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

From: Sam Geeraerts
Subject: Re: [gNewSense-users] A user's view
Date: Fri, 27 Dec 2013 23:34:04 +0100

Op Fri, 27 Dec 2013 13:40:42 +1030
schreef josh <address@hidden>:

> As a mere user I doubt if my opinions will be greatly valued but here
> they are anyway:

Constructive criticism always helps, from you or anyone else.

> 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 never announced the end of life of gNewSense 2 properly. I did hint
at it [1], but that's not an excuse. I wanted to let it die gracefully
instead of dropping it like a stone, but that takes a bit more time, so
I kept on postponing it in favor of working on version 3.

> I could find no explanation for these occurrences, So I decided to
> install the new version.
> 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.

I'm sorry to hear that you lost some data. If you can remember (or
reproduce) any details about these problems that could help us fix
them, please let us know (here or in a bug report).

> Version 3 is great - except for the inclusion of IceWeasel, which
> people like Yahoo don't want to work with.

That's probably because our version of Iceweasel is pretty old, like
many of our other packages. Software freedom comes first, but this
issue certainly also has our attention. We realize that updating
software can sometimes be better for software freedom than squeezing
out the last non-free letter of code out some obscure package.

> 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.

The latest IceCat is inconvenient to install right now, but there's
renewed interest in getting ready-made packages [2].

> 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 why.

Brother's website suggests first running the scan utility as root [3].
So maybe running this command from a terminal will get you further:

sudo xsane

> 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.

I understand your frustration and I'm happy to know you support the
success of software freedom. I take every problem seriously, whether it
be about freedom, security or usability. However, by its nature the
work on gNewSense mostly involves freedom issues (and the process of
deriving from Debian).

> And it would take the skills of an experienced researcher with
> unlimited time to discover and decode any sort of support information.
> 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.
> 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.

There are many reasons why free software is not always as user-frienly
as it should be: ego, ineptness, communication problems, proprietary
software companies protecting their interest, uncooperative hardware
producers, lack of time, lack of money, not invented here syndrome,
etc. We can only do our best to find out what a diversity of users want
and tackle those issues one by one.

> 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.

Thank you for your thoughts. I hope we can help each other to advance
software freedom in the future.


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