Ubuntu 18.04 is great! I’ve beta tested it, tweaked Vrk (my desktop quick setup app at http://verb.ink) to recognize the new desktop features, and it all just works! Bravo Mark, loved Unity with certain desktop setting tweaks from Vrk, but it’s great that GNOME has been “Unity-ized” for more of what everyone wants and one less desktop environment for me to support for Vrk.
Now, can we all please take a break from this “perfect desktop push”?
Don’t get me wrong, I want to come back to desktop and I even have a few priorities I’ll describe here. But, there are other issues with Linux on desktop computing, mainly more external hard disk support and printing.
Linux started as terminal work, just like DOS back in the early 90s. OS2 was a dream that should have been, Windows 95 broke the mold, which even Linux desktop systems still use (the ‘Start’ menu as a one-for-all resource and right-click context menus). Desktop environments let us use some useful apps on the awesome, open, and stable Linux. But…
Windows is “idiot proof”.
As developers, IT, and InfoSys folk, we need our clients using “idiot proof” desktop environments. Ubuntu doesn’t provide that quite yet, though it’s getting closer every release. The next big development priority for desktop needs to be automated disk troubleshooting.
It’s not if, it’s when your USB drive or external hard disk gets messed up, just plug it in while Windows is up and running and the Windows nanny will see the problem and ask to clean it for you. It just happened to me yesterday.
My old 1T HDD (with a shoddy cable) wiggled and my picture file copy-move got interrupted. Suddenly my 100GB picture folder from the last decade didn’t exist! Unmount, remount… nothin’. Same result third time. That was Ubuntu 16.04. I rebooted to Windows 7, the nanny nannied me, fixed the problem, and my decade of pictures existed again.
Why can’t the awesome, useful, robust, flexible, “we-want-out-clients-to-switch-to-it” Ubuntu do that?
If I search the forums for fixing that disk issue, I’ll have to get a five hour education in file allocation languages and the various and sundry errors that can come from wiggling a cable—or the two-year-old deciding to “answer the phone” and unplug the disk during a write process. Then, when I try to fix the problem—only available from the command line—I have to guess which problem it might have, then pray to the Lord Jesus that I don’t make a type-o, lest I lose everything permanently, accidentally delete the Atlantic Ocean, and cause the apocalypse.
If I ask for help, the Linux experts will want to see my log file from the errors.
If I search help forums, the Linus experts already advised someone to install that super-easy-to-use disk-fix software…
But, shouldn’t that super-easy-to-use disk-fix software already be installed with Ubuntu and pop up automatically, run automatically when the mounting process detects the problem automatically, and fix the problem automatically…
…like Windows does?
Oh, when I booted to Windows to fix the problem, Windows decided to update without my permission and it ate up the rest of my valuable afternoon. It’s okay. Jesus does this to me to help me overcome writer’s block, which I finally did and finished my work at 11:30 p.m. But…
I don’t want my clients to have to go through that.
I need my clients to be able to use Ubuntu and have these kinds of problems get fixed automatically—better than Windows does it.
Linux can do it, but this kind of “desktop” support needs to become a priority with the desktop roadmap, not making an uber-cool smooth environment that mimics Windows 8/10/Metro/Longhorn.
Don’t get me wrong. I hope that GNOME 4 has integrated sideswipe actions that my Windows 8 laptop will automatically pick up, or the ARM distro will adopt when I install it on my old smartphone. And, I hope those sideswipe options are duplicated by a mouse in a corner like Windows 8 and GNOME both have already.
But more importantly, when my client spills his coffee and has to yank his USB to avoid bringing Jesus back too early, I need him to be able to wipe his desk—”as in, with a cloth”—then plug the USB stick back in, and Ubuntu just fix the file system that got messed up when he unplugged it before unmounting. Then, my client will say, “Gee wiz! Jesse is right! Mark Shuttleworth’s Ubuntu really is better. I’m glad I am Jesse’s client!”
Ubuntu desktop developers, can you do that for me? …and about a million other guys like me?
Now, I don’t like to offer suggestions without a roadmap. So, I almost think this should be a lower runlevel app made for GNOME, but installable on other environments and distros. I say GNOME because it’s kind of the “Gold standard” or “GNOME standard” for distros, working on Ubuntu, CentOS, openSUSE, and even Arch (hail Manjaro). Many GNOME apps also run on Xfce, KDE, and of course Budgie. GNOME would love the bragging rights and Canonical definitely has the brains and the paying customers to appreciate it.
Then, there’s also printing. Windows let’s me just print a folder of pictures. What the $#@&&! is going on? People, we need a native image viewer that will just up and print the files in a directory like Windows. Why not a terminal command to “boot”?
I have a dream…
toprinter -f *.png *.jpg *.pdf -l .
Automated disk fixing and quick image/pdf printing is what desktop computing is basically intended for. We’ve finally gotten past our hangover from the GNOME 3 detour that started in 2011, now, let’s make this stuff work for “real cyber America” (and the rest of the world, of course).
Before going on, know that I’m not complaining. I only write this to stimulate discussion. My slogan is “Today’s news yesterday.™” because I live in the world of “tomorrow”. I predicted Trump’s election, not from a want, but because it just made sense, unlike those overpaid “experts” you pay every month to appear on your TV subscription, who couldn’t believe he was elected even after he was. “Smart” people should prepare us for the future, not be in denial when the future becomes history.
So, I’m doing my “future” thing again, this time on Linux. (Maybe someone will call it Linux for futurans.)
With Ubuntu 18.04 here, I’m already on 20.04 and seeing ideas that go well beyond Ubuntu. My aim in this article is only get people thinking and talking. Talk about it, please. That’s the responsibility of the end user in an open source community.
Back to desktop, yeah screen edges and sideswipe-ready, being touchscreen-friendly… I think we were already going there. That would score Mark’s “convergence” goal. But, I have one other simple suggestion that I think could make the world a better place overnight:
Middle click = two-finger scroll action
I use “natural scrolling”, so two fingers on my touchpad “grabs” the web page or photo and moves it around intuitively. Shouldn’t a middle mouse click do the same thing? That would save on “wheel wear” for sure, and it would allow much faster, more accurate scrolling. But, there’s more…
Odds are you don’t use a Wacom writing tablet, but I do, any half-baked graphic designer does, and that should include our customers.
Linux has great Wacom tablet support, but not all of it. My point is that middle click = two-finger scroll action would effectively bring the rest of the Wacom tablet support to Linux—without coding anything for Wacom tablets.
Windows has this extra driver installer thingy for Wacom tablets that adds another program that allows “long click” and “drag scrolling” and that sort of system-bogging rotgut. But, one of the Wacom pen buttons is a “middle mouse button”. If “middle click” would scroll, none of that extra Windows stuff for Wacom would need to be coded for Linux.
Not to mention that Windows and Mac would soon want to copy the idea because it would totally revolutionize the world by the next morning.
Just a thought.
(To include everyone, I’m sure Chrome OS would get on board too, on the condition that your mouse was searchable by Google. Maybe a ‘searchable mouse’ could go on the list for 22.04, just to make Google’s AI happy.)