User friendly Free Software Desktops

MJ Ray markj at
Wed Jul 18 16:08:59 UTC 2001

Josef Dalcolmo <dalcolmo at> writes:

> Until today I haven't even been aware of a site called "", and 
> none of the HOWTOs and docs that came with the latest Debian system seems to 
> point to it (I haven't read all of them though).

They probably won't, but do Microsoft help files recommend particular
reviews magazines?

> [...]  I can install Win2000 in a couple of hours, then configure it
> to my tastes within days.

How did you learn to do that?  Here, the disadvantage for Debian is
that most people only get the CD, not printed manuals that explain
what to do and so on.  Probably the installation system should be a
bit stronger in pointing people towards a "getting started" guide, or
suggesting that they look at /usr/share/doc/debian/FAQ/index.html with
a web browser.  Section 10 deals with the start-up process amongst
others.  It seems up to date at a glance.

> Telling me that this is the SysV way of doing things, did 
> not help.

apropos sysv leads me to man inittab... that's still probably too
technical, but there is some information there.

> And why is there documentation in info, man pages, the USER's guide,
> HOWTOs, miniHOWTOs, in the installation folders and probably more
> places distributed, and only some of it is listed in the GNOME help
> browser.

The plethora of documentation sources comes of previous attempts to
solve this problem by creating yet another way to provide
documentation, I believe.  If someone has a bright idea on how to
resolve this...

> Apart: do you think the average user knows how to read a .txt.gz file?

Oh, that's one of my frequent complaints.  Some other distributions
have less set up to decompress them automatically.  At least most web
browsers seem happy with looking at them.

> MS has understood this. People want features they can actually use
> without becoming software experts themselves. For years MS has had
> succes with that, even if users had to put up with a less stable and
> less well performing system than Linux.

I'm not so sure that they have.  In fact, I think they've got even
less clue about it than most free software developers.  What they have
understood is to test, listen and develop in response to that.  We
must learn to do the same.

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