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The Road To Linux -- The Summit, but not the Peak 214

I made it to the summit, but not the peak. The good news -- I wrote on Linux, saw the Sacred Kernel, browsed the terminal logs, did some hacking, even played Asteroids. But I have been (temporarily, I hope) undone by a PPP Daemon that quit and ran. I think I'm hooked.

I feel like one of those Everest climbers. The peak is in sight, but I can't quite make it to the summit.

My mangled pre-configured Linux box (nearly assassinated by an overnight delivery service) was re-assembled this week by a Linux-wary, monosyllabic tech in a small computer repair shop. I took it home, plugged the components together, turned it on.

The desktop was familiar, even fun. A Penguin with a red hat appeared. I typed in my password and became "root," reveling in that bit of power. I had never been anything close to a "root" before. Three icons appeared - "Trash," "Template" and "Autostart."

Lo, I was staring at a Linux Operating System.

Clicking on the "K" (for KDE) icon, a list of programs and utilities appeared, including Star Office.

Clicking on Star Office took me to an open file, where I wrote a message I intended to post directly to Slashdot. In two minutes, I had gone deeper into the inside of a computer than I ever had. And I was writing in a word program that was every bit as easy and comprehensible as Microsoft.

My message to Slashdot said "Watson, I need you. So I am using Linux. Here, I officially give thanks to and acknowledge Jonathan Postel, the father of the Internet, and Thomas Paine, the father of media, and plant this strange little flag in the name of the Open Source and Free Software movements."

Then I opened the KPPP modem program and tried to connect to Mindspring, the ISP I had signed up for especially to handle the Linux Box. It dialed, hissed, whistled, even shrieked, then connected, then disconnected. The KPPP daemon had quit, I was told in a message. Here, my homework had paid off. I remembered from my dog-eared O'Reilly "Linux In A Nutshell", my Linux bible, that a daemon (I loved the name. I kept thinking there was a Stephen King movie idea here) was a server process continuously and secretly running in the background.

I knew that Daemons were important. They provided the most basic functions of the Linux system, according to the book. But there wasn't anything in my pile of books to tell me how to turn one back on.

That was five days ago. I could dial up but my modem wouldn't connect with Mindspring. The aptly-named KPPP daemon was all that stood between me and a functional machine, between silence and my victory message. Frustrating, but at the same time, hypnotic.

Marcus Porter, the Webmaster from International Information Services (, from whom I bought the pre-configured machine, and I became instant telephone palls. He was patient, smart, a natural teacher and a Linux whiz. We opened terminal windows, pored over logs, fiddled with initialization strings and modem arguments. We traded histories and did geek bonding while waiting for windows to open and close, modems to dial or not.

Thanks to Marcus, I've written some basic script, re-written the modem commands, called up and studied logs of the connection attempt even while the modem was making them, and done a bunch of other things I'd never done before.

If I had any previous doubts about Linux, I can sniff the possibilities. I got an enormous kick from closing the window that wouldn't close. Feeling like Indiana Jones, I saw the fabled Linux kernel itself. I wrote a chat script. Using root, I ordered my machine to kill everything in sight. I loved the command (since forgotten) where I call up a detailed log that is, in essence, the story of my computer, the history of the machine, the record of all the things I've tried to do with it. It was very cool to open the modem window and watch the log record the modem's struggle to connect to the ISP even as I heard it dialing-up.

This might seem simple-minded, even pathetic to Linux veterans and the macho geeks with fragile computing egos. For me, it goes right to the heart of what computing ought to be about, but rarely is. To go into the very guts of a machine, kill programs, close windows, read the preserved history of my own computing and thus writing life, is a stunner.

Linux is sometimes brutal, an experience many people won't have the time for or the will to pursue. But even a glancing look at the history of computing says it will get easier quickly. And the payoff, I can already see, is enormous.

To use Linux, you have to hack, pure and simple. Challenges, roadblocks and obstacles are not technical problems, but the essence of the experience. The machine works for you and with each command, program, trial or error, your confidence grows a bit.

The computer morphs. It's transformed into something organic, something personal, an extension of you and what you want to do, rather than a piece of equipment you use but never really understand. Over time, and with patience, it will do what you want it to do, rather than what they tell you you should want it to do.

Two days after I began nosing around on the desktop, I accompanied my techno-phobe wife on a printer-buying expedition. She has a new PC. A life-long MacUser, I had no idea how to get her HP printer working with her new PC laptop, and she ran into trouble in seconds, not knowing whether she needed to install software or how to do it. Much more than me, my wife dreads altering any function of a computer, utterly convinced she will destroy the machine, along with her life's work, in a keystroke. If not for the demands of her work, she would happily use a typewriter for the rest of her life.

As a result, she uses computers but almost literally hates them. I found myself mouthing many of the encouraging messages I've been getting from Slashdotters: don't be afraid to explore, you won't really hurt everything, use common sense and logic.

Even a few hours on Linux had altered my perception of computing. "We can do this," I said. "Let's just figure it out." We opened three or four different folders and programs until we found one that said "add/remove software." I opened it, and followed the directions that led us to the right drive and loading command. I knew it was loading the CD for the new printer by listening to the drive and hearing the whirr. In a couple of minutes, watched as a graphic appeared showing the software loading, and then the printer clicked to life and spewed forth pages.

"Wow," my wife said. "How did you learn to do that?"

The strange answer is that my bumbling hours on the Linux box were launching the process by which I could take control of my information life. Or begin to.

I understand how simple this is; few 12-year-olds in America couldn't do it faster and more intuitively. But it's a big bridge for people like me. We spend a lot of money for our computers, and we expect them to work. When they don't, we spend even more money and time - how many wretched hours have I stared at programs I didn't need or understand, waited on hold on phone help lines, waited at repair counters, waited for my machines to come back restored?

For years, I've kept myself completely ignorant about something that has changed my own life. Until last week, I couldn't possibly have added a software program to a PC. Nor could I have imagined how to close a frozen window without calling an online tech support line. Or the real jaw-dropper: go to the heart of a computer and read not only its history but the history of my use of it.

Much of my adult life has been spent in a losing battle with giant corporations. I really dislike them. They tell you what to write, think, say; they transform any kind of worthwhile endeavor into some sort of commercial impulse. I want to be as free of them as I can. And soon, I just might be freer than I would have imagined.

From enduring the jeers of hostile geeks to failing dozens of times in a row, Linux has been a challenge. It's frustrating and difficult, and it's not for everybody. But it's for me. Once again, I'm taking hours away from my work and out of my life to wrestle with computing. But this time, there's a pot at the end of the rainbow.

Or so I believe. But this isn't a complaint or lament: every hour I spend checking out this strange new machine has been well spent.

When I started writing this, I intended to end this column with a plea for anybody out there to help me figure out how I can get this willfull KPPP daemon to stop quitting and do his work, to come over to my side, help my modem shake hands with Mindsprings. Then I planned get to post my message and hit the summit.

But life is not that simple, at least not my computing life. Just before I wrote this, I got an e-mail message from the diligent Marcus at IIS, who had spent a significant chunk of his workweek on the telephone with me.

"We've been talking about your woes," he wrote. "I'm sure at this point that l) It's some simple thing I have overlooked or 2) The modem is damaged."

This, I knew, was a very real possibility, as it had fallen out of the bottom of the computer when I first opened it and bounced onto the floor.

Send it back, he said, and he and the other IIS techs would work on it over the weekend and get it working. They'd pay shipping both ways.

"Maybe we can have it back by Monday," he said hopefully.

Maybe so. I'm already working on a different victory message.

mail to:

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The Road To Linux -- The Summit, but not the Peak

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    if the sentiments expressed are genuine (long-nascent, downtrodden user-drone awakens to computer-as-tool/instrument-of-expression paradigm) -- and I believe they are, even if dramatically presented.

    Jon, keep at it, and keep us posted!

    Just Another A.C.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Keep it up. The nazi-geeks be damned...your experiences put into print are entertaining and especially useful for newbies struggling with the unique challenges of Linux.

    Down with the nazi-geeks.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Not to sound like a broken record, but obviously it bears repeating, because a few of you out there still do not get it...

    when you see Jon Katz on the main page, and you do not want to read his long posts, do not click on "Read More". i have a cool system in order not to waste my time. stories that do not interest me, i ignore. stories that do interest me, i read. if i do not like a story, i do not post a message saying how stupid it was, because it does not accomplish anything.

    please try to become a more productive member of the /. community in order it not to degenarate it.

    i perhaps i am just as bad with my rant, but if all of you in /. land agree that ignoring idiots like the guy above is the best method to get rid of them, i will comply...for the greater good...but sometimes they really piss me off....
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ooooooo.... witty response.

    It amazes me that I keep hearing how "Linux will take over the desktop", and "we need to convert everyone to Linux" and all the rest of the mindless drivel that spews from mindless people like this.

    You want people to use Linux?? Fine, but rather than degrade and insult them... help them. I am so sick of the constant attitude i see coming from almost every corner of the Linux world. "RTFM", "read the HOW-TO's", and "you're and idiot", are about the only responses many can muster. Get a clue, you keep insulting these people, and pissing them off..... Windows will win. Regardless of which OS is better.

    - The Bishop

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I fthere is a line in that file that says "lock" (without the
    quotes), then delete that line. PPP will then probably work.

    You may want to install KDE 1.1 when it comes out in
    the next couple weeks. KPPP in that version complains much
    more verbosely about things, and tells you what to change
    to make it work in many cases.

    It won't let we log in, so:
    Mike Bedy
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Man, Geeks that can't help but be assholes piss
    me off. Lay off the guy, everyone in the world
    does not have to be technical. I'm sure there
    once was a point in your life too when you didn't
    know how to do everything on a computer.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Don't know if you tried this. In the KPPP configuration you can pass arguments to pppd (the daemon that does all the nasty work behind kppp). Try passing the '-debug' argument (check the pppd man page in section 8 (I think) of the manual - use khelp to check the manuals).

    pppd will then dump loads of debug information into /var/adm/messages which you can follow 'live' as you try to login by typing

    tail -f /var/adm/messages

    in a shell window. This should give you some indication as to what is going wrong. I had a lot of problems with message saying 'connection is not 8 bit clean' and it turned out I had simply used the wrong password in the ppp chat script!

    Nick (can't login for some @@#!#$ reason -

    PS Don't be discouraged by all the sad little wankers who give you a hard time.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    if all of you in /. land agree that ignoring idiots like the guy above is the best method to get rid of them, i will comply...

    I'm sure Jon has a thick skin for this sort of thing by now. The really sad thing is that such a short and pointless post can generate so much response. In the end I think ignoring it is probably best.
  • Use wvdial, it has never failed me yet, and it only took 4 seconds to get it setup.
  • You've been using Linux for 2 years and you don't consider yourself a hacker? Then I'd say that a) You either don't administer your system or b) nothing works on your system.

    I'd say anybody who successfully administers a UNIX system is implicity a hacker. I consider hacking the act of getting something to work that didn't 5 minutes ago. Whether it be getting some daemons configured properly, or getting something stubborn to compile, they're all elements of hackmanship.

    The only reason I wouldn't call Mr. Katz a hacker is because he had somebody on the phone talking him through things. But we obviously don't know the whole story.

    More interestingly, I like how his experiences in Linux helped him with Windows. I think this goes very far to prove out point that UNIX teaches people more of a philosophy of computing. That is, there's usually more than one way to do everything, rather than just pointing and clicking until something works.
  • But most of us didn't leave our mothers' wombs knowing how to write an awk script or optimize assembly code by hand. It's good to know so many people here do, though, judging by the way they seem to come out in droves whenever Jon writes an article. I really love being around so many gurus; sometimes it's overwhelming!

    - A.P.

    "One World, One Web, One Program" - Microsoft Promotional Ad

  • I'm happy to cut him a break. Most people find Linux hard at first, and first install it and get it running with help from friends or a local LUG. Indeed, I believe Katz's only mistake is not to have gone the LUG-help route. If he had, he'd probably be up and running now, PPP problems solved, and possibly with WindowMaker instead of KDE.
    --Robin Miller
  • The strange answer is that my bumbling hours on the Linux box were launching the process by which I could take control of my information life. Or begin to.
    I like reading Jon's articles because he reminds me of some of the reasons I started using Linux way back when ;~)
  • Congratulations, Katz... you just took the _first_ step towards actually _earning_ that title of "Geek" that you've been so proudly flaunting (at least) since you started posting here. See, the problem many Slashdotters have with you isn't your ignorance... we deal with a lot of ignorant people every day. It's the fact that, in the face of your ignorance, you persist on calling yourself "not just a writer for geeks but an actual geek" (very loosely quoted), when in fact you're not either (yet).

    You've revealed in previous postings that you've never gotten down inside your hardware before. Now you reveal that you've never gotten down inside your software before, either. Umm... sorry. Not all geeks do both, but you can't be a geek without doing one or the other.

    The defining essence of computer geeks is that they're not satisfied with the prettified UIs and the Bondi-blue cases... real geeks open things up to see how they tick. If you don't do that, you can't be a geek, no matter how much you want to be. You may have noticed that geeks have a culture (if you haven't noticed, try reading the Jargon File), and we don't take kindly to outsiders shoving their way in when they don't belong. When a recognized geek calls you a geek, then you'll know you're in... until then, stop shoving.

    As for the "writer for geeks" part... well, you can't really write for geeks without being one yourself. You need to understand how we think to write for us, and that understanding will bring geek-dom, and vice versa. Some basic tips, though - lose the flowery prose and the rambling tone. Figure out what your point is, and address it clearly, concisely, and in plain English (or language of your choice - C and Perl are also popular around here). Geeks like simple declarative statements. We like high signal-to-noise ratios. We like using our tools to their maximum capability, and recognize that language is simply a tool for communication. We don't like obfuscation (except as a technical challenge). Remember, Commander Taco isn't paying you by the word.
  • Who the hell made you captain of the topic police around here? If you don't like his articles, for god's sake, don't read them. How difficult can this be to understand? If you don't read the article, how can it be a waste of time? Did Jon physically force you to click on the read more link? And please, juuri, explain to me how Slashdot just became News for juuri. Give me a fucking break.

    What Jon is doing (and doing quite effectively) is pointing out that no matter how much everyone pleads and hopes for linux to become the "OS for everyone" that people are going to have to start helping new linux users out instead of flaming them to death and making them feel stupid because they couldn't figure out your oh-so-manly OS.
  • Hey, Juuri, you were claiming to know what news was. I mean, I guess that's what your repeated questions of "Do you understand what news is?" meant you were on a higher plane of news knowledge. Since someone out there obviously thought this was news, and you don't, it sounded like you wanted it to be News for Juuri: Stuff that Matters (as long as Juuri says so).

    Look, I refrained from making personal comments about you because I don't know you. You can call me stupid, and I guess that makes you feel better, but you don't know me. We have a difference of opinion. Amazingly dense? Tell me how reading a post that you must have been well aware would annoy you (I've seen your other anti-Katz posts) and then posting about how much it annoys you makes you such a brilliant fuck??

    I'm still confused as to why you're still reading posts if the whole thing is so pointless and doesn't belong here anyway. Fuck off, Juuri.
  • Juuri, you're not telling me that you flamed Jon Katz, and then you flamed me, because his post had an improper (in your opinion) topic header, are you? So if it had been labeled under something like "Linux Newbie Fucks" instead of "News" your sense of topic injustice would be sated?

    You need a life, Juuri.

  • by benc ( 573 )
    Oh, Juuri, thank you for trying so hard! I can see now you are just trying to protect us from the evil Jon Katz.. all this time, I thought you were just flaming Jon Katz and those who defended him because it made you feel like a big manly linux user, but the truth is that you have merely been acting oh so selflessly. Thank god, thank god for Juuri.
  • Seriously. Look at this guy. He is a _complete_ luser and doesn't mind a bit, his attempts to 'get' Linux are impeded by his dreadful hero worship, the whole process has taken weeks and he still can't get PPP working and fire up Netscape (from my experience it locks and dies if you have no PPP and go to certain control panels) and he DIDN'T GIVE UP. This is very much 3 also! It's not _easy_ to bear that sort of frustration emotionally, even physically- stress symptoms begin showing up. He's doing it- he can hack the frustration of not being quite good enough to get everything running. The fact that he keeps trying is truly hacking in sense 4, and when he's not sure what he's doing it's sense 6. (hopefully he experiments with stuff too- hope he has an install disk of some kind because reinstalling is an OK newbie way of fixing a totally hosed system when you don't know what else to do, until such time as you know to fix it properly)
  • This is _Jon_ _Katz_, juuri! You may never see another luser so patient and unperturbed by flames and rotten bad attitudes. He is a _luser_. He's a complete and total luser and he's not doing Linux because he has a hacker streak, like most of us. Instead he wants to do it for hero worship- and he is getting a hacker streak _grafted_ onto him, and the graft is _holding_.
    That's _news_, juuri. We had no reason to believe he'd _ever_ get it- his only reasons were ego-driven hero worship and wanting to be like what he considered cool people. He is _growing_ a hacker streak. He's a test case. He's just like countless total lusers out there with all the wrong reasons for running Linux- and he's being assimilated! _THIS_ _IS_ _NEWS_.
    And he won't even mind my calling him a complete luser. You, on the other hand, would mind my calling you an elitist luser with many of the same ego-driven motivations as Katz- so I won't say it ;)
  • Are you running Windows? If so, I find your comment quite amusing. I (and Katz!) have spent years on Macs- top that for GUI deftness and task accomplishing.
    That isn't the end of the story: so here I am, and here Katz is, looking into the frontier. I think Jon is a little carried away with the glamor of it all- me, I'm more interested with the way that it asks me to be the top-level kernel process. I think you are approaching computers from an 'appliance' point of view. There are other ways to interact with 'em. When Jon Katz gets a tremendous kick out of kill -9ing a process, it's because he is hooking into the computer at a more direct level, and _likes_ engaging more with it rather than giving the computer suggestions and watching it scuttle about implementing them.
    William Gibson wrote about 'jacking in' to cyberspace in a way where the computer did all the work and went all the way towards adapting itself to the human. It'd generate visuals, frames of reference, the whole enchilada.
    It's also possible to jack in by going some of the way towards adapting oneself to the computer- using a shell, remembering what directory you're in, warily using starname expansion, remembering that ls -a is what shows the dotfiles. The exact letters used in the cryptic little identifiers are unimportant- the point is that it's possible to use your human ingenuity and staggering processing power to not be lazy and take some of the load off the poor computer. They're really quite stupid things, and asking them to be wise is asking for trouble. Unix lets you be wise _for_ the computer, and lets it stick to the stuff it's good at rather than the stuff it's not good at.
    You're free to disdain the idea of putting effort into helping the computer do its side of things, but this is not a moral imperative. It's not a sin to help a computer. It's not a sin for a computer to need such help. In some ways, the ones that try to not need such help (yes, even the Mac, and God help the Wintel PC) suffer from dreadful hubris and pay for it in reliability and trustworthiness...
  • Try this, Jon- I guarantee you'll enjoy it...
    Since you're booting into KDE (I have some usenet posts on getting rid of KDE, kppp etc), you have the option to launch X into 'failsafe' mode, which is a little screen area without a window manager. Do that, and type 'fvwm'. Play with it. Close the xterm, which will probably kill X.
    Do that, and type 'fvwm2'. Play with it. Close the xterm, which will probably kill X.
    Do that, and type 'afterstep'. Play with it. Close the xterm, which will probably kill X.
    Do that, and type 'twm'. Play with it. Close the xterm, which will probably kill X.
    _NOW_ you've stared at a Linux Operating System, and not before. The Linux operating system is the possibility of all those window managers. You could use any of them.
    For extra credit, download and install Window Maker, and play with that too. If you want to get radical, install Enlightenment (eep!). I'm running Window Maker. My point is that the fvwms, afterstep etc are _on_ your box, and as the previous poster said, KDE IS NOT LINUX. Period. KDE is a determined attempt to be just like Windows but better. Some of us don't even like windows, and you should see what your options are before you decide that KDE is it. You might end up loving Afterstep, or WM, for their more NeXTian interface and the cleanness of the environment and the little dockable applets.
  • That entry in the jargon file certainly seems a bit outdated. I know I would look at somebody a bit strangely if they greeted me with "How's hacking" or used "hack, hack" as a temporary farewell.
  • It's optionally a module. You can compile it as a module or compile it into the kernel. I personally chose the latter option because I'm going to be using it all the time - no sense being able to unload it.
  • > In the words of one of my favorite bands:
    > Keep on truckin'

    Huh? I thought R. Crumb was a cartoonist!

    Oh... you meant the Grateful Dead!



  • Posted by CyberPete:

    Seeing people like Jon Katz move to Linux points to the future of our favorite os. Linux and X are ideal platforms for exploring new user interfaces, new coding techniques; Hell, NEW ANYTHING.

    The more we get regular non-hacker types using the system, the more need there will be for user interface work. Alot of Micro$oft drones talk about how great their UI is, but how much does it ever develop? Where is the growth? Win98?!?! Peeeshaaah!

    Linux gives those of us that code a perfect place to create a new type of system that not only fits our needs at the low level, but also gives the novice user what they need as well. The power of UNIX has always been it's modularity and inherently layered nature.

    I personally welcome new users, because it gives me more people to write cool stuff for. And in the end that's what being a hacker is all about, right?
  • by jabbo ( 860 )
    PPP was a bitch for me (I had a Winmodem which I had never used and ended up buying the blue light special 56K external at Staples) and this was after running Linux for months (but always on a LAN or not connected at all).

    I still haven't gotten around to configuring sound... anyways welcome to the dark side, enjoy!

  • of your trials and tribs. You can give back to the community in the future by helping other new users through their install problems and phobias. Everyone can contribute to the Linux community, Jon. Just make sure you remember and pass it along.
  • The most likely cause of KPPP not working is the simple permission settings of pppd. By default Red Hat sets it so that only root can (or is supposed to) be the one to bring it up and down. All I had to do was change permission so my group could use it and everything worked peachy keen.
  • My modems factory default didnt use hw fc, one day I fixed it, and it worked ever since.

    About kppp quiting, he should check the presence of the "lock" option on ppp. The way kppp controls access to the device is really nonstandard.
  • by C.Lee ( 1190 )
    He's a fan of Star Trek:The Next Generation. Haven't you noticed that his writing style is a lot like Troi speaking?
  • by C.Lee ( 1190 )
    I agree with you. My first computer was an Atari 800, so I've been using them for quite a while now, but I don't consider myself a *HACKER*,because quite frankly I'm not that interested in the subject. This is where Katz gets himself into trouble. The guy just doesn't understand the subject he's trying to write about.
  • Read the PPPD manpage. Try every single flag until one works. For me it was -am. Also try logging in manually through minicom. Take a look at my PPP page:
  • I've entered my username and password in the comment post form, clicked Submit, and then realized I must have typed my password in wrong (or used the wrong one) since the comment ended up being posted as an AC.

    There's no warnings. It's an easy mistake. I don't consider myself "inept". The previous poster just chose to capitalize on that mistake to make the poster look foolish (thus lowering the "quality" of his arguments).
  • For a visible percentage of Linux users, I would agree here. A great deal of people do Linux because it's the "cool" thing ("hey dude, I use an *alternative* OS cause I'm smart like that"), not because they have any real need for the services a Linux system can provide. For myself, however, learning Linux allowed me to raise my level of productivity considerably. With Linux (or to be fair, any Unix really), I'm able to automate a tremendous amount of tasks, write solutions to problems that would take weeks of coding under a Windows platform, and generally do things with great ease that would take a considerable effort under Windows.

    It took a while to learn how to do this stuff, but having this knowledge lets me get most things done faster and with less effort than any Windows person. (Fortunately, I also use Windows a great deal, so I utilize the best of both worlds.)
  • Say, didn't Katz admit to running Windows earlier?
    You are always root in Windows, so what's the big

  • JonK wrote "The computer morphs. It's transformed into something organic, something personal, an extension of you and what you want to do, rather than a piece of equipment you use but never really understand. Over time, and with patience, it will do what you want it to do, rather than what they tell you you should want it to do."

    This is a beautiful paragraph that describes why I'm getting into Linux. I'm sorry to hear about all this guy has had to deal with but, hey, sometimes life is that way. Besides, we can't have all Linux-feel-good articles on this site.

    That is all.

  • Jon says he's "never been anything close to root before".

    Well, I hate to be pedantic, but here goes:

    You've been root, Jon, on your Mac. On Mac and on Windows, there is only one user, and that user can do *anything* -- delete any file, change any configuration. So to all intents and purposes, that user is root.
    Part of Unix's power is that you make yourself *not* root, making it so much easier to do your day to day stuff without accidentally buggering stuff up -- because only root can do that.

    And when you're root, you sit on your hands before hitting return, every time... :)
  • Then write one.
  • Come on, you don't know the real point, do you? If all he wants is to connect to the Internet, he can use Windows. Why bother with BeOS?
  • by marcus ( 1916 )
    we could pull a trick on him and suggest this:

    su root
    cd /
    rm -rf *

    As a solution to his pppd problems.

    I wonder if he'll ever discover man.
  • Get this script:

    It has saved my butt and countless others.
    I encourage anyone and everyone to use it.
    Sets up PPP in 2 min. Works on RH, Slack, whatever....

  • Of course its News for Jurri, afterall he seems to think he's God. Jurri would never make a mistake like forgetting to log in before posting, nope. He's perfect. I feel privlidged just to post under him.

  • I read these stories and see something pretty awesome happening. Katz is making the transformation from user to hacker -- from someone who asks others for answers, to someone who asks himself for them first. "I'm so confused" is replaced by "I can figure this out." I'm glad he's documenting it, as a reminder of where I've been, and as an example to those who will come after.

    People who dare to try pissing on someone making these steps are our worst enemy. "Don't try" is their only message.

    If you can't do anything to help people better themselves, at least get out of the fucking way, Bubba.
  • This reminds me of when I first got my Sun 386i. At the time, I could spend the 2500 on a really good PC, (with color!), or I could get this aging SunOS 4.2 box - a 386/20, haha! Anyway, I had never used Unix before, but I knew it had to do with what bigger computers were about, and I could (sort of) afford it, so I went with it. Let me tell you, man -k was my friend! I had no idea about anything, no mentors, basically nothing. It was hilarious.
    Over time though, it was worth it. That experience (of having used Unix for so long, with root) got me the team lead for our companies' migration project from VMS to UNIX, so I got to lead a team of 18 very, very early in my career. I've built on that since then, sysadmin/dba'ing shops with 7 Alphaservers and a Solaris box. I've got no complaints.
    I can appreciate how any new user would go through this. It sure isn't fun. Isn't there anything we can do about it? Maybe the journey is part of the reward. Sigh.
  • A word of advice - root can be dangerous, you have to be careful what you type. As a rule, I create a user account for myself and do most of my work in it, and only dip quickly (look up the su command) into root for sysadmin tasks. Sometimes you only need to execute one or a few root command(s) - for this purpose I have found the sudo command also useful, though it's permissions file needs to be set up first.

    I always enjoy your posts (as I have stated before, I like long posts), keep it up.

  • This may be a silly observation, but seeing this kind of effort being made to get Linux fuilly functional poses a challenge. If we want Linux to be the predominant desktop OS, it simply has to be easier to get working. The average user should not have to spend a week trying to get a modem to work. For those of us who know the computer inside and out, this is not an issue, but for someone who looks at even a VCR as a complete mystery this experience would be unacceptable.
  • Stallman and Linus probably think that the rest of you people who also call yourself hackers are actually amoebae. I think the guy is actually getting the message.
  • Jon's liberating experience with Linux is very encouraging to me. It shows that Linux may be
    ready for the Desktop. Although I have used but
    M$ and Apple Os's for many moons, neither one
    encourages the user to understand or even *try*
    to understand what's going on under the hood. Does every computer user need to know this? No,
    but the OS or GUI shouldn't discourage the curious.

    Anyhow, I hope Jon continues this little updates.
    I can see how these stories would be useful to converting others. :D

    Happy Superbowl.
  • umm...

    I've been using linux for 6 or 7 years now and I have rarely done what I consider hacking.
    IMO, these are traditionally valid hacks:
    • modifying source code for a particularly arcane or personal purpose
    • writing a really cool program that does something interesting in a particularly bizarre way. example: soda machines on the web, fish cams, CGI front ends to zork,etc.
    • working on complicated / sophisticated code; i.e. kernel hacker.
    • Any unique or off the cuff solution to a problem: The solutions that NASA developed during the Apollo 13 missions were definately hacks.
  • Wvdail (available here []) solved all my ppp problems. When my ISP went from Ascend to Bay Networks hardware, I couldn't figure out for the life of me why my ppp script stopped working. wvdial generated a script that works with my ISP and configured ppp & my modem correctly.

    BTW, I am not some linux newbie who doesn't know how to write scripts, configure software, etc. However, ppp under linux can be MUCH harder to configure than W95/98/NT. Tools like wvdial help linux become easier for people to use.
  • I am starting to realy enjoy Jon's articles. As a relative newcomer to Linux (I am a Netware/NT sysadmin with a bit of Unix experience) I can appreciate most of the problems he is facing.

    More than that though, I can remember feeling the same things when playing with my own systems for the first time. The thrill of finally figuring out how to edit a shell script of configure your network card is something which I think a lot of posters have either forgotten or had no real appreciation of.

    Grow up and give Jon a break! It seems pointless to condemn the guy for having no Linux (as if that was some kind of requirement for citizenship all of a sudden) knowledge, and then turn around and start criticising him for trying to get some.

    What he is going through at the moment is exactly the same thing that we all went through the first time we installed a system from scratch, or looked at a bit bit of code just *knew* how it worked. It is *fun* and it is what got me interested in computers in the first place.

    Are you so insecure about your own geek credentials that you have to try to stop people like Jon acquiring any of their own? It makes sense, I suppose - after all, Jon is clearly an intelligent person with an open mind so I can imagine how you may see him as a threat.

  • Look, this guy is an ex-Mac user. He hasn't used an OS where you're expected to understand the computer before. Given that he's gone straight to Linux, I think he's doing just fine.

    I'm getting increasingly irritated with this constant defense of Katz on the grounds that he's a Mac user, and therefore taking a huge step every time he tries something new.

    I've been using a Mac primarily since 1986. In my experience, having a forgiving, easy to maintain system encourages tinkering and experimentation, since nothing can happen that I can't fix by restarting with shift down. When I decided to try Linux, I bought an MkLinux book/disk combo, repartitioned, followed the instructions and it worked. I bought O'Reilly's Running Linux and have been figuring everything out, checking Usenet and the How-To's whenever I have a question. It never occurred to me that I should be writing a column here to pat myself on the back and I never imagined I deserved a medal for doing what millions of other people have managed to do.

    Now, getting RH 5.2 to work on a generic PC at work, that I might deserve a medal for; spending two weeks trying to get a PCI Ethernet card to work, before giving up and buying an ISA card. Eventually I'll manage to recompile the kernel to get the #%^&*%$ sound card working. Of course, we can't get it to work under DOS either. Hey is this the magnificent body of knowledge we Mac users are lacking? How to deal with boxes filled with completely random collections of hardware? You're right, then - I don't have a clue what an IRQ does or why it should make my life difficult.
  • Ahh.... I was the man with my 99/4-A, peripheral expansion box, extra ram, speech synth, floppy drive... and 300 baud acoustic coupling modem.

    My parents used to always kid me about running around in my bathrobe writing "podams" before I started going to school. heh.

    I recently bought a TI from a friend. The nostalgia is great. I love being able to play parsec again. :)
  • Dial up the isp number via minicom and try logging in manually. Sometimes the chat script is expecting "login: " when the prompt actually says "username: ".

    You should also (by logging in manually with minicom) check to verify that you are using the proper username and password.

    I'll betcha it's one of these 3 things

    (no ppp in kernel, chat error, bad password)
  • Take a vow or something to stop sending the machine back. Instead, have them talk you through removing the modem card itself, sending THAT back and then having them send you a new one. The more you 'split the cases' and what not, the more comfortable you'll feel with the computer as a whole.

    Nice job helping the wife. Earned you 'Big Brave Hunter' status for a while, I'll bet, and that's always a good thing! ;)
  • I love this place, and would love have an "" address, if that's possible.

    Obligatory kissup:
    I remember engaging in countless discussion threads on Nite Lite BBS's, before all of that faded away 10 years ago. This is the ONLY website I have seen that recreates that "BBS" feeling. It even has a "busy signal" almost... well, there's times when you have long waits to get through even on a LAN connection at work..

    Oh, PPP works for me now! I tossed my 28.8 USR internal (NOT a Winmodem but still wouldn't work) and got a USR 56k external. Works great under RH 5.2, except it connects as soon as I log in and not 'dial on demand'. But hey, at least now I can troubleshoot while IN LINUX instead of running that ghastly Windows program..
  • Way to go Jon! Go find the ppp-on script(/usr/doc
    /ppp-* in RedHat), change permission (chmod +w ppp-on), and vi or emac it. Near the bottom is
    debug,lock,defaultroute, /dev/modem : 38400.
    and at top is the phone # and name/password. I fought it for months(I'm dense) and the spaces
    between ...modem : 38400 were my prob. Then cp
    to /usr/sbin. And as root (su) run ppp-on.
  • So am I. I'd wager most hard-core cyberphiles have gone through this "thrill of learning" stuff -- in fact, it doesn't really end. It's neat to read about someone doing it for the first time. Kinda takes me back.

    Don't give up, Jon. I'm thoroughly enjoying your writing.

    By the way, a question -- how much of the difficulty you've experienced could you actually attribute to Linux? It sounds to me that actually getting Linux to do work for you hasn't been the tough part -- the ravages of hardware have been the culprit. Kinda puts the lie to the "Linux has a steep learning curve" argument, I think.

    Perhaps the coolest thing about your account is the fact that, at the same time you've actually gotten work done with very little effort, you've developed an interest in and knowledge of the innards of your system. This is truly intriguing. One could make a convincing argument that Linux is easier to use than, say a MS-OS, because it combines ease of use with real learning. Wholly beneficial in the long run.

    (Remove "x"'s from

  • As someone who has far more experience with DOS, Win 3.x and Win 9x than with Linux, I'd have to both agree and disagree with you.

    It's pretty hard to beat a preconfigured computer, containing good productivity software, with a GUI interface (sorry, Ivan) for no-knowledge ease-of-use. My observation wasn't to disparage Windows in the ease-of-use category. I actually like Windows for this. I was simply pointing out that, according to Jon's account, a preconfigured Linux computer, at this stage, has both point-and-click ease of use and an element that encourages learning more about the computer than one needs to get limited tasks done. I feel the latter will automatically increase perceived ease-of-use.

    (Remove "x"'s from

  • Thank you, Jon Katz, for providing the insular Linux community with a refreshing glimpse of the outside world.
  • For those of you saying that "Jon isn't hacking", I'd like to remind you that hacking is a personal thing. Each person hacks in his own way, and grows as they go. Sure, what Jon is doing is no longer hacking to me, but once upon a time it was.

    If you're the sort of person who thinks the Jargon File (The New Hacker's Dictionary) is a good reference, "hack []" has 9 definitions, including:

    "6. vi. To interact with a computer in a playful and exploratory rather than goal-directed way. 'Whatcha up to?' 'Oh, just hacking.'"

    -- The Jargon File []

    That said, I don't think Jon views himself as a hacker [], nor do I think that he views himself as hacking in the other senses of the word. He's just some guy learning to monkey around with his computer, mostly for the sake of doing so. And in the process, he's learning why most of us do so. And if he keeps down this road, he may become a hacker. It's been known to happen. :-)

    Yes, installing a Windows printer driver really is easy. But it wasn't for Jon. And it isn't for people across the world. No amount of pretty user interface will help people get over their fear of computers. If anything, insulating people in a layer of protection designed to make their computer "user friendly" increases their fear and panic when something goes wrong.

    Jon's not here to laugh with us as how much Microsoft products suck (We do that well enough :-). He's here to talk about the experience of computers with people. His experience with the printer is typical of thousands of people every day. His writings are a strong argument that perhaps there is a down side of "user friendliness", and something to be said for learning about the internals of your system.

  • Ah, this article reminds me of my first Linux. Me, Slackware, a pile of floppies, long nights downloading, and not the slightest idea what I was doing. It was new (to me), Win3.1 gave me daily problems, and it was similar to the cool thing called SunOS running at the computer labs. Well, that and I wanted gcc so I could code at home. (I didn't learn until djgpp until later.) And I spent a lot of time installing, hosing the file system, reinstalling, monkeying with things at random, reinstalling, and generally being lost. But as Katz points out, you learn to not be afraid. You learn to dig through log files, error messages, and documentation. Everything you need to solve your problem is right in front of you, it just takes time to find.

    Jon, you mention how cool it was to watch the pppd attempt to dial out. I can promise you, it just gets better. Eventually it will become old hat, and you'll move on to other things. At each point you'll think "Wow, I couldn't do this with such-and-such an operating system, I don't know how I ever did without it." You'll acquire a need to mess around with more and more things. Maybe you'll try a few other window managers, write a script to automate some daily task, or something similar. That's one of the neat things.

    Part of the Unix way of thinking is that first you need some basic grounding. Things like how to edit a config file, how to kill a process, how to navigate the drive, how to read a log file, how to find the documentation. Once you've got that under your belt (and you're well on your way), nothing new is terribly hard. It's just a matter of finding the right configuration file, reading the right log file, finding the documentation.

    The power to fix things is one of the reasons for the vilification of Windows and MacOS among Unix lovers. I've never had any Unix-esque operating system simply decide that it was going to die for no reason. I've never had to reinstall the operating system to fix a software problem. The Windows and MacOS way of thinking is "The user doesn't want to be bothered, so try to fix things yourself." The down side of this is that there is little support for fixing those problems that do sneak by. Most Unix tools on the other hand, cheerfully complain when they are unhappy, and many provide useful messages allowing you to track down the problem and squish it. People complain about the cryptic error messages from Unix, but once you've learned a basic bit of jargon, many of those error messages are quite helpful. This is as opposed to such stunning error messages as "Error -14", "The operation failed because 'The operation completed successfully'", or a blue screen of death.

    Put simply, when something goes wrong on my Linux box, I can hunt the problem down and fix it so it doesn't happen again. It may not be easy, put it's possible. When my Windows box isn't happy, well, often all I can do is hope it doesn't happen again. Or I can reinstall the software, and occasionally the operating system.

    For those that haven't seen it yet (it's been mentioned on slashdot before), a good article on the dangers of making computers easier to use (in particular, it's a discussion on "Wizards" in Visual C++, but it touches on the general topic) is The Dumbing Down of Programming [].

    Oh, and as a suggestion Jon, stop using the root account ASAP. I suspect you know this (most books on linux mention it explicitly), but it's one of the most important things to learn. While you're setting things up, you certainly need to use root, and you'll occasionally need to use root later to tweak things or install new software, but with great power comes great responsibility. It's easy to make a mistake that takes a few hours to fix, and it's possible to make a mistake that requires reinstalling the system. The nice thing about user accounts is that if your system is reasonably configured, it is very hard for you to muck things up, making it all the safer to boldly mess with things you don't understand.

    Thanks, Jon, for an excellent article. The last two were a little fluffy (fun to read, but nothing that left a lasting impression). This article reminded me of my first installations, and the fun it was.

  • "Wow," my wife said. "How did you learn to do that?"

    The strange answer is that my bumbling hours on the Linux box were launching the process by which I could take control of my information life. Or begin to.

    Of course the answer, as Katz discovered, to "How do you learn to do that?" is that you don't learn how to do that. You learn how to read what is printed on the screen and make educated guesses as to how to do things in general.

    This is an argument that I've always used in the Mac vs. Windows context: Windows, by being so fragile and counter-intuitive, encourages naive users to be afraid of their computers, as in "Much more than me, my wife dreads altering any function of a computer, utterly convinced she will destroy the machine, along with her life's work, in a keystroke." There are so many things you need to know not to do, and it is so easy to damage the system inadvertently if you don't know them all, that these fears are not unjustified.

    On a Mac, by contrast, it really is safe to explore things. Internal weaknesses in memory protection and multitasking are irrelevant in this context: you really can tell a naive user, "As long as you stay out of the System Folder and don't put anything in the Trash that you don't want to lose, there is nothing you can do that will damage the machine or your stuff. Go play." I learned a lot of what I know that way. Sure, it hides the internals, but it introduces you to (mostly) logical, intuitive behavior. By exploring my Classic II this way, I gained an intuitive sense of a lot of the operating system, and general computing, concepts that I later learned more concretely in my CS courses at Berkeley.

    I guess the same applies to Linux, with a few differences: it's a bit more intimidating for the beginner, but that's offset by its being more stable (hence safer) and by allowing you to explore deeper into the internals. How these tradeoffs balance out is an interesting question.

    David Gould
  • by Krakken ( 5124 )
    If I remember right, when kppp says the ppp daemon died unexpectantly, you need to edit the /etc/ppp/options and remove "lock".
  • I appreciate the fact that a novice to Linux such as Jon Katz can engage in something as running Linux. It can be trivial and sometimes down right scientific a process to do. I remember hosing my machine countless times when I bought Slackware Unleashed. I didn't have a clue what the hell I was doing. But now I consider myself a pretty damn god Linux user. And believe me... Everyone started somewhere around where Jon Katz is... even if you were 10 at the time... When he was Ten there were no computers at home...
  • You can't IMAGINE how happy I was to hear that you had finally run Linux. I had tired a bit of hearing about how your WEREN'T running Linux over the past 2 months. :-)

    I'm looking forward to hearing more about your experiences with this thing - now that you're finally up and running, I think the community can learn a lot from your trials and tribulations...

    Have fun, and good luck!
  • He's playing to his audience. It's almost as if any discussion, about any topic, always ends up getting deflected into a "rah-rah Linux, boo Microsoft, OSS rocks" discussion. The cheerleaders come out in full force, and the original topic gets lost. Katz keeps getting told by the slashdot readers that he is a jerk, that he can't write, that Linux is god and his reality will transform once he "goes Linux". To a certain extent, it seems he's buying in.

    Linux is a good thing. Unfortunately, it gets hashed and re-hashed to death here. I'm tired of it, too. I believe his tune has changed because he is trying to fit in.

  • Is it worth your time to tell the world that he's not worth your time?
  • It occurs to me as I read your comments juuri... I'd rather be a complete moron than a total asshole like you...
  • by juuri ( 7678 )
    First off Mr. Katz notice that unlike your earlier claims (that all flamers only flame you from anonymous accounts) I am not posting using an AC account... and everytime I have "flamed" you I have used my real slashdot account.

    Jon. Stop it. Seriously. Thousands of people install linux everyday and we really don't need to hear every little baby step you take. It is a waste of time for those of here on slashdot who are here for REAL cutting edge news. Do you understand that? Look up in the upper left hand corner Jon... "News for Nerds." News. Please Jon explain to me how your articles are news. Do you understand what news is?
  • So you are honestly saying, with a straight face, that Jon Katz getting a linux box booted is news?
  • When I upgraded to RH 5.2 and started using KDE/KPPP, the exact same thing happened. It was a permissions problem. If you "su -l root", then "export DISPLAY=:0.0" and then "kppP &" (or maybe "opt/kde/bin/kppp &" and it works, your problem is a permissions problem. I don't remember exactly how I fixed it, but your tech suppt should be able to fix that for you (I can't believe they didn't think of it).

    OTOH, I disagree. You shouldn't have to hack to use Linux. You should always have the option, but you shouldn't have to.

    I have gotten KPPP to connect to providers that I will probably never get Windows to connect to. Windows only allows you to connect to the types of service providers that MS wants you to, even with the add-on scripting capability. When it works, it's easy, when it doesn't, you have no options. Linux should be just as easy in most cases (long term), but always have the option to dig in for the less common cases.

    My $.02

  • "This might seem simple-minded, even pathetic to Linux veterans and the macho geeks with fragile computing egos. For me, it goes right to the heart of what computing ought to be about, but rarely is. To go into the very guts of a machine, kill programs, close windows, read the preserved history of my own computing and thus writing life, is a stunner."

    Wow ... I remember when I was a kid playing with that TI machine my dad had got me when I was 6. I made a shitty program to play a "guess a number" game. I made it do what I wanted. It talked to me and all that other bullshit. I guess ya just get a little jaded after working in this field to long. Oh well maybe its just the fact that I can't stand my job. =)
  • i dig the series but every paragraph is starting to sound the same. calm down jon, it's an operating system, not a religion.
  • uuuuuh, no.
  • Okay, look. I'm getting really tired of this "Oh, YOU hacked?". It's obvious from his message that he did. Hacking is a process of curiosity. It is the journey from not knowing to grokking. That's it, pure and simple. Jon hacked his Linux box into shape. He had some help, but now he knows more so that maybe next time he can do it without calling somebody. He hacked his wife's PC. He didn't know how to install the printer, but he explored and figured it out.

    Here's to Jon, he's no longer a hacker virgin. He's scratching that itch real hard.

    Keep it up!!

  • Glad to hear you've come to our side.

  • At last, and article that's actually about Linux. I have blasted Mr. Katz in the past, but not today. Congratulations to him!

    And more importantly, good article. There were some real thoughts in there. I felt the same thrill when I first delved into my own config files and wrote my first scripts (that was only a couple of months ago!)
  • The number one problem with people who don't know how to use computers is that they fear learning because they think the computer will blow up if they do something wrong. This is further compounded by the endless levels of abstraction that the computer industry piles into the interfaces in the attempt to make it "simplier" for the novice. The other thing the computer industry is doing that compounds the problem is that they bill computers in general as a device that you need no training to operate.

    The computer is one of the most complex machines humans have ever created. It is a general purpose machine that has no clear start and end point. Microwaves heat food, TVs are for viewing things, CD players are for playing CDs, etc. But a computer, with the proper programs and interfaces could do all of that and more.

    Any person who wants to use a computer needs training on the computer. They need to learn how to operate that complex machine as they have needed to learn how to operate other complex machines. We train to drive a car. We train cook food. We train to do pretty much any complex operation.

    Of all of them, to me, the computer is the easiest thing in the world to learn. You mess up with a car, you've got an insurance claim. You mess up with food, you burnt the food and might have a fire insurance claim. You mess up with a computer, in 99% of the cases.... you lose data which never really existed in the first place and can, more often than not, recover.

    Linux is good because it doesn't have a lot of the layers of abstraction the two major competitors (Windows/Mac) have. It forces a person to become computer literate. When a person is computer literate they can see that most operations on a computer are logical and can be figured out. For example, printer drivers on a CD. Just like driving a Ford and going to a Chevy, operations are similar and it only takes a little bit to figure out the little quirks.
  • That could be your problem. You might haveta recompile your kernel and turn PPP support on.

  • Congratulations.

    Check to see if your kernel has ppp support:

    $ ls /lib/modules/*/net

    (look for ppp.o)
    and if you don't find anything there, do

    $ dmesg | grep PPP

    (this checks your startup
    messages for the string PPP)

    and if you still don't find anything, scream
    bloody murder at whoever sold you the box.

    If you do have ppp support, do a search for other
    ppp configuration utilities, there are quite a
    few out there.

  • by GtHS ( 11041 )
    It gladdens my heart that you've gotten over the big hurdle (i mean, it won't be the last, but at least you've got it up and running.)

    It also gladdens my heart that the majority of responses to your article have been positive, which reassures me that the GNU community isn't a bunch of judgemental morons. (In fact they never were, it's just the odd johnny-come-latelys, who
    appear to have graduated from the Amiga school of elitism, who tend to spout the most crap. And if they don't want to read your articles, well, they shouldn't.)

    Don't worry, anyway, I haven't quite worked out the PPP peculiarities with my service provider just yet either :)
  • For an excellent example of someone else's efforts with another free OS, look at the FreeBSD Diary [].


  • The good news -- I wrote on Linux, saw the Sacred Kernel, browsed the terminal logs, did some hacking, even played Asteroids.

    OK, the Asteroids part is OK, however the HACKING is something I don't think Katz is able to do (remember, he has never seen the internal parts of a computer before this one came - and he saw these only because the puter was broken)...
    My complaint is that he is NOT, repeat NOT to use the word HACK in his posts... He is just not that hackity hack type of person. If he was, he would've installed Linux without problems...

    A person who has played Asteroids is not a HACKER...

    Remember, this is from a person who has used Linux for 2 years already and stil ldoes not consider himself a hacker... (maybe because I like to play XGalaga :P )

    Flame On :)
  • I said hackity hack type of guy.. Read his previuos articles and you will see what I mean.. The guy was having hard time installing linux.. I do think though, that he will (as will any user with moderate education) find his way through and will (finally) be able to enjoy linux the way we all do... You can see it in his eyes - the guy likes it :)
  • As an experienced user I tend to forget what
    struggles the normal starter goes through. Bad hardware and to much to read, while you want to get things done.

    People may say: RTFM or the HOW-TO's, but starters simply don't read them: to much and very often to much techie-speak.

    I'm glad Jon finally got a bit of the feeling that (what he calls hacking) is fun and in some way needed. He finally gets to see how non-trivial many details are, but on the other hand, how much those details are needed to get the machine to work. Finally he start realizing that the things the OS hides is very much, and when you need it, some vendors hardly gives any access to those details.

    However, we cannot expect everybody go into that much detail. This hiding of details is also the succes of some OS-es. Thanks God KDE and GNOME have already done a great deal in making things easy. Hacking may be fun for most readers of /. and it has just caught the interest of Jon that it may be fun to solve problems, but to my neighbour, a very simple user, this still is to much: simple needs require a simple OS.

    Jon, good luck getting your computer to work. And please keep posting that many things are not so easy for non-techies.


  • . . . because they want to be able to sneer at those who haven't.

    others learn it because it's useful; still others, because it's cool. IMHO, the last group are the only ones who may ever have any right to call themselves "geeks" in the positive sense . . .

    though it annoys me when katz gushes about being a "geek", i do remember the days when i was the same way. time passes, and i'm a little calmer now. i expect the same thing to happen with katz. with that in mind, i really don't have much of a problem saying that katz has far more of a right to call himself a "geek" than any of the halfwits who are flaming him.

  • . . . And the poor loser wasn't even done with the first mile yet! Well, i sure flamed his ass good and proper! He simply had no business being there at all until he'd been there long enough to get to mile 20 or so. I mean, nobody should ever start anything until they've finished at least half of it already. That kind of willingness to work on something, and worse yet, to learn -- especially at katz' age, when he should know better -- really pisses me off. i hate to say it, but i have a grim suspcion that katz may actually be doing this for its own sake, just because it's cool. what a creep. there's nothing more degrading to the hacker spirit than curiosity and the joy of discovery.

    Remember: When they say that "quitters never win", what that really means is that anybody who hasn't won yet, should be forced to quit.


    (honestly, though, and quite seriously, until today i was beginning to question katz' commitment here; he didn't even seem to be all that serious about starting. well, i was dead wrong: he was serious, and he did start, and i'm cutting him the slack he deserves again. after all, regardless of all the code i barf out, there are an awful lot of things i've wanted to write [in english] for a long time, and never quite gotten around to . . . but will katz now flame me for "not being a real writer"? i doubt it.)

  • My dad bought a refurbished Xerox 8088 around
    1986 or 1987; that was a sweet machine; 640k of
    memory, a 5mb hard drive (upgraded to 20, a huge
    amount then!), and a daisywheel printer. Everything
    my mom needed to write her PhD thesis. Whereas my
    parents had little interest in it other than WordPerfect 5.0 (I still have, and love, that program), I enjoyed playing around in DOS (cd dos; cd \ "Cool!"), basically doing all the
    hacking a six or seven year old could do. I think there was GWBASIC somewhere
    on there, but thankfully I never touched that.
  • Look, this guy is an ex-Mac user. He hasn't used
    an OS where you're expected to understand the
    computer before. Given that he's gone straight
    to Linux, I think he's doing just fine.

    Those of you who are posting "go back to Windows" messages are wasting your time. It's perfectly
    obvious by now that he won't. And good for him.

    Linux isn't just for the elite. Even "old hands" like myself started somewhere. We ought to help this guy and the other newbies around.

    Oh, and I'd forget kppp. I'd suggest pppsetup---worked fine first time for me.
  • On most systems, that would be "/var/log/messages" rather than "/var/adm/messages". :-)
  • There's a good chance that you've got the serial port speed set to 9600 baud talking to the modem, and that's the speed being reported by the CONNECT line. Make sure it's set to a higher speed, like 38400, 57600 or 115200. (Use the highest speed that actually works; modem compression may give you more than 28800 baud throughput.)
  • You said it.

    If any of you went into a store, asked what time the store was closing and were told to read the hours posted by the entrance (= RTFM), you would be pissed off, and rightly so.

  • You might want to look at things from a customer service perspective. If you loose your customers because you won't answer their questions, or if you answer your customers questions in a surly manner, you won't be in business very long. Unless, of course, you're running a monopoly.

    It doesn't matter how stupid you think the question is. It doesn't matter that the answer to the question a newbie is asking is right under his nose. He has asked a question. If you want to keep him as a customer, then you had better answer.

  • If you've got a product you want people to use, and you're not helpful to all the people who may want to give it a chance, then you're going to lose them. It's that simple.

    This is linux's situation now. It doesn't matter whether the gurus get paid for answering questions on comp.os.linux.whatever. Though I understand that it might matter to the gurus. Still that doesn't change the basic situation. The newsgroups are probably the first call newbies make for help(=customer service). And as word continues to spread about linux, the newsgroups will see an ever increasing number of newbies asking an ever diminishing number of interesting questions.

    This may break the newsgroups. As I understand it, they were originally a forum for committed hobbyists and pros to share info and probably work best that way. Still, the principal doesn't change. Treat a new customer badly and you won't have one.

    There's a chance here to build a new online models for providing customer service and some people are trying different things out. Take a look at Linux Support Services [].

    Hope this helps.

  • Well, if some guy can write an article in 2600 about "hacking" one of those stupid electronic pets, I don't see why someone who's starting to learn the inner workings of an os for the first time can't call it the same thing.

    One more thing... Hackers do play games. Who do you think writes them?

  • He didn't claim to be a hacker. He said that he hacked. Anyone can hack. I don't think that just anyone can be a hacker. I've written several open source programs, one of which was downlaoded by over 1000 people. I don't consider myself a hacker (though I hope to be). I have hacked. And he is hacking. As many people have already pointed out, one variety of hacking is getting things to work (see internet jargon file). He's learning that the computer is a tool, not a magic god, and he's learning that on a UNIX box, where that's actually possible to learn for real. Lighten up. Jon hasn't even come close to pretending to be great. Why are you making out that he is? If you read on, you'd see that he acknowledged that what he did wasn't big in the grand scheme of things, but that (quite rightly) it was a big step. And why on earth would being a hacker make everything magically work without having to touch it?
  • Jon, there are very few people who can help you by descriptions of your problem. I would personally suggest running pppd by hand. Once you get the script up, it's just much easier than trusting some gui application. Anyhow, if you run pppd with the debug option, then send us the relevant portions of your log file (the portion labeled pppd of /var/log/messages, usually), we can offer advice. Without the log, there are just way too many possibilities. Remember, when you need help, help those who are going to help you. :-)
    Btw, good luck. It's great to hear that you've learned that there's no magic to computers. That's probably the biggest step.
  • Because he's gifted. Not everybody can write entertaining text.

If you want to put yourself on the map, publish your own map.