Wednesday 60

Not Windows

Filed under: Computers, Open source, Security — Tags: — zundel @ am

I have heard from clients complaints about the frustration on web discussions of Linux.

I have read the discussions on occasion and have seen the frustration.

I think I recognize it.

Many on the discussions seem to look for a recipe to follow to fix some problem. And then presumably run this script on their machine. This approach comes from Windows. Near random hacking on Windows stems from the opacity of the system. And causes all sorts of problems.

Engineers built Linux and Unix for engineers. Linux has clear structure and predictable behavior. You don’t just try things. You understand a problem in order to develop a solution.

I recently built a server on a virtual machine to test a client’s problem. The install recipe from the software supplier (Zend) would have resulted in a less than ideal configuration. I chose to build from repositories rather than from the supplier’s file, thereby avoiding the client’s problem.

Perhaps a certain amount of traffic trolling by InfoWorld:

The decline and fall of system administration

… but as Linux has moved into the mainstream — and the number of marginal Linux admins has grown — those ideas are suddenly somehow rational.

The worst part is that these ideas are not just limited to proper reboot etiquette. There are numerous examples of poor Unix hygiene in many shops.

This, and the preceding article, got a lot of noise on Slashdot.

Windows users have the habit of downloading a program to fix a problem without understanding the problem or the program. This leads to all sorts of mischief.

And they reboot, a lot.

Linux system should only reboot for kernel updates and periodic planned tests of booting.

If a Linux system needs frequent rebooting, the instability needs investigation and fixing, not working around.

Unlike Windows, Linux does not have immutable vendor imposed problems.

Linux has clarity. Everything gets logged. Config files reside in etc or in the user folder. You can read them. Scripts get written in readable high level languages. Much of Linux system administration consists of investigation, reading documentation, then a few well chosen lines in the appropriate file.

Amateurs and newbies find this daunting. How do you know which file to modify? Read the documentation. How do you know which setting to change? Read the documentation. If you get it wrong, you can brick the system. Yup. RTFM remains the sage advice. Linux ships with a ton of installed documentation. Unix and BSD have come this way for decades. If you cannot understand technical documentation, you cannot administer Linux.

Windows fosters blind amateur experimentation, shots in the dark, even among supposed professionals.

Bringing Windows habits to Linux will result in unstable and insecure systems.

Those who come from BSD to Linux have considerable advantage compared to those who learnt the bad habits Windows has to teach.

Linux makes a nice stable desktop system, if you don’t tinker too much. If you want to download and try everything, you’ll get an unstable system no matter what os you use. Do you want a toy or a tool? I happily help with tools; I’ll have nothing to do with toys.

Linux excels as a server. But like any server, treats amateurs rather harshly.


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