided not to read any introductory books on Linux before getting into it. I wanted to see what it would be like for someone new at Linux to give it a try without having to put tons of hours preparing.

    It didn’t take long at all to figure out how to Add/Remove Programs – great interface, very simple. I love being able to select multiple programs and have them all install at the same time with a simple click. I played with GIMP and didn’t find it too difficult. I had used Open Office before, and loved that it was already installed.

    I didn’t like that I couldn’t play mp3’s right off the bat. I also couldn’t open .rar files. I went back to Add/Remove Programs and I got what I needed. Flash was easy to install (the options seemed intuitive).

    I don’t understand the file structure. I’m going to have to look it up tonight. I’ve been putting everything into subfolders of my Home Folder, but I’m not sure if that is the best place for applications. I’m used to Windows where you have a clear OS folder (appropriately named Windows) and an equally clear Program Files folder. A little tour of the system would be really useful.

    I tried to install Wine so I could play some of my older Windows games. I still haven’t managed to get anything to work. The Wine website really wasn’t clear. This is not so much a linux issue (certainly not an Ubuntu issue). Still, last night I found myself considering pulling an older computer out the basement so I could install Win98 on it. I’ll try Wine again tonight.

    Overall, Ubuntu did a great job at helping me convert to Linux. I’m not going to go back to Windows for my primary PC, but I may have to setup a backup computer for when I just can’t get something to work in Linux. Ubuntu had some fantastic features that Microsoft should incorporate into their next OS. The whole Synaptic Package manager is just awesome.

    The next time someone asks me for help with their Windows PC, I’m going to ask them to try Ubuntu. I think they may like it.

    Kudos to the thousands of people that developed Linux.


    April 29, 2008 at 12:46 am

  204. Great article! Ubuntu got a lot more work to do for the average user.


    April 29, 2008 at 12:48 am

  205. This is a good article, but it makes a dangerous assumption: that everyone is converting from Windows. It would be interesting to see a similar test done the other way (Linux-only user trying Windows for the first time) and even better having two parallel classrooms of non-computer-users learn the first steps: some on Windows and some on Linux. Who learns most and fastest?

    Regardless of that, things like labelling the menu just “Transmission” or creating dialogs that are bigger than the screen aren’t excusable.

    Hans Persson

    April 29, 2008 at 12:49 am

  206. Overall, a very good review. I think the non-technical point of view is often missed in Linux, and Ubuntu is where it is needed most.

    Andrew J Younge

    April 29, 2008 at 12:50 am

  207. The test has obviously been conducted seriously and it is some nice work.

    I just want to point that to be fair it should state in the disclaimer that it does not test at all how user friendly ubuntu 8.04 is, but how windows-like it is.

    Especially when you wonder why gimp is not the same as photoshop. Face it or not some people (amongst them me) that have only used gimp are confused by photoshop.

    By the way I wonder how Erin got installed photoshop on her windows box. Either she paid 300$, or learned what a torrent is, what mininova is, what a keygen is, and how to open ports in a firewall… I bet my ass she must have been impressed to find an image manipulation program under applications -> graphics out of a raw ubuntu install 😀


    April 29, 2008 at 12:52 am

  208. Today I went to set up a network in a big kindergarten. There were about 20 young female teachers ages 20-30 there. They have been using those computers for over a year but didn’t know how to share files between them.
    None of them knew how to install a printer in XP. None of them could install fonts in XP. Only a few knew how to install software , but none knew that Office is something you can install (I guess they never thought about it, they just figured that some computers come with it and some don’t). Most of them mistaken the desktop-shortcut for the actual programme so once the shortcut was gone they figured the programme was gone.
    My point is that many average users cant admin their own computers. If it breaks they call help. If it doesn’t play Flash files they will just assume that they computer “can’t”.
    So I think Linux can be used by the non-tech savy (my mom uses it ) if its properly tweaked by someone beforehand. In much the same way that most XP computers are preinstalled with drivers ,codecs and PDF-reading software.

    There are a lot of things that are easier in Ubuntu – adding Chinese support to an English system, taking a screenshot, updating, change a theme, creating launchers in the panels, switching the displays’ language

    Nevertheless , I agree that pidgin is very unfriendly.

    Itai Michaelson

    April 29, 2008 at 12:53 am

  209. Good points: As I have been wtiting for years, much of the difficulty in Linux is that there are not enough clues for the novice users.

    If the programmers would take the time to run their products through the “girlfriend” test and fix the problems before the rest of us get them it would really help. Little things like letting theuser know which menu something installed itself on, letting the user know if they need to relog or not to make the item show up on the menu, and a better or better documented way to get software that was not included in the first round would make people a lot happier.

    Tsu Dho Nimh

    April 29, 2008 at 1:02 am

  210. I switched my home desktop to Kubuntu shortly after Gutsy Gibbon was released. I have always been a fan of KDE and found it a little more user friendly than Gnome.
    My fiance didn’t like it at first, but it seems to have grown on her. She didn’t have many problems with her ordinary task, as we already used Firefox and OpenOffice on Windows.
    She definatily enjoys how much faster it is and how she doesn’t have all those bubbles that popup. We do have a WinXP x64 partition, but we only use it for a few games that I couldn’t get working under Wine, and to transfer Music to our LG Chocolates.


    April 29, 2008 at 1:04 am

  211. Make things friendly for people coming from Windows? What if it means copying places where Windows is making huge mistakes? Does everything have to look like Windows to be “user friendly”? Even if buttons start looking nothing like buttons and toggles show the state it will become not the state it is now like every other toggle switch in the real physical world.

    Some of the points in the article are fair. It’s a pity Ubuntu didn’t set up flash.

    Still, I’ve worked with some truly computer illiterate people before – people who’d never ever used any computer system, people who do not have the years of training becoming accustomed to Windows that some people take for granted.

    For these people perhaps the most user friendly mail program is “Pine”. It’s text mode and not pretty, but it’s incredibly easy to use – even if a Windows user would say “Ugh! Give me Outlook!”. I’ve known people used to GMail suddenly be presented with Outlook and just give up on it as unfriendly for them.

    Beginner users actually do well with imperative interfaces. The command line is imperative. You tell it to do something and get and answer. Then you tell it to do something else. Conversely windowing interfaces can be incredibly unintuitive.

    So what’s user friendly? Copying Windows?


    April 29, 2008 at 1:04 am

  212. Great idea doing this experiment. Even if it’s not a complete test (external drives, other proprietary formats, windows partitions, windows programs, solving actual HW/SW problems etc.), I think it really shows three things.

    * Linux is basically pretty much there for everyone (no offense intended against the girlfriend)
    * Ubuntu Hardy has been fine tuned on the outside to achieve this even more
    * There is *always* a little more that can be done to satisfy each possible scenario. Is OSX perfect? Is any other OS?


    April 29, 2008 at 1:05 am

  213. Great job, I think this is one of the main reasons why Windows is the winner so far.


    April 29, 2008 at 1:07 am

  214. My experience with Draw is that it is a Primarily a Publisher application, rather than a drawing one…


    April 29, 2008 at 1:11 am

  215. My experience with Draw is that it is primarily a Publisher application, rather than a drawing one…


    April 29, 2008 at 1:11 am

  216. Random thought. Not trolling or anything but this is is very true no matter how deep your head is in the sand.

    The reason Linux has NEVER taken off and become the new “cool” thing is because of how hard it is to use.

    Wait now Linux nerds, don’t shake you head.
    For most people, Linux is very hard to use! command lines? really? in 2008? WHY?
    Why not just have it work?
    OSX does this and it’s market share has grown a lot.

    When people tell me they are sick of windows I tell them to get a mac and I always will until someone takes a diffrent aproace to how humans interact with the linux os at it’s most basic level.

    Money is not the issue here. Usability is.

    I think it will always be a powerful os but not to normal people. Not to everyday people.

    They just want it to work.

    I often think of Linux as a F1 car. Windows is a minivan.

    AND I think most peoples first exposure to any kind of OS is MS windows based so you need to work from that idea and then use those assumptions.

    I don’t know if Linux will ever be anything but a nerds only club.

    I love the idea of a open sause OS but so far, I can’t tell my mom for my 16 year old to dump windows or OSX for linux.

    Not for what they want to do.


    April 29, 2008 at 1:13 am

  217. “scientifically worthless”… Not so friend. It’s a taste of what happens when you set a windows user in front of a linux machine. Your opinion of the conclusions may differ from the authors but it is significant.

    The facts are: This is what happens to native windows users who try to use linux. If a Linux distro wants to have greater appeal to Windows users it could do that by simplifying the transition.

    Now, whether or not that is a goal is another issue entirely. We’re all entitled to our opinions.

    Personally, I believe the more users we get into linux the better. And that making a program or operating system more friendly to linux virgin windows users at the onset would NOT significantly alter the ideology or effectiveness of linux in general. The open source community proves again and again how effective popularity can be in developing a program. More users means more developers, more input, more bugs found, more helpful forum input, more corporate sponsorship etc.

    Markie Gman

    April 29, 2008 at 1:13 am

  218. This was an interesting test, but it wasn’t an “experiment” – you had no control group.

    Windows has many similar usability issues, even though overall I think it’s almost as usable as Ubuntu. For example:

    (1) I spent over an hour this weekend helping a friend try to print from her new Vista laptop to the printer connected to her XP desktop. We debugged and googled for far longer than should be necessary, but Vista repeatedly put up “Permission denied” dialogs (even after setting the same user name and password on both). It never worked; she finally gave up and went to cable swapping.

    (2) My new work laptop (Dell D630 running XP Pro) reconfigures its video randomly after every redock. Even the second tier help desk can’t explain it.

    (3) My laptop also refused to connect to my 802.11n router at home – it asked for my “router serial number”, and when entered responded “configuration failed”. After 3 calls to the help desk, someone finally had the bright idea to disable the Intel wireless connection manager and revert to Windows’. Now it works, but I don’t know why.

    My point is not that “Windoze sux” or “Linux rulez”, but rather that complex technology (Windows, Linux or Mac)requires acclimation. “It just works” is a great slogan, but it’s not reality.

    (I tried out a Mac at Fry’s a couple of months ago, and couldn’t figure out how to close an application. I still don’t know, actually. Acclimation clearly needed. 🙂

    However, Erin’s gracious usability testing should provide additional ideas for filing down some of the remaining usability bumps in Ubuntu (and desktop Linux in general).

    George F. Rice

    April 29, 2008 at 1:19 am

  219. There are a number of posts which are saying it’s not Ubuntu’s fault, it’s Erin’s fault because she is so use to microsoft, but the reality is, Erin is the target market for Ubuntu.

    Currently Microsoft has about 85% of the OS market share with 14% going to OS X and 1% going to Linux. Of Linux’s 1% Ubuntu has about half of those users. If Linux wants to make any headway into the Microsoft market share, they need to be able to convert users over. The only way this will happen is if things work in a familiar way. All it takes is a couple of tasks not working as easily as they do on windows and the person switches straight back, and Linux will remain in relative obscurity.

    My hat goes off to the Ubuntu developers. They are doing some great work to help Windows users switch over. This is shown through the addition of Wubi in their latest release. Lets hope they can keep going.


    April 29, 2008 at 1:22 am

  220. Very good illustration of the basic problems people encounter with Linux and how to solve them. But…

    “Linux won’t truly be ready for the desktop until someone computer illiterate can sit down at a the computer and with little effort do what they want to do.”

    The problem was your girl friend WAS computer literate. She was literate in the ways of Microsoft Windows. It’s far too easy to forget that your computer is just an inanimate hunk of plastic and metal. How would you introduce someone who had never sat down in front of a computer before to Linux, or Windows for that matter? It would be a longer process, but an easier one because they would not have to unlearn anything.

    You set out to expose the unnecessary confusion people encounter when they first try Linux but what you uncovered was the absolute most important piece of information they need to understand before they try Linux and that is: Linux is not Windows.

    If personal computers had just come on the scene and Linux was the only operating system available, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. It’s not learning Linux, it’s unlearning Windows.

    Richard Chapman

    April 29, 2008 at 1:23 am

  221. What if you install gnome-do first? Then tell the tester to hit win+space and just start typing what they want. In almost every test she’d be there in just a few keystrokes. Point and click is overrated.


    April 29, 2008 at 1:29 am

  222. I really liked your article with the exception of this phrase:

    “Linux won’t truly be ready for the desktop until someone computer illiterate can sit down at a the computer and with little effort do what they want to do.”

    Every Windows user, not knowing how to do something, would ask someone. That would also happen with Linux.

    My father (58 years old) has been using Ubuntu for sometime. He had a Pentium III with 700MHz, 128MB of RAM and 4GB of hard disk space. He never used WinXP so even with WinXP there would be some small learning curve.

    This weekend he tried to open a PDF document with some images and the computer didn’t have enough memory and trashed the computer completely.

    I decided to give him my Duron 900MHz with 512MB of RAM and 10GB of HD. I installed Ubuntu 8.04 and he’s using Gnome now, instead of XFCE.

    Today I’ll completely wipe the HD and ask him, not only to perform similar things like you did to your girlfriend but I’ll also ask him to install Ubuntu on the desktop.

    Just for your information, my father doesn’t know what “copy-paste” is, never used Photoshop, Powerpoint or something similar.

    Only Paint in Windows 3.1 and Microsoft Word 6.0.

    In all the Linux he used he only uses Abiword (no mem to run OpenOffice) and Firefox.

    He doesn’t know how to use a file manager, never recorded a CD, never played an audio CD, etc.

    It will be funny to do a similar test like you did.

    I’ll post a comment again when my “Ubuntu-Father” experience is complete. =)

    Henrique Rocha

    April 29, 2008 at 1:31 am

  223. […] קראתי את הפוסט על “ניסוי החברה-אובונטו הגדול“. הפוסט מפרט את ההתמודדות של ארין, בחורה עם ראש על […]

  224. Keep the girl!

    Wow, my wife would never go through all of this to test if it works or not. I installed Vista on a machine in our house and all she said was:

    “I heard Vista sucks, why the help would you bother wrecking the computer?”

    Erin seems nice and nerd-loving

  225. To be completely honest, if I did this with my girlfriend, I would be proud of her for breaking up with me. This is an unscientific, humiliating, sexist guinea pig test. The article makes the base assumption that the author’s girlfriend is a “stupid user” simply on the basis of her being a Linux user’s girlfriend. Seriously. What the hell?


    April 29, 2008 at 1:36 am

  226. Properly set up; Ubuntu is easily ready for the “non tech savy girlfriend”
    Last year; my fiance was off in college and we did the long distance relationship. She was using Windows XP. I had to painstakingly guide her through 2 different OS reinstalls mainly because of virus’, malware ect. This last fall when she went back to college again; I set up Gusty 7.10 on the box, used the system for 3 days to make sure I got most of the easy items taken care of so she woudl be good to go. At this point in time she has been using gusty for close to 6 months now with no issues whatsoever (well aside from won’t let her watch her episodes of the hills”
    She does and can do everything on it that she could with windows and so far; no issues whatsoever


    April 29, 2008 at 1:38 am

  227. I think the article was absolutely spot on. If you raise these issues from forest level to the 1000-ft level, it’s possible to see the overall problem. Fact, Windows, regardless of how one feels about it, has the sheer market share of users; period. Whether other scenarios could be used like introducing new users to Linux, is a nice thought, but it doesn’t reflect the reality of the situation. Almost all new users are introduced to Windows. Even relatively experienced Windows users, such as your girlfriend, are going to have big problems moving to Linux, regardless of distro, if the distro has not made the user experience almost identical to Windows. That’s reality, and it holds regardless of how one feels about Microsoft.

    Let’s bump this up a notch. Ever tried to install applications that require a bunch of editing of OS files, such as those under /etc? Have you ever tried to install open source apps to do things like provide a music player, such as VLC, or a video editor like Virtualdub or DVD authoring software or conversion of media formats? The enormous number of unexplained parameters that may or may not need to be set a certain way is nothing less than hideous. Granted, most of these examples are very specialized, and there are easier alternatives. But mercy on the poor user that ever ventures up those creeks.

    Doing Linux OS maintenance, such as security patches? Not going to happen with inexperienced users. For one thing, it’s not uncommon to have to set up various sites that have the packages the maintenance apps need to actually do the maintenance. Then, there’s the dependency issues with which to deal. Then can follow more OS-specific file tweaking. No user, except those who really want to learn the guts of Linux, are going to have any chance of doing this. They aren’t interested in it. They don’t want to mess with it. They just want their applications to work, and they don’t want to worry about doing anything to the OS. They don’t even care or know what an OS is, let alone which one it is. And, in my experience, when they hit these kinds of snags, they lose interest very, very fast in changing away from the environment they’ve used that works as they want it to work.

    Until, the distro and many of the open source developers finally understand that their code has to be able to run “out of the box” with no more interaction than what is required of Windows, none of this stuff stands any chance of gaining wide acceptance.

    You want wide acceptance? Take the geek hat off and start looking at this from the standpoint of most users that know less than nothing about the innards of computer software & hardware. Otherwise, don’t even bother thinking this stuff is anywhere near close enough for the typical user to be talked into switching once they’ve experienced Windows. Argue all you want about how bad Windows is and the user would be fine if they just started with Linux or they’d have the same experience with OSX. The arguing, which has been going on for years and years and years only proves my point.


    April 29, 2008 at 1:40 am

  228. Tolchi의 생각…

    The Great Ubuntu-Girlfriend Experiment 문제는 여친이 있어야 컴 앞에 앉히기라도 하지……

    sheep's me2DAY

    April 29, 2008 at 1:42 am

  229. […] I’ve toyed with Linux since 2002, when I first installed Mandrake. With the latest release of Ubuntu, I was interested to see how far Linux had come since then in terms of being used easily by the mainstream. So, I tricked my grudging girlfriend Erin into sitting down at a brand new Ubuntu 8.04 installation and performing some basic tasks. It’s surprising how many seemingly simple things become complicated and even out of reach for someone without a knowledge of Linux. There are a lot of little things that could be done to make the experience a lot more friendly for non-computer-literate people – some of them easy to implement, others not at all. Read more at Content Consumer […]

  230. I think a few Ubuntu users are taking slight offense to this article as a “make it more like windows” approach, and justifying their claims with counter examples of how windows can be very unintuitive to use also.

    So should the Ubuntu community as a whole say its ok for their OS to be slightly unintuitive because windows is too? This is basically an admission that you do not care about the development and overall progression of the OS nor the increasing of the user base to make Linux a more recognized and utilized environment.

    Firefox is a prime example of how to make a good product that is very similar to its competitor while still retaining a lot of its core individuality. They did this by making it so easy, the every day mum and dad can google it, download it and install it usually without any problems what so ever. It even grabs most of their settings, bookmarks etc to boot just to make the transition all the sweeter.

    Ubuntu is supposed to be the windows user friendly Linux alternative, this article is just the tip of the iceberg of issues to address if any actual care bear windows user perception is to be changed. Ideally, Linux wont be a serious contender to Mac OS or Windows, until a mum or dad user can pick up an install disk, set it up and learn how to use it all on their own with limited instructional guidance. (this is for Ubuntu only obviously, as its the kiddy version of Linux.)

    *waits for flame from that last comment ;)*


    April 29, 2008 at 1:46 am

  231. In the Mandrake distribution there
    is a “what-do-you-want-to-do” menu.
    And in the submenues you can select something like
    “watch a movie”
    “make a picture”
    “write a document”

    So you just have to know what you want to do.
    You don’t have to know
    a strange name of a application.

    This is perfect for new users, and I don’t understand why it is not
    standard in all desktop distributions.


    April 29, 2008 at 1:48 am

  232. I don’t know if this has been mentioned yet, but several of these “problems” are things that a first time Windows user would have a hard time with as well. Just because a person is used to Windows doesn’t mean that it was perfectly accessible the first time they sat down to it. Likewise with OS-X.

    Also, the “problems” encountered in several of the applications mentioned would be encountered by a Windows user entering the world of OSS (such as not immediately knowing how to set up Pidgin; an issue that anyone new to Pidgin would encounter regardless of what OS they were using).

    Then there’s the ever present Google. Can’t figure it out? Somebody probably has, and the answer is waiting online somewhere.

    I won’t argue that Linux isn’t technically challenging at times, but I will argue that most people that complain about how hard using Ubuntu is should actually be complaining that they are too lazy to put five minutes into learning something new.


    April 29, 2008 at 1:50 am

  233. As someone else mentioned, alt+drag will let you move a window to get to off-screen bits of it.

    Also, GIMP is not designed for new user transition. It is designed for power users. I keep all of my GIMP controls on one monitor and the image itself on another.

    Those points out of the way, I want to point out that Kubuntu, the Ubuntu branch that uses KDE instead of Gnome, solves a few of the problems you have covered.

    ‘Start’ menu items have both a name AND a description in the menu (Krita – Painting and Image Editing, etc), and if you have a real UI newb you can choose to have the description come first (for sorting and searching purposes).

    Krita and Inkscape are better for windows converts than GIMP and OOo Draw by a HUGE margin.


    April 29, 2008 at 1:53 am

  234. I would point out that number 9, windows suffers from the same issue nowadays.

    The problem lies in that Linux IS NOT Windows. If you think of animals windows is the cow and linux the horse, both eat grass and have 4 legs but thats pretty much where the silimarity ends.

    The “problem” IS NOT that Linux is not ready for the desktop, the “problem” IS that windows is sold OEM and has been for the last 13 or so years, so people are condidtioned to it and alot of software is only available on it because of this. A good eg is Apple, they have a pretty good OS but comparing application availablity you will find windows has a lot more choice than Apple.

    If Vendors started developing their apps to be cross platform then this would remove 70%+ of the issues of different OSs.

    If you got 2 twins and gave each a computer at the same time one with linux and one with windows and never exposed them to the other then you woudl find each would say htat theirs is the most useable and that the other should be more like theres.

    The comment about GIMP should be more like photoshop is very naive imo. Thats like saying that a corsa should be more like a jaguar. (Appoligies for implying that GIMP is the corsa). I use the example in the sense that if it was more like a jag then it WOULD BE a jag. You only say that because you & your g/f are used to photoshop. If you were used to the GIMP then you would say that photoshop should be more like it.

    All OSs have their own merits, I use windows as my primary OS because all my games work on it. However I also dual boot with Linux and have a linux server in the house.

    The only reason people have problems switching OS is because by doing so we remove them from their comfort zone.

    Just because you are used to doing something a particular way doesn’t mean that your way is the best way to do it.. 🙂


    April 29, 2008 at 1:55 am

  235. […] some half-assed test of the latest version of Ubuntu this weekend. The writer has put his computer-illiterate girlfriend behind a fresh Ubuntu install, […]

  236. To #17: ” You literally have had to have been phucking around with these things since the 80’s to really understand what’s going on with them and the mentality to use them.”

    I don’t really agree with you on that. I’ve been using Windows not Ubuntu for 8 years only & I’m obsessed with computers & rarely do I have trouble with them (presently). I think it depends on the person. Because for me, I think that I had serious difficulties & obstacles which stood in my way throughout those 8 years & which I learned from (I overcame them on my own, rarely did I seek people’s help.), but what made me overcome the problems was my insistence on solving the issue however difficult it was. Of course, I needed hours to solve some “serious ” issues & sometimes it’s just too frustrating but before you know it, you solved the problem after hours of trying. And no, after reading this interesting article and the comments I am now sure that I wouldn’t want to use Ubuntu.. at least not in the next 5 years.
    BTW: I’ve never used or heard of Ubuntu before.
    Excuse my grammar & sorry if my response is off-topic.
    Cheers 🙂


    April 29, 2008 at 1:59 am

  237. The point of this article is useless. Everybody knows that people who use linux dont have girlfriends.


    April 29, 2008 at 2:02 am

  238. Regarding the resolution issue with it being too small for dialog box to fit — to be fair, Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X have the same problem. Lower the resolution to SVGA or VGA and watch all of the limitations show up.


    April 29, 2008 at 2:10 am

  239. Great post! The comments are even more interesting, it is so funny to see how the fanboys desperately try to prove how your experiment is all wrong 🙂

    ICT Blog

    April 29, 2008 at 2:11 am

  240. Ok, Do this and I bet ubuntu is more usable than windows. Install both windows and ubuntu on seperate machines and update them with patches. Don’t change default screen resolutions, add drivers, etc. Just what the base install provides. See which one is more usable.

    I’m tired of people slamming ubuntu because MP3 or Flash isn’t installed out of the box. Both of these install very easily. When is the last time you’ve seen what windows can do right out of the box? It’s not much so flash and MP3 seem trivial compared to the windows problems.


    April 29, 2008 at 2:12 am

  241. I think that a lot of people have lost the point of Linux, or even Mac OS X and have forgotten one of the key reasons why Windows is starting to fail.

    Windows (especially Vista) tries to dictate to the consumer what they can and cannot do with a system. It also tries to automate way too much than it can really handle. Scripts work fine, IF it is used on a computer that meets all the scripts requirements.

    I am not saying the same thing doesn’t happen in Linux, because it does. But it is extremely easy to get that dependency for the script to work. Windows just shoots an error with no hint on how to fix it.

    The other thing that you have to consider is that people do not like change. Erin is extremely brave to just agree to try and use Ubuntu like that. I know my girlfriend would get frustrated and stop at the 3rd task.

    Like many people have already said, it all depends on what you are comfortable with. Unfortunately, there is no way to get the entire world to just stop using Windows. What we need to do is have it be the first OS that our children use. Get them to learn Linux or OS X first. If everyone does that, then 20 years from now, Microsoft will lose footing.

    People think that this is some kind of battle that can just be “won”. It’s not that way at all. I have spoken to people who would rather use Vista then even try to use Linux.

    Finally, the other thing that is really working against Linux is the support. Ok, fine, us “geeks” know that we can go into an IRC chat room, or on some message board, and get our issue resolved. Your average consumer though, would never do this because they are uncomfortable getting support from basically random people on the Internet.

    Consumers crave official, licensed support. They like the ease of calling a phone number, because there is a chance that their issue will get resolved right there. Posting on a forum can take days and sometimes more than a week for someone who is familiar with your issue to respond. And IRC chat… most people do not know about it, and as much as I love FreeNode, the fact that it requires you to register your nick and then requires you verify your identity, would seem as ridiculous to your average computer user.

    It’s not Linux that needs to change. It doesn’t need to conform to how Windows does things. What needs to happen is a change in perception as to what computers really are, what they are capable of, and how they do things. Then and only then will we get a massive amount of the current generation to make the switch.


    April 29, 2008 at 2:12 am

  242. “Clearly, Win2k was not ‘unready’ for the desktop when it was first introduced, and even today some still prefer it. So, obviously ‘polish’ is not the defining requirement for desktop readyness.”

    As a win2k user for the last 6 years at least I’ll agree with this one. I like 2k much better than XP.

    I’ve played with Linux in various distros myself, years ago when I was in high school. I had a dual-boot machine for a while but it had issues so I wiped and went completely over to Debian Linux for a while. It did everything except play music or sounds – I could never get it to recognize my speakers. It also didn’t do internet connections, despite my trying every suggested setting given to me online (luckily my mother’s Win98 computer could handle dial-up, even if it wouldn’t work with mine!).

    Linux has come a LONG way since then. My fiance’s grandmother is using Ubuntu now (forget the release, I think it’s Gibbon) and has had no linux-related issues, just ones related to her being unfamiliar with technology (like she doesn’t know how to upload pictures from her digital camera). Then again he set it up for her with most things pre-installed the way she is used to and walked her through finding her programs for email and such. Even installing a fresh copy of windows for someone would lead to issues, I think, when they looked for MSN and their bookmarks folder and found neither one there. I know many people who don’t even know how to get to a website except by clicking a link or using a bookmark – the address bar is a foreign concept. Pre-setting machines to a user’s comfort level isn’t anything new. The difference is that with Windows an average user can usually ask a household member for help (or the neighbor) while with Linux, you have to go look up the documentation yourself, and you better hope that your internet connection works to do so, because paper documentation doesn’t come with a download of Ubuntu, and as far as I know there’s not hotline for technical issues.


    April 29, 2008 at 2:18 am

  243. One comment on the GIMP interface discussion – I was somewhere any noticed someone running a machine with multiple monitors. I was unable to determine the machine, OS or application in use, but they were image editing. They had the image taking up the whole screen on one monitor and had all the tool windows on another, rather than being in the way of the image. I can imagine this is one very good reason to keep the windows separate in an image editing package, although whether the same is possible with GIMP I don’t know (never having owned a machine which supports multiple monitors).


    April 29, 2008 at 2:19 am

  244. I’d love to see a welcome screen for the first time you open up your desktop, with little videos explaining a few key concepts to how Linux and Ubuntu work

    I got a better idea – how about if it just worked?

    Not that I would ever expect that of Linux.


    April 29, 2008 at 2:28 am

  245. To be fair, flash isn’t installed initially in FF or IE in Windows, same with DVD format support. Also a person use not accustomed to Windows would have trouble with a lot of these tasks as well. I’ve seen people who have trouble with the simplest tasks consistently not just the first time. (I have experience at a college help desk). Other than that, yea a lot of things I see as obvious in Linux or even Windows are not that obvious to a novice user. This study was interesting to read. I saw a comment suggesting this could be done with Windows too, I’d love to read that article, and what about Mac OSX?.


    April 29, 2008 at 2:28 am

  246. We were watching a DVD on my girlfriend’s mac book and it locked up, I thought I’d have a go at fixing it since her attempt was to use the “first aid” program and scan the hard disk drive.

    I’m a programmer by profession. I used Windows for years and still do at work, I run Gentoo, Debian and Ubuntu and consider myself reasonably well versed in technological issues.

    The only way I could find to kill the DVD player was via a bash prompt (thank god OSX is based on BSD eh?) and it drove me nuts that the damn thing has only one mouse button; how am I going to paste the PID now?

    I eventually found that she had VLC installed and we used that to watch the rest of the DVD. I don’t know why the Apple DVD player locked up, I don’t know how to kill it. I don’t know why on earth there’s only one mouse button. And I don’t know how to fix the HDD problems the First Aid program found on her brand spanking new mac book.

    But at least it’s pretty eh?

    Adam Piper

    April 29, 2008 at 2:30 am

  247. I suppose no operating system is so easy that anyone can install software and maintain it. Windows has for a long time been something that’s considered “ready for the desktop”, but still I suppose not 80% it’s users can install/configure anything on it. They just ask someone to do it.

    The point is, PC comes with Windows preinstalled and preconfigured, bundled with software so people can think Windows is easy (and they can think they can use a computer), though it’s not.

    Markus Vuori

    April 29, 2008 at 2:33 am

  248. I think you pointing out the most common hurdles for a newbie (linux virgin), nobody is saying we want a Ubuntu to mimic Windows, if an OS want to attract standard users it has to be intuitive as much as it can.

    There is a lot of Windows users as me, craving to use any of the many Linux Distros out there, personally I do not have any doubts about the quality of the Open Source software, but something is missing.

    Do not miss understand me, it have to be much more easy the transition for the neophyte, until that task is accomplished, the users will continue waiting…


    April 29, 2008 at 2:34 am

  249. All you folks blowing off the experiment because “Linux isn’t Windows” should take a step back. Your attitude is PRECISELY what this experiment highlighted.

    Linux developers should either 1) accept that the OVERWHELMING MAJORITY of computer users are familiar with Windows, and accommodate them in some fashion, or 2) publicly and consistently declare “This isn’t Windows, so you won’t be able to use it very much at all until you spend XX hours of your valuable time parsing megabytes of MAN pages and USENET forums. Since you’re a Windows user, we hate you. We’re not going to make it easy for you. Our free OS will cost you WAAAAAAY more in terms of time than Windows ever will in $$. Have a nice day.”


    April 29, 2008 at 2:38 am

  250. Well Done.


    April 29, 2008 at 2:39 am

  251. Here is the problem I see with your article. If you took someone who had only ever lightly used a Mac and sat them at a Windows machine, they would be lost, or someone who had ever only lightly used Linux and sat them at a Windows machine, they would be lost as well.

    It’s like assuming that someone who has driven a car will know how to drive a motorcycle at the exact same level. It just isn’t going to be that easy. Of course there are going to be some things that are confusing. Linux is not the same as Windows and this whole article is written on the premise that it should be.

    Even if took a person who had only ever used a completely pre-configured Windows system, and only used the applications that are on it, and asked them to install a program, without any sort of hint as to how to do it, they wouldn’t have a clue. They wouldn’t know to open a web browser and do a search for a program, then download and run the file. Not a chance, they would be lost. However, if you told them, ok, download a program from such-and-such a website and install it, they likely could. And by that same token, if you had told your girlfriend that if she wanted to install a program the first place she should look is in the package manager, she would likely come away thinking it was the most simple task of all.

    My point in all this, is that you took a Windows user, and said, “do things as you would in Windows, and I am not going to help” and this is definitely set up for failure. Had you said “Linux is a little different, and I will point you in the right direction for the areas where it differs” it would have been much smoother sailing.

    You can’t put the driver of an automatic transmission car on a motorcycle and assume they will know how to shift gears or even use the gas without at least some assistance.


    April 29, 2008 at 2:44 am

  252. […] Päris asjalik artikkel Ubuntu kasutajasõbralikkuse katsetamisest ühe itimehe sõbrantsi peal. Järeldused on head ning Ubuntu kokkuseadjad võiks neid arvesse võtta. […]

  253. “AMEN!” to #88


    April 29, 2008 at 2:56 am

  254. I installed Ubunto 7.10 at my girl friends computer recently and helped her upgrade to 8.04 last weekend.

    Here are a few glitches that took me some time to solve:
    – Printing. That was a hard one, as Ubuntu renames the cups config files. (Fax still requires the command line)
    – Chinese keyboard. She prefers to read menus in German, but types Chinese from time to time. Setting that up was not supported by default.
    – SynCE doesn’t work yet, but she can plug the SD card into her computer
    – Openoffice file formats did confuse her, as did MP3 export.

    Among the “non-free” issues are:
    – GoogleEarth refuses to work after the upgrade
    – NVidia accelerated graphics crashes the computer after hibernation

    Now, let’s talk about the things that DO work and which won’t make her return to Windows any time soon.

    – Security. As a matter of fact she even paid for updates of an anti virus software, but a quick look into the task manager still shows running processes like a.exe, etc.
    – Speed. The huge amount of malware certainly slowed down her computer. Thas is gone forever now.
    – Safety. No more popups and fishy download dialogs. (Admitted, she could have had that with firefox on Win too)
    – Mikrophone. After the onboard sound card defected, Windows refused the second PCI card. (Reinstall Windows could have solved that)
    – Wine works in 8.04 for her television program viewer.
    – It’s legal.


    April 29, 2008 at 2:56 am

  255. Well done. I liked the way you specified real world tasks, instead of the usual “copy a file from A to B & then rename it to C”.


    April 29, 2008 at 2:57 am

  256. Daniele

    April 29, 2008 at 2:58 am

  257. There are some good points about naming conventions and labeling consistency.

    However, welcome screens and built-in tutorials are intrusive and annoying to the knowledgeable user.

    A computer shouldn’t be designed to tell the user how to operate it. It gets in the way of designing the computer to be useful and efficient. It is more beneficial to provide clear access to operating instructions.

    Linux is different. My girlfriend just needed a little time to learn a few new things. She still asks me questions from time to time — but nothing new there; she asks me questions about Windows too.


    April 29, 2008 at 2:58 am

  258. I really like what you’ve done here. Usability testing like this (with a fresh unbiased novice user) should be done with any new product.

    I see a lot of people saying: “Well, we all had to learn Windows (or other OS) at some time to, so its not surprising your girlfriend would have issues with Ubuntu.”

    But thats not the point. The point is, if Ubuntu (or any Linux) wants to compete with Windows, it HAS to be better and easier. HAS TO. It should be intuitive and well documented and you shouldnt have to modify system files or edit in a terminal window to configure things. I dont have to do that on Mac. I dont have to do that on Windows.

    Look. I love the idea of Linux. I’ve got a big stack of distributions here on my desk and I fool around with them everytime a new revision comes out. I certainly agree that Ubuntu has come a long way and is probably the leader when it comes to “ease of use” of Linux. BUT, it still isnt “desktop ready” (in my opinion). Articles like that that take a novice user and show some of the basic usability problems are great testing functions to give feedback to the next version.

    Great job man.


    April 29, 2008 at 2:59 am

  259. […] Or your girlfriend… I was interested to see how far Linux had come since then in terms of being used easily by the mainstream. So, I tricked my grudging girlfriend Erin into sitting down at a brand new Ubuntu 8.04 installation and performing some basic tasks. It’s surprising how many seemingly simple things become complicated and even out of reach for someone without a knowledge of Linux. There are a lot of little things that could be done to make the experience a lot more friendly for non-computer-literate people – some of them easy to implement, others not at all. […]

  260. I see that sh’es holding a bottle. Was this used as inducement to try the test or reward for making it through? 😀

    Ted Rolle

    April 29, 2008 at 3:07 am

  261. I set up a Windows box for my wife, who had up till then only used Macintosh. Two days later and with frustration seeping from her pores, she demanded it be removed. I installed Ubuntu for her and although she wants a Macintosh again, I don’t hear tirades against the computer.

    Her experience suggested two things: one, on a level playing field of newbishness, Ubuntu is easier than windows; and two, a user to a new OS is going to require some hand-holding in the beginning. E.g., I have little doubt that Macintosh’s way of packaging folders into a single icon, or using .dmg is going to confuse just about everybody who has not read of had explained to them what is going on.

    I think that the idea of basic video tutorials is spot on. Either that, or a friend who will be available to help with common but different ways of doing things on the new OS.

    In my house family support of Ubuntu often is either:
    1. Use Synaptic ! or
    2. Read the Wiki !



    April 29, 2008 at 3:10 am

  262. I don’t think making it “simpler” (i.e. more like windows) is the answer. I feel ububtu is simpler than any other OS on the market, most users make it too hard on themselves trying to use a more difficult method they learned from another OS. I converted a co-worker to ubuntu a couple years ago and once he stopped making it too hard on himself he fell in love with it. Add/Remove programs has 99% of what your looking for it just doesn’t install them by default (nor does windows). There should be some retraining involved or else you’ll run into people running around as root and downloading trojans.


    April 29, 2008 at 3:11 am

  263. Well, what about a boyfriend usability test, you macho.


    April 29, 2008 at 3:13 am

  264. Hahahah, excellent. =)


    April 29, 2008 at 3:14 am

  265. Nicely done posts with a good methodology.

    Later, after Ubuntu will pass the girlfriend test, it’ll be time to move on to the parent test.


    April 29, 2008 at 3:20 am

  266. I think it would be interesting to do a similar test with, say OS X using someone who only ever used Windows, or vice-versa. In other words, it would be interesting to see how Ubuntu stacks up in relation to other OSes for platform switchers.

    While I don’t mean to suggest that “Switching to Ubuntu is no worse than switching to OS X or Windows” should be the goal or that this be used as a justification for not making further improvements, it would still be interesting to know.


    April 29, 2008 at 3:20 am

  267. I think this was a great experiment but the premise, however, is not okay.

    This is not the correct experiment to see whether a computer illiterate can do what he/she wants to do with little effort, what you are testing here is how easy it is for a Windows user (even if not a power user) to start using Ubuntu.

    If you want to compare ease of use in both OSs, you should get two persons which are real computer illiterates (ie, with no previous computer experience in any OS -say, most grandmas perhaps) each in front of a vanilla new install of Ubuntu and Windows.
    And then give tasks for them to complete.

    I think in that case the results would be very similar…



    April 29, 2008 at 3:20 am

  268. Sometime last year, my girlfriend’s Gateway laptop with Windows XP Home had died (the charging circuit went out). I set her up on one of my extra Dell laptops with Ubuntu 7.10. She loves using Ubuntu. She does all her homework in, browses the web in Firefox, and even enjoys “that cute little penguin” in a lot of the games. We haven’t bothered to get her Gateway repaired, and I doubt we’ll ever use Windows again…


    April 29, 2008 at 3:31 am

  269. Okay, maybe this has been said already, but I don’t really want to read ~190 comments to see. If this HAS been said before, then I apologize and you can remove my comment.

    This is with regard to comment #22:

    I’ve done several Windows reinstalls for friends and before I turn the return the box to them, I always do little tweaks such as installing Java, Flash, etc.

    In fact, when I do this I always get from the person a list of applications to install and a list of things they want to be able to do when they themselves cannot think of a specific application (Playing DVDs for example)

    So yes, I think that doing some initial tweaking would have been better for testing then sitting the woman down in front of the PC cold and asking her to do stuff.

    Personally, in this day and age, I think your average user would get lost if they had to install say, Java or flash in /Windows/ much less Linux


    April 29, 2008 at 3:43 am

  270. Couldn’t agree more, I have always said that about Linux based OS, it’s a geek toy and pretty much useless for the average Joe Blow user. Bitch as we geeks might about Microsoft but they have improved the user experience to a generally acceptable for an average Joe Blow user. IMO having a near-monopoly by Microsoft for PCs is a good thing for consumers because all consumers care about is that it is easy for them to use. Otherwise, try asking a consumer to pick a version of Linux and install it themselves and you will turn them off so quickly they will simply stop using it. Another example why choice is bad for consumers, take a look at the fragmented mobile phones OS. Yes the consumer has choices because every carrier practically have their own OS, it useless because no company can write software that works across all the different OSes. Hence not enough traction and no mass adoption. So before we knock companies like Microsoft, realize that a monopoly leads to standardization. No, I am not an employee of Microsoft nor affiliated with them in anyway.

    Bob Ngu

    April 29, 2008 at 3:46 am

  271. @141 erik:

    The package manager should probably be advertised better. E.g. an icon on the desktop; though the wording could be tricky. If it said something like “Get Free Software”, people might think it was advertising adware.

    “…why you can’t simply run .exe in linux.”

    Why *can’t* you simply run .exe in linux? When trying to run a .exe file, Linux should pop up a window saying something like:

    “This looks like a Microsoft Windows program. Support for Windows programs in Linux is experimental. Support for this program is reportedly:

    Poor or Fair or Good or Excellent or Unknown

    Would you like to try to run this program?

    Yes; No; More info

    [] Don’t ask me again for this program.”

    Support level info should automatically be downloaded from the Wine site. “More info” should bring up a help page describing Wine, and mentioning that a virtualized Windows installation might work better.

    I understand support for uTorrent is good or Excellent in Wine, so she could have run the program just fine.


    April 29, 2008 at 3:55 am

  272. Okay I did not read all 189 posts but, I bet if you showed her how to do a couple of the harder tasks, if she had to do it again she would have practically zero problems. I remember back in the day figuring all the same things out with windows. Took me forever and then I showed my friends who didn’t have the desire to figure things now they new as well.

    I see no difference. And like the one poster said. The preconceived ideas that people have are the killer.


    April 29, 2008 at 4:00 am

  273. “Fifth Task: Burn an album from my music collection.”

    A few others have chimed in, on this, but I didn’t spot anyone with my particular point: I just installed Ubuntu 8.04 on my Wife’s laptop. One of the options that I noticed in the installation process is that you can tell the installer to import all your music and such. Now, I’ll grant you that you have to use the media folders (e.g. My Music) provided by windows, but telling windows that “D:\media” is now your My Music folder isn’t horribly difficult.

    My second point is an elaboration on something already said up-thread: Dell, HP, Gateway and all other major hardware distributors understand that users don’t really know what plugins and such they neeed. So these companies pre-install them. Well, those of us who give our friends and family members Linux machines need to understand this too. To make an analogy,
    – Ubuntu is akin to Microsoft. All they do is provide the platform for the user.
    – Linux geeks are akin to the hardware distributors (Dell, HP, etc). We provide the hardware with all the software pre-loaded for them (including Flash and the like)
    – The end users are still the end users and will go to the “hardware distributors” with their troubles. When (the geeks) make the software provider (Ubuntu) do all the software pre-loading and customization, the users come to us and ask why it doesn’t work, we respond, “I don’t know, that’s just Linux.” Which makes the users then believe Linux is the problem when the fact of the matter is, it’s perfectly fine, it just needs to be fine-tuned to the particular users in question.


    April 29, 2008 at 4:00 am

  274. […] a funny/cool post over on Content Consumer about a guy who let his girlfriend lose on a copy of Ubuntu 8.04 and asked her to do some basic […]

  275. Congratulations, you’ve shown that Ubuntu isn’t Windows.

    Try having somebody ignorant of the way things work on Windows do the same task on windows and I’m sure you’ll find that things are even harder. Linux distributions shouldn’t pander to Windows converts. They can have their own conventions, so long as they’re for the sake of usability and not just to be different. I’d rather use something that’s harder to learn and easier to use in the long run than something that’s easy to learn and hard to use.


    April 29, 2008 at 4:14 am

  276. […] The Great Ubuntu-Girlfriend Experiment […]

  277. Not a fair test. You took someone that only knows one thing and I am sure it took her time to learn windows and how to download, how to find things, how to install properly etc. she wasn’t born with that knowledge, someone had to show her at least once.

    To be fair have her do the same things on a MAC or take someone who has only ever used a MAC and have them do all those things on Windows.

    I have converted 3 people in my office to Ubuntu after using windows their entire lives because they had older hardware and were tired of all the viruses they were getting.

    In each case I set up the systems with the stuff they use all the time (which is what vendors like Dell do with windows machines) showed them how to install extra software using synaptic. showed them how to find things in the menus.

    In every case they are happy as pigs in shit and don’t miss windows at all. One guy, who is probably the most computer stupid even has even downloaded a couple of command line scripts on his own and after I showed him once what to do has been happily using the command line for those and some other scripts he found on his own.

    Bart Burroughs

    April 29, 2008 at 4:24 am

  278. +1

    Brilliant article and I hope the developers at Ubuntu hear it OVER and OVER AGAIN!



    April 29, 2008 at 4:25 am

  279. I was under the impression that Ubuntu was supposed to be a version of linux that was easy to use and ment to entise people from other another os (like 90% windows) to switch to Linux. I know that windows is also complicated to use sometimes, but most people use windows and are used to it. I’m not saying that linux should be like windows. I just think that the migration from windows should be a major concern if they are trying to gain marketshare. I’m probaly wrong about my assumptions of the intention of Ubuntu so please forgive my ignorance.

    BTW great article.


    April 29, 2008 at 4:28 am

  280. An interesting read. I think the one task you didn’t cover was hardware. You should have had her try printing or making a call with Skype. Maybe you’ll get lucky and your sound, graphics, and printer all support Linux. But more likely is you’ll find yourself searching through help forums for some obscure package to load or script to run to get your existing hardware to work, only hours later finding that you can’t get it to or your hardware isn’t supported.

    Average users don’t want to work this hard on their OS. They want to use the applications running on top. Until they can get more or less ubiquitous hardware support for Linux ‘out of the box’, it’s unlikely to cross over into mainstream.


    April 29, 2008 at 4:33 am

  281. Great article. One idea to deal with the issue of the help bubbles scaring off the more geeky users would to have an install option that is by default set to display or not display those bubbles.


    April 29, 2008 at 4:38 am

  282. I like these kinds of articles, but the issue is always that problems arise when a new system is unfamiliar to an understood system (IE: Names of apps, or filesystems, etc).

    Fundamentally, I feel that if you took someone who only knew linux and asked them to do these tasks on windows, they may have trouble too.

    Some things are easier (plugins, more .exes. available to just install stuff (we know this is a security issue, but basic users don’t care)), but they would be new and different to someone who had not used them.

    Personal comment. How on earth can you even bring up photoshop in an article about regular users? Talk about a brutal piece of software. 🙂


    April 29, 2008 at 4:38 am

  283. […] an interesting experiment. Take a novice user, place them in front of a Linux distro (in this case Ubuntu Hardy Heron), and […]

  284. This is an ace article, and it reveals lots of problems someone will have to solve.
    I teach at a university, and I’m pushing for open source stuff because of cost and security. But I had doubts about ease of use, and this article confirmed them. I can’t put students through this.
    OK, Windows is just as bad – worse in some ways – but they’re used to Windows, and so are our support staff. Linux has to be better. Until it is, it will be geeks only.


    April 29, 2008 at 4:42 am

  285. “Linux won’t truly be ready for the desktop until someone computer illiterate can sit down at a the computer and with little effort do what they want to do.”

    Someone who’s computer illiterate can’t sit down at a Windows machine and do what they want to do.

    I really wish people would give up on the idea of making a general-purpose user interface as easy to use as a damn toaster. It’s not gonna happen. If you want Uncle Jim Bob to be able to watch YouTube videos with no instruction on how to use a computer, you need a radically different user interface. Likely, it won’t be an interface that anyone who’s computer literate will want to use.

    Josh in California

    April 29, 2008 at 4:47 am

  286. BRAVO!!! Excellent article!

    TWo items I’d like to comment on in your article, and then a bit

    about my own experience with Ubuntu…

    1) First to everyone griping about “these aren’t Ubuntu/Linux

    problems, these are the problems of a user that’s new to the OS”.

    This is true, but check out this direct quote from the article:

    “I was interested to see how far Linux had come since then in

    terms of being used easily by the mainstream.”

    Now, I don’t know the exact numbers, but I think Windows has not

    just a majority of the OS market, but the MAJOR majority of the OS

    market. Therefore, a Windows user is THE mainstream user, and

    should be considered if Linux wants to bring its distros to that

    mainstream market. I’m not saying Windows is “better” at all, I’m

    just saying that it is the standard.

    Now the #1 standard thing about Windows, and in my opinion, one of

    the things that does actually make it “easier” (IMHO) is the GUI.

    These other commenters got right on that point, and how it affects

    Linux adoption:

    Post 117:
    “Windows users do not understand Command Line requirements. When

    Linux is 100 per cent GUI then it will be ready for non-geeks.”

    Post 163:
    “The truth of the matter is that Windows has the bulk of the

    market share. If Linux is going to grow quickly it will need

    Windows users to migrate to Linux. This will require that some of

    the things that Windows does will need to be mimicked on Linux”

    Post 183:
    “I’ve always said that the biggest problem with linux is that it

    despite its graphical interface, it still relies almost entirely

    on the command line to do installations and updates or anything

    remotely technical. Average users don’t know how to do that, and

    savvy users like my self think life is too short to google ‘how to

    install flash on linux’.”

    …now off to my second comment…

    2) For the love of God, please do not add an annoying desktop

    pop-up for everything that Ubuntu does. That feature drives me

    absolutely batty in Windows. I LOVE how clean the Ubuntu desktop

    is by default, and how installed programs are automatically placed

    in the correct category in the program menu. Other posters are

    correct in stating that given a week or less of use (I would guess

    only a day or two), a new Ubuntu user will find out where things

    are and where they will eventually show up.

    All those little helper pop-ups are nice for the first five

    minutes that a novice user is being introduced to Windows, but

    after a week, they are nothing but annoying. Microsoft would do

    their customers a favor by adding a little checkbox at the bottom

    of those windows: “I know what I’m doing already, leave me the

    #@#$# alone.” That would be my favorite feature EVER.

    … This post is actually getting a bit long, so I split my own

    Ubuntu experience off as a second post…


    April 29, 2008 at 4:51 am

  287. @6 Jonathan – you’re completely wrong and illustrate exactly what this blog post is about. Have you ever heard of Apple’s OS X? They idiot-proofed BSD and now it’s a genuine competitor to Windows (at least to Windows Vista).


    April 29, 2008 at 4:52 am

  288. kinda what i went trough when i went from win98 to macos…

    computer illiterates that decide to switch usually have a bit more motivation to google up some questions, bud indeed all linux distro aimed at the general public should start implementing one of those guided tour like in XP


    April 29, 2008 at 4:55 am

  289. […] que eu descobri hoje foi um método novo de profetizar isto. Um individuo decidiu testar a namorada com ubuntu. Assim conseguiu várias coisas: entreter-se, passar a palavra sobre o opensource e linux, ver o […]

  290. […] system until the average user can comfortably use it. The Content Consumer checks it out in the The Great Ubuntu-Girlfriend Experiment: I’ve toyed with Linux since 2002, when I first installed Mandrake. With the latest release of […]

  291. All this just goes to prove your girlfriend is an idiot.


    April 29, 2008 at 5:11 am

  292. That was a great read, thanks for that.


    April 29, 2008 at 5:16 am

  293. I sent had my mother (a 56-year-old grandmother) download, burn, and install Ubuntu by herself. She was fairly successful. She uses it on her laptop and seems pretty happy.

    Which isn’t to say that it went off without a hitch. But I think it works fairly well.

    Mark A Hershberger

    April 29, 2008 at 5:20 am

  294. You have a number of valuable points there. Linux really needs to merge its different package formats into a single one. Also, I’m all for putting little information pop-ups and guided wizards everywhere to help out newbies, as long as it’s also possible to turn them all off with a single system setting. I don’t much like when I can’t get rid of “user-friendliness”.

    It seems to me, however, that some points are a bit unfair. There’s a certain point in adapting to the market leader, sure, but if the goal is to behave exactly like Windows, Photoshop and MSN you might as well run those programs. Unintuitive or unhelpful behaviour is quite another thing, and should be squashed whenever found.


    April 29, 2008 at 5:27 am

  295. I had #9 happen to me, and I think I somehow tabbed out of it as well. I am a serious computer user although a major linux newb. I remember thinking that whoever programmed the dialog box so that it could have the ‘ok’ button off the screen hated me. He/she hated me the same way m$ does when they make crappy UI decisions.

    #9 is a killer for some people. That will leave them tearing their hair out beating their computer with a 10lb hammer.

    Otherwise, I think linux is pretty awesome. Once it’s working, it tends to stay that way and its free.


    April 29, 2008 at 5:28 am

  296. Interesting test and discussion. I mainly use WinXP and Vista, but have a dual boot machine and just upgraded to the latest Ubuntu (which should allow an upgrade from the standard desktop CD, but that’s another conversation).

    Point well taken on menu choices that have only the program name, not a description of what the app does.

    There’s a (geeky?) tradition in the *nix world to give programs whimsical names, though certainly not all Windows or Mac programs are intuitively named either (Excel? Safari?). After a while one gets used to the name. In the meantime, though, is there a way to manually edit the names that appear on the menu?


    April 29, 2008 at 5:29 am

  297. Excellent article. I think you’ve really hit on why Linux isn’t ready for prime-time. While Ubuntu continues to make HUGE strides in usability, the fact that you need to use the terminal AT ALL limits the audience significantly.


    April 29, 2008 at 5:30 am

  298. Excellent review and test. Good for someone to take the step and do this kind of test.

    My father has been using computers for some years now, but is not an expert. He tryed Ubuntu some months ago and have some of the issues pointed in this review. For example, he bought a Linux Magazine with CD and was unable to install many of the programs since they were .tar.gz, and AFAIK no distribution provides an easy method to do that. Linux hackers (and companies) should start working together like in other open source projects and come to an standard way of installing software (command line/gui) even if the backend is different (.deb,.rpm,etc)

    Mario Vazquez

    April 29, 2008 at 5:31 am

  299. Thanks so much for taking the time to do this test. It’s the only real way to test the potential for Linux systems to become more than a niche activity. I’ve worked on Ubuntu since Dapper Drake, and I not only find it does everything I need, but I also kind of enjoy the tweaking. Maybe this is the main problem. I am, like the vast majority of Linux users, am a bit of a geek (as my wife knows too, too well). I wonder if distrowatch or any Linux magazines have every surveyed the gender of their users (or even the age – I’d guess, male and mid twenties to early forties). That’s a huge gap in the market that some bright spark is going to plug. Fembuntu or Greybuntu anyone???

    Andrew Missingham

    April 29, 2008 at 5:34 am

  300. I just installed HH last weekend. I am a noob as far as LINUX is concerned; although I have been working as a computer professional since 1984 and have used things like CPM, DOS, and Windows in the past (not to mention Corporate software apps and platforms). I started using the WEB in the days of Mosaic. So, I was new to LINUX but not totally ignorant of PC things in general.

    My experience:
    – Was able to use the live boot easily
    – Was able to set up the dual boot with WinXP easily
    – Ubuntu could not recognize my wireless card on either my laptop or my wife’s laptop (both Compaq). I had to switch to ethernet – which worked. Then I got a pop-up message telling me to upgrade my wireless router firmware. I did this (point and click only) and then my wireless worked.
    – However I have had a hell of a time getting the settings to work with a hard-coded IP address (I have multiple machines and NAT on the router). I really haven’t gotten this to work yet.
    – I had the same problem with the flash plug-in on firefox. I was able to get the plug-in to load using point and click only, but I think I kinda got lucky (after reading more about this in the article – I really didn’t know what I was doing).
    – I didn’t like the multimedia software that was included with Ubuntu, but I was able to download and install VLC with no problems
    – Overall it certainly hasn’t been totally simple – but then again last time my hard drive crashed and I had to reinstall WinXP it took my about 3 – 4 hours to get all the software loaded and configured. So all in all I think Ubuntu as easy to install as Windows. But most people don’t actually install Windows, they get it pre-loaded on their PC. So for non-technical folks they really need to have access to someone who knows has at least some technical skill or else they will only be able to do very simple things.


    April 29, 2008 at 5:39 am

  301. Extraordinarily well done.

    This is why people use Windows rather than Linux; Microsoft actually do these kind of tests before releasing an OS.



    April 29, 2008 at 5:41 am

  302. …oh, and nice girlfriend ;-)~.


    April 29, 2008 at 5:42 am

  303. (also, what’s the idea behind the smiley at the bottom? funny..)


    April 29, 2008 at 5:43 am

  304. Very good article. Your girlfriend is obviously more computer literate than average – so Ubuntu clearly still has a way to go to make it usable for average users. I studied usability and it constantly amazes me how basic usability is lacking in most open source programs such as Gimp. I think every open source programmer should do an experiment like yours at least once. It is amazing how exceedingly rare usability talent is in comparison to the abundance of programming talent. Why is that?


    April 29, 2008 at 5:50 am

  305. It’s good of you posting this and pointing the weak spots of Ubuntu. There are some great ideas to impelemnt *thumbs up*

    Sergei Sergejev

    April 29, 2008 at 5:51 am

  306. This is a bogus test. Your conclusions are far from being either interesting or useful. Ubuntu is crap. YOU LIKE MANY OTHER BLOGGERS HAVE ONE PROBLEM:


    Enjoy your immense stupidity.


    April 29, 2008 at 5:53 am

  307. To those who are defending Linux usability – that it should always be a learning experience – that is not the right approach. Take the example of a well-designed TV remote or mobile phone (e.g. iPhone) – in most cases you can use it straight away without a ‘learning curve’. That should be the aim – it shouldn’t be assumed that one needs to be taught and trained before being able to use a computer.


    April 29, 2008 at 5:53 am

  308. Great experiment. Really points out the little things that can’t allow to proclaim Linux ready for the desktop yet.


    April 29, 2008 at 5:54 am

  309. Great article! My gf would kill me after the third or so task 🙂

    Tim Stoop

    April 29, 2008 at 5:55 am

  310. To the folks who want Gimp to work like PhotoShop, unfortunately the arrangement and presentation of the PhotoShop menus and palettes is protected by software patents.


    April 29, 2008 at 5:57 am

  311. Hello,

    Interesting test, and very useful in a sense, but you forget one important thing. Linux/Ubuntu is not windows, does not intend to be windows, and will never be windows. In my opinion Ubuntu is to much like windows, because it looks like windows, and people assume it will be the same, and they are confused if it is not. Some things will be different, and that is good. If you want a drop-in replacement for windows and every application it has, just use windows. If you just want to get things done, you will need to learn how to do that. Just as you did when you started with windows. Your article was one that took windows, and checked what was different with ubuntu. Your test would have been better if you would have taken your grandmother in stead of your girlfriend and let her compare ubuntu with windows… (taken that your grandmother does not know anything about computers…;-)). So I totally agree with comment number 188 :-).


    April 29, 2008 at 5:57 am

  312. Good Experiment. I repeat a few points that have already been said:

    The Ubuntu user base comes first.

    If you want something better than windows, it will take some effort on the user’s part. The more the user knows the more secure/capable they are. No pain no gain.

    Ubuntu (and windows) programers already thought of the solution to ambiguous program names problem. Hover the pointer over one and a *magical* description appears!


    April 29, 2008 at 5:59 am

  313. Here’s the reason PhotoShop SHOULD have toolbars scattered as well, like GIMP:
    Working on a dual monitor system, it is very handy to have the image full screen on one monitor, to get the most out of the resolution, and have the tools on the other


    April 29, 2008 at 6:02 am

  314. Interesting test. In Linux’s (and your girlfriend’s) defense, I think we need to recognize that some of her problems were just due to the fact that applications have different names and things may need to be done in a different way on Linux than in Windows. It’s not necessarily worse or less intuitive, just different. The goal for linux shouldn’t be for everything to work in exactly the same way as it does in Windows.
    When I switched to a Mac at home, my wife got very frustrated with the Mac at first, simply because the way she knew how to do things in Windows didn’t work anymore on a mac. Sometimes it takes some time to realize that a different operating system, while different, can be just as easy to use as windows.
    If you would have done the same test with a mac (assuming that she’s not familiar with MacOS) you might have seen her run into some of the same issues.
    People tend to forget that it took them several years to learn everything they know now about windows. It’s not reasonable to expect that when you switch to any other operating system, you’re not going to need a little time to figure out how things work there.

    That said, Linux definitely has some areas that need more work. Installing the flash player in a browser could be made much easier.


    April 29, 2008 at 6:09 am

  315. Some people are getting stuck on use of words, that the article confuses people who is computer illiterate with people who are used with Windows XP/Vista. That may be true, but it’s a fact that the great majority of computer users are actually using Microsoft’s operating systems. So yes, most people are used to Windows. Does that mean that for a user to switch to *nix, they have to relearn the basics? Why would they want to do that, when Windows is sufficient for most people? If the community has that kind of attitude, then Ubuntu and other Linux distributions are doomed to stay with the geeky masses.


    April 29, 2008 at 6:14 am

  316. Nice article.
    It reminds me to when I found myself for the first time in front of a computer where a black screen was waiting for input commands. When you find yourself in front of something new you are quite forced to do a little bit of research, the same way they did the first time they got in front of a Windows PC. Yes, it is easier under Windows, but it does not take a hell of an effort to understand basic Linux maintenance in the same way an average Windows user does; it’s just something different where new names, procedures and conventions come to play. If you put someone who’s never used a PC before in front of a Linux based PC he/she will end up getting used to it the same way I had to learn how to work under DOS.
    Windows is like a modern car. You are not really driving anymore nowadays …. breaking control, steering control, automatic shifting, etc, that makes driving easier, but thats not really the basic essence of driving, like getting your hands on a car without all that with plenty of horse power. Some people don’t need/want to go through that, but those who dare usually end up delighted with the experience after some scary initial control moments.
    People nowadays want to live very comfortable and expect many things to have been chewed up for them in advance to just sit down, press a button, and if nothing comes up on the screen they are are already complaining to customer services.
    It’s taken mankind a couple of million of years to be able to stand on their feet and only two centuries to sit down again complaining about an overcrowded subway where they had to stand for half an hour because there was no place left to settle their lazy bottoms.

    The article shows very well what migrating from one architecture to other involves, learning to understand it, because ending up confused is just plain ignorance, and that issue will trigger what is needed for you to get your hands on it with a little effort, or just give up because you feel like you are wasting your precious time. I’m not saying Windows is for dumb people, it’s just another way of doing things, like the driving example I’ve mentioned. For more in-depth comparisons there are plenty of flame-wars based posts for you to enjoy 🙂



    April 29, 2008 at 6:19 am

  317. @ guma: I’m a translator… and I’m a geek 🙂


    April 29, 2008 at 6:41 am

  318. Excellent experiment although there are a few problems. If you wanted the experiment to go better or for Ubuntu to get easier, you should have had her use Linux Mint. It’s to Ubuntu what PCLinuxOS is to Mandriva. One other thing. GIMP is the way it is because the developers knew that many people don’t need to full Photoshop setup, hence the multiple windows (panels, modules,etc…).


    April 29, 2008 at 6:57 am

  319. I think It’s just SO stupid to talk about how a system should be only because a silly user doesn’t know how to read a manual or a howto.
    Computers are hard to use, so Operating Systems are.
    Get a fucking brain and learn at leas how to use a so simplistic desktop like Gnome … Oh, and don’t try with a woman, they’re dumb.

    Stupid Review

    April 29, 2008 at 7:07 am

  320. To be fair, my grandparents have just as much trouble running Windows XP.


    April 29, 2008 at 7:10 am

  321. I’ve missed something somewhere – I’m running an elderly Gnome 2.16 desktop, and the Applications menu entries are conveniently short (including Transmission). But if I hold the mouse pointer over the name, the tooltip shows up. eg:”Bittorrent client”. The Open Office menu entries have long, multi-line tooltip entries. Isn’t this feature generally available?

    And WindowsLinux confusion works the other way; I haven’t used Windows much since Windows 3.1, and get really baffled when I try to use my sister’s XP; I sometimes can’t even find where its put a file I created, and the lack of file extensions doesn’t help (yes, that’s configurable, but it’s not my machine). However, my sister finds it entirely straightforward.

    However, Linux does have some way to go; I generally find installing printers via CUPS a real nightmare, and well beyond anything any reasonable end user should have to undertake. However, there may well be distributions with tools that simplify this; I’m not really interested in experimenting with different installations.


    April 29, 2008 at 7:10 am

  322. Quick fixes dude, seems the problem is not your girlfriend, but YOU didn’t configure an app for each task:


    Install Linuxmint (it has codecs and flash)


    Gimp replaced with Krita

    Pidgin replaced with emesene


    resolution fix:
    hold down alt in a window now you can move it anywhere no matter what resolution.


    are you sure you’ve been using linux since 2002?….

    i only have 4 months and i know all this..


    make it prettier, install “Avant window navigator” (in add/remove or synaptic)


    i would like you to make a review of gOS space. It was clearly made for Girls and myspace users


    April 29, 2008 at 7:10 am

  323. I wonder how she would have faired trying to burn a CD in windows using a music library stored on your linux partition. Interactions with other OS’s filesystems are always hard, and they’re harder in Windows than linux. A complete switch (no NTFS on board) would be a better test.
    Disregarding the OS differences, sharing large file sets between two systems is not easy even with two windows machines (I had to watch my brother try that last week, and correct many things when he was done).
    I think maybe your knowledge of how the system worked complicated the test. How many non-techy switchers are gonna dual boot and expect files to be available in both places? How many non-techy switchers will know what dual boot means?


    April 29, 2008 at 7:10 am

  324. nice article ! i did similar test too 🙂 and my girlfriends expierience was not better at all 😦 ubuntu is on right track, but still lots has to be done! cheers


    April 29, 2008 at 7:13 am

  325. Linux Mint FTW

    Linux Mint is basically Ubuntu but with Flash, Java, DVD & media codecs installed out of the box. It would have made several of these tasks much simpler.


    April 29, 2008 at 7:19 am

  326. Yea but can she use windows without help?


    April 29, 2008 at 7:21 am

  327. Windows is windows, OS X is OS X and linux is linux. If a user wants to learn something new.. they should go and learn it. If you have no desire to go out and learn it then say with what your comfortable with. Every OS is different.. Linux is my choice because there are many distributions to chose from and its free..

    As a side note, I would rather it be that Windows users stay as windows users. If your not going to take the time to learn it don’t use it. example [ I don’t use nor am I a big fan of Novell. Now thats not to say I’m oblivious to it. I just don’t use it. Yet if the time comes that I have to use it… then so be it I will learn it.. not too soon I hope 🙂 ] — Just my opinion

    Oh.. it was still a nice article though..



    April 29, 2008 at 7:21 am

  328. The funny thing is that I’ve had essentially all the same problems, but I’m a 20-year veteran programmer and Windows user. It never really gets easier.

    Even the simple stuff is frustrating. Just where the heck did it just put that file? –because the user interface gives me no frikken idea. Exactly the same Flash problem, and the forum mumbles something about installation bugs. Somehow I crashed through and installed Flash–I have no idea how. I managed to damage my NTFS file system. About half the apps I’ve tried just crash. And on it goes.

    All this is just basic usability. Doesn’t anyone just look at this stuff or give it any thought at all?

    But here’s the kicker. Compared to the alternatives, Ubuntu still looks pretty terrific. 🙂 Windows is smoother in some ways, but then I’ve had 20 years to bang my head on it. Let’s face it, the computer industry has screwed up royally. 😦


    April 29, 2008 at 7:21 am

  329. I did the same thing with my wife some time ago. I installed an Ubuntu box (I think it was Dapper at the time). I even tweaked the system a lot. But not only she did a lot of trouble using it, but she simply lost interest in it (she is much less tech savvy than Erin here).

    Then I bought a Mac Mini, from there on, she not only had less trouble but the more polished overall look of the environment made her feel more ‘confortable’ and motivated to try a bit more.

    I am sorry, but in overall ‘looks’, OS X still is king. Gnome is just plain ugly, while Windows is just plain ‘flat’ and boring.

    It is the old wrapping issue: it doesn’t matter at all if the product is good in the inside if the wrappings don’t communicate that. If I don’t like the wrapping I won’t buy the product, period. And it is more so for noobies.

    I don’t matter using a GUI-less OS for work, but I would definitely not be motivated to do so unless I am paid to do so.


    April 29, 2008 at 7:25 am

  330. Absolutely brilliant article.

    It’s these little annoyances that make switching from Windows to Linux so difficult. We already have the major software in place, we just need to clean up and polish the GUI. The vast majority of people look at computers as tools equivalent to refrigerators or lawn mowers. They should not have to Google their way around these simple tasks.


    April 29, 2008 at 7:33 am

  331. I’ve just gotta follow up my comment. I DO hope you are in a position to do something about all this. Please tell me there is someone listening. You’ve filed bug reports–right? Or you’ve got Gnome/Linux people studying your words–right? (Ha-ha)

    About the problem when changing the resolution, I have to say that EXACTLY THE SAME FRIKKIN THING HAPPENED TO ME WITH WINDOWS! I was really sweating it out. 😦

    Oh, just one more thing. I sure wouldn’t say that Linux is particularly expensive getting it to work. I can’t begin to tell you how many countless hours I’ve spent trying to keep Windows secure and get stuff to work–and my needs are VERY simple.


    April 29, 2008 at 7:34 am

  332. I see two issues that have and continue to plague the whole linux desktop movement. The first, is the unnecessary level of complexity necessary for the user experience, and secondly, the resources available for help with linux are seriously lacking.

    If I have a problem with my Windows PC, I can ask one of my co-workers or the IT PC tech and he will help me out. I can go to Best Buy and ask the Geek $quad if I’m willing to pay. If the problem is with an application I can call the vendor.

    With OS X, take me to the Apple genius bar or a coffee shop.

    With Linux, text files, howtos, IRC channels (the CB radio of the Internet), forum posts, all self-serve. I have yet to find the phone number for the BASH tech support line.

    The guy earlier said “Linux is free if your time is worthless”, and he hit the nail on the head with this one.

    What this all boils down to is what level of complexity do users have to experience in using an operating system and associated programs.

    OS X has done an excellent job at reducing the complexity of interacting with the OS. Vista has improved in some areas over XP, and fallen behind in others.

    What you see in OS X and Windows is consistency with the installation of new applications. Linux app installation in general is more complex than either Windows or OS X because there are more variables to account for, such as…

    Which distribution are you using? Which package manager are you using? Is it tar.gz’d? Do I have to use a command window to install it?

    Windows is “Click the EXE, next, next, finish”, or perhaps open the ZIP file first, opened by the OS automatically. OS X just requires that you drag the app into the Applications area.

    My Ubuntu 8.04 experience has not been a nice one. I have a brand new high-end computer with common but new parts, and Ubuntu won’t boot when installed in my computer.

    Vista’s installation was a dream come true.


    April 29, 2008 at 7:37 am

  333. Keep in mind that I am a giant n00b when it comes to Linux. After reading about easy Linux had become to use for a year, and how Dell was going to some of their PC’s with Ubuntu, I thought it was time to try my own install of Gutsy Gibbon.

    I would rate myself as an expert PC user, with just about all variants of Windows for the last 20 years anyway.

    As I started writing about this install, I found it was turning into a massive essay. So, I think I’ll just list the hightlights…

    Install: The installer ROCKED. I chose automatic everything, and just let it rip. It blew my socks off. Seriously… I still have not found my socks. I was quick, it was easy, and all of my hardware seemed present and accounted for.

    GUI: Clean and intuitive. I jumped in installed all pending updates and started using apps. Firefox of course was a piece of cake (I almost exclusively use IE, but despite the fanboyism out there between IE and Firefox, for Joe Internet Browser, they do the same thing). I was flying through GIMP easily (I’d been using GIMP for a few months in my attempt to wean myself from Photoshop, which I BORROWED from good ol’ Uncle Bittorrent.) Email was up and running in Thunderbird in no time at all — config was was intuitive to this lifetime Outlook/Outlook Express user. I even browsed out to my Windows shares on my workgroup with no problems, and had my shared music and videos going in VLC in no time.

    Problems: I could not get my screen resolution to change from 800×600. Then later I tried to install a (supported) scanner.

    Again and again, I’ve heard people talk about how robust the Linux (and specifically Ubuntu) forum community is. The problem, despite there being so many people willing to offer the answer to problems, there are VERY few people willing to take the time explain how they implemented that answer. Telling me to edit “Display” subsection in xorg.conf to fix my resolution problem would actually be helpful IF I knew where xorg.conf is located. Further research told me I needed to know how to use “sudo”, how to use “nano” and where to find Terminal.

    Those Ubuntu veterans out there are probably going, “Well, DUH!”. And I certainly concede that point. “DUH, indeed sir!”, I would reply. I obviously have to learn a bit about the OS I’m trying to configure.

    My point is this: Windows users have been conditioned since Windows 95 to point, click, configure and be done. And yes, Mac users, you guys have been doing that for another ten plus years. Props to you and the revolution you started… now go right-click on something.

    Now, I wasn’t saying that having to type a command is better or worse than strictly using a mouse, but I am saying that if the Ubuntu/Linux development community wants to gain Windows converts, they NEED to provide a more robust GUI. Novice windows users are deathly afraid of using a keyboard. Any fix that requires editing the Windows registry is pretty much a call to Geek Squad.

    Summary: I love Ubuntu for what it is. And right now, it is a hobby OS for me. It actually works for most of what I need out of computer, other than running specific programs, or using specific hardware. As long as I can use a Microsoft-alternative application, and as long as I only order hardware that states it has Linux drivers, I’m fine. But it’s that 1% of programs or 1% of software that won’t run that is a deal breaker (and I feel I’m being very generous saying only ONE percent).

    “I NEED Microsoft Office to run on this computer for work.” — ummm… well…

    “I just bought this no-name MP3 player and want to install it.” — good luck!

    I would just never recommend giving Ubuntu to a novice user that I know, because I will be the one getting the calls to fix their problems. Until I am proficient with the OS, I am not willing to spend hours and hours trying to fix their problem. Especially important to me is the fact that changing the resolution of their desktop or installing USB connected hardware should not require “fixes” on my part.

    I can still hear plenty of readers saying, “well the problem is STILL the fact that you or your novice friend/customers are learning an new OS — this is not necessarily an Ubuntu problem.” This is mostly correct. My point of contention is that in Windows, I’ve become very dependent on the GUI. If I can find the device/program/window I’m looking for, then I want a right-click and Properties to give me access to everything I need to know or configure. I have that same expectation in Ubuntu. If you give me a GUI, I expect it to be a true INTERFACE, not just a skin. (and believe me, when I run into worthless dead ends like that in Windows, I’m screaming profanities about the developer that made that application/driver/window as well.)

    Once Terminal is relegated to the minimal role that Command Prompt has been given in Windows, then Linux will truly be ready for the desktop.


    April 29, 2008 at 7:38 am

  334. Let me correct my statement about Windows software installation…

    “Click the EXE, next, next, finish” should read:

    “Click the EXE, next, decline the free toolbar, next finish.

    I regret the error. Thank you.


    April 29, 2008 at 7:39 am

  335. I agree with other comments about Windows user’s being biased to Windows style of GUI. I had similar problems when I switched to Mac. There are several problems in Windows and many of the posters probably spend a significant amount of time helping friends and relatives to perform basic tasks in Windows. Once I helped someone that was about to buy the 3rd printer, because every time something changed in her windows box the printer stopped working and she didn’t know how to fix it.

    I have my 5 yo daughter using Ubuntu gutsy for quite awhile now and I can assure you that she calls me far less times to help her with her computer than when she had Windows in it. And as the icing in the cake, I don’t get any problems with virus and spyware on her computer at all.

    Another nice feature is that most of the time I can install things on her computer or “fix” things accessing it via ssh, from my computer, while she is still using it at her desk. Have you tried the same thing with Windows?


    April 29, 2008 at 7:40 am

  336. And people wonder why I made Ultumix? I ALREADY DID ALL OF THIS FOR YOU SO WINDOWS USERS WOULD LIKE IT! PAY ATTENTION! Why don’t people look at my work?

    Justin Breithaupt

    April 29, 2008 at 7:42 am

  337. Doesn’t the defult ubuntu hardy install ship with all the plugins. When I upgraded to hardy I automatically got all the necessary plugins to play a youtube video.


    April 29, 2008 at 7:42 am

  338. […] Probando la usabilidad de Ubuntu con su novia [EN]… por fompi hace pocos segundos […]

  339. Between XP and Vista there is such a difference in the way things are done (without entering into the details, in many aspects and not always with a areal reason) that very often people used to work with the former feels completely out of place in the second. Similarly, you can expect that a relatively computer savy user would find some initial difficulties with Linux and in particular with Ubuntu. In both cases it is an initial shock, one that can be overtaken in a week or so maximum. We are all Linux users in my family, including my 5 years old, who can play, draw, watch DVDs and he does all with the simple preparation of icons that he can click on (using Xubuntu). But of course I had to configure the icons and tell him what to click in order to get the programs he wants to run.


    April 29, 2008 at 7:43 am

  340. […] [ The Great Ubuntu-Girlfriend Experiment ] […]

  341. there is built in help(the default question mark icon on the top panel), just read it before starting to use ubuntu.


    April 29, 2008 at 7:51 am

  342. Great article! Usability testing should be done much more to linux apps in general. Preferably with as many test subjects as possible (with varying skills).

    For those who says that Ubuntu shouldn’t be like Windows. I agree. But over the years many things UI-wise in windows have become “industry standards” so I still think that it is easier to conform to “standard” than fight against it.

    That won’t matter to users having little to none experience with computers in general but I think that largest potential Ubuntu desktop users still are those that switch to it from Windows. So if you force those users to do tasks or whatever against what their experience would suggest, it’s like shooting your own foot.

    My point is that if the community’s goal is to get more users to Ubuntu, it’s far more useful to test with users what is hard to do and what is not than argue about it.

    -Written by someone who switched back to Windows XP after trying to switch to Ubuntu because of usability issues.


    April 29, 2008 at 8:09 am

  343. This is a great article!! This is the main reason why many people get turn off by linux, I believe this should be the next aim on linux to truly become main stream.

    I can’t tell you how many times I have friends that get used laptops and want to use them to the max. I install linux on their systems and after a week they end up frustated.


    April 29, 2008 at 8:12 am

  344. this was a great test, and very informative. there are parts of the OS (and included applications) that tend to be too ambiguous for those logging into an ubuntu desktop for the first time.

    having said that, i would like to point out that one of the reasons that i enjoy using linux (currently xubuntu) is the lack of hand-holding and prompts/bubbles/notifications telling me what to do or how to do it. while there is definitely a need for this type of instruction for users new to linux, i would hope that there would always be a way to disable these notifications. perhaps a question during installation to choose level of experience (beginner, average, advanced).


    April 29, 2008 at 8:12 am

  345. Linux is always right.

    Therefore you should upgrade your girlfriend.

    Mine wrote her first linux kernel driver two weeks ago (a line discipline driver for a PIC chip she had just specified). It took her about a day and half to get it both written and debugged, and she didn’t have to ask me a thing.

    She did call me at 3am that night with a question about the Linux kernel’s handling of multicast IP packets (Linux was buggy, we found a workaround).

    Clearly – new girlfriend time!

    But you can’t have mine.


    April 29, 2008 at 8:14 am

  346. […] This review of Ubuntu Gimpy Goanna, Jolly Jacaranda (or whatever they call it) is quite surprising. […]

  347. Gee, I’ve gotta make just one last comment.

    For those who are wondering if they should switch, I have to say, that Ubuntu is beautifully set up and organized from the top down, and mostly easy to handle. If you’re wondering, don’t make your decision by reading discussions like this. This is concerned ONLY with the rough edges.

    In fact, there’s some basic stuff that Ubuntu does with style, that’s hard on Windows. So just get a live CD and try it. You’ll like it. Definitely gotta go now.


    April 29, 2008 at 8:34 am

  348. Great article. Should be used as a reference for further development. All of these points deserve adding to Ubuntu Brainstorm (, and should include a link to the article.

    The things you came across in this are exactly what I remember about beginning with Linux. I tried at various times to make it my primary OS (starting over 10 years ago, when it was REALLY not ready). The biggest reason that I’m an Ubuntu user today is that it does a better job of these things than the others I had tried before (though I never did try an exhaustive list). Still, there is so much room for improvement in the “little things”.

    All programs should have a first time “Welcome” screen that explains some basic actions. You’re quite right that programs should have more than their clever name, they should say what they do (as a minimum via a mouse over pop-up).

    As a final note, Mark makes a good point as well. I am so close to useless on OSX that I loath the entire experience. I can’t find what I want, the mouse doesn’t do what I want, etc. But since new Linux users are going to come primarily from Windows, we (as Ubuntu people) should focus on making the transition from that interface easier.

    Thanks again for the great article.

    I K

    April 29, 2008 at 8:40 am

  349. OK, you did an absolutely STOCK install, no configuration and state that Linux doesn’t do the details to make it user friendly. Do you have an XP NON OEM version around. Perform a STOCK, absolutely stock install, no configuration past installation, then repeat the above experiment. You must make a spade a spade though.

    All your music on a FAT32 partition. Even more revealing, try this with Vista, with it’s massive GUI changes and many many configure dialogues. Especially being used to XP, that could really be funny.

    Now, would your GF know to enable the firewall, download and install anti-virus, or would her STOCK machine be 0wned pretty quickly?

    NOTE: I am not slamming your observations, and the Ubuntu developers would do well to fix them, but you cannot compare a stock, unconfigured install of Linux to what was and is a fully tweaked out pre-configured Windows machine.

    Heck, wipe the drive clean, give her the Ubuntu CD, ask her to do the above. Wipe the drive, give her the NON OEM XP CDs and ask her to do the same.



    April 29, 2008 at 8:43 am

  350. This article very much describes (almost perfectly) the absolutely frustrating experiences of me (a geeky developer) trying to do everyday tasks in Mac OS, having moved from windows. I was at the point of retoruning the bloody thing… until after a week or so, I learned (and got custom) to the basic behavior of the environment. The point here is: it is not linux against the average joe… everyone would have the same problems moving from one environment to other (I tried to explain to my mother just how to navigate through internet with the user-blessed windows and the super-dumb-user-friendly mac, to no avail. Think about it.


    April 29, 2008 at 8:46 am

  351. […] also .. I read this Great post ( The Great Ubuntu-Girlfriend Experiment) earlier & doubted the way installing the flash pluging via youtube works. Now, since I have […]

  352. Immediate follow up to my post, give her an Asus EEE PC with Linux pre-installed, repeat the experiment and see if, indeed, a tweaked and OEMed version of Linux is actually easy to use?


    April 29, 2008 at 8:46 am

  353. I read some comments saying that Ubuntu should be made easier, that the console is scary, that drivers should be included by default, that Flash and Java and mp3 support should be there for you.

    To that I say: __nonsense__

    The console is the best thing in the world, if you want drivers either send emails to the company that sold you the hardware or donate money to the FSF. If you want Flash, Java and mp3 support then stay with window$, buy Linspire or use free java, gnash and ogg vorbis. GNU/Linux is all about freedom not about “I want window$ without having to pay for it”.

    Am I being 1337? Probably, but I don’t want Ubuntu (the entry door for many newcomers) to turn into an idiotproof distro, because then only idiots will use it.

    Gnome and Ubuntu seem to be going in that direction, then maybe I’ll use Ututo and keep using KDE.


    April 29, 2008 at 8:50 am

  354. Oh please. What is the point of giving someone something they have never seen before and seeing if they can use it with no training or instructions?

    I’m willing to bet that Erin didn’t magically know how to use Windows the first time she saw it.

    I gave my grandmother a computer loaded up with the latest Fedora. In just one afternoon of training she is happily using it. Maybe it helped that she never learned Windows?


    April 29, 2008 at 9:05 am

  355. […] tekst dostępny jest na Dodaj posta […]

  356. I liked your suggestions, and would like to inform some of the commentors that this is not a “similarity to Windows” experiment. It’s an experiment in getting something to work that you have not used before. She was able to get find the CD burning program abd burn a CD (if she had found the files) not because it was similar to the Windows way of doing it, but because the interface was clear and intuitive. If you are expecting new users, it makes sense to put a pop-up bubble saying “New program installed, click here to find it.” That doesn’t exist yet because the developers aren’t expecting fresh installs for new users. I am no MS lover, but they DO set things up expecting that the average user will need help doing most things. The Firefox/Flash example is perfect. If they expected someone that had never used Linux before to try to install Flash, they would have made it easier. Not more “windows-like”, just more intuitive. That’s the whole point of a good user interface: make it clear how to do everything.


    April 29, 2008 at 9:15 am

  357. Well, dude, I was a Ubuntu and WinXP user for around 4 years. Then, they threw Vista at me.

    Believe me, I spent hours trying to figure out where is what. And this, is after using Win XP for 4 years!

    Any UI has a ramp up time associated with it, Ubuntu is no different.


    April 29, 2008 at 9:26 am

  358. […] point was made very well by a blogger at Content Consumer, who came up with the “Great Ubuntu Girlfriend Experiment.” He sat down his gf in front of a computer running Ubuntu Hardy Heron and gave her 12 basic tasks to […]

  359. I agree with the commenters who say Ubuntu (or any other Linux desktop) is not ready to compete with Windows or Mac OS. I feel that Mac OS is the best for complete non-techies. Windows is next, and then Linux.

    Overall, OS X and Ubuntu are what I choose for myself and I only run Windows virtually and at work when I have to.

    john noonan

    April 29, 2008 at 9:34 am

  360. And all this would have happened with any other OS with a completely different set of programs.. your conclusion is simply too thin. You should have published these results without the conclusion and instead focused on creating proper suggestions for improvements. Since you don’t have any, I conclude that your problems aren’t real problems.. simply stating that Ubuntu should inherit Windows’ task oriented UI is wrong.


    April 29, 2008 at 9:36 am

  361. As my knowlege of GNU/Linux expands, It also becomes gradually more difficult for me to imagine how newbies experience stuff I’ve gotten used to.

    GNU/Linux distrodevelopers should all have betatesters like your girlfriend with little or no former experience with the distro or computers in general.

    I love the article/project, and I’m really looking forward to read your future article with you and your girlfriend testing other PC OSes

    In the meantime, enjoy your time IRL 😉


    April 29, 2008 at 9:44 am

  362. My mom uses Feisty Fawn with few problems, and she’s 50+. :>


    April 29, 2008 at 9:52 am

  363. Look, if Canonical going to try to get people to switch away from M$, then they’re going to have to kick the 800lb gorillas ass. Windows comes on just about every non-Mac computer that you buy, so of course that’s going to be what newbies are used to. It’s not the users fault.

    Ubuntu needs to have all the basic stuff packaged in it as the default install, and if it’s not, it needs to be consistent about how to install what’s missing.

    I’ve been using it since 5.10 and I love it, and with VirtualBox I can get just about anything done that I need regardless of the OS it needs (caveat: iTunes USB quirks under 1.52).


    April 29, 2008 at 9:58 am

  364. From a granpa.
    70+ yr.old and fortunately retired (free time) With 6 yrs. of window/computer/internet experience it still took me three installs and two uninstalls to get feisty fawn 7.04 to work right. I finally got all my browsers working satisfactorily-firefox,opera and epiphany. Then for fun installed konquerer. I still haven’t figured out how to install flash in “K”.
    Can’t tell you how envious I am of you youngsters who have grown up with computers, the internet and os’s.
    Fortunately I have the time,
    a second computer and my friend Mr. Google to help me through the frustrations of linux.
    But it is not practical to expect seniors like me to just ‘pick up’ linux. Learning to use the command line terminal made me sweat profusely. BUT. On the other hand. As long as there are so relatively few people using the linux os it will be less likely that people will be interested in devising programs (?) to attack said system. I hope lol.


    April 29, 2008 at 10:10 am

  365. There is nothing wrong with making Ubuntu easier for new users so long as it doesn’t degrade the experience of old users. Adding “Bittorrent Client” after Transmission is a perfect example of the types of improvements that should be made.

    Changing things solely to be “more like Windows” should not be done.

    This is a good article, and for the most part I agree with your recommendations. However, I disagree that anything should be changed for no other reason than to be more familiar to Windows users. Fundamentally, if someone wants to use Linux, they should be encouraged to become familiar with their new system.


    April 29, 2008 at 10:19 am

  366. #2 Amir: Yeah, I was a bit surprised the guy didn’t know about alt+leftdrag, having used Linux for several years. But there’s absolutely no way a new user like the gf could be expected to figure it out on the spot, which is why dialog boxes that don’t scale or flow or scroll should NEVER EVER be larger than 640×480. (Ideally, all dialog boxes should scale or flow or scroll, if space is limited.)

    #5: Actually, long experience with Windows and the software that runs on it has conditioned a lot of users not to bother with the Help, because it never actually helps. It *would* be good for applications to offer first-run tutorials, as long as the dialog box that offers it is a plain non-fancy non-animated box that’s easily closed and doesn’t keep bugging you (lest it annoy the everliving bejeebers out of experienced users).

    #6: That’s why I keep arguing for a centralized mechanism for configuring the newbieness of the interface. On first login the user should be asked to rate his experience on a scale with five or six levels, starting with “How do I make it go?” All applications should look at that and determine how much to coddle the user. The user should be able to change this setting later in a very obvious place in the control panel, if they get tired of the hand-holding. Ideally, the user should also be able to override the setting on a per-application basis in the app prefs (so for instance I could set my system experience level to “I know which text editor I want to use to edit config files” but still tell Ekiga that I’ve never used it before and need some help at first), but the *default*, for every application (or at least every GUI app) should be to use the system-wide setting.

    Regarding GIMP: It’s actually better than the MDI way of doing things, among other things because it allows greater flexibility in how you use your screen space. (For instance, maybe there’s room below your toolbox window and to the left of the image for xmms and gkrellm.) MDI is a relic of the 80s, and if Photoshop hasn’t moved away from it yet that’s only because Adobe moves very slowly. (They still haven’t moved to Cocoa yet either.) For GIMP to go there would be a BIG step backward, almost as bad as going back to the 1.x way of having only context menus on the image window and separate dialogs for every little thing. I do think the default docking arrangement could be better (layers and brushes and such docked below the toolbox by default would be reasonable, for instance), but MDI would just be bad.

    #27: In that regard, Linux in 2001 was much closer to being ready for the desktop than Windows XP. Have you ever seen what an end user does when Windows needs to be reinstalled? Yep, they go find a techie, because they have no hope of doing it themselves. The importance of hardwarethe fact that Windows comes preinstalled from the manufacturer on such a high percentage of new computers is difficult to overstate.

    #37: Yes, but on first login, not on install.

    #43: If you ask highly advanced users how to do things, they’re going to sometimes give you technical answers. Yes, on Windows too; I’ve been caught off-guard more than once by forum answers for Windows XP questions that tell me to use command-line utilities I previously did not know existed, or type things like gpedit.msc into the Run dialog… This happens when you ask for help from people who are so comfortable with the system that they do things the quick and easy-if-you-know way, rather than the discoverable way. It’s not a property of Ubuntu or of Linux, but rather of the type of people who were answering.

  367. […] bei Windows Vista (Slashdot) Preisfrage der Woche (F!XMBR) Loopholes keep Windows XP alive (BBC) The Great Ubuntu-Girlfriend Experiment (Content […]

  368. […] The Great Ubuntu-Girlfriend Experiment « Content Consumer I was interested to see how far Linux had come since then in terms of being used easily by the mainstream. So, I tricked my grudging girlfriend Erin into sitting down at a brand new Ubuntu 8.04 installation and performing some basic tasks. (tags: ubuntu user hardy hardyheron linux desktop) […]

  369. Yes, you should switch.

    Because Ubuntu is working towards being usable by humans. All of them – including technologically inept ones, so that they can check email, chat with friends, and watch youtube, without having to know console commands, how to compile shit, or watch as gnash is failing.

    You are being l33t and ignorant of others, yes.

    Vadim P.

    April 29, 2008 at 10:54 am

  370. The problem is with software is the internal function of a system is hidden (unless you read the source code) except for the interface which is presented to the user. Thus problems occur where the UI just isn’t bloody written properly. This problem is not exclusive to any particular software/OS, but is more a symptom of the programmer developing a UI for a non-programmer.
    Add to that OSS devs are not anybodies payrol, therefore will not get into trouble for not documenting everything they have done.

    “The main issue with the desktop experience is that the geeky programmers and designers assume too much from the average user.”

    I’d go further to say that developers are clearly detached from the end user world. In testing ones own application it’s hard to find show-stopping faults because you know intimately how the software works, so any given task you can think of to test you can do without thinking about it. You really need to stick a noob in front of it and see if they can figure out what to do from the information they are provided. A GUI is vastly superior to plain text CLI in the ammount of information you can present the user, but it doesn’t get used well?

    The average windows/gamer/mac head user is highly visual-spatial, this is the way their brains will be wired and this is the main problem when having to battle with the obscure logic of computer systems, let alone linux command line tasks.
    I cut my teeth on uniux/dos back in the day, but being a visual person (Graphic Designer and a gamer) I’ve gone GUI and never gone back. This is my mental strength. While I can code in several program languages enough to be a danger to myself an others, I’m just not great at it – and I can see the perspective of a generally smart person such as Erin coming face to face with a system that is out of her aptitude. But it’s not really that linux is ‘difficult’ I don’t think it is, but inconsistent in UI and user experience (Superior design in some places, incomplete and blatantly inferior in others)

    IMHO designers should be rather disconnected from the actual developers – it seems to work well for any other engineering industry.

    Linux needs ALOT of work to be ready for the ‘real’ world but it’s getting there…


    April 29, 2008 at 11:24 am

  371. @ #358

    to you I say: _nonsense!_

    It’s pretty clear you missed the point of the experiment, which BTW, is not a new experiment. Your “1337”-ism is quite evident and that’s probably why smart people like M.Shuttleworth don’t listen to you.

    It’s all about usability by the “normal average everyday users” who are slaves to M$ and giving them a real option. Quit thinking with your self absorbed ideals for a minute and try just once to view it from the perspective of one of those slaves. The command console means squat to them and just because you say it’s God’s gift to computers doesn’t neccesarily make it so.


    April 29, 2008 at 11:49 am

  372. Don’t know why people here keep insisting Linux and Windows are different, for the joe public.

    What Unbuntu is trying to achieve is to get Windows users migrate to Linux, and in order to do that is to make MIGRATION EASY.

    And this test is just to show how easy/difficult for a Windows user to migrate to Linux.

    Forcing people to accept the hardness of using Linux because these 2 operating systems are different is completely unacceptable.


    April 29, 2008 at 11:51 am

  373. on any forign operating system, your going to have major issues. Luckly ubuntu is not so bad as far as GUI and how to use it.

    Really as an end user, its not that hard… i find it harder to use Mac OS X and Windows.


    April 29, 2008 at 12:05 pm

  374. #44: Mac isn’t actually all that different, except for a couple of key points. One that takes some getting used to is that applications don’t usually exit when the last window is closed. Another is that the menubar, even though it pertains to (and has the right entries for) whichever window currently has focus, is physically located in the top panel, rather than in the actual window. Oh, and there’s no true maximize. Those are the biggies in the GUI. (Under the hood, if you’re a command-line user, the *really* big change is the filesystem layout. LSB it is not. Oh, and HFS+ has resource forks, which is pretty alien to most *nix geeks.) But basically OS X and Windows and Linux are all *fairly* similar, in terms of basic concepts. Granted, the implementation details are quite different, but the ideas are mostly the same. If you want to play with a system that’s really different, get your hands on a VMS account.

    #46: It doesn’t surprise me, but then I have a lot of contact with end users. (I’m TCG at the public library, so I’m pretty much the number one go-to guy for all things even vaguely related to computers in a city of about twelve thousand people.) Things that even a borderline power user (nevermind anything resembling a guru) would view as one or two extremely simple steps — for instance, a basic cut-and-paste operation — are often, when you break them down into end-user terms, actually six or eight steps long, and that’s if they’re fairly comfortable with basic mouse operation. (Point to the beginning of the text you want to move. Now hold the button down. Drag to the end of the text you want to move. Let go of the mouse button. Now go up to the menu bar. Click Edit. Go down to Cut, and click that. Now scroll to the location where you want the text that you’re moving to go. Click there to place the blinkie text cursor. Now go back up to the menu bar and click Edit again. Finally, click Paste. That’s about eleven steps, depending on how you count.)

    When I teach introductory computer classes, I go out of my way to avoid enumerating steps in a list like that, because it’s dull, hard to remember, and does not lead to the kind of thinking that inhibits the user’s ability later on to apply known concepts in new ways. I try instead to explain what what each step does. For instance, I tell them that choosing Cut from the Edit menu takes whatever text is currently selected (“highlighted”) and removes it from its place, storing it temporarily on an invisible Clipboard, which is a temporary workspace for moving things around. So if you want to move some text onto the Clipboard, you highlight it and choose “Cut” from the Edit menu. (I also introduce the whole clipboard concept by talking about what my dad used to do with a photocopier and scotch tape to avoid retyping pages of his papers in seminary. Not only does this analogy explain why the commands are called “cut” and “copy” and “paste”, it also explains some of the motivation for wanting the functionality.)

    So yeah, things seem like a lot more steps to people who haven’t developed a familiarity with the system. Hoffstadter (in Godel, Escher, Bach) calls this a “chunked view”. Well, okay, he’s talking about chess (and ultimately AI), but the idea is the same: with experience, you reach a point where you start seeing groups of things together in chunks related to what they are accomplishing, and then you can look at more of what’s happening at a time and figure out what’s going on faster.

    To all the people saying that some of these tasks would be hard on Windows or Mac: he probably chose them because they were things his gf was already comfortable doing, on Windows, and he wanted to see if she could figure out the differences. Which makes sense. For a user with different every-day behaviors, you’d pick different tasks.

  375. As anyone who uses a Mac knows, Photoshop’s one window behavior in Windows is a bastardized pig dog.


    April 29, 2008 at 12:22 pm

  376. Good set of tests – I remember getting caught on setting youtube up for my mother on exactly that flash issue, so that’s a legitimate complaint, and there is certainly lots of legitimate tweaking that needs to be made easier.

    That said – My mother *is* a grandmother, probably about your gf’s skillset, and has been running on Ubuntu for several months now – the learning curve is quite fast, and although I occasionally have to help her with things, (Most recently, explaining the changes in Firefox from v3 to v3) she has become happy with it in remarkably short order.

    Although, ah, 16 desktops is a bit much for my tastes. She seems to use every one of them though.


    April 29, 2008 at 12:29 pm

  377. I don’t know why all of us linux ‘geeks’ are so compelled to seek justification from the general user population. Don’t you realize the beauty of linux is the fact that it isn’t microsoft, isn’t ‘user level’ and is geared for the technical among us.

    Frankly, I don’t need or want additional handholding from my OS, whether that comes in the form of setup instructions, flash auto installers, or self-uncompressing tbz2 files. It just becomes one more thing I have to click through to get to my command prompt.

    Be happy with what the kernel gods have bestowed upon us, and keep linux pure.


    April 29, 2008 at 12:36 pm

  378. I think this is a pretty valuable test. I would like to see the same test done using OS X and Windows. My fiancée uses my Ubuntu 8.04 system all the time. She doesn’t particularly like any computer, but she doesn’t hate it!

    I don’t necessarily think that if my computer told me where I installed stuff all the time or tried to do things automatically all the time that I would use it. I would drop it like I dropped windows, in that regard I’m happy linux exists. But I don’t think there is any harm creating a system that is more intuitive. I think that the linux community should take more hints from the OS X user environment, That is one of the most intuitive environments I have ever used.


    April 29, 2008 at 12:44 pm

  379. How bout drivers?

    I tried installing a proprietary driver and end up either booting into a black screen or command line. EFF that! Without that driver, the comp defaults to a crappy resolution. Reinstalled the OS and then said, ok live with the crappy resolution, drive on.

    Then I decided to try to get my multi function printer/scanner to work.

    Compared with getting drivers for win, the process for lin is just ridiculous.

    Right now, being without a friendly geek friend, I’m trying to figure out how to wipe out that other partition and resize my win partition.

    As someone commented before, linux is free if you have time. But, my job puts me in front of a comp eight hours a day and I really don’t enjoy scratching my head and cursing at my comp in my off time.

    Nice try, I guess, but not there yet.


    April 29, 2008 at 1:23 pm

  380. Interesting…also the commentary validates the whole experiment.

    Some use a wrench, others a socket, and a few, pliers. The point is the tool may differ but the end result is the completion of the job. I have been through the run from the Apple II days, and still find things I have missed in Ubuntu and XP. But these tools do what they need to do and if not, well, aw heck, where’s my CP/M cassette drive when I need it? 🙂


    April 29, 2008 at 1:25 pm

  381. cool man


    April 29, 2008 at 1:42 pm

  382. “Linux won’t truly be ready for the desktop until someone computer illiterate can sit down at a the computer and with little effort do what they want to do.”

    If they are computer illiterate they would need help with Microsoft Windows and Mac as well. I’m presently surprised at how easily most basic users can sit down with Ubuntu and simply start using it. While NEW technically-challenged (Mr Joe Average) users will need help setting up a few things I would say that this is true for Microsoft Windows Vista as well. I personally work with Mr. Joe Average every day as a PC Tech upgrading, fixing, and selling Microsoft Vista computers. I have so far had more backlash to Microsoft Vista than to Ubuntu Gutsy 7.10. Now, I don’t sell it with every PC so this may explain it. None-the-less if the customers needs are met with Ubuntu I do recommend it and sometimes install it.

    “Erin’s intelligent, quick to learn and is reasonably well-acquainted with modern technology. If she had as much trouble as she did, what chance to the elderly or at least the middle-aged stand?”

    The elderly seem to be ignorant of computing to the point that the OS is irrelevant. Most would be just as content or more content with a working computer as they have no deep felt need to run any particular program beyond maybe email. The middle-aged tend to have Microsoft Windows experience and hate change. Despite the hating change part I’ve seen middle age men switch with some degree of biting lip under the right circumstances. Sometimes this is the result of being semi-technical already even though they are generally much slower. Despite that I’ve helped middle-age men switch with success. Some of the 30-40 age crowd are easier to switch. For some reason they seem to mostly just surf the web a little and do basic mail. Without much need for any particular application they can be easier to switch than the older crowd (40-55). The harder crowds tend to be the under 30 crowd. The problem with this crowd is many game, use instant messaging features like voice or video, and generally feel a need to do what peers do. That is a little difficult to do when the common commercial applications that people are familiar with on MS Windows are not always terribly well supported for the average user on Linux. Sometimes the Linux supported commercial programs lack minor features that despite this are still desired. No MSN Video IM support? I’ll stick with viruses, spyware, and malware and pay someone $60 every 4 or 5 months to fix it. That is usually what happens. Any chance of success with this average user young crowd would require considerably better commercial support than what we have now. It doesn’t help that this crowd tends to move around making a wider degree of Linux support necessary (for instance college IT needs to support it as well as the local tech wiz/office supply store).

    By the way- you can often find people with at least some Linux knowledge in most areas/schools/office supply PC tech shop if you ask around enough.

    I constantly look for support where I need none and have found you can usually get it even when it is not advertised if you ask for it. For instance somebody usually knows Linux even if they are not ‘in’ at the moment. Be it you need support for that Cable Modem (yes, even the ISP that doesn’t list it supports it often if you ask), Computer (Staples, BestBuy, or CircuitCity), or school IT help desk (for things like wifi).


    April 29, 2008 at 1:53 pm

  383. This is a good usability experiment. The only comment I have is regarding the task to burn a music cd. For any fresh os installation, there are no MP3’s installed – a typical user would put mp3’s on there by ripping a cd, buying them online, etc. I don’t know if Ubuntu has a ‘music’ folder or a preinstalled music management application – in OSX, there’s a music folder and iTunes to use. A more accurate test would be to have Erin first put some music on the computer, then burn a music cd.


    April 29, 2008 at 1:56 pm

  384. After frowning on some of the points you made I have to say that operating systems and software often (on any OS including Linux) could could be improved from an ease of use perspective. Talking up all the problems really doesn’t help much. If you were advocating Linux go get a PC Tech job somewhere. I’ve done just that. While I’m overqualified, underpaid, and doing allot of Microsoft Windows repair work it gives me the perfect opportunity to discuss alternatives Linux solutions with customers. Despite it may not always be a wise thing to switch customers the opportunity will arise on plenty of occasions. Just beware many PC Tech positions at places like BestBuy, Staples, and CircuitCity are going to give you a set of guidelines on what to do when. Installing Ubuntu probably won’t be on the list. I both use it at work to repair systems and have gotten away with selling it (charging an OS install fee) despite it being questionable (the company has sold Linux computers online, and has sold Linux OS’s in the past, and prohibits installing any software not available in store, however they seem to consider the OS in a separate category from software. the charge however for OS is windows specific. this OS install option does not always say windows in all advertising however). Either way my managers don’t know, don’t care, or it simply hasn’t been a problem yet for them to realize I shouldn’t be offering it.


    April 29, 2008 at 2:07 pm

  385. awesome article, and pretty much spot-on. and, as an anecdote from my day job, most windows users don’t know how to do half the stuff you had your girlfriend do…so linux is more or less where it needs to be as far as usability is concerned.

    the majority of the issues just come from the lack of pre-packaging a distribution with the bulk of things that users want/need/use (ie: flash, nvidia/ati binaries, other distro-dependent things [like mp3 support on fedora..unless they’ve changed that]), on top of proper labels for stuff. my favourite example I’ve seen in the wild is, “who the hell would want to click on something called ‘the gimp’ to edit images?”


    April 29, 2008 at 2:16 pm

  386. […] The Great Ubuntu-Girlfriend Experiment (via […]

  387. @ Vadim P: yes, I’m being “l33t and ignorant of others” because those others are being idiotic. If you want Window$, stay with Window$.

    @ Zexy: My 1337ism is quite evident, and that’s why I listen to people like RMS and not to Mark “Linux For Idiots” Shuttleworth.

    GNU is NOT (Unix, lol)… I mean… GNU is not about usability, it’s about freedom.

    Changing your dog leash from the M$ master to the Canonical master doesn’t make you any freer. Just a more sophisticated kind of idiot.

    If you want half freedoms just install Firefox, Thunderbird, VLC and AVG on your Windoze and that’s that.


    April 29, 2008 at 3:03 pm

  388. […] – The Great Ubuntu-Girlfriend Experiment « Content Consumer Linux won’t be ready for the desktop until someone computer illiterate can sit down at a the […]

  389. I ran in to a similar problem to #9 when trying to put kubuntu on a friends old computer – couldn’t get it to recognize the graphics chip so I was stuck at too low a resolution to be able to see the entire window for a whole bunch of settings dialogs. What I found to be helpful was alt-dragging the window around (think moving the window without having to drag from the titlebar) – I assume this is common to gnome and kde but honestly haven’t used gnome enough to be sure.

    Anyhow, thanks for a great article mate 🙂


    April 29, 2008 at 3:34 pm

  390. You said:
    “Maybe it could ask “What do you want to do?” and then explain how they could do this.”

    Oh great! You want “MS-Bob” for Linux. I hope that day never comes.

    The Steven

    April 29, 2008 at 3:35 pm

  391. […] Is Ubuntu friendly enough if your girlfriend is not tech-savvy? [via Digg, actual link via Content Consumer] […]

  392. All good points.

    But the most basic thing about a Windowed interface (from the first days of X and the Mac), is the ability to resize the window and keep all portions of it on the screen.

    Ubuntu Hardy Heron does not do that. Why not?

    We definitely, definitely should be able to move the Window and be able to see all of it, but I can’t in any Unbuntu version.


    April 29, 2008 at 3:43 pm

  393. Thats freaky..I fancied your girlfriend’s body even before I realised it was only her head in the picture. Can you get her to photoshop her head onto your body in a reclining pose please?


    April 29, 2008 at 3:44 pm

  394. I have XP, OSX, and Ubuntu 8.04 and by far the most fun for the fewest bucks is Ubuntu. After I got used to it Ubuntu is also the easiest to use. As far as the learning curve goes, I don’t think it is fair to insult the public by saying they should stay with what they are used to… for one thing it costs them more, and for another where would the internet be if people in the 80s stayed with what they were used to?


    April 29, 2008 at 4:08 pm

  395. […] The Great Ubuntu-Girlfriend Experiment « Content Consumer This should be mandatory usability testing for any platform; wonderful. (tags: design ubuntu usability) […]

  396. Did anyone else learn how to play Magic the gathering using Portal? It was really helpful for learning but everyone who knew how to play Magic didn’t like portal.

    See what I’m saying?


    April 29, 2008 at 4:41 pm

  397. Are you wearing a skirt?


    April 29, 2008 at 4:48 pm

  398. The experiment reveals one of the biggest problems that new users coming from Windows environments have: they search for software on the Web by default. It’s one of those things that should be made clear right after install, remembering as they never, ever will read the help availabe in the menu.


    April 29, 2008 at 5:07 pm

  399. Linux won’t truly be ready for the desktop until someone computer illiterate can sit down at a the computer and with little effort do what they want to do.

    If this is the case windows is not ready for the desktop.

    David Stone

    April 29, 2008 at 5:23 pm

  400. I am not sure if somebody commented this before(too many comments to read), but each one of your points should be filed as bugs with their respective apps preferably with a link to your article.

    If you really want people working on Ubuntu to notice your points, i am sure that an email to Jono Bacon with a link here would do the trick.

    The points that you bring up are completely valid.

    Great post overall.

    Alaa Salman

    April 29, 2008 at 6:00 pm

  401. I have many of the same problems allot of the times and I really do feel for your girlfriend as a first time user.

    I am actually running Open SuSE right now and I also have little to no experience with linux I always seem to run into many of the same problems yet I am familiar with aim ICQ IRC MSN and allot of the other chatting type programs there is out there.

    Even though I too went from XP to Linux because of my vast experience with computers and my big understanding with things I was able to check through allot of documentation on and without much problems allot of things I was able to pick up on right away and fix some bugs.

    Upon my installation of SuSE 10.3 the only real problem I had was with the whole what they call Restricted Formats to get your dvd player in your computer to fully work so you can watch movies on your computer which I had to ask some people on irc on how to do it.

    Other than that Yast seems to be very good with telling you brief descriptions of what things do and RPM’s are pretty easy to install through the yast installer.


    April 29, 2008 at 6:04 pm

  402. That’s where the EEE PC comes in, simple to use even for the most Linux illiterate! It just works (TM)


    April 29, 2008 at 6:06 pm

  403. Great article, valid points, well written! Perhaps you (or your girlfriend for that matter 🙂 ) could take the time to add these suggestions to the Ubuntu Brainstorm website (


    April 29, 2008 at 6:54 pm

  404. This is just silly.

    The guy put his girlfriend to use Ubuntu without any sort of introductory explanation to how anything works. The only way it was going to go perfectly is if Ubuntu worked identically to Windows.

    Who the hell said that that’s the easiest way to do things??

    Anyone who installs an OS on a computer will have to do at least SOME amount of setting up. Installing ubuntu-restricted-extras is NOT a difficult thing to do. His expectation that she should be able to do it without any help is unreasonable.

    The reason windows is so popular is because everyone uses it. If anything, Ubuntu can provide an brief video introduction to the OS and that would be far more useful.


    April 29, 2008 at 7:37 pm

  405. […] Content Consumer: The Great Ubuntu-Girlfriend Experiment […]

  406. Welcome to Ubuntu would you like a tour?

    this is what you are asking for?
    on some level i guess I get what you are saying, but do you really think your girlfriend is so dumb that if she used ubuntu as her main operating system for a week that she wouldnt have the same competence as she does in windows? Has anyone clicked that windows tour icon since 3.1??????? I dont really think its necessary, not from an elitist sense, but just from shear annoyance. Next youll be asking for a paperclip and thats a slippery slope I just don’t want to start down.

    All in all I though this was a really great article though and I am of course sending it to my girlfriend.

    In a similar experiment I also had my sister install 8.04 while drunk on tequila. while the manual partitioning was a little beyond her she figured that out quickly and elected the auto … I will count that as a full success.


    April 29, 2008 at 8:13 pm

  407. I was not trying to imply that your girlfriend was dumb, just that Ubuntu as Windows will require regular use to get the hang of it in a similar manner.


    April 29, 2008 at 8:16 pm

  408. In some cases for beginners and PC newbies, Windows is actually easier (I know I might get flamed for this.) but if the PC is already configured, most of the apps just look the same.
    My wife prefers her vista PC (’cause it has Outlook on it and the better screen of our two machines) but If I ma on her machine for any reason, she is equally happy doing most of the things she normally would on my Linux laptop. By this I mean she knows how to open Firefox and get onto Facebook. Use Open Office to edit documents etc. She still has trouble finding documents though as she keeps looking for network mapped drive letters rather than the mount points I have set up. But if a new plugin is required, or updated app to install, she it stumped whether it’s windows or Linux.

    John Howell

    April 29, 2008 at 8:24 pm

  409. Second task: Watch a video on YouTube.

    When ever I have had to install flash, I go to youtube and select any video. If flash is not installed, all I have to do is click the “There are plugins available…” bar that swoops down from above in Firefox.

    None of this going to Adobe’s website. All I have to do is click “install plugins” > “next” > (select) > “next” > password > ok DONE


    April 29, 2008 at 8:26 pm

  410. I have to agree with the first comment made, setup is the key. I’ve had my laptop running 7.10 for a few months now and my wife, who is definatly not a geek, has no problems with it. For most people if you just put a fresh install of windows on the computer they aren’t going to be lost with it when they can’t open a pdf file.

    Saying that because your girlfriend had problems with a few things means that linux isn’t ready it just crazy. I use linux and windows everyday and do can pretty much anything I want in them, but put me in front of a mac and I’m going to have problems. Does that mean that mac isn’t ready to be mainstream? According to your philosophy it means mac should only be for those with a computer science degree, I’m an IT director so a geek to say the least. What it really means is that I’m not familiar with the mac os. I’ve seen what it can do and it’s awesome, it just takes time to learn it.


    April 29, 2008 at 8:44 pm

  411. I would say someone raised on Linux would equally have the same kind of problems when let go on a fresh Windows install. Likewise, someone with absolutely no PC experience at all would be lost in both camps, regardless of how user-friendly the interface is.

    However when all is said and done, there are definitely some minor tweaks that could be made to Ubuntu to make the interface experience just a little more novice-user friendly. Hardy has improved over Gutsy in that regard, but more can be done.


    April 29, 2008 at 8:54 pm

  412. […] me encuentro en en los enlaces compartidos de Antonio Ortiz una prueba perfecta de usabilidad: The Great Ubuntu-Girlfriend Experiment. Poner delante del sistema operativo a un usuario medio (en este caso, su novia) y probar a ver un […]

  413. After years of not having a computer of my own, I decided to rectify this and try Ubuntu, as I wanted to experiment with a linux based system. This was the best decision I made. I dislike windows and have always wanted an alternative. The fact that Hardy allows me to not only affect the look of my desktop but to streamline and customize the computer to run how I want it is a godsend. The add/remove system and synaptic package manager in my mind makes installing software easier, as you know what your downloading, even when its a grouped package. I dont understand the criticism about accessory names. Why is brasero (followed by a symbol of a burning CD)anymore confusing than a desktop link marked Nero (followed a symbol of a burning CD)for example?
    I accept my machine has needed some tweaking, but every answer I have needed I have found on the Ubuntu forum pages. Of course a preferred OS is an individual choice, but it seems many of the criticisms here are relatively minor. I have learn’t more about Ubuntu in the last week, than I’ve learn’t about windows in the last 10 years.This operatng system isn’t for everyone, but turning people off it because its not windows is, in my mind, just plain daft.


    April 29, 2008 at 10:15 pm

  414. […] The Great Ubuntu-Girlfriend Experiment « Content Consumer […]

  415. These type of reviews are funny. They take someone who is “familiar” with computers and give them Linux and ask them to get some tasks done.

    My girlfriend has the same problems with Linux. Its not because Linux is immature or because its usability sucks. Its because the user is familiar with how WINDOWS does things.

    These tests would be the same if the user was familiar with MacOS.

    If you found a user who has only used Linux and never Windows, this user would probably have the same sorta issues with how Windows does things.

    Final word, just because Windows does it one way it doesn’t mean that is the “right” way.


    April 29, 2008 at 11:13 pm

  416. Great article.


    April 29, 2008 at 11:44 pm

  417. To those who say that all operating systems give problems to a first time user – this is true, but look at the real world. The vast majority of computer users know the basics of Windows, and so any attempt to promulgate an alternative has to make some attempt to be friendly to Windows users. Even OSX has more in common with Windows. In an ideal world all OS should be intuitive, but …..


    April 30, 2008 at 12:33 am

  418. I wonder whether the people claiming Windows “conditioning” here even read the article. Linux fanboys are really worse than Nintendo & Apple together.


    April 30, 2008 at 12:37 am

  419. I agree with you about the Flash matter – but then Ubuntu tries to enable the use of Gnash for purists by detecting if a page object would require Flash, and then prompt for Flash of Gnash install. Due to YouTube not using the ‘normal’ dialogue, this isn’t triggered and Flash won’t install.
    Any other website will prompt you for an install right away.
    About the Gimp: obviously, your girlfriend hasn’t tried Photoshop on MacOS: it’s even MORE scattered than the windows version.
    So, here, the Gimp is closer to Photoshop than Photoshop (win port) is to Photoshop (original Mac version).

    Mitch 74

    April 30, 2008 at 12:44 am

  420. […] Great Ubuntu-Girlfriend Experiment Taken from: Ubuntu 8.04 Review Roundup The Great Ubuntu-Girlfriend Experiment Content Consumer […]

  421. dude I really love this system you came up with! it’s rather quite genius. This is definitely a plus for linux. I myself just started using the latest version of Ubuntu on my Macbook. I’m running it in VMWare as a virtual machine.


    April 30, 2008 at 1:11 am

  422. I want Ubuntu to work. I am sick of using windows and dont want to upgrade any more but Microsoft is ending support for XP. PLEASE, add a “skins” dropdown at the top of every program and put a “microsoft” or “mac” or, in Gimp, more specific things like actual applications (“Windows Photoshop”, “Mac Photoshop”, “Fireworks”). As long as the interface is coded directly, switching layout and look and feel and default file extension types should be easy to code. You already have to do it for international aps. DIE MICROSOFT DIE

    Ed Pike

    April 30, 2008 at 1:35 am

  423. It was a good experience but you made some mistakes:
    – The YouTube problem, you know it’s YouTube’s not Ubuntu’s, don’t you?
    – When you install Windows for somebody, you have to do some tweak, like intall an office suite, install PDF reader, anti-virus, firewall, etc… Why couldn’t you just do the same thing to your girlfriend? Things like install flash player, for example.
    – Pidgin actually has the welcome screen you asked for. I’m sure Erin bypassed by it faster than you could notice! But you’re right for rest of you complainment.

    You got the right opinion for the most of the tests but just don’t be biased be saying things like “geeky programmers and designers”… Even Windows and MacOS had to learn with its own errors through time. The power of open source is that this learning and corrections happen much fast than in proprietary world. If you use the fisrt Ubuntu (5.04) from 3 years ago, you gonna understand my point: Linux did in 3 years what Windows couldn’t do (with Vista) in 5!

    Rodrigo Carvalho

    April 30, 2008 at 1:59 am

  424. I tryed something similar with my wife.
    After 2 months I had to buy a laptop with Windows Vista only for her. 😦

    Bad luck for me, I guess.


    April 30, 2008 at 2:28 am

  425. I love linux, and I don’t consider myself too much of a geek.

    I’ve never really used any other distro other than Ubuntu, and this is because the others I have tried haven’t been as user-friendly as ubuntu. Finding a solution is as easy as going onto Google and searching your problem and looking for the Ubuntu forums.

    And as for GIMP, the layout is much like the Adobe Illustrator layout on Mac. I actually prefer it A LOT to the windows version of Photoshop CS2/3.

    I do have to say something bad about it though, the codecs and plugins and everything are a pain to install and find and everything. Same with the drivers when your hardware isn’t hugely supported.

    I have a Dell Inspiron 1720 now, and I -only- run Ubuntu. No windows to dual boot. And you know what? I’m completely content.


    April 30, 2008 at 2:59 am

  426. Great article by the way though =P


    April 30, 2008 at 3:02 am

  427. Mandriva Linux with KDE and the Kicker Style menu solves most of those problems. I find Mandriva is much easier for people new to linux. For example it comes with flash/standard codecs installed by default and the kicker style menu lists things under names such as “BitTorrent Client” and “Paint Program.” Have her try this with Mandriva 2008.1.


    April 30, 2008 at 3:02 am

  428. Forgot to mention that it also does have that “New Programs” thing you mentioned.


    April 30, 2008 at 3:04 am

  429. […] The Great Ubuntu-Girlfriend Experiment A usability test […]

  430. I’d like to say two things: You have a patient girlfriend, and that I think she did pretty well! I converted my girlfriend to Mac OSX recently – relatively painless. But, she also had problems like this in the beginning – which programs to use, what does this and that mean – I think these are intrinsic difficulties with changing the OS. I think if your girlfriend had used Ubuntu the last 5 years, and you showed her Vista, she wouldn’t be too impressed… I don’t understand the people pointing to this article “proving that Linux is too hard for most people”.

    Cheers, and Free Software and all that.


    April 30, 2008 at 3:11 am

  431. […] The Great Ubuntu-Girlfriend Experiment has been making the rounds and has been quite amusing from many angles. […]

  432. […] Linux won’t truly be ready for the desktop until someone computer illiterate can sit down at a the computer and with little effort do what they want to do.Content Consumer, The Great Ubuntu-Girlfriend Experiment […]

  433. […] pretty interesting post about what makes Ubuntu’s latest avatar (Hardy Heron) usable (or unusable) for people with […]

  434. make a review with gOS space and test with your girl friend. You’ll notice the difference !


    April 30, 2008 at 4:49 am

  435. […] Idea original | Content Consumer […]

  436. […] These two. If gnome starts highlighting installed programs, I’ll spazz […]

  437. I did an Ubuntu-Father Experiment yesterday.

    I’ll begin to write an article about that now.

    I completely disagree with your “Linux won’t truly be ready for the desktop until someone computer illiterate can sit down at a the computer and with little effort do what they want to do.”


    April 30, 2008 at 5:53 am

  438. If the people who wrote most applications had a real life and could interact with actual people they would not have a compulsory need to make themselves feel superior. Since disk space is, essentially, free they would give copious easy to understand directions for their applications.
    All applications would have a “First time user?” button.

    There is no reason for this lack of instructions other than laziness or some neurotic need to feel superior and keep those who are not initiated into the “inner circly” in their place.


    April 30, 2008 at 6:13 am

  439. Erin’s experience with flash was odd.
    All installs I did of ubuntu even a fresh install of 8.04 when I went to youtube it showed a popup “install plugin” it offered 3 plugins for flash this would have offered a different experience of choosing the right one. I made the mistake of installing gnash once and it just didn’t play some videos correctly uninstalling gnash would have required extra work but installing adobe like this was easier than her experiance.

    Bearded Guy

    April 30, 2008 at 6:47 am

  440. Hi! This is a great article! I am looking forward to the sequel involving windows.

    My experience with Ubuntu started in December 2007 and it’s enough to say that I use it every day and use Windows about once a week. (Because of the non-standard Windows file formats and some software I am forced to use at school)

    I have to say I think that, if you had two identical absolutely computer illiterate twins that have no external requirements, like friends that use only OS A or the school or workplace requiring OS B, and you put them in front of a computer, one running some Windows and one running Ubuntu, the Ubuntu guy would learn stuff quicker.


    April 30, 2008 at 6:48 am

  441. […] a few short days, this experiment has garnered a lot of attention in the Linux community.  It’s kind of cute, and says a lot […]

  442. Man, nothing like the old Linux/Windows argument to get tempers up. Face it, UNIX-based OSes are for hobbyists when not used in the academic or business worlds. Too difficult for the average user who just wants to surf and chat.

    Anthony Kuhn

    April 30, 2008 at 7:53 am

  443. I’d have to say your GF is probably as cool as it gets 😛

    Computer Quiz

    April 30, 2008 at 8:53 am

  444. What does girlfriends have to do with using Linux? What a bizarre article, honestly I’ve never read anything like this. This faggot seriously needs to stop with the Linux girlfriends articles, it’s really annoying.


    April 30, 2008 at 9:05 am

  445. NOT A COMMENT FOR THE BLOG – CAN’T FIND A DIRECT LINK TO YOU — Would like to quote you in an upcoming review of this version of Ubuntu. Please let me know if OK. Thanks.


    April 30, 2008 at 9:09 am

  446. […] Linux won’t ever be ready for Desktop I really enjoyed this post. It seems I was reading […]

  447. Check the YouTube behavior again.
    One of their engineers just told me
    he’d seen this blog and pushed out a fix
    to the problem; now the popup Firefox
    presents to you should actually grab
    a working plugin. I just tried it,
    and choosing the default every time it
    asked a question did let me watch a
    YouTube video on Hardy just now.

    Thanks for the bug report!

    Dan Kegel

    April 30, 2008 at 10:01 am

  448. This is a great article. I am very Windows savvy and have just started dabbling with a variety of versions of Linux. While I think Ubuntu is by far the most user friendly, even I am totally confused when trying to do things. I still don’t understand the file system structure and where things are located. I cannot understand why I cannot get some common Windows programs running under Wine. There are other things I’m learning as well. I can see how it might actually be EASIER for someone who has never used a computer before to sit down and learn Linux than it is for someone with experience using Windows.

    By the way, just from the little bit we can see from the picture, Erin is hot. 🙂

    Jack Deth

    April 30, 2008 at 10:20 am

  449. Hi,

    You have to think about it this way – for every Girlfriend or Grandma there is some family member or friend who can help them out.

    With Linux, you help them get it set up in the beginning, and if you’re smart, show them how to search the appropriate forums & ask questions.

    With Windows, it’s setup for them from the factory, but instead you end up helping them remove viruses, or things that pop up offering you coupons, rebates, and porn.

    At least you can plan for the initial setup and config, whereas on Windows, you never know when the bomb drops.

    BTW: I find OpenOffice Draw to be a fantastic application, only I (and the users I support who *are* mostly Grandmas and Girlfriends) prefer to use OODraw for desktop publishing.



    Sir Nate of Beer City

    April 30, 2008 at 11:51 am

  450. Nice article.
    I remember when I installed Ubuntu on my sister’s PC 2 years ago, and made everything work for her. It was funny to watch how windows habits made her frustrated. The next day she asked me to install a windows xp for her.


    April 30, 2008 at 12:42 pm

  451. shit

    Victor Lee

    April 30, 2008 at 12:57 pm

  452. This sucks. You suck.

    Steven Devine

    April 30, 2008 at 12:58 pm

  453. great experiment. I wholeheartedly agree wit your conclusions.

    I find Ubuntu and other Linux distros to be ‘fun’ to play with, but I’m a bit more computer savvy than the usual person. When friends try to use my Linux boxes they wanna stab me in the face.

    Ubuntu is getting close though. However, I think the ‘geek’ boneration with having to totally control every bit of minutiae manually that many Linux developers have will hurt it like it did with Microsoft and Apple in the early days.

    papa bear

    April 30, 2008 at 1:21 pm

  454. […] The Great Ubuntu-Girlfriend Experiment « Content Consumer hilarious. i think some of these are a bit advanced (e.g. Photoshop-ing), but it’s a great look at what just works and what still needs improvement (tags: usability design experiment ubuntu linux firefox hardyheron) […]

  455. Yo bro. I know what you mean. I dig the cli. And I can sit down and be productive in just about any environment (but I prefer KDE :)).

    But I understand not all are like me. Like my wife, like your girlfriend, like lots of guys’ wives and girlfriends.

    She likes Vista. I like Vista. And I think you’ve uncovered why so many people prefer Windows: it does its best to walk the user through its processes. “Did you forget your password?”

    What the Linux distros that are aimed at the uninitiated need to do is very simple:


    Look at how an Apple Mac product greets you the first time. It’s dazzling.

    That’s what Ubuntu needs to do. Put into Ubuntu awesome videos explaining how to perform such tasks as the “tests” listed above.

    Get the people at to do them.

    Or, better yet, do a contest to see who can do the best how-to videos.

    I think it’d be best to try to make something fun out of it; something that the community could really get behind.

    If you FOSS folks really care about FREEDOM and getting the FOSS desktop to the masses, this is what you’ll need to do: delivery it to them in the format in which they are prepared to accept it:


    I think the GUI beats the pants off of XP and makes Gnome look … ugghh.

    Microsoft is a fine company. think it’s a fine OS.


    April 30, 2008 at 5:00 pm

  456. Actually, multiple windows in The Gimp is the correct, original, and true way to layout the application for Photoshop users.

    Adobe Photoshop was originally only available on the Macintosh, using multiple windows. When the Windows version came along, it used one window. For nearly 20 years, Photoshop on its original platform has used multiple windows.

    I have tremendous trouble using Windows, because I’ve barely ever used it. I had a 30-minute quest to find out how to remove my MSN Messenger details from Windows recently. If you’re not familiar with an operating system, you will obviously run into difficulties for a little while.

    In my humble opinion, your girlfriend passed your experiment.

    Chris Lees

    April 30, 2008 at 6:51 pm

  457. A good idea and some interesting results, although in one or two instances I have to say ‘duh!’ (for instance you claim that nobody uses vector drawing packages… ahem, yes we do, many millions of us, every day – you ever heard of Illustrator, Inkscape, Freehand, CorelDraw!?), but overall a worthwhile exercise with more discussion needed about the results.

    I have to agree with Bert (comment #399) though. I’ve never used Windows as my main machine – ever! I do use it sometimes, but I find it irritating the way it breaks the conventions I’m used to in the computer interface paradigm. Why can’t Microsoft make Windows work in a sensible way so that anybody switching has a better time of it? After all, at least they’d be more productive before they switched too. Why is it the job of the originators to copy the imitators (I hear the ‘make it more like windows’ comment about newbies to OS X or Linux all the time… it’s just a lame statement).

    The comment about Photoshop makes no sense either… you’d like to see GIMP laid out more like PS? It already is if you don’t run PS on a Winbox! What you MEAN is make all other OSes more and more like Windows so that people who refuse to learn more about the tools they use can feel comfortable. Unfortunately, that means that the average car driver would never use their indicators or windscreen wipers if they suddenly discovered the controls on a different stalk to where they were on their last car…! Out of all the main OSes, Win has the WORST layout for productivity and intuition. It’s so bad that they HAVE to hide settings behind ‘Wizards’… which makes performing simple setup tasks (when you DO know what you’re doing) that bit harder and slower, so copying the idea for Linux may be a good thing for newbies, but should also include a ‘setup manually’ button to skip the wizard and get straight to the relevant dialogue for anyone with enough common sense to learn what they’re doing.


    April 30, 2008 at 8:01 pm

  458. […] også The Great Ubuntu-Girlfriend Experiment for en grundigere gjennomgang av en windows-brukers første møte med […]

  459. I’d like to see this experiment carried out with a fresh Windows Vista/XP install as you say you’ll do. Out of the box (none of the bundled ‘bloatware’ added) let’s see how easy it is to carry out many of these tasks.

    Some would be awkward straight away (no GIMP or Office installed and no tools to do some of these simple everyday tasks without a download/install). CD burning could be fun as well. Of course, you’d be better (for scientific ‘control’ purposes) to get somebody who’s never used Windows to perform the tasks, or you’ll not have an even comparison.

    And to be fair, giving somebody a fresh Vista install when the only version of Windows they’ve been using is something like 2K or older would be interesting. See how easy it is for them to perform many of the tasks they’re used to on their existing OS (some people really do still use 98 or earlier)… I can guarantee they’ll get completely lost at times as anybody would do with a completely new OS.


    April 30, 2008 at 9:21 pm

  460. I agree with a lot of the previous comments; mainly that this is an interesting experiment, but that we’re dealing with apples and oranges.

    If you get a Mac user and ask them to do these tasks on Windows, they’ll be lost. If you get an Ubuntu user and ask them to use a Mac, they’ll be lost.

    If you get ANY noob to do these things on a Windows computer (especially the ‘limewire’, which, like most of the apps you refer to, aren’t installed on Windows by default anyway) there’s a good chance of downloading / installing malware.

    Nobody can expect to sit down in front of any new system and expect everything to ‘just work’. Everybody who owns a computer, learns the ropes and develops their own methods. My mum is perfectly happy to use the Synaptic package manager, and indeed, spends hours selecting / deselecting silly little games. Before this, she was downloading malware-infested ‘shareware’ apps. There just doesn’t seem to be that much decent free software for Windows.

    Given a bit of time to acclimatise, I guarantee you she will think better of Ubuntu.

    Having said all of that… I still use windows on one of my home PCs, because I use Photoshop and iTunes heavily, and haven’t yet found a ‘true’ replacement for either of them in Linux. (And both have their quirks when used through Wine)


    April 30, 2008 at 10:30 pm

  461. Very good experiment. It is interesting to see Ubuntu’s usability from a noobie’s perspective. I am surprised at the difficulty encountered with installing Flash, however. When I visited a Flash website in Gutsy Gibbon, Firefox gave me the option to download the Flash plugin package from the ubuntu repositories. There was no need to download the tar.gz file from adobe.

    I would also like to note that a screen size of 720×400 is invariably going to make the windows go “out-of-bounds”, no matter what desktop operating system you test it on.

    To make this type of review even more relevant, I think it would be interesting to put a new user before 3 computers, each running a clean install of Windows Vista, Ubuntu, and Mac OS X Leopard. It would be *very* interesting to see how the user fares when accomplishing the same tasks across platforms.


    April 30, 2008 at 10:45 pm

  462. Hello when you were trying to change screen resolutions if you hold alt and then left click on a window you can move it pasted the top ege of the screen

    ya you think this is my name

    April 30, 2008 at 10:57 pm

  463. Excellent Way of presentation, very useful for linux biginners


    April 30, 2008 at 11:23 pm

  464. Nice review! Loved it! 🙂

    Greetings from Portugal! 🙂

    Ricardo Ramalho

    April 30, 2008 at 11:29 pm

  465. I sure hope you told her how to accomplish the varius tasks when the test whas done. Like open synaptic and serch for flash and klick apply. Or in firefox klick the install missing plugins who appers when you visit a page with flash objects in it. That opens a nice dialouge box who asks you if you whishes to install flash. otherwise she have nothing to compare her windows experience to. She whas constantly trying to use the windows way to do things. And LINUX IS NOT WINDOWS.

    She knows how to do it in windows, she trys to apply that to Ubuntu. What is the resoult? Epica fail. And what will she think of the linux/Ubuntu way of doing things? That it sucks, cuz it doesnt work. And she will love the windows way, cuz it works. In windows. But all she have done is try’d to apply her windows knowledge on to Ubuntu.

    And if you dont show her that LINUX IS NOT WINDOWS. Windows will always be the better one. Because the windows way works in windows but not in ubuntu.

    And btw, to move a windows out of the the screen. Hold down the Alt key and press and hold the left mouse button on the window.


    May 1, 2008 at 12:53 am

  466. dont be stupid, obviosly users average dont know about filesystem and system management.. cos IS NOT!


    geeks are for managements, so users should call geeks and pay for it!

    why this is not! modosoft change the rules and make the user stupid! user form it point think are management too! what stupid!


    May 1, 2008 at 12:56 am

  467. […] The Great Ubuntu-Girlfriend Experiment Interesting Linux usability experiment. Love to see a Mac user on Windows or vise versa. (tags: linux usability) […]

    links for 2008-04-30

    May 1, 2008 at 1:32 am

  468. I’m not sure that “download a spice girls album” is a valid thing to list as a “bug” because Ubuntu doesn’t make it trivial. When last I checked, the Spice Girls music isn’t in the public domain, so there’s little to no reason for Ubuntu to make it easy to break the law (whether the law’s reasonable or not).

    None the less, I’d like to relate an anecdote. I worked with a guy recently who had never used Windows – he had only use CDE on Unix. At my current place of work, we all get Windows workstations, regardless of what we’re supporting. Stupid, yeah, but it pays the bills. Anyway, this guy found Windows to be *incredibly* confusing. He couldn’t do all those tasks that people always say are so simple. Copying and pasting text, starting programs, finding information about his computer – it was all hard for him. And this guy was a pretty strong Unix admin, not some random “neighborhood computer guy”. He never learned to use Windows because he had no need to.

    Windows is *not* magically intuitive, and the Windows interface is *not* the defacto best way to do things. I personally use Gnome because it’s Gnome, not because it’s Windows. I really get tired of people saying that Linux should be “more like Windows” or that Gnome should be “more like Photoshop”. They’re different programs which serve different needs. People who want Windows should stay on Windows – there’s no reason to switch to Ubuntu if Windows is adequetly serving their needs… It doesn’t matter if Linux is ever “ready for the desktop” in everyone’s mind. Somehow Linux has survived and done quite well for a pretty long time without being “ready for the desktop”. This is because Linux solves a lot of problems very well. If some kids want to be more ‘leet, modern Linux is extremely easy to learn and use – but it’s not Windows and never will be (thank goodness).


    May 1, 2008 at 1:39 am

  469. pure fuckin genious. I enjoyed this article immensely. I’ve got my girlfriend on 7.10 and we do shit like this every day


    May 1, 2008 at 2:48 am

  470. You just want a Windows Clone.

    Put your girlfriend in front of a MAC and it will be the same, if not worse.


    May 1, 2008 at 2:52 am

  471. Good job. I’ll be running through this test as I configure Ubuntu computers for use by the public.

    Oh yeah, and I clicked on the pic of your girlfriend, too. I wanted to see the details on the pic — like what it was you were holding in your hand.

    Ryan Deschamps

    May 1, 2008 at 3:13 am

  472. […] στιγμή θα είχαν διαπιστώσει αυτά που διαπίστωσε στο test του o ιδιοκτήτης του blog Content Consumer, όταν έβαλε μπροστά σε μια […]

  473. Interesting experiment, but not really useful in the real world. Your GF sounds like a pretty experienced computer user already. Mine would fail most of your tasks on Windows, and someone like my mom would probably run gibbering from the room at the very first one.

    Some of them I would question the utility of. Change the speed of the mouse? The default is just fine for 99% of users. IM/chat? Don’t use it. Where is the “send an email” task? Or write and print a letter. Maybe balance your checkbook. That is all most people use computers for.


    May 1, 2008 at 4:45 am

  474. I’m bewildered by some of the places your girlfriend had trouble. Why did no one ever steer her clear of MSN Messenger? I’ve been told Skype has its uses, but that’s another app that I avoid like the plague. Never used the drawing app in an office suite? And I’m particularly tired of the GIMP complaints. GIMP is fine, get used to it. And she never found, or at least you didn’t mention it, the software installer.

    I know I’m not an average user, but a UNIX system is more normal than a Windows PC, and Windows skills won’t make you a power user; it’s time to stop valuing them or hoping they can be applied in a Free desktop OS.

    Matthew Kriebel

    May 1, 2008 at 5:32 am

  475. Great blog! Surely Linux is ready for prime time. My girlfriend (now wife), also was not a “power user” in any sense of the phrase, mostly doing word processing, web browsing, and image editing. She wanted to try Linux, so we installed Ubuntu, I think it was during Edgy, and she now uses all open source software like Gimp & Inkscape, with no lack of expressiveness at all. The one thing that is not doable is Flash multimedia design, but that’s on it’s way (in my opinion Flash sucks anyway). Her printer/scanner was unbelievably easy to set up (in contrast with past experiences). I set that up, but she could have easily figure it out herself. We’ve even relatively painlessly authored a DVD with a nice interactive menu using ManDVD, which a few years ago would have been really difficult in Linux. She is interested in learning unix commands and scripting etc but as of yet has not had any need to use them (admittedly this is partly because I have helped with a few things). Wireless cards are still not that well supported, but let’s give it a year or so. All in all, Linux is definitely ready for prime time, especially in the case of those pre-install laptops that already have wireless working.

    Robert Levy

    May 1, 2008 at 6:31 am

  476. um… “understandably”? who doesn’t know what AIM is? It’s the biggest IM protocol in North America, and I think Europe as well.


    May 1, 2008 at 7:13 am

  477. […] The Great Ubuntu-Girlfriend Experiment a man runs his girlfriend through a series of seemingly common tasks and sees how she does with […]

  478. […] by this blog post, I downloaded Ubuntu’s Hardy Heron GNU/Linux distribution and ran the live CD on […]

  479. Two things I constantly hear wrt Ubuntu are: “It just works” and “Linux for human beings”. Well, it /doesn’t/ just work and it’s for human beings who already know their way around Linux. Any and every implication that a new user can find their way easily around Ubuntu is misleading. The simple fact that the user has to know what kind of “package” (deb, rpm, tar.gz, other?!) to download/install *depending on their particular distribution* is simply too much to ask of a new user. There are no ‘standards’; or rather, there are too many standards. Which may ultimately be the Achilles heel of the entire Linux enterprise–each one does what is right in his/her own eyes. It’s very flexible–no one can argue against that–but it is not friendly. And still a long ways from “just working” for “human beings”.


    May 1, 2008 at 1:50 pm

  480. […] The Great Ubuntu-Girlfriend Experiment « Content Consumer I’ve toyed with Linux since 2002, when I first installed Mandrake. With the latest release of Ubuntu, I was interested to see how far Linux had come since then in terms of being used easily by the mainstream. So, I tricked my grudging girlfriend Erin in (tags: firefox internet linux reference technology technology/software reviews usability articles blogs) […]

  481. […] The Great Ubuntu-Girlfriend Experiment « Content Consumer Un utente linux ha messo alla prova la semplicità d’uso di Ubuntu 8.04 usando come cavia la sua fidanzata…cosa è successo? (tags: linux ubuntu experiment divertente) […]

  482. […] are two interesting articles. The first one on ContentConsumer – “The Great Ubuntu-Girlfriend Experiment” and the second one czessi’s blog – “Notebook and no Windows license? A chance […]

    Pharaos World

    May 1, 2008 at 6:50 pm

  483. Great article.
    This is the kind of experiment I would have liked to do myself. I totally agree with the message.

    However, I didn’t like that you sort of assume at some points that Windows’ way it’s THE way (i.e. at point #12 where you mention the “bubble” which I personally hate). Microsoft products don’t stand out for the usability of their interfaces. I think Mac OSX would be a better point of comparison.

    Anyway, that’s just my opinion.
    Great job 🙂


    May 1, 2008 at 8:48 pm

  484. […] 有人在Solidot上面回了一句,“我一般是用linux测试女友的易用性的。。。”,真是有才啊。闲话少说,这篇文章还是分析得不错,注意看译者的注释。不管用不用Ubuntu都有点参考价值,毕竟现在这个时代出了Windows和MAC OSX,还有一个操作系统叫做Linux,就湛卢所知,应该是最近几年进步最快的。这次出来的8.04LTS给湛卢留下印象最深的是对硬件的支持方面明显比7.10高出一大块。译 者注:为了测试Linux对并不十分精通技术的人群的易用性,本文作者让他的女友在一套全新安装的Ubuntu 8.04上完成一些基本的任务。实验的结果显示,很多看似简单的任务对于一个从没有接触过Linux的用户来说似乎还是相当困难,为提高对初学者的友好 性,Ubuntu还有许多可以改进的地方。由于原文比较长,请恕我只翻译了大概的内容,原文请见 让女友试用Ubuntu 简介 我从2002年开始倒腾Linux到现在这么多年过来了,我想看看新出的Linux系统是不是对于大部分人来说已经足够易用,于是我让女友Erin用新安 装的Ubuntu 8.04来完成一些基本任务。结果有些令人吃惊,很多看似简单的任务对于过去没有使用Linux经验的人来说依旧非常困难。Linux还有很多需要改进的 地方以使其能给“电脑白痴们”提供更好的用户体验。 Erin具备一些基本的计算机知识,比如上网、打字、制表和照片处理等,这对于一个哲学系大学生来说已经足够了。在用于实验的Ubuntu系统 上,我提前为她设好了帐户。她可以轻松的登录进去,她很喜欢heron(Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron)的壁纸。接着我便将设计好的任务一一让她完成,而我不提供任何帮助。 任务一:告诉我波黑的首都在哪里 Erin很快找到了Firefox的链接,然后在wikipedia上找到了问题的答案:萨拉热窝。 任务二:在YouTube上看视频 (注:这是YouTube所特有的问题,它会主动检测你机器上是否有Flash插件,如果没有,它给出一个Adobe的网页让你去下载。而正常情况下Firefox会自动帮你下载Flash插件。碰巧让我选上了YouTube算是运气不好) Erin在试图播放YouTube上一段Beatles的视频时,YouTube提示它需要去Adobe官方下载所需的Flash插件,而在 Adobe主页上有.tar.gz、RPM和YUM三种格式的包。RPM和YUM显然无法在Ubuntu上使用。Erin点击了.tar.gz包中的 flashplayer-install也没有任何反应,因为这个程序只能在terminal下运行。最终Erin无法完成这个任务。(译者注:YouTube好心帮了倒忙) 任务三:下载一部辣妹的专辑 Erin的第一反应就是去在应用程序菜单中找Limeware的替代品,接着她还尝试运行Windows版的uTorrent,结果均告失败。然后她找到 了一个下载BitTorrent种子文件的网站,点击了一个辣妹专辑的torrent文件之后,Firefox提示是否要用Transmission打开 此文件。Erin犹豫了一下,点了确定,很快这部专辑便被下载到了她的桌面。 我觉得这里唯一的问题是Firefox所提示软件的名称,如果提示是“是否用Transmission BT客户端打开此文件”,那么可以减少很多麻烦。(译者注:在应用程序菜单中就是用的“Transmission BT客户端”这样比较易懂的名称,当然要是不知道BitTorrent是什么,看这个名字还是云里雾里的,类似的名称问题在任何系统中都是无法避免的) 任务四:画一副图,并保存为3种不同的格式 Erin很快在“图像”菜单中找到了“OpenOffice.org绘图”,与她所期待的一个类似Windows的简易画图软件不 同,“OpenOffice.org绘图”是一个非常复杂的矢量绘图软件。最终她完成了任务,不过她不知道用“导出”命令将图片转换为熟悉的格式,而是用 了“另存为…”将图片存成了的.odg、.otg和.sxg格式。我无法理解为什么Ubuntu不提供一个像KPaint一样简单的画图程序。(同时 我也奇怪为什么OpenOffice.org绘图会在标准安装里,我从没见过谁用过这样的程序)(译者注:无语,我就在用,它实际上是OOo很重要的一个组成部分,和“Microsoft Word 图片”控件很类似。另外我还在用看上去更不可理喻的Xfig,相反KPaint一类的画图软件对我倒是毫无用处) 任务五:从我的音乐收藏中找一首专辑,并将其刻录到CD上 Erin找到了“Brasero光盘刻录程序”,它的界面很不错。但当Brasero提示添加所要刻录的歌曲的时候,Erin却找不到存放音乐的 Windows分区。她找了Ubuntu默认建立的Music目录,Home目录和桌面,但是错过了"492.8GB Media",也就是那个Windows分区,她也没有仔细去看“文件系统”,那里面怪异的名称让她望而却步。之后她在“位置”菜单中找到了搜索程序,但 她只尝试了搜索Home目录和Music目录,而没有试“文件系统”。后来她告诉我那个程序不能根据文件类型搜索,实在是太笨了。 Ubunbu应该更清楚的显示其他分区在什么地方,分区的快捷方式也应该使用更有意义的名称。另外,搜索程序应该增加一个搜索“整个电脑”的选项以替代“文件系统”。没有经验的用户很难搞清楚“etc”、“dev”和“mnt”等等目录是干什么的。(译 者注:作者有点吹毛求疵了。我认为Ubuntu在这方面已经非常尽力了,如果分区有卷标的话,那个分区快捷方式的名称将使用卷表名,如没有则显示存储容 量,U盘没有挂载的时候显示的则是生产厂商的名称和容量。另外,也许“整个电脑”对于新手来说更为容易理解,不过“文件系统”这个术语在这里要准确得多, 特别是考虑到有虚拟挂载点、网络挂载点时候) 任务六:改变鼠标的速度 没啥问题,她很快就搞定了 任务七:改变电脑的主题 也很轻松就弄好了 任务八:在网上找一幅图片,将其设为桌面 Firefox的右键菜单中没有将图片直接“设置为背景”的功能。不过她还是顺利解决了。 任务九:改变屏幕分辨率 她在系统属性菜单中找到了屏幕分辨率设置程序,并将分辨率改为720×400。然而,由于这个分辨率太低,使她无法看到设置程序最下方的确定按钮,也就没 有办法把分辨率调回原来的设置。最后我只好在看不见的情况下用tab键切换到确定按钮上。如果屏幕分辨率很低,这个程序根本没法使用。(译 者注:这确实是Ubuntu/Gnome需要改进的地方,如果这个设置程序最上方有个菜单可能能避免不少类似的问题。考虑到这是Ubuntu第一次使用此 程序,有点这样的小毛病也情有可原,实际上Windows也同样的问题。目前有一个凑合的办法,按Alt-F7,然后再按方向键,可以将窗口上移) 任务十:将她的头像PS到我的照片上 她通过右键菜单用GIMP打开了我们俩各自的照片。她有一些Photoshop的基础,而GIMP的不同风格界面使她有点迷惑,度过了开始一段不适应之后,她还是完成了任务。我不明白为什么GIMP的排版布局不能像Photoshop一样呢。(译者注:我不是GIMP或者Photoshop的专家,不敢在这个总是引发口水仗争议问题上乱发言,不过我个人觉得,在多桌面、多显示器的环境下,GIMP的界面布局还是有它的合理性的。而作为免费的非专业照片处理软件,GIMP的功能也不错了) 任务十一:登录MSN Erin在应用程序菜单中的互联网子菜单里找到了“Pidgin即时通讯软件”。她问我这个是否就是MSN,我回答不完全是,于是她打开了Pidgin。 当Pidgin提示她增加一个帐户的时候,她被帐户设置里选项所迷惑,比如“screen name”、“local alias”,这些术语在她所熟悉的MSN中从没有出现过。经历了好几次失败的尝试之后,Erin终于登录上了MSN,这也让她可以向朋友们诉苦 Linux有多讨厌。 如果Pidgin有一个欢迎窗口告诉用户Pigin是做什么的,并询问是否要增加或登陆MSN等帐号,那么Erin的问题就很容易解决。如果 “screen name”能根据不同类型的协议使用不同的术语,那也会很有帮助。另外,“local alias”是具体做什么的也给新手造成了很多困惑。 当Erin试图退出Pidgin的时候,她以为直接点右上角的关闭按钮即可,但实际上Pidgin退到了屏幕右上角的系统提示区。Erin又花了一些时间才找到那个图标。当你第一次关闭Pidgin的时候,它应该提示这个程序并没有真正退出,而只是缩到了系统提示区。(译 者注:作者的这几个建议非常好,用了很久的Pidgin/Gaim之后,我都有些忘记了最开始的一些挣扎,其实开始我也遇到过弄不清screen name/local alias/friendly name具体意义的情况,如果Pidgin能做一个wizard来添加IM协议,那可以大大方便初学者,我印象中好像有些Pidgin/Gaim的变种就 有这样的功能,希望Pidgin也能采用) 任务十二:安装Skype Erin去了,很容易就找到了适合Ubuntu的.deb安装包,并顺利安装。唯一的问题是,她不知道Skype装到哪里去了,不知什么原因,她没有去看网络程序菜单。如果有像Windows一样提示“有新程序安装”就可以解决这个问题了。 结论 Ubuntu桌面体验的最主要问题是程序设计者对一般用户的水平做出了太高的假设。他们假设用户知道程序是怎么安装或者知道文件系统是怎样构架。而普通用 户遇到问题是不会去google搜寻帮助或者去读Ubuntu自带的相关文档的。一些简单的信息提示和向导可以对用户完成一些任务有关键性的帮助。 我希望一登录进入桌面就能看到一个欢迎画面,上面有一些小的视频解释Linux和Ubuntu的基本概念。也许它还可以问“你想做什么?”,然后根据选择去解释具体如何做。 直到一个电脑盲可以坐在Linux系统前不费力气的完成她想做得事情,Linux都不能说已经为桌面应用做好准备。Erin很聪明,学得快,现代科技的知识也算充足。如果她都会有这么大麻烦,那老年人或者中年人还有多少机会呢? 译者注:本文作者对 Linux易用性的某些缺陷的分析很不错,给出的解决方案也相当好,但是他最后的结论我却很难赞同。事实上,Erin能在没有得到作者的任何帮助,也没有 通过网络搜索的情况下完全依赖原有的Windows知识,在一套干净的Ubuntu 8.04上基本完成了所有的任务,这已经标志着Ubuntu易用性设计的很大成功了。计算机系统本身的复杂性就决定了使用新系统的时候所需的学习成本是不 可避免的,就算从WinXP升级到Vista也不可能一帆风顺。这种成本的存在并不能简单归结为Linux系统的易用性差。实际上已经有很多实例反证了作 者的猜想,经过简单的指导,中老年人完全可以顺利的使用一台配置好的Linux系统。KEYAUTOBLOG […]

  485. “Nobody can expect to sit down in front of any new system and expect everything to ‘just work’. Everybody who owns a computer, learns the ropes and develops their own methods.”
    We are Linux. We shouldn’t be limited by what the other OSs! We can and will rise above them. Our vision is not to be as usable as Windows, our vision is to be more usable than Windows. Our vision is not to reduce the learning curve but to minimize it far below competing OSs.


    May 2, 2008 at 12:53 am

  486. Gnome is a frustrating desktop.

    KDE (Kubuntu) is much better for a Windows user. Kubuntu can be made to look and feel exactly like MS Windows, if you choose.

    You did the wrong experiment.


    May 2, 2008 at 2:37 am

  487. […] Probando la usabilidad de Ubuntu con su novia [EN]… por gemma hace 6 horas 12 minutos […]

  488. Your article is very apt and captures linux desktop pain points perfectly well.

    I think the theme is that Linux is ready for the desktop but needs to be polished for the average user.

    eg. need to add more informative notification balloons.
    – first time wizards etc.

    Standard names for menus and navigation items

    Akshay Guleria

    May 2, 2008 at 5:31 am

  489. So I admit that I stopped reading at about comment number 135, but I have a feeling that nobody has asked yet…

    Were there any side effects to this experiment?
    Perhaps a Pavlovian response. Did Erin, after the test, tend to salivate at the sound of the Windows StartUp?

    Just curious.

    Mr M

    May 2, 2008 at 5:31 am

  490. @paul (comment # 485), I think you are confused because in Ubuntu, the Synaptic (apt) interface makes installing software easier than it is in Windows or on a Mac. As long as users know about Synaptic there are very few things they can’t install. No need to know about rpm, deb, makefiles (except in rare cases, but that’s what knowledgeable friends are for).

    Robert Levy

    May 2, 2008 at 7:13 am

  491. gnome is not the only environment available and it might definitely not be the best one to swith from windows.

    1. a simple geography question that requires memory and knowledge, not computer work.

    2. flash is a pain, even under windows.

    3. “How on earth is a user supposed to know what Transmission is?” what about clicking on it ? standing doing nothing will certainly not help.

    4. the ubuntu-desktop package is certainly not the best choice around, but it’s easy to add new apps (but impossible to remove the packaged ones.)

    9. I had that kind of encounters of the dumb kind with ubuntu and gnome too. I just don’t understand how it is possible to have such stupid stuff still in.

    10. the gimp is not photoshop and its user base would be pissed if the ui was change to ease the way of photoshop users. those can stick to photoshop which just works under linux with wine.

    11. msn is certainly not what a linux user should use. jabber is. AFAIK pidgin works the same under linux and windows, so it is inappropriate to blame ubuntu for pidgin behaviour.

    conclusion: I happened to have installed ubuntu tu my elderly grandfather 82y old. he only had a limited experience with win98, and is still struggling with some tasks, but he find it easier to learn ubuntu than to learn windows.


    May 2, 2008 at 7:24 am

  492. “learning linux is learning how to use a computer.learning windows is learning how to navigate cryptic menus.”
    comentary # 20 says “There’s a lot of truth in the saying “Linux is free if your time is worthless” “. I moved to linux beacause we lost 2 moths and thousands of dollar recovering information after a blue screen. Be honest, nothing is perfect but GNU-Linux dist Ubuntu is close to that.

    Pablo Ordonez

    May 2, 2008 at 10:29 am

  493. I saw your transition from windows to Linux. Ok ask one question to your self did we at first learn some of the tasks you did in ubuntu in windows without some training. I think the task are not wrong, but the process is wrong. That is you should always write a README file yourself about the most common things people expect who come from windows environment. Write the alternatives which they expect in that README file and leave it at windows and tell them if they need help just look at that. There is no shame on writing the README yourself. This is what the great about using Linux. Just write at first time Enable repositories at Synaptic Package Manager and how to search applications there. Then after that, why don’t people see a ? icon at the bar. You have to train people. Linux is totally a different Environment than windows. We don’t double click the setup file, but just say i need this and that on package manager and let the ubuntu do that. You have to even write alternatives like Transmission for utorrent or wine. And just write a note that most of the applications can be installed freely from Synaptic Package Manager. And now give them as many windows like task you want to give. Yes Linux is Geeky. You and many of us are the one who should help people to transform to Linux our way, and Keep the Linux Developer Community what they should enable. It’s the user review ultimately which drives the software development. Since projects on Linux is iterative and build continuously. You all should find problems and list them at the developer’s floor (their website), so they could enable those features in the comming release


    May 2, 2008 at 11:33 am

  494. […] good usability is just 20 feet away from you, or if you’re one of the lucky few developers, a girlfriend away.  We all know that research into good usability is affordable, timely, requires just a little bit […]

  495. […] 引用 转载:Ubuntu中文论坛 作者:laborer 从Windows转向Linux对于一个普通用户来说是简单还是困难呢?最新的Ubuntu 8.04 LTS放出之后,想必很多人都已经试过,有的用的很舒服,有的用了觉得没法兼容马上放弃了。国外一位Linux强人很有意思,他用自己女友的使用情况来测试了一下Ubuntu 8.04的易用性。 实验的结果显示,很多看似简单的任务对于一个从没有接触过Linux的用户来说似乎还是相当困难,为提高对初学者的友好性,Ubuntu还有许多可以改进的地方。英文原文在此,以下中文翻译出自Ubuntu官方论坛的laborer,原文。 让女友试用Ubuntu简介 我从2002年开始倒腾Linux到现在这么多年过来了,我想看看新出的Linux系统是不是对于大部分人来说已经足够易用,于是我让女友Erin用新安装的Ubuntu 8.04来完成一些基本任务。结果有些令人吃惊,很多看似简单的任务对于过去没有使用Linux经验的人来说依旧非常困难。Linux还有很多需要改进的地方以使其能给“电脑白痴们”提供更好的用户体验。Erin具备一些基本的计算机知识,比如上网、打字、制表和照片处理等,这对于一个哲学系大学生来说已经足够了。在用于实验的Ubuntu系统上,我提前为她设好了帐户。她可以轻松的登录进去,她很喜欢heron(Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron)的壁纸。接着我便将设计好的任务一一让她完成,而我不提供任何帮助。任务一:告诉我波黑的首都在哪里Erin很快找到了Firefox的链接,然后在wikipedia上找到了问题的答案:萨拉热窝。任务二:在YouTube上看视频(注:这是YouTube所特有的问题,它会主动检测你机器上是否有Flash插件,如果没有,它给出一个Adobe的网页让你去下载。而正常情况下Firefox会自动帮你下载Flash插件。碰巧让我选上了YouTube算是运气不好)Erin在试图播放YouTube上一段Beatles的视频时,YouTube提示它需要去Adobe官方下载所需的Flash插件,而在Adobe主页上有.tar.gz、RPM和YUM三种格式的包。RPM和YUM显然无法在Ubuntu上使用。Erin点击了.tar.gz包中的flashplayer-install也没有任何反应,因为这个程序只能在terminal下运行。最终Erin无法完成这个任务。(译者注:YouTube好心帮了倒忙)任务三:下载一部辣妹的专辑Erin的第一反应就是去在应用程序菜单中找Limeware的替代品,接着她还尝试运行Windows版的uTorrent,结果均告失败。然后她找到了一个下载BitTorrent种子文件的网站,点击了一个辣妹专辑的torrent文件之后,Firefox提示是否要用Transmission打开此文件。Erin犹豫了一下,点了确定,很快这部专辑便被下载到了她的桌面。我觉得这里唯一的问题是Firefox所提示软件的名称,如果提示是“是否用Transmission BT客户端打开此文件”,那么可以减少很多麻烦。(译者注:在应用程序菜单中就是用的“Transmission BT客户端”这样比较易懂的名称,当然要是不知道BitTorrent是什么,看这个名字还是云里雾里的,类似的名称问题在任何系统中都是无法避免的)任务四:画一副图,并保存为3种不同的格式Erin很快在“图像”菜单中找到了“OpenOffice.org绘图”,与她所期待的一个类似Windows的简易画图软件不同,“OpenOffice.org绘图”是一个非常复杂的矢量绘图软件。最终她完成了任务,不过她不知道用“导出”命令将图片转换为熟悉的格式,而是用了“另存为…”将图片存成了的.odg、.otg和.sxg格式。我无法理解为什么Ubuntu不提供一个像KPaint一样简单的画图程序。(同时我也奇怪为什么OpenOffice.org绘图会在标准安装里,我从没见过谁用过这样的程序)(译者注:无语,我就在用,它实际上是OOo很重要的一个组成部分,和“Microsoft Word 图片”控件很类似。另外我还在用看上去更不可理喻的Xfig,相反KPaint一类的画图软件对我倒是毫无用处)任务五:从我的音乐收藏中找一首专辑,并将其刻录到CD上Erin找到了“Brasero光盘刻录程序”,它的界面很不错。但当Brasero提示添加所要刻录的歌曲的时候,Erin却找不到存放音乐的Windows分区。她找了Ubuntu默认建立的Music目录,Home目录和桌面,但是错过了"492.8GB Media",也就是那个Windows分区,她也没有仔细去看“文件系统”,那里面怪异的名称让她望而却步。之后她在“位置”菜单中找到了搜索程序,但她只尝试了搜索Home目录和Music目录,而没有试“文件系统”。后来她告诉我那个程序不能根据文件类型搜索,实在是太笨了。Ubunbu应该更清楚的显示其他分区在什么地方,分区的快捷方式也应该使用更有意义的名称。另外,搜索程序应该增加一个搜索“整个电脑”的选项以替代“文件系统”。没有经验的用户很难搞清楚“etc”、“dev”和“mnt”等等目录是干什么的。(译者注:作者有点吹毛求疵了。我认为Ubuntu在这方面已经非常尽力了,如果分区有卷标的话,那个分区快捷方式的名称将使用卷表名,如没有则显示存储容量,U盘没有挂载的时候显示的则是生产厂商的名称和容量。另外,也许“整个电脑”对于新手来说更为容易理解,不过“文件系统”这个术语在这里要准确得多,特别是考虑到有虚拟挂载点、网络挂载点时候)任务六:改变鼠标的速度没啥问题,她很快就搞定了任务七:改变电脑的主题也很轻松就弄好了任务八:在网上找一幅图片,将其设为桌面Firefox的右键菜单中没有将图片直接“设置为背景”的功能。不过她还是顺利解决了。任务九:改变屏幕分辨率她在系统属性菜单中找到了屏幕分辨率设置程序,并将分辨率改为720×400。然而,由于这个分辨率太低,使她无法看到设置程序最下方的确定按钮,也就没有办法把分辨率调回原来的设置。最后我只好在看不见的情况下用tab键切换到确定按钮上。如果屏幕分辨率很低,这个程序根本没法使用。(译者注:这确实是Ubuntu/Gnome需要改进的地方,如果这个设置程序最上方有个菜单可能能避免不少类似的问题。考虑到这是Ubuntu第一次使用此程序,有点这样的小毛病也情有可原,实际上Windows也同样的问题。目前有一个凑合的办法,按Alt-F7,然后再按方向键,可以将窗口上移)任务十:将她的头像PS到我的照片上她通过右键菜单用GIMP打开了我们俩各自的照片。她有一些Photoshop的基础,而GIMP的不同风格界面使她有点迷惑,度过了开始一段不适应之后,她还是完成了任务。我不明白为什么GIMP的排版布局不能像Photoshop一样呢。(译者注:我不是GIMP或者Photoshop的专家,不敢在这个总是引发口水仗争议问题上乱发言,不过我个人觉得,在多桌面、多显示器的环境下,GIMP的界面布局还是有它的合理性的。而作为免费的非专业照片处理软件,GIMP的功能也不错了)任务十一:登录MSNErin在应用程序菜单中的互联网子菜单里找到了“Pidgin即时通讯软件”。她问我这个是否就是MSN,我回答不完全是,于是她打开了Pidgin。当Pidgin提示她增加一个帐户的时候,她被帐户设置里选项所迷惑,比如“screen name”、“local alias”,这些术语在她所熟悉的MSN中从没有出现过。经历了好几次失败的尝试之后,Erin终于登录上了MSN,这也让她可以向朋友们诉苦Linux有多讨厌。如果Pidgin有一个欢迎窗口告诉用户Pigin是做什么的,并询问是否要增加或登陆MSN等帐号,那么Erin的问题就很容易解决。如果“screen name”能根据不同类型的协议使用不同的术语,那也会很有帮助。另外,“local alias”是具体做什么的也给新手造成了很多困惑。当Erin试图退出Pidgin的时候,她以为直接点右上角的关闭按钮即可,但实际上Pidgin退到了屏幕右上角的系统提示区。Erin又花了一些时间才找到那个图标。当你第一次关闭Pidgin的时候,它应该提示这个程序并没有真正退出,而只是缩到了系统提示区。(译者注:作者的这几个建议非常好,用了很久的Pidgin/Gaim之后,我都有些忘记了最开始的一些挣扎,其实开始我也遇到过弄不清screen name/local alias/friendly name具体意义的情况,如果Pidgin能做一个wizard来添加IM协议,那可以大大方便初学者,我印象中好像有些Pidgin/Gaim的变种就有这样的功能,希望Pidgin也能采用)任务十二:安装SkypeErin去了,很容易就找到了适合Ubuntu的.deb安装包,并顺利安装。唯一的问题是,她不知道Skype装到哪里去了,不知什么原因,她没有去看网络程序菜单。如果有像Windows一样提示“有新程序安装”就可以解决这个问题了。结论Ubuntu桌面体验的最主要问题是程序设计者对一般用户的水平做出了太高的假设。他们假设用户知道程序是怎么安装或者知道文件系统是怎样构架。而普通用户遇到问题是不会去google搜寻帮助或者去读Ubuntu自带的相关文档的。一些简单的信息提示和向导可以对用户完成一些任务有关键性的帮助。我希望一登录进入桌面就能看到一个欢迎画面,上面有一些小的视频解释Linux和Ubuntu的基本概念。也许它还可以问“你想做什么?”,然后根据选择去解释具体如何做。直到一个电脑盲可以坐在Linux系统前不费力气的完成她想做得事情,Linux都不能说已经为桌面应用做好准备。Erin很聪明,学得快,现代科技的知识也算充足。如果她都会有这么大麻烦,那老年人或者中年人还有多少机会呢?译者注:本文作者对Linux易用性的某些缺陷的分析很不错,给出的解决方案也相当好,但是他最后的结论我却很难赞同。事实上,Erin能在没有得到作者的任何帮助,也没有通过网络搜索的情况下完全依赖原有的Windows知识,在一套干净的Ubuntu 8.04上基本完成了所有的任务,这已经标志着Ubuntu易用性设计的很大成功了。计算机系统本身的复杂性就决定了使用新系统的时候所需的学习成本是不可避免的,就算从WinXP升级到Vista也不可能一帆风顺。这种成本的存在并不能简单归结为Linux系统的易用性差。实际上已经有很多实例反证了作者的猜想,经过简单的指导,中老年人完全可以顺利的使用一台配置好的Linux系统。 【按】目前个人普通桌面Linux用户已经集中到三个发行版上:Ubuntu及其衍生物,Mandriva以及Fedora,作为从MDK6时代走过来的Mandriva和KDE死忠我也不得不承认Kubuntu的确在易用性上达到了前所未有的高度,不过,还有很长的路要走。KEYAUTOBLOG […]

  496. […] Alle reden davon das Linux bald auf den “normalen” Desktop können würde. Einige Stadtverwaltungen in Deutschland und Österreich z.B. setzen es ja bereits ein. Aber wie weit ist Linux wirklich? Ist es benutzbar für den “Normalo-User”? […]

  497. My Ubuntu-Father Experience is at

    It’s long but I hope you like it.


    May 2, 2008 at 7:27 pm

  498. […] the past few week, there’s been a bit of online buzz about a web page entitled “The Great Ubuntu-Girlfriend Experiment.” Basically, some chap’s been trying out Ubuntu 8.04 – “Hardy Heron” – and, as part of […]

  499. Are you going to get a new girlfriend when the next version comes out? After all you can’t test on Erin again. She isn’t new to Linux anymore!

    Adin Aronson

    May 2, 2008 at 11:56 pm

  500. […] The Content Consumer performs an intriguing evaluation of the usability of the Ubuntu operating system by asking his girlfriend to perform a number of simple tasks in what he calls “The Great Ubuntu-Girlfriend Experiment“. […]

  501. […] Content Consumer: “The main issue with the [Ubuntu] desktop experience is that the geeky programmers and designers assume too much from the average user. They assume the user knows about the way in which programs are installed, or how the file system is set out.” I think he has a point—and a good one too. […]

  502. I’ve seen people fumble similarly when moving between Windows systems, like XP to Vista.

    I’m not sure what your experiment shows, but I do agree that ALL OSes could be more user friendly.


    May 3, 2008 at 2:16 am

  503. […] reference to the “Hardy Heron” comes from a posting titled “The Great Ubuntu-Girlfriend Experiment“.  I encourage reading the post, but in particular pay attention to the conclusion.  I do […]

  504. LOL Ask her to update a video driver, or patch the kernal 🙂

    Rob D.

    May 3, 2008 at 10:51 am

  505. “i don’t want to sacrifice linux’s good points so that it becomes closer to windows, i just want windows users to be able to learn it themselves without their own research on the internet or by searching through manual pages. END RANT. P.S. Thanks for the lots and lots of positive feedback, Erin says she loves you too but it’s kinda creepy that the only image you’re all clicking on is her one.)”
    Contradictory and odd.
    People moving from PC to Mac will have to read a manual, help page, or search the internet, and the same in reverse.

    The experiement is a good idea, the conclusion is not sound, if that’s what it is.
    Linux is NOT Windows, it will not be LIKE Windows, and to make it easy to transition would REQUIRE it to be like Windows.


    May 3, 2008 at 5:56 pm

  506. […] The Great Ubuntu-Girlfriend Experiment a man runs his girlfriend through a series of seemingly common tasks and sees how she does with […]

  507. That was an interesting read. I’ve been using Linux for a while and I don’t think I’m typical in the amount I’d look up without thinking of it, so it is enlightening to see how an average user does.

    And it does seem like things aren’t too far off.

    The problem is that now I want to try this with people myself.


    May 3, 2008 at 9:16 pm

  508. I find the article a bit sexist, why is it always your mother, your grandmother or your girlfriend…

    anyway even the most well figure of free software, Linus Torvald himself, have problem with flash. Documented here :

    >> wife will kill me !!!

    David T

    May 4, 2008 at 1:20 am

  509. I have to say that it’s a fair test in many ways and, were I to judge it, it would be as Linux skeptic.

    She may have felt better about the test had it been on Kubuntu simply because KDE just looks more like Windows.

    The Flash problem surprises me because I’ve come to expect that the Flash Player will be installed automatically with the system because that’s how Mandriva does it, at least with PowerPack.

    The runaround for the installer is an issue, as you noted, with Firefox and not Ubuntu. That said, I agree with you that something in the system should have made things much much easier on her.

    Transmission suffers the fate of too many GNOME apps these days in that its been dumbed down so much that not only does the name not give a hint nor does the splash screen when it fires up.

    The same thing seems to have happened again with the CD/DVD burner application. Truth be known your criticisms are right on the mark with that one and wouldn’t have been an issue if Ubuntu would have installed the Linux best of breed burner app — K3B. Yeah, it’s a KDE application but it’s still by far the best burner program available for Linux. Darned near whatever OS you want to run, in fact.

    Then again, the whole issue of hiving off a partition and giving it a drive letter is a regrettable MS “innovation” we’d all be better off without.

    Linux being a Unix “clone” doesn’t do that. So no matter how many partitions or physical drives there are attached it will see them all as part of a single large filesystem.

    John W.

    May 4, 2008 at 10:36 am

  510. Damn laptop!

    Your criticism of The GIMP seems to tell me that you think it should become Photoshop. It isn’t nor will it ever be. All that said Erin completed the task very well because the tool icons are, for the most part the same. Nice work, Erin!

    The screen size thing is unfortunate and you never did say if there was a chance as she changed it to test if that’s the resolution she really, really wanted before committing it. Darned poor tool if it didn’t offer that.

    At the end of the day you seem to be saying that Ubuntu should be more Windows like to get acceptance. I’ll have to disagree.

    I’ll also stand by my contention that she’d have had less trouble if she’d been using a KDE desktop.

    Some things do require a bit of a learning curve and there’s no getting around that. Operating systems are such beasts. Linux is different than Windows, Mac OSX is different than either. Erin did very very well given her very limited exposure to Ubuntu.

    There is work to do, obviously, in Ubuntu so that it truly is more n00b friendly.



    John W.

    May 4, 2008 at 10:50 am

  511. If only there was for example photoshop or MSN for Ubuntu.

    And there should not be so many linux version which make installing confusing… is it Yum or RPM???

    This post is great! I hope Ubuntu sees this article which i hope i does so they can improve their products.


    May 4, 2008 at 10:51 am

  512. it’s so simple. XP/Vista and MAC OS are developed for users, linux for the techs.
    That being said, no flavor of linux will ever replace MS or Apple as a mainstream OS. Apple’s catching up to MS taking the same user orientation approach, but it will also fall short if it alienates the OS to only a certain type of users. Another factor to keep in mind is that for most people what they use in their place of work, they will most likely want to use at home.


    May 4, 2008 at 4:19 pm

  513. Very instructive and a nice read. I’ve convinced a friend to switch to linux, I’ll have him do these tasks to see if he can make it on his own.

    I know he’ll get the first task done, because he knows what the capital of Bosnia is, just like any normal HIGH SCHOOL student should.

    Chris Gable

    May 4, 2008 at 9:34 pm

  514. […] work in this version of Skype (though my Bluetooth dongle does, while it crashes Windows). This article sums up the difference pretty well, I […]

  515. I tried Ubuntu for several weeks but had to give it up. Just too many small frustrations that drove me nuts. For those of you that love tweaking and playing around with an operating system, more power to you. I just want to turn it on and have it work. Right now, for me, Ubuntu doesn’t.


    May 5, 2008 at 2:09 pm

  516. […] Yen]Read | Permalink | Email […]

  517. […] Java, and Acrobat are installed by default, which should probably help with the girlfriend Linux acceptance factor when Youtube comes into the […]

  518. Great test, lots of useful results.

    The comments on Erin being used to Windows is of course valid, but so are lots of others who should convert to free software.

    How about a question during install: Are you used to GNU/Linux? Check “No, I usually use Windows”, and you will get a particular start-up guide installed and shown on your desktop.


    May 5, 2008 at 6:29 pm

  519. […] blogu contentconsumer sa objavil skvelý článok. Linuxák sa rozhodol zistiť, či je ubuntu vhodný pre jeho dievča, […]

  520. I’m always surprised when I see this same debate over the years. Here’s what settled it for me.

    The very first day you every used Windows or Mac, were you an expert at it? Were you able to sit down and do anything you wanted with no instruction or learning? No, of course not.

    You will have to learn if you want to switch to Mac or Linux. There is no avoiding it. Just like switching to ANY unfamiliar operating system, you will need to learn how to use it…even switching from Mac to Windows.

    Most people who say Linux or Mac is hard to use are the type of people who 1) have used Windows at work and at home for years, 2) are impatient, 3) are not motivated. Tell me, exactly how long did you give Ubuntu before you gave up?

    There are so many advantages to Linux and open source, it’s unreal. Set a first time Windows user down and ask them to edit a photo. My bet is the first time Linux user has installed (from one add/remove programs menu item) and fired up the Gimp before the Windows user has finished filling out the order form for photoshop.

    Linux has been for geeks in the past, but it is user friendly enough for mainstream, although it helps if an experienced user shows the new user how things works, JUST LIKE IN WINDOWS. I have converted two novice Windows users in a matter of an hour or two and they LOVE it. Tell them about sudo and add/remove programs, setup flash and codecs (two install items….waaaaaaa) and they’re good to go.

    It’s unfortunate that most people will never experience freedom and will cling to what is familiar until the product dies, and maybe after that. XP support is ending in a few years so better get to love Vista or switch!

    Jacob Steelsmith

    May 6, 2008 at 1:10 am

  521. Maybe your girlfriend is just too old? 😉

    My 12 YO daughter used Windows exclusively from the age of about 4, in a then Windows only house.

    I switched to Kubuntu as an experiment a year ago, and never switched back. Shortly after when my daughter’s PC died and I rebuilt it, she asked for Kubuntu after seeing it on mine (never using it though) – she was 11 then.

    About the only setting up I have had to do to it has been to mount the media network shares on the server.

    She has customised her desktops to the nth degree, added applications, set up her MSN, edited music and images and done a few things I didn’t know could be done.

    It is just as instinctive as Windows in most important areas – just different.

    I used to have to spend about an hour every week/fortnight doing housekeeping when she ran XP – the last time I had to do anything to it was when I rebuilt to server to run Ubuntu and ditched Win 2k3 so the path for her collection in Amarok had changed – that took all of a minute to sort out. The last time before that? I forget, it was too long ago.

    Although a reasonable article, I would have been a lot more impressed had you found someone totally unused to ANY flavour of OS and asked them to do some very basic tasks on both Windows and Ubuntu.


    May 6, 2008 at 2:32 am

  522. As the girlfriend of a geek, I can attest to this post. He uses Ubuntu/Linux for all desktop applications now, and I am lost. I am used to the Microsoft photo software, and GIMP is beyond me. I could not even figure out how to use red eye removal.
    I am fairly computer savvy, and it would take me a few weeks of solid play, trial and error as well as some of his expert tutelage to get most of the gist of Linux. I am working, and hope to someday be a geek myself, but for now I must settle for his nerdy, geek-loving girlfriend.


    May 6, 2008 at 3:30 am

  523. […] the naming of the applications are different. Along the same lines of my experiment with my family, The Great Ubuntu-Girlfriend Experiment was conducted and much of the same results/problems followed. However, I do believe that with […]

  524. “Personally I believe it is 100% conditioning. I had a difficult time using my new Mac after years of Linux. I think Windows users are used to constant annoyances and illogical interfaces, that is why they are confused when something intuitive comes along, they expect bad software…” by asterisk

    lol I agree 100%


    May 6, 2008 at 5:06 am

  525. Wow, I can’t believe I’m wasting my time replying to the crap you wrote(not like you’ll read mine either), but after you called the Ubuntu developers assumptious geeks I just had to take the bait.
    This article sounded exactly like any other mediocre list of suggestions for improving Ubuntu. The conclusion paragraphs, however, are something even worse, devoid of logic:
    Your gf can’t install flash. You blame on Ubuntu the fact that she doesn’t read the instructions(which are *five* simple steps).
    She’s not used to the GIMP interface, which is not worse than Photoshop’s one, just different.
    Your conclusion: “make GIMP be like Photoshop”.
    She can’t use multi-protocol IM clients, because they use generic nomenclature rather than a protocol-specific one.
    Your conclusion: …is there one? And what does it have to do with Ubuntu anyway, actually?
    She can’t understand that once she installs applications she can find them… In the application menu. Her Windows experience misleads her to go looking in the filesystem.
    Your conclusion: “we need more popups”.

    The worst error you make is assuming that your girlfriend is the average IT consumer, whereas she probably has been using Windows for years. She didn’t do what a pc newbie would have done; she did what a Windows user would have done. An UI(the only point you cover in this “ready for desktop” “experiment”) does not have to be immediate, like you believe: that would immensely reduce its potential. Rather, it has to be intuitive, it must follow some logic. Ubuntu does that, and well. It’s consistent. If Ubuntu isn’t ready for the desktop market, then no other OS is.

    Francesco Mastellone

    May 6, 2008 at 5:36 am

  526. A better comparison would be a fresh Vista instal (which is what made my sister begin her admittedly painful transition to Ubuntu).

    Eric Vinyl

    May 6, 2008 at 12:09 pm

  527. Hi! I just want to tell you, With Linux Mint your girlfriend would be Happy!!!

    Second Task: Linux Mint comes with Flash and Java pre-installed, also codecs for audio and video playing. If you could get problems in your country with thesem also you could download Linux Mint Light, which does not come with any of these codecs.

    Third Task (and many others): mintMenu allows you to write a word in its bottom-bar, and it will look for the application you need. For Example: Write “Torrent” and Transmission or other app to open torrents will appear in the menu. This is a menu-replacement for Gnome developed for Linux Mint.

    Sixth Task: Just write “mouse” and you will see the shorcut to configure the mouse.

    Eighth Task: Linux Mint next’s release (5.0 codename Elyssa) will allow to set any picture as background just with right click and select the option.

    Twelfth Task: To install skype, you could go to mintMenu and write install, and mintInstall will appear. The you write the application you need (skype) and it will look for it in the Linux Mint Software Page. Then a icon will appear in the web page saying “Install Now”, just click there, select open file with mintInstall, and it will ask if you want to install this app, just click yes and mintInstall will do it for you.

    Also Linux Mint has synaptic, also you could install .deb packages, you can use mintDesktop that allows you to configure the desktop, show some icons or simply, eliminate them. Also MintUpdate and MintBackup. Linux Mint has a very fresh artwork, nice themes. Just try it and you will be surprised. It is compatible with all Ubuntu repositories, and ELyssa will be compastible with Hardy repositories also. Elyssa is going out later this month. Just try it and then reply to

    It is time to have LINUX READY FOR THE DESKTOP!
    Use Linux Mint


    May 6, 2008 at 3:42 pm

  528. Excellent article. The fact that so many “oldtime” Linux users (first installed Linux in 1997 myself so I am pretty new to the scene 😉 doesn’t understand more than proves your point.

    An option, at least, with more userfriendly help is what to strive for in the upcoming version. Anyone that argues against an option which they themselves can say “no” to just doesn’t think before they talk.

    If the transition between the worlds most widely used OS to the worlds most loved OS gets easier, wonderful things will happen.


    May 6, 2008 at 6:14 pm

  529. […] never got around to do this experiment but a blogger (Content Consumer) did in a post called The Great Ubuntu-Girlfriend Experiment. At this stage the experiment was conducted only with Ubuntu but it will be interesting to see how […]

  530. […] above,I never got around to do this experiment but a blogger (Content Consumer)did in a post called The Great Ubuntu-Girlfriend Experiment. At this stage the experiment was conducted only with Ubuntu but it will be interesting to seehow […]

  531. I was going to go through his list of tasks and rebut each one, but realized that I have issues with only a few.

    Second task: YouTube

    I wouldn’t give my parents a computer without making sure everything I think they would normally need is on there. And, as far as I’m concerned, no one needs Trash, er Crash, er Flash.

    Third task: Download album

    What’s a bittorrent? (Kidding, but only barely. By the way, that’s called pirating. I hope the recording people read this and sue you. 😉 )

    Fifth task: Burn a cd

    The problem was that your files were on a Windows partition. This makes the task invalid. They should have been on a Linux partition, in a folder with music or mp3 (or ogg?) in the name. If you had tried it the other way around, burn in a cd in Windows, from files on a Linux partition, the task would have unachievable.

    Ninth task: Screen resolution

    You can’t even change Windows screen resolution to lower than 800×600 without clicking the advanced tab. Not even my Nvidia control panel has lower than that. And far too many Windows programs won’t even run unless the screen resolution is set to 1024×768. And the ones that do usually have important buttons off the screen.

    Tenth task: Photoshop

    I used GIMP for the first time this weekend, and thought “Cool! A program that actually uses windows the way they were intended.” Why have one big window that takes up the whole desktop when all you need are separate floating windows. Relational databases should work like this.

    Eleventh task: IM

    One of the first things I do after installing Windows is get rid of the virus that is MSN Messenger. The Comcastic* thing runs whenever Outhouse Express is running, and won’t exit as long as OE is running.

    I use Trillian on Windows, and the only reason I have a Messenger account is so I can know if I have e-mail in Hotmail without actually logging in. And since MS has blocked that functionality, I have no reason to have a Messenger account.

    I’d have to say the failure is your girlfriend’s for choosing Comcastic* software when much better is available for use.

    And it’s your fault for not telling her as a new user that the notification area is on the top, not the bottom.

    *I’m trying to use Comcast and Comcastic in place of swearwords. That’s what I think of my cable company.

    Twelfth task: Skype

    What’s Skype? Some kind of telephone over internet thing? Isn’t Skype listed in add/remove programs? This goes back to my response to Trash, re Flash. Don’t give a non-tech person a computer until it’s set up the way they will want to use it.

    And as far as Windows “new programs” pop-ups. Ahhhhh! Run away! I switch to 9x mode, and then disable personalized menus.

    On the other hand, as others have pointed out, Ubuntu is trying to steal users from Windows, and the way to do that is to make transition easier. One thing I think they need is a file browser that’s more like Windows Explorer. Open “My Computer” (or whatever) and there’s all of your hard drives, preferably including NTFS drives. But even better, showing only the physical drives at this point. You open those to find the logical drives. That’s one of the things I hate about Windows: not knowing which physical drive each partition belongs to if I have more than one installed.


    May 7, 2008 at 8:16 am

  532. I mostly have to disagree with the article.
    While I’m the kind of user that has installed their Win98 through WinXP, and I have the patience to read through help files and forums for fixing what doesn’t work in Linux (or Windows for that matter), I installed Ubuntu about a month ago without prior experience with Linux and the basics aren’t problematic – excluding some basics about drivers, which can get tricky.

    Wikipedia and googling aside.

    Flash – it asked me to install the plugin, I didn’t have to download .tar.gz files (it’s another thing that the current flash player for linux sucks in fullscreen).

    Torrents – windows doesn’t come prepackaged with a torrent program, Linux does, where is the problem? uTorrent is just one application, there is no reason for it to be listed for Linux. Even basic users should be aware that the applications might have different names while keeping more or less the same functionality.

    While “Draw” will always ring a vector bell in my head because of CorelDRAW – okay, that might not be the same for most people. For basic non-professional image editing needs though GIMP does the job photoshop does, while MSPaint, which windows comes with does basic smudging. There are a bunch of apps for basic painting with “paint” in their names for Linux.

    Agreed with poster above, the music to be burned should have been on the Linux partition, in an easy to find place.

    Eh, the rest more or less along the same lines. Nobody in their right minds expects people who are used to Windows, don;t feel any desire to change and don’t have any patience to learn something new to sit on a freshly installed Linux. I have installed Windows for a couple of friends who, despite having used Windows for years, still couldn’t get their other programs installed, couldn’t configure anything and the scenario is usually a bunch of hours installing and setting up, and 1-2 days being available for remote desktop`ing them.


    May 7, 2008 at 1:40 pm

  533. Hi –

    Just a note to let you know that I installed Kubuntu on to my 91 year old Father’s box, replacing Windows 98se, and he has had little problems with it.

    He looks at pictures, reads and writes emails, opens up MS Powerpoints people send him (sometimes the music doesn’t work though), watches YouTube videos, updates his stock portfolios on Yahoo and in simple text files, and plays his favorite, albeit low level, card games and Mah-Jongg.

    His biggest problem is a shaky index finger which inadvertently clicks the left mouse button opening all sorts of stuff as the mouse pointer moves across the screen and menus. It was problem in Windows as well. But the Kubuntu distro has a lot of single click stuff, instead of double click. I sure wish someone made a mouse with a stronger button for old shaky people. I guess I could go in and make the stuff double or even triple click.

    Learning something new (and often better) sometimes takes an investment of time. Clearly, not every one has a lot of time. But in the long run Linux is more robust (less crashes) and is not near as susceptible to virus attacks, and it’s free!

    I have a similar problem with electric vehicle activism. People don’t want to take the time to learn something a little new – but certainly a whole lot better.

    in Reno, NV

    Bob Tregilus

    May 7, 2008 at 4:04 pm

  534. […] con todo ello, el usuario doméstico tendrá problemas para arreglárselas con Linux. El siguiente artículo (en inglés) explica cómo un usuario le instaló Ubuntu a su novia, que se manejaba […]

    May 7, 2008 at 10:09 pm

  535. To be fair, many of your tasks were things she wouldn’t do on a windows computer normally.

    I wonder how she would have done say with the list on a mac and vista? That’s the only fair way to put your results in perspective…

    As far as the plugin for youtube- in ubuntu a little bar appears at the top of your firefox window asking you if you want to install the appropriate plugin the first time you come across a content that needs it. Your girlfriend (and apparantly you as well) ignored that bar and instead of clicking on it which would have gotten you the correct plugin in two more clicks. Instead you went for the link from you-tube to flash. Understandable since the bar doesn’t particularly stand out- maybe ubuntu should make it flashing red… Still there was an easier way that was more automatic, had you but noticed it when it appeared…

    Flux Lizard

    May 8, 2008 at 12:04 am

  536. Hi,

    First, I want to say that I was very interested by this experience. I think it is really significant for how much is Linux usable by ex-Windows users.

    I have been using Linux a long time ago now and I don’t care of many of the problems a new user can have at the first time.

    I think that Erin solved many of the problems she had to, and that’s surely why Ubuntu is the most used Linux distro for new users.

    Then, I have two remarks to add to this article :

    1) At any time, Erin opened Firefox (the easiest action on any system !!) and searched for help about how to do something she didn’t know. I think it’s the first reflex everyone should have !!!
    What do you do when you’re using Windows and you want help about something ??? Oh, yes, you don’t need help with Windows, it’s so easy to use that a baby should have a conversation on MSN while manipulating photos with Photoshop 😉

    2) I read all your comments after each task and it’s always the same idea : “Ho, it should be like that to be more Windows-like”.
    First, I think Linux is not Windows and the purpose of Linux is not to be Windows-like.
    Then, if someone always used a fork to eat, do you think he will eat with chopsticks without any problem ?
    When you use something first time, you’ve got to learn it…


    PS: Sorry for my english, I’m not english !


    May 8, 2008 at 12:06 am

  537. Good article.

    Just wanted to post a quick rebuttal to those warning off simplifying Linux as it will scare off the geeks.

    I’m a Comp Sci grad, but a complete noob to Linux until recently, so if I make some glaring oversight please excuse me.

    I don’t see how adding things like a shortcut to the Windows partition or selecting file types in Find Files would effect techy users. Ditto adding a description to each file.

    Perhaps an option on install to turn on this kind of stuff for a new user? Then the geek who sets the install up can turn on the little help menus and advice balloons, while those that find those things annoying can leave it off.

    In fact, it seems to me the biggest hurdle effecting Ubuntu uptake is the reaction of the Linux community (supposedly one of it’s strengths). No sensible developer would respond with essentially “Well don’t be so stupid then, grandma”. If the user has problems with your program, it’s YOUR fault.


    May 8, 2008 at 9:18 am

  538. Sorry, having read a few more comments have to add some more.

    “she’s not the average IT user, she’s the average Windows user” HELLO the two are synonymous. I teach 11-18 year olds who have all used nothing but Windows since the age of 4.

    This attitude of “blame the user” is what will hold you back. Yes, I get it you’re bitter that one of the “non-geeks” turned you down for prom or whatever, but get over yourself. Either Ubuntu is “Linux for human beings” or it’s “Linux” you can’t have both. The fact is, like the qwerty keyboard (let me guess you’re typing on DVORAK), some essentially broken user interfaces have become the standard and if you want the majority of people to use your system, you have to conform to them.

    Until the average Linux developer stops coming back to every complaint with “well if you weren’t used to broken Windows” (don’t get me started on the infantile response of the guy who slates everything from Flash to YouTube to Skype to Outlook) then Linux will remain the realm of sad techies just out to give one in the eye to “M$” (lol, so funny).

    Which is a shame, because computing could really do with an open operating system to compete with the big boys.

    On a side note, I’m interested by this Linux Mint but won’t download it. I’ve picked my flavour thanks and don’t want to start again. Open source should mean that the best ideas find their way into one product, not endless spinoffs.


    May 8, 2008 at 9:34 am

  539. tbh I remember myself being like 14, coming back after a month spent in a countryhouse and found win95 installed on my dad’s PC
    I failed on 2 things right away after dos/win 3.11 expirience – I rebooted with reset still and couldn’t run my dos games properly

    All described here is mostly because she is familiar with windows and never used linux before. I have a mate who uses Mac at home and his child was quite confused with windows the first time he saw it


    May 8, 2008 at 6:51 pm

  540. […] someone who’s never used Linux. Interesting insight into how ready Linux is for the more | digg […]

  541. […] The Great Ubuntu-Girlfriend Experiment « Content Consumer Do not design for yourself. Other people are not yourself. (tags: user-experience Linux design-autism communication experiment GUI simplicity usability) […]

  542. Well this article was interesting. I have to say that if your looking for an alternative to windows then there must be (A. Something you don’t like about windows and (B. That its not going to be windows. Also when reading the comments about the developers needing to spend the extra time trying to help the windows user transition from one OS to another is really asking them to spend more of there free time to do so. What most of you aren’t thinking is that the developers that created Ubuntu weren’t getting paid $60+ a year, they were doing it in there free time after there daytime job. In addition I went from using a mac in school to windows on my personal PC and your always going to run into things your not aware of, its the name of the game. When i made the switch to Ubuntu there were a lot of thing i had to get used to, and sure i had to get my drivers working and the like, but Its not the developers fault that some hardware providers don’t make drivers for Linux, however you should praise the developers for spending there free time making solutions, if you want to bitch, bitch at the hardware company that made it and ask them why it only has drivers made for windows. From what I read most of the issues that your girlfriend had could easily been avoided if (1. she wasn’t expecting it to be windows and (2. If she was open to the possibility that there are other programs out there that can do the same tasks as the there windows counter part.


    May 9, 2008 at 8:56 pm

  543. Interesting article, good description. Comments are also quite useful to read, although I can see some very misled and bitter responses about the subject of the experiment (who expresses the average user – a noob or whatever you may call it).

    Noob-proof communities or Linux for the masses? I vote for the second one, otherwise we will be grumbling forever about Windows’s dominance.


    May 10, 2008 at 3:11 am

  544. In fact, I would like to have a question like this in the installation process:
    Are you:
    * Computer illiterate
    * Linux newcomer
    * technical user
    * programmer

    in order to adjust the amount of hints, wizards and similar. (otherwise I would go crazy with a “fool-proof” distro)
    But you’re right, in general the techincally advanced user is better of, see the user case about cups by Eric Steven Raymond.


    May 10, 2008 at 5:40 am

  545. Dude (the guy with the new high end computer), your computer was built for Windows, and the manufacturer doesn’t care about Linux. That’s why it doesn’t work with Linux.

    I just bought a new Gigabyte motherboard (not recommended; go MSI), and realized I won’t be able to run Ubuntu on it until 2008.10. So I’m keeping my old system for Linux.


    May 10, 2008 at 7:41 am

  546. System>Help & Support, Try reading the instructions!
    My Brother-in-law just bought an new laptop with Vista installed, it worked great for about a week and a half, Then he got a virus and completely crashed his computer. Now he has Ubuntu installed I set it up to work on Wireless and his VerizonWireless USB Modem, and put in all the codecs, flash, and Java, from synaptics manager. it plays DVD’s CD’s Youtube Videos, MP3’s, has Frostwire, Limewire, Deluge, and Skype installed, either from Debs or Synaptic. He knows nothing about computers, I’m not to sure he can even spell it, but so far he is doing much better with Ubuntu than he did with Vista. I am not exactly a Geek either, I’m a 56 yr. old truck driver, but I have used Ubuntu since Breezy Badger, and I have hardly ever used the command line other than to compile something from a how to, and then all I do is copy and paste. Just booting into a Window’s computer drives me nuts, I get so tired of waiting for a Window’s machine to actually do something I usually just give up. I actually believe that the less you know about computers the easier Linux is to learn. Seemed like all I could ever learn to do in Windows was catch viruses and worms and Trojans and Spyware, etc. Window’s is just not ready for average desktop users.


    May 10, 2008 at 9:55 am

  547. I think that this is certainly a real problem. Ubuntu is already one of the best in that field. People with “to much” technical experience are now building the distributions.

    For every distribution aimed at the average desktop user, a different team probably should look in to it. There should probably be some separation with the more technical teams that by selecting and adapting the programs compose a distribution.

    On the other hand, I don’t think that imitating as close as possible Windows or Windows applications is the solution. Somebody should find out some better ways.

    There is a huge amount of information on the internet. Mostly in the form of questions and answers. Also in a howto like form that may be connected with a wiki system. Both excellent systems may still take to long for a simple question of a starter. Perhaps there is a way to structure information also in an other manner. So that a user can go through a tree structure and find an answer on many simple questions by only inputting a little relevant information.

    Surely every interface should be critically evaluated, also from the point of a starter.

    Perhaps an optional helpwindow that contains a Windows like interface (and that of some other OSes ?) may be helpfull. Clicking on options there would only make the program point to or explain the Linux solution of the running system. Once a framework exists, everybody could help complete the contents.

    I think a number of Linux systems are not that well configured. Perhaps a program could grasp the setting of a system together with the wishes of the owner. An internet server may be able to analyze it and/or compare it with other, similar, systems and report back. A standard format that contains the users wishes, the internal hardware, the external hardware that should be connected and the systems settings would be helpful. Perhaps some day a cross-platform program could grasp the setting on one OS on a system, say Windows, inquire the user, put everything in a file as described and install or change an other OS on the same system based on that file.

    Problems with the interfaces of computers have a long history. Coming from the main frame period where only trained specialists used the systems. Then more average users were lucratively sold trainings in the days of ms-dos. Apple focussed on a graphical interface and later also Microsoft was able to make one. But it is now still acceptable that many people need some course to be able to use it. A course that is considered part of a general education, even while property products are explained. But I don’t think this will be acceptable for most Linux users. So Linux has to do better.


    May 11, 2008 at 9:42 am

  548. Well this is simply HUGE (Hardy Ubuntu Girlfriend Experiment) ^^


    May 11, 2008 at 8:30 pm

  549. If ever ubuntu will be usable for EVERYONE i will stop using it. for sure. because it will require a lot of wizards and “what do you want to do?”. That’s ugly for an user who has already some experiences.
    but that doesn’t mean i don’t support the idea! i think it would be great to have a distro everybody can use with zero knowledge. but it should be seperated from the original ubuntu, maybe a girlfbuntu? ( by the way, i have a nerdy girlfriend who, without linux knowledge, installed xubuntu and uses it 🙂 )

    also i like to mention, that the fact that your girlfriend can’t handel ubuntu within half an hour does mean that ubuntu is not as userfriendly as windows. in fact i think it’s great to see how fast your girlfriend worked out things.
    try the same thing with somebody who never used windows and a new installation of windows xp 🙂 ( just think about missing drivers, that never is a problem in ubuntu )


    May 11, 2008 at 10:09 pm

  550. I don’t think Linux OSes in general should cater to Windows users as much as you would like they did.

    Some of your observations are valid and would improve user friendliness of applications, but some are rather unneeded and make me wanna scream something like:
    “Well, then you probably don’t want Linux and all it’s benefits over Windows. Then you probably want to stay with Windows and ‘enjoy’ it’s shortcomings over Linux. No bad feelings? Of course not! Not everything has to be for everybody and in my humble opinion, not many things, if any can cater to just everybody.”

    And one more thing you need to think about when wishing Linux would cater towards trained Windows users more, is how long did it take you to learn the ins and outs of Windows?
    Were you an expert immediately? Or was your girlfriend an average user immediately? How long did it take here to become proficient with the applications she uses the most? Well, Linux ought to require some time to learn. By that, it’s very unfair to expect from Linux to make you an instant expert with your existing Windows skills.

    And just in case your answer to this comment of mind would be “but how else is Linux going to get a bigger market share?” here’s my answer:
    By building on it’s strengths and not changing what it is and becoming something it just simply isn’t – BTW, Linux *doesn’t need* to gain any new market share – who told you that? It’s stock won’t rise, it’s revenue either. But people will still use it – not because it’s their only option but because it’s their choice. And I’ll still be using it even if no new user ever comes to Linux.


    May 11, 2008 at 11:54 pm

  551. […] is a great experiment one geek and his girlfriend undertook: […]

  552. […] The Great Ubuntu-Girlfriend Experiment, […]

    En vrac #37

    May 13, 2008 at 6:43 am

  553. While I do think your informal usability test with your girlfriend yields a lot of telling data as to where there are difficulties and flaws in Ubuntu and the other open source programs that are available in the package manager, particularly for new users… However, it’s my personal opinion that you cannot draw conclusions as to whether an OS is “desktop usable” based on the results of usability tests, formal or informal, alone. There are other factors that come into play… and I would argue that in this case of Ubuntu, it’s not the operating system that’s the biggest stumbling block. It’s the lack of available in-person support.

    This past Saturday night, I had the pleasure of attending my area’s first Ubuntu LoCo group, and we spent a considerable amount of time talking about strategies to help spread Ubuntu and open source in general within our community… and one of the things that kept getting brought up was the notion of the lack of support. One of the reasons Windows is appealing to people, at this point, and Linux is not is because if a Windows user has a problem where they can’t figure out how to do something simple, like what program to use to rip a CD, usually that user knows several people in real life that they can turn around and ask. Why? Everybody uses Windows. It’s appealing to small business, despite the fact that they’re essentially being ripped off for more money than I even want to think about, is because that’s what all of their local choices for IT companies sell and support. Your average user and your average small company are frustrated and hate computers because what they’ve been sold is expensive and is broken, but they cling to it because they know if they need help, they can find it… either with a friend or a coworker or another company…

    This sort of extensive real life support is what tends to mask a lot of Windows flaws. If you can’t get a CD to burn, you can ask Jenny at the next desk over. It’s not that the way things are done in Windows is any easier than the ones available in Linux, but it’s the fact that the job gets done with less effort because if you can’t find it, the girl at the next desk probably knows of a way, and the task gets done. If you were to take away that human interaction element, I would bet if you sat someone down with similar computing profeciency as your girlfriend, but instead this person had never used Windows before, and didn’t allow him/her to ask anyone for help, you’d get the same sort of mixed success results… possibly worse.

    What I’m curious to know is what happened after your Great Ubuntu-Girlfriend Experiment? Did she continue to try using Ubuntu, if so… What did she think after a week or two of use?

    I guess I just feel that it’s a little unfair to be saying Ubuntu and other OS programs aren’t ready for prime time, based on an informal usability test alone. It’s my personal opinion that what’s more “not ready” in Ubuntu is the willingness of the community to support their less technical friends and family through a transition. Until wide scale local strategic efforts are made… and by that I mean groups of users like LUGs and LoCos actively making it known that they are willing and able to help their local community learn how to burn CDs, install programs, and do other boring mundane things in Linux, and small IT companies start forming in communities to help small businesses start making the transition… I don’t think we’re going to see Ubuntu and Linux in general take off in a real way in the small business and home markets…. and that has nothing to do with how usable or unusable the current GUI is.

    I agree, there are lots of areas where Ubuntu and other open source software still have a lot of jagged edges where your coat sleeve can possibly get snagged. But how do we overcome this? By educating people that Flash is kinda confusing to install right now, this is how you get around that. By educating people what a package manager is and why it’s useful. Open source is a COMMUNITY project, things improve and more people get involved because of the involvement of the COMMUNITY.

    One of the biggest open source fallacies is that people can only contribute to the community by contributing code, but there are SO MANY other ways that people can get involved to make this better and easier. Writing documentation is a great example, you don’t have to be a big smart “computer person” to write a short tutorial on how to rip a CD once you’ve figured out how to do it. Another way is to get involved with your local Ubuntu LoCo group so you can help people in person. There is at tremendous need for people willing to educate others, and you don’t have to have a masters degree in Computer Science to do it. Everyone can help. Everyone’s contribution, big or small, is important.

    Yes, Ubuntu isn’t Windows, and it does do some things differently and it isn’t perfect… but as long as we’re educating people of that fact, and empowering them by telling them that THEY can make a difference in making it easier and better. I think we’ll go a lot further in the long run than just scoffing in our blogs that it’s not ready for prime time because it doesn’t do X, Y and Z the same as Windows and we’re too lazy to help anybody learn something new.

    And to Erin, thanks for giving it a shot. Your attempt, and the places where you maybe didn’t quite get it figured out, gives the open community something to strive for. Even in this small act, you’ve given back to the community and you probably didn’t even realize it. It’s frusterating to figure out something new by yourself, isn’t it? Personally, I think you did a kickass job completing what you did, and just because there were a few things that weren’t as easy as they maybe should have been doesn’t reflect upon your intelligence, because you’re a smart, intelligent and capable woman… Open source needs more people like you for feedback. 🙂


    May 13, 2008 at 7:28 am

  554. I’m a Linux geek, and I got my grandma an EeePC a few weeks ago.
    She’d barely used any other OS before, (it comes with a modded, more user friendly, Xandros.)
    She’s thrilled, she started on TuxPaint; now she’s editing pictures on The Gimp. She even uses keyboard shortcuts on FF, plays all the games, and with my help, she added another 32gb of memory to it (soldered, not a USB key).
    A few years ago, she got a cheap laptop with XP preloaded, and she could never get round the desktop, let alone understand all the icons and unnecessary bloatwear. She talks to a few of my friends and I on Pidgin whenever she has a problem; and she’s thrilled to pieces that technology hasn’t completely eclipsed her.
    GNU/Linux is ready for grandmas, children, and everyone else; it just happens that most people are used to the eases, and annoyances, of Windows.
    Great article, btw, but I’m sure most issues could have been solved by a bit of Googleing. 🙂


    May 14, 2008 at 4:22 am

  555. Hi,

    I just wanted to say a little thing. I think the result of this test is not entirely representable. Just to give a few examples of tons of problems I ( quite geeky ) had and have trying to use ubuntu:

    When installing ubuntu to boot not from the primary hdd, for example you want it on a portable usb hdd, it generates an incorrect menu.lst. It won’t boot. How would erin deal with an unbootable system. Especially if she would have to get trough all tasks without help. 0/10 for ubuntu.

    Solution, understand the error message from grub, press e to edit the boot option, change it to hd0 and press b to boot… What are her chances?

    Second example, I first tried kubuntu. It has amarok. It doesn’t have an mp3 codec. Ok, it presents you to download one. When you accept, it crashes. I never got amarok any further than that crash. What chance would erin have in getting it to work if i can’t? Analyse the crash report???

    Third example. Currently im using hardy x64. I have a flash player installed, and a java plugin. Neither work. ive already spend a few hours looking things up, but still no applets or flash…

    booting, listening to music, flash…. all pretty basic. All of them cost me (the power user) several days of research and work to get an acceptable solution. A normal user stands no chance.

    Apart from that, i think if you develop something basic like an OS, you should run a lot of tests like this before releasing something, but ubuntu isn’t there yet. First you have to make sure that what’s there works. Next you can see how userfriendly it is. It’s pointless to have a good installer if the software just doesn’t work.


    May 14, 2008 at 6:35 am

  556. I am a girl, I don’t work in the IT sector and I haven’t had any problems whatsoever with ubuntu. I even made a script to automatically install all the programs I use, including flash and java, and set my wallpaper everytime I do a clean installation (anyone interested, it is in my blog). So please don’t treat girlfriends as synonimous for slow, clumpsy or non-interested in computers… those are just prehistoric ideas 🙂

    Androide 23

    May 15, 2008 at 11:02 pm

  557. […] An interesting experiment has been carried out… let an average user loose on Ubuntu (a particularly popular flavour of Linux…. possibly raspberry)… and compare what they can do in Windows based OS with what they can do with the Linux based OS. You can read the experiment in detail: here […]

  558. Was she able to install a CD player into her car before she drove it?

    I think we should be willing to accept that there will be users and there will be techs. You don’t need to know how to change your oil to drive a car, and a German car is the really the same as a domestic for the driver but not the mechanic.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that not everyone should be “working” on computers after cleaning several family members’ computers that had their teenage kids install applications on them that made Windows XP look like Windows Vista’s lethargic little brother. My favorite is the “I thought 3 virus scan applications would be safer than one. Do you think that is why my computer is so slow?” As I type this I’m sure somewhere there is a mechanic going on about how happy he is that not everyone is trying to work on their own brakes.

    In the last year I have refurbished 3 old computers and given them to family members:

    The first is an old PIII running Xubuntu 8.04 for my little sister. I installed all the needed plugins and even Frostwire for her. I showed her the Add/Remove but she’s never needed to use it as everything is on it. She’s had no problems with it and she used to destroy my parent’s much newer computer which was running Windows XP. (Note: Since she stopped using my parent’s computer they stopped having issues….go figure).

    The second is a P4 running Ubuntu 8.04 for my in-laws who never owned a computer. I did the same thing on this one as I did on the PIII and my in-laws have been happily surfing and emailing away without any issues.

    The third is an old IBM T30 (P IV 1.6 GHz) laptop with Windows XP Home that I gave to my sister-in-law (I actually had a legit WinXP key which is why I installed it). I installed every plugin and application that I could think of (including Open Office). I also made sure I did every security and performance enhancement in the book. All reports are is it is running well.

    The easiest and quickest system to setup was the Ubuntu machine followed by the Xubuntu machine. Every application that you could possible need came preinstalled in the ‘Buntus. I’m always amazed that people who claim to have worked on Ubuntu for years are still having issues getting things like MP3 and DVD playback to work. The first thing I do when I boot a newly installed system up is going into the Repository and install the “restricted” package and get EVERY plugin and codec you need. This is the exact opposite of XP where you need to scour the internet looking for the plugins and applications. Once you install them you need to update them (and sometimes the updates need updates). Then you need to make sure that applications you installed are not running unnecessary services that slow your system down.

    I think every computer needs to be configured to the users needs by someone that knows what they are doing otherwise you get a bloated XP system or frustrated girlfriend

    BTW. I’ve been using Kubuntu for almost a year now, and my wife has used it without any issues. She mainly Facebooks and downloads pictures from a digital camera which is not much different then Windows XP…at the end of the day isn’t that what most users are trying to do?


    May 17, 2008 at 6:33 am

  559. If you want OS that looks like windows, walks like windows, quacks like windows – than you should probably use – guess what….
    There is also a method called RTFM.
    If an OS tries to be everything to everybody it’s gona end like windows, which is poor excuse for OS. But, has some great apps…
    Also, making stuff easier to do is nice, it makes you feel powerfull 😉
    But that also dumbs people down, so when they switch to other OS they go like: “Why is diz not wrking like windovz??!”.
    Personaly, I would like to see experiment where you seat two – one in front of windows, and one in front of Ubuntu, eather not exposed to any OS before.


    May 18, 2008 at 8:21 am

  560. Using Ubuntu? I had my girlfriend on FreeBSD with me.


    May 19, 2008 at 9:28 am

  561. […] Det er sandt at Ubuntu er gratis, at det kan en fandens masse ting, at det kan have lækker grafik*, at det kan sættes op så det er hurtigt på gamle computere og at det har en sej måde at administrere installation af programmer på. Ubuntu (og alt andet linux) er nemlig utroligt fleksibelt og kan en masse ting. En konsekvens deraf er, at brugervenligheden lider.  Man kan simpelthen pille ved alt for mange ting.  Man burde have en lussing når man prøver at bilde folk ind at Ubuntu er meget brugervenligt, når man samtidigt udmærket godt ved, at ingen brugere slipper for at stifte kendskab med en konsol. Faktum er at Ubuntu på ingen måde er anvendeligt for computerbrugere, som ikke har forstand på computere fo…. […]

  562. […] linker iøvrigt også til en lidt underholdende artikel under navnet: The Great Ubuntu-Girlfriend Experiment. Hvis man er interesseret i Linux kan man med fordel læse artiklen. Et lille udpluk fra […]

  563. […] example, take Girlfriend Usability. Someone was interested in doing usability testing with Ubuntu Linux, so he got his girlfriend to […]

  564. Kate Spade Handbag…

    I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you….

    Kate Spade Handbag

    May 22, 2008 at 3:54 am

  565. I wonder if what would happen if you would set a Ubuntu hwo dosen’t know anything about windows user before Windows and give him/her those tasks!

    I think Ubuntu will still be soooo much easier


    May 23, 2008 at 6:13 am

  566. This test reminds me of my installation of Breezy Badger! I somehow thought I had to remove my windows hard drive while installing Ubuntu. I got a dual-boot working, with some help from online tutorials and reading websites on my pocket pc, but I had the same problems installing programs as your girlfriend. Now I’m much more Unix literate, and help people out with their installations of Ubuntu, but I understand their issues, as I was once at thair newbidity level.


    May 24, 2008 at 9:38 am

  567. Most of the suggestions for improvement are, in my opinion, completely absurd. Linux isn’t Windows, and copying Windows in the ways you advocate would alienate expert users. I for one despise the way Windows works. I don’t need bubbles telling me I installed new programs. I know I did, and I know how to use my operating system so I know where they went (did it not occur to her to click the nice big button labeled “Applications”?) I don’t want Pidgin to happily chirp that it’s going into the system tray when I close it for the first time. I love Linux because I know Linux and because Linux just works for those who know it, and I really couldn’t care less if it becomes mainstream; in fact, I would almost rather it didn’t, since becoming more popular would undoubtedly dumb it down in the ways you mention.


    May 24, 2008 at 11:18 pm

  568. By the way, your suggestion for installing flash with a popup similar to the one that pops up when you try to play a restricted format is exactly what was done in Ubuntu. I’m not at all sure why it didn’t work in your case.


    May 24, 2008 at 11:28 pm

  569. I too have my own personal Ubuntu Girlfriend Experiment (UGE). The nice thing is, there isn’t much she’s missing. Two that come to mind is that the (old) Outlook WebAccess is only working in IE, haven’t tried IEs4Linux yet. The second thing is she’s had some MS Excel courses and is just a different beast.

    I did install an VirtualBox Windows XP virtual machine, but she hasn’t used it yet.

    In my own experience, after I install XP I have to visits tens of internet sites and download the software/codecs I need. In Ubuntu it’s allmost al in the repositories. And the best thing is, they auto update! Not just the OS, but every installed application.

    Linux = Freedom

  570. […] بالحاسب يقوم بأداء بعض المهمات باستخدام هذا النظام (كالشخص الذي اختبر توزيعة أوبونتو 8.04 الجديدة بمساعدة صد…). ولكن إذا أخفق شخص ما في استخدام لينكس بفعالية، فهل […]

  571. I think you don’t understand the basics of FOSS or the GNU/Linux project. The point of Linux isn’t to be a free copy of Windows XP or Vista… it is a completely different operating system. The GIMP isn’t Adobe Photoshop, it is the GNU’s Image Manipulation Program… not the cheapo rip-off of Photoshop you are insinuating it to be. I am sorry, but your article maddened me because the entire operating system goes right over your head.

    de jong

    May 27, 2008 at 7:12 am

  572. you have a girl friend?


    May 27, 2008 at 8:52 pm

  573. First things first,

    With flash, Firefox automatically tells you you need the plugin, and you can install it right there, no need to go to adobe’s website.

    As for most of the rest, all you had to do was go to add/remove programs and you could have gotten things like mp3 playability in no time. The reason, MP3 is not an open format, so Ubuntu CHOOSES not to ship with it! It is not a shortcoming of the OS capabilities, just the preference of most of the users. Besides Ogg is much better quality and is open.

    RTFM Ubuntu tells you how to do most basic things people use their pc for. As for trying to install windows .exe Even a windows user has trouble with that on mac os X. They don’t realize .exe is proprietary windows crap.

    Some of your tasks were misleading, like you were pushing her to do things the windows way. Gimp is different than photoshop, it takes some learning, but if you want photoshop, use wine.


    May 28, 2008 at 1:31 pm

  574. Ubuntu 8.04 is quite user-friendly. Nothing compared to older Linux-distributions. Ubuntu 8.04 can be recommended to non-techy users. But I don’t like Gimp neither.


    May 28, 2008 at 7:47 pm

  575. […] what he calls the The Great Ubuntu-Girlfriend Experiment, Content Consumer created a series of normal computer tasks and asked his girlfriend to perform […]

  576. I have to agree with de jong, you seem have missed the point, Linux predates windows and is designed BETTER, that means you have un-learn some of your bad habits from windows if you have been using that, then you will be more efficient. Seriously, next your going to be advocating turning off with a button labeled start… Here’s a hint Bill Gates is autistic, he is brilliant in his own way but not everything he did was perfect if it was he might still run the company.


    May 29, 2008 at 11:17 am

  577. I’m not sure I agree with your premise that a person who is not computer literate should be able to use ubuntu with no help. Sure it would be nice however I’ve done similar tests with all sorts of people who are intelligent professionals in their own fields. In general they struggle with Linux, Windows or Macs (yes even macs). I have put people in front of a new imac and intervened as they started to smack the mouse on the desk in frustration.

    I find that people just complain with something new that requires effort. The trick generally is to sit with them and show them some cool stuff and the stuff they generally need to do.

    Simple as. A bit of hand holding does the trick.


    May 31, 2008 at 10:30 pm

  578. As far as I can see here, you have never installed windows, have you? I was (still am) a windows geek in my own right, then I got into ubuntu over a year ago. I spent weeks trying to get my resolution to work perfectly (1360×768 is a pain for noobs) and now I have 1280×768 by default with compiz fusion enabled by default on a LiveCD, and I can just replace the xorg.conf with my own and get my resolution easily. Ubuntu and linux in general has gone a long way, and you don’t seem to appreciate this. Transmission is listed as ‘Transmission Bittorrent Client’, and everything is how it should be.

    On to windows :P. Vista, seen by many as a mistake, a default install of even Ultimate won’t give you your precious aero interface. You wouldn’t even get so far as to get the first task done with crappy generic graphics drivers at 800×600 or 1024×768 max, no ethernet let alone wireless to even try to get the drivers, and you may not even have support for your USBs. The only reason your cdrom drive works is because its your BIOS that does that. I see ‘tests’ like this done all the time, and I see people here saying that this proves that linux isn’t ready for the desktop. Comparing an OEM install to an install you just did yourself. As far as I’m concerned, linux has already beaten microsoft, but everyone still has to catch up now. I heard nothing of drivers in your post, absolutely nothing. This says that an install of linux already works better than an install of vista.

    Now for some linux talk. Linux isn’t meant to be windows, ever. It is made to make sense, just as you saw your girlfriend was actually able to do stuff. You see the ‘archaic’ terminal and say “everything needs to be a gui tool and linux won’t be ready for the desktop until the terminal becomes obsolete” and people like me laugh at you and pity you. Even if the gui tools are there, I’ve even been able to convince people, people that aren’t even able to really use the terminal themselves and can’t even remember what ‘sudo’ means, that the terminal is powerful and simple. Why navigate menus when you can input a simple command that will do it all so much faster? Because windows told you to? Because windows is shoving down your throat that gui tools are so much better? Vista Home Premium lacks some gui tools that Ultimate has, useful ones too, one that would help you get out of the ‘network and sharing center hangs’ problem that so many people have. Guess how you fix it in Home Premium? Command line.

    Try and give me one scenario where windows is better than linux, where it is easier or more powerful. Writing windows apps? Make it more general to simply ‘writing programs’ and you’ll have people whining about how terrible it is programming in windows and how easy it is to do in linux. Running windows apps (wine works well for almost everything anyone would want). Hardware works out of the box in linux. Installing software doesn’t require a series of dialogs, with a fullscreen background of you simply clicking ‘next’. If anything, windows needs to try to catch up with linux. By the time of the next LTS release, I assure you that there will be no reason left to use windows.

    And as so many before me have repeated so concisely and eloquently ‘linux is not windows’ and ‘it just works’. PERIOD


    June 2, 2008 at 3:55 pm

  579. I run an Internet Cafe, with 10 XP boxes and 2 running Ubuntu 8.04. Most people don’t really seem to notice that they are not on a Windows system. I have naturally, installed all the plugins, etc, that the average user will want, and generally have positive feedback on the OS.

    I find it easier to maintain, easier to secure, as the user can’t interfere with much that would upset the installation.

    Long live Ubuntu and Open Source!


    June 3, 2008 at 12:45 pm

  580. the only complaint this guy (and anyone else) has that is truly understandable is the install complaint….gimp doesn’t LOOK like photoshop because it IS NOT photoshop. the transmission bit torrent is just that “transmission bit torrent” not “Limewire”
    If you can’t understand that different applications (programs) whether linux or windows or mac are going to function and appear different and….OH MY GOD! have different names………give your computer to someone who really needs it. DUMBASS!!!!!


    June 5, 2008 at 4:20 am

  581. Slightly nervous about adding yet another comment to an overlong list following an interesting article, but they seem to fall into the following camps:

    1. Linux isn’t designed to be like Windows, so it’s unfair to stick a Windows user in front of one and expect them to know what to do;

    2. A naive computer user with no Windows experience would have just as much trouble using Windows for the first time;

    3. The article is sexist and doesn’t deserve a considered response;

    4. Linux is brilliant therefore the article doesn’t deserve a considered response.

    Ironically there is some truth in all the above, especially the first two. Before I get attacked from various quarters, I’d better state that my computing background is running a smallish computer network (2 servers and a set of 12 workstations) at work, all currently running Ubuntu; plus one older server with RHEL. Our key piece of software works like a dream on Linux (GRASS GIS), but still need to manage Access DB’s emailed from collaborators readily, therefore also administer a handful of Windows PCs.

    “Linux isn’t designed to be like Windows”. Interestingly, the Linux GUI isn’t really designed at all. In a sense it evolves, in response to the competitive environment it finds itself in. This is a result of anyone being able to see the “genetic code” of the software. In the harsh environment of competing GUIs and OS, the one that can adapt and evolve to changing conditions most readily, whilst maintaining ease of use and system stability, will gradually become more popular. It is no coincidence that the easiest to use version of Linux (Ubuntu) has come from nowhere in the last 5 years to dominate the show. Should a different distro improve on it, then it will take over. To use a dubious economic rather than biological analogy: Microsoft, with its “planned economy” type approach, closed source etc., will not be able to keep up with the “free market” of Linux (compare East and West Germany at unification). It will take time (especially given the number of Linux fans who do not understand the importance of usability or increasing user base), but give it another 10 or 15 years and it will be interesting to see the outcome.


    June 6, 2008 at 6:43 am

  582. Hahaha… Try propping someone in front of a windows machine that doesn’t have any of the initial setup done to it.


    June 6, 2008 at 10:17 am

  583. Please no popups and bubbles and whatnot… I know I just plugged in the printer… let me just get on with it! so damn irritating!

    I go through a similar experience when I use a Windows machine… its not about how she knows about computers, its about how much she knows about windows.

    Try this. Get her to use Ubuntu for a reasonable period of time… like a month or two and write another article… that would be an interesting read. Of course you will have to help her just like any new Windows user needs help with antiviruses and other stuff…

    The reason Ubuntu doesn’t have many things like codecs and flash, is because of the philosophy behind FOSS. Now I don’t expect anyone not interested to know that, or care about it. That is what the people who make Ubuntu believe and there’s nothing you can do about it… What you can do is use a distro that is more flexible… like Linux Mint. Get her to use Mint for a month and I bet she wouldn’t want to go back.


    June 7, 2008 at 4:53 am

  584. good article, good experiment and good tasks. BUT COME ON. Make a fresh install of windows and do the same as here. I am not THAT good with computers, but still i have been with a keyboard in my hands since i was 10. i STILL have trouble with the drivers. Almost every time. Of course i tune up ubuntu to new users, and the first thing i tell them is that once you start using ubuntu, google is your god. It’s not that much work to tell them that…


    June 9, 2008 at 6:57 pm

  585. i agree with you on so many levels… i don’t even know where to begin! i started with mandrake (mandriva) back in the day too… and when i tried i was just as confused as your girlfriend was… horribly lost. they assume way to much! my mother still cannot grasp Windows for crist sakes. theres no way in hell she would be able to use linux.
    most people do not even have a single clue what an Operating system is. when i ask them what version of windows they have, they look at me like i have 10 heads.

    also, average people with lives just don’t give a flying **** about computers! they just want them to work, and thats that!

    i actually did this same thing with my girlfriend Emily… i had her sit down with Ubuntu and gave her tasks… the only difference is i gave her slightly more help than you did. and shes experienced with both windows and Mac OS X. and she was just as lost…

    in order for linux (ubuntu more specifically) to allow users like this to understand what they are doing. they need to assume the WORST. they need to create functionality that is 100% free of the terminal. and properly label everything. i love your idea for the first time welcome screen. that would be amazing!

    but for the time being. i agree with you, linux is just not ready for illiterate users. maybe someday. maybe soon? but defiantly not yet.


    June 9, 2008 at 11:04 pm

  586. De Jong: I think you don’t understand what a PC is (Personal Computer). That is a machine that a user – geek or NOT – can use to perform tasks. An operating system is a system to operate the PC so you can use it to achieve your task. While GNU/Linux is a total different OS Ubuntu does have a GUI so from a NON GEEK users perspective is not that different then windows. Apart from at the moment it assumes you are a geek. Which – of course – is because of its roots. Yes GIMP is not Photoshop but they do both do the same job.

    All software and OS’s assume some prior level or knowledge. Some higher then others. This article is saying that Ubuntu is still a bit high for your average PC user.


    June 10, 2008 at 8:04 pm

  587. First of all: great study and great article.

    I agree with you about it’s not easy (or better yet, it’s really difficult) to introduce someone to Linux (whatever flavour you choose), moreover introduce someone used to MS OS’s.

    I have “suffered” something like your girlfriend did, and thanks to my boyfriend’s infinite patience I’m getting over these troubles step by step, but there are so many things to know before you want to proceed with any task you want to.

    IMO, Linux (in general) is very interesting but for beginners it’s not pleasant, all the problems you have to face could make you loose interest and give up Linux as personal choice.


    June 11, 2008 at 9:03 pm

  588. I’m going to quote Linus Torvalds himself:

    “Linux IS userfriendly. It is not idiotfriendly or moron-friendly, however.”


    June 12, 2008 at 3:32 am

  589. I think the way Linux does it is much more sensible than windows. A lot of those things would make it easier for people to switch over to Linux, but by doing that, it would just make it seem like it was just copying windows. Linux is better than windows. That’s all there is too it. To try to copy windows to make it more “user friendly” would be like copying off of a retarded kid trying to get a better grade. After using Linux for a year I have learned more about computers than I did for the 10 years I was using windows. And I’ve learned that a lot of those strange things that seem insensible at first actually make more sense after learning more about how the programs work.

    My point: Linux shouldn’t try to copy windows. Seriously. The point of Open Source isn’t to copy proprietary software. It is to develop and advance software where everyone can contribute to make things better. And I totally agree with de jong.


    June 13, 2008 at 4:33 am

  590. de jong: Seem you don’t have any clue what good marketting and management skills are. The point of Linux isn’t to be a free copy of Windos XP or Vista… it is a completely different operating system for those who want to use something besides Windows XP or Vista. Meaning it is Open for everyone, not just tech nerds like yourself or even me. The GIMP isn’t Adobe Photoshop, it is the GNU’s Image Manipulation Program for people who cannot afford Photoshop, such as myself, for people who can’t use Adobe on their computers, such as anyone using Linux, and for people who want to work with GNU Software, like many tech geeks and nards. We can’t simply put aside the other two groups because the tech nerds and geeks like you and myself are the ones who made it.

    Your comment maddened me because the entire Graphical USER Interface goes right over your head. Keep in mind the W3C, who even after creating a site based on Web Standards cannot seem to usher people past the fear they get from looking at such a horribly designed website. The W3C has the same philosophy as you, it seems, and they don’t want to make things easier on people that are new to our world.

    No offense intended.


    June 15, 2008 at 4:52 am

  591. How easy Linux is to someone entirely has to do with conditioning. I remember when I first started installed Linux there was a learning curve, but at this point its easier to me than Windows is, and definitely so in the department of fixing things. I put my little sister on Ubuntu when she was 7 years old and she did just fine. Note that she also had used Windows very little. When I gave my girlfriend a Knoppix CD on the other hand… whooee… “how do I find anything!?”. If you can’t tell, she’s been using Windows her entire life.

    The only thing I could complain about is the lack of support for many wireless cards. I have been using Linux for years and my on board wireless on my laptop *still* won’t work (come to think, I have a new distro now… I should try getting that working again as soon as I post this). Your average person is not going to know shit about Ndiswrapper or anything like that. Even the GUI for it in Ubuntu I can imagine would confuse many of the less computer literate people I know and the concept of finding and using Windows drivers would be totally above them.

    But then again, you can’t really expect a lot of computer users to set up anything for themselves on ANY os. I’ve gotten enough calls from my grandma to know that whether she was on Windows or Linux, I’d still be setting up her wifi for her… but yeah, using Windows drivers in lieu of adequate linux support… ridiculous.

    Also it really isn’t a bad thing if Linux remains an OS by developers for developers. I don’t really mind the smaller user base of Linux, it works for me just fine. I’m a developer and geek, and Linux is pretty much geared toward my kind. I would much rather a small user base than having Linux dumbed down for your average computer user. The big problem I have with Windows is that it isn’t flexible. Windows has you do things the way Windows wants, and if the way Windows wants doesn’t work, its sure as hell not going to tell you how to fix it. Linux lets me mess with it, and I like that. My fear would be that making Linux a platform for the average user would take the emphasis off of the design that I like so much and would instead start moving to a Windows type design.

    Dr. Z2A

    June 16, 2008 at 3:01 pm

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  593. Try Pardus ( It comes with installed flash player.


    June 17, 2008 at 3:41 pm

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