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  1. #1
    Just Joined!
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    Aug 2005
    Mumbai, India

    Future Direction for Linux

    ***This is a post from an intermediate level Linux user, who is in his final year
    of Computer Engineering.***

    Name : Ksheerasagar Akella
    Location : Mumbai, India
    Distros : Mandrake and Slackware

    Greetings to the Open Source Community.

    I am a recent addition to the "teeming millions" who use Linux as their OS.
    I have come from a Windows background, but have sufficiently adapted to the
    CLI to feel atleast moderately comfortable with it.

    The reason for this post from me is to present a few ideas which IMO will
    propell the acceptance of Linux as the OS of choice in the DESKTOP world.

    Please bear with me while I list down some reasons why Windows is so popular:
    1. Virtually no learning curve for everyday tasks
    2. No configuration required -- you don't ever ""have"" to edit .BAT files.
    Of course, all this applies only to the "average" person who is happy to simply
    use the computer to create documents and surf the web. Any system administration
    requires more than the above rudimentary knowledge even in Windows.

    Average desktop users do not need/want to know the most mind-blowing way to perform
    everyday tasks, all they need is the easiest way. They do not want to deal with all
    the myriad complexities of the software world, and especially not with the complexity
    associated with a terminal waiting for input. They do not want to read documentation
    to perform all the tasks from startup to shutdown. They will just go for the easier

    If Linux is ever to be accepted as the desktop OS of choice, the first step ofcourse
    is the GUI, and in this respect the developers have left no stone unturned.

    But then why is it that Linux still isn't gaining acceptance the way it should be??

    The simple truth is that sooner or later, the user WILL have to confront the CLI of
    Linux to accomplish a certain task. And then what?? Does he just achieve his task with
    ease?? No, he will have to ward through the pile of (truly good, but complex) docs
    to know just how to get his task done.

    This is where the user falters. Is his task worth spending 2 hours wading through all
    that documentation?? Despite what all the more knowledgeable may think, the simple
    answer is no. He has an alternative, and he will go for it.

    So what is the solution?? Give up the CLI, and lose the one feature of Linux that
    endears it to the hearts (and minds) of all?? Create a Windows clone so good
    that its GUI gives MS a run of their money??

    NO. You do not abandon your best feature just for the sake of the competition. You
    package it well, so well that the new user is awed at once at the power of the feature.

    The newbie MUST be drawn to the power of the shell WITHOUT having to wade through all that documentation. He must NOT get the feeling that there is some geek out there who is laughing his ass off while he tries to make sense of all that cryptic documentation.
    You don't want any beginner to feel that right??

    I have read quite a few beginner docs that say "Linux is free, you only need to invest
    time". Well, time is exactly the resource the average user cannot spare. He would
    rather spend money on Windows than spend time learning some wierd CLI tool.

    Why is it that the average user finds it so difficult to adapt?? Why is the initial
    learning curve SO STEEP??

    Consider some of the first absolute basic commands that the beginner has to learn :
    1. ls
    2. cd
    3. df, and so on.

    New users are advised to read the manual pages.

    The NAME sections of the manpages for the above commands read :
    1. ls : ls - list directory contents
    2. cd : bash, :, ., [, alias, bg, bind, break, builtin, cd, command, compgen,
    complete, continue, declare, dirs, disown, echo, enable, eval, exec,
    exit, export, fc, fg, getopts, hash, help, history, jobs, kill, let,
    local, logout, popd, printf, pushd, pwd, read, readonly, return, set,
    shift, shopt, source, suspend, test, times, trap, type, typeset,
    ulimit, umask, unalias, unset, wait - bash built-in commands, see
    3. df : df - report filesystem disk space usage

    Human beings remember and learn by associations.
    1. The first command 'ls' could be guessed to mean "list contents" fairly easily.
    2. 'cd' might be recognised by DOS users to mean "change directory", but to the
    absolute newbie it will not be obvious. To make matters worse, the user is
    pointed to the bash manual (Newbie : What the hell is bash??), which is not
    exactly a lesson in simplicity. In fact, the beginner will certainly NOT
    follow on to the bash manpage and skim through the whole document searching
    for 'cd'.
    (PRO : Oh, don't u know that u can search the man page with '/<searchstring>'??)
    3. 'df' :: report filesystem disk space usage
    Where is the association?? To my knowledge 'df' stands for "disk free".
    But how the hell does the beginner know that?? Do u expect him to think that
    up on his own?? How do u suppose he will remember the command 'df' whenever he
    wants to see how much disk space he is using??
    (Newbie : Windows lets me see disk space usage with a pie chart. Much more

    The list could go on and on.
    I hope the point I am trying to make is clear.

    There is no end to the knowledge one can gain. What makes knowledge of Linux so worth while for the end user, if he is initially bombarded with all that cryptic nonsense??
    It isn't worthwhile, that's the point.

    The most remembered and widely used objects (not just software) are always those that
    are intuitive, that lend themselves naturally to learning by the human mind.

    The reason for poor acceptance of Linux is that it does not show the newbie that it
    lends itself readily to intuition. There is always a limit to the knowledge one can
    acquire in a certain amount of time. Fresh users will not always have the inclination
    or indeed the reason to invest time if they do not see results fast!!

    Being a programmer myself, some objections that come to my mind:
    1. Only the worthy may gain benefit from such a great OS.
    2. Hey! You get to learn something new!
    3. Linux is worth it.

    All the above are zilch. Keep an open mind and you will have to agree with me. Its
    after all a question of self respect.
    (Newbie : How dare an OS test my worth?? How dare a group of nerds challenge my
    intellect?? I make the cars they drive!!...)

    Linux was derived from UNIX. UNIX was originally a programmer's OS. The roots which
    Linux has emerged from makes it susceptible to the same drawbacks as UNIX. Linux is
    also programmer friendly. Its not so friendly to your average grocer.

    We have to make Linux intuitive for the computer illiterate (this doesn't make it any
    less intuitive for the pros after all). More specifically, we have to make the
    COMMANDS more intuitive.

    How do we go about such a mammoth task??

    IMO, like-it-or-not, Linux has to shed its UNIX roots. The time has come for Linux to
    leave its UNIX beginnings and mature into something much beyond what UNIX ever was.
    Linux has to outgrow being a "free UNIX clone" and become a true unique OS in its own

    Linux is no longer just a system hacked together by a few inspired programmers.
    It is a commercial-quality OS, which has to create standardised (in the sense that
    it is intuitive) software for easy comprehension and acceptance both by the
    computer literates and the illiterates.

    Question : Does this go against the philosophy of Linux?? Will it mire the spirit that
    has charmed so many out there??

    Answer : No. The philosophy of Linux is more "robust" than to be affected by merely
    parting ways with UNIX.

    For starters :
    1. Make Linux commands more intuitive, even at the expense of increasing
    the length of some commands.
    2. 'ls' is reasonable enough. But shouldn't the manpage of 'df' atleast include the
    full-form as an aid to remembering?? Shouldn't the manpage of cd be easily

    Why name the shell 'bash' when just 'shell' will do??
    Why have shell scripting in bash instead of using Python (a really cool language) for
    scripting by default?? (One less language to learn then).

    If you want to give credit to the fine minds who wrote the programs, include the names
    of the original author and all those who helped make the code better in the manpages.
    In fact, including a bit of history in the documentation is also not a bad idea.
    Manpages are supposed to be terse, but then they are referred to more than any other
    form of documentation including info pages. History gives perspective to the
    uninformed reader.

    A note on switches : The letters used as switches have different meanings for different
    commands. Wouldn't it be better to standardise the meanings of atleast a few
    alphabets when used as switches, so that users will have to look at the manuals
    less often??

    Objection : Its not possible to generalize usage for all commands.
    Answer : Agreed. But then we can classify tools based on use. Tools for audio can all
    share the same switches, as can tools for video, files and so on.
    Surely with a little thought it is possible??

    In all areas of study, classification is used as a means of managing complexity.
    Isn't it time we classified our tools too? Isn't it time we created standard
    "learning aids" to promote the growth of Linux??

    There is a lot more that can be said about this, and a hell of a lot to be done if the
    Open Source community thinks this is a worthwhile endeavour. However, the end result
    will without doubt be a much more "approachable" system than what it is today.
    It will show beginners just what they can gain from this OS.
    We should consolidate what is in our hands right now and perfect it before
    moving on to bigger and better things.

    I await a response from the community, especially from all the gurus out there who can
    give substantial arguments against my point of view.
    If any others had similar ideas before, I would love to be pointed in the right

  2. #2
    Linux Engineer
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Unfortunately, your points have come along frequently. You're not the first one to post them.

    One answer: BASH is short fo Born Again SHell.

    I do understand some of your questions - but I don't see why it should change. You should do some reading on Linux versus Windows. Linux is not intended as a mere clone or replacement for Windows. Windows is not the norm.
    Debian Jessie x86_64 & armhf :: LibreELEC is the solution for your Linux-based HTPC setups.

  3. #3
    Linux Guru budman7's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Knee deep in Grand Rapids, Michigan
    If Linux Newbies need to know something all that they have to do is search Google.
    And Google even has a search engine specifically for Linux. See link in sig.

    Even Windows users who are looking for info on Windows have to know how to use Google. Because the "Help and Support" feature in Windows is pretty much worthless IMO.

    For instance, you mentioned "disk usage", so I punched "disk usage" into and this is the very first result.
    Linux was never meant to be a hold-your-hand OS, and I hope it never does become that.
    If you want to learn more about linux take a linux journey
    Use CODE tags when posting output of commands. Thank you.

  4. $spacer_open
  5. #4
    Linux Guru dylunio's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Quote Originally Posted by borromini
    One answer: BASH is short fo Born Again SHell.
    Don't you mean Bourne Again SHell ?

    THis is one reason that it's called BASH, and also since there are other shells available such as the C shell (csh) and the Korn shell (ksh).
    Registered Linux User #371543!
    Get force-get May The Source Be With You

  6. #5
    Linux Engineer
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    I was doubting about that one...
    Debian Jessie x86_64 & armhf :: LibreELEC is the solution for your Linux-based HTPC setups.

  7. #6
    Linux Engineer LondoJowo's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Richmond, TX
    If Linux Newbies need to know something all that they have to do is search Google
    Without a doubt Google is a n00b computer or Linux user's bestest friend
    Dell Precision T7400 Workstation
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    Dual Boot:openSUSE 11.2/Win 7 Ultimate

  8. #7
    Linux Newbie
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    You have the opportunity to roll your own so to speak. You can change your command syntax in your .bash_profile file.

    Produce a better distibution that is more user friendly and users will beat a path to your door.

    But probably not me. I really like the old nix command line.

    Registered Linux User #391940

  9. #8
    Just Joined!
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Mumbai, India

    Re: Future Direction for Linux

    First of all...that was a very quick response. Thank You.

    Next, I do know what BASH stands for.. I meant that from a newbie's point of view, who is encountering it for the first time

    3rd. : I do know that google is perhaps the best search engine around, I myself use it a lot.

    BUT, the point is, that the newbie has to go through all that documentation, which is not absolutely necessary to perform basic system tasks, even from the CL

    The aim of my post was to try to determine if all of u think that we could somehow make the initial learning curve less steep for newbies.

    Being somewhat proficient myself in Linux, I know what u feel when u say
    " The docs are all there, we give good support"
    What makes u think the average desktop user will want to read all that??
    Couldn't we make the CL system more intuitive for the beginner??

  10. #9
    Linux Guru
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    London, UK
    vision_linux please stop trolling.

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