Too Busy For Words - the PaulWay Blog

Tue 31st Oct, 2006

High Moral Ground Linux

Michael Ellerman says "distros don't get to take the high moral ground". I'm sure the entire Debian community are now baying for your blood, Michael; they've been taking the moral high ground for years. The current fuss about FireFox vs IceWeasel is as much Debian saying "We don't want to be encumbered by Mozilla Foundation's licensing arrangements" as Mozilla's manifest failure to co-operate with the Linux community over patching and source code control. If distros were supposed to make things work for their users, Kororaa wouldn't get rude letters from kernel developers stirring the pot about closed-source video card drivers. We'd all have MP3, MPEG2, WMA and MOV format players in our distros by default, instead of having to secretly install them behind the developer's backs by a sophisticated combination of extra repositories and secret handshakes.

My stand on the issue of scripts assuming /bin/sh is actually /bin/bash is that this is just plain wrong. It not only makes things a lot slower, on boot particularly, but isn't that difficult to fix: if your script requires /bin/bash, ask for it by name! Submitting patches to all those scripts that require /bin/bash is the punishment for developer laziness. I do wonder about the amount of testing that went into the patch that changed /bin/bash to /bin/sh in Edgy, because the failure reports seem to be coming thick and fast. But, just as kernel developers get to shake the finger when someone abuses the GPL, the entire Linux community should get to shake the finger and glare meaningfully at the developers who assume that they're getting /bin/bash by any name. Linking /bin/bash to /bin/sh is like putting on a blindfold and saying "I must be safe, I can't see the wumpus".

(Besides, it can't be that many shell scripts that require this assumption (i.e. they need functionality which /bin/sh doesn't provide but /bin/bash does). Edgy still boots, after all. I suspect the "millions of scripts" that would require changing is really between ten and fifty.)

"Distros don't get to take the high moral ground, they're supposed to make things work for their users". Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! Oh, Michael, you're a funny guy.

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