Debian Squeeze: about relevance and visibility

p { margin-bottom: 0.21cm; }a:link { } The new awaited Debian 6.0 “Squeeze” has been recently released. I only got it a quick look on my blog. What more surprised me has been all the discussion about Debian “relevance” that appeared on the Internet just after Debian release (for example here and there). I’m not going to defend Debian here, there is no need, many people has already done it and I couldn’t add more of information to the whole discussion.
My opinion is that many people has mistaken as a loss of relevance of Debian what it’s simply a loss in visibility. Let me explain it a little: there are many features in a software product that aren’t visible at all, just think to security or reliability. You can see how your software is secure and reliable only by how many problems you do not have. This is also true outside of the software world: in a car, for example, you’ll never see your air-bag working unless you have an accident. In the software world it happens that some applications have ever more invisible than visible features until they becomes what I call “invisible software”.
I’m mostly an invisible software developer, that’s why I’m particularly interested in the subject. I often develop web-services, in my job, you’ll have probably seen a lot of applications, applets, web pages using web services but have you ever seen one working? There are disadvantages in writing invisible software since many people will not understand what your job is but there are advantages too: I’ve seen more arguments about a button colour than about a communication protocol.
Coming back to Debian, our famous distribution seems to be slowly drifting toward invisibility. It’s not loosing relevance, since many important and popular distributions are based on Debian, but ever less people install Debian on their computer because they find a derived distribution that better fit their needs. Debian is becoming a sort of framework to build distributions where the invisible features like security, reliability, and coherence in licenses are ever more important.
Is that bad? I don’t think so. That’s the way complex software development takes, it’s natural that somebody specializes itself in building the base bricks avoiding others reinventing the wheel.
What’s next? Is up to Debian community to decide if they will continue on the current road or try to gain back visibility by adding features that more fit to common users. Anyway, as I said, there are advantages in writing “invisible software”.

The Linux terminal – Outliving its relevancy?

A friend of mine recently published a post in which he opined that the Linux terminal not be shown to the uninitiated newbie. His post generated a lot of debate. I for one, agreed with his post and will now go further to say that the Linux terminal or command line interface has outlived its relevancy and needs to be relegated to the backseat.
I strongly believe – and so do most non-geek Linux users- that there was a time when the terminal was a very vital component of Linux: a time when Linux was mainly a hobbyist OS that was used by only geeks, most of whom disliked anything remotely akin to graphics. However, in today’s OS world, Linux is being placed and marketed as an alternative to market leader Windows. This then calls into question certain things that worked in the past but may be a hindrance today, and one of such things is the relevancy of the terminal.
The terminal is a great and easy way to get things done fast in Linux no doubt. But if Linux is competing against giants like MS Windows and Mac OS, both of whom have succeeded in relegating the terminal to the backseat, what then are the chances of Linux if it in some way depends largely on the terminal to get things done?
The people that find the terminal very challenging to use are the majority of computer users that Linux needs to make any headway in the market. I believe you know a lot of people like that. Their needs must seriously be considered if they are ever to think of making the switch over to Linux (that is if it can meet their needs).

I am not saying that the terminal be done away with completely. No, and I know you don’t think so either (it’s not even possible). But rather it should be made such that it is used by those who want to use it and not because it is a necessary part of the OS. In other words, it should be there for the terminal dieharders who want to keep doing things the terminal way, but at the same time very irrelevant to those who love icons and clicking ( myself included).

It is very funny and at the same time frustrating when -and I know you have experienced it before- we tout Ubuntu as being very easy to use,  yet when a newbie sometimes needs to get some things done, the first help instruction given is open the terminal. What?! But I thought they said Ubuntu is easy to use! Well yes just type ‘sudo’ bla bla bla. Come on.

The terminal has simply outlived its relevancy and has to be relegated as soon as possible. It is a big obstacle in the wider adoption of Linux among everyday computer users that just need their machines to do simple things. Why suffer these people with the language of the geeks?

Do you think the terminal is that relevant today or that it should be relegated to the back seat? I wonder what your views are.