I am a Linux User

There are some things you just are.

Painters are painters because they paint.  Writers are writers because they write.  Whatever you identify with being (writer, painter, et. al) you are that because of what you DO…what you produce.  I am Linux user because of what I produce with Linux…what I do with it.  I don’t simply use it…I create with it.  I make it do what I want.

People give me a screwdriver and I pry things open with it…I don’t just use it on screws.  If I wanted to just use a flathead screwdriver for screws I’d be using a Mac.  If I wanted attachments for my screwdriver to become a different tool, I’d use Windows.  Instead, I rewrite what my screwdriver is used for by using Linux.

I’m a thinker because of Linux.  I have to be.  I have to think outside of the box…the standard way of thinking.  I find solutions to tech problems more quickly than people around me because of Linux.  I don’t think just of linear solutions.  I’m not just one dimensional…Linux makes me multidimensional.  When a problem arises, I meet it head on instead of waiting for others to fix it.

Linux makes me all of these things.  Without it, I still am a thinker…but Linux makes me a multidimensional, deep thinker.  Without it, I still use tools like a screwdriver but I don’t use them in as many ways.  Without it, I can still solve problems…but I don’t solve them as fast or as creatively.  There are some things you just are.

Linux helps me to be who I am.  Linux just is.

It was almost 10 years ago that I started recording my thoughts, tips and tricks on this blog.  I blog less frequently today then I did back then thanks to more professional responsibility with my work…but just the same, Linux still plays a major part in my every day life.  This website is hosted on a Linux server that I built from the ground up.  I use Linux for my Network Attached Storage at home that contains all of my movies, music and pictures.  My phone runs Linux.  I stay in touch with my friends and family because Linux is so versatile.

This blog has been through 4 major hosting changes and 3 changes of content management systems.  It’s gone through DDOS attacks, smear campaigns and even bumped heads with Groklaw before they shut their doors.  Through all of that, the one constant that remained is that Linux is.  For those of us that use it…Linux is what we use to shape our lives.  I’m glad to be a Linux user and a blogger of all things Linux.  Despite my infrequency of posting, I try to provide original content instead of just recycled news/how-to’s.  I don’t plan on changing this goal in the future…and I plan on being here for as many years as I can.

I want to personally thank each and every one of you who subscribe to my RSS feed and have my content delivered to you there…and those that subscribe to the blog via email.  Thanks to all of you who read the content I produce.  I appreciate your patronage and your support.  I began this journey with many of you over 10 years ago…here’s to the future path we’ll be travelling.  No telling where Linux will take us!


Do Package Managers Spoil Us?

I thought of this interesting question the other day while messing around with Slackware 9.0 which was one of the last versions of Slackware to come on a single disk. The goal was to try to take a Slackware 9.0 install to the most recent stable and it was almost accomplished. Glibc was the largest hassle…and I made it to Slackware 11.0 before something caused things to not boot at all. All things considered, I spent 3 days on trying to get Slackware 9 to current.

Slackware for those of you that don’t know, has no dependency resolving package manager. Previously, a good attempt was made with swaret and that was my first jump into package managers with dependency resolution all together when it came out…but Swaret is no longer being maintained and doesn’t really work well anymore.

Since Slackware has no real dep resolving package manager…it’s one of the last ‘true’ Unix like Linux versions out there. Back in the early to mid nineties…things were exactly like this. If you wanted to update your Linux version…you stepped through it manually and tried to get things to work. What was great about Slackware was making your own Slack packages with source…no dependency resolution but in the process of making the package you’d have all the dependencies eventually installed. In this entire process, you became VERY familiar with your system…how it booted, what run level things occurred at, how cron jobs worked, etc. You were baptized by fire so to speak…you were to sink or swim.

As I said, this got me thinking…do we rely on dependency resolving package managers TOO much? They’re cliché now of course…run of the mill. Back in the 1990’s though rpm was the only true package management system around…and rpm was never designed for internet consumption. The guys who wrote rpm had in mind CD and floppy upgrades. Fast forward to now and we have zypper, pacman, urpmi, deb, and conary…all built with online repositories in mind. Do these managers take the heavy lifting away for new users? Do they spoil them?

Do systems break less with easier resolutions due to package managers? Does it mean that the new user of today won’t be as experienced as the old user of yesterday?

I think it might.

Users in the past had to chip away and reassemble with less documentation and no package manager. This meant that the user of yesterday ripped apart systems and packages to discover how they worked and which cogs fit where.

The user of today follows step by step instructions and the software is given a sane set of defaults by most package developers when said package is installed.

Does this make for lazy users?

I don’t think users are lazy per se…but as previously stated, spoiled ones. And it’s no fault of their own…it’s the direction the software has taken us. Now the questions we need to answer are:

  1. Is this direction the correct direction we should be heading?
  2. Are there better approaches to package management that don’t follow the model we have currently (other than Conary)
  3. Can we come up with a system that doesn’t make new users spoiled?

I think I’m of both worlds…I started off with no package manager but managed to ride the wave of Red Hat 7.2 and above followed by Mand{rake,riva} and PCLinuxOS. I’m both spoiled and unspoiled. I know what it takes to manage a system without a conventional package manager but I also know how much time it can save me to use one. I sometimes find myself wanting less though…less and more. Less time and more hands on gutting the system. I think I’m in the minority though.

How about you, as a reader of this article? Do you think new users are spoiled by conventional package management systems? Do you see solutions or have ideas we can discuss? Is this really just a process we can improve or is there any programming to be done? Please sound off in the comments section!

An Open Letter to Foresight Linux

Theoden is a guest blogger writing his first post for Yet Another Linux Blog. The views expressed inside this post are part of his personal experience and opinions regarding Foresight Linux. I’d like to thank him for taking the time to make Linux better with constructive criticism as well as the many bug reports and fixes he contributed to the Foresight Linux community. Click Theoden’s name above for more information on him.

I have decided – after running Foresight for two months – to no longer use Foresight Linux on my systems. Let me say however that I found the experience interesting and dare I say – challenging. Everyone in the IRC channel was great – very friendly – and most tried to be helpful.

I thought it might be helpful and instructive to provide an explanation as to why I am not going to use Foresight any longer, rather than just disappear. Hopefully, in doing so I may contribute to Foresight becoming a better distro that I might want to run in the future. So, here goes ….

Concerns With Foresight Linux

Conary: When you read about conary it all sounds very exciting and innovative with many really good features. However – when you install Foresight and actually use conary – it doesn’t take too long to realize that unless you are a developer or very involved packager – very little of conary’s goodies really touch you or help you (with the exception of rollback).

However – it’s negatives do impact you as a user:

  1. It is very complex and difficult for the average user to understand and use with any effect
  2. It is hard to locate individual packages and make sure you have what you need when things are failing to work right
  3. The idea of ‘group’s puts numerous things together making it somewhat confusing to sort out when a dependency is not met for an app you really need.

Development and QA: To be very honest – the development of this distro ‘seems’ from my perspective to be done as a fun project – almost a ‘toy’ if you will – for the creator and a couple of his ‘close’ friends. Everything seems to be about advancing to the next version of things – the constant cutting edge challenge of adding in the latest or something really new – without ever really QA’ing and stablizing the existing released code. So problems users are having never really get fixed properly. And this leads to the next concern ….

JIRA: This is the issue tracker for Foresight.  By and large – it appears that issues that don’t personally effect the developers are ignored. I personally have an issue in the tracker concerning sound – which has been there for over 30 days and no one has done anything with it. I finally figured out what was causing the break – but it requires the devs to fix the code. But they have not – and ignore the issue because it works fine for them. Many people have complained about sound issues – but the developers are concerned always with developing the latest code for the next cutting edge release instead of stopping to fix the broken code and solve problems. Poor QA – poor response to user problems.

Conclusion: So – Why Use Foresight? Given the above issues that concern me, I must ask the inevitable question – “Why use Foresight then?” And frankly – I can come up with no compelling reason to do so. Outside of cutting edge gnome – it offers me nothing I cannot get elsewhere – in debian or slackware or archlinux, etc. And those distros are more stable – address issues that are legitimate user concerns – work hard to QA their distros – and in general put out a more user friendly product. The truth is – it’s all linux. So what really counts then is product presentation – QA testing – responsiveness to user problems – and stability providing the ability for the users to do actual work with their linux systems without always trying figure out why something doesn’t work. These things all need real work in Foresight Linux.

The result for me then is that I have returned to Debian. I wish only the best for Foresight Linux and it’s developers and users. I hope some of the issues that have led to my decision will be addressed and that one day I might come back and give it another go. I believe there’s a lot here to like and a great deal of talent. Thank you for your patience with me.



Some Random Linux Observations

  • Ubuntu is the only Linux distro I know of that has its alpha
    releases slashdotted and dugg…which is a real shame; I think there
    are more that deserve this treatment from linux media sites.
  • Different Linux distros and desktop camps should recognize their differences as providing choice instead of being something that makes them different.
    They all have the same goals…to get people using open source software
    and to provide a great experience for the user.  Differences are always
    looked down upon.  Choice is usually a positive thing.  We should be
  • When designing a new car, automobile manufacturers don’t
    build it first and then draft it out on paper.  Likewise, Linux architects should not write the code first before creating a draft or set of goals
    (whether it be a paper draft, documentation, or QA test cases) that visualize where you want to go.  A visual goal is better than written or said one.
  • For
    every Penguin Pete, there is a Ken Starks.  There are times when one
    outweighs the other.  The nice part is that in the Linux community, the
    Ken Starks have a longer lasting impact and touch more lives.
  • The Linux Desktop will never be “finished” and for that I am VERY glad.
  • Programmers should be more like the code they write…without bias, structured, and incapable of “talking down”.
  • Every distro ships with at least one thing broken.
  • Every distro ships with at least two things broken.
  • Every distro ships with things broken.
  • If Linux were a dog, it would NOT be purebred.
  • People
    can get excited about Linux because they can take part in it. People
    can’t get excited about Microsoft because they can’t take part in it.  It’s the difference between playing in the game and being on the sideline wishing you were in the game.
  • Categorizing something divides; why are we categorizing Linux and developers?
  • Linux fits well into big business, but big business does not fit well into Linux

By no means are these meant to point fingers…they are just observations.  Do you share some?  Do you have more to provide?  Please, let me know what you’ve seen in or out of your Linux community.

Is the iPhone killing the Playstation?

What? The Playstation and iPhone? You bet. First, some background and reference material for that background. Now using the same information linked above, I can logically say that the iPhone may be killing the Playstation. After all, this comparison can be drawn…both have browsers right? Both are on platforms that aren’t PC’s. I draw this conclusion of course to show the fallacy represented in the article above.

I love market share studies. They’re ultimately inaccurate. Yet many websites quote them and use them in drawing conclusions to appeal to readers. Good idea to get your click through rate to soar and score some cash on the old advertisements…

Most market share studies are most likely based on two things:

  1. Computers that are sold and what operating system is pre-installed on the computer
  2. Browser statistics

I’m going to assume that NetApplications, who published the chart, were using browser statistics…because it makes more sense than the pre-installed sales figures…which I would rate Linux much lower on since most OEMs do not feature pre-installed Linux. Browser statistics are inherently biased toward someone using a browser that communicates operating system data to the webhost. I have Konqueror at home set to display no operating system data (I can provide a reason for those that wonder why in comments…just ask). I could also set Konqueror to display FALSE data telling any host that I’m running Mac or Windows. So what’s the margin of error with possibilities existing like this? HUGE of course. Should we trust a “study” like this? Heck no. Would you trust a financial graph that was this accurate? You’re a brave soul if so.

Look at the perspective. The numbers are slanted. If you examine the growth of Linux and the growth of Mac quoted by Apple Matters:

“However, as is also being noted, it is the trend of these figures that bears consideration. In the last two years, OS X has seen continual growth, from 4.21% in Jan 2006 (the first month of figures), to 5.67% in December 2006, to 7.31% in December 2007.

In the same time, Linux’s percentage has risen from only 0.29% to 0.63%.”

So, Mac has just about doubled…almost. Notice that Linux HAS doubled. Interesting eh? So if this study is correct, Linux has seen more growth in the same time than Mac has by more than doubling. Most likely, this results in less users overall…but who cares?

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Are You Secure?

When I was little, I was afraid of heights (to a degree, I still am). Therefore, you hardly ever caught me climbing trees or swinging high…anytime anyone wanted to elevate past my head level in any shape and form I was grounded..literally. The feeling of security given when my feet touched the ground was comforting. I knew from experience that the ground would be there…it wasn’t going to swallow me up whole (didn’t know much about earthquakes at this time). There were no pitfalls that I was aware of.

Fast forward to today.

I still get a sense of security by the ground being under my feet…this time with my operating system. I know that Linux doesn’t have any pitfalls, no security breached backdoors…because I can SEE the code. It’s like I am Indiana Jones being given a map of every single boobie trap before he enters the temple to get the artifact.

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