Bluetooth and the Year of the Linux Desktop

First, my flame disclaimer: This is not a constructive post, it is just me letting off some steam accumulated while figuring out how to configure a Bluetooth microphone to record my voice in Gentoo Linux. You won't find a HOWTO here (I will probably post one soon), just some ranting going over a topic a lot of people have gone over before.

I recently bought a Nolan Bluetooth MIC to use it as a streaming microphone for future Free Software events. Years ago, when I started using GNU/Linux, I would have expected this to be a week-long geeky project to brag about and blog; but in 2013 I expect this to be a straightforward process of turning the mic on, pairing it with my computer and start talking. After all, this  is the Year of the Linux Desktop, right? just like 2012, 2011, and so on...

But I was dead wrong, and I soon found myself in a week-long geeky attempt to make something - anything - with that $60 piece of hardware while banging my head against my keyboard after reading the nth tutorial from 2008 about editing ALSA configuration files and stuff. It all started with the basic glitches of Bluetooth pairing using KDE's Bluedevil, and went on through hidden config files, source code diving, kernel panics, kernel recompilations and whatnot. After doing a combination of many things I didn't fully understand, I was able to record something with that device, and far from feeling accomplished, I was very frustrated to see that after all these years, you still need to be a Linux savy to use a Bluetooth MIC.

This brings me to the topic of De Icaza's lame excuse for switching to Mac, which sounds very real once you find out you need to manually edit hidden configuration files to make your hardware work. And we have thousands of talented developers using GNU/Linux right now, but every now and then you get the idea that people are just whining in mailing list about what's the freest distribution and why you shouldn't use your hardware instead of making things easier for regular users.

I ended up being under the impression that the amount of work needed for automatic configuration of a Bluetooth microphone would be large and would require a whole lot of coordination among several core projects like Bluez and ALSA, but I really think someone has to do it - now. We also need to focus on up-to-date documentation, explaining every single step and possible configuration so that users can at least follow steps if things don't work at the first try. As long as we have these bits of technology that won't just work out of the box and are poorly documented, we are targeting Free Software exclusively for geeks.

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