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Over several years of using Linux distros (Debian happens to be my fave) and BSDs for my primary computing, I've picked up the odd piece of useful info.
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Zero Reply Threads: Addendum

Posted 12-31-2009 at 02:32 PM by ofaring

I'm writing this because when I read over my previous rant, it struck me as too harsh and reactionary. I won't take it down, because I believe it illustrates a valid point, but I need to add clarification.

This subject interests me because I've always believed that it's better to learn why the formula works than to just memorise the formula. Back a couple of years when I was in high school, I worked much harder at sciences than mathematics. Consequently, I got to the point where I simply didn't have the skill to understand the formulas being thrown at me by chemistry and physics. Not cool. I passed a few exams by memorising the answers to key formulas which I correctly guessed would be part of the exams. I did not know how they worked. I lucked out. At that point, my ability to progress further in the sciences I loved was crippled until my math skills came up to par.

It wasn't that I didn't want to learn math. I did, but it was nearly always a struggle. So, I rather gave up and let it slide for years. Finally, I saw concrete, negative results from these decisions. At that point, you better believe that I doubled up on the math. My love of science and mechanics drove me to become better even though it was a terrific struggle.

And for that reason, today I hesitate to answer silly questions because typically there is no learning involved when you give such an answer away. Yes, I want to encourage new users. But more than anything I want them to understand the Why, not just the answer. And to get the Why in the Unix family, you have to read.

Many of us don't like to wade through masses of docs when we just want to accomplish "X" result. Be that printing or scripting, we know the result we want, and we want it now. I'm as guilty as anyone. When you add a Western, media-driven attention deficit to the mix, well, we have a serious issue. Laugh if you like, or call me a prophet of doom, but at the present rate of educationally-inspired decline my culture will be in dramatically serious trouble in 30 to 40 years. (Never mind today's debt load.) I don't know exactly what this will look like, but I do know that people tend toward the lowest common denominator. And when it comes to humans, that's not a pretty sight.

In its own way, I believe that studying the internals of a Unix-family system is fighting the downward trend. Nearly any activity which requires you to go beyond the vapid, NOW mentality is a good thing. And the more young people who find themselves intrigued by these activities, the better. For myself, I must try to balance my frustration today with a long-term view. I don't think anything sums up the balancing act better than an old Proverb:

26:4-5: "Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself.
Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes."
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  1. Old Comment
    I agree completely with your reasoning here and in your OP. But...
    It is a sad fact that the quality of documentation available in linux distributions is often lacking, perhaps especially so in comparison to the BSDs. X is a good example. Upstart, udev, the list goes on.
    Posted 01-03-2010 at 05:10 PM by lwasserm lwasserm is offline
  2. Old Comment
    I agree with you but will try to stay closer on subject with some of my earlier frustration with getting started with linux. I owned a lawn care service and my book keeping was as close as I got to the computer. I was forced to retire because of health at 65 and decided to give linux a try.

    I was trying to install a modem driver and was having all kinds of problems. I read all the material I could get my hands on. My main problem was understanding how to open terminal and use a text editor.

    From this problem and being too embarassed to ask a direct question my thread got long. One member reconised my problem and lead me step by step and I have never forgotten it.

    My point is a lot of the posts (my belief) are too embarassed to admit they do not understand a thing of what they have read and do not know where to look for the answers.
    Posted 01-04-2010 at 04:07 PM by Larry Webb Larry Webb is offline
  3. Old Comment
    Too true.

    Interesting, and definitely worth keeping in mind. Thank you for the insight.
    Posted 01-14-2010 at 06:26 PM by ofaring ofaring is offline


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