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

Comments, suggestions and questions about Linux Format magazine and the coverdiscs

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Postby bigjohn » Wed Aug 03, 2005 8:59 am

jjmac wrote:bigjohn wrote:
(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).

hmmmmm, MS have been very good at training their resource base :roll: to accept a particular standard level as being <cough> normal </cough>. It is a hard habit to break. When you go into a major deptment store, you are able to ignore all the things on the shelf if you want to ... but just 'cause your not into skiing (grin) does that mean they shouldn't be on offer. The whole thing is silly, but then ... i haven't really read it through yet. Is it worth it ?

Yeah OK, I can see that - but even after 3 years of trying to learn this thing that is linux (various distros), I still suffer because I find it difficult to get into the mindset.

Plus, IMO, the "how to do stuff" type articles are aimed a little too high. Why, because the uninitiated don't even know where to start.

I feel that with things explained at a "lower" level, the newbie has something to follow, the more experience have something to follow or if their levels of knowledge permit, they are better placed to be able to skip read those parts of the article as their experience is often enough to know that say, after ./configure, you normally do make, and so on.

Like my example in an earlier post. Openlaszlo, OK yes, the app is too advanced for me to make any use of it, but I can see that it appears to be "one hell of a piece of kit"!. Sure the article that reviewed it gave it a good write up, but I don't recall it saying that I'd need the java SDK, rather than the JRE that is either shipped with lots of distros or is just available straight forward rpm/deb/whatever format - I feel that it requires a bit more "bottle" to install it from the Sun site. Plus the review didn't even hint at possible problems at install stage, as though it just presumed that the reader would know.

So OK, if it's a "space" type concern of how to fit everything into the mag, then maybe some "newbie notes" for articles that requires some additional assistance or some similar arrangement.

The mag writers aren't just journo's, lots of them are very knowledgable people (well if they aren't then they need a pay rise as they're doing a vvv good job of faking it), but as with most knowledgable types, it's very easy to overlook how hard something might be to those with lesser levels of experience/knowledge - surely you must have seen the "just do whatever" type comments around the net? which then begs the question of how to "just do whatever" - if you know, you know, if you don't , you're stuffed.

My earlier example of samba. in a different thread
"Nigel" very kindly explained how to configure "it" in a way that easily made sense of what I feel is a very complicated issue. Sure, I'd tried to read the O'Really guide on using samba, but was getting bogged down with so much extraneous info that it made it nigh on impossible to follow/understand/implement. In other words, overkill!

But the way that Nigel explained it, means that I now have the samba up and running to be getting on with, and I can now take my time (maybe with the O'Really site or something else) to see if I can get my head round configuring (actually learning why, I have to have the various options that I have in ) that most confusing of files, the smb.conf!
"What the large print giveth, the small print taketh away". Tom Waits
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No don't dumb down!

Postby pau1ie » Sun Aug 07, 2005 1:27 pm

I get worried about people saying its too highbrow, and needs loads of beginners tutorials, I will cancel my subscription if the staff bow to this pressure. I have been using linux for 5 years and unix for 15 years, and I am still learning. I dont want a tutorial on "How to use gedit" (How many tutorials have you seen for notepad in windows mags?)

The mag is not big enough to do everything. Take openlaslo, it was a review not a tutorial. Therefore if you want to use it read the documentation that comes with it (Which scored 10/10 in the review) I have never used it, but the nature of the beast is that it is a complex piece of kit. It could be the subject of a tutorial series, and that would only scratch the surface.

However bigjohn has a point with the java thing. Apart from the political problems of the "Java trap" highlighted by Richard Stallman, it is simply a lot more difficult to install software that needs it because it is not supported by the distros.

I like LF for the reviews and "What on earth is" sections, because you can learn what is available. I like the idea of the tutorials, but in practise I never get round to doing them unless I want to learn the technology for a particular reason. Gimp tutorials I have never found very useful, though I like the idea. I use the Gimp a lot for manipulating images, but it is difficult to find what I want to do in the tutorials.

On the old website there were some old tutorials. Is there any possibility of getting anything older than say 2 or 3 years on the website or the DVD? Especially if your back issues have sold out?

As for other mags, I do subscribe to another UK based linux mag, which has had some criticism in these forums, but I like it. While LF is focussed on reviews and hands on, this other one is more political and reflective, I like both, they are different, they dont really compete.

I love the power that Linux gives you, the endless exploring that can be done all for free. The tutorials in windows based mags either expect you to have paid hundreds of pounds on some software, or use a version on the cover disc that has to be registered immeiately and stops working after a month or two - No hope for someone like me who probably does the tutorials a couple of years after they are written.
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RE: No don

Postby bigjohn » Sun Aug 07, 2005 3:25 pm

Well personally, contrary to what pau1ie says, I don't believe it is "dumbing down", it's more of a case of widening the demographic (in a learning sense).

Theres also a fair amount of having an appropriate "mindset". For example, I have always been someone who learns readily in a classroom environment, I find the "OJT" technique much harder to follow.

The magazine wouldn't necessarily have to change, because perhaps a subs based model or just one that comes from the main mag sub, i.e. username/password, might just be able to have a few additional notes that might be of assistance to those of us with the lower levels of linux learning/knowledge/experience etc, or something like that.

Using my example, obviously it would be difficult, for most people to attend classes for something, as we all have to earn that living (personally, it's just about nigh on impossible to do classes - unless I could find one that does "stuff" in the middle of the afternoon).

Just because I'm stuck with the resources for learning that I have access too, with no chance in sight of changing that, it shouldn't stop me from trying to make suggestions about how the very resources that I do use, could be improved with a minimum of effort and/or expense.

Also, pau1ie mentions that the Openlaszlo article was a review, not a tutorial. Yes, even I spotted that. But I am also very interested in how to "do" web stuff, and I don't want to have to go back to windows to either locate a snide copy of either the adobe or macromedia (yes, I also spotted that story as well) products, or re-mortgage the house to buy a copy. I just wasn't prepared for how much of a bugger it was to get installed - though when I did, it was worth it IMO. It will be many a year before I could even entertain having a go at doing anything with it, but it looks like one hell of an application, and even a "nugget" like me now fully understands why the review was so good.


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RE: No don

Postby guy » Sun Aug 07, 2005 5:42 pm

Well, I finally read andychanelle's beginner's guide to Gnome.

It starts at just about the right level for rank beginners, and includes some useful bits for the slightly more adventurous, which is nice. I'd have liked a screenshot of the basic desktop, but I can understand that it would have taken up a lot of page with not much information.

I guess one problem must have been that a very sparse desktop might lead to an equally sparse article, but I think he did a good job of finding useful things to say. <troll>Just shows how much effort is needed to understand cluttered and non-intuitive KDE desktops</troll>.

I would have liked a little more background about the underlying technologies (what is an "object model environment" and what does it do for me?), but that's me, always picky.
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