Monday, August 11, 2008

John (J5) Palmieri: Let’s party like it is 1999

You know what I dislike about emotional arguments?  They are backed up by specious logic and anicdotal evidence which is often so out there it verges on being part of a fantasy land people build up to feel that they are right.  Lets examine the argument:

It seems that a “feature” that Microsoft implemented in the Windows 9.x days has appeared in Plymouth. Yes that’s right, that “feature” the I.T. world grew to hate, holding down the Ctrl or F8 keys to get into Windows Safe Mode ( has invaded Fedora. Ouch!

Now, if I take a step back, I can completely claim the following:

  • Plymouth takes away my freedom of choice (a freedom that has become a basic Human Right

  • Fedora has taken three steps back to gain one step in the name of ‘usability’

The funny thing is Mac has this feature also (hold c to boot from cdrom etc). Let’s repeat after me, “having to hold down one key after boot does not take away my freedom of choice”. And while we are at it, why do people fling around phrases like “freedom of choice” so cavalierly? It gets to the point where those once powerful words become watered down and an instantly marks ones argument as suspect. I know, let’s give more freedom of choice by bringing up the bios every time they boot. There is a lot of choices in there.

If there is an argument to be had here it is about continuity and discoverability. On the continuity side, if someone is used to seeing grub every time they boot it might be nice to keep that feature or something equivalent on upgrade but not on a fresh install. On discoverability of the feature, I would agree this is where the fustration comes from. However for the small number of (potential) users who actually like grub it would be wrong to add another option to the install. It would be much better as part of system-config-boot and if possible as an option in grub itself so that people who need to switch often can set it the first time and never have to hold down a key again. Hell, if I dual booted a lot I would like to have a key assigned to each OS I boot into but then again with virtualization being pretty good, there are better ways to run a separate OS.

Put it this way. Users may have kicked and screamed when Windows integrated DOS but Windows usage still grew. When MS decided not to show the text boot menu, again usage still grew. The way I see it is polish opened up the world of computing to more and more people.  By not polishing Linux and staying in a mindset that change is bad we will be stuck in the past while the rest of the world moves on. That is not to say every change is good but good reasoning went into this particular change and so far I haven’t seen any legitimate argument for not having it. Let’s repeat again, “having to hold down one key after boot does not take away my freedom of choice”.

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