Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Ran Across the Silent Heron

Is it too much to expect Linux and by extension, Open Source to just work?

More and more people have come to love and want Open Source. Maybe they're just pissed at Windows and given up on that platform. Pissed at the endless cat and mouse game with viruses, trojans and worms, so they've declared their emancipation, that All Computers be free from worms, spyware and antivirus software. They come to open source like all noobs do, filled with the Romantic idea that Open Source is the be all and end all of all things in this universe. I guess you'd get the same if people discovered an endless supply of iced water in hell.

Believe me, I've been there. I loved the thrill of downloading and updating packages and dependencies and finding the joy of finally getting a fix for that one feature that constantly breaks. I've used and abused Red Hat, Debian, Suse, and Ubuntu until I've settled down with Gentoo. I've dated Kernel 2.4, 2.5, 2.6. I've danced with Gnome, and partied with KDE. I've dared BusyBox, and loved the freedom of command line, lynx and vim. I've been on the Open Source train for years.

It's like dating for geeks.

Linux, especially the free community builds like FC, Ubuntu, Gentoo, they're like that custom built car you've always wanted (i.e. Batmobile for me, and I'm sure Han Solo feels the same way with his Falcon). It "zooms!" when you want it. It handles just right. It even jumps across rooftops at mach speed. Who cares, if you forgot to bolt the door or that said door flies when you go past a hundred kilometers?!

Linux can be what you want it to be. That's the beauty of it. Yes, it's perfectly cool to open a video file or that legally purchased DVD off terminal using MPlayer or VLC. And yes, it is somewhat difficult at times to try to get Firefox to play nice with online media but that's the beauty of linux. You build the machine just the way you want it.

Car or girl, it is inevitable that the honeymoon would be over. There are the people who've tried and used Open Source and found it... somewhat frustrating at times. You'll find yourself in the same boat as The Silent Heron and Let that be a Lesson To you, Son: Never upgrade.

How do I know? I've broken a perfectly good distro installation building the kernel to just work for my machine or building gentoo to be just right. Sure, I could have spent hours upon hours of fixing it but sometimes a clean install is just what the Doctor ordered. Believe me, the frustration just mounts. Your car may not even be street legal or you'd find, the girl's not exactly the kind of girl you bring home to meet the parents.

A lot of people expect Open Source to come out the door perfect. Well, no build is perfect, whether it is Windows, or OS X or Linux. none. nada. It's never going to happen. Windows and OS X have their fair share of update horror stories. Just google it and you'd know. The difference is that I expect, when Apple or Microsoft ships a build out the door, my odds of getting it right is up there in the 99% percentile because I pay them. And if they don't, I have every right to rant and raise hell about it to them. I don't have the same expectation with Linux. No one has that right.

On Linux, I can't rant that Driver A doesn't work or Kernel Module crashes another Kernel Module or my File System just trashed itself or that feature B is incomplete. A lot of those developers are paid by their companies to make Linux work for them for their own purposes. Then there are also the developers who do it for free because they just love it. It is a hobby, a part time thing. It isn't their day job and no one pays them to work on it. When shit happens in Linux, which undoubtedly will, there are two things you can do: roll up your sleeves and help get it to work right or shut up about it and wait for the fix.

If people want a perfectly canned Linux distro that is rock solid, they can point their wget and their wallets to Red Hat Enterprise and Suse and others whose bread and butter is Linux support. Rock solid means, do not expect bleeding edge.

There comes a point when every man just has to grow up. Yeah, you can stick around and keep that girl running. Or you can do what I did. I was tried of the whole cat and mouse game with worms and trojans and antiviruses. I got tired of the whole, I need to have the bleeding-edge package arms-race. When Apple dumped PowerPC and started dating Intel, I got in bed with OS X.

Who the heck cares, if it takes months to get an update from the last OS X build? OS X does what Linux does because it is Unix. I get the same tools and I get a rock solid system that I know will play sound just the way it should be. It will play video when I need it to be. I don't need to worry about the little things, I just need to worry to do what I have to do and not have to thinker around. In other words, "great desktop experience".

I installed 10.5.0 in November 2007 (I believe it was October when they shipped out Leopard), and as of this writing, 10.5.2 is running on my system. Heron took how long to get out the door? I'd say, not bad, Apple! Seriously, I'm all the while not caring because I know those guys are doing their job to get an improved build out the door.

Some people stick to their flavor of Linux for their own reasons. My gentoo box is running smoothly and I don't intend to retire it anytime soon. I follow protocol: no unnecessary apps running thus no errant sockets open. Always run behind the firewall and such. I don't do a world update, except for the occasional python, php, postgresql and such like that or every couple months or so, kernel update. My gentoo is rock solid. And I haven't had to reinstall in years.

And as much as I find it reprehensible, I also understand why people use and like Windows. Vis-a-vis, I'm sure the feeling is mutual when they think of Mac geeks. Why? Because I'm sure they like Windows for the same reason I like my Mac, "right tools for the right job, or use tools you are most comfortable with" and I'm perfectly aware of OS X's many shortcomings, but I can live with it and I have every right to complain when something does not.

Seriously now, my point is you enter a contract with Linux and by extension--- Open Source with the expectation that you get something for free but you roll-up your sleeves when something breaks or you want something done and done right.  No one has the right to rant, "this sucks because it broke my video card/Gnome/KDE/sound". We get enough of that from politicians.

With Open Source, What You See, Is What You Get. You go out and fix it or help in someway--- bug testing or help with documentation or something. It is the geek-hacker mentality. It is the whole social contract of the Interwebs. You act, not rant! Good with that? Then I'm sure you'll be just at home with Linux and Open Source.


Anonymous said...

Hey lazy ass,have u ever tried ubuntu
or debian or mepis atleast,ubuntu is
rock solid and bleeding edge too.dumb
article i need to throw eggs on this
shit,but dunno know any button or script can do?

Cocoy said...

yes. i've used debian. i've used ubuntu. i've used red hat since 6.2 and i do you use (present tense) Gentoo. proud that Gentoo is my linux distro of choice.

you'd know those facts if you've taken the time to actually do some reading of the above post and construing before posting your comment.

thanks though for taking the time to visit the page.