At times, aren't we just better off with plain text files which can be configured with a few simple keystrokes? Isn't that supposed to be one of the strengths of GNU/Linux?
I've just completed an exercise which should have been a cakewalk for me - considering that I went through the same thing just two years ago and actually documented everything for the benefit of anyone who intended to follow suit. But this time, it was excruciating. Something like pulling teeth.
I'm referring here to installing Debian on a relic of the dot-com bust, the Cobalt Qube. For a little over two years, I've used one of these little blue boxes as my server and it's come out with flying colours.
For the past six months, I've been looking around for a back-up box after I had to donate my existing back-up, a stock AMD box, to a friend. Luckily, a Cobalt Qube came up, free, on one of our local mailing lists and I managed to get hold of it before anyone else.
The Qube had a modified version of Red Hat on it, a very old one as it was manufactured in 1999; the kernel is from the 2.0 series and that is really ancient.
I thought it would be a breeze to install Debian on my new acquisition. After all, this was round two - and I had all the necessary documentation at hand.
But I reckoned without GNOME. When one makes the choice of installing the software set designated "Desktop", in Debian, one automatically pulls in all the crud from GNOME. The dependency web is truly terrible.
Then maybe I am the idiot - I should have opted to individually select packages. But then, like the average punter, I was in a hurry to get this installation done so I took the easy route.
Installing anything on the Cobalt Qube can only be done over the network as it is a headless box. There is a bit of fiddling involved but for the most part it is quite easy. You have all the tools ready and available with any Linux distribution - a DHCP server, an NFS server, and the other bits and pieces to do this and that.
The problem arises when one has a lot of new-fangled applications installed - things like GNOME's NetworkManager which claims it "attempts to make networking invisible." I have never encountered such an intrusive application. It reminds me of the way in which some Microsoft applications behave.
You simply cannot use any standard tools like ifconfig when this piece of crap is installed - it helpfully changes everything you've done and leaves you wondering what the hell is going on.
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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.