Fedora, good and bad

In the past few days, since I’ve been spending time at my sister’s house, I’ve used as single system the laptop I bought a few months ago, with runs Fedora 11. This has been my first time, since I started working in Gentoo, that I had to work with just a laptop (if you exclude the hospitalisations) and especially the first time since I started using Gentoo that I had to work with just another Linux distribution.

Indeed, with the already noted exceptions, the last time I had to work with just a laptop was when Defiant (the box I had before Enterprise) died and I had to replace it (with Enterprise); at the time I was limited at working with the iBook G4 and, I think, Tiger (or Panther, I don’t remember to be honest). Luckily the work that I had to do at the time (translating Ian Sommerville’s Software Engineering 7th Edition to Italian) didn’t require me much more and it worked out quite fine with just that laptop.

But still, up to a few months ago all my laptops has been Apple and mostly using Mac OS X (even though I had Gentoo installed in both for a time). Now instead I have a laptop running Fedora; I have also to say that since I started using Gentoo, any other distribution has just been something to try out but never something used on a daily basis, up to now at least.

Now I have to say, I’m not really feeling extremely out of place in Fedora either. The system works mostly well although there are a few things that, I think, Gentoo gets better. The most obvious one is the gstreamer plugins: they are not split at all, they are a single package for each source tarball; this means that if you need, for instance, the plugin to play aac files, you also have to get the one that plays sid files, and that in turn requires you to install the libsidplay library. I guess the USE flag concept here works much better.

Almost all software that I need is one of the repositories, either the official ones or RPM fusion with the exception of the libdvdcss library that has to be found on ATrpms. Even Emacs 23 is now available on the updates, and that makes it much much nicer to use Fedora as development box for me: I cannot stand the graphical interface in Emacs 22.

Interestingly enough, Random mode works here with Rhythmbox, I have to check whether it was fixed upstream and thus fixed in Gentoo as well. It still does not seem to check the “skip when playing random” flag that iTunes add to the files, but I guess either I or someone else can fix that up one day (so that I wouldn’t get BBC Radio shows to play when I’m expecting music!). I also had the pleasure to see that connecting my iPod to the laptop, Rhythmbox is able to play the music from it like it was an external hard drive (using the tags without having to copy and rename the files), which has come very useful to play my music without having to use the earphones.

Connectivity hasn’t been an enormous issue, although it wasn’t a cakewalk either: at least in Fedora 11, NetworkManager does not support Bluetooth DUN (Dial-Up Networking) which means that I cannot use my phone over bluetooth (which would have allowed to leave the phone upstairs, where H3G network is reachable, and move the laptop downstairs), but I have to use the provided cable. This was of course after I updated enough packages so that they didn’t segfault on me while trying to configure the connection. By the way, I have to find out who “owns” the list of providers’ data: the Italian H3G options are only valid for the consumer-side, not the business-side that I use.

The one thing that actually upset me quite a bit, though, was related to the Mono development tools handling in Fedora: while the mono package comes with the mcs compiler, it doesn’t bring in all the development tools. And, at the same time, MonoDevelop does not depend on the mono-devel package with the remaining tools. I installed most of that stuff before coming here (because I didn’t want to use too much traffic from my almost-flatrate), but when I imported an external project into my main one (the vCard library I might have to hack on) it failed to rebuild the project because it was lacking the resource compiler. This really sounds strange to me!

Also, Pidgin here seems to crash much more than on Gentoo (and there goes the theory that Gentoo’s CFLAGS handling makes software crash). And I’m not even using OTR! And the keypad toggle button didn’t work by default, I had to use xbindkeys and a custom script calling synclient (upon Eva’s suggestions) to make it work, and I needed it badly because writing a long text minding the touchpad is quite hard; if anybody wish to send me something useful, order for me an Apple bluetooth keyboard, with US layout, and you’ll make me quite happy, and more productive as well!

All in all, it doesn’t look too bad, although it could use some extra polishing I guess; I’ll see how it goes with Fedora 12, once it’s released (given it’s now in Alpha it shouldn’t be too long). Unfortunately, the one thing that I was hoping for in 11 (the nouveau driver for nVidia cards) didn’t really work here…

I’m losing motivation

As the title says, I’m losing motivation to work on Free Software.

Why? Well, there are lots of factors, some depending on what happened to me this summer, some just general tiredness, and then there’s the Free Software environment as a whole.

So the great news of these days is that TrollTech released Phonon backends, for all the three operating systems they care to suppot (Linux, OSX and Windows.. the fact that Qt and KDE are available for FreeBSD, NetBSD and other Unix-like Free Software operating systems is often ignored, but let’s say that the Linux support is some kind of UNIX support, even if it’s not always true). Of course, they can’t use GPL backends for those, as they’d be unable to use them with their commercial Qt releases, so instead of contributing to the development of Phonon-xine (and maybe xine itself), they just decided to go with GStreamer.

I don’t like GStreamer, and I never tried to hide that; I don’t like the architecture, the complexity, but less of all I like the way Fluendo makes money from Free Software users thanks to the whole software patents idea.

Why should this change anything for Phonon-xine? It’s still the main backend for kdelibs (for now), but you all know how the binary distributions don’t like to risk with software patents, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they all would just ignore the presence of Phonon-xine and decide to go with the GStreamer backend by default.

So I’m losing motivation, because I see politics and money talking more than users lately, and I don’t really like this (and I like it even less when the same persons who think this is just fine criticise the proprietary software developers for doing… well just the same; you can expect that developers focusing on proprietary solutions would like to make the money talk (and get money), just as they plan, but if you define yourself a free software developer, or even worse a free software advocate, and you’re easy to give up users’ rights for politics, then you’re just an hypocrite – and no I’m not referring to anyone in particular, just a generic idea I see around).

I’ll probably just resign as a xine developer soon (while of course keeping the tracker available, now that it’s up); I’m also considering just looking for a different kind of job area I can take, selling off the devboxes, buying an iMac and use the computer just to surf when I have nothing else to do, and to listen to music. As it is I’m wasting my time and my life on stuff that just doesn’t matter for anyone anyway.