Politics versus Pragmatism
I consider myself a pretty easy going guy, but my recent adventures in Linux would lead me to pull my hair out... had not male pattern balding already handled that chore.
It all started Sunday afternoon, when I decided that I would upgrade my laptop from Dapper Drake to Edgy Eft. I had the bandwidth and the time, so I choose to simply edit my sources.list and apt-get the whole thing while watch my football team handily defeat a much weaker defensive team.
That was the plan. But right away things started going wrong.
The repositories weren't recognized--not just the non-free ones I have lying around to download certain packages to watch movies (while visiting other nations, of course)--but most of them. And yes, I had run apt-get update already.
This would be the second time in a few months that doing an upgrade on Ubuntu would bite me on the butt. The last time, the corrupted X server update in Dapper bit me and I had no patience to find out why. Instead, I chose to roll over to openSUSE 10.1.
This time, I would have none of it. I ran apt-get update one more time and then apt-get dist-upgrade. Things seemed to go better, and let the laptop happily churn away while watching my team proceed to stomp on the opposition. Life, it seemed, was good.
The upgrade finished, and I rebooted the machine... only to find it stuck in chaos.
A boot loop was created, that seemed to hang up on ndiswrapper of all things, then go back to the beginning. X was no where to be found. Neither was a command line. Am I cursed on Ubuntu?
Disgruntled, and again impatient, I decided to lay my hands on the Fedora Core 6 CDs I'd burned for a friend when the release came out and haven't yet gotten to him. I still had those openSUSE CDs, mind you, but I wanted to try Fedora out because I thought a little variety would be good and, to be honest, I am a bit wary of Novell right now.
By now it's the end of the first half, and the opposition has pulled to within 4 points. But I knew my solution, and my team, would prevail.
The Fedora install went, well, okay. I was curious to note Anaconda shifted into text-install mode, claiming I didn't have enough RAM. Excuse me? 192 MB of RAM isn't enough for a Linux graphical install? I'd handled text-mode installs before, of course, and this one didn't seem to bad, though the package selection mode was ponderous at best and the default partitioning was really complex.
Eventually, I let 'er rip, and set the CD drive to spinning. But then, in the middle of Disc 2, the installation up and froze. I waited to make sure, but it was dead. And I'd checked the media before the installation, too. Persistent, I started over, this time settling on the default package settings in hopes the errant package would be skipped. It was, and for a brief second I thought I was done.
On reboot, however, I noticed my Grub didn't point to the right Windows partition... it was pointing at the silly little default Windows restoration partition I keep meaning to kill off. So, effectively, my Windows partition was out of reach. The Linux side ran in the wrong initmode, and so I only got a command line. Somehow or other, and I am still trying to figure out how, I never created a regular user name for myself, so I had to initially log in as root.
I went in, and the GNOME interface came up, and I started to fix things up. Init level, new user, etc. But the more I kept going the more frustrated I become. Not at my inability to perform these fixes--they were easy, just time-consuming. No, I was frustrated at why I had to do them in the first place. I mean, I had just installed Fedora, not Jimmy-Bob Linux, on a platform that I know is very Linux friendly. The only hardware hiccup I ever have on this machine is the Broadcom wi-fi card, which ndiswrapper has no trouble handling.
I resented the fact that I had to even bother with all of this stuff on a top-of-the-line distro on a solid machine.
So, while my football team found itself now battling for the lead in the game, I pulled out more CDs from the boxes in my temporary office and started the installation. Graphical install. Plain and simple partitioning. Easy to follow package management (though a tad slow).
And, as the opposing team kicked a field goal with 11 seconds to go, thus securing their win, I found myself watching my laptop get installed with openSUSE 10.1.
So, politics aside, I have to concede that for what I need, on the platform of my choice, openSUSE seems to be the better operating system. I could have gone any other way, of course. I am not sure my sources.list was configured correctly on that initial Eft install. And who knows what I blundered into while rushing the text-mode installation of FC6?
While one man's computer does not a trend make, it did make me wonder how community support for or animosity against Novell will shake out. Because there will always be people who will just want things to work. If openSUSE happens to do better on certain things than the other distros, will users be cheating themselves out of a solid distribution on the basis of politics alone?
A hard question that I think will soon face anyone interested in Novell's product line.