All the advice for these situations begins, “Go to a terminal, and type
Whatever is being solved is a common enough problem that there’s advice for it all over the internet, but it’s not common enough that anyone can build a graphical interface for it?
I think about this every time I have to install the VirtualBox Guest Additions. The GUI package managers have shifted from showing all software on the system to only showing “graphical” software, insisting there are no results for packages like
build-essential. The package is there, it’s just being “helpfully” hidden from me, even when asking by its exact name.
So instead, I am expected to go off to the command line, and either paste a string from a web page, or carefully type it out in its entirety, with exact spelling.
The idea of exploiting web pages comes up from time to time—styling allows additional text to copy but not display—but the general response from the community is “Don’t do that, then.” Paste it into vim if you’re not sure? How does a user even know to do that in the first place? Can anyone, including expert users, ever be “sure” about it?
I understand why directions are given as terminal commands. They’re easy to write, and if the copy/paste mechanism is working and trustworthy, they’re efficient to execute that way.
But the underlying cultural problem—that everyone must be able to use the command line as a basic prerequisite to managing their system—is an obstacle to creating a more user-friendly design. That in turn becomes an obstacle to getting widespread usage.
People tell themselves it doesn’t matter, but consider how hard Microsoft worked on getting “a tablet PC” going for a decade before Apple showed up with the iPad. The tech circles predicted a quick death, just like they did for the iPod and perhaps the iPhone, but it defined the segment instead.
What was the difference? The iPad didn’t require stabbing at mouse-sized bits with a delicate stylus. It was designed around the finger, with no fallback, producing internal pressure to make sure the finger interface worked, worked well, and worked for everyone.
In Linux, the terminal exists by default and remains the only way to do some things, making it inescapable.