Friday, November 24, 2006

Linux: It's the Journey. There is no destination.

I was reading wake up and smell the asphalt recently, by another running and DBAing person (she apparently has escaped IT for greener pastures recently, good for her), and ran across an entry about Linux: Sorry Linus, I tried. I could relate, particularly to this bit:
Tried to make sense of man pages that went on forever and ever. Refrained from asking questions that would only be met with "have you read the man pages?". Did a lot of gooling instead. Spent an entire 3-day weekend installing Oracle and was so disgusted with the process that I never started the service anymore after that.
I've been there. The thing is, I love Linux, always have. It's just a matter of understanding what Linux is about. It's an Albert Ellis, Rational Emotive Therapy kind of thing. Given a situation, you can make your own choice as to whether to love it or hate it. I choose love!

There was that time I spent a weekend figuring out how to get an old scanner to work on my RedHat system. I did a lot of Googling. Eventually it became evident I'd have to go into the source code itself, some C code I did not understand at all (knowing next to nothing about device drivers and all that), and make some changes based on on the advice of strangers on the intarweb. And then find out those recommended changes did not work. And then make some educated wild-ass guesses, and compile everything again.

At that point, I scanned the cover to my Soundtrack to 'The Harder They Come' CD (it is a true classic of reggae, of pop music in general in fact). It worked! I scanned a parody of the company newsletter I cut-n-pasted together in 1991. It worked, too! Hallelujah!


There was no need to. I had won! Similarly, I figured out how to get the proper drivers and what-not to get my printer working under CUPS after installing Fedora Core on a system that is so hosed up it won't run (or even install) XP anymore. I have printed 2, maybe 3 maps from mapquest using it, but that's it. I won! I got it to work! I don't want to actually do anything with it. I don't give a shit about printing or printers, but I made it work. w00t! Fuck this computer shit, time to go for a run!

Linux is great for shit like this. Sometimes, I get stuff to work and find myself using it more than once or twice, but that's gravy. The point is getting stuff to work. Check out SourceForge. It's the repository for open-source projects, is what people will tell you. The truth is, 90% of the projects on there, if they were rock bands, they'd be stuck in the 'we designed the album cover on a page in our English notebook' stage for all time. Version 0.0.9. Forget about it.

I know. I'm a developer on a project or two there. No, I won't mention names.

The point of Linux is not necessarily that you write any great software or do anything with it. I remember Christmas Break of 1995. I was working a job I hated, making $10/hour writing C++ code for the US government. We were using Linux workstations, which were pretty cool. they were about all that was cool about the job, in fact. I called in sick one day and spent it installing Linux on my machine at home, Slackware. I watched the messages tell me what I'd be able to do when I was done. I could write code in C, C++, Perl, Fortran, Python, Tcl/TK, I could create my own programming language with bison. I could do anything! I felt tremendous power. Once I determined everything could boot up OK, and that everything seemed to work, instead of writing code to change the world, I went to my roommate's room (he went home for break) and watched Godfather II. It's a great movie, kind of long, though.

I read a 'News Of The Weird' story once about a guy who spent 17 years building a plane. On the first flight, he crashed and died. He probably had a lot of fun building it. He never should have finished the plane. He never should have flown it, had he finished it. And that's what it's all about, Linux. Making stuff work, not necessarily doing anything with it. It's the journey. There is no destination.

No comments: