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Editorial Programming Software IT Technology

Open-Source Software and "The Luxury of Ignorance" 1471

Bootsy Collins writes "Using the recent experience of trying to configure CUPS on his home network, Eric Raymond has written an interesting new screed on poor design of user interfaces in general, and configuration interfaces in particular, in open source software, entitled The Luxury of Ignorance. A sample quote: 'This kind of fecklessness is endemic in open-source land. And it's what's keeping Microsoft in business -- because by Goddess, they may write crappy insecure overpriced shoddy software, but on this one issue their half-assed semi-competent best is an order of magnitude better than we usually manage.'"
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Open-Source Software and "The Luxury of Ignorance"

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  • by NickABusey ( 642217 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:06PM (#8404135) Homepage
    There's your problem right there "I have a desktop machine named 'snark'."
  • -1 Troll (Score:5, Funny)

    by nmoog ( 701216 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:09PM (#8404166) Homepage Journal
    What a rant! Im going to send mod points to Eric Raymond's house by mail.
  • Goddess? (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:10PM (#8404179)
    Who is he talking about?

    Has he been spending too long on slashdot, such that he now worships Natalie Portman or something?
  • by iMMo ( 61469 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:10PM (#8404180)
    ...ESR was found beaten severely, with the names of several CUPS developers found tatoo'd on his forehead....
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:12PM (#8404200)
    Dear Anonymous Coward, The entire slashdot community considers your written and spoken rants both enlightening and amusing. Please, be our leader, and write more opinion pieces. Thank you, Everyone.
  • by potpie ( 706881 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:14PM (#8404209) Journal
    1 What is a non-technical user doing with Linux anyway? They need to crawl before they can walk.
    2 Why not put in endless loops of windows that lead back to the same place over and over again. That would be funny.
    3 Nobody likes documentation... except 4 n00bs
    4 oh yeah... about those... er...
    5 I like to think of Linux as a sort of technical boot camp. I started using it because I wanted to upgrade my status from "windozer coder of ascii art" to "codeNINJ4"

    those are my thoughts.... anyone else?
  • by crapnutassneck ( 243159 ) * on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:14PM (#8404211) Homepage
    I honestly have not ever heard someone use that term outside of The Clash. I shall use it tomorrow a minimum of twice.
  • by endx7 ( 706884 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:15PM (#8404224) Homepage Journal

    3. The requirement that end-users read documentation is a sign of UI design failure.

    I consider anything you have to read to be documentation.

    ...I guess that means we'll have to label all our buttons and menus with smiley faces and funny tree symbols now?

  • by ChanxOT5 ( 542547 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:15PM (#8404226)
    Dear ESR -
    We will accept your critcisms of CUPS when you fix it. It is, after all, open source :)

    -Your OSS pals.
  • OS X (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:16PM (#8404229)
    I know that something called "CUPS" exists on my iBook. I just don't know what it is or what it's supposed to do. And yet, I've never had any trouble accomplishing any task on my iBook that I've set out to achieve. I guess this is why OS X is better than Linux in some ways.
  • by savagedome ( 742194 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:17PM (#8404242)
    Talk about luxury of ignorance. I pitch open source software to family/friends/bosses every chance I get. Now this one time, I was telling my boss about OpenOffice when MSOffice bailed out on him.

    Boss: Damn. This MSWord thingy sucks.
    Me: You should try using Open Office once. Its a good sub and its free!
    Boss: Free? I am telling you one more time. Stop downloading things off of KaZaA damnit
    Me: No. No. No. You got me all wrong. Its free as in 'free as a beer' free.
    Boss: Does it have Clippy?
    Me: What?
    Boss: I looovvvvee Clippy. He is so cute
    Me: Well, it doesn't really have a Clippy per se but...
    Boss: Oh common. How do you expect me to use it if it doesn't have Clippy. I am a PHB
    Me: What?
    Boss: I am a pointy handed boss
    Me: Handed? Ohhh well. Nevermind.

    At that point I just walked away defeated by clippy and luxury of ignorance.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:19PM (#8404258)
    Denial is not just a river in Africa.
  • Re:Wow.. (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:23PM (#8404291)
    Yeha, I visited a tribe in Tanzania, their chief was complaining about lack of Postfix configuration books.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:24PM (#8404304)

    Well no actually, they're working on GNOME to beat KDE, because RMS declared jihad on the infidels who dared to expect to receive money in return for their labor.

  • Damn... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Mephie ( 582671 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:27PM (#8404332) Homepage
    So, let's review. In order for the nice, user-friendly autoconfiguration stuff to work, you have to first edit an /etc file. On a different machine than the one you're trying to s set up. You have to read the comments in configuration file to know that you need to do this ubn the first place.

    He got so pissed he couldn't type straight!

  • by mekkab ( 133181 ) * on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:30PM (#8404355) Homepage Journal
    The way to get help with your linux problems is to troll and say "Linux is teh suxx0rz because XYZ doesn't work!"

    Then 4,000 penguin-fanboys will come out of the wood work, each with a distinct solution to your problem!
    Now had you asked for help, they would have said "Read the man page! n00b!"

    As for me, I can't really help you. I run AIX. And some other window'd operating system that allows to to remotely access my AIX boxes.
  • by liloconf ( 560960 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:34PM (#8404389)
    they would have just left a note but they couldn't configure the software right....
  • So true (Score:5, Funny)

    by bunhed ( 208100 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:36PM (#8404405)
    I remember trying to get fetchmail to work. What a nightmare.
  • by lavalyn ( 649886 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:38PM (#8404427) Homepage Journal
    As for me, I can't really help you. I run AIX.

    I would say you're beyond assistance there.
  • by NormalVisual ( 565491 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:41PM (#8404461)
    ... if you're on your own...

    (+1, Spelling/Grammar)
  • Re:Flame??? (Score:3, Funny)

    by rhysweatherley ( 193588 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:44PM (#8404484)
    I was thinking: "Finally, someone has written down how to troubleshoot CUPS so that I can get my damn printer working!".
  • by hayden ( 9724 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:46PM (#8404507)
    Meetings: None of us are as dumb as all of us.
  • by pbox ( 146337 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:55PM (#8404576) Journal
    Here is a wierd thought:

    Maybe Microsoft's usability design benefits from the fact that they have a bunch of pointy haired guys around, while the open-source projects exclusively consist of collections of Dilberts?

    Scary, but it would justify the pointy-haired bosses existence. At absolute minimum all open-source projects should have (pet) lamas assigned to them, and a continuously rotating basis (to prevent tainting them with knowledge) and their whining should be taken as the word of authority...
  • by mrroach ( 164090 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @10:59PM (#8404604)
    If you want good interface design, look no further than ESR's own beautifully [] designed [] fetchmailconf [].

    Not to say that he doesn't make good points, but... well... just look at the screenshots.

  • by Handpaper ( 566373 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:01PM (#8404623)
    I don't have A4 paper, I don't want A4 paper, I've never even *seen* A4 paper.
    Well I've never *seen* 'US Letter' paper. But I now know why it's set as default on my LaserJet 4 Plus and in Konqeror's 'Print Properties' dialog.

  • by SJ ( 13711 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:18PM (#8404739)
    Here is my quick account of setting up a Mac (10.3.2) to print to a Brother MFC-8820D.

    I plugged one end of there ethernet cable into the printer and the other into my laptop. So far so good.

    Being a highly competent user, I then went straight to the Printer Setup Menu and click add printer. I chose IPP printing. Then I turned to the sales guy and asked for the default IP address of the printer. He didn't know. I didn't know. It wasn't in the manual either.

    I cursed. I yelled. I was annoyed. I sent two people off the go and find out the default IP of the network card.

    While sitting there quietly spouting profanity I looked in my list of currently configured printers. Well buff my nuts and serve me a milkshake! There, in the list was the Brother printer all configured and ready to go. I didn't have to do anything.

    I selected it and pressed the "Configure" button. It launched a web browser and brought up the configuration page.

    I fell off my chair.

    I later learned that the printer supports ZeroConf [] network discovery. Apple takes that further by selecting the correct driver automatically. It work just as well via USB, only if I think want to share it to other Macs I then have to follow the very complex task of clicking the "Share Printer" box in the System Prefs.
  • by Sheriff Fatman ( 602092 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:23PM (#8404776) Homepage

    "maybe a dictatorship in terms of final word or a democratic vote will work."



    The defense rests, your honour

  • by daviddennis ( 10926 ) <> on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:36PM (#8404863) Homepage
    I don't think he's a has-been. Judging by his nightclub web site, I'm going to guess he's having a lot of fun, meeting a lot of people, and having some kind of love life, all traditional failings for geeks.

    That being said, I wonder why he doesn't port xemacs himself.

    He surely has the ability, if anyone does.

    Unfortunately, I suppose he doesn't have the free time, considering his dedication to his nightclub -- but maybe if he took the time he was spending trying to get Linux to work and put it into the port, we'd all be a lot better off.

    I know I would. I use MacOS X and sure would love an xemacs port. Sadly I simply don't have the knowledge or ability needed to do it, but I sure would love to have it :-(.

  • by prockcore ( 543967 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:36PM (#8404866)
    Or just split the difference, keep everyone happy, and decide to do both proposals. Hence leading to configuration boxes from hell adorned with approximately seven thousand checkboxes.

    Ah, I see you have discovered KDE's design guidelines.
  • by nutznboltz ( 473437 ) on Thursday February 26, 2004 @11:58PM (#8405015) Homepage Journal
    Well, nobody is stopping JWZ from switching to Windows or Macintosh.

    I am beginning to suspect there's some hidden running joke going on. JWZ's livejournal has entries that claim the reason that he's stuck on Linux is XEmacs. Huh? Bitching about UI's when you are stuck on XEmacs? There must be a running joke, that's the only way this makes sense.
  • Feckless! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Neillparatzo ( 530968 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @12:23AM (#8405159)
    I don't know about you guys, but I'm just stoked that "feckless" is an actual word. That's the big story here.
  • by SewersOfRivendell ( 646620 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @12:53AM (#8405346)
    Maybe I can interest you in Maxis' latest, SarcaSIM?
  • by spikenerd ( 642677 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:05AM (#8405404)
    ...too many chiefs, not enough braves.
  • by Sivar ( 316343 ) <`charlesnburns[' `at' `]'> on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:28AM (#8405546)
    Saved pulling the computer out from under desk as I accidently used the wrong hole (found it by feel) then I knew what I'd done wrong.

    Taken out of context, this has quite a different meaning.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:43AM (#8405631)
    Apparently, ESR's still trying hard to popularize the term "Aunt Tillie" [].

    Any mention of GhandiCon in the article as well? :)
  • by Spruce Moose ( 1857 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:18AM (#8405793)
    Yeah and the audio-cock technology is just such a classic line to use when someone suggests something stupid.
    Whenever a programmer thinks, "Hey, skins, what a cool idea", their computer's speakers should create some sort of cock-shaped soundwave and plunge it repeatedly through their skulls.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:42AM (#8405880)
    Don't do it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27, 2004 @03:27AM (#8406027)
    The author seems to think that every other sentence must italicise words so he can get an idea across. I personally think that it gets annoying and may hurt your brain to stress too many words. You try and ignore his mess but you get some feeling you're missing important points. Rereading the sentence wastes valuable time and causes much frustration in such a long article. Can someone please tell me where I can get an html tag filter?

  • by codepuke ( 737720 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @05:31AM (#8406412)
    Saved pulling the computer out from under desk as I accidently used the wrong hole (found it by feel) then I knew what I'd done wrong.

    Next time try putting some hair on it, that always helps me find the right one...

  • by bhima ( 46039 ) <<Bhima.Pandava> <at> <>> on Friday February 27, 2004 @07:45AM (#8406708) Journal
    It was meerly defending its self from the threat of use with a dot matrix printer!
  • by Endive4Ever ( 742304 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @10:29AM (#8407482)
    Furthermore, it isn't like it is with cars, where half the wrenches needed are Metric and half the wrenches are English. There is a custom-unit set of tools that you need to service each and every part of the vehicle. Putting on a new alternator? Better make sure they included the wrench in the set that fits the provided bolts to install it. Better make sure you didn't lose the wrench used to install the old one.
  • by Sgt_Jake ( 659140 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @11:04AM (#8407864) Journal
    "...they may write crappy insecure overpriced shoddy software, but on this one issue their half-assed semi-competent best is an order of magnitude better than we usually manage.'"

    Now that's what I call a compliment.
  • Well, duh! (Score:2, Funny)

    by dethlejd ( 71126 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @12:33PM (#8408798)


    The firm belief, that because and individual has the cognitive capacity to figure out a solution, that that solution is superior to all others.

    Has it really taken this long to identify this problem among the Open Source Community?

    OSS is most often developed as a response to a need or a desire by a technically adept individual or group of individuals.

    I think of it as the "There's-more-than-one-way-to-skin-a-yak-but-this- one-works-for-me" Syndrome.

    I have a problem, and I can solve this problem. I don't want to solve it over and over again, and I don't want to pay someone else to do it. I think solving this problem would be cool. Sometimes, and I do mean sometimes , I have an idea to solve a problem that no one else has even thought of yet.

    I write some code. The code is good; it does what I want it to do. I don't need to document the arcane way it does what I want it to do, because I wrote it. I know what all the variables do. I know the string manipulation algorithms. I understand the connection sequences, and where all the configuration files go.

    All is good in my world.

    I have proven, once again, that carbon is smarter than silicon, and my carbon is smarter than most other people's carbon.

    This may make it cryptic and cumbersome to others. So be it. To some extent, deep down inside, I am proud of this.

    It's equal or better than any work Microsoft, or Symantec, or Cisco, or.. or.. or.. whoever could have done.

    It's better because "I" made it, and "I" understand it.

    Fast Forward

    "Hey, look at my code, isn't it cool? It runs faster and smarter than other code like it, and it never crashes. Well, yeah, it's kind of a bitch to install, but it will solve that pesky problem you have with X. And it's FREE! Yeah, check it out, lets install it on your machine. You got a couple hours?"

    "Well, yeah, you could just install Windows... Yeah, that is easier to do, but that costs MONEY! And it doesn't do all the cool things that mine does! Yeah, well, they do have support, but don't you understand that this is FREE! Didn't I tell you it's better too? I included a FAQ and a Readme file, what else do you want? Oh. Simplicity, well, that's fine and dandy, but wouldn't you feel better, knowing that you're running better software than the rest of the cattle? No, you wouldn't eh?"

    "Feh! Who needs you... Go suck up to some corporate greed-mongering capitalist innovation wrecker. It's people like you that keep people like me from writing the GOOD software."

    Can you taste the irony?

    It seems to me quite obvious.

    We need an OSS InstallShield. Not a package manager, not "tar -xvzf", and certainly not "make menuconfig\make dep\make clean\make zlilo\make install\reboot".

    We need a tool that your AFR (Average F*ing Retard) can run and install software. Sure, that takes the elitism out of being able to run our OSS, but we will kick the piss out of the "pay me for crap" crowd.

    At least I know, as an elitist, that people are stupid, and they're just never gonna get it.

  • by Giggle Stick ( 673504 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:03PM (#8409111)
    ... being ugly doesn't make in UNUSABLE.

    I don't know. Ugly porn is pretty much UNUSABLE. At least I've never been able to get it to work.

  • by dave420 ( 699308 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:24PM (#8409359)
    Seriously, if you can't get a windows PC to play a DVD, I wonder how you manage to get out of bed in a morning without killing yourself with your slippers.

    I've authored video on different windows PCs, and even low-end crappy PCs do a good job of it (provided you have the disk space to spare).

    What do you suggest is better for video production and watching? It certainly isn't Linux, that's for sure, and it certainly isn't a mac.

You can write a small letter to Grandma in the filename. -- Forbes Burkowski, CS, University of Washington