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Re: [gNewSense-users] A user's view

From: Felipe López
Subject: Re: [gNewSense-users] A user's view
Date: Fri, 27 Dec 2013 12:55:53 -0500

2013/12/26 josh <address@hidden>
I have been following the recent emails on gnewsense users.
As a mere user I doubt if my opinions will be greatly valued but here
they are anyway:

Hi, Josh :)

I have just installed gNewSense version 3, mainly because updates to the
previous version stopped working properly some time ago and the version
of evolution supplied with it stopped recognizing links in emails and
then stopped downloading and uploading emails to the server. And Yahoo
took a dislike to IceCat.
I could find no explanation for these occurrences, So I decided to
install the new version.

I think that upgrading to gNewSense 3 is the right thing to do because, as far as I know, gNewSense 2.3 is not supported anymore [1]. You could also take the opportunity to try other free software distributions [2]. I have used Trisquel GNU/Linux and I recommend it.

I think gNewSense should keep its users informed about the status of system versions. I couldn't find messages in the mailing list informing users about the status of gNewSense 2.3. gNewSense needs more communicators or a community manager. If anyone can help with this, please join us [3].
Due to a few avoidable mistakes - not helped by some obscurity and
unexpected behaviour by the installation program - I managed to lose all
of my stored email and contact addresses but my other data was backed up
and reloaded OK.

Note that the installation manual recommends backing-up your data before you install the system [4].

Version 3 is great - except for the inclusion of IceWeasel, which people
like Yahoo don't want to work with. No problem - install Firefox. But
Firefox doesn't have the downloader that I liked to use with IceCat -
although there is a much better one that can eventually be found after
half a day or so of searching. And my Brother printer won't work
anymore. So just get the driver and install that again. Ok, but Xsane is
not included with the distro. Easy, it's there on Synaptic, just
download it. Except that when downloaded it won't work and gives no
information about why.
Discover that the scanner driver is separate package - I'm sure it
wasn't when I originally installed the printer; I'd have remembered that
alright. Install it following the instructions on the Brother website
for brscan2 for DCP 350-C on Ubuntu. System says it's installed;
Synaptic says it's there; Xsane still can't find it. And I have no idea

When you can't solve problems by yourself, I recommend you to read gNewSense Support page [5]. For example, you could send a message per issue to this mailing list describing the problem and what you have tried to do so far. It is easier to handle issues separately and they will be easier to use as reference if other users experiment the same issues.

How many weeks of spare time will I need to devote before I am able to
simply do all of the normal things that I regularly did with the
previous distro?

Perhaps here I ought to mention that I started out in the computer
industry as a maintenance engineer in 1965 and remained in that field,
in various roles, until 2003. So I am not exactly computer illiterate.
And I enjoy learning more and sorting out problems. Not only did we not
have GUI screens when I started out, we had to punch up machine code on
paper tape to get the system started. DOS, when it arrived, was relative
child's play. So I don't find using a terminal any sort of challenge in
itself. I do find Linux obscure to the point of insanity.

So, could you spare a moment from wrangling with each other about
abstruse security concerns, which may or may not be of importance, and
discussing what should be the basis of the NEXT distro, and apply your
considerable intellects to the mundane question of how to get normal
mortals to use THIS distro and GNU_Linux in general? I am really anxious
that you should succeed; I don't want a world dominated by microsoft.
But my experience over several years now is that the sort of people who
are the main users of PC's and laptops simply don't have the time or the
expertise to cope with the obscure intricacies involved in any sort of
change or hiccup in our systems. And it would take the skills of an
experienced researcher with unlimited time to discover and decode any
sort of support information.

I agree that free software distributions should and can be much more user friendly than they are right now. But to make that happen, I think some changes are needed:

1. Users have to become contributors and help improve the libre tools they use.
2. Contributors have to find a way to work full time on libre tools without starving.

Both are really challenging changes, in my opinion.

You say about GNU/Linux, "it would take the skills of an experienced researcher with unlimited time to discover and decode any sort of support information." When you find something particularly difficult to use or understand in the gNewSense support system [5], I think it would be good to report it (to this mailing list, for example), so that it can be improved or, at least, reported to the issue trackers [6] to be fixed in the future.

Since one of my skills is Technical Documentation I would love to write
some simple, understandable descriptions of how the system actually
works and what to do when it doesn't. But the available information is
verbose, unstructured, and, in the forums, seems mainly to address
peculiar requirements, or be rants by hobby purists who can't understand
why anyone should want to use GNU-Linux as a simple, reliable tool and
probably feel that they ought not to be allowed to do so. But I am
struggling to understand the most basic things myself and, although I
hope to have many years of productive life left to me, I doubt if I will
live long enough to fathom out these mysteries, let alone document them.

Again, if a user finds something in particular that is "verbose, unstructured," of difficult to understand in gNewSense documentation, she should report it. Maybe someone can help fix the issue.

In this case, since you want to help, I suggest you to read the information on How to help gNewSense [7].

Obviously a huge amount of skill and care by many people has gone into
trying to make the system user-friendly and reliable. My feeling is that
there are too many others in the free software community intent on
undermining their efforts by adding layers of obscurity and actively
trying to keep out 'non-geeks'. I can understand and sympathise with the
impatience of the 'Ever onward and upward' developers but, I repeat, the
survival of the free software movement probably depends on its
mainstream appeal. And that means doing what the user wants, without
obscure technical challenges.

I doubt if I have made my point adequately but this is the result of
another 2 hours of thought devoted to this subject and I can spare no
more at present.


I understand your frustration. I have read many messages like yours since I started using and contributing free software and libre cultural works in general.

I think libre cultural works are better for humankind, so I decided to contribute and accept frustration. Hopefully, more people with different skills will join the effort and help reduce frustration for future generations.


Luis Felipe López Acevedo

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