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Inscrutable January 12, 2008

Posted by reverseengineer in Asus, Macs, Ramblings, Windows, Xandros.

One of the things I’ve been spoiled with using Macs is the simple, logical, almost street-language, gut-feel interface of Mac OS X which you can intuitively wing. That’s why Macs don’t come with much documentation. You try to intuit how to do something, and usually you end up being right.

Being spoon-fed for years with this sort of personal computing, you’re in for a major shock when you have to get your hands dirty with the command line interface in Linux.

Not that you have to really get your hands dirty when you buy an EeePC. You can always just live in the child-like universe of Easy Mode, or if ever you break into Advanced Mode go no further than its faux-Windows GUI interface, which is vaguely comforting in a guilty sort of way.

But to squeeze more out of an EeePC and Xandros, to go beyond what is safe and easy, you’ll have to crack open a console window at some point and deal with commands like “sudo” (which I’ve previously said sounds like a martial art where you use your intuition’s own weight against itself).

One of the more bracing things is the inscrutability of the commands and the syntax. It’s shockingly counter-intuitive especially if you’re coming from a cold start in Linux, like a dash of ice-water in your crotch. Even if you’d used DOS commands before, stuff like “home/user> sudo dpkg -i opera_9.25-20071214.6-shared-qt_en_i386.deb” looks downright terrifying. Not a single friendly phrase in the crowd. More so if your idea of installing an app is just clicking the mouse button on a pretty little icon.

There is no real peg in the example to even tenuously hang your geek gut instinct on. Which to some people is an interesting challenge, but for most, a clear signal to put their EeePC on EeeBay while it can still go for a reasonable amount. Either that or fall sway once more to the oily lure of Windows XP, which is at least a devil you know (as a couple of my friends have done).

As a Mac user I see where Apple has done a good job. The underpinnings of Mac OS X is this exact same unknown bedrock. To harness the efficiency, economy and reliability of Unix yet make things as simple as clicking the mouse button on a pretty little icon and marry it to their own hardware, Apple’s done things right. As opposed to the original Wintel hegemony, where everything was all over the place, and nobody got along.

The EeePC under Xandros is essentially what Apple is doing, minus Jonathan Ives, orchestrated keynotes and done on a shoestring budget. Which is why despite the inscrutability I’m still willing to try and learn the martial art of sudo. At least I’m buying into a world where people know what they’re doing.

I just hope this old dog can still learn some new tricks.



1. EPS222 - January 18, 2008

How did you manage to link up your mac to your eee? I’ve been trying to do this myself, but no love. I’d appreciate any tips – even back-channel. Thanks much!

2. reverseengineer - January 20, 2008

I don’t quite know how to answer your question. In spite of me, I was able to. I just clicked on File Manager, and my desktop Mac was in my network list. I clicked on it and could access my drives. Let me look again.

3. bernie - January 20, 2008

I think reverseengineer has “windows sharing” enabled in his Mac.

4. reverseengineer - January 20, 2008

I checked. I do. I enabled it last year to get my Thinkpad to play nice with the desktop Mac.

5. manny - January 25, 2008

well if you are a mac user and want a similar enviorment in linux you should try Ubuntu.

the desktop is called “gnome”. The one you mentioned that looks like windows is called KDE (i disklike).

I personally like mac OS and like Gnome. I hate windows can’t stand it.

On my macbook i use mac os (duh)
but on my other PCs i use Ubuntu linux.

pretty cool, and intuitive just like a mac. Somethings are even easier.

give it a try, you can even add a cool maclike dock to it. 🙂

sadly macos is tied to the hardware, so the only OS that may actually displace windows and reach all hardware vendors will be linux in the future.

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