Ubuntu 9.04 is now in beta and I’m tempted to upgrade. I want to help test it. I even started “update-manager-kde -d”, but it warned me that since the new version is not yet fully tested, it could make my computer unstable, release a new strain of computer virus, kill babies, and reinstate Bush Junior as president. So I canceled. Am I chicken?
That situation makes me awfully uncomfortable. It happens with every binary Linux distribution I have tried. It never occurs in Gentoo, however, where all upgrades are incremental. Breakage happens, but when it does, I only have to fix or revert a relatively small part, not the whole system. It appears that such incremental upgrades are only manageable with a source-based distribution, but of course a source-based distribution requires more technical skills.
I think I’ll stick with Ubuntu right now because its support for KDE 4 is better than what Gentoo currently offers. From what I can tell, Gentoo got in a big fight over how to package KDE 4, causing them to fall behind in stabilizing KDE 4. That fight seems to be over now, so perhaps Gentoo will catch up and lead again. I will seriously consider a switch when Gentoo marks the latest version of KDE 4 as stable.
I never noticed before that if I open a Konqueror window, point it at an SFTP location, navigate to an image, and right click to open that image using GIMP, that GIMP retrieves from the SFTP URL directly. When I save that image, GIMP saves it directly to the server. Sweet! That means I can edit images on a server without copying them by hand. I was already doing this with text files, using Kate, but now I can do this with images, too! This is with GIMP 2.4; I haven’t yet tried 2.6.
Of course, the file dialog used by GIMP is the sickly GTK one, so this functionality of GIMP can only be accessed by opening files from Konqueror or the command line. The KDE file dialog is really nice and I wish the GTK guys would realize what they’re missing.
Ubuntu is what I install on nearly every server and everyone else’s personal computer, but for my own desktop and a few select servers, Gentoo is still the winner.
Binary distributions release a set of packages that have been tested together, which is an excellent service to users. In the open source world, every part of the stack is changing at irregular intervals. Binary distributions serve as the buffer between that wild world and users who just want their computer to work.
However, that buffer has a cost: it has a side effect of adding barriers between open source developers and users. For example, sometimes I need to run a specific version of someone’s software, but my distributor has chosen a different version. This happens quite often for me. With a binary distribution, my options are limited, but with Gentoo, I have several ways I might accomplish that, most of them involving little effort on my part.
I would like to take this moment to say “thanks!” to the Gentoo developers and users who contribute to Gentoo. I realize it’s hard work, and the hardest work might be resolving conflicts with your peers. Your efforts have been worthwhile for me and have not gone unnoticed.