Podcast Hell

I downloaded a ton of tech-related podcasts over the weekend. Some of them were older but still informative, others were more recent and not exactly worth the time or bandwidth it took to listen to them. I’m still going through them. Some merit more ear-time than others.

One of them seemed promising by its name: Productive Linux. I think I downloaded two or three episodes. I stopped the first one I listened to and forwarded to the next when the host started spelling out commands and options for editing Firefox chrome. The last thing I want to hear when I’m running at 4:30 in the morning is a spelling lesson. No thanks, next.

Then I got his review of Absolute Linux, one of the smaller and easier to set up (Slackware is NOT hard to set up — read the documentation and it’s quite easy) Slackware-based sub-distros suitable for older computers. Once I got past the host’s prattle about how “clean” and “vanilla” and “stable” it felt (compared, pray tell, to what?), I got the substance of his review and impressions.

First, the host very obviously didn’t bother to read the Absolute site because — RIGHT THERE ON THE FRONT PAGE — it very clearly mentions that it uses Slackware binary packaging:

Accepts packages made for same Slackware Version, so you can use Slackware software repositories.

Duh. Nobody reads anything anymore. Oh, and the bold and underlined emphasis is mine. I’d make it blink but wordpress doesn’t support it. TG.

So I then got to listen to him go off on a tangent about compiling. Yes, you can do that with Slackware because its base is very complete with the most oft-used libraries. But it’s untrue that Slackware requires compiling your own apps because Slackware does have binary packaging.

Then we got into his likes and dislikes. He was disappointed that it didn’t come with audacity. So? How does that relate to productivity? That’s available from the official and many of the unofficial Slack-package sites and repositories. He also didn’t care for the wallpaper or default GTK theme. What was the first application he compiled? A switcher for GTK themes. So productive. I then endured more talk about themes. Productive? Not IMO. He berated the sparse choice of included productivity software. Never mind anyone can get the most current version (that would be the one with the most recent bug fixes and security patches) of Open Office from the Open Office website or from (duh) Slackware’s repositories.

I was about to end this attack on my ears and my intelligence when the host said that the version of Absolute he was using was a release candidate. Oh, nice.

It would’ve been nicer to know that before listening to what an ‘unfinished’ product he thought it was. I wouldn’t have wasted my time. I would’ve been more productive.

EDIT: I realize what I wrote probably seems harsh, but I thought the review was overly critical especially considering it wasn’t RELEASE and because he started with a presumption that isn’t even true (binary packaging).

I take exception, too, to the prevailing standard too many reviews have for distros: that their initial mixes of application are how they should be judged. I think that’s bullshit because anyone can take distro X, change a few apps around, and call it distro Y. Look instead at their paradigms — what do they do differently than the others? In the case of Slackware, it’s about keeping things as simple and straightforward (in the Unix sense) as possible. In other distros, it’s about package management (after all, Debian is aiming for neutrality and has compatibility with other operating systems like FreeBSD and GNU Hurd). It’s not what it comes with but how you use it and what you can add and why. Tell me that, don’t tell me it still uses version A.B.C instead of A.B.D of some application. Tell me why it exists, why its developers do things in certain ways.

I also admit I don’t get the relationship between things like themes and productivity. I’ve edited many themes for jwm for DSL — not because that matters so much to me but to help reduce the noise from people who thought DSL wasn’t aesthetically attractive. As we’ve seen with DSL, it doesn’t matter how many themes you offer or how much you dress it up, people are going to grumble anyway. THAT’S WHY THEMES AND WALLPAPERS CAN BE CHANGED. IT’S SUBJECTIVE. IF YOU DON’T LIKE DEFAULT SETTINGS AND THAT’S GOING TO CAUSE YOU TO WHINE, CHANGE IT. BUT IS THAT REALLY THE MOST IMPORTANT THING ABOUT JUDGING HOW DISTROS ARE DIFFERENT?

That’s why I wrote fairly harshly about that particular podcast. Maybe the rest of his stuff is worth listening to, maybe it’s more of what I heard. When I think of “productive,” I think of substance. What little substance he had was misleading (Slackware does have binary packaging and Absolute Linux uses it) and the rest was about stuff that really doesn’t matter.

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One Response to “Podcast Hell”

  1. distortedstar Says:

    Hi, this is Nathan from http://productivelinux.com. I agree your wording and tone were a bit harsh, but I do appreciate the constructive comments you made. I responded to your comments on my site, if you’re interested:

    http://productivelinux.com/2008/04/21/productivelinux-podcast-episode-11-absolute-linux-mp3-format/

    I’ve enjoyed several of your blog posts here…keep up the good work!

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