"Beginners" put off...


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by jodykingzett » Wed Dec 12, 2012 9:51 pm
Sorry to say this guys but I am currently banging my head against the wall and am finding the multi-tudinal / multi-optional various forms of "apparent" help NOT helpful... :

1. Too much unexplained jargon
2. Too many links that don't work
3. Too many variations
4. Too much unexplained detail

I'm 35, having been using computers for years and started out on the zx spectrum, I was really looking forward to using my Raspberry Pi but currently it's sitting sadly in drawer. I can only imagine that a kid at primary school wouldn't know what hell was going on if he/she visited this site with a RaspberryPi in their hand...

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE can someone make a "user" friendly beginner's guide.

Thanks
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by jamesh » Wed Dec 12, 2012 10:27 pm
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by jamesh » Wed Dec 12, 2012 10:29 pm
jodykingzett wrote:Sorry to say this guys but I am currently banging my head against the wall and am finding the multi-tudinal / multi-optional various forms of "apparent" help NOT helpful... :

1. Too much unexplained jargon
2. Too many links that don't work
3. Too many variations
4. Too much unexplained detail

I'm 35, having been using computers for years and started out on the zx spectrum, I was really looking forward to using my Raspberry Pi but currently it's sitting sadly in drawer. I can only imagine that a kid at primary school wouldn't know what hell was going on if he/she visited this site with a RaspberryPi in their hand...

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE can someone make a "user" friendly beginner's guide.

Thanks


It would be useful if you could put some more detail in to the problems you are encountering. For example, I don't understand what you mean by point 3. Also, if you find broken links on the site here, please tell us, otherwise they won't get fixed.
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by flyinghappy » Wed Dec 12, 2012 10:31 pm
Or any of the wonderful Linux resources out there?
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by paulie » Wed Dec 12, 2012 10:32 pm
There's lots of useful info on the elinux wiki:

http://elinux.org/RaspberryPiBoard

Such as working peripherals/problem devices, detailed explanation of the board layout, software etc,etc.
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by striplar » Fri Dec 21, 2012 10:57 pm
He's absolutely right. I've been playing with computers forever and have written in a multitude of languages old and new in a variety of environments.
The primary aim was to get young people programming just like we did with the BBC computer etc.
That means plugging it in, turning it on, seeing the Basic prompt and off we go.
The experience that most newcomers will have couldn't be further from that, and I've struggled to see through the jungle of information and get it working without several problems that would stump a beginner.
The Magazine is a great taster, but the instructions and links are hopelessly out of date. Wouldn't it be more helpful if updated magazine issues were post edited and re-released to correct the errors? It's only natural that people will pore over these and expect to be able to get things running. That just doesn't work.
It's all a bit of a mess to be honest.
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by scep » Fri Dec 21, 2012 11:10 pm
striplar wrote:The Magazine is a great taster, but the instructions and links are hopelessly out of date. Wouldn't it be more helpful if updated magazine issues were post edited and re-released to correct the errors? It's only natural that people will pore over these and expect to be able to get things running. That just doesn't work.
It's all a bit of a mess to be honest.
Do you mean The MagPi? If so, I'm not quite sure how we jumped from the original post to a third party magazine.
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by scep » Fri Dec 21, 2012 11:20 pm
OP: Please can you be specific. Is Linux the problem? Is flashing the SD card the problem? Is getting to a desktop the problem? Why did you buy it and what do you actually want to do with it? Program? Learn about Linux? Control a robot?

We would like to help, but saying, "I ... am finding the multi-tudinal / multi-optional various forms of "apparent" help NOT helpful" followed by generic points such as "too many variations" doesn't help us help you at all.
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by jamesh » Fri Dec 21, 2012 11:29 pm
Hmm. OP has made just the one post - the one at the top of this thread, and hasn't bothered to outline the issues being seen. Now I'm the first to admit that all the docs needs improving, but we need to know what the problems are!!
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by simplesi » Sat Dec 22, 2012 2:58 am
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE can someone make a "user" friendly beginner's guide.


Download the main SD card image via http://www.raspberrypi.org and write it out to an SD Card.

Plug SD Card in - plug HDMI lead in and connect to an HDMI monitor.

Connect a phone charger to Rpi using micro-USB lead.

Assuming that works, try plugging in a keyboard and mouse

Come back here if that fails :)

Simon

PS Not a true idiots guide but you did say you were 35 with some years of experience so I missed some minor details out :)
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by striplar » Sat Dec 22, 2012 10:21 am
"Do you mean The MagPi? If so, I'm not quite sure how we jumped from the original post to a third party magazine."

Indeed I do mean MagPi. You happen to know that this is a third party magazine, I would wager that most of the readers aren't aware of that, I certainly wasn't. We are presented with a jumble of information sources that's very confusing, that's why I back up the original post.

Please don't make the assumption that I'm in any way knocking this product or project because I'm not. It's a noble cause, but sadly almost all of the effort has gone into the product and not into the clear and concise presentation of it. Being defensive and not listening to genuine valid criticism is a trait that's frankly unhelpful. Somebody needs to give a Pi to a few young people who are the target audience, sit them down in a room and just watch how they get started with just the resources they find for themselves on the internet. You will soon see exactly what the problem is.
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by jamesh » Sat Dec 22, 2012 11:07 am
striplar wrote:"Do you mean The MagPi? If so, I'm not quite sure how we jumped from the original post to a third party magazine."

Please don't make the assumption that I'm in any way knocking this product or project because I'm not. It's a noble cause, but sadly almost all of the effort has gone into the product and not into the clear and concise presentation of it. Being defensive and not listening to genuine valid criticism is a trait that's frankly unhelpful. Somebody needs to give a Pi to a few young people who are the target audience, sit them down in a room and just watch how they get started with just the resources they find for themselves on the internet. You will soon see exactly what the problem is.


We've certainly put young people in a room, but with help (ie. typical classroom scenario). Without help would be interesting. And we are aware of deficiencies in the docs, but again, this stuff takes time. There is the published user guide of course, which is a great starting point.

Interestingly, since the Raspi runs Linux, any Linux docs are useful, and there is plenty of stuff out there on that!
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by rurwin » Sat Dec 22, 2012 11:10 am
You are a very valuable resource, striplar. Please do not waste it; write down in detail what you find difficult and where you find the most helpful and the least helpful advice, what sent you there, what your "aha moments" are. A newbie is a rare thing, in a couple of weeks you'll be like all the rest of us; you'll know where all the useful information is and you'll forget about all the out-of-date sources that confused you so badly. You'll no longer be confused by technical descriptions that tie you in knots now.

The Raspberry Pi is still a development release, just as it was the day it went on sale (when I put up this page.) A huge amount has improved over that time, but it is not in a final state and will not be for several months yet. It is a moving target.
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by aTao » Sat Dec 22, 2012 12:03 pm
What would be nice is a downloadable set of HTML pages with all current docs. I found that I was repeatedly visiting the same web page for the same information over and over again (GPIO pinout), ended up writing a txt file with that in.
Such a system could easily distinguish between different board versions. I think HTML works better than pdf (I find navigation easier that way).

For some constructive criticism of existing information:
GPIO pinout (again)
I think that the table on http://elinux.org/Rpi_Low-level_peripherals is poorly laid out and misleading. I think that the 2 board versions should be separate and the pins should be in numerical order or absolute physical layout ([either 1..26] or [1..25 odd on the left and 2..26 even on the right])
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by scep » Sat Dec 22, 2012 12:08 pm
aTao wrote:I think that the table on http://elinux.org/Rpi_Low-level_peripherals is poorly laid out and misleading. I think that the 2 board versions should be separate and the pins should be in numerical order or absolute physical layout ([either 1..26] or [1..25 odd on the left and 2..26 even on the right])
Well, it is a Wiki... ;)
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by scep » Sat Dec 22, 2012 12:37 pm
striplar wrote:"Do you mean The MagPi? If so, I'm not quite sure how we jumped from the original post to a third party magazine."

Indeed I do mean MagPi. You happen to know that this is a third party magazine, I would wager that most of the readers aren't aware of that, I certainly wasn't. We are presented with a jumble of information sources that's very confusing, that's why I back up the original post.
I was just wondering as it was a non-sequitur.

The OP made some vague complaints 10 days ago and hasn't been back. We asked him for specifics but he didn't answer. I asked him again -- we'd like to help, we are helpful like that :). If you consider this "Being defensive and not listening to genuine valid criticism" then so be it.

As for beginners' documentation and educational resources etc - these will happen. The Foundation are well aware that the success of the hardware has, in the short term, overshadowed the educational goals. Eben Upton talks about this in a recent interview.

In the meantime I'm a great believer that if you aren't happy with something then helping to fix it is a lot more constructive than simply complaining. Have you emailed the MagPi team to point out these errors? Perhaps you could re-write the instructions that are hopelessly out of date. They would welcome the help.
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by striplar » Sat Dec 22, 2012 12:50 pm
In my opinion, the enemy of clarity is too much choice and information. Obviously all of this is needed at some point, but beginners need to be spoon fed the absolute basics, just to get them started.
It seems to be an unnecessary hurdle to have to prepare an SD card before it does anything. Since we all have to buy one, it would be handy to have it ready to go with at least something that would work.
If you frustrate young people with too many hurdles before they see a result, they are unlikely to stick with it. I know it won't be the latest update, but does that really matter?
If there are several starting points, needing different SD cards, then just make it clear what those are and provide those options.
My guess is that most people just want to get something, anything at all up on the screen so they have a starting point.
I've not got very far yet, but all the issues have been to do with the SD card preparation.
I assumed that the MagPi was the official publication, so that was the obvious place to start.
Links that showed dozens of download files, none of which matched the one in the publication didn't help.
Finding the Win32DiskImager wasn't as difficult, but VMWare and gparted was a fiasco, and wouldn't show me the SD card when I finally got it all working. What a waste of time and effort.
Yes, I now know that the latest version of Debian offers a menu to resize the partitions, but I didn't know that then. The filename of the download appears to be different to the one in MagPi so that caused confusion too.
I bought a very large SD card, and running the partition resizing program took forever, without much feedback to say whether it had died or not. There appear to be two phases to that operation, one took about 5 minutes, the other about 10. Most young people would probably have pulled that plug on it by then, assuming that it had crashed.
I don't envy the people who are trying to simplify this and make it accessible. A pyramid or tree structure might be a good idea, where only a small amount is visible at the entry point.
If you want to do something with Graphics, then go this way. Go another way for Robotics.
I finally have a Windows like screen and I've surfed the internet. This is astonishing for such a tiny board. I have no idea what to do with it, I just wanted to see what all the fuss was about. It very nearly got put in a drawer and forgotten, it just didn't seem worth the pain while I was struggling.
I'm a pretty determined individual, most young people would surely have given up.
If a young person can't figure this stuff out on his own in his bedroom then there's something wrong.
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by striplar » Sat Dec 22, 2012 12:59 pm
As suggested, I've contacted MagPi and explained the issues that newbies are experiencing
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by scep » Sat Dec 22, 2012 1:29 pm
Thanks for the detailed feedback and suggestions striplar. There are people working on beginners' guides and resources, it's been a busy year for the Foundation and volunteers alike but things are happening in this area.
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by poing » Sat Dec 22, 2012 1:55 pm
striplar wrote:It seems to be an unnecessary hurdle to have to prepare an SD card before it does anything. Since we all have to buy one, it would be handy to have it ready to go with at least something that would work.

Pre installed SD cards are readily available. But if you read this thread: http://www.raspberrypi.org/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=26&t=24574 you see a beginner with his daughter in tears because he was sold an SD card containing an old distro with problematic WiFi setup. Not really an ideal start either. Besides as a beginner you're likely to test a lot of things so being able to do a clean install is one of the things you should know anyway.
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by Maxion » Sat Dec 22, 2012 1:58 pm
poing wrote:
striplar wrote:It seems to be an unnecessary hurdle to have to prepare an SD card before it does anything. Since we all have to buy one, it would be handy to have it ready to go with at least something that would work.

Pre installed SD cards are readily available. But if you read this thread: http://www.raspberrypi.org/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=26&t=24574 you see a beginner with his daughter in tears because he was sold an SD card containing an old distro with problematic WiFi setup. Not really an ideal start either. Besides as a beginner you're likely to test a lot of things so being able to do a clean install is one of the things you should know anyway.



Those pre-installed SD cards should come with something like berryboot instead.
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by ShiftPlusOne » Sat Dec 22, 2012 1:58 pm
I think I also have to +1 the OP, but I don't think there's an easy fix for the problem. You have to assume some level of knowledge, if you don't, you end up going into unnecessary detail and never get to the point.

Alternatively, you can hide everything behind scripts and flashy GUIs which do everything for you. From the little bit of experience I have, beginners seem to love the second option. However there's the problem that they aren't learning what goes on behind the scenes.

On the other hand, maybe the problems are expectations people have and the impressions that we give. For someone who has been using linux for a while, it's very hard to tell what's obvious to a beginner and what isn't. We tend to forget that this isn't as easy and intuitive as it feels, so we tend to give the impression that it's simple. This may put off people who are made to feel stupid because they find it hard. So, I think it's important to remember that it IS hard and you DO need to experiment, learn to use google and 'man' pages. No, you will not find all the answers in a single resource like a community magazine, some things come with experience.

I think the solution is to correct users' expectations and show them how to find the information they need without looking down on them for not knowing the same things as you. Stress that the experience they're having is normal and a part of the learning curve.

As far as the SD card hurdle goes though, I am not so sure about that. You can buy preloaded cards like you can buy computers with windows preloaded. I'd also argue that installing windows is harder than flashing a disk image, especially if you go back to before Windows XP.

As a side note, you should give 'young people' more credit. :D
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by jamesh » Sat Dec 22, 2012 2:35 pm
striplar wrote:In my opinion, the enemy of clarity is too much choice and information.


The Foundation does have control over its own website, but no-one else's (which actually include the WIki). So almost by definition there will be too much information, in all sorts of places, with all sorts of mistakes, which the Foundation can do nothing about, except by providing as much information as possible on its own site. Which will happen over time, as more resources can be brought to bear on the problem.
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by striplar » Sat Dec 22, 2012 2:51 pm
Those are all good and valid points, and I'd hate to paint young people in a poor light.
The SD card preparation seems to be the biggest issue for getting started though, and I agree that an outdated version that doesn't work properly isn't much use. It would appear that making this as easy as possible, wrapping that up in an easy to navigate form would make most sense.
Having to hunt down and download the various elements required to do this is an unnecessary obstacle even if after a couple of times it becomes familiar. An interface that automatically selects the most recent versions of a download would be a good start. I'm sure this is easy enough to do, and would allow someone to quickly prepare cards to experiment with other things.
When we buy a disc, or download a program for the Windows environment (that's not swearing is it?) we expect the program to quickly prompt us if there's a more recent version available and to be able to get it with one click.
I agree that you can't and don't want to ultimately spoon feed and isolate users from what underlies all this. They can and will find these things out later on once they've got started. It's getting started that's the problem.
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by poing » Sat Dec 22, 2012 2:58 pm
BTW, I'm starting to use GPIO pins now, which is difficult to get your head around because there are I think three different naming schemes for the pins while they also change from board to board revision. I found some pages, including this one: http://elinux.org/Rpi_Low-level_peripherals and I'll get there, but I think on the whole it's very confusing. I'm not very knowledgeable about electronics, but I did solder some Velleman boards rated 'difficult' together in my time so I'm not a total noob.
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