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Linux: Not for (Married) Lovers?

By Katherine Noyes
Jun 13, 2011 5:00 AM PT

You just never know on any given day what's waiting for you in the Linux blogosphere.

Linux: Not for (Married) Lovers?

Some days, it's fresh, awesome news of FOSS' growing mainstream acceptance. Other days, well, it's not.

Take last Thursday. Linux Girl was scouting around the blogosphere, as per usual, listening in on thread after thread of current discussion. Amid all the well-worn topics that have already been picked apart ad nauseum, however, one jumped out.

"Linux is only for bachelors," the blog post's title proclaimed.

A double-take or two later, Linux Girl was in the thick of it, knee-deep in reasons why marriage and our favorite operating system just aren't compatible.

Sound reasonable to you? Linux Girl didn't think so, either.

'The Documentation Was Useless'

"This morning, my Scientific Linux Virtual box guest developed a serious case of clock slew," began the post on Sam Trenholme's Web page. "After some research, and trying all four possible timing sources (see /sys/devices/system/clocksource/clocksource0/available_clocksource), having to reboot the Virtual guest every time I tried a different clock source, I finally came to the conclusion that the only way I am going to get a stable clock in Scientific Linux again is by upgrading to Scientific Linux 6."

With that disaster settled, "I then started to research why fontconfig wasn't accepting a perfectly good BDF font file I created in Fontforge and gbdfed," the post went on. "The documentation was useless, and like a good open-source program, the various fontconfig commands (fc-cache, etc.) didn't log any error messages whatsoever."

All in all, it read like a geek's version of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day -- but with a surprise ending.

'I'm a Married Man'

Rather than chalking it up as just that -- a bad day -- Trenholme jumped to what's nothing if not a shocking conclusion.

"The bottom line is this: I'm a married man today," he wrote. "I really don't have time to struggle with poorly documented programs which don't give out helpful error messages and require source-level hacking to figure out what the !@#$ is going on.

"There is a reason why Windows, not Linux, is my primary desktop OS," Trenholme added.

Linux Girl thought she could hear the angels weep a little upon reading that last line -- or they might have been laughing; she wasn't sure.

Either way, such quiet utterances were soon drowned out by the hooves of the herds of Linux bloggers, galloping forth at top speed to have their say.

'The Exact Opposite'

"I dropped windows during my first year of marriage due to the frustration of dealing with drive by malware and related junk," countered theboomboomcars among the nearly 70 responses on LXer, for example.

"For the last 6 years or so I haven't had to deal with problems that wouldn't get fixed no matter what I did, short of re-installation," theboomboomcars added. "The aggravation I put up with during the first six months of my marriage from windows was far more than all the remaining years from linux. So I would say that my experience is the exact opposite of this guy."

Alternatively, "why the heck is this guy using Scientific Linux when, from the tone of the blog item, it's way over his head?" wondered lcafiero. "It sounds like trolling to me."

Then again: " mean its Linux's fault I'm a Bachelor?!?!" exclaimed Scott_Ruecker.

'What a Nut'

Linux Girl couldn't wait to hear the thoughts of her regular barmates down at the blogosphere's Punchy Penguin Saloon. She wasn't disappointed.

"What a nut," began consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack. "It's very strange to me that he has enough time to create his own fonts but not enough time to file bug reports to the font maintainers.

"As for his clock skew: how does he know it wasn't the host's fault?" Mack mused. "And his fix was wrong, since NTP would have been the correct fix."

'Problems Never Seen by Other Humans'

"Bachelors are not the only ones who can use GNU/Linux desktops," blogger Robert Pogson pointed out. "I have had students from grade 1 to 12 use it just fine. None of them needed to configure the clock..."

Trenholme's article, in fact, "is an example of the trolls who visit my blog with some obscure problem never seen by other humans," Pogson asserted. "I have used NTP to sync clocks on PCs and servers for years and never had a problem. I can have 100 PCs ticking over better than Swiss watches."

Of course, "running GNU/Linux in a virtual machine of that other OS is pretty silly; run GNU/Linux as the host and VMs will be smoother," Pogson suggested.

'Good News, Bad News'

Indeed, "this sounds like one of those 'good news, bad news' jokes," began Barbara Hudson, a blogger on Slashdot who goes by "Tom" on the site.

"First, we have some good news: If you're in the market for a single guy, he's more likely to be using linux 'because linux is for bachelors,'" Hudson explained.

"The bad news? He's a Windows user at heart," she added.

"Now for some more good news: He claims he uses Windows so he can spend more time with you," Hudson continued. "More bad news: He prefers Windows because upgrading linux is 'so hard.'"

Bottom line? "We've seen this movie before," Hudson concluded. "The more things change, the more they stay the same."

'My Wife Hates Both Equally'

"My wife hates both Linux and Windows equally," offered Chris Travers, a Slashdot blogger who works on the LedgerSMB project. "When Linux works well, she swears by it. When it doesn't work, she hates it."

What that means, though, "is that once I get things set up, she is far happier with it than with Windows on the whole," Travers explained.

Slashdot blogger and Windows fan hairyfeet, however, could relate to Trenholme's story.

'Windows Beats It Hands Down'

"A wise man once said, 'Linux is free if your time is worth nothing,' and that article is a perfect illustration of that, as well as my personal story with Linux," hairyfeet told Linux Girl.

"The simple fact is the good Mr Trenholme is right," hairyfeet asserted. "Linux 'works' if you have infinite time to fiddle with it. For those of us where time is money, or who just want our machines to 'just work'? Then Windows beats it hands down."

'The Black Hole That Sucks Up My Time'

Slashdot blogger yagu wasn't so sure.

"I think there's an interesting point to be made about the demands put on IT experts, but I don't think it's much about Linux," yagu told Linux Girl. "In fact, Trenholme's thesis rings more true for me had he substituted 'Windows' or 'Microsoft' in Linux's place."

The need to spend time or energy running down problems "in buggy and poorly documented technology happens in Linux, it happens in Windows," yagu pointed out. "My experience skews Microsoft as the black hole that sucks up my time tracking down problems."

Either way, "whether it's Linux or any other platform that makes one need to be a bachelor(ette), it's time for that person to take a second look at their work-personal life balance equation," yagu concluded. "The issue isn't how much technology demands, it's how much one is willing to surrender to those demands."

Is "too much screen time" really a problem?
Yes -- smartphone addiction is ruining relationships.
Yes -- but primarily due to parents' failure to regulate kids' use.
Possibly -- long-term effects on health are not yet known.
Not really -- lack of self-discipline and good judgement are the problems.
No -- angst over "screen time" is just the latest overreaction to technology.
No -- what matters is the quality of content, not the time spent viewing it.