[nSLUG] New User Advise

robert ashley at chebucto.ca
Tue May 10 20:10:11 ADT 2005

On Tue, 2005-10-05 at 17:55 -0300, George White wrote:

> You tend to see two types of "how-to" information for linux:
> 1) "I tried a,b,c,d, and e, but only b and d work".  
> 2) "a didn't work so I investigated and found the following error/bug"
> Type 1) is rarely helpful.  Type 2) generally results in linux getting
> better.
> There are dozens of good books on linux and unix hidden among the 100's of
> books filled with screen shots of every configuration menu. I like "Linux
> Administration Handbook" by Nemeth et al, because the authors have years
> of experience at a large site (with unix).  My edition covers Red Hat,
> SUSE, and Debian. The early papers by the developers of unix are mostly
> well-written and still relevant.  Of course anything you read in a book
> will be outdated, so you need be alert to the difference between basic
> principles and the details of a particular implementation that may have
> changed since the book was written. 

The 'Linux Admin Handbook' seems to get round acclaim. There was talk
awhile back about a new edition, I think by the end of February? 

Trouble with those "100's of books filled with screen shots" along with
the other hoardes of literature is their very "hundredsness", their
sheer elephantitude. Facing a tsunamic wave of -nix literature is a
little daunting for beginners like me because we lack the seasoned
critical acumen needed to make educated evaluations. I wouldn't, no, I
couldn't, automatically dismiss the "screenshot books" for example, not
because I can mount a strong defense for that approach, but simply
because I don't know any better. 

It's like a clueless neophyte going into a stamp-collecting shop. It's
like me when I accompany my wife to the plant nursery. "Oh look! They've
got 10,000 different cultivars of perennials!" Yeah, right, they all
look like plants to me. And they do. 

So, as I see it, learning Linux is one thing, but acquiring the critical
savvy such as you and others have gathered over time, is quite another. 

Another analogy...

It's the difference between learning how to write a grammatical sentence
in English and being an English poet. There's thousands of good books on
English grammar. But there's just a handful of good English critics, a
thimblefull of good English poets. 

Taking this self-reflective, philosophical approach to learning, for me,
is a survival mechanism. Aristotle said, 'The unexamined life is not
worth living'. In our age of the 'Cable Guy', where that utilitarian,
'git-'er-done' imperative holds sway, this slow-thinking approach is
often dismissed, often as just plain 'stupid'. Maybe so. 

But, as I see it, no one has ever been smarter than Aristotle.

Against that backdrop, it should be clear that I appreciate your
critical "reflections". They're as instructive to me as any purely
technical nugget.    




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