The Most Pathetic Linux Bug

June 5, 2011 at 8:17 PM (Uncategorized)

I have just found what has to be one of the top 20 most pathetic, petty things I’ve ever seen.

Someone I follow on Twitter wrote that they had published a “Discordian Date” WordPress plugin. Not having a clue what a “Discordian calendar” is, I followed the link to Wikipedia to read about it.

While reading the entry, I found an odd sentence:

“it is included in nearly all Linux distributions, despite some resistance.[7]”

That piqued my curiosity, so I followed the citation which led to an old Debian Linux bug report. What I read there made me facepalm literally.

From: “Silas S. Brown”
To: Debian Bug Tracking System
Subject: util-linux: ddate should probably be in a different package
Date: Fri, 07 Jun 2002 18:50:16 +0100

Package: util-linux
Version: 2.11n-4
Severity: normal

The ddate utility supports the printing of Discordian dates,
as used by the (apparently fictional) Church of the
SubGenius.

People with more traditional moral values might not
appreciate a reference to or advertisement for this movement
being present on their system
. However, because it is in
util-linux, they will not be able to selectively remove it
(unless they write a script that is to be run after every
upgrade).

This is significant because it can prevent such people from
recommending Debian. It would be much better if “ddate”
were in some other package (perhaps a package of its own) so
that it is easier to maintain a system without it, should
the user wish to do so.

I never knew the existence of other calendars was a moral issue. I sure hope Silas Brown never discovered that Jews, Muslims and the Chinese also have their own calendar systems. It would probably give the poor fellow a case of the vapors.

Let’s hope he never cracked open the Linux kernel itself. Some of the source code contains some very naughty language (Thanks for that link, @alasta). The shock might have been fatal.

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5 Comments

  1. Dan J said,

    Thanks for the link to my plugin!

    Simply amazing that someone thinks the mere existence of a program that converts dates between calendar systems means that the entire distribution might be “shunned” by the self-righteous.

  2. Linux Blog on: The Most Pathetic Linux Bug | MiloRiano: Computers news, tips, guides... said,

    […] Continued here: Linux Blog on: The Most Pathetic Linux Bug […]

  3. Silas S. Brown said,

    With all due respect, I was not objecting to the existence of other calendars. I simply had visions of my religiously-sensitive, new-to-Linux friend accidentally typing “ddate” instead of “date”, concluding that Linux is Satanic or something, and running off back to Windows (which might be even more Satanic, but he doesn’t know that because Windows is less likely to give him a shock if he clicks on the calendar with one tap too many). Profanity in the Linux kernel source code was not an issue, as it gets removed by the compiler, and I did not need to leave the kernel source on my friend’s machine. Similarly I did not need to install packages related to other religions or anything else my friend just might consider objectionable to have on his computer. But ddate was marked as being essential to the system. To prevent my friend from accidentally running into it and panicking, I had to write a script that removes /usr/bin/ddate after any upgrade, which was a chore. As I said in the bug report, I was not objecting to the existence of ddate itself, but merely to its being considered essential to the system.

    So, are there any prizes for writing the most pathetic Linux bug report? especially in the subcategory of “bugs that actually got fixed”? :-)

    • Dan J said,

      …visions of my religiously-sensitive, new-to-Linux friend accidentally typing “ddate” instead of “date”, concluding that Linux is Satanic or something, and running off back to Windows…

      To prevent my friend from accidentally running into it and panicking…

      This is just my personal opinion, but I feel that anyone superstitious enough that they would abandon an operating system or “panic” because of something like that really has no business being coddled or appeased because of their inability to separate myth from reality. That’s simply ridiculous.

      I agree that ‘ddate’ shouldn’t necessarily be considered essential to the operation of Linux, but making the system “nutjob-friendly” is equally ridiculous. Heaven forbid you actually tell him one day to chmod something to 666.

  4. ejhuff said,

    It has been completely gone from util-linux for some time now. At least Gentoo and Fedora have ddate packages. See the current Wikipedia page for more info.

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