Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the northern-neighboUrs dept

It’s rare for news about Canada to make the top spot on these lists, but the fact that it happened this week is a testament to how much people dislike Prime Minister Stephen Harper. After he muzzled a government scientist for releasing a song on YouTube that called him out for his muzzling of scientists and general iron-fisted micromanagement, crade won most insightful comment of the week by picking apart the allegations of misconduct:

Amazingly, it is actually possible to carry out your duties in a non partisan manner and also have an opinion, protest, vote, etc. Who’d ave thunk.

Since singing youtube songs, voting and such are not part of his duties as government scientists, they shouldn’t have to be done in a non-partisan manner. Harper is just being an ass and abusing his power as usual

For second place, we head to the absurd situation in which two teens have been charged with sexual exploitation of a minor for sending explicit photos to each other within a consensual relationship. It’s hard to sum up the many ways in which this is insane, but Ninja made a good, thorough attempt:

So we have two lives destroyed in their teens by a monolithic, police state that couldn’t care less. But beyond that there are a few things that deserve some focus.

First, regardless of the absurdity, why is the girl receiving a much less harsh treatment? I mean, technically both of them did the exact same thing so why aren’t the charges equal? Somehow being male makes the guy more rape-y and pedophile-y?

Secondly, and I’m emphasizing what the article pointed out:

If any discipline was needed for these actions, it’s well within the remand of their respective legal guardians, not the state that has decided people of a certain age aren’t allowed to own any part of themselves until the government says its OK.

Why is the fcking government trying to force itself where there is no problem at all? This is just one more example of how much freedom people are losing. And it isn’t exclusive to the US either which is why it deserves emphasis.

Along with it, none of the parents decided to pursue a case against one of the offending parties when the pictures were discovered. So why is the Govt so eager in moving ahead and destroying innocent lives in the process?

Finally and most importantly there’s the fact that the cops went and scrutinized their phones. Where’s the warrant for that? If there isn’t a warrant for that then the ‘evidence’ (used very, very loosely here) should be tossed out. And ironically 2 innocents would be saved from the righteous police fury because law enforcement can’t be bothered to respect basic rights.

For editor’s choice on the insightful side, we start with a response to Facebook’s announcement of a new ContentID-like system, where one anonymous commenter pointed out how likely this move is to backfire:

So Facebook, who built their empire on people sharing stuff, is now implementing something to prevent people from sharing stuff.

Seems like a great idea. You go, Facebook.

Similarly, after game studios claimed the Witcher 3 needs DRM, another anonymous commenter explained how they are barking up the wrong tree:

It’s all about the magic formula.

Give people what they want, when they want it, for the right price, and people will happily throw their money at you.

Valve learned this lesson a long time ago. Netflix learned it.

Over on the funny side, our winners take the form of two short quips. First, after we were caught for a punctuation error in a headline, one anonymous commenter went full tinfoil hat:

I think it’s because Masnick is in the pocket of Big Apostrophe.

Next, in response to the news that Vice News employees were charged with terrorism in Turkey because they used encryption, one commenter rightly pointed out that this is like charging them with using math, or, as Baron von Robber put it:

Members of Al-Gebra using weapons of math instruction!

For editor’s choice on the funny side, we start out on a post where one commenter showed up with a lengthy argument for why Linux “always be completely unstable and never useful for business”. Various counterarguments were presented, but NotBuyingIt offered the most amusing rebuttal of all:

Nice try Microsoft.

Finally, since we started out with a comment about Stephen Harper, we’ll end with one as well. Mattshow saw our post about Canada’s Prime Minister, and volunteered some free editing skills:

Techdirt has been following for a while the Canadian government’s unabashed attempts to muzzle scientists and librarians who work for the state, as it tries to deny them the right to express their views if those happen to disagree with the His Excellency, Prime Minister for Life, Superior Person, Great Leader of our Party and Nation, Guiding Star of the 21st Centry, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Seas Stephen Harper’s political agenda.

Fixed it for you.

That’s all for this week, folks! ?We’re off for Labor Day on Monday, but will be back in full swing on Tuesday…

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Comments on “Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt”

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Anonymous Coward says:

I think it is worth mentioning that the comment on why Linux will never be used for business was deemed insightful.

Linux is a good alternative to Windows on the desktop, but only if it works as expected. This means that the OS installs correctly, drivers work correctly, nothing crashes, etc. because the minute something goes wrong, the users will be completely lost on what to do. The reason for this is that not only is it new software they’re using, it is a completely new environment that they do not know how to interact with.

I think the insightful rating was due to people’s frustration with the seeming obliviousness of Linux advocates to the barrier of entry Linux presents. While the software itself has gotten easier to use, the larger barrier to entry which I described above requires a person to invest a huge amount of time familiarizing themselves with the Linux platform, something not being made easier due to the fact that the Linux stack is going through a bit of a transition right now.

This is why I do advocate Linux, but not in general anymore. The barrier to entry isn’t something most people are willing to spend time breaking, and only when I think that person will benefit in the near future do I recommend switching.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

because the minute something goes wrong, the users will be completely lost on what to do.

Most users are completely lost when Windows goes wrong, and the commonest solution to Windows problems, and the one recommended by Microsoft is to reinstall the system.
Install Linux from a live DVD, or Thumb drive, and if things go wrong, boot up from you installation medium, and you have a functioning desktop from which you can get online to try and find a solution to your problems. Also you have a graphical file manager to copy files to a backup medium etc.
Unless Windows has changed dramatically since Vista, the recovery mode is a text mode menu, with the ability to get to a command prompt. Want to get online to seek help, better have another machine, or a smart phone available. Want to back up you data, you had better know the commands needed to do that.
Personal experience says that Windows has a much higher risk of updates breaking the system, than almost all Linux distributions. (The exception are a bleeding edge distribution like Arch, or testing or unstable branches of a distribution.)

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I don’t think the anti-linux comment was without valid observations, but the reason it also courted such kickback was that it unnecessarily dealt in absolutes. It’s one thing to say you don’t currently recommend Linux to average users because there is still a noticeable barrier to entry – it’s another to say “Linux will always be completely unstable and never useful for business”, and then tack on the assertion that some of the biggest problems are “hating” commercial/business software, plus a bewildering kicker that Apple computers are also useless…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I agree, most of the comment was stuff that had already been debunked a million times. I was addressing the fact that it was rated insightful, a fact I thought was worth pointing out.

There seems to a bunch of replies to address here.

Firstly, regarding the expectation of the exact same workflow both on Linux and Windows this is something that people can get over easily, but this wasn’t the barrier to entry I was referring to.

I was referring to the fact that they might have some habits picked up trying to solve Windows problems, habits that don’t work for Linux.

It was argued by the other AC(sorry I don’t know what else to call you) that the steps are pretty much the same on Windows and Linux for unexpected failures. That is true for the most part post-installation, but when something goes wrong with Linux it is usually during installation(most notably non-working drivers) that cannot simply be solved with a reinstall. For example many laptops with nvidia GPUs come with an Optimus chip, something that needs to be worked around on Linux. There are many more examples of this, but this is the most prominent one.

The point is that despite the fact that Linux has come a long way on the desktop, the switch in environment is not something people get over in a week. It requires an enormous investment in time that most people simply do not have, and this is something most Linux advocates are not getting.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

It requires an enormous investment in time that most people simply do not have,

As if the switch to any new version of windows and its application does not involve a similar investment in time, Like learning the Tile Interface, or switching to the ribbon interface. Staying with windows often requires as much time to relearn the system as switching to Linux does, especially going from XP/Vista/7 to 8. As far as I can see, the Fact that the system says it is Windows convinces people that the changes will be easy to learn, and in practice Linux desktops are as easy to learn.

David says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

One thing that I personally find annoying with Linux applications is that the developers focus more on “barrier to reentry” than on “barrier to entry”.

There are applications like Gimp, OpenOffice, Gnumeric, Evolution that had a huge chunk of their history where the users were basically expected to “just use the keys/menus they knew from PhotoShop, Word, Excel, Outlook” and where the programs started basically as an incomplete clone without good help which was most useful to people knowing the “real” applications rather than people starting from scratch. Making sense of some underdocumented and mottled application is a lot harder without knowing the reference point.

In contrast to such applications which at least started in such manner stand “native” applications like Emacs, TeX/LaTeX, Vi, Groff which are working in a space entirely shaped and defined by themselves. For that reason, their teaching materials and manuals don’t assume familiarity with some hidden role model.

Those applications may be more of a nuisance for people coming from a Windows background, but they don’t rely on outside knowledge of their approximate workings.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

My experience is that decent help files make very little difference, as many users ignore them. The way that people learn to use an application is via learning exact navigation paths through menus, and which icons to press. They refuse to, or fail to, learn the basic ideas behind what they are doing, which means that they have very fragile knowledge of how to use applications. They can be confused by slightly different menu organization, or labels on menu items, or a switch to the ribbon interface. This is not helped by all the false propaganda that GUI interface should be instinctive to use. This is not helped by an irrational fear that pressing the wrong button could destroy the software or the machine, and lack of patience to ensure that they have a backup of important/valuable files before trying to modify them.
As I see it, the problem is not that Linux and its applications are difficult to learn, but rather people demand that their computers systems never change how they use them, and complain about the time needed to relearn how to do things if the application interface change in any way; and this applies as much to Windows and its applications as it does to Linux.

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

The way that people learn to use an application is via learning exact navigation paths through menus, and which icons to press. They refuse to, or fail to, learn the basic ideas behind what they are doing, which means that they have very fragile knowledge of how to use applications.

This is definitely true, and something that has always bothered me. Happens a lot in offices. At a previous job, I was given the task of laying out a newspaper’s classified ads, which involved one of those lovely pieces of ancient software running on a purposely-outdated machine to keep it active, which the company probably paid an exorbitant amount of money for from some B2B company ten years prior, and now was their only way of managing the workflow from ad sales to layout. And of course I was trained by being shown a series of mindless steps: click this, press this, enter this, click that, etc. I did it once the way I was shown, then promptly set about actually figuring out how the terrible software works – naturally, it turned out the step-by-step instructions were circuitous and grossly inefficient after being passed on and followed verbatim from clueless user to clueless user over the years, so literally nobody in the entire company actually understood how the software worked.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Again, I’m not talking about relearning how to use the software, that is a non-issue. Despite the fact that the user interface changes greatly across Windows versions, the environment remains mostly consistent. The installation process is the same, the software is the same, troubleshooting problems is the same even though the layout might be different.

Regardless of the merits of the Linux environment, and it has plenty of merits, it is a change which requires a lot of time to get used to, and not because of the software. The software can be relearned, the environment significantly less so.

VS Windows and how well “users” are maintaining those systems?
They aren’t but the people they interact with are maintaining them who know how to fix Windows problems rather than Linux ones. Even if a person relies on a third party to fix their problems, they have to find another third party who can fix problems on their completely new system.

djl47 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Linux

I have been running Linux at home for a year and a half (Fedora 20, 21 and now 22) In my view the biggest barrier to entry is that the vast majority of Windows users don’t know about Linux. I tell people at work that I use Linux and the most common response is “What’s that?” I often get the same response when I mention Firefox. The irony is that we have a number of Red Hat Linux servers supporting production.

The statement “Linux will always be completely unstable and never useful for business” was as uninformed as the people who have never heard of Linux. Linux powers more internet servers than Windows according to W3Tech’s survey of ten million internet sites

David says:

Re: Re: Re: Linux

The statement “Linux will always be completely unstable and never useful for business”

The list of the 500 fastest supercomputers is somewhat embarrassing. It’s about 97% Linux these days, with some very lone “high performance computing Windows” computers somewhere in between. “Homegrown” is more often in this list than Windows.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Linux

It also speaks about the reliability and flexibility of Linux, those things are not cheap to run, the electricity bill alone is huge. Also as time on these machines is booked months ahead, a failed job has knock on effects. It also helps that people can now build a mini-cluster using the likes of the Raspberry Pi, and learn how to program for that environment, and test algorithms on a cheap desktop system.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Linux

except, i don’t really give a shit about OS’s…
i don’t care what its name is; where it comes from; who makes money off of it; what it’s license terms are; what all the kool kidz are using; or what works best for nerds 1-n…

for most of us computer-based lifeforms who do specific work-oriented tasks on computers using -generally- specific software, we want/need ONLY a couple things:
1. STABLE and fast enough to RUN OUR SOFTWARE at peak performance…
2. small enough footprint to stay out of the way… (ha!)
3. NO crapware/bloatware/spyware/malware, NONE of your warez… (a double-plus good for linux)

for people getting work done in a korporate environment, it does not matter if linux, libreoffice, gimp, blender, etc can do a task better (repeat, it does not matter)… nobody gets ‘blamed’ for using word or excel or photoshop or autocad or illustrator or (fill in the blank with your industries dominant s/w)…
BUT, use a ‘non-standard’ s/w and some file incompatibility or whatever problem crops up; and it will be because of that ‘non-standard’ s/w, that is reality…
why invite trouble ? why spend more time futzing with s/w to make stuff ‘the same’, when you can just use ‘the same’ ? we are paid to produce ‘stuff’ with this s/w, NOT to endlessly tweak the s/w itself…
depending on the deliverables, it is absolutely possible to do professional work on free/OSS and cheap(er) s/w and not have compatibility issues that limit you to the standard s/w…
BUT, i STILL have to have the ‘standard’ s/w for where that IS an issue; so, WHY am i going to buy/have/learn both photoshop and gimp ? well, probably not going to…
WHY am i going to keep a free version of draftsight when i ‘have to’ have autocad ? well, probably not going to…

i am software-based, not OS-based: i HAVE TO have an OS which runs AutoCAD, Revit, PhotoShop, 3DS Max, etc; NOT some port, NOT some crack, NOT some virtual window, NOT some bullshit cobbled together ‘solution’ which has issues all the time…
as it so happens, the combinations of all the s/w i have to have/use, are mostly windows-based; nothing i can do about that…
IF linux could run ALL OF THOSE (AND the ones i don’t know i need until next month, almost certainly windows-based), WITHOUT me having to become a penquinista, then i would be fine with linux…

while i do have some preferences over whether i would support -say- an open vs closed/proprietary OS; that is totally secondary to: DOES IT WORK ? ? ?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Linux

What I hear is I am stuck with using proprietary file formats, which limits the choice of software. The vendors of those products have you, or your company, by the short and curlies. If they threaten to stop providing the software you/your company is in deep trouble, and whenever they demand more money there is little choice but to pay, or try and switch to a different software base without losing customers and going broke in the process.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Linux

When someone say that they MUST use some software, they they are locked in to that vendor, and that vendor can charge what they want, or impose whatever conditions that they want on the users. Increasingly that future will be a subscription models, like the PhotoShop model, and loss of functionality when you stop paying your subscription.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Linux

That’s true regardless of which OS you use. Nothing about Windows stops you from using the OpenOffice data formats. Nothing about Linux stops you from using Microsoft Office data formats.

The banking software from our bank would use propriety data formats even if it were available on Linux. The same goes for the software from our payroll company. The same goes for our telephone system software. The same goes for our parts lookup software. Etc. We’d be just as locked in.

We have LibreOffice installed on a few Windows systems. I encourage people to use it. But the fact is, most of the companies we deal with still use Excel, and LibreOffice Calc isn’t ready to replace it. And while our accounting system will load under Wine, it does so with enough weird problems that we can’t trust it.

There’s hope: One of our major vendors has started using LibreOffice. It’s getting better all the time. There are a few workstations where we have in fact been able to make do with LibreOffice. And all those Windows-only apps are becoming less common, replaced by web apps.

Linux is suitable where we only need a web browser for web apps, and an email client and the ability to edit documents without strict full Office compatibility.

But at that point, Linus is beaten by, for example, cheap Android desktop PCs. And those web apps tend to lock us to one company even more than Windows apps, because we don’t even have the data on our own systems.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Linux

But the fact is, most of the companies we deal with still use Excel, and LibreOffice Calc isn’t ready to replace it.

Could you elaborate on this point?

I am not an accountant, but I have used spreadsheets for the the last 30 years or so and I haven’t seen much change in the basic functionality of spreadsheet applications since Lotus 123. What is it that Calc cannot do that Excel can?

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:10 Linux

It is quite likely that the problem spreadsheets implement things that should never have been implemented in a spread sheet in the first place. Many of them are unmaintainable, never mind not portable; and a huge security risk as well.

Agreed. My experience with VBA was creating a “hack” to extract data from huge a Btrieve database into spreadsheets for upper management because spreadsheets were what they were used seeing even though we had a beautiful front-end for the database which could do what they wanted more efficiently.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:11 Linux

My personal opinion is that if the spreadsheet cannot be migrated, it is probable that it is way past time someone did proper analysis, design and implementation of a solution using more suitable tools. The fact that it cannot be ported is a strong signal of a problem that will bite them when win32 goes away.
Windows has maintained remarkable binary compatibility, as code compiled under Visual Studio 6 and NT4 runs under at least 7, (win 8.1 hurt my eyes too much for me to want to test under it). However metro, or whatever they call it, is the writing on the wall for a lot of legacy code, and sooner or later those spreadsheets dependent on VBA are going to break because of operating system changes.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It has been my experience that most people who try Linux as a replacement for Windows and can’t make the transition are mistakenly expecting Linux to be exactly like Windows. When they encounter a problem and the usual remedies don’t have the desired effect, they get frustrated, blame Linux and go back to their familiar Windows environment.
It is partly due to unrealistic expectations and partly due to the learning curve, which requires people to want to change enough to make the effort to learn.
The existing Linux software, with different functions/features than their Windows equivalents is another potential stumbling block.
It is, however, a myth that you need to be a computer science major to use Linux. The transition to smart phones running Android seems to present no major obstacle to even hardened Windows users. With Android being Linux underneath, it must be more down to the fact that, in most people’s mind, a PC is expected to run Windows and have the familiar applications.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’d argue that CompSci majors these days are even qualified to use and/or administrate any non-Microsoft environment as it seems the program graduates I’ve run into are ill prepared for anything other than “dabbling” with writing MS specific code snippets by themselves. Let’s not get started on their lack of team skills and abysmal coding practices.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:Inability of CompSci graduates (of any kind)

I cannot say much about how they are teaching CompSci students these days. I do know what I have seen over the last 30 odd years and that is a decrease in the ability of professional programmers to deal with multi-disciplinary teams and multi-disciplinary problems. Depending on where they were taught (including country of origin), the professional programmers seem to have developed a mindset (or have been trained) to not be able to think outside of the box.

Many seem to be incapable of looking into other fields for inspiration in developing solutions appropriate for the problem at hand. They almost appear to have been trained in one particular way and that is it.

I’ll recount one example. I was involved with a team that was converting a particular companies (and its subsidiaries) business data from their existing diverse systems into a new system.

My specific part was the ETL process of two of the original systems. One of those systems appeared to have been originally based on some IBM AS/400 program which had then been converted to run on an IBM PC machine. No documentation available, but I did have all the source data files. The programmers I was working with were amazed when I brought out hex editors and other tools to investigate these data files. Tools these programmers had never used before. After some analysis, I was able to determine that processing the report files would be an easier task. So I wrote all the analysis tools needed for the task at hand. Again, none of these programmers had considered that it was feasible to do this and get a complete extract for the data load into the new system. Task completed in the time-frame required. The only reason I had this knowledge was from my training and the diverse education I had been given.

Today, this diverse education does not appear to be in the mainstream programming education. It does appear in the engineering disciplines. I don’t know if that is intentional, but it makes for some strange programming mindsets out there.

David says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Personally, I am baffled that “Microsoft environment” should be an issue either way with CompSci majors. Working with office applications is not computer science. And never was, either. They are the successors of typewriters and ruled tables, and in that capacity they are tools you’d employ while writing a master thesis. And if the school offers some master thesis writing courses, they might even be part of the curriculum there, in the same manner as they are useful for English majors or psychology majors.

But they are not related to computer science at all, and if your university offers working with such stuff as part of a certified “computer science” degree, they are ripping off the recipients of their degrees.

It’s sort of like an arts school where you get significant points towards your degree by demonstrating that you can wash out your brushes and carry paint.

David says:

Re: Re:

Linux is a good alternative to Windows on the desktop, but only if it works as expected. This means that the OS installs correctly, drivers work correctly, nothing crashes, etc. because the minute something goes wrong, the users will be completely lost on what to do. The reason for this is that not only is it new software they’re using, it is a completely new environment that they do not know how to interact with.

I set up the dual-boot Windows/Linux with my father’s notebook computer recently and it was a real nightmare because Windows tried sabotaging this all the way through with “secure” boot and all its ilk.

The clincher really was to stop it from “fast save” (or whatever they call unasked-for suspend-to-disk of a system that needs to be restored without booting other systems in the middle).

There was some sort of specific Alt-Control combination you had to press with some particular tile in order to make the required options accessible. Nothing of it was available from Windows’ internal help, and discoverability was exactly zero.

Without online search on the browser of a different computer, there would have been no way at all to figure out that shit which is basic low-level stuff needed for proper system configuration and maintenance.

Saying that people magically know how to do this stuff (I think Windows 7 or 8 it was) just because it is called “Microsoft Windows” is believing in miracles at the behest of Bill Gates and those succeeding in his name.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Facebook irony

Everyone has to deal with our extremely broken, undemocratically bought and paid for, IP laws and legal system. It’s how a company deals with them that will help determine its success.

Doing their best to follow the laws while exercising political influence to prevent laws from getting worse, hopefully to help amend the law for the better, knowing when to settle and change how you do business vs knowing when to fight, and exercising political influence on judges and public pressure on judges, politicians, and IP abusers are part of the requirements for succeeding.

A good example, to some extent, is Uber. They faced a very bought and paid for legal environment but they exercised political influence to prevent the broken legal system from destroying their perfectly legitimate business.

A bad example is Megaupload. They had a perfectly legitimate business that overwhelmingly complied with the law but the broken legal system destroyed them anyways.

(And lets not confuse breaking bad laws with being an illegitimate business).

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Software Help

The biggest problem with software help is that the people who write about it are computer literate. This was explained to me by a software developer who was creating the back-end for an existing electronic cash register system around 1981. He went out an hired a technical writer who was completely computer illiterate. The first manual that person created was great, completely understandable by any common person. The second not so much, and the reason was, because that writer learned, and then started using the technical language, and making knowledge assumptions that the programers in their office used. The third manual was even worse.

The issue then was they would have to hire a new illiterate technical writer for each module and go through training that person without making them computer literate. Then what does one do with the ‘old’ writers?

Today the problem is worse. There are probably few technical writers who are computer illiterate. The extent of their illiteracy will be directly proportional to the inherent understandability (or not) of their writing, by the common user. I have been using Linux in one form or another since RedHat 3.5 (mid 1990’s or so), and I still do not actually understand a lot of it. The reason is that Man pages are written for other Linux gurus (AKA trained administrators), and make no actual sense to the common user. The examples given might make sense to, or be useful for a Linux Administrator that has significant understanding of Unix systems, but rarely relate to whatever issue I am trying to address.

Let’s not get too caught up with just Linux though. I have had my share of experiences with Windows, and trying to parse some of their ‘Knowledge Base’ articles is not so much different than reading Linux Man pages. They might be talking about ‘your issue’ but I have to take their word on that and follow my ‘do it, try it, fix it’ methodology of software administration, which is only sometimes satisfactory. I cannot tell you how many times I have installed Kmail, or some other local mail system, but I can tell you how many times I have used it, 0 (that is a zero), and yet it is a dependency for some packages, reasons for which I cannot parse. Maybe it would be important for a multi-user network of Linux users with an administrator, but while I might have multiple computers in my home network, I have NO NEED for a local network mail system. No bother, it doesn’t take much space and I know where to find the log files if I need them.

So the real big issue is getting knowledgeable people to write for non-knowledgeable people, and answering the questions the basic desktop user needs answered. The answer to this to-date have been user forums whereby a user posts the error message receive (incomprehensible in either Linux or Windows) to some forum and hope that some guru will respond with the appropriate solution, command line or not (even command line answers are good, as they are copy and paste-able, but often come with options that are not actually documented in the Man pages). Not even the *.* For Dummies actually fit this criteria. What is needed is Windows/Linux gurus who know how to write for 6th graders who have yet to be exposed to computers (I know, those do not exist except in some limited parts of the world) but that is the standard needed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Software Help

There was an old story going about when I first started out in the industry 3 decades ago. It went like this. The IBM systems manuals were cryptic with their error messages. The writer of said message was continually being complained to about said messages (particularly those generated by the programs themselves).

After getting upset that the “idiot” users couldn’t understand these messages, said writer decided that he would give the users exactly what they asked for and show them that his way was the best. Each message was written to tell the user exactly what had gone wrong, in full detail.

Said writer didn’t get any more complaints because he assumption that the users would be overloaded with information and would want the cryptic messages back was wrong.

Now, if anyone has the actual history of this story, please feel free to enlighten us all and correct the above story as appropriate.

But I know this story was told to us to ensure that whatever messages/documentation we wrote for the end-user was sufficient to their needs so that they would not come bugging us for help unless there was a real need. I have written a number of user guides/documentation sets over the years and it is actually quite hard to get the balance right for all the various kinds of users.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Oh, and those documents need to be written for the desktop user, not a multi-user administrator. A special section might pertain to drivers, as not everyone has the same hardware. However the basic text needs to be written for using (maybe separated for a variety of desktops, though some things might crossover for KDE vs FXCE, they are not all the same (try getting audio to work in various environments)) common desktop apps and common setup, usage, and maintenance for noobs (new users). I often wind up installing everything Synaptic offers for a particular issue, though in the end have a hard time knowing which one worked. In addition, I often use some software from multiple desktop environs. XFCE for my basic desktop, but then have to install KDE runtimes for things like Krusader, kshisen-sho, etc.

I wind up installing both ALSA and Pulse-Audio (used for audio), because ALSA doesn’t seem to work with the programs I use, but Pulse does. ALSA comes with Ubuntu but Pulse does not. Why is that? These things need to be explained, comprehensively so that an idiot like me can understand them, and can one get rid of ALSA and still get Pulse to work, or are both needed? Things like this might make Linux incomprehensible to the casual computer user.

Sorry, I think I might have mangled that.

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