Explaining FreeBSD features

Bart Silverstrim bsilver at chrononomicon.com
Thu Jun 23 12:54:26 GMT 2005

On Jun 23, 2005, at 5:04 AM, Erich Dollansky wrote:

> Hi,
> Ted Mittelstaedt wrote:
>>> Ted Mittelstaedt wrote:
>>> I have to take my neighbour with her Ph.D. in biology again. We can
>>> assume she has proven not to be a plain idiot. She got some of
>>> the book,
>>> looked at them for some days and said 'why should I study IT before I
>>> can use FreeBSD'.
>> Why should I study the drivers manual before getting a drivers 
>> license?
> I do not know why people do it. I just learned driving in a deserted 
> place.

So...you learn what the interface tells you and your intuition can 
figure out.  Other people learn by reading and finding out how things 
work so they actually know what's going on.

It's always entertaining to do something on the computer that the user 
never "stumbled across" before and is amazed that a task could be done 
that way.  "How did you know that?"  "I can read."

Even more fun are the people that stumble their way through 
applications to the point where it looks like they're doing something 
productive and may even end up with an end product (barely), but have 
no clue what they did or how they did it and what they ended up with 
was so "wrong" that it can end up being a headache for the next person 
in line to deal with.  For example, there was someone I knew who did a 
small publication with a popular (read: Microsoft) application that 
required a number of graphics be inserted along with text boxes and a 
full layout all arranged before the "document" was sent to the printer 
(a printer as in a contracted publisher).  The end result was nearly 
400 meg.  I looked at it and saw that they had inserted a number of 
graphics that were in their original format...namely, huge.  I'm 
talking about jpg files that were easily over a meg each.  The person 
had inserted the graphic and just scaled it down using copy and paste 
from a graphics program, so the original full-res image was getting 
embedded into the document when, for the quality of the printing that 
was going to be made, it was definitely not needed.

"Where are the graphics you used?"

"I don't know...I just have them on the desktop and here and there..."

So we spent some time trying to track those down, since the person 
didn't know how to organize their files so they had stuff spread out 
wherever "seemed to work".  Some of the pictures were scanned in; where 
did they save them?  Didn't know that either.

Next I showed them the difference between the application just scaling 
the image as viewed and embedded, and actually taking the image in an 
image editor and resizing it, then saving the resulting image and using 
that in the publication document.  One meg pictures resized closer to 
the actual image size that was used in the document now only took a 
hundred kilobytes or so.

After going through this a few times (and making sure they saved the 
"new images" with a different filename to a specific directory so they 
could be referred back to), they set off on their own to continue the 

The document that was 400 meg, when I checked before leaving, was down 
to around 80 meg, and they were still working on the document when I 
left the building.

Funny how sometimes knowing what you're doing by reading, working with 
it, trying to understand what's going on can beat raw "I don't really 
give a d*mn how it works as long as it seems to work" intuition 

I guess that's why it's harder nowadays to throw a car's transmission 
from drive into reverse.  Too many "intuitive learners" out there.

We no longer wish to take responsibility for our actions, and we are 
being trained not to even think for ourselves.  Curiosity is 
disappearing.  Immediate results, even if they are wrong or done so 
inefficiently that the end product of our labor is crud, is preferred 
over actually learning how to do it right (or at least better than our 
random guesses).

And before pointing out that people learn by randomly guessing at how 
to do things, there is a difference between what is motivating the 
object of my criticism and the artisan hacker, with hacker being a term 
applied to far more than just computers; the former is randomly 
guessing at things to just churn out crud and doesn't care how it is 
done, has no urge to know what they are doing, they simply care about 
getting from point A to point B.  The latter pokes at some things, 
finds this is the result, then analyzes the result and wonders...is 
there a better way to do this?  Then they proceed to retry it with a 
different approach to compare the results.  The latter gets from point 
A to point B, then looks to see if they could do it in a better way.  
If they get stuck they read the manual.  Or they read articles and 
postings about the topic at hand to see if someone else found a better 
way.  The latter also seem to be a dying breed.

As for the biologist neighbor not being an idiot and asking "why study 
IT to use it", well, if you're an IT person, are you qualified to be a 
biologist?  Idiot or not...just because you're specialized in a 
particular field and "not an idiot" doesn't mean you're not clueless in 
other fields.  Duh.  Many people are not idiots in general but wouldn't 
know how to work an MRI, while for people trained to use it it's 
probably not all that difficult.  It's more accurate to say your 
neighbor is most likely not an idiot in biology, and probably not in a 
few other fields of knowledge, but it doesn't necessarily mean she's 
not a technology idiot.

>> That is correct.  I don't allow someone to cut into my body until they
>> have carefully explained how the whole procedure works and I 
>> understand
>> it.  I'm surprised you do.
> There is another difference. I asked 'my' surgeon a simple question: 
> how many died in your hands doing this. The number wasn't zero but 
> within avarage. With other words, I just trust them.

These are usually the people I hear talking on radio talk shows 
outraged that procedure XYZ went so wrong, or got duped into signing 
contract ABC when it's out of the norm for the industry...they just 
trusted the other person instead of looking up how it should be done.  
There was even a book at Barnes and Noble on how not to get scammed...I 
skimmed through it, wondering how in h*ll people could be so stupid.  
Now I realize that when we're trained not to think for ourselves but 
instead to trust the word of a self-proclaimed expert, we get a lot of 
easily tricked people in society.  It doesn't take that much extra 
effort to consult with some other "experts" or online information to 
see what the consensus generally is on a topic most of the time.

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