Gripes about SIPB and Linux

Don't know what SIPB is? Check out the SIPB home page for more information.

The MIT Student Information Processing Board (SIPB) maintains its own version of the Linux operating system. I personally happen to like Linux. The computer that this pages is on is, my personal computer at home. donut runs Linux.

Many MIT students apparently also run Linux. Those that need help turn to SIPB, which maintains a linux-help mailing list. I read linux-help, though I generally do not actively respond. In listening to the problems that people have, I have found several disturbing things about the SIPB attitude towards Linux:

SIPB is perhaps one of the least respected groups at MIT. There is a social stigma automatically associated with the name, "SIPB", essentially branding SIPB members as "computer geeks with no relation to reality". Unless SIPB tries to offer help to all Linux users, not just the Red Hat/Athena users, and it tries to fix the problems that it can, this image is sure to persist.

Part II: SIPB admits it won't help just any Linux users

I got an e-mail from a SIPB rep concerning my Xlogin problems. The mail read as follows:

From warlord@ATHENA.MIT.EDU Tue Oct 15 23:06:09 1996
Date: Tue, 15 Oct 1996 12:18:07 EDT
From: Derek Atkins <warlord@ATHENA.MIT.EDU>
To: David Z Maze <>
Cc: linux-help@MIT.EDU
Subject: Re: Xlogin: gee, thanks! 

> Can these problems be fixed?  Is a functional non-RedHat Athena system
> possible?

I dont know how old your system is.  I dont know how old the
Linux-Athena software you are running is, either. (1) Right now,
Redhat-Athena is the only supported system.  That doesn't mean you
couldnt load the Athena software on something else; it only means that
it isn't supported and hasn't been tested, and bug reports may fall on
deaf ears. (2)

Just remember that Slackware is no longer supported, and the Slackware
installation server has been removed.  There has been some interest in
supporting Debian Linux in addition to Redhat, but there has been no
progress in that direction.


The footnotes (mine) are as follows:

(1) The software I'm running was installed out of the sipb-athena locker on Athena. What this means is that it is the source code the SIPB people use (so I am led to believe) to build their Athena stuff.

(2) So they don't really care whether the stuff they keep online is right or not; it's just there. Whatever problems I have with it are therefor my fault.

Admittedly, I'm not using the Official Supported Version of Linux for Athena Systems. I don't want to; I really want to run David's Personal Linux. (Once upon a time, I dreamed of building a system entirely from source code.) But SIPB's "we'll give you this stuff, but we don't care whether or not it actually works" attitude bothers me more than anything else I've heard about SIPB.

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