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Re: Using Ubuntu when I'm used to Debian.

On Tue, Apr 04, 2006 at 03:00:33PM -0400, Hal Vaughan wrote:
> On Tuesday 04 April 2006 13:51, Andrew Sackville-West wrote:
> > On Mon, 3 Apr 2006 22:49:00 -0700
> >
> > Christopher Nelson <chris@cavein.org> wrote:
> > > On Mon, Apr 03, 2006 at 11:49:10AM +0100, Adam Funk wrote:
> > > > I'm getting a new computer at work with Ubuntu on it, but I'm
> > > > used to using Debian (at home and at my previous job).  I
> > > > understand that they have some similarities.
> > > >
> > > > I'd appreciate any suggestions about common pitfalls when making
> > > > this transition, things that will catch me by surprise, etc.
> > >
> > > You have to install a mail server and mailx and mutt after the
> > > install, it's not done for you.  There might be other things you
> > > expect to be there, but aren't--those were the biggest things that
> > > tripped me up when I tried Ubuntu.
> >
> > one of the symptoms of "user friendliness". Ubuntu, I assume, makes
> > the assumption that they are pulling in windows users who want a
> > windows type mail environment with MUA talking smtp and pop to
> > smarthosts out on the 'net at large instead of a local mail
> > distribution system. I'm sure there are other symptoms of a similar
> > nature where they are moving away from the *nix heritage in the
> > interest of user-friendliness. I wonder how that plays out in the
> > long run?
> I think in the long run there'll always be config files that are easy to 
> edit, but we're just seeing more and more tools that make Linux easier 
> and easier to use.  In the long run, it's a good thing.
> I notice so many geeks with that kind of concern.  There's this idea in 
> many circles that Linux is being ruined because this and that are added 
> that make it more user friendly.  Every time someone suggests something 
> that makes an install easier or an easier config method, there is 
> always hostility in this group and elsewhere.  If the real issue were 
> that people didn't like those programs, the solution would be simple: 
> don't use them.  Just keep using a text editor to edit config files.
> After all, even with Linspire, you can always edit the config files and 
> skip the user-friendly gui editors.  I think the real reason so many 
> geeks don't like these programs is that Linux has, for years, been a 
> playground of the geeks.  At first you could say, "I don't use Windows, 
> I use Linux," and people would ask what it was.  The words "operating 
> system" were enough to immediately brand one as a geek who was a master 
> with computers.  Lately, as Linux as gotten more recognized, one can 
> still be recognized as a true geek by using it instead of Windows.  I 
> think the resentment and frustration is not from the fact that there 
> are other ways to edit config files now, but that the once hallowed 
> geek space is being filled with non-geeks and true geeks no longer feel 
> like they have a special playground all their own with terms that mark 
> them as computer masters.  True, one can switch to BSD, but I think 
> many realize it won't be hard to port any of the Linux programs to BSD 
> and continue the invasion.

The real problem with nice configuration programs is that they don't do 
enough of the job.  They're fine when you want a relatively 
straightforward configuration and once you've set it up, it just works.  
They are a complete misery when things don't work as expected, which is, 
in my opinion all too often.  Then they leave you clueless, because you 
haven't learned how things fit together while using the editor on the 
configuration files.  And worse, you oftern don't even know what they've 
done to what configuration files, so you have a hard time even finding 
out how to undo the damage.

That said, I think the syntax of 
configuration files is usually execrable.  And the semantics is never 
well-defined.  Just try to figure out from, say, the lilo documentation 
which options go into the boot stanzas, and which outside.  Or even try 
to get a clear definition of just how it knows where the first stanza 
starts and ends.  It ain't easy.

The art of configuration is a black art, is not approached in any kind 
of uniform fashion, is poorly documented.  When it works, having a nice 
configurator is, well, nice, but when it doesn't (all too often) it's 
worse than having none at all.

No.  I object to most configuration "wizards", but not because I want to 
hand-edit text files by hand, using emacs.  Or vi.  Or nano.  Or even 
(does anyone remember?) teco.  I've been able to make very little sense 
out of that w3web-based configuration system that was dropped recently 
because it couldn't recruit a maintainer.  But CUPS seems to do its job 
fairly well.  And X, well, it's horrible.  It really ought to have a 
try-it-and-see mode for each of its components, so you don't have to 
completely configure the whole thing before you get *any* feedback about 
whether any of it was even slightly workable.  (some other distros are a 
little bettor on this than Debian).

And I really think a Debian install should automatically check the 
entire configuration into a revision control system of some sort.  So 
that when you screw things up you can get beck to the version that used 
to work.  And that includes configuration-like things in /var and 

-- hendrik

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