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Thread: Terminals and GUIs

  1. #1
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    Cool Terminals and GUIs

    So I've been discussing this topic with a friend of mine. To give a bit of background, I have been using linux mainly ubuntu as my main OS on and off for the past 10 years, and am quite familiar with windows as well. This friend of mine actually introduced me to linux (ubuntu breezy badger!) 10 years ago, but he has far more windows knowledge than I do and maybe a bit less linux knowledge than I do (debatable). My friend is also a gifted programmer, whereas I have only dabbled in programming. Also, he is not a linux basher or a windows lover or anything like that, he is quite OS neutral, and loves and hates things about every major OS, quite like myself.

    Anyways, he says that every time he has tried using linux (usually ubuntu), he hates the fact that either
    a) he finds a really annoying bug during the install process or when using the newly installed system normally, and/or
    b) he has to use the terminal to do/fix something.
    I told him he must have terrible luck with his hardware or something because I usually never have any problems with ubuntu, or at least just a minimal amount of bugs (no more than I would in Windows or OS X).

    He's of the opinion that in a modern, general purpose, user friendly OS (such as windows, OS X, ubuntu, etc), you shouldn't need to use the command line or edit config files manually at all if you're an end user. He says it's fine to have config files but there should be standardized, user friendly GUI wrappers around these config files and system settings.

    Now, I've explained to him that I've actually run ubuntu for months or years on end and rarely needed the terminal for anything; I only use the terminal as a preference sometimes, and that many people say the same thing. Either way, when it comes down to it though, I agree with him in general. I feel like any serious user friendly OS should have nice standardized GUI wrappers around all system settings config files for example. I'm not saying instead of plain text config files; I mean have the GUI wrapper as the main method of doing things, but leave the config files where they are in case you want to do things the manual way.

    Now I realize there are already a lot of GUI tools for system settings and configuration, and just about every DE has some sort of control panel looking app. But at the same time, if you (as an end user) run into some kind of issue and you can't find an obvious GUI tool to fix it, you are basically forced to google the issue or post a thread here, and in either case you will most likely be told "copy and paste this into the terminal" without you actually knowing what you're doing. Does this happen in other OS's such as windows? Yes, but not on the scale that it does with linux. Most online troubleshooting guides for windows guide you through a GUI solution to a problem. Most linux guides give you terminal commands. No arguing that.

    A good example would be network troubleshooting. In windows for example, if you can't connect to the internet, you can right click and click "troubleshoot problems" and a simple dialog box appears that in the background performs basic troubleshooting steps to try to resolve the problem, such as disabling/re-enabling the internet connection, and performing commands like "ipconfig /release" and "ipconfig /renew". As far as I know, linux doesn't have anything nice and simple like this for a regular ol' end user. You're stuck with googling for help and probably getting shown how to run a command in the terminal that might fix your problem.

    So what is the actual gripe with linux power users and GUIs? Too often I've heard things like "GUIs are slow and bloated" or "they are way buggier than editing plain text files" or similar things, but it really just doesn't seem convincing. A common thing I hear linux people say is "once you get familiar with the linux way of doing things, the terminal makes more sense." That sounds pretty vague to me. Has it just become some form of an elitist statement? I guess the most extreme example of this would be a distro like Arch, where they glorify the terminal and manually editing config files for all users. Obviously that's a bit different because their target isn't your average joe regular user like ubuntu's is, but still.

    Thoughts please!

    **I'd like to reiterate, that I am talking about terminal usage for the average end user, not power users or technically-minded folk.

    ***If you would like to see what my friend (the one I'm talking about at the top of this post) said on this subject, he posted this in this thread.
    Last edited by user1397; February 25th, 2016 at 06:10 PM. Reason: Heavily edited because OP was poorly written in haste :)

  2. #2
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    Re: Is command line usage really better than GUI? Terminal vs GUI megathread

    Neither is better. Doing what you need to do in a manner with which you are comfortable is better. In my opinion, the purist terminal elitists fail: they trade pragmatism for a false sense of superiority.

    The console is simply "universal". That is -- without knowing which one of dozens of GUIs you may be using, I can tell you how to do something via the command line. Therein lies its utility.

    But nearly anything you want to do can be done via a GUI, be it the components of the DE/WM you are using or by using installed apps.

    That said, I use the terminal very extensively -- and that out of long experience since the 70s and Unix, not out of some misguided belief that I am somehow a "real" user.

    The machine is your tool to do with what you want to do however you want to do it to get the results that you want.

    By the way, when you say "I feel like any serious user friendly OS should have nice standardized GUI wrappers around all system settings config files", who is it that gets to decide what the standardized GUI is? That is a problem.
    Last edited by QIII; February 18th, 2016 at 09:50 AM.
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  3. #3
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    Re: Terminals and GUIs

    Quote Originally Posted by QIII View Post
    Neither is better. Doing what you need to do in a manner with which you are comfortable is better. In my opinion, the purist terminal elitists fail: they trade pragmatism for a false sense of superiority.

    The console is simply "universal". That is -- without knowing which one of dozens of GUIs you may be using, I can tell you how to do something via the command line. Therein lies its utility.

    But nearly anything you want to do can be done via a GUI, be it the components of the DE/WM you are using or by using installed apps.

    That said, I use the terminal very extensively -- and that out of long experience since the 70s and Unix, not out of some misguided belief that I am somehow a "real" user.

    The machine is your tool to do with what you want to do however you want to do it to get the results that you want.
    I agree with you for the most part. I agree about the machine being your tool and using the best tool for the job. And you are right, the console is universal. I guess I was talking more about how things should be by default, or for most users. In that case I think having extensive, standard GUI tools should be the norm, but of course the option to use the terminal should always remain.
    Last edited by user1397; February 25th, 2016 at 05:29 PM.

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    Re: Is command line usage really better than GUI? Terminal vs GUI megathread

    See the last line I just added.
    Please read The Forum Rules and The Forum Posting Guidelines

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    Re: Terminals and GUIs

    Quote Originally Posted by QIII View Post
    By the way, when you say "I feel like any serious user friendly OS should have nice standardized GUI wrappers around all system settings config files", who is it that gets to decide what the standardized GUI is? That is a problem.
    Ahah, why that is a whole separate issue

    But yea in an ecosystem as fragmented as linux, standardization is hard. Although you could say there are certain tools that have become standard, and there are certain standards or guidelines in place. But yea, you definitely bring up a great point.

    Also I'd like to say I am not like professing that this should definitely be done, I'm just talking in hypotheticals here and asking for opinions.
    Last edited by user1397; February 25th, 2016 at 05:29 PM.

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    Re: Is command line usage really better than GUI? Terminal vs GUI megathread

    Quote Originally Posted by ubuntuman001 View Post
    So what is the actual gripe with linux power users and GUI tools? Too often I've heard things like "GUI tools are slow and bloated" or "they are way buggier than editing plain text files" or similar things, but it really just doesn't seem convincing. Windows for example, has great GUI tools to edit almost any settings you can think of, and OS X has quite a few though not nearly as many as Windows.
    Please check the philosophy behind gnome desktop and you will see that they are trying not to overwhelm the common user with various settings and options in GUI. KDE is the opposite of that and they try to create a GUI for everything. and they encourage this. perhaps your friend could help them in this process?! it's not that no one wants them, but more the case that no one made them. everyone is invited to make them.

    A quick example I thought of would be if you were trying to edit any grub settings like the timeout (I could see how a regular user would want to do this, because the normal timeout is 10 seconds and maybe they think that takes too long). Without googling it, it would be nearly impossible for a regular user to figure out how to edit grub settings. And I think there maybe is a GUI wrapper to edit grub settings nowadays, but it is definitely not installed by default and usually isn't mentioned in grub editing guides.

    So in this example, the user has no choice but to google information and then type in some strange commands to edit something in his system. The ideal would be to have a "edit bootloader" settings in a main settings GUI app, and from there being able to edit the basic things like timeout.
    a regular user would not want to do this. a user that bought a system with ubuntu preloaded has no need for this. in fact they do not need to know about grub at all.

    and speaking of boot loader example - this is how same operation is done in windows 10 : https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/lib...(v=vs.85).aspx
    oh is that a command line I see?

    and going back to gnome there is an application available called Grub Customizer. might not be preloaded but that is understandable as regular user does not need to know about grub.

    Another common thing I hear linux people say is "once you get familiar with the linux way of doing things, the terminal makes more sense." That sounds pretty vague to me, like a not-convincing-at-all argument. It seems like maybe linux (and I guess any unix-like) users have been sucked into this mindset that terminal and config files is for the best, but why exactly is that? Has it just become some form of an elitist statement, kind of like how vim users think their way of doing things is better just because? (had to throw that one in there )
    because some operations can be done faster. same goes for windows. there are some huge operations that are just simply done faster via terminal. if we talk about home PC there are maybe only some cases when CLI is faster, but if you have administration of thousands of PCs believe me that plenty is still done in terminal even in windows. ever heard of windows batch files?

    config files - I don't know if you used any in Linux. they often include documentation. and they work in same way weather desktop is installed or there is only text terminal interface.

    why so much is available in CLI - Linux was created from Unix which was mostly in server. it then moved to desktop. windows was created on desktop first and then moved to server area. in linux same edition, same install can be used as server or as desktop. windows has some limitations.
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    Re: Is command line usage really better than GUI? Terminal vs GUI megathread

    Quote Originally Posted by QIII View Post
    ...
    By the way, when you say "I feel like any serious user friendly OS should have nice standardized GUI wrappers around all system settings config files", who is it that gets to decide what the standardized GUI is? That is a problem.
    KDE v/s GNOME v/s XFCE v/s Enlightenment v/s ...

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    Re: Terminals and GUIs

    Quote Originally Posted by mastablasta View Post
    Please check the philosophy behind gnome desktop and you will see that they are trying not to overwhelm the common user with various settings and options in GUI. KDE is the opposite of that and they try to create a GUI for everything. and they encourage this. perhaps your friend could help them in this process?! it's not that no one wants them, but more the case that no one made them. everyone is invited to make them.
    I agree with you on that, gnome seems to be taking away more and more GUI options every year, while KDE seems to add more and more, so in this regard I do consider KDE to be implementing this better than anyone else in the linux world at the moment. And I will suggest to my friend that perhaps he can try to help make/improve these things with open source projects, he might be into the idea.



    a regular user would not want to do this. a user that bought a system with ubuntu preloaded has no need for this. in fact they do not need to know about grub at all.

    and speaking of boot loader example - this is how same operation is done in windows 10 : https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/lib...(v=vs.85).aspx
    oh is that a command line I see?

    and going back to gnome there is an application available called Grub Customizer. might not be preloaded but that is understandable as regular user does not need to know about grub.
    You're right, the grub example was bad. I could see how there is a small chance a non-power user would maybe think the bootloader menu takes too long and would wanna maybe see if there is a way to change that, but a regular user wouldn't even know where to begin searching for that...he/she probably wouldn't know the terms "bootloader" much less "grub" or anything related to it. And yea I mentioned how I thought there was a GUI tool for that in my original post.

    Can't that be done in a GUI way in windows though? I thought if you go to advanced system settings, under the advanced tab there is a "Startup and Recovery" section with a settings button. Maybe this is for a different setting and not a timeout though, not sure.




    because some operations can be done faster. same goes for windows. there are some huge operations that are just simply done faster via terminal. if we talk about home PC there are maybe only some cases when CLI is faster, but if you have administration of thousands of PCs believe me that plenty is still done in terminal even in windows. ever heard of windows batch files?

    config files - I don't know if you used any in Linux. they often include documentation. and they work in same way weather desktop is installed or there is only text terminal interface.

    why so much is available in CLI - Linux was created from Unix which was mostly in server. it then moved to desktop. windows was created on desktop first and then moved to server area. in linux same edition, same install can be used as server or as desktop. windows has some limitations.
    I agree, it can be faster. I meant my original argument in the case of regular users and basic system settings changes and maintenance. And yes, I have used config files before...I don't know why you ask that. Whether they have documentation or not isn't related to the discussion on whether there should be a GUI wrapper for them or not.
    Last edited by user1397; February 25th, 2016 at 05:29 PM.

  9. #9
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    Re: Is command line usage really better than GUI? Terminal vs GUI megathread

    Using the command line is not -- at least, should not be -- necessary to using a Linux distribution that targets mainstream non-technical users. It's not on Windows or OS X or iOS and Android, so it shouldn't be needed on Linux.

    Many Linux sites offer "guidance" that's strictly command line because, I'd argue, many simply plagiarize it from other sites, it's easier to create than it is to build a lengthy howto with screen grabs of GUI tools, and they want to encourage their readers to simply (unthinkingly) copy-and-paste instructions.

    The command line is as much of interface as any GUI. It exists because operating systems and other software existed before hardware was capable of displaying a GUI. Think mid-20th century.

    The commands we enter on a command line are interpreted and acted on by software. Since software is rather literal, what we type must conform to a specific vocabulary, a specific syntax, etc. That accounts for the precision the command line demands. It's unforgiving handing of user errors is more tradition and inertia.

    However, there's nothing you can do at the command line that can't also be done in a GUI, as long as the developers include that capability. The command line is considered more capable only because GUI's are limited to the capabilities the designers and developers chose to include. (Actually, so are command line tools.)

    Both are equally rigid. GUI tools simply prepackage things.

    Of course, the opposite is also true. Imagine doing what you do with Photoshop or Gimp at the command line.

    There's always been some degree of chest thumping in some circles trying to position "real" Linux users as folks who live on the command line. Pfft.
    Last edited by buzzingrobot; February 18th, 2016 at 01:50 PM.

  10. #10
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    Re: Is command line usage really better than GUI? Terminal vs GUI megathread

    Quote Originally Posted by ubuntuman001 View Post
    Can't that be done in a GUI way in windows though? I thought if you go to advanced system settings, under the advanced tab there is a "Startup and Recovery" section with a settings button. Maybe this is for a different setting and not a timeout though, not sure.
    quite possibly it can. if not by default then by some 3rd party tools. but that 3rd party made them and often these tools are closed source and sold. for example TweakUI might have it. there are also graphic registry cleaners. point is in Linux there are GUI tools as long as someone made them. if no one makes them or feels the need for them then they are not available. for example why would you need a GUI for fail2ban config if it is used primarily on headless servers where for various reasons you do not want to have or need a desktop GUI?

    Even servers have plenty (web) GUI's available so one can administer them and change config files via GUI (Zentyal, OpenMediaVault, Nethserver, ClearOS...). so again many tools exist, many are not installed by default. if it doesn't exist then it's not that no one wants it, it's because either no one feels the need for it or no one made it yet. it doesn't have to do with elitist or anything like that. I use Linux and I am crazy about GUI. I even helped with bugs and suggestion for one app gui improvement (yes only one, no time these days...).

    I agree, it can be faster. I meant my original argument in the case of regular users and basic system settings changes and maintenance. And yes, I have used config files before...I don't know why you ask that. Whether they have documentation or not isn't related to the discussion on whether there should be a GUI wrapper for them or not.
    I don't know what basic operation requires CLI and is not available via GUI. last thing I ran from CLI on desktop was phoronix test suite and it was just because it was faster copying a command.
    note that I use KDE but:
    File management is covered, troubleshooting is covered, bug reporting is covered, drivers install is covered, networking covered, PPA's & software install is covered by GUI, systems settings have a GUI, backups have GUI, system upgrade has GUI, system install has GUI, logs overview has GUI... so I wonder what basic system function requires a CLI?

    CLI only programs do need CLI obviously. but it's the same thing in windows. and just like in windows you can run them from GUI.
    Read the easy to understand, lots of pics Ubuntu manual.
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