[svlug] yum extender

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Fri Jul 8 16:25:57 PDT 2005

Quoting Bill Hubbard (kwooda at netzero.net):

> Thanks for all the info

Yr. welcome.

> What if I'm running a GUI app?

Good point.  This is actually one of the less-understood reasons why
techies tend to ask querents to please do this-or-that diagnostic step
using simple command-line tools -- to avoid exactly that problem.

The latter tools will generally tend to have more deterministic
behaviour, fewer dependencies, fewer nasty bugs, and better diagnostic
output (as I mentioned earlier), but _also_ are much, make it much
easier to log all input and output completely and then send that
information to the people trying to help you.[1]  This sometimes leads
to a tug-of-war between the techie and the newcomer, like this:

  Newcomer:  Why isn't my copy of Mozilla working?  It fires up, but then
  tells me something about the site being unreachable.

  Techie:  OK, I'd like you to open a terminal window, do "/sbin/ifconfig -a"
  and "/sbin/route -n", and then post back the _full_ command transcript
  of your typing that command plus the full return-value text.

  Newcomer:  I'd much rather figure this out using just Mozilla, since
  I'm a simple end-user and don't think I should have to use strange
  command-line stuff.

  Techie:  We'll get to that, but I need you to spend a few minutes at 
  the command line so I'm certain that I'm solving a Mozilla problem
  rather than a basic underlying network glitch.  But, if it'll make 
  you feel better, you could type in (and post here) the _exact_ Mozilla 
  error text, rather than your kinda-sorta paraphrase of it.

  Newcomer:  I'm attaching five .BMP screenshots of my desktop, showing
  my launching Mozilla, then trying to open a Web page.  Does that help?

At this point, the techie's reaching for strong drink, and considering a
different hobby.

> Can I set up X under Windows and cut-n-paste from there (assuming I
> want to exchange screen shots with someone)? 

Funny you should mention that.  I was away from Joe Desktop User
support problems for so many years that I only recently (at $FIRM, which
shall go nameless) heard that this business of sending screenshots to
the technician is now very common.  The gal who sent me a bunch of those
did, indeed (as above), on that occasion, send me a whopping collection
of Windows bitmap files of her entire 1280x768 pixel desktop.  I had to
go find a machine with MS-Windows available under VMware, copy the files
across the network to there, walk over, fire up a bitmap viewer, and
then find out that the particular images she'd sent told me absolutely
nothing useful.  A whole lot of innocent electrons had been clobbered
moving a lot of huge graphics files around -- to no effect other than 
the user assuming it was now my problem because she'd "sent me pictures".
To answer your question directly, sure you could take screenshots -- and
you can even take the shots _on_ Linux.  (See:  "Screen Capture" on 
http://linuxmafia.com/kb/Apps/ .)  If you do that on the Windows side, a
miracle might even happen and have it _not_ result in a .BMP file.
(Practically any other raster format is better; a JPEG would usually be

Most people who do that want to immediately file-attach the image files
to the help forum in-line -- because that's the way they're used to
moving files around networks (i.e., attached to e-mail).  Those who do
so tend to (unexpectedly) attract the ire of technical users, since on
most technical mailing lists and newsgroups, file-attaching stuff (and
especially huge binary attachments) is a netiquette no-no.[1]
More-technical people would, instead, put the the file in a Web
directory and post the URL -- but less-technical users wouldn't.

But, even aside from all of those matters, in my experience, the user
taking the screenshots doesn't really know what to take a picture of,
and in many cases isn't even using graphical utilities that give useful
diagnostic feedback in the first place.  In addition, the recipient will
be left in doubt as to whether the user failed to include a shot of some
crucial intermediate screen state (or dialogue), an outcome that is much
less likely (and common) with transcripts of command-line interactions
-- since cutting out something significant _there_ requires action to do
the wrong thing, rather than _inaction_ to do the wrong thing as with

As Dan was saying, techies will often really go the extra mile in
solving a user's problems _if_ the techie has confidence that he/she is
getting all the relevant facts and the user is trying to learn.  When a
user starts sending (or offering) me screenshots, experience leads me to
suspect that I'm _not_ going to get crucial facts.

No reflection on the good intentions of the user.  I'm just saying
that's how it tends to play out.

> Also, I think I mentioned that yum was working fine (I've played with 
> it a bit).

Yes, you posted that very important fact _after_ the initial problem
descriptions that I and some others were responding to.  Ordinarily,
this is (per above) the sort of thing that tends to discourage people
who've been trying to render technical help.  But I was glad to go
through that, because it taught me something about yum/yumex, and might
be useful to others with yum or yumex problems finding this thread via
search engines, later.  (This is one reason why I think it's an
outstanding idea for LUGs to have public archives for all LUG mailing
lists not truly needing secrecy for some reason, so that others
elsewhere can benefit from lessons learned.)

> So something is amiss with the Yum Extender GUI for some reason. 

Play with it, then.

Either something has gone wonky with its configuration (possible), or
with the app itself (highly unlikely, unless you've been doing perilous
things with the root-user account), or you haven't yet figured out its
controls.  If it keeps being absolutely inert, then you might try (on a
theory of something having messed up its configuration) temporarily move
all its configuration files to somewhere safe, and then try setting it
up again manually.  (That avoids burning your bridges, because you can
at worst blow away the new configuration and move the old one back.)

Or you can just wait 'til tomorrow afternoon, and bring the machine to

[1] I actually started writing a new section for "How to Ask Questions
the Smart Way" about this entitled "Show Me", explaining the preference
for simple command-line tools, /usr/bin/script, and text copy-and-paste
of absolutely-verbatim interactions:  That was precisely when I realised
the essay's already too lengthy and needs a rewrite.

[2] If memory serves, SVLUG VP Bill Ward disapproves of people
detailing netiquette matters on this mailing list, and (e.g.) on one past 
occasion referred to my saying "Cross-posting is generally a bad idea,
and often leads to problems" as being a "list cop" and/or as
"criticising" a fellow poster, the latter of which by public decision of
the two immediately prior SVLUG presidents is a misdeed punishable by
sanctions including summary permanent banning without prior warning from
all SVLUG mailing lists.  I'm inclined to take my chances in this case,
but will gladly clarify immediately that, as also with my highly
generalised statement some months ago about cross-posting some months
ago, I intend absolutely no criticism of you or anyone else in
describing the netiquette issue.

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