Every now and then we all see these "Year of the Linux" posts and ignore them. Most of us have been around for long enough not to trust or make those claims. Today I stumbled upon a post by Melissa Draper, which curiously enough started with similar words. She mentions that we are nearing the tipping point and refers to the recent OEM interest in Linux.
I for one still say that we are not there yet. During last week I've been struggling with printing. A Lot! I acknowledge that printing in Linux has taken major leaps from the times of basic lpd and the like. Still it appears that printing needs a lot more work.
For example, GIMP has its own printing dialog which forces you to manually configure each printer. While it's an easy job for someone familiar with the printing system it's not something a normal user is able to do. The printing process is way too complicated, most users just want to resize the image a bit to print. Please offer a simple printing dialog for them.
The problem isn't just with GIMP. Another example is Firefox which has a clean little printing dialog. The problem is that it assumes paper size and even with the proper paper size I can't manage to print a page without parts of the page going outside of the margins.
OpenOffice.org appears to default to letter as the default paper size. This means that both the default document is edited as letter and when printing the printing system assumes you are printing to letter even if the page you are printing is A4. Other than that, it manages to print without glitches.
I know that these are just a few applications, but think about it. These applications are amongst the most used applications on Linux. These applications represent how Linux works for normal users. Users are quite often naive, they make bad associations. Bad experiences with a few of the key applications make a bad impression on the whole effort. Also, bad news travel faster than good news...
In case this sounds like I'm just bashing here, I have to mention that things like CUPS are a huge effort to solve these problems with the right kind of solutions. Also, while testing around I successfully printed out of evolution, gnome-dictionary and various other applications that use gnome printing libraries and they printed just fine without any problems. I'm sure that there are similar efforts on KDE land (and elsewhere) so we are moving to the right direction. The problem is that there is a long way to go before we can claim world domination.