I often scratch my head when running into troubles with my Linux system. Thankfully, I’m quite comfortable sat at the command line, hacking away at /etc/[system]/*.conf or with$HOME/.[system]/*.conf. Unfortunately this isn’t much good for newcomers to the Linux world, but that’s for another blog posting. One thing that is becoming increasingly clear to me after using Linux for five or six years is that there is often a “which came first” question. I can give a few examples:
KDE4 just doesn’t look good with an nvidia graphics card (using the closed source “nvidia” driver). KDE4 came out when the stable nvidia release was at 173.* . The current stable release is at 177.*
They began KDE4 fixing here, but it wasn’t complete. I’m using 177.82 and occasionally scrolling and the plasmoids are painfully slow. From what I read, 180.* is doing much better at ironing out the final problems with KDE4. I couldn’t say – I’m unable to install the newest beta, like many people according to the forums. It is at beta version 180.18 at the time of writing. The problem is that KDE 4.0 was released in January. In a few days, that will be “last year”. So one year on and I’m still wanting to love KDE4.* more than I can do. I was a Gnome fanboy for the first four years of my Linux world, avoiding the overall appearance of KDE 3.5. Then I turned to KDE4. It looks just great. It looks miles better than Vista (by a mile ), less bloated than a Mac. I will one day love KDE4, I really will. It’s a sad day though, I’m installing gnome-desktop whilst writing this. I will be back though. Think of it as a vacation? We need a break from each other.
Another example is the recent merge of the gspca driver with the Linux kernel from 2.6.27 and beyond. In the long term, this really has to be a good thing. Any questions about the maintenance of the gspca package have been answered. I remember that for two years almost, the software was stuck at version 1.20. But now that it’s merged, not only will it mean (in the future) more plug and play usability with users webcams, but also more attention to widen the development on the gspca driver. It has been merged following the port to V4l2 (Video for Linux version 2). Problem is that, right now, there’s a lot of users who are experiencing regression in their experience with their webcams using gspca. A lot of the “option” ’s that were allowed with the v4l1 (i.e. setting brightness – “option gamma 6″ etc…) have been removed. So until the gspca driver picks up speed in the kernel, these people will have to wait a while to use their webcams again.
Finally, another one that sticks out for me is the early merge of pulseaudio into the most popular distro’s perhaps 6-12 months early. I’m going to be lazy here and not do my homework, but if my memory serves me correctly, it was the default sound server from Fedora 8 onwards, and also in Ubuntu 7.04. Loads of forums were stating that pulseaudio “rocks”. For many, it rocked a little too hard, and broke many people’s sound setup, and people reverted to “yum remove pulseaudi*” or “sudo apt-get remove pulseaudi*”. The version of puseaudio used in these early implementations was 0.9.10. It broke intermittently (for me also). Reading many forums, the pulseaudio devs pointed the finger at the alsa source code. Fedora 10 is the first release in my opinion that was ready for the pulseaudio integration. The Alsa team have released a new version (1.0.18), and the pulseaudio team have released 0.9.13. Fedora uses 0.9.12, but the team did a great job in threading it in neatly into Fedora 10. But we can’t have it both ways. If it wasn’t released so early, 0.9.13 release of pulseaudio would not be the way it is. 2007 was the year of the [guinea] pig after all.
What’s the point I’m trying to make?
Well Redhat release their Linux systems, based on user testing of Fedora (you’re in denial if you think that Fedora exists simply because Redhat like each of us personally). So Redhat package software that has weathered the storm of compatibility problems with other apps, merges with the kernel, and unforseen problems with hardware etc… I often ask myself what I prefer – 100% reliable, unbreakable and stable software versions, released some time ago, or the latest and “greatest” software that was only put on the distro repositories at 11pm last night. It’s near impossible to get both, no matter how much testing or QA is involved. It’s like the choice between having a career that you absolutely love, or a career that pays well.
I’ve sidetracked (de-railed) from my original point. In the [Linux] world we live in, we do seem to get bashed about quite a bit. Some new technology appears in some driver, or software, then other packages have to catch up. There is a (very) strong argument that says that a big contributing factor is the presence of closed source drivers within a Linux setup (graphics drivers mostly – ATI, NVIDIA). They may lack functionality, or may simply have a small bug or memory leak. Only the NVIDIA or ATI developers can help us. It’s not something our community are used to (and it’s not something the Distro’s packagers like at all). My Gnome download is now complete. I’ve ridden the KDE4.* wave since the 11th January 2008. For now, at least, it’s goodbye from me. Send my best regards to the NVIDIA team. I shall check back when they release a stable 180.* closed source, binary driver that I can install.