Friday, 27 March 2009

Linux is about choice (pt 2)

So you've seen my hasty "Linux is about choice" post already. In all fairness to Zimbra, it's a great product, and I'm sure many people rightly swear by it.

Part two of my rant deals with another situation that is slightly different -
"Why then, do applications (or their developers) decide to take away [or keep] that choice?"

While the Zimbra example is easy to argue (and has been suggested already) as a "bug", my second example could be purely opinion.

Think about the great program gnome-power-manager. For those of you who don't know Gnome / Linux, gnome-power-manager is an all-in-one laptop battery monitoring tool. It has the standard battery icon showing charge level; a power history graph showing power history, voltage history, charge profiles and more; as well as LCD backlight, sleep and hibernate controls. And in my opinion, it does a a great job!

(Should any of the developers involved read this, my intention is not to pick on or make fun of you, I hope to purely use the issue as an example, not the people involved!)

Ok, so I was configuring gnome-power-manager to handle everything it is designed to handle, with the exception of power off / hibernate. I use ACPI to hibernate my machine when the power button is pressed, and when the battery power drops to below 5%. (Why ACPI? Because it works regardless of weather I'm logged into Gnome or not; or even if X is not running at all).

Here are the related power button options:
"When the power button is pressed", the options are (Ask me, Hibernate, or Shutdown)
"When the suspend button is pressed", the options are (Do Nothing or Hibernate).

There is no option to "Do nothing" when the power button is pressed. In fact, why are the four options not available for either button? (Ask, Hibernate, Shutdown, Nothing).

In my opinion, this would be the ultimate options offering the most flexibility, without overloading the user with a bulk of detail in the control panel. And yet it looks like my opinion is not understood. It appears the primary reason is because including the "Do Nothing" option would mean gnome-power-manager is doing "half a job".

Could you not forsee that parts of your application may be highly desired, and other parts not so? Given the large "roll your own" background of so many Linux users, why would that mantra not continue as far as possible? Why does Evolution (and Claws and Thunderbird), Firefox, and so on have a plugin framework? Or an external editor option?

Precisely because different people use Linux in different ways. And this is why Linux is about choice!

OK, I promise I'll get back to a technical blog post next :) And if you're interested, the bug is here.

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