Slashdot finally admits that Linux is HARD...
December 7, 2001 5:54 PM   Subscribe

Slashdot finally admits that Linux is HARD... obviously, read the comments at +3. Sorry to post a /. link, but this is of historical import.
posted by GriffX (101 comments total)
 
This said it all, to me (and I've installed/used it myself):


"Most casual users don't want all of this complexity - heck, to most the idea that they need to login to their home system seems absurd. "
posted by GriffX at 5:55 PM on December 7, 2001


Where? All I'm seeing a the cognitive clash between using text commands and learning mandrake's GUI and tools.

Logging on to home systems is old news Griffx. Windows 2000 and XP require it.
posted by skallas at 6:05 PM on December 7, 2001


"to most the idea that they need to login to their home system seems absurd."

Not if you put the right spin on it. Windows XP's welcome screen, anyone?

And that doesn't look like Slashdot is saying that linux is hard (unless you mean [H]ard)...they're saying that most advocates make it look harder than it needs to be.
posted by CrayDrygu at 6:10 PM on December 7, 2001


Um...actually, the article is arguing that the people teaching others are making it seem hard.
Having said that, the command line isn't all that hard, anyway, but there IS a steep initial learning curve. This coming from a person who can use *nix for general purposes but has yet to get a distro actually installed. And yes, I've even tried the idiot-proof ones like Mandrake. I just have a mutant ability to find the one little thing that can go wrong in a piece of software and make it happen in a spectacular manner.
posted by Su at 6:11 PM on December 7, 2001


The command line is hard. You can't expect 95%+ of people to get past its steep learning curve. The point of the article, however, is that it isn't absolutely necessary to use the command line when running Linux, and Linux gurus/teachers would be better off not showing most users the command line. Linux, or more generally Unix, if pre-installed with a consistent and friendly UI (e.g., KDE, Gnome, whatever they call the MacOS X interface) can be just as friendly as Windows (which admittedly isn't saying much). The real problem remains that Unix is seldom preinstalled on consumer/general business PCs. MacOS X is changing that from one end, and the release of StarOffice 6 next year should reduce resistance to pre-isntalling Unix on x86 PCs.
posted by mlinksva at 6:30 PM on December 7, 2001


Logging on to home systems is old news Griffx. Windows 2000 and XP require it.

Wrong. Win2k (Pro) and XP offer an option to skip the login and have all users use the same account and go directly to the desktop in that context. Just to clear that up.
posted by eyeballkid at 6:33 PM on December 7, 2001


Win2k (Pro) and XP offer an option to skip the login and have all users use the same account and go directly to the desktop in that context.

So do Mandrake and SuSE (the only two distros I'm really familiar with).
posted by NsJen at 6:45 PM on December 7, 2001


Even MacOSX is considered too hard for a good number of users, and the ease of use is light years beyond KDE and Gnome.

Linux is great, and over time it will be less intimidating, but for now, it needs to stick to the server space.
posted by jragon at 6:59 PM on December 7, 2001


Some of these responses are hilarious, like this from post 2673997: Even tar zxvf $1-*.tar.gz && cd $1-* && ./configure && make && make install isn't all that difficult, if someone's given you a slip of paper or a shell script to do it.

Some people are more helpful, here are some responses to a person who thought a user shouldn't have to login to linux everytime they used it.
Bad: It's as simple as setting up an autologin from your display manager or distro installer.

Good: GNOME Display Manager->Automatic login->"Login a user automatically on first bootup"
posted by bobo123 at 7:11 PM on December 7, 2001


if OSX is considered too hard for "a good number of users," i'd like to know how. it's about as simple as you could ask for in my opinion, and it too has an option to bypass the user logon screen (it logs you in automatically as a chosen, default user).
posted by moz at 7:30 PM on December 7, 2001


Er, did you even read the damn article? It says that easy-to-use tools are there but the teachers don't know it because they're on M$ payroll.

Back in the days of Redhat 7.1 it seemed odd to require root access to get at the modem (and, therefore, requiring root again to kill the dialup if I'm kicked off my ISP). Most Linux software relies heavily on libraries so it's rare that one bit of software will work without it's mate. I hear Mandrake does it better.

Staroffice 5.2 was an dog but that was years ago and the new version fixes most of the listed problems (even the speed is better). There are several capable office packages for Linux.

ps. The article's by Roblimo who only posts every other week on slashdot and spends his days on Newsforge. Slashdot admit no such thing!
posted by holloway at 7:32 PM on December 7, 2001


I, for one, use whatever tools are A. Best overall, and B. friendly. This said, I (presently) refuse to use Linux. The last few times I've run Linux in any form, I've always slammed into massive problems. For example, last time I just wanted to run Redhat to play with Gimp and Bitchx. I did a perfectly happy install, got Gnome working, and made almost every piece of hardware work. Except for my modem. "Groovy," I thought, "No modem means no internet." And after a few days of "help" (read: flaming) via IRC, I abandoned the project as hopeless.

So what did I do? I downloaded a Windows port of Gimp and threw it away in about 2 days. Turns out that most Linux-based software is about as user-friendly as a good, solid kick to the nuts.
posted by phalkin at 7:54 PM on December 7, 2001


I love linux... but I've gotta agree with Phalkin, the UI's on these things suck. The slashdotters love to compare Gimp to Photoshop, but I'm pretty sure they're mostly sysadmins with waaaay too much time on their hands.

That said, the installation process on SuSE isn't that evil these days. I've learned, though, to leave well enough alone once I get things working. I mostly use my linux box as a server, as for that it works incredibly well. It has literally never crashed. Ever. (By contrast, I crashed my Win 2000 server at work Cold Fusion server like 40 times today doing trivial things).

A lot of the programs coalescing around the KDE desktop system seem to be adopting uniform UI's. You can even cut 'n' paste between 'em!!! (Howcome nobody mentions that -- drives me friggin crazy)
posted by ph00dz at 8:42 PM on December 7, 2001


Linux is hard, and I think there's an element of truth to the idea that geeks have a lot invested in keeping it that way. I'm putting a new Dell server online with Red Hat 7.1 for Web, FTP, and SSH access with Apache, MySQL, and Tomcat, and the complex interaction of a hundred different configuration files, daemons, and command-line utilities is a wonder to behold.

It's perfectly clear that the last priority on any Linux project's to-do list is to make it simpler for neophytes. Otherwise, there wouldn't be 100 different configuration file formats for 100 different programs, some with new convoluted non-validating XML that would take an entire O'Reilly book to comprehend fully.

I love Linux, but getting up to speed with this OS after three years of using it feels more like hazing than learning.
posted by rcade at 8:42 PM on December 7, 2001


Phalkin - How well (or badly) the Windows port for GIMP runs doesn't tell us much about Linux and the reliability of applications available for it. Going by what I have been told the Windows port for it has far more bugs than the Linux version. And the developers don't seem to have much interest in updating it for Windows, at least at this point in time.

The first part of your note rings loud and clear though.
posted by lucien at 8:47 PM on December 7, 2001


OK perhaps I misunderstood your point. If you are simply referring to the GUI, then point taken.

I tried out the GIMP for Windows, and whilst I didn't mind the GUI, it's near the "unusable" end of unreliable.
posted by lucien at 8:51 PM on December 7, 2001


I have to agree with Lucien. I use GIMP on win98, and its a pain in the ass to use. Unless you're creating graphics and using it to the full extent, GIMP is like Linux: way too many options (or complicated) for the typical user and not easy enough. For every day use, paintbrush can get a lot of stuff done easily enough.
posted by jmd82 at 9:28 PM on December 7, 2001


Linux is hard, and I think there's an element of truth to the idea that geeks have a lot invested in keeping it that way.

More than an element, I'd say.
posted by HTuttle at 9:52 PM on December 7, 2001


Why anyone would think that an OS which had it’s start in 1970s AT&T server technology would make a great foundation for a home desktop system is beyond me.

I respect open source and what it means to the consumer, but the fact of the matter is that 80% of what Linux does well is stuff the average home consumer doesn’t care about or want. Linux is bloated with server functionality and complexity.

We need open source - but Linux seems like almost a false start as far as the home consumer is concerned.
posted by wfrgms at 10:01 PM on December 7, 2001


Why anyone would think that an OS which had it’s start in 1970s AT&T server technology would make a great foundation for a home desktop system is beyond me.
And that fact is irrelevant to the home consumer. Other had humble beginnings with QDOS and OS2/NT and yet developed to become quite user friendly. What exactly is it about Linux that can't make it a home desktop system?
posted by holloway at 10:17 PM on December 7, 2001


"What exactly is it about Linux that can't make it a home desktop system?"

Obviously the development community is stuck in a time warp and out of touch with the home consumer. This clueless behavior extends all the way up to corporate entities like RedHat. I spent several weeks at RedHat in 2000 and I came away with a distaste for the Linux zealots... I thought there product was off target then and I still hold that opinion now. Investors seem to think the same too.
posted by wfrgms at 10:25 PM on December 7, 2001


Making Linux look harder than it is. Sorry if anyone has already linked this (from The Register.)
posted by StOne at 10:26 PM on December 7, 2001


Obviously the development community is stuck in a time warp and out of touch with the home consumer. This clueless behavior extends all the way up to corporate entities like RedHat. I spent several weeks at RedHat in 2000 and I came away with a distaste for the Linux zealots... I thought there product was off target then and I still hold that opinion now. Investors seem to think the same too.
It was kinda vague, but I really meant "exactly".

If you can't be bothered that's fine (I know I probably wouldn't be) but I'd appreciate some examples.
posted by holloway at 10:33 PM on December 7, 2001


lucien: yeah, i was referring to the gui. the crashes only exacerbate the problem.

what confounds me most about linux is that so many people think it's some amazing thing for desktops. it's not. it's a server app - and a good one - but not a system that is well-suited to any kind of casual/semi-serious users. i really wish all the amazing talent in the open source field would point their skill toward making apps for (asbestos suit: on) windows, or (god forbid) OSX.

there's a huge amount of potential in these people. why they choose to waste it trying to make a server OS into something suited to the desktop is beyond me.

PS. Please direct all complaints about this post to your recycle bin. I know it's an unpopular idea, but I think it's a good one.
posted by phalkin at 10:42 PM on December 7, 2001


Why anyone would think that an OS which had it’s start in 1970s AT&T server technology would make a great foundation for a home desktop system is beyond me.

unix actually first became popular because it was a very portable system (and, according to legend, because ken thompson wanted to play a game on an unused PDP-11). at the time, the operating system on your computer was the one developed by the computer vendor -- if you didn't like it, too bad.

Linux is bloated with server functionality and complexity.

linux has nothing to do with "server functionality" asides from it managing the process, its memory and providing a sockets implementation (the same as windows, macintosh, and almost all modern operating systems in use on desktops). it's really no better than windows NT, except perhaps that more servers being developed today are easily available for linux than they are for NT and beyond and linux purportedly stays up longer.

one man's complexity is another man's simplicity, by the way.
posted by moz at 10:45 PM on December 7, 2001


That Register article asks in the first paragraph whether Linux users are "too smart" to be able to teach easy ways to use it. I'm certain the answer to that is a big "no".

Insecurity is the name of the game here. Of all the science/engineering nerd types I've dealt with in my life, Unix-heads are by far the worst. Most Unix geeks seem to think that, because they've learned how to use the command line, they have somehow become 100% certified geniuses. However, they are very insecure in this belief (as they should be), so naturally they pounce on the opportunity to prove their mettle in front of some newbie luser. And that goes double for Linux geeks.

Real smart people don't walk around wearing "RTFM" T-shirts.
posted by Potsy at 11:06 PM on December 7, 2001


well, potsy has definitely proven s/he knows how to stereotype people.
posted by moz at 11:18 PM on December 7, 2001


Anti-Linux poseurs are to computing what prop players are to poker.

1. Some are being paid by Microsoft to disparrage it any way possible. i.e. you're a Microsoft employee.

I have an aquaintance who works for MSFT (not a programmer but in the marketing research division). He once told me a loaded story of how he had to do a presentation about the Corel distro and how it just "hillariously" kept crashing on startup. Obviously no Linux distro is made to crash upon boot. But it was funny to these MSFT "research" stoodges because, you know, do a project on Linux for your fellow MSFT employees and almost freudianly, Linux and OSS are so fundamentally "flawed" the presentation cannot be finished--not at least at One Microsoft Place. It never obviously occurred to them that the cause of the crashes might have been proprietary hardware (because of the racket MSFT runs with computer manufacturers), not enough will to get the system running glitch free (you have to CARE enough to get Linux up and running--anybody can click willy-nilly at the graphical setup and render Linux useless with wrong values), Corel Linux is old, sucked and never fielded the expertise the better distros have. But it was good enough for them. "FUD" I guess is the term for it. Hearing this story was witnessing formative FUD. Ahh the beauty of it! They get their marketing guys to "research" it to the point they believe in it. It seeps down and around the rest of the company, and voila, you have a monopolistic software regime who's employees are so high on themselves they truly think they can do no wrong. Then sell the software exuding this attitude and make billions simply with overhead free arrogance.

2. The other side of this anti-Linux crowd is the people who've bought the lie started when Corel Linux was loaded haphazardly onto a computer in a certain office park in Remond Wash. Unlike people who disparrage Linux because they're paid to, there are those who believe that Linux represents the great Socialist Satan. "Open Sores" they call it. A "Cancer" by another name. These people believe, that Linux is that which thwarts all that is good and beautiful of The Free Market--progress can only be acheived if certain folks get filthy rich off of it. That is what we're taught, here stateside, aren't we? It's impossible for a faceless mass of people to ever benefit from anything that hasn't been demographically honed by a bonafide corporation. Nothing ever comes from an amorphous movement of humanity. Bahh!

Linux is great. You need patience for sure. But any shortcoming one may find with it isn't neccessarily the fault of the code, but more, the endless variables of differing computer components. If only you could see KDE 2.1 on my 15.1 inch TFT monitor--

Simply beautiful.

And this thing that Linux isn't a desktop OS. Bullshit! That's nothing more than your opinion. I find the desktop environment of KDE far superior in its continual rollout of advancements and comfortable than what's on the neighboring "gaming" partition. But you see, that's my opinion too.
posted by crasspastor at 11:29 PM on December 7, 2001


As long as we're all stuck in the mindset that one OS (or one development environment, for that matter) should somehow be expected to do everything in the universe of computing, the inefficient factionalisation of systems and their users will prevail.
posted by normy at 11:40 PM on December 7, 2001


I am a died in the wool Linux user, both server and desktop. I'm not "too smart" to explain it. I'm just too steeped in it to be able to take a step back. Arguably, I'm too stupid to teach Linux.

In general, experts should not teach novices. Novices should be taught by the merely competent, who can do anything a normal person might want to but are still thinking in terms of simplified rules that can be passed on. Experts forget the need for mental training wheels - the "lies to children" we teach to prepare for the complicated truth. (And of course, many people never need to move even as far as the competent stage in order to do what they want to do).

Hardly anyone in the Linux community writes successfully for complete computing novices, not because of insecurity or ill-will, but because it's too much to expect Unix experts to be masters of instructional techniques as well.

Linux for Dummies is now in its 3rd edition. For all that people sneer at "Dummies" books, they are generally practical models of good technical writing, and the Linux book is no exception.

And rcade: maybe Webmin will make the config files easier to drive.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:47 PM on December 7, 2001


Richard Feynman was more than just a "merely competent" physicist, yet he was also a great teacher. Being an expert in a given field does not prevent one from being able to teach it well.
posted by Potsy at 11:54 PM on December 7, 2001


The problem is not that they are "smarter" and "know too much."

The problem is that they are SMUG.

Linux takes time. Not even I want to spend that much time at my computer. And I can't imagine feeling actually impassioned about what OS is on it.
posted by kevspace at 12:00 AM on December 8, 2001


I've got my gripes against *nix - mostly preferential though. Hate me all you want, but I've grown damn used to Windows interfaces and I like them (for the most part). When I have to use Linux, it's always gingerly, the errors and crashes I get there are no worse nor better than the ones I get with Windows boxes - just of a different flavor, and it's not to my taste. Most of the people I know who get psyched about Linux seem to me to be more interested in the elite puzzle of the thing - and the renegade air of open software, and not so much in "I just want a simple useful tool that i can use right now".

That said, it really should boil down to what you want to do with your machine - do you want a cheap reliable server? A Linux box is great if you know what you're doing. You want to make documents that grandma, your boss or your clients can see as well, use a Windows box. You dig Apple software for whatever reason, buy a Mac.
posted by kokogiak at 12:07 AM on December 8, 2001


Not diasagreeing, Potsy - but people who are good teachers and subject experts are always rarer than those who are experts alone, Feynman's example notwithstanding.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:18 AM on December 8, 2001


I grew up on DOS. When Windows 95 came out, I had to upgrade, but I was upset at loosing my command prompt. One of the things I enjoy most about Unix is having my command promt back. It makes what I'm doing feel more real. I'm running Enlightenment over FreeBSD, and I love it.

*nix isn't for everyone (at least not yet), but it's much better than Windows for people who really want or need to understand what their computer is doing.
posted by Loudmax at 12:39 AM on December 8, 2001


I've used and administered Unix (about 6-7 flavors of unix, including obscure ones like Dynix or UNICOS). since '92. I first saw Linux run on a PC in 93. I myself decided to install FreeBSD instead in '94, because Linux still wasn't 'there'. In other words, I know my command line.

Unix is ugly. It's badly designed from the ground up. The only reason we keep around this klunker is because it still runs big fat machines in companies and universities the world over. And it does that because it is old, and at some point it was free, and it made sense for companies that were not betting on their OS --but on their hardware instead-- to ship it with multi-million dollar servers and mainframes and supercomputers.

Unix survived the commodity PC era because we still need it for the bigger machines and then we got Linux and *BSD for the commodity ones because the OSes running on those PCs still left a lot to be desired. No more. Windows 2K/XP and OSX are perfectly good OSes and can scale pretty far (further than Linux). As PC hardware catches up with medium-tier servers in the next generation (Itanium, 3GIO/Infiniband) Unix will be pushed aside and eventually die.

Any good technology is intuitive for its user, it just happens. It doesn't force him/her to know the difference bettween [ ] and [[ ]], or what $$ and $@ mean. That crap belongs in the era of teletypes and 300 baud modems.

PS: Predictive responses to Linux apologists:
* OSX is not BSD, it's NeXTSTEP: NeXTStep can pretend to be anything, and OSX chooses to pretend to be BSD, so it can reuse that software base, which is free.
* XP may use BSD parts, but that is nothing compared to the huge number of bad copies of windows technologies reused in the free unixes --COM, GUI design, control panels, file browsers, etc-- that came from the proprietary OSs.
* If you love the CLI so much, you can get any number of shells for Windows or OSX (4NT or Zsh are my favorites). The CLI is not a Unix innovation (Unix inherited from the dinosaurs, err... I mean from its predecessors); it can hardly claim exclusivity to that.
posted by costas at 12:51 AM on December 8, 2001


Amen costas - you put it far better than my *nix-challenged ass could.
posted by kokogiak at 1:36 AM on December 8, 2001


I tried really really hard with Redhat 7.1. I really wanted to like it and I actually did like some of it...messing around on the command line and writing CHAP scritps took me back to my youth wishing I was Matthew Broderick in Wargames.

I tried GNOME; I tried KDE. I missed my true type fonts; I missed the anti-aliasing. The amount of cack I had to deal with to try and set up a little PHP/Apache/MySQL dev area was a hindrance to any creativity. I'm afraid I'm with Zawinski (I think) on this: "Linux is only free if your time means nothing".
posted by jackiemcghee at 1:53 AM on December 8, 2001


Right on Patsy.
posted by catatonic at 2:16 AM on December 8, 2001


I mean Potsy. Drunken Metafilter is a bad thing I tell you.
posted by catatonic at 2:17 AM on December 8, 2001


If you love the CLI so much, you can get any number of shells for Windows or OSX (4NT or Zsh are my favorites). The CLI is not a Unix innovation (Unix inherited from the dinosaurs, err... I mean from its predecessors); it can hardly claim exclusivity to that.
Ah... but the argument against GUI Linux is that there aren't GUI applications for all the things you can do in the CLI. Sure, you can load up a CLI in Windows. A fat lot of good it will do you when you try and use a OS built for a GUI. Try adding a bit of hardware from the CLI in Windows - it's just not built for it. I see the flashing cursor but I have little functionality.

Day to day I prefer a GUI but for automising tasks nothing beats a script that writes to the CLI. I'm glad Microsoft have began producing command line tools again and their XSL implementation is quite excellent.
XP may use BSD parts, but that is nothing compared to the huge number of bad copies of windows technologies reused in the free unixes --COM, GUI design, control panels, file browsers, etc-- that came from the proprietary OSs.
Oh come on. It's not that open source software taps into the pool of proprietary knowledge and vice versa. They're not two camps. They're just companies and hairy blokes. Microsoft took another proprietary company's GUI who in turn took it from someone else. Sure, open source takes ideas, but that's all software anyway. If you'd like me to name the ideas that XP took from BeOS and Nautilus just say so. If you'd like me to name how KDE took ideas from Windows 9x just ask.

Yes, historically most software ideas were proprietary. But most software was proprietary too. These days there's a lot more open source software and they're making their fair share of innovation. Rsync is brilliant. I hope something comes out of Berlin in my lifetime but if not it's ideas are far ahead of any GUI (OSX gets close). Powerslide (a closed-source car racing game) has a graphics engine that cranks out more frames than Quake. But please lets not belittle these people's ideas by saying they're Proprietary or Open Source ideas.
Any good technology is intuitive for its user, it just happens. It doesn't force him/her to know the difference bettween [ ] and [[ ]], or what $$ and $@ mean. That crap belongs in the era of teletypes and 300 baud modems.
You know, I trust there's a good reason for that syntax. You haven't said why it should be simpler (or if it could be). To the right user the flexibility of that syntax is probably a god send. I just stick with my KDE interface and I haven't yet had to deal with that (I'd feel similarly lost wandering around the the Windows Registry - how I am supposed to know what this HKEY value should be?).
Windows 2K/XP and OSX are perfectly good OSes and can scale pretty far (further than Linux).
URL? I've heard some good things about XP embedded but I've yet to hear about a beowulf cluster of XPs (kidding).
posted by holloway at 2:38 AM on December 8, 2001


costas: Very strange words. Unix is badly designed, yet Win2k is perfectly good system? I develop for both Windows and Unix. To me it seems that Windows wasn't even designed in the first place, it has just grown. Microsoft usually just spouts out something that almost works, then revises it time and again. In contrast, some Unix stuff, like OpenGL, is very nicely designed.

As for CLI, it is inherently harder and less intuitive than a graphical interface, since humans process purely visual information faster than words. However, hard things are supposed to be hard. More expressive power means more complexity, and complex things take time to learn. Art books, comics and novels are all valid forms of expression.

Linux has still just a marginal user base and the people who want to use it have to take all kinds of crap because of this. Like getting true-type fonts or font aliasing to work (both are fine in recent versions of KDE, I hear). There's a difference however between being bad because of design, and because of lack of support.

By programmers, for programmers. I guess it's still true.
posted by ikalliom at 2:42 AM on December 8, 2001


Yadda yadda yadda....

Do you know why *NIX is hard for many of you to 'get' or understand? It is because you do not understand computers. You instead know how to use applicaitons. I found *NIX a joy to learn and find it a joy to use because I understand computing and wanted to better understand it.

You see Linux has a crumbly desktop -- if you are looking for everything to be there. Windows has a better desktop (cough!) but try to do something outside of the point and click and it begins to fall apart. Try to write a program, say, that spiders the This American Life Radioshow website, checks to see if there are any new programs there and if there are plays them via Realaudio, captures the output into an mp3 and files it away in a folder with a descriptive filename. I wrote such a program in Ruby, a very nice programming language and it is about 15 lines long. It runs every Sunday night at 4AM automatically like a charm.

Now the thing is that all of you want to be able to do things like that with your computer, but you can't really do it on win/NT. You sort of can, but everything about interapplication cooperation is hard to execulte and there are many programs that have no hooks and etc, etc.

So if Windows has a nice GUI but is crappy to deal with under the hood I think that it is fair to say that it makes you stay in your pen, it limits you to a very strict USER role.

UNIX encourages the user to continue to develop into something beyond USER, your knowledge can continue to grow and you may find yourself progressing towards more of your loftier goals.

Point is that it is hard because it is BETTER. And it is BETTER because it is hard. And you would be BETTER if you learned how to use it.
posted by n9 at 5:42 AM on December 8, 2001


ikalliom: "However, hard things are supposed to be hard. More expressive power means more complexity, and complex things take time to learn. Art books, comics and novels are all valid forms of expression."

You've failed to make an essential distinction: a computer and its OS is a tool for expression and not an end in itself. The analogy is better made with the tools used to create artworks or novels, i.e. language, brushes, pencils, word processors. The easier to use, the less barrier their is between the intentions of the user and the ability to manifest those intentions.
posted by Big Fat Tycoon at 5:45 AM on December 8, 2001


er, their -> there.
posted by Big Fat Tycoon at 5:46 AM on December 8, 2001


"Point is that it is hard because it is BETTER. And it is BETTER because it is hard."

Wow, great argument! The only thing that would have made it BETTER would be to have more of it in ALL CAPS.
posted by Potsy at 5:54 AM on December 8, 2001


Bug Fat Tycoon --

I think that you missed the point. The GUI is a less expressive interface because it limits you to it's approach. MS Paintbrush is less expressive than a more flexible and more complex tool like painter or photoshop. The *unix cli is very, very flexible and it is also somewhat complex -- it is more expressive than the windows filemanager. the jump you make from langue, brushes to word processor has some fallacy. An easy to use WP is better at translating the intentions of the user until it will not let you do something outside of the limited scope of the easy software, and then it totally blocks the intention. Meanwhile I love vim, a *nix-y text editor. There is nothing I cannot do to text in vim. I can do crazy whack shit and it is a pretty hard program to pick up. Vim is a more expressive tool.

and BTW: the CLI is neither harder or easier than the GUI. It is more flexible and much more efficient.

I am a jedi mac user and can manipulate things in the finder as fast as anyone can, but in the CLI I can do things ridiculously fast in comparison. You just have to build facility... spend the time to become conmfortable. The first time you used whatever GUI you use now it was difficult to get around... you might just not remember when it was hard for you.

The *nix CLI with tcsh or bash may be the most efficient tool I have ever used. I _hate_ having to pop out to the MacOSX desktop to do crap there. Ugh.
posted by n9 at 5:56 AM on December 8, 2001


(sticks tongue out at Potsy)
posted by n9 at 5:58 AM on December 8, 2001


i_am_joe's_spleen: I would like to see the reaction your comment about "masters not teaching novices" would ellicit from university professors... ;)

"Point is that it is hard because it is BETTER. And it is BETTER because it is hard."

Mmmm... Circular reasoning with no support. Tasty!
posted by Dark Messiah at 6:09 AM on December 8, 2001


n9, it's Big Fat Tycoon.

I don't think I missed the point at all. ikalliom's original statement drew an analogy between an OS's interface and artwork. That's obviously not the case. I didn't suggest that a more expressive OS interface was bad at all, just that an easier one was less of a barrier to achieving things -- whether or not one develops the ability to use the interface as "a jedi ... user" and hurdle that barrier is a totally different matter.
posted by Big Fat Tycoon at 6:10 AM on December 8, 2001


I missed my true type fonts; I missed the anti-aliasing.

They're back in both Mandrake and SuSE...and outrageously easy to set up.

Jen
posted by NsJen at 6:43 AM on December 8, 2001


hmmm. No circular reasoning. It is better and therefore. because of the points I made, harder to learn. It is harder to learn because of the other points I made, but because the learning forces you to become more familiar with the system the very difficulty of learning makes you sharper and, thus better. There is circularity in the point, but the reasoning is linear on not self-referential and it was backed up with the nearly book-length rant that you might have noticed right above the section you mock. Your post is the one that isn't backed up, DM.

BFT--

I think you missed _his_ point, not yours. I don't agree with you so I didn't suitably support your argument, which is what you seem to be expecting. Expressive means "effectively conveying meaning" in dah dictionary. I think that CLIs are more expressive because when I want to kill all the hung netscape processes on my computer I can type:

ps -ef | grep netscape | grep -v grep | awk '{print $2}' | xargs kill -9

and that happens. I wouldn't expect you to do that. It took me a couple of months to figure that out, but this is a demonstration of a lot of subtle info being effectively communicated.

Let's take a look at I's original point:

A pen as the interface to making comix is the least easy interface imaginable, but the most expressive, and therefore the best

would be a fair, clear summation, I think.

You countered that the *easier* something is to use the fewer barriers between the user and what they want to express.

I just don't think that that follows at all. I think that software that is easy to use is nearly all barrier. An easy to use paint program like MS Painbrush vs. Photoshop. Which is easy, which is more expressive? I say *that* analogy follows and leads to the pen->comix one that was made originally, which is a good analogy, I thnk and which your response missed the point of, I contended.

Really interesting to note how huffy the unix-is-too-hard-n-stuff people are about the unix-is-the-shit people popping their heads in letting everyone know what we think. It's interesting, is all I'm saying.
posted by n9 at 6:44 AM on December 8, 2001


Try to write a program, say, that spiders the This American Life Radioshow website, checks to see if there are any new programs there and if there are plays them via Realaudio, captures the output into an mp3 and files it away in a folder with a descriptive filename. I wrote such a program in Ruby, a very nice programming language and it is about 15 lines long. It runs every Sunday night at 4AM automatically like a charm.

I'm using Windows 2000 to capture audio from an overnight Internet radio show. I put the program's Web page on Windows Active Desktop, added a three-line JavaScript function to make the Windows Media Player ActiveX control restart whenever it stops playing, set the Internet connection to redial if it loses a connection, and use Total Recorder to save speaker output to MP3. Works great.

Point is that it is hard because it is BETTER. And it is BETTER because it is hard. And you would be BETTER if you learned how to use it.

In a nutshell, this attitude is one of the biggest reasons why Linux sucks for neophytes and will probably always suck for neophytes. If Linux became easy to use, all the accumulated knowledge of Linux hackers about how to configure and adminster the OS would be far less impressive. "When I set up my Linux name server I had to spend 12 hours looking for a missing period in BIND configuration files with nothing but my 1970s-era text editor and a dog-eared copy of Linux Configuration File Syntax in a Nutshell. And I liked it. You kids today don't know how good you got it with your point-and-click BIND Configuration Wizard."
posted by rcade at 6:53 AM on December 8, 2001


Real smart people don't walk around wearing "RTFM" T-shirts.

oh where can i get one??? if only to remind myself that the docs will always answer your questions if you're able to ask the right one! i run redhat and freebsd and i'm trying a suse install this weekend to check it out...

'nix' isn't for everyone but then again i've never had a windows box stay up and running for
"up 219 days, 16:23, 3 users"...

gimme COMMAND LINE and maybe another beer too...

strace /dev/beer
touch beer
unzip
more beer
posted by tilt at 6:58 AM on December 8, 2001


my whole point:

try to not be a neophyte. don't spend a lifetime using computers without understanding computing. You can do great stuff.

rcade. I could write your script in one line as it doesn't spider, I'm impressed that MS is doing some integration, but since the system didn't evolve *from* a tightly integrated system to a GUI env., but rather went the other way, and it's focus is still on the desktop UI rather than the underpinnings, I contend that you foiled my example but the point still stands -- system automation and interapplication ease are the exception on MS and the rule on *NIX, making *NIX the better platform for people who want to make their own thing happen by making programs work together in a way they they design.
posted by n9 at 7:03 AM on December 8, 2001


It might also be noted that rcade has written 11 books on Java(! including one that I own,) so he is not exactly representative of users who's minds are boggled by computing complexity.
posted by n9 at 7:08 AM on December 8, 2001


n9: please don't tell me everyone MUST understand computing to the extent you do. While I'm hardly a proponent of ignorance, I do realize that not everyone NEEDS extensive knowledge of their computer. I can respect your stance, but I'm still steadfast in mine -- Windows does what I need it to, so Linux isn't an option I am looking at.

It might also be noted that rcade has written 11 books on Java(! including one that I own,) so he is not exactly representative of users who's minds are boggled by computing complexity.

Seeing as how he has written these books, I will assume that he is making an effort to explain Java in a manner neophytes can comprehend to the masses, while the "Linux crowd" SEEMS to just bombard the uninformed with too much information, or simple rage due to the fact they don't understand Linux immediately. (Note: I said "SEEMS", as I am fairly sure there are many understanding Linux users who help newbies get through the initial learning curve.)

Linux -vs- MS argument aside, I think the fact we have a choice is the real issue. And I am glad we have a choice. Although I think some people -- perhaps myself included -- should note that you shouldn't get upset because not everyone makes the same choice you make.
posted by Dark Messiah at 7:26 AM on December 8, 2001


n9, it's not that I disagree with you about the relative utility of *nix variants. I agree with your point about the facility of doing certain things in CLI.

You've introduced a "pen->comix" analogy that ikalliom did not make. He specifically equated the interface with a "form of expression".

Separate from that, your argument regarding MS Paint vs. Photoshop, on the face of it, seems to support your point, but I would argue that Photoshop is not difficult in the same way that unix and its ilk are, and that its complexity stems from a large feature set. Someone who uses MS Paint would not necessarily find it any more difficult to do things in Photoshop, they would find a great deal more features.

In your example, it took you a couple of months to figure out a concept that was hard, not because of some proportional intrinsic worth to what you were able to do with it, but because it was hidden in a myriad of obfuscatory syntaxes. How is that not a barrier to expressibility? Are you telling me that, because of the difficulty you had in learning how to use this, that it is somehow easier to use?
posted by Big Fat Tycoon at 7:57 AM on December 8, 2001


"try to not be a neophyte. don't spend a lifetime using computers without understanding computing. You can do great stuff."

I have to second rcade and Dark Messiah on this, as well. Computers have since passed the stage that people who use them must master them; like any other technology that becomes widely-used, you can't and shouldn't expect everyone to have some fundamental understanding of computers. It's nice, it may even be utopian, but it's not realistic, and to keep beating your chest and saying people should do this or that so they can attain some arbitrary level of "computer understanding" is like some hot-rod car mechanic railing against the fact that not everyone can change the engine in their car and understand the four-stroke internal combustion cycle.
posted by Big Fat Tycoon at 8:11 AM on December 8, 2001


n9 said: ps -ef | grep netscape | grep -v grep | awk '{print $2}' | xargs kill -9

And if you've got a process running such as "man netscape"?
posted by Potsy at 8:31 AM on December 8, 2001


Not even I want to spend that much time at my computer. And I can't imagine feeling actually impassioned about what OS is on it.

Maybe if I wast twenty years younger, I could imagine that. Hell, no need to imagine it, I lived it. Apple II forever! IBM PC sucks!
posted by kindall at 9:00 AM on December 8, 2001


It is better and therefore. because of the points I made, harder to learn. It is harder to learn because of the other points I made, but because the learning forces you to become more familiar with the system the very difficulty of learning makes you sharper and, thus better.

"Better" at the end there seems to imply a level of objective quality. I'm sure it's true that hard work and diligence in front of a computer can teach someone lessons about problem-solving that can be applied to other aspects of life. But it's arrogant and snide to assume that any given person hasn't already learned those lessons somewhere else...somewhere that has nothing to do with computers.

Some of us non-technical people are intelligent and highly knowledgable in our own fields. If I was going to live to be 500, sure, I would learn Linux. I would learn how to program in C. And I would also learn a lot more about architecture, cars, physics, and the history of art and literature. I would learn to speak twenty languages. I am sure that the process of learning Farsi would be quite a character-building experience. Between learning Farsi, learning Linux, and the infinite number of possible tasks before me on any given week, month, or year, I'll go in the direction with the most relevance to who I am and what I want out of life.

This prejudicial idea held by many technical people, that non-technical people are unintelligent, is really counter-productive and alienating. I don't see why I should bother to take that abuse.
posted by bingo at 9:15 AM on December 8, 2001


<Metafilter Barbie>Linux is hard! Will we ever have enough Kottke?</Metafilter Barbie>
posted by rusty at 9:36 AM on December 8, 2001


Linux stole my baby.
posted by Satapher at 9:49 AM on December 8, 2001


OK, i've never used Linux. And , i have absolutely no reason to. I program and do web page design and a few graphical stuff here and there, but i have been able to do everything i've ever needed to do uner WinME. If what i got works, why in the name of all the is good would i need to change? The thing that really annoys me about the Linux community is some (not all) look down upon people like me who are too lazy, don't give a damn about Linux, or Win9.x works just fne for us neophytes. Its like if we're not willing to try out the harder and more complicated (and sometimes useless to us for all its benifites) OS, we're not worthy to use computers.
posted by jmd82 at 10:22 AM on December 8, 2001


"The metric system is the tool of the devil, my car gets 40 rods to the hogs head and thats the way I likes it." --Abe Simpson
posted by gazingus at 10:26 AM on December 8, 2001


Linux would be just that much more appealing to me if the die-hards stopped claiming superiority and made a decent desktop app once in a while.

It's not like the arrogance shown by Linux die-hards will show anyone the err of their computing ways and make them want to join such a conceited and close-minded community. Linux is great, but it just doesn't serve my needs. It isn't that hard to do many things, but Linux advocates (at least many I have known) do not understand that most users don't give a shit about the politics behind their freaking computer. They want to get on, do their thing, and get off without somebody yelling at them. This seems to sum up what I hear from the Linux nazis (as opposed to open source advocates, who can be much nicer...)

"All Microsoft (er, sorry...M$oft) users are retarded, and Linux will save the planet, raise the dead, and make a decent meatloaf," right?
posted by adampsyche at 10:58 AM on December 8, 2001


I hate posting two messges in a row, but I regret sounding so confrontative in my last post. I am not anti-Linux and certainly do not mean to try to goad anyone into reaction or anything. I guess my point comes down to this, that the entire "my OS can beat up your OS" debate gets so tiring. Maybe I should just skip the threads then. I report on the IT market and I have plenty friends in IT, and when I see them go at each other's throats with the arrogance, it makes me want to ralph.

Linux is very good at what it does, but it is shortsighted to think that Linux is for everyone. Same for Windows, and I am thankful that there are alternatives, even if I personally think they need to mature for the common user. The new computer user doesn't need 200+ text editors and a billion other apps for a single function, like you find on so many Linux distros. They want one well-documented app for a function that runs well, and if the desktop real estate prices tell you anything, the end user will use what they are presented with, for better or for worse. Having a system that is up for a couple years with a bunch of users is great for servers, but users who turn off their computer when they are done using it could care less.

I don't consider Linux to be that difficult to navigate and operate, and could use it to replace what I use now, but my needs would not be met. And I realize that some of that is the fault of software vendors for not porting their wares to *nix, but most users don't care. They want to be able to do *stuff*, and whoever makes it easier for them is going to make the buck.

Again, sorry for the rant above. The Linux community for sure does not have a monopoly on arrogance in the IT world, and the entire Linux community is not arrogant (I really didn't mean to come off like I thought that.)
posted by adampsyche at 11:21 AM on December 8, 2001


They're back in both Mandrake and SuSE...and outrageously easy to set up.
Stranger still, they're both in KDE on Redhat 7.1.
posted by holloway at 11:39 AM on December 8, 2001


I'm using Windows 2000 to capture audio from an overnight Internet radio show. I put the program's Web page on Windows Active Desktop, added a three-line JavaScript function to make the Windows Media Player ActiveX control restart whenever it stops playing, set the Internet connection to redial if it loses a connection, and use Total Recorder to save speaker output to MP3. Works great.
Yeah, but here's my point. You've gone around your GUI and ticked boxes to allow automatic dialing, added the page to your active desktop, configured total recorder, and maybe you had to change some security settings to allow Javascript to restart Windows Media Player (when it stops playing). After your efforts you don't have much in your hands. By this I mean that if you wanted to reinstall Windows, or copy this functionality to another computer (or give a friend a copy) you would need to do this again and tick those boxes. Most things in Unix you do once and can replicate again in one script. Your approach works well for you, but a newbie can't benefit from that approach (as they need to go around following a list of configuration options in each bit of software). Unfortunately as most Windows software has a binary configuration file (with no emphasis on developers to use plain-text where possible), and because run-time configuration of software is far less popular in Windows, it is more difficult to script (admitedly, some windows software allows me to open a file when I start the program). This is through no technical limitation but just a different programmer mindset.

I appreciate unix because it doesn't waste my time.
posted by holloway at 12:13 PM on December 8, 2001


Wow! This thread is such a fantastic summary of every online Windows vs. Linux argument I've seen since 1994. We've got it all...

From the Windows user who's never used anything else but still just knows that they can do everything they'd ever want to do: OK, i've never used Linux. And , i have absolutely no reason to... i have been able to do everything i've ever needed to do uner WinME.

To the Linux die-hard who justifies it with an utterly incomprehensible tautology: Point is that it is hard because it is BETTER. And it is BETTER because it is hard.

But wait! There's more!

The "Linux is based on an old system" argument: Why anyone would think that an OS which had it's start in 1970s AT&T server technology would make a great foundation for a home desktop system is beyond me. Ahh, the good ones never really go away do they?

In the same vein, reaching back for an argument that started in approximately 1980, Unix Guru predicts the eventual death of Unix: I've used and administered Unix (about 6-7 flavors of unix, including obscure ones like Dynix or UNICOS). since '92... As PC hardware catches up with medium-tier servers in the next generation (Itanium, 3GIO/Infiniband) Unix will be pushed aside and eventually die.

And, as an added bonus, that very same comment also includes the "unintuitive" argument! Any good technology is intuitive for its user, it just happens. We all know that just like the reins we use to steer our horseless carriages, and the great flapping wings that lift our airliners into the sky, good technology is always intuitive!

It doesn't end there! We also have the "I could use Linux, but I couldn't use Linux" argument: I don't consider Linux to be that difficult to navigate and operate, and could use it to replace what I use now, but my needs would not be met.

And, if you call now, we'll even throw in "The Linux desktop sucks" used as an argument in favor of Linux: I found *NIX a joy to learn and find it a joy to use because I understand computing and wanted to better understand it... You see Linux has a crumbly desktop -- if you are looking for everything to be there.

And much, much more! With this thread, you'll never have to go looking for ignorant and incoherent arguments on either side of this dead horse! You can whip out your handy included quick-reference card, with "pro-Windows" on one side, and "pro-Linux" on the other, and piss off anyone you meet!

Call now, operators are standing by! Brought to you by Never Link to Slashdot Inc. All rights reversed.Wow! This thread is such a fantastic summary of every online Windows vs. Linux argument I've seen since 1994. We've got it all...

From the Windows user who's never used anything else but still just knows that they can do everything they'd ever want to do: OK, i've never used Linux. And , i have absolutely no reason to... i have been able to do everything i've ever needed to do uner WinME.

To the Linux die-hard who justifies it with an utterly incomprehensible tautology: Point is that it is hard because it is BETTER. And it is BETTER because it is hard.

But wait! There's more!

The "Linux is based on an old system" argument: Why anyone would think that an OS which had it's start in 1970s AT&T server technology would make a great foundation for a home desktop system is beyond me. Ahh, the good ones never really go away do they?

In the same vein, reaching back for an argument that started in approximately 1980, Unix Guru predicts the eventual death of Unix: I've used and administered Unix (about 6-7 flavors of unix, including obscure ones like Dynix or UNICOS). since '92... As PC hardware catches up with medium-tier servers in the next generation (Itanium, 3GIO/Infiniband) Unix will be pushed aside and eventually die.

And, as an added bonus, that very same comment also includes the "unintuitive" argument! Any good technology is intuitive for its user, it just happens. We all know that just like the reins we use to steer our horseless carriages, and the great flapping wings that lift our airliners into the sky, good technology is always intuitive!

It doesn't end there! We also have the "I could use Linux, but I couldn't use Linux" argument: I don't consider Linux to be that difficult to navigate and operate, and could use it to replace what I use now, but my needs would not be met.

And, if you call now, we'll even throw in "The Linux desktop sucks" used as an argument in favor of Linux: I found *NIX a joy to learn and find it a joy to use because I understand computing and wanted to better understand it... You see Linux has a crumbly desktop -- if you are looking for everything to be there.

And much, much more! With this thread, you'll never have to go looking for ignorant and incoherent arguments on either side of this dead horse! You can whip out your handy included quick-reference card, with "pro-Windows" on one side, and "pro-Linux" on the other, and piss off anyone you meet!

Call now, operators are standing by! Brought to you by TIWHWYLTS, Inc. All rights reversed.
posted by rusty at 12:15 PM on December 8, 2001


Holloway: Windows XP supposedly has a settings migration wizard that lets you move all your custom configurations around from one desktop to another. I don't know if that makes my Total Recorder hack easily transferable, but it sounds like it might.

the point still stands -- system automation and interapplication ease are the exception on MS and the rule on *NIX, making *NIX the better platform for people who want to make their own thing happen by making programs work together in a way they they design.

Integration is a total kludge on Windows. I wasn't claiming the point-and-click way was better than Linux; just offering an example that shows it is possible.

Incidentally, I think Linux has a pretty strong competitor in the Mac as far as interapplication scripting is concerned. Elliotte Rusty Harold recently posted a "can Linux do this?" question on his Cafe au Lait weblog that shows what he can do with scripting on a Mac:
...I'm seriously thinking about what it would take to move onto Linux exclusively for all my real work. The stumbling block remains AppleScript. For non-Apple users, I'll give you an example of the sort of thing I can do with AppleScript: when I see an interesting quote on a web page, I select it in the browser and click a button. The selected text is automatically copied into my quote of the day database in a completely separate application. Is there anything like that on Linux that allows me to go right inside of different applications and get them to talk to each other in ways their authors never intended? If there isn't, there should be.
I'm not suggesting that Windows is a superior OS -- I chose Linux as my Internet server, after all. I just think the tradeoff you get for Linux's power, reliability, and price is a difficult OS to learn created by people who don't care much about making it easier.

It might also be noted that rcade has written 11 books on Java(! including one that I own,) so he is not exactly representative of users who's minds are boggled by computing complexity.

I hope not. But since I spend almost all of my time writing for beginners and communicating with them in e-mail, I have a lot of sympathy for people who don't want all of their computing to be driven by the principle that harder is better.
posted by rcade at 12:46 PM on December 8, 2001


Linux is great. You need patience for sure. But any shortcoming one may find with it isn't neccessarily the fault of the code, but more, the endless variables of differing computer components.
That's pretty weak. Poor hardware support is a failure from any practical standpoint.
posted by holloway at 1:08 PM on December 8, 2001


Holloway: Windows XP supposedly has a settings migration wizard that lets you move all your custom configurations around from one desktop to another. I don't know if that makes my Total Recorder hack easily transferable, but it sounds like it might.
Thanks, I need something like that for work. I'll look into it.
posted by holloway at 1:19 PM on December 8, 2001


Did anyone actually read the Register article that sparked this off?

It was fairly clear that the issue was with GUI programs - Roblimo didn't know or use the "easy way" to do things and so was forced to explain the hard way.

One GOOD thing about MacOS and Windows is that the GUI has been pretty stable for years, and evolved slowly. By contrast, most of the Gnome goodies I'm using haven't been in existence for even 3 years, and have evolved hugely in that time.

I can't tell people easily how best to drive Gnome or KDE, because I haven't learnt yet either. OTOH, I'm not as motivated to learn, because I'm already well-used to the CLI way. It's like asking an old DOS user how best to use Windows 3.1.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:32 PM on December 8, 2001


It was fairly clear that the issue was with GUI programs - Roblimo didn't know or use the "easy way" to do things and so was forced to explain the hard way.
"I [Roblimo] butted in just before the new guy was totally lost, and showed him how to set up his modem connection the easy, point and click way - in about 30 seconds."
posted by holloway at 1:39 PM on December 8, 2001


I hope I'm just missing something here, but it appears, n9, that you're saying your average UNIX-variant has better application "integration" because of the pipe. Please tell me that's not what you're saying. While the pipe model is extremely flexible, it has nothing on a scripting model where you can truly interface with the OS and apps. Your netscape example is a good one. As someone else mentioned, what happens if (e.g.,) you're running Netscape's httpd, and that process's name has the string "netscape" in it? With windows scripting, you can enumerate all windows on the current desktop, look for those that belong to the process netscape.exe, and SendMessageTimeout(WM_CLOSE, ...). If they don't respond in whatever timeout you specify, *then* kill them. Your command-line kills all instances. This would be 10 to 20 lines of jscript (you could use PERL [or anything other language] if you had an active scripting host for it) and could be saved to a file that could be moved from system to system (obviating the other problem you mentioned w.r.t. rcade's "tool").

Windows scripting can also handle the AppleScript example, about "reaching into" an app and getting text. In fact, with the accessibility support built into Windows, there's very little one cannot do.

Finally, the vast majority of command-line programs that are available for *NIX can be found on Windows (if not in a vanilla installation, you can certainly find them w/o too much trouble). XP has a ton of new command-line tools (which can be combined through your beloved pipe!); if you're comparing Windows 98's command.com to bash, then yes, you'd be disappointed with Windows. Things have changed, though, and are just getting better.
posted by JasonSch at 1:41 PM on December 8, 2001


And not to followup my own (too lengthy) post, but as a point of reference, your "ps -ef | grep netscape | grep -v grep | awk '{print $2}' | xargs kill -9" command has this equivalent in Windows XP (using stock command-line tools): "taskkill /F /IM netscape.exe".
posted by JasonSch at 1:56 PM on December 8, 2001


Maybe that article has a point; as a relative linux newbie, here's what I do:

killall -9 netscape

or more likely, I just click on the XKill icon I have on the desktop, then on the netscape window.
posted by boaz at 2:14 PM on December 8, 2001


I think that it is funny that you guys are razzing me for my "tautology" (my fave definition is "a statement that is true by virtue of its logical form alone" :) I wish I had a few of those up my sleeve. ).

True achievements are difficult to attain. That's the point. Nothing is easy.

I also think that it is funny how you make a point out of my one liner netscape killer. Netscape doesn't have a man page and if I wanted to be all pro I'd run ps in extended description mode and look for the proper path to executable. Jeez. Or I'd wrap the app in a script that wrote the pid to a tag file and then killed all the child processes to that script. Or a million other things.
posted by n9 at 2:14 PM on December 8, 2001


BTW, does anybody know of an XKill workalike for Windows 2000? You run the program, click the window and it kills it. I'm sick of the Ctrl-Alt-Del, choose Task Manager, click End Process shuffle.
posted by boaz at 2:28 PM on December 8, 2001


Windows scripting can also handle the AppleScript example, about "reaching into" an app and getting text. In fact, with the accessibility support built into Windows, there's very little one cannot do.
Reaches in... are you absolutely sure? Don't they just all have the common ground of the clipboard in Windows? You can get the contents of the X clipboard with Xsel. KDE has the DCOP command to access klipper's contents (klipper uses X's clipboard anyway so - unless you wanted to pull out an ancient clipboard item - Xsel would work).

Boaz: At work I have a bit of software that sits in the system tray as an icon. Right-click and it brings up a list of processes to kill. And i'm sure that as soon as I post this the name will come to me.
posted by holloway at 2:44 PM on December 8, 2001


*black-arsed pot hangs head in shame*

s/roblimo/guru

But the point holds, I think.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:45 PM on December 8, 2001


boaz, you can bring up taskmgr by just hitting CTRL+SHIFT+ESC. Don't know if that's any better. I can write you a windows version of xkill. I'll do that tomorrow, if no one suggests an existing solution.

Fairly sure, holloway. With MSAA you can get the text from just about anything. Search MSDN for more info if you're curious.
posted by JasonSch at 3:49 PM on December 8, 2001


crasspastor sez:

Linux is great. You need patience for sure. But any shortcoming one may find with it isn't neccessarily the fault of the code, but more, the endless variables of differing computer components. If only you could see KDE 2.1 on my 15.1 inch TFT monitor--

Pardon my French, but so fuckin' what?!?

This is exactly why Linux will never catch on with the vast majority of the public.

There isn't any LUG in my town and most Linux "experts" like to lord their tech superiority over us poor, dumbass WinDoze users who are actually interested in Linux. I'm exactly the type of user that you should be helping. Most people I've asked about Linux have one response: GUH? At least that's been my experience. I'd like to compare the two and decide for myself but my poseur computer skillz will never allow that.

You're all gonna choke on your own sense of superiority and Gates hatred. What a waste.
posted by zeb vance at 3:50 PM on December 8, 2001


Thanks for the offer, JasonSch, but a little Googling™ turned up WinKill, which seems to be just what I'm looking for. It lists compatibility as Windows 95/98/NT, so I hope it's not outdated.
posted by boaz at 3:58 PM on December 8, 2001


There isn't any LUG in my town and most Linux "experts" like to lord their tech superiority over us poor, dumbass WinDoze users who are actually interested in Linux. I'm exactly the type of user that you should be helping.
INSTALL LUNIX!!!1
You're all gonna choke on your own sense of superiority and Gates hatred. What a waste.
What a waste that you'd get turned off a system by some of its users. Not that it's better, or worse, or anything, at all, but trying anything different is the best way to understand what you have.
posted by holloway at 4:44 PM on December 8, 2001


Pardon my French, but so fuckin' what?!?

What about the next sentence I wrote which reads:

And this thing that Linux isn't a desktop OS. Bullshit! That's nothing more than your opinion. I find the desktop environment of KDE far superior in its continual rollout of advancements and comfortable than what's on the neighboring "gaming" partition. But you see, that's my opinion too.

Pompous fucking troll. It comes down, ultimately to opinion.

This is exactly why Linux will never catch on with the vast majority of the public.

That's the point about the "right now" argument about anything Linux-for-the-masses-wise. The distros all continually improve. And I'd bet that you could plop down four bucks for the new Mandrake release and have it running flawlessly in a half an hour. Furthermore, you got me all wrong. I love to help. If you wanted to be cool, and not lower the insult bar to your faux-martyr level, you'd find that myself and a host of others would be happy to help. I don't know much mind you, but I'd be all for throwing my $.02 in. That is if people like you didn't have such a huge artificially grained chip on your shoulder. Your hatefulness gives me the willys.
posted by crasspastor at 5:54 PM on December 8, 2001


Mod Rusty up! Oh wait.

I think I'm going to get working on a distro called "Old Hat." It'll have an easy installer and allow you to only read and post to slashdot and mefi. Every time the words linux and microsoft show up, a pop up appears and gives you an itemized list of the pro's and con's of Linux and Windows. May the lame, tired, and hackneyed arguments never end!
posted by skallas at 6:30 PM on December 8, 2001


Or, for those of us who haven't been knee-deep in this holy war for the past X years, this has been a great thread to see a lot of pros and cons tossed out. I'm not a Linux Fan, but it really says something about its success when the arguments generally seem to boil down to "it's all about one's opinion". That in itself says plenty about the abilities and shortcomings of almost every current OS. May you all thrive well in your chosen environment.
posted by kokogiak at 8:56 PM on December 8, 2001


holloway sez: "That's pretty weak. Poor hardware support is a failure from any practical standpoint."

I love this argument. Really, I do.

Linux would have hardware support rivalling that of Windows if hardware manufacturers would either share how to talk to their hardware with linux developers, or write their own linux drivers. Sadly, however, most don't.

The fact that Linux has a lot of the hardware support that it does is because of either manufacturers who stick to existing standards (bless 'em), and/or people who are really good at reverse engineering things. The few linux-friendly hardware manufacturers out there count for a depressingly small part of that.

So basically, if you want better linux hardware support, talk to the people who make the hardware, not the linux developers. The linux guys can only do so much without help.
posted by CrayDrygu at 9:57 PM on December 8, 2001


I love this argument. Really, I do.
Wow! Thanks! *blush*
Linux would have hardware support rivalling that of Windows if hardware manufacturers would either share how to talk to their hardware with linux developers, or write their own linux drivers. Sadly, however, most don't.
Hey, waitta-minute... you were being sarcastic. I remember sarcasm from episode 234 of Ghostwriter. The one where Jamal Jenkins is accused of burning down Mr Smatlocks store. Oooh... I hated that Mr Smatlock.. he was such a weasel... and I hate you too!
posted by holloway at 10:21 PM on December 8, 2001


kokogiak: Don't listen! Almost none of the comments here are actual pros or cons. If you must take something away from all this, read it as a gloss of all the arguments on all sides that you can safely ignore.

There are actual pros and cons to all of the systems involved, but we're sure not getting at any of them here.

May you all thrive well in your chosen environment.

Right on. My only advice is to actually try to choose your environment. :-)
posted by rusty at 10:51 PM on December 8, 2001


My only advice is to actually try to choose your environment. :-)

Damn straight. I'm sure many folks don't really give much thought to what they use... I had a co-worker once that was thinking of buying "a computer", and he kept asking me whether "Dells" or "Gateways" or "Pentiums" were better? He couldn't seem to grasp that the hardware was what mattered, not the brand, or even that "Pentium" isn't the name of a packaged system.

Obviously this guy was a complete newbie, and I'm sure he didn't even consider buying a Mac, let alone knowing what the hell Linux was.

The point is, most folks participating in this thread are not this clueless... we know that there are other options WRT OS, etc.

Just don't settle for a tool simply because your familiar with it... you have the right to see for yourself if everyone opposite your views in this thread is full of shit or not.

FWIW, I use Win2k and Mandrake 8.1 KDE both on a daily basis. I'm an OS fence-rider :)
posted by canoeguide at 2:36 AM on December 9, 2001


I know this thread is a day old, but I had to comment. The most common complaint/question I see from new Linux users is...

"I installed it.. but what do I DO with it?"

No matter which way I described it or answered it, a lot of people just can't seem to understand that Linux is an OS just like Windows is an OS. In fact, so many people are confused over the difference between an OS and an application that the most basic education is required to get many new Linux users going. And this is where Linux fails, more often than not.

The home user market is about games, word processing, finances, and web surfing. Linux can do three of those things well. But without the game market, Linux fails for a lot of home users. There are other apps to replace most of Microsloth apps-Star Office, Netscape, tons of e-mail clients, etc, all point and click. MOST home users are not willing to reboot a computer just to play a game when one OS (Windows) can do it all.

I love Linux, but I don't see the average user benefiting from it. A Linux user can have a completely customized work environment, automated, scripted, elegant, fast, as complex or as simple as he or she wants it to be. How do you learn linux?

Install it, then ask yourself a question. Any question. "How can I use Linux to read my e-mail?" Do a web search. Read. Implement. At some point, after you solve enough problems, you are a tried and true Linux user.
posted by xyzzy at 2:45 AM on December 9, 2001


n9: Sorry, I just couldn't resist pointing out a way in which your pipes example might break. Yes, I know there's no man page for netscape.

Actually, I think Linux is a pretty good implementation of Unix. The trouble is, I hate Unix.
posted by Potsy at 7:09 AM on December 9, 2001


[my coworker] kept asking me whether "Dells" or "Gateways" or "Pentiums" were better? He couldn't seem to grasp that the hardware was what mattered, not the brand, or even that "Pentium" isn't the name of a packaged system.

And so what if he couldn't? I mean, I can't believe what a friggin' idiot you're describing -- an idiot like my father, a good English teacher for 30 years; like my wife, who fought her god-damned way through vet school with her own pennies; like my close friend with his dual degrees in philosophy and ESL; like many of my friends who have rich lives to give a tend to and -- if you can belive this -- don't care about the moral implication of their low level of IT knowledge.

Everyone ought to understand a certain amount about history, about how their own government works, about the foundations of their own ethics, about the broad geography and status of the larger world, about the basics of the legal system, about how decisions are made in their local world. Let's expect that of everyone, and even judge them for their failures in that area. But about computers and the systems/chips that run them? Give me a break.

Power users of any stripe have the right, I suppose, to feel satisfied in their accomplishments. But do they, better than newbies, appreciate that only the difficult is worth attaining? If you really think so, see a shrink. I mean it.
posted by argybarg at 5:36 PM on December 9, 2001


Argy: I suppose what you're saying is that computers should be like toaster ovens - the average person doesn't know exactly how they're made, what makes them tick, or what makes one better than another, but as long as it toasts bread, then that's all anyone needs.

That's probably true, and I don't think canoeguide was saying that anyone who doesn't know the difference between a Pentium and a Dell is an idiot. I think he was just pointing out that MOST people do not know the difference, nor do they care, which is why people will continue to run what their computers ship with. I could be wrong, but that's what I got out of it anyway.
posted by xyzzy at 5:37 AM on December 10, 2001


So close and yet so far.
posted by holloway at 8:25 PM on December 10, 2001


Ah... what the hell. Close enough...


posted by holloway at 9:02 PM on December 11, 2001


Something along those lines, xyzzy... was what I was shooting for... someone didn't bother reading past my first paragraph.
posted by canoeguide at 2:32 AM on December 20, 2001


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