2004-05-26 20:36

What is flexibility

Ok, a rant.

A word you see a lot on the free software (whatever) circles, is flexibility.

In particular, people always like to say how a certain program, or operating system, is flexible.

For example, some people say gentoo (or GNOME, or KDE, or fvwm) is flexible.

Poor misguided souls. They should say they are configurable.

Flexible doesn't mean configurable!

A flexible program will handle many different conditions without user intervention (or with minimal intervention). The metaphore is that flexible objects are bent with minimal force.

Kudzu (or Knoppix's hwconfig) is flexible.

Recompiling your kernel to statically link a new driver is inflexible.

If you think that just because you can manually reconfigure your system into a bazillion different configurations, your system is flexible, then you surely agree that marble is flexible.

After all, you can turn marble into many different statues, all different!

No, silly putty is flexible, because you can shape it into different forms easily and quickly and with little effort.

If in order to change the ink settings on your printer you need to create a new printing queue, or print to a file and perform a magic incantation with a .ps file, your printing system is not flexible.

In fact, the only remotely flexible printing system on Linux is CUPS. The rest are rigid, inflexible and bad at their work (at least the ones I know).

If in order to access a device someone tries to use you have to reconfigure your system, or download more stuff, or hunt for a driver, or rebuild your kernel, or recompile applications, your system is broken.

If you think that your system is flexible just because after applying force to your system it performs, you are wrong. Your system is rigid, and you are the flexible buffer that is adapting, it's like a bakelite rod wrapped in rubberfoam. And you are the foam.

You know, when you take an inflexible object and you try to make it adapt to something, it breaks. That's why inflexible software is broken so often.

Since almost everyone has this silly idea about what flexible means, I will probably start using malleable or plastic instead.

Thank you very much, try the veal, I'll be here until thursday.

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