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

Bart Silverstrim bsilver at chrononomicon.com
Wed May 21 13:34:18 UTC 2008

Steve Lamb wrote:
> Bart Silverstrim wrote:
>> Les Mikesell wrote:
>>> 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 :-)
>     Or screen, which is CLI.  Or variables, which are programming.  ;)

Somehow I knew those would come up. I do think that these access methods 
are used less today by newer administrators, though. X is maturing and 
hardware is advancing to the point where it's not such a novelty on the 
average home computer.

>> Or I put two windows side by side comparing items visually.
>     vimdiff, absolute godsend.  I recently had an upgrade where the patch
> files overwrote custom modifications by an admin long since gone.  I was
> facing digging through about 30-40Mb of JSP source, hundreds of files... and
> did I mention I didn't know the language?

Very handy. I'm not saying that the CLI should be eliminated or 
something can't be done with the CLI, I'm just saying that there are 
tasks that I find simpler in the GUI. Dealing with permissions under NT 
from the command line I find more difficult than using a graphical tool. 
Performing mass copies of directories while excluding particular names I 
find easier. Remembering obscure options I often find easier when the 
application can be very simple or very complex (like NMap).

>> 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.  But would you say that CLI's the _only_ way one should browse
> hi-res photos or would you concede that maybe a remotely displayed display
> (program name, not a double word there, honest) which is CLI might be useful?

Of course. I right now have three SSH sessions running to do a couple 
file transfers and tars over multiple servers, along with this message 
being sent by a remote X session of Thunderbird.

>> Preferences are. But there are other benchmarks that can be applied. 
>> Usability studies and interface research aren't based on magic.
>     They should be.  KDE4 is absolutely abysmal when it comes to usability.

I've heard. I think programmers tend to worry more about scratching 
their personal itches than making a product for general use across a 
wider range of expertise. Everyone's building their own bikeshed.

<snip>Hogwash.  It's
> an easily learned UI.  A good UI lets people do more as they /learn more/.
> The CLI is not an easily learned UI but I could not trade the absolute raw
> power it affords me.

Intuitiveness is a part of a decent interface :-)

>     A simple anecdote on the difference between easy and good.  Notepad is
> easy, I don't think anyone would refute that.  Good?  Not a chance.  

Good for what? I don't mind it for simple simple things. Just scratching 
a note. Converting some text to simple plain text. Typing onto someone's 
display when remotely operating someone's desktop. Not for novel 
writing, though.

Depends on the task/goal.

 >The prime
> example is the day when a coworker of mine was scripting something in batch
> (that's another story) to update the background image on 300+ machines.  He
> had a list of machines, one per line, and was culling the cruft and prepending
> the copy command one at a time.

True, not fun when it gets to be a big list. I have seen a workaround 
involving Excel and a save as then using a search and replace.

>     After watching him for 3 minutes I was getting frustrated and said, "mind
> if help you with that?"  Got a copy on my machine, loaded it into vim:
> :%s/.*\(A\d+\).*/copy image.jpg \\\\\1/g
>     Is that easy UI?  Hell no.  Did it take me a while to learn a third
> dialect of regex (Perl, Python, vim, in that order).  Oh you bet it did.  But
> with 20 /seconds/ of work I saved him over an hour of "easy" UI grunt work.

I knew you were going to cite this kind of example :-)

I agree. You had an excellent fix to it. But it also still meant that 
investment you already conceded, the time to learn the other regex 
language. I would say that while you did have a great fix, the other 
(search and replace after a spreadsheet) was more convoluted but very 
understandable and simple in concept and less error prone from 
whoopsy-fingers on the keyboard.

>     But here's the real catch.  Imagine if he had spent 1 hour learning the
> "hard" and therefore "bad" UI.  How much work would he have saved in him the
> months prior and the months since?

It would be handy. As long as he kept it polished in his memory. I have 
trouble remembering things like Cisco commands since I rarely use the 
routers. Make a mistake and it can have repercussions.

Sometimes I think that text gurus...not pointing fingers, I'm making a 
generalization from observations...have spent a lot of time and 
investment in learning their way around bash/cshsh/etc. and now they 
hold a more sophisticated version of 133tness, a badge of honor or a 
certification of a form of fraternal hazing that they feel allows them 
to look down on others who aren't whipping out Vi to solve every problem 
in system administration. Because of this they will argue vehemently 
that anyone wanting to use an occasional GUI wizard is a mental 
defective not worthy of an entry in the sodoers file.

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