June 20, 2006

Computer Skills

I like computers. If you know me, you probably know this about me. I'm kind of a nerd. I don't run Windows on any of my computers any more, and all of my machines are Macs except for one. On that box (as well as on one of my Macs) I play with Linux sometimes.

Why? you might ask.

Well, I like to learn, and since I like computers, I like to learn about them. I like to learn about how they work, and I know enough for me to hobble around when I have to repair hardware. I'm no guru by any means, but I know a bit, and I'm happy with what I know.

What I'd like to know more about is different operating systems. I know my way around the command line in OSX pretty well, but I'd like to learn a bit more. And since there is enough similarities between how OSX's guts work and the way Linux's guts work, I figure it'll give me something to play with, and maybe I'll learn a thing or two I can apply on my Mac. If not? I had a bit of fun, and hopefully understand a bit more about how the computers that power the majority of webservers on the planet (not to mention a ton of other stuff).

I'm not a super-user (pun intended), so I wanted a Linux distro that is friendly, but I still want to be able to get my hands dirty if I feel like it. After trying Fedora Core and SuSE, I settled on Ubuntu. To make it short, Ubuntu is easy to use, and it meets my requirements. I could go on about it, and perhaps I will another day, but for now, that's all I'm going to say about why.

On Livejournal, there is a community of Ubuntu Users, a lot of whom are in the same boat as me.

Recently, one user wrote about how he had tried to switch his entire family over to Ubuntu. In the end, they decided that their next computer will run Windows exclusively. Why you ask? In short because they don't know exactly how to use it like they do with Windows. His dad predictably reacts the way a 60 year old man might, his mom is actually okay with Ubuntu, and his brothers... The one is only 10, and what he learns about computers at school is so Windows-centric that he needs to run it at home.

[quote]Unfortunately, the content of the instruction is actually of the “go to START>PROGRAMS>” sort--button-by-button, screen by screen handhold howtos for (naturally) Microsoft products.[/quote]

The older one seems a bit too stubborn to bother learning (but what do you expect from a 16-year-old?). And he's a gamer.

But the biggest issue is that none of them will know where to go if something goes wrong. They can't support it themselves, and everyone they know is a Windows user. They get a Windows license with new computers, and that includes Tech Support is they need it. One commenter remarked:

[quote]It's depressing, but then I have to remind myself that computers are not simple devices, and every attempt to make them so has failed. Why are we trying to make Linux something that even Windows is not?

But perhaps there's nothing wrong with this. After all, if for example your washing machine breaks, if your car breaks, if your home brickwork needs repairing or plumbing bursts, most people need enlist the help of someone who knows what they're doing and are perfectly happy with that. Why are we trying to make computers braindead-simple to use when they're probably the most complicated consumer device ever? Where did this expectation that everybody can "master" a computer and never need to ask, much less pay anyone for help come from?[/quote]

Which I think is extremely poignant. My mom can't change the oil in her car, much less fix it if something actually breaks. Someone who's trained to fix such things would be the one to fix it. People don't expect it to work that way with computers. They're not magic (some people seem to still forget this); they are extremely complicated machines, both in regards to hardware and software. If it breaks, you might have to take it to the mechanic. Whether it "just broke" or if you ran it into a wall, sometimes you have to have an expert look at it. And that'll cost you time and money.

That being said, I would say that their are more reliable operating systems than Windows. Despite there being fewer repair shops that will do repairs on them, people still buy Japanese cars because they are reliable. Should the same apply to computers?

I don't know what all this means in the grand scheme of things, but it got me thinking anyhow.

You still need to perform basic maintainance.

In your car you check the oil and coolant, make sure you have air in your tires. You want to make sure your brakes work. You take interest in who and what goes into your car.

On a computer you might have to run anti-virus and anti-spyware software. You might have to run a firewall. You also need to take interest in who and what goes into your computer.

Make sure you understand what you're installing. Would you install a new oil filter in your car that you found on the side of the road, even if it looks okay? No. And you shouldn't install software from just anywhere.

Take interest in where things come from. If you trust them, go for it.

Always know that you might be taking a risk with your computer. Be careful - you might not know how to clean up any mess you might make. When that mess comes and you don't know what to do, accept that you might have to let someone who does clean it up.

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Anonymous Corrin said...

As for your blog. . . I'm not really impressed.

4:08 PM  

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