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Comments

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Redistricting 2.0: Cloud Lets Voters Take Part

Dorsai65 A Goofy Idea (83 comments)

Here's something novel: how about letting a (gasp!) computer do it - as in divide the geopolitical space into the appropriate number of areas, each of which has a minimum outline or area. The idea is to eliminate gerrymandering, biases (political, ethnic, social, etc), and so on.

more than 3 years ago
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'Homeless' Planets May Be Common In Our Galaxy

Dorsai65 So... (181 comments)

Which administration gets the blame for that?

more than 2 years ago
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Maximum Items You've Powered From a Single Outlet

Dorsai65 9 to 16: low power (497 comments)

Most all of my stuff is low-power, so powering a metric buttload (1.2X an English buttload) of devices from a single outlet is no biggie. I invariably need more places to plug things in than the current capacity of the outlet can handle.

more than 3 years ago
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How many microprocessors are in your home, total?

Dorsai65 uP vs uC? (559 comments)

Keep in mind that a lot of micro-based electronics (e.g. microwaves, fridges) are using microcontrollers, versus microprocessors.

more than 3 years ago
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In the past year, I've filed Z bug reports, where Z=

Dorsai65 Re:Would have been more, (244 comments)

Read what I wrote again. Nowhere in there is any request for any kind of deadline; the only thing even approximating any kind of time constraint is the last - where I explicitly use "not even a hint" as a scale. Even something as vague as "three or four months, maybe", or "early next year" would be sufficient.

more than 4 years ago
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In the past year, I've filed Z bug reports, where Z=

Dorsai65 Would have been more, (244 comments)

but too many sites make it too much of a PITA:

  • I don't think I should have to jump through a bunch of hoops (Bugzilla/Redhat!) to tell someone there's a problem with their software;
  • I don't want to be on the mailing list for all the messages that get passed around while they try to figure out who's supposed to fix it, and what the problem is;
  • Getting an email back that cops an attitude, regardless of how polite I was;
  • Trying to describe something that a simple screen capture shows;
  • Want me to sign up for a mailing list to even report it;
  • Projects that don't have any info on who to report bugs TO;
  • Reporting a bug, only to be told that it's a problem with Redhat/KDE/whatever, and they don't (and never will) test on that combo;
  • Reporting a bug, only to be told that the project has been handed off to someone, without saying who or how to reach them (it's not on the project site);
  • Reporting a bug, only to be told "Yeah, we're gonna fix that in the new version" with not even a hint as to when that'll happen.

more than 4 years ago
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Balloon and Duct Tape Deliver Great Space Photos

Dorsai65 Re:But that is the opposite of true! (238 comments)

Roger that. Stereotypes happen precisely because of averaged observations. And before I get flamed, note that "averaged" bit.

more than 4 years ago
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Users Rejecting Security Advice Considered Rational

Dorsai65 HINT: (389 comments)

It isn't just ONE thing, or even mostly one. It's varying permutations of varying degrees of all of the above, depending on the user, OS, risk(s), and solutions available.

more than 4 years ago
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What Aspects of Open Source Projects Do You Avoid?

Dorsai65 Re:irc.freenode.net (344 comments)

The closest thing to a "Fedora manual" that I have seen is a 900+ page book

True. But A) the user doesn't need to read the whole book to use the index to find references to X, and B) that doesn't apply to a half-dozen people working on SuperHandyUtility in their spare time.

If only that were still feasible; I would love such a solution, but the volume has grown too large in recent years.

Again, much of what you write is most appropriate for large projects, like an entire OS. My comments are directed toward those that are simply writing a single application. As for users reporting bugs, anything of the "my mouse stopped" without amplifying information goes to the bitbucket. Be nice and tell them that without more info (application, what they were doing, the usual suspects), nothing you can do. But don't make them register with Bugzilla and go through all the rigmarole to report (for example) that a dialog button is mostly covered by the label next to it.

We almost always do,

Again, true enough for a distro. But I recently had some questions about an active application; when I emailed the author, what I got back was "Oh, somebody else has taken that over; I don't have anything to do with it any more", with no mention of who had picked it up or how they could be reached. Website was as old as the negligible documentation (i.e. about 3 major revs behind, which is ANOTHER peeve...).

Why restrict this to Linux? The problem of different toolkits that do not integrate well with the OS is pretty universal.

I'm sorry to say that I was a Windows user from 2.0 until shortly after XP released, and while there were indeed some butt-ugly apps written with other toolkits, they still ran. I've had several cases where source code wouldn't compile because of hard-coded dependencies on a specific (obscure!) Gnome library (I use KDE). The author? "Oh, well, I don't use KDE, so I didn't bother testing it. Maybe someone else has ported it over...".

It doesn't take but one or two of the above experiences with an application for someone to say it isn't worth the bother, or that open source isn't any good.

more than 4 years ago
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What Aspects of Open Source Projects Do You Avoid?

Dorsai65 Re:irc.freenode.net (344 comments)

One of the reasons I avoid all this open source stuff is that most of it is badly documented

THIS

IRC channels, wikis, blogs, mailing lists (and their archives), a set of web pages... none of these is a valid substitute for actual documentation that a user can actually find an answer in. Fine, if you feel the need to be high-tech, edgy, l33t, or whatever, make it a pdf or downloadable html pages. Do not force users to have to jump through any 'extra' hoops to try and get help with a problem they may be having. I'd also add:

  • If you get some variation of the same question over and over again, you need to (better) explain it in the docs.
  • If a user finds an actual bug, don't make them have to sign up for some service or other that they'll (hopefully) only need once (i.e. Bugzilla) to report it. Maybe have a bugs@myproject.org to triage.
  • CLEARLY provide SOME way to contact SOMEBODY actively involved with the project. Keep this updated if you don't want to be getting annoyed emails five years from now.
  • If it's a Linux app, it would be kinda nice if it worked/looked good under ANY desktop, not just your personal favorite.

more than 4 years ago
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Aussie Internet Censorship Minister Censors Self

Dorsai65 Quite a change (158 comments)

from when I was down there (USN) in 1976 -- folks were pretty much left to act like adults and be responsible for themselves. Now the whole country seems more farked up than the U.S., or even Britain!

Maybe they should start referring to him as Kim Jong Conroy?

So much for the concepts of "Freedom" and "Democracy" for Oz...

more than 4 years ago
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Windows 7 Can Create Rogue Wi-Fi Access Point

Dorsai65 Re:Linux Treats You Like An Adult.... (123 comments)

I've been running Linux for over 5 years, and have never had to do anything like that to get a USB drive to work.

Sure, there's some hardware that won't work under Linux because of drivers -- usually cheap-ass crap that people shouldn't be buying in the first place. Then again, my Linux system does recognise the vast majority of hardware, and doesn't need separate drivers for any of it. Hell, the first thing I do when I buy hardware for my system is throw away the Windows drivers disk(s) that came with it, along with whatever suck-ass "free" program they had to toss in to try and convince me to buy it. On top of that, I don't have to reboot eleventy-seven times while installing said drivers.

more than 4 years ago
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Windows 7 Can Create Rogue Wi-Fi Access Point

Dorsai65 Re:Anyone see the Linux bias here? (123 comments)

No, not hypocrisy.

Using Linux, you're expected to take responsibility for your computer and how it's configured. If it's borked, that's because you probably didn't research/learn as you should have and almost certainly changed something without knowing what it does or is for.

When a Windows box is borked, it's generally because MS screwed it up FOR you, before you got it, and without telling you -- if you had any interest in it working correctly in the first place (which most Windows users are willing to assume it does).

more than 4 years ago
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What You Get When You Buy a $40 iPhone In a Bar

Dorsai65 WTF? (211 comments)

What the hell did he THINK he was going to get for his money? In a freakin' BAR?

more than 3 years ago
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Ubisoft's Constant Net Connection DRM Confirmed

Dorsai65 Well, THAT'S certainly one way (631 comments)

to step on the ol' weenie with track shoes...

[Carnac] "What is 'people staying away in droves?' [/Carnac]

more than 4 years ago
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PayPal Freezes the Assets of Wikileaks.org

Dorsai65 More info, please (403 comments)

Why is PayPal freezing the account? What happened the first time, and what agreement was reached to thaw the account?

more than 4 years ago
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Slime Mold Could Lead To Better Tech

Dorsai65 Meaning (179 comments)

that Tokyo has a slimy rail system?

more than 4 years ago
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China Luring Scientists Back Home

Dorsai65 Re:We are asking the same in India (292 comments)

Better than fussing at the U.S. that these students are choosing to stay here, better you should be asking why they don't want to go back. Caste system? Social stratification? Old-boy network? Nepotism? What does the U.S. do/have that India doesn't?

more than 4 years ago
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China Luring Scientists Back Home

Dorsai65 Re:I predict a boom in Chinese research. (292 comments)

The thing that concerns me is that "but for now" part.

If the U.S. doesn't get its collective head out of its ass and start not only teaching math and science again, but actually respecting (and even honoring) the fields, then we're going to be the world's foremost service people. We've got too many kids going to college just for the "piece of paper" that valuable resources are being wasted. It's well past time for parents to accept that a college degree isn't an automatic job guarantee, and start directing their kids into some trade schools. A journeyman plumber takes more money home than a Liberal Arts grad flipping burgers.

more than 4 years ago

Submissions

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Is there a Linux distro that isn't hogtied?

Dorsai65 Dorsai65 writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Dorsai65 writes "Having tried and used a number of different Linux distros (Redhat, Fedora, SuSE, Mepis, Gentoo, and (K)Ubuntu, among others) since I made the big switch several years ago, there are certain applications and utilities that I prefer to use over the one that some distros make all but mandatory. For example, I much prefer VLC to any other video player, but my current Fedora12 is adamant that I have to have Dragon Player. I don't care for the default Dolphin file manager, but can't find/see how or where to tell my system to use something else (or even to REMOVE Dolphin, for that matter). So my question for my fellow Slashdotters is this: is there a distro that actually practices freedom (as in free-to-choose) utility/application selection, versus insisting on whatever the devs think is cool/sexy? Can I (relatively) easily have a Linux system that lets ME choose what I want on it without insisting I have to have stuff I don't like or want?"
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Where has the "beginner" software gone?

Dorsai65 Dorsai65 writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Dorsai65 writes "Several months ago, I got started with the Arduino, and have been having a lot of fun with it while applying it to some use.

Something that I've run into, however, is that to get any real mileage out of it, it's almost mandatory to have it communicating with something on a desktop machine — whether that's to do intermittent data collection, provide oversight, implement command and control that the Arduino doesn't provide, or some other functionality. In an effort to share some of what I've learned, and perhaps save others some time and trouble, I'd like to be able to make available the host-based software that I've written to complement my Arduino projects. The problem I've run into, however, is that there seems to be a notable lack of cross-platform (Win/'nix/Mac) tools appropriate to the non-tech and non-programmer that the Arduino hardware is so useful to. I've tried a variety of different languages and environments (Java, Qt, GTK, etc), but found all of them falling short for different reasons.

My question for Slashdotters is: does there exist a language/environment (cross-platform, and preferably GUI) that's both simple to start with, yet has power and flexibility as the user's skills grow? Is there a graphical version of "BASIC" out there that works on the Big Three systems?"
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Is Linux fragmenting?

Dorsai65 Dorsai65 writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Dorsai65 writes "I've been using Linux (Redhat, SuSE, Ubuntu, Mandriva, and a couple more) for several years now, and while checking out a different distro the other day, it really hit me that almost none of the different flavors of Linux bear a whole lot of under-the-hood resemblance to each other.

By that, I mean that the update option for each distro is for that distro almost exclusively: even rpm- or deb-based distros don't share software repositories; each distro seems to decide for itself where things go (SuSE creates a /srv/html directory for Apache; other distros go with /var/www, for example).

While some of the 'problems' can be addressed by add-in tools (the Smart package manager comes to mind), that's something a n00b likely won't be aware of. I've talked to a few people that have tried Linux, and this distro-centeredness is something that put all of them off; while a Windows box may be branded by Dell, Gateway, HP, or someone else, it's still consistently Windows — updating, adding software, and so on all still work the same.

So what I'd like to ask Slashdot is: Is it time for Linux to establish (and implement... Linux Standard Base seems to be an example of What Not To Do) some standards? And for the different distros to start 'playing nice' with each other, so that there's a level of consistency?"
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Is documentation dead?

Dorsai65 Dorsai65 writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Dorsai65 writes "In the process of researching a CMS (Content Management System) or groupware solution for some folks, I visited a lot of product sites. One of the first things that I looked at was the documentation: checking for readability, thoroughness, and so on.

Something I noticed in the process is that it seemed like a lot of big-project sites are only making their documentation available online — there's no option to download a pdf, zipped copy of the pages, or anything else that would allow the user to read the stuff offline.

I'm curious to know: is this the wave of the future? Am I stuck in 'old fart' mode, thinking that documentation should be something I can look at without a net connection? Have any other Slashdot denizens dismissed an application from consideration because of something like this?"
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Is BitTorrents popularity going to be its demise?

Dorsai65 Dorsai65 writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Dorsai65 writes "The recent observation about the increasing popularity of BitTorrent makes me wonder: Is that popularity going to end up with the protocol pretty much falling on the floor because of all the uninformed n00bs, l33t haxx0rz, and I-wanna-so-I-will types essentially abusing it? As someone that has used several of the torrent trackers (including Pirate Bay), I've noticed that a lot of people are throwing torrents up, but either failing to adequately describe them, or overloading the descriptions with drivel. By way of example, one torrent description I looked at (of a movie) simply included a link to IMDB — nothing about whether it was PAL/NTSC/HD/WideScreen, language, subtitles, or anything else; another went into elaborate detail of the codecs used, bitrates it was sampled/converted at, and a lot of other fluff — and only briefly mentioned that it was appropriate for PC-playback only.

Is this something that will ultimately kill using BitTorrent for most people (because, essentially, they can't find what they're looking for), and useful only in specific instances (such as distributing a distro or other massive file)?"

Journals

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Seriously buggered (k)Ubuntu

Dorsai65 Dorsai65 writes  |  about 6 years ago

A couple of weeks ago, I finally "upgraded" from Kubuntu 8.04 to 8.10. Since making that decision, I've started giving more and more thought on giving up on the Ubuntu distro in favor of something else. Why?

  • The out-of-the-box installation onto a desktop computer failed to connect to my network. Not only that, but Kubuntu had removed the ability to assign a static IP from the network settings section of the system configuration; I had to manually edit my networking and DNS configs. If I'd been a Linux n00b, I'd have been screwed. On top of that, Kubuntu keeps replacing MY entries in resolv.conf (which I had to MANUALLY CREATE!) with their defaults.
  • Some parts of 8.04 didn't seem to be saving some of my config files (i.e. I frequently [weekly, if not more often] had to re-run X setup to get it to see my widescreen monitor). 8.10 is even worse about forgetting things: I have 2 computers sharing a single monitor, trackball, and keyboard with a KVM switch; if I move away from my 'main' system, it's 50-50 whether or not I'll have to log back in to the main system (no, I don't mean turn off the screensaver -- I mean log in from scratch. When I do, I have to resize and reposition anything that was on the desktop.
  • Things that I could adjust in the system settings before are now missing -- completely. For example, I'm stuck with whatever the hell colors and such come up on the monitor -- gamma adjustment is gone. There isn't even an option to manage my drives; apparently, (k)Ubuntu doesn't think I'll ever need or want to make any kind of changes. Many of the "control" sections left in the system manager don't even have an administrative override, any more.
  • I've lost functionality on some of my hardware. By way of example, I have a Trackman Wheel trackball; I used to be able to use the middle button for double-click; now that button is all but useless -- it doesn't do shit under 8.10. And, of course, they haven't left me anyplace to change that.
  • Kubuntu 8.04 absolutely INSISTED that I had to have some programs installed, even though I used something else. 8.10 is even worse about this: not only do I have a bunch of apps I don't need/want, but when I go to uninstall them, Kubuntu threatens to take KDE out with them!
  • Ubuntu has taken perfectly good applications (i.e. kcontrol) completely out of their repositories, and thus taken away some functionality and control over their own system from users. I've had the Dolphin file managed installed on my system with the last couple of upgrades; I don't like Dolphin, and prefer the fast, easy, simple Kongqueror -- and with 8.10, I can't have it (at least, not for file management). I resent the hell out of having Dolphin crammed down my throat, and not being allowed to use what I want.

These are just the more annoying of the problems I've run into -- there are plenty of "little" things that they've summarily decided to change (with no option to go back or do differently), as well.

As far as I'm concerned, these things aren't "bugs". I've done some programming, and to me, a "bug" is when you get an unexpected result from taking some action; what I've seen with Kubuntu 8.10 is pure and simple dumbassery: neglect (leaving out something as basic as functionality for a middle mouse button? Give me a break!), arrogance (assuming that I don't "need" any of the stuff they've taken out, or will want to change anything from what THEY'VE set it to), and laziness (not including a default [not even an empty one] resolv.conf?).

I went with Kubuntu because they did a pretty good job on finding the various bits of hardware in the different computers that I work with; but each upgrade has resulted in me losing more and more control over MY computer -- and that is most definitely not acceptable.

I'm a Linux advocate; I've given away over a couple dozen "Live" disks, and had probably half those people make the switch. I used to give the Kubuntu live CD away -- but after all the crap I've gone through with 8.10, I won't give out another one. And you can be damn sure that I won't be recommending Ubuntu (in ANY flavor) to people, either: as far as I'm concerned, Ubuntu is the F/OSS version of Microsoft.

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Distro Wars

Dorsai65 Dorsai65 writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Sigh.

As I've previously mentioned, there is a problem with the way Linux allows anybody and everybody to repackage it into their own 'distro' (distribution): a lack of standards (or at least common policies) that are leading to the fragmentation of Linux -- and thus slowing its acceptance by traditional Windows users.

By way of illustration, here's the deal on my recent attempt to install OpenOffice 3.

My current distro -- Kubuntu -- doesn't have OO3 available via repositories yet. That's fine; it's only been a couple of days, and I know it takes a certain amount of time for that to happen. So what I did instead was simply to download OO3 via torrent, and try to install it myself.

Well, that didn't work so well. Oh, the download and tgz extraction worked just fine, thank you very much. Where things went off into the weeds was the attempt to actually perform the installation. It seems that the folks at Ubuntu have a different idea of where things should go and how the directory structure should work than the nice people at OpenOffice: apparently, Ubuntu scattered OpenOffice files across several different directories -- which confused the Jeebus out of the OpenOffice installer and prevented the installation. The end result is that even though I've downloaded OO3, it won't update OR install, either at the system level OR in my home directory.

That's something that is utter, total bullshit.

I'm not laying this at the feet of the folks at Ubuntu (though they certainly share some of the blame). Nor am I pointing fingers at OpenOffice; I don't doubt that the program installs just fine on most other Linux distros.

Instead, I'm upset at the Linux developer/distribution communities. I'm all too aware of the various opinions as to where files, settings, and all the rest should go in the directory structure -- and it is the pig-headed jackassery of these assorted armies-of-all-that-is-right that is completely fucking up Linux. I think it's well-nigh time for them to put away their egos and opinions in favor of compromising with each other a bit so that there is some coherency and consistency in the Linux directory structure and installation process. Personally, I don't give a happy damn WHAT they ultimately decide as long as they settle on SOMETHING that works across distributions and platforms. 'usr' versus 'var'? It really doesn't fucking matter -- just PICK ONE and settle on it, will ya? RPM versus DEB? Why not both -- isn't Linux supposed to be about freedom? How 'free' are us humble users when software won't install because of the pissing contest between two sides in a battle over something that shouldn't even matter? How 'free' is Linux when different distributions are all but incompatible with each other? Are the various distros about freedom, or the distro owner's ego and 'status'? Why is it necessary to piss in the file hierarchy of an upstream application (like OpenOffice) before the app can be 'cleanly' included in the repositories for a particular distro?

If anyone has a reasonable, logical, and rational explanation for all this nonsense, I'd like to hear it -- I really would.

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Linux vs. Linux vs. Linux vs. ...

Dorsai65 Dorsai65 writes  |  more than 6 years ago

I've been a Linux user for several years now, after finally getting fed up with Microsoft/Windows. I've run RedHat (pre-Fedora) and SuSE, and continue to run my own servers here at home.

I recently decided to try out some of the other flavors of Linux to see if there was another distro that I liked, and that I could distribute to those that expressed an interest in trying Linux (I have a Tux graphic on my laptop that draws a certain amount of curiosity).

What follows is my personal (and, of course, highly subjective) evaluation of the different distributions that I installed and ran. Each was installed on the same machine (a 3.5G P4 with 3-1/2G of memory, Intel 915 graphic chip, a pair of SATA drives, and a widescreen LCD monitor), and used exclusively for a couple of days to give it a reasonably fair and thorough (though admittedly not intensive) trial. I also tried to keep in mind what a n00b to Linux might think along the way. Other than specifying (where possible) to re-format the drive, all installations were done in a pick-the-default mode, for example.

The process for each distribution went like this:

  1. Boot
  2. Install
  3. Update
  4. Add packages
  5. Use

Mandriva (free version) proved to be a simple and easy installation: it found my assorted hardware, networking, and all the rest without any noticeable difficulty. The user interface during install was simple and clean; it didn't take long before I was able to log in and 'go to work' -- starting with installing the different packages that I've gotten accustomed to using. Sadly, Mandriva seems to gain its legendary stability by sacrificing variety: there were a number of packages that I like use that simply weren't available. In other cases, the latest version of an application wasn't in the Mandriva repository system. Fine -- they weren't strictly necessary, though they would be missed. At least, that's what I thought. As the next couple of days went by, however, I found myself missing those absent packages more and more. While Mandriva was fairly slick, stable as the Rock of Gibraltar, and generally user-friendly, the lack of additional packages began to be felt. Those missing apps might have been in one of the supported distros, but I wasn't inclined to pay to find out...

Debian was next. As has been pointed out before, Debian defaults to Gnome for a desktop. What was less than obvious was just HOW dedicated Debian is to Gnome: there is NO option during the install process to opt for KDE (my preference): you have to read the install documents to learn that invoking a boot option is necessary to install KDE. Debian offered a good selection of packages, but fell a little short on how detailed the package selection process worked: I experiment with an Arduino, and had to do a certain amount of futzing around before the IDE would work. Once I was past that point, however, Debian proved to be a decent distro: solid, fast, and easy to use. Some of the 'standard' apps were a little behind, but only by a couple of minor revision levels.

openSuSE was next. I opted for the KDE4 'set' (openSuSE 11 helpfully offers Gnome, KDE3, KDE4, and 'other'), and went at it. Again, installation was reasonably fast, easy, and thorough. The package selection process threatened to be overwhelming with its detail and thoroughness (with a few execptions), and YASTs 'autocheck' option ensured that RPMs didn't lose any dependencies. The final KDE4 desktop was a graphic wonderland -- for those relatively few apps that supported it. Personally, I've held off on trying KDE4 for the simple reason that KDE3 'just worked' for me; I didn't see any point to the much-touted eye candy. KDE4 on openSuSE left me thinking that I was right. I didn't see anything about KDE4 that made me want to start using it as my desktop; if anything, I'm convinced that I'll stick with KDE3: while all the golly-wog graphics are nice, that there are KDE4 and KDE3 versions of the same applications troubles me -- it smacks too much of the Windows 95/98/2000/XP/Vista 'evolution'. Further, some of the KDE4 utilities never turned up in the menu system (KDE4pim, for example) after being installed, and there seem to be a few KDE3 applications that fatally conflict with KDE4 -- as in installing them causes important parts of KDE4 to be UNinstalled. Not good at all.

(k)ubuntu similarly proved to be fast and easy to install. It didn't throw up on any of my hardware, though I did get that bothersome Debian 'bad certificate' notice (covered on Slashdot some time ago) -- something they should have fixed sooner, particularly on installation disks/ISOs. Updates were quick and easy, and package selection was fairly diverse and thorough. Kubuntu proved to be a nice (though less than ideal) blend of the best of Debian and SuSE.

Mepis was next, and was easy enough to install and configure. Package selection was somewhat limited, but the thing that threw me was what they elected to do with the desktop: rather than a single taskbar all the way across the bottom of the screen, they appear to dynamically size it in the middle. The arrangement of the various icons and such has been 'tweaked', as well. Nothing that I couldn't adjust to; it's just that it was a bit jarring and disconcerting at first.

Fedora was the last candidate I tried. Redhat doesn't seem to have changed all that much since I first tried it, which was disappointing. The installation process allows the user to choose some base packages to install, but the selection process was a bit awkward: to see the details of a grouping, it was necessary to select the group, then (un)check any particulars; better to expand to a list, I'd think -- but hey, it's their distro. :-) That being said, Redhat offered a tolerably good selection of apps, installed fairly quickly and easily, and otherwise demonstrated why it's one of the leading distributions of Linux.

Observations

  • NONE of the distributions offered out-of-the-box options to include any but its own repositories.
  • ALL of the distros felt obliged to 'tweak' the screen layout. Yes, it's a minor thing, but something that isn't strictly necessary.
  • There seems to be a fair amount of variation in the file/directory structure between the distros, as far as what files go where.
  • A n00b Linux user likely isn't going to know the difference between Gnome/KDE/other -- and there is no simple, easy way to switch. Ditto KDE3/4.
  • There are differences (read: 'bugs') in the way apps written in/for Gnome/KDE operate in the other environment; presentation should be distinct from performance.
  • Myself, I don't think KDE4 is ready for primetime. That, or it got off-track in development: a major revision like that should offer optional features, not break existing software.

All of the different distributions I tried were 'mainstream' -- that is, not optimized for scientific, medical, embedded, or other niche use. While all were functional, there was a considerable variation in n00b-friendliness, flexibility, currency, and expandability: none of them offered any kind of gradual expansion of administrative detail as the users skills develop: Redhat and SuSE both present power-user options that are likely to confuse a new user (who may well crater their system fiddling with settings), while a distro like Kubuntu doesn't offer any kind of control over various server (BIND and Apache, for example) settings. Package support varied wildly, as far as granularity of selection (i.e. ability to select just a couple of games, versus a 'group' of a dozen or more that those games are included in) and breadth of options (openSuSE doesn't include Gambas, which I find useful for quick-and-dirty RAD; Kubuntu does), or repository options (a function of package managers -- OY!).

Conclusion -- at its core, Linux is a good idea and could be viable alternative to Microsoft. However, its very open-ness is what's keeping it from gaining acceptance: a fundamental lack of standards. Because anybody can take the Linux kernel and start adding to it pretty much any damn way they want, 'anybody' IS, and Linux is gradually being fragmented because of that fact. Regardless of what any of us Linux users thinks of Microsoft (*spit!*), they do have one thing going for them: regardless of who 'brands' Windows (Dell, HP, Gateway, etc), at its center, it's still Windows: admins know where to find things, apps are installed in a consistent way, and users know what to expect from it. I'm not suggesting that Linux should follow the Microsoft-knows-all model; rather, I'm simply saying that a good policy and a set of consistent standards aren't necessarily anathema to F/OSS. I'm suggesting that the different distro 'owners' put their egos away in favor of establishing some consistency across the Linux world -- and no, don't go at it half-assed like the Linux Standard Base. I mean actually get together and hammer out the various niggling little details like where web server pages go (/srv/html like SuSE prefers? or /var/www? For me, either would be fine as long as it was consistent across distros), package management (please, God, no more deb vs. RPM vs. ??? wars! Let them make peace and play NICE with each other for a change!), distro-centeredness (hint: none of you has a hammerlock on the One True Way), and not forgetting about the newbie while allowing for the possibility that (s)he may grow into a power user.

And yes, I know that some/many of the issues I've brought up (most notably package management) are things easily dealt with by additional packages and varying degrees of tweaking. My point is that adding another package to be able to download MORE packages is less than obvious to a new Linux user -- and just one example of how they can be 'put off' by Linux in favor of staying with Microsoft.

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