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Road To Linux -- Made It! 165

Posted by JonKatz
from the small-step-for-mankind-big-step-for-me dept.
Long ago and far away, I started writing a series called "Road To Linux," in which I set out to learn Linux in a few weeks. Talk about clueless. Nearly one year, two wasted computers, a ticked-off spouse, (and a Yellow Lab who ate a motherboard) 30-plus books and manuals and much assorted debris later, I've more or less made it.
I have no illusions about the technical accomplishments I've achieved here, but these are the first proud words I've ever written online without any assistance from Bill Gates or Steve Jobs or any big fat corporation. Small stuff to most of you, Computer Everest to me.

My PPP daemon keeps cutting out, and I'm puzzling over swap partitions, random seeds and generators bin/appfinders, so I'll keep this brief. In the next few weeks, I'll write more about my personal, somewhat hellish road to Linux. It was a hummer, accompanied every step away by the jeers and cheers of geeks and nerds on and off of Slashdot.

The big lesson was that I approached Linux in the wrong way, from every conceivable perspective. It needn't be that hard.

Rather than wading into manuals and books and programming (if you do it, believe me, O'Reilly is the best), I finally figured out that there are people like Joe Volodarsky out there, and companies like Amnet, people who live and breathe computers and Linux and who actually pick up the phone and help Every-Single-Time-You Call! The truth is, I never did figure this out. Somebody figured it out for me, but I finally got it. If you're not a geek, that's the big news.

And I am not a computer geek, and don't aspire to be one. I'm a writer, and happy with that title. Posting a column on a Linux laptop somebody else designed and preloaded for me hardly makes me any sort of nerd or techno-whiz. This is, in fact, the level of the classic breathless newbie, a mantle I expect to take to the grave.

Disagreement and criticism is a healthy, integral part of Web-writing, but the minor yet persistent controversy surrounding my writing for Slashdot has always surprised me. Some are passionately into defining who belongs or doesn't, an unfortunately common and increasingly difficult impulse in electric (and off-line) communities.

The term "geek" is broadening and evolving daily, and is coming to mean different, complex and increasingly positive things to people.

The real geeks and hackers, it seems to me, aren't into chest-thumping about who deserves the title. Like Joe, their real kick comes from getting people where they want to go. They're almost invariably welcoming and helpful. They're pretty secure about themselves, and their techno-manhood. From the first, they've been trying to help move me along, to the best degree of my limited ability. But if I recognize my limitations in writing on a Linux Box, I'm still pretty happy about it.

Real programmers are different from mortals, certainly from writers. They are a separate species. Programmers are precise, confident and look ahead. They have no doubt they can make technology come out right for them. Writers are imprecise, uncertain and backwards-looking. Their relationship with technology is uncertain, a means, never an end.

But here's what the fight about me being on Slashdot has always really been about: You don't need to be - and shouldn't have to be - a programmer to use and appreciate Linux, which is, to my amazement, every bit as easy and logical as my beloved Macs, once you get past the installation.

Linux is fun. Knowledge is, in fact, empowering, and learning and seeing how a computer actually works, especially in the context of a powerful idea like Open Source, is worth the grief and trouble. And for non-geeks heading for Linux, there will be plenty of both.

Joe Volodarsky was savvy in puttng together this computer for me, to a degree I wouldn't have thought possible. He used KDE and set up folders for Netscape, WordPerfect, documents,the printer, Templates, News, Updates, the Gimp, CD-ROM and floppy disks. I can't stay off of the KAPP Finder, which scrolls through an exotic list of programs and apps I'm reading about one by one, using my O'Reilly and other Linux guides. My laptop was designed with me in mind, even down to a Mac OS logo on the start-up menu. I've spent a dozen happy but nerve wracking hours puzzling over random seeds and bizarre commands, but I've learned more about computing in the last few weeks than in the decade I've been online.

For somebody who loves to write about technology, this is definitely a humbling gift and an opportunity. Open Source is one of the most powerful ideas I've come across in media, even as I'm just beginning to grasp how complicated an idea it is. Linux is a huge part of it. I'd like to go as far as I can get, taking small steps, one day at a time.

Playing around with my new laptop, I'm fascinated by how accessible the workings of this system are, (and how hidden the processes of my other computers have been) and have even moved a few things around, killed a few programs, and relished checking the Term windows to see my computing life and history passing before my eyes. I was up till 2 a.m., and had more fun than at any point in my life aside from walking into Joe DiMaggio on a New York City street when I was a kid.

Since this is the third time I've tried to post this message, I'm not going to prolong it.

Thanks to Joe of Amnet, which makes Linux boxes, laptops and servers. For getting me up and running, he deserves a place in the Geek Hall of Fame. Rare in our world, he is both technologically skilled and empathetic. He only lost it with me two or three times, and then briefly ("Katz, you don't have to Re-Boot. Don't turn it off!"). Thanks also to VA Linux Systems for hooking up the Slashdot crowd with Sony Vaios.

For those of you who sneered and jeered, thanks. You gave me the iron will to persevere. It was the Penguin or Death. And nuts to you, too.

For those of you who supported me in a hundred ways - especially Rob, Jeff, Robin, Jesse, Joe, Karl, Tom, Sandy, and scores of others who offered help every single day for nearly a year - thanks even more.

I might never be a Linux Geek. But I am my own particular kind of geek now.

Seems to me that's the idea.

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Road To Linux -- Made It!

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Katz is really getting on my nerves. There is nothing more boring or unproductive than reading the effuse of someone who does not have a clue about something. If I want to learn the violin, I do not relish a book where some newbie out on his own takers pages to blurt out his elatement when he first found out which side of the bow to use, and that you had to put fingers on the strings. That's really worth shit. The right way is to go to a teacher and take lessons. You can cut down heavily on the lessons by taking and understanding books written by good experts, but the ramblings of one Jon Katz are just worthless for that purpose. It's like reading about the meandering course someone totally lost in one city took and found himself arriving finally at some location. Nice for him, but foolish to publish.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Good Job.

    If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

    I must say that I have been using Linux since .99 back in 91 or 92. Let me tell you how hard it was to install back then.

    First, you had to download all the disk images and write them to floppy. The floppies were in series, series a was a base install, series b was Unix tools, series x was Xwindows and so on. I had over 50 disks and I had to pick and choose packages from the installation because all the packages wouldn't fit on my 60MB partion.

    It took me a couple of weeks of fiddling to get a workable installation and a couple of months of optimizing to get a usable system, but I was running Xwindows and rendering images under Unix with a 386DX25, 5MB of RAM and a 10MB swap file in a 60 MB Linux partion. I could browse the web and write all my papers and do my college programming tasks all on my own Unix system at home. Very nice.

    It is good that you found some support for Linux. Most people need support sometimes, even for Windows and Windows is supposed to be easy.

    I have walked a few of my friends through the Linux installation process, but only the ones that I thought could handle their own support after I got Linux installed.

    Most of them have been Unix programmers, but one of them was a computer newbe that wanted to learn more about computers. I didn't think that he would ever get just how powerful Linux was, but I finally got him converted. Now he runs Linux almost exclusively and has a really good job with a bank in their computer department.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    That's not true !

    I've tried for years, and I still don't get it !

    --
    "I thought rm -rf meant read mail really fast"

  • it's the way you said it. If you're tone wasn't so
    venomous you would have gotten an "Interesting"
    or maybe even "Informative", I'll bet.

  • "But seriously, it is good to see that he has realized his limits, and that he would never be able to install it on his own. He is in fact a writer, and I am sure he has better things to do than wile away the hours tracking misbehaving daemons and tweaking vsync frequencies."

    YES!

    I don't like many of Jon Katz's linux-guru posts, mainly because they're saccharine and inane. I don't see using Linux as a mystical experience, and I certainly wouldn't say that my time using Linux ranks among the most wonderful of my life. So, to hear Katz's brand of "linux is life-affirming" drivel is stomach-turning for me. HOWEVER, in this article Katz seems to finally get it--he doesn't have to understand the system! To him, Linux, or Windows, or MacOS or any other OS is a tool, and only a tool. When he tried to make the big transition to Linux, he sounded like he was trying to impress the /. posters with his nascent geekiness. In finally realizing that he is not technically savvy enough to install Linux, he has done what many of us wanted all along. He acknowledged that he needed help, and that maybe, just maybe, installing an OS was too much for him. HOORAY!

    Jon, please, use Linux, love Linux, idolize Linux--but for the love of [deity] know your limits!!!
  • WOOHOO! We've turned Jon into a flaming usenet trollish type!

    Well not really but you talk like this is a bad thing that Jon is doing, when in reality it's no ones fault but the people who flamed him. Why shouldn't he bear ill will to those who consider him a complete and total babbling, disgusting, computer illiterate, prick? I know I would, and quite frankly, I don't understand why everyone who comments dislikes Jon so much.

    AHEM, LET ME REPHRASE.

    considering how many people actually read the articles but don't comment, Jon should consider just how huge a compliment silence actually is. There might be 100 comments but how many people saw the story and read the article? It's pretty safe to assume that people who post will disagree since conflict breeds discussion and conversation better than agreement.


    -[ World domination - rains.net ]-
  • I can't answer why you're having so many installation problems, but as for what to do once you get Linux installed: What do you want to do?

    Just about anything you *can* do with a computer, can be done with Linux. Many things can be done more elegantly than in Windows/MacOS. Some less elegantly (at present; this will change).

    If you are having trouble finding apps for a particular task, email me, and I'll try to help.

    Cheers,
    Warren
  • JonKatz wrote: Real programmers are different from mortals, certainly from writers. They are a separate species. Programmers are precise, confident and look ahead. They have no doubt they can make technology come out right for them. Writers are imprecise, uncertain and backwards-looking. Their relationship with technology is uncertain, a means, never an end.

    To which I feel compelled to reply: this is a load of bollocks. Complete bollocks. Flattering bollocks, if you happen to be a programmer, but nevertheless complete bollocks.

    What qualifies me to say this? Well, I'm a writer. I've spent quite a few years as a tech author. I write a magazine column in one of the highest circulation computer magazines in the UK. I have been known to write and sell books. But I am also a programmer -- head perl wrangler at an e-commerce outfit, masters degree in comp. sci., and so on. (To say nothing about the penguin fetish.)

    Jon seems to have succumbed to a desire to over-romanticize the programmer as hero. It makes a refreshing change from the pasty-faced geek stereotype, but in the long term, hagiography is just as damaging as demonisation. More to the point, he's succumbed to the urge to make wild over-generalisations.

    There is a lot in common, experience-wise, between the sensation of writing a book and that of writing an application. Both activities revolve around symbolic manipulation of information, the creation of a structure that is not immediately obvious to the end user, and both activities require insight and diligence and expertise.

    (The major difference between the two activities is that writers are trying to program a soft machine. Human language is far more flexible than anything we've yet figured out how to mechanize. Writers have to deal with ambiguity: there's precious little ambiguity in a compiler, though. (Your code works, or it throws a syntax error or goes off the deep end into some obscure runtime error.) Whatever: when code fails, the failure is obvious -- the success or failure of a book is a much more subjective phenomenon, one that depends on the reader as well as the writer.)

    Anyway. I don't want to come down too hard on Katz -- he's got something valuable to contribute -- but I find his insistence that writers are imprecise, uncertain, and backwards- looking highly annoying, if only because some of us aren't. It's as if he's trying to work out some sort of personal sense of inferiority by externalising it on his fellow practitioners.

    Sorry, but that cap doesn't fit.

  • Jon,

    Congratulations on finally getting Linux installed and working right for you. But more importantly,

    And I am not a computer geek, and don't aspire to be one. I'm a writer, and happy with that title. Posting a column on a Linux laptop somebody else designed and preloaded for me hardly makes me any sort of nerd or techno-whiz. This is, in fact, the level of the classic breathless newbie, a mantle I expect to take to the grave.

    A hearty CONGRATULATIONS on understanding this fact! I think you'll find that when (a year or so ago) you first started posting on Slashdot, most of us were annoyed at your (perceived) arrogance. "He calls himself a geek," we thought, "yet he can't even __________". Fill in the blanks with the flame-of-the-day ("get Linux installed." / "turn off those dumb 'smart quotes'." / and so on)...

    But now you seem to have come to your senses and realized the truth. No, you're not a geek -- at least not a computer geek. But you don't have to be one to be respected here! All you have to do is honestly be yourself. Be a writer. Be a good writer. (Just don't get too pompous. :-) ). You won't get the same kind of respect that a hard-core kernel hacker might get, but you'll get respect of a different kind, better suited to your own skills.

    It's quite simple, really. Respect among geeks is awarded to people who know their capabilities but don't brag about them. They just go out and do their thing quietly and well and let the results speak for them. People like Linus Torvalds, for example.

    So just do your thing, do it well, and don't talk about yourself too much. Autobiographical pieces like this are one thing, but when you're not the subject of the article, see if you can avoid the word "I" altogether. Emulate Linus' attitude, in other words, and you'll do fine. :-)

    Congratulations again, and good luck.
    -----
    New E-mail address! If I'm in your address book, please update it.

  • I remember Katz original attemp to get his linux machine up and working, but that was a long time ago. He had some incredibly bad luck and I always wondered if he just gave up or finally got it working. I've been with Linux since the 1.x kernels, and I'm always interested in hearing the stories of non-technical (or at least non-UNIX) people's first installation. Especially since Linux is now so "user friendly", whatever that means. Thanks for the "rest of the story" Katz.

    -Derek
  • Personally, I think you are thought impaired.
    Geeks CAN write, and I'm sure Jon realizes that.
    Try Stan Kelly Bootle (SP?) He TOTALLY rocks! Devil's IP dictionary. So excellent.
  • "I might never be a Linux Geek. But I am my own particular kind of geek now. "

    I prefer to think of it as being technologically enlightened. You already knew that MS wasn't the only OS on the block but Mac hardly competes.
    For me, Linux was a journey of enlightenment. It showed me one of the alternatives. It allowed me to open my mind and grow, which in turn has opened my career options. Linux today looks good on a resume. Especially if its your preferred operating system... it'll make Mr. Employer look at it and say.. "Well shit.. this kid must have some sort of a brain if he can do something with an Operating System that I've never heard of" heh.. either that or he shrugs his shoulders and says WTF is Linux and why does this moron have a penguin on his resume?





    - Xabbu
  • I find the most significant part is not installing Linux but in playing around with it once it's running. Getting new stuff to work will invariably make you learn more about your system, and teach you what is worth remembering. If you're already interested in how the OS actually works, you'll only become more so as it becomes relevant to actually using the system.

    I'm glad you discovered that Linux is actually user-supported. I'm curious as to how you managed not to already know this. There seem to be plenty of fora that the users who help people know about, but the people who need help seem less likely to know about them. How did we not get you to go to your friend right from the start and ask for help getting stuff set up?

  • One objection to Macs I've always had until recently is the one button mouse. IMO it is useless. Try a paint program. 'A' is draw, 'B' is erase. Yes, it can be keyboard shortcutted or you can mouse over to the button bar, but it isn't as efficient. So buy a multibutton mouse, and ditch the Apple one.

    Another is the inability to access the finder or some menus _without_ a mouse. I hear quick-keys program does this.

    A third issue is the default acceleration that most Mac users seem to be happy with. I like to quickly move the mouse ONE inch (not 12, not 6 - ~2, 30 and 15 cm for people that use a real measuring system) and have the cursor move from one screen edge to the other.

    I believe a good UI can use the keyboard and mouse independently, and in any user chosen combination of the two. I do AutoCAD and some Photoshop with both.
  • I have to comment on this, if only to use my favorite word in the English language...

    Does this mean that those people who dislike Katz embody the concepts of antidisestablishmentarianism?

    Whoo-hoo!
  • Welcome aboard at last. I thought you had given up on the idea -- you still had the little ?'s in all your posts. :-)

    I think you'll find that Linux is enormously empowering and tons of fun -- but don't forget to pay occasional attention to the wife and kids. :-)

    Every Linuxer starts in the same place. What you are doing now is starting on building your knowledge web about how computers work. In the beginning, it is very hard -- it's all uncharted territory that doesn't relate to anything you've ever done before. Macs actually encourage this kind of ignorance, so your Mac experience hasn't been much help in understanding how computers really work on the inside.

    Linux is different -- everything is right there in front of you. If you're willing to dig, you can control anything you want to control, right down to the iron. However, that can be an enormous amount of work. Seemingly simple things -- like dialup networking -- can be really remote and mysterious when you are starting.

    It gets a lot easier. As your knowledge web fills out, you will begin to understand how things connect. Each new problem will (generally) be easier than the one before because you will have more of an idea of how to approach it. And new facts will stick more easily because they will relate to other things you already know. And, you will be learning how things REALLY work, instead of trying to understand through a layer of abstraction sitting on top. Abstraction is fine for Eloi, but Morlocks need to know how it really works. :-)

    I've been working with Linux for about five years, off and on, and I am still learning things like mad. I'm actually a fairly good sysadmin with Linux at this point, but there's still a HUGE amount I don't know. And I'm reasonably intelligent and do the sysadmin stuff for a living. If I don't know the whole thing, being a professional and all, you can hardly be expected to.... so don't be too mean with yourself when you are still confused and have been learning for a couple of years. I'm still confused after 5. :-)

  • I just finished installing LinuxPPC on my Mac (in fact this is my first /. posting from the new OS) and I must tell you that Linux is several orders of magnitude harder to install (at least for a newbie) than the Mac OS....I'm running LinuxPPC 1999, reportedly one of the easier-to-install distros, and I'd say there's still a lot of work to be done.

    I would say that LinuxPPC 1999 is a disaster from the installation point of view. I don't know how much they've fixed, but the early CD's had some really nasty problems, like the failure to autoconfigure X and the unrunnable WindowMaker. Then there's the broken Netscape that required me to download a new 13 Mb version over a 33.6. My first Linux install was MkLinux DR3, which took me two tries (I made the / partition too small the first time) and maybe an hour total. LinuxPPC R4 was as easy.

  • I don't have much respect for Apple, but I must admit an installation can't get any simpler.

    Actually, you didn't even need your first step, so it can get a little simpler. The MacOS CDs are bootable, and the Mac has been able to boot from SCSI for as long as they've had it. You could have booted from the install CD, and avoided making a boot disk.

  • I thought that was what modules were for!

    "Microsoft is the epitome of innovation and product quality."

  • You *can* simulate the other two buttons pretty easily using keypresses; Option-2 and Option-3. And (though I have not tried yet) I have read that multi-button ADB mice can be made to work with MkLinux. You have to download the right Mach kernel build from the mklinux site, as that supports the greatest number of mice, and you use mouseconfig to select the type of Apple (read Adb) mouse you have; 1, 2 or 3 buttons. I have a multibutton USB trackball on the iMac at home, and I will check tonight to see if that works properly under Yellow Dog.
  • what is SPA?

    I empathize with the printer problems. I've tried at various times to use different photo quality printers under linux. It's never worked. Even the gimp's specialized drivers haven't worked.

    Currently I build images with the gimp, then transfer them to windows to print them. The print server is actually a linux box. I just can't generate the printer output from linux. The whole unix print model seems pretty geared toward high output, low quality print serving.
  • As a programmer and a writer, I can tell you this: writing and programming is actually quite similar. You begin with a vague outline, with a goal in mind. You research your bases. You enter the subject head-on, and hope you won't stray from the objective too much. And then, something marvelous happens: as you progress, your work takes a life of its own, and you don't feel as if you're directing it, but rather that it's directing you. There's an inherent structure that emerges, and in the end, it can just take you a step further than you imagined when you began the project.

    Sounds eerily familiar to a project I'm building now.. I planned out what I wanted it to do over a period of about 4 days, and as soon as I started coding I realized how flawed some pieces of my design were. On the other hand, interesting new bits have cropped up which are easily supported because of the flexibility of the initial design. It's always nice to see a contested design decision prove itself in your favor.. ("Why implement so many foreign keys? It'll take too long!") And hopefully I can convince my boss to release it opensource.. it's a web-hosting management app which combines accounting, customer service, and backend support dynamically, via dynamic vhosts and some neat patches I wrote to AcctInfo.pm.. It's both a set of programs and libs, and an operations model, and if I'm really obsequious I might be able to release the code..
  • No, this is not part of a geekhood ritual. It's just my feeling. I have to say that this disrespect is not geared toward the companie, what it represent or it's user, but toward their product. I don't like Mac. I don't like MacOS. I suppose it's hard to respect a companie that make product you don't like.

    However, I must give Apple a kudo for two of their recent move : commoditizing USB and (hopefully soon) FireWire. But then, it's easier when you control the whole platform (hardware and OS).
  • Most OS *are* hard to install and require some knowledge. DOS require editing text file (a piece of cake for any *nix user), Windows 95 break half the time and NT require some preparation (and is a *very* long install). I am not a Mac advocate (I don't like Mac much actually), but I can testify that your wife could probably install MacOS. Hey, even my mother could do it !

    I bought an old Mac for a pitance recently. I install MacOS 8 on this box, and I still can believe it. It took about 15 minutes and require less than 10 clicks. Here was the step :

    - Make a boot disk (require a few click);
    - Partition your disk. Not required for vanilla Mac, but I wanted to dual boot LinuxPPC;
    - Reboot;
    - Install start. Click [Next] at the "You are gonna install..." box;
    - Read (or don't) the license and click "I accept" or something;
    - Component selection. About ten choice in a menu. If you keep the default, just click "Ok";
    - (CD-ROM spin, wait 15 minutes);
    - Click to reboot.

    That's all. I don't have much respect for Apple, but I must admit an installation can't get any simpler. They did a good job on simplifying thing . As I said, even my mom could do it, so it has to be REALLY intuitive.
  • So use NetBSD and Windows / MacOS... what's the problem?

  • No, the fight has been over the fact that Jon is first of all a relatively poor writer. Suffering through some of his muddle-mind and meandering posts has truly be a harrowing experience at times.

    I'm ever so glad someone else got here first with that comment... No offense Jon, but I couldn't agree more.

    Writers are imprecise, uncertain and backwards-looking.

    Good ones aren't. Take a look at J . Michael Straczynski [blockstackers.com]. He is one of the best in the genre; he is very precise, seems fairly certain of him self and is forward thinking enough to know the last scene of a five years story arch before begining production of day one... not to mention I think he said details 15 years in each direction and generalitiles thousands of years in each direction. Now it's true that he's a fiction writer, and I'm sure you meant non-fiction... but there isn't a difference when it comes down to good writing. The Marine Corps 7Ps come in handy: Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance.

    Their relationship with technology is uncertain, a means, never an end.

    There is nothing uncertain about it. Computer technology is a tool (a means as you call it). Nothing more. Nothing less. It is a tool on par with the pencil and paper, or the quill, parchment and ink pot.
  • by benmhall (9092)
    I've been using Linux for 2 years now. For me, installation was never the problem and X worked first try. I knew about partitions, and understood filesystems. The nVidia card threw me for a loop, but SuSE was there...

    For me, it was Dial-up. My girlfriend, and my friends, can vouch for how long it took me to finally get my head around what was going on. It was hell. I spent HOURS trying to figure it out. I read How-to's, asked people on the net, tried GUI front-ends, eventually, one night, it just clicked and made sense.

    Since I got it, there has been no turning back. XDM with Win32 was straight-forward, IP Masquerading was a snap. The IDE Burner took an afternoon, and the cable modem took 5 minutes. I hit a point, and everything got easy after that. Heck, I even figured out (and love) vi!

    Ben
  • This is what it should be like, and why Katz is worthy of some respect. He is Learning.
  • I don't have a clue why it's done that way, but I would appreciate knowing the best way to fix it. How would I go about finding the config file that contains that setting? Do I have to remove that route in the PPP connect script, or is there a way to prevent it from being set in the first place?
  • Try Fetchmail.

    SPA is another name for NTLM authentication.

    --

  • I just wanted to say I completely agree.

    Alejo.
  • I am glad for Jon that he finally paid someone to install Linux on a laptop for him. What a triumph. He is truly a geek now. He is the master of his technological domain. You are one of us Jon :)

    But seriously, it is good to see that he has realized his limits, and that he would never be able to install it on his own. He is in fact a writer, and I am sure he has better things to do than wile away the hours tracking misbehaving daemons and tweaking vsync frequencies.

    But here's what the fight about me being on Slashdot has always really been about: You don't need to be - and shouldn't have to be - a programmer to use and appreciate Linux, which is, to my amazement, every bit as easy and logical as my beloved Macs, once you get past the installation.

    No, the fight has been over the fact that Jon is first of all a relatively poor writer. Suffering through some of his muddle-mind and meandering posts has truly be a harrowing experience at times. It is often difficult to get to the root of what exactly Jon is trying to say.

    Secondarily when he writes about technology he exposes a level of ignorance that is generally not well respected by the highly technical slashdot crowd. It is not a matter of 'belonging'. As a writer it is about kwowing the limits of your knowledge and sticking to what you know.

    I don't write authoritative papers on nuclear physics, because I only know a tiny bit about the subject. Similarly, Jon should not be writing posts on installing or using Linux, and attempt to make his self appear as an authority on the subject. This is what has rubbed slashdotters the wrong way.

    -josh
  • Personally I started with Slackware a few years ago and using hte umsdos filesystem it was easy. It installed very nicely with my system and I did not have to repartition anything as umsdos was ment to run on a dos filesystem. I di dnot use lilo I used loadlin to boot it an dbooted from dos to linux with ease. Since then I have moved to Redhat. Not becuase oine is better, but as I learned more about my system I realized that 1) I wanted an ext2 filesystem as it is supposed to be faster than umsdos. 2) I wanted an rpm system. I tried SuSE and did not like there 6.0 distro so I tried RH 5.1 It was okay, and I am now happy with 6.0. This was my experience but your, as was stated will probably be different.

    Operating system are like clothes, you try em on till you find what you like.

    I like Linux, but I am not saying it is for everyone. I think that the fact that there is a choice of OS's is great. Pick one that is right for you.

  • by generic (14144)
    It was October 1994 when I first saw linux running on my friends 386/40. I cried out "Thats great, I never knew they had unix for the PC!" Lets install it on my 486! And we did, I stayed up all night compiling my kernel adding and removing drivers. We setup dip/CSLIP connection to the college dialup. I think at the time I was running arena? or Opera for a browser. It was great, exploring ftp sites for free software, writing my own little programs and compiling them with gcc.

    My Dos partiton got smaller and smaller after that. Now It no longer exists.
  • This might be the first Katz feature that i found worth the read. It's hard for some of us who live and breathe technology to see the views of those who struggle with it. Here's a guy who knows he doesn't know much, was willing to do some reading, and now is a linux user. I can remember installing slackware the first time on my machine, with help over the phone, not knowing what i was doing, but i can't go back to that. Judging the ease of installation and use is near impossible for someone who knows what's going on. A story like this from someone like Katz shows us what we can't see, linux from the user's perspective.
  • ...but this actually brought tears to my eyes.

    Bravo, Katz!
  • LOL!

    Heh, it didn't take me nearly so long as Katz to become linux savvy (but of course, I've been using computers since I was 6 or so.. books and computers the only way out of a harsh, depressing life).. tho the first 6 or 7 attempts of slack 3.0 all that time ago.. kept blowing up my partitions or doing other things wrong.. once miscompiled the kernel, had to reinstall .. :)

    of course by the time I had it all figured out I could do a full install in about 5 min (not counting time waiting on the 486 to copy from the 2x proprietary sony CDrom to the sloooow IDE 1GB)
  • What distro. and which dialer ie. xisp kppp ??? I find that if I use the Network Configuration in RH to set up the ppp in the "interfaces", making sure to check "restart ppp when connection fails", and using that, I get excellent results.
  • If I want to learn the violin, I do not relish a book where some newbie out on his own takers pages to blurt out his elatement when he first found out which side of the bow to use, and that you had to put fingers on the strings.

    That's not what Katz is trying to do here. Anyone reading these articles in an effort to learn Linux is going about it all wrong.

    The right way is to go to a teacher and take lessons. You can cut down heavily on the lessons by taking and understanding books written by good experts, but the ramblings of one Jon Katz are just worthless for that purpose

    I suspect that on this, Katz would agree with you! Taking lessons, reading books and talking to experts are indeed helpful for learning a new OS. But Katz isn't trying to teach Linux; he's describing firsthand, in some detail, the trials, tribulations, and eventual triumph of a newbie trying out a new OS for the first time.

    That's worth something.
  • ...have probably never tried installing Win95! Now that is an operating system that will cause your blood to boil and your hair to thin. Getting it installed involves several reboots. Then, once installed, you invariably find several devices improperly detected and/or misconfigured [ gotta like those Question Mark devices :-) ]. Ten to twenty reboots later, you have all your devices configured, Netscape installed (you have to reboot after installing Netscape? HUH?), etc. Win98 is better but still not as easy as Linux is to install.

    After futzing around with installing Japanese Win95 on an IntelliStation for most of the day, I then installed Linux on an identical system. From start to finish, I was done in 30 minutes -- which involved only one reboot, at the end of the installation process.

    By the way, Jon, if you want to see how simple a Linux installation can be, I highly recommend you grab a copy of Red Hat 6.1 [redhat.com]. Their graphical installation process is sweet -- full help text for just about every option -- but you're not locked into the GUI if you're trying to install on older hardware. Try THAT with MacOS or Blows.

    [ Although I do admit printing and X-based font configuration still could use some dumbing down ;-) ]

    Finally, let me throw in a plug for my LAME Guide [ojichan.com] which I believe successfully covers a lot of ground.

  • "This is the customer of the future. A man so driven to actually understand instead of just install his own software."

    I think you're a little confused. "A man so
    driven to actually understand instead of just
    install his own software" is Linux's PRESENT
    customer base.

    Someone that just wants to install Linux and
    have it work right the first time is your customer
    of the future. The goal you are trying to reach
    with Linux.

    If anything, Jon's article is just another
    reminder that Linux is not ready for the average
    end-user (you know, those people that make up
    95% of the computer-buying world).

    -WW
  • Even with all modules, a linux kernel is still monolithic (Modules are loaded into kernel space). Microkernel means that all but a few messaging things are done in userspace. Nice idea, but not allways viable.
  • I'm glad to hear you've made it to world of Freenixs. It still isn't as painless as it needs to be, but the benefits will outweigh the cost in the long run.

    For instance, no more "?'s" in your articles! :)
  • Great article, Jon. It's nice to see that there are people out there who want to understand what they are doing instead of having someone shove it into their face and accept it. A pacifist attitude like that seems to been shoved upon just about every home user, SOHO, and corporation by software companies (uhh...maybe Microsoft?) today.

    Maybe Linux will change the way people think about their computers? I highly doubt it, people want a no nonsense word processor that they don't have to understand. That seems to be the attitude among Americans today regarding just about everything.

    We aren't thinking for ourselves!!

  • Well, the most things I learned were on my third OS Linux after Tos (Atari ST) and DOS/Windows... ho wait, these weren't OS'es so this make two finally ;)

    Congratulation John. You're right when you say that Open Source (or Free Software) is a big thing and that fun is important. Fun and Freedom are the two biggest reasons I love Linux/Free Software (I love it also because I'm a poor student but this is temporary).
  • After seeing some of da Katz's other articles, I thought he'd never get it. Glad to see that he finally did. :)

    Stick with it Katz. Good things are ahead. Who knows, you may become a better (more informed?) user because of it.

    Linux is to Windows what Chevy Chevettes are to Ford Windstars. I can open the hood of my Chevette and fix it if need be. I can change the spark plugs in my Windstar if I drop the transmission first.
  • > Now with linux, the newbie has to learn all this from manuals written for the wrong culture. I
    know...it's maddening.


    Don't say "wrong", if you want to live ;)

    There are still those of us who read and understand manpages, surprisingly enough - and it's not "with linux", but "with the linux 'revolution'" that I think you meant.
    (Not just as pedantic "it's only a kernel" point, but that even as an OS, why should it be subject to a rave review process and lots of hype [albeit well-founded]?)

    Newbies start with newbie documentation. Get some fundamental *understandings* (how to use your favoured text editor, what a panel, launcher and applet are in gnome, how to use your chosen mailer, the list is endless) and then *move on*. Don't fall into the trap of blaming linux for things which aren't its own fault (I'm glad to see you've managed to avoid this one).

    POP3 to download stuff, SMTP to send it out. You knew that :)
    Format of ~/.fetchmailrc is pretty damned simple - stick all the keywords together on a line per POP3 host, and you're away. Oh, and use something like fetchmail -k -M '/usr/bin/procmail %T' to do the actual delivery. If you don't know what the -M thing does, definitely read the manpage!
    ;)
  • http://slashdot.org /article.pl?sid=99/09/27/1347213&mode=thread [slashdot.org]

    L.A. Times Columnist Says Geek-Autism is a Good Thing
  • This is probably off topic but why do most of the distro's configure eth0 for defaultroute on the routing table? When I get a call asking for ppp help 9 times out of 10 it comes down to that. Is there some advantage to having eth0 as defaultroute i'm not aware of?
  • Way to go John! It took me about that long to finally have an idea of what I was doing after multipole installs and be comfortable enough to use the system regularly. Now if we could just get you from Wordperfect to Emacs... ;o)

    Sean
  • Cease your floccinaucinihilipilification*, already!

    * the act of estimating as worthless. I don't really know if it has any validity here, but I love that word!
  • From Katz to Freebsd.. I can't imagine this is a good thing.

    I personally like the FreeBSD install far better than any Linux installer, except RedHat (v5.05 was the last I tried) had one extremely similar and pleasent. FreeBSD's is extremely old (as installers go), its not redone for every release, its meant to do what it does. The new Linux installers try to have the user input 2 things, which partition they want to use, and what their username / password is. I remember people complaining that Windows took power away because later and later releases asked fewer questions, why the double standard?

    FreeBSD's installer is quick (like a linux distribution where you sit playing tetris for an hour shows a quick install!), gives you all the options you need before / after to setup the machine properly, and it makes sense. Its not flashy, but I'm no GUI fanatic.

    Your problem was hardware support - Windows has more than Linux, Linux has more than FreeBSD, FreeBSD (for x86) has more than other BSDs. Its a bit tougher for BSDs port drivers from Linux than it is for Linux to port drivers from BSD, and the number of people doing the grit work is significantly less. Linux is getting better due to popularity / corperate help.. I hope BSDs improve off Linux support too.

    BTW, installs are the easy part.. its using the OS that every newbie truly stumbles at. I wish there were more "How to use Unix" (or Linux) than "How to install 'x' Linux" or "Linux quick reference" (list of commands). I'm still struggling from this, and find myself still mostly in Windows, no matter how determined I am when picking up a BSD / Linux cd. Katz is right, its not a 3-4 week process...
  • When the Unix culture formed, it consisted of a bunch of terminals in a room. When you had a question, somebody in the room had just a bit more experience (20 minutes is enough) and could help. I'm old enough to remember the culture.
    That's why man pages exist in the form they do. Someone told you how to do something, you have the concept, you just need help with a few details. That's why Unix tutorials suck, you learn by doing, one baby step at a time with someone providing 10 second long answers or helpful hints...when you're ready to hear it.

    Now with linux, the newbie has to learn all this from manuals written for the wrong culture. I know...it's maddening.

    For example, I don't want to understand how key presses flow into the OS, X and applications. My Linux box is constantly inconsistant in how it handles backspace and delete. Someone out there knows how to fix my box and I want them to tell me what to do in 10 seconds. I don't want to become an expert at that stuff, life's too short.

    Another example, I want my IP masq firewall box to fetch mail in the middle of the night from the ISP and hold it for my W98 machines to pick it up fast via the home ethernet. I'm not at all stupid and have spent considerable time reading sendmail and fetchmail documentation, some O'Reilly books, etc. I'm not yet ready to memorize .conf file formats that the doc's repeatedly describe. What I want is a few block diagrams describing the concept of mail moving around the net. But, the culture assumes I got that from the guy next to me in the terminal room and besides it hard drawing ascii art in man pages.

    I could write a whole chapter for the "I hate Unix" book...in an attempt to be constructive of course.
  • Please drop the overuse of the word "geek". It gets very annoying, very quickly. Slashdot readers typically know what a geek is, and we don't need it defined in *every* article that you write - it's not important!

    Anyhow, congratulations on getting started with Linux. There's a lot to learn, but it's getting easier...
  • If so, only interdenominationalistically.
  • by CAIMLAS (41445)
    I can relate to you greatly on this, Jon. I, personally, think you have aquired the title, "Geek," because you are now doing geeky things - learning because you want to, because it's fun, and because you want to know how things work. That is what being a geek is all about.

    You say that you're of the writter geek variety - not so! Geekiness is an all encompassing factor. You're already proven that you're of technical prowess enough to run linux. It's now only a matter of time before you aquire 'uber geek' status.

    You'll be amazed to find that other people will start coming to you, seeking your knowledge and input on a situation, merely because they've heard that you've been uising it - linux - for a period of time, and are now knowledgeable about your environment, at least to the extent necessary to help someone with basic setup and installation.

    From my personal learning experience - a very geek centric philosophy - I've found that there are very few substitutes to a long night on the computer, learning. The more we learn, whether it be in computing, gramatical sentence structure and verbal manipulation, artistic representation, or any other facet of living. Collecting bottle caps could even be a geeky thing - provided the individual were to learn about his bottle caps, and really know what he was collecting.

    I think a phrase from the recent movie, _The Matrix_, sums up geekiness quite well. It is "Know Thyself". Part of knowing yourself is knowing how your brain works, and in order to know how your brain works, you have to use it and experiment.

    Yikes. I seem to have gotten on another geek tyraid... (Ignore all spelling mistakes - they're intentional.)

    -------
    CAIMLAS

  • First off, congratulations Monsieur Katz. It must be hard to read all of the flames posted about your stories. Maybe now that you've clarified what you are and aspire to be and what you aren't and don't aspire to be, people will take the vitriol out of their comments on your stories.

    Now for the criticism ...

    Writers are imprecise, uncertain and backwards-looking. Their relationship with technology is uncertain, a means, never an end.

    I don't think you should be trying to speak for all writers. Some of us look forward, may be writing as a means to various further ends, and may be very much into precision. My personal bugbear is sloppy thinking; what I write I write to try and jar people out of bad habits of thought, and that's a task that demands precision.

    I note, for the record, that you also like to make predictions about where trends are headed; your own work belies what you said here.

    But again, congrats on freeing yourself from the "mainstream" OSs and striking out on a different path.

  • Why is it that SO many slashdot readers are so negative about this guy?

    He may not be the world's greatest writer (it's not my place to judge him either way, but I've never had a problem understanding what he's been trying to get at), he may not be a technological genius (again, it's not my place to judge him on this, but to me, when he does mention technology, he doesn't try to bluff his way along like so many people do - when he speaks (writes) of technology, he does it with at least some understanding of what he's talking about). He openly admits to being non technical - he doesn't try to say he's right, or that anyone else is wrong - he just states HIS opinion - and I'm sorry, but his opinion is HIS - whether it happens to correspond with what anyone else thinks is irrelevant - it's HIS opinion, and he has a right to express it.

    Jon, congratulations. You set out to meet a challenge (to get Linux up and running so that it was in some way useful to you - and as much as you've had problems, and have had to seek advice, you've at least managed to do that much). It doesn't matter how you did it - you had a challenge in front of you, and you've beaten it - OK, so things aren't perfect yet (the PPP daemon problems spring to mind) but you've posted your first article from your Linux box - and to you, that makes Linux usable. It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks, either about the level of success you have achieved in your adventures with Linux, or the methods by which you have succeeded.

    The thing I think most slashdot readers (or at least those who see fit to post - this is my first post on slashdot, lets see what the reaction is) fail to see is that there's no defined level of competency with Linux (or any other OS for that matter) that you must reach to be "accepted", yet people are determined to say "You're only using Linux because someone helped you get it working - you're not good enough." I openly admit, I've done most of my computing on NT and Win9x boxes - all I do at work is use NT boxes, but I'm trying to learn Linux - in fact, I "borrowed" one of the desktops that are supposed to go out to one of our branches to run RedHat 5.2 up on - it's sitting on my desk beside me at work, quietly serving a select few webpages to a select few people.

    I started out with a very basic knowledge of Linux - I'd done some basic sysadmin work on BSDi 2.1 before, and had a rudimentry understanding of the CLI, and the commands used, but I was by no means ready to do a complete install from scratch - in the last 2 weeks, I've done the following...

    1. Installed RedHat 5.2 from CD (I bought the box set a while ago, but didn't have the time to deal with it sooner).
    2. Installed KDE 1.1.1
    3. Upgraded my kernel from 2.0.36-0.7 (the version that RedHat 5.2 shipped with) to 2.0.36-3 (using RPMs from the RedHat FTP site).
    4. Blown the whole lot away, and started again - installed KDE 1.1.2, upgraded my X server (downloaded the gzipped tarball, installed from that - my first experience with source code and the "make" command).
    5. Upgraded my kernel from 2.0.36-0.7 to 2.2.12 (there's no RPMs for this - so I did my first kernel recompile).
    6. Read an awefully large amount of documentation....

    I know I've got a long way to go - everything I did to this box I did with a web browser open on my NT workstation, reading the documentation on various websites as I worked - I don't believe I could yet do a kernel upgrade without at least referring to the documentation briefly.

    Why did I do all this? I think for the same reason that Jon Katz did - it's a personal challenge - and like Jon, I'd like to think I've succeeded in reaching my personal goals - at least the initial ones. One day I'd like to be able to say to a prospective employer that I'm a competent *nix system administrator, but for now I'm just happy that I've gotten as far as I have - I have a usable Linux box sitting on my desk - I hope to install a printer, and download and install Star Office later today - then I might even start to use it as my primary box - though I'll always need my NT box on my desk, at least when I'm working where I am at the moment.

    Some of us are gurus when it comes to Linux - the kind of people who help maintain distributions of Linux - some of us are complete newbies, desperately trying to learn everything we can just to get a foothold on what is (at least to me) an exciting, progressive, community - and these two groups seem to be accepted and catered for.

    But the group in the middle - those who can do a RedHat install without problems, but don't know where to look for a config file for, say the httpd daemon, aren't well catered for, or accepted - I've noticed lately, that when I join the #Linux channel on my regular IRC network, I very often get told "You suck - you've only got M$ experience, and that's worth nothing - you might as well know nothing about computers because all you actually do know is just M$ hype and b^%&**&t" - yet a complete newbie can come in, and ask "What's Linux, and why does everyone keep saying it's good?" and they'll be welcomed with open arms - despite the questions such as "But will mIRC work under Linux, coz I don't want to lose my settings?", "Isn't Linux just a different version of DOS?", the newbies are gently coached, yet when I ask a question like "OK, my Linux box has 64MB RAM, and when I first boot it up, it's only using 32MB of that, but a few days later, it's practically using all 64MB - I'm running X,Y and Z services, any idea where my RAM's going" and people tell me to RTFM, to give up, because I'm obviously intellectually incapable of administering a Linux box if I have to ask questions like that, or that they don't have time to give long and complicated answers to newbies like me - I finally got the answer I needed "run top, hit shift-m and it will list the processes by memory usage, keep track of what uses the most RAM, and what changes, and you'll find your answer" - quite a simple, short, helpful answer - and yet the same people who don't have the time to help me will spend an hour explaining to some 12 year old why mIRC won't run under Linux (at least without a Windows emulator of some description).

    Jon and I fall into this middle group - we're at different stages of progress through this group - but we're definately not completely clueless newbies, and we're certainly not accomplished system administrators - we're somewhere in between.

    The Linux community needs to learn the same lesson that the local Rugby Union club where I live had to learn (and is still learning) - it's all well and good to promote the cause to people who don't have a clue, and to keep those people who are involved at the top interested, but if you ignore those in the middle, they'll leave - in the case of the Rugby club I'm talking of - thwe juniors are well looked after, the top senior grades are well looked after, but those in the middle (the lower senior grades, where the up and coming players *should* be learning the ropes are barely given the time of day - and all of a sudden, there's no-one to replace the good players as they retire, because as all the good young players reach the lower senior grades, they get jacked off by the club's attitude towards them, and leave for other clubs who treat them better.

    The same thing will happen to the Linux community if we're not careful - there's a lot of work going into getting people interested in Linux, and the people who are established in the community are catered for, but those in the middle, trying to make the transition between the two levels are being left in the cold, and if we're not careful, they'll leave - and when the current stock of geeks, nerds and sys-admins starts to get a bit older, and needs to be replaced, there simply won't be anyone to replace them - as the newbies will be too green, and there won't be anyone else.

    Sorry for the length of this rant, but it's been in my mind for a long time now, and I figured it was about time I let it all out.....

    Moderate away guys.....
  • I am glad you had such fun in learning Linux. I am also happy to hear that you made some new friends to help you on your way with it. In times where everyone's attention seems to be focused on M$-bashing or just flaming people who dont agree with Linux, it is good to know that some of us are still willing to help others discover what it is all really about (A Great OS and A New Way to Get It).



    Sorry About The Run-On sentence but... who really cares about that anyway?

  • I'm not a newbie to *nix by quite a stretch now (maybe a few years ago)...I've been using *nix systems for quite a while, albeit as a "user", not an administrator. I year ago I installed Red Hat (well, a Linux friend of mine suggested it). I played around with it for a bit but I never really "needed" it for anything, and was running out of drive space, so I removed it. I'm now feeling my computer's age, and would like to transition it to a Linux system, and perhaps make it a nat/router/proxy for my tiny (well, right now 2-computer) home network.

    It's a 100mhz Pentium, and although I haven't had much experience with Linux distros (except the nightmarish package-installation step), I'm thinking of going with a newer fringe distro, Stampede, because of its pgcc pentium-optimized kernel (my first choice was Debian...but I want the optimizations). I would eventually like to recompile the kernel (rite of passage I guess), to throw out the junk I don't need. I guess I could just get pgcc myself and recompile any of the other distributions right? Or just set a pentium flag for gcc...I guess pgcc is supposed to be better.

    Well, just wondering if anybody had any thoughts.
  • Oh yeah...I discovered Linux.com is an excellent, pretty comprehensive site for tweaks, etc., which I don't think was around a year ago.
  • "The term "geek" is broadening and evolving daily, and is coming to mean different, complex
    and increasingly positive things to people."

    Correction Katz:

    The term geek is broadening and evolving daily in YOUR collumns and mind, and is coming to mean every redefined martyr you can pull out of the newspaper or history books.

    I'm sorry, but I too, once considered the word 'geek' to be moving away from a negative connotation--this lasted for about 5 seconds. When I started labeling myself as a geek to friends and acquaintences, they were quick to make a sour face and say "Oh no you're not." Geek is still a negative word to the world outside of ./ Katz, no matter how badly you want it not to be.
  • The goals of the writer and the programmer are exactly the same, to express an idea, they just address different hardware. Because people are "fuzzy", you can write and rewrite things in many different ways, with different enphasis, but with a computer you have to be precise with what you tell it, they cant yet deal with the fuzzyness we humans take for granted. Also both are creative processes, and engage much of the same drive to put something across. Think of a writer as a prose hacker, a coder in human concept, the same things apply as with computer hackers, the best are way ahead of most, like in the previous /. article on the Programmers Stone, the trick is to be able to take the thinking that allows you to be good at creating sentences and transfer it to a new media, whether it be programming computers, or creating a masterpiece on canvas, those that can master that have the wonderous ability to express themselves in any medium they chose, this is what we all need to develop if we as a species are to move on in the coming millenium.
  • This kind of gets me thinking along the lines of thinking and learning.

    Consider the mental space as a two dimensional space in which your mental understanding starts, say, at the origin. To truly grok something mentally, you must be at point x, y. Nobody ever starts from this point, obviously, but pointers are given (manuals, HOWTO's, advice, etc) which points you in the right direction. Very few, percentage-wise, need or even want to get completely to ground zero, but close enough to accomplish some task.

    Similar things have similar ground zeros. Hence your attempt to learn the next similar thing can bring you closer to ground zero.

    Another way to look at it is that pointer to ground zero will give you a vector to get from your understanding to your destintation x, y. Your first attempt will give you a good indication of where about ground zero is. Your next similar thing will give you more vectors, from very likely, a different perspective. Hence, you are more likely to percieve where the vectors from the two tasks intersect.

    As an example, pointers from the Linux point assume that you may want (and need) to do more than just "use" the OS, whereas from a Microsoft point of view, they are just trying to tell you where to go. Not a great example really.

    The point is that looking at several vectors that tend to originate from similar points and head in a similar direction may not give a clear indication of what they are trying to hit. Not all vectors may hit the mark and you may not follow the vector truly. But more vectors from another originating point can help to illuminate ground zero.

  • So, what you're saying is that you need to look at it from 'both' sides...? Or, as many sides as you can? I agree, but i think the point is that the critical step is made when you even realize there IS another side.

    I guess that's another way of stating it. 8) I was just trying to think about thinking and learning and why it can help to do it more than one way.

    Not everyone needs to do it that way. If someone can obtain point x, y mentally, then they can see all sides. This is when someone achieves great insights and society labels them, not as geek, but as genuis. And that point is what I'd consider some form of nirvana.

    But I would expect that us mere mortals find it difficult to do that. Someone like Turing on the other hand found a lot of x, y points all on his own...

  • Everyone learns from what someone else teaches them. The knowledge base that we now have comes from the fact that our predecessors were able to record the information and pass it on, via stories, pictures, writings, publishing, etc. We all learn and have the knowledge we have because we can aviod the mistakes already made and share the inisghts of those who came before us.

    A genuis is someone that didn't need that. 8)

    From what I understand, Turing approached every problem as if it had never been solved. Hence he always started from first principles, or at least principles he had already ascertained for himself. Hence, he was hitting those ground zero mental points or nodes spot on from the beginning. In a sense, he was working from pure knowledge or full understanding of the principles that allowed him to approach the current problem! I think that is the root of his genuis and allowed him to be mental miles in front of all his contemporaries (and probably a lot of us here and now).

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Hi,
    A Linux friend of mine who uses PPP had the same problem. Try putting a continuous ping into your build/teardown scripts, something like:

    ping -i 300

    which will ping every 5 minutes and keep any timeouts satisfied. Of course, you could do it right and find the timeouts, but this'll at least keep you online long enough to find those FMs! ;)
  • If you use a mouse with a paint program, you're wacky ;) get a Wacom tablet- hell, my old ADB Wacom tablet works in Linux :)
    Particularly if you're already using Photoshop you're already using _something_ that can use a tablet, so go for it. I've only known one guy who did _great_ art with a tablet- and believe me, it wasn't having a two button mouse that made him so good. :)
  • I don't know what else you're using (I personally was trying to get an entirely-GNOME setup to work with gnome-ppp) but for me, it turned out that I had to have /etc/ppp/options contain a particular command. The cammand was 'xonxoff'. This is because the Mac serial ports evidently don't have the same sort of flow control as pppd expects, and without that command (which gnome-ppp has no option for) it silently does a sort of hardware spew and fails to connect to the modem properly. I am posting this from LinuxPPC1999, btw...
    WOOHOO! First workaround for this screwup! ;) Now I have to work out how to post news so I can be first dejanews article to return the actual fix to the problem ;)
  • And just try to get an HP DeskJet 712 to work under Linux.

    Note that pbm2ppa, available at Freshmeat, allows you to print from these printers under Linux. B&W only last I checked though. :-(
  • Take a look at the Guides at http://www.linuxdoc.org/ [linuxdoc.org] Specifically the User Guide and Installation & Getting started guide are helpful in this regard.

    Another good resource for new users is http://www.linuxnewbie.org/ [linuxnewbie.org] which is home the NHF (newbieized help file) and has web-based dicussion forums.

    Other good resources for hard-to-find info are http://www.deja.com/ [deja.com] (a usenet search engine), http://www.google.com/ [google.com] (THE search engine), and http://www.freshmeat.net/ [freshmeat.net] (the canonical software search engine) .. Freshmeat itself doesn't necessarily have the info, but the software packages for any given type of application tend to have useful links. For instance, the xawtv site that I found by searching freshmeat had the drivers necessary for the WinTV 401 card I recently configured, and the cdrecord site, as found on freshmeat, has a ton of useful cd burning resources.

  • This is a long road, and probably for Jon (and most people) a never ending one.

    Linux (and any other OS) is complex - even Linus himself couldn't claim to understand the entire workings of a complete linux distribution (although I bet he's got a damn good idea) - how all the different apps work - how Corba is working in Gnome, how KDE marshals events, etc.

    Of course the point is you don't need to know all those things to make use of something (whether it be Linux or BillOS) - it's just nice to have that feeling of control.

    My point is that Jon needn't feel alone here. We're all on that learning curve - some are higher than others, some progress faster than others. And while we pass others by on that path it's a lot nicer to offer someone a hand up than to flip them the finger as we feel superior.

    perl -e 'print scalar reverse q(\)-: ,hacker Perl another Just)'
  • I advise beginning Linux users to pick the right platform for learning Linux. That is either a very, very standard PC, with no funny options or off-brand cards, or almost any recent (7200 or newer) Macintosh PPC. Without a doubt, the Linux kits I have installed on PPC Macs (I've installed MkLinux, LinuxPPC, and (this weekend) Yellow Dog Linux) have been the simplest Linux installations I have ever done, with the possible exception of the RedHat distribution for Sun/SPARC. And since it will run on an iMac (Saw a sales return iMac at Comp-USA for $699 last week), you can have a fast, small machine with networking and modem and a nice display for cheap.
  • Okay, congratulations to Jon for getting a linux machine up and running. That's great, really. I have no reason not to want anyone to use linux.

    However, this post, like all those of Jon's contains little substance. What's the point? Jon's got a working linux box - nyehhh! (That's the only point I can gather.)

    I think the anti-Katz reaction can be summed up thusly: The people that don't like Katz' posts don't like them because he seems to insist on being heard even when he's got nothing to say. (Find me a Katz post with a high signal-to-noise ratio and I'll show you a post Katz didn't write.)

    He's like the pushy, presumptuous new guy who's suddenly best friends with everyone eventhough he's only been around for a week. There might not be anything really wrong with him, but his boundry over-stepping and clinginess to the group just feels wrong.

    It was the lack of easing into the group that alienated a lot of folks, and recovering from that first impression will be a tough row to hoe.

  • I just finished installing LinuxPPC on my Mac (in fact this is my first /. posting from the new OS) and I must tell you that Linux is several orders of magnitude harder to install (at least for a newbie) than the Mac OS. If you have a standard configuration, installing on a Mac is literally a matter of inserting the CD and doubleclicking. Not so with Linux. I've been using Unix regularly for a year and a half, and it still took me all day yesterday to install it. On a Mac, you don't have to worry about repartitioning your drive, setting up users, manually configuring PPP (I had to screw around with the routing table, I'm not sure you can even look at the routing table on a Mac.) and lots of other BS. I shudder at having a non-geek attempt this process. Few would have the patience. This is not to say that Linux needs to be dumbed down for everyone, but I wonder if there isn't still work that needs to be done to make the process easier for non-technical users. I'm running LinuxPPC 1999, reportedly one of the easier-to-install distros, and I'd say there's still a lot of work to be done. Ideally, there should be a single graphical install that walks you through partitioning, installation, and configuration. It would also be a great help to have Mac-style control panels for many features. This is anathema to the traditional Linux power user's way of doing things, and I'm not sure I'd want to do it that way, but if Linux is going to go mainstream, that's what needs to happen. Most people don't have an entire day to devote to installing a new OS on their computers, and most users would have a lot more trouble with it than I did under the current system. People simply do not have the time or the interest to learn in detail about the internals of their computers. If Linux is going to take over the world, it needs to accomodate that.
  • consistent complexity is more usable that obfuscated simplicity.

    Absolutely. There's a lot of improvment to be done on both sides. However I think the relative merits of the two approaches will differ depending on who you are. For a geek like me, I'm happy to take the time to learn about that complexity. For most users however, it is simply not worth their time. They would much prefer a one-click installation process that works 90% of the time and does 90% of what they want to one that is infinitely customizable but takes a weekend to install. Geeks' lives revolve around computers. Most other peoples' do not. So there is a substantial difference in the amount of time different people will invest in learning about their OS. If Linux is to be an OS for the masses, it must cater to the 80% of users who fall in latter category.
  • Jon Katz == well-respected, professional writer who adds a diversifying aspect to /.


    That is open for debate. Your asserting it does not make it so.

    Josh == some guy who uses the word secondarily. Gee, starting a sentence with an adverb, ehh?

    I am not a professional writer. I wrote a five minute response to a post on slashdot. It will be read an order of magnitude fewer people than Jon's stuff. Forgive the lack of proofreading.

    Dont talk about bad writing unless you yourself are a writer,

    Hmm... Interesting theory, to be a critic you must practice the artform itself. Shut up Ebert, unless you can make a movie yourself, you have no right to criticize.

    You don't need to be a writer to know bad writing when you see it. In the same way you do not need to be a director or script writer to know a bad movie when you see it.

    and NEVER throw out stupid and groundless insults and expect to be respected around here.

    Groundless? Hmmm... you appear yourself to be attacking me instead of my argument. Provide some counterevidence if you find my argument to be groundless. I listed the reasons I perceive for the negative response Katz has received on slashdot, in response to a theory that Katz put forth in his post. If you think that is stupid and groundless, so be it. I can live with an AC thinking I am a moron.

    And a first stepping stone towards respect on slashdot is to attach your name to you posts.

    -josh


  • It seems to me that the best way to learn something is to learn two of its type. I found a good growth of my knowledge of computers when I
    learned my second OS, but not my third. The same with programming languages.


    You certainly learn a lot from two examples of something, but it's not the only way.

    When you look at a second OS or language, you learn about all the things that can change. Things aren't black and white anymore. The start menu isn't the only way to start a program. The registry isn't the only way to store configuration.

    But taking just two samples doesn't tell you what's the best way to do something. The start menu is pretty easy, but the command line is faster if you practice. The registry is fast, but if it gets messed up, it gets REALLY messed up. Is there a third way that combines the advantages of both? Sure, and a fourth.

    The nice thing about learning the third and fourth variants is that the majority of the learning curve is already over; it isn't as hard to learn the additional ones, but now you're learning things that few people have, because you have to have learned three languages before you can learn the fourth. So you have a competitive advantage.

    Eventually, you start to understand that all four of the languages or OSes you learned have flaws. Learn a bit more, and soon you can think of ways to fix the flaws - usually by copying a better approach from a different system with different flaws.

    If you get really good, then you might actually come up with something new. That doesn't always work though.
  • For many people, maybe even most, the faddishness of Linux just isn't worth it. You've been plugging away at it for a year now, but what do you really have to show for all that time spent, other than feeling like "[your] own particular geek now"?

    Exactly how I felt. After a while I realised there was no point in spending unproductive time fighting to get a desktop system which worked as well as my previous one, and being frustrated many times when the promised "configurability" didn't appear (as far as I could see, KDE 1.1 has no key redefinition ability, nor the ability to bind hotkeys to apps - amazing) I just went back to my previous one (Windows).

    This is not necessarily a problem with Linux; but what I'd love is the MS GUI look 'n' feel on top of a stable underneath, with all the facilities and key bindings therein. MS may make crap OSs, but (for people used to it) their GUI is good - why should we force people all over the world to relearn their GUI conventions, and put up with worse functionality? Are we that arrogant?

    Gerv
  • NE2000's are notoriously quirky, especially the PCI versions. I personally try to avoid them like the plague. On the other hand, I had significant trouble getting a WD/SMC 8013 to work with FreeBSD 3.1 on a machine I have, and that card is a very standard item that is autodetected by most recent Linux installs. I have to say that in general most of the Linux distribution installs are easier than FreeBSD, and FreeBSD is purportedly the easiest of the *BSDs to install. FreeBSD reminds me a little bit of older versions of Slackware in terms of its install. Linux installs may not be perfectly easy yet, but nothing is. Your milage may vary, but I'd have to say that in general Linux is on-par with anything other than MacOS in ease of installs. Unfortunately, MacOS is what Katz is used to. Then again, MacOS has it easy, due to the rigid levels of standardization on Apple's proprietary hardware.

  • I wouldn't consider myself a typical user. For one, I have never personally used MS-DOS or Windows on any of my computers on any sort of regular basis. I never really took an interest in x86 hardware until the first x86 *BSD's came out around 1992/1993 (and I ran into hardware compatibility trouble with them too -- which is why I went to Linux in the first place). As a matter of fact, I don't own a copy of Windows. I also own no less than 3 SparcStations at home and several Macs in addition to the numerous Linux boxes.

    I use mainly SuSE and Red Hat these days. Both of them provide a fairly granular level of options at install time compared to what some other distributions (like Caldera) do.

    I am not normally someone who is intimidated by user unfriendly or poorly documented install processes either. In the late 80's I installed 4.3BSD-Tahoe from source code on a VAX 82xx machine, which was completely undocumented and had to be done totally by hand and trial and error. I had to hand-hack several device drivers to work with unsupported 3rd party (Emulex) plug-compatible devices.

    I was able to figure out how to get my WD/SMC 8013 card to work with FreeBSD, but it took a lot of fiddling around to figure it out (just like things used to do in the old days).

    As for the books you are looking for, I noticed when visiting the local Borders (and I live in a backwoods midwestern town) that they now have over 60 Linux specific titles including at least a dozen new titles since my previous visit. Several of the books fit the "How to use" rather than "How to install" criteria you are looking for.

    Make no mistake that I wish no ill toward any of the *BSD's. I hope you are right about the *BSD's being able to leverage some of Linux's momentum to get better hardware support.

  • And Apple-free, as well. Welcome to the world of free software!

    As a habitual critic of some of your writing, I will hope that the end of this struggle means that you will now have more time to reflect on and think through the philosophical issues of what you are writting, rather than having to struggle with pppd. :^)

    Now that you've made the conversion, it would be interesting if you could tell us about how you find Linux to work for you as a writer. What were you using to write before? What are you using now? Have you converted to the emacs [emacs.org] religion, the vi [darryl.com] religion, or are you using a WYSIWYG application? How did you choose? What issues are you encountering as a non-programmer writer in Linux? Do you in practice have to return to the Land of Bill [microsoft.com] for publications insisting on submissions in Word(tm) format?

    (At least this should eliminate stupid flamage about Microsoft "Smart Quotes"[sic] ...)

    While Linux is larger than Emacs, at least Linux has the excuse that it needs to be.
    -- Linus Torvalds
  • Programmers are precise, confident and look ahead
    Just as well, or we'd be in all sorts of shit when the date rolls over next year.
  • I remember when I got my first login prompt...I was jumping up and down while yelling YES YES YES.. My installation problems were actually very minimal ( it was RH 5.0 on an old crappy 486 ) but it was still a real thrill to see this "Linux thing" actually boot up. I think I stayed up about half the night just trying to figure out what commands did what.. how to get a text editor going..etc.. It was that night that I fell in love with Linux..(My last install of RH 6.0 on my new PC made me realize of how far they have come in a couple years, about a half hour and I was up and running...)


    Anyways... good luck Jon..even though I still think your a bit of a poser..I wish you well with your journey.
  • I've actually seen a couple different species of programmers.

    There are those who are very creative. To these people the creation of the solution can be the real hubris. They live for the art of programming. The code on the screen isn't just a bunch of syntax and variables, but a mosaic of various tools that when properly formed create something beautiful and functional.

    The second type I've seen are those who are technically geniuses but could care less (nor are they skilled this way) about creativity. To them effeciency and procedure are the only values that matter.

    In the end though they still are just human.
  • I will agree to some degree that there are a LOT of "noble hacker" type geeks out there. I like to think that I'm fairly helpful when I'm asked, and when I'm stuck, I know a few more knowledgeable people who I can turn to for helpful advice. But that's not the whole picture. I think a good portion of what I would consider geeks and hackers are very pretentious and insecure (I myself fall prey to this on MORE than a few occasions). For example, let's look at the pure HATRED shown for nearly every column you publish . . . I don't agree with all of your points, and sometimes you're not the most informed, but you know that, and the columns are well written. The only reason I can see for so many consistant blatant attacks is jealousy. I mean, what geek WOULDN'T want to be read by the rest of the community.

    Unfortunately, there is a bit of exclusivity with Linux, or with any Unix. It's not a dummy level OS, and though there are many of us bent on achieving global domination and letting EVERYONE run a non-MS-OS, there are just as many that don't want the masses into thier little world. Linux is "thiers", as are geeky films or music or whatever. There are those that gravitated to geekdom as a way of rebelling from those around them, and they'll defend thier safety to the proverbial death. If you listen to Stereolab because you don't want to be associated with those who listen to the Spice Girls, would you be likely to expose them to your music? Likely not.

    Again, I don't think there is any one definition of geek. As you said, geeks aren't really concerned about what is or isn't geek. But by that, there can be no "real geek". There are respectable geeks, and there are assholes. Just like in any other community.

    Just my $.02. I'll go back to sleep now ==
  • First of all, congrats to Jon on the Linux system!
    The experiences he describes in the article remind me of when I was playing around with my very first computer (A TI99/4A - they just don't make them like they used to). The learning curve was high (well, BASIC's a high learning curve when you're that young) but it left one with a great feeling of accomplishment. Later, when I learned assembly for my Commodore 64, I got that feeling again. And then I didn't get it for the longest time.
    Years later, I installed Linux on my PC, and the memories came back - I think (IMHO) that this is how a lot of us here got started with programming, just by playing around, getting something to work, and feeling that sense of accomplishment. There's nothing more rewarding than getting X to work after hours of messing with your XF86Config file. Sure, it's only 320x200 with 256 colors, but it works, and that's what keept me going.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 04, 1999 @08:26AM (#1640407)
    whilst you are right that it is difficult to install linux, remember that it is flexible. if you can install it on your PPC machine, you can install it on that x86, and even that alpha over there.

    the mac install is easy largely because it knows exactly what its going to be put on. no guessing, no figuring things out. predetermined knowledge. which is nice, but not very good in the long run for the users.

    secondly, it is Good that things are Exposed (such as the routing tables) in linux. when they aren't (as in the mac or even windows to an extent) you are at the mercy of the OS. will it work? will it work the way you want it to? you're SOL if it doesn't.

    there are many good scripts/GUI tools out there to automate things. one GREAT example is the install_sendmail shell script. configures sendmail and procmail for you based on easily answered questions. _and_ you still have the option of messing it up yourself =) flexibility comes with a price, true. but inflexibility through simplicity comes with an even higher price.

    in the end, people are remarkable learners. esp. when things make sense and are visible instead of hidden voodoo magic. its called empowerment, and creates its effect through a greater skill set and a great level of confidence.

    consistent complexity is more usable that obfuscated simplicity.

  • by Chris Johnson (580) on Monday October 04, 1999 @07:58AM (#1640408) Homepage Journal
    I run Linux on a PowerMac and there are some caveats about it. I'll grant you that if you're doing CLI stuff there's no drawback whatsoever- but when you start getting involved with X, expect problems with the one button mouse. _I_ happen to think a one button mouse is an ideal pointing device, and that keyboard modifiers should be used to add to that, but almost everyone writing apps or window managers for X expect at least a two button mouse- and typically build absolutely indispensable controls into the 'extra' button. Like a root menu that lets you shut down... though if you can break into a virtual console and kill X using top, then you can get out of just about anything.
    I always return to Window Maker on PPC Linux, because it's pretty easy to set up onebuttonedly. Go to the control panel and assign key equivalents for the root menu (I like using F1 and F2 for root and window menus).
    As a final note, the most recent LinuxPPC suffers from RedHatItis, in that it is screwy on some machines. I had to boot singleuser and run Xautoconfig just to be able to _run_ it, and I still have not got pppd working like it worked on the older LinuxPPC- and I know to hunt DejaNews and am fearless of really arcane twisted geekery. To top it off Linux is _not_ faster to interact with than MacOS is- especially if you're talking Enlightenment with textured GTK- compare that with 'Kaleidoscope' for MacOS that's at least six times faster at doing the exact same interface tweaks. I suspect that E+GTK is so optimized for x86 that it runs that fast itself- on a PC. On a Mac, if you want that level of eyecandy in usable form, you have to stay with MacOS so far, because even on a 300Mhz G3 E _crawls_ when using GTK textures, and I know quite well it's not that slow on a PC.
    Something's unoptimized in the state of PPC Linux, and it is certainly not the PPC (again, Kaleidoscope does all that at least six times faster than textured E, arguably more than ten times faster). Anybody have an idea what's going on with this? Is it gcc, egcs, or simply window manager/GTK code that makes heavy use of x86 optimizations and falls back to really crap code when they are not present?
  • by cduffy (652) <charles+slashdot@dyfis.net> on Monday October 04, 1999 @07:32AM (#1640409)
    There are a few things that matter in terms of preventing your code from getting out of hand (in my experience): Design and style.

    Design... well, the importance should be obvious. I'm presently preparing to retrofit some new features to a program I designed before realizing they'd be needed, and doing it cleanly's going to be an interesting task. Perhaps the best test of a design is taking someone new, showing them your headers and asking them to explain how your program works. If they can tell you, you did the design right.

    Style's often no less important. I've seen folks spend 170 lines* of (long, difficult to follow) code in something that could be done in 15 (and which I _did_ do in 15 lines, just to demonstrate).

    But then again, none of my projects have (yet) gotten so large as to grow out of hand. Perhaps next time I find myself working on something sizable, I'll realize that even if everything starts out right you've sometimes got to throw one away, or at least fight it. So far, though, that hasn't happened.

    * - This is slightly less impressive once you realize he used a style somewhere between K&R and GNU, spacing out his code far more than I do.
  • by Zico (14255) on Monday October 04, 1999 @08:13AM (#1640410)

    Seriously, Jon, I'd like to know. Well, I know what the point is for you -- you felt somewhat of an obligation now that you're writing for Slashdot, proving the naysayers here wrong, etc. -- but what would be the point of such a switch for someone not in that unique position?

    After spending a whole year with it, PPP still isn't working properly for you, and you had to get someone else to put your computer together for you. For that much trouble, I was hoping to hear what it is about Linux that would be worth switching from your Mac. Well, I can't find anything more substantial in your article than "mov[ing] things around, kill[ing] a few programs, and ... checking the Term windows." What is one to make of this?

    I think your article unintentionally makes a strong point that is often drowned out here at Slashdot: For many people, maybe even most, the faddishness of Linux just isn't worth it. You've been plugging away at it for a year now, but what do you really have to show for all that time spent, other than feeling like "[your] own particular geek now"?

    As an aside, Jon, I'd also like to explain one reason why some of us get irritated with your articles, and it's not because you don't know as much technically as some people here (or more probably, as some people here claim they have). It's the way that you (mis)appropriate the word "Geek" to refer to just about about person with positive qualities. You write, "The term 'geek' is broadening and evolving daily, and is coming to mean different, complex and increasingly positive things to people." Now, I think if someone's reading material consisted only of your writings, that they'd agree, but that's because you seemingly use it to describe anything you like. Your statement near the end of the article seems to go along with this, too: "I am my own particular kind of geek now." The whole thing smacks of pandering to the crowd here, and I know that's what annoys a lot of people here, especially since you yourself rail against the mainstream media's constant pandering to other crowds.

    Cheers,
    ZicoKnows@hotmail.com

  • by Martian Moon Landing (18084) on Monday October 04, 1999 @05:40AM (#1640411)
    I've got to agree about the programming bit.

    In all the years I've been programming, more times than not the program I'm writing is called, for most of its initial design "test", or more likely because I dumped the original test2.c.

    You generally find yourself starting with an idea, trying out a data structure, and trying not to cloud your mind with that big bit that you can't quite get a handle on. Eventually you either find your way roung that boulder, finally get to it to discover that it was easy after all, or totally give up three quarters down the line.

    I've always found that programming is A LOT like writing. The only difference is that you have to be stricter with you lexicon, clearer of mind and more patient in the rewrite (a process generally known as debugging).

    If you've every smacked head long into a problem you can't manage to think round, you KNOW what writers block is about. And it's worse: the more stressed you get the least you can think straight, and the deeper the block gets.

    The point I'm trying gamely to make is that very few of us of mechanical, logical automitons, most of us are working at three in the morning, having not eaten for 15 hours, desperately coxing the computer in a slightly-to-loud voice that if this compile works, with no problems, that you'll buy that 128Mb dimm you promised it, you'll like that won't you.

    Mark.
  • by Le douanier (24646) on Monday October 04, 1999 @10:02AM (#1640412) Homepage

    Jon,

    One day a newbie will complain about a problem he has with Linux.

    This day you will be close enough to him to hear him groaning.

    You will ask him what is the problem.

    You will help him get his problem solved.

    You will wonder how you did THAT.

    You will realize that you are beginning to geekify, that what looked difficult and boring at a time is powerfull when mastered and fascinating.

    You will wonder where is your old self, this naive man that had no idea how wonderful the world of computing is from inside.

    You will not be a mere writer any more.

    You will be a Geek writer.
  • by Sludge (1234) <slashdot AT tossed DOT org> on Monday October 04, 1999 @05:16AM (#1640413) Homepage
    It seems to me that the best way to learn something is to learn two of its type. I found a good growth of my knowledge of computers when I learned my second OS, but not my third. The same with programming languages.

    You start to learn what is fundamental to the process, and what is just extra stuff added by the designer.

    As I look down the list of all the things I am good at such as music, I see that the Two Of Everything rule applies there as well.

    Good job to Katz, and anyone else who attempts a second of anything as daunting as an operating system, so that they may understand what's fundamental, and what's fluff.
  • by joshv (13017) on Monday October 04, 1999 @05:28AM (#1640414)
    I am glad for Jon that he finally paid someone to install Linux on a laptop for him. What a triumph. He is truly a geek now. He is the master of his technological domain. You are one of us Jon :)

    But seriously, it is good to see that he has realized his limits, and that he would never be able to install it on his own. He is in fact a writer, and I am sure he has better things to do than wile away the hours tracking misbehaving daemons and tweaking vsync frequencies.

    But here's what the fight about me being on Slashdot has always really been about: You don't need to be - and shouldn't have to be - a programmer to use and appreciate Linux, which is, to my amazement, every bit as easy and logical as my beloved Macs, once you get past the installation.

    No, the fight has been over the fact that Jon is first of all a relatively poor writer. Suffering through some of his muddle-mind and meandering posts has truly be a harrowing experience at times. It is often difficult to get to the root of what exactly Jon is trying to say.

    Secondarily when he writes about technology he exposes a level of ignorance that is generally not well respected by the highly technical slashdot crowd. It is not a matter of 'belonging'. As a writer it is about kwowing the limits of your knowledge and sticking to what you know.

    I don't write authoritative papers on nuclear physics, because I only know a tiny bit about the subject. Similarly, Jon should not be writing posts on installing or using Linux, and attempt to make his self appear as an authority on the subject. This is what has rubbed slashdotters the wrong way.

    -josh
  • by tea-leaves (32415) on Monday October 04, 1999 @05:16AM (#1640415)
    You may hate the guy, but re-read this once or twice. This is the customer of the future. A man so driven to actually understand instead of just install his own software.

    Jon seems to speak for a secret sect of our new installed base. Hurrah. Jon has left the establishment of MacOS for the disestablishment of the FreeOS. Think about the changes in thought process that that requires.

    No coder inside him -- just someone who wants to extend the tool of the OS to its pinnacle -- in the way that he can best understand. We should be embracing him and those like him, and then extending them into the potential of their aptitude.

    He is our future. Kudos Jon Katz. #30 TLS
  • by jfunk (33224) <jfunk@roadrunner.nf.net> on Monday October 04, 1999 @05:40AM (#1640416) Homepage
    The story we all like to hear.

    First off, I'm glad to see an end to those ultra-annoying question mark comments. :-)*

    Interestingly enough, my KDE setup happens to have that Mac look as well. I find it quite funny when people end up maximising windows they intended to close.

    With KDE (and GNOME), many, many people are getting into Linux. The cable modem installer came by a while back and grabbed my mouse to setup the IP settings. I told him that I should probably do that. He was dumbfounded when I told him that it was a Linux box. I guess he thought I had a dock on the right side of my screen a la Norton Utilities. It was, in fact my KDE bar.

    Hey, my mom can use it, and prefers it...

    Oh yeah, since you're on KDE, Jon, I'll have to make a couple of app recommendations:

    - KNotes, quite useful
    - KDeskView, which lets you get to those desktop icons covered by open windows really quickly. I use it constantly
    - Geheimnis, an easy to use crypto app. The docking one encrypts/decrypts from the clipboard.
    - If you ever learn C/C++, KDevelop is excellent
    - KLyX, sort of a TeX frontend. What You See Is What You *Mean*
    - KPackage gives you all sorts of nifty information about installed packages

    and if you really want to impress people, get the XScreensaver distrib from www.jwz.org [jwz.org] and put it in your autostart with the '-root' option. I have 'xmatrix -root' in there. It freaks people out. Maybe I should write a shell script to run a random one in there.

    Sorry to hear about your network troubles, though. I'm sure someone here has some good suggestions, I haven't used PPP in years, and back then I used dip...
  • by Zigg (64962) on Monday October 04, 1999 @05:12AM (#1640417)

    Katz's comments seem to be in-line with what quite a few people are saying about Linux -- once it's running, it's really cool. But the installation is hell.

    Linux certainly isn't alone in the confusing installation arena. I forget the article, and I'm too lazy to go find it, but a certain columnist just recently expressed how even as skilled as he was, he spent quite a bit of time installing Linux yet quite a lot more time installing Win2k.

    It seems to me that in order to get the most desktop share, you really have to get preinstallation deals, plain and simple. OS installation is going to remain just plain difficult as long as we keep the unchangeable pieces of the computer as simple as possible. This is a good thing -- because the less that's unchangeable in the machine, the more can be innovated in software.

    My wife is an extremely competent Mac user, but she doesn't do installs. I do it since I'm the one with the half a degree and voluminous experience (mind you, I didn't say I'm smart -- I've just been exposed to quite a bit) :-).

  • by Enoch Root (57473) on Monday October 04, 1999 @05:20AM (#1640418)
    That was a very honest and heartfelt column, Jon. Congrats, not on installing and running Linux, but on persevering and clinging to the objective.

    Indeed, that was a fine homework you did. Perhaps you don't realise it, but you learned more about geeks through the whole process than you care to admit. We're not chest-thumpers, we're a community. There's some kind of secret handshake that actually takes the form of some technospeak, and then we're happily geekin' out.

    You shouldn't feel as if having to resort to help meant you weren't being a geek. That's exactly the point! the fundation of the Open Source and Linux movement is one of help and mutual support! By exploiting these resources, you took true steps into the geek world. How does it look like from the inside?

    Real programmers are different from mortals, certainly from writers. They are a separate species. Programmers are precise, confident and look ahead. They have no doubt they can make technology come out right for them. Writers are imprecise, uncertain and backwards-looking. Their relationship with technology is uncertain, a means, never an end.

    See, I don't agree with you here. Not at all. We're not miracle workers; few of us have a methodology. I can't tell you how many times I've gotten to the middle of a program, and wondered if I could pull it off.

    As a programmer and a writer, I can tell you this: writing and programming is actually quite similar. You begin with a vague outline, with a goal in mind. You research your bases. You enter the subject head-on, and hope you won't stray from the objective too much. And then, something marvelous happens: as you progress, your work takes a life of its own, and you don't feel as if you're directing it, but rather that it's directing you. There's an inherent structure that emerges, and in the end, it can just take you a step further than you imagined when you began the project.

    Coders have the same relationship with words than writers have with technology. It doesn't mean they work their craft differently.

    Again, congratulations on making the jump to Linux. And keep this fresh attitude about the geek culture. You'll see we're not wizards or a different species; we're not that hard to figure out.

    "There is no surer way to ruin a good discussion than to contaminate it with the facts."

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