Friday, January 29, 2021

Complexity - or - You're DEFINITELY Doing it Wrong

Hey, I'm employed again! You know what that means - MORE RANTS!

Any new position is always connected to learning about new systems that you didn't see before - or in this case - that I deliberately steered away from before. And the base takeaway of the last couple weeks is "people love complexity".

From layering systems on top of Git to creating an ecosystem with an entire glossary of new terminology, some people just feel a system isn't worth doing if it isn't layered with system on top of system on top of system. Unfortunately Linux as a platform heavily endorses this approach with a huge library of easily obtainable layers.

I once made the joke that building a project under Linux is like playing an old graphical Sierra adventure game. You need to get a magic potion to save the Princess, but the witch demands you bring her an apple. The orchard can't give you an apple unless you bring them some fertilizer for the trees. The farmer has fertilizer, and he'll trade you for a new lamp for his barn. The lamp maker would love to help, but he's all out of kerosene... and so on for the duration of the quest. Much the same under Linux, just replace the quest items with the next package you need, which depends on the next package, which depends on the next package... sometimes I wonder if anyone wrote any actual code, or if they all just call each other in an infinite loop until someone accidentally reaches Linus' original 286 kernel, which does all the actual work...

So anyway, yeah, if you need to invent a glossary of terms to describe all the new concepts you are introducing to the world of computing, then you are probably not a revolutionary - you are probably over-complicating something we've all been doing for better than half a century. Do you really need 1GB of support tools to generate an HTML page?

It's one thing I loved about embedded, it hadn't reached the point of being powerful enough to support all these layers yet. But those days are rapidly ending. The Raspberry PI Pico is a $4 embedded board powerful enough to generate digital video streams by bitbanging IO. Memory and performance isn't much of a concern anymore.

But let me end on a positive note - unusual for me, I know. Some of these packages produce amazing results and even I'm glad to see them out there. But for Pete's sake, consider whether you really need to add another layer on top of those packages - what are you actually adding? Seriously, poor Pete.

... if I could add a bit from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy...

"Address the chair!"
"It's just a rock!"
"Well, call it a chair!"
"Why not call it a rock?"

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