dipankard at gmail dot com
Composed by dd/ts, 2010.
GLT Ishkool Lessons:
A Personal Journey into GNU-Linux
How i did NOT write a book
If we consider a book (an one-way-exegesis of a stripped down two-way communication) as a matrix of the four elements: Discourse Speech Whisper Silence: then, this is one book that rejects a lot of the first two and deliberately carves in the last two into the nonchalant world of texts-that-be.
And this makes the creation of a TOC, a TOC that represents the book, infinitely more difficult than what it sounds. Let me make an analogy to make the things clear.
Consider a Journey to a strange town. A stranger comes to your town. This guy is one first-timer, and you got to get him through the town such a way that it breeds a kind of familiarity with the TOWN. All of a sudden, you discover: the town, your own town: the objectively situated town in the objectively defined geography of this planet, is actually, how subjective.
Ask two partners separately about a marriage after one lifetime of togetherness, and you come to know how different those two marriages were that these two people lived through, which unfortunately, in terms of objective history, were the one-and-only marriage. And this is true for your town too. A million towns: known and proclaimed to be the one-and-only in terms of objective history and geography.
This is exactly what happened with me when i started interacting with my younger friends in GLT and, later, went into a series of lessons that taught me more than it taught them. In fact it was the very character of GNU-Linux (i prefer to call it that way than GNU/Linux, for me they come together, and now that i am ninety-three — i care a damn for history) that made this curiosity a bit curiouser than my experience in teaching mainstreamly stupid economics for a little less than two decades. There it is more of playing an acolyte of a very streamlined and monolithic Power Discourse. And GNU-Linux, by the virtue of its vice of being on-the-move of a movement, is actually defined by million mutinies.
So, to continue, with the analogy of guiding a stranger through my town, i rejected the tradition of delineating the structured text of universal and objective history and geography of my town, the way the usual texts are written. And i went into a deliberately informal and personal loiter. Loitering and loafing around your own town. And while doing it, the stranger, starts to get the real feel of your town, the way i feel it, and he starts to share MY town. We loaf and roam, and return and return to some repeating points, every repeat revealing to him marginally some more details than the earlier meet. And i try to anticipate where he cannot understand something or someone, and i just tell him my personal feelings about that place or guy or some eccentricity of my hometown.
And because all these communications are PERSONAL from the word go, he knows, the very words that lead and guide him through the tour, are untrue, that is, NOT objectively true, are just another personal feeling, another version of what is already growing within him. He starts to frame a judgment about the relations between me-and-the-town, me-and-the-system. And what can be better reading of a real system than reading a real user of the system — how this habitant of this town is habiting in it — he starts to judge: is it habitable? He, in the process, becomes a reader in his trying to read my reading. So, it is the ‘i’ that he reads in what i am saying. And thus, automatically, becomes a reader himself. He has started using the use of this user that is me in his learning process of becoming an user.
And, so, that is how i did NOT write a book. Better, i whispered a NON-book.
The Concept of a DAY
Just push this analogy on. You are leading the guy through your town. How long does go a DAY? That long till your limbs cramp or you just feel that it is too much. The concept of Chapter goes with a concept of Objective Development Timepath of a subject, and so a Chapter, on any Chapter, is automatically and internally structured and given by the nature and scope of the book you are writing. The follow from the book from an internal logic.
Here the concept of DAY is external and thrown upon the go of the series. At times, i end the day abruptly because i think it is too much for the stranger. At times it is too much for me. The objective structure of the science does not matter here. We the subjects, the writer and the reader: our feelings: we do matter.
Every DAY starts where the earlier day ended, without any inner rhyme or reason loaded with universal and objective TRUTH. You just start from the street where you left off yesterday and called it a day. And as you two, from this sharing the guided tour, have already started becoming familiar, pass some friendly subversions and not-so-gentlemanly jokes, and start a new loiter. While loitering you go into some lane or by-lane or chance across a shop or joint or some mural that is interesting or different or question-invoking — then and there you go into it and continue that strand, and after some time, when it seems (seems to me that it may seem to him too) that enough is enough, and return to the main street where you were walking. After quite a few loiters and bifurcations and trifurcations and polyfurcations of this kind many heterogeneous elements start to gather in his head: they have only one thing in common: my habiting of this town: my use of this system: the system starts to gather in his head.
And this loiter, actually it is not that kind of a randomness, you can call it a controlled chaos, a deterministic uncertainty, with some very definitive tweaking of the structure of the chaos by me, returns him again and again to some deliberately chosen parts of the town. And because he already has some kind of a reading about this part, he starts to judge his own judgment and read his own reading, compare his new experience with what he knew earlier. Like, say, the concept of /etc/passwd or /etc/lilo.conf or ‘mount’ or ‘partition’ or ‘logical block’ or ‘shell’ have returned more than ten or fifteen times, and never completing the topic, suspending it mid-air, like it really happens: can you know a real street of a real town? But, obviously, you can live in it.
The concept DAY stands out against the concept of CHAPTER in its stress on the real-user and real-would-be-user-who-has-already-started-using-the-system-maybe-in-an-obtuse-way, while the concept of CHAPTER has its focus on the science-of-use.
The elusive TOC and the scope of each chapter
So, this makes the creation of a TOC that represents the book infinitely more difficult than it is for a book. It is actually an impossibility here. Like say, the broad heading of day 6, day 7, day 8 and day 9 will all be ‘filesystem’. But, does it make any sense?
The subheading of the subtours strike a kind of semblance of a sense. Here i present that structure, number of words and combined number of drawings or photographs or tables, all of which obviously may change somewhat in the final version.
Day Zero Words: 12218 Graphics: 39
Day One Words: 9058 Graphics: 6
Day Two Words: 6575 Graphics: 2
Day Three Words: 16175 Graphics: 33
Day Four Words: 12056 Graphics: 18
Day Five Words: 15406 Graphics: 9
Day Six Words: 15320 Graphics: 8
Day Seven Words: 16176 Graphics: 4
Day Eight Words: 16725 Graphics: 8
Day Nine Words: 17334 Graphics: 0
Day Ten Words: 40486 Graphics: 6
Intended audience and the scope of the book
Any news of a book of this kind getting written or printed, as a Pavlovian reflex, brings forth a colonial smile and query: ‘Oh, after reading that I would learn Linux?’
This book adores to frustrated and dishearten things like that. It is NOT a newbie guide, and it never intends to be one. In the opening paragraph of Day One, it has a sentence in Bangla, that will come very close to this: “It is a guarantee from my part that you will never learn GNU-Linux after reading this, in fact i am just the transcriber, the book is getting written by GNU-Linux itself, in the back of your own head, in terms of your effort.”
At the very sellable best, this book can be termed as one that will help someone think in GNU-Linux, if and only if that one in the first place intended to think in it, toil towards it, and grope for it. Try like hell to get it, and in that hellish journey this book can be your close comrade.
While interacting with my younger co-workers and friends in GLT, i have seen the drafts of this text to excite some people, and they thought that it really worked in helping them grasp the system, but the magic actually belonged to these guys themselves.
This non-book helps a guy help himself. Someone already using GNU-Linux, using it more or less in the dumb and blind M$ way, now trying to reach out towards the sleeping giant in his own box, is its intended user. But one who does not have even an inkling of suspicion about the existence of the very giant is hardly a reader of this book.
Its scope in GNU-Linux starts and ends at the command prompt. The GUI is deliberately stymied. First, to deal GUI with the level of intricacy that prevails in this book would need a mammoth of a book, and hardly i am the person fit to do it. Second, doing a blowjob to the consumer-user was not exactly my intention, rather to build some able end-users into smaller power-users was the name of the game.