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Re: SEUL: Is it too soon for me to comment?

>From: Erik Walthinsen <omega@omegacs.net>
>I can see the TV ads
>now: 20's guy walks into a computer store looking for a computer for his
>parents.  Salesguy walks up, and directs him towards a machine running
>Windoze.  "Sorry, it needs to be running SEUL.  My Mom needs to use this."


>When I first got around to relearning Unix four years ago, after an absence
>of 4 years from Domain/OS (from Apollo, now HP/Apollo, kindof sortof Unix), I
>deferred it for quite a while specifically because of arcania like vi.  I'm
>now passably conversant in vi, but I still hate it. <asbestos>Pico!</asbestos>

Actually, I'm pretty fluent in vi, but I am of the opinion that nobody
should ever have to learn vi again. We have mice now, people !

And I'd like to agree with whoever it was that said "GNU info" was like
attacking the user with a hatchet. I still have no idea how to use it; I
still rely on "man" pages even though they say things like "This is all a
lie; the real scoop is in the Info documentation" (slightly exaggerated).

I fail to see why documentation isn't just put into HTML and let us run
Lynx on it, or any other browser. If HTML can store the sum total of human
knowledge, then it should be almost good enough for Linux documentation.
(If it's not, someone needs to tell me and
whatever it is they missed).

>That, of course, assumes we can ship all the pieces.  One benefit of RPM is
>that you can build srpm's without all the source files being included.  That
>way we can include everything allowed, and grab the rest off the net the
>first chance we get.  I know, this doesn't work for users who may not have a
>net connect of any kind, but given the licensing, it's better than nothing.
>In the case where we *can* include everything, we just do an `rpm -ba
>xanim.spec` and be done with it.

Interesting concept, installing off the 'net. That way we can guarantee
that everyone gets the latest version.

Perhaps we *should* assume everyone *will* be doing email from their SEUL
box, and therefore will have *some* sort of 'net connection, at least
during the install (must dock the portable, etc).

>Very cool idea!  Someone want to take this one?  Like he said, it'd be a
>one-day project, maybe two.

I plan on learning Perl "Real Soon Now", so it would be nice if we
remembered miscellaneous "small" projects like this (perhaps on a
"tasklist" page of
so that people, newly flushed with the confidence of learning a new
language, can try out doing a "real" project.

>> you want.  And if you pick 'install everything' it breaks.

That's terrible. Doesn't anyone test with "install everything" ? Of course,
I understand that some drivers just *cannot* co-exist, but my opinion is
that that is because the hardware that needs them was stupidly designed. We
should be able to "Install everything, except drivers for stupid hardware".

I am still astonished at the new mindset that I've picked up over the last
6 months: It's well worth it to just buy a slightly bigger hard drive, and
then just install *everything*. You save a lot of time up front by not
spending a lot of time micro-mangaging and picking and choosing among
thousands of little details, and you save a lot of time later by not
wondering if this latest problem was caused by leaving out something you
should have installed, trying all kinds of various partial re-installs to
see if that magically cures it.

>>Windows takes
>> five minutes, less if you just pick 'typical'.  We need a similar setup.

>We'll need some
>mechanism for backtracing through a package's requirements to find
>everything, possibly scanning through major 'net archives, if possible.
>Given 'official' archives, with version control and so on, this is possible,
>and PGP signatures make it safe: "Do you trust seul.org?"  If they reply yes,
>as they actually should have to in order to even install the system in the
>first place (maybe), they can then install stuff from ftp.seul.org or
>anywhere else without worrying.  Netscape does that, it's pretty cool

That does sound pretty cool.

>CVS repository will help us immensely when it
>comes to dealing with these issues.

I think I understand what a Version Control system is supposed to do and
how it works, in theory.

But since I've never used one, I'd like to know the specifics about how the
one we're going to use (CVS?) actually works. Especially over the internet.

Add to tasklist: a page on CVS, with a tutorial showing how someone can
check out a "sandbox" version, make a few cosmetic mods in some random
source code, and build a SEUL distribution.

>a big issue: if we start tinkering with stuff to make it work just right,
>whether it's just right in general or just right for SEUL, we end up with a
>set of packages that are tied to SEUL, and everything else, well, YMMV.
>Hence the need for two things: exhaustive documentation of *everything* we
>change, down to the slightest little gotcha, and some method for validating
>packages that aren't distributed by ourselves.

Yes. Tinkering with some thing until it works on *my* computer is good, but
telling the original author of that thing exactly what I did to make it
suitable for SEUL, so that all versions of that thing from now on are
SEUL-compliant, is better.

>> A good file manager is a first step toward the
>> "no command line" motif (no pun intended).

Are we going to *assume* X-windows ?
I think it might be "interesting" to play with lynx and text-based
interfaces, especially with embedded "headless servers", but this is far,
far away from your target audience.

>Well, "my computer" is kinda flaky, there are better metaphors to use, IMO.

You've stumbled on one of my pet peeves -- mentioning that something
*exists*, without telling us what they are, or even a clue as to how to
find them.

I agree that there must be a better way --
perhaps a "Internet" icon, that somehow makes it obvious that we are at
this end of the internet.

>> 9) We need a tech support structure.  Just like Microsoft has and Red Hat
>> is trying to provide.
>By far the hardest of them all.  I haven't even thought much about how to do
>that yet.  Will one of these days... :)

I was thinking this would be one of the easier things to do, if the user
has gotten far enough that he can post email or post things to a form on a
web server.
With enough SEUL users, whoever gets to the question first and answers it wins.
(Maybe some central server sends the question out, round-robin, to everone
who left the "I volunteer to answer questions" set in the default "on"
position, say  sending out a question to the next person on the list every
5 minutes until *someone* answers).

Well, it looks like I'm re-inventing Usenet News all over again.

Before that point, though, requires phone support, which is difficult on a
free product.

>> For (far) down the road, we should try and build a better
>> Windows emulator.

This seems orthogonal to the general SEUL goal.

If you or anyone else does manage to get Windows emulation working, I would
love to include that in the SEUL distribution, but this seems to need a
completely seperate group from SEUL. Maybe we could branch this of into a
seperate mailing list.

>And there are relatively trivial ways to
>get a Windoze program to compile for X.  TWIN is a library from Willows
>(http://www.willows.com) that does just that.  And it's GPL'd!

Cool. Thanks for the link.

>The issue, however, is what happens when we make significant changes to the
>structure of the system.  RedHat's packages no longer become useful, so we're
>on our own.  Doing this with the whole system would be a nightmare, though
>not unmanageable.  I think I'd prefer to keep somewhat in sync with the
>latest stable (still 4.2 at this point, IMHO) release.

Yes, the dreaded Version Control problem -- everything I touch, I now
become responsible for fixing *every* time a new version comes out, forever.

It would be nice if we could avoid having to make changes to *everything*.
If we're lucky, we might be able to get away with just writing a new set-up
program(s) to make it more hands-free, but when new .rpm red hat packages
come out, still be able to use them automatically.

I.e, a few persuasive emails to convince the owners of "problem
applications" to make them easier to use, a few web pages to *show* new
programmers the Right Way to make set up go smoothly, rather than writing
everything ourselves.

>     Erik Walthinsen <omega@seul.org> - SEUL Project system architect

I think I agree with you on a lot of things.

My machine should "just work" without me needing to know hardly anything
about what is going on inside -- yet, should I so choose, I should be able
to "get inside" and see what is going on inside, and use and modify
whatever I choose.

It's like my radio-controlled car -- most of the time, it "just works". I
*never* need to open the hood up or crawl underneath it, or hook a O'scope
up to it. Yet I would refuse to buy a RC car where the hood was welded shut
and everything permanently protected from inspection. I want to be able to
take the screws out and find out what's really going on, maybe even be able
to pick out the occasional bit of sand that's gumming up the works.

I want the best of both worlds -- able to actually *do* something useful
(surf the web, send email, write a web page) without having to climb a
steep learning curve, and also be able to unscrew the bulletproof covering
and learn about what's really going on inside.

>From: Jeffrey <jeffj@micoks.net>
>A database of monitors and video cards is a project that many people
>besides Linux
>users could use. -Jeff


Here's an idea. It might even be a good one (or perhaps a terrible one).
Let everyone on the list (who wants to) add web pages to the
machine (perhaps by giving them user accounts, or perhaps
via a form-based web interface).

That way web pages can be written without
the web master having to type in every character by hand.

At least let people add to the "Wanted:" section of the Tasklist.

>From: Paul Anderson <paul@geeky1.ebtech.net>
>On Mon, 5 Jan 1998, Star's End wrote:
>> I have yet to see
>> a single line of code.
>I'm even beginning to have doubts that many people here know how to

Hey ! <looks offended> I wrote a program once !
It was, uh... I can't say much about it, because ... it's a trade secret !
Yeah ! That's the ticket !


+ David Cary "mailto:d.cary@ieee.org" "http://www.rdrop.com/~cary/"
| Future Tech, Unknowns, PCMCIA, digital hologram, <*> O-