[uClinux-dev] A pervasive problem...

Dave_Pfaltzgraff at patapsco.com Dave_Pfaltzgraff at patapsco.com
Fri Nov 16 10:56:26 EST 2001

Dave Pfaltzgraff at PATAPSCO
11/16/2001 10:56 AM

This message is only food for thought. If the result is a flame war, then it
means I have touched on some sensitive areas and so be it. You must remember
that my position is not as a developer but as a user and occasional contributor.

In a series of messages titled "Adding new board support [& other questions]",
Bruce Patterson attempted to find direction in performing a specific task.
Rather than a simple response that may have given him the direction he needed,
he was chided and told to "read the source." I thoroughly understand his
frustration as I have been there several times. The heritage of the *nix
community is rich and steeped in history. Much of what is done is not intuitive.
My most recent adventures resulted in a contribution to http://home.at/uldp in
the form of sections 5 (Adding Device Drivers) and 6 (Adding Applications). This
contribution was made only after I submitted it to this group and did not
receive any corrections.

Now, I find that John Jeffers is on a similar quest. I am very pleased that he
found my contribution. However, I find that the basic structure of the make
system has changed making my contribution (5) obsolete. I guess the mistake I
made was in not fully identifying the distribution (20010529) that I based my
studies on. However, I see that his distribution (20010622) is only a month
newer. All this can be learned after a post to this group brings the message "
Frankly, this has changed :-)"

>from my viewpoint, I can only ask questions:
  1. Why was such a radical (apparently) change made in such a short time?
  2. Why was there no documentation to support this?
  3. Why didn't anyone correct me when I submitted my document to this list a
mere month ago?
  4. Etc...

I'm not asking these questions to say that the changes are wrong or that anyone
is in the wrong for doing what they did. In fact the first question arises
because the evolution of software methodologies is a personal interest. The key
issue here can be summarized in the following issues which I consider to be
important points:
  1. The Linux community claims that they want "Linux everywhere"
  2. There are many of us who like Linux for a myriad of reasons
  3. Most of us are new to the *nix environment
  4. Without any introductory documentation, it's only natural that we have
seemingly simple questions.
  5. To be rebuffed and told to "read the source" without direction as to where
the introduction (much less chapter 1) can be found, only alienates us.

If this attitude perpetuates, we will fall back on other O/Ss that do provide
reasonable documentation and then where will Linux be?

If we are to grow as a community, we must take the time to document what we do.
This is not meant to imply that we need full module by module flowcharts, etc.
Look at how useful Rubini's book is without that level of detail. His book
provides the fundamentals that give the reader direction in his pursuit of
understanding. Without some very basic documentation, we will find, as Bruce
did, that history repeats itself in that any newbie must repeat what all the
others before him have done. Namely, stumble through seemingly arcane code until
the pieces start to fall together. (Anyone who does not consider 'make' arcane
must be intimately familiar with it!) How many potential members have we lost
because they were never able to find this connection?

In the case of uClinux, if someone were able to put a text together that
provided a fundamental understanding, not of the kernel but of the directory
structure and the build process, I would purchase it. Yes, even if an on-line
copy was available! Properly done, this would be an excellent resource to give
me initial direction and to serve as a refresher as time goes on. Sure, anything
in development is, by definition, in a state of flux, but, as somone on this
list pointed out, old documentation is btter than no documentation. Linux
(kernel and all that) is a great thing, but my key interest is in the
applications and it is the applications that will give life to Linux and ensure
its success "everywhere".

Another way to look at this, after reviewing the uldp site, is to ask: How many
of the FAQs would be answered by having a basic overall text to give direction?
Alternately: How much traffic on this list would be eliminated by enabling the
newbies to ask more specific questions?

Enough said...

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