Technological Grail Quest and some reviews too.

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The very idea that so many distributions of Linux exist is part of its charm, but also part of what makes it difficult for any one linux distribution to become dominate.  Each distribution has its own charm, and the “linux user” can go on for quite some time listing the virtues of their particular flavor of distribution.  More to the point they are all talking about the layers on top of the Linux kernel, and for the most part they are discussing the virtues of the GUI.  Although at some point in time I have tried most of them Suse, Slackware, Redhat, Debian, Ubuntu, Mint, Puppy, and several others, including variants such as Android, Chromium OS, Lindows, and the list just goes on, I find that the answer is not in a distribution, but in seeking the least amount of distribution from the beginning and working up from there.  The beauty of Linux in general is that it can be compiled from the freely available source.  Above the kernel, depending on the need of the user a fully customized OS can be created, including window manager, and GUI.  In some of my commercial applications it is absolutely necessary to start from scratch and build a fully customized OS, and even more important, is a network of appliances most of which are running some form of Linux based OS, even if the actual interface is not more than a CLI.

Additionally I am able to customize the distributions, so that I can take a package and repackage it to suit the needs of the users.  I have done this with Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, for a client that wanted a “hardened” version on his network of computers.  The key here is that I was able to provide this customer with a custom network, which included hardware, middleware, and software, all designed to perform specific jobs, including a custom Debian desktop for each of his desktop users.  For obvious reasons I cannot go into too much detail about the set up, as I value the privacy of the customer, but it was because of Linux and Open Source Software that I was able to do this for the customer.  In fact I have found that most of my small business users are beginning to see the advantage of OSS and Linux.

This however does not solve the end user issue with an individual computer, or a home built network.  If I sell a box to someone, and they take it home, and it doesn’t work the way they thought that it should, or does not look the way they think it should, I am going to be eating that box, and potentially lose many future customers.  To solve this I must either educate the customer, or make the user experience as close to what they expect as I can.  I can use desktop managers, and themes to create a look with the desktop, but that doesn't mean I can make it work exactly like the Microsoft Windows OS they are accustomed to.  I can get close, but not exactly.  I would not try to deceive my customers by creating a MWOS looking computer and try to tell them it is a MWOS computer when it really was a re-skinned Linux Mint box.  For one thing the first time they tried to load any Microsoft software, they would run into trouble, even if I had pre-configured the box with Wine, or a Virtual Space.  I have to let them know right up front that this is a Linux OS and that it will work best with software that is made to work with it.  This here presents many of the issues with users and their computers.

How do I educate them enough to allow them to adjust to a different OS while at the same time providing them with an experience that will be familiar enough they will feel comfortable with the changes.  It has become my biggest challenge yet, and one that I continue to wrestle with everyday.  While many people come to me looking for a custom built computer for many reasons, gamers want the latest and greatest hardware with MWOS and whatever else they need to compete in their prefered field of play, DTP and Desk Top Producers, want the latest and greatest hardware, and OSX to produce top quality lights and magic, and then there are the everyday users, who I feel do themselves a disservice when they want either of the two above computers when what they really need is one that is secure, surfs the web well, integrates well with their other devices, and can give them a general use machine, with ease of use, and less worry about uses that may cause trouble, like viruses, Identity Theft, and other very scary issues that plague the computer and Internet universe.

I don’t yet have a good answer, this is what I am seeking, and hopefully will find at least a happy compromise that will suit the user for now, until the true HUI comes along.  Unfortunately for a true HUI to appear on the market, the idea of what a computer is, and how the user interacts with it must change, dramatically.

Thank you and I will work on this, posting more as it becomes available.

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