Thursday, December 20, 2001

Desktop is safe I just utterly failed to install Redhat 6.2 on a whitebox I put together for my dad (PIII, Win98, 20G hard disc). I know you're all wondering why I was installing GNU/Linux for a 50+ year old who mostly just surfs the web and emails--it's because he just surfs the web and emails, two things GNU/Linux can do fine. I expected stability and speed to be better under GNU/Linux, and the system could run (without upgrading) forever.

The speed requirement meant I didn't want to use a partitionless install (coupled with the fact that it makes GNU/Linux default and requires a disc for Windows--my dad would lose the disc and it would be all over). So, I'd need a LILO and a partitioned hard disc. The Official Red Hat Linux Installation Guide was utterly useless in this regard. It mentioned automatic partitioning, which sounded great except I couldn't find it. Manual partitioning suggests making /boot, root, and swap, without going into any details, and leaving out all the other partitions the installer itself recommends. At this point, not wanting to screw up a barely stable system, I quit.

I wish a team of engineers from Red Hat had watched me try to install their distro. Actual observation of user behavior would have made all the errors in the Installation Guide utterly obvious. Direct, non-directive observation of actual users struggling with actual technology products will do more to make tech useful than a million technical upgrades or marketing feature requests.

On the plus side, my experience with the actual local GNU/Linux community was extremely positive, as always.


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