A tale of two tricycles
Once upon a time in a land far away ... I lent my little boy's Kettler tricycle to
his pre-school for use in the drop in center they maintain
in the gym - a place where parents can bring kids to play with other kids and a whole
basketball court full of neat toys, mats, and climbables.
As you can see from the picture
the Kettler is a pretty high end production - actually a marvel of German engineering
with lots of features including:
- an easily adjustable telescoping frame that lets it grow with the user;
- a steering lock (locks handlebars into place) that works with a rear push bar (not in the picture)
to turn it into a stroller;
- a brake that works on the two rear wheels; and,
- a clutch like feature that lets the front wheel spin freely if the pedals aren't moved -meaning
the kid can pedal madly to get up to speed and then coast without taking his feet off the pedals.
In contrast the school's own tricycle
is a piece of junk, it has no gears, no brakes,
no air tires, an uncomfortable seat, and turns over on corners.
After watching kids, and their parents, play with both I've reached the unhappy conclusion that
the piece of junk is the better fit for job. Here's why:
- the air tires and comfortable seat only count on longer trips - but the kids
usually stay on the tricycle for only minutes at a time.
- the freewheeling feature makes it harder for kids to learn to pedal the thing -because the pedals
don't move when mommy pushes them.
- everybody knows how the junk one works, nobody uses the brake on the Kettler.
- in an earlier incident I believe someone locked the front wheel steering and either
the same or some other nitwit broke the weld
holding the wheel assembly to the handlebars trying to force it to turn -something that must have taken
some serious hammering given that the connection is welded.
- people don't understand the free wheeling feature. In fact, at one point recently I discovered
someone had taken the front wheel out of the assembly and reversed it; presumably in some kind of
well thought through attempt to "fix the problem."
- to telescope the frame you pull out a lock nut (held down by a large spring), turn it to unlock, and
then move the main support bar in to shorten the frame or out to lengthen it, stopping when the holes
align so the lock can snap into place. At the gym yesterday some kid was pedalling happily with the
lock pin completely out -because some braindead idiot had "adjusted" the bar length a good four inches past the
holes to create an obvious safety hazard.
So why discuss this in an IT blog? Because what happened to the Kettler here is precisely what
happens when the typical Microsoft expert gets hold of Linux -it's a pearls and swine issue:
they're not going to figure out what it really does, they're going to force it fit what they know
and then complain bitterly when it fails to meet their expectations.
Paul Murphy wrote and published The Unix Guide to Defenestration.
Murphy is a 25-year veteran of the I.T. consulting industry, specializing in Unix and Unix-related