This morning, my wife informed me that she was taking our laptop to work so she could show ~40 people a slideshow. The slideshow was just images so I gleefully showed her how Gwenview does slideshows. She liked how it looked and worked very much.
Anyway, she was going to use this laptop with an attached projector so she could ensure everyone could see the slideshow. I told her to call me at work if she had any problems. I assumed that KDE/Kubuntu/Linux/Dbus/X/Whatever would make sure it would Just Work™.
Alas, 15 minutes before the presentation she rang me and described how she couldn't browse the external hard drive she was plugging in. Easy, it was an NTFS drive, the logfile on the system needed resetting because it had been un-safely unmounted.
5 minutes later she rang back because when plugging in the projector, it wouldn't show anything - just a 'No Signal' error. I took her through KDE's system settings and we tried configuring it with the 'Display' section. But everything I tried wouldn't work. None of the applications recognised that an external projector/screen had been plugged in. Also, none of the Function Keys worked. So holding down the 'Fn' key and pressing the 'CRT/LCD' key did absolutely nothing.
In the end, she had to try and find another laptop to do the job - something with Ms Windows. Which worked straight away.
I don't know where the blame lies for this, my hunch is Xrandr. Or is it the KDE implementation of it? Also, why didn't my Function keys work? =(
Either way, my wife went to work with an operating system and desktop environment that she expected to do what she wanted without any hassles. It failed her when she needed it most and has damaged her already fragile confidence in open source software. This saddens me a lot - but, it also motivates me. We need to create an experience for the every day user that makes them head into their day brimming with confidence that their 'computer' will do everything they need - no questions asked.
It made me realise, as crappy and bloated as XP's desktop environment was - it worked when you needed it. Still does.
P.S. I'm aware that support by manufacturers for Ms Operating Systems helps this. While its 'unfair', it doesn't change the fact that it just works.
Just how hard is it for a manufacturer to include support for their monitor/projector product in the free desktop environment? What are the barriers?