My Xandros Asus EEE and thoughts on searching

A few weeks ago (well about 6 or so now…) I bought an Asus eee as my vista laptop stopped booting – major problem when trying to use it! I got the linux version of it as a friend of mine was very insistent in his advocacy of the use of linux and the eee especially. We also have a couple in work and I was able to borrow one to have a look at and see how it works. pimped eee Anyway, with the encouragement of my friend I have been playing around with it (as you can see in the picture) and have customised it to work the way I want it to.

Thinking about the use of Linux, and within that the use of the Terminal window has made me think about the simplification of search which seems to be happenning, with the drive everywhere towards a “Google” interface and federated searches. Now whilst terminal is not the most intuitive interface, and takes a while to learn how to use (I have only dabbled into terminal really), it is much more powerful than a GUI and allows you much more control over what you’re doing. The same is true with command line and advanced search interfaces – you have much more control and finesse over what will be in your search results. I worry that the drive towards emulating google means that the skill of refining a search to suit exactly what information you want will be ignored, and when people get thousands of results they will just look through only the first page of them as everyone does with google.

The drive towards google-like search boxes and federated searching across multiple databases leads to very simplistic searching as these interfaces don’t support the more complicated search strategies. How to raise the profile of advanced searching and make people aware of this skill as desirable and important is difficult and I think it needs doing both within the profession and in the wider community.


  1. I think you are right. Sometimes what appears simple actually isn’t, a single search box can prove constraining and people end up adding all sorts of workarounds to get the results that they want (Google have a whole list of them) whereas advanced search would, maybe ironically, be simpler to use in some cases.

    The same goes for terminals in Linux. Many people believe that a GUI is always better, but that isn’t always the case. Typing in commands can be a lot quicker and gives you complete control of your system. To paraphrase a well known saying: “A command is worth twenty-seven screen shots”.

    Maybe the education system should do more to give people the confidence to try out such things.

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