Cook Computing

The (Personal) State of GNU/Linux in 2002

January 2, 2003 Written by Charles Cook

Slashdot has a thread on The State of GNU/Linux in 2002: It was Good. From a personal point of view Linux started to impinge on my development work, even on the "day job". After many years of working in a Windows-only environment I was actually running Linux boxes last year in the office, not yet developing code on them but writing LDAP code to connect to OpenLDAP.

The first time I telnetted into a Linux box at work last year it felt strangely reassuring, a homecoming after years of working in the foreign "black-box" world of Windows. How many frustrations over the years with DCOM and MAPI could have been avoided if I could have rebuilt them from the source with my own diagnostic code added? All the time I spent banging my head against the wall could have been used to improve the software, not on finding ways to work around the problems.

Outside of the day job I'm beginning to use Linux more. I'm currently writing this on Mozilla running on a Linux VMware session which I tend to keep running most of the time now and I use gFTP for my website maintenance. My recent hesitant first steps with Perl were made in the same environment. I've even spent some time experimentally porting some of my C# code to Mono running on Linux.

I've not experienced any particular Linux epiphany but I've come to realise what an amazing achievement it is. The fact that it has been achieved by "us", the developers, is astounding. One of the important lessons of 2003 was how the corporate environment has a tendency to untrustworthy behaviour[1] and needs counter-balancing forces to keep it in check. For the development world Linux is such a force, and even die-hard Windows developers should be thankful for that. From a developers point of view Microsoft would be a very different company if Linux and the open-source movement had never existed (but its maybe not quite yet Bedford Falls as opposed to Pottersville[2]).

So I guess one of my resolutions for this year is to get more involved with Linux. I first need to become much more familiar with the environment, learning the ins and out of building and configuring packages, building the kernel, etc. Then I'd like to contribute to Mono. A first step towards this would be getting XML-RPC.NET to run on Mono. As I found out over Christmas this would require some fixes to the Mono libraries which would make it a good place to start contributing.

[1] Read this with or without a touch of irony according to your political point of view.

[2] Its hard to believe but I had never watched Its a Wonderful Life before this Christmas. The film has an unusual history in that it accidentally went out of copyright. The corporate world saw an opportunity to make some money and insult the intelligence of the tv viewing public by colorizing the film, thereby creating new rights on the colorized version. So if you see the colorized version you know that the tv station is paying money to screen a travesty of the film when they could be showing the original for free.