Stupidity tends to expand to fill the time saved by technology.

Addressing six problems of a new Linux user:

Date/Time Permalink: 03/25/06 08:06:56 am
Category: HOWTOs and Guides

Regarding this post (link in title) at Linux.com on six frustrations experienced by a new user to Linux, who picked Kanotix as the distro to start with. First, here is my comment in full, reposted here for others to find as well:

Man, but you post some problems with very easy solutions. If you don't mind, I'll address these in my blog (and here it is!) as well. But here they are:

1. "explain acronyms fully". We have Google for that. For instance, Googling "chmod" would have pulled up a tutorial for chmod as the first hit.

2. "do not expect others to know exactly what you are writing about". Well, uh, we try. This is good advice. But it's difficult to know how far back to start for each question. When I say "click this link", do I first stop and ask if you're familiar with the concept of a mouse? Hey, that's silly, but it *is* an assumption. Who decides where we stop making them? Posting in help forums helps with this, provided you follow ERS's guide to asking "smart questions" which would help others assess your current state of knowledge so we know how far back to start.

3. "a hardware configuration tool that uses a graphical user interface". That's missing in *most* distros? News to me. And please, don't think that we disparage GUI configurations as a group; most of us can concede that there at least isn't any *harm* in a GUI interface. The lack of such is so rare, however, that I sternly admonish the distro when I review it when it is lacking for this reason exactly.

3(b) "Most of us are not programmers, just people who want things to work." Thank you for setting computer learning back another 20 years by re-programming the falsehood that the command line is for programmers only, as well as perpetuating the myth that a command-line is somehow a liability. Without a command-line, nobody could do anything, including producing the software you use. You typed on the keyboard to make this article. The command-line is exactly the same thing, minus the mousy-window part.

4. "customized scripts, it would be nice to have a list of them, where they are located, and how to edit them." "whereis $name_of_your_script" would list it. Open in any editor. Just understand, a script is written in a programming language, albeit a simpler, shorthand one.

5. "dial-up". You have my sympathy here, but honestly, I get broadband for about the same price to within a few dollars that I used to pay through dial-up. But then, there's still places on Earth where you can't get the service, period. Perhaps, for those who need to, say, get a whole distro CD iso file, you might ask a friend to download and burn it for you?

6. "I don't understand German". There must be 600 Linux distros out there whose primary language is English, and you picked the one in a language you don't speak. Well, as I do when I review a distro which is non-English-based, try viewing the page in Konqueror using the "Babblefish" plugin which does OK with German-to-English (though with a Yoda-like syntax), or look for the little American/British flag icon that means "use English".

As always, HTH, HAND. (Hope This Helps, Have A Nice Day.)

And now for my blog's audience: No, I'm not arguing with the poster. My aim here is both to *try* to explain to people that just because you're using Linux, does not make computers into fairy dust and elven shrooms - the hard reality of computers and normal laws of physics still exist, and to acknowledge that there are things we could do to make it easier.

I would just like to know when somebody's going to criticize Microsoft or MacIntosh or IBM or BSD or Solaris or OS/2 or Plan9 from Bell Labs or Oracle or Adobe or anybody else for not making it easier. Why, why, why must Linux take 100% of the blame for everything? We produce this software and write this documentation and draw these pictures and write these blog articles and help out in these forums for free, just because we *like* to! Just because it's a hobby. As in, "there was nothing on TV and I was bored". When will Linux be released from this contractual obligation slipped into the US Constitution, apparently, that requires us to slave away catering to even the most impossible demands of every finicky user?

Would it be better if we just stopped and went back to television?

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