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Re: water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink.

on Fri, Apr 13, 2001 at 12:21:43PM -0400, Brian Nelson (nelson@bignachos.com) wrote:

> First of all, installing and using any linux distro, especially debian,
> is nothing like installing and using windows.  It doesn't matter how
> much of an expert you are in windows.  It won't carry over into debian.
> This is a major source of frustration for newbies like you, because they
> expect windows but don't get it.

Naturally, there's documentation on this topic, the "From DOS/Legacy MS
Windows to Linux HOWTO"

> Second, you cannot learn to use linux the same way you learned to use
> windows.  In windows, if you point and click enough, you will
> eventually learn how to do virtually everything that is possible in
> windows.  This is actually one redeeming quality of windows-- it is
> easy to learn.  No books are required.  The trade-off is that you are
> quite limited in what you can learn.  A linux distro, on the other
> hand, is much harder to learn but is vastly more configurable.  This
> is by design.  We like it this way.  

I'll dispute (mildly) the "it's by design" and "we like it that way".  I
think part of the issue with GNU/Linux / Unix is that it sort of
happened that way -- with some guiding principles.  But it's not crafted
or designed so much as evolved.  And it would be preferable to have a
gentler introductory curve.

My own preferred formulation is:

   GNU/Linux has a steep learning curve, but a high payoff function.

Harder to learn.  Far more powerful to use.  Steep ain't all bad if
there is a gentle hill at the low end for people to be able to do
stuff easily.  Don't drag down the high end, just take away that
four-foot wall you have to scramble up initially.  A six-to-twelve inch
curb would be good to scare off the people who trip over their own
shoelaces (let MSFT support take the hit).  I'm not against this, I'm
really not.

> You aren't going to learn to use debian by merely experimenting and
> pointing and clicking.  Research and lots of reading will be required,
> even to do stuff that's trivially easy for you to do on windows.

Slight quibble here as well.  A mix is really good.  Read, try,
experiment.  You'll learn.  Quickly.  Possibly less "intuitive" than
Legacy MS Windows, but still possible to learn through exploration.

> Third, the documentation you seek is out there.  The documentation is
> less organized for debian because debian is not a commercial entity
> like Redhat.  

Bollox.  Debian's documentation is *better* organized than RH, IMVAO.
The best free 'Nix docs are arguably OpenBSD, which is decidedly
noncommercial.  My take is that most commercial organizations have fewer
resources to throw at docs than volunteer ones, and that organization of
the distribution (including documentation) is one of the fortes of
Debian.  Largely because there's direct ownership of Debian packages by
the package maintainers:  personal accountability at a low level.

> There is little motivation to make debian easier to learn for newbies
> because no one is making any money from a new adopter of debian.

The usual problem is that, as a newbie, you care, and once you've worked
out most of what you need to get things done, the newbie experience
isn't so signficiant any more.  Though this does gradually improve over


> You need to understand that it is not easy to setup and administer a
> linux box if you're new to it, which is apparently what you wanted to
> do.  

Again, most of the Debian defaults are pretty sane.  I tend to roll
stuff out and have it work.  Though reading docs is useful, some
packages require configuration.   And yes, you have to be there for it.

> If you want it to be easy, there are other OS's that will make it
> easier.  However, we believe you will get the best experience out of
> debian, which is why we advocate it.  It won't happen overnight, and it
> will be frustrating at times, but it's not impossible.
> Finally, complaining that debian is not like windows (which is exactly
> what you did, even if you don't realize that) isn't going to get you
> anywhere.  The reason we all use debian is because it's *not* like
> windows.

Funny, I hadn't noticed ;-)

> How come no one explains this stuff to newbies before they try a linux
> distro?

I realize this is a rhetorical question, but an attempt at an answer:
it's the users' prerogative.  There's no central point of control or
supply for Debian, though http://www.debian.org/ is a good starting
point, and much of the issues raised here are addressed there...if you
can find the right docs.

Debian, more so than most GNU/Linux distros, puts the onus on the user
to assess their needs, requirements, and expectations.  As I said
before, it's an OS for adults (including under that rubric, adults of
young age, who happen to be mature enough to deal with this stuff).

> -Nelson


Karsten M. Self <kmself@ix.netcom.com>    http://kmself.home.netcom.com/
 What part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?       There is no K5 cabal
  http://gestalt-system.sourceforge.net/         http://www.kuro5hin.org

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