March 31, 2008
(Update: This piece originally ran on April Fools' day; although the content of the post is not an April Fools' joke, the retro styling definitely was. View a screenshot of how this post looked on April 1, 2008)
I occasionally follow Jamie Zawinski's blog. Jamie's an interesting guy. In the process of researching an earlier post, I discovered that he played a significant role in unearthing the classic Worse is Better paper:
About a year later  we hired a young kid from Pittsburgh named Jamie Zawinski. He was not much more than 20 years old and came highly recommended by Scott Fahlman. We called him "The Kid." He was a lot of fun to have around: not a bad hacker and definitely in a demographic we didn't have much of at Lucid. He wanted to find out about the people at the company, particularly me since I had been the one to take a risk on him, including moving him to the West Coast. His way of finding out was to look through my computer directories - none of them were protected. He found the EuroPAL paper, and found the part about worse is better. He connected these ideas to those of Richard Stallman, whom I knew fairly well since I had been a spokesman for the League for Programming Freedom for a number of years. JWZ excerpted the worse-is-better sections and sent them to his friends at CMU, who sent them to their friends at Bell Labs, who sent them to their friends everywhere.
Or, perhaps you've read the classic Teach Yourself Programming in Ten Years? That was written by Peter Norvig, who is now the director of research at Google. It refers to Mr. Zawinski thusly:
One of the best programmers I ever hired had only a High School degree; he's produced a lot of great software, has his own news group, and made enough in stock options to buy his own nightclub.
I think you'll agree that it's fair to call Jamie Zawinski a world class software engineer. Jamie's blog documents, in great detail, how he runs his DNA Lounge club in San Francisco. It's a great read, full of fascinating, often geeky backstage details. The DNA Lounge is powered by open source software, including various flavors of Linux. Sometimes this can be painful. In 2006, Jamie ran into serious problems with the Linux sound architecture:
You may have noticed that the audio archives have only had one channel for the last few weeks. You would probably assume that's a simple matter of replacing a cable; turns out, not. As far as we can tell, the audio going into the computer is stereo, and somewhere in there, it drops (most of) the right channel. So, bad connector, right? No, we've tried four different sound cards, and checked the mixer settings. At this point it seems like the last time we (accidentally) upgraded ALSA, it introduced some software bug that is making one channel go away. I can't even fathom how such a bug could exist, but that's Linux for you.
We seem to have solved the "missing right channel" problem. It was, in fact, a software problem. We were running Fedora 4, and when we installed the latest patches on March 31, that's when the right channel vanished. We tried downgrading to the version of the kernel and ALSA as of three months ago, and that didn't fix it. But, Jonathan took all the sound cards home and tried them in his machine, and they all worked fine there. He was running Fedora 5. So we upgraded to that, and the problem went away.
That's right: upgrading to the latest FC4: breaks the world. Giving up on FC4 and going to FC5: un-breaks it. Nicely done, guys.
For years I've had it drummed into my head that you always have to keep your systems patched, if you aren't running the latest security fixes, the script kiddies will eat you alive, running a six month old OS is like leaving your front door wide open, blah blah blah. Well you know what? F**k that noise. I'm done upgrading anything ever. The next time I get this s**t into a state that seems even remotely stable, I'm never touching it again. If we get hacked, oh well. I have backups. It has got to be less work to recover from than constantly dealing with this kind of nonsense.
The DNA lounge provides streaming audio and video webcasts of whatever is going on any time the club is open. So problems like this are especially troubling -- Jamie's business depends on this stuff working.
I was particularly disturbed to find this recent entry:
I spent a solid four days trying to upgrade the kiosks from Red Hat 9 + LTSP 4.3 (vintage 2003) to... something newer. In this case, Ubuntu 10.7 + LTSP 5, since it seems like that's what the cool kids are running these days. Why would I do such a thing? Well, one reason is that the Firefox 3 beta would neither install nor compile on RH9 (missing libraries), and another was that the kiosks are a little crashy (they reboot themselves pretty regularly for no adequately explored reason), and also, it's "just kinda old", which some people will tell you might mean, maybe, kinda, less secure. So I figured I'd give it a shot.
Well, since this is not my first rodeo, when I say "upgrade" what I really mean is "do a fresh install on a spare drive."
So, after four days of this nonsense, I gave up, and just put the old drive back in. "Nonsense" in this case is defined as: the upgrade made the machines be even crashier than before (they can barely stay up for an hour) and it's a far worse kind of crashy: it's the kind of crashy where you have to press the shiny red button to make them come back to life, instead of them being able to do that themselves.
So, f**k it. They'll be running a 2003 version of Linux forever, because I frankly have better things to do with my time.
I can't fault Jamie's approach. A clean install of an operating system on a new hard drive -- for kiosks running controlled hardware, no less -- that's as good as it gets.
Apparently, Linux is so complex that even a world class software engineer can't always get it to work.
I find it highly disturbing that a software engineer of Jamie's caliber would give up on upgrading software. Jamie lives and breathes Linux. It is his platform of choice. If he throws in the towel on Linux upgrades, then what possible hope do us mere mortals have?
Posted by Jeff Atwood
One of my favourite JWZ quotes is:
"I think I still enjoy writing software, usually. But what I end up spending almost all of my time doing is sysadmin crap. I hate it. I have always hated it. Always. If you made a Venn diagram, there would be two non-overlapping circles, one of which was labeled, "Times when I am truly happy" and the other of which was labeled, "Times when I am logged in as root, holding a cable, or have the case open."
All distros are not equal.
I hate Red Hat too.
Try out Ubuntu.
Addendum. Linux has never been jwz's "platform of choice". This is a guy who was quoted at length in the Unix-Haters Handbook. That "Linux is only free if your time has no value" quote is actually HIS, in an essay he wrote ten years ago ranting about the OS:
Mmmmmm. Linux doesn't suck. I haven't actively used in in a few years, but when I did I used an older machine as a home server. file, email, etc. Thing never crashed and it ran on an old measly underpowered computer with a dribble of ram. Uptimes of over a year, and only then it's because I moved. I can't even remember the distro, maybe Red Hat.
I have a Mac, and OSX sucks. I have a PC and Windows sucks. Vista sucks. XP sucks. Win2000 sucked. All computers suck. The fact that XP eventually degrades itself and requires a reinstall really sucks.
I found that Linux worked better with slightly older, very common hardware (lets say 1 year). It makes sense since the nice people who fix the bugs and write drivers probably already fixed the bugs for the older hardware.
Jamie not fixing bugs doesn't make him more or less of a developer. Just because I develop software doesn't mean I have the arrogance to think I can sit down and track a bug in sound hardware drivers in a reasonable amount of time. I also have a life, and I'd rather relax with a brew. Apparently Jamie did what anyone else would do - look for a newer version.
Upgrades - any OS upgrade is a hassle. Any software component upgrade is a hassle. Any framework upgrade is a hassle.
If anything, Jamie just mirrors what most 'software engineers' are like when they get older ... they don't want to spend their time fiddling with stuff that should work. It's why I haven't played a PC game in years and don't give a hoot what graphics card is in a machine. Consoles are inferior, but they're commodities that work.
Still. I'd rather develop software than be a lawyer.
Seriously Jeff, your blog is going downhill. The ratio of original to quoted content keeps going down and down.
I say this because I am concerned. I enjoy this blog, and I'm beginning to lose interest.
April Fool color scheme? :-)
Linux distro is a matter of preference, but Fedora is highly experimental. That's its design objective. You should use something more conservative. RedHat Enterprise and CentOS are in the same family, but without the experimental elements.
I don't know about audio, but for my work (computational fluid dynamics), I rely on Linux heavily. It's rock solid.
"Heh - it really is April 1. As if Windows geeks bash anyone with anywhere *near* the frequency as Mac or Linux geeks."
Hehe, that might have something to do with the lack of "Windows geeks" - after all, who would be enthusiastic about using Windows?
Anywho, Jeff, it seems like you're just writing this post as another attempt at Linux-bashing. I'm sure there are better things to blog about than your bias towards Windows, which everyone is already well aware of.
Being a world class software engineer does not make someone suddenly an expert at everything. jwz's ability to deal with things better is demonstrated, but "linux" as it is bandied about these days is many things (kernel, gnu projects, distributions, ...) and _no one_ is ever going to be readily deft across the board.
Your (and Jamie's) main point about the perils of upgrading is on the mark though. Needless to say this is certainly not an issue exclusive to open source. At least there is the option of diving in to fix problems in that case.
You've jumped the shark.
Articles that pose "topics of deep interest", such as the purpose of middle mouse buttons. Numerous self-links, etc, which garner numerous mindless replies. Baffling, but so is the reality of why some people still cook with Crisco.
Today some garble about some guy, and a link to his "lounge" with a picture of one guy appearing to bugger another.
Real quality Jeff, I think you've prostituted yourself to page-rankings.
(Interesting new retro scheme)
I've tried Linux a few times over the years, but as I can always do what I need to do under Windows I've never been drawn in.
I did leave Linux on my Eee PC for a few months, but in the end I found it easier to install XP.
My brain is already overloaded trying to keep up to date with the latest Microsoft technologies, I can't take in all the open source things too! Maybe that's their plan :)
As far as I recall, for personal use Jamie moved to OS X fairly early on.
He does seem to have a lot of trouble with Linux, but at the end of the day, it's all anecdotal. Anyone can pull out horror setup stories, and it doesn't say a lot except what Jamie did at the top of the post you linked: "Stupid computers".
And is every site doing the horrible colour scheme for April's fools? Yours isn't so bad, but some of the others make me want to gouge my eyes out. Here in the future, April 1st was yesterday. Get with the times, sheesh.
As has been said, Linux is free if your time is worthless.
Almost nobody in the Western world shops at real-life bazaars either, because they are dodgy, unsafe, and unregulated. And in the Western world, we like things to be reliable, working, safe. So cathedral it is. Even our flea markets aren't bazaars, really, they're just knock-off cathedrals.
I will say though, Linux audio is _horrible_. And that's coming from someone who uses it as his platform of choice. It does seem to be getting better.
After working with Windows professionally for over 10 years, I found Linux to be a lot easier to deal with, although certain areas are not as streamlined as Windows or Mac OS X.
The reasons have nothing to do with Linux itself. When you install a product in Windows, the manufacturer wrote the driver. When you install a product in Linux, somebody wrote the driver in their spare time, possibly by reverse engineering, and possibly by reading the spec provided by the manufacturer, which may or may not have been accurate. Then these drivers were picked up and maintained by Red Hat or the other linux distro companies.
The areas (like webcams and wireless) where Linux has difficulty have more to do with the inability or unwillingness of manufacturers to do the same for Linux that they do for Windows.
Granted, very few people are using Linux the way that Jaime is using it, so it's certainly possible that even given manufacturer support, there would be difficulties doing what he wants to do. I myself would still prefer OS X or Windows for audio stuff (I'm a musician and I've done a fair bit of sound engineering), but Linux has been improving in that area, particularly.
Also, it's not like that upgrade problem is limited to Linux--it's a broad phenomenon that spans all areas of engineering, not just computers, even.
The *real* april fool's day prank was starting the linux vs. windows flame war, of course. The new style is just a red herring.
Not all Linux distributions are the same. A distribution with a long release cycle is more adequate for situations that require stability over several years. All of that can't be found with Fedora which is a playground for Redhat developers. IMHO it can't be updated securely. I would have recommended a Debian maybe with a backport of the audio system.
Please fix the horrible color scheme in the pages, dark green on black is unreadable. Light green on black (as in old monitors) is fine, though.
Yes, I have used green on black monitors at 80's and they are kind of vintage and cool but this website is now unusable for me and will stop reading it if this horrible usability issue is not fixed.
I think it is also somewhat disturbing that a software developer of Jamie's caliber refuses to bust open the source code and at least take a look. Refusing to leverage one of the strongest points of OSS seems kinda...odd.
well, I'm not sure this post is an April's fool product. It does seem like one, but putting it in context, I have though a number of times that some of these posts are paid by MS... well, it's not so strange that I heard about this blog for the first time when listening to an interview to a MS executive.
Anyway, many of Jeff's other writings are great, and that's why I keep reading his posts.
Excellent color scheme. Please don't change it again :-)
Select All makes this site much more readable...
No surprise about the Fedora upgrade. That's what Fedora is: a walking timebomb everytime you upgrade it. That's fine for some, but was too much for me. I moved to the 'dumbed down' Ubuntu, as I did not want MS Novell and probably did not consider Debian like I should have. But I'm really happy with Ubuntu and things don't break at each update.
@Ari: In firefox:
Edit - Page Style - No style.
I find this whole post a little dubious. You make it sound like Linux is at fault, and you appear to be discouraging people from attempting to use it.
Don't believe the hype, people. Unless you plan to run a Linux-based terminal server setup on obscure kiosk hardware, you won't have anywhere near the problems this guy had. Not to mention the reams of custom scripts and setup this guy created. I mean, he has a whole section in his "Behind the Scenes" area for "Source Code". Within that area he describes in detail what he did to create his custom setup, and you might be overwhelmed at just how much custom work he did do.
Here is the kiosk section: http://www.dnalounge.com/backstage/src/kiosk/
Frankly, the guy did an amazing job with this stuff. And you tell me he could have done any of the stuff with speed and *no cost* with Windows.
No Jeff, don't do it! Don't listen to the madmen that tell you to keep this colour scheme permanently. Ouch, the eye strain!
I know it's supposed to be easier on the eyes but that only works if everything on your screen has a black background. Most every application uses a white background as a default. After reading this page for a few minutes then switching back to another app my eyes are watering.
To the Linux fanboyz out there: Don't worry, upgrading is a universal pain, your favourite OS is not being singled out. These days I hate to touch my Windows setup. Small apps, not a problem. Any upgrade of anything major has me in a cold sweat. Our manager has told the sysadmins in no uncertain term they are NEVER to enable Windows upgrades for the developers.
I would extend this phobia to installations as well as upgrades. I won't install beta software now, after the IE7 beta killed my boss' Visual Studio and screwed his machine up so badly he had to rebuild. A good installation is likely to take a couple of hours. A problematic one a couple of days. Two days of my life I can never get back! So I avoid any changes like the plague.
Something is wrong if I, as a software professional, am phobic about changes. How must the users feel?
Awesome new theme. Too bad it's only going to last for a day...
Linux is free if your time is worthless
Well said. And I have to agree that a hearing a sentence such as "I can't even fathom how such a bug could exist, but that's Linux for you" from a supposed Linux advocate is a bit... strange. And a refreshing hint that mere mortals still need not apply. (In my wasted tries, I don't think I *ever* got sound to work.)
will stop reading it if this horrible usability
issue is not fixed
Drink! (The blog drinking game requires a drink when someone threatens to go away.) Or come back tomorrow. I have a feeling the green will be gone.
Love this post. I've been telling people for years how unstable, crashy and plain difficult to configure linux can be unless you are lucky with your hardware. They often counter that "they had no problems" (on their one hardware config which they tried to install one flavour of linux on once, and spent a day or two configuring afterwards).
Out of 6 computers i've tried installing flavours of nix on none of them 4 of them were impossible to get anything beyond a command prompt for (i.e. gnome failed to start or give useful errors), free-bsd was fine for 2 of them and debian on one of the same 2. seems to have gotten better recently... or my last 2 computers were particularly nice with their hardware. I don't have enough data to tell.
My friend once bought "Red hat linux for dummies", which came with red hat on a disk, no less. The pair of us (both competent geeks I might add) couldn't get it to work properly after spending a whole day on it. All we got was a command prompt with no graphical OS. Bear in mind this was before the internet was affordable or fast though... I can remember waiting to download the graphics card driver over dial up for it.
I should try linux again... see if its changed much. Its been at least a year since I was last running it and developing for it proper...
On the other hand. Knoppix has worked fine on every machine I have tried... I attribute that to its simple (i.e. none from the user) configuration and minimalistic approach.
I can't help but be dubious...
Did you write a post about this new look on your blog? I hope that change is a thing that we'll see more in the future, it's refreshing. But i would advice against keeping it in the long run. It's harder to read and more importantly it's harder to take in the message, i constantly keep getting distracted.
I agree that for a stable system Fedora probably wasn't the best choice as it is bleeding edge. But on the other hand, that probably means that it has some (limited, non functioning) support for newer hardware as opposed to no support at all.
Perhaps he didn't delve into the source code because he has, oh, I dunno... better things to do!? Just because he is probably capable, given enough time, to fix the problem does not mean his time is worthless to him. The OSS argument of "fix it yourself" is frankly a pathetic argument that shifts the buck and maintains low quality software. It's the reason proper polished OSS is very rare.
I think sooner or later OSS developers will have to recognize that all the complaints about Microsoft that they've been branding about for years (that it has lots of silly bugs, takes up lots of resourses and can sometimes break one of literally millions of different hardware configurations with a patch) will start to affect them too, especially as user bases grow. And as soon as someone who is using your system as an end user is told to "fix it yourself" they'll most likely go elsewhere.
The large OSS projects such as Firefox and OOo are already bloated and in OOo's case it's not even as polished as MS Office, and that's with big corporate backing. KDE and Gnome are bloated and slow in comparison to Explorer. It seems that the closer you get to a finished polished, usable piece of software the more bloated it will become to the point where people will notice and complain. And once you've finished this polished product you'll end up having a nightmare to maintain it because the polish in usability and functionality you've applied is mostly handling lots and lots of edge cases that make changes and new development Hard.
If the Linux install base on end user systems ever approaches 20% I think those distributions will have a new found respect for the job MS has done in developing software for 90+% of the market for so long. Because as your end user base increases your space for crap excuses reduces significantly.
That's the problem with Linux - it's great fun for people who want to fiddle with stuff, but it's hard to get useful work done unless you're an expert... and sometimes not even then!
(let the flamewars begin!)
I had to refresh to get the black and green.
Good april fools.
Bad web designer!
Change the names of the files/links etc... even if by a token char. But I guess you knew that already and it was just a little "coding horror".
We are all terrible programmers after all... :)
I'm inclined to consider Jamie's anecdotes as evidence that software engineers don't always make the best system administrators, rather than as evidence against Linux.
I'd say it's a bit like wondering why Jimmy Hendrix couldn't play the drums. I mean, "if he throws in the towel on percussion instruments, then what possible hope do us mere mortals have?"
1. JWZ isn't really a Linux guy, though he does use it for certain things. When I first heard of him he was an SGI guy, and now that SGI has fallen I guess he's more into Macs. He has long complained about various aspects of Linux.
2. Those of us who do unusual and difficult things with Linux are the ones most likely to run into unusual and difficult problems with it. Then we decide whether it's worth our time to fix the problems or take a different approach.
3. #2 applies to any technology, not just Linux.
I hate Linux, for exactly this type of reason. What stability? What ease of use? What ease of customization? The cake is a lie.
People seem to be forgetting what day it is. lol, nice new css!
Dom, as someone who works with lots of programmers, I think your observation is dead-on.
The comments about Fedora are true - it is RedHat's 'bleeding edge, not stable' playground OS. They put all their effort into stable RedHat ES instead, so if you want a truly stable supported OS, use CentOS (which is RH ES recompiled without the proprietary Redhat branding).
The thing is about Linux and stablilty is that is really is stable - Oracle will sell you a DB and you get a free copy of Linux to run it on. Something like IBM did with AS/400 - buy DB2 get a free As/400 to run it :)
VMware uses it for ESX Server, the large-scale, enterprise VMware Server software. Nobody really complains that its unstable.
On the other hand, we have this guy being too clever for himself. He's running fancy kiosk hardware (fair enough, but wouldn't an ordinary PC in a different box be ok?), with a ton of self-written scripts. Hmm, and the entire thing stops working when he changes the OS part...
Sometimes people who are professed to be extremely clever are nothing of the sort, they just appear that way.
Ubuntu 10.7? Please, can someone give me a link to download this one?
Sorry for being off topic, but I can't read anything inhere.
jwz actually prefers Mac OS X to Linux. These days, he even develops xscreensaver on Mac OS X.
Thank MOZ for the Firefox Developer Toolbar and its ability to disable styles. =) I tried hard, even knowing the date, to read the comments but it was actually killing me. LOL God, how did we deal with this crap in the old days?
I'm a mediocre software "engineer" at best. And I hate the phrase engineer, it does a disservice to all real engineers.
However, I am a fantastic Linux administrator. There're plenty of people I know who are fantastic developers, but when their box stops behaving, they come to me, because I know all the tricks to make various distributions behave themselves.
They're two different worlds.
Also, I like the black green. :(
When will Windows geeks stop bashing everything else
Heh - it really is April 1. As if Windows geeks bash anyone with anywhere *near* the frequency as Mac or Linux geeks.
Man... this is really the same discussion as someone saying oh asp is so much better than php.
me too amarok... I don't know why I keep reading this posts and the comments... I just love to read all Jeff's and his readers thought, maybe...
Fedora I think, is not really good at some kiosk or embedded system. You can clearly see those embedded devices are majorly based on Debian Linux which is popular to it's stability and among the oldest linux distribution. I'm also using Debian on my Rain Gauge system board. I'm happy with the stability.
Well, there is more than hundreds linux distributions out there... you may wish to try before bashing em all... ehehehe... :P
I think your comment about rewriting the drivers was kind of the point. His time is more valuable than that. In fact, if you make money, your time is valuable. Time you spend writing drivers is time you are not spending making money. Thus, you are LOSING money. This is why Linux is more expensive than windows. The cost of the software is negligible in comparison to the IT hours saved.
There's a lot of wisdom in this post. I worked in a shop years ago that was running an MS-DOS based EPoS system. It worked perfectly - but was upgraded to Windows 95 all the same... the problems started flowing thick and fast! I won't go into details, but let's just say it sucked _really_ badly!
I like the new CSS... it allows childish moron's like me to post ASCII art... ahem...
|____________| Help Me Obi Wan.
||:= . You're my only hope!
__| __ |__ \ ' . /
| ||. | == | | \ ' . /
(| ||__| == | |) \ '
| |  == | | \ '\|
| |____________| | \ |
/__\ /__\ \ / \
Nobody seems to get it.
It is not about who is better. It is about choice!!
No options, no choice. It's that simple!
Your new color scheme stinks. I feel like I'm working on an AS/400 again. :)
By the way, thanks for the fun theme, I enjoyed it :)
Damn... filtered the spaces... lol
I like Jamie's colour scheme actually :)
As for sound on linux I agree it's tricky but getting better.
I notice the proprietry linux apps like skype, java browser plugin,
flash browser plugin, ... tend to use the older OSS interface rather
than the newer ALSA interface. This practically means that
they hog the sound device while running which is very annoying.
They're fixing this in newer versions thankfully.
As for all systems there are config/upgrade problems.
Personally I switched from windows to linux 8 years ago because
of the type of thing Jamie is ranting about, and I had no
control over. With Linux it's not all perfect but it is better,
and one always can fix the problems where it's not.
Ultimately it's just an attitude.
If you really want to engineer a working system you will.
Jamie's attitude has switched form being proactive to whining
a long time ago. That's fair enough as his focus has changed,
and he's rightly whining that things are not yet good enough.
Loved the new color scheme.
Totally cool. :)
Apparently, Linux is so complex that even a world class software
engineer can't always get it to work.
How exactly are you making the leap from "Jamie had trouble" to "It all Linux's fault"? I've certianly had similar trouble with Windows updates in the past. Should I blame Windows? No, the fact was I had oddball badly supported hardware. I quit buying hardware from that manufacturer and the problems (mostly) went away.
Unless Jamie bothers to track down the problems to their true source, which it looks like he has no intention of doing (his time, his choice), I don't think you have enough information to draw any such conclusions.
Hey, MattH, you do realise that you have to do the exact same thing in Windows and Mac, right? Right?!?!
Nice central point to the post. pity about the examples used. Or rather, it's a pity that we're all so sensitive we can't approach the topic with any amount of emotional detachment!
Out of curiosity - would it be possible to do what he does with a windows install? I've never really used it that much, so I don't know..
For a stable server with reliable hardware support as given word and without annoying versioning-fetish, try a BSD-Derivate.
Using Fedora or Ubuntu as a "has-to-be-absolutely-stable" server-OS is not "world-class". Maybe he had to many drinks at his bar recently? ;)
When I mentioned all the other OS's suck, I neglected to also mention that Linux sucks just as bad.
There are things I know, and things I don't know. Upgrades are hell, and MS Beta's are not to be installed on a machine unless you are prepared to reinstall everything.
Due to the retro colors and copious amounts of coffee, I'll now devolve into lamenting the loss of OS/2. A super stable and very cool OS at the time. It had a native TCP/IP stack, a GNU C compiler, and had a nice feel to it. Far ahead of Windows 3 and Win95. Too bad it was a betamax in the end.
I hate the mistaken belief that if something is free/open, any problems with it are somehow not as important because it is free. That is nothing more than hubris.
/me tires of 'finding' memory leaks in Pidgin, one of the star projects of OSS.
/meta-me: 50% chance someone says "they're probably in the GTK runtime, so its not Pidgin's fault!"
Well, RedHat has never really been nice about upgrades and versioning, they've never been shy to release broken stuff as a stable release.
And I wouldn't have chosen Ubuntu for a kiosk or other non desktop install... but...
Anyway don't blame Linux. Would he be able to do all the stuff he does if they were running Windows (and without paying a lot for licenses, software add ons, etc.)
Zawinski famously abandoned Linux a year or two ago for OS X because he wanted a system that 'just works'. Can't blame him for that, but it suggests that 'software engineer' isn't an accurate description of what he does.
I thought the install of Fedora Core was fairly easy. But, alas, I stick to Vista for my own development. It does what I need it to do. (which is nothing, but no one knows about that)
Another way to look at the situation of unreliable software is this. People with no family to support and no career taking the rest of their time have the time to "fiddle" with experimental stuff. When I was a teenager, I could spend hours/days on the computer coding and figuring stuff out just for the sake of computing. As an adult with responsibilities, I don't have time to spend on such things. Granted, this guy was trying to do something beyond what normal users do, but it brings up the bigger point - adults don't have the time or inclination to waste time fiddling with partially working solutions (except for those few individuals who substitute human relationships with technology).
P.S. This dark green text is totally unreadable on my laptop :(
You can usually get pretty far by making a point of buying hardware with Linux in mind. Also, if you just want stability above all else, Debian Stable is your friend.
If you're looking for a quality Linux desktop or notebook, Dell sells systems preloaded with Ubuntu nowadays, and you can get them with support.
Niklas Eriksson I totally agree with your insight. There are so many out there that are professed as "geniuses" and they are nothing of the sort.
If Linux in a nutshell was sooo unstable why would so many institutions such as the government, universities, and law enforcement use it to do simple daily tasks to large complex data retrieval. I have used multiple versions/flavors of Linux. Each has its unique purpose and each has its pitfalls, but I would rather work with something that I can enhance than a black box like MS.
I've been using Linux for several years now and, though I've had my problems, I've never had any problem that was worse than any windows bug.
As a matter of fact, if you compare the percentage of bugs in all the Linux bug reports that are marked "RESOLVED" to the percentage of those fixed in Windows, you'll find that the Linux developers at least care enough to fix them.
Granted, Linux has the advantage that it's easier to say "Hey guys, this bug is fixed in cvs" than try to help all the Windows users out there get the proper windows update.
The thing is, all OS's have bugs. The thing that makes me use Linux is that I personally find the bugs in Linux less annoying than the bugs in Windows. Other people find the opposite to be true. That's why we have a choice.
adults don't have the time or inclination to waste time fiddling with
partially working solutions
Which is why Linux folks should cease trying to push it onto mortal users' desktops. It ain't ready. A pretty desktop is of no use when the sound doesn't work and the user has to rip their hair out sifting through man pages for a solution.
/me tires of 'finding' memory leaks in Pidgin, one of the star
projects of OSS.
Ouch, and I like Pidgin a lot. I left the Mac a month ago and I haven't found a great chat client yet.
some people completly missed the point of this story (hint look at the title). This is not about linux is bad or linux is worse than windows or windows is great etc.
he made a bad choice of which Linux Distro to use as a base
He heavily customised it
He upgraded the OS and it broke his system....
Please repeat with MacOS, Windows, SunOS, BeOS etc ... and get the same results ...
Operating system upgrades WILL break something
Your hardware is not as standard as you think
"Nothing Fucks Up Productivity Like Installing Linux" - Zed Shaw
Another "if this smart guy couldn't use it, how could the rest of the world" post.
I expected more from you, Jeff. Especially now that this is your whole gig.
If you are a long time reader of JWZ's, you'll see that he does a hell of a lot of personal customizations to make the software run "just so" on those kiosk machines (and he releases it to the public, which is awesome." That sort of thing is prone to breakage, especially when the were made on a bleeding edge distribution that is 5 years old!
If JWZ read his own posts from back then, he'd see all the pain that it took to do those sorts of customizations in the first place.
But he got it working.
Tell me how he could do the same things on some other OS for the price point that he was looking at (it was a factor for these public machines in his first go round).
There isn't a story here, but good try at making it into one.
At least you'll get a lot of Slashdot traffic and hopefully some click-thrus on your ads.
Please change the colour scheme back, feint green on black is totally unreadable (especially as you can't type with ctrl-a selected!) Thanks.
You can always back up what you have built using rsync, then reverse that from a secure server and hourly write out the "good" version back to the servers using rsync. If nothing changes it only takes a minute or so, and you can email reports of what changes there are, if any.
Wow Pandora's box Jeff. It's been found an opened. Now to await the inevitable Linux tribe come to defend their deity.
I am sure no one is really reading the comments this far into the post, but I figured I'd chime in anyway.
I have stable open source Xen virtual servers running on a few hardware boxes that host a full range of applications. These range from manufacturing production environment support, database servers, accounting server, web server, backup, etc to user desktops served to thin clients. The whole setup allows me to have dev, test, and production environments in a small footprint for the price of the hardware. My time would be spent irregardless of whether or not if I was running Windows (I do have a two of windows machines to support AutoCAD and CNC equipment) or Linux.
Oh, yeah I also do some audio on my laptop for fun. So please don't tell me what I can't do with linux.
This post is a cheap shot, Fedora is the WinME of Linux distros.
Hey guys, Atwood can't seem to get a WinME Network to be reliable.
I'm surprised that you decided to go with such a god awful color scheme. While it's nice and hip and retro, it's completely unreadable. I tried reading this post, but after the first paragraph, my eyes simply hurt too bad to continue.
I would highly suggest that you change it back because as it is, my eyes can't take it and I'm way to lazy to change the style sheet myself.
Hope the new scheme is an April Fool's gag! Blech ;-)
The article is not about upgrading, it is about the fact that one can be a good developper and a bad sysadmin.
Well I used to be a *BSD/linux sysadmin. I can give you a big bucks advice for free regarding free unices stability that he infringed (explaining all his problems) :
**Get away from from "eye candy", so called "easy to use", and "bleeding edge" distributions.**
FC, mandrake, ubuntu, red hat, suse are gap released distributions. Meaning that upgrading is as with windows quite hazardous. These are nice "click-a-click" distribution meant for fitting 80% of the needs. The trade-off for eye candy, and "ease of use" it does not handle well abnormal case (such as having a bios driven fan). These are the prefered distro from windows geeks.
Among stream released* distributions such as the debian testing, and some flavor of BSD not tagged current, avoid. These are meant has beta test distribution. Avoid them, unless you need latest openldap, or handling exotic, new hardware. (normaly a good sysadmin avoid exotism, computer are prone to factorial sensibility syndroma, hubris can kill). These are the prefered distro of people that does nothing else with their computers but reinstall them on a daily basis.
*stream released means there are no such things as an update CD, distribution dont have much of gap to cross to upgrade. You upgrade them in the flow constantly through minor jumps almost in a crontab.
Free Unices are user friendly, not idiot friendly, learning curve is tough, but they are so usefull.
Thanks to using stable linux/BSD distro, I became a developper, and since Active Directory is looking much like an LDAP, that XP is quite POSIX (oh I am already sad of XP end), that I know of kerberos, have insight on mail standard and protocol... some customers asked me where I learnt to be such a windows guru even though I started C# a year ago.
Well, I became what they think a windows hacker, by following my own advices, and learning unices by doing it the cool, long, lazy stable way : being a linux/BSD sysadmin.
This guy might be a good software developper, it seems though he has all wrong as being a sysadmin.
Developers overlook sysadmin's kill, it is a shame and that cost them a lot. But they are too proud to notice it.
I do have to say something about this and the first comment. Unix and Linux weren't designed to be reinstalled and upgraded all the time. One of the beautiful things about unix and linux is that once you find a configuration that works, you can trust it will continue to operate. Adding software doesn't pollute the water in the same way it does in windows operating systems.
Along with this rock solid reliability is the trade off of more complex installation. Admins generally are required to spend MANY MANY hours getting their devices configured properly, OR spend the time to script and installation routine to duplicate their work for them.
In any case, Linux is not designed to be continuously upgraded. The whole Unix/Linux OS family was designed to have near limitless uptime and reliability.
This problem is a case of mistaken identity, or mistaken role for the software. You wouldn't use Excel as a database application would you? Can it do it? Sure, but that isn't what it was meant to do.
Ubuntu 10.7 doesn't exist.
Guy didn't do any research at all. Did he even try to get it working, or he just assumed it would all work without any input from his end?
There are two sides at play in these comments (two loud sides, anyway):
1. Linux sucks and isn't good for anything but fiddling.
2. Linux is the best thing in the world and you should fix your own problems instead of complaining about it, because that's how open-source works.
Both of these arguments are problematic, because both of them run to extremes that simply aren't true. I'll address them one at a time.
Linux sucks if you're a Windows or Mac user who is not comfortable with using or learning to use a good number of manual methods for system configuration. But this doesn't mean that it sucks and isn't useful. Ubuntu is the only flavor I've had installed on my own hardware, so it's all I can speak to, but it was the easiest system I've ever used for web application development. Installing PHP and MySQL is a breeze. You don't need any special bundle (like XAMPP or MAMP, which, in fairness, are bundles that I use happily on Windows and the Mac), and installation works the way that it should.
At my previous job, we used servers running Red Hat (sorry, not sure of the release), and we had no major problems during my time there, even with a fairly green systems guy. Everything worked very, very well, and we had probably about 95% or better up time BEFORE integrating load balancers and dupe servers into our system.
So Linux doesn't suck. What DOES suck is that certain Linux distros come with problems fresh out of the box. When I upgraded to Ubuntu's latest on my old Dell lappy, the power-charging interface simply stopped working. No, it wasn't part of a gradual decline. It was "I'm working with Breezy Badger" followed by "I'm not working with Feisty Fawn" (I might have my animals off...it's been a while).
Open-source software is meant to be a collaberative process--I will not disagree with that; however, a Linux distro such as Red Hat or Ubuntu is not some DVD encoder that you download from some guy's Sourceforge page. These are major releases that people have begun to trust. New releases need to be consistently stable (normal new version bugs aside). Yes, it's nice if a user has the ability to fix a bug him/herself, but that shouldn't be required. If sound isn't working in an official release, it should be fixed and released as an update. Including broken features in an OS and then passing the fixing onto the user as some sort of rite of passage is just plain stupid. If you're going to distribute your software across the globe (and especially if you're going to tout it as something that all users could benefit from), take responsibility for it and stop passing the buck to the user.
In most cases (including this one), usability problems are not the fault of the user, be he a 97 year-old farmer or a 22 year-old hotshot with crazy hacking skills.
The CAPTCHA code word for today should have been "green". Kinda cool for a change. The black background uses less electricity, so it's "geen" too. lol.
I frankly have better things to do with my time
That is the conclusion I have come to every time I've tried to install and use Linux as a first-class citizen on my PC at home. I just don't have time to mess around with trying to get everything to work smoothly. Last time it was the video drivers for my nVidia card that wouldn't work in Ubuntu that did it to me.
I'm a programmer, but I do have a life I'm trying to live away from the computer. Spending a week of evenings trying to solve the kind of problem that _never_ happens to me in Windows... It drives me right up the freaking wall.
It's amazing how many people fall for that "latest technology" plug.
I always run a gen or two behind, and it applies to vitually everything.
Windows XP out? I was running 2000, now that Vista's out, I'm running XP.
Websites are supposed to coded in XHTML/XML and the latest CSS. I use older CSS and HTML. Hell, half the browsers out there STILL can't render all CSS properly.
You'll find that waiting for a year or two, or in some cases 3, will render what was really buggy next gen tech into rather inexpensive ho-hum standard fair.
But instead of seeing it as boring, see it instead as cheap, effective, and pretty damned universal.
Isn't that what you REALLY want?
O/T: I love the old-style color scheme. Why don't you keep it around a while?
The only thing worse than upgrading is living with the same old problems. :-)
Similarly I hate Linux's bugs while I use it (every day for work), and windows bugs whenever I have to use it.
We have 2 desktops for the kids to use for games. One runs XP pro, the other XP Media Center. Not all games work on both computers. Some work on each one, with some overlap which work on both. Some crash randomly. One computer powers off at random, and has since new. Who do I blame? My wife blames me. :-(
The problem with "upgrading Linux" is that you can't really upgrade from Red Hat to Ubuntu. So he does a fresh install. That lets him loose all of the previous configuration work he had already done. Maybe I am different than all others, but even the "run out of the box" distros like Ubuntu never seem to work very well out of the box and you are always messing around in about 40 startup or config scripts until it is smooth and reliable. Why throw all of that away? Because the "cool kids" are doing it? Are they jumping off of bridges, too? Sounds like he just needs to decide what he is doing BEFORE he does it, then work toward a defined goal.
I agree. The green needs to be a little bit brighter.
Agreed on the non-story. Data is not the plural of anecdotes.
Please keep the jwz-inspired colour scheme around as an option.
To clarify, saying 'Linux is free if your time is worthless' is simply not true.
Linux is free if you are willing to learn it and it's usage patterns with the same effort you originally put into Windows.
Windows does not come intuitively, ask any senior jumping on that bandwagon. In addition, there is an entire industry built around fixing user's computers, and upgrades with Windows, because the average user cannot infact, fix their system.
My time is worth more than 90% of the free world, to assume it is worthless because I have spent the minimal effort to learn the platform is ignorant.
First, nice new theme, keep it on Jeff.
Yes linux is a working progress. I myself mostly used it (Ubuntu) at home for browsing internet mostly. I agree with you its not the easiest OS to use for multimedia stuff. I still use a lot of WindowsXP to do multimedia thing. If only the multimedia part of linux is as organized as the kernel development.
People, world class Software Engineer != world class Systems Engineer. End of story.
the phrase "Linux is free if your time is worthless" has been coined by none other than JWZ. thus, saying that he "lives and breathes Linux" is, I strongly suspect, a stretch.
A bit of a pointless story. You can come up with anecdotes all day long of famous guru/wizard/hacker X giving up on software/OS/language Y and still it won't mean a thing.
It comes down to spending time to find the right tool for the job and knowing when to try a different approach.