[nSLUG] New User Advise

robert ashley at chebucto.ca
Tue May 10 21:00:46 ADT 2005

On Tue, 2005-10-05 at 20:06 -0300, Jack Warkentin wrote:
> Hi Robert
> On Tue, 2005-05-10 at 14:13, Gerard MacNeil wrote:
> > Your issue now is what to learn.  That will depend upon how much you
> > already know and what you are out to achieve.  What I am suggesting is
> > that carefully choose what it is you want to learn first.
> I couldn't resist throwing in my two cents worth on the question of how
> to get started learning GNU/Linux. And Gerard has some very good advice.
> But let me start from where I am coming from. I have a PhD in Computer
> Science and spent 10 1/2 years as a prof at Lakehead University in
> Thunder Bay, Ontario. And even with that background I find maintaining
> my GNU/Linux system a challenge - probably because I am not really
> interested in learning all the details necessary to be a really good
> systems administrator. I have my home computer mainly to use as a tool,
> for word processing, spreadsheeting, digital cameraing, etc.

Thanks for putting your oar into this topic's water. An educator's
perspective on education helps to ground the discussion. My home use
needs pretty much mirror yours, fairly Spartan. I should also include
'learning Linux', the hobby aspect. I've had nothing but a great deal of
fun, flying off in errant directions, committing laughable boners,
hitting brick walls. 

> There are two ways of learning, and this applies to just about anything.
> First is to jump in somewhere and start biting off chunks, chewing,
> swallowing and digesting them as best you can. This is the way I believe
> most people learn GNU/Linux (other than those who learn it at school or
> university). Having a good background in computing helps a lot and
> without it the learning curve is much steeper for GNU/Linux than it is
> for many other things.

This makes sense. I wonder, though, how many 'chunkers' would have
happily evolved into programmatic learners were the educational venues
available. Not many people, for example, can chunk-learn music well at
all without good instruction. But without conservatories, people will
still 'chunk' if the desire drives them. 

> Second is to try to take some systematic approach. For GNU/Linux I would
> highly recommend the book LINUX: Rute User's Tutorial and Exposition.
> You can buy a copy for $30 from the Vancouver-based
> http://www.halfpricecomputerbooks.ca/ It comes complete with a CD of its
> contents so you can look stuff up as you are working away at your
> computer. Here is an important quote from the book's beginning.
> "The ordering of the chapters is carefully designed to allow you to read
> in sequence without missing anything. You should hence read from
> beginning to end, in order that later chapters do not reference unseen
> material. I have also packed in useful examples which you must practice
> as you read."

Thanks for the recommendation. I'll look into it. Funny thing, though,
I'm getting a reassuring feeling that if I just
'stash-myself-in-the-bash' for awhile, I'll be off to a reasonable
start. While I've foregrounded my printer problem, the bulk of what I've
learned so far has been really successful. 

> I expect you will be combining both approaches. You have to get your
> system workable, so you will be biting off those chunks that are not to
> your satisfaction. And hopefully you will also try a more systematic
> approach to fill in gaps.

Yes, exactly.

> So. You have already learned quite a lot from the experience of trying
> to compile and install some software. You could have avoided the
> tribulations by obtaining and installing a pre-packaged version of that
> software, but you would also have forfeited the learning experience.
> Whatever way you choose to continue your learning, best of luck, please
> don't give up, and remember there is a community here ready and willing
> to help.

Yes, this is how I look at it. I have to emphasize that words like
'tribulation' don't fit because I'm approaching this as an intellectual
discovery, not an Imperial conquest. It's anxiety-free. No lost time.
And I'm *expecting* failures along the way. If it were too easy or
problem-free, I'd be bored, like reading a mind-numbingly boring thesis.
As an educator you can best appreciate the difference between a banal
thesis statement and a bold one. The bold ones might really bugger
things up, but they're always way more fun to read. And way more fun to
write too!  

Thanks for the encouragement. There can never be enough of that!



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