restricted driver text is unnecessarily scary for non-experts

Bug #660669 reported by Alex Chiang on 2010-10-14
This bug affects 2 people
Affects Status Importance Assigned to Milestone

Bug Description

Recent user testing with a non-expert computer user revealed that the warning dialog displayed by jockey when attempting to enable a proprietary driver is extremely threatening for users not versed in legal or open source political issues.

This page:

talks about educating users, but I believe the intention is misguided and hurts Ubuntu as we attempt to grow our userbase on the other side of the "chasm".

My opinion is, users on the other side of the chasm don't want to be "educated" by their OS. A less charitable view is that the user is being scolded for their purchasing decision.

Savvy folks, people on our side of the chasm, already know that component selection is important when purchasing a machine. For
the folks on the other side of the chasm, the point is moot. The hardware has already been purchased, and if they hit this dialog, it's probably not a machine that came from one of our OEM partners. It's likely a retrofit, and "yelling" at them after the fact is just another pain point; I don't really consider it educational.

Please consider reducing the severity of the language or removing the text altogether (modulo any legal issues that require us to display some sort of text).

< "At the bottom of the tab should be this small print: 'Proprietary drivers have private code that Ubuntu developers can’t review or improve. Security and other updates are dependent on the driver vendor.'"

Matthew Paul Thomas (mpt) wrote :

As shown on that wiki page, in November 2006 I proposed this text: "To make this computer’s {type of device} work properly, Ubuntu is using driver software that cannot be supported. Because the software is proprietary, it cannot easily be changed to fix any future problems. [list of drivers] You can avoid this issue with your next computer, by choosing hardware from more cooperative manufacturers. ( More Information… )" That had two problems: it wasn't easily localizable if there was more than one {type of device} (e.g. both Broadcom wi-fi and Nvidia graphics), it used the vague word "supported", and the last sentence never shipped because we never got a list of "cooperative manufacturers" organized. (We have a list of certified components, but that's not the same thing -- they might be certified with a proprietary driver.)

In 2007 Mark Shuttleworth expanded the text: "Ubuntu is using proprietary drivers to enable your hardware. Proprietary drivers do not have public source code that Ubuntu developers are free to modify. They represent a risk to you because they are only available on the types of computer chosen by the manufacturer, and security updates to them depend solely on the responsiveness of the manufacturer. Ubuntu cannot fix or improve these drivers. [list of drivers here] Further information is available on the Ubuntu website, including a list of recommended vendors who publish their hardware with full specifications and free software drivers." Again the last sentence never shipped, but even so, that was really long.

Some time later we dialled back the scare tactics by shortening the second sentence to "Security updates depend solely on the responsiveness of the manufacturer." But that still left four sentences. So I'm not surprised that usability testing would show it's off-putting (though as always, testing just one user is not definitive).

In <> I've specified two sentences for the settings panel: "Proprietary drivers have private code that Ubuntu developers can’t review or improve. Security and other updates are dependent on the driver vendor." And if you have the choice to install a driver or not, two sentences for the alert box: "This computer may work better if you install extra driver software. Would you like to see available choices?"

description: updated
Changed in jockey:
status: New → Confirmed
Alex Chiang (achiang) wrote :

Hi mpt,

Thanks for the thoughtful reply.

Looking at the wireframes in the wiki, how does the user choose between Nvidia driver 163 (proprietary, tested) and Nvidia driver 165 (proprietary)? Is a higher version number better? Or is it better to be tested?

I personally find this text hard to parse: "This device may work poorly without a proprietary driver". I find that sentence constructions using a negative suggestion like "without" require a bit more effort to process than constructions using positive suggestions, such as "This device may perform better with a proprietary driver".

[although that construction introduces its own problems... "better" than what, exactly? still, I find "poorly... without" to be close enough to a double negative that it's unnatural to process. YMMV of course]

Regarding the new text you propose:

"Proprietary drivers have private code that Ubuntu developers can’t review or improve. Security and other updates are dependent on the driver vendor."

I think it is a huge improvement.

I'll make one tiny suggestion for the second sentence: "Security and other updates are dependent on the responsiveness of the driver vendor." For the cost of the extra words, you've conveyed a timeliness expectation for the updates in addition to clarifying the origination of the updates. But I feel this is crossing into bikeshedding territory, so take the suggestion for what it's worth.

The final text you propose, "This computer may work better..." is great.

Thanks again.

Matthew Paul Thomas (mpt) wrote :

Jockey was retired, but the text I specified above was included in the replacement UI in software-properties-gtk.

Mathew Hodson (mhodson) wrote :

Closing this based on comment #3.

Changed in jockey:
status: Confirmed → Fix Released
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