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People like you and me will have no problem creating a custom install CD that defaults to XFCE to run on our really old hardware.

Normal people will download a debian CD and get XFCE and think that's linux on the desktop.

What I don't understand is why linux always optimizes for the corner case of a couple ultra cheap geeks who can't stand the idea of upgrading their 300 mhz celeron.

Valid point about the option of a slim xfce-based install being available.

I disagree about the 'normal people' point. 'Normal people' are less likely to download Debian as opposed to Mint or Ubuntu. If they venture into Debian territory, they're looking for something more and know what they're doing.

Which leads me to your third point, that is, I would venture a guess that the number of people who would care about this might not be in the minority after all. (Disclaimer: I have made assumptions about the numbers, if someone has nice numbers to refute/support this argument, please do the honors.)

Also, 'ultra cheap geeks' are usually puppets controlled by the management.

Most of the Open Source/Free Software is far more concerned that new Linux releases can install with no problems in a used computer some low-income person volunteers to help rebuild someplace like Free Geek...

"The Adoption Program

Free Geek receives donated used computers from the public and Build volunteers refurbish them with care. These computers are then “adopted out” to volunteers in exchange for 24 hours of volunteerism to our Adoption volunteers.

Volunteers in the Adoption Program

    disassemble computers for recycling
    help receive computer equipment from donors
    test basic computer components
    help keep our facility clean
Volunteer tasks in the Adoption Program can accommodate a wide range of abilities — we’ll work with you to make sure you can spend the time necessary to earn your computer. No computer experience is required to participate in the program.

Adoption volunteers disassembling computers When you complete your 24 hours of volunteer service, you’ll sign up for a basic class on how to use your computer. At the conclusion of the class, you’ll take your new-to-you computer home. Adoption volunteers must take the class in order to receive tech support. You can learn more about What You Get with your adopted computer.

It the Adoption Program sounds perfect for you, here’s how you can Get Started.

Volunteers can receive one computer per year.


Linux is used a lot in countries where buying the last and greatest is not an option, nor is fast internet connection.

Agreed with this. I do like being able to install without downloading more than 700MB in software. Saying download the DVD is very annoying, esp when you have a less than perfectly reliable internet connection.

My understanding was that even in those cases, most people just pirate windows xp. I am not even close to a windows lover, but have you seen the system requirements for windows xp? http://support.microsoft.com/kb/314865

Basically a 233MGhz processor and 64mb of ram will get you a usable windows xp installation.

"usable"? No. Those specs are simply wrong.

But even then, you're showing incredible hubris by saying "screw those guys, let them pirate XP". Debian's strength is that it tries to be universal - platforms and languages.

So is that a reason not to try to compete?

Why should those computers[1] go to landfill when they're perfectly capable of doing whatever is needed by the owners? Especially if the "extra functionality" that needs all that power is, well, what?

There are continents where Internet speeds are not great (or are expensive) - some of those are first world countries too. (EG Australia).

Many people don't care if they can bash the arrow keys on a Google Doodle. They just want to send a bit of email and do a bit of gentle web browsing; maybe a bit of light office work and some pdf reading.

WordStar and WordPerfect sold a gajillion copies and are fondly remembered by many. Abiword would cover the needs for 90% of its users.

[1] and all the copper; lead; rare earth heavy metals; aluminum; plastics; gold; etc etc.

> Normal people will download a debian CD and get XFCE and think that's linux on the desktop.

Would "normal" people download Debian CDs though? I wonder if this change will pass unnoticed precisely because it is only people like "you and me" that will be interested in Debian.

Exactly this. People that really care about optimizations aren't going to install the default Debian install anyways. They'd do a net install and build from there to get max performance for their old computers.

And I love that about Linux. I absolutely love how minimal you can get it (CrunchBang for me is the right mix). But it's time to focus on user experience if we ever want Linux adoption to spread. And that means we have to stop optimizing for computers that came out 10 years ago.

Debian supports a huge number of architectures, not just the 386 that comes in most desktop computers. Not all modern computing devices have the power of Intel Core 2 processors.

The other thing is, if people want a sweet enduser experience, they're not going to install the default Debian install anyways. They'll use an enduser-focused distro like Ubuntu.

> People that really care about optimizations aren't going to install the default Debian install anyways. They'd do a net install and build from there to get max performance for their old computers.

I recently installed Debian on a Dell server with Broadcom network adapters. Couldn't use the netinstall image because by default Debian doesn't include non-free firmware. It was nice to be able to use CD1 to get a fully functional headless Debian system, to then install the non-free firmware package from a USB flash drive to get network connectivity.

Images with firmware included are available from http://cdimage.debian.org/cdimage/unofficial/non-free/cd-inc...


No, normal people aren't even aware of the existence of Linux. That's primarily where GNOME (and Unity) have gone so badly wrong: optimizing for an audience that doesn't exist.

Many people aren't, yet these days I'm regularly surprised by random folks (some bordering ludditeness) knowing about Linux's existence and role.

IMO, it's because optimizing for the 300 MHz Celeron is a concrete technical objective. Optimizing for usability and design takes you right back into the subjective territory most of us are uncomfortable with. You've seen the fighting over Ubuntu's Unity. "Will this fit on a CD?" is a question that can be answered with facts.

I doubt the Debian downloaders are the sort that will think that's Linux on the desktop. Debian is a great distro but their specific download target is, shall we say, somewhat more exclusive than others, such as Fedora or Ubuntu.

"Normal people" don't use linux, so I don't buy your argument, sorry. I'd rather linux distributions stopped optimizing for idiots who can't tell what's going on without huge icons.

That said, I don't see how xfce is worse than gnome in its current state, so it's entirely win-win situation imho.

A number of normal people I know use linux. The scenario is usually: 1) Computer "breaks", ie needs os reinstall 2) they don't have os media 3) I offer a choice of buying a full copy of Windows or trying linux for free. Some that choose linux find it isn't for them. Some stick with linux.

Normal people will download a debian CD

No, they won't. Most normal people are not even capable of burning an ISO, let alone selecting ("so, do I use i386 or MIPS?") and downloading Debian.

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