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[P]
I am a newbie, I have a problem, so you must help me!

By Sad Mephisto in Op-Ed
Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 03:18:26 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

Many people from various Open Source communities wave their hands and shout "Switch to Linux, switch to Free software". But when Windows users invite Tux to their computers, they face various problems with installation and configuration. They look for help, but they can hear nothing but "RTFM" or "Google it". Let's think about us - experienced users and them - newbies. They need help and we know the answer. We try to teach them not to ask stupid questions. However, our answers are stupid as well. Where's the golden mean? Let's try to find it.

If you work at technical customer support, you are paid to be nice and being helpful is your duty. You have to solve typical problems many times a day and you can't point users to the manual. But let's assume that you're a computer geek - you know everything and you are eager to share your knowledge. However, when somebody asks you for the sixth time in a week how to turn on a mouse wheel in Linux you lose your temper and explode.


Your answer probably looks like this one: "Don't waste my time! You haven't read the documentation, have you? Are you banned on Google?" instead of simple Option "ZAxisMapping" "4 5" in a certain place in your xorg.conf. The second answer is very accurate: it gives a direct solution to this problem. It seems strange, but the first answer is good as well. This user will find the solution in less than 3 minutes and will get new experience - a feeling of success. A hunter returns with his prey: a single line in a configuration file. The more complex the problem is, more time is needed to find the answer. The reward is unproportionally bigger.

Let's take a closer look at the world full of animated paper clips that give us useless hints, instant messengers, forums, blogs, etc. All the necessary information is accessible by any means. And now think about the computer world of the past. Access to the network was a priviledge, documentation was only printed on the paper. Users were on their own. Without any external help they had to solve problems by themselves. When the Internet became more popular it was used to solve extraordinary problems. There were no stupid questions posted on the Usenet, and people there were helping as much as they could. Nowadays, the situation haven't changed that much - difficult or interesting problems are still solved by helpful geeks. I know some people that could spend all day and night looking for solutions for others' problems (if they find them interesting, of course).

But what about newbies? From ethical point of view they have got the same right to get the answer. "You've helped someone, I'm a newbie, I have a problem, so you must help me, too!". Sure, you don't have to do it if you don't want to. But try to explain that to a newbie. This is a person, who has no experience at all. A newbie doesn't know that Google is a good place start from. A newbie doesn't know how to ask questions. The last thing that newbie doesn't know is that he or she is doing wrong.

It looks like we have a problem. They don't know about existence of manuals, and we forget about their lack of experience. Both sides of this confict try to explain it by means of laziness. We're too lazy to help them, and they're too lazy to check the manual. Right? No. Nobody is lazy, so please don't use it as an argument. It's of no use.

Maybe it's quite late, but let me reveal myself a bit. I run one of the biggest unofficial discussion boards in my country devoted to one of Linux's distributions. It doesn't matter what the country and the distribution are, what's relevant is that I have to deal with problems such as those mentioned above several times a day. With help from my friends we've managed to create a very nice community. One of our goals was to find a method for preventing an open war between newbies and advanced users. I have to admit that this method works for most of the cases. Please, read it carefully.
  1. Don't give the full solution. Instead, limit yourself to the half of the standard answer.
  2. Try to explain the beginning in as many details as you can.
  3. Give a general description of objectives that must be completed to solve the problem.
  4. Try to encourage the user to check the manual or the Internet. I used a word "encourage" instead of "redirect". Keep that in mind, please.
  5. If necessary, give some keywords (but not the search phrase!) or hints.
For example: when user wants to perform some task, don't tell him what to do, but tell him what tools he should use. If there are any traps, warn him.

Believe me, this method works. If you are not rude and your hints are good it will be enough. I'm sure the newbie will thank you. After some time (when he'll get some experience) he will use this method on other users instead of redirecting them to the f...riendly manual. Isn't it beautiful?

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I am a newbie, I have a problem, so you must help me! | 284 comments (241 topical, 43 editorial, 0 hidden)
You've got to be kidding (2.77 / 9) (#12)
by fremen on Sun Sep 25, 2005 at 04:56:43 PM EST

This is the biggest load of condescending drivel I've read in a while (and I've been reading K5 for a while). We were all beginners at some point and we all felt the frustration of trying to make our hardware work. And to be honest, we're all still beginners at something out there.

What you propose doesn't help the user, but rather treats otherwise smart people as children. Nobody likes being treated like a child. Rather than this, most people want a quick answer so that they can make their hardware work and then move on to other things. Isn't that why we use a computer? To get work done? Or is setting up a mouse some kind of end unto itself?



To Each His Own... (none / 0) (#16)
by Ogygus on Sun Sep 25, 2005 at 06:52:38 PM EST

Or is setting up a mouse some kind of end unto itself?

Take it in context. For many users moving from Windows to Linux, learning about their new operating system is the objective. If they had serious work to do, they would do it using the tools at hand, usually Windows programs. They wouldn't be trying a new OS if they were facing a deadline.

The mice will see you now.
[ Parent ]

I didn't think it was condescending (none / 1) (#17)
by Witchey on Sun Sep 25, 2005 at 06:59:21 PM EST

I think that Sad Mephisto is referring primarily to a subset of newbies that want everything done for them rather than trying to do it themselves or simply reading the instructions. It can be frustrating when people repeatedly ask you the same questions because they are too lazy to spend a few minutes to read a manual but think nothing of taking up your time whenever they can't immediately figure out how to do something.

Setting up hardware or a mouse, etc. may be a means to an end, but shouldn't the user have some familiarity with the platform he/she is using on a regular basis? To at least know enough so that every issue isn't an S.O.S.?

[ Parent ]

if only... (2.66 / 3) (#31)
by pb on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 03:47:00 AM EST

There was some sort of format to accomodate questions that are frequently asked... no, don't tell me, I'll think of it...
---
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
[ Parent ]
If only (none / 0) (#110)
by TheBobby on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 06:19:22 AM EST

Yes, it would be wonderful. At the moment all we can do is provide a document, called a FAQ, they they don't read either.

What we need is a team that go round shooting people who ask questions that have already been answered. Then, only then, might we be able to genuinely accomodate questions that are frequently asked.
-- Gimmie the future with a modern girl!
[ Parent ]

How about this instead (3.00 / 2) (#152)
by fremen on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 12:40:07 AM EST

What about a "Help Bot." Have the bot scan the FAQ or knowledge base and then index the various keywords associated with the articles. When someone posts a question on the board, have the Help Bot scan its database and then post a reply linking them to the article. If the posted question doesn't match its database to some degree of confidence, have it ignore the question entirely.

The effect would be something like this:

How do I make my scroll wheel work?

Hi, this is the Help Bot! I'm here to help people find the answers to their questions faster and more efficiently. I automatically read new posts and then reply with a good guess based on the inquiry. If you think my answers aren't helpful, there's a link at the very bottom that you can click to seek additional information.
Based on your question, try the following articles:
  • How do I setup the mouse scroll wheel in X Windows?
  • How do I make a three buttom mouse work?
  • How can I use my mouse on the console?
  • etc...
If these answers aren't helpful, click _here_.
When a user clicks the "not helpful" link, have the system highlight their message in the forum. Then, the knowledgeable users can quickly identify which questions really need their time.

[ Parent ]
oh, you mean like google? $ (none / 0) (#161)
by gzur on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 05:20:40 AM EST



_________________________________________
"I'm not looking for work, but I wouldn't say no to a Pacific rim job."
[ Parent ]
That's an awesome fucking idea; (none / 0) (#162)
by curien on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 05:35:04 AM EST



--
We are not the same. I'm an American, and you're a sick asshole.
[ Parent ]
What a novel idea (none / 1) (#225)
by baphomet on Fri Sep 30, 2005 at 03:26:34 AM EST

Perhaps though if the information were presented in some kind of unobtrusive way, like a thought bubble... And how about a catchier name, like 'Google Assistant'?

[ Parent ]
clippy! (none / 0) (#279)
by eudas on Fri Oct 14, 2005 at 06:39:27 PM EST

for maximum helpfulness, it needs to be cute, and it needs to be something that everybody can relate to since it's in everybody's offices... how about a paper clip?

eudas
"We're placing this wood in your ass for the good of the world" -- mrgoat
[ Parent ]

Domo Arigato, Mr. Majordomo (3.00 / 3) (#133)
by killmepleez on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 06:33:41 PM EST

What you propose doesn't help the user, but rather treats otherwise smart people as children. Nobody likes being treated like a child. Rather than this, most people want a quick answer so that they can make their hardware work and then move on to other things. Isn't that why we use a computer? To get work done? Or is setting up a mouse some kind of end unto itself?
You're close. We use a computer for one and only one thing -- to automate any task which can be automated without losing an unreasonable amount of accuracy and utility.

I assert that support information can -- and HAS -- been automated in the form of user manuals, FAQs, searchable message boards, google, etc..

If you really believe that people should not refer "newbies" to the manual/FAQ [an essentially static information store] or the internet/usenet [an essentially dynamic information store] but instead should be overjoyed to answer the same basic questions over and over and over with no creeping boredom or frustration, then I would like you to pull out a pen and a ream of paper and get back to me in a couple days with digits 1,440,000,000,000 through 3,690,000,000,000 of pi, because i rally need em 4 my 6th grade maths project so just im them to me on AOL my screen name is 2qt4u2handle kthx peace out.

__
"I instantly realized that everything in my life that I thought was unfixable was totally fixable - except for having just jumped."
--from "J
[ Parent ]
I point newbies to... (1.50 / 2) (#18)
by krait on Sun Sep 25, 2005 at 07:31:07 PM EST

this.

Yeah (3.00 / 2) (#24)
by Super Good on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 01:14:51 AM EST

That's exactly what a new user, somebody who is frustrated enough to ask help from strangers, should be pointed to. An essay on proper questioning techniques. I'm not saying that that link is necessarily useless, but it is useless for most newbies that are in search for help with a problem.
Regards, Super
[ Parent ]
it's not enough (none / 0) (#26)
by Sad Mephisto on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 01:40:22 AM EST

If you just keep pointing them to that text (which IMHO is very good) you'll get replies like that: "You can write something more useful. I have no time to read this crap. Give me the answer to my problem! Now!"

You can't change a newbie into a curious user in that way. It's a process that takes a while and it should be done properly.

[ Parent ]

Ahhahahahaha! *wipes tears from eye* (2.50 / 2) (#117)
by ksandstr on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 10:57:45 AM EST

And you actually think they read any of that?

[ Parent ]
I point newbies to... (3.00 / 3) (#126)
by paddypatel on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 02:28:24 PM EST

this. But only outside work!

In my recent years of tech support I have found that there are 2 types of clueless users, ones who don't care *why* and just want it working *now*, and those who want it working *now* and then display interest in the cause of the problem. Even if they never use the knowledge I am happy to explain in as much "layman's terms" as I can dilute it to because I am enthusiastic. Unless I am tired and grumpy and have a lot to do. Then I sit down, fix it and walk off saying "you're welcome" to the effusive thanks that float after me.

Having said that, there are *always* users who make me groan when I see their extension number on my phone display. But then, when I was ripping tickets in the theatre there were people who would stand in front of the "Ladies" sign going "where's the loo?". And when I was doing customer service for an oil company, there were people who had trouble reading an account number from the top of the page. Some people are just *like* that!

Outside work, I feel the need to challenge people to find out for themselves (politely though!). But that is because I am a geek who loves the beauty of the computer and can't understand why not everyone appreciates it. I might bitch about my users to my fellow techies but I don't think that being rude to random people achieves anything except someone out there thinking you're an asshat.

My 2p

There's nothing worse than a group of ignorant people with a legitimate grievance
[ Parent ]

my ghodd! (none / 0) (#155)
by gdanjo on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 02:39:06 AM EST

10,000 words on how to ask a question?

^^^ There's your answer, dickhead! And in only 8 words! What's next, a Geek dating guide? A Geek soup-eating guide?

ESR is the Worlds Biggest Troll. Evar. Bar none.

Dan ...
"Death - oh! fair and `guiling copesmate Death!
Be not a malais'd beggar; claim this bloody jester!"
-ToT
[ Parent ]

It's all in the details (2.85 / 7) (#19)
by Tatarigami on Sun Sep 25, 2005 at 07:47:30 PM EST

Speaking as someone on both sides of the fence (Linux newbie and tech support monkey) I think it's like this:

Newbies need to give more detail: "I have X setup, I'm experiencing Y problem, I've tried Z solution".

Oldbies need to give less detail: "Try googling for search term A".

That's how I prefer to be helped, anyway.  I get my problem fixed, I also get to learn something.

well all i know (2.33 / 3) (#21)
by wampswillion on Sun Sep 25, 2005 at 11:05:03 PM EST

is that world would just be a nicer place IF whenever one asked a question of ANY expert on anything- if the expert would perhaps treat them as kindly as they would if it were their very beloved grandmother calling them up to ask them that question.

In my experience (3.00 / 3) (#23)
by Kurosawa Nagaya on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 01:08:22 AM EST

Linux experts aren't very nice people, they quite possibly killed their own grandmother.

But maybe that's what you're alluding to.

The reason for this is simple: we're all full of shit ~ circletimessquare
[ Parent ]

Try getting asked the same dumbass question (none / 0) (#25)
by Empedocles on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 01:24:47 AM EST

10,000 different times by 10,000 different people.

You too will start hacking heads off, I promise.

---
And I think it's gonna be a long long time
'Till touch down brings me 'round again to find
I'm not the man they think I am at home

[ Parent ]

well at some point (3.00 / 3) (#42)
by wampswillion on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 09:03:31 AM EST

when you start realizing that you are getting the same question by 10,000 different people 10,000 different times a day, wouldn't you begin to wonder if perhaps whatever product it is you are being asked about is NOT explained very well for the lay public's understanding in the first place? and wouldn't it be a nice thing IF somebody did something about that upfront, --stated it upfront first thing in the directions or something and not hide the answer in faq's where nobody can find the "magic" word that elicits the exact faq you need to answer the question???
and one more thing.  do NOT assume that i haven't already DONE all the trouble shooting things i am capable of doing on my own.  i HAVE.  and i resent heartily being told to do them again by your call waiting.   if they had WORKED, i wouldn't be calling.  trust me, nobody really WANTS to talk to you.  and trust me most of the time when i'm calling, i've got about 5 hundred other things that i need to be doing at that moment and talking to you is not really the meat or the highlight of my day. it's something i need to get out of the way so that i can get on with the rest of my day. and  i want you to answer the phone and answer my question in a timely and courteous fashion.      

[ Parent ]
Reality isn't so nice (none / 0) (#53)
by vadim on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 11:05:52 AM EST

For example, every time somebody here can't access one webpage and it doesn't load, they go up to the IT department and ask us if the internet access is down.

Nearly every time we'll answer that yes, it's working just fine, and demonstrate that it's just that particular page that doesn't work.

It doesn't matter how many times you tell somebody to try other pages to check whether internet access is really down, they'll always ignore you completely and ask the next time again. I think that even if we had monitors all over the company showing a status line like "Internet access: Online", they'd still come and ask.

--
<@chani> I *cannot* remember names. but I did memorize 214 digits of pi once.
[ Parent ]

but see, (none / 0) (#105)
by wampswillion on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 11:52:25 PM EST

the way i look at it, technology exists for me. for me to use. i don't exist for it. and well, i think part of it is, that i can't figure out what you guys are always doing in your technology tower that is SO SO SO important that you can't be interrupted ever. are you curing cancer? performing brain surgery in your spare time? shoring up levies? what???

[ Parent ]
I'm a programmer, not a sysadmin (none / 0) (#109)
by vadim on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 06:08:36 AM EST

Mind you, I can perfectly understand that people don't want to try to replace the toner themselves on a big printer that costs more than they earn in a month, so if the sysadmin happens not to be available, no problem, I'll do it. But that's not what I'm talking about here.

And no, excuse me, technology exist to make your job easier, not to remove the need to have a brain. If your job consists in sitting all day in front of a computer, you should know pretty well how to use one.
--
<@chani> I *cannot* remember names. but I did memorize 214 digits of pi once.
[ Parent ]

but my job (none / 0) (#111)
by wampswillion on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 08:06:26 AM EST

does NOT involve sitting in front of computer all day. i only use the computer to do things to support the real work. i used to do these things by "hand" but now i must use the computer. and i've had to relearn how to do everything on the computer and so, WHEN i sit down to use the computer, i have one simple request- that it DO what it's supposed to. when i get in my car, i expect it to start and go. the same for my computer. i mean it's a bad car who has a glitch that won't let me go where i need to on an every other day basis. it would be a bad stove that would only every third night, decide not to cook my dinner. and thus to me it's a bad computer who for some reason won't allow me access to the project i'm working on or whose software won't work on a dime.

[ Parent ]
And why exactly is that *my* problem? (none / 0) (#134)
by alba on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 06:59:28 PM EST

If you want something from me, then you better ask nicely for it.

[ Parent ]
pfffftttt (none / 0) (#149)
by wampswillion on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 11:13:16 PM EST



[ Parent ]
Doesn't matter IMO (none / 1) (#137)
by vadim on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 07:23:21 PM EST

If your job sometimes involves driving a car, then you should be able to drive a car. If it sometimes involves using a calculator, then you should know how to use it. And if it sometimes involves using a computer, the same applies.

I'm not saying you've got to be able to assemble the whole car from spare pieces, or write your own operating system, but some basic knowledge of the tools you use to do your job is vital, and it's just rather stupid to argue against it.
--
<@chani> I *cannot* remember names. but I did memorize 214 digits of pi once.
[ Parent ]

I agree (none / 0) (#145)
by sunder on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 09:46:07 PM EST

Computers do work most of the time when they're turned on. Everything works at the library because their systems are read only. Computers only really break when users screw around with them. No one would attempt to install new brakes in their car if they just bought it and knew nothing about it. For some strange reason reason people expect to be able to configure a firewall without knowing how a network. How does this happen?

[ Parent ]
duh (none / 1) (#148)
by wampswillion on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 10:52:12 PM EST

the  REASON people  attempt to  install  these things themselves   is because  you  people  are  so  fxxxing condescending  when we  ask  you for help.    we are doing EVERYTHING we can to avoid you  people.  trust me.  

and as for the argument  that  we would not expect to drive  a car without driver's training, DUH,  we  would not expect to operate a  computer without some training either.  but the  problem is people who  understand the computer world are so nasty that  IF we had to take driver's training from  any of  you, NO ONE would  know how to drive.  fortunately, most people who teach driver's training somehow understand that if you rude to the person asking your help,then they are probably never going to like or become proficient at driving.

[ Parent ]

Good analogy (2.66 / 3) (#139)
by Tau Neutrino on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 07:35:41 PM EST

In the good old US and A, at least, students spend four months taking Driver's Education classes, and several tests, before they're allowed to operate a car on public roads. They accept that driving is a skill to be studied and learned.

I have never seen anybody, new to computer use, willing to make that kind of effort to learn to operate one. Were new users to do so, I think the support community would have much less basis for complaint.

--
Theater is life, cinema is art, television is furniture.
[ Parent ]
Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V (none / 0) (#46)
by Viliam Bur on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 10:21:03 AM EST

or make a FAQ list on the web... if you give an answer in the form of hyperlink, you will also increase your pagerank.

[ Parent ]
It isn't so much ignorance of computers (3.00 / 6) (#61)
by LilDebbie on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 12:51:29 PM EST

that gets to me. Not everybody knows how computers work, I understand that. If I ask a user to go to the Start menu and all I get is vapid silence on the other end of the line, I tell them "lower left hand corner" and they get it. No biggie.

What pisses me off is when users appear to be incapable of fucking READING THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE TO THE POINT WHERE I HAVE TO ASK THEM TO READ OFF EVERY ENTRY IN THE PROGRAMS FOLDER OF THEIR START MENU BECAUSE THE STUPID COCKSUCKERS CAN'T PARSE A FUCKING LIST.

Yeah, sometimes my job gets to me.

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]

And the cynical dream-crushing... (2.50 / 2) (#98)
by Russell Dovey on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 09:04:01 PM EST

...starts to make more sense. Seem forgivable.

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan
[ Parent ]

hahaha I feel for ya (none / 1) (#267)
by phraud on Wed Oct 05, 2005 at 03:38:00 PM EST

I get the same things at work all the time: "Hi, I can't get my email today for some reason?"
"Oh ok, well what email program do you use?"
"I don't know"
"Well what does the icon say that you click on?"
"Icon?"
"Yeah the little picture that you click on to open your email..."
<slience...>
"Is it Outlook Express?"
"No, I think its Internet Explorer"
"Umm, no, that's for websites, you probably use Outlook Express"
"Ok, well it doesn't work"
"Ok, well just go into your email, and tell me what happens"
"How do I do that?"
"Well, I don't know what you use for your email, so why don't you just go into your email like you always do, and tell me when your there"
"I can't"
"What does that mean? Your clicking but nothing is happening? The program just won't pop up?"
"No, I just don't know where to go"
"Ok, click START and then Programs"
"Start?"
"Yes, the start button, its in the bottom left"
"I don't see it"
"See that grey bar at the bottom of your screen?"
"Yeah"
"Yeah, go into the corner and you'll see START"
"Oh, now I see it"
"Ok, so go to Programs"
"Where is that?"
"ITS RIGHT THERE@^#$(*^$ (I start to lose grips with reality)"
"All I see is START"
"Yeah you have to CLICK THAT"
"Oh, now I see it"

I'm going to stop there. The point is that some people turn in to IDIOTS when they have an expert there to help them. This person knew very well how to get into Outlook Express. If they didn't, they wouldn't have known there was a problem. As soon as I am there to help, they can't even find there way to Outlook Express, let alone run it and give me the error. It just drives you bananas!
You create your own reality. Leave mine to me.
[ Parent ]
Asking dumb questions can be rude, too. (2.80 / 5) (#151)
by Xirtam on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 11:20:59 PM EST

Sure, a nasty response to a question isn't usually necessary. But neither are a lot of questions necessary. Being unfamiliar with a particular subject isn't an excuse to completely go dumb.

Once upon a time, as a favor to a friend, I was posing as an "answer man" to his unix "tech guy", who didn't know too much. That's fine, but what wasn't fine is that the following conversation (or small variations on it) happened multiple times:

Him: Apache doesn't work.
Me: What does "doesn't work" mean?
Him: <decent description of the problem>
Me: Did you check the logs?
Him: They say "permission denied while reading file foobar".
Me: Did you check the permissions on that file?
Him: Wow! That fixed it!

Notice how he has absolutely no ability to know how to get to the heart of the problem -- He clearly knew what the problem was but didn't actually mention it until I dragged it out of him. He then needed me to simply repeat what the logs told him, and he got it.

The worst part about it all is that he never learned (or learned very slowly). When I tell him that I don't know what "doesn't work" means, he should probably be able to file that fact away for future reference. But no, next time a problem arises, something "doesn't work".

Using the familiar car analogy, I could take my car into a mechanic and say "It don't run good". But even though I know jack squat about cars, I could describe the problems I'm having, even if I don't do a great job of it. "I get massive vibrations over 70mph" is much more descriptive than "It runs bad." Notice how my grammar also improves when I ask better questions.

Bottom line -- Being a computer illiterate is not a good reason to completely lose the ability to describe problems. Asking stupid questions can be just as rude as the snide answers.

[ Parent ]

no you are wrong (none / 1) (#249)
by wampswillion on Sun Oct 02, 2005 at 10:40:13 PM EST

i could almost guarantee you that he did NOT know what the problem was, before you asked the right question.    
what you don't seem to understand here is that it's the LANGUAGE that computer programs refer to that we "lay-people" don't understand.   and furthermore, again, the COMPUTER to us is a tool for doing something else, NOT the meat of our day.
i'll give you a for instance, because i just had an example of this happen to me.  my father is in the hospital right now and he is an editor/writer for our daily paper.  and he feels well enough to write so he's been writing things out long-hand and we've been delivering them to his staff.  then i suddenly got the idea that he could use this little alphasmart-neo keyboard that i have some of our students use.   and basically all this is is a stand-alone keyboard with a memory and after you type what you want into it, you can hook it up to a usb cord connected to your computer and send the stuff to an open computer program.  
so my father, he is delighted, because now he can type, instead of write his stuff (incidently, the reason we didn't just do a laptop is because of the logistics of it all with him being in a bed with iv's and such-  the keyboard is very light and it can be positioned about any old way.)  so all is good, UNTIL i have to take it up and transfer to his computer.  well, then 3 things came into play.  first i don't use macs very much and i find them simply confounding to use and also i didn't know much about office network or about  quark, which is what the newspaper uses and 3, they are in the process of switching to a newer version.  
so what really should have been a very simple thing, turned into an ordeal for me.  

and i had to go get help.  and fortunately for me, there happened to be help in the form of a human being rather than a help line, but anyway, when this guy started going through with me, what was wrong and he said well did you go to the ediorial server?  and i said i couldn't find the editorial server, what is that and where do they hide it?  
  so then he looks for himself and it turns out that  the editorial server thing is not on the desk top-  so he says oh, well then,  you have to go to "chooser."   and oh DUH,  i had completely forgotten about that macs have this stupid chooser thing and most certainly i had forgotten what the chooser did and how i was supposed to find it and what i was supposed to do once i found it.  so YEAH, it was dumb of me, but on the other hand, you know?  could i not be forgiven for forgetting? i only use macs once in a blue moon.  
now will i remember the next time?  sure if it happens again in the next 6 months or so, but then if it happens after that, i probably won't.  because i don't have to deal with this everyday in the world of pc and the publishing programs that i'm used to.  
also as for your analogy of telling your car mehcanic that the car runs bad instead of telling it specifically what it does-  GEE how hard is it for the mechanic to say "describe what you mean?"   ??? you know?  
certainly no harder than me having to say to a parent when she says her child is not behaving "well can you tell me exactly what he does when he's misbehaving?"  i don't consider that a huge imposition to have to ask.  or even if i have to ask more questions than that to get a clear enough picture to proceed.    

 

[ Parent ]

it's also a combination of things (none / 0) (#280)
by eudas on Fri Oct 14, 2005 at 07:04:03 PM EST

yeah you can be forgiven for forgetting, but forgiving gets harder and harder when you're on the receiving end of the same question over and over and over.

it's the first time you've asked that question to the tech, but it's the 10,000th time the tech's been asked that question. repetition can really get to you.

eudas
"We're placing this wood in your ass for the good of the world" -- mrgoat
[ Parent ]

As it turns out... (none / 1) (#208)
by AngelKnight on Thu Sep 29, 2005 at 03:12:14 PM EST

...If my grandmother asked the same question more than twice for no good reason, I'd probably chastise her too.

If I had, by some freak of genetics, about 40 different grandmas who all kept asking the same questions without bothering to try a recourse, I'd probably have no patience with my grandmas.

[ Parent ]

-1 The problem is (1.09 / 11) (#29)
by Lemon Juice on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 02:28:20 AM EST

that people don't give a shit. If they don't care there is nothing that can move them. You might as well try to move a mountain with your mind. If they do care, then you can help them. Many people don't bother learning things on their own and are compltely dependent on people to do things for them. These guys are hopeless. You cannot reach them. You should just hack their computer untill they go insane.

Better software (2.88 / 9) (#34)
by jmj on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 05:42:45 AM EST

I have a better idea : don't use software that forces users to manually edit config files after looking up the correct spelling of a setting through Google. Especially for something like a mousewheel which should just work out of the box.

The standard Slashdot reaction to this is of course "But I want the Freedom to change any setting I want ! If you want a Fisher-Price PC, go run M$ Windoze !". Here's a newsflash for people who think like this : everyone likes software that is easy to configure. That does not mean that you cannot also allow full configuration using a more technical interface like a full config file.

Some open source projects get this : I'm very happy with Subversion and TortoiseSVN for instance. But it can't be a coincidence that the typical audience for those applications are developers. If you understand how a typical user will use your software, you will make a better program.

I've done it myself : I encounter functionality that I wrote more than a year ago (closed source corporate application), and all I can think is "How could I ever think users would enjoy using this ?".



IAWTP. (2.66 / 3) (#36)
by daveybaby on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 07:12:01 AM EST

Its not the users that need educating, its the linux developers.

If your OS/Tool doesnt work out of the box for 99.9% of people (including being able to actually use it for at least basic tasks without referring to the manual or seeking help from an expert), then, IMO, your software is fundamentally broken.

[ Parent ]

AIAWTP (none / 0) (#40)
by MrHanky on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 08:03:50 AM EST

You should note that the fundamentally broken piece of software in a normal Linux (or *BSD) distro is XFree86 or x.org. It's not bad when it works, but getting it to work is often painful. Messing with modelines is a prime example.


"This was great, because it was a bunch of mature players who were able to express themselves and talk politics." Lettuce B-Free, on being a total fucking moron for Ron Paul.
[ Parent ]
Modelines (3.00 / 2) (#52)
by vadim on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 10:51:42 AM EST

Any reasonably current monitor these days supports DDC, which will tell X what modes it supports. No modelines or hsync/vsync settings needed.

In the case where it doesn't, Windows won't fare much better, and you can easily get it to set a mode it can't handle.
--
<@chani> I *cannot* remember names. but I did memorize 214 digits of pi once.
[ Parent ]

Sorry About This (3.00 / 2) (#62)
by virg on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 01:00:05 PM EST

As much as I love using Linux, I've had this problem more than once. On my old dinosaur laptop, I found a page that had all of the information I needed to configure XFree86 to work properly, but it took a lot of file editing and I'd have been lost if I hadn't already understood X. Much more recently, I installed Fedora Core 4 on my home system, which is reasonably current but has an older monitor. It installed with a graphical login (which took me 45 minutes to figure out how to disable, and I'm a hardcore geek who works a help desk for a living), and when it told me during installation that I had a "default monitor", it prompted me to look for the make and model and select it. I did, finding an exact match for my monitor in the list, at which point it selected a bad mode and my display became unusable. It never allowed me to revert, it wouldn't allow me to kill X to fix it at the command line (Ctrl-Alt-Backspace would simply force X to restart, not die), and it didn't give me a Windows-style "This window will revert in fifteen seconds. Is this setting correct?" so that it would revert if I selected the wrong monitor (or the right one and have it malfunction). It took me 45 minutes just to get to a prompt, and by then I decided that it'd be just as easy to rerun the whole installation than try to fix it by hand.

There is simply no excuse for that, and if I was a newbie I'd likely have just said to Hell with it and reinstalled Windows. Don't like it? Tough. That's how the world of computers works.

Virg
"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
Don't really see your point (none / 0) (#71)
by vadim on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 01:50:01 PM EST

Yeah, that *used* to be a problem. In fact, I had to mess with modelines myself a bit the first I tried Linux. These days it's not much of a problem though.

Linux is not stagnant and getting a lot better with time. Microsoft had exactly the same problems. When I got my computer in 1993, almost no games used SVGA video modes because using them was a huge pain. UniVBE and all that. Windows 3.1 had plenty defects as well, and IIRC, the video mode configuration wasn't as nice as in the later versions.

On modern hardware we have things like PnP, DDC and *shudder* ACPI, which allow a much greater degree of configurability and user friendliness. Maybe several years ago X would require me to mess with modelines, but today it installs on my laptop (HP nx5000) just fine with all the hardware being supported. I don't see much to complain about.
--
<@chani> I *cannot* remember names. but I did memorize 214 digits of pi once.
[ Parent ]

My Point (3.00 / 2) (#132)
by virg on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 05:55:34 PM EST

I think you missed the salient part of my point. Sure, it's not as easy to mess it up as it was in the past, and sure, Windows had lots of warts when it started out. But Windows is rather tough to break on a standard install, and when you do it recovers relatively gracefully. Linux, right now, doesn't have the same ease on a standard install, and if you do screw it up it's very tough to get it back. Moreover, a lot of folks that are talked into trying Linux on a desktop are doing it because they have older hardware and don't want to buy Windows. Most brand-new computers come with Windows already installed, and the number of users who will wipe it or buy it blank are rather small.

Anyway, I like Linux, but it's the very fact that Linux right now has a lot of the problems that Windows had in the '90s that stops a lot of folks from adopting it. We in the Linux community need to be much more aware of that and much more sensitive to that if we're ever going to go mainstream.

Virg
"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
Strange, I find it exactly the reverse (none / 0) (#135)
by vadim on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 07:10:11 PM EST

Windows is terribly fragile, and reinstalling it is a common thing to do. It contains lots of deep magic, the boot process is nearly impossible to troubleshoot (not exactly easy when it just stops without any error messages), and the registry is a vulnerable point. It contains no package manager, and when installing something you can only hope it won't break anything, and that you'll be able to remove it cleanly.

Linux can always be fixed unless something is *really* broken, such as the filesystem being hosed, the bootstrap process is simple and clearly visible, and there are very few things that can result in complete breakage.

I had multiple bad experiences in Windows, such as the demo version of Zone Alarm expiring and completely disabling all networking when I tried to uninstall it. Never seen such crap on Linux, and I doubt I ever will, as any package can be always removed, and I control what modules get loaded. Windows can hardly tolerate being moved to a different motherboard, and adding or removing hard drives can easily result in a system that doesn't boot.

That said, I will agree somewhat with you about that X could be better, but it's something of a special case. It's a large package that's been stagnating for some time due to the developers, which finally resulted in it getting forked. And this way we got xorg, which seems to be progressing a lot better.
--
<@chani> I *cannot* remember names. but I did memorize 214 digits of pi once.
[ Parent ]

Not true (none / 0) (#163)
by curien on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 07:29:12 AM EST

Windows can hardly tolerate being moved to a different motherboard, and adding or removing hard drives can easily result in a system that doesn't boot.

Windows tolerates moving motherboards just fine, thank you. If you want, I can tell you how to do it (three steps, really easy). Adding or removing hard drives has little effect on it unless you've intentionally done something like reconfigure where it expects to find certain directories.

I've yet to see a distro of Linux that can handle being moved from master to slave.

--
We are not the same. I'm an American, and you're a sick asshole.
[ Parent ]

Explain this, then (2.50 / 2) (#165)
by vadim on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 08:23:28 AM EST

INACCESSIBLE_BOOT_DEVICE This specifically can happen due to a motherboard swap, when Windows needs a different disk driver for the new board. Unlike Windows, if a different disk driver is needed, and it's not available, Linux will just fallback to the standard one.

Linux indeed won't work properly if you move disks around, but it'll still boot with init=/bin/bash, which then you can use to fix fstab. Not great, but at least fixable.

But, you can also use ext2 labels, which assign a label to each partition. So you just give a label like "root" to the root fs, make fstab use it, and it'll find it even if disks move around.


--
<@chani> I *cannot* remember names. but I did memorize 214 digits of pi once.
[ Parent ]
Like I said, three steps (none / 0) (#166)
by curien on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 09:25:45 AM EST

The first step is to change your IDE controller driver to the generic one. The second step is to make sure you're on a compatible HAL (ACPI/ACPI Uni/Standard). Third step is to swap motherboards.

Believe me, I know how this stuff works. I'm in a shop where we use Ghost for imaging a whole lotta different types of computers, and they used to maintain one image for each type of system. I figured out how to make a single image that works on any system. We have removable drives, so we swap the hard drive rather than the motherboard, but the principle is the same.

--
We are not the same. I'm an American, and you're a sick asshole.
[ Parent ]

Yeah, real nice (none / 0) (#167)
by vadim on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 09:45:02 AM EST

I do know you can do that. However, it's all completely useless for me. I don't have a shop full of components, and can't predict hardware failure. Linux is sane enough to fallback to the default driver, so that I don't have to do this stuff in advance, and I *can't* do it in advance if the motherboard fails. Had that happen before due to bad capacitors.

So, for me, in practice it comes out to this: With Linux it just boots, 10 minutes later I have a new kernel with every driver required for the board. Windows doesn't boot, and it'll take the whole day to install the OS, every software patch, and all my development tools (VS .NET is dreadfully slow to install).

So I just run Linux, and have Windows inside vmware. Then I can skip all that crap and restore the VM image if needed.
--
<@chani> I *cannot* remember names. but I did memorize 214 digits of pi once.
[ Parent ]

You can still get around that (none / 0) (#171)
by curien on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 10:40:22 AM EST

If it matters that much to you, make a system configuration with the default IDE controller drivers. Only use it when you need to.

Yes, this requires a little bit of forethought. So does sensible partitioning for recovery on Linux.

--
We are not the same. I'm an American, and you're a sick asshole.
[ Parent ]

The thing is (none / 0) (#176)
by vadim on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 11:20:09 AM EST

When something goes wrong in Linux I can be quite sure that most things can be fixed in 15 minutes, more or less. It's very hard to break things so badly as to require a complete reinstall.

Yeah, with a little foresight on Windows I can prevent some of those problems. I could also daily mirror the hard drive, have a RAID array and redundant power supplies, and backups sent to a bunker in another country... but it happens that I'm not a big company, so there's a limit to the precautions I can take. That's why I value having a system that has a very good chance of recovery when something *does* go wrong.

This specific example can be avoided. But when an antivirus/firewall leaves my system unusable there's little I can do besides reinstalling/restoring from backup (and I don't currently have the resources to backup my whole drive). On Linux though, no big deal. If a kernel patch causes problems, I choose a different one in grub, or can boot from a CD, replace the kernel, enable/disable modules, and in 15 minutes it'll be working just as before.
--
<@chani> I *cannot* remember names. but I did memorize 214 digits of pi once.
[ Parent ]

Get Ready for the Newbie (none / 0) (#172)
by virg on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 10:49:20 AM EST

Here's a smattering of questions I devised on reading your post, that demonstrate why I think you don't spend a lot of time working with desktop users:

What's a bootstrap, and what's all that crap that scrolls by when I turn it on?

Why would I uninstall a program?

What's a registry? What's a module?

What's a motherboard? Is that the computer? Why would I want to move my stuff to another computer since I only have one?


Beginning to see the light? You're a technician, and technicians tend to favor technically functional stuff. But the simple fact is that in many cases it's easier for an end user to get and install a program or part in Windows than in Linux. Virtually all consumer-level hardware comes with Windows installation software, and end users aren't going to be swapping out their mobos or reconfiguring their modules (or registry). Linux still has a lot of rough edges when it comes to the desktop. If you doubt that, go buy yourself a printer or thumb drive at Best Buy and make it work in Linux without manually installing stuff. Now remember "What's a module?" and tell me how a beginner is even going to know what a print driver is, much less how he's going to find the one he needs and install it in Linux. The driver for Windows is likely on a CD in the box that runs and installs with no need for knowledge of drivers, and that's what you're competing with.

Like it or not, these are the people that drive the desktop market, and you need to consider and solve these problems before you can expect the average Joe to adopt Linux. A free OS that he can't use to do his stuff is of no use to him. You'll never get the edge if your answer to installing that software starts with "open a console and..."

Virg
"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
Ok (none / 0) (#177)
by vadim on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 11:54:08 AM EST

What's a bootstrap, and what's all that crap that scrolls by when I turn it on?

What crap? I have a pretty progress bar. On the other hand, unlike Windows, you can press a key and see all that weird stuff scroll by to help somebody with technical knowledge troubleshoot it.

Why would I uninstall a program?

I don't know, perhaps because you don't find it useful, it takes too much space(games) or it keeps popping up advertisements on your desktop? It doesn't matter the reason, the important thing is that a proper desktop should be able to uninstall anything and do it properly without forcing the user to dig in the registry to completely get rid of it.

What's a registry?

A confusing configuration system used by Windows which pretty much nobody fully understands, and that is hard to backup.

What's a module?

Pretty much the same thing as a driver, except it comes with the system and you don't have to hunt for the right CD to get it.

What's a motherboard? Is that the computer? Why would I want to move my stuff to another computer since I only have one?

What it you get a new, better computer? Do you really think it's intuitive to have to go through the contortions described by curien so that you can have your stuff on the better hardware?

If you doubt that, go buy yourself a printer or thumb drive at Best Buy and make it work in Linux without manually installing stuff.

What stuff? Thumb drives are all supported by the Linux mass storage module, but you don't need to know that because all the user friendly distributions come with it enabled. Linux compatible printers work just fine without having to go through the strange process on Windows. Every manual I've seen says to install the drivers before connecting the printer.

You'll never get the edge if your answer to installing that software starts with "open a console and..."

Since when? On the friendly distributions, the answer begins with "Open the package manager". And really, from the support perspective, saying "run 'apt-get install mozilla'" is a lot less problematic than describing how to navigate a GUI. Have you tried it?


--
<@chani> I *cannot* remember names. but I did memorize 214 digits of pi once.
[ Parent ]

You're Missing the Forest (none / 0) (#205)
by virg on Thu Sep 29, 2005 at 11:01:41 AM EST

I read your answers to my questions, and it's obvious that you're missing two very important points.

1.) You're preaching to the choir. I hate working with Windows, and I run Linux on two of my home systems and my laptop.

2.) I'm not the person you need to consider. Your answers to my questions are spoken as if to the person supporting the machine, which in many cases is more expert than the person using the machine. Again you say things that indicate that you're a technician, but things that are obvious to a technician (and are obvious to me) are not obvious nor intuitive to the end user. You give reasons for uninstalling, for example, that make perfect sense to you and me, but Mary Mo isn't going to consider how much space that program ties up unless she runs out of hard drive, will ignore it if it's not useful, and probably has no clue that it's popping up the ads in the first place, so an OS that gracefully uninstalls a program doesn't add anything to her computing experience.

The major problem with adoption is simple. Right now one needs a modicum of expertise to use a Linux machine. For those with a modicum orf expertise (or the motivation to gain a modicum of expertise), Linux works very well. Several folks I've helped to learn computers don't even know Windows, because the first computer they owned (set up and supported by me) is running Linux. When it blows up, they call me, much like the users who use Windows, and in watching and helping me, they get that modicum of expertise. The problem stems from the fact that many of these folks are running Windows already, and they're familiar with Windows. If you want them to change, you need to give them something that solves a problem that Windows can't, but at the same time (and this is the part you're not getting), you can't introduce problems that Windows doesn't have. Manual installation is a problem to someone who's used to putting a CD in the drive and clicking a button. Modules are a problem for someone who's used to plugging in a printer and having it ask for the enclosed CD, and then setting itself up without further hassle. Saying that friendly distributions do this misses a very simple and important fact: the first time Linux user has no idea that Linux isn't one product, doesn't know which distributions are friendly and which aren't, very likely doesn't know where to find a friendly distro even if they know which distro that is, doesn't know how to get the distro into an installable format, and doesn't want to have to learn all this stuff just to use the computer. Most Windows users don't know how to install or support Windows either, but they don't have to since Windows usually comes preinstalled on the machine when they buy it. At this point in time, end user installation of hardware and software is simpler in Windows than in Linux (notice this doesn't say "better" just "easier"). If we can't make it almost as easy to install a program or something a regular person will buy at the store, we'll have trouble getting these people to adopt, and these people, warts and all, are the ones we have to convert if Linux is ever going to capture a mainstream slice of the market.

Virg
"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
Oh please. (none / 0) (#207)
by vadim on Thu Sep 29, 2005 at 11:59:13 AM EST

Now it's a "It's not intuitive if it's not Windows" post.

The people you describe *do* care about uninstalling. Of course, they don't see it the same way as I do. Rather, they mostly come in two kinds:

The "Help! There's this awful stuff and I want you to get rid of it!". This is the point at which I tell them that their computer has 20 different spyware programs, and that the fastest way of getting rid of them would be to reformat. Or I can come, and mess with it, and will charge money even if I can't remove all of it.

The more clueless type: "I'm planning to get rid of my old and slow P4 1.5 GHz and replace it with a new P4 3.5 GHz, 1GB RAM and a $300 video card". Those are often really surprised when the computer suddenly becomes fast after getting cleaned of all the crap.

You could say that they don't consciously care about being able to uninstall things, but it affects them anyway. It's about the same way as you probably don't care about how your city handles garbage, but the moment they stop picking it up and you notice the smell, it sure becomes annoying, doesn't it?

From the user's perspective, the problem is "I want that garbage to be picked up", or "I want my system to run fast and to be stable". Citizens probably don't say "I want a better garbage disposal service", they say "I want the stinking garbage pile in front of my house removed!". From there any sensible mayor would extract the conclusion that the garbage disposal service needs improving.

Exactly the same way, when people say "I want you to fix my computer", most often the underlying need is to get rid of spyware, and guess what, an OS that could cleanly remove anything would really help.

Can't really agree with the rest of your post either. If Windows does it it doesn't mean that it's good. Why exactly is a driver CD a good thing? Wouldn't it be better not to need a CD at all?

No, Linux doesn't even need to be much better than Windows to become popular. It just needs to come with the computer when they buy it. If people started with Linux first and switched to Windows then they'd be asking where's the package manager.
--
<@chani> I *cannot* remember names. but I did memorize 214 digits of pi once.
[ Parent ]

Around the Point (none / 0) (#234)
by virg on Fri Sep 30, 2005 at 03:21:46 PM EST

> Now it's a "It's not intuitive if it's not Windows" post.

I'm beginning to wonder if you're reading my posts or just skimming them for talking points. I never said, nor do I think, nor wish to imply that if it's not Windows it's not intuitive. Windows isn't intuitive at all. What it is (and the point you keep trying hard to avoid) is familiar to those using it.

> Can't really agree with the rest of your post either. If Windows does it it doesn't mean that it's good. Why exactly is a driver CD a good thing? Wouldn't it be better not to need a CD at all?

I think this proves my point that you're not reading the whole thing. Once again, I didn't say, nor do I think, nor do I wish to imply that just because Windows does something that it's the right thing to do. Windows does lots of things that aren't the best way to do something. What it does (and the point you keep trying hard to avoid) is familiar to those using it.


Look, I'll distill it down to the very base so we can talk on the level of the real problem. End users are familiar with Windows. They know how it works, and how it doesn't. They're used to working with it and they know how the basic functions work, like putting in the CD and connecting the hardware. To get someone to change to Linux, Linux needs to be easier to use than Windows and at the same time, it can't introduce problems that Windows doesn't have, because they're familiar with Windows and so they'll use Windows unless there's a driving reason to change.

> No, Linux doesn't even need to be much better than Windows to become popular. It just needs to come with the computer when they buy it. If people started with Linux first and switched to Windows then they'd be asking where's the package manager.

Wow, you're absolutely right. Now, would you care to explain how that's supposed to happen? If people who have computers now don't decide to switch to Linux, no manufacturer is going to preinstall Linux. If Installing and using Linux requires a significant effort, people won't switch from Windows, because they know Windows and people don't generally like to change. Until Linux gets to the point of ease of installation and use for the end user, it'll never be mainstream. Your comment about "If people started with Linux first..." is irrelevant, because they didn't start with Linux. They started with Windows, so we need to win them over. Why do you think Microsoft put so much effort into getting market share in the first place? Linux isn't going to take market share unless it's better, and I'm pointing out to you that "better" must mean "better for the end user" when you're selling to end users.

Virg
"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
Now you're completely missing my point (none / 0) (#235)
by vadim on Fri Sep 30, 2005 at 04:29:02 PM EST

Let's look at one of your arguments:

"an OS that gracefully uninstalls a program doesn't add anything to her computing experience"

And in this post you repeat your point that you think that in order to succeed, Linux has to be just like Windows, just better. Sorry, I don't agree. If you want something that works like Windows it's there already.

My point, simply, is that the fact that grandma doesn't care about a package manager doesn't mean that she couldn't use one. To use an analogy, if you ask around, I'm pretty sure that nobody is concerned about the sewer system unless something particularly nasty is happening with it. But the fact that 99.9% people in the city never think of it, doesn't mean it's not needed!

Grandma also doesn't care about such things like preemptive multitasking, yet Microsoft clearly bothered to switch from the cooperative multitasking used in previous versions, because you don't need to be a computer scientist to get a benefit from it.

Now, additionally, you argue that Linux must be better than Windows to succeed (quite reasonable argument), yet then refuse actual improvements (which is insane).

Two examples: Package manager. One of the major defects of Windows is all the crap that you get infected with, and software that just actively resists attempts of uninstalling it. Wouldn't it be great if you could remove anything unwanted at the press of a button? For some strange reason you don't think so.

Modules: You again insist in missing what I said. Hello, did you read the "Wouldn't it be better not to need a CD at all?" part? Right now, if I boot Knoppix on this computer everything, video and sound card included works. Yet, somehow, according to you because Windows asks for driver CDs, Knoppix should require me to provide the CDs for my motherboard, sound card, video card, keyboard and monitor?

Really, I don't get if you're not reading, or if you're trolling. Windows is released every few years, so if you install it on a new computer, chances are that not even the network card will work. I fail to see how that is better than current Linux distributions that boot on the same hardware and support all of it automatically without asking for drivers because they already have them.

--
<@chani> I *cannot* remember names. but I did memorize 214 digits of pi once.
[ Parent ]

Back and Forth (none / 0) (#237)
by virg on Fri Sep 30, 2005 at 05:58:23 PM EST

> And in this post you repeat your point that you think that in order to succeed, Linux has to be just like Windows, just better. Sorry, I don't agree. If you want something that works like Windows it's there already.

This all by itself is the miss. You keep trying to say that I'm saying this, and I'm not. Now listen closely. Linux doesn't have to be just like Windows, only better. I'll repeat that. Linux doesn't have to be just like Windows, only better. Linux has to be better than Windows, and Linux cannot fail at things that Windows succeeds at. Read through that, and you'll see there's a very important difference. I don't think that Linux should do Windows things at all. I think instead that if an end user can do something using Windows, then he'd damn well better be able to do the same thing in Linux without any more hassle or he'll revert to Windows. I would love it if I never needed a driver disk at all, but if the driver isn't built in then I'd better be able to get it loaded without knowing what a driver is.

> Package manager. One of the major defects of Windows is all the crap that you get infected with, and software that just actively resists attempts of uninstalling it. Wouldn't it be great if you could remove anything unwanted at the press of a button? For some strange reason you don't think so.

Again, you attribute my description of the end user into my own words. I'll say it again, since you keep repeating your stance: I like Linux. I like the package management concept. I like being able to uninstall something gracefully. But, I'm not the one you have to sell. When I said that the ability to uninstall gracefully doesn't add anything to Mary Mo's computing experience, I'm dead on. She doesn't care that stuff can be cleanly uninstalled. That argument, even when you present it the way you presented it to me, won't convince her to switch. Yes, it's likely that her computer will run better (and not just due to the Package Manager, but that's a different thread). Sure, she can take stuff out more easily. She won't care. She doesn't know how to install or uninstall stuff, and she doesn't want to learn. When she wants stuff installed, she calls in someone else. When she no longer uses stuff, she'll just ignore it. I see this constantly, where someone will actively refuse to allow me to clean stuff up because they don't want to bother. How is the Package Manager going to convince Mary Mo? The answer is that it won't.

> Modules: You again insist in missing what I said. Hello, did you read the "Wouldn't it be better not to need a CD at all?" part? Right now, if I boot Knoppix on this computer everything, video and sound card included works. Yet, somehow, according to you because Windows asks for driver CDs, Knoppix should require me to provide the CDs for my motherboard, sound card, video card, keyboard and monitor?

First off, let's not go too far with this. Windows hasn't asked me for drivers for much of anything in the recent past. Also, I boot Knoppix constantly on dozens of machines. It works about seven out of ten times, and on the others it needs access to the Internet for stuff to work correctly. Not perfect, but certainly good enough for my purposes. Still, Knoppix is great for use but not great at all for installation. Someone not versed in the idea of the filesystem can't install much of anything since Knoppix doesn't normally automount the hard drive. I found that Knoppix is a great way to introduce end users to Linux since you can give them a CD and when they want to run a game they like on Windows they simply shut down and reboot. That said, how does this change the end user's experience? Modules are a great concept but if it's all working correctly, both modules and Windows drivers are transparent. When they're not working, the end users calls for help. The simple concept of loading and unloading modules without rebooting isn't going to convince anyone to switch to Linux, so again, it's no help to mention it.

> Really, I don't get if you're not reading, or if you're trolling. Windows is released every few years, so if you install it on a new computer, chances are that not even the network card will work. I fail to see how that is better than current Linux distributions that boot on the same hardware and support all of it automatically without asking for drivers because they already have them.

Even if it were true (which is not my experience; I've installed Windows on a lot of hardware and it doesn't die that often) it's not relevant to what we're trying to address. Mary Mo isn't going to install Windows or Linux. Who cares if it takes tweaking to get it all working, or even wholesale reinstallation of the driver set or whatever? Mary Mo doesn't care. She's not going to switch because Fedora doesn't need to download drivers or ask for disks. The only thing that will convince her to switch is if her experience with Linux is better than with Windows. If she's used to doing something in Windows, and she finds it difficult in Linux, it doesn't matter if that's because Windows does it wrong. She's going to see it as a Linux failing. Therefore, I fall back again to my original argument, which has been the same all along despite your attempts to feed words into it. Linux must be better than Windows, and at the same time it can't fail where Windows succeeds. Until then, Linux isn't going to get loaded on Mary Mo's machine, no matter how good the Package Manager is.

Virg
"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
And you still don't get it (none / 0) (#238)
by vadim on Fri Sep 30, 2005 at 06:30:59 PM EST

I would love it if I never needed a driver disk at all, but if the driver isn't built in then I'd better be able to get it loaded without knowing what a driver is.

Sure, then why insist on driver CDs? Make the distribution do hardware detection. If there's no driver then download it, don't ask for the CD. Incidentally, the CD thing isn't going to work anyway. Where have you seen hardware with Linux drivers on a CD? If there are any, they're either in the kernel, or on the manufacturer's site. In which case there are only two options: they come with the distribution, or they're downloaded.

I don't know why you keep clinging to this driver CD idea, as if I proposed that grandma should edit modules.conf. Hell, no. What should happen is that hardware detection runs, loads modules for whatever it recognizes, then attempts to download modules for whatever is left.

How is the Package Manager going to convince Mary Mo? The answer is that it won't.

And yet again you miss the point. The important thing is that the OS can uninstall things cleanly. You don't even need to advertise it.

Do you think that a term like "preemptive multitasking" ever appeared on a features list on the box? Of course not. Rather, somebody tried it, and told to a friend "You know, you should switch. Unlike Win 3.1 when a program does something bad on this new OS, the whole computer doesn't freeze".

The fundamental thing you seem to miss is that I'm not advocating that people will switch to Linux after seeing long list of strange terms like "package manager". Rather, all those things are going to be present on the background, avoiding the need for the user to have to load antiviruses and AdAware, and messing with driver disks


--
<@chani> I *cannot* remember names. but I did memorize 214 digits of pi once.
[ Parent ]
Funny You Should Say... (none / 0) (#250)
by virg on Mon Oct 03, 2005 at 10:45:04 AM EST

> Sure, then why insist on driver CDs?

The very sentence you quoted does not mention needing driver CDs. My statement works great with your idea of fetching drivers off the web. Your solution would be a fine solution. If only. If only the distro could detect what's there, and if it doesn't have a driver fetch it without interaction from the end user. I'll use the example that I know about through personal experience because it's a fairly obvious example. Get an HP deskjet printer (I think it was a 2100, but I don't honestly recall). Plug it into a Linux system. Linux will see the new device, discover that it doesn't have locally installed drivers for it, and will go looking for it. However, it won't go to HP's web site to get it, it'll simply come back and say that the driver can't be located (Fedora Core 4 and Knoppix 3.7, in my test). Plug the same printer into a Windows machine. Windows does the same thing, but when it can't find the driver correctly from HP, it asks for the CD. The CD is there in the box. Like it or not, the end user will perceive this as a Linux failing, despite that it's HP's fault that the driver doesn't come off the web site correctly. See what I mean? This problem has little to do with Windows or Linux, it has to do with a printer manufacturer, but guess what? The end user doesn't care. A simple note from Linux that the driver wouldn't download off of the manufacturer's web site (and a suggestion to go there yourself and seek it) would go a long way toward fixing this perception, but currently that note simply isn't there. The failure says, "Cannot find driver. Aborting." For an end user who knows nothing of drivers, that's unacceptable. Windows redirects to a Microsoft page describing what a driver is and suggesting steps to get it and install it. So should all Linux distros.

> I don't know why you keep clinging to this driver CD idea...

I don't give a diddly damn about driver CDs. My point has always been that the solution needs to be as easy for a non-technical user to use as it is in Windows, because that's what they're using now. If that means a driver CD, fine. If it works off the 'Net, all the better. Even descriptive failure messages like I mentioned above are better than nothing. The problem is that it's not currently easier in many cases, or even as easy, no matter where the solution comes from. That's the problem that the Linux community needs to address. Remember my mention of setting modes in X? Currently, there's a button when you change resolutions in Windows that says "Is this setting working?" If the user doesn't click the confirmation, the system reverts to the previous choice after fifteen seconds. X doesn't do that confirmation, so it's possible to set a bad mode and render the system unusable without manual editing of config files. Sure, X.org isn't Linux per se, but the end user doesn't care. They'll see it as a Linux failing. Little stuff like this is little, but it's got to be dealt with if we're to take Windows users away from Microsoft. Notice no mention of driver disks? It's not the disk that matters, it's the ease of use.

> Do you think that a term like "preemptive multitasking" ever appeared on a features list on the box? Of course not. Rather, somebody tried it, and told to a friend "You know, you should switch. Unlike Win 3.1 when a program does something bad on this new OS, the whole computer doesn't freeze".

Actually, it did appear on the box (not relevant but a fun little note), and you're wrong about adoption. Most folks moved to Windows 95 when they bought new machines that had it installed, and didn't care (and still don't) about preemptive multitasking. They upgraded because they had to, not because they wanted to, because as I said before, they were familiar with Windows 3.1. Getting folks to move to Linux, at least in the near term, must occur because they want to, which is a much harder sell.

> The fundamental thing you seem to miss is that I'm not advocating that people will switch to Linux after seeing long list of strange terms like "package manager". Rather, all those things are going to be present on the background, avoiding the need for the user to have to load antiviruses and AdAware, and messing with driver disks

Well, you're advocating switching to Linux, and using the long list of strange terms as your selling points, and I'm telling you that's not going to work. What on your list is going to sell Mary Mo on Linux? Package Manager? She doesn't care. Clean uninstalls? Again, doesn't care. No need for antivirus software? It's preinstalled, so again, she doesn't care. What she does care about it doing stuff she's familiar with. If you can provide her with a Linux that does the stuff she needs to do and doesn't hang her up in ways that Windows doesn't, then you've got a selling point. Remember, she's got Windows installed already. You're going to need to give her something more, in her perception, else why would she bother?

Virg
"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
More disagreement (none / 0) (#251)
by vadim on Mon Oct 03, 2005 at 02:27:34 PM EST

A simple note from Linux that the driver wouldn't download off of the manufacturer's web site (and a suggestion to go there yourself and seek it) would go a long way toward fixing this perception, but currently that note simply isn't there

So big deal, send a bug report to Red Hat or whoever. And you might as well attach a patch with it.

I understand that this can be a significant usability issue, but it's got a ridiculously trivial technical fix, so I don't see why you seem to be discussing it as if it was some tricky and deeply ingrained problem.

So should all Linux distros.

No, sorry, completely disagree here. The reason why I use Debian on my firewall it's because it lacks stuff like this that I don't need, which allows me to install it into a CompactFlash card. Red Hat, SuSE, Mandrake, sure. But keep this stuff the hell away from my Gentoo and Debian installs!

Currently, there's a button when you change resolutions in Windows that says "Is this setting working?" If the user doesn't click the confirmation, the system reverts to the previous choice after fifteen seconds. X doesn't do that confirmation, so it's possible to set a bad mode and render the system unusable without manual editing of config files.

Yes it does. It exists in KDE 3.4.2 at least. In fact, I tried it a moment ago, and it works exactly as expected, 15 seconds timeout included. It uses the XRANDR extension, I believe, but it's not like they need to know about that, as it's usable from a very windows-like config dialog.

Getting folks to move to Linux, at least in the near term, must occur because they want to, which is a much harder sell.

No, I believe that most of them will be eventually forced to switch. Your Mary Mo is exactly the kind of person that will never switch unless she's forced to. Technical superiority alone won't be enough.

Perhaps she'll switch because that's what she now uses at work. Perhaps by peer pressure. Perhaps because she bought a new computer with it installed. Or maybe because the local geek got tired of Windows and said he's not going to support Windows

My mother types documents in KWord for instance. Why? Because I lost my MS Office CD ages ago (wasn't legal anyway), refuse to pirate it now that I don't need to (having found a job), refuse to buy it because I don't need it (learned LaTeX), and she won't buy it since she uses it very infrequently so it's not worth it. It's not terribly nice? Yeah, perhaps. But KWord works well enough, so she doesn't seem to hurry to exchange $400 for a little bit more ease of use.

This is exactly the kind of thing that will make somebody switch, IMO. A choice between $400 for something used maybe once or twice for month, and something that might be a bit less convenient, but is maintained by somebody else and doesn't cost a cent.

Remember, she's got Windows installed already. You're going to need to give her something more, in her perception, else why would she bother?

And again, you missed it completely. That stuff needs to be there. Clearly, your Mary Mo isn't going to switch due to a confusing list of features. So what might make her switch? A system that works better, due to loads of tech she never heard about. I'd say that the image you paint of her implies that the only way she'll switch is seeing something better on a friend's computer, and a package manager is part of that. She doesn't need to know what it is, or see it being used. But a computer kept in order with the help of a package manager gives a better impression. The package manager is just an example anyway, just one thing that makes Linux more usable than Windows. A lack of a DLL hell also creates a nice impression, even to somebody who doesn't know what's that. Enough things like those, and it'll look a lot nicer in comparison.

All that is a moot point however. IMO it doesn't even make sense to concentrate on this kind of user. Even if she had the desire to switch she'd never have the technical skills required. No, she'll switch when she gets a new computer with it, or when a knowledgeable person does it for her.

The kind of user you describe will never be able to switch automatically. Even given a Linux installer that could somehow install a Linux distribution completely automatically, it'd never be able to deal fully with issues like people saving documents in C:\. Unless Linux turns into an identical clone of Windows, any migration will always need to be assisted, even if it's by a tech in a computer shop.


--
<@chani> I *cannot* remember names. but I did memorize 214 digits of pi once.
[ Parent ]
Coming Together (none / 0) (#252)
by virg on Mon Oct 03, 2005 at 04:43:05 PM EST

> I understand that this can be a significant usability issue, but it's got a ridiculously trivial technical fix, so I don't see why you seem to be discussing it as if it was some tricky and deeply ingrained problem.

It's not trivial to someone in Mary Mo's position, as evidenced by the four neighbors I deal with regularly who have these sorts of problems and had no idea even how to begin to solve them until I showed them. Remember, you're talking about getting folks to adopt Linux, and not all of those neighbors were complete Luddites. Someone who can figure out how to install a program or driver in Windows should not have problems doing the same in Linux.

> No, sorry, completely disagree here. The reason why I use Debian on my firewall it's because it lacks stuff like this that I don't need, which allows me to install it into a CompactFlash card.

My comments are directed towards what you called "friendly" distros in this thread. I didn't mean to imply that distros directed toward expert users need this stuff.

> It exists in KDE 3.4.2 at least.

Point conceded, since I didn't know that. Note that doesn't mean I'm willing to let the devs off the hook for other such "beginner" features in friendly distros.

> No, I believe that most of them will be eventually forced to switch. Your Mary Mo is exactly the kind of person that will never switch unless she's forced to. Technical superiority alone won't be enough.

I believe we're finally coming to common ground, and this is the point I've been pursuing all along. I think we still may disagree on what it would take to force Ms. Mo's switch, but you're right that what's under the hood isn't the key.

> Perhaps she'll switch because that's what she now uses at work. Perhaps by peer pressure. Perhaps because she bought a new computer with it installed. Or maybe because the local geek got tired of Windows and said he's not going to support Windows

Perfect analysis, and my point is that what will cause this is convincing the users who are farther along technically than Mary Mo but still not "technical", until enough of them want Linux that builders will start preinstalling Linux, and so on. But, the thing to remember is that there are a LOT of Mary Mos in the workplace, and businesses are positively allergic to change, especially in technology.

> This is exactly the kind of thing that will make somebody switch, IMO. A choice between $400 for something used maybe once or twice for month, and something that might be a bit less convenient, but is maintained by somebody else and doesn't cost a cent.

Agreed, unless (and this is a big unless) the free package doesn't work when he installs it, or he can't get it to find his printer, or whatever. There's a big difference between inconvenient and unusable, and although Mary Mo will use whatever someone loads for her, John Rookie will try it himself and will go buy Office if it doesn't work reasonably well. Now, I will warrant that in many regards (office suites and Internet, for examples), Linux and Windows are dead on in installation ease so OpenOffice and Firefox are an easy sell even with Windows users. But go a little farther out and you start to see the rough edges. Try getting a CD burner and its associated software going in Linux versus Windows, or a scrapbooking/clipart editing program, and you'll discover some of the weak spots I've come across. Lots of progress has been made, but it's a mistake to think that lots more isn't needed.

> All that is a moot point however. IMO it doesn't even make sense to concentrate on this kind of user. Even if she had the desire to switch she'd never have the technical skills required. No, she'll switch when she gets a new computer with it, or when a knowledgeable person does it for her.

I disagree with this not because it's wrong but because it's incomplete. Firstly, if she can be convinced to switch she'll ask someone to do it. If not, she'll likely actively resist the change, which is what we want to avoid. But more to the point, if we work on the things that will convince Mary Mo, we'll win a lot more Joe Rookies in the process, because focusing on the end user means that more time and thought goes into making sure everything meshes correctly, which has historically been the logjam in getting Linux on the desktop. That will go a long way toward making Linux attractive enough that talking Mary Mo into letting you install it for her won't be the stopping point, because she'll see it around her and won't panic when it's put in front of her.

Virg
"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
Aha (none / 0) (#253)
by vadim on Mon Oct 03, 2005 at 05:39:30 PM EST

It's not trivial to someone in Mary Mo's position, as evidenced by the four neighbors I deal with regularly who have these sorts of problems and had no idea even how to begin to solve them until I showed them

And here's exactly why I don't consider it to be an important issue. This kind of problem exists everywhere by the hundred, plenty of them in Windows as you yourself say.

But more to the point, if we work on the things that will convince Mary Mo, we'll win a lot more Joe Rookies in the process

Here's another place where we disagree. On two things. First, I don't think that Ms. Mo is a worthwile user to target. Second, I doubt it'll lead to winning Joe Rookies.

Ms Mo isn't useful to target because she'll be the last to convert. She'll need to be pretty much forced to convert by other factors. It doesn't make sense to target the one that'll want your product last. It's a lot easier to target the ones that do want your stuff first. When they adopt it, they'll help you by pressuring the ones that are less willing. And so on. You youself say it, your four neighbours depend on you. You're in a much better position to influence them than the other way.

Consider for instance, a Mac. Apparently beautiful, polished system. With a lower marketshare than Linux. Why could that be?

Well, IMO it's because it's not all that interesting from a technical user's perspective. So fine, it's got Unix. And it's pretty. But there's only Apple, and I heard plenty bad things about them. I don't like a single vendor, and any improvements in usability are honestly uninteresting. I have no wish to switch to something with less functionality than I already have.

As a technical user, I like Linux. I do weird stuff with it, learn it in and out, then go to recommend Mandrake to a friend. But the reverse would never happen. I'd hate a system with a restricted functionality tuned for Ms Mo, and would ignore it completely.

The adoption of new technology always starts from business and technologists and ends with common people. The cell phone came to the teenager from the businessman, not the way around. Computers were first used by big business. Who works on wearable computers? People like Steve Mann, who are probably considered "weirdos" by most of the population. From there it'll go into the military and business sectors, geeks, and only then it'll start becoming common among normal people.


--
<@chani> I *cannot* remember names. but I did memorize 214 digits of pi once.
[ Parent ]
Depth and Direction (none / 0) (#256)
by virg on Tue Oct 04, 2005 at 10:11:11 AM EST

> This kind of problem exists everywhere by the hundred, plenty of them in Windows as you yourself say.

True but not very relevant to our discussion. It doesn't matter (in our discussion) that there are flaws in Windows, it matters how the flaws in Windows compare to the flaws in Linux, and how those flaws affect the end user, as opposed to techically expert users.

> Ms Mo isn't useful to target because she'll be the last to convert. She'll need to be pretty much forced to convert by other factors. It doesn't make sense to target the one that'll want your product last. It's a lot easier to target the ones that do want your stuff first. When they adopt it, they'll help you by pressuring the ones that are less willing. And so on. You youself say it, your four neighbours depend on you. You're in a much better position to influence them than the other way.

Experience in business disagrees with you. By targeting the end user, you'll pick up the Joe Rookies along the way, because they'll jump in "before you're done", so to speak. If you constantly aim to make the system more accessible to Mary Mo, it'll become more accessible to Joe Rookie at the same time. Sure, he'll make the switch before Mary will, but you still want to aim at the end user, not those in the middle.

As to my neighbors, keep in mind that they didn't know how to begin fixing Linux problems themselves. At least two of the four were handling Windows to an acceptable extent before I came along.

> Consider for instance, a Mac. Apparently beautiful, polished system. With a lower marketshare than Linux. Why could that be?

What, are you new to this market? It could be because there's a significantly smaller set of software that runs on Macintosh. Perhaps it's that Macs cost a lot more than PCs. Maybe it's because so few Macintosh computers sit in business settings. All of these things (except higher cost, which directly affects sales) back up my point that usability and familiarity are key to widespread adoption. Who cares if the user interface is cleaner, if it doesn't run the stuff the end users want to run? Who will run a Mac when Windows isn't significantly worse from their point of view? You say it yourself: "I have no wish to switch to something with less functionality than I already have."

> I'd hate a system with a restricted functionality tuned for Ms Mo, and would ignore it completely.

One of the things I see getting Linux to the mainstream is that it can be both a tuned system for Mary Mo and a full-featured kit for folks like us. Right now Windows tends more toward the end user, and less toward the expert user. Linux is the opposite. The fault in your logic is that you seem to think I demand that we move Linux to Windows' position, when in fact I've been advocating expanding Linux into Windows' position while at the same time leaving the expert distros well enough alone. Linux doesn't need to be one or the other, and to really dominate the market, it needs to be both. You need to shake the mindset that Linux for Mary Mo must eliminate Linux for geeks.

> The adoption of new technology always starts from business and technologists and ends with common people. The cell phone came to the teenager from the businessman, not the way around.

This doesn't contradict my statement, since you should recall that I mentioned the Mary Mos in business. Businesses may not always listen to the rank and file when they make technology choices, but it does have an effect.

> Who works on wearable computers? People like Steve Mann, who are probably considered "weirdos" by most of the population. From there it'll go into the military and business sectors, geeks, and only then it'll start becoming common among normal people.

Backwards on this one example. The military has been working on wearable computers since about 1980.

Virg
"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
Direction (none / 0) (#257)
by vadim on Tue Oct 04, 2005 at 04:04:42 PM EST

Experience in business disagrees with you. By targeting the end user, you'll pick up the Joe Rookies along the way, because they'll jump in "before you're done", so to speak.

Experience with Linux disagrees with you. I started using it when it was a lot less friendly than it is now, and if you search for Linus' announcement of it it'll be quite clear he didn't have a desktop OS in mind. That came later.

The thing is, that an uber-friendly OS doesn't interest me in the slightest, even in the beginning of its development.

If you constantly aim to make the system more accessible to Mary Mo, it'll become more accessible to Joe Rookie at the same time.

No way. The Mac is more than accessible enough, but I don't know anybody seriously considering it. Probably mostly because those people around me know they can count on me to help once in a while, but not if they get a Mac.

My point here: The most likely way those people will switch is if I influence them. If I don't like the OS then I won't use it, won't help them switch, and ultimately that means that they won't switch. In fact, some of them still use Windows 2000. Because that's what I installed, and because I haven't used XP and told them that I won't be able to help with it.

As to my neighbors, keep in mind that they didn't know how to begin fixing Linux problems themselves. At least two of the four were handling Windows to an acceptable extent before I came along.

So what? At some point they didn't know that either. And if you gave them a Mac, they wouldn't do any better. Heck, I don't know how to use one, and I have used DOS, Windows, Linux and OS/2.

Who will run a Mac when Windows isn't significantly worse from their point of view? You say it yourself: "I have no wish to switch to something with less functionality than I already have."

You didn't get it. This is my opinion about it. It could be the most wonderful thing ever for Mary Mo. However, I hold most of the power here, and I refuse to use it. That's why I argue that targeting Mary Mo isn't important. Because if she switches to anything it'll be due to my intervention, and for me to like it, it must target me.

You need to shake the mindset that Linux for Mary Mo must eliminate Linux for geeks.

That's not what I'm disagreeing with. I'm disagreeing with your claim that it can extend "in reverse" from users to geeks. This simply doesn't happen. The kind of user you're talking about here doesn't even change their cell phone unless forced to. They'll never be the initiators of any change, rather the last ones to convert.

As far as I can see, it always happens the other way. The geek gets the cool, expensive phone with a camera. His grandma doesn't see the point in such a an expensive and complicated gadget, when the rotary phone still works fine. My grandma, in fact, still had one when she died about a year ago.

Businesses may not always listen to the rank and file when they make technology choices, but it does have an effect.

That's the whole point. Business are "higher" in the chain. They have the power to dictate whatever they want. The business sets the policy to convert to say, Linux. That decision forces every Mary Mo working for it to learn it.

Backwards on this one example. The military has been working on wearable computers since about 1980.

Slight mistake on my part, but the point still stands. Tech is introduced at the "high" levels first, and goes down from there, not the other way.


--
<@chani> I *cannot* remember names. but I did memorize 214 digits of pi once.
[ Parent ]
Yeild to Conclusion (none / 0) (#259)
by virg on Wed Oct 05, 2005 at 09:33:17 AM EST

> Experience with Linux disagrees with you. I started using it when it was a lot less friendly than it is now, and if you search for Linus' announcement of it it'll be quite clear he didn't have a desktop OS in mind. That came later.

The thing is, that an uber-friendly OS doesn't interest me in the slightest, even in the beginning of its development.


I hate to sound bluntly confrontational, but what difference does your interest in friendly Linux have to do with getting it to go mainstream? You've put a lot of effort into showing that you're ahead of the curve, so how does that apply to our original discussion?

> No way. The Mac is more than accessible enough, but I don't know anybody seriously considering it. Probably mostly because those people around me know they can count on me to help once in a while, but not if they get a Mac.

You're still suffereing from a myopic view of what "accessible" means. An easy-to-use GUI doesn't make a system accessible all by itself. Being able to find help easily is part of the picture, which is part of the reason Macintosh still sits in a niche. It's also part of the reason Linux still sits in a niche.

> So what? At some point they didn't know that either. And if you gave them a Mac, they wouldn't do any better.

So what you're saying is that if they won't do any better with something other than Windows, even if it's better than Windows, they won't switch? Isn't that my argument in a nutshell?

> That's not what I'm disagreeing with. I'm disagreeing with your claim that it can extend "in reverse" from users to geeks. This simply doesn't happen.

This had to come out of left field, because I never argued that stuff propagates from the rank and file to the geek crowd. That's not even relevant to our discussion. My argument continues to be that for Linux to become mainstream, it's got to push out Windows on the desktop, to some extent. It's only going to do that when it gets extended to the ease of use of Windows for the end user. How that relates to your comment about the end user convincing a geek to use it is beyond my understanding.

> That's the whole point. Business are "higher" in the chain. They have the power to dictate whatever they want. The business sets the policy to convert to say, Linux. That decision forces every Mary Mo working for it to learn it.

OK, then let's take this to the floor, so to speak. I'll yield entirely to your point, so I can ask you a question. Linux is cleaner than Windows. It's free. It's more powerful. You like it. So then, why isn't it already dominating the desktop? Go to any given business, and tell them to switch to Linux, using all of the arguments that you've used here. For the most part, they won't do it, and in the real world, they haven't done it. Now would you care to explain why?

Perhaps it's that you shouldn't be so quick to dismiss Mary Mo and Joe Rookie. Up to now, the Linux community has mostly done so, and look where it's put us.

Virg
"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
Getting there... (none / 0) (#261)
by vadim on Wed Oct 05, 2005 at 10:16:31 AM EST

I hate to sound bluntly confrontational, but what difference does your interest in friendly Linux have to do with getting it to go mainstream? You've put a lot of effort into showing that you're ahead of the curve, so how does that apply to our original discussion?

Ah, but it's your fault. The picture you paint of your Mary Mo is utterly hopeless. At least as hopeless as my late grandmother with her rotary phone. It simply doesn't make sense to target somebody who's not even going to notice they're being targeted.

My point here is not that I'm ahead of the curve. But that I'm the one doing the pushing here.

So what you're saying is that if they won't do any better with something other than Windows, even if it's better than Windows, they won't switch? Isn't that my argument in a nutshell?

I take your argument to the ultimate conclusion: This type of user is simply an unmovable mountain. They won't even upgrade to a new version of Windows however better it may be. I assure you that it cost me quite a lot to get people to switch from Windows ME to 2000, and ME was probably the most horrible thing MS ever made. Still, they'd never have moved on their own.

I'm quite serious here. I've seen it, they will refuse to upgrade Windows, IE or go to Windows update, etc. One computer I was asked to fix was running a completely unpatched beta version of Windows 2000, and this was this year. As it could be expected, it was infected with about everything imaginable.

This is in essence my argument: It makes no sense to try to target those users, as they resist any attempts. Heck, when I was asked to fix that computer, I was asked to just fix the problems and not change anything. That would include leaving the Windows beta there of course. If they ever migrate it's due to external influences, and it's going to be whatever the external influences like. Hence my comment about that it has to target me.

OK, then let's take this to the floor, so to speak. I'll yield entirely to your point, so I can ask you a question. Linux is cleaner than Windows. It's free. It's more powerful. You like it. So then, why isn't it already dominating the desktop? Go to any given business, and tell them to switch to Linux, using all of the arguments that you've used here. For the most part, they won't do it, and in the real world, they haven't done it. Now would you care to explain why?

Business has some good reasons. One would be that it costs more to switch than the benefit derived from it. Perfectly reasonable decision. Businesses begin to switch when it makes sense for them. For instance, some are doing it in response to upgrades forced by Microsoft, inconvenient licensing, etc.

In this company, for instance, the mail server and firewall already run Linux (due to me). The desktops still don't because their primary use is to run a custom application made by me, and that's almost the only thing they do. Switching to Linux here wouldn't have any noticeable effect, except making my life a bit easier, and that's not all that important. All the computers run Windows 2000, and nobody is even considering a switch to XP.

However, I'm taking steps to make a potential migration to Linux easier. Notice however, how it doesn't have much to do with Linux itself though. We use Windows because the easiest option is to go with it until a problem appears. All that is needed is for Microsoft to create a sufficiently large obstacle, such as licensing that Linux lacks, and to have an easy way for a migration.

This kind of thing also applies to myself. I currently use Gentoo on the desktop, and Debian on the firewall. I have no plans to move from there. It doesn't matter however better Ubuntu or something else might be, I still won't move until Gentoo starts being inconvenient. That's why I stopped using Debian on the desktop and server and it's only left on my firewall.


--
<@chani> I *cannot* remember names. but I did memorize 214 digits of pi once.
[ Parent ]
and after 15 seconds (none / 0) (#200)
by eraserewind on Thu Sep 29, 2005 at 07:57:10 AM EST

windows will time out and revert to the previous mode.

[ Parent ]
You're a bit out of date (none / 1) (#201)
by vadim on Thu Sep 29, 2005 at 09:12:57 AM EST

In KDE:

Right click on the desktop, select "Configure desktop", "Display" and there you can change your resolution. No need to restart X, and you get the 15 seconds timeout.

The text might not match exactly because I have it in Russian, but it's there, and it's been there for quite a while.
--
<@chani> I *cannot* remember names. but I did memorize 214 digits of pi once.
[ Parent ]

Windows doesn't just work either (3.00 / 2) (#197)
by pyro9 on Thu Sep 29, 2005 at 01:59:02 AM EST

As near as I can tell, nobody is born knowing how to use Windows.

No tool 'just works'. "I put the hammer next to the nails and boards, and when I came back the next day, the stupid thing hadn't driven a single nail!" Hammers seem to just work because we all saw one in use while growing up. In spite of that, it's not at all uncommon for hammer newbies to smash their thumb.

There's nothing wrong with expecting a new user to learn a thing or two.

There are some places where things are quite obscure for no good reason, but those are fewer and fewer.


The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
A question, then (none / 0) (#50)
by WonderJoust on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 10:39:48 AM EST

I understand your argument, so let me make an analogy.

If you code a large program, you'd probly use a high level language, no questions asked. So there are some hardcore nuts who program in the much lower levels from the get-go, it's not practical and it takes more time.

Well, since you're obviously not interested in the benefits of the lower level language, why would you care about having access to it later? Furthermore, if you DO have access to it, wouldn't it be easier to write it from the beginning in the lower than to try and sort through all the extra crap and re-write portions?

I know that's kind of confusing, but maybe you get the idea. It's an honest question, too.

I guess the general idea is: if you want it super-easy to install, don't expect the same benefits of those that took a week to get all the configs exactly correct.

_________________________________
i like your style: bitter, without being a complete cunt about it.
-birds ate my face
[ Parent ]

Why? (none / 0) (#85)
by kero on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 04:05:04 PM EST

Why can't I expect the same level of benefits from a GUI interface to a config file than a person who hand tools the actual file? Why can't a developer write an easy to use interface into the config file?

This is the last step keeping Linux from getting wide user acceptance. Easy things are hard and hard things are almost impossible to do on most distros. There is too much information on Google so simple questions can take hours to answer, and woa unto you if you don't know the proper terminology or your installation is different from the answer you see on line.

It's not an unreasonable request. Apple has done a good enough job with OS X that easy things are easy and only rarely do things become impossible. All this with an easy to use interface that doesn't require a degree to use. Why should we expect anything less from Linux?

[ Parent ]
Because it's free? (2.00 / 2) (#89)
by WonderJoust on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 04:21:00 PM EST

Because it's more powerful?

Maybe power and functionality supercede your comfort in the land of Linux.

The problem with a pretty gui is that it abstracts you from the code, the commands. It takes you back a step. You are now confined to the creativity of the person who made the GUI which may not encompass what you want/are trying to do. The more fool-proofing is done, the further from the actual coding you become.

If you are trying to use Linux and are not interested in how your computer is functioning at a pretty low level, you're interested for the wrong reasons.

My dad once told me "Nothing worth having is given." So you're not given the power of Linux, so you have to read and understand and sift through more shit than the average user. You are also better off.

And it's entertaining that you praise Mac and Windows while it is apparent by your plantive post that you feel like you are missing out on something not being able to use Linux.

_________________________________
i like your style: bitter, without being a complete cunt about it.
-birds ate my face
[ Parent ]

Dizzy up there on your horse? (none / 1) (#122)
by kero on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 01:06:08 PM EST

When I run an application I don't want to see the "code." I want it to do what it was designed to do. For applications that run in a graphical environment there are very few reasons that there wouldn't be a "pretty gui" to configure the app. And pretty much all of them have to do with either the laziness of the developer or the developer's lack of regard for their audience. So yes, I guess your first point is true. Because it is free there is no reason for the developer to make the application easy to use.

Your second paragraph doesn't make much sense but what I think you are trying to say is that the only reason to use Linux is if you have a deep interest in the low level workings of the computer. Again, this is what will keep Linux from the mainstream. The majority of people who use computers do so to get things done, not out of a love of the machine or because they grok the true nature of code. Keep writing software for computer geeks and you will have a user base of computer geeks, which is unfortunately not all that large.

"Nothing worth having is given" is pretty funny in this context. Linux fans keep saying it is a mainstream OS yet you expect people to walk through fire before they get "the power of Linux?" What a hoot. You really put a lot of value in your technical knowledge don't you? Some day you will realize that it is about as important as being a really good bowler. People you bowl with care but the rest of the world just shrugs and says that's nice.

"...plantive post...", Oh goody, we get to play analyze the poster! Grow up. You have no idea what systems I have running or what I use them for. Maybe instead of being certain that everyone could use Linux if they weren't too stupid to read the man page you might accept the possiblity that Linux has a long way to go in ease of use. Primarily for the same reason that Windows has a long way to go for security. Linux was not designed with ease of use in mind. It doesn't make it a better or worse operating system, just one harder for non-computer junkies to use.

[ Parent ]
Christ you're touchy. (none / 0) (#180)
by WonderJoust on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 12:33:40 PM EST

You're saying it's too hard to use.

I'm Saying you're right and it's hard because it's powerful and free. I think you at least agree with me on the free side.

I also understand you and the average user are not interested in what's hapening under the surface; but that's what MAKES Linux powerful. That you have to know and build and tweak your kernel to make your programs go as fast as possible. If you want Linux without this hassle, go use RedHat Mandrake and have it do everything for you and it will run about as well as Windows. But it was easy!

I never claimed Linux is for everyone; it's not. There are people who do not care enough to run it and they won't. They'll see it, try to run it and want it delivered upon a silver platter to them and the users will tell them 'read or drown' and they, appropriately, will drown. Like I said, they don't care why, how or when their system works, just that it does. So they won't put in some time to make it go faster. Bottom line.

And by the 'plantive post' part, I wasn't trying to berate you, I was trying to say that you, like all who complain about Linux and compare its interface to Winwdows or Mac, obviously feel like you're missing out or you wouldn't complain. You'd just think to yourself "wow, it sucks, why would you use it" and move along.

So my basic argument is that it's difficult because it's powerful and vice versa. You can't seperate the two, in my mind. To compare, Mac is somewhat powerful, but alomst totally devoid of modifiability therefor making it difficult to apply to things it wasn't specifically designed for and Windows gives you some modification while making you s sucker for anyone who cares to hack you.

And, yes, I am proud of myself for figuring it out on my own with very little help. Why not be proud of your accomplishments? And the fact it pays my bills doesn't hurt either.

_________________________________
i like your style: bitter, without being a complete cunt about it.
-birds ate my face
[ Parent ]

Erm, no. (none / 0) (#140)
by Parity on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 07:58:39 PM EST

Actually, if I'm writing in a higher level language, I still may want access to a lower level language, and it would -not- make sense to write my -whole application- in said lower level language.

The canonical example is graphics routines in assembler that are used by games written in C, but it's also comes up in cases where one is writing in Perl or Java or some other soft-edged language and you need to muck around with system calls, (usually, in this case, C -is- the low level language.)

It would not, generally, make more sense to have written your whole system in C - or assembler.

I suppose, the same logic does, to me, apply to configurations of large systems. It should come, out of the box, mostly right for most people. It would be really nice if a GUI gave access to the most frequently changed options. I still may want to muck around with uncommon details of the configuration.

[ Parent ]

Newsflash (none / 1) (#55)
by vadim on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 11:23:03 AM EST

Easy to configure sometimes means a config file. I don't know what a complete GUI for the Apache config file would look like, but I'm quite sure it wouldn't be much easier to understand than the file, and a lot more uncomfortable.

Then there's that a GUI interface that can read a nicely formatted config file, change a few settings and write it back without removing the formatting and comments seems to be a feat beyond quite a few configuration interfaces. Not that it can't be done of course, but annoyingly few tools do.
--
<@chani> I *cannot* remember names. but I did memorize 214 digits of pi once.
[ Parent ]

best tool for the job (none / 1) (#63)
by JahToasted on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 01:06:56 PM EST

a config file is great for something like apache. But thats because the average user isn't going to be stting up apache, and if they did they probably wouldn't need to change the default config anyway. But editting a config file to get the scroll wheel to work? That's just ridiculous.

It's lack of polish that's keeping linux off people's desktops. Things like scrollwheels, extra mouse buttons, automatcally mounting and unmounting removable media, and an easily navigatable filesystem (I'm looking at you, gnome) are the things that are important to people.
______
"I wanna have my kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames" -- Jim Morrison
[ Parent ]

That's lack of polish in the distribution (none / 0) (#69)
by vadim on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 01:25:29 PM EST

I think it should just have been there in the first place.

Automatic mounting and unmounting has been there for a long time, and it's called "automount". That's also competency of the distribution.

IMO, both of those are distribution problems. If you went with something shiny and user friendly like SuSE or Mandrake, then yeah, all that stuff should have been there from the beginning, and it's completely fair to complain about it not being there.

On the other hand, I don't want automount getting installed by default on Debian. I use it precisely because the default install is small and not user friendly, as that reduces the amount of unneeded stuff to get rid of for a server.

But completely agreed about Gnome here. I just hate the file dialogs, and it's one of the reasons why I use KDE.
--
<@chani> I *cannot* remember names. but I did memorize 214 digits of pi once.
[ Parent ]

ok maybe you can help me out here... (none / 0) (#87)
by JahToasted on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 04:12:27 PM EST

Is there an automount out there that doesn't break the CD eject button on my CD Drive? If I have a CD in the drive and press the eject button it just sits there. I have to find the CD icon on the desktop, right click it, and sleect eject to get the damn thing to open. What I want is when I press the eject button the disk unmounst and ejects. For floppies I want it to stay unmounted unless its actually reading or writing so I can safely eject it at any time the little LED isn't on.

Supermount did this (though it confused gnome a bit). But it hasn't been updated in a while. As it stands I have to perform 3 operations to eject a cd, and doing the obvious thing (just pressing eject) could damage a floppy.

This is what I mean by lack of polish. They get 95% there and then say its good enough and move on to something else.
______
"I wanna have my kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames" -- Jim Morrison
[ Parent ]

Haven't used those in quite a while actually (none / 0) (#90)
by vadim on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 04:51:13 PM EST

Simply because of the lack of need for it. I have a readily available about 400GB of storage, and so very rarely use CDs or DVDs for anything besides burning stuff for other people. For that reason, I haven't had to deal with the automounter for a few years at least.

But, my understanding is that such things unmount automatically after a timeout. This is done because it's inefficient to unmount things immediately, as unmounting involves flushing the disk cache, and mounting requires some time. The automounter won't unmount the disk unless you haven't accessed it in a while (60 seconds default I think), and nothing is using it. I guess that you could change it to 1 second, but it still wouldn't work if anything at all is using the CD, and performance would probably be quite bad.

The primary purpose of the automounter seems to be mounting large amounts of network drives on demand, not to make Unix work as if it was Windows.
--
<@chani> I *cannot* remember names. but I did memorize 214 digits of pi once.
[ Parent ]

Yeah (none / 0) (#96)
by JahToasted on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 07:55:34 PM EST

I know all about mount and automount, and fluching caches. None of it makes the eject button on my cd drive to work though.

supermount did work, but required a kernel patch and some fiddling with /etc/fstab. I figured that it was only temporary, eventually the system would be refined, included in te kernel by default, and life would be good. Instead the project is no longer maintained. Instead my system mounts every disk as soon as I put it in and then never unmounts them. Therefore the eject button only works when there is no CD in the drive.

I have been using linux for... well at least 7 years now, and the mounting of disks has been issue for almost all of that time, and even after it was solved, the solution went unmaintained and now its become a problem again.
______
"I wanna have my kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames" -- Jim Morrison
[ Parent ]

Depends on how you look at it (none / 0) (#97)
by vadim on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 08:22:29 PM EST

Thing is, I'm not sure I really it to work the way you want anyway. Under Windows it was quite annoying to wreck a good game just because I happened to hit the eject button with the foot in the wrong moment. Just because Windows does it doesn't mean it's a good thing.

I suspect that's exactly the thing. You probably already noticed that Linux avoids pulling the rug from under the application unless it's absolutely unavoidable, and even with NFS it tries pretty hard. Linux applications aren't made with the expectation of that the disk they're using might suddenly vanish. Besides this way of doing things introduces a whole new set of annoying problems, some security related.

A better solution IMO would be just to leave the kernel alone and make something running in userspace deal with it. You get kind of that with KDE, opening a CD drive by clicking on the icon will mount it, right click and "eject" will unmount and eject if possible. Not sure if gnome does that or not.

A search of the kernel mailing list seems to confirm that the developers don't think that this kind of functionality should be going there, and should instead be handled by an userspace program.
--
<@chani> I *cannot* remember names. but I did memorize 214 digits of pi once.
[ Parent ]

userspace, kernelspace (none / 0) (#184)
by JahToasted on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 01:39:58 PM EST

doesn't matter as long as it works. Yeah I can see how it can cause problems if something is using the CD and I press eject. But that's My Bad, not the OS's bad. Removing functionality because you want to prevent the user from doing something bad is why I don't like using windows.

See these are the things that hold Linux back. 1) there is a minor usability 2) its difficult to fix 3) people make excuses for it. Its good because its different from windows? MS spends a lot of money on usability studies. Isn't it possible they might be right once in a while?

Linux is being killed in a death of a thousand paper cuts. Yeah a problem like this is minor, but these problems add up after a while.
______
"I wanna have my kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames" -- Jim Morrison
[ Parent ]

Ah, yes. (none / 0) (#187)
by vadim on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 03:42:55 PM EST

The "Linux doesn't do something I want, therefore it's dying" post.

First of all, I don't see any signs of Linux getting killed. Sure, it's perhaps not the most intuitive system around, but it's a lot better now than when it came out, and certainly used by more people. It seems to be getting into quite a few places. I have 4 computers running it now, 2 at work, and it runs in wifi access points. In other words, there are quite a few places where it works great.

Second, nothing is being removed, as it was never there! UNIX in general follows the rather sensible idea of that something shouldn't be removed until it's not being used anymore. That'd be why you can't unload your sound drivers while you're playing a MP3. It's not like you could ever remove storage devices without unmounting things first. Sure, the hardware might let you do that, but the system definitely wasn't going to like it.

Anyway. The usability guidelines you refer to say that potentially harmful things should be hard to do. That's logical enough. The kernel, sensibly enough, doesn't let you yank the disk out of the drive. It could even be running from there (knoppix), and really, where's the advantage in allowing to crash the whole system just because of a single bad press?

Then, you seem to have some bizarre desire to be able to shoot yourself in the foot, so sure, you can have that. Here's the magic command:

echo 0 > /proc/sys/dev/cdrom/lock

That'll remove CD drive locking, and allow you to open the tray even when in use. Probably the same kind of thing Windows does. I don't expect anything good to come out of it, but it's your decision.


--
<@chani> I *cannot* remember names. but I did memorize 214 digits of pi once.
[ Parent ]
Oh, so now I get it (none / 1) (#115)
by ksandstr on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 10:49:28 AM EST

Perhaps we should dress them up in thick leather gloves while we're at it, and outlaw all sharp corners so that the users won't fracture their fragile little skulls on them?

You're from the US, right? Then you've seen what kind of people you get when you raise your young generations in cotton fucking wool. Given the apparent lack of enthusiasm for anything that requires more than a stimulus-response thought process in your compatriots I'm surprised that (apparently) most of you can wipe your own fecking arses.

Fin.
[ Parent ]

Why this attitude ? (none / 1) (#159)
by jmj on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 05:00:45 AM EST

Actually I'm from Belgium. You know, one of the countries that continues to score among the top 10 in education ? Where the majority of people know 2 or 3 langages ?

This elitist attitude is doing open source projects no good at all. Like I said : software offering extensive configuration is a good thing. But there should be an easy path to get things working right away, and sensible defaults should be provided. Telling people to look things up on Google is no good when it's their network settings they can't configure...

Why should you scare away people for no good reason ?



[ Parent ]
I agree with those points entirely (none / 1) (#218)
by ksandstr on Thu Sep 29, 2005 at 07:52:11 PM EST

(And apologies for typecasting you for someone from the US. Apparently my yank-bashing reflex is on somewhat of an edge.)

It's the "let's remove 90% of all useful configuration options and not use polysyllabic words" crowd I take issue with. This candy-coating approach doesn't end up making programs any more useful for people who are complete tools to begin with. Yet those with a little bit of interest in learning how to get things done will do just fine, eventually, if pointed at documentation and its associated search tools. (Google is one, the UNIX man page system and apropos is another. We both know there are plenty more.) At the same time the idiot will whinge and cry and rant and be no better off.

Certainly it would be nice if those people were actually all smart on the inside and just impatient on the outside. I like to think no one's born obtuse (in the absence of congenital defects or the like anyhow). However it does no one any good to try and coddle to their particular defects, particularly at the cost of usability for the rest of us.

With regard to sensible defaults etc.: For the last seven years I've been running Debian GNU/Linux, I've found most software available as .debs to have been configured to very reasonable defaults. (These config files are generally easy to modify as well, thanks to extensive comments.) Even the scroll wheel has worked right out of the box for the past four or five years. Indeed, on Debian one can easily peek into the one directory where packages generally install their documentation to read the usually present README.Debian.gz file for further information. Unfortunately, it does not appear that the users will switch off from something that comes with pretty buttons in the installer for something that makes "works out of the box" actual reality.

(Not to mention that most users will not have The Fucking Manual at hand in any case. This is the real cost of those "12 debian CD's [sic] for twelve bucks and shipping!" deals, which the purveyors of said wares are all too happy to skin off our collective arses.)

The attitude comes from my bitterness towards people who are, frankly, ignorant assholes with no desire to ever be anything else. I've made the conscious choice to rant and rave at them in an effort to either scare them off to find someone who's more "at their level" or that they would pick up some semblance of clue through osmosis if nothing else. Unfortunately the current doctrines of "you shouldn't need to read any manuals" is certainly not going to increase the proportion of clued in users to idiots, hence my opposition towards it.

Fin.
[ Parent ]

Actually people *are* lazy - (2.85 / 7) (#37)
by esrever on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 07:14:00 AM EST

and wilfully stupid, too.

I worked on a helpdesk for a while, and after some time becoming more and more jaded, a new guy started.  We talked about the sort of people that call, and he was quite enthusiastic:

"People just need a little guidance!"

"No, they don't" I said, "they are lazy, don't want to think for themselves, and just want the answer."

"No no no" he replied, "really people can be smart in all sorts of other areas but just lack experience with computers!"

"No, they're just stupid."  I informed him.

Overheard from his cubicle approximately a month later, accompanied by the sound of a fist pounding on the desk:

"THESE PEOPLE ARE JUST SO STUPID!  WHAT IS WRONG WITH THEM!" bang bang bang

Audit NTFS permissions on Windows

He gave himself some kind of handgun mouthwash? (3.00 / 3) (#67)
by Rampant Rabbit on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 01:20:16 PM EST



* ANONYMIZED?
* WHY?
* NO FUCKING IDEA.

[ Parent ]
Thank you for illustrating the REAL PROBLEM: (2.66 / 6) (#74)
by your_desired_username on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 02:33:02 PM EST

Helpdesk jobs spawn hatred.

They transform generous and friendly geeks into hate-filled people who will trick a hapless moron into to washing his disk platters with steel wool and sodium hydroxide, all because said moron did not know the difference between a cupholder and a CD drive.

These helpdesk jobs have created a dangerous digital divide, between the clue-haves and the clue-have-nots. This gulf is already resulting in class warfare, as evidenced by the widespread anit-microsoft sentiment, which will quickly become race warfare, as the singularity approaches and the clue-haves all become FenHuman.

I hope everyone can see that we need to put an end to helpdesk jobs RIGHT NOW in order to prevent the coming Baldrsonization of humanity.

[ Parent ]

No, help desk people are stupid (2.00 / 3) (#38)
by minerboy on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 07:35:28 AM EST

Let's face it, it's where the youngest, or the least skilled workers go. I had a flaky hard drive, it was obvious. But I had to re-install the OS about 5 times before the Dumass tech support guy would believe me. Finally, I got the blue screen during the installation process. Oh that comes up in the database as a bad harddrive - no shit sherlock.



Please make it more apparent (none / 0) (#48)
by WonderJoust on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 10:29:06 AM EST

that you have never worked at a HelpDesk.

_________________________________
i like your style: bitter, without being a complete cunt about it.
-birds ate my face
[ Parent ]

Working a help desk - nope (none / 0) (#54)
by minerboy on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 11:13:18 AM EST

I have done their job for them a lot of times, though. And yeah, every once in a blue moon someone knows what their doing, that time was probably you, eh ?



[ Parent ]
Negative (3.00 / 2) (#65)
by WonderJoust on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 01:15:36 PM EST

The reason that help-deskers have a manual (read: things to look for) is because 9 out of 10 people who call/come in have ZERO clue what the fuck is going on.

Prime example: guy comes in and tells me his mobo is fried. I say, "Ok, I'll take a look at it."

"No, trust me, the motherboard is fried."

"Sure, but I'll just make sure."

Boot it up and come to find he has so much spyware the comp is just about finished and only needs a format.

Now, had that of been some pompous idiot over the phone (aka you), I would have had to sit there and fight with him for HOURS trying to convince him I need some EVIDENCE that what he says is wrong is actually wrong. I can't just take his word for it because it is assumed he has zero idea what is going on.

Which, as stated, 9 out of 10 times is the reality.

_________________________________
i like your style: bitter, without being a complete cunt about it.
-birds ate my face
[ Parent ]

Why is that relevant? (none / 0) (#64)
by joto on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 01:12:44 PM EST

Do you really mean that just because somebody hasn't worked at a helpdesk, they are not qualified to CALL tech-support?

[ Parent ]
ror what? (none / 0) (#66)
by WonderJoust on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 01:17:48 PM EST

He's saying Helpdeskers don't know what they're doing because they look for specific symptoms and don't just take his word for it.

I'm saying he probly doesn't realize the level of ineptitude the average caller posseses.

But way to show you have the reading comprehension skills of a 3rd grader.

_________________________________
i like your style: bitter, without being a complete cunt about it.
-birds ate my face
[ Parent ]

In that case I agree... (none / 0) (#103)
by joto on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 10:52:07 PM EST

If the person calling already knows the harddrive is faulty, there is in fact no reason to call helpdesk at all. Just send it in for replacement...

The times when I call a helpdesk are usually when I'm not sure what the problem is, and I've found most of them to be quite helpful when telling them symptoms: "I tried powering on the machine, and smoke and fire came from my motherboard", rather then deductions: "my motherboard is broken and needs replacement".

Given the amount of idiots out there, if someone called to tell me their "harddisk" (which for idiots usually means the computer case) is "flaky", I'd probably react in the same manner as the above-mentioned helpdesk-person.

[ Parent ]

Clueless. (3.00 / 4) (#146)
by Torka on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 10:23:19 PM EST

I'm long out of the support sector, but this attitude still pisses me off almost as much as it did when I was still working helldesk.

Helpdesks are made for the ignorant and the stupid. You made a mistake by calling them.

If you as a helpdesker take every caller's word for it on what the problem was instead of politely ignoring them and figuring it out yourself, you'll get fired inside a month, because you'll be horrible at your job.

Helpdeskers don't treat you like a moron because they enjoy it (okay, most of them don't anyway), they do it because the last 99 users who called them were morons. This unfortunately means that you, the 1/100, get shafted. It's just the nature of the beast. You can't operate a helpesk that deals with Joe Luser any other way. I worked helpdesk for an ISP for 2 years when I was 17/18 and still getting my start, and I was working with people a few years older who were taking contracts setting up heavy duty *nix server farms for other businesses, but still required the helpdesk day job for a few more months until they could get themselves onto their feet. Would you describe them as clueless?

It's also worth noting that many companies, including the one I worked at, actively prevent you from going beyond a certain level of technicality in the assistance you provide. I can't even remember how many times I, for example, could have fixed some company's problems entirely if I'd been allowed to log into their firewall box and make a few changes, was asked by said company to do so but could not because the script I had to adhere to to keep my job required me to blow them off long before reaching that point.

I realise that often they are the only point of contact between you and the random company you're dealing with, which sucks. Understand that in your case (a savvy geek who generally doesn't need his hand held) they're not there to help you. They are there to prevent you from bothering anyone important. They're there to bear the brunt of your hostility and anger so that management doesn't have to.

Frankly, your post makes you look like a grade A sucker, because you've fallen for this tactic, hook, line and sinker. You think the helpdeskers are the problem.

[ Parent ]

I think you've got something here. (none / 1) (#41)
by onealone on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 08:43:55 AM EST

An interesting, if somewhat meandering article. I think the issue applies to intermediate/advanced users also. Using current help tools, especially Google, it's difficult and long-winded to find information to solve a problem if you don't know specific terms or keywords.

And googling for the exact error message? (none / 1) (#219)
by ksandstr on Thu Sep 29, 2005 at 08:05:04 PM EST

That's worked really well for most of the newbies I used to help out before I got cranky.

Fin.
[ Parent ]
but how am I supposed to use google.. (1.75 / 4) (#43)
by Rahaan on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 09:04:01 AM EST

to look up answers when my mousewheel doesn't work???

guess what, buddy, your Confuciusness may seem noble but when somebody's screen won't render KDE or whatever properly then they're not gonna fucking use Linux.  If you guys weren't all such assholes and would just tell people how to get some of the basics to work without breaking every 5 minutes, then people wouldn't think Windows is "easier".


you know, jake.. i've noticed that, since the tacos started coming, the mail doesn't so much come as often, or even at all

Googling experiences... (3.00 / 4) (#45)
by Viliam Bur on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 10:18:08 AM EST

OK, so I have a problem 'X', and I am looking for the answer. Google on!

Page #1 says:
"I have a problem 'X', can you help me?"
"Yes, try the solution 'Y'."
"Thank you, it worked!"
Great! ...well, not so. The solution 'Y' does not work for me. Seems like something else is broken. Google on!

Page #2 (#3, #4 and #5) says:
"I have a problem 'X', can you help me?"
"Yes, try the solution 'Y'."
Oops... this was a mirror of page #1. Google on!

Page #6 says:
"I have a problem 'X', can you help me?"
"RTFM, you stupid n00b!!!"
"Please, please, oh mighty Developer, at least give me some link to start with. Please..."
"Damned n00bs, cannot use Google. But well, it's a nice day, and maybe I could help. Read this (link to page #1)."
Well... did not help anyway, and I become a little discouraged.

Page #7 says:
"I have a problem 'X', can you help me?"
"To display a solution to this problem, please register to out site. Click here and type your Visa card number..."
I did not know Visa card was necessary for using computers...

Page #999 says: ...whatever. Switching back to windows. It sucks, but at least when I have a problem, I know some people who will help me. No, I am not talking about anyone from M$. There are average users, which usually know less than average Linux users, but if they know anything, they are much more willing to tell.

[ Parent ]

"try solution Y" (3.00 / 4) (#51)
by kitten on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 10:39:59 AM EST

You're lucky. Usually what I get is fifteen pages of mirrors of one or two guys asking the same question I'm asking, but there's no response.
mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
Yeah (none / 0) (#179)
by Viliam Bur on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 12:13:54 PM EST

that would be the page #8 till page #998...

I just skipped them, because I didn't want to completely discourage people from using Linux. ;-)

[ Parent ]

Once upon a time... (none / 1) (#221)
by onemorechip on Thu Sep 29, 2005 at 10:37:28 PM EST

...up until about 2 or 3 years ago, I was really happy with how quickly I could solve all my system problems with Google. Usually within the first 3 hits I'd find what I needed. Now my experience is just like yours. What has happened lately?

I must say that I did find a quick solution to a problem with sendmail hanging last night by Googling, but that's the exception. (I hadn't actually used sendmail in years but it was there in my init scripts, and after a recent apt-get upgrade it started hanging during boot so I disabled it. Deciding I might want to keep it around, I looked for and found the solution which involved changing /etc/hosts.) Maybe there's still hope.

Don't ask me about my struggles with ipsec...
--------------------------------------------------

I did my essay on mushrooms. It's about cats.
[ Parent ]

uh, this is when you're supposed to *ask* someone (none / 0) (#278)
by asdf1234 on Thu Oct 13, 2005 at 07:38:52 PM EST

when google fails you, that is the time to ask a real person. you go to the forum or irc channel for your distro, and say "I have problem X, and google gave me solution Y which doesn't work for me. does anyone have a different solution?"
see, it's not that hard... and when they know you've already asked google, if they're decent people they'll be more friendly.
of course there's no guarantee that anyone will be able to figure it out, but that's life.

[ Parent ]
Dear ignorant jackass (none / 1) (#47)
by WonderJoust on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 10:25:47 AM EST

There is no universal way to make the basics work. You can't just say do X, Y, Z and bang, you're on Linux. The steps you have to take are so varied from hardware to hardware, from distro to distro, from system to system, you have to figure out what you did wrong (usually a driver or config problem) and fix it through READING.

The reason most people who COULD help people like you DON'T is because you say "OMFG I did what the manual said and it didn't work! TELL ME WHAT TO DO." That's it. No error logs, no make menu conf outputs, no nothing. Just "it's broke, fix it for me".

For what it's worth, I think that is the inherent problem in nubs asking questions: they haven't learned to RTFM so they certainly ignore the board's posting suggestions (which almost certainly encourage as much information as possible) and don't have the first CLUE how to properly ask a question.

What someone told me when I first started trying out Gentoo that has been the absolute truth ever since: Someone has had and solved your problem before and it is on the internet if you look for it.

It's been true everytime.

_________________________________
i like your style: bitter, without being a complete cunt about it.
-birds ate my face
[ Parent ]

I'm the ignorant jackass, (none / 0) (#59)
by Rahaan on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 12:24:00 PM EST

but you're the one who can't seem to figure out that people don't want to spend hours READING in order to get an operating system running and stable on their hardware.

People want it to work.  They'll be a lot more receptive to seeking out their own answers when it starts breaking only on the fringes.  Some will never be receptive to seeking out their own changes.  This is human behavior which is not going to change anyyime soon.

Windows works under these conditions, Linux does not.  Good luck, have fun, no re.


you know, jake.. i've noticed that, since the tacos started coming, the mail doesn't so much come as often, or even at all
[ Parent ]

Yah, I'm not going to reply because you said so. (2.66 / 3) (#68)
by WonderJoust on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 01:23:24 PM EST

That's brilliant.

And way to avoid the point that you can't expect the same benefits of someone who has put the time and effort in from a out-of-the-box OS.

I know human nature leans towards the easy answer. I concurr with you. The flip side to that is, the easy answer is rarely the best.

So keep taking the easy way and I'll enjoy a better system than you.

My money says you're one of those people that doesn't like people who go to the gym for their nice physiques simply because you're too lazy to go yourself. You want what they have without the effort.

And that's ridiculous.

_________________________________
i like your style: bitter, without being a complete cunt about it.
-birds ate my face
[ Parent ]

if you *know* this.. (none / 0) (#158)
by Rahaan on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 03:53:41 AM EST

why can't you apply it to your 'superior system'?

Considering the article describes one of the oft-quoted reasons for Linux's non-popularity, I think I have reality on my side here.  Linux would be a trillion times better if it didn't have pricks like you answering helpdesk questions saying "RTFM".


you know, jake.. i've noticed that, since the tacos started coming, the mail doesn't so much come as often, or even at all
[ Parent ]

Why would I waste my time? (none / 0) (#181)
by WonderJoust on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 12:50:01 PM EST

Why would I bother dumbing down a system I can already use?

I'm not that generous. I don't care about you that much.

And why would I answer a question when you make it apparent you haven't even attempted to try to find the answer? Fuck you, if you're too lazy to find the answer (and RTFM usually means that's where it is), I'm too lazy to answer.

_________________________________
i like your style: bitter, without being a complete cunt about it.
-birds ate my face
[ Parent ]

lol (none / 0) (#190)
by Rahaan on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 05:42:52 PM EST

comical.


you know, jake.. i've noticed that, since the tacos started coming, the mail doesn't so much come as often, or even at all
[ Parent ]
... Which is exactly what put me off Windows (none / 0) (#79)
by gordonjcp on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 03:45:00 PM EST

A few years ago, when it was not long out, I tried installing Windows 2000 on a spare PC. It just plain didn't work. It had no support for my graphics card, or my sound card, or even my trusty Microsoft Intellimouse USB. To make things worse, it kept asking for driver disks that I didn't have, and suggest I download the latest versions. Which would be great if it had supported my network card.

After struggling with it, with the screen set to 640x480x16 because Windows doesn't appear to have a generic VESA driver, and can't use a window to a larger virtual screen, I gave up and installed Slackware. To this day, I have not owned a PC with Windows newer than 3.11, and until they get the basics right I probably never will.

Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he'll bore you rigid with fishing stories for the rest of your life.


[ Parent ]
troll (none / 0) (#86)
by kero on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 04:11:35 PM EST

I don't suppose you bothered to check and see if the "spare" PC was supported by Windows 2000? I think 2000 was basically server software that had a fairly narrow group of hardware it would work with. But you probably knew that but are just being cute. If Win 3.11 is your last experience with Windows then you effectively have no experience with Windows and your input will be regarded accordingly.

[ Parent ]
Got server hardware, and it's not well supported (2.75 / 4) (#91)
by vadim on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 05:10:39 PM EST

Computer specs: Tyan Tiger MPX motherboard, 2 x Athlon MP 2000+ CPUs. There, server type computer, exactly appropiate for Win2K, right?

Well, it took me something like half a month to get Win2K to work properly on it. Apparently, installing Service Pack 5 is a fatal mistake, I need to first install the power management driver for some strange reason. Mind you, it works just fine without the service pack.

The effect is that it starts booting, and just hangs somewhere by the middle of the progress bar on the Win2K logo. No error messages, no BSOD, just hangs. Yeah, real intuitive.

It booted in safe mode, but despite having the driver it wouldn't install. Doesn't detect the hardware in safe mode, it wants a normal boot, which doesn't work. So I just said "to the heck with it, will reinstall it later", and spent a few weeks using exclusively Linux, until it somehow did boot into Win2K by chance, and I tried the driver.

Meanwhile, Linux booted just fine despite being configured for a completely different and non-SMP motherboard. 10 minutes later, I had all my new fancy hardware supported.

When I did get Windows to work, new problems popped up. I have this fancy ECC RAM, where can I see statistics? Apparently nowhere, but readily available in Linux. Or, why is it impossible to burn CDs in Windows? Turns out for some braindead reason it wasn't enabling DMA on the CD burner. Again no problem in Linux. Where is the Windows support for the on-board RNG and hardware watchdog? Also apparently nowhere.
--
<@chani> I *cannot* remember names. but I did memorize 214 digits of pi once.
[ Parent ]

Installing SP5 on Win2k? (none / 0) (#268)
by Rk on Wed Oct 05, 2005 at 05:40:41 PM EST

I was under the impression that W2k SPs only went up to four. I was also under the impression that somebody who used Windows 2000 on a dual processor setup would probably know what version of service pack they were using. Unless of course, they were just being a little creative...

[ Parent ]
Ah, indeed my mistake, it's SP4 (none / 0) (#269)
by vadim on Thu Oct 06, 2005 at 01:53:25 PM EST

This machine now runs Linux pretty much all the time anyway, so whatever service pack Windows has installed doesn't make much the difference.

The point still stands though. Linux works, and I have to go through weird contortions to make Windows work on it.
--
<@chani> I *cannot* remember names. but I did memorize 214 digits of pi once.
[ Parent ]

You are the one trolling... (none / 0) (#101)
by joto on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 10:38:53 PM EST

Windows 2000 comes in several different editions, from big iron server to workstation to "home". Mostly, the difference between the different versions are limited to their price, license, and some registry settings. But that's beside the point...

What is the point, however, is that the hardware supported by windows 3.x, windows ME, windows NT, windows 2000, and even windows XP, is very limited. If you don't have a driver disk from the vendor, you are mostly fucked. (If you already have the latest service packs and patches, and an up-to-date antivirus, and a firewall, as well as working drivers for your network connection, you may risk trying to download them from the internet...)

The amount of hardware supported by linux is much bigger. Chances are much higher that you will have a 100% working machine after popping in a decent linux distro such as redhat, suse, ubuntu, etc, then after popping in a disk of windows 2000 or windows xp. On the other hand, if the hardware exists at all, there most likely exists a driver for windows for it, somewhere, on a vendor disk, or on the Internet. If linux doesn't support your hardware out of the box, chances are it doesn't support it at all.

[ Parent ]

re: You are the one trolling... (none / 0) (#153)
by yarbo on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 01:37:07 AM EST

Windows 2000 home? didn't exist, the lowest they went was 'professional'.

[ Parent ]
Yes, I did. (none / 0) (#114)
by gordonjcp on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 08:37:37 AM EST

K6-2/500, 256M of RAM, NVidia GeForce 2, and an el-cheapo RTL8139 network card. Nothing unusual at all.

Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he'll bore you rigid with fishing stories for the rest of your life.


[ Parent ]
Averse to installing drivers yourself? (none / 0) (#174)
by budlite on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 11:12:03 AM EST

If not, then you won't get the graphics card to work properly. But Win2k supports RTL8139 cards right out of the box, so I put that one down to PEBKAC. Installing the nvidia graphics drivers is a download->double-click->click-through->done deal.

[ Parent ]
I shouldn't have to. (none / 0) (#189)
by gordonjcp on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 05:01:42 PM EST

Linux just plain works. If I want 3d acceleration, then yes I need to download the binary-only driver from NVidia's website. But for normal stuff, it picks it up and just works.

I haven't even touched on the bloody awful user interface. We use Windows XP Professional on some of the desktops at work. What a fucking car-crash that is. Never mind the garish colours and silly Fisher-Price graphics, the hideous mish-mash of different widget sets and windows layouts makes it look about as professional as turning up to work in clothes found in a charity shop's bins.

Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he'll bore you rigid with fishing stories for the rest of your life.


[ Parent ]
a little behind the times? (none / 0) (#255)
by nanobug on Mon Oct 03, 2005 at 10:58:04 PM EST

You had a K6-2 500 with a Geforce 2 and you were only running Windows 3.11?

Either you're a luddite or tech retarded, either way your opinion holds about as much bearing as my mothers outlook on the ATI Crossfire launch.

[ Parent ]

Your an idiot (none / 0) (#266)
by phraud on Wed Oct 05, 2005 at 03:19:23 PM EST

If you would read the book (or online manual) that came with your linux distro, then you would be able to go on the internet, and you wouldn't have the mousewheel problem.
Also, you don't need a mousewheel to go on the internet.
It's not that we (independent linux users) are jerks. It's that you (someone who wants to use linux), won't help yourself AT ALL. I have no problem helping you out, but if you attitude is "hurry the fuck up and tell me what to do EXACTLY right NOW. I know you have nothing to do with the Gentoo (example) project, but you better fucking help me because you already know," then fuck you.
How do you think WE learned how to get it to work. We READ STUFF. Now we know. We're glad to help if you'll do your part as well.
You create your own reality. Leave mine to me.
[ Parent ]
Regretfully, -1 (1.50 / 6) (#49)
by ataraxia on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 10:30:59 AM EST

After a good bit of thought, I think I'm going to have to -1 this. I like it, and I think it's well done, but I'm not sure that it's a good idea. (Anything that I think would do more harm than good gets an automatic -1 from me.)

--
Don't do something if it's stupid.
I don't get it (none / 0) (#94)
by CookTing on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 07:40:44 PM EST

How is publishing this piece possibly harmful?

[ Parent ]
Yeah, right. (2.80 / 10) (#57)
by Parity on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 11:48:24 AM EST

  "For example: when user wants to perform some task, don't tell him what to do, but tell him what tools he should use. If there are any traps, warn him."

  And then the user will get angry and want to know why you won't -tell- him anything, will ask someone else, and will eventually either get the answer or give up. In no circumstance will the user read any documentation or heed any warnings.

  Better advice: If you want to answer, answer. If you don't want to answer, keep your mouth shut. In no case should you 'explode' at the user, but neither should you give partial or vague answers. You'll only end up with an angry user who doesn't understand why you're 'tormenting' him.

Et vaan osaa (none / 1) (#154)
by Gubbe on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 01:48:52 AM EST

It's not like you have to tell them "Oh I know the answer, but I'm just going to tease you with these vague hints until you go bonkers."

You can achieve the stated goal by pretending that you don't remember. Just say "Oh, I think it had something to do with *insert hint or keyword here*. Why don't you go and check if you can find anything relevant on google while I focus on this extremely important and urgent task I'm doing here that prevents me from googling it myself."

[ Parent ]

Err, right... (3.00 / 2) (#175)
by Parity on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 11:16:57 AM EST

So, now not only am I going to give a partial answer in an attempt to coerce a user into getting an education that they don't want, but I'm going to lie to them in the process... and they're still going to turn around and ask the next person. Or wait until I 'get back'.

[ Parent ]
Applying the method (2.63 / 19) (#58)
by nkyad on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 12:22:17 PM EST

1. Don't give the full solution. Instead, limit yourself to the half of the standard answer:
"Half the answer you need is 'RT'. Try working the rest for yourself"

2. Try to explain the beginning in as many details as you can:
"Complete after me 'R-e-a-d t-h-e...'"

3. Give a general description of objectives that must be completed to solve the problem:
"You will need some basic reading comprehension skills here. Also, knowing how to use Google may help."

4. Try to encourage the user to check the manual or the Internet. I used a word "encourage" instead of "redirect". Keep that in mind, please:
"Google for RTFM, please"

5. If necessary, give some keywords (but not the search phrase!) or hints:
"Try searching for 'Read','F***ing' or 'Manual'"

Yes, I think it may work. It is a lot more fun, instead of simply insulting the annoying newbie you make him/her figure out the insult for themselves.
 

Don't believe in anything you can't see, smell, touch or at the very least infer from a good particle accelerator run


Same Tux-time, same Tux-channel (2.50 / 6) (#76)
by nailgun on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 03:25:46 PM EST

Meanwhile, Steve Jobs is laughing and counting his money...

Tune in next week for another episode of: Help I'm Trapped In The Year 1994!

You may be right (2.75 / 4) (#77)
by WonderJoust on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 03:32:21 PM EST

This may work.

I doubt it, but it's plausible.

The fact is, if someone is going to go to the effort to take your half-formed clues and tips and solves the problem, they were probly moments away from solving it themselves.

I am a firm believer (after working in helpdesk and comp tech positions for some time) that the average user does not care how/when/where/why their computer works, just THAT it works.

This being said, I also do not believe Linux is within the grasp of the average user. They do not posess the want or need to set it up and make it run so they will not put in the time.

In short, in my opinion, half-answering questions is as good as saying RTFM. For the user who doesn't want to think, it won't get them shit; for those that want/need the answer, they'll find it.

_________________________________
i like your style: bitter, without being a complete cunt about it.
-birds ate my face

Sure I am ;) (none / 0) (#81)
by Sad Mephisto on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 03:51:49 PM EST

> In short, in my opinion, half-answering questions is as good as saying RTFM. For the user who doesn't want to think, it won't get them shit; for those that want/need the answer, they'll find it.

There's one thing I always repeat. They just don't know that they should RTFM. There's a general rule which says that people don't read instructions unless they buy furniture from IKEA. They have no habit of reading instructions, so pointing them to the manual without any comments or explanations can make them feel insulted somehow. Don't ask me why, I just know it from my experience.

[ Parent ]
No no, I agree (none / 0) (#84)
by WonderJoust on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 04:00:05 PM EST

But I'm saying that, even with your encouragement (as versus beratement), they are no more likely to read the manual than they would be when I insult their mother and request they RTFM.

_________________________________
i like your style: bitter, without being a complete cunt about it.
-birds ate my face
[ Parent ]

I don't think it works (2.50 / 2) (#92)
by svampa on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 05:44:31 PM EST

There are two kind of newbies:

  1. Those who ask for help after trying hard by their own.
  2. Those who want to do things NOW, and don't want to spend time investigating.

That doesn't means there are two kind of persons, sometimes we conduct as 1) and sometimes as 2). Although obviously there are people with trends toward one side or toward the other. And it applies not only to computers.

Your method doesn't turns users 1) into users 2). Simply, unsatisfied newbies change of forum quietly. Nevertheless, it is a good method, users get out softly. There is no reason to be rude if you can be polite.



What's missing (2.83 / 6) (#99)
by Herring on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 09:17:20 PM EST

Most people who use a computer use it as a tool. It is not an end in itself. The geeks (amongst whom I count myself) may see getting a Linksys wireless card working under Ubuntu as a result, but the majority of the population want their computer to make their lives easier, not harder.

Helping people to understand what makes the machine work is all very well, but it's the same as getting people to check the ignition timing on their car when it overheats. The car should just work.

Let's face it: a lot of people have computers and have them to enable them to do their job. Their job is not, typically, "working out why the computer doesn't work". That's you job tech support people. Help them.

Say lol what again motherfucker, say lol what again, I dare you, no I double dare you

Not tech support (none / 1) (#100)
by Witchey on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 09:27:37 PM EST

Undestood, if you work in tech support. But the whole point of this article, as he states in the 2nd paragraph, concerns people who are NOT paid to provide tech support. People who just have more experience and are asked to provide answers, not those who work in tech support, or necessarily in any computer-related job.

[ Parent ]
No human community can function (none / 1) (#102)
by your_desired_username on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 10:46:32 PM EST

without people who are willing to provide help for little or no direct recompensense.

[ Parent ]
Yes, but free help (3.00 / 2) (#104)
by Witchey on Mon Sep 26, 2005 at 10:56:12 PM EST

to those who at least will make an effort to help themselves. No one is required to give free help, but they will be more willing to make the effort if they feel as though the "helpee" is also making an effort. Especially when someone is asking help from someone that they, usually, don't even know.

[ Parent ]
Duh-hyuck (none / 0) (#106)
by WonderJoust on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 02:26:22 AM EST

The fuck you think the manual was made by? A monkey with a hammer?

_________________________________
i like your style: bitter, without being a complete cunt about it.
-birds ate my face
[ Parent ]

Why no - I was thinking of Free Software manuals (none / 1) (#125)
by your_desired_username on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 02:23:05 PM EST

which are made by well-meaning antelopes. It's only proprietary software companies who hire monkeys with hammers to make their documentation.

[ Parent ]
Now hold on a minute (3.00 / 12) (#107)
by kitten on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 03:45:55 AM EST

Let's face it: a lot of people have computers and have them to enable them to do their job.

Yes. And when they don't understand what "desktop", "double click", "open Internet Explorer", or "the menu at the top" means, they are not qualified to do their job, if it is true that their job requires use of a computer. Who did they have to sleep with to get this job?

Their job is not, typically, "working out why the computer doesn't work". That's you job tech support people. Help them.

Believe me, we'd like to, if for no other reason than to get them the hell off the phones so we can go back to playing Unreal.

However, we are not telekinetic nor telepathic. When a user calls with a problem, they need to be my eyes and hands. I can't tell what the problem is when I get descriptions like "I'm trying to log in and it doesn't work." Log into what? What doesn't work? Are there any error messages? You've gotta play Twenty Questions with these people to get anything done.

There is no excuse for this. It is analagous to pulling up to the garage and telling the mechanic "Car doesn't work." When they ask what the car is doing, you shrug and say "I don't know, I can't remember exactly. But I really need to drive it..." I really can't count how many times a day I have to deal with that. "It doesn't work, I don't know what the error message said, I don't know what I was trying to log into, I don't know, I don't know, I don't know. Fix it."

Is the user calling and they're not even at their computer? Would they take a bus or cab to the mechanic and ask for their car, which they left at home, to be fixed? If not, why are they doing the same thing to us?

The job of a tech bitch is to help, as you said, but that's all we can do. Help. We can't do it when the user is completely clueless and can't follow our instructions. That, in and of itself, is reason enough to learn a little something about that machine you work with eight or nine hours a day, five days a week, for years -- so that when you do need help, we can help you.

I don't insist that everyone be a master hacker to use a computer, any more than I insist they be a master mechanic to drive a car. But we're not talking about that, are we? The level of basic, basic operation required of most users -- how to open files, how to download things, how to click a link, how to send an email attachment -- is more like getting into a car and not knowing how to shift gears, how to press the gas and brake pedals, or how to operate the turn signals.

We also can't help when the user makes shit up. If you don't know, fine, whatever -- but just say so and I'll walk you through it. When you tell me that the "H-bar came back," I don't know what the hell you're talking about. (He meant he was looking at a DOS prompt, if you're wondering.) When you tell me that "the window floated away", I don't know what that means. If I ask if you're using a VPN, and you don't know, don't just say no. When you tell me that you're "tunneling the network through Outlook", I know you're full of shit, and I cannot help you.

Finally, as long as I'm ranting, I ask that you at least try. That's all. About a third of the calls I get involve someone trying to log into something, it doesn't work, and instead of trying again, which almost always solves the problem, they immediately scream for help. If it were a car, it would be like getting into your car, turning the key, and if the engine doesn't catch instantly the first time, you immediately exit the vehicle and call AAA to have it towed, never thinking to just try again.

We're not asking them to change their own oil -- we're asking them to understand that the "engine" has "oil" that needs to be "changed" once in a while, and to tell someone this when the time comes.


mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
I don't know. Fix it. (none / 0) (#141)
by lowkey on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 08:15:49 PM EST

Long ago when I did cold-call style tech support, I would swear sometimes that callers thought they were calling some computer psychic hotline rather than a technician. Maybe they are accustomed to thinking that if they pay for a call, they get a magic trick along with it. I can't explain how else someone with the ability to operate a mouse could then not answer questions like "What program are you using?" or "What does the screen say?". Getting responses like "I don't know" or "You tell me, you're the expert" are the things that drive helpdesk folks to stop trying to help users and just stick to the scripts. You'll keep your job longer if you just run through the steps in the database than if you start asking "I'm sensing a program with the initials I.E. Did some program with these initials die recently?"

[ Parent ]
Part of my problem (none / 1) (#144)
by kitten on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 09:14:55 PM EST

Where I work we don't have a script; the stuff we deal with just can't be scripted and there are way too many variables that could go wrong. This is great, because it means I don't have to waste my time or the user's time with nonsense that obviously has nothing to do with their problem, but it also means I have to actually come up with a solution instead of just running down a list as fast as possible and saying "Done all I can" at the end.

Plus, a lot of the calls aren't technical in nature at all -- it's just a user going "Okay, uh, so someone told me to download this, and I did. Now what?"

Oh gee, I don't know. Run it and see what happens?

For one of our major applications, once you get an account you're given a login and password. I can't tell you how many times a day some clueless knob calls up going "I have this web address, a login and a password.. what do I do?" It's like they were given keys to a house and told exactly where the house is and how to get there, but it never occurs to them that they can put the key in the door and open it.

Anyway, a script wouldn't work for that kind of nonsense either, where it's just some idiot who can't wipe their own ass without being told what to do.
mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
Then let'em take it to a mechanic (none / 1) (#113)
by curien on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 08:21:39 AM EST

If a person can't be bothered to understand how to fix his computer, he shouldn't be trying to do it. If you don't care how your car works, take it to a mechanic when it breaks. If you don't care how your computer works, take it to a computer repair shop.

--
We are not the same. I'm an American, and you're a sick asshole.
[ Parent ]
damn this is going FP. Better get a troll ready. $ (1.07 / 13) (#108)
by Lemon Juice on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 05:43:05 AM EST



Won't work (2.75 / 4) (#112)
by bugmaster on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 08:18:19 AM EST

This may shock you, but most people are not interested in learning new skill that will let them solve problems better. Instead, people are just interested in solving problems.

I speak from experience, believe me. When you start your long-winded yet highly informative explanation about the inner workings of xconfig, or your router, or whatever, the user will just stand there patiently, smiling and nodding. Eventually, you'll get to the part where you say, "and we enter 1234 in this box labeled 'port', then click the TCP checkbox". The user's eyes will light up, they will click the box, their problem will be solved, and they'll forget that it ever existed. When they'll need to change 1234 to 1235, they'll call you again.

This behavior does not indicate that the users are stupid, or lazy. They simply don't see the computer as an end in itself; to them, it's just a monolithic tool, like a pair of scissors or a digital watch. They just want it to work, period. You yourself might have a similar attitude about your car, or your food, or your clothing, or your music, or whatever.

This is why any operating system or other software that relies on user education -- even a tiny little bit ! -- is doomed to utter and complete failure. More specifically, this is why Linux will never take off as a desktop platform until it can run as seamlessly as Windows, which, in practical terms, means that Linux would have to offer one-click solutions to most common tasks, and come pre-loaded on Dells. You can't fight human nature.

>|<*:=

You're right. (2.00 / 3) (#118)
by alexboko on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 11:10:17 AM EST

And it seems that's the direction Linux has been moving for a while. The problem is that Linux developers don't know which tasks are the most common ones for normal users. Some of them don't even realize that they don't know this and that's when you encounter the really infuriating interfaces.

If you can't explain it to your mom, your software is not friendly to end-users.


Godwin's Law of video games: if a company is out of ideas for a long enough period, they will eventually publish another World War II shooter.
[ Parent ]

no o.s. is (none / 0) (#130)
by gizzlon on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 05:22:03 PM EST

and even the car relies on user education..

Have you seen what happens with "normal users" in the "long" run? Windows can't save you when you dont know what a "folder" is and all your files from the last 3 years was on the hd that just crashed ..

g
[ Parent ]

even the car (none / 0) (#199)
by eraserewind on Thu Sep 29, 2005 at 07:34:41 AM EST

Even the car relies on paying trained experts to maintain it. User education is of the drive on this side of the road, the big wheel makes it turn kind of level.

[ Parent ]
Linux *can* come pre-loaded on Dells now :) (none / 0) (#277)
by asdf1234 on Thu Oct 13, 2005 at 07:22:22 PM EST

although I've heard it's not so easy to actually order them. haven't got around to looking into it myself. but there's always HP, and I heard rumours about wal-mart selling linspire or something...

[ Parent ]
Bah. (2.62 / 8) (#119)
by ksandstr on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 11:19:44 AM EST

Used to be a time when you could just point some fresh-off-the-redhat-5.1-CD-set newbie at the linux documentation project's HOWTO RPM (which was obviously on the very first RH CD) and he'd be off, possibly thanking you later.

However, these days even the HOWTOs are clearly in the "bah, too intellectual for me" category. I mean, what the fuck is the matter? Can't read a freaking text file? At least keeping your indignation under control is easy enough. Generally the modern newbie will be quiet enough if told that the problems they face have already been solved and that skillful application of the great oo in the sky will do the 'net equivalent of unearthing it for them.

Then there's the baiter. You know the type. We all do. They're the ones screaming "LUNUX SUXCKS FIX IT FOR ME COCKSUCKER FAGGOTS ARRRRRGH", hoping that tons, measured in real-world mass, of insecure geeks will rush to their aid to present their evidence that no, GNU/Linux doesn't suck, see, you just gotta do this and this and this and then go hang yourself once this line of help runs out. For their ilk is my wrath conserved.

The actually bad thing about helping out newbies is that if you help them out all the time, not only will you have starved yourself of quality time (what you got that 8/1mbit line for, right? right?) but the pathetic little n00bian won't be any better off in the long run. The first of these is obviously the real reason you shouldn't feed newbies assistance willy-nilly; the second is the reason we should speak of publicly.

I still find it funny though how these same people who'd "gone back to windows, lunux sux, arrrrgh, cockwhores" will spend hours upon hours tuning their "GPUs" like the good little ricer kids they would be if their daddy had enough spare dosh to get them a ride. No comparison is of course ever made as to the entirely arcane maneuvers that are required to get something like windows XP going smoothly on hardware that was released at a date later than it. At least most GNU/Linux distributions have documentation.

The little pessimist that lives in my left buttock is wondering whether this is because the lusers would actually prefer that the computer be something inscrutable, something mystical, like all that crap you see in the movies.

SEND SPIKE

+1 FP (2.00 / 3) (#121)
by creativedissonance on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 12:56:10 PM EST

I changed my mind. Yanking newbies' chains is fun, and anything that promotes the idea of jerkoff *nix elitists gets my vote.




ay yo i run linux and word on the street
is that this is where i need to be to get my butt stuffed like a turkey - br14n
Linux is fucking gay (1.08 / 12) (#127)
by imasillyboi on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 03:54:30 PM EST



Teach (none / 1) (#128)
by Apreche on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 04:23:47 PM EST

Teach a man to fish. Give a man a fish. You know the deal.

Fires are like fishes (none / 1) (#131)
by DoorFrame on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 05:22:09 PM EST

Build a man a fire, and he's warm for a day.       

Set a man on fire, and he's warm for the rest of his life

[ Parent ]

It's the economy, stupid (1.25 / 4) (#129)
by vqp on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 04:42:06 PM EST

Stop whining, it's your fault for denying reality with this open source fantasy. If you don't charge for a service, you'll end up buried with requests.

happiness = d(Reality - Expectations) / dt

Or maybe... (2.00 / 3) (#136)
by KrispyKringle on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 07:17:15 PM EST

...you should stop telling people to switch to Linux. Then you won't have to help them.

What do you get out of them switching to Linux, again? Sure, use whatever you're most comfortable with. That's what I do. But why the hell should I care what other people use?

They should stop asking me Windows questions then (3.00 / 2) (#160)
by simon farnz on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 05:15:35 AM EST

I will stop telling people to move to Linux if they want me to help because I don't understand Windows that well, when they stop assuming that, because I'm a geek with broadband Internet and a programming job, I can solve all their Windows problems.

I will try and teach you basic computer skills (if your problem is understanding the jargon in the manual, I'll help). I cannot help you with your Windows XP install that won't boot, unless I can show a hardware fault; this is because I am not a Windows expert. If you don't want to leave the comfort zone of Windows behind, you'll have to accept that my ability to help you is limited to those things that are common between Windows and Linux.
--
If guns are outlawed, only outlaws have guns
[ Parent ]

Just say "no." (none / 0) (#191)
by KrispyKringle on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 07:16:53 PM EST

When someone asks me for help (someone other than immediate friends and family), I politely explain to him that I don't use Windows very often (if it's a Windows machine), that I am a computer scientist, not a tech support guy, or, if I'm feeling nasty, that he probably cannot afford my help.

What you do, however, is not desigened to save you any effort. So why do you tell them to switch? My immediate prejudice is to assume that you do it to show off that you use a different OS--to make yourself feel smarter, or some sort of counter-culture revolutionary. And to be honest, I'm just plain sick of nerd pissing contests.

What possible motivation do you have to tell them to switch OSes? And don't tell me it's because you want to help them, but can only help them if they use Linux. The whole point of Sad Mephisto's article was that people like you ought to not be helpful, but instead should encourage people to learn more about computers. Why? What is it to you? When you go to an auto mechanic, do you want him to explain to you how to read a repair manual and fix the transmission yourself, or do you want him to fix the car?

[ Parent ]

So what do you do to the guy who persists? (3.00 / 3) (#209)
by simon farnz on Thu Sep 29, 2005 at 03:55:16 PM EST

My first response is "No, I don't know enough to fix Windows. You'll have to find someone else; I think <name of mutual friend> might know someone." The usual response to that is "But you're a geek with a PC, and all PCs run Windows! Only Macs run something funny! Make mine work!", at which point I explain what I do run, and that if they want my help, not someone else's, they'll have to use what I use.

Eight times out of ten, this is enough to get them to go away and find someone else. The ninth person gets upset that I'm not going to learn Windows just to fix their problem for them, and the tenth, I'm stuck helping, but hey, that's life for you.

The goal is to make it clear to people that I only help them if it's something I enjoy doing. I don't enjoy hacking about on Windows, struggling to make it work. I do enjoy hacking about with Linux, struggling to make it work. If you want me to hack about and make it work for you, you're going to have to offer me a fun challenge, not a boring chore.

Since you brought auto mechanics into it: I am not a computer technician; I do not fix PCs for money. If that's what you're after, I'll try and help you find one. I do fix PCs when it looks like fun for me, or when it's a simple task.

If I asked someone to whom cars are a hobby to fix my transmission for me, and he said that he hated GM transmissions, but that if I owned a Ford, he'd help, I'd understand; why should computers be different? Especially since I'm prepared to do the computer equivalent of explaining the different types of oil, and helping you find the oil filler cap.
--
If guns are outlawed, only outlaws have guns
[ Parent ]

OK (2.50 / 2) (#233)
by KrispyKringle on Fri Sep 30, 2005 at 12:01:40 PM EST

That's true. If you enjoy fixing their computers, good for you (and for them!). I suppose my hang up was just that I can't really relate--like I said, I'm not a computer technician, and helping people fix their machines, even when those machines run the same OS as mine, is not something I enjoy (I don't enjoy fixing my own machine, either, for that matter--rarely is, as in the original article, finding an obscure line to be inserted into an xorg conf a lot of fun).

One of the things, and this is a bit of a tangent, that really bugs me about nerds is that they think the technology is just great because it's technology. If it has blinking lights and is hard to use, it simply must be superior.

I first used Linux maybe four or five years ago. I used it on my main machine from about three years ago until about a year and a half ago, at which point I bought a Powerbook for use "on the road." And yet, I found I only used the Powerbook for most tasks, to the point that now, my Linux machine sits unused at my desk (except when I need to do some Linux-only development, which is rare, or when I want to watch TV, which is common).

But the Mac was like an epiphany to me (so much so that I even considered switching back to Windows, now that it's actually gotten quite good). For example, I insist on an OS with a good command line not because that's geekier or better, but because it's what I happen to be familiar with and works better for me. But an Xorg conf was not something I was familiar with, nor was a wireless interface configuration, nor was any of a hundred other things I struggled through on Linux that weren't within my expertise and sure as fuck didn't make my life easier. Not every manual configuration edit or kernel recompilation is more power or more freedom--sometimes it's just a pain in the neck. And when it stands in the way of me doing what I actually do, it's not something I really appreciate.

But more to the point, software evangelists need to really get a life. It's software! There are bigger issues than who's OS is more secure, more stable, faster, runs better on old hardware, or even has more free source code. I think when a lot of nerds realize that, maybe they'll move out of the basement, meet a girl, and stop trying to get me to switch back to Linux.

[ Parent ]

More Power *and* More Freedom (none / 1) (#243)
by Kuwanger on Sat Oct 01, 2005 at 04:55:32 PM EST

Not every manual configuration edit or kernel recompilation is more power or more freedom--sometimes it's just a pain in the neck. And when it stands in the way of me doing what I actually do, it's not something I really appreciate.

I'd have to say the same thing about a lot of annoying things that get in my way, be it configuration options or having to manually do a repetative task because whoever designed an app or apps never thought to make a simple way to automate such things.  You're right, manual configuration is a pain.  It's not the manual configuration that people tend to talk about as being more power or more freedom.

But more to the point, software evangelists need to really get a life. It's software! There are bigger issues than who's OS is more secure, more stable, faster, runs better on old hardware, or even has more free source code. I think when a lot of nerds realize that, maybe they'll move out of the basement, meet a girl, and stop trying to get me to switch back to Linux.

You seem to be venting.  While there's certainly some Linux geeks who are pushing for people to use Linux based on some weird obsession with freedom, the fact is that the majority of people pushing for free software production (though not necessarily that every Tom, Dick, and Harry use it) are interested in it because it gives them power and freedom.  They're advertising, usually indirectly, so that like minded people can join the "club" and develop software too to that end.

Having said all that, I'd like to point out a disturbing comment you make.  You make it sound like people should be concerned about the freedom of software because there's bigger issues out there.  Of course there's bigger issues out there.  That's no reason to not try or care about such things.  Simply being energetic and having feelings about a cause doesn't exclude one's ability to at a different time or place be even more energetic about a more important cause.  It's rather insulting to state that to be concerned about such matters means one doesn't have a life.

Other people are capable of choosing to care about things that you do not.  It's very saddening to me that you believe otherwise.  If your problem is people telling you to use Linux, then make it clear that that's your real problem.  Just like I try to make it clear I have a problem when people do not make software that works with my platform of choice.  Of course, I try to say it in a nice way and try to port my programs to other platforms when asked.  Misplaced hostility doesn't help me.  I don't think it'll help you.

[ Parent ]

Who's being hostile, bitch? (none / 0) (#271)
by KrispyKringle on Sun Oct 09, 2005 at 02:28:37 AM EST

It also doesn't mean that I should waste my and my acquantances' time telling them to use some other software.

Yes, I care about issues, even when they are relatively small. And you're right that I was a bit more glib about it than I should've been, perhaps. So I'd like to apologize for all the BS I spewed and go back to my original point: nerds who get off on showing how superior they are by trying to teach their friends and family how to use Linux need to get a life.

[ Parent ]

partially disagree (none / 0) (#276)
by asdf1234 on Thu Oct 13, 2005 at 07:16:37 PM EST

I have a life :P yet I do have a tendency to mention  linux when people complain to me about viruses breaking their computer, or a BSOD making them lose their homework... why? because they ask for my help, and this is what I think would help them. of course most of them, being gamers, would only be able to dual-boot at best... but still, most of the things they complain about really wouldn't be issues in linux. my mum's using linux now because I had to help her with everything even in windows (if she wasn't my mother I'd have told her to fsck off and RTFM long ago). my friend's computer, having been completely destroyed by viruses, is now going to have a linux partition because she was happy using knoppix, and she doesn't have a windows cd... and it'll give her brother a safe place to put his virus-ridden pr0n :P

of course there are arrogant twits out there that push linux too much. but there are also arrogant twits out there that think anyone not using windoze is a retard. they're equally annoying.


[ Parent ]

Liking Linux (none / 1) (#263)
by virg on Wed Oct 05, 2005 at 01:47:34 PM EST

> What possible motivation do you have to tell them to switch OSes?

Because if they switch to Linux, they'll get comfortable with it. If and when enough people do that, the demand for Linux will drive more mainstream computer manufacturers to preinstall Linux. As it gets even more popular, more developers will develop drivers, programs and hardware for Linux machines.

In short, I like Linux, and the more people there are that use Linux, the more stuff I can find for the OS I like, and the more likely it becomes that I can get help (or give help) with these machines.

Virg
"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
Two Simple Solutions (2.50 / 2) (#138)
by Noexit on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 07:28:57 PM EST

1. For every mailing list you maintain, set up a list specifically for newbies. 2. If you're tired of reading and responding to the same questions repeatedly, then quit reading the list. There is nothing that pisses me off more than a mailing list I subscribe to turning into a twice weekly round of "stupid newbie, read the man pages"/"but this mailing list is for help so help me". Two sided problem that requires both sides to give a little. A newbie should learn to do their own research and ask better questions, they'll get better answers quicker. The experienced users should be more helpful to the newbies, or just shut up; it's a volunteer mailing list, you don't have to reply. Oh, and set up a good list FAQ.

Possible Solution to this Problem. (2.50 / 2) (#142)
by joebob2k5 on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 08:54:57 PM EST

Make it clear that the only way to post into the help forums is to enter a token or click on a special link which can only be reached from the FAQ. People can still ignore the FAQ answer while getting the token, but they will have sorted themselves into the "jerk" category and are that much easier to ignore.

If you don't like it (1.40 / 5) (#143)
by Chewbacca Uncircumsized on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 09:14:23 PM EST

go to Russia

Decloak for a dose of reality. (2.25 / 4) (#147)
by Brett Viren on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 10:25:23 PM EST

Truth be told, the free software movement doesn't need clueless newbies.  Cluefull ones can't hurt and clueless ones are more than tolerated by a lot of big hearts.  But when it comes down to survival (critical mass) there is more than enough momentum to sustain FS.  So any arguments based on "what you should do" are bogus.

How I ask for help (2.40 / 5) (#150)
by SocratesGhost on Tue Sep 27, 2005 at 11:20:40 PM EST

ME: "Linux sucks. You can't even use a mouse wheel."

YOU: "You idiot. If you RTFM, you would know that all you have to do is... (provides answer)"

Voilâ. I now have the answer.

-Soc
I drank what?


Rubbish (none / 1) (#156)
by bitchaos on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 02:40:59 AM EST

They look for help, but they can hear nothing but "RTFM" or "Google it".
...
Your answer probably looks like this one: "Don't waste my time! You haven't read the documentation, have you? Are you banned on Google?

Where did you get this idea that people just hang around in forums and on mailing lists to tell other people to 'RTFM'? Do you ever actually go on any mailing lists or discussion boards?

I do frequently and I can tell you that by and large this kind of arrogance doesn't happen. For example I suggest you look at forums like www.linuxquestions.org and www.linuxforums.org and the RHEL4 and Centos mailing lists before making statements like this. I can't remember the last time I saw someone tell someone else to RTFM. As for 'just google' most people will actually saying something like 'google around for xxxx and you should find what you're looking for', and then only when its something very trivial or obvious.

Re: Rubbish (none / 0) (#157)
by Sad Mephisto on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 03:18:27 AM EST

> For example I suggest you look at forums like www.linuxquestions.org and www.linuxforums.org...

Just go and have a look on some poorly moderated forums and you'll get the idea.

[ Parent ]
Examples? (none / 1) (#223)
by bitchaos on Fri Sep 30, 2005 at 01:26:32 AM EST

Well the Centos list is not moderated and occaisionally threads get off-topic but I haven't seen anyone just telling people to 'go and RTFM'. Maybe you can provide examples of message boards or lists where newbies are regularly told to RTFM?

[ Parent ]
*cough*#debian*cough* (none / 0) (#273)
by asdf1234 on Thu Oct 13, 2005 at 05:27:29 PM EST

irc channels often seem to be less friendly.

except for #gentoo, which is the nicest support place I've ever been :) most people there ask sensible questions, the obvious ones are gently directed to google, and trolls are quicky banned.

[ Parent ]

I hate analogies (3.00 / 2) (#164)
by Keepiru on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 07:41:22 AM EST

But I'm going to make one anyway, because I think this is one of those situations where the analogy actually works.

Give a man to fish, and you feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.

Caveat:  Some people don't want to learn to fish.  They'd rather have some other guy to get in the boat and do the work, and just pay him for the fish.

I love to teach people how to do anything, and I do so whenever I can.  I'm not in the business of handing out free fish all day long.

I think that newbies should either a) learn to fish, (I'm ready to teach), or b) find someone selling fish (Search for "linux support", and check out the great relevant text ads down the side of your favorite search engine).

As an aside, I think the #1 most important skill in learning how to use a computer (or most other technical things I do) is learning how to get more information.  Thus, instead of just showing someone the man page, I show them how to use a search engine more effectively - by searching for FAQs and HOWTOs, anticipating phrases that people will use when talking about their problem, finding community support sites, etc.  After walking people through this a few times (with much more patience and follow up than "go read the FAQ"), people can become much more self-sufficient if they want to.

Then again, I'm a useless fisherman, despite my father's best attempts to teach me.  Some people are hopeless.  :)

you analogy is shit (1.50 / 2) (#168)
by daveybaby on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 10:02:50 AM EST

Because it doesnt apply. We arent starving people who have no other way of getting food - we are BUSY people who have other FAR MORE IMPORTANT things to do with our time than learn how to fish and then go fishing every time we are hungry.

So instead we buy ready caught (and scaled and gutted) fish from a fishmonger. Oh my god, how lame of the n00bs, say the expert anglers.

Oh well never mind say the n00bs - we can spend the time we saved doing things that are actually important to us in life, instead of learning to fish because thats what anglers like to do.

Cluebyfour: for most people, computers are a TOOL not a HOBBY.

[ Parent ]

Another analogy... (none / 0) (#247)
by frippin on Sun Oct 02, 2005 at 03:06:08 AM EST

Is that instead of teaching people to cast a net to catch a boat load of fish, we're teaching them to fly-fish, which takes considerably more skill, time, and also leads to a lot less fish. Fly-fishing is clearly more powerful, because you can pick the fish you want to catch. It is also totally configurable. You can make your own flies, change flies when you want, make them out of whatever you want. It's all up to you. Try that with a stupid net! I'm with you, man. Linux/FreeOS is a great concept. But it seems more like a fetish than a practicality (for end-users).

[ Parent ]
Shit. I need sleep. (none / 0) (#169)
by daveybaby on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 10:06:37 AM EST

Ignore the above post - was replying half to this post and half to another, somehow got the gist of the 2 mixed up. Sorry.

[ Parent ]
Agree but disagree (3.00 / 3) (#170)
by davien on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 10:24:10 AM EST

Someone, being somewhat new to the concept of IT, pointed me to this article, and I had a flashback.

I've written articles like this, admonishing support personnel that stupid questions and enthusiastic endusers are their staple.  But after many years in IT, I realize that the sentiment is good, but misguided, and the industry as a whole knows it.

As many others have commented at this point, there are different types of computer users:  the admin/power user, and the enduser.  The admin/power user has good motivation to want to know the how/why of systems, and are really best served by reading the manual (f excluded).  Because, honestly, the best grasp is to know that information inside and out.  The enduser really has no reason for this, as it is a tool that should "just work".

So, perhaps it would be better to encourage the admins and power users who are so frustrated by the new user phenomenon not to have patience, but to fix the underlying problem.  Patience will certainly go farther to not alienate new users and further the "Linux cause", but it really doesn't fix the issue.  

So, instead of encouraging patience, perhaps we should encourage the admins/power users to invest their time in making the platform and documentation more accessible to the new admin, and make Linux services more accessible to the enduser?  

How do we make the resources and documentation and platform more accessible to the new (wannabe) admin or power user?  You'll figure something out.  You'll have to if you really want Linux to survive.  But other IT outfits have done this with intelligent knowledge management systems, by getting non-admins to write user documentation, and staging broad marketing/training campaigns that invite exploration of the technology.  God Google can not be the end if this is meant to compete.

As for the enduser, I know that in my metro, at least, there are few computer services places that are known to Joe User who provide service for Linux.  Telling them to "go get support" is not as simple as doing so for Microsoft, because EVERYONE supports Microsoft (god knows, it needs it).  While this is part of a broadened effort to advertise, train, and serve, it's something that will only be driven by the current "hardcore" Linux proponents and some entrepreneurial spirit.

In my opinion, this is where the real message lies and where the real effort should be spent.

Do we want that? (3.00 / 2) (#173)
by Kadin2048 on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 11:08:05 AM EST

I think the major question is, and one which is reinforced by several other posts further down in this discussion, is whether the Linux/FOSS community as a whole is interested in including, as you put them, the "endusers."

Frankly I have mixed feelings. On one hand, without supporting people like that, an operating system can never rise to much desktop prominence, especially in business. But on the other hand, there's sort of a lowest-common-denominator involved. Is it really worth putting a whole lot of resources to the task of (say) making your mouse wheel easy to set up through a GUI, instead of by editing a text conf file?

I think a very significant percentage of experienced Linux users in particular are pretty content to let the platform remain a slightly exclusive experience. That's not to say that they want to drive potential fellow power users away from it -- everyone got their start someplace, after all -- but if someone isn't interested in reading the manual and doing some basic Google searches, maybe they ought to look elsewhere for an OS.

I haven't really decided how I come down on that issue. I think the Free Software developers, and Linux in particular, have made great strides at lowering that entry barrier in the past few years. But there comes a point where you have to decide whether you want to be creating an OS that's "for everybody," or an OS that's "for anybody who's interested in computers."

[ Parent ]

Developers != Support (none / 0) (#178)
by Viliam Bur on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 11:57:30 AM EST

IMHO the problem is that the skills needed to be a good developer are not the same as the skills needed to be a good support. In Software Libre environment developers themselves often do the support... because noone else understands. But it would be better if in future a "support-only" group could exist, as a layer between too technical and too busy developers and manual-hating yet curious end users.

The "Software Libre support" people have to understand the program at least to such degree that they are able to understand an answer from developer. Then, they could transform it to simpler words, and give it to end users... helping end users solve their problems, and protecting developers from frustrating questions. They do not need to solve the problem. They have to ask end user for more details, forward the question in appropriate form to developers, wait for answer, communicate it to end user, and then remember the whole information, so that they could respond to another end user with the same problem.

Why would anyone want to do this? Well, why would anyone want to write free code, or paint free pictures, or...? Simply, some people might like doing this. It's easier than coding (well, this depends on that the person's skills are), and can still bring the good feeling of being an important part of the community. (Especially if other members of community would give enough respect to these people.) And doing this could really benefit the community, IMHO. BTW, the same people could also maintain end-user manuals and FAQs.

[ Parent ]

more importantly... (none / 1) (#183)
by davien on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 01:31:44 PM EST

more importantly, there's money in it.

Whether that money comes from the enduser who wants the help, or from grants from companies with philanthropic interest, or from marketing, it could be profitable.  While the source itself may be free, the willingness to compensate for someone else's desire not to learn the platform may not necessarily be.

[ Parent ]

lowering the bar? (none / 1) (#182)
by davien on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 01:28:32 PM EST

I agree.  It just seems like there is an increasing number of Linux proponents who feel that popularity of the OS (in general) is the key to making progress against other, less superior tools.

And, to a degree, they're probably right.  It's not entirely Microsoft's "ease of use" that makes its products popular (even in the exclusively enterprise arena), and it sure as heck isn't because it's stable or runs well.

The only time, apparently, that Linux has gained ground against the Microsoft mindset has been with the increase in general popularity which is, at least in part, driven by the "curious want to be admins/power users" or the "endusers" who dabble with it and get it to work successfully.

Wishing for it to be a platform that anyone can use is an honorable goal, regardless of the elitist desire for exclusivity.  Facility of use means less time for setup and repairs, even for the experienced admin and that's something that any platform should aspire to.

[ Parent ]

Google certification (3.00 / 2) (#185)
by Sheepdot on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 02:47:08 PM EST

The solution to the problem of idiocy on help forums online is to create Google certifications that teach users such simple commands as "inurl:" using quotes, and "ext:" to find what they are looking for.

Once a user has passed such a Google certification, they can post on a forum indicating they have a problem, and would like to know the solution.

Sample question:
"Bob knows he is listed in an Excel file on a Michigan State University website. What would he search for to find out which file?"

Sample answer:
"Bob inurl:msu.edu ext:xls"

If someone cannot come up with that kind of response, they aren't going to know to type "activate "mouse wheel" xorg.conf" or whatever the proper solution is.

One of the problems with new users is that they are not technical support people. All the technical support people or individuals with a troubleshooting mindset have already been on the Internet and using Google for the last 3 to 5 years. We did this out of necessity. We did this because no matter what problems we ran into that we couldn't figure out, we were *all* certain someone else had run into the problem before. And sure enough, more often than not, we were right.

The solution isn't telling the user to use Google, it's to educate the user on how to *properly* use Google.

this explains (none / 0) (#186)
by tetsuwan on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 03:29:49 PM EST

why I am not using Linux. Yes, I've seen the "inurl:" command, but never had any use for it.

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

Typical linux user (2.66 / 3) (#194)
by godix on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 08:17:47 PM EST

Linux users ALWAYS assume more information than is avalable. In your example you assume that Bob knows msu.edu is the right domain. Nevermind that if it's a different domain that is associated with Michigan State University then the search will fail. You also assume it's known that it's definately an Excel file, an assumption I find laughable to the extreme. Most people, even techies, wouldn't know what file type the info they want is in. Take the scrollwheel mouse for example, should that search be limited to HTML? HTM? TXT? DOC? Or, perhaps, is limiting the file type likely to prevent you from finding an answer?

That's why I personally dislike linux and hate most linux users. Ask them a simple question, IE 'what's the command to do...' and the response in invariable 'Use man'. Well man is great for getting syntax IF YOU KNOW WHAT THE COMMAND IS CALLED. Of course, if I knew what the command was called I wouldn't have needed to ask. So what should I do, google for 'That one command that does....'? Riiiight. I actually wiped out linux and went back to windows awhile ago just becuase linux users are such unhelpful bastards.


- An egotist is someone who thinks they're almost as good as I am.
[ Parent ]

use apropos. $ (3.00 / 2) (#220)
by lowkey on Thu Sep 29, 2005 at 08:20:05 PM EST



[ Parent ]
That's the point of man (none / 0) (#244)
by Fred_A on Sat Oct 01, 2005 at 07:50:37 PM EST

If you had used "man man" you would have noticed the "-k" option to the man command (which does the same thing as "apropos" suggested above) but doesn't require that you figure out another command.

So "use man" was indeed a valid suggestion.

Us helpful bastards shouldn't help lazy bastards like you. ;)

Fred in Paris
[ Parent ]

Godix, (none / 0) (#254)
by guidoreichstadter on Mon Oct 03, 2005 at 06:08:42 PM EST

I was wondering if you had seen this story by any cahnce. I mean, WTF is up with that?


you are human:
no masters,
no slaves.
[ Parent ]
bob (none / 1) (#198)
by IceTitan on Thu Sep 29, 2005 at 06:13:48 AM EST

Tien, Bob    (616) 748-9317

Nuke 'em from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.
[ Parent ]
A more practical technique (none / 0) (#226)
by some nerd on Fri Sep 30, 2005 at 09:07:43 AM EST

Tell them to find your distro's official forum and/or Wiki then :

      couple of words describing problem site:forum-or-wiki-for-your-distro.org

Example, they've just installed Ubuntu and discovered that it doesn't play mp3's by default :
play mp3s site:wiki.ubuntu.com, voila a bunch of front page links on how to get it to do so.

Of course they could use the forum's search if there is one, but i)a lot of forums require registration first and ii)quite often google does a better job of searching their site then they do.

--
Home Sweet Home

[ Parent ]

Wow, what a waste of time. (3.00 / 2) (#236)
by awgsilyari on Fri Sep 30, 2005 at 04:29:58 PM EST

Just tell them to put their queries in plain English.

How do I make the mouse wheel work in Linux

How do I change the resolution of my X server

How do I make Apache start up automatically

My God man, you're engineering a freaking tied-arch bridge when you could just drop a log across the creek.


--------
Please direct SPAM to john@neuralnw.com
[ Parent ]

wow, it's amazing (1.16 / 12) (#188)
by Blarney on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 04:29:27 PM EST

Just how much of a stupid asshole you are.

There is no reason why installing a mousewheel should be done by putting some stupid Option line anywhere. I'm sure there is somebody, right now, putting a "mousewheel" checkbox in some fucked up KDE config utility right now, and all it'll do is stick "Option 4 5 stupid stupid assholes" in a config file and I'm sure you think he's a sucker, I think he is too, but I think you're a stupid asshole - you know, if Windows can figure out there's a mousewheel so can fucking Linux.

The problem with Linux is attitude. Fuckers like you fucking fucking suck. Linux is great for being a network server with no keyboard or mouse or monitor, but honestly man, *NIX did that from the fucking start, it was invented as a PHONE SWITCH CONTROLLER, you haven't added anything. You Linux fuckers have been working on this thing since Microsoft's OS product was DOS! And if the "bazaar" is so awesome, why does the "cathedral" have a working mousewheel?

It's not that you guys lack the brains - you have them - or the manpower - you have that - it's that you have fucking attitudes. Like you want Linux to be a pain in the ass.

See, you don't improve my life by teaching me Linux. Yeah, I know a fair bit about it, because I've tried to do stuff with it - but all that time I spent messing with Linux itself could have been used taking advantage of the features Linux provides. See the difference? That really WOULD have been better. Can you understand this? Is this too complicated? Maybe go look it up on Google, asshole.

Factually incorrect slash optimistic (none / 0) (#192)
by cburke on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 07:31:34 PM EST

If you work at technical customer support, you are paid to be nice and being helpful is your duty.

Hahaha, no.  I've never worked a computer help desk, but a lot of people I know, including my mother, have.

If you work at technical customer support, you are paid to get people off of the phone as quickly as possible so long as it is in a manner that is likely to retain their business.  Politeness and helpfulness are encouraged only in so much as they let you keep your customer without interfering with job 1: getting them off the phone.

Why do you think MS tech support tells you to reinstall Windows almost by default?  Is it because that's the only way to solve many problems in Windows?  No, but it is a solution to many problems, and it gets them off the phone quickly and lets the customer waste the next hour reinstalling rather than spending twenty minutes on the phone working through the "correct" solution.

Your criticism of online help is mostly valid, however.  On the other hand, though, in many cases you will see not only the RTFM response but also a helpful response.  That is my experience googling for linux answers, anyway.


Nope (none / 0) (#265)
by phraud on Wed Oct 05, 2005 at 03:09:23 PM EST

What your saying may be the case with large corporations, or maybe just the corporations where your friends work, but not here. At my company, we support people to help them out. We live in a rural community, not the city where there are a huge amount of potential customers. We don't try to get people off the phone quickly (well we do, but thats because support is annoying), we try to help them out. I have spent 3 hours on the phone helping a customer that spends $20/month. I cruise over to peoples houses and fix their problems for them if it is faster than over the phone.
You create your own reality. Leave mine to me.
[ Parent ]
Also I disagree with (none / 0) (#193)
by cburke on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 07:39:51 PM EST

withholding the actual answer from the user and leaving them a trail of clues instead.  If they ask you to treat them like your student, fine.  Otherwise, you're being as patronizing as the RTFM people and only slightly more helpful.

Revealing the steps and thought process behind the answer is useful if it helps them understand better, but treating it like a scavenger hunt or research project isn't going to prevent any wars.

P.S.  If you want to try something like what you say, which I do believe some people might like, do it like the hint books for adventure games.  Have a FAQ with multiple levels of "hints" starting with general and ending with an explicit description of the solution.  That could be a good teaching tool.  This isn't how general help on a forum should be done, though.

What makes me subject to their request? (none / 0) (#202)
by LordEq on Thu Sep 29, 2005 at 10:22:36 AM EST

withholding the actual answer from the user and leaving them a trail of clues instead.  If they ask you to treat them like your student, fine.

What makes me subject to their request?

This is an application of the "Golden Rule"---he who has the gold makes the rules.

You have the wealth (that is, knowledge) that this person seeks.  It's a safe assumption that he's not offering anything in exchange.  Therefore, you are perfectly within your rights to define the relationship---or no relationship at all.

When both parties have items that are of value to the other, the scenario changes a bit.  Things like "relationship" and "price" can be negotiated.  Motivations might also change.  A paid tech might want to hand out answers without teaching the user how to solve his own problems, so that the user will continue to pay him for answers.

---

As an aside, who thought that it would be a good idea for people to put half of their first sentence in the subject line of a post, instead of a proper subject that will be addressed in the body of the post?


--LordEq

"That's what K5's about. Hippies and narcs cavorting together." --panck
[ Parent ]
Nothing, you can choose to be a dick if you want. (none / 0) (#210)
by cburke on Thu Sep 29, 2005 at 04:10:52 PM EST

What makes me subject to their request?

This is an application of the "Golden Rule"---he who has the gold makes the rules.

Nothing makes you subject to their request, what on earth made you think I was saying otherwise?

The point of the article is that saying "RTFM" isn't helpful and doesn't encourage the user.

Neither does treating them like you're their schoolteacher.

If that's how you want to treat them, go ahead, there's no law saying you can't.  But you will not be helpful, you will be a dick instead, just like the "RTFM" people.

[ Parent ]

"Teach a man to fish" makes me a dick? (none / 0) (#222)
by LordEq on Thu Sep 29, 2005 at 10:39:07 PM EST

The point of the article is that saying "RTFM" isn't helpful and doesn't encourage the user.

No, just saying "RTFM" isn't helpful.  But, in the long run, neither is just handing them the answer.  You want helpful, try "Here's TFM."  Once they have TFM in hand, or know where to find it, they can solve their problems and maybe discover a few nuggets of unrelated-but-useful knowledge on the side.

Neither does treating them like you're their schoolteacher.

If they come to me seeking knowledge, then I am their teacher.  My class has homework.  If something in the assignment eludes them, they can ask me and I'll point them in the right direction.  They skip the homework, and the class does them no good.  I'm trying to give them something more helpful than a quick fix. If they don't want to accept what I have to offer, they can find another "teacher".  I have nothing to lose, and they are choosing not to gain.

The thing I'm wondering at this point is why people are trying to force me to tolerate laziness.  There are too many people in this world who are utterly worthless.  You're asking me to sprinkle fertilizer at the roots of still more of such vegetables, and telling me that my refusal to do so makes me a "dick"?

Wrong.  Wrongwrongwrong.  I'm not the dick here.  Such people are the technological equivalent of welfare leeches.  Look in their direction if you want to see "dick".

As of a couple of weeks ago, there were "people" in at least one of the larger storm shelters who, when offered a job and a place to live as a package deal, looked at their would-be employer/lessor as if he had grown a second head and said "We don't work!"  These resource sinks are to their communities as the user who refuses to RTFM is to the tech community.

I will not support, condone, or give aid and comfort to this level of laziness.


--LordEq

"That's what K5's about. Hippies and narcs cavorting together." --panck
[ Parent ]
correction: you're an arrogant dick. (none / 0) (#275)
by asdf1234 on Thu Oct 13, 2005 at 06:50:39 PM EST

it's a lot easier to help people when you don't treat them like inferiors. if you're not going to help them nicely, perhaps you shouldn't help at all.
of course, if they're not going to behave nicely either then they're not going to get much help from anyone...

really, everything goes a lot more smoothly when both sides are polite. #gentoo is a good example; there's no swearing there, no trolls, and saying "RTFM" is strongly discouraged. I enjoy helping people there.   if someone asks something really obvious, they'll be ignored or gently directed to google... but half the time there's someone with nothing better to do than answer them anyways. and if someone asks a really stupid question like "why doesn't my computer work?" someone will usually give them a lesson in how to ask questions.

of course, it probably helps that gentoo installation scares off most of the people that are allergic to learning... but still. it is a good example of how to help people without either side getting mad. :)

[ Parent ]

linux is for the elite (1.00 / 3) (#195)
by circletimessquare on Wed Sep 28, 2005 at 08:42:51 PM EST

why?

because if linux ever gains mass acceptance, free bsd or some other formerly obscure os will be migrated to by dweebs

it's all about snob appeal and shitting on other people

the rich do it, the beautiful do it, and the technologically astute do it

it's just something about human psychology: "i am better than you because of {fill in the blank bullshit dividing line}"

elitism, arrogance, aristocracy, class divisions... when you successfully distill these aspects of human nature out of human nature, get back to me

even then, those who complain about elitism and snobbery are hypocrites, because they usually are just as guilty as whatever they complain about- they just commit the same chrimes in a different sphere of human behavior

populists always win in this world, for they are the true communicators

unfortunately, they are very rare

the author of this piece sounds like a populist: good for you friend, consider yourself part of an... elite superior subgroup

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

philistine $ (none / 1) (#241)
by skyknight on Sat Oct 01, 2005 at 03:02:02 PM EST



It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
my girlfriend (none / 0) (#196)
by icenine on Thu Sep 29, 2005 at 01:43:03 AM EST

always asks me why my computer can't be "normal" like everyone else's. She doesn't have any problem with playing the music she wants to hear on it tho.

I guess I need to switch back to Gentoo.  Ubuntu doesn't obfuscate things enough to make it next to impossible to find my pr0n collection.

I hear NetBSD is pretty hard to use.  Maybe I'll try that.


Encryption? (none / 1) (#203)
by Anonymous Hiro on Thu Sep 29, 2005 at 10:44:53 AM EST

If you want to make stuff a bit harder to get at why don't you use encryption?

e.g. modprobe cryptoloop, losetup and all that.


[ Parent ]

cryptoloop is outdated (none / 0) (#204)
by vadim on Thu Sep 29, 2005 at 10:54:39 AM EST

dm-crypt is the new thing. It goes through the device mapper (used for LVM as well), so it allows you to encrypt any disk device, and works with the swap partition.

No need to mess with patches for losetup or anything like that either, as the support is already in the kernel. All you need is a little tool that lets you tell the kernel what you want.
--
<@chani> I *cannot* remember names. but I did memorize 214 digits of pi once.
[ Parent ]

When I need my pr0n fix.. (3.00 / 5) (#211)
by icenine on Thu Sep 29, 2005 at 04:48:23 PM EST

I need it right away.  No time for futzing about with kernel modules and the like.  Besides, ever tried typing "modprobe cryptoloop ; mount -o loop ~/pron.img /mnt" with one hand?


[ Parent ]
Linux can help you! (3.00 / 3) (#212)
by vadim on Thu Sep 29, 2005 at 05:39:11 PM EST

First, make a shell script. You're right, all that is hard to type with one hand, but a script called "p" (for pr0n) is easy to execute.

Now you still have a problem with the password. What you need here is a USB drive. Save the password in a file on the drive, and make the script mount the flash drive, read the password from it, and use it to mount your encrypted disk.

Getting an USB drive out of your pocket, inserting it into the USB socket and typing "p", [Enter] can be all done with one hand.

This demonstrates that Linux is a superior operating system, because unlike Windows, it can securely solve your pr0n needs!
--
<@chani> I *cannot* remember names. but I did memorize 214 digits of pi once.
[ Parent ]

Too much work (none / 1) (#227)
by wurp on Fri Sep 30, 2005 at 09:09:32 AM EST

Write a script to be executed when usb devices are attached that looks for the password file on the new device, and runs the 'p' script automatically (and, heck, opens your browser to your favorite files).

Now just plug in the device and, presto, instant porn.

Just don't let your girlfriend get her hands on your USB device ;-)
---
Buy my stuff
[ Parent ]

Good point [n/t] (none / 0) (#229)
by vadim on Fri Sep 30, 2005 at 09:36:50 AM EST


--
<@chani> I *cannot* remember names. but I did memorize 214 digits of pi once.
[ Parent ]
Doh. (none / 0) (#231)
by Anonymous Hiro on Fri Sep 30, 2005 at 10:19:50 AM EST

You mean like autorun on Windows? That's a security problem.

Someone could put a malicious p script in a usb device and...

;)

[ Parent ]

No, not autorun (3.00 / 2) (#232)
by vadim on Fri Sep 30, 2005 at 10:30:52 AM EST

Rather, something that waits until an USB drive is inserted, mounts it, looks for a password file, and if it's there attempts to use it to mount the encrypted drive. None of this requires executing anything from the mounted drive.

No danger that way.

Of course, security-wise this is somewhat imperfect, but for this particular application it's probably fine.
--
<@chani> I *cannot* remember names. but I did memorize 214 digits of pi once.
[ Parent ]

But... (3.00 / 2) (#262)
by virg on Wed Oct 05, 2005 at 01:09:01 PM EST

> Just don't let your girlfriend get her hands on your USB device ;-)

If his girlfriend has her hands on his USB device, why would he need porn?

Virg
"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
LOL. You are a funny man! $ (none / 0) (#216)
by mr strange on Thu Sep 29, 2005 at 06:25:30 PM EST

Try my event calendar plugin for Wordpress.

intrigued by your idea that fascism is feminine - livus
[ Parent ]

You're missing one very obvious problem! (3.00 / 4) (#206)
by rampy on Thu Sep 29, 2005 at 11:55:12 AM EST

If every message board just provided clues and pointed towards google there'd only be clues for search results ( online documentation not withstanding which can be lacking/not cohesive/disparate for some OSS projects)

It would be an endless cycle of clues linking to clues.

I do fear (and notice) that spoon feeding and hand holding information to newbies does have its disadvantages of dependency (the whole give a man a fish/teach him to fish thing) BUT I find it important to have good answers/resources to newbie questions!  WHY?! So that the answers/information/discourse is THERE/available FOR THE NEXT person to find via forum search/google search.

I can't tell you how to run your community, especially if it's working for you, but my thinking is that it takes away from the community outside of your forum.
Build Your Own PVR Site

Oh I get the hint; (none / 1) (#213)
by Sesquipundalian on Thu Sep 29, 2005 at 06:06:41 PM EST

this is to set yourself up so that later you can say to the client "do it yourself and it's free (after all I told you how didn't I?), if I have to come and do it for you, the job will cost $XX.00 per hour or I can give you an unmetered job price of $XXXX.00".

And you think that our dumb customers will appreciate the awesome difficulty and intellectual virtuosity that it takes to install Linuxware, just because we gave them sh*tty directions that they couldn't follow first? Yeah, I think so too (having only used this tactic myself about a million times after learning it when I worked at Future Shop ~ heh! works like a charm). Good to see nerds and geeks finally waking up to what selling technology can do for you.

For other great sales tricks and customer taming tactics that nerds and geeks everywhere can start using today; I suggest Kazaa'ing for Brian Tracey, Tom Hopkins, Jay Abraham and Zig Ziggler.


Did you know that gullible is not actually an english word?
Only $XX.00 per hour? You're cheap! (none / 0) (#214)
by mr strange on Thu Sep 29, 2005 at 06:21:10 PM EST

You should learn from IBM, they charge $XXX.00 per hour for bozos to shout "RTFM!!" ;-)

Try my event calendar plugin for Wordpress.

intrigued by your idea that fascism is feminine - livus
[ Parent ]

How about if we made a cult, (none / 1) (#217)
by Sesquipundalian on Thu Sep 29, 2005 at 06:47:28 PM EST

based around the writings of Isaac Asimov and Linus Torvalds, we could name the membership various levels after kernel modules or some such!

Instead of names like OT3 for example, we could call initiates FD0 and say that more advanced members (who have paid us $XXX,XXX.00, for auditing defragmenting services of course) have reached level HD1!

I bet we could even get someone who looks a like, say.. Christian Bale to enthusiastically hate um.. chiropractors, while he promotes us on uh.. Jerry Springer!


Did you know that gullible is not actually an english word?
[ Parent ]
i tried your mousewheel suggestion (none / 1) (#215)
by transient0 on Thu Sep 29, 2005 at 06:25:27 PM EST

but it still doesn't work.

maybe i used the quotes wrong. please help me. i love my mousie wheel.
---------
lysergically yours

YFI (none / 0) (#228)
by some nerd on Fri Sep 30, 2005 at 09:18:20 AM EST

IHNBMWT

--
Home Sweet Home

[ Parent ]
RE: i tried your mousewheel suggestion (none / 0) (#230)
by wraith0x29a on Fri Sep 30, 2005 at 10:15:16 AM EST

Make sure you are using the right mouse protocol, not all mouse protocols support wheels. Here is part of the mouse definition from my X11 config file, I'm using the IMproved PS/2 protocol here..

        Identifier  "DevInputMice"
        Driver      "mouse"
        Option      "Protocol" "IMPS/2"
        Option      "Device" "/dev/input/mice"
        Option      "ZAxisMapping" "4 5"
        Option      "Emulate3Buttons" "no"

I'm not emulating 3 buttons as the wheel of my mouse doubles as a middle-button.

This stuff is pretty well documented, try searching the web (or even your hard-drive) for a 'Linux Mouse Howto'
"There are actually 11 kinds of people in the world: Those who don't understand binary, those who think they understand binary and those who know what little-endian means."
[ Parent ]

lol (none / 0) (#239)
by some nerd on Fri Sep 30, 2005 at 07:39:38 PM EST

Well done, a bite after the troll was pointed out. Double points!

--
Home Sweet Home

[ Parent ]
The real issue (none / 1) (#224)
by ljj on Fri Sep 30, 2005 at 02:48:22 AM EST

Some people are good at computers and some aren't. But most of us have to deal with them in our day to day lives.

Computers are like cars. Some people know what's going on under the hood, but most people don't. They've only been conditioned to use the controls to make the car do what they want. The same with computers.

Unless those who want the whole world to move to open-source environments can create interfaces that don't require some low-level hacking just to get your mouse wheel to work, than they can forget it.

--
ljj

Open Source has nothing to do with it (none / 0) (#248)
by alba on Sun Oct 02, 2005 at 09:07:21 AM EST

Windows installations come pre-installed with the hardware.
That takes away a lot of problems - at the beginning.

Later on, when stability vanishes and performance deteriorates (those easy-to-install games and addons don't have anything to do with it, do they?), they situation reverses.

Data files and configuration settings are spread all over the hard disk, the OEM hardware requires obscure OEM drivers, and so on.



[ Parent ]
The beginning is important (none / 0) (#260)
by Cro Magnon on Wed Oct 05, 2005 at 09:42:28 AM EST

If Joe Sixpack can't get his mousewheel/printer/camera working out of the box, he'll stick with something that can. The stability might go to hell after 6 months, but that's still 6 months of use vs zero under Linux.

And the fact that data files and configuration setting are scattered all over the HD isn't Joe's problem. He doesn't CARE where they are.
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]

Try this (none / 1) (#240)
by Ad Captandum Vulgus on Sat Oct 01, 2005 at 08:21:58 AM EST

Perhaps your organization could adopt the approach of say my local telephone company: A customer calls in search of information and before he is allowed to speak to an actual technician he is led through a labyrinth of touchtone options and only after having waited and played along for say twenty minutes will the customer be connected with an actual living breathing technician. If he's determined enough only then will the customer receive an answer to his query. If he's impatient and unwilling to suffer through the touchtone maze then he hangs up and a technician's never bothered with what probably would have been an inane question to begin with.

> I think this is probably the most annoying commercial trend today, the only thing more annoying being the Opt Out trend of which big business is increasingly volunteering us into.

But if it works for them it may work for you.
"The Armies we are afraid to stand up against will decide for us all what will become the truth. Their vision becomes reality; their tongue becomes reason." -Uriah
On the other end of the spectrum (none / 1) (#242)
by Ubiq on Sat Oct 01, 2005 at 04:46:44 PM EST

...I sometimes ask helpdesks where I can find the information I need, and have to repeat my question when they give me a direct answer to the original question.

Instead of giving them either answer, you could ask them which one they'd prefer. I expect quite a number to ask for the "learning" answer. They're not all lazy.

The things with noobs... (none / 1) (#245)
by der on Sun Oct 02, 2005 at 12:53:40 AM EST

... is that if they're not completely useless human beings, they'll figure it out for themselves like the rest of us had to.

If not... well, fuck 'em.



I can't? (3.00 / 2) (#246)
by dougmc on Sun Oct 02, 2005 at 01:50:01 AM EST

If you work at technical customer support, you are paid to be nice and being helpful is your duty. You have to solve typical problems many times a day and you can't point users to the manual.
I work in technical customer support. I certainly can and do point users to the manual when it's appropriate. And it's appropriate a lot, though I certainly don't just say RTFM. I usually at least try to say which manual, where it can be found, and even which page to look at.
But let's assume that you're a computer geek - you know everything and you are eager to share your knowledge. However, when somebody asks you for the sixth time in a week how to turn on a mouse wheel in Linux you lose your temper and explode.
I'm also a computer geek, though while I know a lot about a lot of things, I don't know everything (and if you find somebody that thinks they know everything, they're either lying or deluded.) But I am generally willing to share my knowledge.

But I don't lose my temper and explode. Even when asked the same dumb question over and over. Not at work, and not outside of work.

At work, if I'm asked the same question over and over, then obviously our knowledge base (KB) isn't good enough, and I need to write some new KB entries. So I do that, and when asked the question, I'll point them at KB 2829 or whatever. Not only does it quickly solve the problem, but it reminds them that the KB does have lots of answers .

In my experience, most people would rather solve the problem themselves than call technical support, assuming it's something that can be solved quickly once you know what to do. Anything we can do to enable our customers to solve their own problems is good for everybody -- less work for us, and it makes them happier.

Outside of work, I do occasionally answer technical questions on Usenet and such. There, I'm certainly less professional about things and more informal, but certainly I don't lose my temper just because there's another newbie with another newbie question. If the question offends or bothers me, I don't have to answer it ...

what if... (none / 0) (#258)
by manojar on Wed Oct 05, 2005 at 07:33:18 AM EST

>>>If the question offends or bothers me, I don't have to answer it ... What if people decide not to answer it, and the only questions you see listed are the same old questions again and again? and 'please tell me too!' replies?

[ Parent ]
I don't know (3.00 / 2) (#264)
by phraud on Wed Oct 05, 2005 at 02:46:54 PM EST

If that analogy is any good.
"how do I get my mousewheel working in XF86"

No, you can't just give a noob a single answer like "stick these words in the xorg.conf file"

Because then you get this:

"Whats an xorg.conf file?"
"Where is it located?"
"How to I get to that directory?"
"How do I edit the file?"
"It's giving me permissions errors, I can't write to the file, what's that about?"

This is the problem with NOOBS. You can't answer their questions because your answer just creates several more questions.

To qualify this, I am a sysadmin for an ISP. I am also a network admin. I also do tech support on the occasion.

I hate giving 3-step answers such as "Click this, click that, put this number in, click again, yada yada." This teaches the noob nothing. When I like to do is explain each individual process and why they are doing what they're doing. This way, when they lose their little cheatsheet that has the 3-step process, they actually know how to find their way around and solve their problems.

Most noobs don't like to LEARN. That's why they are noobs. They just want a quick solution so they can go on blindly clicking away until they break something else. Then they some whining for you to fix it. These people, I do not enjoy helping. You can see peoples eyes glaze over 2 minutes into a technical description - they glaze over because the person doesn't give a shit. They just want their problem to go away.

I'm not trying to be super negative here. I have helped thousands of people with their computer issues, but I personally never had people to ask for help. Nobody around where I live could help me with anything. I learned everything by tinkering and reading manuals (so yes, I learned from others through the manuals that they wrote), and talking on IRC with #OpenBSD, or #Linux, etc. I'm all for helping noobs out, but only if they want to help themselves.

The reason that you hear "RTFM!@!#" or "Google it" is because it makes the most sense. Most noob linux questions have answers written out and are in the first few results on Google. 10 years ago, you really had to fuck around with Linux and learn on your own. Now there is a lot of documentation - a LOT. Telling someone how to use Google and to RTFM, helps more than answering their question. It helps them find the linux resources, and teaches them how to search for the information they need. This is far better than always relying on others to answer all your very specific questions.

If someone asks "How do I install Gentoo?" or "How do I update my system with emerge?" I'm not going to sit there and type out 1000 words of explanation when I can say "Go read the emerge docs @ www.gentoo.org." They should be reading that stuff anyway. If they don't understand it, I will help them, otherwise they can ask someone else.


You create your own reality. Leave mine to me.
Linux, the "user-vicious" OS... (3.00 / 2) (#270)
by Praxis on Fri Oct 07, 2005 at 03:30:03 AM EST

Folks that are trying to use Linux are not complete idiots who just want to save a few bucks on an operating system. Windows comes for free on almost all new PCs and is much easier to use as a desktop OS than Lin, I'm afraid. Windows software is far easier to install (maybe too easy), drivers are readily available, you don't have to compile source code & add modules to your kernel just to get a software modem to work, etc.

Newbies are genenerally adventurous folks with a fair amount of computer experience. They take the plunge often because they object Microsoft as a heartless monopolist and are attracted to the notion of being part of a colloborative open source gift economy.

However once they take the plunge, research, download & burn a distribution, fiddle with their BIOS to get their computer to boot from the optical drive, and install Linux to a drive or partition they are confronted with the fact that Linux is really a "user vicious" operating system. It is basically just a reverse engineered version of Unix, an operating system designed by highly skilled computer professionals and university researches back in the days when a mighty super computer was a fraction as powerful as a decent PDA these days (I have a Linux powered Sharp Zaurus, which has a 200 MHz CPU; the moon Apollo shot was done with a machine that I understand was comparable to a 386, maybe 12-33 MHz).

Back in those days you didn't even have a monitor; everything was spit out of a teletype machine in paper strips, which of course cost money. So help pages had to be as terse as possible, which didn't matter anyway, because the only ones reading them were highly trained geeks who knew how to interpret a few opaque references to switches and options which varied from one program to the next.

However these days the Linux documentation is almost identical to what these experts used 30 years ago. Man pages, info pages, these things are worse than useless for beginning users. They confuse them, when they should go directly to Google to try to answer their own question. There are rarely any friggin' examples! The most common commands are buried in mountains of obscure switches that even few experts ever use. When some crusty propellor-head tells you to RTFM, that would be fine if it were written in a way that a person of normal intelligence could actually understand.

With all the efforts to make a desktop version of Linux which might be an alternative to Windows for regular people, no one has ever thought it worthy of his time to develop a newbieized alternative to the venerable man page and include it with a distribution.

Consider the case of case sensitivity. Why would you want two files in the same directory with the same name seperated merely by the case? Naturally, case sensitivity is "more efficient"; it is the default. But modern hardware can easily handle the trivial extra load of a case insensitive OS and it would be far easier to use and less confusing. But no one in the Linux priesthood would even consider trying to make the operating system case insensitive. It isn't the "Linux way". Instead, I have to remember if it is xf86config or XF86config of xF86Config Jesus, just give up on the goddamn Unix heritage and maybe make the file something mnemonic? xorg.conf is hardly a tremendous improvement. Today I thrice failed 'cd'ing into a directory because I forgot that my GUI downloader (d4x) created a ~/MyDownloads directory (which doesn't seem to be easy to change, by the way).

Instead, Linux Thorvalds spends his days making sure that Linux will work well in machines with 8 processors. Most of the developers just don't give a crap about non-professional end users.

There is a 'geek-chic' quality to Linux that seems to revel in esoterica and rote-memorization. This seems to be fundimental to the entire ethos of the operating system. Although Linux has gotten far easier to use as a desktop OS over the years, I don't see this as ever changing. Although I am hopeful that open source software will one day provide a reasonable replacement for proprietary products on the desktop for average people, I don't see it as happening until some individual or group abandons the Unix heritage altogether and starts over. (Just trying to modify the arcane Unix file structure like GoboLinux is a beginning, but not enough.)

Unfortunately the sorts of individuals with the skill necessary to make something like that happen are also the ones who are most comfortable in a Unix-like environment. It may take a while...

Case sensitivity (none / 0) (#272)
by vadim on Mon Oct 10, 2005 at 02:53:26 PM EST

There's a good reason for that, and the reason is that human languages are a pain in the arse.

Some languages have a "lossy" upper-lowercase conversion, like German. Worse, in German it's two characters in one case, and one in another.

OS kernels don't deal with language, as it'd be a horrible mess to have to take into account all of that. The kernel provides services to applications, and it's the application what must display data to the user in a format that makes sense.

But I don't see why people make such a big deal of it, really. Everybody now runs a GUI anyway, where case means little.
--
<@chani> I *cannot* remember names. but I did memorize 214 digits of pi once.
[ Parent ]

with tab completion, who cares? (none / 0) (#274)
by asdf1234 on Thu Oct 13, 2005 at 05:43:11 PM EST

I don't know how to *spell* most of my files, let alone what case they're in after the first letter. I just hit tab obsessively :)

also... sadly enough, I have used folders with the same name in different case. iirc one was an old version of something and I hadn't decided whether I was going to delete it, or something.

[ Parent ]

Apollo Computer (none / 0) (#283)
by ankarbass on Fri Nov 11, 2005 at 08:58:26 PM EST

The Apollo computer was FAR less powerful than a 386. Heck, it wasn't even as powerful as the first IBM pc. The Apollo Guidance Computer ran at 1mhz and had only one kilobyte of ram and some 16k of rom. You can build one in your basement if you know which end of the soldering iron gets hot.

[ Parent ]
Condescension, thy name is Linux (none / 0) (#282)
by rtechie on Wed Nov 09, 2005 at 01:12:27 AM EST

I don't know even where to begin on how this article is wrong.

The simple fact is that general-purpose computers, like Windows PCs and Linux boxes, are HIDEOUSLY COMPLICATED. In fact, modern GP computers are easily the most complicated tools ever invented by mankind.

I want that last line to sink in a little. Most Complicated Ever.

And that complexity certainly isn't going DOWN, by any strech of the imagination. As GP computers aquire more and more functions they get MORE complicated. Look that the "interface clutter" creep we see in Windows. Most Linux desktops are even worse, because they offer lots of "customization" which further obfuscates the interfaces. Absurd amounts have effort have been put into various kinds of training, but the notion that it's NECESSARY has never seemed to sink in with people.

I find it STUNNING that while we assume that people need extensive training to operate cars, aircraft, nuclear power plants, etc. all of which are vastly less complicated than your average GP computer, everone seems to assume that grandma can walk into Walmart, buy a $300 Linspire box, and walk out the door a Linux guru. It's asinine to assume she will be able to turn it ON, let alone use it on her own.

People how have done tech support for REAL PEOPLE, not computer professionals, know that most people can't operate cell phones or VCRs without difficulty.

And to rant further: Human beings do not learn well reading from books. Period. I don't care if you think yo do, you're just better at it than other people. It's always vastly superior to have a tutor.

An analogy would be asking someone a question and instead of actually answering the question telling the questioner to "look it up" in the encyclopedia, where MAYBE the information resides but it would take the questioner a long time to find it.

The more I think about it, the more this attitude ticks me off. All the documentation is on the Interent. What if your problem is that you can't connect to the Internet? You're screwed. Or what it, for some reason, you don't have an Internet connection? You're screwed.

This inane thinking is one of the reasons I don't use Linux very much. I tend to prefer BSD as a Unix server. Linux users don't seem to grasp that anyone "new to Linux" is very rarely a true "newbie". They've used other GP computers before or are familiar with the many specialized computers we have today (like kiosks and video game systems). It is these relatively savvy users that the Linux people are COMPLAINING about. I sorely wish that most computer users showed the eagerness to learn that most Linux "newbies" do.

This article is typical Linux bitching. Blame the user rather than address the obvious interface faults of Linux and Unixes in general. Too much in Linux still needs to be done from the command-line, which is fscking ridiclous in 2005.

OBVIOUSLY the biggest problems with Linux on the desktop are:

1) Lack of a unified graphical interface.

Linux users seem to fail to unerstand that CONSISTENCY in interface is vastly more important than anything else to ease-of-use. And this is a HUGE problem in Linux, and the reason I don't use it on the desktop.

And, before I hear whining, the problem is EASILY fixed. Linux isn't a democracy, it's a dictatorship. All Linus has do do is say "next version of the kernel will only work with Gnome (or KDE, or whatever). Period." Sure, some people with bitch and it might lead to a code fork, but who cares? How is that worse than the problem we have NOW? The simple fact is that Linus and the people who run the kernel are either simply not interested in Linux having a functional desktop, or are unwilling to break religious precepts like "freedom" to do it.

2) Driver support.

This is basically being addressed, I won't dwell on it too much. Except to say that this is caused in large part by #1. Lack of appeal on the desktop makes it difficult for hardware vendors to devote resources to Linux drivers.

I am a newbie, I have a problem, so you must help me! | 284 comments (241 topical, 43 editorial, 0 hidden)
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