Printing

Geek week is almost over, here at The Daily Grind, but we have room for just one more post before we start publishing interesting stuff again(1).

None other than Eric Raymond ‘gets it’ about Linux, during a fraught session attempting to set up shared printing between two Red Hat boxen. I have reams and reams of logs exactly like this, from pretty much every occasion I’ve used a Linux box for anything of any significance.

My take: Linux does have a long way to go before it’s a genuinely viable end-user desktop OS, but it is getting better; recent Mandrake releases have been really rather good. However, contrast with setting up a shared printer on my parents’ Mac network: System Prefs -> Sharing -> check ‘Printer sharing.’ Firewall automatically modifies itself to allow traffic; Rendezvous stuff lets the other Mac see the shared device immediately, with no configuration of the clients at all. Job done.

Now, I’ve seen comment to the effect that setting up CUPS on a Mac is no simpler than it is on anything else, and I suspect that’s true, but it still fascinates me that this sort of problem isn’t more attractive for Linux folks to solve. That ESR himself should be narked by this stuff gives me hope.

(1). Who am I kidding? Like I’m going to stop geeking out in public. As if.

1 Comment on "Printing"


  1. I gave up on Linux as an operating system for my personal machine quite a while ago. I do, however, know a little about it and spend time with several people who know a lot about it. I can’t think of one of those people who uses as their primary desktop. There is no-one, to my knowledge, who is not narked by these issues.
    Why, you might ask, does nothing effective ever get done about it ? Well …
    1. Programmers are not usually very good usability designers. There is some overlap, but it is far from 100%. Or even 10%. After all, the principle characteristic required from designers is empathy. ‘Nuff said.
    2. User interface programming, as distinct from design for usability, is genuinely very, very boring and rather easy. Therefore smart people who get their principle satisfaction from solving hard technical problems by programming do not do it. Most open source software is written by these people.
    3. GUIs are neither necessary nor sufficient for usability. It almost never a good idea to write a tool and then try and write a GUI for it, because the requirements of a tool for use by programmers and the back-end for a GUI-driven application are different at levels that are quite deep, but widely ignored. Almost all of traditional Unix was written for programmers and thus very hard to create usable UI for.
    4. Almost all open source software is written by programmers in the very early stages of their career. The education the average software professional gets does nothing to prepare them for the realities for software engineering. They are therefore totally unaware of issues 1 through 3, of which they will eventually learn through harsh experience. If they last that long.

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