David Madore's WebLog: Reinstallation nightmare

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Entry #0575 [older|newer] / Entrée #0575 [précédente|suivante]:


Reinstallation nightmare

So I've begun the full reinstallation of my computer system under Debian GNU/Linux (“Sarge”). I did realize it might be no fun, but in my deepest nightmares I had not foreseen how bad it would turn out. Or rather: I think I had more or less correctly assessed the amount of work it would be—weeks of it—but I had not considered the fact that I could not afford to wait for entire weeks to have a usable system. Maybe I should have set things up to be able to dual boot under the old system or the new one while the latter was being configured, which would then have made it possible for me to take my time at it; but as such, I have to work fast, because there are plenty of things for which I direly need a working system, and for the moment I do not have it.

I won't go through the detail of all the problems I've encountered. It took me all day yesterday, staying up until 6AM, to get a bootable system with a reasonably correct network configuration (it is true that my network setup is a bit baroque). The fact that the Debian Sarge snapshot CD was quite buggy did not help. Today, I spent all day trying to get a decent graphical environment and desktop—with partial success. In principle this should take minutes: in practice, hours were wasted getting my USB trackball to work (all right: the fact that I have a trackball and a mouse attached to the computer might have made it a bit more difficult than necessary), until I understood that the mousedev module had to be loaded (not just hid, input and possibly usbmouse). More hours were wasted working through the stupidity of the Gnome desktop policy decisions: understanding, for example, how to replace the entirely worthless but now default Metacity window manager by the acceptable Sawmill, and then how to work around a stupid limitation of Gnome by adding the cryptic line (define-special-variable viewport-dimensions '(3 . 3)) to my .sawfishrc file. (Needless to say, there is absolutely no kind of documentation anywhere that tells you to add this line, or why you need it.)

I think from now on I'll urgently discourage people who ask me for advice from trying Linux. Basically the problem is this: Linux (I mean the whole program suite included in a given distribution, not merely the operating system or the kernel) is really powerful insofar as it is highly configurable. Incredibly configurable, in fact. But once one starts customizing the penguin to one's tastes, one becomes accustomed to this specially tailored configuration and one can't live without it: and since any upgrade is liable to break bits and pieces of configuration and force one to rewrite whole configuration files, one can waste an unimaginable amount of time on it.

Basically, I'm on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Update (2004-03-24T28:02+0100): On the other hand, I can now re-enable the comments system, which turned out to be comparatively easy to upgrade (to Apache 2.0.48 and PostgreSQL 7.4.2).

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