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Re: SEUL: linux for the masses

Doug Loss wrote:

>> = Arma
>> http://eddie.cis.uoguelph.ca/~tburgess/local/linuxui.html
>> haven't read all of it. so much to read out there...

> = Doug
> I just read this, and it is fundamentally at odds with most of what
> I like about Linux.  If most of what he advocates (only one window
> manager, no CLI, etc.) were to come about, I'd be gone in a flash.
> He's basically saying that the only way of doing things is the
> Windows/MacOS way of forcing everything into a Procrustean bed and
> only giving the users what the "user-centered individuals" think
> they should have.  How fascist.

     I whole-heartedly agree with Doug - I count myself in the ranks of
those who want and need to understand the complexity below the user
interface. I don't want to be hampered by someone else's idea, however
well-meaning, of how I should work.

     Perhaps one of the most important reasons behind the success of
Windows and MacOS is the consistentcy of the UI and other components.
One of the first exams I gave in my time teaching Operating Systems
taught me a lot about the people in the course, and I suspect about many
of the people we're trying to reach: The exam consisted of two sections,
one theoretical and the other practical. With very few exceptions, the
test scores were highest (sometimes very much so) in the practical
section. Thus, I feel that perhaps the folks we're focusing on are these
very same tactile learners, so it's important to reinforce practical
concepts for these folks.

     This wouldn't be so bad if the first things the students were
taught was how to use the various help resources available - apropos,
man, how-tos, etc... (please set me straight if I've missed any!!!). 
That said, one conspicuously absent resource is a basic, hand-holding
guide to using Linux. "Running Linux" is a really good book (so good
that the guy I lent it to still hasn't returned it!), but it requires
that you have a good working knowledge of computers to start with.
Contrast this with books by MaranGraphics, which are very focused on
non-computer folks, with ample illustrations and clear explanations.
Given the the sheer diversity of configurations, windows managers,
programs, kernel configurations (etc etc etc) possible with Linux makes
such an approach difficult, I would imagine.

     One could either make thousands of such books (impossible) or build
a curriculum (online would be the simplest way of doing it) which allows
the user to progress through various sections and choose which
subsections are the most appropriate for their configurations (ie.
windows managers, f'rinstance). Admittedly, I haven't done much research
to see if there is already such an effort in the Linux community, but if
no such animal exists yet, it would be very useful for those not already
familiar with computers to allow them to join the ranks of Linux users.

     Just a thought.


Pete St. Onge - McGill U.  Limnology - Fun with Ropes & Buckets
pete@seul.org                  http://wwp.mirabilis.com/4322052