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Hey, your distro sucks!

March 26, 2009 17 comments

I’m sitting in a room at HeliOS Solutions West/Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, at the foot of the Santa Cruz Mountains, with computers running primarly Fedora. However, there are also boxes (going clockwise from where I’m sitting) running OpenSUSE, AntiX Mepis (it’s old), Debian, Xubuntu and Ubuntu.

“So?” You’re asking yourself, and that’s a valid question. This first-paragraph revelation will make more sense at the end.

Having said this, there are few things I like more than working a booth — usually dbEntrance or Fedora — at various shows, whether it’s a large one like LinuxWorld or the Southern California Linux Expo (SCaLE), or even talking up Free/Open Source Software in the minuscule venue of a LUG meeting.

Discussing in good faith the likeness and difference between distros, between desktop environments, and between FOSS programs is something that is part of the process; the process that helps uplifts all of us — those using different distros, different desktop environments and different FOSS programs — in this thing called the Free/Open Source Software community.

Helping in good faith people who ask — whether it’s something in Fedora that doesn’t work for a user or something in another distro that is not working — is a common and unavoidable occurrence at all show levels, and it’s good to be able to get someone’s problem solved, assuming you show him/her what’s wrong. It’s the teach-a-man-to-fish-and-feed-him-for-life concept in action.

In good faith: Those are the three key words here.

I bring up those three simple words because invariably at Linux shows like LinuxWorld and SCaLE you have some who don’t follow the “in good faith” part of this equation. You know who they are (and you know who you are): These are the folks who will come to any given booth and essentially tell you what’s wrong with your distro/software/hardware, without offering a shred of evidence, an inkling of cause, or the remote possibilty of a solution to their, um, “revealing discovery.”

They’ll continue by asking why your distro/software/hardware can’t solve world hunger, put astronauts on Mars and cure cancer, among other impossibilities.

In short, their schtick is simple: Your distro/software/hardware sucks and you’re pretty lucky I’m here to tell you why.

A word to those who persist in this behavior: Stop.

It may come as a shock to you that you — and you alone — are the only one impressed with your knowledge and self-importance. In reality, everyone else thinks you’re a world-class, Olympic-caliber annoyance. Rather than helping, you’re getting in the way of those who are trying to assist others who may not be as experienced, and certainly aren’t as arrogant, as you.

So either help us with your degree of knowledge without rubbing anyone else’s nose in it, or just step the hell aside.

Folks tried to spar with me at SCaLE last month, but I blew them off — different strokes for different folks. This issue, however, actually came to a head when Red Hat’s Karsten Wade and I were getting dinner to take on the road on Sunday evening and I was confronted by one of the dogmatards whom I had spoken to earlier in the day. Not being in the mood for hearing an additional litany of what was wrong with Fedora, I just nodded and shrugged while being “schooled” about what was lacking in the distro. But Karsten took a more proactive approach, which was described by Karsten’s response to an item in the previous blog post.

Now the reason I brought up Felton: I’m primarily a Fedora user and prefer Fedora over the rest of those mentioned in the first paragraph. However I use the other distros mentioned above. I’m also game to try others; the history of this blog bears me out — google “eight distros a week” and see what you get. Some of the machines here run GNOME, some KDE, some Xfce, and one on Fluxbox. I’m not an expert at any of them, nor am I married to any of them.

Naturally, I’m open to sharing what I do know with anyone who asks. With nearly three years under my belt on the GNU/Linux side of all things digital, I realize that I’m a relative “newb” at this. Surprisingly I’m at peace with that, despite the fact I continue to learn.

So while I’m always interested to hear the error of my ways, whatever they may be, I’m really not interested in matching wits for the sake of matching wits. You want to prove you know more than I do? If that’s the biggest challenge of your day, then let me make this easy for you: You win.

Like most others, I have more important things to do.

[FSF Associate Member](Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs HeliOS Solutions West/Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)

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More miscellaneous ramblings

April 26, 2008 Leave a comment

[Has it really been almost a month since I last posted? Probably. But with the Lindependence 2008 project hopping, maybe that's not so surprising. My apologies for the long hiatus to those outside my family who read this blog.]

The Heron has landed: Ubuntu let fly with its semiannual release — Hardy Heron, which really goes by the name Ubuntu 8.04 (and Kubuntu 8.04 and Xubuntu 8.04, for those of you keeping score at home) — and it certainly has a lot to offer. Having a chance to tinker with the beta in preparation for the Cabrillo College installfest yesterday, I seem to join a legion of those who use Ubuntu who are deeply impressed with this release. In fact, some are so impressed — like the writer of this eWeek article who seems to think that the *buntus are ready for prime time. Let’s hope he’s right.

[Also, hats off to the Xubuntu developers who completely kicked bug butt in getting 8.04 out the door. How do I know this? For some reason, I'm on the developer's mailing list and the bug reports -- and their solutions -- were fast and furious over the last few weeks. Way to go, Cody and others on the Xubuntu team.]

MySQL, YourSQL, OurSQL: The MySQL conference in Santa Clara two weeks ago was yet another learning experience wrapped in a swagfest. If I keep going to these, I may never go naked again, with a total of 12 T-shirts (one a small YouTube shirt for Mirano, of course) garnered during the course of the show. I worked the dbEntrance booth with Tod Landis and Shane Duan, two ex-Borland guys who have written a browser for MySQL that’s definitely worth a try. Not to toot my own horn or anything, I did get dbEntrance up and running on a Hardy Heron beta with Shane’s help and they work like they were made for each other.

[dbEntrance was fortunate enough to be across from the Red Hat booth, which had a monitor looping a video called "Truth Happens" which was absolutely great. Watch it here. Go ahead, I'll wait.]

Follow the money: Scott Ruecker wrote an editorial on LXer.com rightfully questioning the validity of a report from The Standish Group International that says the “disruptive technology” of open source has cost the IT industry $60 billion over the last five years.  So Scott asks $60 billion question: How did it cost the IT industry $60 billion dollars? Where did the money go and to whom?

[Scott does acknowledge that those are more than one question and apologizes for it in the editorial, though I don't feel an apology is necessary; at least not from Scott.]

More on Lindependence 2008 upcoming, which is starting to come together better than I had expected. Watch this space.

[FSF Associate Member](Larry Cafiero is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)

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When dolphins fly

January 16, 2008 Leave a comment

Databases and I don’t get along, period.

That said, I’ll refain from a metric ton of complaints about how databases don’t do what they want on my behalf (which, of course, comes from operator error moreso than anything wrong with the databases themselves — long story).

However, lately I’ve been getting the hang of MySQL thanks to my assignment as GNU/Linux tester for dbEntrance, a MySQL browser currently written for Macs and soon-to-be prime-time for GNU/Linux. With the patience of the Biblical Job, Tod Landis — the lead developer of dbEntrance — has walked me through the nuances of MySQL and as a result, now it’s not the megamystery it has always been.

Now, Sun has bought MySQL for a billion dollars, causing a variety of reactions ranging from a head-scratching followed by a “hmmm,” to all-out “the-end-is-near” panic.

My reaction leans toward the former, with a “huh, how about that?” rather than a “hmmm.”

Why? I think the Jonathan Schwartz years at Sun are different than Sun’s past leadership, and I mean that in a good way; in fact, I mean that in a great way. Not only has Sun liberated Java and also opened Open Solaris, it also puts a lot of work behind OpenOffice. Further, Sun is making its way into academia on behalf of open source projects.

No one is claiming that Sun is perfect, but I’m not sure anyone in the FOSS realm needs to be wailing and gnashing teeth over this deal.

(Besides, anyone who blogs only once or twice a fortnight — as Schwartz and I seem to do — gets my complete understanding and appreciation!)

So this is the kind of deal that comes only once in a blue moon, or as often as pigs — or MySQL dolphins — fly. And rather than bemoaning the fact that MySQL is now a “hostage” of a multinational, I think this should be seen for what it is: a positive step for both companies.

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Categories: dbEntrance, Entrance, MySQL
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