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

Les Mikesell lesmikesell at gmail.com
Wed May 21 02:30:52 UTC 2008

Bart Silverstrim wrote:
>>> I don't have 100 servers, but I have had a fair number of systems to 
>>> configure and quite frankly I find a mix to be most appropriate. The 
>>> command line is slick and fast (as long as I've already learned about 
>>> and know what I am doing). But it gets *unwieldy* when I have a two or 
>>> three line set of commands because of long paths or redirects, for 
>>> example. 
>> But after you have done it once, you can just recall that command and 
>> edit it into ssh commands to your other machines, paste it into shell 
>> windows running remotely, or paste it into a text file or script for the 
>> next time you need to do it.
> And backspace to where in the line I need one subtle change from what I 
> just executed previously... :-)

Errr, you didn't know bash has multiple command line editing modes?  In 
that case I'd probably paste long or multiple lines into an editor and back.

>>> I have had tasks that are easier with a few typed commands. I've had 
>>> some where it's just easier for me to work with a tree of objects. Ever 
>>> try navigating the Windows registry by command line? Painful, with some 
>>> hive and key names.
>> But if you have that path in a text file, it becomes a cut/paste
> Are you talking about this operation being done in X? Because that would 
> also technically be utilizing a GUI to assist in the administration :-)

You can do some cut/paste type operation on console mode but I prefer X 
with multiple windows since it is easier to see multiple copies of 
things and cut/paste among them whether local or remote.  I don't mind a 
GUI "assisting" at all.  I'm only arguing that it isn't going to be 
smarter than you are or better at doing similar things in lots of places.

>>> Graphically, it's a cinch, plus easier to compare 
>>> two or more keys.
>> How is anything easier to compare than what diff will do to text files 
>> or a directory of them?
> Honestly? Because I have had cases where I'm scrolling through a listing 
> of a large number of things and the scrolling becomes a solid pattern, 
> and the thing I'm looking for is an anomaly.

diff file1 file2 |less
  now you can use vi-like commands to search and move around
But it is rare for me to have more than a screen of changes in one shot 
even in an enormous config file like squid.

> Or I put two windows side by side comparing items visually.

There are an assortment of diff tools to do this. But the point is that 
they hide the unchanged parts for you.  If you run two copies of a GUI 
config tool side by side to compare, you still have to wade through 
every screen, and there may be many, hunting for the differences 
yourself.  On something that mattered, I'd be using cvs or svn and could 
use their diff  tools or 'viewvc' against the repository to provide a 
nice side-by-side color-coded diff view of any two versions ever committed.

>> One problem is that GUI's don't have a way to repeat multiple 
>> operations.  Or if they do, their programming language in no way 
>> resembles their interactive language, where with the command line and 
>> shell, a script is exactly the same as the interactive command plus you 
>> have some consistent tools for loops and substitutions if you want them.
> Okay GUIs aren't easily scriptable. That doesn't mean they're 
> fundamentally flawed for other tasks any more than saying that the 
> command line doesn't easily let me browse hi-res photos.

Agreed, they can be pretty good at presenting a large but not infinite 
number of choices with some context sensitive help.  But at some point 
you don't want interactivity, you want to give a command and be done 
with it.

>> The other is that the safety checks you expect from the GUI are only 
>> possible for things where there are a known number of choices.
> I guess I'm lost here on how the command line gives you more 
> safety...

They don't give you more safety unless you use some of the tools that 
you take for granted with text manipulation to verify the differences 
against your backup copy, etc.  But the command line doesn't give you a 
false sense of security either - soft of like not having training wheels 
on a bike.

> I've mistyped commands on the command line and hit <enter> to 
> accept the command out of just repetitive action, just like clicking the 
> <accept> button on installers without fully reading what the dialog had 
> to say...?

If it's that repetitive you should script it.

>> Preferences are subjective...
> Preferences are. But there are other benchmarks that can be applied. 
> Usability studies and interface research aren't based on magic.

But you need to revisit those preferences after you have some 
experience.  If you study what is best for an inexperienced user, you'll 
pick something that is wrong for most of their lives.

   Les Mikesell
     lesmikesell at gmail.com

> The tools and techniques often aren't a %100 fit. But on average you can 
> find trends against which to judge the tool.

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