May 17, 2006
9:18 AM EST
|Spot on 100%!
I remember my days of proprietary system usage. I was so ignorant; for all I knew little elves inside the box made it go. And yet my friends looked up to me as a wizard, simply because I'd developed an instinct for when the computer was going to freeze up or I knew which sites to avoid if you didn't want to get viruses.
This is the most damning thing of all about closed, proprietary systems: they keep the user stupid! Again and again, I must always remember that the new user isn't dumb by nature, but has simply been conditioned to think of computers as witchcraft.
May 17, 2006
10:01 AM EST
|On the other hand.. I don't mind, when faced with an old computer with USB1.1, having my attempt to insert a new 2.0 USB thumb drive simply fail, or succeed on a newer one, without having to dwelve into the guts to create entries for the damn thing or find out why or even "if" its not being detected. There is something to be said for having a few of the more ludicrous things taken care of for you, instead of having to dig around to find how to do them.
I want to have the control if things "go wrong", not from moment one, where I need to be an expert or have a print out of 6 pages of stuff from some website, just to get it to work "right" in the first place. In this respect some Linux versions are making progress, but its still a pain in a ass on most of them.
Put simply, I don't mind magic, just so long as "I" know how it works and can change it if I want to. Windows doesn't tell you either, Linux insists, for the most part, that you have to nudge each individual quark into place to turn lead into gold, because letting you say Abracadabra would be just silly.... Both approaches are a pain in the ass imho.
May 17, 2006
10:32 AM EST
|OS X? (Though I'd prefer a more automated Linux, but whatever)|
May 17, 2006
11:09 AM EST
|>"Put simply, I don't mind magic, just so long as "I" know how it works and can change it if I want to. Windows doesn't tell you either, Linux insists, for the most part, that you have to nudge each individual quark into place to turn lead into gold, because letting you say Abracadabra would be just silly.... Both approaches are a pain in the ass imho."
MS Windows will go to great trouble to ensure you never know why something works, why it doesn't, or why it fails sometimes and works at other times.
Half a dozen years ago, every distribution of Linux I used required some amount of "nudge[ing] each individual quark into place". That's not typical, today. I can't remember the last time I had to recompile the kernel for any reason other than just wanting to try the newest one.
One measure of the "magic" in current GNU+Linux LiveCDs is the ability to take a handful and pop each, in turn, into the new user's computer until he or she likes the view. I haven't had a serious hardware issue in a very long time. (Laptops are the exception). Once they've chosen, then it's time to deal with details of making it suit their preferences. That's where they learn that the "magic" is just altering the software's behavior.
Jun 22, 2006
12:29 PM EST
|I expect my computerized experiences to be magical. It helps that I am only five and a half decades old and remember the bad old days when millisecond cycle times were useful and we optimized the innermost loops of programmes to get a lot more zip out of some crate. I like to share the magic with my students. We set up some task that takes a person a measurable length of time like a bit of maths. Then we put it in a loop and do it 1000 times, then a million times and finally, a 1000 million times. Their mouths drop open when they realize the power of a modern CPU that you can buy for $100 and run in equipment that costs less than $1000. Further, we investigate the throughput of the caches, the main memory, the bus, the interfaces and the drives. Then we serve pages over the LAN instead of via the Internet. The raw power of these systems cannot be revealed using clunky systems from Microsoft that were obsolete six years ago and filled with bugs and malware. I teach the curriculum here entirely with FOSS and the kids never look again at Windows as a complete solution for anything. It takes kids a single lesson to reach the level they have obtained with years of exposure to that other OS and they find no limits in front of them.
I have met students who have little interest in the hardware and software but they all enjoy the web. Being able to set up their own server in five minutes and adding their own content with nothing to buy brings a joy being told what to do by Bill can never do. Being able to put on the server a database of a million digital images with searchable annotations and ratings is a joy for the visually inclined. The musical kids love stuff like Audacity. The artists love the Gimp and its relatives. Find the right approach for each kid and they lead, follow or tell me to get out of the way.
I have used GNU/Linux exclusively in my classrooms and labs for six years now and would not think of going back. Before my conversion, computers in the classroom appeared to be insipid but necessary evils. When I found the quality and variety of FOSS brought magic to my classroom running on anything, my life changed forever. I have introduced hundreds of students and teachers to Linux and recommend every Linux user to introduce a hundred newbies this year. Vista would be blown away.
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