I’ve been doing some optimising of my Gentoo build process. I added a Blueyonder mirror to my list of places to download software from. This is good because I am a Blueyonder customer and so already on their network. I tend to get around 80 kilobytes/second from their mirror, which is about 30k/s faster than before.
I also had a look into my make.conf settings and discovered that I wasn’t turning on any optimisations for the software build, to allow gcc to take advantage of my AthlonXP’s shiny features. A little silly of me, for if you are building all of your software yourself, you should really be trying to optimise the hell out of it, otherwise what’s the point? so “march=athlon-xp -O3 -pipe” it is now. We shall see if that all works fine.
It gave me cause to think just how cool the Gentoo system is. I get all my software built for me, optimised for my processor and new versions updated automatically. For all the software I have. At work I’m always having to download updates for Windows and so on. We have some software that tries to keep things up-to-date. It is very clunky, however, compared to the solutions that are available for Linux and only covers a very small subset of software.
A kind of apt-for-Windows would be pretty cool. It could be done well if the system was well publicised and developers started to use it themselves. You would go to a program’s site and, rather than downloading the program, download a small XML file that contains details about the program. You give this XML file to the update-software and it downloads, installs and monitors the program’s site for updates. This would mean that you could leave updating software to the central system, rather than having to spend time yourself.
I know I’ve talked about this before, but it’s something that I constantly find myself referring to when people ask why I use Linux all the time. Linux is just, well, simpler than Windows for day-to-day things.
The problems come when you do rarer things, like adding new hardware. This is one big area that needs love. Command-line installers don’t cut it for normal users; pretty much all the driver installers I have used from companies still use command-line installers. It’s not really that hard to statically link a library in, if you are paranoid about users not having a required GUI library, is it? Or just fall back to the command-line version if the GUI libs are not available: if a user doesn’t have GTK1 installed, chances are they are not so bothered about GUI installers!
As I’ve posited before: Linux is ready for desktops that are pre-setup and are unlikely to change. This is especially true in places like cyber-cafes, for example. Imagine how much you could save with virus-free, virtually nil-downtime, self-updating software. Once the system is set up, it is essentially free. Donate to debian or whoever because it’s the Right Thing To Do, but fifty to one hundred bucks per-system is nothing compared to a full Windows installation with software, now, isn’t it?
I think that places like cyber-cafes will be some of the places to take up Linux on the desktop, due to the obvious advantages mentioned above. These places have pretty narrow remits that Linux fits like a glove. Wider remit filling is what we need to aim for next. We’ve got some of the best guys on the planet on our side; the future’s looking good!