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"Using my computer should be like driving a car: I turn the key and go. I shouldn't need to worry about what's under the bonnet - that's the mechanic's job. The car should just work."
- common Windows user sentiment, usually voiced down the pub or when confronted by a BSOD.




Using your computer should be like driving a car. You should have to learn how to drive - both theory and practice; quite different theory and practice from knowing the details of how cars work - before driving on public roads unsupervised. You should have to remember that cars don't just go - they need petrol (or diesel; and you have to remember which, even though you might not know why) regularly, and you need to keep an eye on things like the oil level, tyre tread depths, tyre pressures and so on - and/or pay someone to check over the car for you every so often.

No, you shouldn't have to remember that cars just go. You shouldn't have to keep an eye on oil level etc. That you have to do these things is an inconvenience of physics. With computers there is no such physical requirement; in theory it should be possible to make computers where the user is totally insulated from the details, where the computer no longer becomes an end in itself but is merely a tool for a task, like a pen.

How do you use a pen if you don't know how to write? All too often, it's precisely the task the people doing the complaining want to do that they don't know how to do ^^;.

Besides which, and avoiding utopian dreaming, this defence misses the point: even though it may not be possible to completely ignore the details, as it is not possible to completely ignore the physics of a car, it is undeniably true that Linux bothers the user with requiring much more knowledge than Windows. There is  a continuum, and Linux is (for most people) well at the wrong end of it.

I assert that that depends on what you want to do with Linux, and if you want to do with Linux is what you do with Windows, it is simply not true.

Hah!  Driving a car should be as simple as recompiling a kernel.  --Vitenka (semi-serious)
The whole car-driving UI was clearly not designed by someone who'd studied HCI.
Well, in a way: Thank Goodness.  But yes.  Is a simple joystick control too much to ask for?  (I mean, two hands on separate analogue, three feet on analogue AND buttons? Come ON)

Linux is for Linux geeks.  No normal people use it.  Hmmm.  Profound :)  Seriously though, being able to use computers properly is just a judgement made relative to one's own knowledge. 

Try as he might, MoonShadow can't work out what you mean by that sentence. MoonShadow asserts, however, that trying to use a tool to accomplish a particular task without having the faintest clue how to do go about performing that task using that tool is improper use of the tool, for any meaningful task, tool and definition of "improper use". This is not intended to imply anything about how anyone actually behaves, just an abstract statement that people are free to correlate with what they observe however they wish.

I think I disagree.  I work for what is really a small company.  In this company are 2 geeks, and 3 non-geeks (a mathmo, a philosopher and a geologist by degree, IIRC). Of these 5 only one of them (me) had used Linux before joining the company.  Now they all use Linux most of the day without very many problems. -- Senji
Mmmm... nope, sorry. Don't see how that contradicts. Unless you are saying that they "use Linux most of the day without very many problems" without having the faintest clue how to use a computer, which I find implausible. - MoonShadow
From context, I think this was a reply to the comment starting "Linux is for Linux geeks." -- Senji

Alex thinks this isn't the place to make that point.  Nevermind.  I could just compose a poem here instead...  Is there some sort of exam that one can take in order to have an objective knowledge of computers?  No.  One can take anything from simple "how to click a mouse and load Word" to Microsoft Technical Qualification Thingies to How to fiddle with the source code of Linux and be clever.  What counts as "being able to drive the car"? --AR
Uh - is that a trick question?  See, there's this legally mandated test.  Which many geeks have (semi-jokingly) suggested should have a paralell in the computer domain.  Which is all very elitist.  Why shouldn't driving a car be completely intuitive to a newborn babe?  'Want sweetie' should be enough instruction for it to take you safely to a sweetshop.  Same for a computer.  Just I'm more used to computers than cars.  --Vitenka
The thing is, computers finally give us the chance to actually make the world like that. It's the only thing that makes them worthwhile, really: the power to, someday, actually make it so that all we have to do it say 'want sweetie'. Then we can concentrate on what we want to do, not how to do it. Rather than messing about in Photoshop with filters and transparancy layers we can describe what we want and the computer can work out how to get there. The invisible tool. They may not be that advanced yet, but that's got to be the aim. It's certainly Microsoft's aim: the easier they can make computers, the more people will buy them. I don't think it's the aim behind Linux (if there even is a coherent aim behind Linux), though.

...at which point (assuming that level of software intelligence is possible), the human race promptly proceeds to stagnate as all conscious thought degenerates to the "want sweetie" level, except for those few individuals that aren't happy with the computer doing all their thinking for them.
Well, that is one possibility, yes.  The other possibilty is that people can use their thoughts on more and more abstract things - thus each individual thought carries more power.  (Uh, slight mismatch between CompSci domain 'abstract' and artist domain there.)
Example.  I don't have to spend 80% of my day working out how to catch my food to eat it.  Thus I am freed up to create something new instead.  Example of second type - instead of putting notes together to form a jingle, I can put jingles together to form a harmony - or full ballads together to create a symphony, or...  The problem, of course, is that for anything created to be any GOOD you cannot fully rely on abstraction.  But even so, a large layer of 'it just works' is a great advantage (when it does work)
But why would you? Why would you ever think to create a harmony out of jingles - or even know the terms or understand the concept - if you've been brought up to just say "want new pretty tune" and wait for a few minutes while the ArtificialStupidity on your desk comes up with one for you?
Because, oh ye of little extrapolation, great beauty or whatever might be produced by saying "mash THAT pretty tune into THAT pretty tune" or even "make thing makes BETTER tunes".  I'm a bit constrained by the artifical baby-talk here.  If it becomes easy to create something, it generally becomes easier to create something better on top of it.  Besides, I don't think everyone would ever forgo all skills - everyone needs a useless hobby.  But for those who don't want to be hunter-gatherers, isn't it good to be able to abstract it away?
Not in general. The "artificial baby-talk" is a direct result of too much abstraction. Every abstraction loses you control of design details, which means that while you no longer have to think about those details, you also no longer have the power to change them. Consider "I want sweetie" as an abstraction of "I want a chocolate eclair" by an adult who wants, specifically, a chocolate eclair, but doesn't know (or want to know) the "technical terminology" - not even the word "chocolate" - and will complain if they get any other kind of sweetie.
(Too many indentations - time to refactor?) I see that point - but I don't believe it to be correct.  Abstractions are intended to hide unwanted details.  Yes, current abstractions are imperfect and hide the wrong details.  That doesn't mean that abstracting is in itself bad, only that you need to be more careful.  My complaint about the baby talk wasn't that it was overly simple, more that I find it hard to show which anstracitons I mean by using it.  Which means it isn't the right abstraction for me - I'd be happier with something which would be totally isomorphic to it but looks more technical :)

DevilsAdvocate - if most people WantSweetie? then let them live happy useless lives EatingSweeties?SciFi always focusses on the malcontents within utopia.  Wouldn't it be easier to just lock the protagonists away? :)
I take it you've read Brave New World?
And about a million others.  They all make the malcontents into the heroes.  C'mon - how long has it been since anyone wrote a positive future story where CloneD546 was happy with his mushball soup?

Actually while I'm here, another reply seems appropriate.
Using a computer CAN be like driving a car.  If you drive it too long, you have to pay someone some money to refuel it.  If you do THAT too many times (or just leave it idle) ten you have to employ (or be) a professional repair person who can check things, find a whole bunch of hidden problems and charge you through the nose for stuff you'd probably never notice but which just might have caused something to go wrong.
Will people pay for yearly, monthly, weekly, daily, services and tune-ups?  When those tune-ups include moving your files around into the 'proper' places?
Certain companies sure hope so.

That's more or less what MoonShadow was originally trying to say on this page.

Um, there is a computer driving licence. My girlfriend's mum is being forced to take it ATM. She has no interest in it, and probably will forget all the important stuff after the tests. Just like the theory test :-) <Garbled>
(PeterTaylor) That's not a computer driving licence - it's a certain specific versions of Office and Outlook driving test - at least if it's the one I think it is. In fact, when you're asked to do such-and-such, you can lose marks for using the shortcut key rather than using the menu sequence, so even that is too broad a description.



See also: [Practical Magic], [Back to Basics], [Driving a car should not be like using a computer], ["A designer unable to find simple solutions should be kept locked away from people"]

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