This is a fairly long one but may be a real eye-opener to you old-timers and "traditional" linux users.
[Disclaimer: This applies primarily to KDE-based linuxes but to an extent also Gnome due to it's tolerance of THE grub2 anomaly.]
As mentioned above, there is no grub1 for openSUSE, for example. That is there is no opaque rpm binary download for it.
So we could compile grub1 from scratch. That is if it required compilation. It's mostly script based, but let's say we need to compile it (or anything else for that matter).
Now let us ask ourselves how we might compile ANYTHING on a kde system such as openSUSE or Kubuntu.
On kubuntu, it's possible, at least with Casper/oneiric. With 12.4 I decided to revert to 11.10 due to the fact that they wiped out too much of the environment for anything to work except cmake and a few other things -- provided they cooperate
with dash (as opposed to 'bash').
That last point isn't a big deal for most programmers but it might take a bit of poking around to discover that the default shell (dash) is causing problems finding and linking pthreads.
Not pthreads itself and not code source. Let's put this all on one line so it shows all over the internet. Pthreads isn't the problem in *buntu. 'DASH' apparently is. It can't handle the syntax of the assumed 'BASH' shell sometimes.
So up until the lastest (admittedly alpha) Kubuntu, folks could at least compile from sources.
That is the check and balance in open "source". It keeps the developers honest, increases the risk of getting caught if they pass stuff around in these huge distros that consist almost entirely of 'opaque' source binary packages.
But how does openSUSE stack up in the compilation area?
The DVD comes with nearly all the dependencies required to build anything excpt kde from scratch. That's great.
But can you compile?
The answer is long and ranges from questions about /usr/local installations that get pkg-config data re-routed into /usr/share folders (where it cannot be found, nor removed if you uninstall), to questions about terminal apps in general, and finally to about the attitude at the forums regarding low-level programmers, which is not only not conducive to curiosity and investigation (never mind meaningful bug reports), but genuinely suppresses questions about the source of some of the more obvious and egregious oversights on the part of KDE.
So let's condense this to a nutshell.
Let me prove this point about 'opaque' binary packages and lack of oversight that is caused (literally "caused") by this intolerance toward low-level experimentation and inquiry.
[I have warned them to remove this package now three times over a period of as many months. Time's up! THIS is what happens when you don't encourage people to "play" with their systems. THIS is what happens when those at the top say "trust us" and we foolishly follow along, in violation of the very concept of "open" source.]
This (above) is the file linked at the opensuse downloads page if you search for libffi and grab what looks like the "latest" for a "standard" openSUSE 11.4 distro.
Here's the trail to tht link.
[hit additional software, search "libffi" for 11.4]
We end up here.
There are several packages. Let's get the latest. It's libffi45 about halfway down the page.
This is an allegedly "standard" source package for openSUSE 11.4, as we can see. That's the finalized distro which I got as a DVD because I use dialup.
This libffi package should have been 280K not 58 megs.
While there is nothing inherently dangerous in downloading (3 hours for dialup users) and compiling GCC for X hours, it's inconvenient, disappointing, unnecessary, and indicative of what CAN happen when we don't keep our eye on the ball -- or "keep many eyes on the ball" which is one of the main purposes of "open" source.
It has been my experience that about two out of three source packages from openSUSE are fouled up in one way or another. From missing content to corrupted content to unexpected end of file errors and ... The latest was amarok, patches that didn't work straight out of the bux but when forced broke the compilation at 46% when it discovered a file that didn't exist.
Before closing this part of my explanation of why I question the direction linux (KDE-based, mostly) is heading:
Define "source" as in "open source"?
Back to the question about Linux being unfriednly to linux, it appears that linux has lost it's base philosophical advantage and while it remains highly secure at the user level, there are NO CHECKS on what is being done at the development level.
I think this is a wrap for this thread.
Thanks for lending an ear.
And thanks for the comments, guys.
And now you old-timers know why I am asking this question. It's not about YOUR linux. It's about mine.