"shouted down", "shot down", apologies

Vince Rice vrice@solidrocksystems.com
Thu Jun 28 00:31:00 GMT 2001


Somewhere in this thread you expressed some wonder/frustration at why the
gcc/gdb projects don't generate the kind of "newbie" requests Cygwin (I just
tried to find it and it's nowhere to be found; I tend to lose things at this
time of night).  I have seen this expressed in your messages countless times
over the three years I've been lurking here.  And I've always wondered at
your wonder <g>.

GCC and gdb are tools for developers; you don't use them unless you're
developing something.  However, Cygwin is a tool for users; it's just as
easy (easier IMHBAO) to *use* the Cygwin tools (defined as the GNU tools,
not gcc/etc.) as it is to develop on Cygwin.  One doesn't have to be a
developer to use Unix.  One can be a raw user who has been thrust into a
Unix environment for one of a thousand reasons, or a college student (or
mid-life crisis male who I bear absolutely no resemblance to) who wants to
learn how to *use* Unix, not how to *develop* in Unix.  Your outlook of
Cygwin is the ability to develop/port Unix programs to Windows.  That is
Cygwin's reason for existence, from your (and Redhat's) and much of the
list's perspective.  However, I believe many (most?) users of Cygwin could
not care less about that.  Their view of Cygwin is the ability to *run* Unix
in Windows.

As such, we have no skills to debug.  Our approach to this mailing list is
the same as to a Word newsgroup or a game newsgroup or whatever.  We want to
know how to *use* the product, and when something doesn't work we come ask
questions.  We don't always RTM, but that's what users do (or don't do as
the case may be).  We have no desire to use the source, we have no ability
to use the source, and many of us wouldn't know source if it hit them in the
head (which with you around is a distinct possibility <bg>).

The fact that Cygwin allows developers to port Unix programs to Windows is
immaterial.  My introduction to Cygwin was from looking for Unix utilities
to run on Windows.  I have stuck around for three years because the tools
continue to get better and better, and many times, even though I run from
4NT instead of bash, I can barely tell the difference between a Windows
prompt and a Unix prompt, because I can do durn near anything I can with
Cygwin on my PC that I can do on my clients' AIX boxes.

However, because I'm in the computer business, because I've written code in
my distant past (but not C/C++), I lurk rather than ask questions, partly
because of the attitude around here towards those who want to know how to
*use* the product and partly because I believe in your philosophy of fishing
for myself, and if I don't have time to get the pole I try not to make
someone else do it either.

However, although I've practiced that here, I'm not completely convinced
that that is always a good thing.  Community building involves interaction.
Sometimes the way to get started is by asking questions.  If someone asks me
a question that will take me five minutes to answer but would take them two
minutes to look up themselves, then that's a waste of my time and I'll tell
them so.  But if someone asks me a question that will take them three hours
to figure out themselves when I can answer it in thirty seconds, I think
it's a little extreme to tell them to "use the source" when I can save them
three hours by just answering the question.   Whether they can figure it out
for themselves is beside the point:  I'm helping them be more productive,
just as someone helped me be more productive when I started out.

I didn't really mean to get into that.  My real point was to address your
original question -- Cygwin attracts at least as many users as developers (I
suspect far more), so they ask user questions, not developer ones, and they
think like users (hey Joe, how do I change the font on a footnote?), not
developers (hey Joe, where's the manual for that graphics card, I want to
re-write the device driver).


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