[sf-lug] Another victory...

jim stockford jim at well.com
Mon May 15 17:41:01 PDT 2006

the headless variant gets a box on their network
that we nixniks can share, huddled together in
our noisy little corner, mainly for those wanting
comfort of a RHCT/E study group.

my look at the time, gotta go take glo the paper
(not a computer this evening).

What a bunch of good advice: I hope, if we get
the box in, that we follow some of it--thank you.

On May 15, 2006, at 10:28 AM, Rick Moen wrote:

> Quoting Jim Stockford (jim.stockford at gmail.com):
>> Gloria (one of the owners) says people are complaining
>> that the machines aren't running the other OS. She'll
>> probably change them.
> OK, so time to re-post some of the lessons of The CoffeeNet, the
> Linux-based Internet cafe I helped build in SOMA (and lived upstairs
> from it), and that thrived and was a huge hit from its Auguest 1996
> opening until it was forced by real estate machinations in July 2000 to
> close.  Proprietor Richard Couture then moved to Guadalajara, Jalisco,
> Mexico, and re-opened the business there as "LinuxCabal"
> (http://www.linuxcabal.com/), where it's still doing well.
> I have a mirror of the CoffeeNet Web pages, here:
> http://linuxmafia.com/coffeenet/
> ...including the cafe's "help" pages describing its workstation
> machines' fvwm2 interface using the tkGoodStuff button bar:
> http://linuxmafia.com/coffeenet/help/
> You'll notice no special effort was taken to imitate the MS-Windows
> releases of the day.  Moreover, Richard deliberately did _not_ go out 
> of
> his way to install MS-Office-imitation business-productivity software,
> because of one very key decision he made:  He did _not_ want to
> encourage people to bring in their high-stress business world (or
> completing-one's-thesis-on-deadline) concerns, or other general
> computing tasks.  By contrast, he wanted to offer Internet access (Web
> browsing, IRC, e-mail, newsgroups) as an amenity to people visiting to
> have coffee and sandwiches in pleasant surroundings.  He did not seek 
> to
> sell computing or connectivity, both of which people already had at 
> work
> and at home.
> And yes, there were a small minority of people who came in and bitched
> about this:  These were the MS-Windows true believers and/or people
> wanting to bring their office work with them.  Richard figured the fact
> that _they_ were unhappy meant that he'd make exactly the right 
> decision
> for exactly the right reason.
> And, you know what?  Despite the fact that fvwm2 didn't look a whole 
> lot
> like Windows 95/98/NT, hundreds of people per day used the (IIRC) eight
> Linux-equipped Pentiums to browse the Web and read their mail without
> even knowing or particularly caring what OS those ran.  Once a week or
> so, a customer would get up and absent-mindedly ask the staff, Richard,
> or me "Which versions of Windows is this running, anyway?"  They did
> this because they were just curious, as an afterthought.  Which meant 
> it
> was a success for the general-public target audience:  OS identity
> _should_ be an afterthought.
> Anyhow, Gloria should consider _who_ is complaining -- and what she is
> trying to achieve -- as Richard did.  Several competing Internet cafes
> went bankrupt trying to compete with the CoffeeNet:  They (e.g.,
> Cyberworld on Folsom) were driven out of the running by the high cost 
> of
> maintaining an entire IT departmental infrastructure, to deal with the
> inevitable malware plagues, security breaches, etc. -- while Richard's
> Linux/NFS/NIS-based setup just kept right on running with _zero_ IT
> staff, while its focus _away_ from Windows-type business tools
> contributed to the reliably pleasant atmosphere that kept people coming
> back.
> A lot of people (especially managers), however, simply cave in to a
> perceived need to reduce complaints, and never bother to contemplate
> what those complaints really indicate, in light of what the business is
> trying to achieve.
> Doing differently requires actually spending some thought about what 
> you
> _are_ really trying to achieve.  I'm not sure Gloria has yet done that.
>> I've offered to help make them look more like the other OS.
> In my opinion, this is solving the wrong problem.  The people who bitch
> that they "can't use" (e.g.) KDE because it "needs to be more like
> Windows" are using a code-phrase that actually means "I won't be happy
> with anything _but_ MS-Windows -- which I'm insisting on because I can,
> because I think you're wishy-washy on the subject, and because I think 
> I
> can redirect your business priorities through complaining."
> KDE (to pick the most obvious example) and even typical GNOME setups 
> are
> so damned close to the look of MS-Windows that the notion of them
> needing to be closer is simply bleedin' ludicrous.
>> I'll write up a proposal for us to put in a linux box, probably
>> headless, but accessible physically and via their network.
> Why?  What does this achieve?
> If you want to have a showcase for Linux, then configure and deploy a
> single desktop box (_not_ headless) and have it be available for
> CoffeeNet-style Internet use.  Gloria and co. can be asked from time to
> time whether it's given them any problems, e.g viruses -- and be 
> counted
> on to eventually realise it's been the only problem-free box in the
> entire joint, along with the only one that didn't require gobs of
> processor power and RAM just to get half-reasonable performance.
> The CoffeeNet's workstations were all cheap P266 boxes with 64MB EDO 
> (32MB, at first), a single 4GB IDE HD, a cheap 100Mbps Intel NIC, some
> commodity video card with 2MB VRAM, a 17" ViewSonic monitor, a Logitech
> TrackMan Marble trackball, and a KeyTronics keyboard.  /home, /tmp, and
> /var were NFS-mounted from the NFS/NIS master in Richard's apartment
> upstairs, and passwords were kept uniform across the LAN using NIS.
> If some joker cracked root on a workstation and clobbered the system
> load, the food servers had instructions on how to boot a custom 
> recovery
> floppy, which automatically reimaged the system from the master server
> upstairs, rebooting it and putting it back into service 15 minutes
> later.  I'm not sure the procedure was ever even needed.
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