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2005 Jul 06 15:42

The following is an archive of a post made to our 'vox mailing list' by one of its subscribers.

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Re: [vox] Survey: What do YOU use Linux for?
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Re: [vox] Survey: What do YOU use Linux for?



On Wed, Jul 06, 2005 at 03:16:18PM -0700, Norm Matloff wrote:
> 
> Replies to some of the comments:
> 
> 1.  There is no question that Linux software is insufficient for game
> addicts and the like.
> 
> 2.  I agree that OSS documentation is generally not so good at the
> beginner level.  That in fact is why I've written so many
> mini-tutorials, all aimed at that level
> (see the files http://heather.cs.ucdavis.edu/~matloff/*.html)

Perhaps I misunderstood your earlier statement, then. You appeared to
state that OSS documentation tends to be better than for proprietary
software.

But even at the non-beginner level, I have often found documentation to
be somewhat incomplete. In fact, I have noted that this is a not
infrequent complaint that outside observers have had of the OSS and
Linux worlds.

> 3.  The GUIs (whether commercial or OSS) ARE aimed at the beginner
> level, in my opinion, but I still feel that they fail even at that
> level.  

I think that in general you are probably very right on this point.
However, they seem to me to still be a good deal more accessible to
average-joe user than most non-GUI apps.

> 4.  To me this is not a discussion of GUI vs. text.  I have nothing
> against GUIs per se, and indeed do use some on occasion:  I of course
> use Firefox and GIMP; I often use DDD for debugging; I sometimes use
> Amaya for Web work; I sometimes use gvim instead of vim; I
> sometimes--rarely--use the Eclipse IDE.  These sometimes offer important
> extra functionality (or of course fundamental functionality in GIMP's
> case), and the visual appeal gives one a good feeling.  
> 
> But they are often overkill, and this CAN comes at a cost of reduced
> functionality, for the simple reason that the producer (whether
> commercial or open source) only has a finite amount of man-hours to
> devote to the project; hours spent on the GUI typically means fewer
> hours spent on developing more functionality.  And of course for quick
> little actions, it's much faster to use the command line than wait for a
> GUI to come up.  Another point is that it's very important to me to use
> the same text editor for everything I do, so that I can take advantage
> of all the macros, abbreviations and so on which I've build up over the
> years, something which most GUIs don't allow.

All of these are excellent points. And I do realize that we're not
really talking about a discussion of GUI vs. text; however, you did
contrast the "powerful" apps with the "flashy GUI" apps, and I just
wanted to point out that for some people who have only fairly basic
needs, the "flashy GUI" can sometimes be a much greater asset than
power and flexibility.

> 5.  Concerning friendly communities:  I still do believe that the
> Linux/OSS communities tend to be more helpful.  I would offer as
> (admittedly somewhat indirect) evidence the fact that there is so much
> more open source software available for Unix than Windows.  I've long
> had the impression that someone who has developed something for Windows
> and might be thinking of contributing it to the OSS community suddenly
> says to himself, "Wait a minute, I might be able to sell this instead of
> give it away."

Well, I may have been fairly underqualified to make the statements I
did: they are based primarily on impressions, as I have spent very
little time on help forums (outside of Usenet, which hardly seems fair
to use as a basis for judgment) for either Windows- or Linux-based
software.

Certainly, I would consider this particular forum to have more than
proved itself to be both helpful and friendly. :-)

> 6.  Lastly, a confession:  Even I recently broke down and made a
> concession to Windows. :-)  Since I am often away from the office, I use
> www.efax.com as my vehicle for receiving faxes.  Anyone who wants to fax
> to me phones a fax number as usual, but it's www.efax.com's number, and
> they then e-mail me the fax as an image.  They have free and pay versions.
> For Unix people, the free version used to be a straight TIFF file, but
> no more.  Now one needs either to use the company's proprietary image
> viewer for Windows, or pay for the Unix TIFF version.  Instead of
> paying each month, I opted to buy Crossover as a one-time expenditure.
> Crossover is basically an interface to wine, but they take care of the
> details for certain apps, including www.efax.com's image viewer.

-- 
Micah J. Cowan
micah@cowan.name
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