Fwd: Re: [Wine]re:re:HELP

David Jones gnome at hawaii.rr.com
Sun Oct 10 18:58:04 CDT 2004

Joshua Crawford wrote:
> * David Jones <gnome at hawaii.rr.com> [2004-10-09 17:17 -1000]:
>>Joshua Crawford wrote:
>>>* David Jones <gnome at hawaii.rr.com> [2004-10-08 20:52 -1000]:
>>>>Hmm, as someone who made a living as a technical writer who mainly wrote 
>>>>user documentation ... I too find the standard Linux documentation (what 
>>>>is commonly available online and/or comes with Linux) I've read not very 
>>>>accessible for newbies. It makes many assumptions about the readers' 
>>>>background knowledge.
>>>What do you think of the DOS-Win-to-Linux-HOWTO? I've recommended it to a
>>>few people before, and they don't seem to have had too much trouble with 
>>>the conversion.
>>I haven't looked at it.
> I've only skimmed it myself, but it seems pretty good.
>>I used UNIX before I met DOS or Windows, 
>>switched to WinDOS 3.1 when the specialized hardware I was using died, 
>>then switched to OS/2 and am just relatively recently moving my 
>>production work to Linux (I've had Linux systems around for several 
>>years, just not done much with them). Using a distro called MePIS right 
>>now (on one machine), Knoppix on another machine, and we have LibraNet 
>>Linux on my wife's laptop. MePIS is the first distro where I didn't have 
>>to consult documentation (and experiment a lot) to get Linux to 
>>recognize my USB hard drive and memory card reader.
> I was unfortunate enough to be forced through a year's worth of DOS usage
> before I was allowed to use a UNIX machine (despite being a complete newbie
> to computing, as soon as I walked into the lab I wanted to use the SPARCs
> (with the bigger monitors and extra buttons on the mouse and keyboard) more
> than I wanted to use the PCs :)

My UNIX system didn't have any such thing as a big monitor or mice. It 
supported only 72-column text terminals - no graphics whatsoever. vi was 
your text-editing friend. It was actually kind of amazing - it could 
support 8 programmers using an 8MHz 8086, 1MB of memory, and 8 slave Z80 
processors that handled the terminals. It had a whopping 10MB of hard 
drive space and a 720KB 5.25" floppy drive. It had been used by a 
progamming client of mine who wrote real-time property security systems 
using it. He paid a consulting bill by giving it to me when he finally 
stressed out too much and disappeared into the northern Sierra Nevada 
mountains on his horse.

>>>At any rate, I think that "lack of documentation" is a bit of a null
>>>argument these days, when most newbies know about WWW search engines.
>>I didn't say "lack of documentation." There's lots of documentation 
>>findable via search engines, but figuring it out AND figuring out how it 
>>applies to your Linux distribution and situation is the challenge that 
>>very little of it addresses, or at least that's how it seems to me. 
>>There seems to be a shortage of *simple* step-by-step instructions 
>>around, perhaps because many Linux doc writers take the approach that 
>>you have to put everything into it - cover every possible "expert" 
>>option you could possibly need - so that it's no longer a simple set of 
>>instructions, it's a tangle of conditional steps that a lot of people 
>>have difficulty handling.
> Hrm. As a newbie I was glad to find detailed manuals

My problem with the detailed manuals is that too often they tell you 
everything there is to know about every option that exists - but assume 
you already know which options you need to use to accomplish something.

 > rather than the
> over-simplified and incomplete windows help files I was getting used to.

I happen to agree with that. But it's not limited to Windows help files! 
I personally think that online help should be much better than paper 
based help, because you can conveniently present simple step-by-step 
instructions and use hyperlinks to bring in the more detailed and/or 
comprehensive information when the person using the help file wants or 
needs it.

>>>Is CorelLinux still around? I haven't heard of it in years.
>>Corel sold it to a company called Xandros. Xandros has continued to 
>>develop it, and from what I've read, made it a very good distro for 
>>newbies, focussed on desktop use. <http://www.xandros.com/> I haven't 
>>looked at their documentation (you have to buy a copy of it to get that) 
>>so I don't know if they've continued the tradition.
> Oh, ok. I've heard good things about Xandros.

I noticed that they're finally offering their Open Distribution for 
download. It might be interesting to see what it's like now.

>>>What does it matter if a book is out of date, if the information is still
>>>useful? When I was first learning UNIX in 1996 (SunOS 4 at school and
>>>Slackware 3 at home), the book I found most helpful was a 1983 McGraw-Hill
>>>publication called _Introducing the UNIX System_ I'd picked up cheap from a
>>>second-hand book store.
>>Because if you don't know what you're doing, you don't know if the 
>>information is still any good. You check the book, you check your 
>>distro, and maybe it doesn't work quite that way. Or it doesn't work 
>>that way at all, because of a major version change, or just a 
>>peculiarity of the distro you're using.
> So you experiment. That's what I can't understand about newbies these days
> (god, I sound old when I say that, but even in just the 9 years I've been
> online, the quality of newbies has noticeably deteriorated) - fewer and
> fewer people seem to like to just play around with things, try and figure it
> out for themselves. Instead they want to be lead by the hand because they've
> got some morbid fear their computer is going to blow up if they click the
> wrong button.

Or they simply don't have the time or the interest. We have a number of 
friends whose response is, "Why should I have to learn all that stuff 
just to use a computer?" It's kind of like saying you have to go learn 
how the carburator, engine, brakes and steering work (in some detail) 
before you can put the key in the ignition and start your car up.

My daughter's been using a computer since she was two years old - and 
has no idea or interest in how it does what it does. She uses Windows 
2000 and knows how to install software, setup a printer, and use Mozilla 
and her assortment of drawing programs. She considers that enough.

Some people just want to use a computer, not learn the nuts and bolts.

> If they're that worried about their precious hardware, why don't they just
> find an old system to play with? I mean, here in Oz at least, you can get a
> '486 or pentium system for under $50 (including monitor, keyboard and
> mouse), or even just pick them up off the roadside when the council does
> hard waste collection.

Not always possible, depends on where in the world you live. The US and 
some other developed countries have a plethora of old computers running 
around (at one time I had 12 here).

The last $50 system I saw around here (Hawaii) was your choice of a 
286-based laptop (with no hard drive, floppy only) or a 25MHz 386. We 
used to have a place around that bought and resold old computer 
equipment, but they've gone out of business and nobody seems to be 
filling the void.

>>And some books are simply not aimed at a desktop user. Here's an 
>>example. Our home network uses Windows' SMB networking. We have no file 
>>server or domain controller. When I started adding Linux boxes to the 
>>network, I decided I needed to learn Samba, so I bought "Teach Yourself 
>>Samba in 24 Hours". Fine book - if you're a system administrator on a 
>>network where a Linux system is the file server and domain controller. 
>>It has precious little to say about setting up a Linux box to function 
>>as just another peer on the network.
> Was the SMB-HOWTO no use to you? I've got to look at that some time myself.

I don't remember if I even looked at it. I was mostly relying on the 
docs that came with my distro, under the assumption that they would 
cover the distro better.

gnome at hawaii.rr.com

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