A SEAMLESS END-USER EXPERIENCE
ISN’T ONLY ABOUT TECHNOLOGY—
IT IS ALSO ABOUT COORDINATION,
AND BUSINESS RELATIONSHIPS.
tional cube, grouping windows, and task
switching with live previews, can offer real
The official name of Linux’s 3D desktop
is “compiz,” but in its effort to present
a friendly face on nerdy underpinnings,
Ubuntu calls it “desktop effects.” The 3D
desktop is not enabled on install, but you
can find it in the appearances control panel.
I clicked to enable desktop effects. And in
just a few seconds, ta-da—”desktop effects
could not be enabled.”
My laptop uses a video card by ATI, one
of the largest such vendors. It is definitely
new enough to handle 3D acceleration.
When I installed Ubuntu, it automatically
chose drivers for the ATI card, but these
drivers do not support desktop effects. To
use desktop effects, I would need to install
the “official” drivers by ATI. Reading the
directions at ATI’s website, I would need
to download the source code to the drivers,
download the Ubuntu packages for compiling programs, and then compile the drivers
myself. Oh, fun.
It turns out that there is a handy third-party app—named Envy—that does all this
work for you. Using Envy, I had the official
ATI drivers installed in a couple of clicks.
My desktop effects were enabled. I was
happy, albeit a little fatigued.
Linux advocates—or apologists, depending on your point of view—will tell you
why all of these problems came up. Usually,
the answer is because it is the software ven-
dor’s fault. After all, how is Ubuntu responsible for the shortcomings of Adobe or ATI
in making their Linux software easier to
install? Technically, this argument is correct. But as a user, I don’t care about those
things. I just want stuff to work. And this is
where creating a seamless end-user experience isn’t only about technology—it is also
about coordination, and business relationships, and all the logistics work that go into
making sure all of the pieces of the puzzle
are actually in the box the puzzle comes in.
Today, this remains Linux’s biggest
challenge on the desktop. There is a disconnect between what users want and need,
and what Linux vendors can deliver—even
Ubuntu. But the gap is narrowing, and for
some people Ubuntu might already offer
everything they need. It does for my mother. She uses it every day to shop on EBay
and read her Gmail, without even knowing
what it is, and I no longer have to clean
malware from her machine. And I use
Linux every day, too. Despite the initial
hassles, I now boot my laptop into Ubuntu
rather than Vista nine times ou~t of ten. It’s getting there. So…very...close.
Permission to make digital or hard coPies of all or Part of this work
for Personal or classroom use is granted without fee Provided that
coPies are not made or distributed for Profit or commercial advantage
and that coPies bear this notice and the full citation on the first Page.
to coPy otherwise, to rePublish, to Post on servers or to redistribute
to lists, requires Prior sPecific Permission and/or a fee.
© acm 1091-556/08/0600 $5.00