If you want to build an operating system…

…don’t imitate FreeBSD.

So, thanks to Iowa State’s pact with the devil, computer science and MIS students get free access to a ton of Microsoft software, including Visual Studio and Windows. I downloaded Microsoft VirtualPC so I could install Windows 98 and test my software against the crappy version of the Win32 API. In fact, one of my big problems with Audiere has been Win9x compatibility. So VirtualPC will certainly come in handy.

Anyway, I got Win98 installed. (What a trip down memory lane! What a ghetto OS!) I then used this opportunity to try out a couple operating systems I’ve wanted to install but didn’t want to waste a good PC’s time:

Gentoo: Wow. So the “installer” drops you to a root prompt with some scary warnings about scrambling your password, and all it mentions is that you should read some document on the CD that WASN’T EVEN THERE. At that moment, I was gone.

FreeBSD: A little better… It at least tries to give the illusion of providing an automated installation process. Way too mid-90s for me, though. “We have detected the following keys: PAGE UP, PAGE DOWN, ARROW UP, ARROW DOWN.” Uh, yeah? “Do you have a PS2 mouse hooked up to your system?” Why don’t you just ask the system?* The final straw was it starting X without mouse support and telling me to use the number pad to navigate.

I mean, come on. With all of the time people put into disk I/O scheduling and process management algorithms, you’d think the installer could be made less… braindead. And with a decent installer, you might attract more random users, which might attract developers like me… But I guess I should just be glad the SUSE and Red Hat installers are about as good as Windows.

Eventually, I plan on trying newer Slackwares (first real distro, baby!) and some of the weirder Linux distros. Perhaps I should give Fedora a shot, and Mandrake another try.

* Reminds me of the Perl installation-from-source process, circa ’99 or so: “What is the size of your platform’s int?” DON’T ASK ME, ASK THE COMPILER. Maybe it’s better now, but given the state of CPAN, somehow I doubt it.

6 thoughts on “If you want to build an operating system…”

  1. Yeah. The Gentoo installation is entirely shitty. I find it’s worth it to get to the gooey, creamy OS in the center, though.

  2. This reminded me the days when I got interested in linux stuff. Got Debian & Mandrake from a friend. I was so keen to try them out cuz everyone’s only talking about those. I started debian in the most horrible resolution ever, with 16 colors & a mouse. It took me days until I got it working better, but still after that I was like “No way, the OS should serve ME”. Yes, it was fun to try it out and such, but hey it seemed that Debian & Mandrake only caused me difficulties instead of helping me to complete certain tasks.

  3. Oh my, someone who’s not afraid to say the truth!! <3 <3 <3

    Somehow, there's always been this social pressure in the computer society that you're not worthy to be a computer person if you can't put up with bad UI. It's like how saying "It's nice to program in C#" is bad, I mean, what's bad about wanting to program in a nice cozy IDE !??

    Goddamn Linux Nazis I say >:-( It’s just as bad as Modern Art Nazis who only think things like an overturned urinal is “art”.

  4. It’s nice to program in C#… it’s just not necessarily nice to use these programs. I have noticed their performance (due to overhead) is far worse than both Java and Python. But it’s a good language. And I so wish I could download the windows installer of Portable .NET (but I can’t access the website freecache.org)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *