Saturday, April 4, 2009

Lookin' In

I hate sports. I have thought about the reasons for this hatred and have come to the conclusion that it is because I cannot rationalize a the superiority of a certain region's team. As I was born in New England and was a fully qualified Masshole for 7 years of my childhood, I admit that I have a fond feeling for the Redsox. However, team-members aren't really regionally tied to Massachusetts or New England. Sure I can get into a game if I sit down and watch. But, I don't really have the patience to follow the sport for more than one game.

Where I lose interest is where people talk about players and how integral they are to the winning process. Because, while I may have a history with Massachusetts, the players certainly don't. The Boston Redsox purchased their loyalty. Players come from all around the world to represent the Boston Redsox. Yet, many team-members come to the team without even living in New England before. So I guess my lack of love for sports is due to the fact that I cannot evangelize a team that doesn't represent me. Without players on a team having a relationship with the place in which the team is located the only way for me to identify with the team would be because everyone else in my group identifies with them. But that doesn't work because I have always been suspicious of the group mentality. In fact, I thought about this post because of a slong about being suspicious of the group mentality. Its called Lookin' In by Bad Religion. Here are the lyrics.

Anyway, even though I hate sports I can be accused of being an evangelist. I wonder why I could be an evangelist for Linux but not zealously cheer for a specific sports team. My love for Linux is founded on my hatred of the over-use of abstraction. Windows would probably the best standard of over-abstraction in software.

Windows is so melded together that in order to change operating system settings one has to use a special query language "WQL" to find out what the variable is called. Even after you find what variable you are looking for on msdn it's hard to tell what the value is expecting. The scripting interface is barely understandable because they expect that everyone interacts with the operating system using a mouse. Microsoft invented the Windows management interface "WMI", to make Windows more scriptastic but they put the cart before the horse. How can you expect to make your OS more scriptable if you force your users to sift through some object oriented gobbledygook with substandard documentation.

Operating systems that use the Linux kernel on the other hand rely on a time tested scripting language to get everything up and running. if you don't like where to find configurations then you can put them somewhere else if you have the knowledge. I suppose one could even choose something other than bash to bring get the OS up and running. Live interaction with the kernel takes place in /proc. All configuration takes place in /etc. Anything; window managers, databases, and firewalls, can be configured in files located there. Not only that but the people that write the kernel only write the Kernel. All other software is written by independent parties so you don't have to go through a centralized interface to get to set the configurations in the programs that you run. Just look in etc, there is probably a file there for your program in question that has a default configuration. I guess what I am trying to say is that there are several programs you can choose to put into the OS and you you can easily write scripts to manage the configuration of those programs as well as the basic operating system settings.

That is not to say that operating systems using the Linux kernel can't get bloated and over abstracted. After using Fedora for 2 years I just changed to Slackware because I started feeling that have been trying to force all customization into the user interface. The configuration files are easily accessible, but that means nothing if a wizard or automatic configuration tweaked something that doesn't work with your configuration changes. Since Fedora 9 I have had occasions where Gnome doesn't let me log in because of some automated configuration change when I logged into KDE. Anyway, I haven't had any problems since moving to Slackware. Now my computer is lean, mean, and stable. Not sure if I am married to Slackware yet but I'm liking it so far. I guess basically, my fanaticism is for the ability to make such a choice. I don't like Red Hat's way of doing things, so I'm moving on.

So yes, I can be a zealot without following the mob. I hate sports because I cannot make a connection to something that is only related to me on the surface. My zeal for Linux is especially strong because the standard fair is flawed by design. Linux is modular. So design flaws mainly occur in badly implemented distributions.

I see people using windows and I feel like I am on the outside looking in. I want to tell everyone that their windows machine is slow because every instruction requires many levels of indirection to process. That their email takes 10 minutes to open because Microsoft wants their company to invest tens of thousands of dollars for their server product. I want to tell them that they can use better software for free. If only the mob could see what everything looks like from outside the proprietary box.

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