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Road To Linux -- Made It!

JonKatz posted more than 14 years ago | from the small-step-for-mankind-big-step-for-me dept.

Linux 165

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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Future of Linux (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1640257)

if it takes this much time and resources to learn the bloody thing, this OS is doomed

Old joke, revisited (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1640260)

Q: How do you get down from the back of an elephant?

A: You dont. You get down from a ladder.

Obscure, perhaps, but accurate. You don't take the big leap if you don't know what you're doing. Instead, you take it in pieces that you are familiar with (at least in principle).

To learn Linux, you take it one step at a time, keeping with familiar concepts as you learn the differences between it and the other OS. If you just jump in, you're going to quickly find yourself floundering or overwhelmed by the differences.

Elephants or Linux, it makes no difference.
(and I hope you spent some learning time behind the wheel of your car before you took your first road trip :-) )


To get down from the back of an elephant, you step from the elephant's back to the top rung of the ladder (a simple step analogous to stepping off of a curb), then you descend the ladder (something you already do, regardless of the origin of your descent).

Re:Yawn... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1640261)

Well, as someone said above, Katz represents the customer of the future. He's the customer we wish we had.. we can't expect every customer to have 10 years of coding under their belt, but we can hope every one has enough of a brain to try to logically tackle problems.

I'm not usually a fan of JonKatz's writing, but it is useful to have someone vocal and reasoned to explain the other side of the coin. How many of us hackers ever meet the clients? Not the majority, I'd bet.

Anyone taking JonKatz's word as gospel and then getting flamed by it deserves a thwack with the clue-stick. It's an opinion. And since he has not that much hacker-level insight, he can sometimes see the wood for the trees.. unlike us?

Sometimes the real value of some writing is not necessarily the intended value.

Re:Bullshit this is Flamebait! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1640262)

Silly poster, didn't you know that posting anything critical of Linux is flamebait here? That's why I stopped posting: Because the the Borg mentality has set in here.

Its not what you said... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1640264)

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.

Without criticism, Linux would turn into a nightmare.

This is true but saying something sucks is not constructive criticism
Making an erroneous statement about it, i.e. monlithic kernel,
really doesn't help your case either.

Re:Bullshit this is Flamebait! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1640265)

According to slashdot, anything that is anti-Linux is flamebait. Slashdot is getting out of hand because it is filled with close-minded individuals. Exactly why I have decided to use BeOS!

Re:Installation on any OS is not an easy task (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1640266)

Installation has never been that much of an issue for me. Configuration has been a gut-wrenching, bile-inspiring nightmare at times.

I have been an on-and-off user of Linux for about 3 years. One thing that's given me more trouble than any other is establishing a PPP connection to my ISP. I have changed ISPs a couple of times due to moves and each has presented its own challenges. Most (national) ISPs respond with something along the lines of "sorry, bud, you're on your own" when you mention Linux. Searching through the HOW-TOs, you will find a few directed at PPP and ISP connection, but no real step-by-step solutions. Searching the internet (from Windoze) leads to a couple of home pages put up by people who have figured it out. "Here are the scripts. Put them here. Make sure you have this-and-that installed. Re-compile your kernel. Sacrifice a chicken. Do a one-footed jig while reciting the alphabet backwards with a mouthful of peanut butter."

Hmmm, no sounds. Maybe I need to enter the IRQ/DMA info on my sound card. Let's see, where do I do that? Back to the HOW-TOs. RECOMPILE!?!?! AGAIN?!?!?! Don't we all have sound cards now? Shouldn't that be enabled by default during installation?

And just try to get an HP DeskJet 712 to work under Linux. See, this is one of HPs fancy new Printer Performance Architecture (PPA) printers. I knew about WinModems, but not WinPrinters. I didn't know it was a WinPrinter when I bought it. I just knew the output looked good, the price wouldn't send my budget into spasms, and the envelope handling is wonderful. But any time I want to print something, I have to boot back in to Windoze.

So, I've finally connected with my ISP and I can browse the web like a champ. Now to check my e-mail. Hmmm. Connection Refused. Let's reboot into Windoze to double-check the mail server configuration. Yep, looks just like the configuration in Linux except for that SPA bit. Boot back in to Linux. No SPA option. Start looking for info on SPA. Find a message somewhere that says SPA isn't supported in any Linux mail clients. So, no e-mail. Connection refused by the news server, too. Same deal. I'd like to try out IRC but shudder at the thought of the flames and ridicule I'd be forced to endure if I said I couldn't get e-mail to work.

Is it worth this much trouble? Who can tell? I'm not a programmer (by trade) and what programming I have done has involved the use of an IDE. Command-line programming tools have always left me a bit cold. I don't have a web page, so I'm not hacking perl or HTML. I'm not an artist, so the GIMP is wasted on me (but it sure is purty). Vi? Really! Emacs? Good God, man! Learning these programs is like being jumped into a gang. It's painful as hell and nobody likes it, but nobody is willing to change the the ritual because that's the way it was when they started.

Lots of people are doing wonderful things for the community and for the useability of the software, but please, please, take into consideration the plight of the newbie. I really respect the goals of the open source movement, and I hope to be able to contribute someday in some way. Maybe I'll start with the documentation project. As soon as I can figure out how to use something.

Re:Installation on any OS is not an easy task (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1640267)

Emacs? Good God, man! Learning these programs is like being jumped into a gang. It's painful as hell and nobody likes it, but nobody is willing to change the the ritual because that's the way it was when they started.

Telling experienced users that they don't really like their tools, and are just using them due to ritual or inertia, is not a productive way for a newbie to get respectful help from the community.

Emacs has a steep learning curve at the beginning but it levels off as you learn more packages because the basic commands (like navigation) are consistent. It is also one of the few tools (other than vi) which you can run on just about anything. (Try logging in to your home machine and using GUIs if all you have access to is a terminal emulator on a faraway machine.)

Re:Oh my, where to start (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1640268)

Josh must be an amazing person, we should all know our limits, that way we wouldn't have to worry about Linux, or computers, we would still be wondering how we got that fire started.

What makes this post "insigntful"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1640269)

It's just the usual bitter programmer on /. response. Please moderate down.

Re:Linux is a lot harder, though (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1640272)

Yes, Mac is easier because it is a simpler system. You don't have to worry about repartioning the hard drive because Mac assumes that it alone on the computer, Linux will happily live with any number of other operating systems. You don't have to setup users on a Mac because it is a single user system with no protection between peoples files. Linux on the other hand is built from the ground up to know about multiple users and to protect them from each other. This security model even protects running processes from each other so that when a program crashes that one program doesn't take out the whole system. As far as setting up ppp manually, I know that redhat has the netcfg program that you run under X and kde has kppp and I think that gnome has a utility and linuxconf has something. There are too many programs that you can use to setup ppp graphically now. The graphical install that you are talking about is called Lizard and is comming. It makes setting up X windows simple. And it has been released into to everyone so in the next year everyone should be adopting it as the new default install program. I do agree with you about the control panels but I think that linuxconf and the like is doing what you want right now. I want to say that a registery system like windows would suck, please keep all the settings for different programs in different files. I would hate to install quake 5000 and have it eat my registry file... I let my wife install Caldera 2.2 and she did it in about 30 minutes. She said that it was very easy.

Re:Bullshit this is Flamebait! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1640273)

So you decided to make your OS choice NOT based upon technical requirements or overall satisfaction but rather on what a handfull of juvenile Slashdot posters might have said to hurt your feelings?

I hope you don't have a job that requires you to make similar decisions, it could end up costing you or your company a lot of money in the long run.

Remember, Slashdot is a public forum that allows anonymous posting. You have to use that filter of yours (also known as your brain) to get past the inevitable junk that will get posted on such a forum to find the true kernels of knowledge.

Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1640274)

Let me put it this way: Linux get's much more airtime on Slashdot than it is actually worth.

Re:Eh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1640275)

Wow, and I thought I was the only person on the block having problems w/ a PPC install. I currently have a G3/300 with 96Megs, running Linux PPC1999-R2 and I have experienced a lot of the same problems, i.e. slowness to respond for Enlightenment, pppd not being able to run properly, etc. I got the video working and Gnome sound effects, but I still can't get online at this point. Adding this to my previous problems w/ getting online (unrelated) in x86 machines that I used before means that I have yet to successfully get online using Linux at this point...AAAAAAARghh....Do you know if anyone's got fixes in the works to optimize PPC Linux or tips on how to get it to run more stably?

I'll tell you, I'm going to slog through this Linux thing on the PPC for a while, but if I don't get the performance I know I can get on this machine, I am very inclined to wait until OS X comes around, which WILL be optimized for the PPC.

"..like having your brains smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped around a large gold brick."

Re:What is the point, though? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1640276)

Very well put. Katz is in a mental state of euphoria right now, but soon enough he'll figure out that HE can't do much with Linux after all. Even installing new programs will require assistance from his cronies. When all is said and done, he'll hopefully realize that the Mac is much more empowering for the average person. All the time he has spent fighting Linux he could have used to actually get WORK DONE on his Mac.

techno-manhood (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1640278)

They're pretty secure about themselves, and their techno-manhood

What is a techno-manhood? And where can I get one?

Feeing a bit inadequate ...
A.C.

Re:Oh my, where to start (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1640279)

Jon Katz == well-respected, professional writer who adds a diversifying aspect to /. Josh == some guy who uses the word secondarily. Gee, starting a sentence with an adverb, ehh? Dont talk about bad writing unless you yourself are a writer, and NEVER throw out stupid and groundless insults and expect to be respected around here.

Re:Oh my, where to start (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1640280)

Jon Katz == well-respected, professional writer who adds a diversifying aspect to /.

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

Dont talk about bad writing unless you yourself are a writer, and NEVER throw out stupid and groundless insults and expect to be respected around here.

potshots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1640287)

Have you guys noticed that in the last couple of Katz articles he's been taking shots at everyone who disagrees with/argues with/flames him?

If you haven't noticed go back and read a few and pay attention, you'll see it.

Wow! finally a good katz article! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1640288)

Jon, this is exactly the type of column that belongs in slashdot. It's news for nerds, instead of the usual "news for management types looking for the future of technology" that you usually write. great job.

Here's where the money is made... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1640289)

... And where the cool jobs are created. If you really want to have the cool job that lets you write free software and get paid for it, you're gonna have to go where the money is, and whether you think they're cattle or not, 275 million Americans have an awful lot of money. And that's not even counting the other 5.725 billion or so other folks out there.. It doesn't even have to be lucre on an EvilBill scale, just enough to pay for rent, food, and a nice static-addressed DSL subnet or two. There's plenty of room, so don't dismiss opportunity out of hand..

Yes, you can pigeonhole yourself into the techno ivory tower and enjoy the view far above the heads of the masses, but unless you're making profits it gets mighty hungry and cold up there..

Find a happy medium. Do what you love and sell a little of your time to 'the man', and thru it all try to make the software better.

Unless, of course, if you're a sysadmin. Misanthropy is actually written into the job description.. ;)

Re:Very cool... (0)

CWCarlson (2884) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640294)

Ooh!

;)

Yawn... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1640295)

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.

Raises a glass of virtual beer! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1640296)

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.

Re:Just goes to show (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1640297)

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"

Its not what you said... (1)

J4 (449) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640298)

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.

Re:Oh my, where to start (1)

Tim (686) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640299)

"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!!!

Was that our goal? =p (1)

Shanoyu (975) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640300)

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 ]-

What do you use your computer for? (1)

downwa (1083) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640301)

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

I was wondering how this story ended... (1)

Derek (1525) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640304)

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

Not too far off. (1)

!Xabbu (1769) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640306)

"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

Congratulations (1)

iabervon (1971) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640307)

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?

Re:Very cool... (1)

CWCarlson (2884) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640309)

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!

Re:Linux is a lot harder, though (1)

Otter (3800) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640311)

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.

Monolithic kernel? (1)

jtseng (4054) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640313)

I thought that was what modules were for!

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

Re:Eh... (1)

Archeopteryx (4648) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640314)

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.

Re:Cheers, Jon (1)

otis wildflower (4889) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640316)

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..

Amen! (1)

benmhall (9092) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640321)

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 (1)

^Bobby^ (10366) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640322)

This is what it should be like, and why Katz is worthy of some respect. He is Learning.

Oh my, where to start (1)

joshv (13017) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640326)

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

I started with salckware a few years ago (1)

josepha48 (13953) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640327)

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.

Linux (1)

generic (14144) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640328)

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.

+1 Insightful. (1)

MoToMo (17253) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640329)

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.

Maybe I'm just a freak... (1)

Sehnsucht (17643) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640330)

...but this actually brought tears to my eyes.

Bravo, Katz!

Re:Maybe I'm just a freak... (1)

Sehnsucht (17643) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640331)

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)

Re:PPP cutouts (1)

wolf (17938) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640332)

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.

Re:Yawn... (1)

drox (18559) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640333)

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.

Re:Very cool... (1)

William Wallace (18863) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640335)

"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

Re:Monolithic kernel? (1)

QuMa (19440) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640336)

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.

Welcome aboard, Katz! (1)

bsletten (20271) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640337)

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! :)

Re:Two of everything. Three for me (1)

Le douanier (24646) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640339)


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).

Re:Maybe I'm just a freak... (1)

kmcardle (24757) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640340)

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.

Re:Linux is a lot harder, though (1)

Absynthe (34189) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640344)

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 (1)

sl1200 (35411) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640345)

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

we are getting a little offtopic.. (1)

NovaX (37364) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640347)

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...

Congratulations Jon, but... (1)

jregel (39009) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640349)

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...

Re:Very cool... (1)

greenfly (40953) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640350)

If so, only interdenominationalistically.

Kudos ... and criticism (1)

arthurs_sidekick (41708) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640352)

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.

If !slashdot IsAGeek != cool (1)

PalmFrEq (54485) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640357)

"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.

Bullshit this is Flamebait! (1)

EverCode (60025) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640362)

I am describing my bad experience and opinion of Linux. I state that Linux is not for everyone.

So, just because I so not like Linux, I get a score of 0 with a Flamebait attached. Give me a break.

If I said that Linux Torvalds sucks dick, that would be flamebait. My opinion is not, and it does relate to the article and Katz's previous experiences with Linux.

I am tired of all you Linux drone moderators, get a life. There is more to it all than putting down people who do not like Linux.

Without OS competition, all real progression would come to a halt. Without criticism, Linux would turn into a nightmare.

No place for OS wars (1)

twit (60210) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640363)

Sometimes, learning something is its own goal. Learning Linux is a good thing, I would think, because it expands one's mind, just like learning FreeBSD would be an equally good thing.

Just like any worthwhile task, there is a learning curve for Linux. I'm surprised that you were able to use FreeBSD so quickly without surmounting the same learning curve. Of course, that wouldn't fit in with the general theme of your comment: linux sucks, bad design, BSD better, yadda yadda.

I'm glad that Jon is now using Linux regularly; he's climbed a fair distance from being an average user. I don't have an ideological bone to pick that he should use Linux rather than anything else. The important thing is that he is learning and more importantly that he is immersing himself in the linux community.

More journalists, especially those on the tech beat, should do the same. I don't expect them to become programmers or administrators, but the will to learn about what one is reporting goes a long way.

--

exactly. (1)

gnarphlager (62988) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640364)

Distro wars are so stupid. I mean, I'm proud and happy with what I use, and I went through a lot to get to it. But I'm not about to mock anyone else's choice. People are different.

Ironically, I went from RH 5.1 to SuSE 6.1 ;-)

==

From one on the same road (1)

mdp2 (63415) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640365)

Congratulations on your achievement. I also am a user of computers who has found linux to be a wonderful way to achieve my desires and little inclination to become a kernel hacker and reprogram the machine from one end to the other. I wish you continued luck and hope all goes well... and if I can make a suggestion -> find, or form, a local LUG (Linux Users' Group) so you can stand and say, "Hi, my name is ______ and I am a linux user" and then share your experiences from the other side of the fence! Michael

Re:If a person... (1)

Emil Brink (69213) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640367)

You spit on the kernel? Icky. Your comment comes pretty close to being the optimal in flame-bait. Moderators, do your thing. ;^). Meanwhile, us other geeks can just go on using kernel modules to load drivers. Have a nice life.

A true geek..... (1)

livewirevoodoo (74316) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640374)

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.

That inherent curiosity to me is what the hacker/geek is all about. Sure we may feel pride about what we accomplish but its the feeling you get when you learn something new that drives us. Anyone with the will to learn more than what they need to get by will always be welcome to any help I can give them. Keep drivin on!!

Re:Oh my, where to start (1)

Trygve (75999) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640375)

First off, I'm wondering how a flaimbait comment like that got a "interesting" remark in it's score? (I apologize, I realize I just opened myself to the flaimbait scoring also, but please hear me out.)

I'd like to say Kudos to Jon! Linux can have a very large learning curve. And I commend anybody who learns it purely for the sake of learning it.

As for the /. crowd, tea-leaves had it perfectly right when he said that, like it or not, Jon is the customer of the future for the Linux community.

Josh, I don't understand why you're coming off so hard on Jon for being proud of himself for making progress. But I feel that the /. community as a whole owes Jon a big apology, not for the few uncalled for comments that always pop up, but for scoring them as interesting and whatnot else. The sarcasm at the beginning was bad enough, but you're allowed to have opinions like that. It was the blatantly unrelated bashing of his choice of profession and his writing skills that was even more uncalled for, not to mention juvenile.

Jon, congratulations again! And, although I can't speak for everybody, I apologize for any mistreatment you may have received in the comments of some /.ers.

Good luck to you!

Re:Cheers, Jon (1)

Ender Ryan (79406) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640376)

"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."

With me it usually turns into a monster that I end up battling to the bitter end. Sometimes I bend it to my will, other times I have to slay it and try again ; )

Its the people stupid... (1)

ElitistWhiner (79961) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640377)

Before there was OpenSource, Linux and a movement, I dropped the Mac and went through the unix knot-hole called NeXTstep/GnuSTEP ~1991. More important than whether you become geek is that you participate in a community. NeXT had this community quality as does Linux in spades.

That community experience, as you discovered, is far more valuable and powerful than G4 processors, Mac GUIs and slick commercials. Belonging is _valuable_ to everyone involved because everyone has something to contribute.

The commodity in an OpenCommunity marketspace is contribution. While MS peddles packages, Apple boxes and Sun servers, there remains no _place_ for people in their marketspace. Linux has community where the only threshold to entry is participation and the cost of joining - contribution.

MacOS X (unix flavored Mac GUI) will be a challenge for a community that values computers over people...

time, time, time (1)

engel (80827) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640378)

I hacked around in a GUI world for so long that i had forgotten the pleasures of line command. Then, three years ago, I kept beating my head against Linux. It took me three years, but now I feel confident that I could do pretty much anything to which I set my mind.

And I remmeber at first, it took me 50 hours to do ANYTHING useful..... at the 50 hour mark i had just then untarred GIMP and was in the process of making it.... that is quite a bit o' time just to do something that I learned in windows in about 5 minutes, but I am a better person because of it .... no really, i mean it!

Once you UNDERSTAND Linux, the everything becomes easy. its just that until you get that Zen experience, everything is hard.

Backgrounds... (1)

merky1 (83978) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640379)

I think that computer literacy all stems from the start point. I wonder what OS's the writer has had previous experience with. I believe that if the first OS I saw was Windows, I would be no where near where I am today with Linux.

I wonder if teaching children to "double click" on everything is actually lowering thier computer science.

The importance of the community! (1)

arisg (86386) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640380)


Well I certainly DO believe that the true power of Linux ( and other OpenSource OS ) is that there is always someone out there who knows better than you and can always help you :-). The answers to my biggest problems were always found by asking someone else not by reading books :-)

The Journey is Half the Fun (1)

IchyBorch (92282) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640383)

(start Linux sermon) In our long journeys to find ourselves sometimes we take detours that end up being the way we wanted to go all along. I can greatly identify with Mr.Katz. Two years ago I started on that fateful journey that would ever change my life. Up till then, I was a pathetic DOS & Windows user(Luser? Wuser?) that thought, in egotistical ambivalence, that I knew my stuff when it came to computers. I could fdisk, install format, change settings, yadda, yadda, yadda. But as I got more familiar with the internet and its workings, I came across these ever increasing references to "Linux' and "Open Source".One day at a local computer show, I came across Slackware 3.4 and non-chalantly thought I'd give it a try. After giving a couple of tries at an uneducated install(emphasis on stall), I stuck it on the shelf, assuring myself this convoluted OS wasn't worth the cd's it was burned on. Yet, the quiet murmerings about Linux became roars, and I found new determinations to give it another go. And how I thank the UNIX gods I did! The world that has been opened up to me is vast and limitless. And not only do you get a free, open, stable OS but you get a wonderful community willing to help and educate along with it. I have been saved, brothers! So, after this misc. rambling, I say to Katz and all those embarking or just contemplating the journey: You will see the light and it is Linux. (end Linux sermon)

Nicely Done (1)

wc667 (94221) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640384)

I have had similar feelings in the past, and while I'm no hacker (in any stretch of the word) training to beome a Net Admin, I knew I needed to at least understand how Linux interacts with othe OSes on a network. I'm still not entirely sure, but I have found a few people that are very willing to pour out their information.

PPP cutouts (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1640386)

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! ;)

It aint over :) (2)

Matts (1628) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640391)

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)'

Clue To Beginners; Pick the right platform. (2)

Archeopteryx (4648) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640392)

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.

What's the point? (My theory on anti-Katzianism) (2)

scratch (8862) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640393)

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.

Linux is a lot harder, though (2)

binarybits (11068) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640394)

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.

Re:Two of everything (2)

apenwarr (14745) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640397)

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.

Re:What is the point, though? (2)

Gerv (15179) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640398)

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

Re:If a person... (2)

SoftwareJanitor (15983) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640399)

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.

Re:we are getting a little offtopic.. (2)

SoftwareJanitor (15983) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640400)

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.

Congratulations on being Microsoft-free! (2)

Zach Frey (17216) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640401)

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

Real programmers... (2)

rde (17364) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640402)

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 can relate... (2)

Zoltar (24850) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640403)

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.

Programmers (2)

jammer 4 (34274) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640404)

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.

geek psychology (2)

gnarphlager (62988) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640405)

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 ==

Re:Linux is a lot harder, though (3)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#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.

Eh... (3)

Chris Johnson (580) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640408)

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?

One word: Design (3)

cduffy (652) | more than 14 years ago | (#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.

What is the point, though? (3)

Zico (14255) | more than 14 years ago | (#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

Re:Cheers, Jon (3)

Martian Moon Landing (18084) | more than 14 years ago | (#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.

Re:Cheers, Jon (3)

Le douanier (24646) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640412)


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.

Two of everything (4)

Sludge (1234) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640413)

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.

Oh my, where to start (4)

joshv (13017) | more than 14 years ago | (#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

Very cool... (4)

tea-leaves (32415) | more than 14 years ago | (#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

Kudos (4)

jfunk (33224) | more than 14 years ago | (#1640416)

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...

Installation on any OS is not an easy task (4)

Zigg (64962) | more than 14 years ago | (#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) :-).

Cheers, Jon (5)

Enoch Root (57473) | more than 14 years ago | (#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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