[Techtalk] What distro?

Akkana Peck akkana at shallowsky.com
Sun Oct 17 18:14:49 UTC 2010

> On 10/17/2010 04:34 AM, Little Girl wrote:
>> I could go on and on about the benefits of choosing Linux over
>> Windows. The only thing I don't understand is why Linux isn't more
>> popular. So I pondered it.

I suspect the biggest reason is that nearly every computer you can
buy comes with Windows preinstalled, whereas to use Linux, you have to
- know it exists
- somehow choose one distro over all the others
- download an ISO and burn it to a CD
- install it, facing the scary prospect that it might somehow wipe
  out your Windows install
- Deal with any issues specific to your machine (special wireless
  drivers, suspend issues or whatever).

That's all a huge barrier compared to just buying a machine and
turning it on, so it's no surprise that fewer people run Linux.

Billie Walsh writes:
> 2) When someone does try Linux out and joins a mail list for help, the  
> replies they get and some of the messages flying around turn them off  
> and they go back to Windows.

Definitely a problem. I wonder if Windows lists are any better?
But most people don't ever go searching for online Windows forums;
either their machine works out of the box, or they have a relative
or neighbor help them or they pay some local person for help.

But since Linux users DO have to go to online forums, I wish more
of them would be nicer to newbies. I hope we're helping with that in
our little corner of the net ...

> If I wanted to use the command line routinely I would still be running  
> DOS. I want a GUI. I want things that run in windows. I want  
> convenience. When questions are asked and long strings of esoteric  
> command line strings are given in reply it's an automatic turnoff. I  
> understand that there are many that have used Linux from long before  
> there was a GUI so they know more about CLI than they do GUI. But  
> common, move into the twentieth century you guys. There are some things  
> you can do with the CLI that you just cannot do with the GUI but when  
> someone asks for help give out the GUI method when it's possible. Those  
> esoteric command line string scare off people. 

Here's where I'll have to disagree with you a little. People don't
give out command-line answers because they think everyone should be
a geek and use the command-line for everything. We give out those
answers because the alternative is a long dialog:

"What version are you running?"
"Ubuntu 9.10."
"Hmm, I'm running Kubuntu 10.04 so I won't have the same menus you have.
If you go to the System menu do you see something that says Network Setup?"
"I don't have a System menu, is Computer the same thing?"
"Um, maybe ... is there anything in it named anything like Network Setup?"
"There's Internet and there's also Networks."
"Try Networks ... what do you see?"
"It says PPP and Samba, what are those?"
"Never mind, that's something completely different ... um, what if
you go back to Internet?"
"That has Mail, Web, and IRC ... what's IRC?"
"That's not it either ... hmm, can you read me the whole list of
what you see in that Computer menu?

... and so on, and sometimes it can take 45 minutes just to get to
the right menu to *start* diagnosing the problem. And the new Linux
user isn't learning anything from any of it, because when you're
going through 50 different menus rapidly in the space of half an
hour you're not going to remember which one was finally the right one.

Alternately, you can tell the user:

"Bring up a terminal window, type ifconfig -a, and paste what it
prints out."

If you're just trying to help someone fix a problem and get the
system running, the command line is often a *much* easier way of
doing it. When someone gives you a command line recipe for
something, it doesn't mean they think you should be using the
command line for all your daily work; it means they're trying to
find the fastest way to help you fix your specific problem.

> Only add to the GEEKINESS  
> quotient. "RTFM" is _NOT_ a helpful answer.

Absolutely. We've all seen answers like that in other Linux groups,
and that's why "RTFM" by itself is not an acceptable answer here in
Linuxchix. Though it's okay to say "The answer is in the manual,
which you'll find at this web url or by typing this man command;
in particular, look for the section labeled XYZ."

> Then there are the long, near flame wars, that seem to carry on forever  
> on most Linux help lists. If you don't have an answer to someones  

Yeah. That definitely hurts Linux; I'm sure it turns a lot of people
away, and who can blame them for not wanting to be associated with
groups like that?

Again, I suspect there are similar groups in the Windows world too,
but most Windows users never have to see that, whereas Linux users do.
I wish we could do something about it; best we can do is provide a
better alternative here in our own corner of the net, and try to be
good examples when we post in other groups.


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