Linux distribution trials have not ended :-(

Following up on my August post regarding Linux distribution trials, I could not – in fact – continue with CentOS. There are two important reasons.

  • yum is a really fragile tool for package management. Not only could I not understand what wrong I had done to break it, following its instructions on how a sane package database state could be recovered just never worked! And, then, it kept complaining endlessly about Update Manager keeping the database locked, while Update Manager kept complaining endlessly that a different package management tool was keeping the database locked. I followed resolution suggestions from about a dozen Web sites, with no success whatsoever. Even deleting the entire package database did not help! This paints such a sorry picture of Linux!
  • CentOS makes it really difficult to install a broad set of essential 32-bit libraries. Firstly, they are not available by default in the 64-bit repositories under a single compat-kind of title. At least, I could not find one easily. Hence, I had to let a 32-bit software such as Skype or TeamViewer fail once for each dependency, then figure out which package provided that library, and then install its .i386/.i686 version. This is tedious at best.

Consequently, I moved on. My current experiment is with openSUSE 12.1 KDE spin. I have returned to openSUSE after almost five years. I do not remember if zypper was the default package management tool back then. After going through the man pages, and a few trials, I got used to it. I tried to break it in one or two small ways, but it has withstood so far!

The OS itself has been quite stable in these several weeks of use. I disabled nepomuk and strigi, and left KDE notifications on. The CPU usage when idle is good (<= 1.5%), KDE has been very responsive and stable, and to top it all, openSUSE 12.1 came with Go r60.3 in the repositories!

I have moved one of my developers to it. In its default configuration, openSUSE does not allow non-root users to connect to a wireless network. That is the only complaint that I have received yet. I resolved it by making my trusted wireless network a system connection.

Thus, life looks good so far! I shall update the status some time towards the end of January 2012 again.


No more Apple products!

No more Apple products! I have made that decision after a careful examination of several incidents.

For the record, I have a MacBook Pro 15" and an iPod Touch (second generation) for my wife, and a MacBook Pro 17" for myself. Now, I think that I should not have purchased them in the first place.

Why did I buy them, then?

I bought the iPod Touch because I thought that it would be useful for quick e-mail checks and responses. That it could carry my music was secondary; more like tertiary, since I browsed the Internet using it much more than I listened to the music in it.

When I first bought the 15" MacBook Pro, my primary operating system for well over a decade had been Linux. I purchased a Mac Mini for cross-browser compatibility testing at work. I was bewitched by the cuteness of the user interface, even though I was at variance with some of its UX concepts. When I discovered the command line and the POSIX layer beneath the UI, though, it appeared as if my wishes were answered. So, I went ahead and ordered the MacBook Pro.

The first alarm bells did ring when I placed the order. The price was unreasonably high. Worse, the India prices were at close to a 60% premium over the corresponding US prices. But the charm worked, and I parted with the money.

When the computer did arrive, I was unhappy to see that it came with US power socket pins and no Indian pin adapter. I had to purchase an adapter myself.

Over a period, my usage of the iPod Touch decreased (more about this later), and I gave it to my wife so she could use it for listening to music.

Trouble strikes

A few months later, the battery of the MacBook Pro failed rapidly. After trying unsuccessfully to de-hysterisize it by draining it fully, I realized that it was to no avail. I went to the local Apple reseller. The genius there examined my computer, and declared that the battery was dead and needed to be replaced. And, with a rueful countenance, he further declared that it had just run out of warranty. I was perplexed. I showed the system diagnostics to him, pointing out that the battery had gone through only 310 recharge cycles. With a superior smile, he advised me that the typical life of laptop batteries was only 300 cycles! I was now disappointed. With an effort at being civil, I told him that the computer in context was my fourth or fifth, and that I had enough experience to know that laptop batteries do not die so fast. He simply ignored me, and asked me if I wanted a new battery or not. By now, I was enraged. However, I had no choice. So, I paid a ridiculously high price - the Apple premium - for a new battery.

What about the other MacBook Pro?

Technically, I did not purchase it. One of my collaborators - who lives in Toronto, Canada - did. His primary operating had been Linux, too, for an even longer period. When I assured him that he could continue to run his familiar shell and gcc in MacOS X, he took the plunge. He purchased a 17" MacBook Pro. However, starting with an unfamiliar interface, the default user interface and behavior of Finder, and inability to easily install new packages (compared to yum install package), his ride was rough.

After some research, I suggested macports to him. However, he ran into nuisances when some libraries installed through that (as dependencies) began conflicting with those installed by Xcode. After a while, he gave up, and simply shipped it to me. And, he did it without warning me!

Trouble strikes, again!

Two days before the 17" computer arrived, I had gone to the local Apple reseller, and purchased an OS upgrade for my 15" computer, from Leopard to Snow Leopard.

My gentle collaborator forgot sending the power adapter when he sent the 17" computer. So, I needed to purchase one if I wanted to use the computer. Reluctantly, I went to the Apple reseller, again. Once again did I have to pay the Apple premium, this time for the power adapter. I opened the pack, and this time, I found that it had UK power socket pins! That was ridiculous! I asked the reseller why I was given an adapter with UK pins. He shrugged, and replied that others simply purchased an additional converter. And that he could sell me one if I wished to buy it! I was getting indignant.

Nevertheless, I showed him the Snow Leopard upgrade that I had purchased two days earlier. It was new and unopened. I asked him to take it back, and give me a family pack instead, since I now had two computers to upgrade. He flatly refused. I raised the matter to the store manager, urging him to be reasonable. He seconded his genius, and said that it was against Apple policies. If I wished to upgrade the second computer, I had to purchase another single upgrade copy. I was livid!

Meanwhile, why did I stop using the iPod Touch?

The biggest reason was that I could not watch technology talks in it. Why? Because it cannot play Flash content. Another problem was that its Exchange ActiveSync did not allow me to install a self-signed certificate, barring me from accessing my corporate e-mail in it.


  • Apple products are needlessly expensive. And, on the top, there is no guarantee that its expensive hardware is as durable as much less expensive hardware from other vendors.
  • Apple is an arrogant company. It has no respect for its customers. It has sold equipment to me, in India, with US and UK power socket pins, forcing me to spend additional money on adapters/converters.
  • Apple's policies work against its customers. They did not exchange the brand new, unopened Snow Leopard upgrade pack for a family pack.

I am not going to purchase another Apple product! Not until a time all of the above changes. Today, I spend almost all of my time on the computer inside a Linux VMWare Fusion image. And, yes, I have not upgraded the MacOS.