[nSLUG] New User Advise

robert ashley at chebucto.ca
Tue May 10 10:57:36 ADT 2005

I appreciate what you're saying here, Gerard. I had it coming to me! 

But I'm sure you did't mean that I oughtn't expect to have a running
printer for a year or two. 

That said, what would you do in my shoes? I'm not really ready just yet
to throw in the towel, but I do welcome the criticism.

One of the challenges for the new learner of Linux, as I see it, is that
there is no established pedagogical practice. Experts thus approach
passing along their knowledge from multivarious, highly idiosyncratic or
localized angles. It's dizzying to a new user. Contrast this with the
study of, say, classical piano. This art cannot be less complex or less
difficult than the challenge of learning Linux, but there's a
well-established, historically rooted community of pedagogs and theories
of learning music. Generally it's effective and efficient. This pedagogy
is impressive to the extent that it can, and has, carried many a musical
dorkwad to a status of semi-competent musicianship. 

New Linux learners enter a diffuse, structureless sphere of knowledge,
and without clearly demarcated signposts, they must cobble and grope. It
appears to me that as people acquire some mastery they create their own
peculiar structure of knowledge. With that, however, comes local biases,
meaning people will tend to align what they think is important to learn
with what interests them most. A form of determinism. It's really
manifest in debates between champions of this or that distribution.  

This idea of learning Linux squares with that metaphor of the 'cathedral
and the bazaar'. It need not refer only to o/s progress in development,
but also to oss learning. And the pun on bazaar, 'bizarre', fits. 

That just said is not a criticism, but merely an observation. In fact,
the very idea that oss has not been captured, colonized and domesticated
by the usual institutional pedagogs (demagogs?), makes it all the more
stiumulating a learning environment. 

It wouldn't be nearly as much fun without all these learner doubts and
uncertainties! We should all be students of our own mistakes. 


On Tue, 2005-10-05 at 09:14 -0300, Gerard MacNeil wrote:
> On Mon, 2005-05-09 at 21:56 -0300, robert wrote:
> > Being self-critical. I'm wondering if as a one-week-only new user of
> > Linux that this problem is rather too complex
> In the modern world, you use a Linux distribution.  The distribution of
> choice takes care of the problem of compiling software (configure, make,
> etc), resolving the dependencies and dealing with the vagrancies of this
> piece of hardware versus that, licensing and rights and a bunch of other
> stuff.
> As a user, you get the software binary appropriate for your hardware,
> install it according to your distribution's proscribed method, configure
> it if necessary and run it.  And you get to administer your system,
> deciding what daemons run, what users you have and so on and so on.
> After you have done that a while (say a year or two), you can think
> about what it takes to develop modern software.  Running 'configure' and
> 'make', that's what developers do.  You need to learn how to use your
> new system first.
> If you are running Debian, Synaptic is your very best friend. 'cups',
> 'foomatic' and 'hplip' are available as a binaries. All should be in
> Sarge.
> Gerard
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