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Descent Into Linux (Part Two) 280

Part Two of Two. (Interested in Part One?) Lots of people told me the truth about what Linux was like. But I still didn't get it. Linux has nothing to with software or technology. It's a test of the human spirit. I have a better feel for all those macho geeks who've been flaming me. If I survive this, I just might singe a few newbies myself. In part two, the road to Linux brings us a mangled computer, a slobbering dog, and takes us to CompUSA, the literal embodiment of Computer Hell.

I should have known it wouldn't be so easy, because one of the laws of technology is that it never is. There's rarely such a thing as getting a computer, turning it on, and having everything work right out of the box. It's never happened to me, not with any of my dozen-or-so computers, not even with my beloved Macs.

Still, I was excited. I cleared the dining room table and carefully opened the smaller box. My wife had warned that the delivery service had dropped the box on the porch. "Ooops," the driver had said, laughing, as the box tumbled off the dolly.

When I pulled the computer tower out of the box, its case came off right in my hands. The guts of the computer, rattling around inside, spilled out all over the floor - the modem, the motherboard, six or seven screws, and the ribbons I later learned should be attached to the hard drive. The metal shelf on which the hard drive was resting was bent by at least two inches. The outer case was so damaged it didn't fit over the computer. It looked like the drop on the porch wasn't the only one. Maybe the term Open Source was to be taken literally.

I'd rarely seen the insides of a computer before, and was mesmerized even as I watched the parts of my box scatter across the floor. My yellow lab Stanley scarfed up the motherboard and paraded around with it proudly for a minute or two, as if it were a downed duck or quail, until I pried it out of his slobbery mouth.

I could have just sent the whole thing back to IIS, I suppose, but it wasn't their fault, and I had come too far to wait another few weeks. I was edging towards obsession. I stuffed everything back into the box and drove to the nearest CompUSA. Only extreme desperation drove me there.

To me, CompUSA is computer Hell in its literal incarnation. Everything about the place is designed to insult, alienate or abandon customers. There are few salespeople, and they rarely know a thing about computers. Most try to duck the hapless, overwhelmed, increasingly frustrated customers who get shunted from pointless line to pointless line, and wind up begging total strangers for help. The chain isn't satisfied to make buying computers and equipment a brutal experience; playing for what you buy is just as hard. CompUSA works to ensure that there are always too few cashiers, and they're apparently required to be hostile and mono-syllabic. I'm happier buying a used car from the sleaziest dealer than buying a toner cartridge at CompUSA.

Until I went to one of the Fry's electronics stores during a trip to California, I didn't know that computer salespeople even could be helpful.

The service manager of the Tech Support department at this particular CompUSA store had always been happy to take tons of my money for my various Mac crises and repairs, but he took one look at the carnage I pulled out of the box and practically tossed me out of the store. "No way I'm touching that," he said.

"How come?" I thought PC's were supposed to be easier to repair than Macs. "It's got Linux on it," I offered hopefully.

He shrugged. "I don't know Linux. I don't want to work on it." I hadn't even told him about the dog slobber.

By now, the plastic front had come off as well, and the motherboard and modem were rattling at the bottom of the machine. People in the long line behind me were picking up screws as they bounced off the floor and handing them to me.

"Do you know any other place I could take it?" I asked.

"Nope," he said.

Discouraged, I thought I'd have to send my Linux box back even before I turned it on, but before I retreated, I remembered that I was out of computer paper. I stuffed the mess into a shopping cart and rolled it towards the paper aisle.

At which point, I spotted a CompUSA employee in a red shirt moving rapidly down one of the aisles, a middle-aged geek with a beard and glasses. (I don't know how, but I have some metaphysical chemistry with geeks. They know me; I know them.) Without even being asked, he came over to see what strange object I had in my cart. No one at CompUSA has ever been helpful when I asked, let alone when I didn't. I was amazed.

"What you got there?" he asked, fascinated, in the way any true geek would be at the sight of an exposed computer. I told him what had happened, and he shook his head. "They could fix this. I've seen this before. Shipping problems."

Looking around, he motioned me over to the farthest aisle where his boss couldn't see. In a minute, we were both down on the floor, where he had pulled the Pentium from its cardboard box and spread it and all its parts on the floor. He did know Linux. Soon, two or three geeks had gathered around, watching, kibbitzing, offering advice.

"Let's see," he said, "let me slip the board in'the modem goes here?" He picked up the screws and attached the monitor connection, then bent the casing with his hands, all the while looking around warily for his boss. It was a good board, he said, and good modem too. "He'd kill me if he was me doing this," he said. I said I understood; from what I'd seen at CompUSA, helping customers was probably a firing offense.

"You better have this looked at it," he said. "This is really a mess, but nothing much appears to be broken. And it's good stuff." The plastic on -off switch snapped off in my hands - "maybe a touch of Crazy Glue," he said. The housing for the hard drive needed to be straightened, he said.

I was stunned at the guy's helpfulness, and grateful. He slapped me on the back, and we shook hands. I nearly hugged him.

I put the more-or-less reassembled machine back into the box, and drove it to a small PC repair place. The tech there, a geek poster boy in Airwalks with the skin color of a fish, seemed happy to take it in; he'd clearly seen worse. He told he'd once gotten a motherboard a dog had actually chewed.

Oddly, none of this has discouraged me. I've been spending the last few months traveling around the country for a book, interviewing geeks. They live for crises like this, and I can hear their voices in my head: all problems are solvable, be confident and patient, figure it out, stick with it.

I e-mailed one of the most resourceful, Jesse Dailey, in Chicago and told him what happened. A young man of carefully chosen words who rarely expresses emotion, he was moved, deeply sympathetic. "It's a bit like having a sick pet in a way," he counseled. "Gotta keep your hopes up and keep praying for it."

So, I'm still descending the road to Linux, stalled a bit, humbled, bloody but unbowed. Still using Microsoft Word and my Mac. Waiting for my machine to get fixed, I've started on "Running Linux." I like it. It's clear from the preface that this is a book - and project - for me.

"We invite you to dive in, enjoy yourself, be the first on your block to know what it means to tweak your dot clocks and rdev your kernel image," write the authors.

Linux, they say, is something of a rebellion against the world of commercial software, although an unplanned and disorganized kind of insurrection.

"You must expect the unexpected," write Welsh and Kaufman. "You must always yield to the driving force behind free software: that being the desire - no, need - to develop and maintain the most succinct and powerful system anywhere. To put it in a nutshell: you must hack."

Linux, they say, is something of a rebellion against the world of commercial software, although an unplanned and disorganized kind of insurrection.

"You must expect the unexpected," write Welsh and Kaufman. "You must always yield to the driving force behind free software: that being the desire - no, need - to develop and maintain the most succinct and powerful system anywhere. To put it in a nutshell: you must hack."

So okay, I'm ready for the unexpected and ready -- past ready -- to hack.

Alex, the PC tech fixing the box, just called to say putting the Linux box back together again was possible. A tech from IIS had called him to help him run through the system. He said I needed a new case, a new on/off switch and some new screws. It would cost $173. But he thought the modem and board were fine. He thought it would work. I didn't ask about the dog slobber.

And oh, he asked, what was Linux like? He'd heard a lot about it.

I don't know, I said. I've never seen it.

you can e-mail me at

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Descent Into Linux (Part Two)

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  • > Also, he's the best writer on Slashdot.

    haha, my ass he is, I dont think using the word "geek" 90 times per article qualifies as good.

    Get over it, you're a geek and so are lots of other people, doesn't mean you have to write about it every damn day like it's some new amazing thing.
    1. he only thinks he knows what a motherboard is, and the dog really grabbed something else
    2. the dog did indeed grab something, and he thought it'd play better if he said it was the motherboard
    I'm leaning toward the second option, if I must accept that the dog was involved at all. He's certainly writing for what he considers to be a "general audience," and in computing journalism this usually means that someone with an imperfect grasp of a subject (the author) tries to "simplify" things so that the audience can understand. They've probably heard the word "motherboard" before.

    Think of all of those one-liner recapitulations of the year 2000 problem: that's this technique in action, and it's why the mainstream press is utterly useless at explaining technical issues. The author barely understands them, having been given the assignment yesterday, and has a target audience that's clueless. Stir in an "expert" who can't simplify effectively, either, and you've got your article and your pull-quote ready to go.

    The solution is specialization. You don't see coverage of opera on Freshmeat, do you?

  • While I also dislike (actually dislike is too strong a word) JP for other reasons, he has been dabbling in linux [] and has managed to get a darn sight farther than Jon Katz has. As usual he's used a lot of help to get there, but he didn't give up immediately and buy a preconfigured box, and he doesn't generalise and insult people who help him as "geeks". And, maybe as a result, he's had far less flamage.

    For I all I may disagree with the Pournelle's politics, and for all that I'm not so keen on his fiction, I'd take him any day over Jon Katz.

    I think the common thread from both efforts, by the way, is that RedHat really need to take a look at their install manuals if they want to live up to the hype they're getting.

  • maybe as a result [of not buying a pre-installed linux box], [pournelle]'s had far less flamage.

    Actually, that's not what I meant. I don't begrudge anyone buying a preconfigured Linux box, and in fact I hope a lot more people do so. I might get picky with the fact that someone purporting to be investigating Linux misses out the first step, but we already know that it's difficult for new users to install, and I'm more interested in how difficult it is for new users to use.

    On the other hand, I do find him patronising of people who help him, and I think this "geeks" thing is just a hook he uses - Jon Katz, talker-to-geeks.

    Look at the way he treated the poor guy who helped him at CompUSA - he could have been a hero. Instead he ended up being portrayed as a nervous, dysfunctional "geek" who still managed to make his employer look bad.

    And he still hasn't got Linux working. For the insight we've had, he might as well have been explaining the trials of ordering a pizza.

    I was going to write more, but it's been said already ... This post (titled culture: a flame) [] is as good a summary as I've seen of the view I share. I think we're being taken for a ride; I hope I'm pleasantly surprised, but I doubt it.

    Having said which, I still would be genuinely interested in a long time Mac user's first view of Linux - there was someone else posted earlier who fell into that category. Maybe the soapbox should be ripped from under Mr Katz and let someone with serious intentions have a turn.

    (by the way - thanks for not descending into name calling in this discussion - it's increasingly a rarity on this site to be able to get away with reasoned criticism)

  • Okay, Katz doesn't know a whole lot about computers.. So what? He's written tons of stuff about computers and the people that use them -- and managed to stay moderately accurate.

    Every experience that he has here will let him understand more, and help him as a technology writer. I hope he'll manage to get a Linux box working, because then he'll finally be able to do something with his computer...

    Maybe he'll find Perl to be fascinating, or find the multi-user paradigm to be nothing less than extremely useful. Maybe Gnome will tell him there's a better way. There are any number of things in Linux that he could one day wonder about and say, "How did I ever live without that?"

    There was a day sometime in the past when each of us didn't know anything about computers. I hope everyone can try to remember back to that time, and decide to help Jon a little more. Please, guys, don't bicker. A lot of Slashdotters like reading his articles, even if some don't. If you don't want to read his stuff, don't make (too many) comments about it.

  • Good grief. After reading all the flames I'm very dissapointed in the slashdot community. You people seem to be amazingly intolerent and hard-headed.

    When Katz first got here and posted some "geek culture" spiels, he was accused of being a poser. Well, to remedy that, he's gone out and bought a new computer for the primary purpose of proving himself to the slashdot crowd. As this article shows, he has had some perfectly legitimate problems (broken hardware) just getting the damn thing running, and, unlike some of us, I suspect he has other things to do with his life than the necessary fiddling to get Linux going right now. Not all of us have assembled our own computers and know hardware inside and out, but that doesn't mean we are lesser people. Running Linux is not the only that makes one a geek, in fact geekiness is not at all restricted to the world of the computer. Katz is a liberal arts geek. When he talks about geek culture he gets it remarkably right, he understands the mindset, even though he isn't a technical whiz.

    The title to this article may be a bit badly named, but Katz is trying to explain why he isn't quite there yet. Probably, "if it isn't one thing it's another" sort of problems have been dogging him (no pun intended) ever since he decided to set out on this mission to come closer to understanding the Linux community. People just don't seem to want to cut him some slack. This is disapointing and I honestly hope that it doesn't discourage him. He says he has a thick skin for flames, but slashdot these days is like walking over a bed of hot coals.

    Anyway, people really need to lighten up. Contrary to popular opinion, as long as there is a Linux community of active developers and interested users that is helpful instead of flaming to new users, we have no reason to reject the poor huddled masses seeking the freedom of our favorite free operating system. Yes, Jon Katz is interested in Linux for it's social and political aspects, rather than it's technical ones, but weren't those the reasons that prompted RMS to start the GNU project? The technical execelence of free software was, to Stallman, a "side effect" of the intened goal - software you could share with your neighbor, and a community of programmers where you help each other rather than necesitating competition. A rather noble goal, and one that has, to a large extent, succeeded.

    Anyway, please give Katz a break. I'm sure he's trying his hardest, and you can't really blame someone for that, can you?

  • The only time that I've ever seen the inside of CompUSA was when I was looking for an audio cable for my CD-ROM to sound card. I found one, but didn't buy it. They were asking $22.
  • Gods! It's... it's... it's.... JERRY POURNELLE!

    Except without the computer knowledge...
  • ...and he flipped up the fan and removed the daughtercard, and took out the MB to add the ram. QED. Nice machine, too.
    Of course, if it takes him a half an hour to do that, he's a dreadful luser ;) now, with some of the 'Chinese puzzle box' Performas I could understand, but a 9500?
  • Want a complementary (not compl_I_mentary, compl_e_mentary- I am a writer _too_ ;) ) set of articles?
    I'm getting tired enough of watching Katz to consider trying his job myself instead of just complaining. Qualifications? I'm a Mac user, always more techie about it than Jon, and two weekends ago I spent 18 hours downloading linuxppc- ever since I have been setting it up and getting more and more out of it.
    That means 'fighting with it merrily for late night after late night' ;)
    I started with KDE, and I might be the first person (or among the first) to run Window Maker on linuxppc. My inexperienced but tenacious onslaught on this migration to a truly personal linux box has been fraught with curiosity, shock, frustration and triumph. You can run those Afterstep animated backgrounds on WindowMaker! (shock) they are nothing more than a screensaver in the root window! You can use the resources of a mac graphics weenie to make tiles and killer backgrounds that are great on linux! [] (triumph. enjoy) You can discover that KDE does let you point and drool your way to dialup PPP access, but it _fakes_ configuring etc/resolve.conf and gets rid of its configurations afterward, leaving you hosed when you try to make wmppp work as a total newbie! (outrage) You can get really aggravated with the demented random keybindings and discover that MacOS is infinitely more supportive of keyboard shortcuts, and that many X apps are sorely lacking in keyboard shortcuts (emacs does _not_ count ;) )! (astonishment)
    Yep, you heard right: two weeks and I'm already running Window Maker, have a smattering of themes I made myself (currently I still need to macweenie more tiling patterns to do titlebars and menu backgrounds), and last night I even got wmppp to fully work and never have to invoke kppp again! I also crashed under netscape and kppp and had to boot to manually fsck the disks, and for the very first time I figured out to go 'fsck dev/sdb5' and it worked! Nobody told me and the first time that'd happened, I didn't clue quickly enough, and simply reinstalled everything, figuring it wouldn't hurt to walk through all that again...
    Anyway, here I am- having a morning MacOS session (hey, I don't _run_ a server, and you can boot to MacOS for games and stuff, no harm in it) but I could just as well be posting from linuxppc and writing essays in vi in a transparent aterm (another hack I figured out through stubborn persistence). *wave* hey Rob! CmdrTaco! If you must have a Mac-fellow essaying about Linux, would you care to have one who can actually sit down and run it? I'm still a newbie- hell, I'm having trouble setting up any account other than root, so I daren't IRC to #slashdot yet- but I'd humbly suggest my experience could be every bit as valid as Jon's. I am _using_ linux. I don't think it rules the universe- but there are sure some things it does that'd be tough to do anywhere else, and I look forward to exploring that.
    And, again: here, I saw fit to take pretty much my entire MacOS personal texture and pattern collection, and my desktop pictures (all mine, original works) and put them up on my site for Linux people, approximately quadrupling the natural-media tile quotient I've seen out there ;) []
    Because it's good to share with friends. Also because I'm curious to see if slashdot will exceed the hammering I got from when my essay on Microsoft's ClearType and hand-antialiased fonts got mentioned.
    So, Rob, care for a different perspective on newbie issues and why to run Linux? :)
  • I take it you ran 'top', then? I myself found it most delightful (though it's a bit frustrating what with the huge lists of processes- I must get rid of some of those silly daemons I'm not using :) )
    This would mean you're running Linux, and probably the window that got stuck was some kind of KDE. Keep poking about in xterms- and do _not_ get hung up on RPMs, Jon, if you set up linuxppc on one of your Macs you'll be grateful you learned to do tar -xfz [file] and ./configure make make install :)
    Chris, who's tickled. By God, I think he's got it!
  • Well, fair enough, though I would point out that Jon exemplifies a type of user that you- we? Linux folk are going to be dealing with. For convenience's sake: my Email [mailto] but honestly, if Katz is actually _using_ linux at all, I think he's interesting and amusing to hear from. It's like a tagalong kid brother, determined to fit in, and with such a relentlessly upbeat attitude that you can't help but warm to him eventually- Katz makes Linux sound quite hard, but _cool_, because of his relentless hero worship.
    I'm a different breed of Katz... er, I mean, quite another type of linux user ;) I may be fairly lost on Linux, but I've been saying all along: there are Mac hackers, too, just as there are watercolor-painting geeks and slab pottery gurus out there. Frankly, the 'hacking curve' on a Mac has discontinuities- there's a pretty sharp break between resource hacking and system comprehension, and MacOS programming, and the latter requires the skills of a guru, or the purchase of expensive software from Metrowerks that has libs which can handle much of the sheer complexity of MacOS.
    I never quite got to that point, but you can't stop a hacker personality from fiddling with stuff, and so I'm currently looking at a MacOS desktop that looks like a weird NeXTStep design, with antialiased fonts, and with a desktop picture that has stuff to remember drawn on top of it like a more visually appealing 'root-tail' (meaning it's antialiased against the 2X picture and scaled back to size).
    However, doing this has meant rebooting after every picture update, because Desktop Pictures seems to not appreciate having its picture changed out from under it while it's running. I can do something like this simply using root-tail- it is far less sophisticated in some ways (my alpha MacOS tool can set all entries to different sizes and you can set positions by clicking in a little window with a small representation of the resulting screen) but it is less _fragile_, and that means it's more accessible- something you can _do_ without it blowing up in your face.
    THIS is what I am learning 'using the beast'.
    There are things I do with MacOS that I just plain like, and that I don't see a parallel to in Linux- yet. But MacOS was never intended to be customized to the extent you can customize Linux- and this is the direction I expect to be going. And, frankly, I don't think it is appropriate for Apple to take OSX in that direction- even if they can.
    I don't need a Slashdot license to write essays [], for better or worse I am already doing that, perhaps in a less focussed manner because most of those essays began as my own Usenet posts- or Slashdot posts ;)
    I am pleased at the kind word, AC- I'm a writer too, and we live and die by style. ;) I don't think Katz should stop doing articles. There's a place for his breathless optimism and desire to belong. My own angle is more conceptual BOFHishness and gentle cynicism, combined with simple enjoyment of computer tricks and a relentless fascination with what these things _mean_ in society- and if CmdrTaco wants to find me, he knows where to look (at least now he does, since I've posted my Email [mailto] ;) )
    As a final campaign promise, I assure you all that I don't own a copy of Microsoft Word and will not be generating mangled ASCII. Though I do own Excel. (c) 1985- the version that fits on an 800K floppy :) I believe I actually ran it once. For that matter, I also own Microsoft Typing Tutor- the 16K cassette tape version (seriously!) I have it on display in the customer area in the fixit shop where I work, but I think I ought to take it back home- nobody finds it as amusing as I do, and if they did, they'd probably steal it, and where am I going to get another copy, Redmond? ;)
    But I digress. Am I as longwinded as Jon Katz yet? ;)
  • The people at Fry's tend to be a little better educated than those at CompUSA (at least in my experience). You don't go there for the service - you go there for the prices.

    Creeping above, spotting lurker, dropping grenade, I get a frag.- quake haiku
  • Posted by faywray:

    Look, haven't you ever heard of "suspension of disbelief?" Or were you not paying attention during English class. Too busy drooling, huh? It's possible that much of the story is exaggerated just to make it more interesting. It's all for our entertainment, so why don't you lighten up a bit?
    And put it this way, learning of any kind is always a noble endeavor.
    I'm even worse off than he is. All of you people who have been learning about and using these machines for ages are LUCKY. If you knew what an "ignorant user" I am you'd probably come and smother me in my sleep.
    But without the users, many you arrogant people would be hard put to earn a living. Sorry. Just trying to be as mean and nasty.

    Perhaps you should give some complicated endeavor a shot. How about something that you know little about but which captivates you? For instance, why don't you build a house from the ground up, train your housecat to jump through hoops, or perform brain surgery?
    Oh, but I forgot. If you don't know anything about it, then you must be too stupid to learn. What a pity.

    I hope that someday you get over your insecurity and no longer feel the need to antagonize people who aren't exactly like you.
  • Posted by HolyMackeralAndy:

    I just finished setting up and configuring a Caldera box. I've never done Linux before, only read and heard about it. It took me approx. 2 hours start to finish. It's fun to follow another persons experience with Linux but dude, lighten up, this is not that big of a deal...maybe you should go back to your Mac.
  • Posted by Hamlet of Elsinore:

    Good luck getting "Slobber" up and online. Great story. Funny to read. I can even understand your visit to CompUSA, of all places. I share your impatience to rip open the packaging and play with a new toy. I drove to my local UPS depot in the evening to find my new P2-400 among the 75 or 100 brown trucks after the driver left a "no one's here, back Monday" note. UPS depots are cool at night, the hidden machinery of delivery revealed.

    I am a little bit surprised that you have not been inside (m)any PCs in your years of their use. Perhaps it is an uncommon personality trait to open up the box and poke around. It is the same trait to peer into dark corners of an operating system to see what features are in hiding there. That is one reason for the resentment that many in the Linux community have for MS. Many of the features are buried, undocumented, unconfigurable. The one-size fits all, "you'll want this", "we know best", nature of Windows' setup and operation raises the wrath of the folks who want to get under the hood. With Linux, perhaps you need to enjoy being forced to make all sorts of decisions at install. I can imagine the difficulty if you do not enjoy the choppy seas of the install. With Linux today, we have to pay some dues in the engine room before enjoying the speed of the ship up on the bridge. But I'm no expert, a little skill gained putting Slackware onto a laptop four or five years ago with all of the pcmcia woes, a new install of RH 5.2 to learn about PPP service, keep up my Unix chops. I spend a lot of time in NT. For now.

    Keep up your posts. Enjoy your new machine. I hope the /. thoughtful reply to flame ratio diminishes....
  • Posted by phelddgrif:

    I must admit, I didn't read all the posts. Why? Because it seems like half of them are pissant losers who like to flame people. I admit I used to flame people, back when I was 16 and had a 2400 baud modem (back then the baud rate was the same as the connect speed, now it is not because of compression). However, *I* grew up. Obviously their are a lot of people reading this site that have not. Please people, think twice before flaming and put yourself in this guy's shoes. What did he do wrong to deserve that kind of treatment (and foul language).

    Personally, I like this guy's writing. I must admit I was hanging the edge of my seat while I was reading the entire article.

    Myself, I must admit I'm a Linux person. I've had a box for a year now (up to RedHat 5.2) and I've setup and configured PostgreSQL, Apache, X-Free86, Samba, etc. and they all work and do what I want them to, more or less. However, their is no all knowing UNIX god out there and I admit I'm far from that image. But I'm working on it.... :-)

    I'd say give this guy a break. He wrote an entertaining and informative article from his point of view. The only person(s) that can call him a liar/cheat are himself, his family, and his dog who slobbered on the motherboard (which doesn't sound far fetched from the stories I've heard from friends of their dogs eating their keyboards...)

    All in all, a job well done and I'm sorry I was long winded. I'll pull on my asbestos suit that I have in my closet (from back in the day of old school flaming) and wait out the storm.
  • Course, as much as UPS destroys (and I've had some stuff badly mauled by them too), you'd think that they'd fire the morons responsible. When an employee causes his boss financial loss like that, most companies fire the employee in question so they don't have to eat the loss again.

    # find /dev/brain
    find: cannot open /dev/brain: No such file or directory
  • Linux has nothing to with software or technology. It's a test of the human spirit.

    It's just a friggin OPERATING SYSTEM. How much of a "test of the human spirit" is inserting a BOOTABLE Red Hat CD-ROM and turning on the damn machine? (Granted for a typical Mac user, that would be a stretch of technical capacity.)

    It's idiotic cultist statements like that which contribute to the undying arrogance of this so called "community".
  • by DaBuzz ( 878 )
    But how many typical Mac users have ever RE-INSTALLED their OS after they got their system? I can venture a guess of not very many at all.
  • by DaBuzz ( 878 )
    Based on my experience in this industry. I have had MANY dealings with Mac users over the years, even co-hosted a radio talk show about computers and was the service manager for a major local systems vendor which did mac repairs as well as PC.

    My statements come from the many years that I have spent supporting the general public's computing needs, both PC and mac. I have nothing against mac users, I am just fully aware of the typical skill level of each group.
  • If its your dime I will stay on the phone and walk you through the install of redhat or slackware.

    To the flamers:
    Wow you guys suck. I have no idea why any of you think your so damn great. If Bill Gates him self wanted help with a linux issue we should help. Not do our best to belittle everyone that does not get it the first, second, third, or even the fourth time.
    You guys almost make me ashamed to be a linux user.
    This guy is not giving linux a bad rap. You are!!! My guess is that the flamers have bigger egos than real technical skills.

    If anything these are issues that need to be addressed. Not a user problem. I would be fired if I said "Well it's not my code. The users are idiots." Instead of railing on him and filling his e-mail box with insults you should be e-mailing him offering help.

    Linux is a operating system not a elite club of ego-maniac's.
  • >Yes, it is right to refuse a damaged package, but once a member of your house accepts it, it is yours.

    I once got a computer back from repair, opened the box, and the CPU had fallen out.

    I filed a complaint with UPS, and they paid for return and repair.

  • Is it? Perhaps I'm not one to judge these days, since I'm quite well acquainted with the innards and interfaces of most of the software on my machines, but I imagine using a computer thinking "this will be the hardest thing I've ever done" can't do much for one's success. Have some confidence in yourself and your problem solving abilities; the human brain can solve some incredible problems with a little persistence.

    Now, don't rush into the job blissfully ignorant with plans to remain that way; don't fear every little thing. Computer hardware is quite literally dumb. It really doesn't know what it's doing. It only knows how to do it. Of course, this is at a most basic level, you say, but once one understands that an entire machine is just the sum of its parts in working order, and that every mystery to its workings can be solved by gradual awareness of how each of its parts work, the task doesn't seem so herculean.

    I understand that "pee cee" hardware is odd. A better part of it is downright crap, really, and it's a shame one has to be ever so careful about what to buy and what to avoid (because of proprietary interfaces to open hardware). If you're from a Macintosh world, but you're set on exploring new architecures and you have the cash, I would suggest buying Alpha hardware, or maybe PowerPC hardware, or even an old Sun or SGI. The hardware design at these levels is something you won't approach in PC design. Of course, the software availability is proportionally lower these days.

    My advice for operating system installation? Stick to the guide unless you know better. But as you catch yourself thinking you might just do something your own way, size up the changes your actions might effect. Turn back then if you wish; there's no shame in playing it safe when you can always change it later.

    Trust your instincts, because your computer won't.
  • Well, since I got my boxes backed-up, and still haven't gotten the okay for the hardware for that trinux network monitor I want to set up - cool packgae BTW - this was just right for a Friday read. Funny, overall. Could be titled "How I fucked up a 2-car funeral".

    What I like about Jon's postings is that they always provoke spirited responses; the other reason I read /. so often. So, keep writing, Jon, I'll read it all, and the entertaining responses you incite!
  • Aye, it's enough to make me wonder anyway. As many other people have said, no sane person would EVER accept an obviously-damaged product from a shipper! It shouldn't even be opened (any more than it already is on reciept of course - happens when things get dropped/squashed/etc), the carrier should immediately be told "This is damaged, return it NOW."
  • Umm, did we rea the same article? The one where Jon Katz says his wife reported seeing the UPS guy drop the box the computer was in? Have you ever seen the kind of damage UPS can do to a package? If if was dropped IN FRONT OF HIS WIFE, I don't care to GUESS how many other times it'd been dropped. It's UPS's fault. Don't blame the company that built the thing for the shipper's doing.
  • by Scott ( 1049 )
    I'm glad slashdot is trying to provide actual content, and sometimes this guy's articles are decent, but I've noticed a pattern. Each one seems to, at some point, go into this "geek outreach" mode, as if he's trying desperately to prove he's one of use too, whatever that means.
    And doesn't anyone edit these things? The grammatical and structure errors are truly frightening. This is a good direction to go in, but it needs a ton of work and more thought put into it.
  • I think your experience with the geek at the computer shop illustrates perfectly (as I am sure you intended it to) the geek solidarity upon which the whole OpenSource movement is founded, Linux, of course, being its lynch-pin. I think some people, myself included, have a drive towards engeneering good, well designed, well ordered, things that we can be proud of. Those interested in this should check out "Zen and the art of Motorcycle Maintenance". Most of the software that drives todays computers was not written in this spirit, however Linux was - that is the fundimental difference between Linux and Windows.


  • Y'all realize that the dude in charge of all the CompUSA retail stores is also a founding member of that pro-"Microsoft innovation" association, right?

    Here's the details: Hal Compton, president of CompUSA (retail arm) is a member of the steering committee of the Technology Access Action Coalition (TAAC). Here's the Slashdot article mentioning TAAC []. TAAC's got a web site at [], but they've messed up the style sheets there. If you can handle the nausea, start here [] instead.

    I guarantee you I've stopped shopping at CompUSA because of this association, and recommend that people go elsewhere.

    Like Jon says, "everything about the place is designed to insult, alienate or abandon customers." -- the same pattern that I hate about MS "innovation".
  • So now it's Linux's fault that some computer got delivered damaged. You heard it folks! A broken computer case is analogous to Open Source.

    The windbag has written so much about software that he has admittedly never *seen*, not to mention never *used*, it simply *boggles* the mind!

    What is next? A book? I can just see it: _Avoiding Linux_, 900 pages of rant with (badly scratched) CD-ROM.
  • Given the opportunity, anyone with half a brain could have gotten countless Linux sytems up and running in the months that Katz has been talking about doing it.

    If it's meant to be humor, why is it not put in the HUMOR category instead NEWS?

    This fails to be newsworthy from just about any point of view, not to mention that it fails to be ``news for nerds'' about ``stuff that matters''.

    No, you can't make several valid criticisms of the article, just one: it's a bunch of incredibly lame bullshit.
  • The three obviously fictional parts I like
    the best:

    1. Case screws coming out. I once dropped
    a PC off a 6 story building, and the case
    screws didn't unseat at all. Even the cheap
    sheet metal in a PC is almost impossible to
    unthread. The case would buckle and deform
    first. UPS would have had to remove the case
    from the packaging (note that Katz didn't
    indicate that the packaging was totally
    compromised or missing) and drop it over 80
    feet to concrete in order to have much of a
    chance at unseating the case screws.

    2. The dog picking up the motherboard in its
    mouth and walking around for a while. Funny
    image -- crazy ludicrous made-up bullshit
    that insults the reader's intelligence, though.
    You're staring at the innards of a thousand-
    dollar piece of equipment, and your dog strolls
    over and picks up an expensive flat board studded
    with thousands of tiny sharp pins in his mouth
    without you stopping him, and he likes the
    sensation of having his tongue pierced enough
    that he hangs on to it for over sixty seconds
    (a very long time; try watching a clock for
    sixty seconds) -- and you let him keep it that

    3. The power switch breaking. It would be
    almost impossible to break a piece off a power
    switch on a modern PC even if you hit it
    edge-on with a hammer. And you can't get a
    power switch these days that's not inset into
    the case, requiring case disassembly before you
    can get the hammer test going.

    The problem with bad writers making up fanciful
    nonsense in tech stories is that they're bound
    to be caught in the lie. It's no wonder Jon was
    fired from Wired.

  • An anonymous coward writes:
    >So, dropping one case, seeing a small subset
    >of power switches, and biting (I assume) a
    >motherboard allows you to extrapolate your
    >conclusions to what happened to Katz?

    Have you been trepanned, or are you seriously
    defending Katz and suggesting that he didn't
    make up most of his implausible story?

    By the way, he recently posted saying that he
    took pictures of the damage for insurance
    purposes. Wonder if that was before or after
    his pain-loving dog managed to slobber on the
    motherboard for over sixty seconds without
    anyone stopping it.

    >Or perhaps your omniscience just let you watch
    >over his shoulder, and your perfect recall meant
    >you didn't need to take notes.

    Hey, if you want to believe Katz's bullshit,
    don't let me stop you. I'm just pointing out
    how entertaining it is to have a technologically
    incompetent buffoon with the writing talent of
    a half-poisoned one-fingered monkey try to pull
    off a lie.

    >Shouldn't you be playing Netrek somehwere,

    Your own particularly uninspired writing style
    reminds me of someone. ugcs, right?

  • by jd ( 1658 )
    The guy is having trouble with his computer. He compliments us computer geeks for being FRIENDLY, and gets a flamethrower shoved in his face for his efforts.

    Ummm, hello??? I know I have the damnest time taking a compliment, but even I have never waged World War III over being told that REAL computer people can be kind, considerate and helpful!

  • Okay folks, however dumb accepting that shipment might have been, you have to say this: Jon is being awfully persistent. I mean come on, the guy has problems installing the thing, decides to go out and buy a system preinstalled, waits forever for it, it shows up, and he immediately does the geek thing: goes and tries to get it fixed.
    How many of you call up on warranty before you try it yourself or with a few friends (or strangers...)
    Keep it up, Jon.
  • >So far Jon's writing in his spare time

    There's no such thing for a writer. They'll do almost anything, any way, to expand their audience.

    They're kinda like hackers only they write in a "natural" human language rather than code. Just as you or I will get a thrill from making a few deft tweaks to the code to get a performance boost or to squash a bug, "writers" love to have people read their stuff. So they write some more. Even when folks give bad reviews, flame and scorch them for their poor work, they know that someone read their stuff and get a thrill.

    Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to be very good at presenting his work. I mean really, if wrote code the way that he writes English, I'd never have gotten anything to compile!

  • If you guys want to see some real, hilarious, war stories about a real road warrior and his adventures with laptops, the weather, his wife, customs officials, etc. look in DejaNews for author Mosl Roland in newsgroup com.sys.laptops.
    Or hit his page here:

    At least he has a good excuse for writing in "broken english" and his stories are funnier as well.

    He'll have you ROTFLYAO.

  • Earth to Jon...

    What the hell are you thinking? I don't think people come to to read monotonous articles dripping with egotistical observations about something the writer clearly lacks all understanding of.

    Normally, I do not even approach flame in my comments, but this is getting VERY annoying! Jon, if you want to learn and truly understand the Linux/openSource community, listen and ask questions -- stop talking with authority if you are ignorant. I would be the first to help you with what I know. Unfortunately, I am still a newbie myself.

    The difference between you and I is that, though we both view ourselves as newbies, I have the decency to reserve my observations about things until I'm sure I understand. Not that I remain quiet -- I seek to understand. I haven't ever seen you post a QUESTION on slashdot, or in any other way attempt to be part of the community. You seem content to sit on high and observe. Well, try to follow the first rule of writing: don't write about things which you have not experienced, rather, seek the experience first.

    That is all. In the meantime, shut the hell up!

    - proteus -
  • Sometimes, passing the UPS depot on the way to school I'll see UPS trucks moving with the rear door open. On more than one occasion I've seen boxes on the ground near the depot's driveway or dragging behind trucks. If this isn't bad enough, I'm sure you've all seen the episode of the 20/20 news show where Barbara Walters, the show's anchorperson, makes all kinds of funny faces while she watches UPS employees stomp open packages at christmas time in order to steal stuff.

    To all those who argue Katz's computer was ill-assembled, remember that a trip off the back of a UPS truck at 35mph would destroy even the original IBM AT steel case. Who knows how many flights of stairs, loading docks or trucks the computer fell off before the delivery person dropped it off Katz's porch.

  • Do you pay attention to the world around you! Jeeze this world up until recently was and is dominated by Microsoft! The most easily accessable stuff anywhere is by Microsoft. Don't flame Katz for being a Microsoft user, hell I bet you were at one point in your life. Also he's trying to get out of using proprietary software by switching to linux. So use a little sympathy.
  • So, this seems to be turning into a terrible situation. Just remember, until you start installing Linux, it ain't Linux's fault :-)

    I feel for you Jon. I've just had to perform major surgery on 2 of my Linux machines after one of them experienced a serious thrombosis of the CPU, and the other quickly offered to give some spare parts for a transplant. *sniff* That little guy is so noble...
  • WHY is it that otherwise proud geeks are often willing to discount their own savvy in order to continuously trash Apple? All I know is that, after spending years with every kind of box imaginable, if I can't fix a given Mac, or INSTALL MEMORY IN LESS THAN 10 minutes, then SHOOT ME NOW. But one thing is for sure: you won't find me posting to SlashDot about my convenient anti-skills.
  • "Until I went to one of the Fry's electronics stores... I didn't know that computer salespeople even could be helpful."

    Ohh please... I've been to all of the Fry's stores in the SF area. Their sales people blow! They rarely know much, take for ever getting parts from the back, and tech support there is a rip off. I prefer to just spend my time fixing problems (that's all the fun).

    Anyone seen that Fry's employee application? It is in yahoo somewhere... kinda funny.
  • Jerry Pournelle has actually seen the inside of a computer. He's hooked together his own LAN. He was playing around with windowing systems and OS/2 before 95 took over.

    He may have a small army of techs to help him out, and his political views could "use work"...

    ...but I give JP enough credit to say he would probably send back the UPS box, and then eviserate IIS in print.

    There's two ways to read this -- either Katz is a fool and his dog really did EAT HIS MOTHERBOARD, or he's making it up. I think he's making it up.

    Katz wants an audience, any audience, even if it means being a clown and making a fool of himself in front of a public which does nothing but throw things at him. That's pretty low, but the alternative is even worse.

  • Hell yes, you have my vote. I'd far rather read an article from you just on the basis of your single article. If they're about Linux and the spelling is good, they've got to be more worthwhile. Maybe we can poll you in?

    Admittedly it won't be nearly as amusing to watch the commentary, but it would be interesting to see some serious newbie competition against Katz (with comments from the peanut gallery, of course).
  • Slashdot flames Jon Katz.
    Jon Katz writes a book about hanging out with his new buddies @ Slashdot.

    That's scary. And yet, it makes a certain kind of sense from a media perspective. If you can turn Monica Lewinsky into a story, why not /.?

    I guess this explains what he's been doing over the last two months, and why he wants the Slashdot audience so badly.

    I hope Rob gets some of the royalties...
  • I have a Linux system that handles my voicemail, firewalling, and home automation at home that's running in worse shape than it sounds your computer arrived in. Motherboard and powersupply sitting on a shelf, no case. Harddrive on its back next to it, piece of paper keeping things from shorting and a floppy drive taped to the top of it. Couldn't find the connectors for the serial ports so the modem shucked its case and is hardwired to the serial port through a ribbon cable.

    Looks sort of like something out of that movie Pi.

  • Everyone knows they take returned parts re-shrinkwrap them and put them on the shelves.

    I personally returned 3 defunct motherboards. The last one wouldn't even post. I cut some of the leads with a razorblade, marked the box and returned it. 2 weeks later I found it on the shelf again.

    I only go there anymore because I relish telling the door nazis to FUCK OFF!

    DN: Can I see your reciept?

    Me: Are you suggesting I might be stealing?

    DN: No.

    Me: Good. Bye.
  • Portland?

    Where did you find these knowledgable techs in the Portland store, and where do they keep them?

    If you want a good geek store, try ENU.
    They won't help you, or EVER answer their phone, but they know what they're talking about.
  • Let me see if I understand this correctly...

    You've never seen the inside of a computer before
    but you are somehow able to tell that it's the
    motherboard the dog has just wondered off with?
    That must be quite a dog.

    Somehow enough screws have come loose during shipping that all the parts are rattling around inside the box? You've picked the wrong audience. Anyone who has worked with PC hardware knows this just isn't going to happen unless someone goes out of their way to make it happen. The only way this could make any sense is if it was shipped in that condition.

    By the time you get to a line at CompUSA, you are still dropping parts?

    I'm having a hard time taking any of this seriously. It is presended as an account of your recent problems, but it sounds more like you've made the whole thing up.

  • Jon has yet to use Linux. Calling these articles
    "descent" is a bit dramatic. I prefer "ascent".
    Linux has a more primitive interface (before X),
    but that interface is far richer than the MacOS or
    WinX environment.

    Still, I like to read these installments. I can
    avoid coding for a bit. :)

    Good Luck, Jon.
  • by cbj ( 3130 )
    I find that things which are sent via regular ground delivery, when they are big like computers, are heavily handled. Things sent via next day or 2nd day air are almost always in perfect condition. This costs too much with 60lb monitors of course. Lesson of the day for those that don't know, inspect packages delivered to you before signing for them. Most geeks love to get a deal and they don't take crap from delivery companies.
    Katz, isn't there a LUG (Linux User Group) somewhere near you? You really need the help.
  • Ironically, I can usually find cheaper computer equipment at the local Sam's Club (a huge store that sells products in bulk) .. CD-R's, 17" monitors, and even games. I'm fairly certain that the '$0' sales with the massive rebates are only gimmicks to get people into the store; they probably don't even stock more than 10 items for said sale. Ever since they took out the game machines, things have gone down hill. Buh.
  • Jon,

    You're climbing up to Linux, not descending. Descent would be if you had to go to Win98... :-)

  • No amount of bouncing the box around by UPS trained monkeys is enough to cause that kind of trouble.

    Wrong. You have obviously never seen UPS in action, because if you had, you would not make such a silly statement. I used to do customer service for a computer reseller, and if you'd seen some of the f'd up stuff UPS has done to our shipments, you'd agree with me.

    My guess is the bad handling by UPS snapped the standoffs that hold the MoBo right off the case.
  • I once had to take out memory from a Mac. It took me half an hour.

    Then you must be one slow ass installer. Since
    you don't bother to say what Mac it was, I'll
    just assume you didn't know what the F you were doing.

    I've installed memory in just about every Mac model every made, and I can not recall a single instance where I had to remove the processor to install memory.

    As for removing "internal structures", so what? Like you've never had to do that on a PC? I know I have....
  • It's idiotic cultist statements like that which contribute to the undying arrogance of this so called "community".

    You mean like your needless slam against Mac users?
  • Look buddy, quit saying "we", 'cause you certainly don't represent my views.
  • This is the first Katz article where I read every paragraph without skipping. Maybe having a beginning flowing towards an end was the missing ingredient.
  • It's okay writing, but the worst part about the story is that he somehow equates "The Linux Experience" with receiving a broken computer from UPS -- he seems to think that this is all part of the esoteric Linux community; but could this very thing not have happened to, say, a Gateway with Win98 preinstalled? Really, this has nothing to do with Linux. Please don't equate bad UPS shipping with OpenSource...

    BTW, always ship ocmputers FedEx: UPS is well-known for their "computer abuse" -- they've knocked a few screws loose from my computer, too...
    David E. Weekly (dew)

  • C'mon folks, you're doing what linux geeks world wide are accused of: seeing someone having trouble and then poking fun because they don't know what's wrong. Let's show a little class.

    So far Jon's writing in his spare time, on a project he's undertaken at readers' (Re: us) requests that's turned into a fiasco he's funding out of his own pocket. Wouldn't you want to rant and rave about the grief you suffered before you even got to start the real job?

    He's an admitted Mac guy and you're surprised when he's not familiar with the inside of his PC. I've seen MCSE's who couldn't figure out how to put a harddrive in a PC. You don't HAVE to know hardware to know software. (But you're right, it does help.)

    Next, he takes it to CompUSA. Why? So he can run Linux RIGHT NOW! Anybody willing to spend that kind of cash (and knows their spending it) deserves a little support so he doesn't bail. And yeah, $173 to replace a case is a bit steep, but I figure $85 for the case, $25-$35/hr for the tech and about 3 hours of time to move and test each piece of hardware; testing being the time consuming part.

    Now, let's play nice with Jon in the future and maybe we can prevent a blurb in his final article stating "The linux community mocked and ridiculed my every effort and should be treated as raving lunatics."

  • Great story, but what's up with this statement?

    > Until I went to one of the Fry's electronics stores during a trip to California, I didn't know that computer salespeople even could be helpful.

    When shopping at either store, I assume that I am on my own. When I'm at CompUSA I can actually purchase things. (And return them if necessary.) At Fry's, they have the hardest time completing a transaction.

    I'm confused as to how Fry's can be considered helpful under any circumstance.
  • Hey! This is getting good. Don't stop now. Besides, the little paranoid, self-righteous twerp who won't identify himself seems to provide a reasonable archetype for all of the other paranoid, self-righteous, arrogant Linux wackos who are flaming Katz on this site.
  • He can take it. And let's face it, only morons reward every kindly phrase with immediate knee-jerk approval or devotion. If Jon's aim is true and he really is sincere in his interest in exploring the free unix and open source realm, and isn't just kissing butt for acceptance and credibility, then he will find less and less resistance to his writings in the future.

    In the meantime, he's stated over and again that he expects flamage. It's always entertaining (to me) and some of it's even intelligent, if not a tad mean-spirited for my refined tastes ;) If some of it hits close to home and pains him, well that's just life in the big city, and he knows it.

    He'll either bail out or mosey on, hopefully a tiny bit wiser than before.

    I really don't understand the typos, though. I hold professional writers to higher standards than I do myself or my neighbors. This is an informal discussion, but his postings qualify as essays, and should be treated with respect (by the author), even if the subject is off-the-cuff.

    Lastly, most Linux users I know ARE a bit like religious zealots. If that makes for bad press copy, fsck'em.

    Linux. You're soaking in it!

  • At least the Linux Zealots worship a god whose miracles are repeatable and there for all to see!

    Which of the following miraculous feats is more impressive?

    1. 'Parting' the red sea (at dead low tide) so a bunch of slaves can scamper accross to the other side


    2. Running ip masquerade on an os purchased for $15 at a local computer store and providing shared internet access to a small but active household network so a bunch of slaves can browse and play net Quake to their hearts content?

  • Hmmm... how old were you when you read it ?

    Good question! I was 29 or 30 or so at the time (34 now) and thought I was in for an enjoyable ride. I lost patience with his eternal rambling about 'Phaedrus' and whatall and dumped the book about 3/4 of the way through. I'm sure some would say "Well that's not fair, you missed the best part!" Too bad for me, is all I can say. I'll get over it.

    I probably do have some 'issues' with self-proclaimed intellectuals. I'll get a look at his new book (from the library) to see how he tries to justify his worth as an 'intellectual' to himself, his family, his dog and society.

    I'm aware that "Zen..." is considered a very 'grownup' book, but I think this is largely due to its density and obscurity, and a few good soundbites here and there. I remember my brother being assigned that book when he was a kid. Sheesh.

    The life lessons and wisdom in 'Huckleberry Finn' FAR outweigh anything I saw in "Zen..".

    But of course, *I* am not an intellectual, so how could I *possibly* know any better? Gotta have the worker drones too, eh?

  • I haven't had problems with Fry's although it helps that I live near one. So, if something doesn't work it is easy for me to get back inside of 30d ays and get a new one or a refund.

    I don't generally recommend Fry's to friends unless they know exactly what they want. Or, I pick out the thing for them. The salespeople are pretty clueless. I do object to one point made by another poster, that it is better to do mail order or internet. While on the surface it may appear cheaper, adding shipping tends to bring the price much closer. Then, there is the value of instant satisfaction, combined with peace of mind that within 30days I can walk in and return the part for a full refund, without going through shipping and RMA crap.

    I do like their return policy though. My computer crapped out on me one time, and I couldn't figure out what it was. I thought it was the video card. So, I went to Fry's got a video card, and tried it. Well, that wasn't it, turned out after some tweaking it was my CDROM. So, I returned the video card and got a CDROM and my refund of the difference, and that was it. Computer was back up.
  • I dont supose youve considered the idea that new
    users might be turned off by the general level of hostility that Katz receives here?

    Katz has been nothing but accomodating to the audience here. Im not sure that I would bother to learn Linux just to understand somebody elses point of view. Would you?

    Quite honestly I think Katz has been much easier to get along with than the collection of OS bigots and AC's that choose to whine and cry every time he posts.

  • I really dont understand the hostility here towards Jon Katz. The idea seems to be that the guy doesnt know Linux so hes worthless. Thats not much of a yardstick. I know plenty of Linux/Unix users that I wouldnt let mow my lawn.

    Katz has been nothing but accomodating to the audience here. Im not sure that I would bother to learn Linux just to understand somebody elses point of view. Would you?

    Quite honestly I think Katz has been much easier to get along with than the collection of OS bigots buttheads, and AC's that choose to whine and cry every time he posts.

  • I feel like I'm reading the confessions of Sabrina the Teen-aged witch. Why is so much web space being given to this. Anyone who can load Widows can certainly load any of the latest Linux distrubtions and fairly standard hardware. They just stick the disk in and answer a few questions. This guy spent three paragraphs describing his detailed experience of opening a box.

  • Thanks for writing, Jon.
    I'm enjoying your comical adventures.

  • I try never to shop at Fry's. Selection is lousy and they sell broken stuff that has been returned who knows how many times as new.

    There is no way that they check the motherboards, cards, software, etc. that they place back on the shelves with those blue and white stickers showing the return date.

    Shopping the Web gives infinite selection, often comparable or better price (even with shipping) and BETTER customer service. I built my wife's current computer entirely with mail order components, and it's a screaming machine!

    It's really cool to be married to a woman who appreciates raw computer power.

  • Sure, the article is full dumb stuff. Here is my favorite sample:

    "At which point, I spotted a CompUSA employee in a red shirt moving rapidly down one of the aisles, a middle-aged geek with a beard and glasses. (I don't know how, but I have some metaphysical chemistry with geeks. They know me; I know them.) "

    But we do ourselves no favors flaming the eyebrows off the guy. Although I agree that he has shown such a weakness for digging into Linux that the above quote is ludicrous, I always thought that the Linux community was very good at helping newbies find their way. So far I don't think we have done a good jobs of this.

    Jon is still struggling with a whole bunch of new stuff, and he does not see a coherent picture of what Linux is and might do for him. Some people are not good at configuring hardware, even though they are experts at using computers for the work they do. Jon is approaching the entire Linux exploration, I believe, as an application user who wishes to tap the considerable power of Linux to perform jobs that are important to him. He is an example of a mainstream user, and his story is important to teach us the problems they might have in converting to Linux. That makes his success important for the Linux community if we are truly interested in increasing the Linux user base. Jon needs a per-configured system so he can begin to explore Linux in ways he is capable of now. At this point all he has is confusion, without a vision of the potential. Once he has a running system, there will come a time where he will see the power of the OS, and he will be converted.

    Jon still needs to experience his Linux epiphany.

    What's that, you ask? Let ma answer by describing mine.

    My first Linux box was Slackware running kernel 1.8.13. Not really old, not really recent. I was trying Linux to learn more about all this UNIX stuff, having gotten tried of DOS, OS/2, and Windows.

    After getting everything installed, I was trying to get ethernet working with a card that the HOWTOS said was supported, but did not work. (Needed to use the ether= directive at the boot prompt, but I didn't know that then!) Somehow I got my console in a mode where the text on the screen was blinking: on-off-on-off. The console would only accept keystrokes during the "on" half of the period, which was about 1 second long.

    What to do?

    DOS/Windows thinking: reboot the system, and all will be well. Kind of hard to type the "shutdown" command while synchronizing keystrokes with the on-interval of command line, but I got it done. After the system came back up, the login prompt itself was blinking.

    Ever try to type a password, which is not echoed to the console, when you have this blinking thing going on? I gave up after 20 attempts.

    What to do now?

    Window Thinking: re-install everything, and all will be well. Ugh!

    Inklings of Linux thinking: "Multi-user, Network OS". "UNIX supports serial termianls." What if I hooked up another PC with a null modem cable, and then ran Procomm? Could I log in this way?

    So I tried it. Ran Procomm, guessed st the serial port settings, hit return a couple times, and there it was ( Hot Damn! ) a no-fooling login prompt.

    Epiphany - Linux can accept many login types because it is multi-user. Not like DOS/Windows/OS/2, which are single-user at a time systems. This means that Linux has to keep on truckin'. Cool, seriously cool! I never looked at computing the same way again.

    I think Jon will have his moment like this, and he'll be converted, and he'll never look at computing the same way again. We need to lighten up, help him out if we can, and let him discover it for himself.

  • I completely disagree.

    If you consider Slashdot to be an analog of the Linux user base as a whole, as I do, whose prime interest is to further the acceptance of Linux, then we have to decide whether we are a geek's club or a community.

    I believe that becomming a community is a key to ensuring Linux's success. A community where all people of whatever talents and abilities are welcomed, a commnunity where their voices are heard. If we truly are a community, then we need have no fear of Microsoft, which becomes, in fact, irrelevent.

    If we are to become a community, we must take RMS's motto more directly to heart (which I paraphrase here): "Free, as in speech, not as in beer."

    Katz, and any other visitor to this site, and by extension all members of the Linux using community, must be free to speak. And we should respect that freedom, even if we don't agree with the content, or we will become a club, and will deserve the obscurity into which we will descend.

  • Jon,

    How about posting before and after pictures of the box? I'd love to see the carnage wrought by UPS.

  • As much as I am all for keep Katz on Slashdot as a competent writer, I was disappointed by this article. I'm also beginning to agree with all of you out there who said Katz (as a feature author on Slashdot) needs to know more about linux/unix tech-related issues. This article was pretty cheesy, and I'm not generally one to flame. Frankly, I wouldn't mind an article on his descent into Linux, as it were, if it /were/ on this topic; unfortunately, as someone else posted, the majority of this article has nothing whatsoever to do with the Linux OS. And /hello!!/, why didn't he just return the trashed machine when it arrived so battered and bruised?? I lost a bit of respect for Katz's "I am a geek" mentality if this is the way he is approaching technology & computing. Not to mention his love of Macs (userfriendly, maybe-- a CS prof here calls it a "fake" OS-- how often does it reboot?? Even windows is better.) It seems melodramatic to say "Linux has nothing to with software or technology. It's a test of the human spirit.". Sure, it's a struggle to learn, but it's about a love of technology, a feeling of achievement when you learn something new or fix a problem.
    Linux is cool. He seems to be trying to find out why. I wish him all the luck in the world -- and would love to read the article that really talks about his experiences. UPS mistakes aside.

  • Nice story, but what did it have to do with linux?

    Look, i have nothing against folks trying to learn something new, but you got to be able to call a cat: "a cat", and a dog: "a dog". I have grown up not taking crap from no one, nor allowing someone to string me along. No matter how much you may want to see this guy install linux, or here his long "story" about installing it (without actually doing anything) this may not actually be the place for it. You can say what you want, but scroll back up to the top of this page, and see what it says in the title. "Slashdot: News for Nerds. Stuff that matters." If his last three or four articles were shortened into one, and then there was actually a part about linux in it, then it would fit, but all i see so far is a ploy by someone to become a part of the "hip" crowd. Linux is an OS, nothing more nothing less. There are many ways you can use linux, the most common way is as a tool to get a specific job done. However, the so called "linux community" is mostly made up of people who uses linux as an all in one swiss army knife. You cannot become a member of this club, because there is no sign up fees or registration forms, you can't ask to join, or tell folks that you are a member. You will know that you belong when you can contribute something back to the community and/or to others. This can be in simple things as helping others learn linux, writing software, donating your money or time to different projects or just being nice to others and providing accurate information about linux. You don't even need to use linux to be a part of the "linux community."

    My only advice for you is this:
    If you want to install linux, do it for the right reasons, not because you feel pressured to do it. Because you will resent the entire experience and it will leave you feeling hurt and resentful. And i suggect that if you do write another article, please focus on the title of your topic, else you will be fooling your readers into expecting something that you are not providing. And this is considered to be the worst form of writing. So, heed my advice.
  • It's *assholes* like you that help make Linux inaccesible to the general public. Katz is obviously not a moron; he is only ignorant about computers. I'll wager he knows a LOT more tha you about a good many things, Dork.

    I can't believe what a fucking dick you are.
  • Oh MY God.. SOmeone else who wondered why they were charging $22 for a CDROM Audio cable.. I went across the street to Computer City (before the buyout) and bought one for $4. This was the exact same part smae manufacturer and brand name. CompUSA Sucks.
  • I can't believe that there are people that, after reading that entire article, the only thing that comes to their minds is "what moron would accept a damaged package"!! If you find that you don't like Katz's writing, why continue to read it and then complain about it? It seems that the true morons are the ones that haven't figured this out yet.

    Oh, and for you flamers, Katz DIDN'T accept the damaged box. Read the article again, the package was at his house when he got home.
  • by your own logic, wouldn't your reply to my post then "spur" more complaining on my part and make you just as guilty as i was for progessing the flame posts? i guess there is some logic there since i've obviously replied, but it's like saying that two people shouldn't argue a point because arguing only results in more arguing.
  • Doofus.

    Ever tried to upgrade the memory in a Quadra 800? If you're never done that box before, it will take half an hour. And if you escape without bloodying your hands, you're lucky.


  • Face it, Jon (and those like him) are NOT like us!

    Ah, but Jon is trying to pass himself off as a "geek". He keeps claiming he's such a cool uber-geek (Hell, he can even spot them with his super-special GeekRadar (tm), that's how geeky he is!), when he clearly is not technically skilled.

    I keep reading his articles, hoping it will get better, but it's not. This whole story just rings false ("I'm not up and running Linux after three months because the dog ate my motherboard...").

    I fear that Mr. Katz, in making such a big deal about his foray into Linux, has set himself up. He's talked about it so much, now he's got to have some kind of big show, a massive revelation when he finally Logs In. Truth is, Linux is cool, it's different, it's great, but it ain't going to be the huge religious awakening he's making it out to be.
  • You killed a window? That must mean you're running Linux!

    /me stands back for a second, contemplating this momentous occasion...

    Congratulations! :-) And have fun.
  • Lamont,

    I guess that you have not worked on the imac yet, then. The two memory slots are above and below the processor module. To access one of them, you must physically remove the CPU.

  • Anyone know where to get a copy of this 1975 BBC film? I love the book and I would love to see Tim Curry and Michael Palin in the film (with screenplay by Tom Stoppard, no less)!

  • by pompom ( 6302 )
    i had few problems here and there setting up my first linux machine but nothing like this. just so you know, there is not reason in the world why linux would cause the fronT of your case to break off or screws to come loose.

    perhaps in your next tedious monologue you can *actually* discuss linux instead of the faults compUSA, UPS, or case design.

    good luck.

  • i've experienced three different fry's stores: palo alto, san jose, and phoenix AZ. the PA and SJ stores lived up to almost every bit of frys' bad rep about their customer service being sadistic at best (my friend made the mistake of trying to pay with an out-of-state check and the PA store. BIG mistake!). at the one in phoenix, OTOH, i've had the best customer service that i've had at any computer or electronics shop anywhere. i've actually had meaningful conversations about linux with staff people at the phoenix store! even so, i always go in to any store like that assuming i'm completely on my own. the pessimist is, after all, the least likely to be disappointed.

  • Funny... my experience here has been the opposite - the CompUSA service was better than the Computer City service, that was, until Computer City got bought out. However, I've always gone in there knowing pretty much what I wanted and how much I expected to pay for it.

    Don't remember which store it was where the droid told me when I returned a DOA 8X CDROM drive that it wouldn't work because I was using it on a 486, which was too slow. (Heaven forbid that the drive might have been broken!) I then exchanged it for a new Creative 8X drive (for $10 less), which I took home and had it work first try.

    Moral: Do your homework before you step foot in ANY compuer store.

  • Some Macs are an absolute pain in the ass to work on..hell, just taking the case off of a 6500 is enough to make you want to throw it out the window. Replacing memory on the 7100 wasnt fun, but at least I didnt have to remove the processor(actually, since its soldered on, that would be tough.)

    Now if you want easy to work on..anyone been upclose to one of the new Blue G3s? Everything folds out before ya, and all the parts are accessible..

    As far as opening the imac.. it is actually fairly simple..just lots of plastic and contortioned plugs.. I'm sure an imac newbie with dedication could upgrade his own memory.. It's not really hard, it just takes longer to get to it(unscrew this, pull those off, slide this out, etc..)

  • Yes, I agree. Your spelling was atrocious. Proofraeding is not that dificult.

    Yes, but as your comment demonstrates, you really need someone else to do it for you.

  • Ha... we all know that is only possible from Emacs!
  • I shall ignore the second part of your story because it is absurd. As other posters have noted, you should have examined the package before accepting it; the shipping company is liable for damages that occured in transit.

    In the first part of your story you mentioned the flames over the unintended characters most of us see when you post stories you composed with MS Word. You do not need to "learn Linux" in order to remedy that. You only need to learn basic HTML and compose your posts using it. There are numerous 10 minute HTML tutorials on the Web to which you can turn. Download BBEdit Lite 4.1 [] an excellent freeware (i.e. gratis, but no source code provided) editor for the Mac; use it instead of MS Word.

    You are on the Web. The Web came about precisely because of the myriad of incompatible document formats and the difficulty in retrieving them that Tim Berners-Lee found at CERN. If you are unwilling to learn even the slightest bit about the tools of this environment, then go back to the print world and take the rest of the clueless, sycophantic journalists with you.

    How can you be so damn ignorant? no...wait I already have the answers:

    1. As you have admitted, you have been a Mac user for 10 years;
    2. You are a writer/journalist.

    'Nuff said.

    P.S. If you have a Mac, then why the bloody !@#$ are you not installing LinuxPPC []?!!

  • It seems that with John Katz, Slashdot has its very own Jerry Pournelle.
  • by JonKatz ( 7654 )
    Thanks for the great e-mail, and all the offers of help -- tech support, insurance advice, even some free computers and proofreading. I'm answering all the e-mail but wanted to post some general answers to some of the questions:
    l. To the sweet souls offering to proof my column, I can't accept that for free. I'll try and work on marking some more time for proofing, but it's hard..I'm doing columns, books and magazine articles, and am about to set off on a book tour (not the geek book, another).
    A couple sent LOL messages wanting to make sure this wasn't a put-on by me or Rob.Alas, it isn't. I've got a picture of the carnage in case I need it for insurance purposes, but as some people have suggested in e-mail, it's only made me more attached to the computer, which is now home, in a new case. I'm struggling to get it to go online. Soon as I can, I'll post from it. That will be a major kick.
    This hasn't soured me on Linus at all, quite the opposite. I even went into terminals on my box and killed a window on the desktop that wouldn't go away.
    Small potatoes for most of you, a huge techno-leap for me. I am more determined than ever to do this, and actually learn how computing works. I am beginning to finally get what hacking really means.
    As to those of you worried that I'm bothered or put off by flamers or name-calling, I promise you, no chance.
    Flamers are like airport noise...part of life. On /., I sort of relate to the impeachment trial. I'm prepared to stipulate that I'm a moron if it will encourage the angry and obsessive to find something more important to do. But it wouldn't.
    Anyway, I'm very close. I am also very psyched.
  • Okay Jon. Enough is most certainly enough. Not only has the quality of your "articles" become
    even lower than before but now what little content they had appropriate for slashdot has completely vanished.

    In case you haven't noticed slashdot (for better or worse) is aimed at the technically savvy. Not at the average consumer who needs someone to assemble a pc for them and can't even smash return 20 or 30 times and get redhat installed. Slashdot isn't for you. It *ISN'T* for everyone. If it was for everyone it would end up getting so amazingly watered down we would be left with something even worse than ZDNET.

    So Jon, please cease your innane ramblings. They do not belong here. When you have something new to tell me about new G3 or alpha chips or you can contribute something cool about the new HTML->potscript engine you wrote last night then you can come back and annoy us again. Until then please stick to reading the TECH section on CNN and posting your drivel to the masses who don't know any better.

    Because we do know better.
  • Oh please, welcome to the real world. There are no weak minds in the fact that Katz brings down the technical level of slashdot everytime he posts.

    Like it or not Slashdot *DOES* cater to a minority. Would you honestly like it to be differnet? Do you want to read the drivel in the CNN Tech section? Or the mindless rants of numerous hacks from ZDNET or wired?

    Katz is a useless addition to slashdot. He offers nothing except pedantic fodder written only to entertain himself and the other "windoze converts" out there.
  • I just took the time to re-read Katz last few postings to slashdot. I don't think any of his postings are spoofed nor do I doubt the validity of any of his claims...

    Quite simply Katz is a moron. A moron of the highest order. We shouldn't be suprised, the world out there is full of them... they mostly fill up roles as CEOs or head of MIS departments but Katz is living proof that a writer with national exposure can be more moronic than the "Tech Reporter" on any local news program.

    Instead of flaming Katz... we should be congradulating him on accomplishing as much as he has with his obvious mental defects.

  • The whole thing remainds me of Three men in a boat, laughing all the time. It makes a nice comic article.

If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants. -- Isaac Newton