[nSLUG] Time to upgrade the server OS...

Donald Teed dteed at artistic.ca
Sat Sep 18 00:25:10 ADT 2004

On Fri, 17 Sep 2004, Steven R. Baker wrote:

> I meant admin.  When people say "Hey, what's the best GNU/Linux dist?" I
> say "Debian!" and when they say "Which one should I use?" I say
> "Something else!"
> Debian is awesome.  I love it for me.  I love it for everyone that uses
> it that can manage.  But Debian just isn't ready for Joe average user.
> And I'm not sure I want it to.  We may have to sacrifice too much to
> appeal to the folks that want a GUI Installer and pretty icons.

A GUI installer can include everything you do in a text based
installer, or it can include a 2 path design so that people who want
the text based one can still have it.  We are all going to get
the nice icons in any distro.  There is nothing wrong with that
just as there is nothing wrong in making use of more than 256 colors
if that is what the world is using.

Where a GUI can help is in configuring mundane aspects.
I don't know how many people can configure a printer as
quickly by hand editing files as they can by using CUPS
(not just copying a configuration from an existing setup
but writing one out from scratch).  Likewise for the attempt
I saw within Redhat to configure DNS server settings,
or within Xandros to configure wireless settings, or in
Samba with swat, or within the XF86Free -configure script.
Looking up syntax, keywords, man pages, O'Reilly books, etc,
consumes more time than is really needed to make these things work
and you just can't know it all, 100% of the time.

The key issue, is whether the configuration *remains accessible*
in plain text files that a human can tweak if needed.
No databases, and no binary config formats should crept into
how a Linux box is configured and maintained.

Another aspect that many of us don't see, is that young people
who enter into this, have one heck of a learning curve to
master.  Many of us absorbed our knowledge of *nix starting
prior to Linux, and we cut out teeth on shell scripting,
learning vi, file system manipulation, etc., before advancing
into anything related to sysadmin work.  I can remember
spending a few hours in an evening just working on
crafting an XF86Config file on a dual boot P166 with dial up.
Someone entering into this stuff today might not
ever tweak their own XF86Config other than to possibly
enable a wheel mouse with something copy and pasted from
the Internet.  The knowledge we have on the syntax,
nomenclature, commands and keystroke use, etc., has been
developed slowly over years of experience, starting in days before
much of today's stuff didn't exist.  In some
ways I think there is value in supplying workable
GUI front ends.  After all, the goal is for the
machines to interact with us in a way we can understand
natively.  Just as you'd get sick of a photocopier
that said "Error 1352" rather than "paper jam", there
is a real value in a tool like swat providing a
web form with linked context help next to each config variable.

In summary, I don't think the threat is from GUIs, as long
as they still provide access to all of the features and
are free from proprietary or non-standard config formats
specific to a distro.



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