Monthly Archives: January 2008

European view on US elections

I have been watching the primaries and debates that are ongoing right now before the elections. And as a european some things look weird to me – The things I found strange are:

  • No candidate on the republican site really states that creationism may not be tought in schools – the most radical postions I heard was that everybody should be allowed to teach what he likes. Come on? Whats next? The earth is flat? The Evolutions is one of the best proven facts – if science is not hnored why teach pupils anything at all?
  • Its funny or not really, but how many people talk against illegal immigration. AFAIK about 98% of the population of the USA are immigrants. You say “but they are legal”? Ok, but thats because it WAS legal back then. This legal immigrants vs illegal immigrants debate does not make sense. Each year there are several hundred immigrant deaths along the U.S.-Mexico border. Why doeseverybody care about the deaths of 9-11 and nobody care about the deaths at this border alone? In Europe we have a similar issue at the Mediterranean Sea at the south border of Spain where many africans drown because of increased border security. The strange thing is that Spain has indeed more legal immigrants from Mexico as from Africa (I dont have the exact numbers but maybe 5-6 times). So border security in many senses is another word for racism.
  • The “pro-live” debates. I think that the word alone is a provocation – to suggest that people who are noit against abortion are against live. In the book “Freakonomics” you can see the prove that the legalisation of abortions has decreased crimes and homicide rates. So one could also say that “pro-live” activists are “pro-murder”. Sure every live should be protected, but still humans have to make judgements. And how can somebody who is pro increased border security be also against abortions. You are pro killing of illegal immigrants why you care more about unborn children? Because of race?
  • The issue of the Iraq war – another topic where mostly conservatives are “pro-war” (again often those who say they are “pro-live”. The Iraq body count tells us that only on civilian deaths Iraq had around 80.000 deaths. And 4000 US soldiers. And this all because of 3000 deaths in 9-11 which was NOT caused by the Iraq. So why sacrifice 4000 of your own people and 80.000 innocents – just to make sure that there “wont be new casualties because of terrorism”? Fact is – we dont need to fear terrorism if we have the US military – it can produce a multitude of deathswith much better weapons thanany terrorist ever could! Even if there are terrorists that one could consider evil – they can not really harm a nation- the real harm is done by those who claim to protect us from terrorism. Just look at the numbers above! 80.000 civilians – even if some of them might be terrorists – there arent that many real terrorists. In Iraq the war is now also about freeing Iraq from an occupation from the view of many Iraquis – but it seems many US citizens seem to think that their military is by definition a positive force and so maybe an Iraqui should be happy to be killed by an US soldier instead as by a road side bomb. One word to the US soldiers: I believe you might do your duty in your best believes that what you do makes sense – and in fact nobody likes to risk his live if we would think that it is not for a good cause. I would love to see that all that violence decreases and you can go home. But I still think it was wrong to send you there in the first place. Even if peace can be accomplished. the death toll is just too high. If all in all there would be some dizens or hundreds of deaths one could talk about an acceptable relation – but 80.000 is just off any relation that is discusable.

There are some more topics I find weird but thats it for now.

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Creative MuVo V100 with Linux

I am currently testing a Creative MuVo 100 under Linux. I am planning to use this to record some sound snipplets or interviews. Main reason for this blog entry is to say: yes it works! If you are interested in buying such a device. the sound quality is not really good – and recording works a little difficult at first. first you best erase the existing intro file on this device. Then
you needto press the scroll wheel to get into the upper menu. What the manual doesnt tell you is how to record:

  • Go to the microphone men entry and select it with pressing the wheel.
  • You now get a display of how much time is left to record.
  • You start recording by pressing the play/pause button once.
  • I had trouble recognizing that it is recording. But it did it.

My version has 2 GB of memory and it shows me I have recording time of about 138 minutes. Thats more than 2 hours. Mplayer can play it and it shows this on Foresight Linux 2 Alpha 3:


$ mplayer voc002.wav
MPlayer dev-SVN-rUNKNOWN-4.1.1 (C) 2000-2007 MPlayer Team
CPU: Mobile Intel(R) Pentium(R) III CPU - M 1200MHz (Family: 6, Model: 11, Stepping: 4)
CPUflags: MMX: 1 MMX2: 1 3DNow: 0 3DNow2: 0 SSE: 1 SSE2: 0
Compiled with runtime CPU detection.
116 audio & 237 video codecs
Can't open joystick device /dev/input/js0: No such file or directory
Can't init input joystick

Playing voc002.wav.
Audio file file format detected.
==========================================================================
Opening audio decoder: [imaadpcm] IMA ADPCM audio decoder
AUDIO: 8000 Hz, 1 ch, s16le, 32.2 kbit/25.19% (ratio: 4031->16000)
Selected audio codec: [imaadpcm] afm: imaadpcm (IMA ADPCM)
==========================================================================
[AO OSS] audio_setup: Can’t open audio device /dev/dsp: No such file or directory
AO: [alsa] 8000Hz 1ch s16le (2 bytes per sample)
Video: no video
Starting playback…

I am not an audio expert, but what i did find out is that this is not a normal WAV but seems to be called ADPCM, which is a speech codec thats “quantizes the difference between the speech signal and a prediction that has been made of the speech signal”. Uhm, ok 😉 if that works… A file that is about a bit more than 36 minutes long has the size of: 8,3M of ADPCM or 33MB WAV -a dn recoded to OGG 6 MB, although recoding should rather not be considered because I highly suggest that switching compression algorithms is very costly? Again I am not an audio expert.

So with MPlayer you can read that format. As far as i understood This: (ratio: 4031->16000) means that this generates a 16 kbit audio from a 4031 compressed file? See also G.726. What is interesting is that it seems in U.S. there is no 2GB version of this device. Strangely though the german page tells me I can record 4 minutes only while the american page of Creative says 125 hours! same device – I think both is false. even the 512 MB version should be able to record more than 4 minutes. And OTOH 125 hours that would be five days! LOL, Creative seems to be creative when it comes to numbers. my estimate is that 2.3 hours is right for 2 GB version and maybe 1 hour for the 1 GB version.

Thre recordings you make are put in a folder “Recorded Tracks”. The first one is named “voc001.wav.” and the next are the same. Unfortunately WordPress forbis to upload WAV files (no matter what size). So I decided to rename it to voc001.ppt. So to check it out you should rename it back to voc001.wav.

If you want to know more or YOU know more you can comment on this article.

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Flip Flopping

I have now decided to go away from Foresight Linux. Why that? Well first of all after my FreeBSD experiences I got back to Foresight Linux Alpha 2. I knew that it worked mostly and also I had to have something that worked for a presentation. And that it did ok. To more detail please read the link above.

I dont really have statistics about OpenBSD – I would be interested in those – but from my very subjective impression if I do “man xy” OpenBSD mostly gives me doc that I understand – and I like that. Foresight for example is worst when it comes to manuals – which is also due to the fact that it only installs what is needed. Which is or can be a plus – But like with “man mplayer” I like my system to just have that.

I also think maybe its because I am getting older that I am seeking different things. My Linux history started with SuSE Linux, which was really ugly with all that Yast stuff – but also due to Linux being much more in an early stage. back then 1998 – you had to build your own kernel to include the sound drivers. Sound was a real issue. I then had to execute isapnp. I cant say I loved to build kernels but I did it often.

Today on Linux mainstream kernels are mostly accepted. I still see people hacking on kernels on new releases activating this and that. I can see that it can be fun and also we need people testing stuff. But I havent built a new kernel since about 10 years – and never had the need. I am also never too excited about new kernel releases.

I have also followed GNOME for a long while, because I wanted to have the one desktop the felt the best – and as an old Mac user GNOME felt very much GNOME like. The nautilus file manager later was also developed by some old Mac folks at Ximian.

After SuSE I used Debian and that was much nicer than SuSE. But there was this Debian dilemma: Stable was often very outdated – so people told me: use testing – but this wasnt so stable – and I even followed the advice of some people to use unstable – but this was really bad. I also used Debian on a web server. It had Apache 1.3 but I wanted Apache 2 – so there was something called backports. I installed that and erased all my site configs. Also the dpkg database got trashed often. I could count endless issues about “stable” Debian.

After Debian I took a wuick look at Red Hat 8 – but updates where a pain (you only got updates if you subscribed to channels) –  so I gave Gentoo a try. What was wrong with that? Well, all in all it was too complicated to look at all the USE flags and things. So I switched to Fedora 1.0 as this came out. And Fedora really was great as it resolved all that made using Red Hat a pain. So I was a loyal Fedora user for some years.

But then they made some evil hacks on the community – and also it crashed on my notebook all the time without anybody seeming to care. The rest of the story can be read in “It’s final: Good bye Fedora!”

And now yet another switch. Foresight had MANY good ideas – but I think they made too much wrong choices. On too many cross-ways they walked in the wrong direction. Which is kind of sad, because it had very good starting conditions and also had Conary as the only desktop distro on its side. But conditions where not always best and for the past months it wasnt so much about being creative with new ideas but struggling with all kinds of dependencies. Developers really invested a lot. But as I always said – a distribution is for me never more than the best compromise. I am open if its more to me – but I really dont like all that common distro marketing thing. There is this blog about passionate users that tries to bring in some fresh ideas. But I think the whole idea to “create” passionate users is false. You cant do that unless you lie. Otherwise – if they suggest that software should suck less I would agree – and also I would agree on the message that software only needs to be good enough. The thing about blogs like the one I just mentioned is that it all sounds good and looks good – but I can not connect to it from my user perspective.

Currently I look more forward in a nice base system which does its job good enough and which doesnt do toomuch flip flopping and breaking. I like to be able to boot my machine every day wihtout the fear that it wont boot. This means less updates is better. On Linux updates have become some kind of mysticism – even when it comes to security one can assume that for 99% of the users the bugs and issue are irrelevant. What is more relevant is that an update works and doesnt break anything. What also matters tome is that fixes are available but I am not forced to apply them . I also like distros to stick to some basic promises like deliver a new stable version each so and so month. I also like new features – not to the cost of stability – bu generally I think its nice if my desktop can do new things – especially if they are useful. I also like it when things get fixed without me noticing it – so I do like fixes under the hood.

What about statistics? Well some people like to play with them and maybe could show me that openBSD is not the fastest or whatever. I dont really care – first I cant really check that data without a lot of investigations and secondly often the conclusions are false. So I think for many cases it doesnt matter if you use Postgres or Mysql – or what file system you use, etc. – But many techies tend to look at the latest trends and propagate one technology over the other. There may be issues in some technologies but you really need somebody with a lot of experience to really tell the difference, because statistics alone seem to suggest soemthing to be true although its irrelevant in practice .

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FreeBSD II.

Oh wow, do people really use that OS? I have tested some of the window manager packages and only dwm 9wm and fluxbox seemed to work out of the box. As far as I have looked no windows manager registers itself in /usr/local/share/xsessions. So what you cant do is install GDM, install a bunch of window managers – and then switch quickly between them. The lack of quality reminds me a bit on Sabayon Linux. I guess the non-desktop related stuff must be much better. Otherwise I cant understand why anybody wants to use it. Or maybe people onyl use selected stuff which then is working better. Also when i reset Xorg with Ctrl-Alt-Del sometimes the xserver takes minutes to reload.

From the file infrastructure its a bit weird that afaik only FreeBSD plants home directories under /usr – which stands for user usable libraries and executables, which by definition of the filesystem hierarchy standard should be read-only.

So far one things is clear to me, that is that I wont stick with that OS. If I talk a bit more about Conary and Foresight – its not that I am satisfied with both, but at least I can easily make my own packages – and even consider making a small conary based distro myself. Mainly for testing purposes. As a first stage I like to build a minimum Linux with conary packages using the Linux from Scratch guide.I know, I know – we already have 400+x distros out there. But maybe many of them were created out of curiosity. I am not knowing how far I will go. I am just a bit frustrated to work with a lot of predefined decisions and packages where I dont really know why they were chosen. That way you cant understand the considerations. Sometimes you got to make your own experience and learn the hard way by making errors – and also you might already find out that you may find new ways   to do things because you rethought thinks from a new perspective. So going down a road does not mean you have to go till the dead end – you can slo decide to go back into a main road and contribute your experiences to other projects. (haha now that sounds nice, doesnt it? )

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NetBSD->FreeBSD ;)

OMG, I have tried NetBSD and yes the wireless drivers worked – but then I couldnt update firefox because cairo package was not available. Subjectively it felt like the boot time and also every input took ages. And as I finally managed to get Firefox built it always crashed and the display was just weird. Maybe I did something wrong.Then I did not manage to log in via XDM I could only start sessions via startx and setting window manager via .xinitrc . I then decided to try out FreeBSD rather then trying to fix all issues as my overall feeling was that the quality of NetBSD isnt that good.

FreeBSD is very different: The install procedure reminds you on Debian or some Linux distros because you ask you a lot of questions. All is ANSI based – you know these gray, blue, yellow & red dialogs? And here are a few “bugs” (as I see it). The window managers dwm & wmii dont have an entry in /usr/local/share/xsessions .Which means windom display(login) managers like GDM do not see them. OTOH GNOME does have an entry, but its not installed. Seems like installing GDM gives you an entry for GNOME. These are really very simple bugs that can easily be solved. In my view all “.desktop” files in the xsessions directory should be owned by the package that gives you the window manager or in GNOMEs case the desktop environment. If there is no GNOME there should be any GNOME entry in the first place. Given the very long tradition of FreeBSD I am stunned that they still have such simple bugs. Maybe at some point they made a decision to do it differently but if – that decision was plain wrong. Its not that FreeBSD doesnt install a lot of stuff by default. If you just install Xorg you also get PolicyKit and such stuff. Another thing was that when you install Xorg you do not get the savage drivers that some Thinkpads use. This is actually the first distro that does not provide that by default. As this seriously influences the ability to start Xorg I cant imagine why one wants to remove that. Anyway I somehow found out the name and installed – before I had a 1600×1200 vesa display which is kind of a weird default?

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NetBSD on Notebook

So I am running NetBSD 4.0 now on my Notebook. How come you may ask. Well the root cause way yet another bug in Foresight 2 Alpha version. Wfarr documented bug and fix. I knew I could do that, but instead I decided not to run anything unstable any more on that specific box. It has been working mostly but still I think most of the things that are important to me do not work. Going back to version 1.4.x was no choice as this does not support my RT61 ralink card. So my decision originally was tpo install OpenBSD which i did but thenr saw and remembered that last time I treid not the card was the problem but the lack of WPA support in OpernBSD. I know what OpenBSD guxs would say – use OpenVPN. But fact is I have one wireless routrer that i am sharing with many folks – and I still think its now simpler to use WPA – even if its not as secure as OpenVPN. Maybe I will go that route once I have my server up again.

But for now I decided to use NetBSD. So my first impressions? It looks a lot like OpenBSD besides OpenBSD seems to be a lot cleaner and also “man XY” more often gets a nice doc on OpenBSD than on NetBSD. At first NetBSD didnt recognize my ral based card. Then I downloaded latest snapshots ans rebooted and then ral0 was found and the wpa config I added before was found and the connection was up with no interaction. Fine!
I have some trouble with the X11. While on OpenBSD I just got a nice running Fvwm on NetBSD I get a broken twm(?) by default with some error message that is too big so I can only read a few words. My plan is to install a wmii as a window manager. Before that I need to do some tweaking for the package management. Because pkg_add says it gets no route to some IpV6 address. Maybe NetBSD really tries IP6 via my network access? Could this work without tunnelling? Guess not and maybe thats the issue . OTOH normal FTP and protocols work. After that I ned to find some nice defaults for the Xorg and then install wmii and hopefully some working browser. Thebn i need to look at how I can do extend my screen for a video projector that I want to use to display slides or show a movie. I guess this will also require some hacking – and today I am rather in the mood to progress slowly with handwriting the perfect xorg.conf rather then hoping that some tool will help. Because ion my experience all tools I have seen from Fedora and Ubuntu and on Foresight suck. I really havent seen things to improve – So I am tired on depending on some bad tools. The only thing I found working nicely mostly is NetworkManager. But NM also has some bad sides:

  • If you dont log in your box is not connected and you cant access it if you haven also configured network system wide.
  • Sometimes NM fails to fetch an IP address or takes a long time.
  • You have to type a password in every time you log in. That can be changed but Foresight decided not to change it,yet
  • NM is not helpful on multiple cards and multiple networks that have a slightly complicated setup.

So, NetBSD 4 introduced wpa_supplicant which I knew from Linux already. And as I wrote above it worked nicely. I cant really say that I love NetBSD (sorry guys). OpenBSD is really much more elegant, but the bad it did not support WPA 😉 wow, I hate to make compromises…. but thats how live is. There is no such thing as the perfect OS. And believe me I am not a distro switcher for fun… I guess if I would have used OpenBSD for longer time I wouldnt have used WPA in the first place.

NetBSD is ok as it seems to be quite nicely compiled and has still a lot more docs as manuals other than most Linuxes, which you will love when your box has no internet access. I think updated manuals are nice and I also love wikis, but I still like to have some help in text form on my box.

This old T23 thinkpad should jsut do some tasks. At home I like to use to to log into different boxes in my intranet ot the internet. Then i use it for presentations. I like to looks at the possibility to use more simple tools for presentations. What i dont want is to have a lot of RAM and CPU usage on this box while idle. And on Foresight GNOME I saw increasing number of applciations started like beagle, Gnome Do, Glipper . To make it clear: I am not against graphical stuff – but my feeling is that the increase of applications just leads to nowhere. And thats because there is nobody with a plan. Basically they follow the Windows way in that they present a basic desktop environment and you add things like applications, applets, widgets,…. So the idea is that the user needs to install and add things he needs. I think thats partly ok if we talk about things only few people need. But generally I prefer the idea of a selection that fits together well and where I can do everything I need and use most of the hardware that people use.

And here I think Linux and BSDs greatest obstacle can be found: This is all and mostly a random mix. Many think its the greates accomplishment of Linux that you can choose between 100 different music players – and that all have their own databases (and all suck ! 😉 ). While I think maybe its not that important that the applications are all the best of its kind but rather that the selection is good meaning the software does work and is well localized (which isnt true for Foresights preferred player Banshee).
I am not saying I know exactly how things should work, but seriously are not as good as they should be.

Talking about BSDs they seem to do some things better as they try to keep a whiole system in sync. There are only one problem with that: If they all maintain their own kernel this is a lot of work. I personally think that Linux way of sharing a unified kernel is smarter, although I would prefer of having different kerknels for different purposes OR not having some stuff inside the kernel like Minix is trying to do.

But then there is Xorg/X11. OpenBSD has its own implementation named Xenocara. Not sure how NetBSD handles this – but I think the GUI system needs to be more natural to an OS and not as alien as it is mostly nowadays. Besides using an OIS as a server only I think most users like soem kind of GUI – and if its only to display only terminals more nicely. But this whole thing is still very messy. Another thing is the window managers. Freedowm of choice is nice. But what I would prefer is if liek Foresigth does it every OS comes with a Xorg plus a nice defautl window manager out of the box. And NetBSDs twm just isnt ok. I know this is Xorgs default, but its not really maintained. It does not need to be a desktop environment, but it should be a window manager that fits nicely into the rest of the OS. I think Fvwm is soemthing that is ok as a default. But still I think this should be tight more to the OS. MacOS and WIndows both have their GUIs strictly tight to the OS. I am not saying one needs to make changing to an alternative a mess – but instead that the default GUI can be easily identified with the OS that is good enough and does what he should – and is the WM that the OS suggests. I mean every OS seems to have some kind of logic – and some WMs fit better to an OS than others.

From my experience with different OSes I think every OS can learn from others. I think OpenBSDs decision to make one install CD was smart, even if some may now use this in an unexpected manner. RTFM is still what users should do. But I think software in general should not depend on a lot of configuration before you can use it. Its ok if your software uses sane defaults that are more secure or if some things dont work unless they are configured. But like the GUI: It should just work simply if people start it – it shouldnt fail – it can suggest the user to optimise it but the user should not need to dive into the core or the code it to do simple things.

This shoudl be like the “ls” command: Type it and it does the most simple thing – you want more? Then read man ls! I know some things are more advanced topics and you cant work with them unless you have read more about it.

That what I like about the ideas of Plan9: They invent some new file systems like wikifs and then allow applications to work on top of that. And editors like Acme also try to use new concepts. I dont think that many applications like irssi are really cool. I dont like applications that depend so much on customisation – and also that do not share their settings.

Enough for now. Have to go back to NetBSD.

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Distributions, the Focus & the Future

Looking at the development of Foresight Linux and other distributions I got some thoughts about common problems. One thing I think where the BSDs but also Minix and Plan9 are better is the fact that they tend to build their own software, meaning that they are often not such a mess of so many upstream projects. But still there are similar problems like when they use ported software. Lets look at a standard desktop: This includes a kernel and an operating system – and then some base software and some graphical server. BSDs and Linux both use
X11/Xorg here, which means its basicall not a project native to a BSD. Also they present window managers like GNOME, KDE, whatever who also have different development focusses. And then a whole lot of “applications”. What is bad about that? I think the problem is that if a distribution or operating system uses a lot of applications that are not really generated to be used by the distribution but only “ported” it always means that you need to add work to make it work on the special environment. All Unices share some environments, so many things will just work – and also if applications are compiled for a specific platform the configuration scripts change some locations and behavior to fit the environment. But this means that when writing an “application” or “library” or whatever the author must think about and know these environments. Classical Unix commands were traditionally build for a specific Unix – so this also meant that there was going on a lot of extra work for the different Unices. So ported code is something that got more popular with Linux and the GNU tools and also with the idea of Free/Libre Open Source Software. But still this means that portability is a burden – and also it seems questionable if all this diversity of languages, libraries, software is needed or good for a working environment. The ability to share code is a good thing, there is no doubt about that. But I also think portability massively slows down the development of software and although it reduces the need to repeatedly work on similar code on different platforms it also adds the need to have all supported platforms in the mind when adding code. Often the results are not foreseeable. Not being able to foresee the results means that things can not be planned as good as possible and it also means that working on portability and compatibility is becoming a major task. And if you also see all this different programs and know that they all interact wth each other the possible flaws and bugs are growing daily with more software and more features. So in open source software the development often goes into developing abstraction layers like hal/dbus, so that the applications interact only with the abstraction layer, while others work on the interaction of the abstraction layer with the hardware etc.. Thats one solution for the problem, but it also adds another layer of interaction where things can go wrong. I am not sure if we really will end up with systems that are easier because we have abstraction layers that help application programers to interact with the underlaying system. I am not sure if this doesn’t rather add more complexity and really does not make things more simple.
Where I becoming sceptical is at the point where I think nobody really has a big picture on projects like Gstreamer+Xorg+Dbus/Hal, Pulseaudio, etc etc. Everybody has some part of the picture but mostly I think people are focussing ony solving their own problems. So somebody sees one problem and begins working on code that targets this problem. Maybe he will be able to produce some software that accomplishes the targeted goal – but if this project gets a dependency it also means other projects and people depend on this work. Like lets say FreeBSD now also uses hal, but maybe hal is not that well supported as on Linux. Then if software like GNOME has hal as a dependency this also means FreeBSD will have to support a software that might for some reasons not have the quality that they wish it would have. This can have two different outcomes: a) Either a distribution decides that it cant support this software any more or b) it will find a way to invest some time to make it work. I guess Slackware chose the way a) as it decided not to support GNOME any more. There is maybe the third way: proclaiming a focus. OpenBSD says it only supports the core software. Linux distributions nowadays often declare that GNOME desktop is their focus (some still say its KDE for them). This means that you articulate: If you want support use this software – if you use something else do it at your own risk. Fair enough. But many of these decisions are not transparent to the user. So maybe he thinks its nice to to away from Windows and switch to … Linux – but he might end up using a Linux that does not support the software he may want to use as good as he likes. You may now say that this is not a problem as he can switch. But I think switching is not what should be something a user should do often – or always when his distribution switches its politics. So if somebody has used GNOME – if then Slackware has decided to dump supporting GNOME it might be painful to switch.

The older I get the more I admire trustworthyness of software. Meaning: these points:

  • If I boot up my computer tomorrow, will it still work as expected?
  • If the projects says its going to make a new release on date X, will I really get new software on this date?
  • If I have a problem with some old data and the software gets renewed – will i get support tomorrow or in some years from now?
  • Is this free software – meaning can I do with it what I want or am I trapped?

These are some basic points that are becoming more and more important to me – maybe this means I am getting old? 😉 Well I still like fresh ideas and new functionality – but I tend to dislike a system that breaks – where I cant update software or cant boot or Xorg crashes or I loose data. If I loose data then please only if I decide to use experimental software.

Open question is which operating system gives me what I want. One thing is for sure: You do not get that from something like Gentoo. Gentoo seems to me more for people who want to either have the possibility to use the latest software or to be able to easily compile software customized to their preferences. The problem is that you also HAVE to compile and do all the work in order to have an acceptable system. You can not ignore all the possibilities but often have to declare what you prefer even if you have no idea of what all these USE flags mean. Debian? From my experience Debian is not all about stability. It may often sound as Debian gives me what I just wrote above but I often have experienced dramatic switches of software behavior and also you are forced to answer so many damn questions on each update – and if you want to ignore you may end up in a state where you cant use your software. I often was at the point where I repeatedly had to try a dpkg-reconfigure in order to not only set the settings the way I like but also in a way that Debian (dpkg) remembers and not just overwrites on next update. What else do we have? Ubuntu and Fedora? Both are sure respectful distributions with a bunch of good software but on the other hand they did make some strange decisions in the past and I would not like to depend on one of them. Now to my current favorite: Foresight: The package manager conary is great – it focuses on GNOME and also has always met its release deadlines. But if you look at some details there are so many flaws which are not targeted as they should be. I still think Foresight maybe is the greates Linux distro around especially because of the mix of the best package manager around, the focus and the ability to package oneself with great ease. But still it suffers from the fact that it needs to support a lot of upstream projects which are not as cooperative sometimes as they should be. And I have found that I can not depend on it like connecting some random scanner or camera and it will work. But this is not due to the fact that those hardware is not supported on Linux in general – its rather because the packages are not as good as they need to be and many hardware not well tested. I hate to say that again, but its the truth. The way out would be to have more people and more testing and more knowledge about all the possible problems. I am quite optimistic that Foresight can and will become the best distribution around because it makes development much easier and if it would have the manpower of Ubuntu it sure would outact it.

But there is still the problem for me that I need a more reliable system as my productive machine – and I tend to believe that I wont get it in the Linux world. The BSDs have some flaws like not as good hardware support and some software wont work there – like you dont get the latest GNOME on OpenBSD. Everything has pros and cons – and everybody has to decide which operating system meets his own interest best. One thing I cant stand any more is that since I had my first computer which was an Amiga 2000 with 8MhZ I experience sometimes or often high load averages and situations where the graphical user interface seems to freeze or working with it becoming extremely slow. I am no longer accepting that. I dont want to wait for stupid tasks to finish. I accept that if I do some actions at once like compiling and watching a video – that this might kind of “freeze” my computer because he needs to do so much – but I am not accepting a high load for my everyday work. The relation needs to fit – so extreme tasks may take up a lot of CPU – but listenng to a stupid OGG file may NOT.

I havent seen any progress on any of the current Linux desktops to really solve that problem. That way also one of the reasons why I started working with wmii partly. I never really understood how people could use Debian with a GNOME from stoneage – and I stll cant really – but what I can understand now is that the latest software does not always have to be the greatest – given that you have the software that you need. I currently do not have all that. I like to be able to print some letters, listen to music, watch videos and edit some photos, the rest is maybe random internet usage. I have yet not worked very much with LaTeX but maybe that could play a role in not depending on OpenOffice.org. I know this would mean to learn some more about it to be able to do some similar things – but it should be achievable. I know that I will not be able to expect random hardware to work – and I am not expecting that any more. But I still like to be able to work with some new hardware like USB sticks etc. without much configuration.

I guess maybe OpenBSD is not as good on desktop – maybe NetBSD. Any suggestions? I think I leave out Plan9 for now. Minix maybe?

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