Open Source

I have a bone to pick with the open source community

Recently I upgraded my phone to a Treo 680. Love it! Prior to that I was using a regular cell phone and a Sony Clie. Well the Clie had serious battery problems and I had to be around a wifi access point to use the online features. Not so handy in today's world. I was sycing my clie on both Ubuntu Dapper and Fedora Core 6 via network (i.e. using port net:192.168.1.1) flawlessly. 

But then comes syncing via USB. 

Heavy sigh.

I tried for days to get Ubuntu Dapper to sync with my Treo. It was sporadic at best until it finally wouldn't work. I loved Ubuntu. But it wasn't meant to be. So I switched back to Fedora Core (now using 6) and was able, with little tedium, to get my Treo to sync with jpilot. Not perfect (I wanted it to sync with Evolution) but it'll do.

I don't know how many of you out there have dealt with the mess that is Linux USB but I have a-plenty! And it's not pretty. Linux uses the udev system to create and destroy symbolic links from hardware to software. And from what I've seen the right hand of the kernel developers has no idea what the left hand of the user-space developers is doing.

This is unacceptable.

I realize a good deal of the open source community may look at this issue and say "who cares - it's user-space". Sorry gang but this could easily be a deal breaker for many a new Linux user. Think about it - people need their devices. Many of us who are on the go all the time need to remain connected and sync'd with our calendars, to-do lists, contacts, you name it! To think that Linux's ability to sync with a usb device is not priority is a big mistake.

Think about it: users want simplicity. Users want their computers to "just work". To think that my father would have to remember to open up a terminal, run chmod 777 /dev/ttyUSB* every time he wanted to sync his device (or worse, have to edit or create a udev rule by hand) is the equivalent to my father saying "Windows just works!"

I believe it's time the open source community puts forth a real effort to create a kernel division dedicated to making sure devices "just work". USB has been an achilles heel of the Linux OS for a long, long time. I hate to think it will continue to be so but I'm afraid that until more effort is put forth to standardize the work being done this will be an issue.

So please open source community - show us all that you really care about embracing your users by fixing the usb kernel bugs for good. I've seen these bugs for nearly ten years now and it's growing a bit, well, old.

Fix 'em before Vista arrives so there's even less reason for people to jump the open source shark! 

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

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