Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Fighting my Own Ignorance

I've been messing with my main computer for the past two days. It's a Linux system. Cdrecord doesn't play well with the Linux 2.6.x kernel. So, I bit the bullet and compiled a 2.4 kernel only to have it fail at bootup. The problem lies with the initrd image that loads modules allowing the kernel to boot. Even though I used mkinitrd and modified the mkinitrd modules file, no joy. On a lark, I googled for cdrecord and 2.6 kernel and found the following article. I had cdrecord working in about 10 minutes. It amazes me at the poor documentation in computer science. I'm sure it's that way for other fields. It may be why there are so many How-To computer books in the bookstores. My joke based on experience is that most computer solutions are 5 minute fixes, but it takes 5-12 hours to find the 5 minute fix. This exercise was no exception.

At least in Basic Science, we were trying something that no one had done before, or you were manipulating an organism or a gene and you didn't know what to expect. This is applied technology and people know the answers, but they don't give them out or the answer isn't obvious from the man page. Perhaps, I lack imagination, but computers have always struck me as very brittle technology. I've found bugs in my bank's online banking software, or possibly a design flaw. I've had to support bugs in Microsoft software. Sometimes I wonder if we aren't too dependent on this technology.
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