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The Clueless Newbie's Linux Odyssey 998

overshoot writes "Just what we've always (said we) wanted: people who are fed up with Microsoft and are willing, even eager, to give Linux a real try. Well, she did. And did. And did some more. Not only that, she's a technical writer and she took notes. Not fun reading, but worth reading anyway."
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The Clueless Newbie's Linux Odyssey

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  • Re:Technical writer? (Score:5, Informative)

    by harlows_monkeys ( 106428 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @09:58PM (#5671089) Homepage
    Let me get this striaght. She's a Technical writer, but a lousy typist.

    She's a fairly regular posted on comp.os.linux.advocacy, and explained this there. Here is what she said:

    We're not paid by the word, so speed doesn't count. We're paid for the ability to collect, collate, edit, and publish accurate technical information.

    I have chronic tendonitis and nerve damage in both arms ... with documents, I run a spellchecker, print it out, mark it up, and have multiple chances to get it right. With a CLI, it either works, or it doesn't, or it does something I didn't intend for it to do if I happen to issue a command that is legal.

    Here's the posting [].

    Here's the complete thread [].

  • Re:Tsu Dho Nimh (Score:2, Informative)

    by peripatetic_bum ( 211859 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @10:01PM (#5671102) Homepage Journal

    Please this has got to be an april's fools joke. late though
  • Re:Brief comment (Score:5, Informative)

    by richi ( 74551 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @10:08PM (#5671125) Homepage
    The different direction of slashes is due to MS-DOS using '/' as a way to denote command-line options (e.g. DEL /S/F *.* ). Early version of DOS didn't have a heirachic filesystem, so when MSFT added the concept of directories, they couldn't easily choose '/' as the separator, so they thought that they should use '\' instead.

    Muscle memory sanity for people switching between DOS and Unix wasn't exactly seen as an issue to those guys ;-)

  • Cracking the box (Score:3, Informative)

    by overshoot ( 39700 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @10:17PM (#5671166)
    Rather it is to say that if you cracked into the author's box, you'd find it didn't run Win95.

    Except that I have it on very good authority (tOSG from the story) that she indeed runs Win95 at home, although at the office she runs whatever IT sets up. Right now IIRC that's Win2K and Solaris, but these things change.

    Don't confuse knowing the language with having skills.

  • Re:Hey, France! (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 05, 2003 @10:22PM (#5671185)
    The U.S. has sold Iraq about 4% of their weapons since the 70's. France sold them about 20% and Russia over 50%. France also sold him a nuclear reactor knowing that he'd use it to make weapons.

    But hey, if being a morally bankrupt hypocrite who points fingers is working out for you, keep it up.
  • by SlashChick ( 544252 ) <erica @ e> on Saturday April 05, 2003 @10:25PM (#5671199) Homepage Journal
    My experiences mirror this author's.

    Having administered Linux web servers for several years, I decided to set up a dedicated Linux print server at home. My printer is an HP Color Laserjet 4500 which installs easily with pretty much any Windows version; I decided to forego buying the JetDirect ethernet card for the printer and use Linux as a print server instead.

    I asked my friends what to use on my AMD K6-2 300 that had been commandeered for the purpose of running Linux (no dual-boot attempts here.) They said "Debian." I shouldn't have listened.

    dselect is the most nightmarish application I have ever seen. I spent a good 15 minutes reading the help files, most of which were of no use to me. I then somehow managed to exit out of dselect by hitting some keystroke. BAM! I was dropped into a console prompt with absolutely no packages installed.

    Aha! I thought. Apt-get to my rescue! After all, that was the saving grace of Debian. I tried "apt-get install kde." Not the right package name. Okay.... "apt-get install gnome." No? I just need to apt-get some sort of GUI!

    With tedious Google searching, I finally figured out the sequence of commands to install KDE, and I was off and running. (I think I ended up installing some calculator program that required the KDE libraries, and it went ahead and installed KDE for me.)

    I rebooted and was dropped into KDE.... exxcept that Debian wouldn't detect my USB mouse. I ended up having to go into #debian on freenode and get the instructions on how to edit some mouse configuration file just to make Debian understand that my mouse was on a USB port. After my mouse worked, I started using Debian, except that I got this weird C error dialog whenever I ran any application. I gave up and tried Red Hat 7.3 (then the latest) instead.

    Red Hat was much easier for me to use. It detected my mouse during the install program, which was nice. However, it didn't detect my printer. I finally got the printer installed under the "control panel" sort of thing that KDE had, only to find out that most of the computer's applications didn't recognize that I was using CUPS! I went back to IRC and asked what the deal was. "Oh, that's normal," was the response. "If you set up the printer under KDE, only KDE applications will recognize it! Then you have to go in and tell all your other applications that the printer is now defined under CUPS instead of LPR. A window manager doesn't control your entire system! You should learn the difference between a window manager and the underlying OS."

    By this time, I was miffed. If I set up a printer in Windows or Mac OS under the Control Panel, all the applications realize that that printer is now my default printer. Why in the world couldn't Mozilla (to use one example) do this? As far as I was concerned, the GUI control panel was the system control panel. To force users to learn the difference between window managers and the underlying OS and to force users to understand that changes they make in the window manager won't apply to the entire OS is a usability gaffe of such proportions that it hasn't been committed since Windows 95 took DOS out of the picture 8 years ago.

    It took me several more hours to set up Samba to share my printer out to my Windows XP box, most notably because of a bug in Samba that prevented sharing printers to Windows XP. I then had the printer working with over 7 hours of work. It was a very long day for me.

    I used the print server successfully for a few weeks. I then went away for Christmas and turned the computer off. When I came home and turned it on, there was no print server (and yes, I'd made sure that all the correct services were set to run on startup, which was yet another annoyance I had to consider in the 7-hour setup process.) Instead of being frustrated, I remembered that I had an old Pentium 75 in the garage that ran Windows 95. 15 minutes later, I had downloaded the Windows 95 drivers from HP's website, clicked the "enable printer sharing" button,
  • Hardware matters (Score:3, Informative)

    by be-fan ( 61476 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @10:52PM (#5671313)
    My experiences in installing Linux have been totally different. The last time I went through Linux hell was back around the libc5/glibc fiasco. After I ditched RPM-based distros, it's been smooth sailing ever since. Over the winter, I managed to hose my installation of Gentoo on my laptop (that's what running every 0-day cvs ebuild in sight will get you :). I wasn't going to have a broadband connection for about a month, so Gentoo was out of the question. So before I left on vacation, I grabbed a set of RedHat 8.0 CDs.

    Installation was dead simple. I'm hardly a newbie, but the installer didn't really give me the chance to do all that much. I let it autopartition, autoselect the filesystems, picked my package sets (GNOME workstation, etc) and sat by while it installed. I occasionally had to swap discs. The bootmanager configuration would probably be a little confusing. There is no reason to really have it in the "braindead-newbie installation mode" because installed OSs can probably be auto-detected. Then, it rebooted do a nice GNOME desktop. The GeForce4Go in my Inspiron 8200 was autodetected. My USB mouse was autodetected. My network card was autodetected. I had to install the NVIDIA drivers seperately, which required me to drop into the command line. This would be the first hitch for a newbie user (who wants 3D anyway). In all, there was one text file to edit (a one-liner). No recompiles. Overall, it was easier than the average WinXP installation. The WinXP does partitioning and filesystem formatting through a curses-like interface. Two of it's options panels (date-time settings, network configuration) are a good deal more complex than the very direct RedHat panels. Getting good 3D performance in XP also requires an trip to NVIDIA's websites for it's drivers. Further, after the install, about an hour of additional software installation is necessary to get the system to a usable state. Once the RedHat install is done, it's done.
  • Re:Technical writer? (Score:5, Informative)

    by rossz ( 67331 ) <> on Saturday April 05, 2003 @11:04PM (#5671358) Homepage Journal
    If I wanted documents written for nongeeks, I want my technical writer to know as little about the subject as possible. A good technical writer's value is in his/her ability to collect the necessary information and put it in a form easily understood.

    Someone who knows the subject inside out is quite possibly the worst choice as a technical writer. They usually make that all too common mistake of assuming you know an important tidbit of information because "it's so basic".
  • by Pinball Wizard ( 161942 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @11:10PM (#5671389) Homepage Journal
    and as someone who sets up Linux systems for clueless newbies to use, I have to agree. Generally, this distro has been the best support I've seen for setting up a basic workstation, which means everything should work right the first time. I'm not a newbie, but I don't have a lot of time to spend on end users systems, so I appreciate an easy to use(for the users) distro that sets up correctly without having to go back and do a lot of tweaking.

    I will say, from the progress I've seen over the last few years with Linux desktops, they are improving at a fast rate. The distros just keep getting better and better, and I think we will one day soon see a truly usable Linux desktop.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 05, 2003 @11:23PM (#5671443)
    Her printer problems are because her printer doesn't have enough ram to print a full page at 600dpi. I had similar problems on my Okidata 400e at 300dpi
  • Re:Article Summary (Score:2, Informative)

    by TeraCo ( 410407 ) on Sunday April 06, 2003 @12:11AM (#5671628) Homepage
    Very rare in practice? Where are you buying your hardware? Hicksville, Illanois?

    If you buy anything even slightly OEM you are guaranteed almost 100% hardware compatability.. with the exception being hardware that was issued after the driver lib in XP was set in stone.

  • Re:Article Summary (Score:2, Informative)

    by PurpleBob ( 63566 ) on Sunday April 06, 2003 @03:33AM (#5672248)
    Everyone says Debian is out of date, yet it doesn't even seem to be true anymore.

    Debian had GNOME 2.2 before Slashdot reported its release.

    It has galeon2, where the only other way to get it is to compile it yourself.

    It got XFree86 4.3.0 the day it was announced.

    What kinds of packages are out of date?
  • by wilkinsm ( 13507 ) on Sunday April 06, 2003 @04:05AM (#5672344)
    In the review she tryed to install SuSE 7.1 - That release is so old now I would not even dare donate it. I think it's very disingenuous of her to slam SuSE they way she does. SuSE 8.1 (soon to be released 8.2) in my experience is a "click Install and leave the computer for 20-30 minutes" situation, no matter how oddball your computer is.

    Just by that fact alone, I consider this review nothing more than pure crap rant by a pure crap reviewer. There is no excuse for not using a fairly modern release and such a lazy effort should be rewarded with the article being pulled.
  • by Spunk ( 83964 ) <> on Sunday April 06, 2003 @10:12AM (#5672999) Homepage
    In her defense... (her? could be male. the name is pronounced pseudonym.)

    She said that her review is based on a pile of discs someone gave her to try. You're going to have new and old distros in that bunch. She was clear that it was SuSE 7.1 she tried, not that SuSE in general sucks.

  • Re:Article Summary (Score:2, Informative)

    by earthcrosser ( 653266 ) on Sunday April 06, 2003 @03:53PM (#5674358)
    Thanks for all of the suggestions, everyone. I downloaded Mandrake 9.1 last night and gave it a shot. I'm now able to load X... this is progress! The next step is getting the network connectivity working, as the mobo's built-in NIC apparently isn't supported outright. Fortunately, I found a 3C905B lying around, and I'm going to give that a shot. Again, thanks for the advice. My mind has been reopened to the idea of learning Linux.

Nothing makes a person more productive than the last minute.