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Re: A good charge against free operating systems

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On Friday 09 March 2001 10:03 am, Frédéric Aguiard wrote:

> When I use a screwdriver or a hammer, I don't think about physical material
> resistance issues.
> Of course, I could break my screwdriver trying something too hard for it.
> But if I stick to a normal, basic use of my tool, it shouldn't break. And I
> shouldn't have to care about all the technical basis behind it.
> In fact, my screwdriver is a very nice tool, indeed. Most of the time, if I
> do something foolish with it, let's say, use its stick as a hammer, it may
> not work very well (it's not what it has been designed for) but will not
> break either.

Sorry, but I suspect this analogy does *not* mean what you think it does.  
For many years I have worked in the construction industry using tools of all 
descriptions...the use of a tool is something you have to *learn*...you are 
not born knowing how to wield that hammer or that screwdriver, you are not 
born knowing how to read a tape measure (reading a tape measure properly is 
from my experience of mentoring many apprentices one of the hardest initial 
things to learn.  It can take some of them over week to master).
Similarly, yes, a computer is a tool, no, you should not have to necessarily 
understand all the underlying principles of it before you can use it, however 
you do have to learn how to make effective use of that tool.  It is almost 
painful to watch someone who has not learn how to use a hammer properly 
struggle to drive a nail home.

> You can't ask a secretary to understand all the complexity of a linux
> system. You can't even ask her to use a shell, nor anything like vi or
> latex or anything else. This is not HER job. She just needs a tool, a tool
> providing her what she needs for her daily work, a tool that does not break
> up in her hands while just using basis functions, nor doing something
> reasonably foolish.

Why can't I ask her to use vi or latex?  let's go with something a shade 
easier...I can teach someone in an afternoon all they will ever need to know 
about using a simple editor (say jed).  I cannot teach most people in an 
afternoon how to properly wield a saw or an electric drill, these things take 
practice and thought and training.  In fact I would say that from a standing 
start I could teach someone to use jed far more quickly than I could teach 
them to use word.

> I, as a computer engineer, can understand most of the subtle technical
> issues of a linux system. I can deal with lots of problems. Hell, I can
> even use VI to modify a configuration file, or personalize my enlightenment
> desktop down to any pixel... But I agree with the author of the debated
> article : linux is not yet a tool that can be put in the hands of
> end-users. Not that the end-users are too stupid to use it, but linux is
> just not mature enough for that.

I read the article with interest.  The author seems to be operating from a 
false premise (let's not even start in on all the out of date parts of the 
rant or the outright inaccuracies in her article).  She seems to be under the 
impression that linux is supposed to be a desktop operating system.  It is 
not, it is a server operating system, and people like myself and probably 
yourself who like computers and like playing with the innards of your 
hardware and software are happy to use it as a desktop.  I fail totally to 
see why a rant like that should be perpetrated on something because it fails 
to be what it is not and was not designed to be (although it is slowly 
evolving towards this, hopefully without losing any of the power).  This is 
like ranting at an apple for not being a strawberry.

- -- 
Stephen Stafford
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