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Old 04-27-2009, 12:04 PM   #1
james100
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Question Airing a couple of complaints


Hi

I have placed this thread in the newbie section because, let's face it, that's what I am. However, if any moderator feels that it should be somewhere else, no problems, just move it.

I have been using Linus for almost two months, and I love it to bits....But! Isn't there always a but. I have had several problems along the way, most of which I have been able to resolve, often with the assistance of more experienced Linus users. In most cases these problems were entirely my fault, the result of my own lack of experience with, or understanding of, the Linux OS. Or, quite often, the result of tinkering with commands or configuration files that I did not properly understand. But I believe that at least a couple of problems I have had are the result of Linux programmers not taking the needs of newbies into consideration.

While I am still a noob, I want to raise those matters, because I believe that in a few months, when I am hopefully much more at ease with Linux, I will probably forget that these problems ever existed. My hope is that some distro developer, who really wants to make the transfer from Wi!%*ws to Linux easier for noobs like me, might read this.

(1) I recently installed Debian 5 on my PC. On the whole, I think it is great. IMHO one of the best of the 8 distros that I have tried so far, so this is not an anti-Debian rant. My complaint is that at one point I wanted to edit a couple of config files and change the permissions on some other files. A very simple task for users who are comfortable with console commands which I am not...yet.

I figured that one easy way to do this would be to run the File Manager as root and then make my changes within the file manager. I know enough console commands to open a terminal and swap into su mode, (see above regarding tinkering and causing problems for myself). Then the problem was, what command should I issue to run the file manager.

As far as I can determine, the only name that Debian uses for its file manager is...."Computer". Not surprisingly, I could not find any console commands that worked using that name. After searching around for about 15 minutes I finally worked out that the proper name for the file manager is "Nautilus", something that I am sure most users are fully aware of. Using that name I was able to run Nautilus in su mode and do what I needed.

I know that an experienced user could probably have done what I needed to do in a few seconds, and they probably would have had a choice of a dozen different ways of accomplishing the task. My complaint is this: I needed to do a fairly simple task, the method I selected, while possibly not the most efficient or effective, should have allowed me to carry out that task, but I could not do so because the distro had elected to hide the name of the application I needed for the job. Whyyyyyyyy!

If I need to use the name Nautilus to start the gnome file manager from the console, then why is the name of that application hidden away. Most noobs would not know that Nautilus is the common file manager used in a gnome environment. I am sure that I will now never forget. In Debian, the name "Nautilus" does not appear in the menu, not even as a tool tip, nor does it appear at the top of the file manager when it is running. IMHO if the distro developer does not want to use the name Nautilus, for whatever reason, and replaces it with a different name (ie in this case "Computer"), then that replacement name should be able to be used as a command in the console to run the application.

This issue is not restricted to Debian, I have come across the same issue with other distros, and with applications other than file managers. However, usually the proper name is shown somewhere, either as a tool tip in the main menu, or in the banner at the top of the application when it is running.

MORAL: We noobs need to know the proper names of the applications we are using. Don't assume that you can change the names of applications that are routinely provided in gnome or KDE without causing some problems, or at least several minutes of confusion, for new users.

(2) my second issue has been raised by many Linux users over the years, so I will not dwell on it.
Why can't the kernel developers provide some mechanism to allow users to set the numlock to on as their default after they have installed a distro?

I accept the argument that some users, especially with laptops, don't have numeric keypads, so the distros have to have numlock disabled when they are first installed, so that those users can enter a proper password and ID. This is a perfectly valid argument for not allowing the numlock to be enabled prior to installation. However, I have yet to see a convincing argument made for not providing a mechanism, after the distro has been installed, which allows users, if they want to do so, to boot up their PCs with numlock automatically turned on. Windows and Mac users have had this functionality for years, and they also have laptop users.

I almost gave up using Linux in my first week because I got so annoyed at always having to remember to turn numlock on. I still get annoyed at it, although it is gradually becoming a habit, (I mean switching on numlock, not getting annoyed).

So those are my two main issues. Not too bad I hope after two months of use.

Last edited by james100; 04-27-2009 at 12:13 PM.
 
Old 04-27-2009, 12:14 PM   #2
brianL
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To edit files as root, enter in the terminal:
gksu gedit path to file
Then root's password.
Examples:
Code:
gksu gedit /etc/apt/sources.list
gksu gedit /boot/grub/menu.lst
 
Old 04-27-2009, 12:19 PM   #3
james100
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Thanks brianL,

I am not surprised that there is a much easier way than the one I used. I will note those down and use them next time.
 
Old 04-27-2009, 12:56 PM   #4
pwc101
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Quote:
Originally Posted by james100 View Post
(2) my second issue has been raised by many Linux users over the years, so I will not dwell on it.
Why can't the kernel developers provide some mechanism to allow users to set the numlock to on as their default after they have installed a distro?

I accept the argument that some users, especially with laptops, don't have numeric keypads, so the distros have to have numlock disabled when they are first installed, so that those users can enter a proper password and ID. This is a perfectly valid argument for not allowing the numlock to be enabled prior to installation. However, I have yet to see a convincing argument made for not providing a mechanism, after the distro has been installed, which allows users, if they want to do so, to boot up their PCs with numlock automatically turned on. Windows and Mac users have had this functionality for years, and they also have laptop users.

I almost gave up using Linux in my first week because I got so annoyed at always having to remember to turn numlock on. I still get annoyed at it, although it is gradually becoming a habit, (I mean switching on numlock, not getting annoyed).
In KDE:

K Menu -> System Settings -> Hardware -> Keyboard -> NumLock on KDE startup -> Turn on

Ref: http://ubuntuforums.org/showpost.php...06&postcount=2

It appears that the process is more convoluted for Gnome: https://help.ubuntu.com/community/NumLock

Also, this is not strictly a kernel issue; the majority of your issues arise from the desktop environment you use (KDE or Gnome, most likely).

One of the many benefits of using Linux is you Google-fu improves significantly!
 
Old 04-27-2009, 04:28 PM   #5
salasi
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Quote:
Originally Posted by james100 View Post
But I believe that at least a couple of problems I have had are the result of Linux programmers not taking the needs of newbies into consideration.
TBH, and this is not entirely good news, I think your list of problems is surprisingly short and surprisingly understandable (ie, not WTF did he think/do that?)

Quote:
My complaint is that at one point I wanted to edit a couple of config files and change the permissions on some other files. A very simple task for users who are comfortable with console commands which I am not...yet.
You probably should learn, at least to the minimum level, one of the terminal-based editors. There is quite a choice, but I would have a look at Joe, rather than VI(M) and/or emacs, for someothing that is only going to be a fall-back option (but then, its a WordStar act-alike, and I was already familiar with WS).

from a GUI, my favourite would be kate, but as you seem to be a Gnome-based person Gedit is probably a more obvious selection.

Quote:
As far as I can determine, the only name that Debian uses for its file manager is...."Computer". Not surprisingly, I could not find any console commands that worked using that name. After searching around for about 15 minutes I finally worked out that the proper name for the file manager is "Nautilus", something that I am sure most users are fully aware of. Using that name I was able to run Nautilus in su mode and do what I needed.
Yes, I suspect that if you don't look deeply, you would probably come up with the slightly strange conclusion that this is called computer (that's really an icon pre-programmed to open the filemanager at a pre-set location, but, as you say, if you don't see a more relevant name, that's the only one you will know).

Things can be a teensy bit friendlier on the KDE side of the house; you can get the menus to show both description and program name (although its often not set that way by default and it needs a little deep fiddling in the GUI config program to make it happen, and it probably isn't obvious that that is a sensible thing to do, and exactly how all of this works out varies somwhat from version to version and from distro to distro).

I'll just go through the 'command line lover's' version of what you should do, in case this helps with something else in future. You'd think 'I want to edit something, but I don't know what program(s) are available. I'll type, at the command line 'apropos edit', 'man -k edit' (or maybe editor).

This will throw up rather too many things that have 'edit' or 'editor' in their manual pages, but fortunately about half of them can be easily dismissed. So something like "visudo (8) - edit the sudoers file" should obviously not be what you want, unless you really do want to edit the sudoers file.

This would still leave several options, but then you look at, eg, 'man joe' to get a brief description. You'd then select one of the options that seemed the most user-friendly (or, maybe, the least user-hostile....or the shallowest learning curve). This is not exactly the easiest or most productive way to use your system, and an overview book might be a much easier help, but it is possible for the determined. Or, the boredrline pig-headed.

I would agree that it is unfortunate that learning computer systems has this kind of learning curve, but it does. As far as I can tell, the current state of the art is that this kind of thing applies to many different systems. I would hope that in the next decade things will improve massively, but somewhere deep underneath there will still be a need for non-obvious expertise, but it would be nice if 'noobs' could at least do the simple stuff without much hand-holding. OTOH, cf the well-known witticism "No sooner had we made it idiot-prooof than they came up with an improved idiot."
 
Old 04-27-2009, 07:24 PM   #6
chrism01
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I'm a long time Unix/Linux user, so I've never used Nautilus. I can either figure out what I want from the menu or use the cmd line (a lot).
I agree that the tendency of Linux to use exotic (un-related) names for applications is a p.i.t.a. at times.
However, given its history its more or less inevitable.
What I'd recommend is researching a basic tool for each of the fns you expect to need and learning those well.
You can expand as time goes on. As you say, there's more than one way to do almost anything in *nix.
I'd recommend learning at least the basics of vi/vim , as it comes pre-installed as std on just about every version of *nix eg Linux/BSD/HP-UX/Solaris etc.
You can't always assume you'll be allowed your favourite editor, at least at work.
Also, if you ever have to rescue a system, vi will be there.
Note this is a cmd line editor & many servers don't have a gui...
Nothing wrong with knowing/using a GUI editor eg gedit (or gvim - gui version of vi/vim) normally, but knowing vi basics can be immensely handy.
 
Old 04-27-2009, 09:08 PM   #7
jay73
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Quote:
I accept the argument that some users, especially with laptops, don't have numeric keypads, so the distros have to have numlock disabled when they are first installed, so that those users can enter a proper password and ID. This is a perfectly valid argument for not allowing the numlock to be enabled prior to installation. However, I have yet to see a convincing argument made for not providing a mechanism, after the distro has been installed, which allows users, if they want to do so, to boot up their PCs with numlock automatically turned on. Windows and Mac users have had this functionality for years, and they also have laptop users.
numlockx
 
Old 04-27-2009, 09:54 PM   #8
masonm
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Your complaints are especially light compared to most Linux newbies and for the most part will be answered with more Linux experience.
 
Old 04-28-2009, 07:24 AM   #9
james100
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pwc101,

Thank you for the tip and the links. I have printed the Ubunto Community Documentation page and filed it in my Linus folder. I would still personally prefer that the kernel be amended so it detects my compter's BIOS setting for NumLock, just like most other PC operating systems. For the sake of users with no numeric keypads, I would be happy for this not to happen at installation, but users should have the choice to enable automatic detection of their BIOS NumLock setting when they start up a distro after installation is completed.

However, please do not think me ungrateful for informing me know about NumLockx. I am not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, so now I know that there is a way to fix this problem I will happily download NumLockx immediately.
 
Old 04-28-2009, 08:29 AM   #10
bitpicker
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The argument about names works both ways. Look at Windows: there's an icon called 'My Computer', but what it opens is an instance of Explorer. Why does it not say 'Explorer'? Because it is meant to open Explorer with this specific location.

Of course you are right when you say that from the legend 'Computer' on an icon you cannot glean the name of the program which it is supposed to start, but if you right-click the icon and look at the properties of the icon you can find out the command it actually executes.

Some icons say 'video player' or somesuch. Well, they could say 'Totem', too. But would a newbie know what Totem is? I suppose if all icons only showed the name of the program instead of saying what the program does, even more newbies would complain.

Robin
 
Old 04-28-2009, 08:36 AM   #11
james100
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Salasi

Thank you for your well thought out response.

Quote:
TBH, and this is not entirely good news, I think your list of problems is surprisingly short and surprisingly understandable (ie, not WTF did he think/do that?)
I would be dishonest if I left anyone with the impression that these are the only two problems that I have had with Linux. However, I researched Linux for several weeks before I started to use it, so I was aware of most of the problems a new user would encounter before I switched. I do not think that it is fair to complain about problems that I was well aware of, at least intellectually, before I made my choice.

Also, as I have admitted, I like to experiment with settings, and try out new commands or ideas that I have read about, so I must accept a lot of the blame for the problems that I have had. I experienced similar problems when I first started using MS DOS, and later various versions of Windows; so this is not in any way a criticism of Linux. In fact Linux has proven to be much more robust and accepting of my tinkerings, and easier to reinstall when I commit the ultimate blunder.

I selected the two problems that I raised because, (a) they were unexpected, I had not read about those problems in my earlier research, and (b) I believe they are inherrent problems in Linux and not caused by my actions. They strike me as being two matters that could very easily be fixed, although I am not a programmer so I could easily be wrong. It also strikes me that fixing these two problems would make Linux more acceptable to new users, without dumbing the system down so much that experienced users feel that their system is being taken away from them.

Quote:
I suspect that if you don't look deeply, you would probably come up with the slightly strange conclusion that this is called computer
I must confess that I have had sufficient years of experience as a computer users to be aware that "Computer" was just a name, which in Windows I would have asociated with a shortcut. However, in Windows it would have been very easy for me to look at the properties of the shortcut and find the name of the file or program that it pointed to. I tried to do this in Debian but I could not find the name of the executable file, so I finally tried "Computer" as a name more out of desperation than expectation.

Quote:
you seem to be a Gnome-based person
At this stage I am still trying out different distros to see which I prefer. I have tried out 8 distros so far; 2 with KDE, 2 with LXFE and 4 with Gnome. I have not yet decided which I prefer, but I am actually leaning slightly towards KDE or perhaps LXFE; probably because they have more config files that I can play with. However, I must say that the distros that I have used that had Gnome installed have proven to be more stable. I don't know if this is an inherent quality of Gnome or the distros that I was using (Ubunto, Debian, Mint and Fedora).

Finally, thank you for your "command-line lovers" example of how to do a search, especially for reminding me about 'apropos'; I can never recall it when I need it. It is very useful for noobs such as myself to get an idea of how experienced users do these things. I hope that I have not given the impression that I am averse to using the command-line; nothing could be further from the truth. It is simply that many years of using GUI interfaces with Windows and Mac has caused a significant deterioration in my command-line skills, so if I have a problem that seems to be intractable, I still tend to lean toward GUI interfaces. Give me time, I will adapt.
 
Old 04-28-2009, 08:50 AM   #12
farslayer
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The kicker is they ARE trying to make it easier for you. if they called it Nautilus you would look at an icon called Nautilus and say what is that supposed too do ? So instead they call the shortcut 'COMPUTER' which give a warm fuzzy to the new users because it's similar to what they would see on Microsoft Windows. Personally I would rather have the application name listed as you mentioned, but instead they are renaming program shortcuts based on task names to 'improve the user experience'

I think the key is to know what desktop you are using. Gnome or KDE being the two primary desktops. then a quick search reveals the answer.
A google search for gnome file manager, the first two responses are Nautilus.
http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q...earch&aq=f&oq=

Not neccessarily a good answer, but it does quickly resolve the question at hand..

Best of luck !!
 
Old 04-28-2009, 08:58 AM   #13
onebuck
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Hi,

Look at;

Linux Documentation Project
Rute Tutorial & Exposition

Just a few good reads/reference to get you some useful information to assist you in your endeavors with GNU/Linux. There's more to GNU/Linux than a WM or GUI!

These links and others can be found at 'Slackware-Links'. More than just SlackwareŽ links!
 
Old 04-28-2009, 09:09 AM   #14
james100
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Chrism01, Jay73 and masonm,

Thank you all for responding.

chrism01, I agree with you completely, I do need to become more familiar with some of the basic Linux tools, and by extension so too do most other noobs. I have become too dependent on the GUI interfaces provided by Windows and Mac, and I have allowed myself to drift into similar habits with Linux. I do intend to take the time to learn how to use command-line tools and commands more effectively. In spite of my complaint, I would hate to see Linux developers no longer using some of the colourful names they have adopted for their applications in the past. Eg Simply calling BASH a Line Editor would take away all the romance and history from the name Bourne Again Shell. However, it would be nice if developers would use "tool tips" (Iam not sure if Linux has a different name for these) so that when the mouse pointer passes over an icon it gives soe information about its use. Many distros already do this, so it is possible. And for experienced users who may be annoyed by tool tips, make them so that thye can be easily turned off.


jay73,

Thank you for also letting me know about numlockx. I will be downloading it later tonight.


masonm,

As I have explained in my response to salasi, these 2 issues are not the only problems that I have had with Linux, but they are the only two that I feel I can legitinmately complain about.

I would like to reiterate that I love Linux, and I think that Debian 5 is awesome, so my complaints should not be contrued as discontent with either one. My general Linux skills and knowledge have increased greatly in the couple of months that I have been using Linux, and I expect this trend to continue for a long time to come, because I have no intention of going back to Windows or Mac.
 
Old 04-28-2009, 09:43 AM   #15
james100
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Farslayer,

Thanks for your response also, especially for providing some perspective by showing the other side of this discussion.

Quote:
The kicker is they ARE trying to make it easier for you.
You are absolutely on the money. Long-term Linux users probably don't care very much what the applications are named. As soon as they open up an application they probably know exactly what application is running regardless of the name that was used. The names that the developers are using is an attempt to meet the needs of the new user.

Unfortunately some new users prefer to see generic application names, eg File Manger, MP3 Player, etc., whereas others prefer to see the specific name of the application, eg Nautilus, Rhythmbox, etc. I obviously fall into the second camp, but I think that this is a situation where both needs can be met. Either use specific names, and have tool tips that specify what the generic use is, or use generic names and have the tool tips specify the specific application name.

I just went back to Debian to check my original facts. On the desktop the file manager is called "Computer". As you say, very similar to "My Computer" in Windows. On the menu the file manager is labelled "File Browser". In both cases, right-clicking the icon brings up more information, but in neither case does that information show the name of the file that the link is pointing to. In Windows, I have never known of a situation where right-clicking a shortcut would not reveal the name of the destination file or program. Please do not read that as implied critism of linux or secret support for Windows, I would prefer to see it as a situation where Microsoft finally managed to get something right for once.

However, if I
(a) transfer the "File Browser" icon from the System Tools sub-menu to the desktop,
(b) right-click the transferred icon on the desktop, and
(c) select the properties option,
I can now get a tab that says Launcher, and which shows the application that the link was pointing to, ie Nautilus.

I do not think that it is at all reasonable to expect any new users to know that they need to do this to get they information they require.

As for the last part of your post:

Quote:
I think the key is to know what desktop you are using. Gnome or KDE being the two primary desktops. then a quick search reveals the answer.
A google search for gnome file manager, the first two responses are Nautilus.
http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q...earch&aq=f&oq=

Not neccessarily a good answer, but it does quickly resolve the question at hand..
OMG, what can I say. I simply did not even think of doing that.
In the final analysis, little things like that are what separate the pros from the wannabes.

Last edited by james100; 04-28-2009 at 09:45 AM.
 
  


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