What is a newbie? (Was Re: Assistance for newbies?)

Rodolfo J. Paiz rpaiz at simpaticus.com
Thu Jul 8 18:46:00 UTC 2004

At 11:45 AM 7/8/2004, David Maier wrote:
>Rodolfo J. Paiz wrote:
>>How's that for a starter list?
>Well, this is interesting, because, according to your list I'm half and
>half.  Guess I'm either a "new" or a "bie."  I can install Linux, but I
>haven't a clue about compiling the kernel.  Not even sure why I'd want
>to.  I can install an rpm package, if I spend 30 minutes with the man
>page, but I don't know what to do with a source file or how to do
>whatever you do to a tarball.  My ability to make effective use of Linux
>is limited by these walls I keep butting into.

That's OK. With such a massive amount of choice, we are *all* still 
learning about something. And with such an incredibly degree of 
customizability, you almost *never* have to know everything about anything. 
I've never compiled a kernel either, and honestly have no intention of ever 
doing so. I refuse to use tarballs or compile from source since (a) it 
sidesteps the neat and wonderful RPM mechanism and breaks some upgrades 
while leaving all sorts of cruft in my system, (b) I don't understand it, 
(c) I don't want to install all sorts of compilers and debuggers and tools 
on my systems. So I use *only* RPM. If it's not in RPM format, it doesn't 
go on my system. (I may later become more flexible about that, but so far 
in 8 years I have never *needed* to install a tarball.

So hey, don't feel bad. A lot of what you don't know, I don't know either. 
And neither of us needs to know it. <grin> Now in reference to needing the 
RPM man page, allow me to suggest the most common usages right here:

  -qa     List all packages on the system

  -qi bind     List information about the bind package

  -qf /etc/named.conf    Tell you which package owns this file

  -Uvh bind-9.23-1.noarch.rpm     Upgrade the bind package (if installed) 
to this version if it's newer. Install this version if bind was not 
previously installed. Or do nothing if the installed bind is equal to or 
newer than this one. This is much more comfortable than "-ivh" (install) 
since it's more intelligent.

  -Fvh bind-9.23-1.noarch.rpm     Same as -U but ***only*** upgrade the 
package if it's already installed.

  -e bind     Remove a package.

  -ql bind     List all files in a package.

  -qd bind     List all documentation files in a package

That should cover 95% to 99% of the use you'll ever give RPM.

>   I'd really be
>disinclined to label myself a non-newbie because I'd feel like a fool
>otherwise.  I'm guaranteed to ask a very newbie like question at any
>moment.  Like, "What's a grep?"

<laugh> So join the club. See my "Traffic shaping... don't understand the 
instructions!" thread (started yesterday) for a perfect example of me 
learning something new, failing miserably at my first few attempts, and 
flailing around for help because I really *don't* understand the instructions.

I've been on Linux for at least 8 years if not more (likely 10 or so), I've 
run public Internet servers (web/mail/DNS/etc) for at least the last 6 
years, I've run ISP companies since 1995, and I am *not* a newbie. But 
every week or so I bump into something I want to do and I ask questions 
like "what's a grep?" Every week.

It's the idiots who call themselves experts who think they have no more to 
learn who are dangerous. You will always be a newbie at *something* so 
don't worry about it. Newbie is more of a mental condition of either real 
(due to lack of knowledge and experience) or perceived (due to insecurity 
or foolishness) helplessness. People cease to be real newbies when they 
start taking control of their systems and start actually accomplishing 
things with them... the mindset changes when they start saying "hey, I can 
actually do this."

>I always figured a non-newbie was someone who has  a fairly versatile
>grasp of the whole package, i.e., has a fairly good handle on the big
>picture so that s/he has a pretty good base from which to diagnose
>failures or otherwise to figure things out.

Good God, no... anyone who has a "fairly versatile grasp of the whole 
package" is a full-blooded expert. :-) Maybe I should have added another 
point to my "no longer a newbie when" steps:

         5. He has figured out the basics of troubleshooting (checking the 
logs, knowing which logs to check, testing one thing at a time, etc.) such 
that he is not utterly helpless when faced with any one thing having broken 
and not knowing even how to ask for help, let alone help himself.

>Maybe I try to make the
>class so large that you won't get angry at me for asking something
>which, according to your judgment, I darn well ought to know....

You don't "darn well ought to know" anything, it's that simple. It's when 
you refuse to even attempt to try finding an answer on your own, or when 
you don't respond well to people who are trying to help you, that you get 
cussed out. But the best experts keep asking questions; that's how they 
*stay* experts.

>  Would
>it be useful to create an intermediate category of earnest and
>well-intentioned adopters who have gaping holes in their grasp of the
>fundamental concepts?   A "Wannabie?"

Yes, if it helps you to more narrowly focus on the newbie you want to help. 
Just keep in mind that this intermediate group is going to cover 90% of our 

Rodolfo J. Paiz
rpaiz at simpaticus.com

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