My friend Jim Daniel at Tinkerer and I had a discussion the other day about Linux and it's UI. He asked if I was familiar with it and honestly, I tend to stay away from seemingly complicated products, so I said no. I mean, isn't Linux is a command line platform? I haven't used one of those for close to 20 years - I haven't had to and I don't want to. My UNIX is rusty anyway.
He told me that Linux had a UI. Huh. Interesting. Then he encouraged me to take a look at it and write up a blog about my thoughts about its UX. I took at look at the Mint site and it seemed like something I'd like to explore more. It honestly reminded me of some of the UNIX UIs back in the day. I know Linux is a better OS than Windows - so maybe this is a good alternative? And I figured it would be fun to expand my knowledge and do something different.
However, after installing Linux Mint, I had an idea. Why not write up my experiences with Linux - 1 hour per day for 30 days? Today is day 1 of my 30 days experiencing Linux UIs (Mint and Ubuntu). I'm still using the Mac OS and Windows, but I'm just testing the waters for Linux to get more insight.
Before I installed Linux, I visited the Linux Mint site. There is a lot of information, targeted to developers rather than those who are developer-lite or consumers. It was a little intimidating. I'd rather see the features of Linux highlighted - like we offer these software packages with the download, or that if you use Linux, you'll have these benefits on your hardware - over the release notes and technical insights. And maybe if they showed a way that someone could install Linux in an easier way.
There is a way to get involved with the Linux Mint project, but as a general consumer, I wasn't sure what to do with that. I almost feel like there should be 2 sites - one for downloading software and one for developers for the project. It may help general distribution to the less technical. Or separate those who just want the downloads from those who want to develop?
But maybe for now it is targeted more to the developers than to someone like me? I had to wonder...
I wasn't too afraid to download Linux - it was honestly super easy to find and get a copy - but at the same time, I anticipated a difficult installation experience because I would need to have technical knowledge, just based on the site experience.
I used Parallels on my Mac to install Linux Mint. That was probably the easiest installation experience I have ever had - easier than when I installed Windows 8! The emulator did all the work and everything installed as expected. I then had more confidence to use Linux and started wondering if I made a big deal out of nothing.
I spent about an hour playing with it. I know I have more to explore, but here is what I liked so far:
- It felt similar to windows in some ways, so it wasn't such a surprise to use.
- I got a few good surprises - like an Office Suite, Firefox built in, and some other tools. I thought I was going to get a blank OS with no functionality and no real way to get any (because there isn't a ton of support for Linux). Now I just need to use it more to learn how it works.
- Intuitive at first glance. I was able to pretty much figure my way around - not as an expert - but it was a great start.
- Some cool little features - I like that there is text available to indicate the product you are rolling over, getting ready to select, and what it does. There are also options to sort/filter your apps so you only see what you want.
What I didn't like:
- Opening Linux Mint on Parallels presented me with a high-res screen which was just hard to read. And I couldn't easily find way to reduce the screen size. I'm fine with struggling with it - now I have a challenge to fix it - but the average consumer-type wouldn't be so motivated.
- It's like windows with some great features - but maybe go away from windows? Windows is ok as a construct, and people will more easily adopt something similar, but is that really the way to go?
- I like the filter for the apps but it could be a little more obvious what it is. It took me a bit to figure it out.
That's all for now. I'd say it was a pretty productive Day 1. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and comments and getting a dialog going. If anyone knows how to fix the screen resolution issue on Parallels, let me know.