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I wish I was still a student

Tonight I’m not going to write anything technical, I don’t really feel the mood for it. I spent the whole day with a huge headache trying to understand how to best complete my task for my current job (it’s not nice to have to work without full specifications at hand), and I’m really out of my energy.

I guess my problem is that last year, with my whole health situation, I’ve sent a lot of time researching, rather than working on software, to the point that my mind now is filled with stuff like packages that have issues, ways to identify issues in packages, common patterns in problems, tricks and other details that I could make use to write documentation, or to improve software in general. But I don’t have time to apply them, and they keep getting at me during the night stopping me from sleeping properly. It’s detrimental to my health too.

I have to decide that I don’t want to do some things, I have to decide that some things are out of my scope, and I have to decide that others will have to fix issues. Unfortunately, often enough it turns out that nobody else is interested in those things and either I handle them myself or they’ll be left lingering, which I don’t like at all.

Does anybody have a solution?

I’ve been trying to spread the word about issues, and see if someone else would like to pick them up but I received very little feedback up to now. Even all the bugs I filed about bundled libraries, just a few were handled directly, a lot were just forwarded upstream and the issue will likely stay there for a very long time. I’ve also sent patches around to fix the AC_CANONICAL_TARGET problem, but after the most common projects picked them up, I started to hit difficulties on preparing and submitting them. A lot of projects, even well known like ImageMagick or OpenVPN have some issues with making it clear where the source repositories are and were to submit patches; their mailing lists reject messages coming from non-subscribers, the former lacks a bug tracker as far as I can see, while the latter uses the nasty SourceForge one.

Is this going to help? I’m afraid not. Even though I’ve been doing this, I really don’t count on the voice to be spread by itself, although hopefully some people might learn from the examples I’m trying to set around.

Since I started using Remember The Milk, I kept on adding tasks, and rarely have been able to complete more than a couple a week. Even the most trivial ones. I kept adding topics for the blog to write, but what you’ve read up to now has rarely been fished out of that topic pool, but rather written out of what new topics I kept thinking of before going to sleep or while eating meals.

Then there is the software I’d like to fix issues with, or improve: xine, FFmpeg, Ruby-Elf, libcdio, xdg-utils (so I can package the newer versions of Calibre), … having found some interest in OpenMP does not help because now I’d like to make use of it, and I just don’t have time.

I really don’t know how much I can proceed this way without having a nervous breakdown.

Comments 5
  1. Just take a break man. Take a vacation. Take a long one if you need to. Obviously you’ll have to look at technical stuff at work, but when you’re done with work, do anything but that. Watch some anime, go for a hike, take up a new hobby (I’m trying to get into astronomy myself). Take a leave of absence from gentoo if you have to. Hopefully when you’ve taken a long enough break, you’ll come to realize that you can’t solve all these problems by yourself, and some problems will just never get solved, and that’s OK.

  2. What Jim said.And drop by the asylum sometime; #friendly-coders was setup specifically to avoid burnout, which is what you’re going through. (you might even learn something;)Kudos for all the good work; I’m going to link to your Parallel World series from our make forum (tho our site is well buggy, so it might change from drupal/provider if we have to.)

  3. You really need to learn not to take on too many projects at once. Its been a few times since I have followed your blog that you have gone through this.You start on one little thing which leads to another and another and another till your supporting some monstrous chain of software.I highly respect your efforts at improving software quality across the open source spectrum but you need to limit yourself a bit more or you’ll burn out. Your only one man you can’t do everything.

  4. A lot of our devs don’t read the planet. Perhaps you should try posting some of your discoveries to gentoo-dev to reach everyone, and spend some time trying to motivate others about why these problems matter.

  5. I don’t have a solution or pretend to know what one is. But I will add that the great work you’ve done in the past _is_ noticed and appreciated.You write:bq. I have to decide that I don’t want to do some things, I have to decide that some things are out of my scope, and I have to decide that others will have to fix issues. Unfortunately, often enough it turns out that nobody else is interested in those things and either I handle them myself or they’ll be left lingering, which I don’t like at all.If it is any consolation, I too notice similar things. Here’s one an example. “Back in 2003”:… I suggested someone write a debugger for GNU Make or M4. No response whatsoever. So “a year later”:… I undertook doing this for GNU Make. In retrospect, it was easier to do than writing a “debugger for bash”: Was it something only I was interested in? Probably not, given that it’s since been downloaded in source form “2,751 times”:…(Since it’s also available via “Debian”:… and “Gentoo”:… this number might not reflect how many times it is installed. On the other hand, just because something is downloaded it doesn’t mean that is _used_.)To date though, there still isn’t any debugging that I am aware of for M4. (However I find the lack of one for M4 less critical.)In general, the more competent and capable one is, the more things one will find that are lacking and the more one will understand how to address these deficiencies. And without a doubt, you are more than just competent and capable. But yes, we all are after all humans and life is fragile. So there will always be the day-to-day conflict between what one imagines, hopes for, and wants — and daily needs such as earning enough to survive.And being a genius doesn’t automatically confer having an easy life or finding easy livelihood. Consider the life of Mozart or Van Gough. If you look at Van Gough’s letters, he suffered not dissimilar anxiety and frustration.So in sum, to paraphrase from the character of Septimus Hodge to Tomasina in Tom Stoppard’s play “Arcadia” (with regard to her outrage and disgust in the destruction of the wealth of information in Egyption library at Alexandria by the Romans): the best we can do is take stock in what we _do_ have and be grateful for that. The irony here being that Septimus is driven mad trying to complete some Tomasina’s fractal calculations in a world before there were computers. So again, let me offer thanks and gratitude for all of your great work.

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