This post was originally published at sinewalker.blogspot.com.au 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 the OS.
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 :-(