Propritory software… such a pain

I recently got my 1.5 TB external storage(usb) unit, which i had planed to use as a shared datastore, between:

  • my laptop(Dell D630)(usually runs Gentoo, sometimes Debian-Lenny)
  • Sweta(my wife)’s laptop(MacBook Black running OS X Snow Leopard)
  • our desktop at home (runs Ubuntu(as of now), which im planning to move to Lenny too, as Ubuntu is obnoxiously irritating)(this one was supposed to be the permanent docking station for the unit as well)

So given the situation, the disk was obviously going to live most of its life flirting with GNU/Linux setups, so it made sense to have it on ext3 (or ext2/jfs/xfs etc?). So, i did the partition tables then mkfs.ext3, some spicing up with tune2fs and after e2labeling it, with some amount of satisfaction mounted the partitions to verify i had done them right.
Having verified disk’s working state, i unmounted and jacked the disk into the MacBook(OS X) which decided not to mount it. dmesg showed kernel figured the disk was there, which indicated to me the reason for it not being mounted(it probably didn’t know what ext3 was). Some reading on internet revealed i needed ext2fsx to save the day. My attempt to install it however, was thwarted with a not so intuitive error message(which gave me no clue as to what the fuck was wrong with my installation). With some frustration, i accepted that user friendly softwares are supposed to obfuscate the error messages/stack traces, so that user gets no fucking clue about failure and has no way to fix it(not quite what i call ‘user friendly’, but whatever). Some more reading indicated i needed MacFUSE and FuseExt2 to do userspace shit since my kernel didn’t think i as someone who paid for the piece of shit(OS X) deserved the right to use other filesystems than HFS+ and crappy windows file systems(like NTFS and FAT32).
FuseExt2 made it work alright, but automount was not writable and doing writable mount required ‘-o force’ option, which essentially meant Sweta had to hit the terminal every time she jacked the disk in, but that was no more than tip of the iceberg. Actually mounting the ext3 volume, as we figured, was a fourty minute process, as you are forced to wait after the mount command returns, for Finder to unfreeze and mounted volume to appear. User friendly, isn’t it?
Having it mounted was however, not the end of my miseries. We tried to transfer a movie(700 odd MBs worth of data i believe), which took forever to get to 33%, not cool by any standards. I finally had to give up and cancel the transfer, and then uninstalled FuseExt2.
Irritated, i popped the Disk Utility app, and started my hunt for options. It seemed to have Ext2 as one of the items in filesystem selection box on the repartition tab, which i decided to go with, only to find it harassing my new disk for one and a half hour without moving the progress bar beyond 50%. I finally ran out of patience and unplugged it. On jacking it into my Dell, fdisk revealed the state of affairs. Mac had made an ass of my disk, the partition table was total mess(and by the way, it hadn’t even begun creating the second partition(i had requested two ext2 partitions to start with). I don’t know what world OS X team lives in, but in the world that i know, it usually doesn’t make sense to write the partition table after formatting the filesystem unless you enjoy doing the same thing over and over. Anyways, i finally had to redo the partition cutting exercise and decided to go with ext2 this time, as it seemed like mac would read that. But guess what?, i jacked the disk into mac only to find out it does not read ext2 either. Fuck! Why does disk utility have an option to create partition using format the OS can’t read?
Annoyed and frustrated, i gave up and decided to have it the Mac way. Once again i resorted to disk utility in order to create 2 Mac Extended(HFS+ partitions). Surprisingly, the partitioning tool that took one and a fucking half hour without completing even one of the two ext2 volumes i requested, managed to finish HFS+ on a 1.5 TB disk under 2 minutes flat.
Those who compile the Linux kernel for themselves know that HFS+ support(under file systems -> miscellaneous…) is not default. You have to enable it and recompile. I had to go back to menuconfig, do the hunting, enable it as a module, make it, modules_install and modprobe it before i could use the fucked up proprietory filesystem the jack-ass created. All because OS X doesn’t know one of the most widely used filesystems in GNU/Linux world(i failed to get any reasons for it supporting NTFS and FAT filesystems inspite of it being a flavour of a very respected Unix distribution, such a bad ass child). Even though i had to compile the module to get things flying, it took me no more than 3 minutes. Thats usability for you.
End of the day, it worked! But i had to compromise. I had to do it the proprietory way, the mac way. You pay for the software and get your license, but even after you own it, you pay every single day, not in terms of money but freedom. You just don’t have a choice. The software decides what you can and can’t do on the hardware you own, and fighting your way through is insanely difficult and grossly unproductive excercise. A good software should always help the user and never come in the way. I don’t know about you, but i do not remember anything ever coming anywhere close to GNU/Linux when it comes to usability.
Software being a dumb-ass tantamounts to it being unusable and un-userfriendly. I can only hope propritory software makers will someday figure what a pain in the butt products they create are, and will start to work towards making user’s life easy and the softwares usable. I really feel sorry for users that have to put up with this kinda shit everyday.


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