[OT] Debian mailinglists [was: RE: Debian or Ubuntu?]

Derek Broughton news at pointerstop.ca
Tue May 20 15:51:37 UTC 2008

Avi Greenbury wrote:

> On Tue, 20 May 2008 10:56:28 -0300
> Derek Broughton <news at pointerstop.ca> wrote:
>> Especially.  That's apparently Ubuntu and Xorg's aim (at least to prevent
>> the necessity of editing - it's *nix, so you can't actually _prevent_
>> someone editing the files).  Haven't you noticed that we get a smaller
>> percentage of emails on these lists these days about X configuration than
>> we used to?  That's because people are needing to do much less hand
>> editing.
> Yes. Less necessary hand editing is always a good thing. But
> hand-editing is sometimes the ideal solution IMO.
> I much prefer quickly changing, say, the resolution value in my
> xorg.conf file than running dpkg-reconfigure and *hoping* that
> somewhere along the way it'll ask me. 

But again, that's a deficiency in dpkg-reconfigure (actually debconf) and
not an argument against configuration tools in general.
>> > 
>> > Or a web server to which one has no physical access?
>> Again, yes.  Apache is less of a problem than some servers, in that I can
>> hand edit the configs and test them before restarting Apache, but I'd be
>> a lot happier with a tool that didn't let me write invalid config files
>> in the first place.
> A tool that won't let you write invalid config files is not necessarily
> a Q+A tool.

Indeed - but you'd have to convince me that there was actually a more
efficient way to do it.  I cited visudo which actually prevents you from
saving the sudoers file if it's not valid, but I consider that a
half-solution.  Especially for something as simple as sudoers - you only
need to know: who can have privilege, from what hosts, and what commands
they can use.  That just cries out for a Q&A system.

> I very much like the idea of one that doesn't let me write invalid
> files, but I also don't want to have to respond to potentially badly
> worded questions. And what if my language isn't supported? 

That's still an argument against specific implementations, and not the
concept of GUI config tools.

> To edit 
> config files by hand just requires that I understand the contents of
> the text file, 

And that's the problem.  Most configuration changes are performed by users
who have, at best, a _vague_ understanding of the contents of the text

> and have an editor that understands the characters. To 
> edit config files by Q+A requires that I understand the language in
> which I am being asked.

I'm sure you're more experienced in the hazards of i18n than I am, as I'm
unilingually english, but I don't see that the situation is any different. 
You have to learn the meaning of the values in the config file, or you have
to learn the meaning of the questions you're asked.  Either one is going to
present problems to people not using the native language of the
application. However, the questions in a gui _can_ be presented in the
user's language, the config file settings _can't_.

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