The Mag - not as helpful as I'd hoped!

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The Mag - not as helpful as I'd hoped!

Postby bigjohn » Thu Jul 28, 2005 12:11 am

I've been subscribing for about, Oooo! I don't know, my pile of back issues is between 18 inches and 2 feet high.

But, I only get any benefit out of about 20 percent of the mag (if that).

Why? well most of the time, I haven't the faintest idea of what they're on about. Sure, most of the "politics of IT" type stuff I get no problem (perhaps I'm weird, I like politics).

Lots of the techincal stuff it so far over my head, I'd need a telescope to see/understand what they're on about.

I don't consider myself an IT/linux enthusiast. I'd like to be. I use linux, for social/moral/ethical reasons - Gates has enough money, I don't want to give him much (preferably any) more of mine - but he and his ilk are a difficult beast to get away from.

This months mag, for example. Newsdesk section - great, got that! Mailserver, read it all, didn't understand half of the question/replies. Reviews, well it took me forever to work out how to get "Openlaszlo" installed, but when I did, I can see it's probably a magnificent application, though what the hell I'd do with it????? Maybe some examples of how it might be used in anger.

What the hell the rest of the reviews where about is a mystery ???

The books listed ? What is actually meant by "linux desktop hacks"??? and while I understand that "MySQL" is ubiquitous in the world of databases, again I don't know where I might be able too see one "doing it's database thing".

Text editors??? Sure I've managed to get by, but they seem very archaic why can't you just open a file with konqueror, nautilus or whatever?? No ones ever explained that to me!

HotPicks? Well just see my comment above about tech stuff and telescopes!

and it goes on, and on, and on.

Why couldn't there be maybe something like a subscription based section of the LXF site aimed specifically for newbs, and those like me, who are just users, not technonerds and train spotters with keyboards - They don't need the more basic assistance that basic users and beginners prefer! I'd pay for that, it'd probably be more helpful than the mag is!

I've been starting to wonder if it's worth me keeping up the subscription, but I probably will, afterall, if it's posted to me, it works out what? a fiver a month? You can't even get a bleeding chinese take for that!
"What the large print giveth, the small print taketh away". Tom Waits
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RE: The Mag - not as helpful as I

Postby Flea » Thu Jul 28, 2005 12:53 am

Whoa, dude, chill out. Where do you get this idea that you need to know how mysql works or what use you have for Openlaszlo?

I used to think I could learn 'everything' about computers but guess what, you can't.
The software world (especially open source software) is developing far too quickly for any one individual to 'get' everything. All you need, all any of us need to understand is what we want to use. I for one don't care how you configure sendmail, I'm never going to use it. I don't think I will ever install Gentoo, I don't care to know that much about how my OS works! Does this mean I'm a Luddite? No, of course not! I'm interested in getting back into my C++. I'm especially interested in using C++ with GTK+ to build GUI apps at the moment, but if I worried about every little thing I wouldn't get very far would I?

So, dude, just chill. You got all the time in the world to figure out anything you want to. Remember the experts were not born with the knowledge they have. I can guarantee you it took them a lot of trail and error and hard work (not to mention a big lack of any meaningful life) to get where they are today. (unless they are some autistic genius type of course).

Let me put it another way. I could buy every single issue of [generic motorcycle magazine] and read it, religiously, every month for a decade and still not be any closer to understanding the inner workings of a motorbike. I would learn more by buying a motorbike and 'using' it for a couple years.

Anyway, blah blah blah, just ignore me. Its the bottle of wine talking now... nite nite.

Dave.

Edit: ps, why the flaming hell did you install openlazlo if you didn't know what it did or if you needed it? You my friend have way too much time on your hands.

Edit: oh... wait a minute... am I biting here? Is this another one of those windows lover having a go at Linux post thingies? hmm, I retract everything... everything I ever said... about anything... ever! You got nuffin' on me, I never said nuffin' you slag :D
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Re: RE: The Mag - not as helpful as I

Postby Nigel » Thu Jul 28, 2005 8:37 am

Flea wrote:I used to think I could learn 'everything' about computers but guess what, you can't.


I'll second that - I've been a programmer for over 25 years, and the sum total of what I now know about computers is dwarfed not only by the sum total of things I'll never (need to) know, but lately also by the sum total of things I've forgotten (and will never need again).

now where did I leave that zimmer frame... :wink:
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RE: Re: RE: The Mag - not as helpful as I

Postby guy » Thu Jul 28, 2005 6:19 pm

I'm really encouraged by Big John's rant. At last, I'm not the only reader who wants something that "just does my stuff", doesn't cost as much as a Mac and has a newsagent mag with dumb bunny food to go with it.

One thing Big John, have you seen the state of the other Linux mags?!
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Postby comcamel » Fri Jul 29, 2005 9:05 am

possibly they could make a small section for "absolute beginners" as if the cover is intresting enough to look at they want to find more, especially if they are windows users and if they do decide to get the magazine there should be a section that helps beginners on to the go.
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Postby JPGargoyle » Fri Jul 29, 2005 9:41 am

Hi bigjohn.

I'm a complete Linux noob myself and sometimes feel the same as you, but as I keep (slowly) learning my way in Linux, I frequently take a look at my older LXF issues and find lots of information that I didn't understand the first time and are realy usefull now.


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Postby nelz » Fri Jul 29, 2005 10:21 am

And that's where the problem lies when targeting the level of expertise of the readership. It doesn't stay the same. If it did, the magazine would be failing. The ideal target is slightly above your current level of understanding, but what is that?

JPGargoyle makes a good point, the articles you didn't understand when you first looked at them will make more sense to you a year later. Reviews may date, but most of the other information remains as valid as it was. I've never been a great GIMP users (drawing breath is about the limit of my artistic abilities) but when I needed to use the program, I found what I needed in some of the old tutorials.
"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." (Albert Einstein)
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Postby bigjohn » Fri Jul 29, 2005 2:01 pm

Whoa, dude, chill out. Where do you get this idea that you need to know how mysql works or what use you have for Openlaszlo?

I like meddling with my pc, and I would like to learn how to do just one thing well.

I don't mind not being the worlds expert at everything, but I'm always interested to learn enough to have an idea of what "it" does, and it always helps if you can see something in action.

When I'm digging through the latest mag, if something doesn't tell me roughly what it does in 2 or 3 paragraphs, I'll often skip read it just to see if it contains anything that catches my imagination.

Openlaszlo is a good example inasfaras, I can see it's one hell of an app, sure I'd like to have a reason to use it, but right now, I suspect that I need to learn a lot more about web based stuff.

Edit: oh... wait a minute... am I biting here? Is this another one of those windows lover having a go at Linux post thingies?


I'm sure that if I had wanted to, I could have just as easily re-installed the XP and then grabbed the Openlaszlo package for windows - it probably would have been easier to install, but I use linux for social, moral and ethical reasons (I find some of MSs' marketing techniques distasteful, but my selection of linux so that I have some choice often leaves me bewildered. Because IMO too much choice is no choice at all).

I'll second that - I've been a programmer for over 25 years, and the sum total of what I now know about computers is dwarfed not only by the sum total of things I'll never (need to) know, but lately also by the sum total of things I've forgotten (and will never need again).


Ok, fair comment, but I would still like to be good at one thing. It's just that at 14, I didn't really have a clue what I wanted to do for the rest of my life i.e. career etc, and 26 years later I'm still looking for something that I could be good at. I believe that every one has something that they can do well.

I'm really encouraged by Big John's rant. At last, I'm not the only reader who wants something that "just does my stuff", doesn't cost as much as a Mac and has a newsagent mag with dumb bunny food to go with it.

One thing Big John, have you seen the state of the other Linux mags?!


Because I realise that theres so much stuff that I don't, and will probably never know, I often find that I have to follow tutorial type articles religiously. Sure theres gonna be system differences, but when the article seems to be using the same distro and a system that s not a million miles away from what I'm using at the time, yet my efforts too follow the instructions closely go to ratshit, I get vvvvv impatient/frustrated. Those articles that start will, documenting the process of whatever, but then finish with just do this, that and the other are IMO rather unhelpful, because I don't have enough prior knowledge to do the "this, that or the other".

As for most of the other linux mags, well yes I've tried most of them for a couple of months too see if they have any better ideas of how to put the info across. The only other linux one that I get is actually a free online one that can be found at
http://www.tuxmagazine.com/ the only downside it that it's obviously aimed at the US, but I can get over that.

possibly they could make a small section for "absolute beginners" as if the cover is intresting enough to look at they want to find more, especially if they are windows users and if they do decide to get the magazine there should be a section that helps beginners on to the go.

My point exactly, if there could be "stages" then surely that would cater for wider levels of experience/knowledge, but give "us nuggets" somewhere to fall back on.
I'm a complete Linux noob myself and sometimes feel the same as you, but as I keep (slowly) learning my way in Linux, I frequently take a look at my older LXF issues and find lots of information that I didn't understand the first time and are realy usefull now.
I keep the mags to use as a fall back, but am aware that the info does go "stale" relatively quickly.

But it would be magic if you could get back issues on cdrom (like the windows based computeractive magazine - it was the first mag I started getting as it was launched just after I started gettig into computers - they're only brave enough to mention linux every 20 or 30 issues - but as it's aimed at the novice/beginner it's worth it's weight in gold - I have all 7 cdroms for back issues (26 on each one).
And that's where the problem lies when targeting the level of expertise of the readership. It doesn't stay the same. If it did, the magazine would be failing. The ideal target is slightly above your current level of understanding, but what is that?

Well as I say nelz, theres a couple of possible posted above. Plus, not forgetting that the apparent excellent levels of knowledge of those who write for the mag is splendid, though if its something thats aimed at the more experience/professional type, then maybe a "grading system" might be appropriate as well as oversight of someone whose at the level at which the article is aimed.

Your analogy of the gimp, is, in my case another example of what seems to be a brilliant application, but in my case I wouldn't even know where to start. I have had a go, but failed dismally, because I can't work out if I'm supposed to be using it, literally like a pen and paper, or whether I'm supposed to be doing stuff with layers and the like!

A greater number of articles like that would be more beneficial too me!

The news articles, well in truth, by the time they're published, they're often "old news" too me, as I do find the time to read the reg, slashdot and stuff like that, but I still read them, so to have a different "slant" on whats actually happened etc

Hence sometimes it will take me 5 or 6 days to plough through the mag when it turns up, but other times, It's on the pile of back issues in less than a day - sure, I usually retain the dvd for 6 months +, but I often still find that the wealth of choice, is in fact, no choice at all.

regards

John
"What the large print giveth, the small print taketh away". Tom Waits
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Postby andychannelle » Fri Jul 29, 2005 8:43 pm

Just out of interest (as the author so please be gentle) how have you found the the First Steps/Beginners? This was started out as a way to introduce new users to the subject of Linux and, in the past we've covered everything from choosing and installing a distro to editing video. Do you think this bit is coming across as too advanced?

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Postby AudioMove » Fri Jul 29, 2005 10:06 pm

I dont think you can please everyone - as a long time reader the magazine has been slated as a beginner magazine and the die hard linux fans have no interest in it - then it began to cover more advanced topics and now it has a great balance between everything. But it still wont suit everyone, it never will.
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Re: The Mag - not as helpful as I'd hoped!

Postby nordle » Fri Jul 29, 2005 11:08 pm

bigjohn wrote:Why couldn't there be maybe something like a subscription based section of the LXF site aimed specifically for newbs, and those like me, who are just users, not technonerds and train spotters with keyboards


Technonerds, are they people who massive fans of Daft Punk?

:)

I thought your comment was possibly a little harsh, although pretty accurate :)

Nelz and JPGargoyle beat their keyboards within an inch of their lives and wrote:And that's where the problem lies when targeting the level of expertise of the readership. It doesn't stay the same. If it did, the magazine would be failing. The ideal target is slightly above your current level of understanding, but what is that?

JPGargoyle makes a good point, the articles you didn't understand when you first looked at them will make more sense to you a year later. Reviews may date, but most of the other information remains as valid as it was. I've never been a great GIMP users (drawing breath is about the limit of my artistic abilities) but when I needed to use the program, I found what I needed in some of the old tutorials.


EXACTLY! For me, LXF has some great stuff like news, reviews and interviews, but a lot of it can act as a reference, you build it up over time and 6 mths down the line you are at a level to want to try some of that stuff, then its a great to go back and see how much more sense it makes.
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Postby bigjohn » Sat Jul 30, 2005 1:39 am

andychannelle wrote:Just out of interest (as the author so please be gentle) how have you found the the First Steps/Beginners? This was started out as a way to introduce new users to the subject of Linux and, in the past we've covered everything from choosing and installing a distro to editing video. Do you think this bit is coming across as too advanced?

Andy

Yes/no, the distro install stuff, well when it comes to "commercial" distros, I haven't had too much bother (well, not with SuSE or Mandriva, though I never did get deadrat installed). Debian (proper), not a hope in hells chance, though derivative debian (knoppix hard drive) was reasonably straight forward. Gentoo was brilliant - though I did stick to the install instructions "like s**t to a blanket" - the first couple of failed attempts, I tried to put everything into one partition "a la Mandrake default", when I followed the gentoo default (though I did have access to a copy of partition magic, was still dual booting and had a seperate /home) it was relatively painless.

as for the other "first steps" stuff, well it was all rather over my head (even having tried to learn the "basics" for the last 3 years). emacs, gimp, etc etc - the topics that I had either no use for (as far as I could see) and the ones that I'm not interested in, I didn't read.

AudioMove wrote:I dont think you can please everyone - as a long time reader the magazine has been slated as a beginner magazine and the die hard linux fans have no interest in it - then it began to cover more advanced topics and now it has a great balance between everything. But it still wont suit everyone, it never will.

Well, I can't say I'm a long time reader, though it's got too be two and a half years or so, I've often discussed questions that have arisen in the mag with some of the "teflon heads" of my LUG, but have more than once had "I don't know, I don't read news stand type mags". These are people who are familiars of ESR and the like. developers/programmers etc (professionals/hardcore types). they are only in the LUG because they are F/OSS and/or EFF evangelists.

It's my view, that it's the newb types or just unknowledgable (i.e. me) who appreciate greater levels of advice/support etc as you get more knowledgable, you're bound not to need such "low level" info. I spent a great amount of time digging around different forums, in search of "idiot level" tutorial stuff - often without any luck, it depends on what I'm looking for.

nordle wrote:EXACTLY! For me, LXF has some great stuff like news, reviews and interviews, but a lot of it can act as a reference, you build it up over time and 6 mths down the line you are at a level to want to try some of that stuff, then its a great to go back and see how much more sense it makes.


LXF does indeed have some good stuff (at least Nicks caption photo no longer makes him look like someone who'd be lurking behind the park bushes - but the current one makes him look like he has the most hi-tec cardboard box on the whole of the embankment :twisted: ).
Seriously, yes it does have SOME good stuff, just too much that is aimed at the intermediate level, I'd prefer to see a bit more of a balance.

If you're gonna advocate linux, then those who are starting out have to enjoy a good initial linux experience otherwise they just become the latest batch of "it's shite" merchants, and like the "RTFM merchants" does nothing to help the greater linux world.

I'd really like to get out of the "WTF" mode, but until the mag is less like the rest of the available linux documentation, it will remain, for me, an interesting alternative view with a smattering of tidbits of potential good stuff!
"What the large print giveth, the small print taketh away". Tom Waits
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Postby Nigel » Sat Jul 30, 2005 12:07 pm

bigjohn wrote:Seriously, yes it does have SOME good stuff, just too much that is aimed at the intermediate level, I'd prefer to see a bit more of a balance.


I've said this before - it's an almost impossible juggling act trying to produce a magazine that caters for such a wide range of abilities and experience.
One day there will be sufficient readership to justify a fork into "Linux Expert Format" and "Linux Beginners Format", with the latter being more along the lines of ComputerActive. And when that day arrives I'll need to subscribe to both !

Actually, given that LXF now has almost double the circulation of Mac Format (according to the ABC figures), perhaps that day isn't so far off... any of the LXF staffers care to comment on that ?
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Postby nelz » Sat Jul 30, 2005 12:40 pm

It's not as simple as a one dimensional newbie to guru scale, there are also many different uses. So you have newbie desktop users, expert desktop users, newbie server users and expert server admins and everything in between. Then the desktop side breaks down into many different uses. So the only option is to provide as broad a spread of articles as possible.

One thing I would say to bigjohn is that while you have made some good points, they tend to be vague. You would be more likely to get what you want by giving specific examples of what you want.
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Postby andychannelle » Sat Jul 30, 2005 12:52 pm

How difficult would it be to create a download-only magazine aimed at beginners, delivered like Tux magazine as a archived set of PDFs? This idea could combine with another thread on this forum and use only Linux to produce it.
Theoretically it would be quite easy to repackage my own beginners guides in this sort of format - would make a good tutorial too I think...
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