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Linux for Human Beings?

Forks of open sauce forks getting forked like amoebas. Fork fork.


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There are well over one thousand Linux distros available. The most popular distro by far is Ubuntu. But even Ubuntu is forked 'at the factory' - into Ubuntu and Kubuntu. Outside the factory things get chaotic.

There's Mint, Ultimate Edition, gOS, and CrunchBang Linux. To name but a few. Forking - along with RMS-style apathy and laziness - is the name of the new game in the open sauce community.

AlphaMack has written an extensive article on the dilemma.

I've written two reviews of Jaunty - one initial and one full.

While I still believe that Jaunty is an awesome distro once fully set up and ironed out (at least by my standards after I'm done with my initial tweaking), I am appalled by the lack of QA and empty promises in the last several releases.

I bought my ThinkPad during the reign of Gutsy. Unfortunately, I had a love-hate relationship with Gutsy as my system kept locking up for unknown reasons (nothing dumped to the logs). I considered it a temporary gripe as Hardy was just around the corner (a month away).

The Hardy LTS was incredibly stable on my hardware but shipped with many things broken out of the box including PulseAudio. It took a forum post to get PulseAudio up to speed...

http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=789578

It shouldn't require a forum post full of step-by-step instructions and a PPA to fix something the devs should have caught onto. Were the fixes ever backported? Nope.

Oh, and good luck explaining to n00bs on how to enable PPAs including the GPG keys required for authentication...

Intrepid was a complete disaster. The devs switched to ath5k instead of madwifi for my Atheros AR5212 chipset. Ath5k was horribly broken and I experienced frequent disconnects. A temp workaround was to dump Network Manager in favor of Wicd (which I have now made it into a practice for even friends I install Ubuntu for). Add to that PulseAudio was still broken and many apps lost sound all together. On top of all that I experienced frequent kernel panics.

And then along came Jaunty. If you have an Intel chipset for your video you are horribly screwed. Are the devs going to fix anything? From the look of bug reports, nope.

https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+sour ... bug/252094 (Take good note of 'importance'.)
https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+sour ... bug/259157 (How much they care about madwifi.)

With Jaunty I experienced daily kernel panics with madwifi (ath5k still sucked), higher CPU temps, and Xorg eating 30% of the CPU while idling.

Again, the same guy who brought the Ubuntu community a forum post on how to fix PulseAudio dropped a forum post on how to fix the Intel regression...

http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1130582

I followed the 'safe' option with dismal results and got awesome results with 'optimal.' But to get there involved the following:

  • A third party kernel unsupported by the Ubuntu devs. (If you have any restricted drivers you're pretty much screwed.)
  • A PPA with X updates.
  • Editing xorg.conf (and keeping a backup on hand).
  • A third party script to patch the MTRR behavior by the driver.

I've never in my life had to compile a kernel. Fortunately, since the kernel headers and image are precompiled, I won't have to worry much. But this is still a third party kernel outside of the realms of Ubuntu 'support'. What I did have to compile was a patched ALSA (and recompile every time I update the kernel). And this is on hardware that is supposed to be Linux-friendly.

Does anyone else see anything wrong with a supposedly 'n00b' distro requiring third-party kernels, scripts, and third-party packages just to get basic functionality which should have been taken care of by the devs from the beginning?

Put a n00b to Linux in front of this guide with a stock Jaunty system and see how they fare, let alone a Mactard who can't figure out where Terminal.app is.

The results? Well, I lost madwifi but it's no big deal since there seems to be a huge improvement with ath5k. No more kernel panics. No crashes... I'm even typing this with Compiz enabled. Google Earth renders well with Compiz enabled (though I turned the atmosphere layer off). The CPU temps are back to where they should be - sometimes lower than under Hardy (<50C). As I'm typing this they're hovering at 50C and 52C. This is what Jaunty should have been.

The only drawback is due to a bug - possibly in X itself or the driver - where the text becomes garbled. From the Ubuntu forums this seems to be the case after a few hours although I can easily trigger it by suspending, hibernating, or switching users. This affects users with kernels from the 2.6.29 and 2.6.30 lines. Karmic testers are also reporting similar symptoms, so I doubt that it's the kernel.

Again, are they going to officially fix this for Jaunty users? Probably not.

Then there are the empty promises, such as a new look. Jaunty still uses the same half-finished icon set from Dapper (3 years ago already), a slightly retouched caramel theme from Dapper (where's Dust?), and a new wallpaper.

Now take a look at Mint. They've done wonders (somewhat) in the looks department. Now if something can be done about that pesky two-panel configuration (Mint decided to go with a Windows-like look)...

Linux for human beings??? Think about it: Ubuntu forked from Debian and gave us turd brown and some fixes for hardware support since Debian devs wouldn't provide it (too busy with pecking order pissing contests, I presume). Mint forked from Ubuntu and gave us nicer looking themes and patches of Ubuntu's patches from Debian. What does that tell you?

Apparently most open sauce developers have fallen into the RMS Syndrome trap: 'it's just too much work to get it right'.

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