[clug] Why do we do what we do in Linux? [was Re: Text editor]

Scott Ferguson scott.ferguson.clug at gmail.com
Tue Oct 28 06:46:41 MDT 2014

On 28/10/14 22:57, Bryan Kilgallin wrote:
> Yes, Scott:
>>>> It also was considered impossible, maddening, frustrating,
>>>> technical, nerdy....
>> The same can be said of medicine, teaching, etc. Beware of "this is the
>> only way to do things, I've never done anything else" "doctors make
>> medicine seem overly difficult, that's why I've never bothered to study
>> medicine) ;p
> A Pommy doctor complained to me that most people there hadn't completed
> middle-school biology.
> I have qualified in adult learning. And so I reflected on some horrible
> training examples by people untrained in that. Such as a lawyer who
> slapped a photocopied page of text onto an overhead projector--oblivious
> to the fact that it was unreadable from the back of the room!

That's more an example of how a proficiency in one field (law) doesn't
automatically translate into a proficiency in another (IT).

>> While commercial Linux distributions/releases do consider market share
>> important - that's not true of all Linux distributions (though it may
>> puzzle some).
> I have read of--but not tried--Mint.

Mint is a Debian "derivative" (as in chips are a potato derivative, a
repackaged subset with customizations - and their own software additions).

>> e.g. Debian provides well over 20000 packages, a *large* number of
>> "desktop environments" - with which an almost infinite number of
>> combinations are possible.
> More is not necessarily better. 

In some contexts, but not, IMNSHO, the context of choice. :)

> I have no idea how to compare twenty
> thousand options! 

You don't have to. You limit your choices by choosing from a category
e.g. shells - then make you decision on the basis of "fit for purpose" -
only you can determine what weights to apply to that decision matrix.

> And I'm almost as clueless about the range of desktop
> environments. 

In your case one of the "fit for purpose" definitions you 'might' employ
could be "how much support/guidance can I get" (which may rule out
blackbox and xnest).

> Is there a Choice review of Linux packages and environments?

No. Choice is consumer guide. But the internet is full of opinions if
you choose to shop around (you'll find one to support every imaginable
>> And they will also run on every architecture
>> you've ever heard of - plus several you may not of (8).
> This is a plus; I have mentioned that I have a Linux phone.

Most people do, and TV, dishwasher, even washing machines and
airconditioners etc. They just don't play sysadmin on them (well... most

>> FOSS is developed to "scratch an itch" - not to win a battle.
> Oriented to production, not marketing?

Production to solve a personal need.

Marketing is something generally done by commercial organisations do to
drive sales. Though it could be argued that fanbois do the same (and
they do argue - though not usually very well).

"the rattle of a stick in the swill bucket".

>> That "Linux" exists is testimony to diverse needs not satisfied with a
>> single offering - and it follows that "Linux" does not aim to provide a
>> single offering (especially one that seeks to replace a single flavour
>> offering which caters to the lowest common denominator).
> So how does a user configure this beast

You'd have to "define the beast" - "Linux" is a "hand-wavy" thing. ;p

> --without dying of constipation? :-(

I don't know how one leads to the other, it's not something I choose to
ponder, and I sincerely hope you won't elaborate.

>> Users don't drive development compel != impel (tail not wave dog).
> Last Sunday at a graduates' party, I sat next to a user analyst. Who
> gave the exact opposite view!

A *commercial* point of view no doubt (and that person would hardly
propose their job was meaningless). Did your "user analyst" "get" Linux,
or were they distracted by market imperatives?

>>> But I have been asking for study guidance.
>> Noted.
>> It's ("Linux") a large body of knowledge that *no one* has ever managed
>> to master.
> Adults learn based on comparison with their vast prior experience.

All humans do (abstraction and leverage).

>> The nature of learning is that you "don't know what you don't
>> know" - especially, what you need to know to do what you don't know.
> With Linux, I find this particularly distressing. So that I could use
> two monitors, one being for reference.

Yes, that's very useful (and common). So is more than one, with multiple
"windows/screens" in some of them.

> My old PC has one monitor port. Though it also has serial, parallel and
> USB ports. And I have extra monitors. Both of which have old-fashioned
> ports. And one of which also has a more modern port. Is there some
> device that could enable me to run an extra monitor, given this list?

You /could/ add a USB video device - but ideally you'd add another video
card or replace your existing one with a video card that provides
multiple outputs. They are fairly cheap and you'll often see people
offering them for free on this list. I don't have any multiple outputs
cards lying around - but I do have many older AGP single output cards
which I give away.

>> Many perceived problems are xy problems - which is why it's often
>> recommended when asking for assistance to clearly state "what you want
>> to do" and "why you want to do it" - just in case the desired outcome
>> can be achieved in an alternative manner.
> Your analogy reminds me of school trigonometry.

Thank you. I found trigonometry very useful - indispensable at times.
Oh wait... you're being facetious!
:) :D

>> The previously recommended vi cheat sheet is a good guide, and you'll
>> find like other tools (respective of the OS) that there are some you'll
>> use (and memomorize) and some you'll rarely or never use.
> Perhaps I could ask a print shop to make a large poster of it. Whereas
> unfortunately I haven't got my printer to do landscape, which is the
> chart's orientation!

Your printer doesn't need to do "landscape" - the print software on
linux is perfectly capable of turning the print 90 degrees before
sending to the printer (Orientation).
A classic xy problem?  :)

There are a number of ways to print a large image as a series of pages
which you then join together to make a large poster (with overlap for

With KDE that function is available in:-
;the print dialog (KPrinter)
;Kipi plug-ins (e.g. Gwenview)

I don't know anything about GNOME - but I'd be surprised if it didn't
include that functionality.

On the CLI - "convert"

And a third party app - PosteRazor

Probably many other ways.

>> If you use the functions a lot
>> you'll probably memorize them as they are much quicker. e.g. Ctrl+c to
>> copy, Ctrl+v to paste, Alt+F4 to close the top-most window.
> I knew the first two.

There are many others, most desktop environments allow you to define
your own, and you'll find them in almost all GUI applications. Look for
the _underscore_ in the _n_ame on button/menu - that's the hotkey.

>> On the
>> subject of mice - Linux has a middle-key function, highlight some text
>> and it will be copied to the buffer (xclip?) - then click on the middle
>> button and it will be pasted.
> Thanks for reminding me. I have a very basic Logitech mouse. It was
> specified as being OK with Linux. I thought that meant "plain vanilla"!

If it has a "scroll-wheel" it /has/ a third-button (click on the

Kind regards

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