Wednesday, September 30, 2009

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.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 18 comments


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