Friday, 5 August 2011

Binary > source

I am currently using Linux (more specifically, Kubuntu 11.04) as my primary OS. I think it's a brilliant distro. Everything works out of the box (for me), wireless surprisingly works even better than it ever did under Windows 7. However, over and over i see this stupid argument every once in a while - (K)Ubuntu is bloated, binary distros suck, apt sucks, Gentoo/Arch/Slackware ftw etc.

Regarding bloat. My KDE/Kubuntu installation with a whole lot of shit on it works faster than my almost virgin Windows 7 ever did. I don't know what happened to it, honestly - at first it was pretty snappy and i was really happy with it after Windows XP (i skipped Vista). But over time it began being slow. I don't know what is the reason, since i usually turn off all that BitLocker, indexing and other useless crap that comes with Windows 7 Ultimate. KDE, on the other hand, even has full-text search enabled (Strigi), not to mention Nepomuk, Akonadi and countless other apps that are constantly running in the background. It still outperforms Windows 7, even with half-baked no-3D-acceleration nouveau driver.

As for apt - i can't really comment on that, since i only seriously used apt. I did try Gentoo at some point and have a slight idea of what emerge is, but i probably have no more experience with emerge than i have with RPM (i started out my Linux way with Mandrake 8). However, i can say that i never ran into any problems with apt. Of course, all the graphical package managers still suck balls when shit gets real and i have to resort to aptitude every once in a while (which isn't Ubuntu's or apt's fault anyway, should have fucked with alpha repos in the first place), but still apt rules. At least i can't say anything bad about apt.

And now to my core argument. Source distributions suck. Compiling from source sucks. Binary is the way to go. Why? Let's see.

I saw many people saying something like "i don't see what's the problem with running configure && make && make install". However, there are several major problems with that statement. First of all, having a compiler on my system is a potential security risk. Even on a desktop. Second, why do these people assume that every Linux user is a software developer? Why do i have to have a compiler, a gigabyte of development libraries and a version control system installed? It's fine with me, i don't have a problem with that, but your average Joe is not a developer, nor he wants to be one. Compiling from source sucks. It really only makes sense for the developers, because they can check out the fresh code, compile it, test it, debug it, whatever. It doesn't make any sense for the average user.

Finally, source-based distributions. They suck. I remember installing Gentoo on my old crappy laptop in hopes that the legendary "performance" and "customizability" will make enough of a difference to breath in a second life in that laptop that used to run Windows 2000. You know what happened next? I started installing software. It's really fun, you know. Open Office was compiling for 10 hours. 10 fucking hours!!! After i installed Open Office, XFCE, bunch of other stuff (another two days of compiling shit), you know what happened? The distribution just worked. It worked no better and no worse than, say, Xubuntu. Same shit. And believe me, i took my time and learned a lot about optimization flags, compiler flags and all that shit that Gentoo users fap to. It made no difference.

However, the worst thing was still ahead. I received an update notification. For OpenOffice. Another 10 hours of compilation? Thanks, but no thanks. And you know what i did? I said "fuck it". No more Gentoo. No more compiling. Binary distributions rule. You know why? Because they tend to work without spending endless hours compiling and optimizing to squeeze those extra 2% of performance. Of course, someone might find appealing to live on the bleeding edge of FLOSS, but i just want my computer to work without hickups. I am somewhat of a software developer, i have no problem reading source code or even compiling from source, but seriously, if i wasn't a developer - why would i have to have a compiler and development libraries on my machine?!

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