Going forward [Re: Automatix?]

Michael T. Richter ttmrichter at gmail.com
Wed Mar 29 09:22:34 UTC 2006

> > > It could be extended to explain a LOT more
> > > about HOW such things are done, perhaps letting users actually do the
> > > tasks themselves. 


> > > AND it's a very
> > > educational experience because users learn a lot about  how computers
> > > work (and how a proper secure multi user system works, and WHY it works
> > > that way).
> > why on Earth do you think end-users
> > should need to know how computers work, how multi-user systems work
> > and how secure anythings work?

> Sorry, I was not advocating to try to teach them 'everything', merely
> the bare essentials they NEED to successfully use Ubuntu beyond just
> opening up Firefox and OpenOffice.   

My point is that users shouldn't have need to learn much of anything
beyond "this is how I get applications, this is how I run them".
Security need not be a part of the equation at all, for example.  And
multi-user anything is also pointless.  (Hint: I'm the only user of my
computer.  My wife is the only user of hers for all practical purposes.)
A well-designed system hides this stuff from the average end-user (while
still making it accessible to those interested in it -- this is one of
Windows' and MacOS' many failings).  You, originally at least, were
advocating the precise opposite: you were advocating how people should
be forced, essentially, to take a first-year computing class so they can
use their computers.  This is so bass-ackwards that I can't even begin
to explain why -- except to point out that every other field of
technology has simultaneously become more complex and easier to use;
only computers remain the exception.  (My telephone has more CPU
horsepower than my first PC did.  And to dial it I click on the call
button and say the name of the person I'm calling.)

> I'm talking a 10 minute explanation
> of where to get software ("Synaptic, not off the web yourself"), the
> difference between personal preferences and system-wide settings and why
> they need to enter their password (use sudo) to do those things.
> Really the bare minimum.

That's not teaching anything about how it works or how multi-user
systems work or how/why security works.  That's a set of use cases.
What you said originally was:

> > > It could be extended to explain a LOT more
> > > about HOW such things are done, perhaps letting users actually do the
> > > tasks themselves.

I read those very differently.

> Also we've seen that a big part of the problem is not even technical in
> nature but legal, but it DOES require explaining. (The restricted
> formats issue)

Again, your average end-user doesn't care.  At all.  They care whether
or not they can play their MP3s and DVDs "just like under Windows".
(Never mind that the only reason they can play their DVDs under Windows
is because their PC supplier added PowerDVD or the like to the mix --
they don't know and don't care.)  And if it comes to the price?  If
you're going to spend a thousand bucks on the hardware, spending a
hundred on the OS isn't a big deal to most.  Most end-users, again,
would rather pay for and illusory "hassle free" OS than one which is
perceived--quite rightly, IMO--as being actively user-hostile.

> > How many drivers know anything about cylinders, injectors,
> > turbo/superchargers, crankshafts, alternators, etc.?  

> Again, I'm not advocating to go that far. Merely getting them to a level
> where they know what to do when the windscreen wiper water runs out. And
> it will. :)

Average driver?  Will have a station attendant pour it in.  Personally,
I'd rather not risk getting grease on my hands/suit/shirt/whatever while
monkeying around under the hood.

> When you get beyond a point-and-click camera, you'll find yourself
> reading manuals, especially when you're new to photography.  

You're missing the point again.  The point-and-click camera is the
camera for 99% of the camera-using populace.  Pro-grade photographers
are few and far between.  The use case desired for most camera users is
"I point my camera, press the button and get a picture".  You and I may
want more (just like I want more out of my computer than Firefox and
OpenOffice.org2 Writer), but we're not the majority market.  We're not
even a sizable minority.

> > And here I'm seeing throwbacks to the dark ages saying that people
> > need to learn how computers work.  Why not just make them so that
> > people don't need to learn this crap?!

> Hear hear!!!! This was my position right up until last week, when it was
> pointed out to me that file-format patents and legal issues were the
> main problem and couldn't be easily solved through technical means. 

Then they have to be solved through other means.  Putting the burden on
the user to read Mystic Incantations<tm> from a guide of questionable
accuracy or to run a script written by a questionable programmer and
have your system break in a Deep Magic<tm> sort of way is definitely not
the right approach.  Hell, even a well-written guide of impeccable
accuracy is too much if it gets to Mystic Incantations<tm> levels.  (A
well-written script--I tried EasyUbuntu and was semi-impressed, for
example--would be a barely acceptable solution.)

Michael T. Richter
Email: ttmrichter at gmail.com, mtr1966 at hotpop.com
MSN: ttmrichter at hotmail.com, mtr1966 at hotmail.com; YIM:
michael_richter_1966; AIM: YanJiahua1966; ICQ: 241960658; Jabber:
mtr1966 at jabber.cn

"[Blacks] secrete less by the kidneys, and more by the glands of the
skin, which gives them a very strong and disagreeable odour." --Thomas
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