I love Jeff Atwood’s blog, and can even accept that he’s drank of the Microsoft Kool-Aid seemingly for both desktop and server because he’s a great writer and a great programmer.
But I admit to being troubled by his recent post. I might think it to be an April Fool’s Day joke, except the post is dated 31 March 2008. After quoting a couple of Linux upgrade horror stories from a software-engineer-turned-club-owner, he concludes:
I can’t fault Jamie’s approach. A clean install of an operating system on a new hard drive — for kiosks running controlled hardware, no less — that’s as good as it gets.
Apparently, Linux is so complex that even a world class software engineer can’t always get it to work.
I find it highly disturbing that a software engineer of Jamie’s caliber would give up on upgrading software. Jamie lives and breathes Linux. It is his platform of choice. If he throws in the towel on Linux upgrades, then what possible hope do us mere mortals have?
I see a couple of mistaken assumptions here. The first is that kiosks are a simple platform for Linux to work on. In fact, I have no idea what hardware is in these kiosks, and have no idea if there are proprietary hardware bits in them that aren’t supported well in Linux. The second poor assumption is that the only necessary step here is simply installing the new O/S. In fact, the engineer does a lot of custom configuration to his kiosks, and it may be that which is causing the crashiness; or, it could be bad hardware. I simply don’t have enough information to know.
Atwood places the blame squarely on Linux’s “complexity.” If Linux was that awful, or if Windows was that great, why hasn’t Jamie simply gotten the kiosks to run Windows? I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing they might be just as crashy. And certainly more expensive.
Finally, as many commenters on Atwood’s entry have pointed out, a good software engineer != a good sysadmin. And using Fedora Core is not a good path to stability. And more importantly, that anecdotes from one guy, however smart, do not a comprehensive criticism make.