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Munich Reverses Course, May Ditch Linux For Microsoft

Craig Ringer I've run business Linux desktops - I'm unsurprised (579 comments)

I've actually run business Linux desktops for years, and I had endless problems.

* Random GNOME profile corruption. Lots of it. XFCE was no better, just different corruption issues;
* OpenOffice bugs and crashes;
* OpenOffice crashing, starting "recovery" but failing to find the tempfile it's trying to recover, and endlessly trying to recover that file every time the user launches it from then on;
* Mail clients (Evolution or Thunderbird) crashing but leaving dead processes around that had to be manually killed before they'd relaunch;
* Painfully difficult and buggy central configuration and management of things like desktop profiles, mail setup, etc;
* Handling of archives in email attachments, those horrible broken outlook TNEF files, etc, sucked;
* Printing was painful and buggy despite my being quite careful to get only native PostScript printers. Various apps would generate broken PS in all sorts of exciting ways, or CUPS would set job options that printers would choke on, basic printer features were unusable, etc etc;
* Random app devs who decided to call umask(0700) and override the system umask before creating files, because OBVIOUSLY they know better than the user and sysadmin what the file/dir creation perms should be;
* Numerous apps that'd suppress the setgid bit when creating new subdirectories in shared working trees, leading to more permissions issues;
* I was nervous about even minor upgrades to fix bugs, because for every bug fixed there'd usually be three new exiting bugs;
* For the Windows desktops (for a few users who needed accounting packages etc) using Samba for roaming profiles, *tons* of profile corruption issues, endless printing problems, incredibly poor performance, and difficulties interoperating with the Linux desktops

These were "basic users" who needed little more than word processing and occasional use of other simple document exchange, PDF viewing, printing (oh god, so much printing), email and simple attachment handling, and image viewing/sorting/saving. They weren't doing anything complicated.

Windows 7, Active Directory, and Group Policy were an incredible breath of fresh air when we bit the bullet and switched over after acquiring a Win2k8 R2 server for unrelated reasons. Sure, they have plenty of problems - but wow, did it work better overall. Things like volume shadow copy snapshots of server-side roaming profiles were a huge improvement over periodic bacula snapshots of bits of user homedir state.

The main problems we had with Windows were with roaming profiles - and were caused by obvious bugs in OpenOffice, Firefox (moved to Chrome which was better), etc, especially keeping piles of temp state in %APPDATA% not %LOCALAPPDATA% where it should be, modifying SQLite databases directly on remote storage, etc. These apps don't get tested on "business network" type setups, with roaming profiles and redirection, and they don't follow MS's recommendations on file layout etc. It shows.

The only serious issue I had with the Windows deployment was that %APPDATA% redirection for roaming profiles is horribly broken with caching enabled; the sync tool just throws a spak, gives up, and waits for the user to resolve conflicts. It's quite capable of creating conflicts even if there's never any connectivity problem, and the results are messy. Once I disabled offline access and caching for %APPDATA% (a significant performance hit, and it meant that if the server was down even briefly all clients would just freeze) the sync issues went away, but it wasn't a great compromise.

I wasted a huge amount of time babysitting the Linux desktops. I reported so many bugs, wrote so many patches - even though back then my C programming was ... er ... limited, so I could only tackle some issues. It was whack-a-mole, and it was no fun at all.

I use Linux on my laptop for work, and I'd hate to use anything else. Though with the KDE4/GNOME3 thing I'm getting less fond of it. For basic end users, though? Nope. No way, never again.

about a month ago
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Ask Slashdot: What To Do About the Sorry State of FOSS Documentation?

Craig Ringer Re:I fix it (430 comments)

... and yes, I know it's hard. I've spent *hours* figuring something out to write it up. Many, many times.

OTOH, I'm using someone else's often very good work for free. Perhaps it's not an efficient use of time ... but then if I've paid for something I often find I still have to dig around and figure out issues with it anyway.

about 2 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: What To Do About the Sorry State of FOSS Documentation?

Craig Ringer Tech writing is a skill (430 comments)

Agreed. You can produce good docs without the solid co-operation of the dev team, but it's much more difficult, more time consuming, and a lot more frustrating. They also tend to bit-rot a lot faster.

about 2 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: What To Do About the Sorry State of FOSS Documentation?

Craig Ringer Re:Hence, "Software Engineer" == MYTH (430 comments)

I love the way that people who don't contribute themselves describe those who do as "lazy" and demand that they make "excuses" for not doing what they're doing well enough to meet the standards of random other people.

This attitude actually makes the problem worse. "Screw you, why should I bother documenting something I wrote for me when some asshole's going to come along and tell me it's not good enough for them anyway? What'd they ever do? I'll just make it work for me."

about 2 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: What To Do About the Sorry State of FOSS Documentation?

Craig Ringer Re:Hence, "Software Engineer" == MYTH (430 comments)

Your point is somewhat accurate, if poorly made.

You neglect important externalities though. Often the devs are competent, but working to unrealistic deadlines and with priorities that specify that the product must work - not be pretty or properly documented.

You'll find this attitude in many fast-moving industries with little regulatory oversight.

Heavier regulation tends to force better processes, better documentation, higher standards for QA, etc ... and greatly increase the cost and time taken for everything.

It's a trade-off. You would clearly prefer the trade-off to be more toward a process-based, managed system than it currently is. Are you also willing to pay 3x as much for software? To greatly reduce what's available or possible for people to build for free, or make it entirely impossible?

I share your frustration, but unlike you I don't think the answers are simple, or that the explanation is that people other than you (obviously) are stupid.

about 2 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: What To Do About the Sorry State of FOSS Documentation?

Craig Ringer Re:MySQL in particular drives me nuts. (430 comments)

Did you report a bug about it?

Sometimes the folks working on the tool just don't spot these issues and need to be poked. I know it's true for me anyway.

about 2 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: What To Do About the Sorry State of FOSS Documentation?

Craig Ringer Re:Yes! (430 comments)

I find it incredibly valuable to talk to people who don't already know the system/problem/etc well. They often see what I can't because I'm already too immersed in it. When they don't, they're still useful because they force me to fully explain the problem and in the process often identify an error in my reasoning.

I often write explanations to this imaginary new user now, when I'm trying to figure something out. Or I tell it to my partner - I work from home so there's nobody else. If she's not interested, well, the baby has no choice but to listen ;-)

about 2 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: What To Do About the Sorry State of FOSS Documentation?

Craig Ringer Re:Software Documentation is bad everywhere (430 comments)

I'm glad to see you say that.

There's still plenty to improve in the Pg docs, and we welcome patches from everyone.

about 2 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: What To Do About the Sorry State of FOSS Documentation?

Craig Ringer Re: *BSD has best-of-breed documentation. (430 comments)

I concur - I used to use the Solaris docs heavily for Linux sysadmin, as their coverage of the POSIX-y bits was generally excellent.

Before Oracle.

Unfortunately, part of the reason Solaris's docs had to be so good was because the tools were often so bad. Any OS where the first thing you do is "overlay a GNU userspace" has a problem.

about 2 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: What To Do About the Sorry State of FOSS Documentation?

Craig Ringer Re:Linux Encyclopedia (430 comments)

I'm not at all convinced by that. I think it'd just be even more fragmented, confusing and bitrotted than what we already have, unless it was very carefully designed to tag passages as relevant to particular versions/distros, etc.

It's not easy to get this right.

A big first step would IMO be to lock all distro devs in a single room and declare that the last one standing gets to live. Or, at minimum, do this for package formats. We need rpm OR deb. One of them has to die.

about 2 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: What To Do About the Sorry State of FOSS Documentation?

Craig Ringer I fix it (430 comments)

When I find a problem, I fix it where possible, and at least bring it to the attention of relevant people where I can't.

If people actually did this, instead of complain that "the docs suck" and expecting someone *else* to do the work to fix the issue, the docs wouldn't suck.

If whatever it is uses some particularly arcane and awful docs build system I'll often just send in textual changes. If it uses something sane, or something insane that I already know (docbook for example) I'll send a patch.

This is a case of JFDI.

about 2 months ago
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Dropbox Head Responds To Snowden Claims About Privacy

Craig Ringer Sensible response (176 comments)

That's an accurate and sensible response.

In fact, 3rd party client encryption tools might be better than built-in support by Dropbox. They can be produced outside the USA by companies or individuals unaffiliated with DropBox and potentially harder to pressure into backdooring the software in an update.

I'll stick to SpiderOak personally, despite the awful transfer speeds and somewhat clunky usability, because I just want a remote store that stores my gibberish bytes and gives me the same gibberish bytes back later.

about 2 months ago
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Now On Video: GCHQ Destroying Laptop Full of Snowden Disclosures

Craig Ringer Danger, top secret electronics dust (237 comments)

It's probably been so long since they released it because GCHQ had to vet the video to make sure you couldn't reconstruct the document from the fragments visible during the video.

They seem to be about that level of tech-literate.

about 8 months ago
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Kernel Dev Tells Linus Torvalds To Stop Using Abusive Language

Craig Ringer Re:What about new talent? (1501 comments)

Not every community is like that, thankfully. Many have standards of behaviour and take people to task when they step outside them.

The PostgreSQL team make an effort to keep discourse polite and constructive. It's generally very effective. I see such standards as valuable ways to force people to make their points with technical argument and reason, not YELLING A LOT.

about a year ago
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Ask Slashdot: Is Postgres On Par With Oracle?

Craig Ringer compact xml (372 comments)

Actually PostgreSQL's XML type is a thin wrapper around "text", not a compact binary representation. It does get TOAST compressed which might've what made you think so.

about a year ago
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Ask Slashdot: Is Postgres On Par With Oracle?

Craig Ringer Re:what keeps us from switching ? (372 comments)

I work professionally with PostgreSQL and I totally agree - PostgreSQL or any RDBMS isn't the right choice for all jobs.

If the only way you can make it work is to build an inner-system or use EAV for everything, you shouldn't be using an RDBMS.

If you have a free-form data model that's not amenible to structural analysis and normalization, you shouldn't be using an RDBMS.

Unfortunately, most people think they have one or both of those things, but in fact they just haven't done the proper analysis and thought through it, so they jump straight for NoSQLWhateverIsFashionableToday. They realise all the features and code they have to write themselves at the application layer, do it badly, say their chosen database performs badly or is unreliable, and go looking for a different one.

I'm glad to see that modern RDBMSs are starting to gain better support for non-relational structures (PostgreSQL's hstore, improving json support, etc). Few applications these days work solely with data that's suited to relational modelling. Apps often benefit from globally transactional behaviour though, and it's nice not having to wrestle 2PC and transaction co-ordinators and the other horrors you get when dealing with more than one DB in an product.

(Pg plays really well with Redis too, by the way; it's a great caching layer and PostgreSQL's LISTEN/NOTIFY lets you do fine-grained invalidation of your Redis cache).

about a year ago
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Ask Slashdot: Is Postgres On Par With Oracle?

Craig Ringer Re:Feature differences (372 comments)

PostgreSQL supports the SQL-standard WITH RECURSIVE clause instead of the Oracle-specific CONNECT BY.

CONNECT BY is in many ways a nicer syntax, but the functionality is there.

Pg also has XML types, schemas and extensions to serve some of the same purposes as packages, etc. Default values of function params are also supported.

That's not to say it has full coverage of Oracle's feature set; it doesn't. There's no native materialized view support until 9.3, so you have to roll your own in currently released versions. There's no synchronous multi-master clustering in Pg (we're working on it). No autonomous transactions, and stored procs can't easily return multiple result sets. Partitioning in Pg is rudimentary and manual, at least in 9.3 and older, it might change in future.

OTOH, Pg is more extensible, has saner licensing, offers choice of support, etc, per my other post.

about a year ago
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Ask Slashdot: Is Postgres On Par With Oracle?

Craig Ringer Re:what keeps us from switching ? (372 comments)

Yeah! And while we're at it we can use Java EE 6, which makes it super-easy to write apps that'll run on any of the portable Java application server runtimes!

People who think SQL is really a meangful standard haven't used more than one SQL RDBMS. Even basic read-only querying and DML is in practice only marginally standard. For example, Oracle doesn't support multiple VALUES lists, it has its own funky syntax for multi-valued insert, which is one of the more basic things around.

about a year ago
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Ask Slashdot: Is Postgres On Par With Oracle?

Craig Ringer Re:what keeps us from switching ? (372 comments)

2ndQuadrant, who I work for, have some PL/SQL conversion and compatibility tools in the works and are interested in hearing from more people with large PL/SQL codebases.

about a year ago

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