Times When I am Truly Happy

March 15, 2004 11:48 AM

I spent most of Sunday afternoon doing technical support for my father (for which I was paid in beer). The task was to set up an 802.11g wireless network around his new cable connection so that the three different computers in the house could all talk to the outside world. Two of three Windows boxen were set up with relative ease -- plug in hardware, start up, insert CD, keep pressing OK, reboot, done. The third Windows box was somewhat more recalcitrant, but we eventually traced this back to a serious hardware problem, for which we really can't blame the Operating System.

A cow orker also spent the weekend setting up a wireless network, except he was doing it under Linux. I arrived to the office to hear stories of having to fool the kernel into accepting the precompiled driver module, thus avoiding the hassle of having to merge the module source into the kernel source tree and recompile everything. He was really happy about getting it done over the weekend, because he was afraid he'd end up wrestling with it for weeks.

Jamie Zawinski:

If you made a Venn diagram, there would be two non-overlapping circles, one of which was labeled, "Times when I am truly happy" and the other of which was labeled, "Times when I am logged in as root, holding a cable, or have the case open."

Once upon a time, back before I dropped out of university, I enjoyed all the mindless arsing about that was necessary to get a Linux box to do anything mildly useful. Linux's inconsistencies, the plethora of weird and wonderful configuration files, the ever-changing procession of desktop environments, all of this was a challenge. Something new to learn. I felt my horizons expanding.

Nowadays, the novelty has decidedly worn off. I can't just skip a lecture if I want to spend time configuring BIND. I don't find it very interesting any more to have to think too much about my computer. The time I spend thinking about my computer is time I could be spending thinking about the things I want to do with that computer. Wading through long instructions on how to get Postfix and SASL working together is not how I enjoy spending my afternoons any more.

I still run Linux at work because I can't program without the Unix tools around me, and every time I use Cygwin I feel the immense philosophical disjunct between the Unix tools and their Windows environment. But I think the above explains why at home last week, I turned my last Linux box off and now it sits unpowered next to its year-idle Win2k counterpart.

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