[lug] distribution favorites?

Nate Duehr nate at natetech.com
Sun Nov 12 23:44:44 MST 2006

I was typing up a long reply to all the points, because I find many of 
these things a lot of fun to talk about -- not being much of a software 
developer but having worked on the receiving end (technical support) of 
both good and bad software for most of my adult life, I (think) I have a 
unique perspective, as do you.

I have contended for years that so-called Software Engineers don't play 
by the same rules that Civil, Chemical, Structural, Electrical, and 
other Engineers live by -- the industry just barely makes a half-hearted 
effort at it.  What I mean is, the creativity and drive are there of 
other Engineers, but the discipline isn't.

It shows in the fact that open-source software blows away the 
functionality and features of most "Engineered" code from most businesses.

But I'd be remiss if I didn't reply to this part:

>> I think it says a lot that you don't see people spinning off new (sane 
>> and popular) distros from Fedora.  Every once in a while you see it, but 
> As a company who spent a large portion of it's 10+ years in the Linux
> business doing a Fedora-based distribution, I might disagree.  :-)

Hmm, I forgot you have a distro!  OOOPS!  Dumb me.  :-)  And yours is 
known as a good stable one too!  And you sell it!  You know that's a 
mighty impressive feat no matter how you slice it.

I met an old retired engineer this weekend.  He had a nice house in the 
mountains, four radio towers, his own homebuilt pipe organ, three or 
four more satellite dish mounts including a home-grown 9' dish that 
could track from horizon to horizon both horizontally and vertically 
without needing to spin around, complete with computer controlled 
tracking, his own observatory, complete with rotating top like you see 
in the time-lapse photos of the big ones, and a 4' x 4' trailer with a 
similar dish mount to the one in the yard.  One whole wall in his 
basement was filled with trophies from his model airplane flying days. 
The garage had the biggest most bad-ass potato launchers I've ever seen 
anywhere (remember, this guy is pushing 80 years old...), the entire 
basement was a workshop and an electronics manufacturing and test 
facility -- complete with multiple computers, and every engineering 
design book I've ever seen on a bookshelf anywhere, either sitting open 
with notes in it, or one of the numerous bookshelves.  A full 
metal-working shop was tucked back in a corner.  Another corner was 
shelves of nothing but test gear.

He proudly showed us all of these projects, and all the while kept 
repeating one phrase over and over as an after-thought on each of them:

"It's not perfect yet."

We sure could use more of his type in Software Engineering!

When I see so-called top-level networking engineer with the title "Cisco 
Certified Internetworking EXPERT" (CCIE) who has no idea what a VOLTAGE 
is, how to measure it, no motivation to understand it, or why laying an 
Ethernet cable over the top of a fluorescent light fixture might 
inductively couple that cable to the electrical noise inherent in the 
fixture's ballasts and tubes... Something's wrong.  I'm no BSEE, but I 
can figure that out.

When you have to explain what analog to digital conversions via sampling 
are, and how Nyquist's theorem affects the sample speed of a typical 
telecommunications circuit carrying analog voice to people who've worked 
on them for over a decade... and why any CODEC below the critical number 
for the sample rate vs. the desired analog result is lossy by 
definition... Something's wrong.  I'm no software DSP engineer, but I 
can figure that out.

With the U.S. having dropped from #1 in Engineering students to #5 in 
the last decade, and still dropping like a stone, I think our priorities 
have shifted so badly we're not going back to an attitude like this guy 
grew up in, and lived in his Engineering career for a very long time.

Did I mention he had a PhD in Engineering?  How many modern PhD's have 
you met that couldn't screw a lightbulb into a socket (or change the oil 
in their car) without instructions, only one generation later?

When phrases like, "I'd like to see my (grand)kids walk on Mars." bring 
rolled eyes from so-called "normal" people in the room, who have no 
vision or insight into how the human psyche is energized by exploration 
or even watching others explore...

I'm not sure what it all means, but I definitely don't like the looks of 
it.  The only good news for me is, as long as so-called Software 
Engineers keep cranking out the bugs, I'll always have work to do!


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