[sf-lug] Back in early days of (Linux, etc.) ...

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Sat May 17 13:12:05 PDT 2008

Quoting Michael Paoli (Michael.Paoli at cal.berkeley.edu):

> Back in them thar early(-ish) Linux days, most folks doing or trying to
> do most anything with Linux were hackers (in the traditional sense)
> and/or rather to quite technologically inclined.  Dual (or more) boot
> was always an option ... but a more primitive one "way back then".

You seem to be ignoring my point that eschewing multibooting
automatically avoided both a vexing point of complexity and something
that (unbeknownst to them) will in most cases tend to prevent them from
even experiencing Linux at all.

> Computers cost more back then, and many of us often just had one system
> to work with....

Pull the other one.  _Current_ computers were costly; obsolete computers
were cheap and plentiful, same as today.  By the time my main desktop
machine was a 486DX2/66 (running OS/2), I already had accumulated a
couple of knockaround 386/33 boxes, just by breathing long enough and
collecting other people's castoff parts.  And, in fact, my first
dedicated *ix box, running first AT&T System V 3.21 (bought as a
closeout deal from a mailorder company for $50 on a "What the hell"
basis), then Novell UnixWare, then 386BSD, then Linux, was one of those
386/33 junkers.

Anyone who didn't have at least one such junker really wasn't trying.

Anyway, I've observed many, many newcomers to Linux encounter 
excessive multiboot complexity and problems, and conclude (irrationally)
that "Linux is too complex" on _that_ basis -- and many more Linux
newcomers claim to be "trying" Linux in a dual-boot configuration but
turn out be kidding themselves:  They turn out to spend all of their
time in $OTHER_OS, because it's more convenient and is where
$ESSENTIAL_APPLICATION is.  More than one has returned to me, bitching
about the annoyance of having to override the bootloader default to pick
$OTHER_OS instead of Linux at boot time, wanting me to show him/her how
to change the default boot option.

What that told me is that the user's time and my time in setting up
Linux for him/her had been wasted, that he/she was not serious, and that 
the waste of time and effort would have been better avoided.

I realised over time that _most_ newcomers wanting you to help them set
up dual-boot are kidding themselves.  I still help them, but anticipate
that most will end up being a write-off of their and my time.

Now, you can continue to talk to me about exceptions and edge-cases,
which in fact would be an absolutely typical geek-psychology thing to
do.  However, that doesn't invalidate my point, nor even address it at

> > Dual-booting (then mostly with LILO, now mostly with GRUB) became
> > popular around the time, unlike UMSDOS has persisted to this day, and
> > has remained the predominant tirekicker mechanism:  Ostensibly, it
> > permits users to switch back and forth, but 99% of such users are
> > kidding themselves, really aren't ever going to get used to Linux, and
> > would be better off saving themselves (and anyone from the Linux
> > community helping them) the trouble.
> Naw ;-) ... more like something in the 60 to 98% range.  Many use dual
> boot as a transition strategy, e.g.:

Nope (at least not for significant values of "many").  Listen:  Most
newcomer novice users simply don't transition.  They stay booted into
$OTHER_OS essentially all of the time.

How do I know this?  Long personal observation.

You can try to tell me my data are in some way unrepresentative.  (Good
luck with that.)  You'll get nowhere by alleging I haven't seen what
I've seen.

> > Live CDs at least are _explicitly_ just a taste of the CD's operating
> > system -- and there's typically an "install to HD" icon for anyone who
> > wants a more serious experience.
> Well, ... varies a bit [...]

No, it does not "vary a bit".

(Computer geeks and their rabid fascination for edge-cases, sheesh.)

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