I can do it better
June 10, 2013
We have all experienced this moment when we thought we could do something better than someone else. I want us all to think twice whenever we have this thought. You may be able to do things better but you should always ask yourself if you really can.
I have been thinking about this for a while now. Arch Linux is a prime example of users who think they know better than those building other distributions. Arch allows them to be lean and customized unlike, say, Ubuntu. They are right but consider this: you and I spend how many hours working on Linux? And how many of them are spent thinking about the nitty gritty of the OS? Pretty low compared to the high-level stuff we are mostly involved with. For example, I’m more concerned about getting my application developed and deployed into production and less about what flags were used to compile Apache httpd. For users in this situation it’s better to let others take care of stuff they’re not interested in.
The software you are running was developed by someone else. If we let that developer focus on one application so that all we had to do was run it, why not do the same for our OS? There comes a point in our careers when we cannot do everything in a vertical stack. We have to give up control over more things so we can focus on the things that matter to us.
pfSense is another great example. Sure I could run a minimal Fedora to serve as my firewall and VPN server. I’d have to dig in and learn how to do it and it wouldn’t be too difficult. But my knowledge of security best practices would not compare favorably to the developers of pfSense. It’s not because they are smarter but because they spend more hours working on a firewall than I do. Thus I trust them to do a better job.
I’m not saying Arch users or those who build their firewalls from scratch should move on to something else. I am saying that you should focus on the things you really want to do and trust others in the free(dom) software community to fill the remaining gaps. Thus when openSUSE makes a decision and you think “I could do it better”, re-think. You could do it better but would it serve you or the community if you did?