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Open-Source Software and "The Luxury of Ignorance"

CowboyNeal posted more than 10 years ago | from the software-soapbox dept.

Editorial 1471

Bootsy Collins writes "Using the recent experience of trying to configure CUPS on his home network, Eric Raymond has written an interesting new screed on poor design of user interfaces in general, and configuration interfaces in particular, in open source software, entitled The Luxury of Ignorance. A sample quote: 'This kind of fecklessness is endemic in open-source land. And it's what's keeping Microsoft in business -- because by Goddess, they may write crappy insecure overpriced shoddy software, but on this one issue their half-assed semi-competent best is an order of magnitude better than we usually manage.'"

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1471 comments

ESR (-1, Flamebait)

Vint Cerf (713706) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404122)

What a douchebag.

Re:ESR (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8404139)

Yeah, he never knows when to SHUT THE FUCK UP!

Re:ESR (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8404140)

But.. But.. he's a third-degree wiccan! And he's an ugly fat motherfucker who writes a guide on how losers can have sex with desperate geek-skanks! What's not to love?

Re:ESR (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8404161)

His overbearing ego that's what, he thinks he's someone like Linus, which is like God, but he turnes out to be a stupid prophet.

"Shaking like France" (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8404153)

Serious question for our Canuck millstones to the north - Are the Quebecois worthless quaking pusssies like their "brethern" in France?

fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8404128)

is this mic on?! lolz
kekekeke

YOU FAIL IT BITCH (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8404136)

what a whack niggar

In related news (5, Informative)

prostoalex (308614) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404132)

JWZ was trying to get video to play on his box [jwz.org] . More than a year old, but still a good guide to interface design.

Here's all he actually says (5, Informative)

JoshuaDFranklin (147726) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404133)

Here's all he actually says (it's at the end):

So, if you are out there writing GUI apps for Linux or BSD or whatever, here are some questions you need to be asking yourself:

  1. What does my software look like to a non-technical user who has never seen it before?
  2. Is there any screen in my GUI that is a dead end, without giving guidance further into the system?
  3. The requirement that end-users read documentation is a sign of UI design failure. Is my UI design a failure?
  4. For technical tasks that do require documentation, do they fail to mention critical defaults?
  5. And, most importantly of all...do I allow my users the precious luxury of ignorance?

Re:Here's all he actually says (5, Insightful)

DRue (152413) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404173)

We'll never get to this point if every time two people disagree they split the project. Project forks are good to an extent - but I think that we lose a lot more than we gain because of it. At least MS has a meeting and decides how to continue - we, the OSS community, just get pissed off and branch.

Re:Here's all he actually says (4, Funny)

potpie (706881) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404209)

1 What is a non-technical user doing with Linux anyway? They need to crawl before they can walk.
2 Why not put in endless loops of windows that lead back to the same place over and over again. That would be funny.
3 Nobody likes documentation... except 4 n00bs
4 oh yeah... about those... er...
5 I like to think of Linux as a sort of technical boot camp. I started using it because I wanted to upgrade my status from "windozer coder of ascii art" to "codeNINJ4"

those are my thoughts.... anyone else?

Re:Here's all he actually says (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8404265)

Yeah I won't feel so cool when Joe 6 Pack down the street starts bragging about using linux

Re:Here's all he actually says (2, Funny)

endx7 (706884) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404224)

3. The requirement that end-users read documentation is a sign of UI design failure.

I consider anything you have to read to be documentation.

...I guess that means we'll have to label all our buttons and menus with smiley faces and funny tree symbols now?

Re:Here's all he actually says (1, Redundant)

Neo-Rio-101 (700494) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404228)

Well in a perfect world, Clippy would jump up and say "I see you have plugged a xxxx-model-brandname printer into the USB port. Would you like me to configure it for you?" Oh shyiayhtye.... score one for Microsoft.

Re:Here's all he actually says (1)

johnalex (147270) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404313)

Sorry, that kind of user friendliness is reserved for Macintosh. ;-)

Re:Here's all he actually says (2, Insightful)

bersl2 (689221) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404323)

Call me a pessimist, but:
1. It doesn't matter; they'll still ask for help.
3. See #1.
5. See #1.

4. Writing bad documentation has always been known as a fault.

2. WTF is even he talking about when he says "guidance" or "system?" The question is too vague for my taste.

Why aren't macs more popular? (3, Insightful)

mozumder (178398) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404134)

Well, if ease-of-use is paramount, why aren't Macs more popular?

Re:Why aren't macs more popular? (4, Interesting)

DRue (152413) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404143)

Marketing. People think Macs don't work as well - not as much software, etc. It's just marketing - that's what Bill is good at, after all :)

Re:Why aren't macs more popular? (5, Interesting)

jocknerd (29758) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404191)

I don't think its marketing as much as its lack of marketing by Apple. Sure, they are flooding the airwaves with iPod and iTunes commercials, but they have never run a commercial showing what OS X is capable of. Or iLife. Most people I talk to have no idea when it comes to Apple. They are amazed at how well the software is integrated together and that Microsoft Office can run on a Mac and that they can surf the internet as well. I get so tired of doing Apple's job for them. I really should send them an invoice for all of my PR work.

Re:Why aren't macs more popular? (3, Insightful)

i.r.id10t (595143) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404327)

Marketing, but also price. Consider that you can buy PC parts from a bunch of manufacturers, vendors, etc. and the price competition involved there. I think I'd be really tempted to spend $100+ on OS X if I could run it on my "cheap" PC hardware.

Re:Why aren't macs more popular? (2, Troll)

Not The Real Me (538784) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404240)

I can get a white box Intel machine for about $300. The least expensive Mac is about $1200+. Do the math -- it's been this way since at least the P200 days.

Re:Why aren't macs more popular? (1)

wibs (696528) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404306)

oh, come on. you can get a cheaper mac for that from the front page of the Apple store, to say nothing of buying a recently refurbished one filled with RAM from somewhere else.

Well there's yer problem.. (4, Funny)

NickABusey (642217) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404135)

There's your problem right there "I have a desktop machine named 'snark'."

Bah (-1, Flamebait)

0x1337 (659448) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404137)

Anyone who can't configure CUPS shouldn't be talking about ignorance...

Its point and click, and unlike Windows, it actually works. Lprng is a tad trickier...

Re:Bah (5, Insightful)

Bilestoad (60385) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404192)

Congratulations on perfectly illustrating the attitude that keeps anyone from solving the problem. Congratulations to the moderator who gave you +1 Funny for doing exactly the same.

Anyone who can't use an interface you understand isn't as smart as you and therefore is not worthy of consideration. Is that it? You can see where this leads when a developer hears criticism of the UI - they designed it, so of course they understand it. Stupid users! Of course it's their fault.

And then they go and blame the same users for choosing windows...

Re:Bah (5, Insightful)

KingOfBLASH (620432) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404196)

Everything depends on what system you are configuring CUPS on. I'd agree with you for Mandrake Linux, but configuring CUPS under Slackware is anything but easy. I think one of the major problems is that people come out with great tools (i.e. CUPS), but they require a certain amount of effort / sophistication to use / configure, so distros like Mandrake, Suse, and Red Hat write their own configuration tools. Only problem is that because each distro is set up slightly differently, configuration tools aren't portable across distros. Perhaps what we need is a collaborative effort by the major distros to create 1 size fits all config tools.

Re:Bah (2, Insightful)

Wavicle (181176) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404233)

Anyone who can't configure CUPS shouldn't be talking about ignorance...

Do you even KNOW who Eric S. Raymond is?

Your credentials had better be damned good before you go around casting aspersions like that. There aren't too many names in open source software bigger than his.

Re:Bah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8404283)

There aren't too many names in open source software bigger than his.

There aren't too many egos in open source software bigger than his. Wake me up when he actually does something though. And no, half-rewriting the kernel config system and then throwing a screaming tanty when told that no, we're not going to all install Python just because he want us to doesn't count.

Re:Bah (0, Offtopic)

Bull999999 (652264) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404336)

I think that mine is bigger than his... Oh you were talking about something else?

Re:Bah (-1, Flamebait)

donbrock (705779) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404250)

Amen, CUPS is actually a shining example of easy to use software. If he can't figure out the super easy web interface then he's an idiot.

Oh please, (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8404287)

I spent HOURS AND HOURS trying to get CUPS working on my Linux box with ONE SIMPLE PRINTER on LPT1! It spit out vague error messages and error codes and google searching turned up nada. I eventually gave up and installed LPRNG which only took JUST A FEW HOURS after tricking out magicfilter to work properly (I still had to force the stupid printcap file to find the appropriate directory). Face it, setting up printing under Linux can suck.

Re:Bah (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8404322)

I agree, CUPS has definately been the easiest server software I have ever set up. It was even easier to use than apple's usb printer sharing.
With a house full of macs, CUPS was easily configured to work with all of our computers. It even workes with netatalk printer deamon flawlessly.

To attest to CUPS ease of use, everyone in my home knows how to use it and does rutinely. For people that think spam is a steep learning curve, that means a lot.

What he probably is having trouble with is his kernel configuration of libraries or something that isn't allowing CUPS to function properly. Maybe he doesn't have any fonts installed. But as said by several others, this is dependent on the distro you use. I hate how people use the "Linux" term for anything under the sun, from a Zaurus to a renderfarm. This guy should be complaining about his distro's problems. There are plenty of easy to use, easy to set up distros. But he wouldn't get on slashdot for complaining about that.

Not neccessarily true (5, Interesting)

KingOfBLASH (620432) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404145)

That's not necessarily true. Mandrake [mandrakelinux.com] set up CUPS and just about everything else I've needed with no problems at all. It's all about what you're doing. For some programs under some distros you need to be a programmer to install and / or set them up. Under other distros, and with other programs, it can be a breeze. (Just look at how well Knoppix does!)

Re:Not neccessarily true (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8404258)

Denial is not just a river in Africa.

Re:Not neccessarily true (1)

KingOfBLASH (620432) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404314)

Denial is not just a river in Africa.

I'd love to hear why you think I'm wrong, but your argument is all rhetoric and no substance.

Open Letter to ESR (-1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8404147)

Dear ESR -

The entire nation considers your written and spoken rants both condescending and highly obnoxious.

For the good of the open source community and the world at large, please shut up.

Thank you,

Everyone

Re:Open Letter to ESR (5, Insightful)

DRue (152413) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404198)

The entire nation considers your written and spoken rants both condescending and highly obnoxious.

Are you kidding me? This is precisely the thing that we need to concentrate on. If we can't be critical of ourselves - MS sure can.

Re:Open Letter to ESR (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8404200)

Dear Anonymous Coward, The entire slashdot community considers your written and spoken rants both enlightening and amusing. Please, be our leader, and write more opinion pieces. Thank you, Everyone.

Re:Open Letter to ESR (4, Funny)

ChanxOT5 (542547) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404226)

Dear ESR -
We will accept your critcisms of CUPS when you fix it. It is, after all, open source :)

-Your OSS pals.

Re:Open Letter to ESR (4, Insightful)

fitten (521191) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404329)

Yes... exactly his point. IF you want Linux to succeed on the desktop, you will have to one day realize that the *vast* majority of users will have little to no technical experience or expertise. Not only will they have criticisms but they will not, and have absolutely no desire to, fix such issues. Instead, they will abandon it and go find something else easier to use.

It's attitudes exactly as yours that will relegate Linux to a niche. You are not helping Linux and OSS, you are hurting it.

Re:Open Letter to ESR (0)

endx7 (706884) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404245)

The entire nation considers your written and spoken rants both condescending and highly obnoxious.

I refuse to read anything he has written, because that would be documentation. ...And I don't believe in documentation (but then again, neither does he apparently).

Re:Open Letter to ESR (5, Insightful)

TheWanderingHermit (513872) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404281)

That rant, to me, sounds like another programmer who can't cope with the idea that most people do not think like programmers when it comes to understanding software, and would rather blame the user than have the strength to take an honset look at the situation and what he/she could do differently to improve it.

I know writing GUIs is a pain (I'm not a professional programmer, but I've had to do nothing but coding for 2 years), but programmers have to stop blaming the users and other people who point out things like this. It's just a denial that 95% of all people using a computer need something simple because, to them, IT IS JUST A TOOL, and they need to use it to produce a product, not to hack on and explore.

ESR has a good point -- if FOSS is going to replace closed source, or hold its own, or even continue to grow, FOSS programmers will have to get realistic in understanding how users think instead of blaming users because the programmers don't want to make the effort to understand the other side of the issue.

For the good of the FOSS community, ESR needs to speak out more, and people like the above poster need to "please shut up" and listen to other points of view, instead of hiding their head in the sand in denial.

Re:Open Letter to ESR (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8404296)

>Dear ESR -
>
>The entire nation considers your written and >spoken rants both condescending and highly >obnoxious.
>
>For the good of the open source community and the >world at large, please shut up.
>
>Thank you,
>
>Everyone

While I don't agree with your language I do agree with the sentiment.

ESR's language and pomposity are totally out of line. How can we get credibility from a man who believes in neo-paganism, mass gun ownership, threatens Bruce Perens with violence and believes in the highly racist views of the authors of the "bell Curve"? Slashdot should no longer post articles from this man.

Luxury of Punditry (-1, Troll)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404154)

How is some article by Eric Raymond any different than some OSSpews [osnews.com] , article, or some stupid blog? [livejournal.com] .
Someone says something cool once, or does something interesting once, and they're brought into the geek pantheon forever? Show me the money, or show me the code, or shut up. This is arguably a Troll or Flamebait post, but can someone explain how a non-Linus, non-Andre Hedrick, non-Theo Whatshisname, still gets legitamized?

Re:Luxury of Punditry (4, Insightful)

hpa (7948) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404187)

It is punditry, but it's also something that has been said quite a few times before, including by Miguel de Icaza of GNOME fame.

Really. There is a ton of OSS software with really shitty user interfaces, but anything involving fonts or printing seems to be crappy beyond belief.

Re:Luxury of Punditry (1)

el-spectre (668104) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404202)

True, the guy really pegs the zealot-o-meter, but he's also right on this one. Ad Hominem isn't a valid argument.

ad-hominem IS the argument (0, Redundant)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404292)

My question is why does this guy make the front page of Slashdot? Don't tell me he's the only blogger on the Internet who's so wise and profound.

Re:Luxury of Punditry (4, Insightful)

Wavicle (181176) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404331)

show me the code, or shut up

Have you looked for the code?

Your post tells of smacks of an attitude all too typical in open source... You believe only code gurus should criticize software. Eric may or may not be a code guru, but that argument is flat wrong. Bad interface is why Linux is taking so long to make inroads on the desktop. It's a legitimate problem that needs to be addressed and maybe *JUST MAYBE* people who write code are not the best user interface designers. Maybe users are simply not as deterministic as software.

My experience (4, Insightful)

brokencomputer (695672) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404159)

I had a very hard time configuring cups for the first time, but after I learned how to do it, it proved to be '''much''' easier to administer and manage than it is in windows. It was also easier to change configurations without breaking multiple user's print settings. This is true with a lot of open source things. Hard at first, but once you get the hang of it, there is no going back.

Re:My experience (5, Insightful)

Brigadoon (520066) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404231)

The problem is that not everyone can get it working. I'm a CS major and a Linux geek. Definitely not an advanced Linux user, but I know how to setup and use Gentoo, which I do, but I simply could not get CUPS to work on my system. I'm sure if I spent a good deal more time reading the documentation and playing with it, it would be easier in the future, but I, like most computer users, won't NEED to set it up more than once. I should have an easy time getting it setup and working so that I don't have to dick around with it ever again.

Couldn't have said it better myself. (-1, Flamebait)

EmCeeHawking (720424) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404164)

their half-assed semi-competent best is an order of magnitude better than we usually manage

I couldn't have made this comparison between the New York Times and michael's "journalism" better myself.

-1 Troll (5, Funny)

nmoog (701216) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404166)

What a rant! Im going to send mod points to Eric Raymond's house by mail.

Igorance and the double edged sword (4, Insightful)

lavalyn (649886) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404171)

Ignorance and the user won't step out of their bounds beyond their Internet Explorer and Outlook. Unfortunately, others like Gator and BetterInternet will do it on their behalf.

In the end, a computer is more like a car than an oven, capable of great power but requiring a good deal of knowledge to use (and not run over people in the process).

Re:Igorance and the double edged sword (5, Insightful)

el-spectre (668104) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404238)

True, and a computer takes some skill to use. It's not fair to expect the average user to be an expert just to do some simple configuration.

Hell, I'm a half decent tech geek, and I struggle to do many config tasks even on user-friendly distros like Fedora.

Should it require significant skill to update the kernel (and know what you're doing?) ? Sure. But to install simple hardware? Hell no.

Goddess? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8404179)

Who is he talking about?

Has he been spending too long on slashdot, such that he now worships Natalie Portman or something?

Re:Goddess? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8404275)

No, like all good geeks, he worships Fred [buffy.nu] .

Re:Goddess? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8404298)

Doesn't Everybody?

Re:Goddess? (1)

micromoog (206608) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404318)

Eris [ology.org] , presumably.

Re:Goddess? (2, Insightful)

sbma44 (694130) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404324)

my guess: snarky paganism inspired by being a tech guy.

It's unfortunate, but it seems that most of us (myself included) deal with endless yelling at people who don't understand/value what we understand/value by deciding that everyone else is an idiot. Some of us become a fire-breathing libertarian. Some of us eschew all organized religion, or at least replace the one we were brought up in with one that we find amusingly unorthodox. Sometimes we just become an arrogant ass (that's the one I settled on).

Am I over-analyzing here? I'm honestly not trying to troll or flame, just navel-gaze.

Re:Goddess? (2, Informative)

black mariah (654971) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404326)

It's a reference to Eris, Goddess of Discordia. Give this a read, and DO NOT take it seriously. If you do, you have missed the point. ;)
http://www.principiadiscordia.com/

In other news.... (4, Funny)

iMMo (61469) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404180)

...ESR was found beaten severely, with the names of several CUPS developers found tatoo'd on his forehead....

Wow.. (-1, Offtopic)

Stormie (708) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404186)

That CUPS sure does sound difficult. Luckily ESR is white, and therefore has a high IQ [ibiblio.org] . I'd hate to see how much difficulty a member of one of the lesser races would have configuring that printer.

Re:Wow.. (0, Offtopic)

Graspee_Leemoor (302316) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404241)

Looks like someone was strapped for cash and sold his slashdot acconut on ebay to some Nazi freak.

graspee

Re:Wow.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8404303)

Looks like someone was strapped for cash and sold his slashdot acconut on ebay to some Nazi freak.

Looks like someone was strapped for time and didn't bother following the link before concluding that the Slashdot poster, rather than ESR, was the Nazi freak.

Re:Wow.. (1)

Graspee_Leemoor (302316) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404319)

I'm sorry. I finally realized what was going on, and that the linked to thing was by esr, so it was all about 'oh dear, esr is rascist', but the post taken at face value doesn't make this clear, and resembles too closely a lot of the rascist crap that is on slashdot.

I suppose you might say that the user interface of the post was confusing... (Last ditch attempt to regain karma, both in the religious sense and the important sense).

graspee

Re:Wow.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8404259)

Nice to see that enough ESR fanboys had mod points handy, to so quickly cover up that link to his racist rantings [ibiblio.org] .

Re:Wow.. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8404291)

Yeha, I visited a tribe in Tanzania, their chief was complaining about lack of Postfix configuration books.

Yeah, a real surprise (2, Interesting)

contrasutra (640313) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404193)

You mean a bunch of volunteers didn't always think about the (l)users and created a bad UI? Wow, none of us knew that!

This problem does exist, and is being worked on. C'mon, just look at the GNOME Project. They have a whole team of UI designers working to make it better for the common man. I know ESR has been a big contributor to open source, but in this case: submit a patch or shut up. Identifying a problem we all know exists isn't that amazing.

Re:Yeah, a real surprise (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8404304)

Hi!

Well no actually, they're working on GNOME to beat KDE, because RMS declared jihad on the infidels who dared to expect to receive money in return for their labor.

Cheers,
GNU/Wolfgang

Re:Yeah, a real surprise (2, Informative)

JVert (578547) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404317)

For as long as the problem has been stated its been overlooked for even longer. GNOME has an elephant to eat, but thats no excuse, and even your wording emphasiss the problem, "to make it better for the common man" remember your mantra and realize you should have said "to make it easier for the common man".

Its really interesting ..... (5, Insightful)

GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404201)

How Important developers of the GNU and Open Source Movement are living the obscure land of kernel hacking and going to write some userland code. Many times, in Free Software, the underlying system, the lower level development is made by the most competent developers, and so is robust, stable, actually the best out there, but the front ends, well, they just don't have the same quality, so, for the unexperienced user, it looks like crap. I think it's time that we change this, and start showing that GNU can also be reliable on the Desktop, not only showing how fast it is, but also good end-user interfaces. It's not that i don't like KDE, GNOME, XFCE, etc,etc, they are ok, but i think that if we put the best people to work on it, they will be even better.
Linus has been talking about this recently, are we going to start seeing things like Linusorganizer, Linword??, hehe, that would be nice.

NRA member? (-1, Offtopic)

brokencomputer (695672) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404204)

This guy is a self proclaimed "gun nut"(exact words). I don't know if this might have anything to do with his experiences in linux, but it sure interested me and shed light on his "problems" with CUPS. Look what he writes: " Many well-intentioned Americans have been propagandized into believing a collection of myths that paint guns as intrinsically evil and demonize gun owners. Fortunately, sociological and criminological research of very high quality is now available to refute these myths. Here are some of my favorite items: The Heartland Institute paper Taking Aim At Gun Control does an excellent job of debunking the myths "everybody knows" about guns and gun control. Gun Control: A Realistic Assessment is a thoroughly scholarly but devastating critique of partisanship and methodological errors in many commonly-cited anti-gun sources. "

I'm sorry? How is this relevant? (0, Offtopic)

djkitsch (576853) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404295)

How are his views on gun controls in any way relevant to this discussion? His beliefs regarding the control of lethal weapons has nothing to do with his ability to configure CUPS!

Not only coders! (3, Interesting)

MikeCapone (693319) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404208)

It's true that the OSS community needs to beef up many area of the developpement process.

Software isn't just about the code the same way that a car isn't just about the engine.

For people to want to use it in the first place, to enjoy it once they've started using it and to stay with it, a "product" needs many qualities.

This (often) explains why an inferior design can becomes the norm.

So lets get cracking with artists, GUI/interface designers and and documentation writers!

I will anticipate the "Well, why don't you do something! Where's the patch?" posts and answer:

I'm doing what I can with the talents that I have (often amounts to writing suggestions to developpers, bug-reports, spreading the word on new stuff and donations).

who's we? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8404210)

i wish people would stop refering to the OSS community as "WE" because if you are not actually doing the work, why dont you sit down, and shut up.

instead you write useless articles that have this feeling as if you write for the community. but in reality you claim a "we" when its simply you telling everything that actually DOES something what to do.

put up, or shut up/

Re:who's we? (4, Insightful)

jonman_d (465049) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404251)

Uhm, I guess you've never heard of ESR before. When he talks about the open source community as, "We," he really means "we." [catb.org] He is actually doing the work.

ESR is part of the community. He's not some teenager whining that the software doesn't work - he's a respected figure pointing out a problem in hopes that it will be recognized and fixed.

Fecklessness?!? (5, Funny)

crapnutassneck (243159) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404211)

I honestly have not ever heard someone use that term outside of The Clash. I shall use it tomorrow a minimum of twice.

Eric, we love you but... (2, Insightful)

rmassa (529444) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404212)

We don't love people who rant and rave and complain.

If the user interfaces are so poor, why don't you help fix them? Instead of approaching this in a manner designed to piss people off and create enemies, why don't you say things like:
  • "It seems to me that the cups configuration wizard could be a bit more intuitive. Specifically at these points..."
or (shockingly) even better:
  • "Here's a patch that I feel makes the cups configuration wizard more user friendly. I was able to have 10 of my non-linux friends successfully configure a networked printer from my wife's workstation with the patched version. Can anyone find a way to do things even better?"
More of us would listen to you if you stopped insulting people left and right. We might even take heart in your suggestions and join in the fun of making a better UI.

Re:Eric, we love you but... (1)

duffbeer703 (177751) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404274)

He's too busy inventing terms for the jargon file and maintaining fetchmail.

The man is a career troll. Few make it to that level.

I think you forgot to wear your glasses (2, Insightful)

djkitsch (576853) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404334)

Instead of approaching this in a manner designed to piss people off and create enemies, why don't you say things like: [etc]
Um... the "Specifically at these points..." is kinda constructive, don't you think? It's a bit of a stretch to accuse him of insulting anyone - this is the kind of language I use every day when giving useability advice (I'm a web consultant), and it's normally taken as my being helpful - it would only be insulting if he criticised it without pointing out where it could be improved.

My Fellow Slashdotters... (-1, Flamebait)

big_groo (237634) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404213)

The author of this article, in the first paragraph, uses the word 'anatomize'. If you are one of the many that use 'loose' in place of 'lose', please click here [disney.com] or here [sesamestreet.com] to brush up on your collective lexicon(s).

Thank you.

Yet again... (-1, Troll)

caffeineHacker (689198) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404217)

ESR bashes 'his' community this time, in another brain-dead rant. Yes most OpenSource products are a little more archaic to use than point and click...but there are already some solutions such as Xandros and Lindows...also most home users don't need to deal with configuration scripts or advanced features, and the simple stuff(Normal network printing, internet browsing, viewing movies, etc) are usually just as easy as Windows. But thinking things through isn't one of ESR's strong points.

You get what you pay for (-1, Troll)

putaro (235078) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404222)

If you want point n' click Unix buy a Mac and stop whining. If you want to be cheap, RTFM.

Re:You get what you pay for (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8404307)

At some point none of the hacking and configuration, usable GUI or otherwise, is worth my time. Spending a day futzing around with a parallel port printer is not cost effective. Buy a network printer, print over TCP/IP and be done with it. Use appliances that solve the problem. Don't try to hack the microwave so that it perfoms like a toaster oven.

OS X (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8404229)

I know that something called "CUPS" exists on my iBook. I just don't know what it is or what it's supposed to do. And yet, I've never had any trouble accomplishing any task on my iBook that I've set out to achieve. I guess this is why OS X is better than Linux in some ways.

This one time (4, Funny)

savagedome (742194) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404242)

Talk about luxury of ignorance. I pitch open source software to family/friends/bosses every chance I get. Now this one time, I was telling my boss about OpenOffice when MSOffice bailed out on him.

Boss: Damn. This MSWord thingy sucks.
Me: You should try using Open Office once. Its a good sub and its free!
Boss: Free? I am telling you one more time. Stop downloading things off of KaZaA damnit
Me: No. No. No. You got me all wrong. Its free as in 'free as a beer' free.
Boss: Does it have Clippy?
Me: What?
Boss: I looovvvvee Clippy. He is so cute
Me: Well, it doesn't really have a Clippy per se but...
Boss: Oh common. How do you expect me to use it if it doesn't have Clippy. I am a PHB
Me: What?
Boss: I am a pointy handed boss
Me: Handed? Ohhh well. Nevermind.

At that point I just walked away defeated by clippy and luxury of ignorance.

difficulty of OSS (2, Insightful)

chrisopherpace (756918) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404248)

Although CUPS is easier than hell to setup to me, this is a major problem with OSS, ease of use. We geeks write software, and most of the time don't think about the pee-brained morons on the other end. And even sometimes we don't think of just simply the normal person at the other end. We create interfaces, and leave them at that, assuming we do create GUIs. Installation is usually a bitch, and the layout of a GUI generally takes some time. Please note that this is not a majority problem, the majority of OSS software is actually good in the interface design. But, this is true with a lot of commercial products also, so take this with a grain of salt.

Having battled with NetBIOS... (1)

tcopeland (32225) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404249)

...I can assure you that Windows has had its share of warts in this area too. Local browser elections, anyone? Yikes.

WinXP does seem to have cleaned things up considerably, though. Hopefully folks can just see this article as food for thought...

Uh Oh (1)

LittleLebowskiUrbanA (619114) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404260)

He's right. How about something simply if you're trying to connect to a Windows based printer or a *.Unix based printer?

And OSS is different because... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8404261)

"they may write crappy insecure overpriced shoddy software"

as oppsed to OSS, which is crappy insecure shoddy software, but at least it's not overpriced.

Thats fedora, not CUPS (5, Informative)

bluGill (862) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404269)

The problem is in Fedora, not Cups. Cups works just fine, and more or less like he wants it to, if that is all you ever use. Fedora, using whatever configuration system it uses placed some unuseable stuff there.

Granted Cups could use a lot of help, but he wasn't using a Cups configurator, he was using some other configurator that can work with not only Cups, but also SMB, LPR, and a bunch of other stuff. I don't know the solution, but bashing the Cups guys won't get you any closer to it.

Unfortunately (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8404271)

He's right... Also: check out his picture on the home page of the site... :)

Flame??? (3, Interesting)

stephanruby (542433) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404278)

Initially, I was about to flame this guy and then I remembered. I still can't get my Linux box to print on a printer (through Samba).

Either I can take his side and be called an idiot because I'm sure someone will claim to have an easy solution to my problem. That's what someone claimed the last time I mentioned I couldn't get MPlayer working and then of course the suggested solution didn't work. Or, I can stay out of the discussion entirely. I think I'll do the latter instead.

the user is the bridesmaid, the admin gets laid (5, Insightful)

rdewald (229443) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404286)

First of all, as a self-taught Linux user I am delighted that someone as talented as ESR can have a hair-pulling session doing something like setting up CUPS. I have had many an evening like this. Excruciatingly close to getting something done, something that should be simple, and instead spending hours feeling stupid and incompetent. He's right, and he's right about the fact that this is why there are countless unused Linux install discs littering desk drawers under Windows machines, tried and abandoned by people who hate Micorosft, hate Windows, who would LOVE to support an alternative, but can't make it work.

The user is the loser. There's a clubby, exclusive, snotty attitude among user's groups. The online resources are hopelessly disorganized or relentlessly dinged with ads. The vision that Stallman has of software as knowledge, rather than product, is lost among the throng of sociopaths that spout RTFM at users that ask the same questions over and over.

Well, you know why people have the same questions over and over? Because the software is obscure and the documentation is unhelpful. GNU is based on people solving their own problems and then giving other people an opportunity to use thier solutions. Documentation, at best, is an afterthought. Once you have solved a problem, there's no need to go back and explain it to yourself, any documentation that does exist arises purely from the virture of developers, not because they need it themselves.

The fact that the most useful thing you can have with this enormously powerful gem of human progress (the computer) when trying to use Linux is a printed-out HOW-TO, probably downloaded and printed from a Windows box, is more than ironic, it is shameful. The tools for providing context-sensitive help are there, they just are unused. The developers don't care about the user, they've solved thier problem by this time.

If OSS developers needed robust documentation in order to distribute their product, they would either develop it or not distribute their code. But they don't. There's no reward for the developer.

This brings me around again to the notion of licensing software developers and then making them accountable for the usability of the product. Not as an avenue for exclusion, but to build a community of developers devoted to the user, a Mr. Goodwrench sort of certification standards, that tests it's releases against naive and novice users. How you make this work I have no idea.

Red Hat should be doing this already, but they've clearly left the home user at the altar.

He's right (5, Insightful)

blincoln (592401) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404290)

I always try and get an open source-coding friend of mine to understand this, and it never seems to sink in.

Interface design is an incredibly important part of any software project - it's like the clothes you wear to a job interview. Sure, you *might* get the job if you wear your regular jeans and t-shirt, but if you take the time to dress up, you will create a much more favourable impression on the potential employer you are meeting.

Similarly, taking the time to make your user interface polished and intuitive is one of the best ways to end up with happy end users who tell other people how great your software is. It lets them know that you care enough about the software you create to spend a few extra hours making it look nice instead of shoving it out the door as fast as possible.

but he's right (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8404297)

You're all missing the point. Trying to configure CUPS does suck if you're on your own trying to figure it out. Anything with Linux is this way. I'm not a college-aged dork sitting in a dorm not getting laid with 20 other dorks playing EQ. I'm trying to figure out how to use this powerful tool, and if I have to spend 3 days studying dusty man pages to set up a frickin' printer - forget it. Takes me 10 minutes to write a script to install a queued novell printer when I click on a NAL - and then leverage that against 10,000 machines that I don't have to touch. Will Linux do this one day? I hope so.

Yep (5, Insightful)

The Bungi (221687) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404310)

And then when you (humbly) send an email or post a suggestion about how to (possibly) make [insert technology] a bit more friendly, the responses tend to go like this:

  • [no response. evar]
  • This is different from Windoze - I know that! I don't want "Windoze" (how cute, BTW) I want to tell you that your fucking design sucks rocks!
  • If you want stupid, use Windoze instead - Again, very cute. Also arrogant and stupid.
  • This is how it's done in Linux - Well shiieet, of course it is. That doesn't mean it's correct.
  • Did you RTFM|Google? - Well of course, for the last fucking 4 hours, just.
  • The next version will have... - That's great except that if I Google for what you said about this version I see the same thing. Wow, Usenet is great, eh?
  • We're not going to add that, that's stupid - Of course!
  • Use [x] instead - Yeah, except that [x] has been in alpha for the past nine years.
  • Check out [this page] - Fantastic. If that's not a 404 I guess I'll have to learn Japanese! Weee!
  • You're welcome to ask for a refund - Wahahaha!!!
It takes a rant from ESR (who despite his pretensions doesn't know much about human interaction) to get people to do things right? Wow.

I always get a chuckle when people compare Linux to OS X or Windows in usability terms. KDE looks absolutely fantastic after I log in, but the fun stops there. If I actually want to do anything else I have to fire up vi and edit 1,000 conf files. Give me a break.

And yes, ESR is right. This is one of the things that keep Windows users in Windows and perpetuate what you folks call "monoculture". Whining about it and blaming everything on "M$" won't fix anything. Great software ultimately sucks if I can't use it.

Network Printing != Aunt Tillie (2, Informative)

Riktov (632) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404325)

The configuration problem is simple. I have a desktop machine named 'snark'. It is connected, via the house Ethernet, to my wife Cathy's machine, which is named 'minx'. Minx has a LaserJet 6MP attached to it via parallel port. Both machines are running Fedora Core 1, and Cathy can print locally from minx. I can ssh minx from snark, so the network is known good.

(my emphasis)

He's given up his right to claim newbie ignorance right there. Aunt Tillie couldn't even conceive printing through a network.

Hey ESR (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8404330)

Hey ESR, get off your high horse. If you think you could make it better, write a patch, or stop complaining.

Damn... (2, Funny)

Mephie (582671) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404332)

So, let's review. In order for the nice, user-friendly autoconfiguration stuff to work, you have to first edit an /etc file. On a different machine than the one you're trying to s set up. You have to read the comments in configuration file to know that you need to do this ubn the first place.

He got so pissed he couldn't type straight!

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