Tobias DiPasquale on 14 Sep 2004 00:57:05 -0000

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[PLUG] The PLUG Guide to Running Linux?

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Hi all,

After the "discussion" with Howard today, I got to thinking about what we might say to others that come onto this list and want to know about Linux. Now, I think we can all safely say that Howard clearly does not act like the typical Linux newbie, but there are others who might legitimately be put off by either the content or the tone of some answers to their questions. Personally, I've been known to have this happen in the past, and I would wager that others on this list might have as well. The community at large does sometimes have a response to Windows-related questions and all things Microsoft that a new user might not understand. I've been told that "RTFM" seems particularly arrogant to someone who knows nothing but Windows since they lack the background to properly Find The Fucking Manual in order to read it. Although that's partially warranted, at the same time, we don't want to drive serious (or even casual) potential Linux users back into the arms of Microsoft with any perceived arrogance. Its tough for long-time Linux users to understand the point of view of a newbie sometimes, and I believe that this, more than anything else, is the reason for the bad rep that Linux users sometimes get.

When I was a kid, I thought Microsoft was the coolest company in the world to work for. That was because they wrote cool programs and they weren't yet "the man". Once I discovered Linux, I knew that it was the thing for me because all the things I searched for were there in one package: tons of source code, a community of really smart people and meaningful contributions yet to make. You write a plugin for Outlook, you're just another MSCE in a rank of a million. You write a Linux device driver, lots of people can now use a piece of hardware on Linux that couldn't before and may choose that platform over others because of it. That kind of action is power and its also the kind of allure that attracts young users and developers to our platform. A platform without developers and users and software is an academic triviality.

To head this off in the future, perhaps we can set up a page or Wiki that would explain the PLUG's recommended methodology on switching to Linux? As well, we could head off some of the discussion had here today in the future by explaining what does and doesn't work compared to Windows and OS X at this time, and how to possibly work around such shortcomings going forward. Also, some of the history and motivations of the Linux and OSS movement would also be good in order to give newcomers a sense of what we're about, what drives us and what our goals are as a community.

I feel as if this would be valuable because we seem to have to keep answering the same questions over and over again, and we have the same posts come up over and over again as a result. Lets get together and put our thoughts down so that potential PLUGers (and indeed, all potential Linux users via Google) can see what the Philly LUG uses Linux for, recommends Linux for and doesn't recommend Linux for at this time. It not only saves our time, but a well detailed introduction to Linux for newbies will make us look more professional, give the newbie some basic knowledge to try and examine before they ask questions of this community and also let them know what kind of responses to expect from the list when they do seek our assistance.

I really don't want to repeat what happened here today ever again. I let Howard get the best of me and I believe Linux suffered as a result. He now has fodder to go out and tell the rest of the world that the Linux community is a bunch of arrogant bastards. I develop Linux kernel modules and high-performance network servers on Linux to feed my wife and daughter; the Linux community gets a bad rep, I go down with the ship and I'm back to writing ASP pages and Outlook plugins and I'd again wager that many here (if not most) are in the same boat. Do we really want Howard representing our interests out in the world? Or shall we represent ourselves with a community effort and face?

Anybody up for this? I'd definitely make it down to some meetings for this.

- --
Tobias DiPasquale
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