Brilliant and very useful for FreeBSD, IMHO

Eric Anderson anderson at
Mon Apr 7 07:53:24 PDT 2003

Roger 'Rocky' Vetterberg wrote:
> As for your wife, is she able to install from scratch, get XFree86 
> perfectly configured, sound working, printer installed and internet 
> setup after a mere 15 minute lesson? No offense to your wife, but if she 
> manages that, she is truly one of a kind.

No, that wasn't really my point.  My point was about UI's, and how a 
good user interface should be simple and easy to use, and "natural" to 
the user.  Windows has this - but not because it's the best - only 
because it has years and years of being "the only one out there" that 
regular users see and interact with - if it's all they know, why would 
it *not* feel natural to them?

> To be able to get a novice user to use a gui to surf and check email 
> does not mean it is a good desktop os. The user should be capable of 
> installing and setting up the gui themselves from scratch, without help 
> or documentation. Ive been using fbsd heavily since 2.2.8, and I still 
> get into furious fights with XFree everytime I try to get a decent gui 
> started for the first time.

I somewhat disagree - most people use computers as a tool, and don't 
care to learn all the ins and outs of the os.  Now, I personally want to 
know what is going on in the os, but my (for instance and example again) 
wife doesn't care.  She doesn't care how it got to the point it is at, 
just as long as she can get what she needs to done.

> What if a totally novice user wants to install a program? Im sure you 
> all yell "ports!", and yes, ports is the best thing since sliced bread, 
> but if you have no idea what it is or even what it does, it doesnt 
> really help you. In windows, the user downloads the program or inserts a 
> cd, double clicks on the shiny icon it creates on his/hers desktop and 
> follows the onscreen instructions. Sure, it can fail and some users cant 
> even do that without messing things up, but it sure takes a hell of a 
> lot less knowledge then ports.
> Lets setup the network. Even an idiot would eventually find the "Network 
> Neighbourhood" icon in windows and after some twiddling Im sure he/she 
> would, accidently maybe but still, start one of the hundreds of wizards 
> that tries to help you setup things. With a bit of luck, the wizard will 
> even do its job and the network will be setup.
> In fbsd, you have to know that the right commands to do this is ifconfig 
> and route (unless youre on dialup, then we have to deal with ppp, which 
> doesnt exactly make it easier). You have to know that you can get help 
> on each command by prepending it with 'man'. You have to know that to 
> get out of a man page you press ^C. You have to know that to make the 
> settings you do permanent you edit a file called /etc/rc.conf. To be 
> able to do this you have to know how to edit a file. All of this is 
> depending on that you actually got trough the install and got the box up 
> and running in the first place.

Totally agree - but almost all "totally novice users" never install an 
OS, set up networking, or for that matter read manuals.  Now, I'm not 
saying it shouldn't be easy to do, but I think there are two separate 
needs to be filled. One, which satisfies all of us "techies", is already 
there, and we already use it.  The second, which we are discussing now, 
is not present in FreeBSD, almost by design - and that is the "simple 
setup" for a GUI and desktop configuration.  My point is that it is 
possible to have FreeBSD do the things required of a desktop OS for 90% 
of the users out there, there's just no simple means of getting there.

You are obviously in group one, and prefer to keep it that way.  I'm 
definitely all for keeping FreeBSD in the same vision and style as it 
has had for quite some time, however, I'm definitely not opposed to 
having someone come up with an option to sysinstall for "newbies" that 
slams the machine into a stupified state to snag the would-be windows 

What I'd ultimately like to see, is a sysinstall that has an option to 
install several types of "pre-canned" setups, like web server, mail 
server, nfs server, desktop, firewall, etc, so a user could pick it 
right from the menu, the os would install and configure the basics for 
that setup, and leave them with a somewhat config'd machine ready to 
roll.  Simple, effective, and helpful to those who don't "know" FreeBSD 
very well.


Eric Anderson	   Systems Administrator      Centaur Technology
Attitudes are contagious, is yours worth catching?

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