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

Les Mikesell lesmikesell at gmail.com
Wed May 21 16:17:17 UTC 2008

Bart Silverstrim 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.

If X works and you have a mouse it is always nicer to use than console 
mode - and you don't need to be on the same machine.  I usually work 
under the NX client with an X display from a different machine so I can 
suspend it and grab it from another location with all programs still 
running.  And those programs generally include xterms ssh'd to a dozen 
or more other machines.

>>> 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.

But it will probably do it wrong if you need exceptions to straight 
recursions and it doesn't give you a handy way to remember a big list of 
exceptions to apply again if you accidentally let a command recurse.

> Performing mass copies of directories while excluding particular names I 
> find easier.

Rsync is great at this - and doesn't care if the copy is local or remote.

> Remembering obscure options I often find easier when the 
> application can be very simple or very complex (like NMap).

Paste things into an editor and save them if you expect to need them again.

> <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 :-)

Consistency is more important in the long run.  Intuitiveness only 
matters on your first attempt.

>>     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.

Which, if you learned it 20 years ago, would probably have found a use 
every day since that you used a computer.

 > 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.

The fun thing about regexp changes in vi is that if you get them wrong 
you can hit 'u' and undo them.

>>     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.

Cisco is about as helpful as it gets with command line/text configs. 
Hit a ? and it gives a list of possible choices at that point, 
abbreviations are accepted if they are enough to uniquely identify the 
next word, and tab will do the completion for you.  But the thing they 
do that no one else gets right is that if you show a config it is listed 
_exactly_ as you would type it back in, so you can cut/paste from a 
working instances to the one you want to be similar.  Or you can tftp 
the whole configuration out to a text file, edit it, and tftp it back to 
the same or a different router.  Contrast that to what computers display 
with 'ifconfig', route, etc. commands vs. what you have to input to 
create that setup.  So the issue isn't just cli vs. gui, it is good 
design vs something that just happens to work.  It's usually somewhat 
easier to work around the bad designs in text mode, though.

> 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.

On the contrary.  People that have found a skill to be useful over a 
long term and in many situations are just likely to point out that 
others could easily have the same benefits, especially when the tools 
are free.  Text isn't exactly exotic. We'd have a little trouble with 
this conversation if you didn't know something about it.

> 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.

Learning to manipulate text is a generally useful skill, where learning 
which tab to click to un-hide the option that some version of some 
program needs to have changed this week isn't, unless that program turns 
out to have an unusually long life.

   Les Mikesell
    lesmikesell at gmail.com

More information about the ubuntu-users mailing list