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gnotebook: Falling Down on the Job, Climbing Out of Post-Ximian Depression

ESR: Horseman of a Bummer

  • May 11, 2001
  • By Michael Hall

Sometimes being a Linux fan is fatiguing.

Take the end of last week for instance.

The mail from Eric Raymond issuing a call to arms over the upcoming Mundie speech came late in the afternoon, and it provoked a heavy sigh. Microsoft has been a largely undiscussed topic around the house for years now, having become "the game OS" that lately doesn't entertain quite as much as the new Playstation manages. My housemate asked a few months ago that I relieve her of the rage and frustration a Windows install gone sour was provoking, so an hour, a few tweaks of the server's NFS shares, and a deSambification of a printer later, she was test-driving GNOME and KDE and learning her way around StarOffice.

The issue with the Raymond mail was that if ESR had his story straight, it was going to be a long week of sorting through assorted "reactions" and "analyses" from all and sundry. This is a mixed bag. Sometimes you get some good stuff, sometimes not.

By Friday afternoon, I swam in a sea of Microsoft. If you get it in your head to search for 'Mundie' on LinuxToday, you get 31 results, only two of which predate what I'm going to start calling "Mundie Thursday," which, not unlike a similar-sounding religious day, often involves the use of whistles and noisemakers to call the faithful to service, since the more staid bells are silenced during that period.

Since I'm leaving myself open to all sorts of abuse for having my cake (by indulging in Mundie Madness by posting the stuff) and eating it too (by sniffing at the out-and-out Mardis Gras of Microsoft bashing it provoked), I'll just grant the point and admit to anyone who hasn't figured it out yet that I can be a very weak man. For what it's worth, having spent a week of processing reactions to and pretty much living with Mr. Mundie, readers may take comfort in knowing that I flinch when I hear his name.

I'll also point to Brian Proffitt's column from earlier this week as saying about all I could ever want to on the matter.

The side effect of coping with Craig was a level of near-total misery where everything else was concerned. Sure, I had Ximian GNOME to play with on a couple of machines and I was making peace with Mozilla after a nightly build had lost the ability to do POST operations on a few web pages, but there was something missing: a sense that the fun was slowly going out of playing around with my computer when I wasn't working, and that whatever came down the pike wouldn't be particularly interesting or worthwhile. It was post Ximian release depression, coupled with chronic Craig fatigue syndrome.

In part, this is something that's always nagging in some form or another. Linux has been my primary personal work environment for over five years now, and the list of kvetches that induces are probably familiar to plenty of others who like and advocate Linux for desktop use but don't think the whole thing's quite there yet. I'm pretty convinced the bulk of my complaints boil down to driver and application support: my NVidia card's kernel driver will hardlock X with little provocation, my printer never has managed to produce output as flexibly or well as I've seen it do under Windows, and until I finally yanked it out and slapped in a better card, getting my LinkSys ethernet card to work with any pre-2.4 distros has been a pain during each new install, and the picture of Tux on the box when I bought it did nothing to ease its rotten behavior. If it did, I shudder to think how it might have behaved without the promise of Linux support. These are irritating little glitches, but they add up.

On the software side, I haven't met a browser I can like quite yet: Netscape is adequate in terms of speed and it's unable to put a dent in the 256MB of RAM I have in my machine, but its UI is terrible when compared to Mozilla; and though I seldom use them, Linux word processors leave me cold because the only time I've forsaken Emacs in the last year has been to work on a book with a Windows-oriented publishing house that was mercifully patient with my inability to deal with their need for the decent revision and collaboration tools that Word provides.

Despite these complaints, I've soldiered on because actually using Windows makes me feel like my fingertips have been shot full of novocaine. I've managed to find almost every tool I rely on daily under Linux in some sort of Windows version, but it doesn't offset the fact that I feel like I've taken a grazing bullet to some part of my computer speech centers the second I see the clouds-n-logo preparatory to playing a rousing game of CounterStrike.

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