[huskerlug] GUIs & Knowledge

  • From: Carl Lundstedt <clundst@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: huskerlug@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 17 Mar 2001 14:24:05 -0600

Greetings all,
I wondered how to respond to a post on "vi or die, and certainly no G-U-I".
I've never pretended to be a "3l33t haX0r"  I built up a healthy hatred of vi in
my undergrad days and when I found emacs, I never looked back.  I USE
computers.  I'm a scientist first, an simply a hobbyist as far as linux
goes (although that seems to qualify me to sys-admin a VMS, 3 DEC UNIX, a couple
of NT machines and my linux workstation, as far as my research group is
concerned, why? Because I've picked up alot of knowledge just as a casual user).

I would agree that front-ends rob you of knowledge, but not using a front-end
robs you of time.  How much is your time worth?  I'm with J.R. a healthy balance
of both is the way to go.  Here's a for instance:  I'm using LyX to write my
dissertation (for those of you that don't do science-like papers, LyX is a LaTeX
front-end [which is a TeX front-end {which is a Postscript front-end (which is a
printer driver front-end)}]).  I told some collegues that I was using LyX and
they said the same thing "then how will you learn LaTeX?"  I had to respond,
"Why learn LaTeX?  Why not learn TeX or Postscript? (Yes, I know a person who
did his dissertaion in  RAW postscript, now that's L33t!)  As it happens, LyX is
hiding some settings from me that I need to change, so I'm slowly learning LaTeX
so I can overide those hidden settings with manual LaTeX calls. BUT, I'm also
working on my dissertation in the meantime, while I learn.  I thought
multitasking was a good thing?

I'm somewhat disturbed by this stigma against GUIs and front-ends.  a) Lots of
people spent lots of time and effort to create those things.  Why not use them?
b)  I'm not using linux to be cool, or to "learn linux".  I'm using it to do
work.  I USE it because its FREE.  I've been stung by this attitude, a cracker
claimed my box a couple of years ago, but live and learn.  (I've seen l33t Du63s
lose there box to crackers too.)  I learned a great deal then, but just enough
to get out of trouble and get back to work.  How can linux go mainstream if you
have to learn linux first, and your tools second?  There are tons of Mac users
who put up with over-priced, inferior products just to avoid a learning curve.
There is a leasson to be learned there.  Microsoft holds the market-share of
desktop machines because of its balance between ease of use and access to
low-level controls.

Lastly, and in direct response to Joey, my response to use a webbrowser does not
come for free.  When I made my address book I had to write the scripts in Perl
that made the calls to MySQL, created the html and responded to queries.  The
creation of the front-end did not USE a front-end (other than emacs, see
sentence 2).  I learned a lot about SQL, but I ran out of time to goof around
with it (and it wasn't furthering my career).  The user (who happened to be me)
just had to deal with a web-page to access the address-book (and thus the
database).  If I understand what JR is doing, he's creating this app for a
non-hacker, why should THEY have to deal with clunky tools?  My experience is
that if you ask someone who doesn't just love this stuff to deal with clunky
tools, THEY WON'T.  So why waste your time?

I'm sorry you're disappointed that we can't answer "the real questions".  So
far, I can only recall two questions that have come up to which we didn't have
an adequate answers to.  a) the PC-card (notebook ethernet card) question, which
I think was an experience thing.  Not all of us deal with PC-cards in all
machines, all the time, so there's not a lot of experience to draw from in terms
of trouble shooting. b) Shane's ISA net-card thing.  Not having a good answer
for an ISA problem is spread through-out the linux community.  ISA is a legacy
thing, and isn't handled well on any level.

Oh well.  Maybe I should have let this pass, but I think its important for the
linux community to move on.  The era of the command line only interface is
nearing an end (although it has some stunning uses still as my floppy only
firewall will atest).  Insulting people for wanting a GUI is not productive and
if its knowledge you desire, education is the answer, not put-downs.

-Carl Lundstedt
UNL Dept. of Physics & Astronomy

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