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Hmmm, it's an interesting point. I think the reason people don't even try is because they recognize that they can't tell the difference between something that might take them 15 minutes of monkeying around to fix, and something that is beyond their competency. Worse, they are not sure that they won't make things when trying to fix the problem.

I'm sure it must be similar to the feeling I get when I'm working on a new code base that I'm not familiar with, and I need to make a modification in a function so that it calls another module correctly for some new functionality. But I can't tell if that change isn't going to break something somewhere else, so making that change becomes quite scary.

In the software development world, we handle this by creating suites of automatic tests that we can run after the change to make sure that what we just did doesn't break things. We also use config managent software so that we can back out any erroneous changes. These things aren't available to nontechnical users - they can't verify that they haven't broken anything, and if they have broken something, they may not be able to put things back the way they were. This pretty much guarantees that people won't experiment with their computer.

I think part of the problem is that with the advent of the Internet, no computer comes with proper documentation that you can read to learn what a system does and how it does it. DOS was probably the last OS that could be completely described in its paper manual. Now learning about a new system has to be done through Google, experimentation and thoroughly inadequate help systems where it's very difficult to find an answer if you don't know how to describe the problem.

linux is completely described by its source code.

It's only slightly less accurate to state that Windows is completely described by its binaries.

Both statements depend on your ability to devote time and appropriate expertise to discerning the documentation.

> linux is completely described by its source code.

I would say that linux is defined by the way its source code [in C] runs on machines [of various kinds]. It's also helpful to know some history, especially of unix, for context. And the communities of people that use linux. I think there's more to understanding linux, or even describing it, than the source code only.

I'm sure it must be similar to the feeling I get when I'm working on a new code base that I'm not familiar with

Haha - I know that feeling well. First moveup with a new code base is always the scariest. You're always fearing something like, "Oh crap, I had no idea what that module did and I accidentally disabled it."

I think you may have given me an insight that will make me more tolerant of my wife's refusal to attempt fixing technical things on her own. Thank you.

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