[Nottingham] Better than Windows? was: Response on awareness day

David Aldred david at familyaldred.org.uk
Thu Nov 3 22:30:48 GMT 2005

On Thursday 03 Nov 2005 21:51, Andy Davidson wrote:
> David Aldred wrote:
> > (1) all came with a standard 'install' alias which could point to
> > whatever the distro's installation method of choice was (or could even
> > download & config/make/make install source if there was no packaged
> > version available), so that all the user had to do was get into a root
> > console and type (say) install digikam
> > and have it happen?
> I'm not sure this would work - several unixes often have multiple ways
> of handing different packaging utilities on the same distribution.

I'm not sure I'm with you here - I meant that (at a very simple level, for 
example) Mandriva would alias 'install' to mean 'urpmi' whereas Ubuntu would 
alias it to 'apt-get -install' (I may well have the apt-get syntax wrong!)

The idea is to provide a simple alternative, not to prevent people using other 
alternatives if they want to!
> > (2) set up a standardised set of links so that you didn't actually have
> > to know where a distro put its files to be able to find them (so that a
> > howto telling you to look in /usr/local/bin for something didn't have to
> > be translated to /opt or /usr/local/sbin)
> If this happens, this is due to the pollution of what /bin and /sbin are
> for - /sbin was for statically linked binaries, /bin was for dynamically
> linked binaries.  You might be thinking that you're confused between
> /bin, /usr/bin, and /usr/local/bin (and maybe /opt or /export or
> /badger) - but if you're the sort of user that cares about the
> difference between these paths, you ought to have discovered the 'which'
> and 'find' commands by now.

I don't usually need to care about the paths, and I usually use slocate when I 
do need to finds something (if I need to search for it, 'which' usually 
hasn't found it - and often it's a config file rather than an executable).  

But every now and then - and it seemed far more so in my early days of using 
Linux - finding a useful-looking howto was often the prelude to a long time 
poking around looking for a file which wasn't where the howto said it would 

> > (3) had meaningful names or aliases for installable software, and a
> > proper set of sources built in from the start.
> Aliases for installable software ? What does that mean ?

I thought my example made it clear.   Something which pointed the newbie to 
the appropriate bit of software for the functionality s/he wanted - which 
translated 'I want to burn a CD' into 'K3b'.  (Ok, so that's installed as 
standard usually, but YSWIM).

It's just a database function, really - an addition to the name/description 
information which applies a functionality-derived title as well.   Or even a 
reasonably intelligent search of the existing descriptions, though some of 
those are less than useful - there's one of the KDE related packages, I 
forget which exactly now but say kfoo, which has the description 'The kfoo 
package'.  Yeah, I'd guessed that much: what does it do?

Take it into a different world: would you rather ask you local bank branch for 
a list of your standing orders, or an 04-07 print from the RBS3270 system?  
To me, the 'standing order list' is easier: I need to know how to get it 
internally, but I wouldn't expect anyone outside the bank to know (or to want 
to know) the technical details, and they wouldn't work in a different bank 
anyway.  The on-line banking pages don't expect you to know either: they take 
'list of standing orders' and provide you with the output from that system. 

In this parallel, Linux would expect you to ask for 
RBS3270-0407-1.1.0-i586-mdk.rpm !  Wouldn't 'install standing orders' be 

> Propper set of sources ?  I don't want 17GB of source dumped on a virgin
> system !

Of course not.  But why should the new user *need* to go and find easyurpmi on 
the web, copy in a chunk of stuff, add a further carriage return, open a root 
console and paste it all in, simply in order to be able to use his/her system 

Mandriva (to use the example I know) are aware of the locations of their 
mirrors and of the location of my PC (or at least of my preferred settings 
for location) - why isn't urpmi ready to go with the appropriate nearest 
mirrors selected immediately after installation?

> > something called 'gutenprint', which, great though it is, doesn't exactly
> > spring to mind when you start off with "Epson RX 620" in your mind.
> If manufacturers actually shipped modules and sensible installers with
> the printers ....

Well, yes - but equally things could be made a lot easier for the poor 
ordinary user using what we've already got!

> > *Then* it would visibly beat Windows hollow for ease of use
> ... because it'd be the same as what Windows users have.

No - it would be far better, for the reasons I gave last time.   No hunting 
for the lost CD, no multiple reboots, no trying to find the latest Win driver 
on the net when that CD's a year or two old - just a simple command and 
you're away.  Magic, without having to learn all the geeky incantations. 

The software and drivers are generally there - the transparency of how to 
install them isn't. 

David Aldred

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