not all change is progress
February 16, 2014
Direct download links: MP3 & Ogg
PLD Linux Distribution – Antergos and Manjaro – does Linux need a benevolent dictator?News
Debian and Ubuntu to move to systemd
Who’s Writing Linux?
A bevy of Chrome boxes
GCC and LLVM collaboration / The Open Source Compiler Initiative
Android-x86 4.4-RC1 (KitKat-86) released
Plan 9 source now also licensed under GPLv2
The Linux Outlaws are back
Paddy had a look at PLD Linux Distribution, whilst Joe will be taking a gander at Madbox Linux for our next show.
Again, a huge thank you to our anonymous Flattrers.
Also, thanks to Jenny (@avengemydeath) and Bacon Zombie (@BaconZombie) for their kind words on Twitter.
Ian Barton and Paddy exchanged emails about systemd, and how it will affect the Linux eco-system longer term. What is there left to say on that topic? I’ll leave it up to Henry Spencer: “Those who do not understand Unix are condemned to reinvent it, poorly.”
Joe and Richard Marsh had a to-and-fro over the ‘what is a distro’ question.
Steven Rosenberg left a couple of comments on our website about Debian, and pointed us towards a blog post of his talking about the firmware he installed to get his laptop running well under Jessie.
Zach L gave us some thoughts about the FSF and the ‘GNU/Linux’ naming issue.
Tzafrir Cohen wrote a very detailed and enumerated set of comments on the website. We had a bash at addressing the issues he raised, albeit with some disagreement. Paddy probably didn’t do justice to the ideas expressed by Isaiah Berlin, but he does believe that Berlin’s perspective on the conflicting visions of liberty (freedom) that we as humans subscribe to provides a good framework to explain our differences on many topics, including licensing.
Charlie Ogier wrote to tell us that he’s written a GPLv3 licensed GUI file finding utility – using the Gambas3 BASIC language – and would welcome user feedback.
A Couple of Arch Derivatives
From the ridiculous to the sublime: we took a look at the XFCE versions of Antergos and Manjaro.
Over a Pint
Does user space needs a benevolent dictator like Linus?[In hindsight, we really ought to have also considered whether Linus actually is a benevolent dictator]
Excellent show guys. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
I had a few questions/comments for the two of you (or the other commenters).
1) What do you think of the claim that systemd absorbing core utilities brings Linux more in line with *BSD development? The idea is that systemd’s centralized development coincides with the way in which BSD’s develop their userland and kernel in close tandem. I know Paddy is an experienced FreeBSD user, so I’m particularly interested in his view on the matter.
2) With Ubuntu and Debian succombing to “Poettering OS” I’ve gone as far as migrating my existing Debian servers to Slackware and Gentoo. I’m an experienced Slacker so there wasn’t anything new there but I was pleasantly surprised with the maturity of Gentoo (I’ve installed it before but never spent any time becoming familiar). Dependency management with portage and the USE flags give copious control over your system. It struck me as a BSD ports or Arch’s ABS on steroids. Compiling everything could be a big issue in a VM – but on bare metal with a decent processor it’s surprisingly acceptable (and I discovered pre-compiled binaries available for the larger packages). The installation is certainly not novice friendly though. So far I’m incredibly pleased with it – any chance you could give a review in the future?
As a side note, apparently Chrome OS was developed from Gentoo due to the flexibility of portage.
3) Opinions on Mir vs Wayland/Weston? Do you feel X direly needs to be replaced?
4) Every once in a while people complain that Linux’s mascot, Tux, needs to be replaced or at the very least updated. One of the reasons given is that a more “professional” or “modern” logo would do more market Linux at home or in the workplace. Do the two of you think the claims are valid and Tux is in dire need of an updated? If you do, what would pick to replace it? Personally, I’m indifferent but I believe it’s an interesting question.
1) A damn good question, and possibly a pointer to the future of (desktop/server) Linux with just a few main players left standing as relevant (Red Hat, SUSE, Canonical?, maybe Debian as the sole ‘community’ distro?)
I grew up during the 8-bit era of hobbyist computing, and it was tremendous fun. There was a huge variety in both hardware and software platforms, and passionate arguments about which were ‘better’ (at the time I was an ardent Zilog Z80 guy, but let’s not rehash that old debate ;) But the playground didn’t last. Sure, there is a similar hobbyist culture out there still, but it is hugely smaller than that in which I cut my teeth. What happened? Business happened. Business doesn’t like the uncertainty caused by variety; business likes to know which horse to back. As PCs as we know them today became more widely used in business environments, there were several skirmishes (CP/M vs the DOSs, Gem vs Windows then Windows vs OS/2, NetWare vs everything else) that sometimes took years to shake out. Ditto for hardware; long forgotten manufacturers like Apricot, Apple (oh, wait, didn’t I hear about a comeback for them?) fell by the wayside, and we were left with the beige boxes and the ubiquitous Redmond OS. The point being that over time, a convergent commoditisation happened, resulting in a far less interesting eco-system, but one in which the hardware and software could actually be useful to businesses as tools that they could rely upon. That could be relied upon to be here next year, that a business buyer wouldn’t get called out on for buying.
The comparisons with how Linux has developed are clear. It looks very much as if we’ve passed from the anarchic, fun part of the life-cycle, into the time of shakeouts. No doubt it’ll take a few years, and new distros will appear (and then mostly die), but we’re being driven towards a position that business is far more comfortable with. Red Hat don’t contribute so much code to the kernel or user land just for the hell of it – they’re a billion dollar a year, profit making company (ditto Google, IBM etc.), and only do so because it serves their business interests. To date, those interests may have seemed to be aligned with our interests, where ‘our interests’ are those of a bustling marketplace of competing ideas and projects, but I believe that as the shakeout happens over the next few years, more and more people will begin to realise that this is not the case. We’ll no doubt end up with a fine operating system at the end of this process, but it won’t be ‘free’ anymore; there will be too much complex and tightly coupled code for your hobbyist to make sense of, let alone be able to write something new to replace an existing component at a fundamental level of the stack. It might all work beautifully, but at that stage any talk of the ‘four freedoms’ becomes meaningless; only large corporates with teams of professional coders will have the resources to enact meaningful change within the codebase.
Your original question was about the comparison with the BSDs. Whilst it’s true that they maintain kernel and basic user land as a whole, those various constituent parts of user land are still reasonably loosely coupled, and the BSDs still tend to observe the other basic tenets of the Unix philosophy. The possibility to rip and replace various components still exists, and is likely to going forwards. The same, sadly, cannot be said for Linux.
[BTW, I’m an OpenBSD user, not FreeBSD; I prefer the simpler things, and really only miss the complexity of ZFS…]
2) I’m sure we’ll have a look at Gentoo at some stage (and, hopefully, a more in-depth return to Slackware). It’s a bit of a balancing act; trying to ensure that the show has a reasonably wide appeal sometimes means keeping things a little more superficial than we’d like. But as it becomes more established, we’ll be in a better position to do things like this (a benefit of more regular vs drive-by listeners).
3) X is broken. It no longer works in the manner in which many people think it does (e.g. heavy reliance upon extensions, lack of meaningful network transparency). I linked this video in the notes for show #6; it’s a good starter for ten if you haven’t seen it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RIctzAQOe44
4) I’m pretty sure that Joe has mentioned this on the show before. Yep, we both think that as a branding tool Tux is, shall we say, not the best thing. Which begs the more interesting question of why the Linux Foundation (say) don’t seem that interested in branding and selling ‘Linux’ in the business/consumer space – that mobile phone you’re using? It’s ‘Linux Inside’. That router in your office? ‘Linux Inside’. That smart TV in the living room? ‘Linux Inside’. So why not?
If I was being cynical (*cough* realistic), I’d refer you back to (1) above. Red Hat wants you to pay for Red Hat products, not Linux. Canonical wants you to buy Ubuntu support, not Linux support. Netgear and Linksys want you to buy their routers, not some ‘Linux’ routers.
In some ways, this is perfectly reasonable – Linux is such a malleable ‘thing’, and can be used in so many ways, that it might be a thoroughly confusing brand proposition to sell. But I do think that the main reason that it is kept un/badly-branded is to allow space for corporate interests to establish their own unique brands without dilution; far better to be thought of as ‘that enterprise OS company’ rather than being just another outfit boshing together a ‘me-too’ Linux distro, for example ;)
The other benefit for our corporate overlords in retaining Tux is exactly that it helps give an impression of unprofessionalism, of a community endeavour. Think about how much ire things like Canonical’s CLA generate, and ask yourself whether the thousands of individual developers (frequently driven by high-minded social ideals) who have helped get us to where we are today would have so readily embraced their unpaid work if they had been aware upfront that instead of helping a wider community, that longer term they were effectively just sharecropping for Red Hat et al.
[I’d truly love to be wrong in my pessimistic appraisal of the situation. The next 3 or 4 years will tell us whether I am or not.]
Wow, excellent post Paddy. Thank you for taking the time for such a comprehensive response.
You make very well thought out arguments for your positions and I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment that we’re currently in a heavy state of flux in the Linux world – quite possibly to the detriment of independent ‘hackers’. I’m really quite wary of the growing shadow of corporate interests on the Linux ecosystem and I agree that it does not bode well for people such as us.
Again, thank you for the in-depth response. Looking forward to the next show.
I do love some Manjaro.
One thing I found interesting is a newly developed tool called Turbulence, which was announced here:
It works as a control panel for appearance, and it is quite interesting.
A quick shoutout: Manjaro is looking for translators for the tools they developed themselves:
I have done part of the Danish translations. It is all on Transifex – it is quite straightforward to work with.
Hi Morten – the screenshots for Turbulence look very smart; this is the sort of tool that it’d be nice to see all distros have. If it wasn’t obvious from the show, I was really impressed with the work the Manjaro team are doing, and will be happy to relay the call for translators on our next podcast.
You may also want to mention that Jonathan Nadeau mentioned on the NELF podcast (https://archive.org/details/nelf_01) that Manjaro is going to be the base of the Sonar GNU/Linux distribution under the wings of his Accessible Computing Foundation – and the lead developer of Manjaro had put some effort into this work.
Thanks guys for episode 9. This was my first take on your show, short and to the point, and I didn’t have to make too many notes. I’m a regular Mint user, but like to keep an eye on other distros and further afield, I don’t mind discussions on Windows and Nixs. I have tablets and laptops, but I need a big screen so I will not be getting rid of my desktop.
Love the podcast guys, keep up the great work. I am fairly new to Linux and your podcast gives me a great heads up on which distros to try. Thanks again for the podcast!!!!!!
Thank you for yet another great podcast and even more for such a comprehensive review of Manjaro and Antergos. A few comments, if I may.
Antergos in VB is a pain in the a$$, because it’s based on Gnome. So far, I haven’t been able to get anything Gnome based to work in VB. However, on live hardware it’s pretty nifty. The install process takes seemingly forever, because it is pulling down all the updates from the Internet while installing. The nice part about that is, that once installed, everything is up to date. On the other hand, if you have no Internet connection, it won’t even install, as you already pointed out. A slight annoyance to me is that gcc, yaourt and quite a few other basic programs need to be installed.
Manjaro on the pother hand, isn’t pulling much from the Internet during install, but you have potentially a ton of updates waiting afterward. Pros and cons on either side, I suppose. However, Manjaro has the major advantage of using update packs, sort of like Linux Mint Debian Edition. the big advantage is that it’s easier for new and/or novice users. And the Turbulence application mentioned by Morten will be a major addition to it, since I find it a bit difficult to customize some of the settings in Manjaro. While I do realize that you may not necessarily in favor of the Whisker Menu, I find it a huge improvement over the previous XFCE menu. Manjaro has a great and bright future, in my opinion and I do hope it will stick around.
Also, it was an absolute delight to hear both of you on the mintcast and I hope you’re going to continue being guests on other podcasts.
Keep you the great work, guys.
All the best!
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