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Re: SEUL: Fwd: Linux (potential) end-user research.

On 13 Apr 1999 jfm2@club-internet.fr wrote:

Hi, this is David Blue, the original author of the document discussed.

> > 
> > This was a document that was sent to me a while ago. I figured I'd
> > forward it to the independence and laet lists, in case they can make
> > better use of it than I, in terms of actually taking these issues into
> > account.
> > 
> > It needs some serious work if we (seul) are going to publish it as an
> > "end-user example" document, but it might still be very useful in terms of
> > ideas. It gets better in the second half, so don't stop reading early. :)

Thanks for the nice words. :)

I want to make it clear again: I support/encourage/approve/whatever any
and all changes to make this thing more useful. My intention was to be
useful, so anyone who does anything to make this document more useful is
acting right in line with my intention.

> > I've interspersed comments, along the lines of things we'd want to work
> > on if we want to get it into publishable shape. (I don't have anywhere
> > near a clear idea of what it's supposed to look like at the end, else
> > I'd probably have tried to get it there.)
> > 
> > I've gone through and fixed up typos and other small things. I tried to
> > leave the tone intact, because I got the impression that was core to it.

Thanks for the edits, and the good attitude. :)

> > Please direct followups/replies to seul-pub@seul.org.
> > 
> > >------- Forwarded Message
> > >
> > >Date: Tue, 26 Jan 1999 16:54:30 +1100 (EST)
> > >From: "dscott@acs.itd.uts.edu.au" <dscott@acs.itd.uts.edu.au>
> > >To: seul@seul.org
> > >Subject: Linux (potential) end-user research.
> > >
> > >Hi,
> > >
> > >After writing this out, I looked for the most helpful place to send it,
> > >and I guess you're it. It seems you're way ahead of me on my main point
> > >(about researching potential end users), but this piece might still help
> > >you to identify some issues for consideration -- issues that might not
> > >readily occur to highly expert computer types, such as I assume you to be. 
> > >
> > >I'm (very) new to email, so I couldn't figure out a more useful way to
> > >send this than to post it directly to the SEUL organisation. It would be
> > >very kind if you could forward it to whoever there was most likely to find
> > >some use for it. Thank you in advance
> > >
> > >Best wishes, and thank you for being interested in the non-elite
> > >multitude. 
> > >
> > >=====================================================
> > >Why I Am Interested In Linux, and FUD As It Really Is
> > >=====================================================
> > >
> > >by: a "newbie." (Maybe. I still haven't decided.)
> > >
> > >I wrote this out to begin with, to sort out my thoughts on the usefulness
> > >or otherwise of Linux, a topic on which I could go either way. 
> > >
> > >I finished this piece, because I looked at some discussion lists on Linux
> > >and it seemed to me that people were speculating or even inventing images
> > >of these strange, stupid non-technical users and their FUD. No one seemed
> > >to be asking the people concerned about anything. Because I am basically
> > >sympathetic to the Linux project, it seemed to me that I could do a small
> > >service by explaining what one of these dullards who don't "get" Linux was
> > >actually thinking about, and what FUD, as a reality, not a slogan, is all
> > >about. 
> > >
> > >My individual problems are of not the slightest interest or importance. 
> > >But, if Linux is to achieve "world domination," someone whose say-so
> I prefer "world liberation".  :-)
> > >counts for something had better be thinking damn hard about these problems
> > >in general. It is not possible to beat Microsoft while Microsoft retains a
> > >"lock" on nine out of ten non-technical home users across the world. I'll
> > >say that again: it is not possible to beat Microsoft while Microsoft
> > >retains a "lock" on nine out of ten non-technical home users across the
> > >world.
> > >
> Part of the problem is the mental inhibitions in Linux developpers:
> just because Unix was used for certain tasks and by certian users they
> figure Linux will be restricted to the same users and contexts.  THey
> don't figured that there is a thing where Linux differs from Unix:
> PRICE.  And that makes it economically viable for many tasks where
> Unix was never a contender.  Like home use.  Look at my paper "Linux
> is not Unix" in the web site.
> > >If I can leave people with just one thought, I would say: "Stop speculating
> > >about the motivations and fears of non-technical potential users of Linux,
> > >and ask them. Do research." 
> > >
> An excellent exercice I would heartily recommend to the Linux
> "aristocracy" is read news groups.  It gives you an excellent overview
> of the problems met by people and the most urgent ones to fix.
> > >
> > >Why I Am Interested I Linux
> > >===========================
> > >
> > >
> > >(1) I crave stability in an operating system.
> > >=============================================
> > >
> > >By "stability," I mean:
> > >
> > >Linux won't be "killed" by its owner or the market. For example, I loved
> > >OS/2, but IBM "killed" it as a personal operating system. They won't do
> > >anything more for it, and because it's proprietary, no one else is allowed
> > >to run with it. No-one has authority to "kill" Linux like that. It has a
> > >"bullet-proof" future. 
> > >
> > >Linux is properly constructed so as not to self-destruct. Windows 95 has
> > >near enough to no self-repair capacity, so when it gets itself screwed up,
> > >you have to back up all your data, wipe your hard drive, and start again.
> > >(At lest that's the only 100% solution that a non- technical user has the
> > >skill to implement.) I can't use Windows 95. I have my hard drives
> > >partitioned from C to G, with everything pertaining to Windows 3.1 backed
> > >up on C, and separate installations of Windows on D, E, F and G. During
> > >semester, I don't have time to fix anything that goes wrong, but If
> > >Windows doesn't get screwed up more than three times, I'll still have a
> > >good installation to work with. This works, but I feel there must be a
> > >better way, and I believe Linux is this way. 
> > >
> This sounds great for disk manufacturers.

:) Not really, because "everyone" has gone to Windows 9x, and each
installation of Windows 9x will demand to take over your entire machine.
My Windows 3.x redundancy strategy is unavailable.

> > >Linux is properly constructed so as not to crash. Windows 3.1 is easy to
> > >crash, and Windows 95 is much worse, because it crashes almost as often,
> > >and it takes the whole computer with it, instead of just sending you back
> > >to DOS for a little while. I feel there must be a better way, and I
> > >believe Linux is this way. 
> > 
> > How much experience have you had with windows 95? I always found win31 to
> > be less stable than win95 (which in turn is less stable than winNT). Can
> > you provide some more details here?

Sure. My only experience of Windows NT has come at the university labs,
after I wrote this document. NT works. Whenever I said "Windows" in this
document, I was thinking of Windows 3.x and Windows 9x, which was all I'd
experienced. I wasn't thinking about NT at all, even to put it in a
different category. NT was "big iron" to me. Of course, now I see my
fellow students running it on their lap-tops.

I have little experience with Windows 95, so my opinions on it aren't of
great value. I ran it for a month on my machine, I've sat down at a couple
of other home machines running Windows 95, and done serious work, and I've
looked over friends' shoulders while they used it.

My impression is that Windows 95 is "stable in practice," and it looked to
me like a big factor in that is that people using it, including me, got
very timid. As my friend James explains: "Since I realised that I had to
use only Microsoft applications, and only the exact way that Microsoft
wants them used, I've had no crashes with Windows 95. I've given up." This
is from a guy who used to enjoy his computer. I wound up using Microsoft
Office for Windows 95 for everything, whether I thought it was the
appropriate tool or not, on the same theory.

I'm sorry I can't remember any specific problems, but it seemed that every
time I would try to get my old DOS and Windows 3.x programs to work
together with my 32-bit applications in a way that suited me, the system
would whack me over the nose. There would be crashes and/or
registry/"mysterious thing" problems I couldn't sort out and didn't have
time to deal with. But, yes, if you use James' strategy, Windows 9x can be
"totally stable in practice," and that's the direction everyone I've seen
using Windows 9x eventually goes in.

I've used DOS/Windows 3.x a whole lot. Restarting Windows regularly to
regather resources and saving very frequently aren't "actions," they're
reflexes for me. Because I've gotten familiar which which of my programs
will GPF if combined and so on, I get few crashes, and they're barely
noticeable, let alone memorable in my routine.

Was that what you were asking for?

> I think that while Win 95 is better protected against app software
> misdesigns it has much more internal bugs (above three thousand Win 95
> bugs were "fixed" in Win 98 according to Microsoft) so perhaps he is
> right in this.

I think it comes down to conditioning. The system punishes you by making
you reboot your machine when you do something it doesn't like. Eventually
you develop a lot of "don't go there!" reflexes that you're probably not
even aware of, and so your system becomes "stable."

> > >Linux makes sense. I don't have confidence in Windows, because its design
> > >makes no sense to me. Broadly speaking, every program can do anything to
> > >anything, anywhere, at all times, and the windows\system directory, which
> > 
> Protected mode is about memory overruns.  This is related to file
> protections.  Of course in systems where app software can directly
> access the hardware any file protection scheme is ineffective against
> malicious software.
> > Actually, protected mode in theory fixes a lot of these issues. Specifically,
> > winNT is better about this sort of thing.
> > 
> LoseNT has memory leaks.  The brand new French aicraft carrier
> "Charles de Gaulle" uses NT and for now she is a dock queen (LoseNT is
> not her only problem).  I heard US Navy had similar problems.  :-)
> > >contains the "guts" of Windows, and ought to be a fortified stronghold, is
> > >actually a garbage pail for any kind of miscellaneous file, and it never
> > >gets cleaned. I don't understand anything about programming, yet, but I do
> > >have enough common sense to see that this is "garbage." Anyone can
> > >understand this. I understand that Linux is built logically, with key
> > >files segregated in protected areas, dangerous actions restricted to the
> > >"super-user mode," and so on. I feel much more secure with this kind of
> > >system. 
> > >
> Linux is not a good maket for vendors of anti-virus software.  :-)

That what I like to hear. :)

And now that I've thought about these issues again, I have another
question: is there a way in Linux to set settings so that they don't

In Windows 3.x/9x, if you try to install a program, or often enough if you
just try to use some unfamiliar feature in a program, it will change a
setting that you need to be the way that it is, and then, if you're like
me, you probably don't have the skill to work out the problem, hunt down
the changed setting, and fix it. Especially not if it's in the Windows 9x

The outcome of that is: timidity. I know a very experienced computer user,
who buys himself a more powerful computer at regular intervals, who
wouldn't dream of running "Defrag" to defragment his hard drive. It's part
of a policy he has found necessary and successful: don't do anything
unless you absolutely have to.

> > >Linux is constantly peer reviewed and debugged. Windows is secret, and in
> > >the case of Windows 3.1 (the only kind of Windows I would run) the secrecy
> > >seems to serve the function of hiding what a shoddy job of design and
> > >programming it is.  (Compatibility is king, otherwise I would prefer
> > >GeoWorks.) Peer review is impossible, there is essentially no ongoing
> > >debugging, and Microsoft won't fix it because they want to force everybody
> > >to upgrade, and upgrade, and upgrade. Naturally, I trust only the OS that
> > >gets debugged, and not the OS that is swarming with uncontrolled bugs and
> > >viruses. 
> > >
> > >Proper login security, with an option for restricted permissions so that a
> > >visitor can't do anything that could fundamentally destabilise the system,
> > >is highly desirable. This goes from "stability" to "security," but many of
> > >my friends share house, with several personal computers to a house. People
> > >really hate having their personal computers used without their permission,
> > >particularly as the "visitor" can do absolutely anything on a Windows
> > >machine, even by accident.
> > 
> Really no system is secure when you allow physical access to the main
> box.  An user could just reboot with a floppy or in case you have a
> boot password (and the attacker doesn't want to reset it) just unmount
> the hard disk, put it on another computer, do everything there (unless
> you use crypted data) and replace it on your box.  There is also a
> pretty simple denial of service attack consisting in opening the box
> and using a heavy hammer on its contents.  Linux 2.2 still has no
> support against this.  :-)
> Of course Windows also allows much more conventional attacks.

(laughs) I think by the time we get to the denial of service attack with
the hammer, the attacker realises that he's being malicious. It would be
valuable for my friends just to have some basic security against
overconfident, unmalicious, unintentionally destructive people who think
they're being "clever." There are more people who fit that profile than
there are people prepared to launch a major attack.

But, yes I can see the points you make are all valid.

> > Again, don't generalize this to all windows environments. NT is much better
> > about this. But of course, NT still has its bugs, and indeed it's designed
> > for much stronger hardware than you're likely to be using.
> > 
> > >Why Stability Is Key
> > >- --------------------
> > >
> > >I don't need an operating system with a lot of features. At least 90% of
> > >what I do is just word processing, and the main "features" I care about
> > >are those that are imposed on me as standards, for example: "You must use
> > >typographic quotation marks." But I absolutely, positively do need a
> > >stable platform under my feet when I am on the ragged edge of a deadline,
> > >and this is exactly what Microsoft non-peer-reviewed, closed source
> > >software will never give me. I don't care if my computer's screw-up can
> > >easily be corrected in time. There are frequent occasions when I don't
> > >have time to deal with such problems at all. Pass or Fail might not look
> > >"mission critical" to Redmond, but by G-d it looks critical to me. 
> > >
> > >(2) I want the contents of my hard drives to be works of art, whether it's
> > >my own work or someone else's. 
> > >==========================================================================
> > >
> > >I feel that Linux is a work of art by many hands, and so I am happy to
> > >have it on my hard drive. Guys like Torvalds and Rasterman aren't saying:
> > >"Screw quality.  We'll toss it out there, win market share, and fix the
> > >bugs later, if we have to." They're saying: "Let's do the best job we
> > >can." I have a really good feeling about having the work of such artists
> > >in my home. 
> > >
> > >I feel the opposite about Microsoft Windows 95, which seems to be the only
> > >"live"  alternative on my hardware. This is not art. This is a trick to
> > >gouge money out of people. I am viscerally hostile to Windows 95, which
> > >defined the Start button as my primary interface point, and then dumped
> > >the menus there full of advertising and dross that I didn't have the skill
> > >to get rid of. Even in Windows 3.1, which is mostly sort of OK, Help About
> > >leads to a "gotcha!" where the software company reminds you who's boss. 
> > >Help About should lead to Help About that program, or I should be able to
> > >change it so that it does. 
> > >
> "About" is for telling you what is the version of the software and who
> is the author.  It helps about who you have to contact.  Every KDE and
> Gnome app has an "About" button despite being hardcore (GPLed) free
> Linux software.
> > >I want to control every visible aspect of the OS, to make it beautiful in
> > >my own eyes. OS/2 gave me a lot of that: absolutely everything was an
> > >object, with an extensive property sheet for me to define. Windows 95
> > >takes that away: I couldn't even rearrange the items in my Start button. I
> > >understand that Linux is the best: it will be possible for me to choose,
> > >and customise, my desktop program to get the effect I want, and to get
> > >things to work the way I want. (Ideally, the way I'd like to do things is
> > >to have a directory tree showing my files (with "long," unmistakable file
> > >names) here, and labelled boxes of tools and programs (with unmistakable
> > >icons and maybe "balloon help") there, and drag this file to that tool (or
> > >vice versa) to do everything. Real "toybox" stuff. I assume there'll be a
> > >way for me to set that up in Linux, if things are even half as
> > >customisable as people say.) 
> > >
> KDE and Gnome provide this.


> > >Linux is open source, and I hope to do a computing major, so in time I may
> > >hope to contribute to this art in a fundamental (though probably tiny)
> > >way. 
> > 
> > My general impression is that this section is not 'universal' with
> > end-users -- specifically, they don't much care who wrote it or how or
> > whether it killed trees or dolphins to do it, as long as it works well
> > enough for what they're doing. In addition, few of them are intending to
> > major (or did major) in computer-related fields.
> > 
> There are people who like to have a look at the motor of their car.
> Specially owners of high-end cars.

I agree that this section is not universal. I've been talking with my
friends -- Windows (non0NT) users every one -- about what they'd like.
Except for the few that are already programmers, technicians and so on,
they definitely don't want to study computers. The technically capable
ones definitely would like to be able to look at their systems, though.

> > >(3) I can run Linux on my hardware (probably?), and I can afford it.
> > >====================================================================
> > >
> > >Suppose I thought that Windows NT/2000 would solve all my problems: on my
> > >hardware, and with my budget, so what? Linux is a "real world" solution. 
> > >
> > >(4) Linux will run applications that will enable me to do my work.
> > >==================================================================
> > >
> > >I read that Corel is committed to WordPerfect on Linux. That kind of thing
> > >is critical to me.  Now if someone would just write an equivalent for
> > >Microsoft Works for Windows, Version 3.0, but on Linux, I would be really
> > >happy. 
> > 
> > While I don't know what MS Works is, I bet Staroffice (www.stardivision.com)
> > has a substitute that works pretty well.
> > 
> >From the description of a member in this list MS Works is little more
> than a collection of run-of-the-mill Windows freewares (read
> pathetically weak. Good free software is not Windows tradition) with a
> Microsoft logo over it.
> StarOffice is much more powerful and compares with MS Office.  On
> Linux it is free for personal use and you also have an unexpensive
> version with paper doc for personal use.  The drawback of StarOffice
> is that the Unix version is not the "main" one and lacks optimization,
> in particular memory management is simply apalling.  With 64 Megs it
> is really nice.
> Applixware is another Office suit.  It is not free but it must be
> about 100 US $.  Its user interface differs substantially from Windows
> standards but Applixware requires far less CPU power and RAM than
> Staroffice.
> WordPerfect for Linux can be found in "end user stores" here in France.

Thanks for this information.

MS Works is a primitive, simple collection of basic applications. It has
few features, and good help. The version I use seems not overly well
written. For example it sucks more system resources than it should, and it
gives only some of them back when it quits. 

But (and this is vital) if you can do something at all in MS Works,
figuring out how to do it is a short, relatively pleasant process. With
the help, the guided tour, the "wizards" and so on, there is a whole lot
of hand-holding for very few options. Some people use programs such as MS
Works and Claris Works/Office (a superior but more expensive and far less
common alternative) for everything that they can.

Yes, training wheels and hand-holding really are that important. When
people first learn to use a new product, they are in special frame of
mind that is very receptive to good or bad impressions. How easy or hard
it was to take some useful baby steps has a permanent effect, for me and
for lots of people. on whether this new took "feels good" or bad.

I saw Applixware at an install-fest, and was more impressed than I
expected to be. The guy demonstrating it wasn't a computer guru who knows
how to do demos and hide bugs, he was a technical writer who uses
Applixware every day to earn his living. That impressed me and a "totally
naive" friend I'd brought along.

> > >The Internet is becoming important to me, as a student and as a guy with a
> > >network of friends who are all easiest to reach by email. I believe Linux
> > >is totally superior for anything related to the Internet. Nothing else
> > >comes with a remotely comparable set of (free!) tools, or, above all, has
> > >the "life" and future on the Internet that Linux does. 
> > >
> > >Even just having a ""kill"/stop doing that!" button would be a Good Thing,
> > >and I know that Linux has one. Many things that are impossible with
> > >Windows are automatic with Linux. 
> > >
> > >I read that SCO Unix is free for personal use. Joygasms. What kinds of
> > >word processing and works programs are written to run under SCO Unix on a
> > >486? If I need strong tools (and I do), I need Linux. 
> > >
> SCO is like a dog where you get the bones for free, but flesh, fur and
> every thing else are $$.  :-)

(laughs) I thought it might be something like that. 
> > >(5) I believe that having good open source software will help to teach me
> > >computing.
> > >=========================================================================
> > >
> > >The only way I learned anything about chess was to study the games of
> > >great masters like Capablanca and Fischer. It makes sense to me that to
> > >understand software, I'll have to study the programs of great masters like
> > >Torvalds. 
> > >
> Capablanca and Fischer were my heroes when I was a chess player.
> > >This kind of beauty, based on appreciating an underlying logic, won't
> > >yield to superficial study and "once over lightly" treatment in lectures.
> > >I'll need authentic, top quality source material, working in my own home.
> > >Maybe (and "maybe" is not good enough here) I can pass without it. But can
> > >I learn art without it? The idea is ridiculous and offensive. No
> > >worthwhile art can be learned without earnest study of the great masters. 
> > 
> > As above, in my experience most people don't want to learn how their
> > software is written.

That's right. I was speaking only for myself, and this section is probably
not useful in general.

> > >(6) There are -- or soon will be -- enough Linux people around to trade
> > >ideas and files with. 
> > >=======================================================================
> > >
> > >It would be easier for me, personally, if there were more end users, and
> > >not just hackers who obviously can't be happy to be disturbed by newbies.
> > >(Even help files and FAQs tend to say: "Don't ask in public. You'll only
> > >make a fool of yourself.") But the people exist.  Saying "OS/2" now is
> > >like disturbing a graveyard. 
> > 
> The people who wrote HOWTOs were not "native Linuxers": they were
> former Unixers.  What they had in mind was the old Unix model.  Unix
> was expensive.  You didn't have one at home.  You didn't learn alone:
> you learned either at University or at work thanks to training paid by
> your employer or a senior colleague teached you.  You didn't
> administer the box until you had learned enough to do it.  The guy who
> posted in a Unix group was an experienced user with a problem but also
> the skills to find, read and undersatnd the info.  It _was_ legitimate
> to ask him to do his job before posting and do it only after having
> tried everything.

Ah! I didn't understand this. I bet other naive users looking for help
don't know it either.

> Many Linux users have to care alone about their boxes.  That means
> that they could have to solve problems well before knowing about
> "less".  It is _not_ legitimate to ask them to fight for days before
> posting.  The ethics for Linux groups should be: "The time spent in
> answering your posting will not be available for other people.  Look
> at the posts available from your ISP before posting but if you find
> nothing then the only dumb question is the question who isn't asked".
> About the people who answer: "Nobody forces you to answer so don't
> complain when you see a question for the twentieth time.  Better have
> dumb questions than people returning to Windows.  Don't forget those
> guys are learning alone.  People who flame them after having had every
> kind of handholding while learning are quite simply despicable".  And
> for developers: "When a question is being asked again and again that
> means we did something wrong".

For me, and my friends who are unhappy with Windows 3.x/9x, those are all
like the words of angels. (Prosaically: I think you are exactly right.)

> About university-educated flamers I really regret my English is not
> good enough for translating "fils a papa".

I don't understand that. Good, because I think my ears would turn red if I
did. :)

> > There are many Linux users around these days. If you're looking for more
> > 'standard' support, check out linuxcare.com.
> > 
> > >Fear, Uncertainty and Doubts about Linux
> > >========================================
> > >
> > >
> > >(1) Once bitten, twice shy.
> > >===========================
> > >
> > >I tried to install Red Hat Linux, supposedly the "easy" package, a couple
> > >of years ago. It was a nightmare, and completely useless. Effectively, I
> > >turned my computer into a paperweight, and myself into a nervous wreck. I
> > >tried re-installing, over and over. No dice.  As for my "free support," it
> > >was online, and of course "I had no computer." Things stayed that bad for
> > >over a month, after which I wisely gave up. "Never again." 
> > >
> > >Some minor points in the maelstrom:
> > >(1) As it happens, I do not carry around the chipset and exact screen
> > >refresh rate of my monitor. And anyone who can move as often as I have
> > >while never losing any documentation is a genius. 
> > >(2) Why should I guess what partition sizes I need? Hard drive sizes +
> > >packages = exactly the sort of task a computer is supposed to automate.
> > >The installation program should ask questions in the right order, ask
> > >permission, and then "just do it." 
> > >(3) Cylinders? At any time, but now with a hard drive that is damaged in
> > >some way I don't understand except that 70MB of it is now useless? "You
> > >jest." 
> > >(4) The important task of determining whether you have just done the right
> > >thing, and if not, how you should back-track, is radically more difficult
> > >on a kind of system you have never used before. 
> > >
> > >I can't help contrasting this with my experience of OS/2's installation,
> > >where everything worked perfectly every time -- no fuss, no tears, just
> > >results. And this was with all the "difficult, advanced" options, with
> > >Boot Manager, HPFS and so on. If I had found OS/2- native software to do
> > >what I needed done, the way I needed it done, I would still be using OS/2
> > >and pitying the suffering masses. 
> > >
> The crucial point was OS/2 was sponsored by a powerful company so
> every hardware manufacturer just wrote drivers for it and came to IBM
> telling what was the very special feature in the card respective to
> other cards with the same chip.
> Linux had no sponsor and initially a limited user base, so
> manufacturers were not unrolling the red carpet under its feet.
> Driver developers had to ask docs, read them and write drivers without
> any kind of assistance from the manufacturer.  There were cases like
> for Iomega Zips where they had to run the DOS driver using the DOS
> emulator and spy its traffic with the device.  But you see those
> problems are fading away due to a simple fact: Linux has enough users
> manufacturers begin to translate Linux=$$$.  IBM, Dell and Compaq
> offer Linux as an option and that means that they will have to tell to
> the manufacturers of the cards they use: "Either you manage to be
> supported by Linux or your partnership with us will be terminated".
> Creative Labs (Sound Blaster) has hired a programmer to write Linux
> drivers instead of waiting for Linux users doing it.
> By the way if Windows install is supposed to be easy it is because the
> hardware manufacturer puts a CD in the box containing the right
> drivers configured for the IRQs, ports he would be using and in case
> of a new computer it comes preinstalled.  But Linux is now reaching
> this point.

Just as you say: this is critical.

> > >I read lying "booster-talk" about how easy Linux is to install, and I just
> > >laugh. You'd better believe I warn my friends about the truth. If luck
> > >does not favour you, installing Linux can easily become a species of
> > >computer Hell. 
> > 
> That truth is no longer the truth.  In Linux six months is a long
> time.  Of course it would be nice if for legacy ISA hardware the
> install allowed to probe all combos of IRQ,ports and to hell with the
> fact one user in thousand will have his ethernet lock the box (just
> restart with no probing) but in PCI boxes the redhat install just
> looks at the hardware you have and uses the adequate X server (and
> probably ethernet driver).

Yes, the truth then is not the truth now. Still, Peter, my friend at the
install-fest said that he thought it would take about six months more of
development before he would personally feel safe about "buying into"

> > Which version of redhat were you trying to install? Have you ever tried
> > a different type of Linux? Have you ever done an install, from scratch,
> > of any of the Microsoft operating systems? How did those compare?

I tried to install Red Hat. I think it was 4.0. 

I haven't tried installing a different kind of Linux. After all the
"easy-install" brand beat the Hell out of me. :)

I've installed DOS 6.21 and Windows 3.1 (sometimes Windows for Workgroups)
from scratch many, many times. I've installed Windows 95 from scratch a
few times. I format and repartion things practically by reflex now.

Windows 95 is good news and bad news. The good news is: if your computer
was built for Windows (mine was) and you want Windows 95 to totally take
over your machine and do things the 100% Microsoft way, then the OS falls
onto the machine the way a dust-cover goes on the monitor: so easy. And
the auto-configuration was lovely.

The bad news is: if you need something else, you have horrible or actually
insoluble problems. In my case, I wanted DOS/Windows 3.1 and Windows 95 to
live on different partions and leave each other totally alone. This was
not possible.

Despite this I would say Windows 95 installation was vastly superior to
Linux, for me. It is critical to have an easy, obvious way to get to
something you can start using, and Windows 95 gave me that.

I find Windows 3.1 an easy installation, but of course I've done it many
dozens of times. :( 

Assuming your machine is built for Windows, and you have no objection to
giving DOS the first part of your first hard drive, installing DOS/Win3.x
is very, very easy. This is great -- vastly superior to Linux. There's
immediate reward. you can install some programs easily and get to work
straight away, and having a working system gives you feedback and tools to
work on the bits of the system that aren't working. Of which there will be

Dealing with DOS/Win3.x means dealing with every hardware driver as a
seperate program, and these programs are not written by gods. The driver
for my Windows graphics accelerator clips the last line from my SYSTEM.INI
file, thus killing Sound Blaster. Since I have worked this out, I
compensate for it.

Configuration for DOS/Win3.x is a species of Hell. Everything has to be
configured, including the "extensions" so the CD-ROM drive will work. (You
have to install DOS and do this before you can do a "clean" installation
of Windows 95.) The underlying system (which you are likely to meet,
whether you want to or not) is a shambles, the misleading error messages
guide you to disaster, and the documentation is wrong, wrong, wrong! Even
people who get imperfect configurations (for example: sound not working
properly, which was my usual problem) are reluctant to do anything , for
fear of knocking over as much of the "house of cards" as they've been able
to assemble. ("So the resolution is wrong. Don't touch it! I've got stuff
to do on a deadline, and I can't afford for it to go more wrong than it
already is.") Everyone I know who got a good setup admits that there was a
big component of luck in it. Then when everything is delicately balanced,
and you don't dare breathe hard, some rude program comes along and knocks
over your house of cards.

That's why I use redundant copies of Windows for Workgroups. By the way,
anyone who wants to do this: don't let your Windows installations touch
your AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS, and do start your redundant Windows
installations with a batch file. The documentation that says that you
mustn't do that is, as ever, wrong.

I know people are boggling and thinking: "How can he regard this a a
better installation process than Linux had?" But it's almost a no-brainer
to get DOS/Win3.x/Win9x to "sort of work," enough to start getting some
work done. The suffering comes later. I never got to grips with Linux at
> I tried.  And the Ziff Davis people tried and they wrote an article
> about Microsoft who was more violent than anything you can read in
> Linux newsgroups.  When you really have to do the work (ie the
> hardware manufacturer hasn't done all the dirty work) then installing
> Windows is hell.  And there are some cases (Pentium to MMX, changing
> motherboard) when upgrading part of your box will corrupt the register
> base and you will have no choice but to reinstall _everything_ and
> that is manufacturer's advice).  This despite the fact every
> manufacturer is doing most of the work for Microsoft.  Here we see
> Mighty Microsoft in all its glory.

I must emphasize: my box was built as a Windows machine. If it hadn't been
-- G_d help me. (This could be a Hell of an incentive not to switch to
Windows if you've bought a box built for Linux, I suppose.)
> > >(2) Linux may not work on my hardware.
> > >======================================
> > >
> > >I never did get Linux to recognise my CD-ROM drive. Maybe that's because I
> > >was doing things wrong. After all, there were lots of things about Linux I
> > >never got to work properly, starting with LILO, the start-up program. But
> > >maybe Linux just won't tolerate my CD-ROM drive, or my sound card, or
> > >something. I've talked to other people who also couldn't get Linux to
> > >recognise their CD-ROM drives, and gave up. I read the compatibility
> > >lists, and all my stuff (Panasonic CD-ROM, true Sound Blaster and so on)
> > >is there, but maybe it is somehow set up wrong, or connected in a way
> > >Linux doesn't like, or something. I could pay someone to crack open the
> > >box, and go on a random fishing expedition, at $60 per half- hour, looking
> > >for "things Linux might not like." Then again, perhaps not.  There may be
> > >no solution, given that I can't afford a new computer. 
> > >
> This was two years ago.

And two years ago is a long time. Yes.

> > >My CD-ROM drive is my only music player, so one of the things I remember
> > >about my efforts to install Linux is that my flat fell quiet. 
> > 
> > This is a good point -- no installation that I've seen has done that
> > "last little step" of setting up the right permissions on /dev/dsp --
> > indeed, the Debian 2.1 installation I recently did totally forgot to do a
> > 'MAKEDEV audio', so I had to point cdrom at my hdc, change the perms, etc.

That "last little step" is vital.

Linux is getting smarter, but people aren't. So if the weak point in the
process is "just" something that people have to figure out, that's the
sort of problem that's least likely to automatically fix itself with time.

> > >(This is the right time to think very seriously about this, because
> > >"disaster just struck," and I have to get my CD-ROM repaired, perhaps
> > >replaced anyway. This may be a critical decision "in the dark.") 
> > >
> If it is replaced then buy an IDE CD drive (after ensuring it works on
> your 486).  There is nothing to guess with them and they are under 60$.


> > >I also have only two hard drives, of 470MB (after damage) and 200MB. Linux
> > >hates multiple drives -- it doesn't even like to read a floppy disk, in my
> > 
> Linux _loves_ multiple drives.  Ever loved them since 1992.  I have
> been using them since 1994.  It also loves floppies.  Now were you
> using the right commands?  Once I found a guy who typed "/dev/fd0" to
> access the floppy because he thought Linux was like DOS or OS/2 and
> their brain damaged A:, C:
> > Actually, Linux deals very well with multiple drives, provided you did
> > the right thing in the 'fdisk' section of the install. What you want to do
> > is set up partitions on the various drives, and then during the installation
> > specify that you want /usr/ to be a certain partition, /home/ to be a
> > different partition, maybe /sbin/ or /bin/ a third, etc. But this requires
> > knowing the sorts of directory hierarchies Unix uses, and it also requires
> > having an intuitive feel for how much "stuff" will go under each directory.
> > No end-user (or even windows programmer) can be expected to know this stuff
> > when he's starting out.

Obviously, I did all this wrong, which is not so very surprising.

What I said about what "Linux doesn't like" should go, because it's
nonsense. The problem is not what Linux can do for and expert user, but
with what an inexpert user can do to him or herself trying to meet the
challenges that this situation creates.

> > >experience -- and it wants its one hard drive to accommodate hundreds and
> > >hundreds of megabytes of -- "stuff."  It was way beyond me to figure out
> > >what I should leave out and what I might need.  According to an expert I
> > >read, the only smart, safe move is to buy a multi-gigabyte drive and
> > >install everything. I don't regard that as an option. Besides, if I want
> > >to install hundreds of megabytes of useless fat, Windows can do that for
> > >me, no trouble at all. There is no "logic,"  no economy of force, no art,
> > >in this approach. And I haven't got the money. 
> > 
> Because it is free software distribution manufacturers fill the CD
> with as much stuff they can package.  But your expert should have
> closed his mouth instead of saying such sillinesses.  I agree that
> asking people about software they want installed is not a good idea at
> this stage.  I prefer Caldera's way where they ask you what you will
> be doing with the box and then install software for that use.  However
> in RedHat there is a selection by categories and even an inexperienced
> user can tell if he will be programming or doing fancy graphics.
> Notice that if you are seeing this menu then it is becausse you have
> choosen "Custom installation" so you are supposed to know what you are
> doing.

True. I didn't choose "Custom installation" because I felt myself to be an
expert user, though. 

As far as I can remember, I did it because I didn't want an important
partition to jam completely full of stuff as it had before, and I also
wanted to see what stuff was going where, so I would have a head start in
looking for it later.

People can have lots of reasons for chosing "Custom installation" other
than thinking that they're computing experts. If you assume that everybody
using "custom installation" is an expert, or even imagines that they might
be an expert -- I really don't think that's a safe assumption, from the
potential user's point of view. 

On the contrary: that's where a lot the users who made a hopeless hash of
their first effort to install the operating system are going to be.
Obviously, what they did the first time was wrong, so they will go where
they can get more options to try. This means the weakest contestants will
be doing the toughest part of the obstacle course.

> > Modern installers (with Redhat, at least) have options for "workstation"
> > or "desktop" installs, where presumably they make most of the decisions
> > for you in terms of which packages to install. (I always choose 'custom',
> > so I don't have much direct experience with this.)
> > 
> If you choose "workstation" or "server" then modern Redhats
> automatically partition the drive and install a selection of software
> without user intervention.


Does it reassure you about what you will be able to do with the default
selection of software? I think that's what I would want to know. If I
accept the default selection of software, will I have enough stuff
installed to complete the tasks I have in mind with this computer? Or if
not, should I go to custom installation?

> > >A 486 DX2/66 with only 24MB of RAM may not be nearly enough to get
> > >acceptable performance out of the graphical interface(s) and all the
> > >programs that rely on them. I think a well-written, light, lean program
> > >should go: "Snap!" Very likely, that won't be possible.  Well, it was a
> > >sexy machine when I went so deep into debt to buy it. Not any more. 
> > 
> > With a light window manager, this machine will still be relatively fast.
> > It's true that you won't be able to (easily) use the newer desktops like
> > KDE or Enlightenment, but you don't need them. Perhaps the installer
> > should take into account the "power" (cpu + memory + drive space) of
> > the machine when deciding which desktop setups to recommend.
> > 
> KDE plus X plus some servers go into 20 megs of memory.  That is on a
> box who is using 1024x768 and 16M colors.

I like the idea of an installation routine that knows how much power your
computer has, and accordingly choses a graphical interface you can run
well. The Red Hat Linux I bought said on the box that it ran in 8MB of
Ram. Naive users will try such things, believing that Linux is the
liberation force, and wouldn't lie. Wouldn't it be nice if such innocent
faith was justified? It would make a brilliant and memorable contrast to
the false claims of other software. (OS/2 in 4MB of RAM ... shudder!)

> > >I also have definite ideas on multi-tasking performance. OS/2 was
> > >splendid. Windows 95 was grotesque. ("Kalunk, kalunk, wait while I think
> > >about it, wait ...  Thunk. OK, now I'll give you back your input
> > >devices.") If, because of my weak hardware, Linux multi-tasks as badly as
> > >Windows 95, or even worse, that would be -- ugly. 
> > 
> > While I haven't used OS/2, I'm told it's pretty good with multitasking.
> > Linux is at least on par with it (given that Linux beats the pants off
> > every other x86-based OS out there, in most benchmarks I've seen). It's
> > certainly far superior to Windows.
> > 
> And it beats NT
> > >(3) There is no cheap, safe starting option for applications software (as
> > >far as I know).
> > >=========================================================================
> > >
> > >This issue can't be wholly segregated from installation. I know when my
> > >operating system is properly installed, because I do simple tasks with it,
> > >and they work. I write: "Hey, it worked!" in IBM Works or Windows Write,
> > >and I print it out. I play a CD, and it sings: "I Feel Good!" And so on.
> > >For a non-technical user, the possibility to read a "man" page, or start
> > >"emacs," and in either case be baffled, does not provide the same sort of
> > >feedback. It's still an open question whether the system can be somehow
> > >manipulated so as to do a useful task or generate an output. 
> > >
> > >One of the things that boggled me about Linux is that there is nothing to
> > >get started with. Not IBM Works. Not Windows Write and Cardfile. Nothing.
> > >There's no Microsoft Works to buy. There's no "happy stuff" either: no
> > >Chessmaster 4000, no Microsoft Encarta, no Dangerous Creatures, no
> > >Microsoft Home Essentials. Nothing. You sacrifice all that, and lash out
> > >for your "big" applications suite, because no-one is offering anything
> > >more "human-sized," and because, consequently, until you get your big
> > >applications suite, your Linux home computer is an elaborate paper-weight. 
> > 
> Please.  It was two years ago.  Linux started when a guy wrote 'A's
> and 'B's to the screen until it got them interlacing (multitasking was
> working right).  It started from zero software, zrro user base and
> zero sponsors.  Today we don't have Dangerous Creatures or Home
> Essentials but we have Office suites, first comercial games (but they
> don't run on 486s :-( ), every non-Microsoft database, MP3 players and
> we can watch TV on Linux.  And we have the GIMP: like Photoshop in
> power but free.  Plus Enlightenment to make the Windows guy die from
> jealousy.

Then let's scrub this whole section. It may have been right when I wrote
it, but it's definitely wrong now. Of course, that's good. :)

> > Project Independence (http://independence.seul.org/) is attempting to
> > address the issue of "no little apps", but they're still a ways from
> > finishing that goal.

Then Project Independence is vital.

> > >With the "reputation" that applications for Linux are earning, this is not
> > >an attractive gamble. Will Star Office or Applixware support my 9-pin
> > >dot-matrix printer that emulates an Epson LX800? "Do ya feel lucky, punk?"
> > >As it happens, my honest answer to that question is: "No." And I have no
> > >plans to rob a bank in order to buy a PostScript printer. 
> > 
> > Oof. Good issue, I don't do non-postscript printers so I'll let somebody
> > else tackle this one. :)
> > 
> Cuckle.  Ghostscript has been in Linux since 94 or 93.  It converts
> the Postscript generated by Linux apps to the language spoken by your
> printer.  And yes Epson LX8000 is in the list.  And you don't have,
> like in Windows, to install a driver for every app with a determined
> printer.  We also have automatic filters who will invoke the right
> application in case you just send an image or compressed file to the
> printer.


Is it easy or automatic to set up Ghostscript to do what has to be done if
the user is to print out?

> > >Besides, I don't want a high-tech, advanced-technical-feature "office." I
> > >want Home Essentials for Linux, but I don't think Microsoft will be
> > >bringing it out anytime soon. 
> > 
> > Independence: do you have a list on your website of the sorts of apps that
> > you think would cover this, and why they're good/etc? It seems like a good
> > document to have if you don't already have it.
> > 
> One of my personal obsessions has ever been the home user and I wan't
> thinking in nerds programming at home but in housewiwes and
> househusbands :-) who have children to educate, who would like to
> manage their investments or checkbooks, use the computer for
> entertainment and in general manage their house.  I would have liked
> we would have by now a program to tell you what bait to use when you
> go to fish such fish, in such river and under such meteorological
> conditions.  I didn't find one but I found about investments,
> checkbooks and managing a wine cellar.
> By the way I tried to add the best wysywyg word processor who had no
> restrictions in use or distribution (Maxwell).

This is all brilliant. This is the kind of stuff I can tell my
interested-but-skeptical friends about, because I know it's relevant to

> > >If it doesn't work, what is the next move? Configuration Hell reinstalling
> > >DOS and Windows? Yes, that would be the next move. "Been there, done
> > >that," and "better the devil you know." 
> > >
> > >(By the way: I'm not mad at Microsoft in general. I think they make
> > >excellent mice. If they were strictly a hardware company, I'd put them
> > >almost up there with Logitech. But they've virtually "locked out" low-end
> > >users who need a small, good-quality, reliable operating system, and I am
> > >mad at them over that.) 
> > >
> > >I don't believe WINE is the solution. First, I don't believe WINE works. 
> > >Second, I don't believe WINE works. ("It's such a big problem I thought
> > >I'd mention it twice.") A toy that's considered impressive because it runs
> > >WordPad, usually without crashing, is of no use to me. A WINE that's
> > >almost as good as the real thing returns me to OS/2:  "Congratulations. 
> > >You have just installed an enormous Program Manager replacement. And by
> > >the way, it will cause problems for your multimedia CD-ROMs." A
> > >better-than Windows WINE, a bullet-proof WINE? I don't believe it. The
> > >future for Linux is Linux native software, or failure. More to the point,
> > >I don't believe anything but Linux-native software will give me the
> > >reliability I want. 
> > >
> Wine allows to run several DirectX games.  Games are the area Linux is
> short.

Yes, this was what Peter, my friend at the install-fest, said. You need a
Quake partition. :)
> > >(There is one area where WINE is valid and vital. But that comes later.)
> > >
> > > Maybe the only way to get Linux-native applications as reliable as Linux
> > >is to make them open source like Linux. In which case, I'm out of luck,
> > >because there's no indication I know of that open source word processing
> > >is possible, or that an open source works program is even "imaginable." 
> > 
> > Open source word processors are slowly progressing, but you're right that
> > they haven't been proven truly feasible yet.
> > 
> We have several closed source ones.  And they are not worse than their
> Windows counterparts.
> > >Ideally, I would like programs to work the way they do in GeoWorks. Along
> > >with your choices about new document/old document or template, you get to
> > >choose a complexity level from (say) 1 to 3 (and you can customise what
> > >each includes and leaves out, if you want to). So, if you're making a
> > >"difficulty of one" document, (or if you're a "difficulty of one" user),
> > >you never have to deal with buttons and choices that are useless to you. I
> > >know lots of Word users who would like to be able to do that. But it's
> > >only too obvious that no-one is about to write this kind of simple
> > >software for Linux. 
> > >
> > >As far as I can tell, the people who write stuff for Linux only care about
> > >impressing each other with advanced technical features, in a spirit of
> > >"can you top this?"  It seems irrelevant whether the people who make the
> > >software charge money for it or not:  Applixware, which is commercial,
> > >seems to have the same attitude. I think that if that's your attitude,
> > >it's impossible to write the kind of good quality simple software I need.
> > >If someone insists on making a screwdriver advanced and technical and
> > >complicated, he'll make a lousy screwdriver. 
> > 
> More exactly most free software has its origins in a tool needed by
> the original author.  That means that most of it is programmer's or
> engineer's software.  That was true until the guys of KDE decided to
> make a desktop as user friendly as Windows and began writng apps to
> fit with this desktop.  Later they started Koffice who seems to be
> going well.  In addition we also have the Gnome desktop and its apps
> who like KDE are written by people who don't want Linux being used
> only by nerds.
> > You should check out a lot of the applications written for the K Desktop
> > Environment. Unfortunately (there's always an unfortunately), it's kind of
> > a resource hog and might not work very well on your hardware.
> > 
> I have used it on a 16 Meg box for months, in his 24 megs box it
> should fly as long he avoids Netscape and fancy backgrounds.
> > KDE supporters: you guys have support for a light window manager and
> > light applications......right?
> > 
> > >(4) Compatibility is king, and it is in question.
> > >=================================================
> > >
> > >Can I get the university computers to "eat" the files I would generate
> > >with Linux? I don't know. Can I print out on the superior printers at the
> > >university? I don't know. When I get an assignment that requires 100%
> > >Microsoft Word compatibility (and I know I've got at least one coming up),
> > >could I do it on my Linux home computer? I don't know.  Internet Service
> > >Providers generally want to dictate what software you use. (They also want
> > >to take your money and provide no service, in my experience, but that's
> > >another problem.) Will an ISP who would be acceptable to me on other
> > >grounds tolerate a Linux home computer? I don't know. 
> > 
> > Good concerns. Staroffice and Corel have some good filters (for converting
> > files from word format and back, for instance), and there are some other
> > applications out there designed to convert. But I don't know if anybody
> > is claiming 100% compatibility yet.
> > 
> Microsoft keeps changing formats just to avoid other people being
> compatible with it.  The fact governments allow this kind of
> monopolistic maneuvers can only be explained by a mix of corruption
> and crass ignorance about computing.
> StarOffice, Corel and Applixware work with Word files.  Not the latest
> version but they work.

Thanks for the info.

> > >My guess is that all of this would work out, somehow or other, after some
> > >trouble. But guessing is not knowing by experience. I know what I can do
> > >with the software I've got, defective as it is. 
> > >
> > >I do know that a whole lot of ISPs want/require you to run Win95/98 and
> > >Explorer. Maybe the whole Internet will divide, with the ISPs keeping
> > >Linux for themselves, and forcing their clients to use Windows 2000 and
> > >Explorer? 
> > 
> They provide you with Explorer and a connectivity tool for Windows.
> That does not mean you are restricted to using them.
> > Presumably they do this because it's easier to support a single operating
> > system, and Windows is currently the most common (and probably the simplest
> > to support as well, given the relatively small number of things you can
> > do with it). Many ISPs that "want" you to run windows actually just set up
> > a PPP connection for you, and then you use their software to communicate
> > over it. You could just as easily use any other software, including the
> > Linux PPP support.
> > 
> The fact every distrib is using a different PPP connectivty tool is
> harming us.  Linux users are numerous enough and specially networked
> enough to be able to talk loud and make an ISP lose a lot of money in
> case he gets blacklisted for not supporting Linux.  Unfortunately ISPs
> would be forced to provide a dozen PPP setups (one for every distrib)
> each one representing little market share.  Add the fact we are not
> used to talk loud.
> > >I do know that using Linux puts me at loggerheads with the Australian
> > >Government. Telstra is partly privatised, but still the government
> > >telecommunications company.  It is providing a basic email service for
> > >free. (And a good thing, too. This should be part of the basic phone
> > >service by now.) This service is provided free exclusively for Microsoft
> > >Windows 95 and Microsoft Windows 98 users. The Microsoft Australian
> > >Government software is written exclusively for those platforms, and if
> > >you're not running the Microsoft Operating System that Microsoft wants you
> > >to run, you're
> > >(a) about to "upgrade" as required, or
> > >(b) not entitled to equal services.
> > >As the man on the phone patiently explained to me: there are no
> > >work-arounds, there aren't supposed to be any work-arounds, and there are
> > >no plans to support any "obsolete" (= "non-Microsoft") platforms, ever. 
> > 
> Now you know what you have to do for next elections.  You see
> "aparatchiks" (read high-end governement employees) were planning the
> same kind of Microsoft-only policy for french schools and french
> medicine but some Linux activists went over their heads and got to
> politicians.  And yes they were heard.
> > Wow. Yuck. Check out http://www.anatomy.usyd.edu.au/danny/freedom/ip/aidfs.html
> > and contact Danny; he knows more about this than I do (given that he does
> > free software lobbying for Australian organizations), and might have already
> > done a lot of research on this topic (I have no idea).
> > 
> > >This is a disturbing straw in the wind. When a key Government company goes
> > >into the business of diminishing personal choice and market competition,
> > >for the benefit of Microsoft Corporation, then it may become very
> > >"inadvisable" for small, weak individuals to buck the system. This is
> > >where WINE is vital. If it works well enough, it may enable Linux users to
> > >put up a "mask" of Microsoft conformity when the Australian Government
> > >requires it, as the Government may in future do on far more important
> > >questions than whether or not you get equal phone services. 
> > >
> > >Maybe other governments will also standardise on Microsoft, because it's
> > >easiest to write for one platform. When masses of ordinary people need to
> > >be Microsoft customers in good standing, in order to talk most easily with
> > >their governments, then the competition about operating systems will be
> > >over, as far as I can see. 
> > >
> In France the army is becoming suspicious of Microsoft software where
> you don't know if Microsoft isn't spying you.  Perhaps this is one of
> the reasons governement is no longer so fascinated about Microsoft it
> used to be.
> > >Anyway, let's keep the paranoia to a dull roar. No-one is going to shoot
> > >me for not going Microsoft all the way. They're just going to make life
> > >inconvenient. But my capacity to buy my way out of inconveniences is
> > >limited to say the least. 
> > >
> > >(By the way: I feel this is really unfair. I am a Microsoft customer: 
> > >Microsoft MS-DOS, Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Works, Microsoft
> > >"everything." I just don't count as one, because Microsoft has dumped my
> > >operating system, and, effectively, me.  They didn't even maintain
> > >backward compatibility for Word. This does not engender goodwill.) 
> > >
> So the old software you have is not an argument to stay with MS.  Will
> your MS Works be able to generate files for Word like asked?  No?


> Then that would mean buying Word and also another computer because the
> new Word needs more than a 486 with 24 megs.  How convenient your
> university attitude both for MS and PC manufacturers!  


But I can sort of see the pressure on the university to go NT (which they
have done). Last year, a university classmate (in journalism, not
computing) went into a panic, because Word 6 wasn't reading her Word files
right. She had no generic concept of a "word processing program." She only
knew Word, which was what came with the Windows box she's just bought.
Without a generic "word processing" concept, it was hard for me to make
file translation and RTF make sense for her. If the university computer
couldn't read her Word files, a virus was a much more plausible
explanation than something relating to a generic "Word processing"
concept. It must be tough to fight that sort of thing constantly.
> > >
> > >Why I Am Still Strongly Interested In Going To Linux
> > >====================================================
> > >
> > >
> > >Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt are justified, but they don't get me anywhere. 
> > >I can limp along effectively enough with my present system, and I would
> > >probably be wise to do so.  However, the down side of that course is that
> > >my present difficulties will never diminish.  They will only increase, as
> > >time and Microsoft-controlled standards leave me further behind. 
> > >
> You aren't free to upgrade or not to upgrade.  You have to pay.  Like
> taxes except that they aren't used to improve your city or country.  They
> are used to feed a vampire.
> > >If I want security, stability, beauty, strong tools (at least in certain
> > >specific areas), and the satisfaction of supporting people I like instead
> > >of people I no longer like much, I want Linux.  This would be the (only)
> > >way to solve my computer problems rather than putting up with them. That
> > >is, it would be if Linux worked for me, and I don't know whether it could
> > >or would do so. 
> > >
> > >- -----------------------------------------------------------------
> > >
> > >I guess this is where the file ends. I've laid out my pros and cons, and I
> > >still have no conclusions. 
> > >
> > >I wonder how many there are like me? Quite likely there are millions of
> > >us, inflating the figures for "people who've installed Linux." 
> > >
> > >If I can leave people with just one thought, I would say: "Stop speculating
> > >about the motivations and fears of non-technical potential users of Linux,
> > >and ask them. Do research." 
> > >
> > >And if that's already agreed, I would say: "Do qualitative research."
> > >
> > >- -----------------------------------------------------------------------
> > >
> > >Best wishes,
> > >		David Blue
> > >
> > >------- End of Forwarded Message
> > 
> > Thanks for the notes. Hopefully I've given you some more things to think about
> > from my comments, and hopefully other people will address other issues.
> > Please take a look at http://www.seul.org/pub/fsib.html for a draft document
> > that might convince you that maybe free software is the more rational choice
> > for companies as well as individuals, and therefore maybe Microsoft is going
> > to continue to lose influence rather than gain it. (Comments on that greatly
> > appreciated, as it's still in draft form.)
> > 
> > --Roger
> > 
> > 
> -- 
> 			Jean Francois Martinez
> Project Independence: Linux for the Masses
> http://www.independence.seul.org

It's now clear that a lot of what I wrote should be cut, because:

(1) It was always wrong. I didn't succeed in figuring out what I was
dealing with, and I made wrong assumptions or came to wrong conclusions.
Example: "Linux doesn't like multiple hard drives."

(2) It may have been right when I wrote it, but it is definitely wrong
now. Warning people now about how bad Linux installation used to be years
ago is stupid.

(3) It was stuff that applied to me and not to other people. From talking
to people (about operating systems, "how do you feel about how your Mac
works for you" and so on) it's come home to me that most of my friends
don't want to study computers. Beauty in programming is a non-issue.

On the other hand, the way I tried to weigh this all up is still how other
people I talk to also try to think this stuff out. There's a lot of doubt,
a lot of pondering, a balance of needing to scratch and itch with how their
current OS/software works, and fear of the unknow, in which real dangers
lurk for unskilled users.

Thanks everyone for all the good information.

I hope that you smart people will find a way to turn this "raw material"
into something useful.

To your very good health, everyone, and to all our clever friends.

		David Blue