...making Linux just a little more fun!
By Jim Dennis, Ben Okopnik, Dan Wilder, Breen, Chris, and... (meet the Gang) ... the Editors of Linux Gazette... and You!
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Summer's looking bright and beautiful, the world is alive with free software, and we had oodles of good questions this month...
...many of which were in the LG knowledge base already. I think we had a record number of pointers back to Ben's writeup in Issue 63 about boot records.
...some of which were from students who've put their thinking caps on, and are now asking the kind of considered questions their professors can be proud of. Us too. These kind of students are the ones who will drive computer science into new nooks and crannies that it hasn't spread into yet. (Cue the english muffin with fresh butter. Yum.) May they graduate with high honors and a number of cool project credits under their belt.
I spent Memorial Day weekend at a science fiction convention - readers who've been keeping up know I mentioned this last month - so here's how we did. Linux seems to have all the web browsers anyone could use, and then some. Good. We've gotten much better at having sound support, and handling those whacky plug-ins sites seem to like to use. Our little netlounge was about half Macs, and there are a few people whose prejudices about what the GUI ought to work like drove them into Linux' arms - and they were pretty okay with that. Good stuff, Maynard.
Except for the folks who had to deal with office software and an office-like feature set. Floppy support under Linux desperately confused people - if it auto mounted, they couldn't figure out how to make it let go of a floppy safely (and of course, these are PCs, so they'll cheerfully let go of the floppy unsafely). If they weren't, they couldn't figure out how to use a floppy without technical assisitance. Mtools are great but only if you already know about them. And they suck for letting someone save things straight onto the floppy.
Word processors still seem to be flighty and fragile creatures. I saw not one but two of the beasties die and take a document with it just because the user wanted to switch to landscape mode. The frustrated user stomped off in a huff; he won't be using Linux again all that soon. Spreadsheets default to saving files in their own whacky and hopelessly incompatible formats, with no particularly simple way to change that behavior visible from the configs. I mean, this is Linux; I'm sure it can sing sonatas if I tell it too. But I am the Editor Gal with a world of notes at my fingertips. These hapless folk who just wanted to mess with numbers and run a couple of printouts are not doing so well.
And don't get me started about setting up printing...
But hey, K desktop looks pretty. There are a decent number of users who will forgive the OS that looks pretty, because they can see that some effort is being put into it.
Me, I'd kind of like to see more programs defened themselves against imminent disaster, and at least pop up with some sort of error message, note that they can't safely use this feature yet, or the like. We've got too many good coders out there - we shouldn't be having to look at raw segfaults. Compared to that.... why, the Blue Screen of Death almost looks well documented and friendly.
Until next month, folks. And if your project does a little more sanity checking and cleaner complaints because you saw this, let us know, okay? I like to know when these little rants of mine make a difference. Trust me - it really will make Linux just a little more fun for folks at the keyboard.