Cognitive ease and free software

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biosprob
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Joined: 10/10/2015

As someone happy to tinker, I don't let ease (or lack thereof) get in the way of my experiences of a product or service. Though there is definitely benefit in learning new things, it is often a barrier of entry for people. People are hesitant to learn things generally out of fear or more often; laziness. They just want things to do as they expect.

I bring this up because I just discovered that there was no option to delete an icon from the task bar upon right-clicking it. Searching through the Trisquel forums, I found that I had to do alt+right-click to find the delete option. I wasn't sure where else to look for this information and I find it hard to imagine I would've found it without an internet connection.

As someone migrating from windows, this is something that I just expected would be there, and was taken aback when it wasn't. Little things like this is enough to deter people from adopting new products or services, no matter how trivial it is.

I shouldn't have to hold down the Alt key! /s

Would it be possible to put something like this in the right-click menu?

onpon4
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Joined: 05/30/2012

This is something weird about GNOME Flashback. Though to be fair, I do recall the menus being really finnicky in GNOME 2, so I can see why they did it. (I remember having a lot of difficulty in GNOME 2 getting the menus for the right things, or something to that effect.)

Personally, I prefer GNOME Shell (the default GNOME interface), but Ruben has chosen GNOME Flashback for performance and I guess a bit of traditionalism. Though judging from your complaints, you might dislike GNOME Shell even more than GNOME Flashback. Perhaps KDE would be better for you. (It wouldn't be a great choice as a default for Trisquel, however, given how heavy it is.)

If you do want to try KDE, you could install the "triskel" package, or alternatively there's the "kde-plasma-desktop" package.

lembas
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Joined: 05/13/2010

I also dislike having to use alt to get all the options.

I believe a major reason for choosing the flashback was that it doesn't need hardware 3D acceleration. (And certainly you can do it in software but then your poor CPU will get so hot and your fans will spin till your ears bleed.)

I think defaults matter alot and even all these little wrinkles should be smoothed out too.

strypey
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Joined: 05/14/2015

I just want to +1 the issue that OP brings up. I'm now an experienced GNU/Linux user. I'm still far from being a UNIX greybeard, but I have made a commitment to using only free code if humanly possible. I'm willing to put up with a certain amount of broken software, confusion, and filing bug reports, as an investment in a future where everyone can use nothing but free code.

In my experience of arguing for adoption of free code software though, the "open source" people appear to be right about one important thing: most people's primary software concern is that it helps them get their work done, and doesn't sabotage and distract them. Even once they start to understand software freedom issues, they're just not willing to trade a computer that works ok for one that doesn't. I wrote this satirical blog post summing this up just before I first tried Trisquel:
http://www.coactivate.org/projects/disintermedia/blog/2012/10/22/brick-seeks-free-software-foundation-endorsement/

There is still proprietary software in the world, not because proprietary is what people *want*, but because proprietary software companies at least give the appearance of *listening* to what people want, and offering it. If we seriously want people to shift to GNU/Linux - and particularly to an FSF-endorsed distribution like Trisquel - we *must* do everything we can to make the experience at least as user-friendly as Windows or OSX, and ideally more so. That applies to the quality and reliability of the software provided (in the core distro and in the repos), the user manuals and documentation provided, and the friendliness and helpfulness towards beginners on user forums like this one.

Obviously this is not just up to the Trisquel community. It's something the whole software freedom movement must take seriously if we actually want people to change their software use habits. Of course, if we just want to remain a marginalized minority, and feel superior to other people, we can just keep retreating to the claim that ethics are more important that software that works, and sneering down our noses at people who prefer a GUI to a terminal.

lembas
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Joined: 05/13/2010

I think this is a great article in this vein

https://mako.cc/writing/hill-when_free_software_isnt_better.html

biosprob
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Joined: 10/10/2015

Just read the article.

"The median number of contributors to a free software project on SourceForge? One. A lone developer." -- is this still the case?

I've always wondered how many people actually write or maintain free or open source software. It seemed promising that with an increasing number of people getting more computers and having access to internet that there might be more people adopting the philosophy and software. However, if nonfree software and locked up hardware is the norm, people are never going to be exposed to it by default upon purchasing a device. Unless of course they know someone, or actively research things, it doesn't seem so promising.

Consider how many people were up in arms over the Snowden leaks, yet they happily gave facebook and google ALL of their data, willingly. I think the problem came from the lack of perceived benefits and the notion that it was "taken" from them, by the US government (and other spy agencies, for that matter). Whereas with google and facebook, they're getting products and services and are communicating with people - there's benefit in giving up their privacy and anonymity. I wonder if it's like gambling - the benefits seem to far outweight the loses, but humans are terrible at determining risks and payoffs. There's more effort in thinking of things, than not thinking of things.

I'd say most people are unthoughtful consumers of things in general. Most people do not consider the rights of an animal they're about to eat, or whether they were farmed or harvested sustainably. Most people do not consider whether the $5 shirt they're wearing was made by a kid chained to a sewing machine in south-east Asia. They're definitely not going to think about whether ad device has power over them and lacks respect for their freedom.

Is it an artefact of human psychology/neurology that we're terrible at assessing risks, or is it a lack of education; something cultural?

strypey
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Joined: 05/14/2015

You raise some important issues, and I think the habits of consumerism, and the groups who job is to cultivate them in people, have a lot to answer for. But I also want to reiterate the TL;DR of my posting above: people need their software to work. If it doesn't, if it distracts them from their work (as I'm starting to find trying to keep my old laptop working with Trisquel), it makes the computer about as useful as a brick. Looking down at people from a perceived moral high ground when they compromise their software freedom to achieve a working computer helps not at all. If just makes us look like a bunch of elitists who are out-of-touch with reality.

onpon4
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Joined: 05/30/2012

Anyone who's "looking down" on people for using proprietary software is in the wrong, period. RMS would tell you the same thing: except in a few cases like Skype, using proprietary software harms you. You should avoid it whenever possible for your own freedom's sake, but it's not like it's a sin or something.

That said, I don't see that kind of attitude being displayed here.

lembas
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Joined: 05/13/2010

I think it also harms the society as a whole. It for example teaches people dependence and exposes their privacy. It gives publicity for proprietary software. And then absolutely horrible file formats become "standards", like M$ OOXML.

strypey
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Joined: 05/14/2015

Imagine this scenario...

User: Hey, you're a computer person, can you help me with my computer?
GNUser: Sure, I'll format your hard drive and install a fully libre OS for you.
User: Um, ok. Can I still use Windows?
GNUser: Oh no! That would harm you. I will help you replace Windows with a GNU/Linux distribution.
User: Ooookay. But I'll still be able to do my work right, word processing, spreadsheets, email, browse the web, do my banking, all those things I spent hundreds of dollars buying a computer to be able to do.
GNUser: Sure, GNU/Linux has software for all that.
User: Cool. And this Linux thingy, it will run better than Windows too, yeah?
GNUser: wellll... maybe, um, maybe not, um, it depends on exactly what chipsets you have inside your computer, whether they are originals or knock-offs, and whether there is libre firemware/ drivers for them yet.
User: Ok, so I'm going to have to learn how to use a whole new kind of computer system, and relearn all the programs I depend on every day from scratch. If I'm lucky, the computer will run as reliably as it does with Windows or better, if I'm unlucky, it will run much worse, and I will spend days on the phone to you, or searching the web, desperately trying to find out why.
GNUser: wellll, yes. But you won't experiences the harms of being a proprietary user, and society will benefit from your choice not to use proprietary software.
User: But I won't be able to get as much work done, and I might lose my job.
GNUser: Maybe, but that's the opportunity cost of taking an ethical stance. So, when do you want to get started on installing GNU/Linux.
User: Ummmmm, I'll... get back to you on that.

I'm not arguing that the ethics of software freedom don't matter. I'm as passionate about them as any of you. But my experience trying to convince people to transition to GNU/Linux, and supporting them when they do (starting with myself) is that there's going to be a fear of migration pain.

If people subject themselves to that pain and end up with a computer that's less useful to them, they see that as a bad trade-off, and banging on about the ethical benefits doesn't change that. Lots of people having bad experiences, and spreading bad word of mouth about GNU/Linux, increases the fear of migration pain, and makes it harder to convince people to give it a try. Therefore, anything we can do to improve user-friendliness, reliability, solid hardware support etc make a very real difference to our chances of success as a software freedom movement.

lembas
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Joined: 05/13/2010

Well, nice or not, that is the reality. Having said that I'm all for improving free software, like probably most people around here. However software doesn't get better by wishing it happen. We need to make it happen. You don't write code, I don't write code but yet there are things we can do.

* https://trisquel.info/en/how-can-i-help-project
* https://trisquel.info/en/wiki/how-help

Magic Banana

I am a member!

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Joined: 07/24/2010

The user migrates once if she migrates for the good reason: ethics. On the contrary, proprietary software abuses the user on a constant basis.

And the migration is to be planned. It is much easier to migrate when hardware is to be bought and someone advises you what to buy for a perfect support (today: Intel but not Skylake and a Wifi dongle from ThinkPenguin/Tehnoetic unless the hardware is from ThinkPenguin or Minifree, the best). Also free software should first be adopted (one by one) on the Windows system: Firefox, Pidgin, LibreOffice, etc.

The goal is the liberation of the user. A hasty migration works against the goal.

ADFENO
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Joined: 12/31/2012

As people have already said here, free software experience is better
with devices made to work originally with free software.

Some strange assumptions that I have seem so far about the free software
philosophy are:

* "Those who support free software must use only free software". They
must only teach, recommend, and install free software, but it's not
always possible for them to use only free software. If he does
teach/install/recommend non-free software, and if you really take into
consideration the time in which the action was made (because software
also evolves), then you're more than welcome to give that "free software
supporter" a nice warning of your choice. Besides, instead of messing up
with his public image just because he is simply using non-free software
isn't actually going to help him with the moral, or even ethical,
dilemma that he's having, you should instead help him to use free software.

* "If someone wants to use free software then we must always make a
straight forward switch to free software". Just like indirectly stated
above, every person has it's own pace and challenges to overcome in
order to switch to using only free software.

* "If we can make gradual switches to free software, that means a free
software supporter can install non-free software for the user".
Definitely not. Hire someone else to do the work to your mate.

* "Our work is done. The user is now using some free software". And if I
were to make you a half-baked bread, would it taste good?

* "Free software is against capitalism".

* "We need free software for voting". That's actually dangerous
considering that the free software philosophy helps achieve democracy,
and as such the current position of the philosophy is against computers
for voting.

ADFENO
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Joined: 12/31/2012

And here I go replying myself because my mind keeps failing at me.

Anyway, continuing the above itemization:

* "The free software philosophy is equal to the definition of free
cultural works (also known as free culture)".

* "We mustn't help users of Windows to use free software on their
current operating system". If we don't do that, sooner or later we'll
need to resort to digital extraction. What we are not obligated to do is
to use Windows just for compilation of free software. Besides, now that
I think about it, I remember looking for a solution for my issue with
GNU IceCat immediately closing after being opened, when I came a cross
the project's mailing list archive where I have seen similar arguments.

MeNoMore
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Joined: 10/05/2015

Personally, I think that if you make the commitment to change your operating system, you will commit to the change, adapt to it and want to learn new and different things. I think, also, that for a beginner (I will write the Wiki for newbies, if you would like to help you are welcome, I am just researching terms and the correct wording and so on since I am a week old user) you need to have a "how to Trisquel GNU/Linux for dummies". Not all of us come from Ubuntu or know what previous Linux Distros offered. It is hard to go from "one click away" to suddenly command-lining most of the things. For me this is awesome, because my friend offered to help me install and I let him, but I was always one step in front, following my own head, figuring it out.

I think in a society of user friendly but caging software and operating systems, you need to break free, and break free of the mindset of everything is just a "click away", everything is not easy. If you wanted everything to be user friendly and easy accessible and you did not want to break free, then you would have never changed to Libre Software. Thus take a little time, play with your new operating system, have fun!

Magic Banana

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Joined: 07/24/2010

"Command-lining most of the things"? I cannot think of one single "newbie action" that *requires* "command-lining" on Trisquel's default system. Could you give an example please?

That said, if you ask for help on the forum or on the IRC, there is a high probability you will be answered with command lines. It is just simpler to write "open a terminal and execute that command" instead of "click on this, then on that, then ...". And command lines are the same whatever the graphical desktop. Who helps the "newbie" does not necessarily use the same desktop as her (hence not the same buttons to click). Also, the graphical interfaces keep on changing. What used to be called X is now called Y. And they are localized, whereas command lines are the same whatever the language the system is setup to use.

SuperTramp83

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Joined: 10/31/2014

Someone told me Xfce hasn't got this "issue", it's much faster, more stable, lightweight and super-customizable to make it look sexy sexy in 5 minutes.

quantumgravity
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Joined: 04/22/2013

Hmm I was never able to make it look so super sexy...
have any info how to do it?

SuperTramp83

I am a translator!

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Joined: 10/31/2014

hi quantumG.

tell me if this looks sexy to you. If so, and if you want to make something like that, I will post a tiny guide.

http://postimg.org/image/ngcmqjhlz/full/

quantumgravity
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Joined: 04/22/2013

Wow, yeah it does!
If I didn't know it was xfce, I would have guessed that it's some kind of pimped gnome shell or something like that.
A short guide would be highly appreciated!
(I guess not just by me)

moxalt
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Joined: 06/19/2015

My minimalist, Numix-toting, Giraffe-featuring, Xfce 4.12.

desktop-with-claws.png giraffe-desktop.png giraffe-desktop-with-whiskermenu.png
quantumgravity
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Joined: 04/22/2013

Somebody likes green...

moxalt
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Joined: 06/19/2015

It's easy on the eyes. Plus, cute giraffe! With books, of all things!

strypey
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Joined: 05/14/2015

Wow! XFCE has come a long with since I tried Xubuntu years ago.

MeNoMore
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Joined: 10/05/2015

Awesommmmmmme. Please make a guide.

SuperTramp83

I am a translator!

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Joined: 10/31/2014

Well, just because it is you quantumG and because I want a part in your next Bollywood movie..

Themes go in /usr/share/themes
Icon themes in /usr/share/icons

gtk theme is Greybird -> https://github.com/shimmerproject/Greybird

Make sure to install murrine-themes and qt4-qtconfig (this may or may not be needed - On Debian 8 it is needed) and in qt 4 Settings set the GUI style to GTK+

The Greybird theme is awesome. The only thing I changed is the highlight color. I changed it from the overly-light-blue to a nice light-grey. #808080
That you can do with gtk-theme-config.

The window theme is also Greybird (don't forget to go in Settings - Window Manager and select Greybird.

Icon theme is Numix-Circle but a heavily modified one (merged with other two themes). You just use the default one. It's nice enough.
https://github.com/numixproject/numix-icon-theme-circle

Install plank. It is where the applications will get minimized. That gives it a nice clean look keeping the transparent top panel always nice and smooth.

Now the transparent panel. Delete the default top and bottom panels. Create new panel and make it like this:
separator,whiskermenu,separator,orage,separator,notification area,separator.
Set all the separators to be transparent and expand second and third separators. Lock the panel.
In orage uncheck "show frame" and place in line 1 "%a %b %d %R %p" and make it Bold characters.
In notification uncheck "show frame".
Now you have full transparency when you go to Panel prefernces - Appearence - set Alpha to 0 (zero)

Now whiskermenu.
Display: Title
Title: @span weight="bold"@Applications@/span@ (to make it bold characters) - Replace the @ with < and >
In Menu check: "show app description" and "position search entry next.." and "position categories next.."
Item icon size - normal
Category icon size -none

Place the .gtkrc-2.0 file (attachment) in /home and restart session (just changing theme and then back should do it too). Note that that whisker theme I set it like that becuse I like it like that. You can change the colors to your liking. It's easy to do so.

Conky is in attachment too.

cheers quantumG. Send me bitcoins when you are rich.

AttachmentSize
conky & gtkrc.tar 10 KB
quantumgravity
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Joined: 04/22/2013

Thanks a lot, tramp.
I especially love the numix-circle theme.
And don't worry, your actor-career will skyrocket when you play the raja in my movie.
But you'll get no bitcoins.
Cheers ;)

SuperTramp83

I am a translator!

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Joined: 10/31/2014

no bitcoins no raja.

ADFENO
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Joined: 12/31/2012

Oh, and look, a new article by Richard Stallman on the very same subject came up[1]. :D

REFERENCES

[1] https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/applying-free-sw-criteria.html

ADFENO
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Joined: 12/31/2012

And for some anoying reason the "Login or register to comment" links, once authenticated, fail to preserve the nesting of the comments. Must remember to clcik on the "Reply" link again after authenticating. :D

The above comment was supposed to be a reply to my previous comment.