This is topic Help me be a geek's dream girl (professional dev. question) in forum The Big Archives at The Geek Culture Forums!.
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Posted by salmonzerbinis (Member # 1867) on March 24, 2003, 11:20:
Here's the thing -- I love geeks. Love them so much I married one, and I chose a career where I get to work with them all the time. I'm a technical writer, specializing in software documentation (the user-end stuff).
I'm about to go freelance, but I want to do a little professional development first. I want to be a geek's dream girl. I want to know that I *deserve* my "Techno-Talking Babe) t-shirt. I want to sweep into a company, blow everyone away with my quickness, competence, and capability (in a "wow, she's great!" kind of way, not a "wow, what an arrogant bitch kind of way, of course). I want the *developers* to be thrilled that I'm on the job. I want them to *love* me. Developers, not always thrilled to deal with the tech writers - some of you undoubtedly know what I'm talking about.
So, to this end (the dream-girl end) I want to apply myself to learning how to use Unix (or a unix -- or several unices. I dunno). I want to devote some of my time and talent to writing docs for the open source community. Open source excites me very much, as a concept. I want to learn to use some alternative applications like GIMP ('cause Photoshop is frankly overkill for my needs, and freakin' expensive).
I want you geeks to point me in some fruitful directions. What is a good way to go about learning to use Unix? (I'm running a G3 with OS X on it right now). Can you recommend some apps that I could use to write docs, handle layout, or do anything else interesting? It's so much easier to learn an app when you have something to do with it. Do you know of a website that has good information? How do I get intouch with open source developers that might let me write some docs?
Contact me off-list if you like: [email protected]
Thanks in advance.
Posted by Robb [treborus] (Member # 2003) on March 24, 2003, 13:15:
quote:Great!! There's not enough Technical writers in the field!!
Originally posted by salmonzerbinis:
I'm a technical writer, specializing in software documentation (the user-end stuff).
Open source excites me very much, as a concept.
Yes!! Me too!!
Can you recommend some apps that I could use to write docs, handle layout, or do anything else interesting? It's so much easier to learn an app when you have something to do with it. Do you know of a website that has good information? How do I get intouch with open source developers that might let me write some docs?
Mozila could use more documentation. Visit #mozilla on irc.mozilla.org, there's lots of very friendly people there! They will tell you what documentation needs to be written an what you need to do to help out. Good Luck!
I want you geeks to point me in some fruitful directions. What is a good way to go about learning to use Unix? (I'm running a G3 with OS X on it right now).
Get a good book about it. I learned from alot of different sources, so i can't recomend one really good source to learn from.
If you need any thing feel free to email me ([email protected]), or PM me.
Posted by Mr Bill (Member # 553) on March 24, 2003, 22:28:
Try the Linux Documentation Project:
And good luck with the career, most people I know run screaming at the mention of the word "documentation"
See? There goes another one.
Posted by Callipygous (Member # 2071) on March 25, 2003, 04:48:
I would think that the bright eyed, bushy tailed, enthusiasm and energy that you show in your post will carry you a long way to your goals.
Posted by GameMaster (Member # 1173) on March 25, 2003, 06:39:
The first place to start is to begin installing a common distro of Linux onto a spare machine or dual-boot your current OS.
1.) Find distro (Red Hat and Mandrake are good for beginers)
2.) Learn all you can about your hardware to make sure that you can locate it from a list if'n the autoprobe doesn't work.
3.) Prepare the hard-drive... Back up everything, before going on.
If your going to be dual-booting, you'll want optimize the drize with a defrag, then NON-DESTRUCTIVELY patition the drive with FIPS or PQ's Partition Magic. (FIPS is free, and typically included on the installation disks in a directory call dosutils - else can be found on GNU's website).
FIPS note: after using fips, get into dos (preferably by restarting in DOS mode) and run Fdisk and create a linux extended partion... Linux will then know to install there...
4.) Reboot with installation disk in bootable drive. If you need a bootable floppy, i.e. it doesn't stat installing and boots like normal) then read the documention on Rawwrite, and find the images that you need rawrite to floppy...
5.) Follow the installation instructions on the screen, you'll mostlikely want to start with a custom set of packages or the workstation... You'll want to install GRUB or LILO (or make a Linux boot disk) in order to chose your OS (if your dual booting) and to boot Linux.
There is a thread arround here that has a title called "Unix Primer" or somesuch... which has a list of the most basic commands and there useage... If you need help on any particular command, use the manual pages by typing in "man" a space and then the command... Some commands and programs also have info page that can be accessed by typing "info" a space and then the command.
The way to a geeks heart is through caffine... Bring a cup of coffee for them when you intend to ask how feature X will work and they will be happy to tel you the entire history of feature Xs'...
Posted by greycat (Member # 945) on March 25, 2003, 07:13:
quote:Find a reasonably old computer -- say, a Pentium or Pentium II, with a nice little PCI or AGP video card, not some horrid nVidia contraption with its own built-in cooling fan and super secret specifications that mean no Free software can drive the thing.
I want to apply myself to learning how to use Unix (or a unix -- or several unices. I dunno).
I'll assume for the moment that you understand the most basic concepts already -- that you know what the various parts of a personal computer are, what a directory is, what files are, etc.
Get your classic hardware, and get yourself a Debian CD. Then install Debian.
Why did I say to use Debian? Apart from the fact that Debian is the very best Linux distribution there is once it's up and running, it also has a reputation for being "hard to install". What this means is that when you sit a newbie down with a computer and a Debian CD, the newbie will usually become confused.
Confusion means that there is a potential learning situation.
Debian does not hold your hand the way Red Hat or Mandrake does. It doesn't auto-detect your hardware. It doesn't install 2.5 gigabytes of crap on your hard disk by default. The install is highly interactive; it's continually asking you, the system administrator, for information. (That's spelled "system administrator", not "user". If someone else installs it for you, you're a user. Users don't learn as much.)
When you're done with the base install, you'll have a system that can't do very much, apart from install more software. This is the part where you learn how Debian's package management system works (dpkg, apt-get, and their friends).
When you've got that stuff well in hand, you can start to focus on specialized areas. Want to learn networking? Configure the networking. Set up a DNS server, or a router, or a web server, or whatever you want. Want to learn how to write shell scripts? Bash is already installed, along with most of the standard commands (grep, sed, awk, etc.). Perl is also installed in the base system in Debian, so you could learn that. Want to learn C? apt-get install build-essential gcc. C++? apt-get install build-essential g++. Of course, just installing the software won't make you learn how to use it. Each of the topics I've mentioned here is worthy of an undergraduate course all by itself. But at least with Debian (as long as you stay on "stable") you'll know that everything works right. I can't say the same for Red Hat releases.
If you want to learn portability and the differences between Unix implementations, then install FreeBSD or OpenBSD etc. Learn how to install and use one of them, how it's different from Debian and Linux, how it's the same, etc. Learn how BSD's "ports" system works, and how it compares to Debian's package management. Learn how to install security patches by retrieving the source code from anonymous CVS. If you're really brave, learn how to upgrade an OpenBSD system from one release to the next!
But as much as possible, try to focus on one project at a time. Use resources like The Linux Documentation Project to pick up the basics, and Google to answer specific questions. If you get truly stumped, ask other geeks for help. Use smart questions so you don't get flamed.
One other thing to consider is that, if you start asking other geeks for help, especially in IRC, you will be one of very few women in the discussion. This can be good, or bad. Some women hide their sex when they go online because they don't like the attention that it gives them. Others find that by revealing their sex, they might get more help. I can't give a lot of advice in this particular area, but maybe some of the ladies here can do so.
Posted by salmonzerbinis (Member # 1867) on March 25, 2003, 07:46:
Thanks, all, this is very helpful. I have bookmarked the Linux Documentation Project and the Smart Questions page. The first will be a great information resource, I can tell, as well as giving me a direct line (looks like) to some people I could maybe do documentation for. The second is, as well as being full of good general "how to behave on usenet" advice, a nice refresher course in what the code-and-math oriented geeks I love are all about. I've forgotten, just a little. I work in a place that employs MSCEs to do SQL database front-end work. Ugh. To say the least.
Greycat - I like your approach. "If it's hard, it's more fun!" I get that. But one question -- since I am, just for now, aiming to be a user and not a sysadmin (not yet) and not a programmer (probably not ever), and since I have OS X installed (which is running on Free BSD), is there any way I could use my present equipment for some learning?
I do have this PC running XP....hm. Linux and XP on the same machine. Could be funny.
Posted by greycat (Member # 945) on March 25, 2003, 10:48:
From what I understand, OS X has many similarities to FreeBSD, but also some differences. Sure, you can learn on it. You can learn on anything.
It's really a question of what it is that you want to learn first.
Posted by SupportGoddess (Member # 822) on March 26, 2003, 05:40:
One other resource, if you are looking for projects to contribute to: SourceForge. I believe there is a "project help wanted" choice from the main page. Something like that, anyway.
Lots of great advice. I would really suggest having some hardware you can break, though. If you only have one computer and you mess up, you have to rebuild. And you can get stuck in the "I need to download this file so I can connect to the 'net but I can't connect to the 'net without this file" loop. (It happened to me once. A painful winmodem experience.)
Personally, I like Mandrake. It treats me OK. And starting out, it's much better to have the instant gratification of immediately being able to *do* something. The install is user friendly. You can be up and running with it in a couple hours your first time. But I'm in to instant gratification. I don't mind fighting with it, but I like having a fighting chance.
If you do want to try Mandrake, I would start out with 8.2. Avoid the 9.X. I had some issues with those. (I know people they worked fine for, but 8.X was completely trouble free for me, at least until I got around to breaking it.) And do *not* have it automatically check for software updates during the install.
Good luck =)
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