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Re: Linux: a gentle, growing approach

On Monday 14 October 2002 12:33 am, David Pastern wrote:
[big snip]

dave, i'll give you a couple of points due to the fact that the subject 
header says linux, and not debian. but then, given that it's a debian list, i 
have to take back, at least, one of them. in fact, given that you'd have a 
hard time imposing on this list for any other kind of help than with debian, 
maybe i should take back the other, as well. i'm not arguing against tools, 
but against tools that never really met the goals they once aspired to 
achieve. as martin intimated, once aptitude takes precedence, we can easily 
and happily dispense with the rest. in fact, i find aptitude, even in its 
present form, to be a far more useful tool than either dselect or tasksel, 
not that any of them come near the efficiency of apt and dpkg.

as far as accommodating those who want a nice easy operating system is 
concerned, debian ain't it to begin with. i'm damn near willing to bet that 
of all the users on this list, less than one percent started with and stayed 
with debian as their sole experience of linux. it's not a beginners distro. 
on top of that, don't even try to exhort the developers on the basis of 
accommodating the average user. not only will their likely response make you 
hop from your seat way down there in the antipodes, but most other users will 
be totally on their side. don't ever forget, we get the best operating system 
that ever existed, along with the best support that ever existed for 
absolutely nothing, or, failing nothing, then for, at most, $5 or $10 for the 
install cd's.

while i'd much rather live in a world where more people used debian than 
windows, that's not the world we're living in, right now. to my mind, a lot 
of the reason for that has to do with users being trapped into the m$ 
quagmire, lured by the frontend that says press enter or click ok and go and 
have a coffee. that kind of crap encourages willing ignorance, and i really 
hate that; and not just about computers. when i was much younger, i lived in 
australia, in a suburb of brisbane. i worked in a gas station on the main 
highway between brisbane and the gold coast. one day, a woman drove this car 
in to buy gas (petrol), and before i even got to the car, i could smell metal 
heated near to the point of fusing. she asked me to fill it up, and, before i 
set about that, i told her that the motor seemed hot. she said, well, put 
some water in the radiator. as i did that, i checked the dipstick and there 
wasn't a trace of oil on it. when i told her she needed oil, she angrily 
responded that all she wanted was petrol. i shrugged, gave her the gas, and 
let her go on her way. two hours later, a tow truck hauled her and her sad 
little car back into the gas station driveway. the motor had totally siezed 
and she was in tears. all of that happened because she had allowed herself to 
believe that all she had to do was buy gas in order to keep the car going. 
nobody else had ever told her anything else. that's just a little example of 
why i think holding the user's hand and letting them believe that they don't 
need to get acquainted with whatever kind of machine they're running is an 
insulting notion, however popular. at a certain point, it's not even about 
the user, any longer; it's about the conscience of those who know better.

while dselect and tasksel may serve the ends of inexperienced users, it's 
nonetheless true that they still suck. i see no harm in their abandonment, 
since those who survive their absence are that much less likely to show up on 
the list asking the kind of questions that almost inevitably elicit responses 
in the fashion of rtfb. as i mentioned before, debian really isn't designed 
with a mind to being a linux starter kit, whatever about linux from scratch. 
by the time anyone gets here with a view to succeeding, they tend to know 
what they're up against. personally, i think apt and dpkg are all anyone 
should need, particularly for any of those who've busted their balls dealing 
with yast and rpm and, especially, that weird-ass halfway to nowhere 
installation aid offered by mandrake.

you've said that you're relatively new to linux, so i give you back those two 
points for being gutsy enough to persevere with debian in the early days of 
your experience, but i'm pretty sure that, one of these days, perhaps in a 
year, you'll be feeling pretty much the same about those tools as they are 
now. even given martin's observation that tasksel serves the ends of those 
requiring a quickly installed bootstrap system, i'm also pretty damn sure 
that it doesn't take much time for the administrators of those systems to 
wean themselves of that dependency.

just a rant. don't be offended.


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