Originally, I had started a “Larry the Free Software Guy” 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 left that pinata alone for the moment to address something else.
What causes the bloggus interruptus today is an exchange I had a couple of days ago on a CrunchBang forum with rhowaldt — 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 put in a position of superiority, 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.
In fact, I should thank rhowaldt and others on the CrunchBang for taking the time to make these command-line instructions available, since it is to the new users’ benefit that they get into this mindset. Learning some of the more basic commands — even some simple bash scripting — should be part of every Linux users repertoire. It may be intimidating at first to new users, but over time it is something one can get used to.
Meanwhile, back at the original topic: 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.)