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Unimportant Gentoo-related ranting

I found a nice version of emacs with XFT support on this blog. I really plan to start learning emacs. A guy at work uses it and it seems like it can do some things vim can't do easily. For example nicely spawning a shell and playing with the output, and searching / highlighting multiple strings simultaneously (vim can only do one search at a time, unless you use a plugin).

Which leads me into my rant! One nice thing I notice about Ubuntu is the community. First, it's big. You need a big community to support a distro. Would I ever have taken the time to build an XFT version of emacs myself? Extremely unlikely. So I have to rely on someone else doing it, and the more people who share your distro, the more likely someone out there has done this kind of thing. So the more people with the same stuff as you, the nicer the selection of software you end up with. This is actually one of the things (if anything) I would say is good about Windows. In those very few areas where Windows lets you customize things, such as GUI theming, you end up with tons and tons of nice choices.

One attitude I notice too often in the Gentoo community is "I don't give a crap about users". Either by people who demand that Gentoo is only for extreme nerds and that all other people should just go away, or by developers or power-users who deride "normal" users for being too stupid to want to deal with. That's not to say this is the most common opinion of the community by any means, but it's the one most often noticed by me and my selective memory. I think users are what keep a distro alive. You can have the smartest people in the world working on something, but no matter how smart they are, a few smart people alone aren't going to be able to hold a whole distro together. And who cares how nice a tool is if no one is around to use it? You need some talented people to work on the core of the thing, but you also absolutely need all the "little people" contributing in little ways. All those little bits add up. Even if users are almost completely clueless, they still have value. The near-constant "WE NEED MORE DEVS" message in Gentoo is good evidence of the value of a large and strong community.

It seems as though there's sometimes a tendency toward a defensive attitude in Gentoo, and it's almost verging into the realm of RTFM-ism, which is a trashy attitude in my opinion. Gentoo used to be extremely "n00b-friendly", in that new users were sought after and welcomed with open arms, and it doesn't seem as much so nowadays. I used to crawl the forums looking for unanswered posts and give them a try, and I'm sure there are other people doing it, but we could always use more. The helpful and valuable users of tomorrow are the clueless people of today. Rather than flaming people for being ignorant, I think people should help other people learn whenever possible.

The general atmosphere of the Ubuntu forums is one of helpfulness and enthusiasm and it seems generally positive. I remember a long while back the Gentoo forums had that same kind of feeling to them. There would always be all kinds of threads popping up with people posting tips and tricks and whatnot. Lately it seems like there's more and more people making "I'm leaving" threads and being flamed, or flaming each other for other reasons, etc. Of course it's hard to form an opinion based upon a few threads at a forum, but it's human nature to extrapolate, right? cop-out

The other thing I notice about Ubuntu is a lack of people saying "apt sucks!" and a lack of lots of people making hacked-together tools to try to fix it. apt seems very mature and solid and it seems (in my limited experience thus far) to work pretty well pretty much all the time. In Gentoo there seems to be a general feeling that Portage is a piece of crap in many ways, even by people who like the distro. I know I personally had a love-hate relationship with Portage. It's great when it works, but there are times it drives you mad. Then there are lots of hacked-together tools to try to make up for deficiencies or perceived deficiencies with Portage, and it seems like none of them ever last very long. People lose interest or something better comes along, or else Portage changes so much that the old tools break. apt seems like a nice change of pace from that.

Above all else, I use my home computer because I enjoy it. Only part of enjoyment comes from whether a tool works well technically. The people I have to deal with in the process of using that tool are also a huge part of enjoyment. I'll take a decent distro with a really active, friendly, helpful, enthusiastic community over a really advanced technical distro with a lot of abrasive personalities prominently connected with it. I must say that the people who post to PlanetLarry seem for the most part to be very friendly and good-natured, and it's possibly just a few loud people who are drowning out all the tons of good people. Or maybe I feel better about Ubuntu at the moment because it still has that new-distro smell. We shall see. There's a good reason I labeled this rant "unimportant".

November 17, 2006 @ 12:20 PM PST
Cateogory: Programming

1 Comment

David Grant
Quoth David Grant on November 17, 2006 @ 1:12 PM PST

Personally, I used Debian before Gentoo and never looked back. Debian was awesome compared to Mandrake, but didn't compare to Gentoo. Nothing has really changed, Ubuntu is still very much Debian, it's just like Debian-testing. Or rather, Prodigy or Corel or done right. My reasons for leaving Debian and switching to Gentoo haven't changed if you replace the word "Debian" with "Ubuntu".

"So the more people with the same stuff as you, the nicer the selection of software you end up with."

Not really true. Didn't Redhat or SUSE or some other RPM-based distro used to have the largest user base? And they always sucked and Gentoo and Debian (with non-free repositories) always had far better selection of software and better tools. What about Windows, it has the largest user base, but I wouldn't say it's selection of software is "nicer".