[nSLUG] Re: pet peeves

Mike Spencer mspencer at tallships.ca
Tue Jun 27 12:59:00 ADT 2006

Donald> Starting many years ago I noticed a man on a command would
Donald> exist but point me to use of info.  I've tried info but I
Donald> don't like it.

But... but, Donald! info is *hypertext*!  It's kewl!

Gak!  Don't get me going.  I hate info.  I love emacs, do nearly
everything in emacs except web.  And rms is a demigod.  Only....

WTF ever jerked his chain so hard that he hadda go and foist info off
on us as the default gnuish doc format?  Yeah, yeah, nroff is itself
obsolete as a general purpose document management format.  But the
manpage system works just fine for all the usual  Unix software.

And here's a secret I'll let y'all have for free.  Hardly anybody
seems to know it:

                 Hypertext sucks!

Okay, it does have it's uses, some of them very elegant.  Thoughtful
choice of hypertext is not always wrong.  In-line cross-references can
be great. But when I want to read something, I want to *READ* it, not
be guided around between the yellow lines by some Mickey Mouse text
designer with a preconception that I have a Disneyland mentality.


Well, here's what I do: The second or third time (maybe even the first
time) I discover that what I need to know about foo is only available
in info format, I cat all the foo.info* files together and put the
result in my personal ~/man directory.  I have a homebrew script
(called mann) that finds stuff I've put in ~/man.  Thereafter, ``mann
foo'' will give me everything I have on foo.

Eventually, if I get annoyed enough, I may get around to manually
editing all the info-specific crap out of ~/man/foo.man or even
pretty-formatting it.

Since *.info files begin as texinfo and are intended for automated
processing anyhow, I presume it would not be an excessively difficult
task to write a perl script that would convert the whole /usr/info
bodge into formatted ASCII. Dunno.

Love GNU Emacs, deeply appreciate all the FSF gnuish *ix utilities,
think RMS is probably a genius (can you say MacArthur?) but foisting
info on us users? <DAFFY_DUCK> That'sss  dessspicable!! </DAFFY_DUCK>.

> Maybe others have peeves like this...

Oh, yeah! :-)  Did you want to hear about all of them?  Really?!

> changes of tides that come from a personless and originless mass of
> opinion and make no sense.

Most of my peeves of this nature are accountable to changes introduces
for *someone else's benefit*.

Bill> An excellent example of the usefulness of info is the GNU Radius
Bill> manual.  This is a book-length document, and because it is
Bill> written in texinfo info it is available as info pages, web pages
Bill> (all one web page, one web page per chapter, one web page per
Bill> "node"), formatted ASCII text, dvi, postscript, pdf, texinfo
Bill> source, and a printed book.

Right, info is part of a system to make things easier for the GNU
documentation maintainers. It's clever and it's good for the
maintainers.  But it still sucks as a user doc interface.

I learned Emacs by buying the printed manual and reading it cover to
cover, then keeping the book within reach.  I can navigate in a book
using generic literacy skills.  But every new hypertext doc has it's
own notion of navigation, its own rendering, key strokes and its own
cute notion of document architecture.  The much-touted "lifelong
learning" is supposed to be cumulative.  Learning all over again how
to do something that I *already know how to do*; and having to do so
because it benefits someone else; that is counterproductive, a waste
of time, a drain on my enthusiasm and creativity and a blow to my
dignity.  Feh.

- Mike

Michael Spencer                  Nova Scotia, Canada       .~. 
mspencer at tallships.ca                                     /( )\
http://home.tallships.ca/mspencer/                        ^^-^^


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