Tue Feb 28 22:24:06 CET 2006

Why Gentoo sucks less

So people keep complaining that you have to compile everything with Gentoo. Oh noes!
Yes, it is suboptimal. Initial install takes about 24h even on a moderately fast box (Athlon64 and other screamers excluded). You need an Internet connection to fetch lots of stuff. There are no cool wizards to help you with configuration. There are confusing things like USE-flags, CFLAGs and so on you have to at least know about (even if you don't change them.
Still I claim Gentoo sucks less than most other distros. Just an example:
Try to install asterisk on debian. You need $feature? Two ways to get there that I'm aware of (and please correct me if I'm wrong): either you use the .deb source, unpack, patch, install (and that on every update !?) or you ignore apt-get and just manually do the ./configure, make, make install dance. Which sucks just a bit less.
Another example: User has a problem with $program in Ubuntu. I ask "Where did you get that package from?" ... and he answers "automatix" or something like that. Some kind of external repository. Of course the library dependencies are wrong, so installing from that repository is a bit, let's say, randomized. Nothing you can fix unless you recompile ...
Then there's the user wanting to install $application in Fedora Core 4 ... of course he doesn't find prebuilt binaries. So he tries to compile it and fails because some headers are missing. Bleh. Unless you know what you're doing it's lots of work to track down dependencies.
Compare that to Gentoo: emerge -pv application, check useflags, edit /etc/portage/package.keywords to your liking, emerge application. No worries about toolchain stuff, version mismatches and so on. It may take a bit longer than throwing in a binary, but: it is almost fully automated! I don't need to know which lib provides what, just ... emerge it.
Maybe I'm not doing it right, but Gentoos automation makes life a lot easier for me compared to the automation on other distros. Less stuff I need to know, more time the computer does work for me.
I say it sucks less than most other distros :-)

Posted by Patrick | Permalink

Tue Feb 28 16:53:32 CET 2006

Language teams

So this is an idea we discussed at FOSDEM during the "Gentoo around the globe" session:
Many communities suffer from a language gap. The Spanish, Japanese and Chinese are the most obvious in that respect. Many users from non-english countries don't speak english, so they find it difficult to participate on bugzilla, read official docs and so on. But there's a community that tries to support them, the japanese gentooists even have their own bugzilla.
The problem now is that we'd need translators that help translating bugs so that they are in english on bugs.g.o and the person filing the bug doesn't have to speak english. The larger communities (de, jp, fr, ...) should be able to find a dedicated group of users that help translating in both directions, we'd only need some kind of managment / support from the dev community. Maybe the forums moderators can give us some input on that?
I'll try to get this idea into a usable shape and throw it at the usual mailinglists, I'm mostly using this blog as an external memory right now :-)
It'd be really nice to reduce the barrier of entry here, speaking english should not be needed to use Gentoo ...

Posted by Patrick | Permalink

Tue Feb 28 16:47:08 CET 2006

FOSDEM impressions

So I've returned from FOSDEM and caught up on my sleep deficit. It was really lots of fun, but I barely managed to get 5h of sleep during the weekend. Having Gentoo devs from 3 continents there was really nice, and I met many devs for the first time.
We were next to the debian stand, there was a big air gap between us with little communication. But I had a really nice discussion with an Ubuntu guy (Paul?) about problems with updates - Ubuntu guy, if you read this, throw an email at me please :-)
One funny thing was that we had our own coffee maker and teapot, so we jokingly told the debian guys that we compile our own coffee - and we have tea also because it's all about choice.
I didn't see any talks apart from what happened in the Gentoo devroom on Sunday. There's just too much to do at FOSDEM ... I think the number of attendees has remained roughly the same as last year, but expanding further will be difficult. Maybe two FOSDEMs each year? ;-)
Our closed session was really interesting, discussing things face to face is so much more productive than IRC / email. Instead of one hour plus one hour lunch break we kind of used two hours, but it was worth it. It wasn't as disruptive as last year's metastructure reform proposal, but we identified many bugs in the way we handle things. Having regular devmeets should be beneficial, but travel is too expensive for most. We'd need some good sponsors to really make that happen.
A big thanks to oya3un and SeJo, they spent lots of time driving around collecting devs from the airport, driving them from the hotel to FOSDEM and so on. I also wish to thank the FOSDEM organizers for their really professional handling of the whole thing - you rock! And of course all the other people, devs and non-devs, that helped whereever they could.
Hope to see y'all at the next big event, it was really motivating.

Posted by Patrick | Permalink

Tue Feb 28 16:32:01 CET 2006

Interface annoyances (update)

After my last entry which discussed how some user interfaces, especially the graphic kind, are *ahem* suboptimal I got some nice feedback.
First is a patch to fix the gtk fileselector so it stays uncollapsed all the time. The good news is that it's a oneliner fix. Bad news is that it's not run-time configurable and won't be applied by upstream. I wonder how they decided that "people will like it like this"(tm).
The other feedback comes from the main amule coder Kry. He tells me that the modal dialog was an oversight, technically a wxGTK issue (what a surprise) and should be fixed in the next release.
Seeing that kind of response makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside - Oracle never fixed their database thingy within a few hours ;-)

I hope the Open Source Community keeps growing and stays as dynamic and open as it is. To me it looks like things are evolving at an increasing rate, things get fixed faster than any commercial vendor I'm aware of ... seriously cool. Thanks to all the coders who make that possible!

Posted by Patrick | Permalink

Tue Feb 21 16:33:57 CET 2006

Interface suckage

I guess this will be seen as a rant by many, so feel free to ignore. Just wanted to communicate this :-)
I'm angry.
Why? Easy. Dumb user interfaces, especially the graphic kind. It's driving me insane that stuff seems to be designed for peeling bananas or something, but not for being used.
Take the GTK fileselector. It's one of the more obvious accidents that were never cleaned up. First of all, it's not meant for people with many files. It gets really hard to use when you have 100k files - but when else would I need a fileselector? (Problem is lack of mouse precision when scrolling across many files) Then there's my favourite issue. Why does it always open with the wrong setting (collapsed) and then becomes unusable (because parts move offscreen) when uncollapsed? That may be related to me using blackbox, but still ... I want it uncollapsed. Every time I click there. Show me the directories. Show me!
Ah well, 't is ok. I can click there. Every. Single. Time. But then ... why can't I enter a (partial) path so that I don't have to use the mouse? Writing "doc" is much faster than scrolling down (capital letters) scrolling down (f - crap, too far) scrolling up (V - too far!) etc. etc.
There's an undocumented cheat mode - Ctrl-L or so. Not good enough, that pops up a new dialog (WHY?) where I can enter the full path (Why? don't we have autocomplete??)
Then there's that funny issue - the fontsizes.
I'd appreciate it if I could control fontsizes myself, no reason to guess them Mr.Gtk. I know better than you do. Right now default text is fontsize 18 so that it remains readable while Qt has the same fontsize at 9 or so. Funny thing is that within Gnome the fontsize of Gtk apps is different than elsewhere. Bah. What's the use of configuration if it doesn't work ...

Now gtk itself ain't that bad. Just ... it gets worse every release. The real killers are in apps themselves - like ... amule :-)
Why on earth would you pop up a non-critical warning ("Hostname not found") as a modal dialog that freezes the app until you click it away?
Multiple issues here: The error message is bad. The error is a warning. The dialog assumes that you're at your computer watching the screen when you start the application. Well ... nope. Doesn't work. That machine doesn't even have a screen attached.
Am I an evil ranting person? No, I'm a frustrated user that feels set back to the 80s when Graphical was the newest buzzword. Many GUIs are getting in my way instead of helping me work. I don't want an OpenGL accelerated desktop with bouncy windows, I want a user interface that lets me do work.
End of transmission :-)

Posted by Patrick | Permalink