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Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Distribution surfers.

A distribution surfer is a person who flits from whatever he/she was using to the perceived latest and greatest distribution, usually a different one It has nothing to do with the merit of. It has nothing to do with anything really except the fact that the new is distribution

We see it all to often in newsgroups and forums where a user has a problem with something not because that something created the problem but because the underlaying cause is the differences in approach to how their previous distribution did things. In the minds of these distribution surfers all distributions should be the same. But, the simple fact is there are almost as many differences in the underlay structures as there are distributions. Trying to get that simple thing across to them is difficult at best and damn near impossible at worse.

Taking as many newsgroups as I do and reading the many forums I do it soon becomes clear the names and on-line nicks that belong to a given distribution surfer. Take as an example Slackware, that venerable distribution that has for years defied the impending doom calls and Ubuntu. Slackware 12.1 came out just before Ubuntu 8.04 (which has recently morphed into 8.04.1). Looking around at the newsgroups when Slackware was released we saw a sudden increase in users, some of which held new names/tags/handles. Then Ubuntu came out and most of those new names disappeared and popped into view on the Ubuntu newsgroup as well as on Ubuntu's main forum. That defines perfectly what a distribution surfer is and what one does as each distribution releases a new version.

Slackware, Debian, Redhat (now Fedora for none business users) and to some extent SuSe and Mandriva (formerly Mandrake) have been around for years and years and are still as relevant in todays Linux distributions world as they where 10 or so years ago. Even though during all those years many other distributions have popped up and in some cases those newer ones have surpassed those older ones where take up by users is concerned. It is not that that is annoying though. It is those damned distribution surfers that annoy the jiggery out of us old timers. Why in the name of $DEITY will they not settle on one distribution and learn it properly?

It boggles the mind it does.

Slackware has rudimentary package management and does not do dependacy tracking, long may it stay that way. Debian does both but because of that has other problems, such as application or library conflicts. Redhat (Fedora), SuSe and Mandriva all do both but uses RPM, which, in Microsoft parlence, if you have ever suffered from a registry botch that stops your system from booting then you will know what RPM Hell means. Because Slackware is much more basic, adhering to the age old KISS principle it is less, much much less likely to be rendered unbootable unless the $USER of that box does something utterly stupid. Because of this simple fact Slackware will probably still be with us in 20 years from now.

If there is a good thing about all this it is that the surfer will invariably return to a good solid distribution eventually as their heads get mauled by the differences between them. But then, this brings its own annoyances such as when they come back they start shouting about how this distribution or that one has so and so so why doesn't this one?

Bloody distribution surfers should be banned from ever running a distribution if they move base more than 4 times in one year or if they are seen or heard to write or utter the words 'Distribution X has so and so, why doesn't distribution Y' once.

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