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Re: Help!

On Fri, 2005-09-09 at 17:30 -0700, Steve Lamb wrote:
> David Clymer wrote:
> > I took Stephen's comments as a reaction against the (all too common)
> > tendancy of programmers to create a utility with a host of unnecessarily
> > byzantine switches and arguments,
>     But that's not what we're discussing here. 

It _is_ what is being discussed. If you start with stephen's email and
follow the thread, it should be pretty clear that we had diverged and
are talking about something more general than OS installation -
designing software to be easy to use.

>  We're discussing....
> Installing an entire Operating System! 

Ok. Let's merge what I'm discussing with what _you_ happen to be talking

>  And not just the basics.  No, we're
> not encompassing all sorts of things that many informed people don't call the
> OS but many ignorant people do!

I'm not sure I follow you here. What exactly are you not talking about?

>     If you install an OS, expect to read docs, period.  This isn't some random
> utility with a myriad of switches.  This is thousands of packages, millions of
> lines of code, tons of options.  Anyone who expects to touch that and not
> sully their mind with documentation is stupid.  Anyone who claims it can be
> done is selling something akin to the Brooklyn Bridge.

When I installed linux for the first time, I was a first year comp-sci
student. I had just built my own computer and installed windows on it. I
really had a minimal amount of knowledge of computers at that point, but
I installed an OEM version of windows on my PC, without problems, and
without reading a lick of documentation. It's not that I wouldnt have,
if I had to - I had done a the requisite research on how to build a own
computer. The fact was that I didnt _need_ to.

Now, several weeks later, I came across some websites describing this
neat OS called Linux and I decided to try it out. I bought a copy of
redhat 5.2, looked at the box with the pictures of the GIMP running in
X, etc, then began to install. In order to get anywhere, I had to pull
out the manual and follow it step by step, and even then it was hard
going. I finished up the installation and was left with a terminal and a
login prompt. I logged in, and was promptly lost. I had read enough to
know about cd, ls, mv, cp, etc. but didn't know about man, lynx, and had
no GUI + browser with which to get more info. The manual was 200 pages
long, and I didn't feel like spending that much time when I could just
boot into windows and be on my merry way.

My point is this: Yes, OS installation is a complex task, but that
complexity can, to a large degree, be hidden for the common case. In my
illustration above, the redhat installer was analagous to 'random
utility with a myriad of switches' and the windows installer was
(speaking relatively) the 'software that is fun and easy to use.'

I'm not saying that there is never a time where a user should have to
read documentation, but why force them to unnecessarily? If we really
want to give people the freedom to ditch microsoft at this point, many
are going to _have_ to install Linux (not everyone has linux savvy
friends). In order to make this practical, even attractive, we shouldnt
require a pile of docs to be read - for now it should just work. They
can really _understand_ later.


gpg-key: http://www.zettazebra.com/files/key.gpg

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