For those who don’t know me, a little background. I have a BA and an MBA, I have worked in the IT field for over a dozen years, on various operating systems, applications and hardware platforms. I think I’m a fairly sharp guy. But one of the things that continuously annoys me about Linux and Open Source software in general is the sheer kludginess (is that a word) of trying to get software to JUST WORK! Microsoft and Apple have not carved out their market share because they have superior products, but because for the average layperson, getting the system to work, and installing software is pretty simple to do.
I read something a few weeks back from a columnist (wish I could remember who – so I could link to him), who said that for 90% of the population, they don’t care how their computer and operating system works, they just want it to work so they can get stuff done. Just as most people don’t care how their car engine works, or how household appliances work. They want them to JUST WORK!
So what brought all of this up? For various professional reasons, I decided to download and install an unnamed database package to try and learn it. Off I went to their website to download it. First thing I discovered was, that if you wanted to use it in a Linux environment, it had to be a specific version of Linux. They were not supporting a large number of distros anymore (including the one I had already installed and was comfortable with). I backtracked a little bit and installed a couple of the distros they are supporting in VMs to try it out. Then I had to download and install several different non-standard packages that the program installer needed. Not the actual application, but THE INSTALLER!
Got that done, and tried to install the database. It did a system check, and errored out, because I didn’t have the OS configured correctly. It needed the VM to have a domain name associated with it. Localhost wasn’t enough. It had to be localhost.localdomain. So I fixed that, and tried to run it again. Still didn’t work. I didn’t have some other environment variable setup OK. (Starting to see a pattern here?). Anyway, after trying for several hours over a weekend, hitting multiple snags and fixing them on multiple VMs, I finally got it installed….
On a Windows VM in about 15 minutes. 😛
Now technically its supposed to run better on Linux than Windows, but if I can’t get it running on Linux because the process is pretty clunky and cumbersome, I’m left to fall back on Windows. And that is what a lot of consumers and companies are doing. Despite the inherent benefits of using an open source platform, it came down to I wanted it to JUST WORK!
And that folks, is the problem that Linux vendors, developers and users have to confront and overcome. Make the software easy to use, easy to install and easy to maintain so people can get their stuff done. Get it to JUST WORK, and people will use it.