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Feedback on New Q&A column on OpenSource.com
I'm launching a new Q&A column on Opensource.com and I'm fine-tuning what topics I'll cover. Anything Linux, Open Source and community-related are fair game. What do you wish you'd known about Linux before you started using it? What questions do you have about building and maintaining communities? What would you like to know about contributing to an Open Source project? If I use your question in the column, you will get full attribution (and I'm certainly interested in hearing general feedback about the column itself).
Note that the content will also be available here at LQ.
TL;DR How can I get Python programmers to join our project? (For the purpose of an article, you could substitute something more generic than "Python programmers".)
I inherited a project coded in Python when the original developer quit and no one else stepped forward. It is currently hosted on GitHub and has a GPL 3 license.
It's a tool I use every day and I don't want to see it die. I know very little Python and very little GUI programming, so I can't maintain it myself.
How do I go about finding one or more Python programmers who actually have some time to help out?
I found 2 or 3 programmers in the past, but, despite the best intentions, no one has stayed long enough to get a lot done.
I have no idea how many users we actually have, but I keep hearing from new ones on GitHub and on our support list and I would guess we have (at the very least) hundreds - possibly many more. A number of distros offer the application in their repos, so we also get new users that way.
This brings up another topic: If you don't make users pay money or sign some other agreements, etc. (because it's a FOSS project), how the heck can you know how many of them you have? They seem invisible until they get stuck and ask a question or report a bug.
Since the project is a real live product and requires all aspects of FOSS development/support, but is also not a really large/complex system, I thought it might be appropriate for a university to use as a training system for a few upper class or graduate programming students, but I haven't figured out how to connect with anyone who could make that happen.
Distribution: openSuSE 42.1_64+Tumbleweed-KDE, Mint 17.3
Before startin out I'd have liked to have better understanding of the differences between windows drive letters (A:\ or C:\ etc.) and the idea of linux / unix directory trees with mounted partitions in the leaves. This was a huge step for me when I finally understood that. Not to mention the versatility to (u)mount during operations.
I have found it very difficult to pick a distro of Linux. As an experienced Linux user knows, some distributions are better for certain environments than others but, even as an experienced Linux user, I still don't have a completely clear understanding of which distro of Linux I should be using. As a bit of a back story, I started with Ubuntu several years ago because it was easy to install and had a graphic user interface. Today, though, Ubuntu isn't my first choice. OpenSuSE is because it seems to be geared more towards developers and not general users. The Mir GUI in Ubuntu is quite slow on VMs, too.
Maybe there's a better choice for the development work I do. Maybe I should use a non-free distribution for better stability or better features or something I've not even considered.
It would be nice to have a description of the best distributions out there and what makes them the best and for the list to stay current.
One of the problems I've had from the very beginning is one that can easily be dismissed as "not really a linux problem", but it's an ongoing problem for anyone trying to diagnose problems on a failing system: I have a collection of boot CDs and USB drives, but it can take a lot of tries to guess how to tell a given box's boot loader to boot from one of them. The hardware folks have done a good (i.e., bad) job of making PC-like boxes inconsistent in how this most basic of all startup code works. I wouldn't be surprised if someone has collected a pile in info on the topic, but I haven't found it. Is there (or would it be possible to start a project to create) a collection of the various ways that one wakes up a box and tells it to boot from file system X on gadget Y?
Linux does get involved in this in an important way: Since linux has drivers for nearly every kind of file system that's every existed, and has the original unix/posix low-level binary access capability needed for troubleshooting and repair, it's often the support guy's system of choice to diagnose and fix problems on lots of non-linux boxes, especially those running Microsoft systems, but also various others. But doing this effectively requires knowing the magic key sequences that bring up a portable linux system on a plugin file system.
I first got involved in this back in the early 1980s, before linux existed, when I worked at a company that had a big central IBM system with VM and lots of OSs. The engineering staff all used unix systems, and we got a release of unix that ran on VM. I found myself writing software that could "mount" disk partitions from other OSs, run diagnostics on them, and often fix problems. The IBMers, of course, hated us for this, but their favorite OSs mostly rejected such partitions on the ground that they were damaged. Unix didn't care, and would accept any partition as a binary file, which our software could read and write on a sector basis.. Since then, I've often got involved in similar tasks on smaller machines that don't have an equivalent of IBM's VM system. This results in the usual problems of wildly inconsistent ROM boot software, with never any documentation in sight. It'd be very useful if we could do something to fight this problem.
(Actually, I wouldn't be at all surprised if others are working on such problems. But google seems to be no help in finding them, probably because they don't use consistent terminology to describe what they're doing. ;-)
Linux poses challenges for non-technical people that are different from those faced by computer-savy newcomers. The kind of orientation and paradigm shift that would be especially useful to non-technical people requires discussion that is too long to fit well in a forum or Q&A format. Something like a series of blog posts would be better suited (collectively, they would make good chapters of a book). Consider making that a part of the endeavor.
IMHO a working approach must be a brutally faithful one. Tell the people that everything is great in Linux and that for everything there is a drop-in replacement in the repositories, which you just have to click on in order to get something even better than you had in Windows.
This leads to masses of people trying it, rolling it back, throwing it away and spreading the bad opinions (we all know those phrases, which are often technically inexact but more often entirely comprehensible when you see it from a users perspective).
I would tell the people that there are restrictions. Something works great, other stuff is broken, other stuff doesn't exist at all. Much stuff works differently and needs technical knowledge. This technical knowledge is not just required at installation time, but really every time (depending on what you're doing - just email and youtube _might_ work (but just the non-flash variant)). Many things are not logically structured but historically grown. Nevertheless, experts in forums will tell you it was logically structured (as my Latin teacher really was as detached enough to tell us about the great logical structure of the Latin language). Experts will tell you that you are an idiot all the time, while the actually idiot typically is the expert in this situations (although the expert is technically right and the user got it wrong how to work with some weird Xfree modelines ^^).
Tell people that - if they compare it in a fair way - Windows often is more comfortable, better structured and muuuuch more stable (not in terms of crashes, but in terms of technology fluctuation between versions).
There are of course many good reasons for Linux as well. I don't use any other OS in my private life. Work out those advantages somehow. But don't lie about the weak parts
...btw, I see a steady decay in the weight of some of the advantages. Maybe you have to work around that in a rhetorically clever way.
Beyond the bare technical things, Linux is much about Free Software and about ideological ideas. Modern people are largely uninterested in that (due to planned defects in educational system - at least here in Europa but obviously in Trump-valley as well). They are - I'm not happy to write it - working drones in the first half of the day and zombies in the second one, consuming what they got from Amazon Prime. No WhatsApp? No Deal! Maybe I'm wrong. It's just what I see and hear all the times. And don't come me with Sokrates
Are you good in writing? Maybe we get a nice text which inspires people to think more about things like real open-ness vs. fake open-ness (what e.g. MS does sometimes nowadays, but Google and Apple as well) and which makes people think deeper about replacing email by proprietary closed networks. This all has an impact, since otherwise, in the end it doesn't matter if you click the kittens' Like-button on a Lindow or a Macdroid or a whatever restricted consumer platform.
Last edited by p_i_n_o; 08-03-2016 at 04:58 PM.
I began using Linux in 2005 and almost returned to MSWin. because I did not see any convenience to using Linux. I read another newbie's decision to stay the course and learn the "Linux way". With perseverance, I continued using Linux and after the first year I became a dedicated Linux fan.
The worst part of Linux is definitely setup. People coming from Windows world do not have the technical knowledge to follow complex CLI intructions to setup wireless, printing and other things that they take for granted. Some distros are easier than others for some things and more difficult for other things. Instructions are great for the technical person but the average Win user needs for everything to "just work out of the box". So, I would like to see more people dedicated to writing programs to help ease the setup of printing, sound, etc. Cups is fine for setting up a printer until it "can't find any printers" or asks for admin password. The average user becomes frustrated and returns to Windows after telling friends that Linux is a disaster.
I have experienced this with several people and even offering to help with their setup does not draw them back. They are lost forever in the Windows morass!
Learning Linux the old-fashioned way -- personal lab experience
One thing I wish I had realized was the value of one or two back-bench, non-production machines (even, and perhaps especially, at home) for the purpose of testing, checking out the differences in builds and installations, and for observing results of operations over time. Using such machines to teach oneself, by experimentation and observation, what is really going on inside a particular system configuration is valuable experience, for which there really is not an operational substitute. Having an extra workstation or two, or a server-workstation pair, with which to experiment is a useful learning lab. Illustrating how to get the most from such gear would make valuable articles.