Growing up on rock music, I had never really cared for Spanish guitar; Joe Satriani and Stevie Ray Vaughan were people I looked up to musically. But, as with anything in life you eventually get interested in where everything came from. And the history of the Spanish guitar is a fascinating story actually.
Back in the middle ages, there were no guitars in a sense how we understand them now. There were things called vihuelas and to make one, you would have to be a part of the luthiery guild. And the guild had all the rules about how specifically the instrument should be assembled, and how it should look like. Apparently people loooved standards in the renaissance, go figure.
After the collapse of the Hapsburg empire and the monsieur Bonaparte’s bleeding the country dry, most of the centralized institutions fell apart; and with that the guilds system was gone. People could build whatever they wanted and however they wanted, free of policies and regulations.
There, in the carcass of a country, in the mids of the spanish civil war, a nobody named Torres, made the first modern Spanish guitar. His new design and build process revolutionised the instrument and the music industry with it. To this day his instruments are copied all over the world, and universally recognised as a guitar: six strings, flat headstock and a large round-ish body.
The point of this history lesson you had to suffer through is that freedom to try and fail is the biggest catalyst of progress there is; be you a Bonaparte or a Torres. Albeit Torres had used his freedom more wisely.
Back to computers
I year ago, after a decade long stretch, I had parted with Apple laptops. Although we may or may not call that a tantrum against degrading quality of Apple’s hardware, the net result of those events was that I bought a new thinkpad and switched to windows 10.
And so, a year passed, and you are probably wondering what do I have to say for my behaviour? Well, a fair bit actually.
The usual forewarning, the things I write reflect my own experience and opinions; they are not the truth or even a rule; and they obviously don’t define you in any way. So if you feel a prickle of disagreement in your butt as you are reading this, remember, I don’t care.
A year later, I still love the thinkpad hardware. Yeah it still looks egregiously dirty with all the fingerprints, and you can see all the dust on its black surface. But, it’s a solid machine, it took a lot of beating in a year and it still works perfectly. Its warm, soft touch coating gives me a sort of pleasant reassuring sense, like an old trusty crafting tool. The keyboard still feels right up my alley. The anti-glare screen coating makes my eyes mellow. And it’s really lightweight for its size. It’s not perfect, but I like it anyways just on tactile level. I like how it cares about my comfort and the job I do more than about how it looks like.
On the opposite side, every time I touch a MB Pro, I almost recoil. Heavy, cold, slippery, awful keyboard, unnecessarily large touchpad, glossy screen. Yeah it looks dope, but I know in my heart, that it doesn’t really care about me. It is here to make a statement about Apple’s products. It almost doesn’t make any sense why it exists as a product; except it does.
If you put the two laptops next to each other, it’s almost a perfect physical representation of the Fromm’s “to be or to have” concept. Some people derive their sense of achievement in life from gaining experiences, and others from owning stuff. And in my view those two sets of hardware cater perfectly for those two groups of people. Being an engineer most of my adult life, it is no wonder that I eded up in a corresponding bucket.
My only complaint about a 14" thinkpad is that it is not super comfy to open up in an airplane. Although, you know how much air time we all been getting lately, so I don’t know… I like the extra inch of the screen space, but I would happily sacrifice it for airplane comfort if I had to do a lot of kilometers.
I never really liked windows to be frank. But, I was hoping that 20 years later I’m a bit more mature person and I can make it work. Also, microsoft has changed, and so did windows.
My hope was that now MS had changed its stance towards developers. They contribute to opersource, they own GH for what it’s worth. There is also a linux kernel available inside of the WSL now. You can almost feel that the wind of change will be here any moment now. And yet, a year later I must admit a defeat and move on.
Windows 10 is not terrible at all. Especially if you are already a long term windows user, this is the best windows there ever was. For what it’s worth, you can even make a decent development environment on windows and be happy. There are some quirks, but it’s workable. The key here is that you need to like windows in the first place. Or at least be okay with it. As I said, I never was in this category to begin with.
Windows in 2020 reminded me sharply why i left it 20 years ago. It’s a closed system with gatekeepers. If you don’t like something, well tough love, this is how it is. And there is a fair bit that I don’t like about windows. But, one thing I positively despise as an engineer is being victimised by technology. When shit is seriously broken and the only option I have is to sit there and beg for mercy,this absolutely drives me up the wall. Unfortunately, this is how MS ecosystem still operates in 2020.
The problem was aggravated by the fact that to run WSL2 you need to go into the MS ~slavery~ insider program and become a guinea pig by running insiders builds of the system. Needless to say that was like playing russian roulette with your system, things would break randomly with new updates, and the only option you have is to sit and wait for somebody some day pick it up and patch.
And so I had played this game for almost a year, it was no fun already as it is. But at some moment my laptop camera stopped working, and it was broken for 4 months, and then I cracked. I’m sorry, but there is only as much poop a person can take until they had enough.
PS: yeah, I’m kind of simplifying it here. I have a long list, but I dont want you to sit here and listen to me complaining, it’s degrading to both of us.
The alma mater
One thing that MS did a really stellar job at was dangling Ubuntu in my face for a year. And so, I made the whole circle and I am back home to linux. I’m not going to lie, it does feel like I ran away with a hotter girlfriend in my late twenties, only to reconnect and get back together with linux in my forties. Well, I guess I’m a jerk. When you get to your forties, you will understand the joke.
So, what linux is like in 2020? Well, in a sense the same as it was in early 2000. Xorg and pulseaudio are still broken, people still complain about Gnome 3, and KDE is still trying to copypaste windows. Only there are dozens of options of everything now, and the UI is way more stable and polished, and new hardware support got way better, and package management explodes 10 times less often.
Let me put it this way. There are two forms of freedom. One is the freedom, where you are a first world country citizen, you pay taxes and you are free to be whoever you want. Or at lest that’s what the marketing department says. And then there is the freedom when you live in the wilderness. You are free to go into the woods and meet the bears if you want.
Linux is kind of like the second type, and that’s what I always loved and admired about it. It has a really solid, polished core, and it understands you and will take care of you as an engineer. But, it will also absolutely support you if you want to go into the woods and meet the bears.
And that is love, my friend.
So, some of you, more technical, probably want details. Well, I was on a rebound with Ubuntu for a few months, because that’s where I left all those years ago. It’s still amazing and an absolute brick house. But, I had always gravitated towards simpler rolling systems like gentoo. And so I had moved onto Arch.
Arch’s community is absolute delight to watch. Their wiki is next to none and have answers to everything. It’s a good combination a rock solid system and an easy access to the wildlife and the bears if I feel like it. I can assemble whatever I like and not be bound to a specific vendor opinion. Also pacman is a beast!
Not everything is perfect, but it’s a clean and concise system, when I break something, I can fix it in 5 mins. The sheer fact that I can break it, makes me happy. And I can change everything, window manager,styles, icons, everything. I can make it my own, I can make it home. It’s important to me on a personal level.
And so the list:
Firefox for personal
Chrome for work
Onshape for 3d modeling
Backing up to google drive
I have roughly 200ml of gypsy blood in me. I like my guitars and I like a change of scenery, it’s not even funny. I don’t know where I will be in a year, but I know that linux gives me options, and I haven’t even began to explore them all.
In my view, linux is still the best platform to be a software engineer. Yeah, there is less guide rails than in macos. And you will be occasionally meeting the bears, but that’s kind of the point. Because living in a big civilised city is comfy, but it also makes you weak. That’s how we humans work.
And even though I don’t do as much software engineering those days as I want, I still love the system and the freedom to explore that fuels it.
I’m kind of eyeing chromebooks at the moment, that seems like it could be a thing in between. A linux core system with a UI and apps backed by a commercial company. Maybe it could be a thing. But that’s a story for another day.