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Versitile Puppy (Long Post)
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Skepticus


Joined: 08 Sep 2005
Posts: 6

PostPosted: Thu 08 Sep 2005, 14:40    Post subject:  Versitile Puppy (Long Post)  

Hi All,

I have just 'installed' (well burned and booted really) puppy on my desktop pc and was very impressed. It seems ten times bigger on the inside than on the outside, if you know what I mean. I was really looking for a distro, to load on my old Compaq Armada 1560D laptop, but I also love the idea of having a live distro that saves all of my user settings so my whole OS and desktop is portable and can go with me. I can show other people my desktop and still maintain all of my familiar settings and modifications. Thats just fantastic!! Well done Bruce and everybody involved in putting together this amazing little distro. Very Happy

I had hoped to do something similar in Simply Mepis, which I have been using for several months now. The main sticking point with the live CD's of other distros, is that they are not functional out of the box to use as a working OS. The 'live' part only serves as a demo mode. You have to do some research and configuration to save settings and store user files, so that it functions as a useable live OS. I would have knocked up a little utility to configure and mount a usb-drive/floppy as a home partition and have it syncronise the files that store user deffined settings; but now I have a puppy, why bother?

The iceing on the cake is that I can customise my environment and remaster this as new CD. I will certainly be trying this out. I hope it will be the functional equivelant of re-mastering a new distro (based on Puppy).

This possability raises some interesting points. I have for years, pondered ways to encourage users of commercial OS's to understand the benifits of tying GNU-Linux, not the least being that once you begin with one OS it is harder to adapt to another. I don't want to turn this into another debate about Window$ vs Linux, but it would be instructive to look at how Linux has evolved from another angle. There are those of us who would like to see a much greater acceptance of Linux and it is purely a matter of happenstance that Windows is the largest OS in competition for the desktop, so we end up debating what strategy is best to compete with Windows (the lions share).

One of the greatest strengths that has emmerged in GNU Linux is it's versatility. Who would have gussed that an academic experiment would fuse with a fledgling community movement (the Free Software Foundation) to become such a diverse and pervasive force in the software world. I mean, think about it. GNU Linux has gone from academic experimental status, to a hobby/hacker love child, onto world class, first choice in file and web servers, then desktop developers favorite alternative, the sysadmin's/ISP's command centre and then it put out its tendrils and began to emmerge as a fist class, embeded system, at the heart of PDA's and such like. The applications also swelled, to give enough viable choices for bussiness administration, and then onto the home desktop.

Of course there is at least one operating system that prevails with more choice, in terms of the sheer number of applications that can be installed on it, but these are largely proprietary applications, many of which duplicate functionaly over and over, each trying to compete with the other rather than trying to complement each other. The result being that they all lack as much as they include, and they all tend to include the same features in a world predominated by 'Me To' fashion.

The centeral power of GNU Linux has been largely the communal goal to produce an alternative to any particular software peice by peice, in a modular way. Each developer can work on a part and know that if it works well it stands a good chance of being incorporated. It's an environment that lacks any motive for re-inventing the wheel. So strength builds upon strength. The developmental aproach spawned by Linus Torvalds should be understood by anybody who is tempted to join the frey, in debating about the relative merits and misgivings, of Linux and Windows. Likewise when debates arise over should Distro XYZ incoporate this feature or that feature.

I raise this point after some time lurking on this forum, and noticing the inevitable debates (polite as they are here), Smile over things that are becoming increasingly irrelevant when you try to look at the big picture. Before I go on I would like to indulge you in an excursion back to our roots. The point I make above is exemplified at it's best, in The Cathedral and the Bazaar by Eric S. Raymond. http://www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue3_3/raymond/

In light of this I would submit the following points:

Firstly, that this development cycle has changed gears and has climbed onto grander scales. From snippets of code to, applications to windowing environments and GUI's, to whole distros. The question of which one is best or what should we include has become a non-issue. There is so much versatily and choice in Linux that you can have it your own way.

Until the past year or so I have been reluctant to encourage people new to computing to try linux, because they may have more difficulty, because of hardware support, lack of accessable documentation and because Windows usualy comes preinstalled on new computers. While people using older hardware may have to use an older (less user freindly) distro. It has only been in the last year that I have myself bought a reasonably fast (1.7 gig) secondhand system and begun Indulging in some of the later distros. What has surpprised me is that many distros, like Puppy have become more streamlined and conservative, while the GUI's themselves have become more user freindly.

Since I discovered Simply Mepis, I would have no reservations about recomending Linux to a complete novice. There is still a shortfall in easy to read and access documentation in many Linux distros, but hey, if you have saved a couple of fistfulls of cash on the software, why not go to the bookstore and buy a book or two on using linux. If you want support there are numerous distros that give you the software, and charge only for the support contract. In anycase I have discovered that there are even some distros now that make linux look like childs play to the new or ex-windows user, just look at Lindows and Linspire.

User freindly interfaces are not inherantly harder to create on Linux than any other OS. It was just a mater of time before the visionarys joined rank with the optimists, and caught up with the pesamists. Surely the only pesamists left, must be blind, stoopid, or just haven't seen what linux looks like these days. Some of the residual qualms about Linux, seem to lack an understanding of what opensource software is. Case in point is that there is a lack of documentation. Another is that Linux is written for Geeks, with little regard for the end user. Take these two points together and consider them in light of the nature of opensource code and where it has come from.

Firstly it was written by hardcore system hackers who wanted an alternative to the networking system Unix. They have every right to write an OS to satisfy their own geeky needs and desires. It didn't have to evolve into anything of any use or interest to the end user, but it did. Nobody 'had to' develop distrobutions that would become increasingly useful as end user applications, but they did. To that extent, Linux and its development comunity, has gone far, far beyond the call of duty. The fact that Linux has become what it has, from voulantary mutual cooperation, is an inspiring testimony to human goodwill.

Secondly, the complaints that linux lacks documentation or support are both, somewhat true but largely unfair. Large corporations can only provide these things because they pay people to do it. Where does the money come from to do this? Out of the pockets of the people who pay large sums of money for their software. In Open Source any documentation you do get is grattis and supplied by the goodwill of whoever wrote it. We have no right to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Finaly, I would like to address the false dichotomy of the end user and the geek, and the absurd claim that it is Linux that prolifferates this divide. The usual argument goes, that because Linux has been more about secure, stable and powerful utilities (historicaly speaking) than glitzy, futzy, frontend GUI's that it is less worthy of our persistence or tollerance. It is geeky, technical, and unuser freindly, because thats what hackers want, so let's all pack up and go back to the land of the fluffy white cloud. Rolling Eyes

There is a catch 22 situation in this, that if people don't use Linux and get involved in the community, then how will developers know what they want? Moreover this position is naieve to the bustling community of beta testers/debuggers, proto hackers, documentation writers, distro developers, support forum moderators and general users, who contribute so much of themselves, to help newbie Linux users, each other, and all the way back to the hardcore hackers. There is no such divide between Geeks and users in this community, it is utterly and completely the opposite. The only people who would say such things have obviously never been involved in the Linux community, nor its development cycle. These forums are a prime example of the kind of support that money can't buy. Here's a thought!! You don't have to be a hacker, a power user or even technicaly inclined to carve a niche in this community. If you don't like something it is far more likely in Linux that you can change it, replace it, modify it, reconfigure it, work around it, fix it, debug it, or get used to it. If you can't there is far more likelyhood in Linux of finding somebody else who can and will.

You earn respect in the Open Source community by giving as well as recieving. So your favorite geneology program lacks documentation huh? Don't blame the developers please!! They didn't have to write the damn thing let alone provide support and documentation for it. Besides people with good programming skills are a valuable resource, ones who code for free and give their source code to the community are even rarer, so we don't want to waste their time with mundane chores like debugging and writting documents. Like the queen bee who is the only one in the hive who can lay the eggs, we need to nurse them and feed them and make life as easy as we can for them. Idealy a good hacker should have an entorage of support people who test, debug and write documentation for them.

Why not try to make the most of whatever information you can find? If there is any documentation, read it (before you go asking elsewhere) Try to find a website or forum that offers an faq. How about watching the Linux magazines for an article? Finaly there maybe many fellow users out there bursting to communicate with others users, or just show off their knowledge. Either way, give'm your full spotlight, and pick their brains. Nobody, will mind you asking lot's of direct questions if you have bothered to read what ever documentation is supplied with the software. Then experiment, play with it explore it and do stuff with it that you are willing to throw away. If it dosn't work it dosn't mater. Learn by a process of elimination. If it does some thing you don't think it should, ask more questions. Report bugs to the developers, and post patch reports to the relevant forums.

In many cases the prime developers themselves will comunicate with you themselves and even act upon your feedback. If you volanteer to write a help file or How To document for what ever program you like, I bet you have no problem finding people who will hold your hand while you are learning to use your favorite program and when you have gained some competancy in it, you can start to write your experiances for the benifit of others.

It's lazy people and greedy people who prolifforate this myth that Linux is an OS for ivory tower geeks. Lazy people who won't lift a finger to help themselves letalone anybody else and greedy people who will give you all the help you need, and make you pay through the nose for it.

Nobody pays to get Linux, but rather Linux is paid to us all, for being cooperative members of a community that is a gift culture. What's more Linux is a gift that is given even to thoes who have made no sacrifice to earn it. Think about this when you hear sombody complain about Linux. You don't say: It isn't good enough today and that's why I won't use it. You say it could be better tomorrow and that's why I will use it. Ask not what your OS can do for you, but what you can do for you OS. Do you remember that movie (and book) called Paying It Foward? http://www.payitforwardmovement.com/
Linux is realy a real world example of that.

Getting back to Puppy now, I think it exemplifies a new generation of distrobution development; A new scale of versatility. I read on one of the threads in this forum a contributor who wants to see a new sub-distro that takes user freindlieness to the extreme. Included in the plan was a more Windows like interface. Programs (or at least their icons) named explicitly by function ie: email or word processor etc., easy to navigate menus and so on.
Many people responded as if this was a direction being proposed for the main Puppy distro. I realised, as one poster pointed out, that many if not all of these changes could be implemented and remastered as a independant distro.

It certainly is a contentious issue whether it is better to swaddle ex-windows users in a more windows like environment or wether to break them in and make them un-learn windows and make a clean break to Linux. For what its worth, I think it largely depends on who the user is and how far they are likely to go with their computing. Some people will treat the computer like a house hold appliance, its only there to perform tasks and they don't want it to be any harder than it absolutely has to be. And they dont want to learn anymore than they need to. They may not be technopobic, just uninterested in computers as a hobby.

These folk certainly have little to loose by being introduced to a minimalistic interface. If they will never use it they don't need to see it. I am only talking about visual aspects now. Too many icons and menu entries look cluttered and confusing. But there is no need to dumbdown what is under the hood. one menu entry could expand the menu or launch an alternative (more tricked out) window manager, for whoever helps the end user. Winning converts from windows is a knoble but difficult battle, but the dividends are more hardware support and smaller market shares for greedy manopolies.

But what ever you preffer, it seems that there is no need to make a choice either way. If this software is capable of remastering an instalation CD that means the geeks can modify the their instalation to be the geekiest install ever and then just remaster it into a sub-distro based on puppy. Meanwhile anybody can make a clean user freindly install for the technicaly chalenged and futz it right up, with glitz and glam and it to can become a beautiful work of art and a stand alone distro as well. I hope I am understanding this right. because I haven't tried the mastering software out yet, but this would make puppy the most powerfull and versatile distro ever. I have given some thought to what it would take to put together and master a new distro and concluded that it would be a bit beyond me. Mabe that's not so now!!?

If it has become this easy to master a distro (sub-distro) then there is no point quibiling about what should or shouldn't go into the main Puppy distro, surely there will soon be a prolifferation of home mastered distros with as many unique specialities as you can imagine. From music to feilds of science. I can even see distros tailored for kids based on puppy. Imagine Star Wars Linux or Barbie Linux, lots of kids games and music and ebooks and so on. How about travelers linux, for the tourist, with loads of maps and travel guides and preiview scenery. That could be collected by other linux users when they go on holiday and shared with a Linux Tourist Wikki. Who knows one day the wheel might turn full circle and there might be a Geeks Linux based on Puppy.

If there are any particular things that I think should go into Puppy then I think they should be things that facilitate this fantastic versatility. For instance one of the things I love about Simply Mepis is the synaptic packet manager. It lists hundereds of packets by numerous methods, category, status search and so on the icons in the packet list, reflect each packets status ie uninstalled, installed, upgradeable, broken and so on. The help menu even has an icon ledgend. The pane oposite the packet list, is tabbed and displays the packet details and a paragraph or so about the packet selected. On another tab is the list of files in the packet and their full paths. If you what to know where something is or will be installed this is how you do it. It's search is a breeze and it nearly allways installs and runs each config script, in a single painless click.

Apart from this, another thing I would strongly advocate for the main Puppy distro, is a cohesive help interface that works as well as, (or even better than) Windows. There's no doubt about some of the bug infested, half assed shovelware that has been written for that slopperating system, but Microsoft got it right, from the outset, with it's help system. Fully graphical, consistent from one application to another and here's the thing, global searching of the help file, not just 'find on the current page'. To go one better, refferance every helpfile, how-to, faq etc, installed on the system in a database or hash table to permit system wide searching of the whole documentation.

Lastly and most importantly, I would advocate the inclusion of and prominent display/access to the foundation literature. Swathes of it please. All of those documents that only lightly brush up against the technical aspect of Linux / OSS, but enthral the reader in the historical, political and socieocultural aspects of Linux and the open source movement. These are the kind of documents that, were they better known about, could help the tide turn for Linux. Knowing what such a tiny minority have done so far to provide an alternative OS and the philosophical basis for open source, is the key to liberation. Most people don't want to be pawns for corporate manopolies, and they only put themselvs in that position because they dont know any better. Text based files are very efficient and allow a lot of information to be stored in a small space. Here are some of the documents I would recomend.


The Hacker How To
http://www.catb.org/~esr/faqs/hacker-howto.html#FAQ

A Breif History Of Hackerdom
http://catb.org/~esr/writings/cathedral-bazaar/hacker-history/

Keeping An Open Mind
http://www.catb.org/~esr/writings/openmind.html

How to ask smart questions
http://catb.org/~esr/faqs/smart-questions.html

The Cathederal And The Bazzar
http://catb.org/~esr/writings/cathedral-bazaar/cathedral-bazaar/

Philosopy Of GNU Project
http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/

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Flash
Official Dog Handler


Joined: 04 May 2005
Posts: 11024
Location: Arizona USA

PostPosted: Thu 08 Sep 2005, 17:14    Post subject:  

All that Puppy lacks to replace Windows is a good spell-check program. Laughing
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puppian


Joined: 18 Jul 2005
Posts: 538
Location: PuppyLand

PostPosted: Thu 08 Sep 2005, 17:24    Post subject:  

As the subject suggests, this is a long post Smile
Can we have a summary please? Wink

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Bruce B


Joined: 18 May 2005
Posts: 11088
Location: The Peoples Republic of California

PostPosted: Thu 08 Sep 2005, 18:56    Post subject:  

Thanks so much and please edit and change the following sentence. I'm just a member of the community.


From:
Well done Bruce and everybody involved in putting together this amazing little distro

To:

Well done BarryK and everybody involved in putting together this amazing little distro
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Bruce B


Joined: 18 May 2005
Posts: 11088
Location: The Peoples Republic of California

PostPosted: Thu 08 Sep 2005, 19:49    Post subject:  

I have a friend. His computer Windows 98 got messed up, he wanted me to fix it, so I did.

I installed Suse Professional. I told him i put in a newer and better operationg system. Just use and and don't worry that you will screw it up. Anything goes wrong I can fix it up for you.

He's been browsing the Internet with Firefox and handling his email with Thunderbird ever since. He doesn't know anything about Linux or Windows and he doesn't want to learn. He just wants to have the Internet browser, and email, and print things off the Internet with the browser.

It's been about a year now, the 'system registry' has not become corrupted Smile

He also likely doesn't have any spyware or viruses, or been subjected to hacks.

Also he never had to buy any software.

-----------------

I have a couple similiar stories where I've setup Linux for the truly computer illerate. They (their computer) does better in the long run with Linux than XP. And none have complianed.

Moreover, about the worst they would likely do is mess up their user directory, which I could fix up with very little effort.

----------------

I'm inclined to think that the less some one knows about computing the better choice IS Linux.
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Bruce B


Joined: 18 May 2005
Posts: 11088
Location: The Peoples Republic of California

PostPosted: Thu 08 Sep 2005, 19:57    Post subject:  

Flash wrote:
All that Puppy lacks to replace Windows is a good spell-check program. Laughing


I wonder if Barry thinks just because he knows how to spell, that the rest of us do.

Mozilla email and composer has a spell checker, next time Barry compilies it I have reason to think he will enable this feature.

I made an Ispell dotpup.

I also made AbiWord spell checker dotpups.

I've also made an NEDIT with spell checker and other cool features, but not yet distributed it.

Signed,

One who likes and actually needs spell checkers.
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Skepticus


Joined: 08 Sep 2005
Posts: 6

PostPosted: Thu 08 Sep 2005, 21:11    Post subject:  

puppian wrote:

Can we have a summary please? Wink


Please don't go there. If I start to write a summary It will probably end up longer than than the original post. Rolling Eyes

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Skepticus


Joined: 08 Sep 2005
Posts: 6

PostPosted: Thu 08 Sep 2005, 21:40    Post subject: CMEO  

Bruce B wrote:
Flash wrote:
All that Puppy lacks to replace Windows is a good spell-check program. Laughing


I wonder if Barry thinks just because he knows how to spell, that the rest of us do.


Perhaps a name checker might also be usefull. Embarassed

Sorry bout the mix up with names Bruce. I was of course referring to Barry. And sorry Barry I am so bad with names, I don't know how I got Bruce. Just because they both start with 'B' Anyhow I wont do it again Bert. Wink

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I think co-ordinating 1000 prima donnas living all over the world will be as easy as herding cats...
Andrew (eat your words) Tanenbaum.
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BarryK
Puppy Master


Joined: 09 May 2005
Posts: 7047
Location: Perth, Western Australia

PostPosted: Fri 09 Sep 2005, 06:55    Post subject:  

Quote:
Mozilla email and composer has a spell checker, next time Barry compilies it I have reason to think he will enable this feature.


Yeah, the latest compile of Moz, that I'm using right now, has dspellchecking enabled.

I wonder what format the spell check file is, that Moz uses?
If it's an ispell file, that would be good, could share it with Abiword etc...
Let's see, its in /usr/lib/mozilla/myspell/ and there's two files, en-US.aff and en-US.dic. The latter starts off like this:

Code:
62076
a
A
AA
AAA
Aachen/M
aardvark/SM
Aaren/M
Aarhus/M
Aarika/M
Aaron/M
AB
aback
abacus/SM
abaft
Abagael/M
Abagail/M
abalone/SM
abandoner/M
abandon/LGDRS
abandonment/SM


...is that an ispell file, or what?
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