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Topic: Overly complicated and in correct instructions given to Linux users (Read 1982 times)

Overly complicated and in correct instructions given to Linux users

It seems to me that Linux help sites often give users instructions that are the most confusing way to accomplish a task or even give users instructions that are wrong. Case in point: this morning I was installing the R-Studio on Ubuntu 21.04. R is a statistical programming language commonly used to generate visualizations from csv, Excel file, etc. A package called Tidyverse is an important component, that provides functions such ggplot (a R language command to generate a plot). The R base and the R-Studio IDE installed just fine, but Tinyverse did not. So I dutifully went R website to get instructions that told me that Tidyverse was only available for LTS releases and to try changing my sources list for Tidy to Ubuntu Focal. Of course, this failed.

But it turned out that the .deb file of Tidyverse for this version with Ubuntu was available in the Ubuntu repos the whole time. So I got frustrated that Cran (Comprehensive R Archive Network) and R Studio didn't give the simple instructions just to install it from Ubuntu repositories in the first place. It seems to beg the question why didn't Cran and R-Studio just tell users to install Tidyverse from the Ubuntu repos instead of giving such strange instructions and workarounds. But it seems to be a broader issue in Linux. Help sites throw the command line instructions at new users instead of just having them install software from the software center. Sure, for tech-savvy users sudo apt-get install (package) isn't confusing, but does text commands for simple tasks that can be done through the GUI make would-be Linux users switch back? Oh yeah, when the help file incorrectly advised users to change their sources, they didn't tell the users how to do this (again, for experienced users it's easy. Just find Tidyverse in the sources and change the Hirsute to Focal - but how does a new, would-be Linux user know this?)
“What kind of man would put a known criminal in charge of a major branch of government? Apart from, say, the average voter.”
― Terry Pratchett, Going Postal

Re: Overly complicated and in correct instructions given to Linux users

Reply #1
The best advice is to get to know your distro. Each distro tends to have its own package manager and it is good to figure out the search function of the package manager. As far as possible, it is best to install from the distro's repos. Fortunately or unfortunately, you need to spend time learning Linux inside out.

Things like flatpak aim to make software packages available independently of distros, but in my opinion this only adds to the confusion, because updates become less certain this way. And if something from flatpak breaks, the maintainers of the distro have no responsibility. If something is not available from the repos, the next best idea is to build from source.

Once I installed a Manjaro for a guy. Some time later he brought the laptop back to me for reinstalling. He had managed to break it when trying to update a la Ubuntu. I guess he had not fully grasped the significance when I had said, "It's Manjaro, not Ubuntu." The second time I said to him, "Learn to install Linnux yourself. If you do it badly and slowly, it will take two hours the first time - that's pretty fast, isn't it? After several tries, you will learn to do it securely in less than half an hour."

But yes, I have run into confusing, conflicting, defective, and also missing instructions when trying to make stuff work in Linux. For example for ssh, something that should be old and well known and basic, I found workable instructions only this year.

Re: Overly complicated and in correct instructions given to Linux users

Reply #2
Yesterday I discovered very nice simple introductory instructions on something. It's the Koreader User Guide. Big thanks to the folks who put it together. It was evidently not intended to be a pleasant read, but it is. Just one disturbing typo that I noticed, otherwise very good, particularly the formatting.

Re: Overly complicated and in correct instructions given to Linux users

Reply #4
The typo was jarring at first because I could not figure out what should have been in its place, but I figured it out now, I think. It's the word "tas" on page 15 (the page marked as 15 in the document):

5. News downloader: With this plugin you can download RSS and Atom news entries tas HTML files.