Meta-discussion about talking about Linux (was Re: [NBLUG/talk] Boot Loader problem)

sms at sms at
Mon May 3 10:22:00 PDT 2004

> No, it is not a homework problem.  BUT, the user should be aware of
> what happens when they install a boot loader, especially when they are
> installing more than 1 operating system.  I gave some exact points the
> user should think about to fix this problem.


I understand, I think.  I just disagree:  "...the user should..." just
makes me very nervous as a sort of "policy."  It hearkens back, IMHO,
to ideas like that ol' "UNIX priesthood" chesnut, or the oldschool
programmer-ism, "Comment my code?  Why would I comment my code?  It was
hard to write, dammit, and it should be hard to read!"

Instead, I think "the user should" have an expectation that the OS serve
their needs, that utilities serve their needs; and one of those needs is
for reasonably-transparent functionality.  As the question was asked here,
it's self-evident that "reasonable transparence" wasn't the experience of
this user.

> I have the solution ready to post and held it back in the drafts folder
> because it took me some time to figure out what this user had actually
> done to his system.  Is it not fair that he/you think about what he has
> done and  how he might remedy the problem before the solution is given?
> Might we have  some discussion about what has happened instead of
> "giving the solution away".

I guess it depends.  If this is a "sandbox" system for a hobbyist, such
an approach seems fine.  OTOH, if it's a business system, or an only-box
at home, an "object lesson" may be less appreciated.  Even an "impatient"
end-user may not *care* to muck about debugging stuff, and just want a
*working* environment... and so long as self-debugging is normative for
linux, it remains a hobbiest OS, not professional-caliber.

And before you say "but multi-OS booting is a complex issue that shouldn't
be done by unqualified people..." I'll suggest that in the Real World with
MS-dominance, multi-booting should be the default expectation, and any
"default expectation" should be aimed at the average (unqualified) user.

That rant aside... I agree that thinking is better than not-thinking, and
people are always better off understanding what's going on with their
computers, particularly as the complexity of their boxes increases.

What do you think of the idea that (in a situation like this one) a useful
answer-format might be something like:

.   . . . large amount of vertical whitespace . . .
<spoiler warning:  if you want to *LEARN* what's going on, take the
hints & solve it yourself, and don't read further>
.   . . . large amount of vertical whitespace . . .
<ANSWER:  If you _need_ your answer now, and/or don't care to learn
about it, you can fix your problem as follows...>

- Steve S.

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