Linux: the girlfriend test

Thankfully Gnome, like iTunes, combines the music player and portable audio player manager into one piece of software, otherwise there might have been some confusion. Rhythmbox opened up, and the album was already in her music library even though it was ripped by a different application, Sound Juicer. Fantastic: the tight integration between Fedora's major desktop apps is one very distinct advantage held over Windows.

Erin highlighted the album and dragged it to the iPod, just like she would in iTunes. Her triumphant smile faded away when she realised the songs weren't on her iPod. She tried copying and pasting and dragging them across from her Music folder in Nautilus, but it didn't make a difference: the iPod does not support OGG files. It's mind-boggling that Rhythmbox won't even tell her why the files aren't copying across – in fact, it's completely silent. If someone tries to put a song or podcast encoded in Ogg Vorbis on an iPod, a guide (similar to the printer troubleshooter) should start up.

It could tell the user that what they're trying to do won't work, and how they can convert the file into a format that will – including what needs to be done to install proprietary codecs. The end user is only interested in getting things done well with the least amount of effort. The steps Erin took would be the same that anyone with her experience would try, and that user would be left without songs on their iPod and a little bit closer to giving up on Linux.

Task 7: Photoshop her head on to my body

Erin, using Firefox, found photos on Facebook and downloaded them to her home folder. Thankfully, Fedora lists 'GNU Image Manipulation Program' and not just 'Gimp', which might have discouraged her a little from clicking on it. Gimp opens up, and Erin quickly grasps how the interface differs from Photoshop. From then on it's easy, and she opens up the pictures and cuts her head and puts it on my body.

Erin later explained that she was surprised at the amount of quality software in Fedora; in particular how well and Gimp match the functionality of their commercial counterparts. However, a good idea would be to provide the option of either the Windows or the Mac OS X interfaces for Photoshop, to please both types of possible converts.

Task 8: Watch a video on YouTube

Having not been living under a rock, Erin is familiar with YouTube and had no trouble navigating there. Flash doesn't come installed with Fedora, so Firefox gave her the option of installing it. Another wizard takes her through accepting the associated licence agreement and downloading the necessary files – it's all too easy.

Then Firefox told her that the install failed due to a malformed RDF file. I'm sure you can picture the puzzled and acutely disappointed frown that replaced her once-optimistic grin. She tried it with a different website, and it still didn't work. The PC's hardware is normal and Erin hasn't changed a thing. Functionality this basic should really be tested again and again before release.

Proprietary formats, even if they're inefficient and belong to profit-driven corporations, are common practice. Why on earth can't Fedora explain to the users when they first boot up and log in that websites, songs and videos aren't going to work as they do on Windows, and how users can fix this? Most converts or first time users might not know how to shell script, but they can read simple, helpful text. A little bit of explanation will go a long way.

The manual install option that Firefox recommends after the failure of its automatic system is in no way feasible for a user like Erin. It's just a link to Adobe's web page, where it offers the installation files in gzipped tarball, RPM and Yum formats. It makes no mention of the fact that Fedora uses RPMs. The wellobfuscated installation instructions on another page involve use of the terminal, and don't provide screenshots or even more than a paragraph of help.