This post was originally published
on 27 October 2005
The great thing about Linux is that all the definitive
documentation (including the source code) comes with the OS.
You know, I'm finding that for a lot of the “beginner” linux distro's, this is
not true. Yes, the source is available but it doesn't come with
Granted, not everyone wants to fill their harddrives with source tarballs or
SRPMs on the off chance they might want to read them, but only a few distro's I
know come with source, and those are not necessarily for noob's. the main
example that comes to mind is Gentoo (since it's a “ports”-like
distribution). This is not to wax lyrical on the benefits of Gentoo for
learning Linux (Gentoo has many weaknesses in that regard too, among its
inappropriateness as a general OS for noob's), just that it's the only one I've
found where the source comes with the OS.
Other distro's with source “available” are Debian and Fedora (on extra CDs you
have to download, and Fedora locks the source into SRPMs which is another
learning hurdle to leap over, especially bad if all you want to do is read the
source comments, or documentation not included in the binary RPM). It makes me
feel like a 2nd-class citizen, that the source is somehow “open” but you have
to know the secret handshake to get at it.
All of this, just to say: while reading source docs is a laudable habbit and I
share your wish to encourage it, I can also see how it is difficult for most
Linux noob's to form this habbit so long as the source doesn't actually come
with the OS, which for a great many distro's it does not. The extra steps to
download (and in many cases extract from SRPMs) the source are probably enough
of a deterrent to forming this habit.
unfortunately, hacker habbits require hacker motivation :-(