"Beginners" put off...


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by W. H. Heydt » Sat Dec 22, 2012 7:20 pm
I want to address one minor point from this post (and I'll address another from a different post in a second post of mine)...

striplar wrote: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.


The problem here is one of design philosophy that goes back to the early days of unix. It is that, unless user action is needed, unix (and, derivatively, Linux and related programs running on other OSs) are "silent". That is, they don't give continuous update information to show that they're working. They either complete successfully, or they fail If they fail, you get information on the failure. If they succeed, you either get output relating to the completion or you just get a prompt for the next command if success doesn't require any output to the screen.

What has been done in "consumer friendly" systems is to apply the idea that you need to give *some* sort of progress status so that people can tell that the program is still doing *something*, even if they don't know exactly what.

And, yes, people do tend to get nervous if a program gives no indication that things are going okay, even people who *know* about old unix programs and they way they behave.
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by W. H. Heydt » Sat Dec 22, 2012 7:29 pm
striplar wrote: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.

This is, once again, a matter of design philosophy. MSWindows and Mac OS/X are specifically designed for use by people who have no idea what the computer is doing. As such, they attempt to automate as much of the system updating as possible and, by default, will do so unasked.

Linux, on the other hand, places the user/owner in command of his own system. If he wishes to update his system, he is free to do so on his own schedule and at his own need.

*IF* you regularly run "apt-get update", *then* when you install a new program, you will get a version current to your last package update. That's why so many of the posts saying to use this or that package *start* the instructions with doing an "apt-get update". It means that you are the complete master of your system.

Personally, unless I'm adding a new package, I only do an update/upgrade about once a month, and take a compete backup of the SD card when I do so. If a major announcement was made (say, X acceleration is ready for prime time), then I'd probably do an extra update/upgrade cycle.

In a way, this particular issue feeds right into the educational purpose of the Pi. It teaches people how to administer and maintain a computer. Something they are unlikely to learn while using MSWindows.
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by mahjongg » Sat Dec 22, 2012 7:34 pm
W. H. Heydt wrote:What has been done in "consumer friendly" systems is to apply the idea that you need to give *some* sort of progress status so that people can tell that the program is still doing *something*, even if they don't know exactly what.

Note that many programs simply fake the progress status, they simply increase the length of a progress bar without even looking at the running program.
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by simplesi » Sun Dec 23, 2012 12:18 am
I think (given all the chat on this thread) is that the Quick Start guide linked from the homepage just needs to be re-jigged in as plain English as possible
e.g
change
You will need an SD card with an operating system preloaded before you can boot the Raspberry Pi. A brand-name (not generic) Class 4 card of 4GB or more is recommended. To obtain an SD card image, and for instructions on how to flash an SD card from a Linux or Windows PC, please refer to http://www.raspberrypi.org/downloads. We recommend that developers use the Raspian “wheezy” image, which includes Python, gcc, and a range of example applications.

to something along the lines of

You need to get a 4GB SD Card (bigger ones are fine) and follow these instructions
(Instructions on how to download Raspbian and use Win32DiskImager as this is what 99% of 1st time users will want to do)


e.g cut out all the ifs and buts and just give simple, direct instructions on how to get going

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by pygmy_giant » Sun Dec 23, 2012 12:51 am
Everything is easy when you know how - but often the simplest things can make you feel like this:

Image

when they are unfamiliar.
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by gritz » Sun Dec 23, 2012 12:57 am
pygmy_giant wrote:Everything is easy when you know how - but often the simplest things can make you feel like this:

Image

when they are unfamiliar.


:lol: :lol: :lol:

Unfortunately there are those within the computing "community" who seem to think that it's supposed to be a struggle. This is why computing is stuck in the Dark Ages - Boolean geeks who are painfully clever, but who probably can't tie their own shoelaces!
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by pygmy_giant » Sun Dec 23, 2012 1:11 am
A true 'quick-start guide' would be written along the lines of bish-bash-bosh-off you go... with things explained simply, minimally, thoroughly and in order without jargon. 1 - 2 - 3 steps with info-graphics could help.

It would take the user from having a pile of bits to sitting infront of the desktop, mouse in hand. It should then signpost them to further resources.

It seems to me that vital info is scattered accross several pages.

I guess the multitude of oprating systems can also confuse beginners.
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by electronicman » Mon Dec 24, 2012 12:28 am
As an old timer I am unfamiliar with computers, but I found it difficult to start working with the RPI, as some of the information is scattered around and is not always clear.
I spent at lot of time trying to get the WiFi connected, then I found out that there was an update and all of a sudden a WiFi manager showed up and connecting was a breeze.
Then I tried to get audio to work, and tried several players without success, when all of a sudden the audio started to work and I had no idea why.

Now armed with my “little black book” of Frequently Used Codes, I can go from zero to working in no time flat. While I have time to play around with the PI, and I love trying things out, I am wondering how a high schooler who was not very familiar with computers would get on unless they had some help from a teacher.
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by liz » Mon Dec 24, 2012 12:34 am
pygmy_giant wrote:A true 'quick-start guide' would be written along the lines of bish-bash-bosh-off you go... with things explained simply, minimally, thoroughly and in order without jargon. 1 - 2 - 3 steps with info-graphics could help.

It would take the user from having a pile of bits to sitting infront of the desktop, mouse in hand. It should then signpost them to further resources.

It seems to me that vital info is scattered accross several pages.

I guess the multitude of oprating systems can also confuse beginners.


We agree. A little gift from Santa will be arriving tomorrow.
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by aTao » Mon Dec 24, 2012 12:35 am
liz wrote:
We agree. A little gift from Santa will be arriving tomorrow.


But I've been very very bad........
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by mahjongg » Mon Dec 24, 2012 1:28 am
Its not (only) for you, don't worry! :lol:

Its not as if you will be put into a burlap sack, and taken to Spain, thats Sint, not Santa, (and you are not Dutch like me AFAIK) the worst that can happen (apparently) is that you get a lump of coal instead of a present. :P
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by plugwash » Mon Dec 24, 2012 2:19 am
W. H. Heydt wrote:The problem here is one of design philosophy that goes back to the early days of unix. It is that, unless user action is needed, unix (and, derivatively, Linux and related programs running on other OSs) are "silent". That is, they don't give continuous update information to show that they're working. They either complete successfully, or they fail If they fail, you get information on the failure. If they succeed, you either get output relating to the completion or you just get a prompt for the next command if success doesn't require any output to the screen.

The problem with that is that programs do have bugs that cause them to get into infinite loops. With no indication that a program is doing something you don't know whether it's stuck in an infinite loop or just working on a task that is going to take a while.

Also often an estimate of how long something will take is very useful, not everyone has unlimited time to wait for things to complete and if something is going to take a long time it may be necessary to change plans.
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by Joe Schmoe » Mon Dec 24, 2012 2:47 am
The problem with that is that programs do have bugs that cause them to get into infinite loops. With no indication that a program is doing something you don't know whether it's stuck in an infinite loop or just working on a task that is going to take a while.


Very true. Note, incidentally, that at no time did WHH say the design philosopy was a good philosopy. His comments were entirely neutral - simply saying that that is the "Unix way".

Also often an estimate of how long something will take is very useful, not everyone has unlimited time to wait for things to complete and if something is going to take a long time it may be necessary to change plans.


I think that, going forward, Unix programs are going to get more chatty, just as Unix is getting more and more GUI (more like Windows). But the old programs still are the way they are.

Note, incidentally, that a really nice feature of the venerable 'dd' program is the fact that you can send it a SIGUSR1 and it will report its progress. This is particularly useful when writing an SD card image (something we all do - and talk about - a lot!). Note that the problem here is that there simply is no way to know how long it is going to take - nor any way to estimate it before hand - because the key variable is the SD card write speed. And in my experience, that can vary all over the block, depending on a multitude of factors. So, this functionality of 'dd' - being able to report progress en route - is very important. What I'm saying is that you literally can't know if it is going to take 15 minutes or 15 hours...
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by rurwin » Mon Dec 24, 2012 10:48 am
aTao wrote:
liz wrote:
We agree. A little gift from Santa will be arriving tomorrow.


But I've been very very bad........


ROFL
Maybe Liz should ban you from the site until the 26th.

The Unix way is a good way. To understand it you have to realise that Unix programs are designed to allow them to be used by other Unix programs. That is a very powerful concept that allows one to build powerful applications very easily without reinventing the wheel every time. But to enable it to be done easily one has to keep the level of chat down so that their output can be understood by another program without having to strip out all the chat. Of course it is not good to have a program hang for half an hour with no output and some programs do behave differently if they have a real user to talk to.
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by keybeeper » Mon Dec 24, 2012 11:23 am
Maybe this will help your understanding

http://linux.oneandoneis2.org/LNW.htm
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by keble » Mon Dec 24, 2012 12:13 pm
ShiftPlusOne wrote: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.

Good comment!
As an old timer (60+) who does use a bit of Linux at work, I have found some things easy and some things hard.
There's a wealth of info out there, but often you have to keep digging to find something at the right level for you.
For instance I am trying to connect an android phone to my headless rpi, involving Bluetooth networking and ssh. These topics are quite new to me and involve a fair bit of learning. But THANKS to all who post info to help this.
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by Joe Schmoe » Mon Dec 24, 2012 12:28 pm
keybeeper wrote:Maybe this will help your understanding

http://linux.oneandoneis2.org/LNW.htm


That is a funny, entertaining and amusing page. Thanks for the link!

Very entertaining writing style.
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by Sueno » Mon Dec 24, 2012 12:43 pm
I must say that I agree with the comments concerning too much communications "noise" and the complexity in getting the Pi to the point of "ease of use". I have been programming as a mechanical engineer for decades and decades and have been involved a lot in school projects. As the Linux Pi stands it is easy to get confused early on particularly, but not only, if you are new to this level of computer use.

However, exactly the opposite is already available with RISC OS Pi. This boots straight in to the desktop without any hastle and the BBC BASIC editor is immediatly available. Just like the BBC Micro and the Archimedes. I have a Strong Arm RISC PC that I still use for programming a CNC machine and the Issue 1 Pi (256MB) runs at twice the speed with a much improved version of RISC OS. With the new SWI commands the GPIO works fine for many learning projects.

Don't just say "Rubbish! It's a quarter of a century out of date! ". Try it. Many, many out there grew up with that type of software and are probably the more valuable thinkers for that.

Go on. Try it. It's just a few minutes away, right here on the Download page.
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by rogerlevy » Mon Dec 24, 2012 8:02 pm
Hi all, new to the board,

This thread has validated my hesitations regarding a Linux-based system.

Any computer system should ideally just work out of the box with some stable configuration so you can jump right in and be productive. Or customize as desired.

It seems like the in-fighting regarding what is "good enough" in terms of catering to beginners will obstruct progress until some one, or some group, is appointed to make some decisions, because it seems like everyone who doesn't want to admit shortcomings is sidestepping it by arguing semantics and shooting the messenger so to speak. Everyone seems to have different tastes so it doesn't seem like this one can be a democratic decision, that is, I don't think an adequate "baseline" will arise "organically". Likely 2 or 3 popular configurations and ready-to-ride packages would appear, making even the decision of "what flavor" to get far too nuanced and complicated, in my opinion.

Anyway it goes against the spirit of the app store, in my opinion, to not have the thing just work after you plug it in (with a pre-configured SD card). It should be marketed and packaged somewhat like the computers of old, everything you need in one box ready to go. I can understand why some people ("power users", "gurus", etc) think it's not that simple, but I think those people need to realize that given the potential size of the user base this thing could have, they are in the minority.

So I'll be passing on the Pi for the time being.
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by rurwin » Mon Dec 24, 2012 11:44 pm
Fascinating. I read this thread differently. To me it seems everyone is agreeing that the documentation needs to be simplified. What we haven't got yet is someone willing and able to do it.

Everyone here is a volunteer, and that includes the Foundation. The only people making money from the RaspPi are the distributors, and they don't make much.

The way volunteer stuff works, and the RaspPi is no different, is that everyone does something that they find interesting and worthwhile, and which they are capable of doing. Nobody is getting paid to do this and it will be many man-hours of effort. Whoever takes up the work will need to be committed to it. And creating introductory documentation requires a newbie's eyes; us old-hands are at a distinct disadvantage. Which is why we have said several times that the best person to do the work is the one that perceives a problem and is irritated by it. There is no them and us; everyone is equal and just as capable of editing the Wiki or providing documentation elsewhere. Anyone who accepted that work would find plenty of support and plaudits here.

And regarding the SD card, one of the design goals was that the Pi is safe to play with; you cannot break it. Having one SD card with no ability to re-flash it makes it easily possible to brick your RaspPi. What we need is a solid and newbie-friendly Windows app for writing and backing-up SD cards. W32diskimager works, but it is not very friendly.
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by aTao » Tue Dec 25, 2012 12:08 am
rogerlevy wrote:
Anyway it goes against the spirit of the app store, in my opinion, to not have the thing just work after you plug it in (with a pre-configured SD card). It should be marketed and packaged somewhat like the computers of old, everything you need in one box ready to go. I can understand why some people ("power users", "gurus", etc) think it's not that simple, but I think those people need to realize that given the potential size of the user base this thing could have, they are in the minority.

So I'll be passing on the Pi for the time being.


Hi Roger.

I hope you will keep looking at what is happening. I am confused though. As far as I can tell it does work right after you plug it in (and sight sooner that any PC I ever switched on for the first time)
Sure there are a few wrinkles, but these are identified as mistakes and are not the intended product.
(cheap power supplies, and I think some perceived USB problems). Is it that you would expect to see more applications bundled with the RPi? That will certainly have geekville arguing till the cows come home. But, as the PiStore becomes better populated (watch for the explosion) then configuring what you might expect to be a working computer will become much easier.
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by clive » Tue Dec 25, 2012 12:11 am
rogerlevy wrote:Anyway it goes against the spirit of the app store, in my opinion, to not have the thing just work after you plug it in (with a pre-configured SD card).
Hi Roger. It really does "just work after you plug it in". It asks you fewer questions than a new Windows install, for example, and it takes much less time. In fact, the Raspberry Pi setup from start to finish is simpler and quicker than installing any version of Windows that I've ever used (3.1 --> 8). Yet few people complain that Windows "should just work" in this context -- perhaps because that is what they "have" to use? They have no choice and so plough through it and get it done.

Have a go with the Raspberry Pi. There's a new quick start guide available. I think that you'll be surprised how straightforward it actually is, and by learning something a bit different you might also surprise youself :)

[edit]aTao beat me to it - thanks! :)
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by clive » Tue Dec 25, 2012 12:16 am
rurwin wrote:Fascinating. I read this thread differently. To me it seems everyone is agreeing that the documentation needs to be simplified. What we haven't got yet is someone willing and able to do it.

Everyone here is a volunteer, and that includes the Foundation. The only people making money from the RaspPi are the distributors, and they don't make much.

The way volunteer stuff works, and the RaspPi is no different, is that everyone does something that they find interesting and worthwhile, and which they are capable of doing. Nobody is getting paid to do this and it will be many man-hours of effort. Whoever takes up the work will need to be committed to it. And creating introductory documentation requires a newbie's eyes; us old-hands are at a distinct disadvantage. Which is why we have said several times that the best person to do the work is the one that perceives a problem and is irritated by it. There is no them and us; everyone is equal and just as capable of editing the Wiki or providing documentation elsewhere. Anyone who accepted that work would find plenty of support and plaudits here.

And regarding the SD card, one of the design goals was that the Pi is safe to play with; you cannot break it. Having one SD card with no ability to re-flash it makes it easily possible to brick your RaspPi. What we need is a solid and newbie-friendly Windows app for writing and backing-up SD cards. W32diskimager works, but it is not very friendly.
I couldn't have said it better, thanks rurwin ;)
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by rurwin » Tue Dec 25, 2012 12:19 am
Nice newbie guide. Can I be pedantic for a moment? It might be worth saying that the password "raspberry" is not echoed to the screen. There have been several people confused by that.

And since it is 20 minutes after midnight, Merry Christmas and goodnight ;-)
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by clive » Tue Dec 25, 2012 7:32 am
rurwin wrote:Nice newbie guide. Can I be pedantic for a moment? It might be worth saying that the password "raspberry" is not echoed to the screen. There have been several people confused by that.

And since it is 20 minutes after midnight, Merry Christmas and goodnight ;-)
It's the most frequently requested change to the manual (mahjongg and you have both asked for it :)) so it will definitely be in the next version. Merry Christmas!
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