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f.kater
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 26, 2002 7:29 am    Post subject: knowledge base: how-to documents via commandline? Reply with quote

Hi,
maybe this idea seems anachronic, already discussed, whatever but nevertheless:

From my point of view one of the main problems for beginners to linux is that they know what they want (e.g. insert a CD-ROM and read data from it) but have no idea that 'man mount' is the right manual for them. There's a knowledge gap. To go around this problem - there are forums, faq lists etc. in the internet. But I think most beginners won't use that. Sometimes you also haven't even setup X to start your browser. Second: If forums are used there are often the same questions.

Further, since I started with gentoo linux (quite as a newbie to linux) I have written some 50 pages with annotations - because often I just don't remember how to do it. For example, I did not remember that 'portmap' is necessary to use nfs (and had forgotton to write it down). I had to ask the forum.

What would you think about a man-page-like 'howto' command? I imagine a portage like tree just for all that documentation issues. Typing 'howto' without arguments would show a content overview, 'howto network' would finally lead me to 'howto network/mount'. It could be updated like with emerge. So it's up to date without using a browser. It's concentrated and not wide-spread over different faqs. It would lift that part of the burden from the formus which someone could do (and would like to do) by himself.

Let's use the gentoo wave to also be the first who solves this information problem in a new way. The Forum is a good thing but a cental howto command line portage like database would fill the gap between the man pages and the forums/faqs. Other distributions will follow.

Ok, I'll try to stop my passion now :wink:
Felix
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pjp
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 26, 2002 7:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You might want to see this thread.
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f.kater
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 26, 2002 10:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for that link.

The only reason against my idea I found was what klieber wrote:
Quote:
I don't think anyone would argue that such a beast wouldn't be useful. It most certainly would. However, that's a *HUGE* undertaking to get a database that provides a) that level of detail and b) is organized in an easy-to-read format and c) has a newbie-friendly search interface. Certainly not impossible, but not something that one person can throw together in a weekend.


I agree that a project like this would take some effort. But I am convinced that text search based knowledge bases will not be enough against the need of information. Someone mentioned the advantage of forums: the human factor. A knowledge base would integrate the human factor since it is kind of 'moderated'.

'hope this issue has not come to an end here... :wink:
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 26, 2002 5:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I had been kicking around the idea some. Formatting it in the forums will probably not do it justice. Here is what I came up with. Also, note the icon ([img:89e58f5cb5]http://forums.gentoo.org/templates/subSilver/images/icon_mini_message.gif[/img:89e58f5cb5]) would be a little different. Instead of the 'page' in the image, I was thinking of using a G for files specific to Gentoo, an L for files unique across linux and a U for files across all *nix.

  1. Access Files
    1. /etc/host.conf [img:89e58f5cb5]http://forums.gentoo.org/templates/subSilver/images/icon_mini_message.gif[/img:89e58f5cb5] Tells the network domain server how to look up hostnames. (Normally /etc/hosts, then name server; it can be changed through netconf.)
    2. /etc/hosts
    3. /etc/hosts.allow
    4. /etc/hosts.deny

  2. Booting and login/logout
  3. File system
  4. System administration
  5. Networking
  6. System commands
  7. Daemons
  8. User programs
  9. Changing configuration files
  10. User configuration files: . (dot) files and rc files

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 26, 2002 7:22 pm    Post subject: oops Reply with quote

Wow, pardon my absence....? I wanted to try something like this, mentioned in the other thread. Is this concept still open for discussion?

I agree here totally!

I have ideas, but minimal skills to add.

Why would this not be useful as straight HTML?
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 26, 2002 7:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Folks --

There is currently some discussion about creating a project very similar to the one described in this thread. What we are in desperate need of at this point is folks with programming skills.

If you're a decent programmer and would like to help out, please send me a PM.

--kurt
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 27, 2002 12:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi,
since this thread isn't locked I'd like to add something:

I like the way kanuslupus is creating a structure through the jungle of informations. Maybe we should think, though, from the point of view of a beginner? There can be an expert's section, too, but I see the priority in the problem that people don't know what to search for - they just know their aim.

So I'd recommend something like this as a first level in the table of contents:


- - For Newbies - -

1. Installing gentoo
2. How to get new software (emerge/portage)
3. How to configure my basic hardware (Keyboard, Mouse, Monitor)
4. The way to a graphical environment
5. What to do if I can't help myself...

- - Advanced - -

6. List of important config files
7. File system
8. Network
9. Daemons
10. ...


greetings,
Felix
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dunbar
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 27, 2002 4:00 pm    Post subject: these? Reply with quote

Topics I think should exist, and should be arranged without distinction towards newbie or pro, since the info is presented as deep as it needs to be:

    configuration
    backup/restore files
    crashes
    network/internet
    install/remove software
    read how-tos, docs,

etc

After the topic is chosen, the depth of the topic depends on getting the job done, the topic 'configuration' might have a few subtopics:

    Configure X
    Configure Networks (link from common network topic explains configs here)
    Configure games
    Configure Wine

etc.
Each sub topic either explains or redirects to the explanation.

Functions I think should exist in the program:
read html,
navigate filesystem,
offer command prompt (possible this prompt has a rudimentary speeeell cheecker, matching after errors are parsed?).

At that point, I'd think 90% of newbie questions should be very well covered.

For example, under the topic of install, there could be a topic called 'post Linux install', where the newbie is urged to backup config files to floppy (or CDRW, if feasable). That post install page links back to the backup/restore topic, where the actual details will be presented. Seems to me that only a few floppies would be needed, since the files of interest should be limited to system and X type stuff: LILO.conf, whatever.rc.d, and network files. At this point, it is up to the user to properly administer the security of those floppies - advise them to 'lock them away', or 'dd them to a different directory/partition' whatever.

Lastly, I think it should, line by line, topic by topic, state that topic has been tested to kernels/versions 'whatever is current' - who cares when the topic last worked, newbies want to know if it applies right now, in their current version. That would go a long way towards delivering software which works as expected, since each new version of the program gets checked against the newbie help system.
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 18, 2002 9:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Why not use an app similar to the IBM tool used in the Linux tutorials? A Java app that uses XML input (XML is dead easy to write and maintain) with some stylesheets and outputs various formats? PDF versions, code for the command line tool, ...?

Also, to integrate the human factor, one could set up a website with the docs on it, accompanied with a comment section... (comment section can be integrated with the forums) so the author(s) can check up regularly to update the content...
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 24, 2002 1:02 pm    Post subject: Bah. Crashed is when the docs are handiest Reply with quote

We gotta keep sight of what is a newbie, when is the newbie needing the help, how can they get to the document, etc. :-\

The overall concept of such a help document is fairly deep into 'functionality versus fault (in)tolerance'.

Cleotis wrote:
Why not use an app similar to the IBM tool used in the Linux tutorials? A Java app that uses XML input (XML is dead easy to write and maintain) with some stylesheets and outputs various formats? PDF versions, code for the command line tool, ...?

As a newbie, I always need docs after I fail, and frequently need them at the barest cli (when X crashed or when nothing seems to mount).

Lets dig deeper:
What runs XML docs at the cli? And whatever it is that you propose for reading XML, would that application always get installed despite a newbies wishes? What happens when nobody tells the newbie to install a certain XML capable cli browser?

Stew on that for a few seconds.

Quote:
Also, to integrate the human factor, one could set up a website with the docs on it, accompanied with a comment section... (comment section can be integrated with the forums) so the author(s) can check up regularly to update the content...

What happens when these occur: Newbie fouls up PPP? Or, newbie crashes X and never installed a CLI browser (MC, Lynx, w3m)? Maybe they need the docs because LILO.conf got trashed or they forcibly installed something they should not have forced?

When you think 'Web class' docs are solutions, you are forgetting the target situation - which is potentially a crashed system. The 'solutions' you outlined are commonly presented, but depend on a fully functioning Linux system: X must work and a capable browser must be installed and PPP or LAN must work (and if LAN, Ethernet must also work) and security needs to be correct and firewalls must work, etc.
When any one of these does not work correctly, no web based docs! It's pretty hard to use such 'web based' docs when the docs cannot be not read. "Here - RTFM!' but TFM is locked in a vault somewhere in Antarctica, and even if you got there and opened the vault, TFM is written in some lost language. What help is that? These failures are also among the other the instances where the newbie needs to read the docs!

IMO, these are exactly the reasons why this idea needs to be cli based, and if there is a dependancy, keep the dependancy simple and also force the dependancy to be included in every install. Solution: the docs need to be there even when all the newbie can get running is a rescue CD.
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 24, 2002 7:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree and I would like to further that the doc interface for something like this should be included in an up-and-running form on the each install cd iso. The install cd already has quite extensive ability to get networks up and running so the actual documents could be downloaded by a cli reader when they are needed. :)
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 24, 2002 7:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

f.kater wrote:
Thanks for that link.

The only reason against my idea I found was what klieber wrote:
Quote:
I don't think anyone would argue that such a beast wouldn't be useful. It most certainly would. However, that's a *HUGE* undertaking to get a database that provides a) that level of detail and b) is organized in an easy-to-read format and c) has a newbie-friendly search interface. Certainly not impossible, but not something that one person can throw together in a weekend.


I agree that a project like this would take some effort. But I am convinced that text search based knowledge bases will not be enough against the need of information. Someone mentioned the advantage of forums: the human factor. A knowledge base would integrate the human factor since it is kind of 'moderated'.

'hope this issue has not come to an end here... :wink:
Felix


i am actually working on such a project and looks very promising so far ...
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 25, 2002 12:54 pm    Post subject: Download the docs? Maybe, or maybe not Reply with quote

Tristam29 wrote:
...the actual documents could be downloaded by a cli reader when they are needed. :)
This is about as gentle as I can present it... I've had bad experiences about this download thing. :?

Download from where?
Through what hardware?
Through what internet connection?

Hint: I'm not alone in having a Linux box which does not surf.
Yeah, I'm in the minority regarding not surfing with my Linux PC, so I'll add a few more potentially enlightening concepts...

Quality issues: ISPs in my area frequently have difficulties providing any connections, even if I could download the docs. Not all Linux users are living in the middle of L.A., California or Bonn, Germany, where dozens of high quality ISPs are waiting for a dialer to call in. My area has maybe 3 or 4 lame and lazy ISPs... busy signals are a common event, dropouts are frequent and I can't make it go away whenever my Linux PC needs a stupid doc file.

Hardware issues: maybe my PC is too far from a telephone line in my house... I should run telephone wires just so I can get docs on the Linux PC? Do I even have a telephone line and a Linux compatible internet connection or cable television line for use as a cable ISP? What about NetZero? I should change ISPs just so I can get docs for Linux? Still and again: can I always count on any connection? Cable modems or DSL hardware - is it stupidly simple to get every DSL or cable modem running, while under Linux? Do all DSL setups work 100% under Linux? Maybe there is some proprietary 'Windows only' software involved? Maybe all my modems are WinModems.... now I have to depend on the WinModem running in a second PC using M$ software, and also that second PC is providing Internet Connection Sharing, and also I must network my house to connect the 2 PCs??? Just to get a doc file for Linux??

Foo!
Docs have to be local!
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 26, 2002 8:33 pm    Post subject: Re: Download the docs? Maybe, or maybe not Reply with quote

dunbar wrote:
Tristam29 wrote:
...the actual documents could be downloaded by a cli reader when they are needed. :)
This is about as gentle as I can present it... I've had bad experiences about this download thing. :?

Download from where?
Through what hardware?
Through what internet connection?

Hint: I'm not alone in having a Linux box which does not surf.
Yeah, I'm in the minority regarding not surfing with my Linux PC, so I'll add a few more potentially enlightening concepts...


How on earth did you install gentoo if you can't get online? How are you going to maintain it? You have to have some kind of access to the internet to get it. The way I see it the 'minority' of people who don't have access to the internet is extremely small. That being said I don't think that they are unimportant. An iso of the documentation could be created easily and then everyone who was able to get an iso of the gentoo install disc would be able to have access to it. As for having trouble actually getting a computer connected to the internet, the gentoo install CD does an excellent job of this. I would think that would solve that problem for those people who have an ISP that actually works. Once connected, getting at online documentation is trivial as long as the program is made in a smart way.
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 30, 2002 4:11 pm    Post subject: Re: Download the docs? Maybe, or maybe not Reply with quote

Tristam29 wrote:
How on earth did you install gentoo if you can't get online?
I d/l and burn the ISO elsewhere, take it home and install from there.
Quote:
How are you going to maintain it?
Same method: burn elsewhere, bring the burn home.
Quote:
As for having trouble actually getting a computer connected to the internet, the gentoo install CD does an excellent job of this.
Connecting to NetZero? That was still using Windows only software, as of yesterday morning!
Quote:
I would think that would solve that problem for those people who have an ISP that actually works.
Play nice! :lol: kidding! Seriously, though, does the set of potential problems for which a user needs help no longer include failed internet connectivity??
Quote:
Once connected, getting at online documentation is trivial as long as the program is made in a smart way.
When and if, but still won't help when the newbie trashes PPP and has no backups.
Some of us are against letting hackers into our PCs, so those people might want a Linux box to actually remain off the net, same effect as I postulated. I just wonder why anyone thinks the internet is the only solution for information delivery when many many instances involve PCs which cannot get to the internet.

Lets review:

    no telephone functions (some rural people suffer this many times per day, some do not even have telephones, those back to the earth people that live off grid, etc)
    no networks/internet (tradeoffs of security, cost, complexity, ISP choices)
    bad configurations (incapable despite the above conditions being correct)
    CLI web software was not installed, not understandabl, misconfigured.

These situations are not uncommon to newbies. For people with lots of Linux experience, they wouldn't need the depth of documentation anyway, they likely already installed from a CLI, so the reinstall should be familiar turf.... The newbie is the one reading the docs; is there a guaranteed level of newbie competence? I must have missed that. :lol: Just don't miss the target audience simply because some things seem like they are so simple to you (the experienced Linux user.... nothing personal).

Whatever, Gentoo is a team thing, drive it anywhere you people want.
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 30, 2002 4:20 pm    Post subject: Re: Download the docs? Maybe, or maybe not Reply with quote

dunbar wrote:
I just wonder why anyone thinks the internet is the only solution for information delivery when many many instances involve PCs which cannot get to the internet.

I'm not sure that people do. RedHat, Mandrake and others provide shrinkwrapped versions of their products that require no internet access.

Gentoo, as a distro, has targeted advanced users with broadband internet connections. I don't understand why selecting and targeting a particular market is such an evil thing?

--kurt
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 30, 2002 7:51 pm    Post subject: Uh-oh, I must missed the announcement..... Reply with quote

Well no, it really isn't a bad thing to target broadband users only.
8O
I did not realize that 'Broadband Users' had become the Gentoo focus to the exclusion of other users.... Would someone care to state that right up front on the Gentoo homepage, instead of letting people like me think Gentoo also applies to us burner types, when maybe it does not? Put that right at the top of the Gentoo homepage, right in the paragraph where it says:
Quote:
Gentoo Linux is a high-performance ports-based Linux metadistribution for x86, PowerPC, UltraSparc and Alpha Processor systems. To learn more, click here.
Maybe you could say: "We do not advocate using Gentoo without a broadband connection" or something to that effect.

:wink:
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 30, 2002 8:02 pm    Post subject: Re: Uh-oh, I must missed the announcement..... Reply with quote

dunbar wrote:
I did not realize that 'Broadband Users' had become the Gentoo focus to the exclusion of other users

A focus on one market does not mean you must exclude all other markets -- it simply means you may not cater to their needs as much as you do to the needs of your core constituency.

Given the heavy reliance gentoo places on downloading source packages, security updates, etc., I think the fact that it is targeted at people with fast internet connections is fairly obvious. This isn't to say people without fast internet connections need not come to the party, but it does mean they might have to jump through a few more hoops in order to use Gentoo.

--kurt
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 30, 2002 8:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just to clarify my position. I think documentation is an integral part of any system, and access to that documentation is important. I tihnk every reasonable effort should be made to find a solution that a) doesn't sacrifice on features or functionality for those folks who do have internet and b) also allows folks without a fast/steady internet connection to have access to the docs as well.

However, IMO, if it comes down to chosing between:
  1. A fast, feature-rich solution that works great for those folks who do have broadband, but not so well for those folks with no connection at all and
  2. A watered-down version that isn't quite as nice, but makes life easier for folks without internet access

then I absolutely think the first choice is a better choice.

That's my opinion -- agree or disagree with it as you see fit.

--kurt
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 30, 2002 11:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would like to see a section that describes more clearly the use of internet access to build and maintain a Gentoo system.

I think it would fit best under the 'To learn more, click here.' link (that dunbar points out). I think the explanation should be neutral, making each user decide if they want to deal with dial-up/no connectivity.

I thought there was something brief that explained this, but I'm not finding it.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 01, 2002 1:34 am    Post subject: Nonono, no click here Reply with quote

kanuslupus wrote:
I would like to see a section that describes more clearly the use of internet access to build and maintain a Gentoo system.

I think it would fit best under the 'To learn more, click here.' link (that dunbar points out). I think the explanation should be neutral, making each user decide if they want to deal with dial-up/no connectivity.

I thought there was something brief that explained this, but I'm not finding it.


Actually, I'm not interested in any 'click here' thing, I've tried very hard to explain that:
A] when the internet connection won't work, the proposed help documents are not available; hence I've been trying to say that the document must be local on the PC, and requiring GUI isn't a very good idea, because a failed GUI could be why the user needs documents!
B] in many areas of the world (evidently not so in Gentoo land), data flow is sometimes so bad that people cannot get any connections for days..... productive work can't be done if the users PC can't get to the documents even when A] is not valid.

This is getting a bit beyond my point of view. Remember: the internet may not always be available to every PC, and a functional gui may not always be available. I can't get any simpler than that.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 01, 2002 1:43 am    Post subject: Re: Nonono, no click here Reply with quote

dunbar wrote:
Actually, I'm not interested in any 'click here' thing, I've tried very hard to explain that:
That's fine. People still have to learn about Gentoo, and they usually do that via the webpage. They also (usually/most often/should/ought to) have to go to gentoo.org to read about the distro prior to installing it. The same document could be on the CD.

Quote:
Remember: the internet may not always be available to every PC, and a functional gui may not always be available. I can't get any simpler than that.
I've read of several people using lynx, which is certainly no GUI. Gentoo is internet based. That should be clearly marked on gentoo.org, which everyone should see prior to installation. Just my opinion.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 01, 2002 4:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

kanuslupus wrote:
I would like to see a section that describes more clearly the use of internet access to build and maintain a Gentoo system.
My spin would be to also give equal attention to explaining how to not use the internet, for those who.... cannot/willnot.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 01, 2002 4:56 pm    Post subject: Document, document; wherefore art thou, document? Reply with quote

kanuslupus wrote:
I've read of several people using lynx, which is certainly no GUI.

And, hypothetically speaking, what happens if the user broke his ifcongig stuff? Or maybe she changed her NIC but didn't know she had to change a config file? Lightning killed your old modem so you got a new modem - but it doesn't work? How do I configure DSL or my cable modem when I never had one before??

Hint: Lynx can't get to the internet site if the NIC or Modem can't connect, so where are the docs? klieber just PMed me that they can be downloaded :!: , but I'd say must be downloaded is the more appropriate term. So the issue resolves to 'keep things small, limit what is downloaded'.

But what info or which files should be left behind?

Make the wrong choices and those people without good, reliable, on-demand internet access will be out of luck for a while..... And they can't tell you about it, because they can't get online, because the docs are not available on their PC to fix the broken internet situation.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 01, 2002 5:34 pm    Post subject: Re: Document, document; wherefore art thou, document? Reply with quote

dunbar wrote:
And, hypothetically speaking, what happens if the user broke his ifcongig stuff?
I'd never noticed this kind of documentation on other distros. Granted, its been several years since I've tried many, and I've never looked for it, but it wasn't obvious either. I'd say, buy a book. Don't get me wrong. I think the documentation pages at gentoo.org could be easily added to the CD, and so probably should be. Maybe filing a bug report would get them included. I'd also add that many people (assuming they read the docs to begin with) don't find an answer in those docs. A basic linux administration book is a good idea.
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