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Author Topic: Intelligence and IT
FiredrakeRAGE
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Link

quote:
Office workers are baffled by computer jargon and make serious business blunders because they see 'IT speak' as a foreign language, a survey has revealed.

Among office workers 26% aren't sure what a firewall does and therefore have been tempted to turn it off. A firewall is a form of computer security that prevents unauthorised access from the internet and turning it off is the worst thing you can do.

A massive 61% don't understand the difference between gigabytes, kilobytes and megabytes and as a result have sent e-mails with huge attachments that have blocked clients' systems.

Around 48% are confused by different kinds of files like Jpegs and PDFs and don't know how they should be used.

A further 23% are not sure whether to upload or download - requiring further contact with the IT department for an explanation.

From java-script and cookies to Trojan horses and worms, over two-thirds (68%) of office workers believe IT lingo is incomprehensible. And almost 32% of office blunders are caused by misunderstandings surrounding 'IT speak'.

Nearly 75% of people said they spend more than an hour every week simply trying to find out what something means in order to finish a task, according to the survey by recruitment consultants Computer People.

Psychologist Tom Stewart, whose company System Concepts designs user-friendly technology, said office workers were still very reluctant to try to sort out IT problems themselves.

'Jargon is always something other people use. If you use it yourself it's just a technical term.

'Computers are something that all office workers use most of the time and you cannot avoid having some knowledge of them.

'It's like driving a car - you don't have to be a mechanical engineer to drive and most people will learn something about the mechanics of cars, like what the spark plugs or carburetors do. But with the computer people have not got to the point where they are willing to lift up the bonnet and have a go themselves.'

And it isn't just the older generation who feel out of the loop - more than one in two (54%) office workers under 30 have made a blunder because of confusion over the meaning of IT jargon.

Office administration worker Chloe Oldfield, 27, from Llandudno, admits her grasp of IT is very limited, but doesn't feel she ought to know more.

'I've never heard of a firewall. What is it? They might as well be speaking Arabic to me because I haven't got a clue. Normally when the technical support people come to fix my computer I just disappear and make a cup of tea.

'But I don't feel I should know more - that is their job. If we did it all ourselves they would be out of a job.'

Managing director of Computer People Adam Fletcher said the best IT professionals will tailor their language to their audience, explaining themselves in layman's terms to ordinary office workers.

'Effective IT professionals understand the need to tailor their levels of jargon to the different groups of people they interact with.'

I am amazed at some of the jargon in this case that people are not following. Most of the terms described in the article are not technically complex. They are either root words one ought to be able to figure, or they are simplistic concepts.

While a person might not know what a computer-related firewall is, they ought to be able to figure out that it is a mechanism to separate them from bad things by simply thinking about what a 'firewall' unrelated to a computer is.

While a person might not know that a gigabyte 2^30 bytes, they should at least know that it is larger than a megabyte.

I do not understand the intelligence transfer issues associated with computers. Some people that are perfectly intelligent seem to be unable to apply concepts from the rest of the world to computers and the 'net. Technical jargon is difficult to understand. One should, however, be able to apply past experience to understand the general function of a mechanism.

--Firedrake

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JohnLocke
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Hey, could you loosen up your post a bit and cut down on the leet speak? I'd understand you better if you used laymen's terms.
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JohnLocke
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Seriously, now...

I don't get it either. People at work are always telling me how smart I am when they witness how literate I am when it comes to handling a PC--even the basic stuff. I try to tell them that not knowing something doesn't mean you're not smart. At some point someone had to tell ME the things that I know, or at least I had to be told enough bits and pieces to interact with it, and, in that interaction I continue to expand my capabilities as a user. Why so many people seem to have great trouble with it I suppose could probably be chalked up to intimidation and low self-esteem. And then there's the handful of folks who really are just stupid. [Smile]

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Godot
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I have been a programmer for a lotta years and I've dealt with many clients with varying levels of (computer-related) technical understanding.

Unfortunately, computers really haven't been around for very long and they are quite complex so it's natural for there to still be a lot of people who feel intimidated by our electronic servants. They don't want to have to know how to configure a firewall to check their email.

I imagine that a lot of people look at computers the way I look at advanced phyics. I enjoy it for the knowledge it imparts about the world around me, but danged if I can follow how the last subatomic flavor-of-the-month particle figures into it.

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IrishTD
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I've been dealing with puters for a few years myself and it's not surprising to me to see studies like this.

First, why would anyone bother learning the various number prefixes (kilo, mega, giga)? Really, how many people would see gigameter and have any idea what it was? Noone remembers that stuff.

Second, the lingo changes constantly.

Third, most people are afraid to ask questions...esp if someone is going to make 'em look like a fool. Hence, the process keeps repeating itself. Not to mention that few (if any) people teach the differences between things. And then those that are taught anything just say screw it, why should I know this stuff? Or use it so infrequently, they can't remember anything.

Four, each new generation of software manages to change just enough stuff to keep throwing people off. Consistency would be good.

Fifth, info overload. Firewall, router, spyware, bluetooth, wi-fi, wi-max, firewire, usb, etc. Should we just keep going down the list?

I'll stop there for now...I don't feel like continuing my ranting. Let's some it up by saying users are stuipd (or just don't care to learn any of it), software developers do a HORRID job of doing decent human-computer interfacing and keeping consistency, there's a serious info overload, and a massive lack of training.

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FiredrakeRAGE
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IrishTD said:
quote:
First, why would anyone bother learning the various number prefixes (kilo, mega, giga)? Really, how many people would see gigameter and have any idea what it was? Noone remembers that stuff.
I would.

quote:
Fifth, info overload. Firewall, router, spyware, bluetooth, wi-fi, wi-max, firewire, usb, etc. Should we just keep going down the list?
Like I said - I don't have too much of a problem with people not knowing that 'USB' is 'Universal Serial Bus'. On the other hand, how hard is it to lump that under your 'things that connect one thing to another thing' category? Secondly, why would one not assume that 'spyware' would spy, a 'router' would route something (probably something associated with the internet), a firewall would act as a firewall, and a 'trojan horse' act as an innocuous file that does bad things?

The more esoteric terms are understandable. What I do not follow is how it can be difficult to go to (for example) google and say 'definition: wifi', and find that it is
quote:
A set of standards that set forth the specifications for transmitting data over a wireless network.
If I hear my mechanic say that my transmission needs replacing, I go to the 'net, and find out what I can about transmissions. It may not tell me everything I need to know, but I can understand the basic function, position, etc. Understand, I'm not complaining about stupid people; they have a very good excuse for not learning computing. I'm complaining about smart people that for some reason cannot seem to apply the knowledge learned in one area to another.

--Firedrake

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Kosmic_Fool
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quote:
While a person might not know that a gigabyte 2^30 bytes, they should at least know that it is larger than a megabyte.
Remember that you're dealing mostly with people who don't know that type of information, i.e. the higher (and lower, for that matter) orders of magnitude in the metric system. And, lacking that knowledge, which have people heard more often as describing something large, 'giga' or 'mega'?

quote:
they ought to be able to figure out that it is a mechanism to separate them from bad things by simply thinking about what a 'firewall' unrelated to a computer is.
How many people know what a firewall is, away from a computer? Outside of some older novels, I don't know if I've ever seen this word used. I think the word used more often now is firebreak.

quote:
a 'router' would route something
Who else grew up in a house with more emphasis on carpentry than computers? Anyone besides me?

quote:
I'm complaining about smart people that for some reason cannot seem to apply the knowledge learned in one area to another.
Laziness! [Big Grin]
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The Drake
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Thing is, computers are appliances to most users. The problem is that the users don't realize this. People can drive a car without knowing what a spark plug looks like, and people can use a computer without knowing what a firewall does.

But, our ignorant user blindly thrashes around installing and uninstalling essential parts. If they used it like an appliance or a machine that they don't understand, they'd stay out of trouble.

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Jesse
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Ummm the common non-computer related use of the term "firewall" relates to the rather thick piece of steel sperating the engine compartment from the passenger compartment in a vehicle.
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WarrsawPact
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quote:
Hey, could you loosen up your post a bit and cut down on the leet speak? I'd understand you better if you used laymen's terms.
2 1337 4 U?

ROFL LOLWTFBBQ

I R teh win!

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WarrsawPact
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0v3rcl0ck yu0r BR3AKFA5T!!!11!!
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scifibum
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quote:
I do not understand the intelligence transfer issues associated with computers. Some people that are perfectly intelligent seem to be unable to apply concepts from the rest of the world to computers and the 'net. Technical jargon is difficult to understand. One should, however, be able to apply past experience to understand the general function of a mechanism.
I'm always frustrated by this as well. I'm not in IT but I'm fairly proficient with computers and have some programming experience. I've taught myself almost everything I know about computers just by trying things, experimenting, and (later) searching on the net. So I know that people can understand computers if they want to.

It's especially frustrating when a co-worker asks me to explain something, and I do, and they just stop listening halfway through. They get a glazed look in their eyes...but they don't stop me and say "I don't understand something you just said. Could you slow down or explain it in simpler terms?" They just give up, kind of withdraw into themselves. I imagine this is partly my fault for not being a good teacher, but they ASKED me...the least they could do is actively try to understand.

I certainly don't think all computer users should understand technical details about how computers work, but there IS a distinct fear or reluctance to learn on the part of some otherwise smart people...probably stems from jargon overload as the article suggests. But they should just try a little harder.

end of preachy blather

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scifibum
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Oh geez...just read page 2 of the article. I'm not done with my blather after all.


quote:
The it terms most likely to leave you baffled:

Megabytes - the amount of disc space on your computer and the amount of memory

Gigabytes - also refers to disc space, but measures it in larger quantities

Why so vague? A gigabyte is "larger" than a megabyte. Why can't they say "A gigabyte is about a thousand megabytes." Not too technical, not too hard to remember, but gives the reader an idea of the scale. I don't think they're giving even the jargonophobes enough credit. Sheesh. And this:

quote:

Excell - this helps to run programs on your PC.

I'm tempted to say this is just plain nonsense. Do they mean "Excel" the spreadsheet program? Or is this something real that helps to run programs on my PC that I don't know about? (Can't find anything likely on Google.)
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noah
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quote:
Excell - this helps to run programs on your PC.

Java Script - a computer programming language.

These are incorrect. Excel (one 'l') is a program which creates and edits spreadsheets. Javascript (one word) is a scripting language used in web pages.
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halfhaggis
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Point 1: It takes just one arrogant asshole who thinks he's god of of all things silicon & binary to make a question asker feel stupid, and so never want to ask another IT related question again.
Thus, letting the IT people fix the problem and going off to make a cup of tea while they do it seems perfectly reasonable.

Point 2: Technophiles are often so familiar with the terms and concepts that they take it for granted that other people don't care and are just using the PC, not because their life is empty and meaningless without a computer but, because they just need to get a report written.

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The Drake
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Quickly, explain the difference between a router, a switch, and a hub based on their names.

A router routes, a switcher switches, and a hub is a waystation between two points. None of that tells you anything about their comparative functions, and users shouldn't need to know what they mean if IT is doing their damned jobs right.

There is a special hell reserved for IT professionals who mock a user for asking if they can still send email when the router is down.

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javelin
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Actually, those aren't the worst definitions I've ever heard, Drake - for any of the three.
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Zyne
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quote:
There is a special hell reserved for IT professionals who mock a user for asking if they can still send email when the router is down.
My computer guy says I can send and receive emails from my blackberry when the router is down so long as I know the speshul sekret blackberry PIN where I'm sending to. HAH.
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TomDavidson
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quote:

Technophiles are often so familiar with the terms and concepts that they take it for granted that other people don't care and are just using the PC, not because their life is empty and meaningless without a computer but, because they just need to get a report written.

I still know how to use a pencil. I don't drive a car without having some idea of how it works.

We should require people to obtain computing licenses proving basic aptitude -- and I'm speaking here as a corporate trainer and network administrator. There are a truly astonishing number of techphobic idiots working in offices today, only vaguely aware that the tools they're trying to use actually require thought.

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WarrsawPact
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And yet productivity has skyrocketed.
What a country.

[ September 26, 2005, 10:04 PM: Message edited by: WarrsawPact ]

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IrishTD
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TomD --

You'd be amazed at how many people drive cars without having any concept of how they work. If I wanted to spend the time, I could probably dig up a radio chat where a couple morning hosts called a girl and acted like the repair shop (her Dad wanted them to do this)...she was going to end up with two transmissions, some headlight fluid, etc.

**
Here's the thing with computers: they shouldn't require much thought. It's a tool, just like a hammer. Sure, some tools require a bit of training, just like a puter, but it shouldn't be insane. An average user shouldn't have to know the differences between a router, switch, and hub for example. Things should just work....and we haven't made it that far yet (thanks M$) unfortunately.

**
Halfhaggis's first point is so very true. Would you ask a sports nut to explain something to you if they mocked you to no end for your stupid question? Probably not (could this explain why some women, thankfully not my better half, hate football so much?? [Confused] )

And HH's second point is very true as well. How much jargon do you know for field's outside your area that you have to interact with? All the marketing buzzwords and acronym's that change frequently? Probably not (I know I wouldn't)...so why do we expect the average user to know more IT stuff...it's silliness.

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javelin
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I think a refrigerator or a TV set (and the cable connection, etc.) are excellent comparisons - do you understand how they work? Should you understand? Do you need to be licensed to use them? If not, then, in my opinion, we should be TRYING to get computers and their peripherals to work at the same level.

If it is broken, however, and someone screws us over while fixing it, 'cause we know nothing about it? Well, that's the way it works now, isn't it? And who's fault is that? I can install a flux capacitor in your TV set as easily as I can in your computer (not to mention your refrigerator).

[ September 27, 2005, 12:02 PM: Message edited by: javelin ]

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Nic Hobson
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A quote that I feel is more than relevant

"We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works. How do you recognise something that is still technology? A good clue is if it comes with a manual." Douglas Adams

I work in IT and I’m amazed that despite being 30 years old some people still look down when I ask them what they can see on their desktop.

Nic

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The Drake
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Why wouldn't you ask them what they can see on their monitor? But yes, if the context is calling for help with the computer, that's a little silly.

Reminds me of the time that my ex-wife called to tell me that the computer was making a strange noise. 15 minutes later, I had the machine turned off and she found a clock next to the monitor.

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TomDavidson
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quote:

If not, then, in my opinion, we should be TRYING to get computers and their peripherals to work at the same level.

No, we shouldn't.
Because my router can do more than your refrigerator, unless your refrigerator can tell the time, permit only certain people to open the door (fridge or freezer) at certain times of day, and then only to extract certain types of food, and permit only certain types of groceries to be placed inside (types and categories defined in a separate file stuck by magnet to the front of the door) -- and automatically direct frozen foods to the freezer, regardless of which door you open.

If you build a refrigerator that can do this, I guarantee you it will be as hard to configure as a router; most people will leave it set to its defaults, its little clock blinking 12:00:00, and occasionally complain about why their rice pudding is being sorted to the vegetable bin.

Computer stuff is HARD. Even the desktop stuff is hard. Our problem isn't that we make it unnecessarily hard -- because the only way to make it easier is to remove options, which is hardly a decent solution -- but that people expect it to be easier.

"It's like a pencil," they exclaim. "It's a toaster!"

No, it's not. It's an insanely complicated piece of hardware running a number of insanely complicated pieces of software, probably connected by another insanely complicated piece of hardware to other pieces of hardware which in turn are running complicated pieces of software which make it possible for some of your software to communicate over hardware to other software on other hardware.

And, yeah, you don't need to understand EVERYTHING. But you owe it to yourself to know what a double-click is, what a user profile is, what a directory tree is, and the difference between an internal network and the Internet.

And if you DON'T know these things, you should just admit that you're happy with your ignorance and not COMPLAIN that computers are too hard to use -- because computers SHOULD be as hard to use as they are.

I worry constantly that attempts to dumb down computers will make it harder and harder for real configuration to happen.

[ September 27, 2005, 03:15 PM: Message edited by: TomDavidson ]

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LetterRip
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TomD,

quote:
Computer stuff is HARD. Even the desktop stuff is hard. Our problem isn't that we make it unnecessarily hard -- because the only way to make it easier is to remove options, which is hardly a decent solution -- but that people expect it to be easier.
Things are frequently unnecisarily hard, and often can be greatly improved by things like intelligent defaults; grouping of related features; using commonality across interfaces; and having setting configurations that you can choose based on the primary purpose. The reality is that much software and hardware has very poor interface design. That is a big part of the popularity of Mac OS X - you have all of the power of unix available to you, but with the interface design and consistency that only Apple does.

LetterRip

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javelin
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quote:
And if you DON'T know these things, you should just admit that you're happy with your ignorance and not COMPLAIN that computers are too hard to use -- because computers SHOULD be as hard to use as they are.

I worry constantly that attempts to dumb down computers will make it harder and harder for real configuration to happen.

I agree with this completely. As to the rest, please read LetterRip's post.

I believe in INTELLIGENT DEFAULTS, with an amazing amount of configurability for those who want it. And that should be layered to. I'm a developer/analyst by day - what should I be shooting for? Let's use the power of computers for GOOD [Smile] .

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IrishTD
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I'll put a full agreement in with LetterRip's post. I'm a computer engineer -- but I hate having to try and fix a computer/manage it/etc. Just not my thing. But, OS X makes it so I don't have to do most of that. And that makes me happy. (If i ever wanted to deal with it, I could...I just don't want to!).
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The Drake
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I had a friend who once used to describe software like this:

It was hard to write, it should be hard to use.

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javelin
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quote:
Originally posted by The Drake:
I had a friend who once used to describe software like this:

It was hard to write, it should be hard to use.

Well, there's the problem, ain't it? The classic problem why Linux sat around unused for so long - attitude (and a bad one). [Smile]
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TomDavidson
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quote:

OS X makes it so I don't have to do most of that.

No. It makes it so you don't realize you have to do most of that. [Smile]

I'm a Mac admin, too. And while OS X gives you better defaults than a basic XP install, it's hardly functional out of the box -- depending, of course, on how you define functional. The genius of OS X is that all the confusing options are simply COMPLETELY INVISIBLE to the user, generally accessible only from the terminal and/or buried under a random tab -- and, of course, it doesn't permit third-party hardware and only a limited amount of third-party software.

Fewer visible options = perceived ease of use

[ September 27, 2005, 05:27 PM: Message edited by: TomDavidson ]

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javelin
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Functional, to me, means that most people can use it with doing any configuration outside, perhaps, of an initial "Setup Wizard" that is understandable to everyone.

And yes, even Windows XP fits that description for the vast majority of users.

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LetterRip
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Tom,

quote:
And while OS X gives you better defaults than a basic XP install, it's hardly functional out of the box -- depending, of course, on how you define functional.
Okay what 'functionality' do you feel it lacks out of the box that would be useful?

LetterRip

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Gaoics79
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quote:
But, OS X makes it so I don't have to do most of that. And that makes me happy.
I remember using some Imacs a couple years back. They crashed constantly, the one button mouse interface was idiotic, and they were no more easy to use than a windows box. In fact, I find Mac products in general to be shoddy. Have you met a person whose Ipod hasn't broken down at least once? I haven't, and I've met at least 5 people who own the things. My friend's has broken down 4 times in less than two years, and the software routinely crashes, typically while he's updating firmware. My sister's has broken down once in less than 6 months. And I still haven't figured out why everyone is in love with these malfunctioning mp3 players. There were hard drive based mp3 players before Ipod, and they actually worked. It just goes to show that good marketing can get people to buy any old piece of trash with a sleek exterior.

Sorry, that was a bit of a rant, but I had to get that off my chest [Smile]

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The Drake
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Go fix it
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FiredrakeRAGE
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See, I cannot stand the Apple interface. I also do not like the Windows XP interface. Smart defaults are good. Removing the ability to configure without jumping through hoops is bad.

--Firedrake

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Adam Lassek
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quote:
Well, there's the problem, ain't it? The classic problem why Linux sat around unused for so long - attitude (and a bad one).
I don't understand this comment. The Linux kernel's userbase has been growing exponentially since its release 13 years ago. It never "sat around."
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javelin
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quote:
Originally posted by Adam Lassek:
quote:
Well, there's the problem, ain't it? The classic problem why Linux sat around unused for so long - attitude (and a bad one).
I don't understand this comment. The Linux kernel's userbase has been growing exponentially since its release 13 years ago. It never "sat around."
It's only now seeing adoption in the mid to large size business (in the last four or five years), and only in the last couple of years has it achieved any sort of market in the home of the average computer user.
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simplybiological
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Does anyone thing that some people are just... innately better at negotiating technology?
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javelin
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quote:
Originally posted by simplybiological:
Does anyone thing that some people are just... innately better at negotiating technology?

Without a doubt [Smile]
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