It's late at night, and once again I'm trying to install Linux on my system. And nothing seems to be going right. After turning to the online documentation and searching the help forums, I still can't find anything that fits the problem I'm having. Mailing lists are a bit slow -- and besides, I joined one before, and left after my inbox got too full. And who wants to deal with all the spam for a single question? So my next thought is, why not use an online IRC forum? It sounds like a sensible idea, since they list it as a help link, right?
Wrong. As I have learned time and time again, online help is absolutely pointless. E-mail may be slow and useless, but instant answer gratification over IRC is doubly so. The barrier to any reasonable help? One word: newbie.
That's right, I'm a newb. A smart newb -- I can figure out almost anything if given a first-time walkthrough -- but a newb nonetheless. It has been almost exactly a year since I even first heard of Linux. I've learned a lot in the past year. I've gone through four distributions, five if you count the failed Linux From Scratch system I tried to put together just for fun.
But to be honest, I still know almost nothing about fixing my system when things don't work. I still don't know how to properly use "cat" or "dmsg" commands; I don't know which system logs to check; and I have no clue where most of the files are located. I'm trying to learn, but once you get past the "basics of linux" tutorials, there's not much help...and there's only so much time in a day to track down scatterings of articles. Almost everything I've learned has been from inference, and the linux man pages aren't that helpful if you don't already know what you're looking for.
The forums are a nightmare. If you even drop the word "newb" everyone starts treating you like an idiot. Any suggestions of a more complex solution go out the window as everyone starts sending you to webpages that have "the basics", which I read twelve months ago. But if you don't use the word "newb", everyone assumes you know where everything is.
Standard chat conversation:
ME: I'm on xxxx system using yyyy distribution, and I'm having trouble with _________. I've checked the help forums, but I can't find anything.
PERSON1: Have you tried a series of command-line key configurations that require the Necronomicon to decipher?
ME: Sort of, but I had problems with that when I was working on a different problem. I tried asking another forum, but they weren't any help. I just decided to live with that problem for right now, so I really don't want to go through the same useless conversation again.
PERSON1: No, really, we should address your other problem first. Well what does your obscure.log say?
ME: Well my current problem is more pressing, but I suppose working on the old problem can't hurt. Uhm, where do I find obscure.log?
PERSON2: You have to do an [insert operation here].
ME: Uhm, how do I do that? I don't really get the man pages, and every time I look it up google just turns up pages of technical sites that I don't understand.
PERSON1: You mean you don't know how to do that?
ME: Yes. I only just got introduced to Linux last November. Thus, I'm a newb.
PERSON2: Well you really need to read the "I'm so basic I can't even use Windows" tutorial before you do anything. You can also try "www.newbies'R'us.org".
ME: I've already read those. And that doesn't help me with my current problem. If you'll just tell me where to look for obscure.log and how to do [inserted operation], I can probably figure it out from there.
PERSON1: If you don't know how to do those magickal computer operations, you shouldn't be using this distribution. Try zzzz distribution instead.
ME: I already tried that. But I was having problems with zzzz distribution and someone on zzzz.forum said I should switch to this one. And you still haven't told me anything about my current problem.
(I'm partially exaggerating, but I've had very similar conversations multiple times.)
By this time I'm usually ready to give up. It's just not worth it going through the same shpeel every time, and sometimes it's just faster to reinstall the dang thing, believe it or not.
I really want to stick with linux, I do. I love the fact Linux lets me work with files that Windows won't even let me touch. It's nice to have an operating system that doesn't treat you like a complete idiot. Now if only the help forums would do that too, I'd be all set.