Has modern Linux lost its way? (Some thoughts on jessie)

For years, I used to run Debian sid (unstable) on all my personal machines. Laptops, workstations, sometimes even my personal servers years ago ran sid. Sid was, as its name implies, unstable. Sometimes things broke. But it wasn’t a big deal, because I could always get in there and fix it fairly quickly, whatever it was. It was the price I paid for the latest and greatest.

For the last number of months, I’ve dealt with a small but annoying issue in jessie: None of Nautilus, Thunar, or digikam (yes, that represents Gnome, XFCE, and KDE) can mount USB drives I plug in anymore. I just get “Not authorized to perform operation.” I can, of course, still mount -o uid=1000 /dev/sdc1 /mnt, but I miss the convenience of doing it this way.

One jessie system I switched to systemd specifically to get around this problem. It worked, but I don’t know why. I haven’t had the time to switch my workstation, and frankly I am concerned about it.

Here’s the crux of the issue: I don’t even know where to start looking. I’ve googled this issue, and found all sorts of answers pointing to polkit, or dbus, or systemd-shim, or cgmanager, or lightdm, or XFCE, or… I found a bug report of this exact problem — Debian #760281, but it’s marked fixed, and nobody replied to my comment that I’m still seeing it.

Nowhere is it documented that a Digikam mounting issue should have me looking in polkit, let alone cgmanager. And even once I find those packages, their documentation suffers from Bad Unix Documentation Disease: talking about the nitty-gritty weeds view of something, without bothering to put it in context. Here is the mystifying heading for the cgmanager(8) manpage:

cgmanager is a daemon to manage cgroups. Programs and users can make D-Bus requests to administer cgroups over which they have privilege. To ensure that users may not exceed their privilege in manipulating cgroups, the cgroup manager accepts regular D-Bus requests only from tasks within its own process-id and user namespaces. For tasks in private namespaces (such as containers), SCM-enhanced D-Bus calls are available. Using these manually is not recommended. Rather, each container is advised to run a cgproxy, which will forward plain D-Bus requests as SCM-enhanced D-Bus requests to the host cgmanager.

That’s about as comprehensible as Vogon poetry to me. How is cgmanager started? What does “SCM-enhanced” mean? And I even know what a cgroup is.

This has been going on for months, which has me also wondering: is it only me? (Google certainly suggests it’s not, and there are plenty of hits for this exact problem with many distros, and some truly terrible advice out there to boot.) And if not, why is something so basic and obvious festering for so long? Have we built something that’s too complex to understand and debug?

This is, in my mind, orthogonal to the systemd question. I used to be able to say Linux was clean, logical, well put-together, and organized. I can’t really say this anymore. Users and groups are not really determinitive for permissions, now that we have things like polkit running around. (Yes, by the way, I am a member of plugdev.) Error messages are unhelpful (WHY was I not authorized?) and logs are nowhere to be found. Traditionally, one could twiddle who could mount devices via /etc/fstab lines and perhaps some sudo rules. Granted, you had to know where to look, but when you did, it was simple; only two pieces to fit together. I’ve even spent time figuring out where to look and STILL have no idea what to do.

systemd may help with some of this, and may hurt with some of it; but I see the problem more of an attitude of desktop environments to add features fast without really thinking of the implications. There is something to be said for slower progress if the result is higher quality.

Then as I was writing this, of course, my laptop started insisting that it needed the root password to suspend when I close the lid. And it’s running systemd. There’s another quagmire…

Update: Part 2 with some reactions to this and further thoughts is now available.

128 thoughts on “Has modern Linux lost its way? (Some thoughts on jessie)

  1. You’re not alone.

    I’m facing the exact same problems(and many more) for months and my only way to keep a barely usable Debian testing/unstable system is to keep a bunch of pinned packages, more than 50 (xinit, gvfs, policykit, udev, X, mesa, intel video driver, etc). There is so many nearly unusable apps in testing/unstable that I can’t think that Debian is about to be released in that state. Evince since its port to GTK3 is a pretty good example, an absolute unusable/unstable nonsense. The same goes for many apps ported to GTK3 and even GTK3 it self. Midori, not updated since more than two years should be considered a serious security concern and removed from the Debian repository.

    I will not list all of them here, but all I can say is that I use Debian testing/unstable on my desktop since nearly 12 years and this is the first time I seriously consider exploring something else.

    1. Try FreeBSD. You get most of the benefits of Debian, including excellent package management support, without the recent stupidity that has basically ruined the usability and reliability of Debian.

      The FreeBSD community has their priorities straight, so I think the risk of them doing what Debian has done lately is next to nil.

      Switching from Debian to FreeBSD is one of the best things I’ve done lately. I sometimes wish I had done it sooner!

      1. The last time I tried BSD it set the hwclock to localtime. This is nuts. It means BSD does not play well with other unices. There’s a long-time bugreport for this, no action.

      2. FreeBSD/OpenBSD is no option for me.

        I don’t want to go thru a text installer to try them out, I want a live-cd with a gui!

        That’s why I tried PC-BSD, but none of my machines booted with them to the desktop.

        So I would say the BSD hardware support is far worse then the Linux hardware support.

        And if that is not changing, and I don’t see that, the adopting rate of BSD will stick to nearly 0.

    2. How about reporting these issues as bugs, then? Your experience is not universal; most people I talk to don’t see such problems and the current list of rc-bugs in Jessie doesn’t seem to list anything similar to what you describe. If the developers don’t know about these things, they can’t work on fixing them. Measured by open bugs, Jessie is in a quite good state.
      The release will happen when there are no more open rc bugs. So if you don’t want Jessie to be released in its current state, you simply have to report the bugs you experience and present the reasons why you think that they should be classified as release critical.

      BTW: Upstream Evince has used GTK3 since version 3.0 released in April 2011, and in Debian since Wheezy. So if the GTK3-transition is the cause of your problems, they have existed for quite a long time already.

      1. There has been some activity on the bug I linked, and I’ve reopened it.

        This problem does not exist only in Debian (a simple Google will show that). But a large part of the problem is nobody even knows where to submit the bug. Look at that bug I linked. **7** bugs were merged together. They were reported against 6 different packages! And some of them took a rather circuitous route before being merged, too. Users don’t know what’s going on, and many devs don’t either. This is not a slam on users or devs, but a commentary on the excessive complexity of the system.

        1. John, yes probably I should have been clearer: My comment was meant as a response to tibrin’s earlier comment. I know that your problem is (or at least has been) a known bug, but tibrin’s probably aren’t.

          Sorry for the confusion.

        2. I’m experiencing this right now. I’m trying to build a pretty popular package and it’s giving me a generic error. Do I report a bug against the package? Against Bitbake? Is it a problem with Yocto? OpenEmbedded? Is it my configuration? Is it in one of the dependencies for the package? Is it in one of the dependency’s dependencies? Is it my firewall? Is it a problem at git? Is it a problem with the compiler. I haven’t got the foggiest idea *who* to report a bug to.

        3. I do agree with overall disappointment. I am a big linux fan, but my frustration is increasing with time.
          I see far too many new features introduced while old problems persist.
          – stupid gui transitions trying to mimic windows robustness (fading in/out) which only slows slow things more. Disabling them is a challenge.
          – desktop crashing (for instance, one application crashes and all you see will be background only)
          – autostart complicated (each desktop has own configuration files)
          – mounting usb is broken, permission errors and other unknown problems. I recently use windows only to format my usb sticks, becase linux can’t cope with it and I end up with unusable usb stick most of the time.

          All I want to say is this
          There is no quality. Only “it works for me”.

      2. @alex

        If I had the delicacy to mention that I use Debian testing/unstable exclusively for almost twelve years, this is to avoid having to respond to such comments.

        I already know how Debian and all the GNU/Linux ecosystem works, thank you!

        And bugs not considered RC by their respectives package maintainer, don’t make those apps more usable on a daily basis. Evince, xserver-xorg-video-intel and midori are three perfect examples of that and yes, all the issues about those apps that I have referred, have all been reported at least once if not more.

        Have a nice day.

    3. Midori has not been updated for more than three years in Debian, my mistake.


      I don’t know much about the different BSD OS and lack of time prevents me from putting the time needed for learning more about them. Maybe this summer.

      1. Maybe it should be enough to tell you that Firefox on FreeBSD is still at version 27 (everywhere else it is at 35). Since Mozilla releases a version each 6 weeks, this means that FreeBSD is 48 weeks late – almost a year. And this happens with most packages. On the other BSD’s it’s even worse. The conclusion: everything 3rd party (i.e. not BSD proper) takes ages to be included in the official repository. Why? Because everybody’s on Linux distributions, now. Shame, but the BSD world didn’t know how to play its card in the early ’90, and that’s when it lost – 20 years ago. It’s just that they still haven’t realised it yet. They are like zombies: dead, but they still think they are alive. Sad, really.

        1. A. you are obviously wrong. I don’t know if you did it on purpose, but the fact is, FreeBSD has a very updated userland tools:
          — FreeBSD 10.1
          % pkg search firefox

  2. Oh John, I feel your pain although not (yet) in a systemd world as my distro of choice is Slackware. Besides Gentoo and quite a few other distros, these are the solely reps of this ever growing strange world of elegance and simplicity Linux once was.

    Non systemd users and distros are quickly becoming a threat. The big bucks behind projects like systemd, pulseaudio, ahavi and, most recently, GNOME and KDE where very competent on training some great minds behind software development as puppets for their interests.

    For these companies, well guarded by their ‘developers army’ posing as ‘cool people’, users and distros who KISS are not profitable. This class of hateful people can think, fix their own problems and, most dangerous yet, do have and is willing to make a choice. As such, these bestial human beings must be silenced and ideologically forced to move toward those companies agenda, in the same sense Winston Smith did in 1984.

    IMHO, you did have a point in asking if ‘Has modern Linux lost its way?’ It’s indeed quite disappointing when your USB mounting issues is nowhere under the hood of your own knowledge (the one you already have or can freely acquire) and your CLI.

    1. Well, I use systemd daily at home and at work, with Arch Linux. Things are neither better nor worse than they used to be.
      The real problem is NOT systemd. The problem is the rising complexity of the system (for good reasons, I’m sure). I’ve had a problem with keyboard layout for months, and I don’t even know what program to send the bug against! Some talk on IRC was just met with “does not happen on my PC…”.

  3. You are not alone.

    I am also losing the battle against the growing complexity of my laptop running ArchLinux with systemd.

  4. I had a similar problem where I couldn’t import the photo from my phone to Shotwell. The error message told me that Shotwell wasn’t able to access th USB device (or something like that).

    After investigating, it seems that it was because when I plugged in my phone, Nautilus rushed to mount it and to give me access with the file Manager. But doing so blocks MTP access to my phone which is what Shotwell uses to access the photos.

    The solution: Unmount (or “eject”) my phone before trying to import my photos from Shotwell (and don’t forget to unlock your phone beforehand)

    I didn’t have any problem since then. Maybe you can try it.

    1. Why i have Thunar set up to not automagically mount anything, but still can get it to mount when clicking a removable storage device.

  5. I’ve the same issue on one machine as well. Interestinly it works on another one. But I also have no clue where to look. I’ve also already started to look through Debian Bugreports, but I also don’t get the connections between all the stuff involved (udisks, policykit, PAM, systemd-shim, …) sorted out, so I’m quite lost as well.

  6. The systemd and GNOME 3 communities (they’re pretty much one and the same) are the problem here. They’re killing the Debian project.

    Debian worked very well up until relatively recently, when systemd and GNOME 3 were forced upon us. It has been all down hill since then.

    Systemd needs to be removed from Debian immediately. GNOME 3 needs to be removed from Debian if it depends on systemd in a way that can’t be patched.

    I’ve already moved to FreeBSD, where this sort of nonsense just isn’t tolerated. I will never again consider Debian (and thus Linux, since Debian is the best of the Linux distributions) until systemd is permanently gone from it.

      1. I’m obviously not trolling, John. Instead of threats, how about you explain how I’m wrong, or how you disagree?

        I do hope that you do the right thing, and discuss this matter, rather than just deleting my comments.

        My Debian systems worked fine until systemd was pulled in during routine updates. After systemd was installed, their reliability totally dried up. Since I value reliability, my systems no longer run Debian.

        1. I removed your other comment that repeated your above troll.

          This post is not about the systemd decision. Hyperbolically stating things that are verifiably false (systemd being “forced” upon us) certainly seems like trolling to me. systemd was not my first choice either, but I have had way too much of people claiming systemd is the root of all evil, it’s dooming Debian, it’s been forced on people, etc. all over the Internet. Take it outside.

      2. It it really trolling though?

        There is a close connection between GNOME and systemd; they share many developers.

        These projects have effectively forced a large number of changes into Debian (and most other distributions). We can debate whether we should have pushed back on some of the changes, and of their individual merits and shortcomings, but that it has happened and that we collectively permitted it to happen is not in doubt.

        I’ve also mostly migrated to FreeBSD at this point, and it’s a welcome breath of fresh air. Not something I wanted to do after using and developing Debian for nearly 18 years now, but there has IME been a rather rapid and dramatic decline in the quality of testing and unstable over the last 18 months. The quality and robustness of the jessie release, particularly with regards to upgrades, is likely to be the poorest of all releases to date. I can’t help but feel that (to bring this back on topic) that this is due to the lack of focus and rapid code churn of these projects which have reduced the overall quality of the system as a whole, and that we were much better off when a single user, let alone developer, could comprehend how the system worked from the moment you pushed the power button. The myriad laters of nasty glue which run on a current system are overly complex, poorly specified, and constantly changing.

        1. Well, you didn’t see some of the comments I deleted — but I keep seeing all this “Debian shoved systemd down our throats” comments all over the net and this is not the forum for them. The troll/flamewars usually start similarly to that original comment.

          But, anyhow, I 100% agree that we are much better off when the system is understandable. I am both relieved and saddened to see that I am not alone in finding the modern Linux desktop incomprehensible.

          I do, however, find this “move to FreeBSD” approach a bit puzzling; isn’t the same userland that’s in Linux coming there?

        2. Well, you have to have a DE in FreeBSD also, right? Isn’t it going to be fundamentally the same as in Linux? You want KDE, you get the same KDE; you want Gnome, you get the same Gnome? How is the FreeBSD userland different from apt-get install xfce or something in Debian?

        3. I should have been more precise. I know FreeBSD has a different init system, a different libc, different tar, etc. But if we’re talking the desktop environment, isn’t it pretty much the same?

        4. FreeBSD has GNOME, KDE, xfce, and MATE too. Desktops there often lag a good bit behind Linux. GNOME 2 didn’t go away in favor of GNOME 3 fully until last month.

          The center of the “forced to” argument is that systemd was made into a package level requirement for too many things in many Linux distributions. You can’t really excise systemd for another init systems without taking out a lot of previously unrelated software. That’s more of a packaging dependency issue than anything else though. And it doesn’t exist in FreeBSD’s packaging yet.

          What will be interesting is if GNOME starts depending on systemd specific APIs too, so that the desktop environment itself won’t work without it. That would put a serious problem into FreeBSD continuing to use it.

  7. I have used Debian for decades altogether. I am searching for many distros and cannot conclude a option. I don’t want systemd. the last I can tolerate is upstart or init-ng level sysvinit replacements. I’ve tested FreeBSD 7 years back and during that time, It was catching up with Linux with a long gap. I wonder, what are the real options that exists if ever Linux even though with GPL et al are gone for the monopolists?slackware is not a option so do Gentoo. I’ve installed a stage 2 gentoo long back. But, I need apt-get as I am spoon fed to use it for these many years. Really, Nothing meets my need of a simple, UNIX based distro with a good Desktop environment. Currently following deepin, elementary etc although they are newbish, something interesting overall. Else, FreeBSD.

    1. A lot has changed in the world of FreeBSD over the path 7 years. If you haven’t tried it since then, I think you should give FreeBSD 10 a shot. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how well it works as a desktop OS.

  8. > Here’s the crux of the issue: I don’t even know where to start looking.

    Talk to me about it. I run Arch on my laptop that lost the ability to play sound from the speakers, but just speakers since headphones work just fine when I plug them. Lost half of a day trying to figure this out already, and I am not even close to a solution that doesn’t end up as: install Ubuntu.

    1. I’ve been hunting the same on a Thinkpad T510 running Arch, it seems to be related to this power management issue going back into 2013 or so, and the new regression may have been between Kernel 3.17 and 3.18, but I’m not 100% convinced of that. My Windows partition now makes an ugly speaker power on click every time it makes a sound, so I suspect it’s really a problem with Lenovo’s firmware, but an update to that didn’t fix it.

      Sometimes I can get it to kick the speakers back on temporarily by doing a “hda-verb /dev/snd/hwC0D0 0x1f SET_POWER_STATE 0” as suggested in the old bug, but that hasn’t been working reliably recently.

  9. Mounting through a GUI in a well-defined system-wide manner has always been a pain. The way it worked changed every half- to two years. KDE had its way of doing things, gnome as well, and others probably as well. Some solutions worked by graphically sudoing, or having some esoteric daemon handling this, for which every desktop had its own frontend.

    Admitted some of these old “solutions” were flat layered, and logical and you could follow the indirection. But it was always different. To accommodate everybody something like udisk may seem daunting, but that’s the price of having something which needs to cater to everybody. On the other hand, no more fstab editing, no more root.

    So has it become worse? It depends, how you look at it.

  10. Using Debian unstable, I had a similar permission problem a while back, which after much confusion turned out to be related to my use of startx (which again was due to gdm3 being either confusing or broken for such a long time that I gave up on it).


    In general, I have noticed the same, that login managers, polkit, network-manager, systemd etc. have made some things a lot more complicated and difficult to track, but they do also each serve a good purpose. I wouldn’t yet say anyone has lost their way, but rather that we’re having some transitional trouble.

  11. I don’t know whether this is related but I recently had issues mounting a USB drive from KDE. The error message might have been similar – I don’t remember. I then discovered that there was an old entry in /etc/fstab for that device. Removing this entry fixed the problem. The bug” here was that the error message did not give me a pointer where to look for the problem.

  12. Try something along the lines of:

    cat >/etc/polkit-1/rules.d/99-usb-mounting.rules <<EOF
    polkit.addRule(function(action, subject) {
    if (action.id == "org.freedesktop.udisks2.filesystem-mount-system" &&
    return polkit.Result.YES;

    It seems that for some reason you don't get prompted for authentication when attempting the mount so this will always allow it. I have just gotten tired and used a generic "if the user is in the wheel group then allow everything".

    1. Interesting, I’ll have to keep that command around for once Polkit starts intruding on my own experience (so far I’ve mostly avoid the Gnome-camp stuff since I run Kubuntu on my desktops, so it’s generally a KDE+upstart stack).

    2. I had a problem with permission, and I tried this solution… and for me that wasn’t the solution. I’ve lost countless days/weeks to find a way to solve my problem and tried everything that I’ve found in internet a lost page from someone who had the solution that I needed… really a pain in the ass. Unfortunately I didn’t bookmarked it :-( but I know that these polkit, systemd, d-bus, c-groups, etc are not user friendly… and not even admin friendly in case of problem.

    3. AFAIK, Debian Jessie still uses an old version of polkit (<0.106) that doesn't store its configuration in Javascript. So this exact solution wouldn't work there (though it wouldn't be hard to convert it to the old pkla-format).

      1. Hmm, and I came here to say that Vorlon poetry was probably more obtuse, but you’ve already edited it :).

        I think that what you’re describing is accurate, but isn’t new. There has long been an idea in this community that when faced with a bug one can just “use the source, Luke” to track down and fix it, in the face of no good documentation. The difference is that now all the low-hanging bugs have been fixed :).

        1. Ugh, reminds me of seeing someone in all seriousness suggesting the use of strace to figure out what the bleep systemd was doing (or why it was failing to do something).

          Thanks, i’ll rather stick to my dumb as bricks shell script, thank you very much.

  13. Try kwort… http://www.kwort.org
    I created it for that same reason… It’s clean, fast and it works like the old school Unix…
    sysvinit, no polkit, no hald, no udiskd, or any of those things, want devices to be mounted? Ok, fstab or root and manual mount.

  14. I run jessie on everything including my servers. (4 laptops, 3 desktops and 2 servers)

    If you did this article before the deep freeze i would have agreed with you. it was a hell of problem getting things working; one of my laptops even stopped mounting CDs!

    But since maybe November i’ve upgraded/installed about 20+ pc’s with Jessie and haven’t had a single issue.

  15. Hi John,
    have you checked Debian bug #646795 (https://bugs.debian.org/cgi-bin/bugreport.cgi?bug=646795). I hit this when installing Jessie on my testing machine. After removing the mentioned entry in fstab everything worked for me. Beside this bug (which is obviously a bug in debian installer and not fixed properly since quite a time) Jessie works for me perfectly. I am more and more impressed how well things work out of the box by now :-) P.S. I am running stable on any of my production machines and try out testing now and then during the freeze.
    Regards and many many thanks to all DD and DM for making a great piece of technology!

    1. Forgot to mention: from a user perspective (my personal view), the debian bugtracker it is really complicated and confusing and I’ve never figured out how to use it efficiently. But I try my best!

  16. The current way of the desktop Linux is “get with the program. run Gnome 3 with Systemd and all will be fine”. Those who don’t agree with that are irrelevant.

  17. The world has also changed. Maybe what you see in systemd, polkit & co is just a response to that.

    Sudo gives root, and root gives unlimited access. That is not what we want in the systems and processes that are getting more and more complex. How to solve this is to have a matrix of actors (sets of users/processes/groups) and rights, and have a component that would cross-reference every request and decide to allow or deny it.

    Then you see the need for an event driven framework. If I see a usb stick, let’s mount it, if it contains photos, start shotwell. If it’s a mobile phone, start anoter app to sync up contact list and yet another for music playlist.

    In 2015, these are valid requirements from users.

    But wait, linux has UNIX’s rights management from the 70s. While it was groundbreaking in the 70s, good in the 00s, it’s obsolete today. But replacing it is a huge undertaking, with the fragmented nature of linux desktop as it is.

    I’m not surprised at all that moving to a refined rights management and event driven systems it a hard cookie to chew with most of linux desktop still in the 70s rights- and event-support-wise (dbus aside).

    But just as you’ve all put in a lot of effort to learn system5 init, sudo, /etc/passwd, later /etc/shadow, and a miriad of other little stuff you don’t even realize you know, please keep an open mind and learn what is now systemd, polkit and so. It’s a rough transition to a new world.

    1. Well I’ve no problem with that… but if you could tell me where to find the documentation to troubleshoot systemd, polkit, d-bus, … problems… I have no idea where to look, and there are no real documentation telling what to do, where to look, how to solve things…. If there is, I would be more that happy to read them!!!! But as the writer of this blog, I’ve spent an unimaginable lost of time looking why my networkmanager didn’t authorized me to start/stop a network connection… and that just after a Fedora upgrade… and after years of looking from time to time and testing all advices found in internet, I’ve found an obscure webpage somewhere that had the solution to my problem (it was around the page 15 or 16 in a google search…)

      So I agree basically with your comment, but as long as there is no way to solve problems, and the only answer you get is “just reinstall your system and it will work”… then Linux is dead for me (after using it since 1992).

    2. To be precise, sudo does not necessarily give root, and does not necessarily give a root shell. There are ways to be secure with sudoers. But let’s grant you that point for a moment.

      There are two questions here: is the concept a good one, and is the implementation a good one?

      A huge enemy of security and maintainability is complexity. Already we had UIDs, GIDs, ACLs, effective UIDs, etc. It was somewhat complex, but understandable for someone willing to put in the effort to learn. Now we get something more complex – where it gets very difficult to answer questions like “what user has access to this?” What’s more, it’s a solution in search of a problem. In wheezy, XFCE, Gnome, and KDE all mounted disks, connected the network, etc. just fine, even on a single system. I frankly don’t see the need.

      And now, the implementation. It’s a mess. An unmitigated disaster, even. When we have components that are important to mounting drives with a manpage as obtuse as the one I quoted in the post, or config files written in XML with obscure purposes, and few people understanding how the pieces fit together – this is not at all good.

  18. You are not alone, and I am using Fedora. Apparently Fedora is working with Systemd since a very long time… and it works, and there is no problem… well according to my experience… this is all BS. As soon as you want to upgrade from Fedora 16 -> 17 -> 18 -> 19 -> 20 … not yet tested with 21… now, my wifi doesn’t work anymore, suspend doesn’t work anymore, I was plagued with some error of permission because the system didn’t recognized the UID 1000… which is me… bummer. Until after months (at least 10-12 months) of googling and testing all answers without any success, I could find one guy who gave me exactly what I needed.

    I just want that the Linux developpers and companies behind Linux stops their stupid “enhancement” of Linux and just begin to THINK… just that. The EGO of some people are so big that it damages the whole community… I’m using Linux since 1992, and I’ve never had any problem to solve ANY problem I had… until all these polkit, systemd, d-bus, cgroups, etc… etc.. etc… Now even by looking at the so called documentation… I have absolutely NO clues where to look… Ok, I could look at the source code… but wait… why should I do that???

    Now I am not anymore suggesting my colleagues and friends and family to switch to linux, because of the current state.

    Thank you for this post, and I feel exactly the same as you, not since a mere month… but since years… :-(

  19. John, I too am feeling more helpless in the face of the increased complexity of our systems. I’ve run Sid for years and while I don’t have any glaring problems at the moment, save for systemd failing to shut down the machine after something has been updated, I really do not like the way things are headed. I’m a hands-on guy and don’t believe in wizardry and generally detest black boxes. My first hint of all of this was having to deal with udev rules some years ago. It has not gotten better since then.

    I have been following the discussion and look forward to the coming development of Devuan. I personally wish it would not have come to this, but I need to understand my systems. And no, for those that will reply to jump to *BSD, I am not prepared to do that. I’ve become familiar with the Linux kernel and GNU over the past 18 years and I’m not prepared to toss that knowledge overboard just yet. I also had a look at Guix, but in a similar manner I am loathe to learn a new packaging system and found the “store” somewhat confusing although the idea of being able to roll back a package intriguing, although that presumes that certain package won’t have bugs with a config file written by a newer version.

    At this time I am becoming more comfortable with the idea of a older/more stable/simpler system so long as security updates remain available. The only applications that would seem to need continuous updates are Web browsers and I don’t use the Debian offerings for those anyway.

    The past few years it seems as though I observed a lot of change for change’s sake coming through my systems. Little of it has improved my work flow or the minimal administration that my systems require. for the most part it seems as though there are more daemons running that do “some thing” but I can’t always figure out why it’s needed and then some time later that must have daemon is replaced by something else even less understood. It has gotten to the point, for me at least, that spending time trying to understand all of this stuff is a waste of time due to the natural churn. So I am looking for a project that values stability and a conservative approach to the base system. I don’t know that I have found it in an apt based system yet (perhaps I do need to go back to Slackware, but I have issues with doing that as well).

    My thoughts are rambling because I feel somewhat lost as of late. This coming from a guy who, by necessity, became reasonably proficient with GNU Autotools!

    73, Nate, N0NB

  20. This is a security risk. If people get so comfortable with having to give their password all the time they will eventially just do it without thinking. We know it’s never a good idea for people to start typing passwords without stoping to think “Who wants my password and why?” So why would we encourage this? Also the more times a password is entered the easier it is to be captured by malware, and such.

  21. Thank you John for this opinion, I can totally relate.

    A cause for this problem is adding layers on top of layers and hacking the lower layers, instead of implementing the necessary leaks in the upper abstraction layers and the features to support them in the lower layers. Note that this would require communicating between projects *before* hacking.

    I was trying to change the primary DNS for all connections on my workstation yesterday, didn’t even know where to start: resolv.conf? Overwritten by dhclient. dhclient config scripts? Overwritten by network-manager. Network-manager then? Doesn’t have an option to prepend a DNS before those given by DHCP. Interestingly, many people already wrote scripts to hack network-manager which already hacks on top of dhclient which hacks on top of resolv.conf. Crazy and unsustainable.

  22. I moved to FreeBSD for several reasons. Native and well integrated ZFS support was one additional major factor. Having a simple and stable self-contained base system was another. The Debian base is now essentially out of our hands–we’re tied into doing what systemd does, with little other options. This is a worry given its continued scope creep, even if we’re happy with it today (though I’m personally not happy). I thought it would be a pain but modern pkg(8) is getting on a par with apt-get including a SAT-solver. While using a desktop environment might pull in dbus and the rest of the mess, at least it’s optional for the most part. None of the junk is present on my servers, and they remain simple and understandable, and likely more reliable.

    At the system level, I’ve been increasingly frustrated by the poor quality of all the new stuff. Even udev. Take something routine like making and removing LVM snapshots. It’s fraught with race conditions and can lock up your system. This isn’t due to LVM for the most part, it’s due to udev, and its helpers helpfully probing the newly-created block device. But this races badly with removal and other changes on a busy system. Result: it’s totally unreliable in the absence of safe coordinated locking. We had to abandon using LVM snapshots on the buildds for this reason. I don’t have this issue with ZFS snapshots. With all the increased complexity of everything connected by dbus and firing off events all over the place, this is likely to only become worse. I do worry about the security of all this stuff since it’s impossible to prove how all the authorisation layered on top of the regular stuff behaves. And the “session management” provided by logind/systemd is just a bad joke. I do wonder how much of the glue is really necessary, and how much is a workaround for not using ACLs; with ZFS on FreeBSD it has full NFS4 ACL support which makes a lot of things possible that simply can’t be done with Linux even when using (POSIX 1003.1e WITHDRAWN DRAFT) ACLs. Obviously not a solution for all the problems, but I can’t help but think that the current generation of solutions are a giant hairball of hacks, rather than a well considered and well implemented one.

  23. I do not know anything about computers I hate them. Now we have that out of the way.

    Linux and the Linux desktops are total nuisance! Samba works one minute and then suddenly stops working and then suddenly starts working. The Debian latest desktops are a total mess. I have had cleaner more workable desktops in the early 90s even the Amiga Workbench is cleaner. KDE misty Windows and special effects they hurt my eyes. I turn all that nonsense off because I know they are damaging my eyesight. The gnome desktop what has happened it is childish. Somebody logs onto the HP server and wants to print a document why do they need a root password! I spend hours making it work and when I get it to work just a little bit the way I would like it. They break it with a update, bug fixes security updates blah blah blah. I lose my network drives it makes me feel a little bit sick because I think I may have lost my data because they broke it with the update. I find my network drives are still there I just no longer have permission to access them. I spend ages setting them back just the way I like them. I squeeze the cheeks of my arse together because I think it may have deleted some data. I’m frightened to touch the fucking thing.

    SuSE has become openSuSE, and it’s broken it is not reliable in a work environment KDE as become a toy. Debian and gnome good grief what a pile of crap. Red Hat, overpriced monster and who is in control of my data me or them! or the NSA. Ubuntu is pathetic I could get more work done on a Amstrad PCW8512 word processor..

    USB stick unrecognised. Put it in a Windows system and it shows you what is on the USB stick and it shows you it has a hidden partition. Try again with Linux unable to mount unknown system. Start doing work on Windows systems instead. Purchase a virus scanner purchase a two-way firewall ransom-ware need to pay for them every year.

    Need to file a report multitasking copy and pasting as quick as possible before printing and posting. Gnome desktop suddenly turns into multiple icons because I have moved the mouse to the corner of the screen.. Oh my God where is my document gone! Squeeze the cheeks of my arse together my document is one of those little Windows thank goodness for that! Copy a large file over from the HP server Samba had a problem copying the file it deleted the file both ends because it attempted to copy the file to a new direction but fouled and deleted the original. Had a backup good grief wasn’t I lucky. I should not need to be lucky!

    Look to solve a problem on a search engine a load of antisocial idiots who have used copy and paste to copy somebody else’s answer which is opening a backdoor on a Linux system for a user outside user! They are all copying the same Samba, hack to their own system because they don’t know what they’re doing. Linux desktops have become shit. I could do more work on them in the 90s then I can do now. I now have 5 Linux systems and I don’t trust them. I now have a huge server running Windows with backup drives going everywhere. I don’t like Linux any more I don’t like using the computer with it on because I don’t know what it is going to break tomorrow.
    Thank you that was very satisfying to get that frustrated stress out.

    1. Franky, yes. My primary workstation has run Debian unstable since 2001; stable prior to that. So that’s ~14 years continuously tracking unstable and using it daily as a desktop system for development work. I reinstalled on two occasions when I switched from i386->powerpc and later to amd64, but I could have kept the same system for all that time. In all that time I saw two problems, both of which were transient and easily worked around.

      Note that Debian unstable doesn’t as a rule contain unstable unreleased software; that’s for experimental and often not even then. It’s only the packaging that’s possibly not quite right, and even then most developers took pains to ensure it was correct–after all it’s feeding into testing for the next release.

      So a change to its daily usability is indeed quite a shift. This isn’t “rawhide”.

  24. @Pigsy – THANK YOU.

    To the rest of the UNIX|Linux (I don’t need to, nor care about pedantic crap of if being BSD, Debian, RedHat, Ubuntu, etc.) – If you are not thinking of the end-user – Joe & Jane Person who just wants to get their work done – you aren’t thinking!

    Back to computer fundamentals 098 (you should know this BEFORE you take fundamentals 101 your freshman year) – The role of a computer is to make your life easier. Not harder, more complex, more miserable. If you have some strange, S&M bent with your programming – take it somewhere else. From my perspective your creed isn’t built by how obfuscated and complex you’ve made it – but by how well you were able to take a complex issue and create a straightforward and intuitive solution for it. Yes, you can have the ‘for uber-geeks’ mode.. but for 80-90% of the use cases it should be pretty straightforward, clear, concise. With MEANINGFUL messages and documentation that doesn’t look like it came from a geeky grad student that failed all their English classes… starting with the 5th grade.

    Not a fanboy of Apple, but Steve J had the right idea. Consistency throughout the OS. Windows, at least through Win7 – same thing. Straight forward, fairly easy to use, AND IT doesn’t stop working mid-sentence.

    Hence – I no longer use any of the *nx’s. I deal with this crap all day at work… I don’t need to come home and deal with it there as well.

    Fred in IT

  25. There are 30-40 org.freedesktop-namespaced interfaces and services running on the average Linux desktop dbus. There are docs of varying quality available on freedesktop.org, but precious little that explains all their interactions and event dependencies. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are fewer than a couple of dozen people in the world who understand how they all hang together to make a desktop session. And that’s not even factoring in the desktop environments themselves! It’s a sad state of affairs.

    Worse, it all changes so often than any homework you do today to bring yourself up to date will probably be outdated in six months, maybe a year if you’re lucky.

    Mind you, people keep going on about systemd but it’s just another symptom of a longer-term problem that probably started around the time HAL appeared and disappeared. It can’t even be said this stuff is not necessary – it all is, even systemd. It’s just the way it gets iterated and shoved out into the world that leaves people feeling helpless from the ground constantly shifting beneath them.

  26. I was affected by the same issue with a fresh installed Ubuntu, the stable one. My only “sin” was to have started with a minimal install, and the installed XFCE. Nonetheless something that one expects to be working on a stable..but we know ubuntu has lost its soul to unity.

    I went through most of the same loops as yours, reading about polkit etc. in the end the fix was not to touch polkit or any of these new hateful packages but rather than to install some obscure udisks2-related package.

    Yes, just plain simple that. And I was tipped in this direction by a random guy that posted his solution on a forum I can’t remember where now…

    I am afraid it’s going down the toilet, and this is just the beginning..

  27. I’m watching GNU/Linux development for quite a time as an embedded engineer looking for a replacement of my RTOS by embedded GNU/Linux. I found that too many influence came from the desktop people, no matter if it was GNOME, KDE or others. The clean structure has gone and GNU/Linux is more like Windows than Unix now. The whole development is to desktop agnostic and there is also no such thing as as requirement or architecture specification for the developers. Systemd made things even worse. Thats the reson why I abandoned the idea of replacing RTOS by GNU/Linux. Instead I’ll use a multicore with simple static partitioning and run RTOS and GNU/Linux side by side.

  28. Hey folks,
    I’ve been looking at all this stuff people have been grousing about Linux all across the Internet, and have concluded that a very large number of Linux users aren’t keeping up to date with a lot of the ‘new stuff’ coming up.
    Linux and Opensource are very quickly becoming ‘Big Business’ – with cloud and containers and so on. This has necessitated a need for much stricter privacy and access controls and better system admin tools to go with it.
    There are so many people apparently unwilling to put in the time to stay up to date – with things like systemd, policy kit, pam changes, avahi and mdns, FUSE updates, and so on …
    Linux is moving away from the ’90s and away from being a geek’s toybox. For me, its a good thing because I now have a much easier time getting clients to at least partially convert to Linux – servers and even desktops.
    Its similar to MS Windoze XP – people are still trying to stay in the past with it, and now there are lots of new things that don’t work with XP any more. People have to migrate to at least Windows 7 to remain viable.
    Suck it up guys and gals – there is a lot to learn and I agree-its not easy to keep up to date because people are too busy writing updates and new things, and leaving the documentation behind. However, this does not preclude the necessity to hunt things down – even as far as offering to help some of these projects get cleaned up so that everybody benefits.
    Its now an opensource world – please get with the program!

    1. Steve, with all due respect, the attitude you’ve chosen to use in your post is really what I see to be a major problem facing our community today. Telling us to “suck it up” is no different than the sort of arrogance I encountered with proprietary software well over 20 years ago. I did “suck it up”, I found Linux and left, or so I thought, that sort of attitude behind.

      I think that you will find that people like John have no aversion to learning new things. However, change for change’s sake strikes me more as a treadmill driven by marketing than a learning opportunity or born of necessity. Things seem more opaque now and too abstract plus the churn seems to be increasing with each passing year. How is this more understandable or secure?

      Speaking for myself, I do feel like as though I’m becoming less a master of and more of a slave to the computing software I use. This is not a good thing.

      1. All very true. It seems like history repeats itself. Linux is now in the position proprietary Unix was 20 years back, and the arguments are just the same. I don’t like the attitude from Steve–it mirrors exactly what people were arguing *against* Linux when it was at the bottom of the pile.

        People have been arguing that *of course* only Linux could possibly be used professionally because alternatives would not be supported and come with commercial support. Go back in time and exactly the same thing was said about Linux, and yet people brought it into their companies and institutions and it superseded the supported expensive Unix systems because it filled a need (many needs), but in time became exactly what it replaced…. Some people, particularly corporate IT types, like this. Most of them are ignorant or willfully unaware of its history, many having come from Windows admin. But it’s a stark contrast from the goals and philosophy of the people who actually did the work to create it originally, and overall I think current development is too skewed in favour of corporate interests compared with the healthier balance we had 10-15 years back. I look at current Linux systems and I see sterile, sanitised corporateware.

        Steve’s comments above about keeping up is in exactly the same vein. Linux is becoming increasingly less diverse, and the notion that I must “keep up” implies that these “new” things are not only worth learning (most of the new stuff isn’t even documented, and will change in the next 12 months anyway) about but also that there are no alternatives to them which are also worth of using instead. Back when Linux was the plucky underdog, we went out of our way to make it the jack of all trades that did everything and was compatible with everything else. Filesystems: got the lot. File serving: interoperable with every system. Network protocols: Ditto. Now Linux is at the top of the heap, turning around and dictating that things must be done this way, and this way only, is to me a great shift in philosophy and not in touch with where we came from. It’s also quite hypocritical and dictatorial. We certainly didn’t appreciate it when it wasn’t us doing the dictating, so why should it be OK to do this now? It only breeds resentment and anger. That support for everything was what what made Linux useful to so many people–it could be the glue that tied everything together and serve all sorts of niche needs. Many of the new changes, including much of the userspace desktop glue and some parts of systemd, break compatibility with other systems. I’ve even seen increasing numbers of people arguing that POSIX no longer matters, and that Linux can go its own way and to hell with the rest. These people are idiots who are greatly overstating their own importance (and indeed of Linux in general). They remove what was the real meaningful difference between Linux and commercial Unix, at which point I’d have to look at whether it was worth sticking around at all if ultimately, this was all that became of the great hopes we had back in the 90s.

        1. So,

          would you agree, that this is a big chance of the BSD’s to get a bigger Community? I used FreeBSD 10 years ago and tried it again… and i see a lot of progress in their Operating System.

        2. I think the BSDs will see a modest increase in the short term to be sure. I think with pkg-ng and freebsd-update it’s massively easier to install and upgrade than previously, and newer derivatives like PC-BSD do give you a desktop with almost as much polish as on Linux. That said, I’m sure that whatever happens, most users will stick with Linux in the short term; inertia alone would ensure that. That said, the real deciding factor is ultimately down to where the developers are. That will affect things in the longer term.

      2. I guess people are missing the point – Linux is changing – big time. Its rise in popularity is because of its interoperability and depth and breadth of its application ecosystem – all of the positives that have made it so much fun and frustrating to both learn and use at the same time.
        Its too bad people viewed my earlier post as being arrogant and having an ‘attitude’ and being hypocritical. That wasn’t the intent of the post. Please re-read the last couple of paragraphs. Put your efforts into improving that ecosystem nstead of pining for the ‘good-old-days’ of 20 years ago. I’ve been doing this since 1968, and I really don’t want to go back 20 years to where no one even knew something like Linux even existed. We can do several things to deal with the Linux mess:
        – go to one of the ‘BSDs
        – go to ReactOS
        – go to Slackware or Gentoo
        – or –
        – get into helping projects where you want to see changes made
        – stop whining!
        Stop being slaves to the past – reminds me of Springsteen’s Glory Days.
        Be masters of your own environments. Don’t waste a lot of time with moaning and pity parties.

        1. Steve, the argument that you continue to use here, is called the *appeal to modernity fallacy.*

          This is a fallacy which states that anything which is new, is claimed to be superior to that which is old, *exclusively because it was new.*

          Someone else made some comments above about change purely for change’s sake. In other words, systemd, polkit and the various components like it, are being introduced almost exclusively because they are “new,” or “modern.” They do not solve problems; they only create problems which did not exist before.

          Please go and read said comments above. Understand also that you are making a primarily emotive argument here, and not a rational one. The appeal to novelty is a fallacy for a reason.

  29. Nope, you’re definitely in good company with these sentiments.

    I’ve run various incarnations of RH/Fedora on my laptops and workstations since ’04, with XFCE being my desktop of choice for the past 2-3.

    My experience is the same: annoying, niggling problems that used to be straightforward to isolate, diagnose and resolve by virtue of the platform’s simple, logical architecture have morphed into a morass that’s worse than the Windows Registry.

  30. I see this as being a couple of problems. I don’t have a solution for you, although I’d love to help. This is probably one of the following: the mess of libraries, programs, and config files most of which are completely incomprehensible necessary to get the linux desktop to the point where even an idiot can use it, and something is getting lost in translation. Or, it’s a bad implementation of systemd on debian’s part. To be honest, I run a mix of arch linux and ubuntu systems and I’ve never had anything like this. One the one occasion I did get a not authorized error, it was because I was trying to mount a drive with a user that couldn’t mount drives, because i’d set it up like that. This *is* a problem, but it seems to me that the linux community is more concerned that netflix, skype and steam work on their chosen platform than they are about making sure the documentation is well written, non geekish, and to be honest, in a format other than turse manpages. I share your pain, I just don’t have a solution

  31. I’m sort of in the same boat in that I’ve felt control and understanding of my computer being taken away from me. At some point I got enough and simply threw out all the parts I didn’t know I need, in particular all this *kit junk. Fortunately for me, I’ve always felt more comfortable doing basic tasks on command line, so this didn’t require any major adjustment to my habits.

    For the mount problem my solution was to write my own minimalistic GUI for pmount. You can find it at http://git.tdb.fi/?p=pmount-gui.git;a=summary in case you’d like to give it a try.

  32. I’ll add another aspect to this, one that no one seems to have covered. That of accessibility. ALthough sometimes I find linux frustrating, usually only when the desktops try to be so brain dead simple to use they take out features I personally liked (cough, gnome 3) it fits me. I’ve tried various incarnations of windows and while they’re pretty accessible, there’s one aspect that linux has them beat, hands down. LInux has live disks with a screen reader available on the disks, allowing for independent installation, repair, etc. WIndows, even as of the latest 10 preview still does not have this. I suspect this is because MS is catering to the blind software companies who profit from this immensely. GOing As a blind person who depends on linux every day, that’s extremely important. back to linux being complex, yes, it is more complex. I think this is mostly do to the glue needed to make things like mounting of flash drives, dvd’s, etc work without root permission. Remember, none of this stuff is supported in x itself, so a lot of this has to be done outside of x and then somehow presented to the user. I really, really hope once wayland, mir, whichever takes over from x, that this stuff gets sorted out and documented. IN fact, I’ll go so far as to say i’d be willing to help with documentation, as that’s something I’m good at. i can’t code though. TO sum up, even though linux has it’s own issues, I’ll continue to use it. The blind community can be extremely frustrating sometimes, particularly if you’re trying to get some coders involved, but shrug. I think linux will eventually figure all this out.

  33. Have used debian for about 6 years and just wanted to voice my frustration at the current direction it’s heading!

    I think one of the reasons many of us gravitated toward linux in the first place, was the level of control that we could exercise over every part of the system.

    I didn’t have a clue how to configure things when i started, but because there was a consistency to how things were configured and the configuration was all handed in plain text i could fairly easily figure it out.

    The way it is now i feel like i have very little control over the underlying system. And making changes often becomes a ordeal that doesn’t always end with success.

    I don’t love or hate systemd, what i do have a problem with is the removal/obscuring of my ability to have fine grained control over my own system!

    I think systemd goals as i understand them were great, but it’s implementation is another matter.

    The continuing inclusion of necessary system function into systemd is wrong headed, it discourage development of alternatives to those individual components and it leaves the design decisions to a small group of developers. Sounds like “embrace, extend, and extinguish”.

    It will slow innovation and development of alternative designs of core system components and it removes many of the reasons that we chose linux in the first place.

  34. completely agree. I’m not frustrated with any particular part of linux, save it’s accessibility, which can seem like pulling teeth at times. I’m still positive though. If systemd, gnome, any part of linux really becomes a problem the community will do what it always does and develop an alternative. The big distros may be slow to adopt it, but if it gets enough adoption they’ll switch over. They will, that is, if they can stop playing steam and skyping long enough to realize there’s a need. I’m not trying to go off topic here, but I really think there’s a new crop of linux users who care less about the philosophy of open source and the infinite, or nearly so, customizeability of the system then pretty guis, microsoft office, steam, and all those various closed source packages that allow windows to dominate. This might be why the system is starting to veer away from it’s unix roots. No proof whatsoever, just what I think. I’m also not trying to start any flame wars. Can anyone give me a pointer on what might help this be less painful? Is more documentation needed? if so, where? What needs better documentation. I’m willing to subscribe to whatever mailing lists, go onto whatever irc channels, etc is necessary to start fixing this. I will not, however, start advocating for systemd’s removal, replacement, etc just yet. I happen to like systemd, but I will try my best to help if I can. Is it polkit? udev? udisks? If so, what needs documenting. Do people just need some kind of insite on how the system works? Or is there some kind of radical overhall of the entire system needed?

    1. I’m not even certain that this is borne of chasing Microsoft any more. Rather, it seems as though there is a certain percentage of the developers that are infatuated with all things Apple. Now, gathering inspiration is nothing new, it has gone on all the way through the history of software development. However, there is also the point of “eating our own dog food” whereby developers use the code they write. Is that the case any more?

      I ask as following blogs and Planet Debian for years I have read much commentary of the number of conference attendees using a Mac Book. I’ve also read of developers (even Debian developers) that proclaim their love of OS/X and are using it full time because of some shortcoming perceived or otherwise, of the free desktop. To this country boy that seems like a self fulfilling prophesy. In other words, when the developers can’t stand what they have written, how logical is it that the rest of us should “suck it up”?

      This is a problem and only seems to have manifested itself within the past five years or so, about the time frame that a lot of things started changing. Prior to that time the developers of desktop environments were proudly using their code at conferences and so on and now it seems as though they only show their code running inside an emulator on OS/X. As I have a difficult time believing that adherents to the Free Software philosophy would suddenly be smitten by OS/X and head en masse to a proprietary system, something else must explain what happened within the past five years.

      No, I am not being conspiratorial here. It seems to me that a lot of commercial development came to bear on the free desktop and I suspect a lot of developers were given tasks as part of their jobs. I wonder whether these developers really understood what the Free Software community valued as it seems that only within the past several years that I have read articles that the community is hard to work with or that the community is the problem. Could this explain why a lot of the infrastructure the community was comfortable with and supported has suddenly been declared obsolete and pushed aside?

      As John alludes in his followup article, pretty much everything that this new infrastructure is supposed to allow already worked in Wheezy. Wheezy was mostly built around the community supported infrastructure and when using Xfce everything worked quite well, at least for me. I’m not certain what, exactly, has been “fixed” between then and now, but I know that my Sid desktop systems seem considerably more complex today than a few years ago. If the developers were using the free desktop for everything they do on and off the clock, would it be this way today?

      1. I am tempted to call it the onset of the cloud monkeys.

        I see one symptom of it in how everything is to be solved with containers, including “dependency hell”…

  35. @kendell that’s not the point. the problem is that the average quality of open source in the Linux ecosystem is decreasing.
    I see it more as a cultural problem, as it is more socially acceptable to release crap.

    Regarding this specific XFCE mounting issue: somewhere, some day, a sloppy developer added the dependency to udisks and “forgot” to document it.

    How can this even pass any form of testing, I wonder? Simple: because no testing is being made whatsoever.

    1. The problem with testing in this case is the “combinatorial explosion of the test matrix”. I.e. for every part of the system there are a number of alternatives (alternative implementations or different versions of the same implementation), and testing every possible combination is simply impossible.
      To solve this, one could either reduce the number of alternatives, which would violate the “Linux is about choice”-meme, or increase collaboration to get stable interfaces between the components.

  36. I don’t think I agree completely regarding the ‘quality’ of open source software. Some of it is great, some of it is crap. Same goes for the proprietary software. As documentation goes that was an oversite that should’ve been fixed. If a dependency on udisks was added, this should’ve been documented and added to … what is that file in the debian package … control? I’m sorry, I don’t know debian that well. I proudly use linux every day. I happen to like the gnome desktop, as well as mate. xfce, cinnamon, kde, are not usable by me because their accessibility is next to nill right now. Rather than excoriating the community for being lazy and not testing their software enough, I’m just glad I have access to linux at all. I’m confident that if the issue is bad enough it will get fixed. There are jerks in every community. Ther are lazy people. There are uncooperative developers. But just because people like that exist, that does *not* mean that linux as a hole is crap, or that the quality of linux is going down hill. SOme parts of it undoubtedly are, and those parts need a kick in the teeth. WHoever said that if you don’t use the code you write, and instead use a compeditors product or hardware, I couldn’t agree more. I used to see this all the time when I’d go into a cell phone store (this was when I used sprint). i’d constantly ask the sales people for help, usually something along the lines of does this phone talk? I’d get answers such as, “shrug, what do I know, I use at&t, verizen, etc.” My response was always, if you don’t even use the stuff you’re trying to sell to me, how am I supposed to feel confident in it’s quality? THis goes for linux as it does for anything else. I don’t think this necessarily means linux isn’t of high quality, or that it’s doomed. I get the feeling from some of these commenting here that some people think it is. Linux depends, and always has, on it’s community. If that community chooses instead to use bsd, apple, windows, anything other than linux, it will suffer. THings will fall through the cracks. This is not to say you cannot duel boot, but if the people who promote linux don’t use linux every day, instead using mac, windows, whatever because it ‘works better’ or does something else for them, that does not speak very well for their advocacy. I can’t trust someone who says one thing but does another. I’ve rambled enough, I’ll shut up now.

  37. john, since you’re the one who published this blog entry, what can I do to help? I don’t know if I can fix all the issues you’re having but I can do my best. Is it documentation that’s needed? Understanding on how the system works. Give me some pointers and I’ll keep you updated on my progress by email, if I can find your email address. Or comments here if you don’t feel comfortable giving me your email address.

    1. Hi Kendell,

      That would be *great*! I think our greatest needs are:

      1) Documentation for how all these pieces fit together. Tracing from, say, Digikam back through to /dev/sdc and where all the configuration bits come in to play would be immensely helpful. Ditto for network-manager, the keyring stuff, suspending, etc.

      2) Practical examples of how to change things or override defaults without doing so in /usr where changes are prone to be overwritten by distro upgrades.

      3) A sort of “reverse analysis” – figuring out who/what has access to what on a system for the purposes of securing it.

      My email address is available at http://www.complete.org/JohnGoerzen and you are welcome to use it.

  38. got it. I’ll start pinging the irc channels now. I have some vague ideas where to start. I think most of the automounting stuff gets it’s authentication from either pam or policykit. Both use rule files that can be changed or added to. Digicam probably polls udev to make sure what you’ve inserted is a camera, then mounts it via fuse. I’m still not sure where udisks comes in. I’ll look for documentation on google, and if I don’t find any there I’ll start looking for irc channels and mailing lists

  39. The problem with Linux and almost all opensource Linux based software is the devs, only design things for themselves. The creative process involves a major amount of epeen. “what your not as smart as me, and can’t see what is plain as day to me what this program does and how it works?”

    You see in in almost all the Linux releases and large open source linux based applications like Drupal.

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