Everyone agrees that the Linux desktop has a lot of work ahead to transform itself from a techie obsession to the intuitive, user-friendly desktop of a Macintosh or Windows machine. Even Mark Shuttleworth, founder of the popular Ubuntu Linux desktop, blogged about the shortcoming in a recent column and vowed to close the gap.
In the meantime, however, U.K.-based TechRadar.com recently published Linux: The Girlfriend Test, and a tough test it was indeed. The goal: to find out if a first-time Linux user, presumably a female college student, could accomplish nine familiar Windows tasks using Fedora 9, the community version of Red Hat.
Here are the tasks and how she fared on each one:
1. Bookmark a website in Firefox. No problem.
2. Write and print a letter in OpenOffice. The first part was easy but the letter wouldn’t print and no error message appeared with a reason or resolution.
3. Rip a CD. Task accomplished. But Fedora failed to identify all the output options.
4. Send an instant message. After several unsuccessful attempts, she succeeded by going to msn.com and inputting user data from her Windows Live Messenger account.
5. Create a pie chart in OpenOffice. No problem.
6. Transfer the ripped CD to her iPod. Attempt failed because of a protocol problem. Again, no error message appeared to identify or fix the difficulty.
7. Move a photo of her head onto a photo of her boyfriend’s body using Photoshop. Easy.
8. Watch a video on YouTube. Failed because Firefox was unable to install Flash player due to a malformed file. There was no work-around explanation.
9. Make an international phone call using Skype. Application installation was successful but audio playback problems prevented communication.
The writer concluded that Linux needs to do more with wizards and pop-up instructions to help new users without a technical background successfully transition from Windows or Macintosh to the Linux desktop.
I agree. But I have to say it was a pretty tough test, and the writer never mentioned how he fared in the “Boyfriend Shopping Test” that was his part of the bargain. Inquiring readers want to know.