You might as well say that Johnny can't be a poet because his first language was German not English. There's a relationship between language and thought but they are not the same. A good programmer is a good thinker - of a particular kind. The language he/she uses to express those thoughts is almost (but not entirely) irrelevant. For example, I can express myself more fluently Thai than I can in Khmer, even even though I am equally skilled in both. And while I am not a programmer, I cherish my first experience learning BASIC because it gave me an insight into the world of programming that has been invaluable to me in my work as a writer working with scientists and IT specialists. So three cheers for BASIC.
It's clear from scanning a good portion of the replies that the first obstacle is the utter contempt in which many Help Desk jockeys seem to hold the average user. Sorry guys (and it's always guys) but I bought a computer to do stuff with not to be a code monkey. When I get an error message like Error: No default for Main.CNode at 13:1-13:29.(Id 219,[(Id 200,Id 249)])it's clear the intended audience was not me. When I do get an error message in something that resembles English, I try to figure it out, I go read the FAQs, I try a forum or two, I thrash around and believe it or not I sometimes manage to sort out the problem. You have had some sensible suggestions from slashdotters like snspdaard, codehog, geoffrey.landis and gestalt n pepper. Try putting the crude humor aside and pay attention. Believe it or not there are a few users out here who do know what a power cable is.
I'm not a big fan of Big Al but cut the guy a break. He's a publicist not a scientist. The IPCC is supposed to be the gatekeeper on good science and they dropped the ball, not Gore. Gore and a lot of other well intentioned people have had to bear the brunt of another shoddy UN process.
Kevin is not the victim of sizism, he - and you and I - are victims of a common feature of modern life: perfect procedures, imperfect systems. Issues of how many seats can an airline cram into a cabin and America's eating habits aside, the Southwest policy sounds pretty reasonable. Oversize passengers buy a second seat and get a refund if the plane isn't full. So how does it happen that Kevin get's so far along the chain of events that it causes everyone involved a lot of unnecessary pain and embarrassment? The captain who threw Kevin off the plane was enforcing a procedure. Nobody was taking any responsibility for the system. What happened when Kev bought his ticket? Did a screen come up - before the plug in your credit card number screen - warning Kev that if you're over a certain weight you have to buy two seats? What happened when Kev arrived at the check in counter? Are the check in staff blind? How hard is it to notice that man or woman is 'of size' and won't fit into a seat my eleven year old daughter can barely squeeze into (she's big for her age)? Isn't there a role here for the security staff? It IS a safety issue. Plane skids off the runway a large passenger will have difficulty getting down that rabbit trail called an aisle. Kevin's embarrassment, and the discomfort of his seatmates, could have been avoided at any of several steps along the way. But it wasn't, because everyone is responsible for a procedure, but no one is responsible for the system.
theodp writes "Kevin Smith is not a happy Southwest customer. The director was thrown off a flight from Oakland to Burbank, after being deemed too fat to fly. He later wound up on another Southwest flight, but has declared It's On and taken his rants to Twitter. 'Dear @SouthwestAir — I know I'm fat, but was Captain Leysath really justified in throwing me off a flight for which I was already seated?' he began. He also let the airline know he'd made it to his destination. 'Hey @SouthwestAir! I've landed in Burbank. Don't worry: wall of the plane was opened & I was airlifted out while Richard Simmons supervised.'"
Tinkering is hard wired into the human brain. Lockouts are just another level of challenge. I strongly recommend Neal Stephenson's essay/book In the Beginning Was the Command Line. He presents a very good argument for why the proprietary OS business is unlikely to remain profitable for much longer. Reading that book saved me from falling prey to the siren Apple. I was shopping for a new laptop and considering a switch to Apple. Why not? Everyone I know that has one just raves about it. So there I was, sitting in a glitzy Apple showroom, surrounded by shelves of really cool stuff, fingers caressing an elegantly designed wafer of plastic and silicon...and I recalled Stephenson's rap about Apple and MS selling a vision. It's Disneyland. You want to tinker, don't go to Disneyland.
theodp writes "Having cut his programming teeth on an Apple ][e as a ten-year-old, Mark Pilgrim laments that Apple now seems to be doing everything in their power to stop his kids from finding the sense of wonder he did: 'Apple has declared war on the tinkerers of the world. With every software update, the previous generation of 'jailbreaks' stop working, and people have to find new ways to break into their own computers. There won’t ever be a MacsBug for the iPad. There won’t be a ResEdit, or a Copy ][+ sector editor, or an iPad Peeks & Pokes Chart. And that's a real loss. Maybe not to you, but to somebody who doesn’t even know it yet.' Time for Woz to have a sit-down with Jobs?"