dt.iki.fi

A collection of Forum Posts I Don't Want to Sink into Oblivion

Sometimes I get a creative kick when writing a reply on some forum, and then I feel a little sorry to think that this "gem" will soon be forgotten and unfindable.

So I decided to copy-paste some of these outbursts to a dedicated page.

It's a little narcissistic.


I'm glad to see someone mentioning the help vampire, recognizing themselves, and wanting to recover from it.
So many people just see it as an insult when this is pointed out to them, apparently too busy to cover up their own bad conscience to be able to take the message in.
Hit-and-run customer mentality has become so prevalent in FOSS communities nowadays that people don't even understand that there's a better way.
And it has nothing to do wih the level of Linux knowledge (that's the most common reply), but with an attitude of taking for granted what others give. And self-centered laziness: habitual and subconscious attempts to get others to do their work. Eric Cartman anyone?

Anyhow, thanks Lemanr.
It's good to see that this quote has merit:

This is autonomous behavior. Again, we shouldn’t hate the Help Vampire. Or stake them. They know not what they do, only that they are driven to do it, and I believe they can be saved.


It's not a question of "GUI vs CLI" - graphical frontends for youtube-dl exist, use them by all means.
The point most people don't get is the constant battle against changes in the youtube (and other similar sites') website layout.
youtube-dl has a huge community, users on all major OSs, developers etc. and such changes are met almost instantly, at least for youtube.
But I currently know of no other independent youtube downloading/watching software that can keep up with these constant, deliberate changes. Their software breaks sooner or later, or takes too long to fix. youtube-dl are the only one's (to my knowledge) that stay on top of this, and for many, many years already.

AFAIK it's also possible to get a youtube API key and use a completely different approach to downloading the videos, but when software users don't bother to get their own and use the developer's, it will get disabled when too many machines use it.

So:

  • youtube-dl has GUI frontends. Use them if you're uncomfortable with the CLI.
  • youtube-dl needs to be updated constantly. It's pointless to use the Debian stable repo version from 2018. Best if your frontend does that automatically.
  • youtube-dl can do a lot more than just youtube. A LOT!
  • youtube-dl always downloads the highest quality by default, but that is configurable. A LOT is configurable!
  • youtube-dl integrates seemlessly with the mpv media player, which essentially enables it to directly pay video links.
  • mpv in turn has nice GUI frontends

I was reading The Confessions of Marcus Hutchins, the Hacker Who Saved the Internet. Very interesting story.

While reading it, I stumbled upon this video simply titled "Stephen Watt keynote". Similar topic, hacking, U.S. federal prosecution, but very different outcome and moral.
Once I got over the bad audio quality it was very fascinating.
I had to look up Stephen Watt - he was one of the participants in the TJX hack some 10 years ago.
In this video he describes exactly how powerless you are in a federal case when the prosecution wants to make an example and the judge has taken a dislike to you. When specialists have no clue about the extent of your crime (according to Watt, a minor hack of an existing sniffer to steal credit card data from a company's unencrypted (!) wifi) and blow it out of proportions.
When you're being called out on "violating the private lives of millions of americans" - adding up to 171,500,000USD (yes, 171.5 million) to pay back for him only.
When such claims are backed with IRC protocols full of jokes the prosecution does not understand (and fails to recognize quotes as such), trying to paint a picture of a sociopath and maniac.
When they say they understand the computer stuff that's this case is about, but really don't.
When the defendant just doesn't invoke sympathy very well, maybe simply because he's male, 7" tall, dressed in black, with long hair... and maybe even has the cheek to sneer or talk back. He certainly doesn't appear humbled in the video, taken after serving 2 years in prison.

If that's all a bit too much for you, at least skip to the last 5 minutes or so.


"what ways could linux play a role in saving the world?"

A thought:

I discovered Linux only in 2011/12.
ultimately found places that practice "social utopia". It's amazing to see hundreds, sometimes even thousands of people living in a different society. With all the Good and the Ugly that brings about.
I see many structural similarities with what I later found in the Linux world as well - like I often said: the best thing about Linux, the thing that really blows me away, is that it's a [B]global community effort[/B] (and one that works very well I might add).

We are forerunners, and I hope we continue being that.
Every such movement can become popular and will face the challenges of not being a niche anymore, and maybe losing its avantgarde status - but hopefully not its openness. I currently experience this both in Linux and in that other movement. We will see what happens.


However, for people like me who just want to install a program, but end up getting confused and frustrated when trying to do so, I don't understand why Linux distros don't come with the option to install a program by using the executable or the source code.

Actually this sounds like someone who, right at the beginning of their Linux journey, missed to familiarize themselves with some specialties of GNU/Linux, namely what Repository & Package Management means, and simply hung onto the only familiar paradigm they've ever known, which is: hunt, point and click.

When it takes all but concentrated reading of one web page and some additional minutes spent familiarizing oneself with some new software, usually synaptic, and you're done for a lifetime of enjoying Linux.

Application containers only play into this "hanging on to familiar paradigms" by adding a whole new layer of abstraction. They were not made for this purpose, but they enable droves of Linux newbs to hold on to their hunt, point and click mentality, and droves of equally enthusiastic podcasters and bloggers wax with admiration: "Finally, Linux will truly be like all the other $PROPRIETARY_OS out there! No more complaints about unintuitive UX etc.!" ...[insert long row of expletives here]...


I have absolutely NO interest in "bringing people over from windows" or some such.
in fact, i think it's outright detrimental for the development of GNU/Linux as a whole, to make it "more mainstream".
As long as Linux doesn't come preinstalled on millions of devices, with people getting paid to make the "UX" pleasurable (*), using it will always require a change of usage habits, even a shift in paradigm.

(*) an absolute horror scenario for me in every way. give me a clunky desktop any day! developed by unpaid nerds for their own needs in a true community effort.

source

also consider this:

more users means

  • more technically clueless users - not "nerds", just normal schmucks who are sick of windows & co. for whatever reasons
  • more outrageous demands for "user friendliness" and loads of features that are insanely hard to implement
  • waves of misinformed/borderline-trolling bug reports and issues
  • more people not able to actually fix anything in that ever growing linux operating system
  • a lot more "helpdesk mentality" - i.e. forum threads where the OP thinks that they have to contribute nothing to solve their problems and can blame everybody else if it "doesn't work" (this is something FLOSS communities are alrady suffering from. it would grow exponentially)

more and more development will be taken into paid hands, more and more people start thinking of Linux as something to invest in (with a good chance of success, because, you know, it's so popular) and start turning a profit.

at that point it doesn't really differ from $PROPRIETARY_OS anymore and the experience of a global communtiy effort is all but gone...

also see: https://igurublog.wordpress.com/2012/11/05/gnome-et-al-rotting-in-threes/

PS: Linux is already growing in popularity.
That's OK by me, but I see absolutely no reason to stoke that fire or be a missionary or revolutionary or wish for world domination or "compete" with some other OS.

PPS: Others might want to point out technical disadvantages, like Microsoft and Intel infiltrating kernel development etc. etc.


Two stories from the Wild East, late 1990s. Incidentally they both happened in Romania.

One

We were stopped by the police for "speeding" inside city limits. This was particularly laughable because we were driving a 30-year-old mobile home. Anyhow, they showed us a dime store calculator with some arbitrary number typed in, as "proof" for our "speeding". I must say, at that time it wasn't very funny, we felt intimidated and compelled to pay the "fine". But afterwards, this has always made me chuckle.
[ Used to be a common occurence in the whole eastern block back then, I know similar stories from fake public transport ticket inspectors etc., they don't even bother to make it look real, all that counts is the intimidation. ]

Two

Meanwhile I'd spent 3 summer months in Greece. On the way back, hitching a ride with a truck driver, on the Bulgarian/Romanian border, Romanian side. So we were coming in.
First of all I must say that the border Police/Militia/whatever were really fierce black-eyed guys with hard stares, stiff uniforms, and these oversized caps.
I had to show my passport to one of them. He looked at it, then at me, at the passport, at me, a puzzled look on his face. Now that already made me chuckle inside, because I happened to know what my passport picture looked like (some sort of punk close to the final stages of alcoholic poisoning. not that i'd been, but that's what it looked like) and what I actually looked like: a long-haired, almost bearded and well-tanned hippie.
He said "It no funny! It no joke!" - well that didn't exactly help with NOT laughing - and brought in 2 more collaegues, and for a long while I looked at this assembly of large peaked caps, centered around my passport, looking up at me, looking down at the passport... by that time I was definitely failing to hold back laughter.
They did let me go in the end.


The more I read your replies the more i'm reminded of the article I linked yesterday (and re-read after a long time to celebrate the occasion): http://linux.oneandoneis2.org/LNW.htm Read it!
It's 10 years old but still surprisingly relevant.

"I was looking for ideas from people who have got past the transition e.g. books, web-sites, forums etc, that helped them."

fair enough.

i'll tell you this: there's different types of linux users, and different types of windows users (or any os for that matter).
the type of user I am hasn't really changed since I started using linux.

before, I used to install windows2000 and winxp to hand-me-down laptops. the problems with graphic cards not supported etc. were pretty much the same as they are on linux; search the web for solutions, find the driver, put the files in the right place, hope it works etc. somewhere along the way i started using blackbox for windows, which already familiarized me with community-driven problem solving. only then, at some point, did I start using linux.

other users, on the other hand, probably never "laid hand" on their windows computer for all their life, but then something happens (no money to buy new computer, OS destroyed by virus, registry bogged down beyond repair etc.) and they decide to try one of the many linux distros.

I think you can see how these are 2 distinctly different experiences.

problem is, the people seeking advice are often from the second group, and the problem giving advice are from the first.

so, you see, it's a problem of people's mentalities, and they don't align with the operating system used.


"Scary? No. But given enough time, you will break a rolling release system. It might not happen overnight, but it will happen. Even if you check the upgrade warnings before ever upgrading, sooner or later 'bad' package will break the system. End of story."

how do you define "break"? if it means, something unforeseen happens, you can't update or some software won't work and you have to fix things, well, yes, then i agree. but that can happen on almost any distro, even debian stable.

i've been running a rolling release (arch) on my desktop for 3 years now, and debian stable on my server. i haven't had any serious problems on either, but i also haven't had no problems on either. for me it's a tie. different usage scenarios, but a rolling release distro isn't intrinsically less stable than a release distro, and a release distro isn't intrinsically more stable than a rolling release distro. don't get me wrong, debian are doing an invaluable job, and it's for a reason i'm using it on my server.

while both sid and archlinux are rolling, i think there's a huge difference between them: archlinux does do some quality control and testing and compiles software specifically to work with archlinux. they also have a [testing] repo, which i avoid like the pest - i think that would be more comparable to sid.

for me, a stable, monitored rolling distro like archlinux is the best.