(or how I learned to stop worrying and trust my instincts)
I use wikis a fair amount nowadays, and I get used to just being able to update things that are wrong. Unfortunately, a lot of info on the web is still in forums and suchlike, which aren’t quite suited to collaborative documentation. For that, we still have to rely on many people writing their own documentation, and let google filter out the right one.
For instance, I was trying to install freenx on ubuntu dapper today. This thread seems to be widely acknowledged as the definitive guide to setting it up, but it just smelled a bit to complicated to me. A bit more hunting around, and I found this guide, which is a lot more straightforward (and just as importantly, worked fine). But even then, it’s not quite right – the URL for the repository seems suspiciously unofficial. So I found this list of mirrors, which is on a wiki, but isn’t part of any install guide.
Don’t underestimate how hard it is to write good documentation – it needs to be minimalistic as well as comprehensive. But today’s lesson is that if something seems more complicated than it needs to be, it probably is. Oh, and I wish freenx was in dapper by default, but I’m not sure that anyone is working on it.
An old favourite of mine, that came up on my random-picture desktop background recently. Anyone want to explain the logic?
A well dressed man approaches me on Queens Gate, and asks if I know where the nearest petrol stations are. He says he’s already been to the one at the bottom of Queens Gate, but he needs to find an independent station. As I’m considering which is closer – the one at the other end of High Street Ken, or the one that Dan Climas went to in minibuses which is down towards Chelsea – he starts talking himself into a hole. He’s run out of petrol, he’s just up from Kent for the evening with his wife, he forgot his jacket so he doesn’t have his wallet, Shell will only give you free petrol if you have your driving license (huh?), but of course it’s in his wallet which he doesn’t have. Finally, the short con comes to its conclusion – whilst waving a bunch of car keys and a mobile phone, he offers to give me his details. He didn’t get to ask for cash before I walked off.
He’s probably unlucky that this happened to me a few months ago in a quiet part of East Putney – a guy shouted across the road to me, and started waving keys and talking about petrol. It’s a bit hard, since if the story was legit, the only option you would have is to approach strangers and rely on their generosity. But in both cases, it’s word for word exactly how a short con would play out, so I walked away both that time, and last night.
Most times when I get approached by people looking for change to get the tube home, I say no (although my plan for next time is to offer to top up their few coins if they are actually willing to put them into a ticket machine!).
I think I’ve fallen for a short con once when I was drunk and walking home through Chelsea many years ago – a well dressed drunk guy on a Friday night had lost his wallet and asked for directions to Victoria Mainline, and needed some cash. He seemed perfectly legitimate, but again, it would happen exactly the same way if he had been a con artist, so he probably was. Nowadays I’m much more sceptical – I’ll hear people out, up until they ask for cash. If they can come up with some way of me helping that doesn’t involve them getting cash – say, asking me to buy the petrol and put it in their car, or asking me to buy them a ticket, they would be slightly more likely to get my help.
So Kubuntu Dapper came out last week, and I thought I would try to upgrade. Last time went moderately well, and the same again this time – only moderately well. Still, four problems for an operating system upgrade (and in the linux world, that’s every single application as well) isn’t too bad.
Here, for reference, are what happened to me, and how I fixed them.