Another Blog

Mostly about computers, generally Linux-related

A coward, that’s what I am!

Yes, it’s true… and here’s why. A while ago I saw NixOS on Reddit and I’ve been eager to try it ever since. Various things got in the way and I’ve just discovered that I’m a goddamn coward.

But first: a little about NixOS, from someone who hasn’t used it much, only read a little about it: NixOS is a Linux distribution centered on the Nix package manager. It’s closer to functional programming in a way which I (hope I) largely understand, but with which I will not bore you. The novelty is that packages are specified in a complete and unique manner (Firefox with FTP support is different from Firefox without FTP support), so that you’ll never run into a problem such as emerge failing because, even though you have program X, it’s not compiled with feature Y.

Furthermore, if you screw up your configuration (and who doesn’t), NixOS “remembers” your previous configs and shows them in Grub. You can boot into a previous kernel or a previous configuration alltogether. And a nice thing (which I am completely new to, hence I will just mention it) is that Nix (the package manager) can handle both source and binaries transparently. If it’s the way I understand it, the difference between mozilla-firefox and mozilla-firefox-bin won’t be the name, but whether you use a binary “channel” or not.

Finally, along with trying NixOS (which, by God, I will. I will get myself out of this numbness), I want to go x64. Numerous people (OK, two, but two I trust, not just strangers :) ) have suggested that there is a visible speed difference. I have not tried this before for fear of incompatible software.

Previously I was never afraid to potentially trash my whole computer and try a new distro, or even a new OS. Now I’ve been finding excuses for months. Among the most popular ones, which I invoke to myself daily:

  • I don’t have the time. Well, right now I’m not going to school, only taking the occasional exam. Even though exams have been far from simple (darn electronics), I should have made time to install NixOS.
  • I’ve installed it in VMWare, so I can play with it whenever I want. That is so damn far from the truth. The VM is just rotting away somewhere and the whole fun of being stranded without X or network access has been taken away from me.
  • I’m lurking their list and everything there is way beyond me. That may be true, but how the hell else would I find out more if I don’t use it?
  • They don’t have an out-of-the-box solution for PPPoE. I can help them test one, but no, I’m too much of a coward.
  • NixOS uses a very non-standard way to configure (basically, there’s a single configuration file, all the /etc/* things are built from it) and I’m afraid I’ll lose the little skill I have. But on the other hand, being able to handle myself in Linux isn’t about knowing where various config files are, it’s about being able to find information (usually on the Internet).
  • NixOS doesn’t have a lot of packages. Between compiling manually and (eventually) writing my own Nix expressions, this is a very stupid excuse.
  • I’ll ruin my homework-writing environment. This is no longer true, since I won’t have any more homework until October (OK, so I’ll be doing an internship with Freescale in the summer [very, very excited about that], but hopefully I won’t “bring my work home with me”).
  • I’ll miss Gentoo. This is also marginally true, but there’s nothing stopping me from contributing code to make NixOS tools better (I’m not saying they’re bad, I’ve only used them a few times).
  • I want to read the papers on the site first. This one is actually valid, because there are many things I still don’t get about the distro. But, again, reading a PDF can also be done in NixOS.

Now, NixOS has XMonad and other tools I use daily (I haven’t checked MPD, but that’s not really a life-or-death issue), so moving will be smooth — if only I can give myself the initial kick in the nuts.

I was going to rant about school, but I’ll probably do this in a different post — one post, one topic.

June 26, 2008 Posted by | linux, personal | , | 1 Comment

Wow. I Made a Difference

I haven’t posted much of anything lately — I meant to log some of my homework efforts, but I’m not much of a writer. However, there is something that impressed me very much last week. Instead of trying to disguise the whole matter so as not to give away true identities, I’ll just spit everything as it is. Note that it is not a means to apologize for my previous words and both viewpoints are entirely true, though at a different moment in time.

The semester is about to end, and Algorithm Design had been on an ascending slope. The lecturer (I hope I’m right in the translation) had asked for feedback three times and had actually read it. Of course, there hadn’t been earth-shattering changes, but what he could change from one week to another, he did when someone suggested. After the final lecture, he called me by name and asked me to stay a moment; the whole name thing was surprising, but what happened afterwards was even more amazing. It appears he had read my blog and the (short, but far from positive) review I’d given his class and thanked me for the impulse he found in it.

I was speechless. Not because of fear, as one would easily have implied from my constipated face, but because I actually made a difference. Someone had actually changed something in that school and I had the small merit of having said things out in the open (although I quite frankly never expected any of my professors to read my random ramblings). It is an awesome encouragment, and it came at the right time — I was beginning to think that students couldn’t change anything, at least not without resolving to extreme solutions (strike or whatever). This proves that change can happen in an amiable manner, from the inside, without any sort or rupture between the groups or individuals involved.

I’m still chewing on what happened, and I will study hard for the Algorithm Design exam. I shouldn’t expect someone else to take their job (i.e. teaching) seriously, if I don’t take mine (i.e. studying).

June 2, 2008 Posted by | school | 1 Comment