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Linux Needs Critics 1127

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the that-which-does-not-kill-us dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Keir Thomas berates the fact that the world of Linux almost entirely lacks critics. In fact, he says, Linux people tend to see genuine critical evaluation as a bad thing. FTA: 'The problem with this anti-criticism approach is that it's damning Linux to an eternity of navel gazing. Nothing can ever get any better. The best hope we have are the instances where a few bright sparks, with their heads screwed on the right way, get together and make something cool (as happened with, say, Firefox back in the day). But that's rare and can't be relied upon.'"
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Linux Needs Critics

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  • Re:Nonsense (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 02, 2009 @10:14AM (#27429737)
    The article's author's evidence of a lack of Linux critics is negative responses to one of his blog posts criticizing Ubuntu and Firefox. In that post he criticizes Firefox for becoming feature-bloated and criticizes Ubuntu for not having enough new features. He's making his own drama.
  • Re:No it doesn't! (Score:3, Informative)

    by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @10:15AM (#27429761)

    Keir Thomas has just proved that Linux does have critics.

    That was a critique of the community and development process, not the product itself.

  • by Zelig (73519) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @10:22AM (#27429865) Homepage

    You're conflating a 'customer-support' interaction with the criticism role. I won't dispute that lots of linuxy and open-sourcey communities are not safe for tenderfeet: you're absolutely right.

    But it's a different topic.

  • by Useful Wheat (1488675) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @10:24AM (#27429891)
    You should look into the Linux Haters Blog published here: http://linuxhaters.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com] The author is a former Linux contributor, and he offers many valuable insights into some of the issues with the code, for example:

    Let me attempt to summarize. A) PulseAudio needs to work with existing applications, so it implements an ALSA emulation layer, except, it's not complete. Only 70% of ALSA applications work. So it's like, totally ready. B) So, in the true open source fashion, you should port your app to be a native PulseAudio client. Except that you can't. There's this yet-another-audio-library called libsidney, but it's not ready yet. (Hmm, this sounds familiar...) C) Fedora led the way in incorporating PulseAudio before it was ready, breaking audio for thousands of users. Then because open source is about copying good ideas and bad ones, a ton of other distros adopted it as well. Amazing guys. In a way, you've spread bad code that breaks audio on thousands of computers faster than a virus could have. And it's immune to antivirus! D) so now that we're in this "mess" (as the lead developer of PulseAudio calls it*), LSB comes along and says "we're going to standardize how your write audio apps!" Oh, but wait, ALSA's now "old" (we hardly knew ye), and I can't directly program PulseAudio. Hmm... So the article's brilliant solution? Standardize on the PulseAudio-safe subset of ALSA. WHAT THE FUCK. I can just imagine the future alsa man page. A big listing of functions, with a nice little asterisk next to those functions that you shouldn't use unless you want your app to totally FAIL on a system which has been sodomized by Pulse Audio. I can just see the developers of commercial Linux sound apps (all three of them) jumping for joy. And thus unfolds another chapter in long history of failed sound systems on Linux. Can they make it much worse? I, for one, am excited to see how much worse they can make it until we all go back to listening to square waves on our PC speakers. * BTW, also notice that it's the PulseAudio guy calling Linux audio a mess. Did he forget that it was his project that took the existing mess, and unloaded a giant steaming turd on it? Congratufuckinglations. You've just made it worse. You're a truly a worthy OSS contributor.

    He's pretty harsh, but he always has a point behind it.

  • There are critics (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 02, 2009 @10:35AM (#27430057)

    The main problem is to have useful criticisms. That sucks does not help at all and most of criticisms i hear are along this line. What would be more useful is something like It does not work properly in this and that use cases. Of course critics have to be objective and cool headed. Fanboys that yell on [insert not-their-favourite-software] are pretty much useless and are rightfully disregarded.

  • Re:Er (Score:2, Informative)

    by Gizzmonic (412910) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @10:39AM (#27430099) Homepage Journal

    Hear, hear! The Dock is an abysmal waste of space that hasn't improved much in 7+ years, and the Finder is slow and doesn't handle network connections very well. That's FACT! And I'm an everyday Mac user (by choice).

  • Re:Nonsense (Score:5, Informative)

    by DJRumpy (1345787) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @10:49AM (#27430269)
    I wouldn't necessarily say it has a lack of critics. I think it is more pointed to the Linux communities response to said criticism. They tend to be very dismissive, defensive, and unresponsive to any criticism whether it's deserved or not.

    From TFA:
    "Most of the time the world of Linux tends to be anti-critical. If anybody in the community dares be critical, they get stomped upon."
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 02, 2009 @11:10AM (#27430631)

    How is it a different topic when there's barely any support?

    The man pages / other documentation are seldom kept upto date or don't exist for at lots of open source programs out there. Then there's the documentation which is so technical that barely anyone aside from the individual that built the program can use it.

  • Re:Nonsense (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 02, 2009 @11:47AM (#27431339)

    I'm sure all of us (if we're honest) can think of pet peeves with some of the open-source developers' more capriciously craniorectal idiocies in just about any non-trivial project. This has nothing to do with Linux, and is a failing equally shared with closed-source software.

    Not really. If closed-source software goes too far off base, you lose customers. And, having worked at a small software development company, I can say for a fact that unhappy customers usually leads to drastic changes.

    This applies to the big boys, too. Look how fast Microsoft moved in response to the failures of ME and Vista. They may not get it right, but when their customers get angry, they take action.

  • Re:Nonsense (Score:4, Informative)

    by PitaBred (632671) <slashdotNO@SPAMpitabred.dyndns.org> on Thursday April 02, 2009 @11:55AM (#27431521) Homepage
    I'm gonna have to call bullshit. I've used OSX and Linux, and both have warts. Anyone who says a computer "just works" is a person who's learned to work around the warts of their system without having to actually think about the workarounds as workarounds. A site called "MacFixIt" [macfixit.com] would not exist if OSX "just worked" as you say it does.
  • by kimvette (919543) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @12:12PM (#27431823) Homepage Journal

    I've been complaining about the dumbing down of Gnome (they think gnome users are idiots - just look at the file dialog for one example), the crappy Flash player Adobe puts out for Firefox (why can't DHTML float over flash like it can in MSIE? Is the problem Flash or Firefox? Either way, it's been broken since day one and needs fixing), OpenOffice is spaghetti code and I/O is very slow, *something* needs to be done so more preconfigured systems can be shipped (NVidia & GPL "license" incompatibility creates legal issues when it comes to shipping preinstalled systems), X11 and VNC are horribly inefficient over a WAN, whereas Windows' Remote Desktop Protocol works great even over dial-up connections, oh, and yeah, developers still suck when it comes with users who bother to submit bug reports - especially the OpenOffice folks. They just don't want to fix horrid architectural issues or bugs, because developing new buggy features is more interesting than fixing their previous garbage.

    Having said that, I do recommend Linux whenever and wherever it makes sense. I've slowly been convincing the Rabbi at my congregation to go F/OSS at home, the congregation's infrastructure is going to be 90% linux, my business is >90% Linux, and some of my customers run Linux. However, there are many cases where Linux just is not a good fit. It's not the one-size-fits-all BFH. Sometimes a a screwdriver or wrench is a more appropriate tool.

    Where is AutoCAD?

    Where is the Adobe Creative Suite? (I personally get by with inkscape + gimp + pdfedit + Krita, but my art director NEEDS the Adobe CS (So it's Windows at work and OS X at home for him). It takes me ~3 hours to do a task that takes him under a half hour in Illustrator or Gimp, because to get the same final product requires a lot more manual steps in Gimp and Inkscape; no layer effects, no droplets, Macro recording and playback doesn't exist in any user-friendly way (and no I am NOT about to get into scripting gimp. I'll stick to shell scripting server maintenance and monitoring, and writing installers. thanks anyway!)

    Where is Quickbooks for Linux? They have a server component that runs on Linux, but where is the Quickbooks Pro desktop app?

    Where are Linux-based embroidery apps? Windows XP is going to be on my new Dell Precision notebook so I can design embroidery patterns. I draw them in Inkscape but I need them to be converted to an embroidery format my machine can understand. So, I do the design AND conversion in Windows, then I don't have to reboot to run the embroidery machine.

    Also, more specific to Linux itself (meaning the kernel, not the integrated distro end users refer to as Linux): Where are the merges from RedHat, Ubuntu, Novell, and so forth? Each vendor has incredible extensions to the kernel which makes automounting, user-space drivers, WiFi, and various other features work better than the vanilla kernel. Why can't LSB become a reality, and along with that, a more stable-yet-almost-bleeding-edge kernel come from kernel.org? That would make it much easier for users of $foo and $bar distros to run new hardware without losing fixes and enhancements added by the various vendors? Ubuntu works extremely well with WiFi (but I hate their standard desktops, and I hate ubuntu's administrative GUI) and with 11.x OpenSuse works almost-but-not-quite as well as Ubuntu. DeadRat, er, RedHat/Centos, not so much. Fedora? Every time I've tried it, it's been on bleeding-edge motherboards and would kernel panic or simply not boot, whereas (K)Ubuntu and OpenSuSE would always Just Work(TM). Centos/RedHat? I run it on servers, but hate it for desktops.

    I love running Linux, but it is not a one-size-fits-all solution. I can't even use it as my sole OS at home any more because embroidery software I need doesn't exist. :(

    Lots of us users are plenty critical of Linux, even though we are Linux evangelists. It's just that while many/most developers take feedback readily (the KDE team is particularly good in this regard!) others

  • True. True. (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 02, 2009 @01:01PM (#27432707)

    Linux does need more useful, constructive critics. The Linux Haters blog is a good example of the sort of criticism that can do a lot of good. So was this famous ESR rant [catb.org] and its followup [catb.org]. Another good example, albeit not from the Linux world, is the Bill Gates memo that shows up on Slashdot from time to time to time [slashdot.org].

    The other thing Linux, and Open Source in general, needs is a developer community that responds to that kind of criticism by actually improving things, even when the critic isn't a well known name like ESR or Gates.

  • Re:Nonsense (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 02, 2009 @01:35PM (#27433343)

    Because you need to mix multiple channels and that degrades loudness and takes a lot of processing power.

    Let's say you have two applications wanting to play a 8 bit PCM sample each, meant for the same moment.

    One of the PCM samples is value 150 (about half volume) and the other one is value 160 (about half volume). Now ideally you'd add them together and be over with. But 150 + 160 = 310. Oops. So you start scaling down, which means one division PER SAMPLE (value = (150 + 160) div 2).

    now, let's say you managed to do 44100*2 divisions per second somehow and now, app 1 becomes silent but doesn't close the audio device.

    Now everything app 2 plays will be at half the volume and the user will go bonkers trying to figure out why that is.

    I've slurred over a lot of details, but it all ends up with "Linux doesn't want to do that (in kernel space)", it neither wants to hold 200KB samples in non-swappable kernel space nor do the division stuff I talked about, blocking the entire computer until it's done.

    And I even slurred over the details on what to do when one app uses a 44100 sampling rate and another app uses a 22050 sampling rate, timing so that apps can buffer stuff to be played at some exact moment etcetc.

    As for why not do it in user space, dunno. Isn't it done there? Probably lack of standardization. But isn't pulseaudio supposed to be doing something like that?

    But probably it's doing it in a way which doesn't allow a user to just do "cat ding.wav >/dev/pulseaudio/dsp", and that's not going to fly.

    All that said, ALSA does mixing multiple channels automagically... but that's Linux only and keep in mind that a lot of desktop environment want to be cross platform...

    cheers,
        Danny

  • by CronoCloud (590650) <cronocloudauron.gmail@com> on Thursday April 02, 2009 @03:14PM (#27434979)

    I'm running YDL 6.1 which is CentOS based for stability so it's got older packages. So, intrigued by your post, I start up d3lphin,

    [CronoCloud@mideel ~]$ d3lphin --version
    Qt: 3.3.8b
    KDE: 3.5.4-16 CentOS
    D3lphin: 0.9.2

    and right click on a folder and choose Actions. The actions listed are:

    • Compress here.
    • Open as Root
    • Archive _Encrypt folder
    • Browse with Gwenview
    • Open terminal here.

    Which is slightly more sensible than your actions listing. So obviously someone has been messing with it.

    Here's my unedumacated and unsolicited opinion about this. Think of the "average OSS developer", what sort of image springs to your head. It might be something like the following.

    uses emacs as their desktop environment from within GNU screen.
    uses IRC from within emacs
    browses the web within emacs
    if they use IM they use a command line client and only use the Jabber protocol.

    This is the sort of person who would change an actions dialog to have a half dozen signing/encryption options, because of course, they sign all their mail with gnupg..from within emacs, and want everyone else to use gnupg too. They're just that much privacy oriented that they don't understand why most people don't care, and would rarely, if ever, encypt any folder.

    My version of d3lphin lists the developers e-mail address so why don't you contact them and explain how the "average non-developer" would use d3lphin.

  • Re:Nonsense (Score:3, Informative)

    by jbolden (176878) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @03:36PM (#27435357) Homepage

    I don't agree let me give several examples.

    In the mid 90s there was a widespread belief among Linux people that GUIs were a bad thing. A better approach to computing was simple window management + graphical apps. The KDE movement and later Gnome changed that attitude.

    In the 80s there was a belief that compiler breath and standardization was more important than compiled code speed. GCC was not going to have all sorts of thousands of cases to squeeze an extra few percentage points out, like the commercial compilers. GCC has done a complete 180 on that issue, especially with PowerPC and 8086 architectures.

    Up until about 2000 the majority of Linux users thought that WYSIWYG was a terrible way to handle document authoring and the primary document authoring systems should be WYSIWYM. Again a 180.

    People do get listened to, and change does happen.

  • by jbolden (176878) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @03:50PM (#27435549) Homepage

    1) They want to use Unix apps
    2) They want an easier to maintain system when things go wrong
    3) They want more control over apps and the system at all levels
    4) They want scripting heavily integrated with apps and the system
    5) They want to distribute their desktop i.e. network transparency

    etc...

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