The groundswell of FUD lately arguably can be a cause for concern in GNU/Linux circles. Interestingly, one of the tell-tale signs whether that Web-based story you’re reading has all the hallmarks of propaganda, at the least, and more than likely is outright FUD, at the worst, is whether the site is sponsored by your friendly neighborhood Redmond death star.
So while clowns like Kevin Carmony keeps blogging about how he’s “improving” Linux with the help of Microsoft (waiting for the laughter to die down), more FUD makes its way to the ethereal Internet thanks to a new joker by the name of Alexander Wolfe.
Wolfe, whose “Wolfe’s Den” appears as the “Chips, Vista and Advanced Technology” blog on the Information Week Web site (did you notice the word Vista in there?), wrote in the latest installment on his blog that — horrors! — there are too many Linux distros to choose from.
He makes the self-serving pithy observation that, since there are so many distros, that “Linux is a forking mess.” As if we should only have one or two choices in computing, rather than the 300 choices of GNU/Linux distros (and those are the active ones) offer.
That’s because freedom — whether in computing or in the rest of everyday life — is about choice, and it’s unfortunate that Wolfe doesn’t get it. But then, most corporate lackeys beholden to the party line of their corporate masters don’t; or if they do, they wallow in hypocrisy while ignoring the truth.
Wolfe also operates under the false assumption that all GNU/Linux distros are all competing against one another for the attention of the average user. Wrong again, Alex: Needless to say the distros that are business oriented — your Red Hats and Novells — are going head to head to slice up the corporate IT pie. But distros like Puppy and Slackintosh competing for IT departments’ attention? Sorry, chump, even the greenest of GNU/Linux newbies realizes that this isn’t true. Pity you don’t — or refuse to — get it, Alex.
Also, the argument of distro-as-religion (Wolfe quotes an outdated story on Distrowatch.com) gets beaten to a pulp. That may have been the case at one time, but Alex seems to have missed the trend toward “distro polygamy” that permeates the current GNU/Linux zeitgeist. To wit: This blog is being written on a iMac running Xubuntu 7.04; next to it is a PowerMac G3 running Yellow Dog 3.0; across the room are two Dell Optiplex GXa machines — one running Linux Mint 3.0 Xfce and the other awaiting its install of Mepis AntiX (thank you, anticapitalista). So some may be beholden to one distro; many of us aren’t.
When you read something about how too many distros is a bad thing, especially when it’s written by a Vista columnist, you can be sure that propaganda is at the forefront. Please read it accordingly.
Me? Leave things alone? NoooOOOoooo. Not me. I sat at home fiddling with Xubuntu 6.06 on the iMac and wondered aloud, only to the cat, “Gee, you know maybe I didn’t give those other distros a fair shake.” So I went through the drill again, starting around 6 this morning, of adding and removing distros and seeing how they fared.
Again, here are the players: indigo iMac, 256MB RAM (not 128 as I previously mentioned — what was I thinking?), 7GB hard drive, and the 6.10 version of Kubuntu; Gentoo 2006; Slackintosh 11; and Fedora Core 4; some coffee) and the new cat watching this time from the floor while I talked to the computer.
Basically, the test was installing, browsing and tweaking parts of the desktop and, in one case (see below), networking to an eMac.
Kubuntu kalling: I know how kool and krisp KDE is as a desktop. It is. Honest. And I’m not taking anything away from it when I say it’s really not for me. Maybe I’m just not kognizant of how great a product KDE puts out — but I would venture to say that I am. It works really well. I wish I could put my finger on what it is about KDE that leaves me kold. But I can’t, except to say that it’s not for me.
[Note to Linus T.: If you really prefer KDE over Gnome, that's your right, and I will defend it to the death, both yours or mine. However, while I wasn't the one to come up with a kernel that set the industry on fire -- for which all of us are truly thankful -- I don't consider myself an idiot because I prefer Gnome. 'Nuff said.]
Sorry, Slack and Gentoo: Missed again. Someday, when I’m a lot more proficient at GNU/Linux and know can fathom installs with only the command line, I’ll be back.
Putting on a Fedora: Fedora Core 4 was a pleasant surprise once I got it up and running. Not only that, it actually networked with the eMac that my wife has commandeered right away, without my having to prompt it (okay, so it asked me first, but I hadn’t thought of putting it through those paces, to be honest). The only failing seemed to be browsing — pages and e-mail took forever to load. But it looked great and, with some work, I bet it would make a very good PowerPC option for GNU/Linux users.
Meanwhile, over the course of several hours the cat got bored — imagine that — and I went back to Xubuntu.
Whew. For the what-to-do-on-your-day-off file, try choosing a distro to go on an indigo iMac, which is what occupied my Tuesday (between trying to figure out why my network fizzled between Macs — something on which I am still working).
Here are the players: indigo iMac, 128MB RAM, 7GB hard drive, and the 6.10 versions of Ubuntu, Xubuntu and Kubuntu; Gentoo 2006; Debian 3.1r5 (all 14 disks burned — sheesh); Slackintosh 11; OpenSUSE; Mandriva 2005 Limited Edition; and Fedora Core 4; some coffee; daughter Mirano’s observations (likes Mandriva’s Tux with the stars in his eyes) and the new cat perched in my lap after pulling him off the keyboard.
The winner and new GNU/Linux operating system on this machine: Xubuntu 6.10. More on that in a minute.
Debian disappoints: I don’t know why — and I’ll be the first to admit that it could be yours truly performing the ritual PEBKAC drill — but every time I try to install any version of Debian on any of my machines, it doesn’t work. I’m crushed because I first tried GNU/Linux using Debian installed on a friend’s machine and liked it. As a sentimental favorite, it’s one I’d really like to use. Yesterday, same thing: Downloads but can’t boot, and now I have 14 disks here . . . .
Slackintosh, Gentoo and Fedora all gave me the option of the command line from which to continue and my futile efforts to go past that point proved fruitless. Again, the problem very likely comes from operator error, but a little guidance would be nice.
OpenSUSE provided one of the world’s greatest mysteries. How can an installer just abruptly stop three or four times in exactly the same spot? Neat trick. Next . . . .
The *buntus, lucky for me, were fairly idiot friendly. But Ubuntu 6.10 had a screen issue (as in an unresolvable black screen problem) that I couldn’t get fixed. Kubuntu was adequate, but the more I use various distros, the more I find myself gravitating toward Gnome rather than KDE for the desktop. Don’t get me wrong: In many ways, KDE is tres cool, but I find some of the features a little bit much for my computing use. But as the auto ads say, your mileage may vary. Xubuntu 6.10 provides a fairly clean and light desktop and it doesn’t appear that the learning curve will be all that great (which is why I avoided Kubuntu).
So there you have it. As soon as I can get an Intel box (which is soon), I will probably try again, this time with additional distros that provide fully free software (free as in freedom, not price). These include gNewSense, BLAG, Ututo, and a fourth one that Richard Stallman mentioned in his speech in Berkeley that I can’t remember off the top of my head.