My Linux Philosophy

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My Linux Philosophy

Postby AK Dave on Tue Mar 31, 2009 6:48 pm

I like analogies. They're like parables. This parable describes my philosophy for use of linux.

A certain man who is a friend of mine is a marathon runner. His wife is a marathon runner. They love to run. That should be self-evident in their choice of hobby. He says to me that I can be a marathon runner too, and that between he and his wife they have trained and coached many runners to be marathon runners. But first, he says, I must train myself to run 3 miles at a time, at whatever pace, at least 3 times per week. Then, he says, he'll teach me to run 10 miles. It is there, according to him, that many falter with injury: they try to run too fast. The "rabbits" set too fast of a pace and fall out of his program with injury before they become 10-mile runners. But if I am not a rabbit, he assures me that every runner he has coached who has reached the half-marathon mark has achieved the full-marathon mark. Except one, who fell out with heat stroke with less than a mile to go, but never mind him. Let any one who wishes to run a marathon first run three miles, regularly.

If you wish to aspire to anything great or anything worth doing, first start with the basics: RTFM.
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Re: My Linux Philosophy

Postby McLovin on Tue Mar 31, 2009 10:43 pm

AK Dave wrote: RTFM.

While the rest of this post is quite poignant, this is a term that we discourage the use of, as this is meant to be a friendly place to get help, and not someplace for people to feel bad for asking a question, that you or I may find to be a basic item, as sometimes, the most basic things are the ones that give the most trouble trying to find a solution.
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Re: My Linux Philosophy

Postby MALsPa on Wed Apr 01, 2009 8:13 am

AK Dave wrote:If you wish to aspire to anything great or anything worth doing, first start with the basics: RTFM.


While suggesting that someone "read the [fine] manual" may be discouraged here, it's great advice. It's funny, one of my jobs is selling digital cameras, and most of the problems that my customers have could be avoided if they simply took the time to read the manual that comes with the camera. Quite often, I wish I could simply say "RTFM," but of course there are more gentle ways to make that suggestion. But, as with Linux, it's important to get that message across.

Start with the basics. Read the manual. Save yourself some headaches down the road.

8)
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Re: My Linux Philosophy

Postby AK Dave on Wed Apr 01, 2009 12:01 pm

McLovin wrote:
AK Dave wrote: RTFM.

... this is a term that we discourage the use of ...


The term fits. People need to take the most fundamental self-help first step of reading the available documentation.

I'm going to go out on a limb, speaking only for myself, but if anyone finds "RTFM" offensive they need to grow a thicker skin. I don't want to date myself too much, but I've been around linux off-and-on since Yggdrasil was in alpha. The first kernel I remember working with was in the 0.97 range. I still think "M" means "manpages" not "manual". Its not an insult, its not a curse, its a simple reference for the user to please consult and reference the available documentation.

More people, in my opinion, need to spend more time reading Mint's available documentation such as the install guide, the wiki, and the various how-to articles before they stuff a CD into the drive and start clicking through an install. More literacy; less clicking.
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Re: My Linux Philosophy

Postby Aging Technogeek on Thu Apr 02, 2009 11:35 pm

I agree 100%. I have even gone to the expense of buying a laptop on Ebay and installing Mint 6 main on it so friends can test drive it before they commit to Linux. The Mint User's Guide is installed on the desktop and all who borrow the computer are strongly encouraged to RTFM first. Also on the desktop is an article entitled "Linux is not Windows". Borrowers are encouraged to read this also. It answers a lot of their questions about why things are different in Linux.

I find this much easier than trying to talk to people about these subjects. So many people will read but will not listen (see line 2 of my signature).

I spent almost 3 months researching Linux and browsing the Forums before I decided to get a live CD and try it out. I read of many people who just dived into Linux with no preparation and quickly came to hate it because it was not what they expected (usually a free version of Windows). This made me determined to learn all I could before taking the plunge. I'm glad I did it that way. I came to Linux with no false expectations and with knowledge of what I was getting into and I have not regretted it for one second.
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Re: My Linux Philosophy

Postby AK Dave on Fri Apr 03, 2009 5:25 pm

I haven't gone to the "buy an extra laptop" point, but I can see the utility in doing so.
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Re: My Linux Philosophy

Postby shao-hu on Fri Apr 03, 2009 11:05 pm

I agree with RTFM. Being a total noobian when it comes to Linux and Open Source stuff, the "manuals" have been fun to delve into and discover. I try to apply what I read if I am capable, and I find that its takes practice like anything. So far its fun and I see many RTFMs in my future along with personal exercises in learning. Who knows a few years from now I may have picked up a nice skill set to help me do different things.
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Re: My Linux Philosophy

Postby Katzedecimal on Sat Apr 04, 2009 12:18 pm

"RTFM" is a rude way of putting it but the sentiment is so true. Thing is, even if the Mint User Guide pdf were included on the liveCD and put smack dab on the desktop right in front of the user, I know an awful lot of guys who still wouldn't give it a look. They're almost always guys, too, which I think may explain why most of the women who choose to delve into Linux have a more positive experience (women tend to read the directions first, not after they've already hosed things up :lol: )

What irks me is when I read a 'review' of Linux that comes from someone who did not RTM first. IMHO, that is not a valid review and it destroys my respect for the reviewer. OTOH, it is certainly true that I know a lot of guys who would do just that, hose it up, and spend the rest of the fortnight ranting about how much Linux sucks, so perhaps it is a valid review :twisted:
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Re: My Linux Philosophy

Postby pad-thai on Wed Apr 15, 2009 2:40 pm

I disagree with the RTFM philosophy. When I came up, no question was considered stupid. We liked answering any and all questions, because it was considered giving back. After all, we're all newbies at sometime.

It was in the late 80s that I first noticed a change in the Unix community. A lot of people began answering noobs with RTFM. Seemed childish to me. Seemed more like a way of saying you're better than someone than anything else. In most cases, it took less time to answer the question than to diss the person who asked it. This attitude has only grown in the Linux world, in my opinion.

Its too bad, too, beacuse, like it or not, people without much computer knowledge are trying Linux. I think its better to help them than to piss them off.
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Re: My Linux Philosophy

Postby dlkreations on Thu Apr 16, 2009 4:01 pm

I agree to an extent, but for me personally I prefer "on the job training" so to speak. Sometimes you can learn quite a bit just by getting your hands dirty. At my job which is in the corrugating industry (boxes) I am an information specialist, but I also do other things such as roll stock and what-not. They wanted me to learn the ins and outs of corrugated boxes. Books and manuals on the subjects that the company provided was a good source on information, but I learned a lot more by just diving into it.

I think it also depends on the individual too. A lot of people are bookworms and get a lot of experience from books/manuals, but there are also others who get the gist of it just by getting into it.

I think someone on the Ubuntu forums had a link in his signature that referred to people as Information Vampires or something like that; I can't remember exactly. Basically all they were there for was to get people to figure out their problems for them. In that aspect, I abhor those people because they are unwilling to learn it for themselves and think the whole "Google is your friend" motto is utter rubbish. For me, I will search and search until I find the answer for myself, which is why you don't see me asking a lot of questions here. If I can't find the answer, then yeah I will ask, but only until I have exhausted all other resources.

"RTFM" can be rude at times, but only if someone asks a question and that is the only reply they get. I suppose it all comes down to presentation. I could tell someone "Go read the manual/man pages." - or - "Hey have you tried out the man pages?"

It's all about presentation and how willing someone is to assist. I mean seriously, we don't want to be like the Mac fanatics who think that they are God. We're in a community that cares about the members (or at least we should be), and having that mentality of others will turn a lot of people off.
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Re: My Linux Philosophy

Postby AK Dave on Thu Apr 16, 2009 5:30 pm

This is a healthy discussion. :)

I agree that spitting out "RTFM" to some question, however silly the question may be and however easily the question is answered by typing 'man mount' or 'mount --help', is generally NOT helpful. The first time I discovered that '-?' was a useful parameter to pass to an application, a light went on in my head. The first time I discovered the 'man' command, I spent hours and hours doing man this and man that like it was some great library of untouched wisdom when in fact the "wisdom" was merely untouched by me.

So when someone asks the most basic of questions, they probably truly do not know how easy the answer likely is. But how many people actually use 'Help' in MS Word? Typical Windows user: never.

I do believe in the OJT approach. But OJT has to include some hard work, sweat equity, and willingness to learn. Or it doesn't count. Please, you have to be willing to put forth the minimum level of effort on your own because I cannot physically hold the toilet paper for you. And the OJT approach has to include some basic willingness to at least ATTEMPT to solve your own problems, or at least TRY to figure out the answer for yourself. So often, too often, finding the answer is as easy as google. So often, too often, the answer is right there in the wiki or in a linuxmint.com/forum how-to article. Or in the install guide. It is readily documented and easy to access, but blissfully ignored.

There are multiple ways of learning. Reading books, manpages, wikis, and manuals is just one. So yes, "RTFM" can be rude. Can be. Doesn't have to be. Isn't always intended as such. But can be.

You could eliminate those 4 letters from my "philosophy" statement and it would still be just as true. I included them more for punchline, for dramatic effect, but they're totally unnecessary. The fundamental statement is that if you want to do something worth doing, start with the basics.
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Re: My Linux Philosophy

Postby dlkreations on Thu Apr 16, 2009 6:37 pm

Your reply is spot on and I agree with you wholeheartedly. A lot of new users in all honesty, don't know about the 'man' pages and the plethora of information that they contain. Definitely much more informative than anything Microsoft ever produced with their "/?" command during the DOS days. But then again, their commands did the job they needed to at the time.

It's not much with the holding the paper argument versus the actual wiping that can be involved when helping someone. Don't get me wrong though, there are those times when a helping hand is needed, but it's the continuous hand holding that's the problem. Everyone has to start somewhere, but there is also that time when the mother needs to let go and let her children "learn to fly" and fend for themselves.

Yeah the whole "RTFM" philosophy doesn't need to be set to those simple 4 letters, but there are a ton of abbreviations that are those same simple 4 letters too. One that is widely used is KISS (keep it simple stupid, for those that don't know). I do like the whole help vampire thing though. In fact I did a search and found the site I was referring to. It's an interesting read. Check it out.
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Re: My Linux Philosophy

Postby FedoraRefugee on Thu Apr 16, 2009 6:43 pm

My only problem with RTFM is that most man pages leave you more mystified than you were before you read them. However, that is usually my first recourse when trying to figure out how to USE something. But I prefer RTFF where the last F stands for forum. All the answers are in forums, it just might take a while to dig up what you need. Google is your friend and there is no reason to be distro specific in most cases. I cannot tell you how many Fedora issues I have solved with the Gentoo forum.

I hate to say this and I am really not complaining, but the 3 or 4 questions I have asked on this forum have not been resolved. That is okay though, because with enough time searching I have been able to find the answers. When I was in my prime in the Fedora forum I would log in, find posts with 0 replies and pick one at a time to make their problem my own. I would then use the forum search and if that failed I would resort to Google. 9 out of 10 times I would solve their problem within 15 minutes and I learned a lot in the process. Guru? Lol! I just know how to search. :)
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Re: My Linux Philosophy

Postby exploder on Fri Apr 17, 2009 10:35 am

Guru? Lol! I just know how to search. :)


The same holds true for me too! No one knows all the answers, knowing how to find them is the key to success.
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Re: My Linux Philosophy

Postby pad-thai on Sat Apr 18, 2009 1:57 pm

I think you're still missing the point. This isn't OJT. Its not the job of the average computer user to know computers. We now live in a world where computers, and operating systems, are commodity items. Most people don't want to know how the kernel works. They just want to use the computer to write a letter. Kind of like how I want my toaster to toast bread. I don't want to have to be a EE to get my bread toasted. I don't want to be a Mech E to get my car to run.

Sure these people don't know how to dig, to use google, to research. That's what the rest of us learned in school, and they didn't. How to dig. How to find out. When I go down to the Chrysler dealership, I want to be able to ask. I don't want them to tell me to RTFM. Computers, automobiles, both are complex systems. Its the same thing.

I think the problem in the Linux community is that they still think this is CS. Its not. Not anymore, no matter how much they dislike it. Its a complex item that people with no knowledge of the subject want to use. I wish we could cater to those people more. Otherwise, they will end up using Windows, and that's not the best OS they could use. I don't want to scare them away. Its not their responsibility to come to us. Its ours to come to them.
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Re: My Linux Philosophy

Postby Fred on Sun Apr 19, 2009 12:40 am

pad-thai,

I am afraid you and I categorically disagree. But that is ok. We will just have to agree to disagree. :-)

I am not after changing or reforming the world. I gave that up long ago. I volunteer in my community and on this forum for only one selfish reason. I enjoy seeing people learn. That is my reward, and what I need to continue doing it.

I am not interested in the lazy or the unmotivated. As far as I am concerned they can go back to whence they came.

For those that only want it to work like they think it should without the willingness or commitment to learn, there are two options. Return to something you know already or purchase paid support/configuration services. That is the way Windows works, why would you expect anything different from Linux? Most Windows users have never installed and configured Windows from scratch. Why on earth would they expect to be able to install and configure Linux without having to learn anything?

Oh well... Life is still good. :-)

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Re: My Linux Philosophy

Postby pad-thai on Sun Apr 19, 2009 8:36 am

Fred,

Glad you could join us.

I gave up changing the world a long time ago, too. But when its a simple difference between an OS thats sold just to make money, and one that gives a ****, I pick the latter.

What few seem to understand is that computers are no longer part of the closed world of computer science. They are mainstream now, and a lot of people are using them who have neither the time or inclination to learn all the details. Its not a matter of being unmotivated, unless you think the world revolves only around computers. Let me put it this way: the next time you have to fix your furnace, or your car, or your phone, don't talk to me unless I feel you are sufficiently motivated to learn the technical details. That's the elitism in the Linux community which everyone seems to be in denial about.

I expected something different from Linux because that's what they told me to expect. Then when the going got tough, the Linux community backed off and covered their ass. I have no respect for that.

I guess we WILL have to agree to disagree.
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Re: My Linux Philosophy

Postby FedoraRefugee on Sun Apr 19, 2009 10:31 am

pad-thai wrote:I think you're still missing the point. This isn't OJT.

Sure these people don't know how to dig, to use google, to research. That's what the rest of us learned in school, and they didn't. How to dig. How to find out. When I go down to the Chrysler dealership, I want to be able to ask. I don't want them to tell me to RTFM. Computers, automobiles, both are complex systems. Its the same thing.


Excellent conversation. You both depict the two different trends of thought here. I will pipe in and while I completely agree with Fred here that does not male one side right or the other wrong. Just two different points of view.

No for a home desktop, a consumer item Linux should not be treated as OJT. Nor should one have to pour through crypitc man pages that they will not understand. However, what are the options here? If a company is going to sell Linux on their product then they will have to offer some kind of support.

Your next point I completely disagree with and I can almost write a thesis paper on the difference in learning between previous generations and the generation that has come up in the internet age. Up until the serious adoption of the WWW, about the year 1995-2000, we used to have to learn "facts." This has now changed. While we still need to know how to apply facts the key to life is now not knowing facts but finding facts. Why do I need to memorize the preamble to the constitution? I can Google it within seconds. I do not need to know about Vasco de Gama, if he ever comes up I can have his life story at my fingertips in less than a few heartbeats. Need to know how to tie a Windsor knot? Not a problem! The point is these people SHOULD know how to do these searches. Can I fix my Chrysler? Actually, yes, but but the point is can I find out about what is wrong with my Chrysler myself from my home computer? Most likely, and I can even order the new OEM parts I need. If I am not qualified to fix it myself, which I admittedly would not try to do on a newer car, I at least have half a clue when I do take it in to the dealer. It is the information age, it is all about people acquiring knowledge.

I think the problem in the Linux community is that they still think this is CS. Its not. Not anymore, no matter how much they dislike it. Its a complex item that people with no knowledge of the subject want to use. I wish we could cater to those people more. Otherwise, they will end up using Windows, and that's not the best OS they could use. I don't want to scare them away. Its not their responsibility to come to us. Its ours to come to them.


How is it MY responsibility? I dont give a flip what OS they use either!!! I paid my dues brother, I WANTED to learn Linux because I liked what it was. I learned, I joined forums, I read a ton of material, I progressed through trial and error and because Linux is evolving I have to continue to learn new things. THIS IS WHAT LINUX IS ABOUT! Linus never intended it to be a desktop for the masses. It is about freedom and flexibility but freedom comes at a price brother.

pad-thai wrote: Let me put it this way: the next time you have to fix your furnace, or your car, or your phone, don't talk to me unless I feel you are sufficiently motivated to learn the technical details. That's the elitism in the Linux community which everyone seems to be in denial about.


Bull! If you want to fix your furnace, your car or your phone yourself then you should be prepared to learn the technical details. In fact, I do not see how you can possible fix the problem without learning, at least on a basic level, what you are doing. Otherwise either take it to someone, or call someone in, who is an expert and can fix your problem and guarantee their work. Computers are no different. We had a dude in the Fedora forum who was asking about his options to have a custom computer built. So many of us kindly told him to just order a barebones kit and build it himself. He kept insisting he did not want a science project. We tried to explain that it is a simple matter of twisting a screwdriver, that it couldnt be any easier. My 8 year old just built his current computer. Okay, I had to help with the front panel connections, he is still too ham handed at his age. And of course I went behind him to make sure things were solid. But he did it all himself. My point is if you want to get into something like Linux then you should, by extension, be willing to learn. Otherwise, beside your personal dislike for Microsoft, why not use Windows? I use Vista myself, and I like it. It is a great OS. It is fully supported, any computer shop can fix things if I cannot, programs are designed to run on Windows, devices are designed to work with Windows, and the whole world runs Windows making it THE compatible OS. I am sorry, from the standpoint of someone who will not bother to learn to utilize the advantages of using Linux they might as well use Windows. It is the better OS for them, the only advantage Linux has is it is free, but if you cannot use it then what is the point. Elitist? Bologna! realistic!

I expected something different from Linux because that's what they told me to expect. Then when the going got tough, the Linux community backed off and covered their ass. I have no respect for that.


Covered my ass? From what? Are you going to fire me? I work for nobody! Linux is a hobby. It is for most of us home desktop users. Are we an elite community? Sure, we walked through the fire, faced the learning curve and learned how to use this OS! You bet! Some of us are better than others, some are satisfied with just a very basic knowledge. But Linux is unsupported, we have to provide our own support. Let me tell you something, I am through with trying to spoon feed people. I spent the last 5 years in the Fedora forum, under the handle JN4OldSchool, helping others. I enjoyed my time, I learned and I gave back. But see how many I have helped in here. I admit it, I am done. I am here to BS, to discuss ideas. I will drop a quick post if I know an answer, but I no longer go out of my way. Why? Because the answers already exist and they are getting very easy to find. Google IS your friend, and the first step is RTFM. If you cannot be bothered then why should I? If someone wants to offer me a job, on a commission basis, for sitting here answering stupid noob questions that the answer could be found in the wiki then I am all ears! Otherwise, I owe you nothing. I will help when I can and when I feel motivated because that is the spirit of the community, but even though the OS is free you do not get something for nothing.
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Re: My Linux Philosophy

Postby Fred on Sun Apr 19, 2009 11:20 am

pad-thai wrote
people are using them, (computers), who have neither the time or inclination to learn all the details... the next time you have to fix your furnace, or your car, or your phone, don't talk to me unless I feel you are sufficiently motivated to learn the technical details.


Ok... I agree the first part of your quote is certainly true. The first thing that comes to mind is that these people took time and had the inclination to learn Windows, at least to the extent necessary to use it on some level. Why is it unrealistic for them to be expected to do the same when it comes to using Linux? It isn't necessary to be a CS major to use Linux. The most difficult part is the installation and configuration on their hardware. Once set-up a Linux desktop, I think, is easier to use on a day-to-day basis than a Windows desktop. It is just different.

Since most Windows users have never even attempted to install and set-up a Windows box from scratch on random hardware, it shouldn't come as a surprise that they have insufficient knowledge to do the same with Linux. The solution seems obvious to me. The new user either commits to learning how to install and configure Linux, pays someone else to do it for them, as they do/did with Windows, or forgets the whole thing and goes back to Windows. Since I don't do this for pay, if new users don't wish to learn, we have nothing to talk about. It may sound harsh but it is the truth. Listening to people complain because it doesn't work the way they think it should, or blaming Linux for their own lack of knowledge doesn't help the new user and just puts me in a bad mood. It serves no useful purpose. This is especially true in a forum setting. In real life I do do some unpaid support for friends, relatives, etc. where little if any learning occurs but that is hard to accomplish in a forum setting because to start with you can't physically do it for them.

The next time I want you to fix my car I will either gratefully accept your tutelage to learn to make the repairs myself, or I will pay you the going rate to wave your magic wand over it and make it all well again. :-) What I won't do is princess and complain because the car doesn't work the way I think it should or because I can't fix it by some divine intervention.

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Re: My Linux Philosophy

Postby AK Dave on Mon Apr 20, 2009 1:26 am

pad-thai wrote:Its not the job of the average computer user to know computers.


The average computer user doesn't attempt to install his/her OS onto some random mis-mash of hardware and expect it to work perfectly with 6 mouse clicks and 20 minutes of disc chatter. But thats what Linux attempts to do these days. Not Windows. Not OSX. No, a Windows OEM install is just as tweaked and tuned for a specific set of hardware as an OSX install. A "boxed" Windows install should work, minimally, but will probably require considerable driver tweaking.

My favorite example would be a brand new Toshiba laptop, straight from the store, preloaded with Vista, and you want to install a "boxed" XP Pro onto it. Good luck with the drivers, bub. Job for average computer user? Not unless you do a little homework.

And "do a little homework" is all I ask. Don't expect me, or Fred, or anybody else, to do all of your thinking for you. My "philosophy", if you'll call it that, really boils down to the fact that you need to be willing and able to put forth the minimum amount of effort to make yourself helpable.

Perhaps the ideal would be a self-installing self-extracting self-downloading OS that automatically configures itself, requires no input, gets it right every time, and works on every possible random combination of hardware bits. We're not there yet. If thats what you expect, buy a Mac.
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