For the past few weeks, I have been running Arch Linux on both of my machines. This switch was made because I was hoping for a little more adventure with my machines and a little more understanding of how Linux is setup. I have been very pleased with the decision. Not only is there a constant feeling that I made the right choice, but every single problem that I have run into has been fixable and feels great to fix.
Now, I will give a more detailed explanation of how big of an Arch Linux fan I am sometime in the future. For now, I would like to travel about 3 weeks into the past and take a look at when I was first installing Arch Linux. I decided to dual boot Windows 8.1 and Arch Linux so that I am still able to use my new gaming machine to play all of the newest games on Windows. During this install, I ran into minimal problems.
After everything was setup on both my laptop and my desktop, I noticed a quite unfortunate problem. On my laptop, when I booted into Windows, the system time was incorrect. (It was 5 hours ahead of my local time). On my Desktop, there was the same problem except that my Arch time was 5 hours ahead of my local time. For the first few days, my thought process was something along the lines of “No big deal; I can manage.” But after switching back and forth between my desktop and laptop, I found that it was hard to keep track of what operating system had the incorrect timestamp on either machine.
After doing some Googling, it wasn’t hard to find that this problem was due to the fact that Linux requires the BIOS system time to be set to GMT while Windows requires the BIOS system time to be set to an accurate local time. In order to fix the problem, one has to use an unreliable method to make Windows or Linux convert the BIOS time into their required time formats. Personally, after experiencing some problems with getting Windows to recognize the BIOS time as GMT, I decided to set my BIOS time to my local time and force Linux to handle the conversion.
After this small delay, I spent a good amount of time thinking about how many of these type of problems exist: when two different, yet very similar, things decide to use different standards that cause problems when trying to get things setup in coordination. Even though all of these technologies share the same functionalities, they go about the architecture design choices in completely different ways.
I like to call this the “Segregation in Technology” problem. As technology evolves, every creator of the new technology will attempt to make things better by making new decisions; however, any decision they make may go against the already established standards, and any time this happens, confusion is undoubtedly going to happen.
Another example of this type of problem that comes to mind is filesystems. Several popular filesystems are in existence (FAT, NTFS, EXT4); however, no operating system can seem to agree on which file system to use. What does this mean? When switching between these systems, some type of conversion must occur in order to access the files from another type of system. This becomes incredibly annoying, for instance, when trying to do large file transfers from my Windows machine to my Android phone, which causes problems because of the incompatibility between Window’s NTFS system and the SD Card’s FAT file system.
This very same problem was about to occur recently when ChromeOS announced that they would drop support for the EXT4 file system (Which is essentially the standard in all UNIX-esque systems). Of course, there was a large uproar from the community because of this, and Google revoked their previous announcement. Although the problem never occurred, the consideration for the drop of filesystem support by Google shows how easily the “Segregation in Technology” problem can manifest itself.
As time goes on, take time to notice pieces of technology that do not share standards (Hint: Pre-Lolli Android). If I were an old man who didn’t have the time to learn the ins-and-outs of the many forms of technology that exist today, I would not even attempt to use these devices in my daily life. I can see why most elderly folks don’t. I think that this problem of segregation is one of the largest problems in modern technology and its recent boom in the “Internet of Things”. What do you think?