One way or another
Originally, I had started a blog item on the newly released, Mideast peace-securing, cancer-curing, saivor-of-all-mankind Head-Up Display from Ubuntu — “head up” what, exactly, is unclear, but not much imagination is needed — in which I promised to try it, but I still wonder aloud about the degree of “innovation” in what appears to be a GUI for the command line, to say nothing of the competing ease between clicking on a menu item versus typing it in a field.
No, I’m going to leave that pinata alone for the moment.
The real news this week is that Cinnamon 1.2, the Linux Mint fork of Gnome 2.x desktop, rolls out and gives an option to those who can’t (due to hardware limitations) — or won’t (due to the fact they don’t like it) — use the latest GNOME 3 version. Linux Mint really nailed it here, but . . . .
I’ll get back to that one soon, too.
What causes the bloggus interruptus today is an exchange I had a couple of days ago on a CrunchBang forum — it was completely tongue-in-cheek by both parties — where doing a task had more than one method to fix what a new user wanted to achieve.
In the exchange what was said, in effect (and in jest), is that you can do it the cool, “l33t h4xx0r” way using the command line, or you can use the n00b-oriented, menu-driven program written for the window manager that comes with the program. While poking fun, the subtext here still speaks to a digital caste system where the more experienced are on some sort of higher plane, either real or imagined (and I choose the latter), than the inexperienced.
Naturally, I concur that there is more than one way to a solution: Yes, the command line is the more direct way to get things done. However, not everyone using Linux — even CrunchBang, if the threads on the CrunchBang forum to which I refer are any indication — is that well-versed in using the terminal, and when it comes to tools, some of the menu-driven ones can be a godsend.
The point I’d like to make is that there are folks out there who have made and maintained programs like Obmenu and Obapps in Openbox, to use the example from the forum exchange, that essentially give the keys to those less experienced to change their digital experience without having to traverse the potential landmine the command line can be for new or less-experienced users.
For that reason, when the tools are available I use them, and when asked on a forum about how to do things and I know an option like this exists, I’ll make this Plan A in my suggestion. Again, there is more than one solution, and if someone goes to the effort of explaining the commands to use in a terminal, more power to them.
(Let me be clear about one thing, too and point this to the new users: Learning some of the more basic commands — even some simple bash scripting — should be part of a Linux users repertoire, and chances are you’ll find it fairly interesting. Or, if you’re like me, you’ll find it fun. But even if you don’t find it fun, it’s something you should know, and I would suggest taking the time to look up how the command line works and why.)
Yes, it may be a little less “h4xx0r” to do it from a program, but using these tools gives those who put in the effort a tip of the hat for going the extra mile and providing a method that helps out.
So to those of you who work on developing tools like Obmenu and Obapps — thanks for your efforts and keep up the work that, though anonymous, is vital to the success of distros everywhere.
We now return to writing another blog item, which is already in progress . . . .
(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)