You know the type. The technical reporter that tries to do something on GNU/Linux, cannot figure it out and thus states to the planet the equivalent of Chicken Little saying, “The sky is falling!”, regarding GNU/Linux. We see them over and over coming back to the same point, “Until ‘Linux’ solves [insert the technical reporter's failure to do something here], it won’t be ready for prime time.” What a crock of compost.
In this case the technical reporter in question is Preston Gralla over at Computerworld Blogs. Specifically his recent article I just finished reading titled, Installing Firefox 3.6: One more reason Linux isn’t ready for the prime-time mass market. The problem here is that Mr. Gralla and those like him seem to think it is absolutely necessary to have the latest release of [insert software here] on [insert Linux distribution here]. When that is absolutely not the case in the majority of situations.
I run Mandriva 2010 at the moment on my desktop system here at the ERACC Intergalactic Spaceport and Karaoke Bar, otherwise known as my home office. I have been running releases of Mandriva for several years now. At first I too wanted to always have the latest, cutting edge release of every package out there. After a while I came to understand that if Mandriva package maintainers saw that a patch was necessary for an application I run then they would patch the version in the distribution and release the patched version in the update repository. If there were a new version of a software application that had security implications for a desktop user, then after testing the new version it would be included as an update for the life of that desktop release, usually 12 to 18 months. Long term desktop releases would get these updates if needed for their lifetime as well, usually 3 years. Then the next time I install updates I get the patched or new version.
I have come to appreciate and accept this. After all, it is highly unlikely that a zero day exploit would be found that could crack my Mandriva system from a user-space application, like we see happen so often on Microsoft systems. The default security in a GNU/Linux system makes creating a zero day exploit that can “pwn” a GNU/Linux desktop system slightly less difficult than a single person being the first to find the next Mersenne Prime with pencil, paper and an abacus. Is it possible? Maybe, by a long shot. Is it likely? Not really. As a result, I can just be patient and wait for the new or patched software to appear in my update list. If I really want to be on the cutting edge, along with all the problems that may imply, I can install Mandriva’s Cooker version. This is the untested, it may break, it may slap you around with a large trout, developer version of Mandriva. Not recommended for the faint of heart and those who like their system to “just work”. Or I can go with a distribution like Gentoo Linux.
Honestly, I do not really want to be on the cutting edge. I want stable, known to be working with my distribution, software packages. For that I can wait for the updates or the next major Mandriva release. Regarding Firefox versions, I just updated to Firefox 3.5.7 a week or two ago using Mandriva’s updates. I do not see a pressing need to get Firefox 3.6 Right Now. I can wait for it. Mr. Gralla and his ilk can too, once they figure out how this GNU/Linux thing really works. Of course they can also stick with Microsoft and keep getting “pwned” with web based drive-by exploits that take advantage of Microsoft’s poor design decisions.
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