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Gems from the Mailbag

This month's answers created by:

[ Ben Okopnik, Kapil Hari Paranjape, Rick Moen ]
...and you, our readers!

Editor's Note

Kapil's brilliant analogy on approaching Linux (and other unfamiliar technologies) drew instant kudos from The Answer Gang this month. It further inspired the creation of a new section of the Mail Bag, "LG Gems", as a showcase, to highlight this sort of thing, and in hopes of finding more "gems" - especially those explaining Linux and open source culture.

I expect this to be an occasional feature in LG, and will be basing it, as with the inaugural piece, on peer acclaim. Do look around in the Mailbag archives to see if there's hidden treasure back there, and let me know!

Kat Tanaka Okopnik
Mailbag Editor

Bus and Taxi analogy (Was Cut and paste between two computers. Was linking my sound card to xoscpe)

Kapil Hari Paranjape [kapil at imsc.res.in]

Tue, 31 Mar 2009 11:05:26 +0530


On Mon, 30 Mar 2009, 2elnav@netbistro.com wrote:

> Don't know how to do that in Linux.  Can't seem to figure it out.
> Judging by how my query on siggen is being handled I despair of ever
> figuring  out these other issues.  Maybe I should stick to Windows.
> I am just getting more confused by all the jargon.

Here is an analogy that may help you understand the distinction.

A man who has only ever ridden in a taxi decides to take a bus one day. The bus stops and he gets in along with the other people waiting at the stop.

He starts to occupy a seat when the driver (or in India the conductor) asks him to buy a ticket before getting in. He is annoyed: "I have to pay before I get to my destination?" However, he agrees as tries to pay $50 -- which is refused. Other passengers try to help him and suggest that he use a smaller amount. Somehow he manages to find some small change and pay his fare.

He then tells the bus driver he wants to go to the airport. The people in the bus tell him he got into the wrong bus and that he should get off this bus at the next stop and get into a different one. Now he is quite annoyed and has started yelling at people saying that they are making him really confused. He tells them that he has taken Shuttle services (which are a shared transport service) and even there he has never been made to do things so differently from a simple taxi ride.


There are many ways this story could end:

1. One kind old lady says she is going to somewhere near the airport and will get off with him at the next stop and get him on the right bus. The guy calms down and agrees.

2. The guy finds a booklet in the bus that explains the way the bus system operates. He is fascinated and reads it all the way through. Of course, as he is engrossed in his reading he then reaches the last stop of the bus he is on but by then he knows the system well enough that he can get to the airport from there by bus.

3. The guy yells and screams at everybody and gets off at the next stop and vows to always only travel by taxi ever again.


Kapil. --

[ Thread continues here (6 messages/5.94kB) ]

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Published in Issue 161 of Linux Gazette, April 2009