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Re: Clueless users are bad for debian (was Let's CENSOR it!)

Since you clearly put a lot of thought into that message, I'd like to kindly
suggest that the most productive way to keep Linux from being "dumbed-down"
is to figure out how to make software that offers the power you're used to
without being the gosh darn pain-in-the-butt that Unix has always been.

Most Unix software was designed with minimal attention to usability.  No, I
don't mean superficial beginner-friendliness; I mean usability even for
advanced users.  Sure, you're a hell of a lot more productive using Unix
software than Windows software, but that's not saying much.  How often do
you curse Unix programs for failing to offer reasonable defaults, or not
explaining what they're doing, or making you hunt all over to find the cause
of a simple error?  The signature below is a propos.  (jwz's rants are good
in general--find his unix-haters posts.)

Software doesn't have to be this way.  Think about programs that let you do
what you want without first screaming and cursing at them.  Debian
developers are right to want something easier.  But that doesn't mean
they're going to turn Debian into Windows.

Consider the example you gave in your own message: you like Debian's
packaging system because it saves you from compiling "less" every month, yet
allows you to compile a new apache that will still be well integrated into
the system.  Think of the menu system and the documentation system, things
that don't get in your way but make using a computer a little less
miserable.  See?  It's not an either-or proposition.

If you want help Debian, drop the macho "software has to be hard to be
powerful" attitude, and figure out how to make more of Debian like the
package system.  Study the proposed configuration management system.  Help
bring order to the XFree86 distribution.  Implement a scheme to reduce the
trade-offs between up-to-date-ness and stability.

To address your particular concern, the boot-floppies guys _are_ trying to
make the installation easier.  And from what I've read, they're going to do
a damn good job.  They'll add features that make the progress less tedious,
without taking control out of your hands (why should you have to enter your
PCI hardware when it's all right there in /proc/pci?).

Real usability isn't about reducing functionality and presenting a pretty
face to beginners.  Done right, it will make all of our lives easier.  Even,
eventually, beginners.

On the technical side, this is my great hope for Debian (overall, promoting
free software is a more important goal).


PS.  The Debian guys have pretty good judgement.  Don't lose sleep over them
dumbing down the distribution.

It's like a love-hate relationship, without the love.
- Consummate Unix hate Jamie Zawinski, on Linux

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