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[In "How to make FUD in Fourteen Days of Foolishness", the mysterious Mr. D, abetted and dis-aided by the villainous RM from the Evil Empire, managed to install, configure and use Mandrake 7.1, despite repeated (though at times, unfathomable) attempts to fail. The Woolly Mammoth, MP, interceded with insights into the most insidious portions of the plot, probably while secretly contemplating that any machine needing rebooting more than once a generation must be horribly crippled. Meanwhile, the Tuxster TV, shocked from his normal slinking beneath the ice proclaiming the propaganda of the Penguin, surfaced to sling HOWTOs and tips in between fits of hyenic hysteria. All have since returned to their respective lairs from whence they refuse to emerge. Let the analysis begin...]
What went wrong? How could a system used on millions of personal systems daily and in use daily by many more millions by way of corporate networks, fail for our Mr. D? The answer is ridiculously simple; Linux is not Windows.
Mr. D, for whatever reason, began with the expectation that all of his past experience with MS systems would be applicable to Linux and sufficient to carry him from CDROM to desktop. Once at that desktop, he expected, again for unknown reasons, to be presented with the familiar (if illogical) interface of Windows. Note throughout the account that Mr. D and his closest advisors attempted to apply MS tools to the non-MS system with the result being the creation of problems that should never have existed. Note also that the tale ended with an incredibly hasty return to the familiarity of Windows, with every reason for the return being a complaint that Linux did not behave like, look like, nor respond to the same commands as, Windows.
Anyone who is so deeply ingrained by their experience with Windows that they are incapable of considering alternatives should not bother experimenting with those alternatives. If you cannot bring yourself to the point of asking, "How can I do this?" instead of asking, "What is the Windows way to do this?" then you should not venture outside of Windows. You are hopelessly and permanently trained.
On the other hand, if you are able to accept the notion that things outside Windows are not Windows, you may discover broader horizons. There are systems out there that do not attempt to be like Windows. Linux is one of them. Linux may be capable of presenting an interface to ease the transition of Windows users (witness Mr. D's comments about his experience with KDE), but that does not mean the operating system is similar to Windows.
The fourteen days of foolishness warrant examination, whether welcome or not. (Please note the difference between "foolishness" and "fools". Anyone is capable of foolishness while fools are incapable of anything else. Neither our Mr. D nor RM are fools; they obviously are capable of much more than foolishness. Each obviously has skill with computers and can deal with situations beyond purchasing pre-installations).
Day One: the distribution decision. This is a common problem for people who have not ventured outside commercial software. You don't normally decide which version of Windows to get; it comes on the computer, and all versions come from the same place. It can be confusing to the newcomer to see RedHat, Mandrake, SuSE, Caldera, Corel and Slackware all selling something that is free and based on essentially the same software. Debian and other distributions that are not sold but offered free for downloading just add to the confusion of the "newbie". I have detailed my personal experiences with several distributions in previous messages. I stick by my recommendation to any newbie that they should visit http://www.linuxcentral.com or http://www.linuxmall.com or http://www.cheapbytes.com and purchase a "cheap CD" for about $2. Even if you want the printed manuals, extra software and technical support of a full distribution, use cheap CDs to help you decide on a distribution. Do not attempt a download of a distribution if your connection to the Internet is not extremely fast. Even Corel is over 400 MB.
point 1: decide before you buy
point 2: be realistic about your download capability
Day One: the formatted hard drive. If all you've ever used are Microsoft systems, you've only used FAT (File Allocation Table) filesystems. Even though Linux can access MSDOS and Windows partitions, it can't "live" on them. Yes, there is the umsdos kludge, but it is not itself an MS filesystem. Linux needs certain capabilities in its underlying filesystem which are simply not possible in an MS filesystem. Umsdos attempts to provide those extended capabilities. In short, do not create MS filesystems and expect to install Linux without kludging.
point: formatting a drive for one OS is not the way to install another OS
Day Five: the Ranish thing. I don't know about this software and am unlikely to ever see a need for it. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." The tools that come with a Linux distribution are not broken. The fdisk and cfdisk programs are quite capable of dealing with a multitude of different filesystems. Cfdisk is the preferred tool. For choosing which OS to boot, LILO has done the job well for a number of years. I don't understand the reason for seeking out tools of unknown capabilities and problems to do the job the tools at hand are proven to be capable of doing. Even exclusively Windows users should understand this. Would you be comfortable installing "Bubba's Winderz Servis Pak 1", no matter how nice Bubba's website appeared? [This is not a rejection of any software outside the installation CDROM(s)! It is simply a reminder that the installation contains the tools needed to install. Use them.]
point: known, capable tools at hand should be used instead of unknown tools of unknown competence from elsewhere
Day Nine: the installation. The most significant incident to note here is the fact that the installation itself is described thus: "I then tried the magazine version of the Mandrake CD and it went in fine." A single, simple statement to describe the installation of an entire operating system and an accompaniment of a warehouse of tools. All of the problems before were created by the user through the mistaken belief that one filesystem fits all. Read the documentation available on the CD and follow the instructions. (It doesn't make sense to build a shed in the location you intend to have a contractor build a warehouse; you'll just have to spend more time bulldozing).
point: solving problems that are not there is likely to create problems.
Day Eleven: using. "I have yet to crack the user manual that came with the commercial release."
point: see above.
Day Fourteen: software. Mr. D wants an image manipulation program and mentions Corel Draw and Paint Shop Pro. The Gimp is on the CD and probably on the hard drive. Free is not synonymous with incompetent or crippled. (If it was, the Internet would not work; it depends heavily on such free software as bind for domain name service and sendmail for transporting most of the email that moves). Gimp is in daily use by people from elementary school to commercial artists. For an example of the elementary school end of that range, if this weird link still works, see http://www.LinuxMall.com/news/?1,155 and if it doesn't, see http://www.corbettschool.org/ for the kids' work. Here's an online comic strip artist using gimp: http://justbreathe.bc.ca/cartoons/jb039.html and here's a 'real-world' example I found via a google search: http://home.worldcontrol.com/gimp/ and one final (over 1 year old) link about gimp: http://hotwired.lycos.com/webmonkey/99/11/index4a.html it has some inaccuracies, but that's life.
point: see what you have before looking to get something else
Day Fifteen: not Windows. Mr. D makes a list of complaints about Linux. All of them boil down to the fact that Mr. D wants Linux to be Windows and is disappointed that it is not. The fact that Mr. D spent so little time with the system indicates he was not really interested in it unless it behaved and looked just like Windows. It is as silly as me installing Win98 and proceeding to complain about its lack of the inclusion of a decent C compiler, or the lack of its ability to have concurrent multiple window managers, or its inability to give me a dozen working desktops at once, or its lack of a variety of choices in terminals, text editors, word processors, decent telnet and ftp clients, or its lack of ipmasq (nat to you BSDers), or its inability to prevent programs from screwing up the dll files.
point: if what you want is what you have, why change to something different and then complain that it is different?