Mailinglist Archive: opensuse (4348 mails)

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Re: [SLE] My patience has run out
  • From: Kevin McLauchlan <kmclauchlan@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 30 Oct 2002 13:29:07 -0500
  • Message-id: <200210301329.07652.kmclauchlan@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
On Wednesday 30 October 2002 08:50, kathee wrote:
> Have to throw my scarf (sorry don't wear hats) into
> the ring.
>
> I wonder how many people still use their computer as
> a glorified typewriter? I mean with all the apps
> and power of PC's it seems all the world is focused
> on Word and Excel. Just my opinion, but of course,
> that is all people seem to cry about.

Well, one of the most useful things that a computer
can do for the general business user is to be
a glorified typewriter. It's the "glorified" part that
MS Word has done so well. Like it or not, for the
hundreds of millions of office computer users, the
everyday convenience and ease-of-use of Word is
the standard that now must be met by any tool
that would replace it. Most of us never use a fraction
of the power of Word, but even the small subset that
is commonly used by the majority of office users,
seems to be a difficult target for Linux to achieve.

I use Word when I have to, which means when I'm
dealing with other people's documents. My own
"glorified typewriter" is FrameMaker. I hope you can
appreciate the slight-but-important difference that I
recognize between (say) Notepad or Gedit and
FrameMaker, and why I would not willingly spend a
large part of my every working day using an actual
typewriter or using an ordinary text editor.

As with Word, I also do not make use of most of
the functionality that is in FrameMaker. Yet, there
seems to be no Linux solution that supports the
basic things that I do in Frame every day. I've been
trying to make OpenOffice 1.0.1 take over the task,
but so far, I keep falling back to Windows and
FrameMaker in order to get my projects out the door.
I get a bit further toward my goal every time, but I
waste a lot of time on each project, taking one step
forward and two steps back.

> So, if MS Office is your tool of choice, stick with
> it and stick with Windoze (or use CrossOver like I
> do if I really have to).

Are you saying that Linux and any/all Linux-based
applications are unable to replicate the (perhaps)
ten percent of MS Office/Windoze functionality that
the average user... actually uses?

I mean, every Linux geek that I've ever met (in person
or in e-mail) likes to point out how bloated MS Word
is. But how many people actually USE most of that
bloat? Very, very few. There are super-users and
specialty users who do make use of the fancy features,
but mostly there is a core of functionality that is
actually used by general office people.

It's that core stuff that needs to "just work". For the
vast majority of Windows/Office users, it does "just
work". That means, they just fire it up, out of the
box, and they start working, pleasing their bosses.

For the people who have made OpenOffice (for example)
into their everyday office application set... well, in
the first place, there aren't that many of them. Most
of the respondents in the OpenOffice [Users] list are
dabblers, like me, who are still getting to know it.
They still go back to MS products to do real work...
you know, the kind of work that the legions of office
drones get paid for?

> But in all seriousness, I use my computer/laptop for
> so much more. I still watch users fumble with MS
> products. And then if they are using those they are
> playing games. Not my idea of the best use of a
> computer especially at work.

Well, aside from the games issue (and do you really
think they'd avoid all the games in your average Linux
distro? :-), what do you actually think is the "best
use of a computer at work" for clerks and
administrators, and people in Sales and people in
Finance and people in HR and people in
Production/Operations and people in Security and....??

My own CTO, here at the office does most of his
work in his head, or in brainstorming sessions with
other senior technical people, as they lay the
groundwork for our next products. When he grabs
a computer, it's to:
a) record and organize his thoughts (word processor)
b) make projections and "what-if" scenarios
(spreadsheet)
c) communicate with others (e-mail, scheduling, project
manager, presentation)

I could, of course, make similar breakdowns of what
the other groups do in the company, but the
descriptions would all include -- in order of greatest
usage --
a) e-mail and scheduling
b) word processing or spread-sheet
c) web

Specialists have specialist tools (programmers have
their editors and compilers, configuration management
has the CM and BoM tools, Product Verification has
the test tools, and so on, but all of 'em occupy a
great deal of their time writing or updating documents,
reading and writing e-mails, looking up facts or
filling forms, etc.


> A funny thing -- my boss (CEO, as I am the CTO) told
> me about a week or so ago that he has to reboot 4-6
> times a day because windoze just "freezes". My VP
> of Sales said she reboots about 6+ times a day since
> things just "stop responding". They have never
> really shared these comments before. I asked, "Why
> do you put up with it?" The replied, "I am used to
> it... yes, I sometimes lose files, but I have gotten
> in the habit of clicking 'save' about every 5
> minutes so my losses are minimal."

Everybody in our company uses WinNT4 and Office 2000.
When somebody actually gets a blue screen, these days,
it's an event. Once a month, in the entire company?
If somebody has their Windows desktop lock up, then
everybody smiles because the rest of the company is
safe for the rest of the month. It's that rare. And
these are people who use their computers all day,
every day.
In other words, such failure is very, very rare, and
that's for the old, shaky version of Windoze. Nobody
reports frequent freezes or losses of work. That's all
history, from five and ten years ago.

The last time anybody reported a mess of problems,
it turned out that they'd disabled the virus scanner
one time too many...

Yes, people do experience frustration and loss of work
and loss of time, but that's usually because they are
failing to make the best use of (say) Word.
For example, they create a document (or worse, they
modify somebody else's widely-used doc) with manual
formatting and overrides everywhere, ignoring Styles.

Then, they scream in frustration when Word behaves in
what they think are stupid and arbitrary ways. Those
who take some time to think through the design of a
document (even a one-page form) and lay it out with
a proper template and with proper Styles, well they
almost never have problems.

Strangely, if people make use of the Wizards, they
usually arrive at trouble-free documents, and never
suffer data loss.

In 1998, I used to battle constantly with Word, and
spent a significant proportion of my time re-doing
stuff or trying to make the numbering features behave
properly.

Today, I still have a subconcious distaste for Word,
but when I do have to use it, I never have trouble.
Of course, I still avoid the "Master Document" feature,
but that's what Frame is for...

Excel is the standard for how spreadsheets should
"just work". I have not seen a broken Excel document
in three years. I have come back from power failures
to find my Excel documents intact, right down to the
last keystroke that I typed before the room went dark.

I think that if your people are regularly experiencing
the kinds of troubles that you describe, then you
should:

a) have a long talk with your IT manager/director, who
is obviously not doing a proper job, and
b) get those people some remedial training and
c) hire a student/constultant for a few weeks of work
repairing/replacing the documents and templates
that most of these people use on a repetitive
basis, and which give them so much trouble.

> I was stunned. I still wonder why we accept this
> garbage that M$ produces.

You didn't write this in 1997, by any chance, did you?
Maybe your IT people need to talk with my IT people.

If the truth be known, the kinds of troubles you
describe are what I've been experiencing with SuSE 8.0
and KDE 3.0.3 and OpenOffice.org 1.0.1.

So what if I can (occasionally) kill a bunch of hung
processes and maybe resume in X without rebooting?
It still takes about as long as it would to reboot and
deal with broken files or with retrieving backups and
starting over from the last good version of my work.

If your attitude is typical, then it would seem that
we have an inkling of the problem. Linux and the
"linux on the desktop" folks are aiming at the world
of Windows in the mid-nineteen-nineties. There are
good and sufficient reasons for dumping MODERN
Windows OS and apps, but they have more to do
with licensing costs and with spyware than they
have to do with broken or unreliable software.
Linux and KDE/GNOME and OpenOffice, etc. should
be aiming to duplicate/exceed the working experience
of TODAY's Windows users, not the dusty memories
of last century.

Remember, there may be hundreds, thousands, tens-of-
thousands of computer users in any company, but there
are a relative handful of IT people. The IT people may
make the decisions about what goes into the server
room, but they mostly *don't* get to decide what goes
on all the desktops. As long as Linux is marketed
mostly among mutually-self-congratulatory geeks,
then it remains relegated to the back shop.

You want to get it onto the legions of workaday
desktops, then have it address the current experience
and expectations of the workaday desktop users.

> When was the last time
> you (sorry I forgot the name of the original poster
> on this thread) sent a scathing letter like you did
> to M$?? Probably never. Oh, and I am sure you will
> say, "but I never have problems with my Windoze
> install." That is fine and dandy. I have never had
> problems with ANY of my linux distros and I use all
> 3 of the major vendors just because I like variety.
>
> My point is simple -- why not just go buy a stripped
> down PC, load windoze on it with the bloated MS
> Office and move on? Does screaming at a company
> really accomplish anything? Especially on a public
> list?

Linux is still underdog. Linux is still mostly geeks
and hobbyists. The Linux powers-that-be need to
be reminded that they are still not quite "getting it".

Just be glad that he wrote such an articulate and
well-organized letter, while seething in frustration.
To a proper, attentive marketing team, that kind of
stuff is GOLD!

[...]

> Perhaps in the M$ world it does, but I doubt they
> will ever listen. They simply want to control you,
> your PC and your software habits -- plain and
> simple.

And one way they are doing that is by addressing
the perceived needs (and yes, often by shaping
those perceptions) of the by-far largest mass of
computer users... the everyday business desktop
user.

If Linux proponents want to break that strangle-hold,
they can either hope for miracles in the courts, or
they can address the needs and expectations of the
hundreds of millions of people who have a job to do,
and who don't want (or get paid) to spend a lot of time
and effort figuring out how to make the most basic
tools work.

> Next time you don't like something, try a positive
> approach or simply move on. If you are so upset
> that things "dont't work for you", then "but another
> car"... This is not rocket science.
>
> In closing, I will never understand the M$ world and
> why people accept such mediocrity. If my system just
> "froze" 6 or more times a day I would be on the
> phone, writing emails, or something to M$ to get it
> resolved. If my car simply "stopped working" 6 times
> a day, I would buy a new car. Why is it such a
> difficult thing to do? Don't we have enough
> problems in the world than to worry about how well a
> "glorified typewriter" is working on your desktop?

My glorified typewriter works when it's in Windows
mode, and it doesn't quite work when it's in Linux
(SuSE 8) mode. For example, here at the office, I
still reboot into Windows every time I need to print.
For whatever silly reason, I *want* it to work, at
least as well as any other glorified typewriter, when
it's in Linux mode.
As well, when I'm in Linux mode (which is at least
half of most days), I'm staring at a flickering 60Hz
screen and getting a headache. Then I switch to
Windows and get to look at higher resolution and
85Hz for a while, and my headache recedes a bit.

I just want that same ease and function in Linux.
Is that really so much to ask?

> cheers

Indeed :-)

/kevin

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