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FF Sparks (Casual)

[Geek] Random Jabber chat moment.

[20:20] <tapo> "can anyone explain to me how linux works?" gah. I hate missing noobs. noob questions are one of the few things I'm good at.
[20:22] <sparks> "Well, first, there's the mommy kernel and the daddy CPU.  And they get together and something magic happens, called 'runtime userland,' and..."
[20:23] <tapo> heh
[20:26] <tapo> 'Runtime Userland' sounds like a magical theme park or something
[20:30] <sparks> "Wark wark!  I'm Tux the Penguin, and I'm here to welcome you to Runtime Userland!"
[20:31] <tapo> Haha
[20:31] <sparks> "If you're feeling brave, you can try our most thrilling roller-coaster, the Kernel Panic!  For the kids, we have a whole arcade set aside, marked on the map as /usr/local/games!"
[20:32] <sparks> "And don't worry; after a long day, we understand you'll be tired.  For your convenience, we've NFS-mounted a hotel right here in the theme park!"
[20:33] <tapo> "Or cool down on our fun new system log flume!"
[20:33] <sparks> *laugh*  "/var/log/ride" :)
[20:33] <tapo> "Get your picture over at the kernel snapshots booth, with me or the scary BSD Daemon!"
[20:33] <tapo> haha
[20:33] <sparks> Hahahah!
[20:34] <sparks> ...we need help, don't we.
[20:34] <tapo> Indeed we do sparks, indeed we do.
[20:35] <tapo> Oh man, I'm gonna be coming up with stupid Linux theme park rides for the rest of the night.
[20:35] <treed> You seem to have that insanity thing covered. I don't think you need help at all.
[20:37] <sparks> My work here is done! :D


BWAH HAHAHAHA!! hee hee hee....

Good one. /var/log/ride. Priceless.
Occasionally, the jdev crew can be amusing. :)

Can anybody explain to me instead...

...how to make Linux useful?

I've tried to install Linux on two computers now -- my laptop and my mother's desktop. Both times were failures. It doesn't like my laptop at all -- half the hardware is unrecognised meaning I can't use most of what I have (a wireless card, an external sound card, an external hard disk drive, a webcam, my digital camera, my scanner, etc.). My mother's computer is much simpler so it works and does stuff, but it really doesn't like the USB disk sticks I need to use to transfer files and documents.

So in the end, both times I had to remove Linux (several different distributions because everybody advising me said "oh, you just didn't use the right distribution!") because it simply wasn't at all useful.

What can I do to find a useful Linux?

Re: Can anybody explain to me instead...

Well, in my experience -- and take this with a grain of salt, since I haven't tried it in a while -- Linux is a fine desktop /if you don't mind tinkering a lot/.

I would never give a Linux desktop box to my parents. They can't go out and buy a webcam and assume it'll work with Linux, or things like that. It's a pain to set up printers and file-sharing, etc. Now, some of those things have improved in recent years, or so I gather, but some have not.

For my part, I no longer run Linux as a desktop environment; it was too frustrating to me in a lot of ways. My desktop UNIX needs are met by my MacOS X box, since pretty much anything I could run under Linux I can run under MacOS X (it being another flavor of UNIX under the hood), and it's a lot happier with peripherals and whatnot too. In fact, I /have/ gotten both of my parents switched over to Macs running OSX too, so I have found a desktop UNIX system they can work with.

Now, that said, I think Linux is absolutely wonderful and useful in a server environment. I run Linux on the servers I have online (for hosting webpages, e-mail, MUSHes, etc.), and am quite happy with it. I just still don't feel it's really /there/ as a desktop operating system at the moment. :(

Re: Can anybody explain to me instead...

More and more, I feel the loss of BeOS.

It was my favorite.
Windows and MacOS, I would feel comfortable installing on a computer for my parents.

Linux, I would not. Why not? Let's say they go and buy a scanner. If they want one for Windows, they just go to Best Buy or something. If they want one for Mac, probably they can just go to Best Buy, but if they want to be really safe and certain, they just go to the Apple Store. They bring the printer home, plug it in, and have the scanner working, tada.

Let's say they want a scanner for Linux. They have to go online, look for 'does this work with Linux,' get the scanner, probably they have to download something and compile it, perhaps the drivers don't actually work with their specific kernel version.

They want a USB key to carry documents back and forth. They go buy one, plug it in on either Windows or MacOS X, the USB key drive appears on their desktop. Does this happen with Linux? In truth, the last time I tried USB keys under Linux, a great many of them didn't mount at all.

My point is that while Linux has improved a great deal over the past few years, I still don't feel it's suitable for Joe Q. Public's desktop usage. If I set my parents up with MacOS X, I sometimes get 'how can I do...' or 'help, I need to...' support calls, but I get them WAY less often than I would with Linux. They can find drivers on their own, they can find a printer on their own and install the drivers; my mother went and got a nice little HP for her Mac, plugged it in and installed the drivers on her own from the CD, whereas I imagine that while the printer /could work/ under Linux, it would have required a bit more effort. Tweaking the CUPS configuration file, something like that.

It's not about 'read my mind,' it's about what level of computer knowledge is needed. My parents can do what they need on the Mac without ever opening a tcsh or bash window; I don't believe the same is (yet) true about Linux as a desktop environment.
I've got twenty years computer experience; my father has more (he was programming in BASIC back when BASIC was the most advanced language around.)

I still get at least two calls a year from him on a 'How do I' or 'Help I can't' variety and he's running Windows. I don't think my father's unjustified in calling himself computer literate, but I shudder to think how he'd deal with Linux. Windows is complex enough.

Of course, that is half the problem. It isn't only that the bar for user literacy has decreased, but also that the inherent complexity of the computer world has increased. Linux is worlds more complex than UNIX, if for no reason but there's a plethora more hardware out there it has to deal with - and we won't even touch the complexity laying behind the "simplicity" of Windows.

Give most people DOS and they'd manage alright for the most part. Computer literacy is a two-edged sword; the easier things seem, the more difficult they really are.
I can't believe this is still a conversation, in this day and age. It reminds me of way back in 1994, when I showed one of my co-workers at the Geophysical Institute at UAF the Macintosh interface (okay, so he was a PI and I was some schmoe temp hired to put together a big book of physics papers in PageMaker; it was still cool working there). His amazement at the fact that we had icons of volumes and media, folders for directories surprised me.

His only (only) computer experience was sitting in front of a Sun.

"It's not about 'read my mind,' it's about what level of computer knowledge is needed."

Indeed, and it works just as well for people who know how to use mount; the automagic simply makes for less hassle.

As the person who started this, let me tell you what *I* want out of Linux (or any operating system).

I want it to work without me having to fiddle with it constantly.

It's that simple. I want a tool that I can just use. If I plug in a mouse, it works. If I plug in a scanner, it works. If I plug in an external disk drive (USB "key" or a real disk drive) it works. No messing around with things that look like the sorts of stuff I'd see back when I had a modem and it hung up. &$#@%!@#((((#$*!D(*!#$#%GRP

Windows isn't perfect. I hate it, in fact. Partially on political grounds; partially on the grounds that it is annoyingly frustrating sometimes. But if I plug in my 802.11g card (I had to look up that number just now....) -- it just sees it and either starts working or asks me for a disk. If the latter, I insert the disk and it works. The same for my external hard drive, my USB "keys", my webcam, my scanner, my external sound card, etc.

When I did this with Linux it didn't work. Nothing happened at all. I plug in my USB key, to use the most important example, and it sits there. Nothing happens. No hint that it saw the drive. No folder opening. No request for me to insert a disk with the driver -- nothing at all.

Now I'm sure if I wanted to read a million words of badly-written documentation in a foreign language (English is not my native language!), I could figure out how to make that work. But compare that to the Windows experience: I plug it in and it either works right away or it asks me to insert the disk that makes it work.

Is Windows perfect? Again, I say no. I hate it. But it's *FAR* better an experience -- frustrations and all -- than I've had with now five different distributions of Linux on two machines.