Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Reality intrudes

I heard a funny story the other day. It is true, I heard it from the person himself. This fellow owned a car shop that specialized in transmissions. He had a transmission mechanic who didn't seem to cooperate with his ideas for growing the company, so he got rid of him. His transmission business died, because he didn't have anyone who could fix them. He now owns a fast food restaurant.

This otherwise bright and motivated individual lacked the wisdom to see that the value of his business wasn't his marketing brilliance, the building or even a client base. It was his technically skilled employees, who by definition (I speak from experience here) are hard to deal with, independant, notional, and have respect for no man. His mechanic probably had half a dozen current job offers, in other words, he needed his mechanic more than his mechanic needed him. Reality intruded.

Coding is fun. Technical challenges are fun. Making a living coding or solving technical problems is too often not fun. Many have opined on the motivations behind those who contribute to free software. I firmly believe that the greatest motivation comes from developers taking control of their industry.

It is interesting to see the efforts to pull the control of free software projects away from the developers. They will fail miserably. There are hundreds of interesting and challenging projects that would appreciate skilled developers.

On another subject. I installed Kubuntu last week, replacing a three year old gentoo installation that had grown to fill 25 gigs of hard drive space. I needed something quickly, and indeed the Ubuntu install works well. A few comments. Ubuntu is still an administrators installation. No one should be expected to fiddle with permissions to get sound working. Offering a limited range of supported software is doomed to failure. I suspect almost every Ubuntu installation has expanded their sources.list file. And why in blue blazes, in this day and age, when I install a package, doesn't it show up in the menu?

I lived with a raw KDE installation for a long time. Every failing I find in KUbuntu is either outside of KDE or due to a change to the KDE defaults.

I am seriously contemplating going back to Gentoo. If only it could be done in a couple of hours...

Aw, sure, you can do gentoo in less than an hour if you start with a decent stage 5...a fast box...and we're not talking about have X (or KDE) on there yet...
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I have gone the path Mandrake 7, Redhat 8, Debian Woody, Suse 8, Mandrake 9, Suse 9, Archlinux, Gentoo (Just for a couple of days, though, got X and WM up, but no patience for KDE), Ubuntu, Arch Linux.

I would recommend Arch. It has a apt-like package manager with nice repositories, but also has a very easy system called ABS to make your own packages if a package you need is missing. The installer is very basic, and you build up the system after install, instead of building it down, like you do to clean up a install of one of the "major" distributions. In the two years I've been using Arch, I never felt like I lost control over what is installed, or there is a package conflict/error that I can't fix, like some of the previous distros I tried.

If you are interested, have a look at www.archlinux.org
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