Linux advocacy: not just preaching to the choir

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Graphical user interfaces have their advantages and disadvantages.
While they present information in an easy-to-understand manner and
make it easier for new users to start doing powerful things by hiding
the details, this detail-hiding could also lull users into a false
sense of competency. Although desktop users may not need to mind this
problem that much if their computer was set up properly,
administrators need to be careful about this. Administrator used to
point-and-click tools may come to believe that Linux requires very
little maintenance instead of being as vigilant as they should be.
I know I’m not administrator material! <laugh>

Command-line interfaces can also be friendlier to power users than
graphical user interfaces are because command-line interfaces are
easier to script and automate. They make batch operations easier. For
example, I _could_ use a graphical file explorer to rename files,
but why rename files individually when a command like ‘rename’ lets
me do that with a little typing?

You can’t expect newbies to know about these little tips and tricks,
though. So how will people learn these nifty shortcuts? That’s where
guides and gurus come in. Newbies can start with graphical interfaces
so that they get used to the system. However, they should also
remember that more is possible. Exploring the menus and the help often
turns up interesting features you might not have learned about
otherwise, and that’s one way newbies can progress toward mastery.
However, many things are not exposed through menus. If you read a
Linux guide or ask a Linux guru for help, you may learn far more.

People can happily use Linux without recompiling their kernel or
running programs off CVS. I feel, however, that every newbie should
have someone to run to with questions, someone who’ll occasionally
pass on tips or remind them to do things like update their software.
We need gurus to show us the power of the command-line, to inspire us
by showing us the tips and tricks they’ve discovered over the years.

That’s why Linux advocacy doesn’t stop when you’ve convinced someone
to use Linux, but rather continues as you show people how to do even
more wonderful things.

E-Mail to ph-linux-newbie

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