A problem with Linux

April 5, 2010 at 10:25 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

I have for many years been a fan of Linux. I have adminned it, coded for it and used it. I remember GNOME and KDE were in their infancy. I remember using fvwm. Alas, it is GNOME and KDE that have brought me to where I am now.

My desire to use Linux is gone. Linux has gone down a very disappointing path, and I’m not convinced it will recover from this. Years ago, Linux was an underdog system. Hardware companies didn’t want to release documentation for their hardware to an open source project. The goal became popularity. To topple microsoft and rule the world with superior software. In the process of chasing that dream, people became confused. They thought the way to do it was to mimic microsoft. The problem with that, of course, is that microsoft makes hideous mistakes. They make terrible software.

The most pernicious and terrible of microsoft ideas have been hidden beneath the GUI. These include things like the MFC, COM and the registry. GNOME and KDE have both decided to include the latter two ideas. The registry was never a good idea, I would have thought any admin with sense could tell them how horrible it was. Text configuration files are simple, and when mangled can be easily corrected by hand. The inclusion of object request brokers has bloated the whole thing horribly. GNOME now involves no fewer than 50 packages, and takes ages to compile. It’s a monstrosity.

A similar issue has occurred with Firefox. For years people complained of memory leaks. One could watch the memory used by it grow, until it became too big and had to be restarted. For years the developers denied the existence of any memory leaks. Finally, they listened and began digging. When they had finished, they had found more than 300 memory leaks. Was the bug real? Hell yeah. Everybody knew it was there, but the developers denied it.

I believe it has roots in a problem that has plagued open source these past ten years. The desire to add features over fixing bugs. Finding and fixing bugs is hard work, and it seems that the novelty of adding a new feature is vastly to be preferred. Once a program is feature-complete few outfits stop. Today, modern Linux distributions are a complete mess because of this. Even getting it to do simple things sometimes requires a lot of effort. If you’ve tried to get wifi going via the command line, you know the pain of which I speak.

Here’s a puzzler for you. If you need a GUI to bring up wifi, but you need wifi to fix the broken GUI, what do you do? You have to mess around with a cable. My last machine to have Linux on it was a laptop. There were two things I could not make work. The wifi, and the sound. No matter what I tried, no matter how much searching I did, it was to no avail. It was then that I discovered the once lauded support of the Linux community has fallen apart. I was there when PCWorld awarded the Linux community a technical support award. And it was earned. You could make the machine do amazing things, and no matter the problem there was an answer to be had. Nobody answers questions any more. I have posted in forums looking for a resolution to the problem, and every time it has been ignored. Eventually I gave up, and begrudgingly installed XP on the machine.

I use a Mac now. To be certain, it’s not perfect. But it’s a hell of a lot better than Linux or Windows. It isn’t a pain in the ass. It’s stable. It does what I tell it to. It’s really too bad, I had high hopes for Linux. I also had a lot of fun with it. It just isn’t what it used to be.


October 20, 2009 at 6:15 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

We can only get an amount of energy from a gallon of water that is equal to the amount of energy released when it falls the distance from the upper reservoir to the lower reservoir. The thing is, moving that gallon of water from the lower reservoir into the upper requires the exact same amount of energy as what was released when it fell. We might be able to make it work if the turbine and the pump were 100% efficient, but typically even our most efficient technologies are very far away from that. So ultimately the system stops, the pump requires more energy to run than the turbine gets from the falling water.

There are, IMO, ultimately three energy inputs to the planet. The first, is solar. Fossil fuels rely on this, as do wind farms, hydroelectric dams, and many other technologies. The second is from radioactive decay. Geothermal takes advantage of this, and nuclear fission takes advantage of something similar. The third are cosmic rays, and I’m not aware of any technology that takes advantage of that. Ultimately, no matter our future plans for energy, they will rely on one of these three energy inputs. The closer a system is to the original input, the more efficient it can be because we change the form of the energy fewer times.

The Dan Brown contest

September 18, 2009 at 7:21 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

From the Language Log blog. I honestly didn’t know he was that bad an author!

I’m not usually on the Dan Brown desk here at Language Log Plaza — that’s Geoff Pullum’s domain — but this one came to me (from Bruce Webster). By Tom Chivers on the Telegraph‘s site:

The Lost Symbol, the latest novel by The Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown, has gone on sale. We pick 20 of the clumsiest phrases from it and from his earlier works.

Chivers quotes Geoff P. on Brown’s writing. And there’s space for comments and for nominations of further regrettable quotes from the Brownian oeuvre.

[From The Dan Brown contest]


August 19, 2009 at 11:16 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I have an old swiss movement on my bench at the moment. I have been attempting to get the mainspring back in the barrel. With some difficulty. The mainspring isn’t original, you see. The original mainspring had a hook end, this is a tee. Sometime in the past, the original was replaced and a hole drilled in the barrel to accomodate the tee. The pin in the barrel wall that retained the original mainspring, however, remains.

Further, my mainspring winder(an old K&D set) does not have a barrel that is a close fit. So the mainspring must expand somewhat when returned to the barrel. Every time I line up the tee with it’s hole, and press the mainspring out of the winder, the end shifts. I have had considerable difficulty getting it properly aligned.

This morning, I was trying to get it back in again. It can be a little fiddly to get the mainspring in the right position in the winder. I finally got it on the arbor, and was winding it into the barrel. As I got near having it wound, a sharp *PUNG* rung out, and the mainspring shot across the room! There is one advantage to having a cat in the room, she immediately spotted the errant mainspring and began playing with it. As such I didn’t need to hunt for it.

The efforts will continue later, and hopefully I will finally get the thing lined up right.


August 3, 2009 at 7:16 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Puzzling! Looks like I haven’t posted here in ages.

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