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[Lgang] linuxgazette.net down......

Thu, 20 May 2004 23:03:09 +0100
Thomas Adam (thomas_adam from bonbon.net)
Question by lgang (lgang from linuxnj.com)
This is a discussion that took place about the decline of e-mails to TAG and possible reasons why this is. In this discussion, a number of issues have been raised, and we would value your input, gentle readers. -- Thomas Adam

Hi all,

I am also deeply concerned by the lack of e-mails that we are receiving. To date, we only have one (possible) TAG thread and that will only be of any use and that is only if I pad the contents out at publishing time. Truth is, I have noted a considerable drop in e-mails over the months, ever since the move...

Now it may well be down to the time of year that we're at -- it is approaching summer for most people, and so maybe people aren't as computer-oriented as they might normally have been. But if things continue in this way....

Luckily we have a little stash of backlogged e-mails. The only danger with these though is that some of the information may well be out of date, but that's something that we can either correct, or ignore. Depends. :)

Maybe we need to "advertise" more somehow?

-- Thomas Adam

I am also deeply concerned by the lack of e-mails that we are receiving. To date, we only have one (possible) TAG thread and that will only be of any use and that is only if I pad the contents out at publishing time. Truth is, I have noted a considerable drop in e-mails over the months, ever since the move...

[Ben] [Nod] That's a huge, primary concern for me; Heather and I had a longish conversation about it when I decided to take this gig, and I expressed it to her then. She had a few really good suggestions, and I had a couple of small ideas of my own; it's going to require some cash - which I'm willing to toss at the problem - and a fair bit of getting pro-active in getting the word out, something I haven't had much time to do lately and is a somewhat bitter pill for me because of that. I've never been particularly good at marketing - which, of course, is what's involved here - bit I'm going to have to grit my teeth and learn somehow.
[Sluggo] There was a significant drop in mails with the move to linuxgazette.net. My opinion is not to stress out about it but just adjust the zine accordingly. Maybe combine the three TAG columns into one. Maybe focus more on articles and less on TAG. The article supply is still holding steady, even though it doesn't look like it till the last couple days of the month. But it's always been like that.
One thing Margie did that I gradually lazed out on was sending an email to all the authors who had published in the last three issues reminding them about the next article deadline. Maybe that could be combined with an encouragement for articles. Certainly there are several strong authors like Rob Tougher and Mark Nielsen that we haven't heard from recently. Maybe Mark has some already-written articles he can send us. There's also Pradeep Padala, Pramode C E, and the other guys at that engineering school in India. I can go through the authors directory and say which are the most promising prospects.
[Thomas] I'm wondering whether it is something more than a campaign ad. With the vast amount of literature already out there in the form of howtos, web forums, IRC, etc -- people are not only able to fix their problems with relative ease, but also experiment for themselves much more easily.
We've actually already created ourselves an indirect target audience -- the complete clueless. :) Gone are the days of "The Answer Guy" when e-mails were coming in by the sackful. Those people that know how to do something are not going to be interested in using the LG as a resource, since they can do it.
The quality of questions coming in has dimnished greatly as well. I can only put this down to resource availability -- if something has been done and documented (assuming a person reads it) then they'll use it. This is also true of articles. But then as I now have lots of time to spare, I can get cracking on that.
It's interesting to note therefore, that LG is actually self-perpetuating its own demise in a way. The more we document things (in terms of articles and TAG, etc) the less we actually need to answer since it has already been answered.
I partly blame the move from SSC for this -- it was done with great haste - certainly something that could not be avoided, but I wonder just how many people know of the original us?
[Ben] Anyone who's got advice or can offer help on this point is more than welcome to step up to the line.

Luckily we have a little stash of backlogged e-mails. The only danger with these though is that some of the information may well be out of date, but that's something that we can either correct, or ignore. Depends. :)

Maybe we need to "advertise" more somehow?

[Ben] I'll need to get together with Heather again and go over the ideas that she had, which ranged from good to terrific, and toss money and effort at the problem. Anyone willing to share in the effort part, particularly those who have some experience and/or knowledge in it, would be welcomed with relief and joy.
[Sluggo] That's a good idea, but I don't know how you reach people who don't read LWN or Slashdot. If SSC had been willing to put reciprocal links to the other zine it would have helped enormously, but that was nothing we could control. It looks like we need a "marketing task force".
[Thomas] But I think you missed my point -- it's not so much a decline as such, since there are people moving to linux everyday -- but that is perhaps more true on a corporate level.
[Ben] By 'decline', I meant a decline in our readership. There's certainly none in the adoption of Linux, which is what's setting off my alarm bells; I'd like to see somewhat of a parallel between the two, which seems like a reasonable goal to me.
[Thomas] It's these people (businesses) that are going to now capture the interest of Linux. But then corporations are going to be out-sourcing people to train their staff (one hopes) so it probably won't be more of an individual-basis as it was when Linux was very much a curio for people to "try" out. But you never know -- if it may well encourage people into looking at it from a personal viewpoint as well.
[Ben] Y'know, that may well be a very strong point to consider. "Newbie" doesn't have to mean "non-professional"; it may well be that we need to put some thought into connecting with the segment of the business world that wants to jump on the Linux bandwagon. Well spotted, Thomas.
[Thomas] It is a valid and worthy opinion to consider -- especially when that is how a lot of news about Linux (via radio, columns, etc) is covered; it's done from a business angle.
[Ben] I've contacted a friend of mine who did graphic design for Apple for a number of years, and he's agreed to do a column on it - the main thrust of it is to teach people how to present a professional appearance in their products, whether Web pages or UIs. It's not specifically Linux, but it's a strongly relevant issue, and I believe that it's a pretty good move toward adding a bit more professionalism to LG.
[Thomas] Oooh, I like this idea. Sounds like just the kind of wedge that might set a trend. Unfortunately, what I cannot do is focus upon that aspect since as you all know, business just is not my area.
However, what I can do is seriously look, cover, divulge information and articles about how Linux is being used in education, specifically within the UK. This is a really hot topic at the moment. I am on a tiny mailing-list (SuSE-Linux-Schools-UK) that was originally setup as means of sysadmins to ask their problems. I joined it, since I was one of the admins at school at the time.
Now though, they have evolved much more such that we're seeing a serious consideration for Linux in schools (not quite dual-boot for the students alas, but rather server-side) <www.schoolforge.org.uk>.
[Thomas] What we need to do, is to make LG (as I have been saying) more at the forefront for information and appealing to any target audience,.
[Ben] Err. That word, "any", is a nasty one in this context. It's impossible to be all things to all people; trying to is a classic way to go broke in business. In effect, you're trying to produce infinite output from finite resources. What I'm looking for is a place to concentrate our efforts - we may end up with something a bit more broad or more narrow; I suspect the former but refuse to predict.
[Thomas] Perhaps we need to focus a little on how businesses are using Linux?
[Ben] Hmm. Say, interviews with CTOs of Linux-using businesses? That strikes a spark of interest with me. I'm not in much of a position to do it myself - I don't think there are too many Linux-using businesses in the techno-hinterland I inhabit or in the farming communities surrounding it - but I surely consider such an interview applicable to even LGs current mission: I've never believed that a newbie's education in Linux consists of strictly technical coverage. Thomas, you're really striking oil today! :)
[Thomas] But these are only trivial examples --- it is not a popularity contest. If we start trying to compete we'll fall under completely. We need to try and work alongside what it is that makes the success of the other sites more appealing, for want of a better word. What I _don't_ want to see is a loss of continuity with what we have at the moment. We just need to try and introduce a new concept into LG.
[Ben] [Nod] Agreed. I don't want to imitate anyone else - if we're doing that, then there's no need for LG at all. Revitalizing those parts of LG that are good but have fallen asleep, cautiously adding new pieces that we believe will improve the readers' experience (as well as ours - if it ain't fun, it's not worth doing), and sloughing off (again, very slowly and carefully) those pieces that we've decided don't work: that's my goal. In a lot of ways, it's like running a business - but on a cooperative model.
Will it work? Hell if I know. I do think that the experiment is worth making, though, and I'm willing to pump my time and effort into it. All I can promise you folks is that I'm going to do my damndest to make it go - but I can't do it alone. I can only hope that all of you will extend me a bit of your trust, patience, and cooperation as I work to fit myself into this job.
[Thomas] It would be interesting to know how each of us here actually heard of LG. I know for me, it was a link from tldp.org
[Ben] Hmm. I couldn't even tell you, actually; a dim little memory says that I found LG via a search engine while searching for some Linux-related info, but I can't recall for sure.

The thread changes slightly to Tom Brown coming up with some excellent ideas -- Thomas Adam
[Tom] OK, I'm gonna jump into this discussion, even though I'm gonna regret it. I've stirred up hornet nests before, so this won't be the first time. I fully expect to get a few "stinging" replies.
[Ben] Heck, Tom, we don't skin people and roll'em in salt... at least not until their second fox pass (never could speak that French stuff, anyhow.) Besides, I've asked for input; it would be damn silly of me to reject it without considering it even if I didn't like it right off the bat (and as it happens, I think you've got some good skull sweat in this one.)
[Tom] When talking to the people new to Linux, I think part of the challenge is that they don't have the same mind-set or point-of-view as "old-time" or "traditional" Unix/Linux users. Part of it is the GUI/CLI issue that others have mentioned, but it's more than that.
[Ben] [Nod] I think this is one of the largest parts of the shift in the type of new adopters. At first, we got "the brave techies"; next, we got folks who couldn't afford the Wind0ws environment with their "pay through the nose for every breath you take" model (and we're still getting lots of those); now, we're getting corporate people to whom time is a precious resource and who want their info - solid, in-depth, and yet clearly stated - and want it right now.
[Tom] The CLI in Linux is richer, and more complex than the MS-DOS that a lot of folks are used to. Another problem is that a lot of people aren't interested in becoming programmers. They just want to know how they can rip tunes from an audio CD, or whatever. While some people do want to learn it all, I think those people are in the minority.
[Tom] Those would be the future sysadmins - but not everyone wants to become one. Mostly, the answer for that larger group is "install Knoppix and be happy"; I think that Jimmy's articles and tips would hit these guys square in the center.
My own problem is that I am an old-time geek and a CLI addict; I don't know how the heck I'd work in a straight-GUI environment - it would just strangle me, reduce my productivity to 10% of what it is now. In some cases, I'd be unable to perform the work at all. So, what I have to do is to ignore my own prejudices and think of what is good for LG - and in this regard, I agree with what you're saying.
[Tom] Now, I think giving people a CLI as well as a GUI way of accomplishing what they want is a great idea. Especially if you're giving them an easy-to-use shell script that prompts for parameters, instead of making someone type-in a huge command line with lots of alphabet-soup options they'll never remember. They're not really looking for a GUI, just an easy step-by-step "cookbook" way of getting the job done. Without learning what is, to them, a programming language.
[Ben] This, though, isn't possible. If there was a single subset of complex commands that every Linux user needed - yeah, sure. We're certainly not going to hide it from them. Since EPID, so are the tasks they need to accomplish - and that's why shell scripting is a language, flexible enough to accomplish tasks that _aren't_ predetermined.
You *can't* have power and flexibility without complexity. We're not here to teach people The One True Way to use a buzzsaw; if they don't learn the whys and the wherefores and the safety considerations (not just the requisite motions), they are going to get their hands chopped off. If it was totally safe, then it wouldn't cut the lumber.
If you have a list of common tasks for which you use your "magic lines", great - feel free to expound on why and how. If people find them useful and clamor for more, I'll be the first to admit to being wrong.
[Tom] Each time I tried to start an article in this vein, for example, I quickly discovered that I lacked the in-depth knowledge and experience to do an adequate job.
[Ben] Don't you think that that's an indicator? Think of it this way: the folks who created the standard Unix toolkit were trying to address the same concern that you're voicing now. If there really was a need for a specific task, why would they have omitted it? If a utility was useless, why wouldn't they have dropped it? Over time, the toolkit has been polished to a high gloss due to the huge number of people using it - and so it becomes a classic example of Open Source development, where worthwhile projects survive, and others dive into complete obscurity. If you find yourself lacking in experience for this task, it may well be because far more experienced people - and lots of them - have already done the job you're trying to improve on.
[Tom] As to your other ideas - which I uniformly like and think valuable:
Here's a rough top-of-my-head list of topics:
* The Hardware Department: Pick some bit of hardware that isn't automatically handled by Linux, or isn't handled well, and show the user what to do to make it work (cookbook fashion). Another topic might be the sort of benchmark article LG did recently. Another might be helping a user select a good video card (or printer, etc.) to use with Linux.
[Ben] Heh. If it isn't handles well, that's a bug worth filing. However, there's hardware out there that's complex to set up regardless of the OS - and I think that it would be a good idea to set up a Hardware Corner where we discuss exactly that. This will, however, require some knowledgeable folks to contribute their experience.
Say, how about this: what if we contact OEMs for the various types of hardware and see if they'd be willing to give us an article on setting their stuff up under Linux? I'll bet that most of them would be pretty happy to get their product's name in print.
Would anybody care to volunteer to select companies and prod them?
[Tom] * The To-Do List: Pick a task (or a series of them) the user might want to do, and again, show them cookbook-style
[Ben] Those would be the shell, Perl, etc. tips that have been here all along.
[Tom] * Finder Free: Pick a Windows or Mac application, and discuss the "free software" alternatives. For CLI apps, you might want to include a script file that makes using them (almost) as easy as a GUI.
[Ben] Oooh, nice. Wanna write this? :) BONUS: I'd be happy to help you with the CLI part, if and when it's applicable.
[Tom] * Up Against the Wall: Security issues are very much on people's minds these days. Linux security issues, and solutions are different from Windows. Topics here might include: how to update different distros (those without a built-in mechanism to do this), how to configure a firewall, etc.
[Ben] [Nod] We've had security articles here before; however, we don't have a regular "security" writer. It would be nice if we did. I could do some good bits myself, but I'm being extra-careful not to overload myself on the LG side - I have 1) a bad reaction to being overloaded and 2) work commitments that can pretty much shut me down for days at a time. For now, doing the gig and trying to puzzle out these issues with everyone's help is about as much as I want to handle. I've also got an article in process for this month, and that feels like I'm already skating on thin ice.
[Tom] * Brain Surgery For Beginners: Pick a Sys Admin task that someone might want to do (configure Samba comes to mind), and describe the steps most people will really need to do, pointing them to specific documentation elsewhere for problems.
[Ben] Ditto.
[Tom] * Paint and Wallpaper: GUI desktop issues. Some topics here might be how to use Superkaramba, as well as KDE and Gnome topics (perhaps a step-by-step on upgrading from one version of KDE or Gnome to another for the non-rocket-scientist)
[Ben] Ditto.
[Tom] *Arresting Development: Topics related directly to programming and programming languages. Tutorials in something common to Unix/Linux, but not the DOS/Windows world (awk, python, etc) might be nice.
[Ben] Got'em; see my Shell Scripting and Perl tutorials here in LG.
[Tom] *Tales From The Dark Side: Running a specific Windows app in Linux via Wine or Wine-x. Mono tutorials, tips and suggestions.
[Ben] Hmm. That would be someone else's pidgin; I'm not too knowledgeable in that respect. What I'd love to see would be someone doing an article about VMware - installation, issues, etc.
[Tom] Normally, I wouldn't think to tell you guys what to do, or suggest any changes. This is your gig after all, and you're doing a teriffic job. But you did ask for suggestions.
[Ben] Yeah, yeah. :) Drop the defensive posture, Tom; you're in TAG, and always welcome to contribute. That's a large chunk of what The Gang does; at least that's the way I've always seen it.
Well, there you have it folks. As I say, this is your magazine. Please, let us know your views and what you think. -- Thomas Adam

Best of not so best but please update it?

Thu, 13 May 2004 16:22:09 -0800
Rebecca Alden> (LG)
From one of my local LUG members, who is new to Linux. -- Heather

I was told to go check out Linuxgaztte and I am glad that I did. It has lots of good things in it. But I am still on Windoze and if I'm going to install Linux I didn't want to wait for the installfest. Gues I will have to though, because the howto you have on burning ISO under that other OS I found the past answers section doesn't work.

It looks like she is correct. The general principle works, but there are new common places to look forr all the CD images at once, and nearly all of the software links for trial software for mswin have gone bad.
Since the material in that thread was mostly from our readers, it looks like you'll have to rescue us again, folks. Most of our Answer Gang are rather purely Linux now. Alternatively, if you can't help directly but really want to see this yourself; let me know, and if the idea is popular enough I'll do the research to write an update for it. -- Heather


"Songs in the Key of Tux" delayed

Fri, 25 May 2004 12:45:09 -0500
Ben Okopnik (LG Technical Editor)

Jimmy O'Regan sends his regrets on being unable to do his "Songs in the Key of Tux" this month. He was going to cover recording software, but it seems that his drummer got broken... and unfortunately, he's not talking about a piece of software (ouch. Jimmy, please emphasize to the man that "percussion" does not involve car crashes. Unless, of course, you're with a Progressive Technical Death Thrash Metal band, in which case carry on as you were.) Despite all that, Jimmy has still managed to get in a couple of articles this month and has promised more for the months ahead. I tell you, the man is unstoppable.

As of press time Jimmy is fine, but still has a bit of RSI. We'll see more of him next month. -- Heather

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Published in Issue 103 of Linux Gazette, June 2004

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