OK, OK,OK. So maybe Linux docs are not completely worthless. I get most of my information from forums like this one and very little from the docs. But I still believe they're written by and for ubergeeks. Wish they were written in an easy to read fashion. In a way ordinary folks can understand.
The Catch-22 is that, in order to be accepted by the masses, Linux needs the leverage and influenece that comes with a large user base. The Windows Documentation may be great, it may be terrible, but most people who take up Windows these days don't need to go to the documentation because Windows knowledge is carried in the culture by word of mouth, because every computer shop knows how to repair and maintain it, and because it comes preinstalled with your computer. Plus, Windows simply guides the culture. People leran about what makes a good OS from Windows, and there are two things that Windows does better than Linux: gaming, and being Windows. These days, you can run Linux all gui, as if it were Windows, but the best you cana hope for is something like Widnows with less software choices and more support hassles.
I believe that the problem with Linux Documentation isn't that programmers don't like to write it, it's that non-programmers would rather drive nails into their forehead than read books by programmers, and non-programmers don't have a good grasp of the total information. Great strides have been made in user-oriented documentation have been made since I started using Linux just a few years back. Indeed great strides have been made in all of these areas.
The fact is that we're not only doing just fine, we're doing great. If Linux desktop uses goes from, say, 1 per cent to 2 per cent, that's 100 per cent growth, and that's awesome... But, again, Microsoft is the measure of all things. We have come to believe that there is no success without world domination. We've been in third place for the whole time I've been part of the community, a distant third, and yet it's six and a half years of genuinely exciting developments, from Knoppix to the Debian Installer Project (Anyone who tried to install Woody, the Debian version before Sarge, knows how important that was) and then came Ubuntu, and now we're struggling with KDE4, maybe the most *****ious and controversial free software project ever. And the user base has been growing... slowly in comparison with Windows, but explosively in comparison with itself, and that's the only appropriate measure.
Linux Haters like to say that Linux will one day go the way of OS/2, which is the stupidest thing of all the many many stupid things they like to say. It's just not possible. Linux is not a business, and therefore the financial pressures that led to the collapse of OS/2 do not exist. If Linux ceases to exist, it will have to go its own way. But I think we'll be around long enough for this slow steady growth to add up to something. I don't know where the tipping point is, but that's where we're headed.
I've also had friends fail with Linux, and I've also gone back and forth in the beginning. In my opinion, people don't succeed with Linux because they don't want to learn the command line. I don't know if this applies to you, but I'm going to address those who it does apply to.
The command line isn't necessary, it's awesome. It's what will compensate you for the inevitable hassles and inconveniences. Linux is not as good as Windows at being Windows. You can run it as if were Windows, and it will work, but I think you'll find it a pale imitation.
There are a lot of myths and misunderstandings about the command line. I have a friend who doesn't like to usde it because he thinks it requires "ROTE MEMORIZATION", and I don't tell him how wrong he is because there are SO many reasons why he's wrong that answering him would take all week. People think you don't need to use the CLI any more because there's the GUI, but that's like saying that you don't need to read any more because there's TV.
The command line is power and fun and creativity and automating the computer to do stuff while you sleep or watch You Tube Videos. And you don't have to be afraid of it because your GUI doesn't go anywhere when you use it. You pick it up bit by bit over time. If you're going to be using a computer for the rest of your life, you may as well learn how to use it faster and better instead of click click clicking for 30 or 40 years.
since when is *****ious a dirty word?
You make some good points. Likely I know Mac OS 7.6 as well as anything except perhaps C+ dos for the RS color computer.
Originally Posted by linuxrocks2009
I find across the board, I pull down a menu and it doesn't have what I am looking for. What is need is documentation that tells me that Preferences are under Edit, not file in Ice Weasel. I already know that Save allows me to save something. I remember I once saw something I need. I hunt and hunt and never find it.
Re: I tell ya, .......
Great thread Konan.
About time that someone brought this subject up.
I concur 100% with your take on documentation.
A readme file should contain at least the very basic information at the top about the module/program/utility which it refers to.
Lack of documentation has always been an issue with computers in general.
The best documentation that I have seen was included with DB III however I'm sure there have been others with great documentation.
However Linux et al are not the only poorly documented "utilities".
As others have voiced. I simply do not always want to spend hours,days nor weeks trying to get i.e, a dial-up connection working under Knoppix as an example.
Sometimes I simply need to type a letter, yes some of us still do that, or need to work on a spreadsheet.
Labman, your point simply drives home the thought that until some "standardization" is implemented in the industry the learning curve is simply too large. Hence the success of Windoes or simply MS marketing just like Harley Davidsons success.
Remember CP/M ?
An interesting point. Anybody who was around in those 8080/Z80 days remembers that standardization wasn't even a word then. CP/M at least allowed for a common interface for the simple programs of those days, although you were still responsible for writing or supplying a BIOS. But, anyone who had an early microcomputer, had technical skills or they didn't have a computer.
Originally Posted by ErikTheRed
But, I'm not sure it fits into the arguments above. CP/M wasn't freeware or open source. It cost hundreds of dollars (thousands in today's money) and therefore, the nice big book that came with it was expected. What killed it wasn't documentation, but a $40 dollar IBM DOS that came with some really superior manuals.
You've just let your age out of the bag
BUMP! For some reason, this thread is on my tablet, and I want to see it on my desktop.
There is no documentation telling me how to get to the end of this thread.....I had to Google it!
"If Linux ceases to exist, it will have to go its own way. But I think we'll be around long enough for this slow steady growth to add up to something. I don't know where the tipping point is, but that's where we're headed."
Linux in the server room is alive and well and kicking Clippy's posterior!! Linux on the desktop is certainly growing. Love Ubuntu or hate Ubuntu, but the one thing they got right is documentation. Need help figuring out something on Ubuntu? Google it. You will generally find an easy to understand step by step guide.
The reason programmers don't generally write "good" documentation is everyone writes from their perspective. Most people do not understand computers at the level most programmers do. Documentation should be written as if a person was addressing the target end user with that level of knowledge.
I have written step by step guides - multiple guides with screenshots. Its tedious, it takes a long time, but it gets the job done. A client I worked for bought a command prompt program written in Perl -- he had no idea how to use it. The documentation with it was sparse, but understandable to me. I wrote a step by step guide documenting exactly what commands to run, and included screenshots. The guy never had a problem using the program after that.
Years ago I was interested in modding the game Age Of Kings The Conquers. There was a modding tool for it. It had documentation, but everything was written very conceptually with a lot of important specific details left out. I had to ask lots of questions on the forums, even then I ran into road blocks. So, once I knew the whole process, I wrote a step by step guide with screenshots (made in basic html). Whenever a new forumer wanted to learn how to mod, I'd share a link to my guide. The modding community went from a few "elites" to a much larger group. As modding became accessible more mods were made.
Both of those were Windows examples. However, the general point is once something is taught well at a users level, those users will be more confident and productive. They will also spread the knowledge. Of course differing levels of knowledge can be assumed depending on who is likely to use the program.
I first learned about Linux through a friend. He learned about Linux from one of his friends who was a nix sys administrator. I remember having a hopelessly infected Win 98 box and there was Tux to save me with an OS that ran from a disk (Knoppix).
"People think you don't need to use the CLI any more because there's the GUI, but that's like saying that you don't need to read any more because there's TV."
Unfortunately, some people do feel that way.
"The command line is power and fun and creativity and automating the computer to do stuff while you sleep or watch You Tube Videos. And you don't have to be afraid of it because your GUI doesn't go anywhere when you use it. You pick it up bit by bit over time. If you're going to be using a computer for the rest of your life, you may as well learn how to use it faster and better instead of click click clicking for 30 or 40 years."
Exactly!! Exactly why I Use Linux most of the time (Windows in VM's -- had to get Netflix working on the Nix box, works fine in a Win XP VM) even though my job is working on PC's. At the end of the day I want a rock solid box that does what I want and doesn't complain.
Summary (for those who don't want to read my book):
Well written detailed documentation (on the users level) creates a bigger user-base by making the program(s) more accessible. The user shares the information with others and more and more people see the light. May the light of Tux's igloo always shine brightly!!
says the person who hasn't been here since 2009. This is purely anecdotal, but at this point it's based on years of anecdotes: People who don't use the command line don't succeed with Linux. I'm sure there are exceptions, but honestly does anybody know of a lot of exceptions? Aren't they the minority? You can run Linux as if were windows, but then it's just a cheap imitation of windows. The hassles of running Linux are real, and the power of the command line is how we are compensated.
Originally Posted by linuxrocks2009
The command line isn't hard to learn. KDE4 gave me more trouble. The problem is purely one of prejudice. People don't think of the command line as an intergrated part of the desktop, it's just the big black screen of 1985. People are terrified that using the cli means they're giving up their gui somehow. It's not going to happen.
I don't doubt that "the general public" isn't receptive to the command line, but I submit that it's time to forget about the general public, and just try to get the user base up past 10 per cent. The logic of two tools being better than one is undeniable, though some bigoted people will sure deny it with their dying breath. Our command line is better. This is our greatest strength, and our desktop developers are actually hiding it. We're ashamed of it.
Last edited by blackbelt_jones; 07-03-2012 at 04:14 PM.
I'd like to see a GUI application that dispensed command line documentation. Call it "xman"
Unfortunately, I have to agree that the command line is going away fast at the consumer level. Heck, I even see new users stick a finger up to a standard display and try to swipe the icon. I can envision the time when all the GUI old timers are lamenting the idea that the mouse is going away. And making comments that "the mouse is the power behind computing" - without it a person will never become anything but a swiper.
Personally, I love the command line and in my Perl programming always write for the code to run in a CLI terminal, unless I actually need to display something besides text. But, I have been around since the time when there wasn't even a command line - you keyed your code in with binary switches - so, I am a perfect example of, you like what you know. I know the command line and like it. My very young nephews know it as a picture in a computer history book and that is all they will ever know about it.
Of course, there will be new techies who learn it on their own. And I agree with the statement that anyone trying to setup, learn or use Linux without a command of CLI is just wasting their time. They might as well go buy a Mac and start clicking.
Unless I am in the mood of fooling myself, I have to say that, in my opinion, the chance of Linux becoming a desktop OS for a non-technical user has come and gone. It had it's best chance during the Vista fiasco and before the time that the Unix based Mac's started becoming real powerhouses.
However, as they say in the stock market, past performance doesn't guarantee future results.
How about this scenario? Apple keeps moving their entire enterprise toward IOS. They are doing it even as we speak. The Macs are slowly being evolved into something closer to the iPad. I can see the time that a Mac is just a big iPad with an optional keyboard and no mouse - just a touch screen.
Now, Microsoft, as we all know, can't walk and chew gum at the same time. At the moment, they have the idea that the PC desktop is dying. (Anyone who thinks this, by the way, has never tried to create something of significance on a tablet type interface. I always get a good laugh when a magazine contributor announces that he or she sold their laptop and are doing everything on their easy to carry around swipe machine. In other words, they don't do much.)
Anyway, MS tries to shortstop Apple's success with some conglomeration of Windows (Let's call it Windows 7+1) that will run on a swipe interface. Now, since they refuse to ever let go of anything that they have had success with in the past, it will also have a way to use a keyboard, mouse, DOS utilities, Office, Clippy, Tablet PC, etc. In other words, another MS conglomeration of glitz. Their OEM's, unhappy with the direction they are being dragged to today, sell their PC divisions to some Chinese knockoff maker and exit the business. Dell dumps the PC and starts making cheap watches, with an audio interface to their new support center in Whackestan.
Now, the actual programmers and creators of the world cast around with the question, "Where can I get a machine that will actually do work besides all these swipe and talk gadgets?" Possibly, this is where Linux steps up to the plate.
Who knows? One thing that I have learned over the years as an absolute fact, is that nobody knows how the future is going to look.
So why do they insist on wasting everybody's time with Desktops that hide the CLI? We're not really giving people a chance to succeed.
Originally Posted by Konan
I'm not into the command line because I'm nostalgic or a history buff. I'm into it because it's powerful, and because two tools are better than one. When something more powerful comes along, I'll cease to care. But that hasn't happened yet, has it? Until something more powerful comes along, it's going to remain an option.
What do you mean by nontechnical user? I'm not a programmer. Do you mean a user who uses the command line? Well, in that case, anybody can become a technical user in an afternoon.
I was the ULTIMATE nontechnical user. I barely knew how to use Windows when I started Linux, and i struggled painfully for about a year and a half. And then learned a few commands and it all opened up. Instantly.
I tell ya, this Linux thingie just ain't gonna go, until we can sell the command line. There's no reason why we shouldn't other than prejudice. Everybody who uses it loves it, because it saves them a crapload of time. People who want to save time should have the opportunity to discover this. The GUI doesn't go away. You don't have to use it for everything, and you only have to learn the commands you use.
The CLI (as a part of the desktop) makes computing easier. It's the truth, and we're letting a myth defeat the truth because the truth is unpopular. Bad mistake.
I don't think we should obsess about "nontechnical users", as if they're a different species, and we need to kidnap them and take them to our home planet, because MARS NEEDS WOMEN. Anybody can learn to use linux from a position of strength, and the fact that I learned is all the proof you should need for that.
My idea would be a Desktop manual interface, maybe a GUI frontend for man, maybe a new database. Once you know how, apt-get is easier to use than synaptic, and a desktop manual would not replace man.
What I do know about the future is that Linux will be here. If not getting a big share of the desktop could kill us, we'd be so very very dead by now, but we're thriving. Gnome and KDE are developing at a rate that's actually a pain in the ash. We don't need to take over the world. We can take our time, and cultivate users with the tools to succeed.
I'll edit this later... maybe. It probably needs it, but I gotta go for a walk.
Last edited by blackbelt_jones; 07-05-2012 at 01:03 AM.
Originally Posted by blackbelt_jones
Beats the heck out of me. Some of these new desktops seem to think that Linux users want a Windows 98 clone.
By "non-technical user" I mean someone like my wife or my dad. They know nothing about bits and bytes and could care less about learning. They are, computerwise, nothing but icon clickers. To them, the machine is like a phone, it has the purpose of doing something that they need done and doing it faster than using pencil and paper. Of course, this covers about 99% of the world's computer users.
A technical user can be anyone from Linus himself to a sixth grader trying to figure out what this hexadecimal stuff is.
By those definitions, when you were trying to learn Linux after barely knowing Windows, you were a technical user. You were definitely Not an ultimate non-techie. So you didn't know a runlevel from a mouse ball - the important item for the definition was that you wanted to learn. That automatically made you a techie. A beginning one, for sure, but by now you're probably a Guru.
Now as to your other proposal. I don't think we can ever make the great unwashed masses move to Linux. The human traits of using the easiest path and use what you already know will override any neat stuff we can show them. If Wordperfect 5.1 would run on Windows 7, a huge number of people would still be using it rather than learn something new.
But the planet is overpopulated with about a zillion people. Even if only .0001 percent try Linux, that will be a LOT of techies. It will be around for a long time, assuming that the desktop programmers don't turn it into an ersatz Win 3.0.
For myself, my raw Debian machine was loaded one apt at a time, boots up to the command line, and only enters XFCE if I need to do something that GUI does best - and only when I type in startx.