[lug] Excellent Rant

Michael J. Pedersen marvin at keepthetouch.org
Mon Mar 19 18:32:51 MST 2001

On Mon, Mar 19, 2001 at 05:46:21PM -0700, Justin Simoni wrote:
> Computers *are* tools, and no one builds a house with just a hammer. Using
> a tool, (and if I'm not a carpenter) I shouldn't *have* to know how the tool
> is created, how  the tool is used, its history, revision, etc. It should be
> obvious how to use it and to get work done with it. Using a hammer correctly
> is common sense, or you look at someone else use a hammer. Its interface to
> a human being is natural. The first tools were nothing but hammers, they
> broke off shards of rock to make the second tool, a cutting surface. people
> get hammers, its ingrained into us.

You are right, but only to a point. Tools have varying degrees of complexity,
and varying ways of usage. You have chosen the simplest tool, the hammer, and
explained its usage very well. Now, my comments on it will focus on the
cutting tools, specifically, the saw.

Look around your house, and you will, very likely, find a saw someplace. There
are many categories of saws, each of which has their own reasons for
existence, their own modes of use, and only one thing in common: They cut
things. Consider the common saw, handheld, manual powered: Useful for cutting
christmas tree bases. You can even use a circular saw: usually electrically
powered, much faster, but good for going straight through a given material
(ie: cutting a 2x4 in half).

Now, consider what happens when you want to make a complex cut: A dovetail,
for instance. For those of you unfamilar with this style of cut, it is
actually fairly complex, and generally used on thinner wood, meaning that it
is more susceptible to splinters (ie: a splinter being ripped off from a
dovetail will do more harm than a splinter ripped off an end of a 2x4), and it
looks somthing like this:
  ___  ___  ___  ___
__\ /__\ /__\ /__\ /_

Typically, each of those 'pegs' in the dovetail is less than a half an inch
high, with about the same distance separating the base of the holes.
Obviously, the typical hand saw is no good for this type of cut, and the
typical circular saw would be even worse. You need a particular type of saw,
either a coping saw (also good for circular or curved cuts), or a jig saw
(which can be considered to be an electric coping saw, for the most part).

Very different tools, depending on the need. And if you don't know the tools,
you will have a very hard time getting done what you need to get done.
Computers are more like the saw, not the hammer. Different ones do different
jobs well. They require some basic teaching, but the basics ARE easy. It's the
specifics that are harder.

While I won't get into it here, the same can also be said of hammers.

>  Why should people care what kind of Operating system they have? People use

For the same reason they care about what kind of car they have. You don't
drive an 18 wheeler to go to work everyday (unless that's your job). You don't
drive a Chevy Geo Metro to haul a 20 foot boat across the country. Different
cars for different jobs. Same for computer operating systems.

> computers to do work. It makes sense to create software (you carpenters out
> there) which is easy to work with. Posts like this just show the bullshit 'i
> am nerdier than though' rants of someone that can't communicate with other
> people. If you can't communicate with other people, why the hell are you
> trying to help them, or even create software other people need to interface
> with? 

Here is where I am going to take real issue with your statements: I can
communicate with other people, and do so every day, and quite well according
to managers and peers. The real joy is talking to people who don't know about
computers, but want to tell me how badly I suck at keeping them running. They
don't want to hear that Windows is having (yet another) bad bit day. They
don't want to hear that Windows took a nosedive, and took out their data with
it (for the third time in two years, a fact which drove my Dad away from
Windows). They want to hear "No problem. It's a joy to fix the computer for
you." They don't want a fix, they want that band-aid, and they want it now.

Furthermore, and this is the part that supremely pisses me off, there's
nothing special about me. I chose to work on computers, and as a result have
amassed more knowledge than the average person about them. There is nothing
special about me. I have no magic disks, no miracle drivers, no bug free os's
or boards. I'm a perfectly ordinary person with ordinary tools which are just
as available to the people who call me as they are to me. But I'm not allowed
to teach them one damned thing. I have to put on the band-aid, walk away, and
wait for the next time the same damned thing happens, so I can go put the
band-aid on again. Instead of my teaching them how to fix it, so that I can
have a peaceful night, too, instead of just them.

> As for the car metaphor, this shows another problem with people. You hear
> all the time "I can go 0-60 in 8 seconds" - obviously talking about their
> car, but wording it as if they themself do such a task. This is a high form
> of  materialism and as far as I'm concerned, so is saying  how amazing you
> are at [insert your favorite program here]

I'm not saying I'm amazing at anything. In fact, if you look above, you'll see
me saying that I'm perfectly ordinary. You'll also note that the rant didn't
state that people would brag about their cars. It stated that they knew their
cars very well, and that if they knew their computers as well as their cars,
we'd have a lot less computer problems in the world.

Michael J. Pedersen
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