Zac Anger's Blog

Use Boring Stuff

10 February, 2019

Use Boring Stuff (It's Okay!)

(copy-pasted from a mastodon thread.)

i've seen this meme going around a bit that compares unix-y systems/linux distros and categorizes them in terms of something like "actual sysadmin" to "windows user" and i just wanna say, don't take it seriously.

i've been using 95%-ish free software for about 10 years now, including linux on the desktop. my job is mostly working with linux stuff, including all the hip, modern ops stuff (like containers and kubernetes and shit).

on my own computers, i've run debian, arch, ubuntu, elementary, freebsd (very briefly), opensuse (also briefly), fedora, and lots of other debian and arch derivatives. i am, like, sort of a professional at this stuff, since i get paid lots of money to do it, as a living.

right now, i have five laptops. one is a mac, one runs windows 10, one has debian sid, one has manjaro, and one has peppermint (i am not joking, peppermint is slick). i do linux and servers and shit for a job and i run the distros that the meme says is for babies.

there's nothing wrong with using shit that just works. i use windows on one laptop because audio software (vsts, the DAW i like) just works. i have a mac because it Just Works with Meraki and AD and whatnot. i use boring, "babby" distros on my personal laptops because i spend a lot less time memorizing tar flags and compiling openssl when pacman shits itself.

as a certified professional person who does computers for a living, i'm telling you, you don't need to use netbsd or gentoo to be good at computers. and tbh i'd argue that if you're using gentoo at work, you're wasting your time and your employers money, and you should just use something that works. (nothing against gentoo, i've never actually run gentoo, i'm sure it's swell.)

i've been thinking a lot lately about Not Invented Here syndrome and too much abstraction and always doing the cool thing rather than the thing that makes sense, so this stuff is on my mind. i should not be spending time debugging an in-house hacky feature flag system when we could just use a thing that's already well-supported. and no one should run their own kubernetes, you should just use the thing your cloud provider already has (or rancher).

and you should not be hunting down your own drivers and trying to figure out how to get a working version of glibc on your super hip unix software distribution.

unless that's something you're really into! if you are, that's cool, and you should totally do that!

but if that's not why you're using linux or bsd, then fuck that, find something stable and usable! i like watching kdramas on viki! i don't like trying to figure out how to use curl without a libc!

anyway, there's a sunday rant for you. TLDR: use shit that works if you have better things to do. if you have good reasons to use shit that needs help to get it working (including just for fun!), then do that. but don't feel like a noob if you use shit that just works. i use shit that just works. people will pay you money if you know how to use shit that just works.

i'm also definitely not saying we should all use the same boring, stable stuff all the time. if you're a person who hacks on really fun, low level stuff, that's awesome! people working on wayland, for example: that's awesome! the rest of us need you!

but if you're a person trying to just use linux on the desktop, or trying to maintain a whole bunch of servers, or whatever, just use the boring thing! use the boring thing until the hipster thing is the boring thing! that's okay!

it's easy to argue that the exciting new stuff won't become stable and boring unless we all adopt it and contribute back, and i guess there's some validity to that, but at the same time, i need to watch my korean soap operas, and i definitely DON'T need to try to explain to the CTO that i put some hipster distro in production because i thought we should be supporting experimental stuff and that's why we lost a million dollars yesterday.

it's OKAY to use boring stuff, because boring stuff works.

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