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Re: Reality check! [was: Re: Debian goes big business?]

cas@taz.net.au (Craig Sanders) writes:

> On Sat, Jan 23, 1999 at 08:00:06PM +0100, Paul Seelig wrote:
> > On Sat, 23 Jan 1999, Steve Shorter wrote:
> > 
> > > Since when has the purpose of debian been to appease the interests
> > > of the mass of unskilled consumers? There are lots of dists that are
> > > trying to do that. I'm sure they will do a good job of introducing
> > > newbies to Linux. But I never thought that was the purpose of
> > > Debian.
> >
> > Please don't let's start *this* kind of discussion yet again.  It's
> > *not* about appeasing to the masses of unskilled consumers.  It's
> > about increasing ease of installation, use and maintenance.
[ snip ]
> i hope you haven't fallen for the myth that a GUI config is inherently
> easier than a text file config, because that is simply not true.
Mere cosmetic changes won't help for making things more convenient.
That's where only logic is appropriate.  That's why i neglect your
further discussion about the GUI-fication of installation and

> "make a system easy enough for an idiot to use and only an idiot will
> want to use it"
My fortune cookies rather say:

	Shaw's Principle:

	Build a system that even a fool can use,
	and only a fool will want to use it

I like this myself quite a lot. ;-)

But it's only half of the truth.  I personally don't like to repeat
idiotic tasks which need an expert idiot over and over again if they
could effectively be automated.  Why for example do i have to insert
the block device i've been already booting from when configuring
dselect's install method?  And why do i have to insert the paths to
the binary directories on the CD if this is already standardized
enough to be automagically guessed without further questions?  Why
can't i choose an option like "standard CD installation source" along
with the usual way of prompting for the paths (to not annoy those
he-mans who still want to do it manually ;)?  This is a time saver and
no dumbing down of the Debian installation.  This is a matter of
efficiency as needed in your daily work.  That's the way SuSE and
Redhat(?) work and where at least SuSE really shines.

> there are other dists which cater quite well to the "mass of unskilled
> consumers". debian caters well for the skilled and for those who are
> willing to learn.
Debian forces even the skilled people to do it the hard way.  Debian
shouldn't BTW be a pedagogic and paternalistic distribution.  This is
not very practical.  When i do an install i want to do it as fast and
easy as possible and a first time user should be able to do so as

Just tell me why not?  What would this take away when it just adds
ease of use?  Even experts become tired of the need to be ones when
things can be made easier.  SuSE is BTW a success among proven
*experts* (i could tell you some very well known names) in Germany
because it is a time and effort saver.
> i find that very very hard to believe. what is good for unskilled people
> is to constrain their options so that they don't get overwhelmed by new
> information and the multitude of choices available. that is NOT good for
> skilled people...in fact, it is extremely annoying and frustrating.
Automatisms can be extremly annoying and frustrating if you can't
escape them - that's the problem of a well known commercial OS in
widespread use on the average desktop.  But it can be as extremly
annoying and frustrating if you can't escape all those tasks which
could rather be automated without loosing anything.  Having the choice
of applying automatisms is a good thing.  

The picture you are painting is far too onesided.  I mean we are
writing average shell scripts to avoid inserting long command lines -
but we still can.  We use a package system because we don't want to
always have to compile the programs we use all anew - but we still
can.  The same should be possible regarding installation routines.
> if you can contribute to the bootscripts so that it makes for an
> easier/faster install then that will be a good thing.
That's what it should be about.

> ditto for if you can come up with tools or whatever to automate
> configuration tasks without dumbing it down.

My primary point in this discussion was that a commercial entity could
probably aid quite a lot in polishing ease of installation of Debian.
This is a special task which needs special dedication to solve it
intelligently without dumbing things down.
> but if you can only come up with something which achieves simpler or
> easier configuration at the price of flexibility then you will not get
> a lot of support from many people here. install junk like that on your
> own system if you must, but don't try to turn debian into some sort of
> "linux for untrained chimps".
Sorry, but this was never what i implied.  Maybe you should read the
thread from it's beginning?
> > Hey, installations are terribly bothersome processes and Debian's
> > installation is the most cumbersome and lengthy of them all.  
> it aint that bad. it could be streamlined a bit, and there should be an
> option for non-interactive installs but it works, and it works well.
Well, it works, but no, it doesn't work nice at all.  Go out, get
yourself a SuSE (even an older one) and do a fresh install.  Forget
about all the dumb parts but note how intelligent certain tasks have
been automated.  Such automations would make a nice addition to
Debian.  Installations don't need to be neither hard nor dumbed down.

> i build lots of debian systems, most of them very similar to each
> other in the packages which are installed...so i make use of the tools
> available: dpkg --get-selections and dpkg --set-selections. used
> properly, they can eliminate almost entirely the need to run dselect
> during the initial install.
Whenever i could i simply duplicated and slightly adapted an already
set up system.  But we are speaking here about an initial setup as it
presents itself when installing from CD.

> apart from getting rid of postinst questions in various packages, i
> don't see how that could be made any simpler or easier. it certainly
> couldn't be done without limiting my choices and obstructing me....which
> may be 'simpler', but it sure as hell wouldn't make it any 'easier'.
The way you describe it is not the usual way installing Debian from CD
for the first time user.  We shouldn't compare apples and melons
> nothing at all is bad about that. if someone or some company wants to
> create a simplified distribution based on debian, they they are at
> liberty to do so. most debian developers would even see that as being a
> Good Thing<tm>.
So finally we are back to where this thread originally derives from.
But our talk is still cheap.  There needs to be someone to start this
company. 'nuff said.
> good. glad to hear it. i'd hate to see debian itself dumbed-down merely
> to serve a market which is already adequately catered for, at the
> expense of the technically-literate market.
Have you ever thought about the possibility of enhancing Debian such
that it could easily compete on the market without being dumbed down?
Have you ever thought about the possibility of a technical-literate
market which would gladly accept ease of use as well without having to
forget about their own skills?  It makes me very sad to see that lot's
of people seem to consider "ease of use" only as "dumbing down".  This
is IMHO no perspective at all.  Think about it.

I'll further refrain from discussions on this matter because they are
only time consuming and lead to nothing at all.  Talk is cheap.  I'll
be concentrating on more practical aspects.

                               Cheers, P. *8^)
   --------- Paul Seelig <pseelig@goofy.zdv.uni-mainz.de> -----------
   African Music Archive - Institute for Ethnology and Africa Studies
   Johannes Gutenberg-University   -  Forum 6  -  55099 Mainz/Germany
   ------------------- http://ntama.uni-mainz.de --------------------

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