Our best foot forward

Patrick optomatic at rogers.com
Thu Nov 15 13:55:03 UTC 2007

Hi Martin and list

Thanks for your words of encouragement, I needed that.

Martin I would love to work with you on what I guess would be an 
all-in-one helper application. I can program in Python too although my 
GTK is still weak. I can only contribute about 2-3 hours a week as I am 
already working 60-70 and up in the night with my baby.

Your ideas are great, however I now believe mine is not.

Onno's suggestion of placing the dpkg-reconfigure -plow command in 
Synaptic is a good one. Emmet's point about keeping the packages in sync 
is important. With regards to "helper scripts" I have two suggestions. 
One why don't we add another option in Synaptic under the right click 
option. After mark-unmark-remove etc why don't we add configure? This 
could launch the dpkg-reconfigure -plow command. New users could then be 
led through the post installation script again and again without having 
to go to the command line.

Two, I think these post installation scripts could be improved. The 
biggest problem with Linux developers is they are too smart and they 
have been that way for too long. There are hundreds of millions of us 
dumbasses and we outnumber you a million to one.

We need to get the post installation scripts out of the hands of the 
"smart-for-a-long-time" crowd and into the hands of the 
"suffered-through-this-recently" crowd. These scripts are terse and 
assume too much user knowledge. This goes for the few options they 
provide. They also do not have enough options and they are often ugly as 
they often use cdialog and dialog. If the packaging team could have a 
wing for users/programmers of my caliber I think this would help. I can 
write scripts but I remember clearly the difficulties I had as a new 
user not so long ago.

The all-in-one help program might not have to have my "helper scripts" 
but it is still sorely needed. I just visited the "help and support 
menu" after not using it for a while. It is a lot better then the last 
time I was there. Perhaps we should just add to it rather then making a 
new application.

Again I am not sure how the other members here got started with Ubuntu 
but for me it was just the internet, no family or friends.

Has Canonical carried out studies with new users of different technical 
abilities? This might be a good thing to do. After a Newbie installs 
Ubuntu where do they go first? How is their experience in the first 
hour. To woe Windows users I think the first hour or so needs to be 
entirely painless.

If the new user was greeted with a splash screen that pointed them to 
the "help and support menu" then we could channel them in the right 

The help menu could point to online resources. As Emmet was saying this 
is were they belong. Both in terms of keeping things up to date and for 
marketing as it gives us better web presence. However if the links were 
in the help menu, we could point users to resources that are Ubuntu 
specific. Remember my "manual compiling troubles" I ran into reading 
other Distro tutorials?

I would love to help the with post installation scripts or with 
additions to the help and support menu. However if there are hardware 
issues that need to be addressed then that might also be a spot I can 
better contribute to. I am presently learning to reverse engineer 
Windows drivers.

I am doing this because I am determined to write a laboratory instrument 
control App. Once I get it off the ground I will be able to pay others 
to make it better. The analytical instrument market is approximately a 
20 billion dollar industry. It is largely software driven. The software 
is expensive(2K to 40K+) and the licensing arrangements are downright 
criminal. Ubuntu and other open source Apps could make a huge impact 
here and Linux's ability to customize and Linux's permission system 
would fit right into a lab environment.

I have some money to spend on this and I can dedicate a significant 
amount of time to this sort of thing. There is lots of focus on getting 
consumer products like scanners and printers to work with Linux but how 
about the non consumer products? This is were the money really is. I 
just wrote a Python script to control a robot that is used in a lab for 
a University in England. In this case the hardware requirements were 
pathetic, especially considering the robot is nearly 7K. The robot could 
not accept commands at greater then 300 baud and it uses a big old 25 
pin DB connector.. The manufacturer of the robot wants to charge >2K U.S 
for an application that does next to nothing. Lab managers would line up 
to pay money for open source Apps. If anyone else is interested in this 
sort of thing please let me know-Patrick

Martin Owens wrote:
> Hi Patrick,
> I've been reading your emails all day, good to see some real humans
> putting the common mans point of view across. It would have been great
> if you were at UDS (ubuntu developers summit) as the Canonical
> employed developers don't like to talk about new features once the
> summit is over (they have quite a lot of work to do).
> But this doesn't mean that you couldn't set up the project to do the
> help program and I think I even know the kinds of programs you need. A
> language analyser, an indexer, an easy way to enter answers to
> problems and share them online when required. And I'd be quite willing
> to work with you developping such an application using python and put
> it on the gnome task bar for easy access.
> Sometimes a lot of the developers act dismissive but they're really
> challenging people who ask for new ideas to be implemented to sort of
> get on with it and show them with results (as a lot fo them are very
> busy)
> let me know what you think,
> Best Regards, Martin Owens
> On 14/11/2007, Patrick <optomatic at rogers.com> wrote:
>> Hi Onno and list
>> I am beginning to  feel like I am becoming a pain in the butt. I don't
>> mean to be, I just want to help. I don't seem to be able to explain
>> myself very well.
>> I see what you are saying about mark by task and the dpkg-reconfigure
>> command but this brings up two more "trains of thought".
>> First I am an intermediate user and I did not know of either of these
>> facts. I can now manually edit configuration files without much effort
>> but I did not know of either of these features when I was not able to.
>> These features are not obvious to the new user and it is the new user
>> that needs them.
>> The mark by task feature is nice but it is still package centric. It
>> does not provide configuration assistance beyond what the packers included.
>> I have read through more then one rant on the internet about Totem.  I
>> believe one of the ranters said something like
>> "whose job is it to explain this" referring to the modest set of codecs
>> that come with it by default.
>> I have written several emails today on this topic. I am sorry if I have
>> wasted  peoples valuable time with this thread. I guess I have not been
>> able to express myself well.
>> Let me try one more time.
>> I think these topics are "package centric"
>> 1)Question=I want to install a cd burning utility
>> Answer=Synaptic multi-media section or type in cd burning utility in
>> Synaptic search bar.
>> 2)Question=I want to install a LAMP server
>> Answer=Select mark by task in Synaptic and choose LAMP
>> I think these are "configuration centric"
>> 3)Question=I want to configure my NFS server
>> Answer= manually edit configuration file or use dpkg-reconfigure -plow
>> to launch configuration script.
>> 4)Question=Why can't Totem play WMV files?
>> Answer= for legal reasons we can't install the codecs by default. You
>> will need to install them manually elsewhere.
>> Synaptic can answer all the "package centric" questions but I don't see
>> an easy solution for the new user for the configuration centric"
>> questions. Having the dpkg-reconfigure option built into Synaptic would
>> help a lot but it would not solve question #4.  A utility to provide
>> answers and helper scripts for configuration issues  ad FAQs might be
>> helpful. Somewhere facts such as Totem does not come with such and such
>> codecs need to be expressed. There should be someplace simple for all of
>> this to happen. It should not happen in the man pages and it would be
>> nice if people did not have to search on the net for this information. I
>> don't really know what to call it but perhaps a Q & A / interactive
>> tutorial utility could provide quick guidance to new users. It could
>> help them through these topics quickly and we could put our best foot
>> forward.
>> Good night everyone, I'm going to bed-Patrick
>> Onno Benschop wrote:
>>> All of what you write exists:
>>>     * A package that is not installed but run from the bash prompt is
>>>       captured with a comment like "The program 'foobar' is currently
>>>       not installed. You can install it by typing: sudo apt-get install
>>>       foobar"
>>>       This functionality should be installed by default (not sure from
>>>       which version of Ubuntu), but if you don't have that
>>>       functionality, then the command-not-found package will activate
>>>       it: sudo apt-get install command-not-found
>>>     * You can view tasks in Synaptic by choosing Edit -> Mark Packages
>>>       by Task...
>>>     * To reconfigure a package: sudo dpkg-reconfigure foobar, perhaps it
>>>       would be useful to add this functionality to Synaptic.
>>> Your 'compiling packages' example, while understandable, is in my
>>> opinion misplaced. You would not consider this option in Windows or OSX
>>> for the vast majority of end-users and even system administrators. That
>>> you're using documentation for Linux and applying it to Ubuntu is akin
>>> to using documentation for PalmOS and applying it to Symbian.
>>> I'm not saying that you cannot compile stuff in Ubuntu, that is
>>> obviously possible, but it's also possible on most other operating
>>> systems. Many users coming from non-Debian based Linux environments come
>>> with the 'baggage' of needing to compile things. That's not the
>>> Debian-way, nor is it the Ubuntu-way for many reasons - too wide to go
>>> into here right now.
>>> So, again it comes back to documentation and education.
>>> Personally I think this kind of conversation is healthy and useful
>>> within Ubuntu. I cannot speak for others in this community, but your
>>> comments are constructive and thoughtful and in my opinion you should
>>> not be ashamed of your contributions. Ultimately the pilot of a 747
>>> needed to fly solo for the first time. Said another way, to be
>>> experienced requires experience.
>> --
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