Gentoo Linux recently released it’s latest install live CD called Gentoo Linux 2007.0. Slashdot reported that it had some mixed reviews. The Gentoo Forums have a few reports of a buggy GUI installation process.
Personally, I think the GUI installation is a bit of overkill, but then I have never done it. I simply feel this way because the command line install worked so incredibly well for me that it seemed entirely unnecessary to have a GUI. Of course, I am a command line person, so perhaps I’m biased.
Still though, I am somewhat disappointed that Gentoo has invested so much time into a GUI installer. I know that the idea of a GUI installer is sexier than just making sure that other, more basic, packages work right, but in the long run having a solid set of packages to install is a lot more useful than a GUI Installer that people only use once. There are certainly enough difficulties in maintaining other packages to warrant the extra work.
As posted on his blog, Robert Love has left Novell. This was something that was picked up in a highly speculative article on Slashdot and a similarly speculative Digg posting. A lot of the comments were about whether or not it was “fair” for Slashdot to take a speculative stance, but this is missing the bigger picture.
There’s a really great opportunity for Linux here. Robert Love is truly a great hacker and teacher. I think his book on Linux Kernel Development is an excellent resource. He’s going to be doing something somewhere and I bet it’s going to be very cool.
This is one of the impressive things about Open Source Software. It handles change amazingly well. Even if Cringely is right and the deal is simply meant to disrupt Linux, it is destined to fail. Mostly because great hackers would flee from such a thing instinctively.
It seems that every time a deal is made between Microsoft and a company with great hackers or with great hackers themselves, things fall apart rapidly and usually with the resignation of the hacker. For example, when Daniel Robbins went to work for Microsoft as an open source software guru, he ended up leaving rather shortly afterwards. Now we are hearing about Jeremy Allison and Robert Love resigning from Novell shortly after the announced deal with Microsoft. Truly, this is speculation on the level of Slashdot, but maybe it’s justified to some degree.
The cool part about this is to see what’s next for those folks. Great hackers rarely sit idling around doing nothing. They are control freaks that generally want to get their hands dirty and solve real problems. It will be very exciting to see what problems Robert Love addresses in the future.
I had a conversation with a friend recently about Gentoo Linux. Although I haven’t posted much about Gentoo Linux or my history with it, I will say that I have been using Gentoo for about six years now. It was my main development environment most of that time. Currently, I consider myself to be a Mac OS X user and a fan of Gentoo.
As a fan of Gentoo, I am quite distressed about their current direction. Distrowatch recently had a very good summary of the current issues, but doesn’t really place emphasis on the fact that this is a problem that has been around for a while now. It has been relatively common knowledge amongst Linux folk since at the least August of 2006 when this article was published. Personally, I think the first signs that there were issues was the website redesign that went no where.
There are several reasons for these problems, but the primary one is, in my opinion, people like Ciaran McCreesh. He is absolutely the Terrel Owens of the Gentoo Linux team, only less talented. Although he has contributed code and some actually good ideas to the Gentoo projects that he’s worked on, he is by far a net negative contributer. To put it lightly, he rubs people the wrong way. At best, he is polarizing, meaning that people either love him or hate him. However, from what I’ve seen most people just get pissed off at him. He’s been petulant and annoying almost from the very beginning. Almost every topic he posted on in the forums ended up like this one. Recent events seem to indicate that he’s still at it.
Compound people issues with a general lack of direction and a comparatively new hot thing in Ubuntu and you end up with the decline of a once great distribution. Being a developer on a Linux distribution is like most development jobs – primarily maintenance or mundane implementation. There are a lot of very un-sexy jobs that just need to be done efficiently and with high quality. The people who actually do these jobs tend to also be the people that don’t put up with the kind of idiotic crap that has been plaguing Gentoo for some time now.
While I haven’t really talked to many people about the news that Daniel Robbins, creator of Gentoo Linux, is now working for Microsoft, I think this could be a very good thing. His job is to help Microsoft understand Open-Source and community based projects. Anything that better helps Microsoft understand the benefits of Open Source Software has to be a good thing in my book.
It may surprise some people to learn that I’m not blindly anti-Microsoft. I don’t like some of their business practices. Actually, I don’t like a lot of their business practices, but mostly I don’t like them because many of their business choices hinder technology. The concepts of Open Source Software aren’t always the best solution in terms of furthering technology. I don’t really want to get into specifics here, but the point of all of this is that I think there could be a lot of unfair backlash for a leader in the Open Source world moving to the largest proprietary software company on the planet.
When the software business understands the importance and power of open source software and finds a way to add the focus and organization of a for profit business to it, technology benefits. I would use Apple’s Mac OS X as a prime example of this.
Also, I would like to state for the record that I cooked chicken today without burning down my apartment building.