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Old 12-15-2003, 08:46 AM   #1
Registered: Jun 2003
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Windows methodology

I have noticed many threads in many forums where people will re-install distro after distro in the hope that a problem will go away. This methodology may work in the Windows world, where your average 'tech support' person will answer 99& of queries with "reinstall Windows", but I have issues with this approach in the Linux world.
One example from this site is where a user had a problem with an installation of SuSE 8.2. They proceeded to re-install it another 2 times and at the end of the thread, stated something along the lines of "Not to worry, installed Gentoo". The problem I have with this is that this user now has (subconsciously or otherwise) a bad impression of a fantastic distro, namely SuSE, has learned NOTHING about what the problem was or how to solve it, and has basically allowed the 'quick fix' ideology of most support 'techs' to adversely influence his decision and problem solving methodology.

When I got into Linux (around '96), I had no internet connection, hardly any docs apart from manpages and Matt Welsh's book and Slackware 3 to contend with. I also didn't know anyone who could even pronounce Linux, let alone know anything about it, and yet, I managed to get X up and running, despite the fact that back then Diamond didn't release driver information for their cards. The challenges/frustrations/triumphs I experienced during this time brought me back to when I started programming on C64s, VAX11/750s and old MS-DOS boxes. Learning 6502 assembly, VAX C and DCL and Turbo Pascal (v1 ) from help files, BBSes, torn manuals and so on really got me going, and since the advent of more complex OSes with a more consumer orientated focus, this sort of "down and dirty" approach had been absent from my life for a long time. Now, thanks to a free OS put together by a bunch of hackers and given to the world for free, the things that I loved about computers were once again part of my life.

Fast forward to today, and Linux is now a front running server OS. It's making huge inroads on the desktop, to the extent that one of the most powerful companies in the world is not just nervous, but positively shitting itself. This same powerful company has more units on the desktop than everything else combined and yet the approach to tech support most often employed is to re-install the entire OS in the event of a problem. Understandable where the OS allows vital library files to be messed with by third party installers from the smallest 'Fred in the shed' software vendors. Given this situation, it's hardly a surprise that Windows needs the occasional re-install to repair it's corrupt insides. Linux, on the other hand, should NEVER require a re-install. With the current crop of journalling filesystems, protected libs and so on, the levels of corruption common in Windows installs can never happen to a Linux install.

I guess I'm just ranting here, but we (the Linux community) have something to be proud of... not only is a FREE OS putting the shits up MS, SCO and other huge OS vendors, but it's also teaching us the fundamentals of computer operation and administration in a way Windows never could. Windows tries to abstract the functionality of the machine many levels whereas this level of abstraction is OPTIONAL with Linux. I know that most people don't use their computers for the sheer love of it (unlike me!!) and just want a tool to do a job. I also know that most people aren't really interested in whether their kernel is monolithic or modular or that their hard disk block size is or isn't optimal. This having been said, there are plenty of situations where a Windows 'tech' would say "re-install" that a Linux tech (or even user) could easily fix with a tweak here and there, and I would love to see a shift in how people think towards this approach. As well as being a great servant, Linux can also be a great teacher.
Old 12-15-2003, 08:51 AM   #2
Registered: Mar 2002
Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
Distribution: Suse 7.2, Gentoo 1.4, Solaris 9
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You are ranting... But it's all good
Old 12-15-2003, 09:44 AM   #3
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Registered: Dec 2003
Location: Baltimore, MD
Distribution: Slackware 9.1
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I agree with you. My first Linux experience was tough, but I got through it. I never did get X working on that box, but I think it was more of a hardware issue than a software one . I've only "re-installed" a linux distro once, and that was on my testing box; just to get a fresh start & a clean filesystem before making some major changes. I can't remember how many times I've re-installed Windows for family members. Quite a few...

Were these re-installs necessary? Maybe, but who knows? Computers are strange creatures, and sometimes it just makes life easier. When Grandpa calls and says 'The internet isn't working', I do my best to figure out just what the hell he did -- then I re-install. Problem solved & less time wasted. He only got mad once when I forgot to save his tripeaks score

I'm all for people trying out different distros -- I've tried a few myself. I don't think, however, that someone should move on to the next distro until they get the first one working the way it should! Now, sure, if you just got a copy of Mandrake 6.5 in the mail from your uncle, and you can't seem to get it running well on your new P4 laptop, maybe a newer distro **might** be the way to go

Anyway, learning how to run Linux isn't hard, it just takes some time. There is a great online community, lots of HOWTO's & well-documented config files. If you have problems getting everything up and running, you will feel so much better if you stick it out and solve the problem. Do you have to do this alone? No -- ask questions; the worst that can happen is that you will feel silly years later for not knowing. Folks that stick it out will also better understand how their system works and can begin to realize why Linux is much funner (and better IMO) than Windows!
Old 12-15-2003, 12:09 PM   #4
Registered: Aug 2003
Location: Akron, OH
Distribution: Slackware 14.2-stable, Ubuntu 16.04 LTS
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I know in my case I ended up installing SuSE 8.2 about three times before I finally felt like I "got it right". And there were still problems, such as SuSE not recognizing my 802.11b PCMCIA card correctly. After much research and consternation, I finally managed to get it to work correctly. Fast forward about four months and I wiped my hard drive and installed Slackware 9.1. Not necessarily to "fix" any hardware issues, but more because I wanted a distro where a lot of the standard packages and kernel source weren't hacked to backport functionality. Oddly enough, that same wireless card I had so many problems with under SuSE worked right out of the box with Slack.

One of the things I did do when I was first checking out SuSE was to get a 30 day trial of VMWare and install it on my (then) Windows XP machine. It didn't matter that I screwed up the first couple of installs since they were all "virtual" OS's anyway. It certainly added to my level of comfort because I knew I couldn't screw up what Windows while I was getting my feet wet.

And now the tables are turned. I have Slack 9.1 installed as my host and installed Windows as a "guest" OS through VMWare. Maybe there's something psychological about that, but it seems that this is the way things should be. At any time I can ask the guest to leave.

I guess the end to my post would be that it doesn't seem all that unusual to have to re-install an OS several times, especially if you are new to Linux and are feeling your way around. When I eventually got around to installing Slack, it only took once.
Old 12-15-2003, 10:11 PM   #5
Registered: Dec 2003
Posts: 33

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I did not try the recent Windows, but I think it is still true.

I had to reinstall Win95 a few times. I never reinstalled my Debian system since I installed it 3-4 years ago. Though I am looking to switch towards FreeBSD on my intel machine and Gentoo on my PowerPC laptop so these will be my reinstallation part.

So, to summarize,
In Windows World, people reinstall to fix.
In the Linux World, people reinstall to fit new needs, to try new things or for fun



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