I was recollecting how my priorities have changed in upgrading operating systems and applications over the years that I have started using open source software. Shit, that's almost a 9 years since the Slackware '96 edition of PC Quest came out in 1996. Feeling slightly old now…..
In the beginning there was the CDROM…
It all started when PC Quest began featuring Linux distribution CDs on their magazine which was roughly once a year(?) IIRC. It was a total hack job to get them running fine on clunky hardware – rejects from other third world countries. My specialization was in getting X to work!
It was fun. You learnt all about the capabilities of the kernel and become a kernel recompilation expert since most of the drivers back then were marked as experimental and left out of the default compile. As a bonus, you also got trained as a Memory Management Expert – find faulty DRAM modules and swap them out to avoid sig11 faults! 🙂
Oh, You also learn about the excellent quality standards in Taiwan (the hard way). 🙂
Then came the Internet…
Once easy access to the Internet came around, the next cool thing to do was to keep switching distributions. Debian, RedHat, SuSE after reading about them on the net. It first started with a “my package list is bigger then yours followed with a “my graphical installer is better than your text installer” debate.
Heck, I dont want to keep reinstalling an OS just to see the installer work and detect my devices.
The rise of the packages!
The KDE Vs GNOME battle in the late '90s was really exciting with the “I dont need no steenking window manager” war cry. Each day was spent tracking down the CVS for GNOME and KDE and watching the CVS commit list like a hawk to be the first to know the changes. After a point this enthusiasm died down when I switched to Enlightenment.
Till some one comes up with a desktop which works efficiently for me without making me feel stupid, I am sticking to a WM instead of a desktop environment.
I was building everything from CVS or latest patch sets.
– The kernel because new drivers were being added in everyday and the existing ones were getting more mature
– Applications like Gaim, Gkrellm, Licq, Midnight Commander, XMMS and even XFree86 (which took a day to compile)
So this compile thingy was getting to me. I could do nothing else when the compile was going on. There has to be a better way of getting more recent packages without all the “use the source Luke” talk. I wanted packages, pre-built and ready to go.
Did someone mention Debian???
Did you apt-get today?
Then came the 8th wonder of the world – “apt-get”. I must have typed in apt-get more times that I did a ls -l. With history as my witness, I can proclaim that Debian is the slowest released distro in the world. The only way to get anything done with Debian is to use the “unstable” branch. Never mind the inherent risk, the stable branch was useless. Stability and usefulness are two things which cant get along.
Soon, package updates turned into a pain than a boon. Any major core package revision bump like GLIBC, GTK, X etc meant downloading almost all of the packages again. This is so not fun anymore.
I need to find a middle path. A distro which which keeps the core stable and unchanged but allows for the latest and greatest applications.
Watch your back, the devil lurks everywhere!
After looking everywhere, it seemed like the BSDs did everything that I needed. A “core” which is a non-moving target during the life of the OS which is measured in years instead of months unlike Linux. A huge database (8000+) pre-built packages ready to install via pkg_add. A -CURRENT branch for “ports” which allowed you to track updates and changes to the applications without affecting the “base”. WoW! Ability to run Linux applications via LINUX_COMPAT. Double WOW!
This is just what the doctor ordered.
Now there is just no looking back…
I was hooked. Ran FreeBSD in vmware for a while and then ended up switching completely. Now it was FreeBSD 4.2 and had a full fledged RedHat environment installed via linux_base package. Did a CVSup each day && portupgrade -a -i. When the time came, I could do a source based upgrade to the next release of FreeBSD without breaking applications.
This is indeed cool.
The Fedora has landed
With RedHat now opening up its “core” to independent developers and providing outside support, Fedora Core has been shaping it nicely over the 2 years it has been around. With a 6 month release cycle, support for a public repository CVS, fedora extras for packages, its a good product to fill the void for Linux in my OS diet.
More so now since the core is really taking shape and boldly going where no Linux distro has gone before. While the others are working on installer upgrades and packing in more applications and icons, FC is quietly integrating next gen technologies. Pre linking, read ahead, inbuilt java, early GDM login, NetworkManager etc. More on this once I install FC4.
The one which am really looking forward to is the Xen virtualization technology which allows you to run multiple instances of operating systems.
I hope Fedora Core become something that will have a wow factor to it like the Mac OS X currently does.
More on Fedora Core 4 later once I have it installed which should happen latest by tomorrow.