Hack and Tell is having a key-signing party in a couple of days. I've never used cryptographic tools and I'd like to learn how they work, beyond just the theory. But I'm frustrated trying to make my way through the jungle of contingencies so as to carry out the basic preparatory work for the party. I dimly remember signing up for a key-signing party in 2012,* and getting so overheated with all the cruft to think about that I finally didn't attend.
[* New York Linux Users Group announced it for 20120915; the event description was part of http://softwarefreedomday.org/, but the details are no longer on line.]
How to think about this? I know I will get beyond the technical issues before long; the real problem is the moment's frustration.
I recognize that I am reacting the way my wife does when the computer does not behave as she expects. By temperament she is not much at ease with the layered abstractions the computer imposes on her — the cognitive distance between concrete things she wants to do and the rigidly defined steps the computer requires of her. She has had five such issues today in about ninety minutes:
- Pages (her Apple-proprietary word processor) cannot read a file she needs to print. (Because I upgraded her OS and the new version requires a new version of Pages, but it didn't update automatically or notify us that an update was needed. I realized that an update was needed, then found and installed it for her.)
- Some Chinese romanization has begun appearing with a dot under some
letters. (Because I upgraded her Chinese utility, and by default the
new version places a dot under some vowels whose tonal value can be
interpreted ambiguously: cǎiqǔ becomes cạ̌iqǔ because it is
phonemically still /cǎiqǔ/ but pronounced /cáiqǔ/. [The single
ạ̌may not display correctly on all browsers!] I found the correct settings file — not the main one — and turned off this feature for her.)
- (Two items.) The new version of Pages has changed the way various things she is used to are displayed. Things she wants (what page am I on right now?) are not displayed the way they used to be, while a drawer is displayed that she doesn't want (for the "Inspector", which allows formatting and other high-level adjustments). (I fiddled around with the program and found out how it now works; I showed her how the features she wants are implemented now and how to turn them on and off.)
- She wants to format some text but the formatting panel in the Inspector says no object or text is selected. She selects a page but the message doesn't change, and she hasn't realized that she is not selecting an "object or text" (I showed her).
In all these cases, I can see past her frustrations without too much stress and solve her problems for her. I usually explain to her what I am doing and why, but the nature of her relationship with computing technology is such that these things don't always remain long in memory.
What I have to remind myself is that my frustrations with new tools are not of a different kind from hers. That tends to help me muster the resolve to reorient my mind until I can get past the immediate problem.