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Old 12-10-2006, 01:03 PM   #1
LXer
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LXer: Linux and Newbies: Some Cold, Hard Reality


Published at LXer:

The cold, hard realities of introducing newbies and Linux to each other.

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Old 12-10-2006, 01:17 PM   #2
rickh
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Bravo! This attitude is what we need.
 
Old 12-11-2006, 07:02 AM   #3
Hangdog42
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What disappointed me is all the flames the guy gets for taking a proper stand. No, Linux isn't for everybody and we should never assume that the intention of Linux was to replace Windows. Linux is what it is, and if you don't like it and don't want to invest the time into learning it, go use Windows or OSX. They are both perfectly good alternatives.
 
Old 12-11-2006, 05:09 PM   #4
chort
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For anyone espousing that Linux should be a viable desktop OS to compeat with Windows for everyday usage, this editorial is sheer rubbish. We do not expect users to be TV experts and read a book on how to use a TV, just to watch entertainment. You buy a new TV, bring it home, plug in the cables, and viola! You watch your shows.

Why should we expect users to need all kinds of training and preliminary documentation-reading just to operate their computer, which is essentially just a glorified house-hold appliance (well, dozens of appliances wrapped up into one). It should be intuitive and easy to use for a simple task such as watching a video. My Mac is, and most people who grew up with Windows learned to use it more or less by trial and error, so why should Linux require that the user is so educated before they can even watch a movie or listen to music? Why does Microsoft's out-dated and now unsupported WMP 9 work better on my Mac than Mplayer does?

This is far and away one of the most asinine quotes I've ever read right here:
Quote:
Finally, for the people who say that it's the interface's fault: go away. Seriously, if you can read and comprehend this far and still say that an easier interface is the answer, then just leave technology and never come back.
This is how engineers think. I know this because I work with them every day. They think that because the software was architected in an intelligent fashion that any problems using it must be due to a deficiency in the user, not in their software, because after all, it's just about the best damn software ever designed (according to them)! The problem is that users don't give a damn how the software was architected or designed "under the covers", i.e. how all the hidden magic works. To a user that's a given. The part users care about is how they interface with the software. How do they accomplish tasks? They want this to happen in the same way they would think about how to solve the problem, they don't want to have to warp their way of thinking to fit a specific piece of software; the software design should be warped to how users think!

If you think like the author of the article, go pour all your support into OpenBSD. That is a totally self-service OS. The documentation is spectacular and you can easily teach yourself how to use it, if you are willing to do a lot of reading. Questions about how to use simple things are generally met with hostility, particularly when they're questions that could have been answered by reading. Most importantly, however, the OpenBSD developers expressly are not developing the software for the masses, they're developing it for themselves. If you give them a suggestion for how to make things easier, and it doesn't fit with their Vision(tm) of "how things should be designed", you'll be laughed off at best, or harshly ridiculed. Now personally, I love OpenBSD because it does everything I want and I can teach myself how to do just about anything with it due to the excellent documentation, yet I would rarely recommend OpenBSD as an OS for anyone to use.

If "Linux" (meaning all the distributions, the related projects, the users, the advocates, etc) are serious about "making Linux main-stream" then they need to get on board with designing software for the users not for the developers themselves. This is a very tough change in mindset since most of the contributors to OSS projects are doing it for their own enjoyment and because the software they're building is something that they wanted personally. They don't have any vision about how any other users might user it, because they're writing it for themselves, so of course everything they're doing makes sense!

You can't have it both ways. Either admit that Linux is a niche OS (like OpenBSD) that's written by developers, for developers, or tout Linux as the bright and shining savior of the world to rescue consumers from the eeeeeeeeeeevil Microsoft, but in that case get used to thinking how "idiot" users think and give up the idea that users can be "trained" to think about the applications in the same way that developers do.
 
Old 12-11-2006, 05:52 PM   #5
rickh
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Quote:
Why should we expect users to need all kinds of training and preliminary documentation-reading just to operate their computer, which is essentially just a glorified house-hold appliance
People who don't want to understand their computer should use Windows. It's designed with that attitude in mind, and there is nothing wrong with people who prefer that using Windows.

Quote:
If "Linux" (meaning all the distributions, the related projects, the users, the advocates, etc) are serious about "making Linux main-stream" then they need to get on board with designing software for the users not for the developers themselves.
And why shouldn't they design it for themselves. They are users, too. They want the software to be dependable and functional, but not necessarily idiot-proof.

Quote:
You can't have it both ways. Either admit that Linux is a niche OS (like OpenBSD) that's written by developers, for developers, or tout Linux as the bright and shining savior of the world to rescue consumers from the eeeeeeeeeeevil Microsoft...
There is no reason for Linux to replace Windows. There is a lot of reason for intelligent people to choose to use an OS that is reliable, functional, flexible, and free. You may consider it a niche, but I'm convinced that Linux will one day control about 30% of the Desktop market. There is no reason to try to hurry that day by doing things like incorporating non-free hardware drivers and other non-free elements into Linux. My attitude is that any distro that does so should be forced to charge its users for the priviledge.

Distributions like Xandros and Linspire do so, and they have my blessing. That model should define the gray area between the mindless drones of Windows, and the intelligentsia of the free software movement.

Last edited by rickh; 12-11-2006 at 05:54 PM.
 
Old 12-11-2006, 07:36 PM   #6
chort
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rickh
People who don't want to understand their computer should use Windows. It's designed with that attitude in mind, and there is nothing wrong with people who prefer that using Windows.
In that case, there should be an immediate "cease and desist" order on Linux advocacy telling anyone and everyone to run Linux as a solution to every problem. It should be right up-front that this is "an OS for hobbiests, not for generalists".

Quote:
And why shouldn't they design it for themselves. They are users, too. They want the software to be dependable and functional, but not necessarily idiot-proof.
There's no problem with designing software for yourself, but then you shouldn't go out and pretend that other people should use it too and it will work great for them. Software designed to be used by the developer who wrote it is simply not going to make sense for the vast majority of people.

As a PS, why is the response to so many Linux questions "go find a HOW-TO" or "go buy a book"? This is what software documentation exists for. If the documentation that comes with the software is so unusable, then clearly there is a deficiency with the documentation, not with the user who can't get the program working without buying a book.
 
Old 12-11-2006, 07:37 PM   #7
petersum
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I think the main point is that Linux, speaking as a distribution, is a huge affair. Therefore it is complicated by necessity. Windows on the other hand contains virtually nothing in terms of applications. If you think about what comes on three linux CD's and then compare that with how many CD's you would need to install the same applications on Windows - well, there simply isn't any comparison! Also think about how many times Windows would need to be restarted with that many application installs and the mind boggles!
Yes, Linux is complicated, but it is COMPLETE!
 
Old 12-11-2006, 07:44 PM   #8
chort
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Quote:
Originally Posted by petersum
I think the main point is that Linux, speaking as a distribution, is a huge affair. Therefore it is complicated by necessity. Windows on the other hand contains virtually nothing in terms of applications. If you think about what comes on three linux CD's and then compare that with how many CD's you would need to install the same applications on Windows - well, there simply isn't any comparison! Also think about how many times Windows would need to be restarted with that many application installs and the mind boggles!
And yet, most users can do what they want out of the box with Windows. Videos just play, music just plays, web pages render, flash animations run, etc... same for Mac OS. In fact, because commercial OSs don't ship with 10 text editors, 4 web browsers, 3 music players, and a partridge in the pear tree is an advantage to most consumers. With only one option, your choice is clear. Presented with 8 ways to do the same thing (and usually none of them are complete solutions), users become confused and disillusioned.

Quote:
Yes, Linux is complicated, but it is COMPLETE!
It depends what you're talking about. If you mean the Linux, than absolutely not. Linux is just a kernel, it's not a complete OS (look at the *BSD family for examples of complete, free OSs). If you mean most Linux distributions are complete... well, there are two extremes. At one extreme there are way too many options for doing the same thing, all installed by default. On the other hand, there aren't any options for doing some things by default, for instance Flash, WMV movies, MP3s, etc.
 
Old 01-17-2007, 08:43 AM   #9
Hosiah
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Quote:
We do not expect users to be TV experts and read a book on how to use a TV, just to watch entertainment. You buy a new TV, bring it home, plug in the cables, and viola! You watch your shows.
Ah, what perfect logic! You know, I was thinking that we need to get rid of sex. It is so user-unfriendly. Why, when I microwave a burrito, I just pop it in and push a couple of buttons and wait two minutes: BEEP it's done! Having babies should be exactly the same thing. Because there's absolutely no difference between the two.

Quote:
This is how engineers think.
and clearly, you think engineers are the scum of the Earth? So your inability to circumvent the laws of physics (transistor logic is subject to this) is now their fault? Hey, that's a great idea! Maybe we can cure cancer and AIDS by shooting all the doctors - then nobody will ever be diagnosed again!

Quote:
If "Linux" (meaning all the distributions, the related projects, the users, the advocates, etc) are serious about "making Linux main-stream" then they need to
Yes, thank you so much for busting in on our peaceful day to write us your to-do list and scream in our faces while we continue to ignore you. It's almost as if Torvalds and Stallman called you up and begged for your advice. And your advice is so in demand, since you are obviously the author of several perfect operating systems yourself. How did Linux ever get this far without you?

Well, good job! Go on helping the world see that they must remain ignorant and complain bitterly in order to find the true happiness that you know so well. You really know the secret to success!

Last edited by Hosiah; 01-17-2007 at 08:53 AM.
 
Old 01-17-2007, 11:40 PM   #10
BDHamp
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chort
And yet, most users can do what they want out of the box with Windows. Videos just play, music just plays, web pages render, flash animations run, etc... same for Mac OS.
This is simply false.

Windows does not, out of the box, play DVDs. It does not show Flash in many configurations. (And, btw, several Linux distros *do* come with Flash out of the box.) It will not play some versions of music files. You have to install all the applications that allow that. It plays .wmv and .wma files, sure, but even then, "out of the box," for several years you haven't been able to play Windows Media for version 9 or above. You have to download an update. But in any case, so what. Linux plays .ogg. (In an alternate universe we could have a proprietary format that only plays on *nix-ish systems and then claim that it "just works" out of the box too.)

Now, if we want to get really nit-picky with the media thirsty user and briefly cover practical matters, I could rattle off a list of video codecs in common use today that, besides taking up a full screen just to list, require you to visit dozens of web sites to download, then install each individual one (and then reboot) ... if you want to do so in a completely legal manner. (Obviously alternatives that aren't strictly legal in the US exist, but we're talking about "out of the box" here.) Does real media or Quicktime now come with Windows "out of the box"? How about all the Indeo codecs? Tried playing an DivX/XviD video with a fresh Windows install lately?

Oh, and shall we talk about drivers? The last Windows system I built for someone required more than an hour of installation, multiple reboots, then manual configuration just to get the sound card, video (at anything other than the basic, non-3D accelerated level), networking, and even the blasted monitor to work properly. And then I did more configuring to make it work the way the user wanted.

Windows systems require at least as much configuration as a Linux system. Doing so on a OSS based system is (or can be) somewhat harder, at least in a legal sense, for reasons every FOSS proponent could detail at length, but the basic requirements for making a Linux and Windows system function the way a user wants are quite similar.

This is a problem of perception. Most Windows users never actually configure their system or even install Windows at all. They buy a system with Windows already installed and configured (and they still have to do separate things to get DVDs, a lot of video formats, etc. working if they want that and aren't buying a system with those non-out-of-the-box options installed as well.) A number of the so-called "problems" with Linux are only problems because a) users can't find all the great deals on a pre-configured Linux system, and b) the legal and business worlds have conspired to make configuring a system based on freedom much harder.

Quote:
In fact, because commercial OSs don't ship with 10 text editors, 4 web browsers, 3 music players, and a partridge in the pear tree is an advantage to most consumers. With only one option, your choice is clear. Presented with 8 ways to do the same thing (and usually none of them are complete solutions), users become confused and disillusioned.
A great quote to be included in a future release of some book that might be called _The Dumbing Down of Society_.

People are confused and disillusioned by "options" because that's what they've been taught.

Hell, give me one processor type and speed, one hard drive size, one printer, one everything. I just can't tolerate all these choices!!!

Feh.

Last edited by BDHamp; 01-17-2007 at 11:44 PM.
 
Old 01-18-2007, 05:39 AM   #11
alred
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"get there first then say" and it is pretty obvious by what ways it can be achieved ... if not , all we can have is a dumb society full of well taught "options" and i suspect that people are actually not willing to see an undumbed society , they cant stand the sight of it ... an undumbed society makes them optional(no enclosing double quotes though) ...

btw , i always used bsplayer and zoom player in windows and for some reasons , i wouldnt want to install them on others machines ...


.

Last edited by alred; 01-18-2007 at 06:34 AM.
 
Old 01-18-2007, 07:33 AM   #12
the_darkside_986
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Quote:
arggghhh I swear as much as I like ubuntu/linux, I am sick of dealing with all the issues. No one has anything for a beginner. I dont’ even know how to create a new folder above my home directory, and I’m already on my 50th google just to watch one stupid wmv video.
Also is the Mplayer kaffiene? or do I download Mplayer from somewhere else? I’m trying to watch a video for my homework here.
If linux wants to make it mainstream, the support has got to get better people. Put in all the steps. Sorry for venting, but it’s tough being a “newbie.”
Why would anyone want to make a directory above their home directory in the first place? I don't even need to do that in Windows...
 
Old 01-18-2007, 12:43 PM   #13
samael26
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"Books are how I got where I am. Books are how many geeks got to be geeks."

Quote from Pete's article. Worked for me, too. Books got me a job, books is where you get information, and most of all, reliable one.

Nuff said.
 
  


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