Bad experiences with distros (was Re: [H-GEN] CRUX (A programmers linux distro))

Greg Black gjb at
Thu Aug 5 04:03:00 EDT 2004

On 2004-08-05, Sandra Mansell wrote:

> I should note here that he's never been successful in getting X working
> under Debian. I usually step in and tweak his conf files and check the
> installed packages for him.

This is a great example of the kind of thing I wrote about in my
other post a few minutes ago.  (I read the above as "he's never
managed to setup X, but I've fixed it for him" -- if I got that
wrong, the following guff might not be very useful.)

There's no point in continually reinventing the same slightly
square wheel.

The idea is that you come along and help him get X working as he
wants it.  You then, as part of those automatic backups I was
talking about, keep a copy of the XF86Config file (or whatever
your system uses).  Then, when it's time to upgrade, you just
suck the backup into place and bingo.

Admittedly, sometimes, it's not quite that easy.  I have just
installed OpenBSD-3.5 on a box that has been running FreeBSD-4.3
and grabbed the old FreeBSD X config in the way I outlined.
These OS versions are many years apart in age, and run quite
different XFree86 versions, so I had to tweak a couple of things
by hand.

But it was really easy to do and the big differences were just
different names for the mouse device and stuff like that, so it
was a matter of a couple of minutes to get it going.

This is where use of a revision control system helps.  When you
do the first install, you put the distributed config files into
CVS (or whatever); you do your tweaks and check them in.  When
the next release comes out, you check that into CVS and you try
to apply the same patches to the new base files.  If it works,
you're home free.  If it doesn't, you get to look at just the
parts where there were conflicts and you figure them out.  But
using these nice free tools that Unix systems provide (or the
alternative tools that are also freely available) allows you to
accomplish this stuff relatively painlessly.

Yes, of course you need to decide between RCS, SCCS, CVS, arch,
Subversion, darcs, perforce, etc.  Then you need to learn how to
use the chosen tool.  And then you need to learn to actually use
it every time.  But these are small things, in comparison to the
pain that people seem to put themselves through with this stuff.
Maybe somebody could do the "how to use revision control in your
regular system administration" talk at a Humbug meeting one day

Cheers, Greg

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