Dropping Linux binary support

When I made the release of my newest project, I decided to stop making Linux binaries. The whole concept of making a binary for “Linux” is silly, as every distro has different and sometimes incompatible versions of the C library, of X.org, of Qt, etc. And then there are the many different supported processor architectures. Linux distros are source compatible, not binary compatible. What I was really making was an Ubuntu binary and passing it off as a Linux binary. I don’t even use Ubuntu, I use Arch Linux!

If you are using Linux, I assume that you have enough knowledge about your system to compile my programs, or that you can learn it. The README file documents the few steps required (beyond the obvious step of installing the Qt development packages). I don’t think I should continue to cater to newbies, because eventually a newbie will learn enough to no longer be a newbie. And after all, isn’t that half the fun?

Reasons why I won’t be a “switcher”

I recently got a used Mac. This has allowed me to port CuteMaze to Mac OS X, which finished up my To Do list and I made a 1.0 release. As well as that, it has given me the chance to try Mac OS X. For me, it doesn’t live up to the hype. It’s nice for a secondary computer, but I wouldn’t want it for my primary one.

It is a good-looking operating system. The theme is nice, although not any better looking than the themes available for KDE or GNOME. The drop shadows are nice, as is the window minimize effect. However, because you can get the same visual effects (and a whole lot more) from Compiz, that doesn’t impress me much. There was a time when it was way ahead of everyone else with graphical effects, but that hasn’t been the case for awhile now.

Once you move past the visuals and take a look at the operating system, it is quite limiting. Where’s the choice? Where’s the software? Where’s the fun little arcade games? As an example, I needed a compiler to port my program. It took me awhile to discover I had to install Xcode, an entire IDE (and quite a fat one, too… over 2 gigabytes when installed?!) instead of just the compiler.

On that subject, one thing Mac users hype up is how installing and uninstalling programs is so much easier on a Mac than it is on any other system. I call baloney. I have thousands of programs and thousands of libraries available at my fingertips. I just have to open my distro’s package manager, search for what I want, select it, tell it to install and I’m done. It downloads the program, along with any dependencies, and installs them. If I later decide I don’t want it anymore, I tell the package manager and it removes the program (and good ones like conary or pacman clean up the dependencies, too).

Frankly, that’s easier than locating a disk image to install online, because with that I have to do a Google search through a bunch of pages that don’t contain programs. Once you have found what you are looking for, you have to download the disk image, open it, and drag the program to you Applications folder, which seems like a bizarre worshipping of the annoying drag-and-drop action. Plus, most software isn’t legally available for free on the Mac, like it is on Linux, and you won’t be seeing the source code for the vast majority of it, either.

Yes, I could install Fink or MacPorts and have large amounts of familiar programs available, along with a package manager. But then… why bother? I have all of those programs and more available already in any Linux distro, not bolted on like some sort of Frankenstein monster. For Mac users who want open source programs, that’s great. But I already have all of those programs, and no Mac programs look interesting to me. So why would I have all of the programs I want treated as second-class citizens to programs I don’t want?

Something I’ve been wondering about is: what happens when you need software updates? In any Linux distro, everything you installed from a package manager gets updated through it. Obviously Apple’s software gets updated through the “System Updater”, but what about what third party software? Do they get to push updates through that?

There are other areas where Mac OS X failed to live up to the hype as well. Now, if you had only used Windows before, the OS would seem amazing. But it really is more of the same. And it is locked to over-priced hardware. Sure, they look nice, but I don’t need a new hard drive, optical drive, and video card when I just want to change the CPU and motherboard! The iMac is worse, because you have to get a new monitor along with it. This prevents slow upgrading of the components over time, all so that they can have a “unified” hardware platform. Mac users claim that this makes them more stable, but once again that’s baloney. It may or may not be more stable than Windows, but it sure is not more stable than my Linux box.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice enough OS, and I’m not saying it’s not great for other people. I’m sure it works wonders for those who want what it provides, but I’m not one of them.

Let’s do the distro hop!

I am an incessant distro hopper. I’m the distro bunny, moving around the Linux landscape, never staying in one place for too long. I sometimes come back to the same spots twice, but not for very long.

My foray into the Linux world started years ago, but it didn’t truly cement itself until the fall of 2001. I was using Windows 98 at the time, after having “upgraded” from Windows ME, and I was tired of the instability. Development inside of Windows 98 was painful, and sometimes I would end up reinstalling to clear up problems. While the rest of the world began upgrading to Windows XP, I began seriously investigating Linux.

The first Linux distro I installed was BearOps. I don’t remember why I chose that one, but I did. I printed off their user manual and put it in a three-ring binder. I downloaded the distro, installed it, and found it workable. However, I wasn’t completely happy with it, so I switched to Mandrake 8 shortly after that.

A habit was born. Every few months–or sometimes weeks–I would get tired of the current Linux install on my computer, and I would switch to a different one. Eventually it got to the point where I had several partitions on my computer that were just Linux installs so that I could boot into a different one and try them out. I tried source based ones, I tried binary based ones, I tried the big names, I tried the little names.

I’ve been searching for something, and I think I’ve finally found it. I’m incredibly demanding about the way my computer works, as can be evidenced by my constant switching when something just isn’t quite right. The distro I have finally settled on is: Arch Linux.

Arch Linux is fast. It’s just plain fast. It has a rolling update system so that I can get new software in a reasonable timeframe without waiting for an artificial “release”, and I don’t need to reinstall every six or nine months. It’s also just plain. No frilly extras, no pointless wobbly windows. Configuration is done from text files. As a bonus, it’s easy to add packages that I build myself.

After six years of looking, I have finally found my distro… I think.