Setting up a second monitor

Karl Auer kauer at
Fri Apr 21 11:44:58 UTC 2006

On Fri, 2006-04-21 at 20:54 +1000, Jean Hollis Weber wrote:
> My favourite example is the microwave oven. I don't need to know 
> anything whatsoever about how it works to make use of it. All I 
> need to know is which buttons to push, in which sequence. So in 
> that sense I need to know "something", but what I need to know 
> has nothing to do with what makes it work. Same for my mobile 
> (cell) phone, and every other household appliance I have. Heck, 
> even my automobile is in that category. I need to know how to 
> drive, but I don't need to know how an internal combustion engine 
> works.

I HATE that example. Someone who doesn't know how an internal combustion
motor works puts him/herself at risk, and the car too. Why not drive in
everywhere in second gear? Who cares how the brakes feel? What do those
odd sounds mean?

As to the microwave - why not put metal in it? Why not dry the cat in

Anything can be "explained" in terms of "what button to push", but the
simple fact is that in the long run, the MOST economical and MOST
effective way to learn to drive any machine is to first learn the basics
about how it does what it does. The more complex the machine, the more
true this is, because only with a knowledge of the basics can you have
any chance of figuring anything out for yourself.

If someone does not want (or simply cannot) learn the basics, then that
person will forever be getting nasty surprises, except with the simplest
of simple machines. Sadly, this appears to be the natural state of most
computer users.

It's a bit like the old chestnut "give someone a fish and you feed them
for a day, teach someone to fish and you feed them for life". You can't
learn fishing without knowing quite a lot about fish.

None of this should be taken to mean that documentation should not be
aimed at the current level of understanding and capability of the person
who will be using it. I just take exception to the idea that "press this
button" is sufficient with complicated systems like computers.

Regards, K.

Karl Auer (kauer at                   +61-2-64957160 (w/h)                  +61-428-957160 (mob)

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