Smart or stupid?

For this or that reason, I have installed a IRC server on my home computer. The choice of software was as simple as looking though yum repositories and getting hybrid-ircd. I just needed anything at all.

Fetching and installing an RPM was extremely fast and easy. Then I openned a configuration file and quickly scrolled through it, changing some of the obviously appropriate options. The default configuration file was over 20K, so, obviously, I haven’t read it through.

When I tried to start the daemon, it was coming up, but then immediately dying. I looked here and there and found a log file. In the log file, I saw these lines:

You haven’t read your config file properly. There is a line in the example conf that will kill your server if not removed. Consider actually reading/editing the conf file, and removing this line.

Hmm… I went back to the configuration file and scrolled through it again, paying a little bit more attention. But it was mostly filled with options that I didn’t care about. All I needed was a standalone IRC server as fast as possible.

I searched through the file for a couple of patterns, but that didn’t came up with anything. 20K is still way too much to read, I thought. So, I turned to Google. Within seconds I had exactly what I needed. This forum thread suggested that I look for:

/* REMOVE ME.  ... checks you've been reading. */
havent_read_conf = 1;

That helped – I fixed the configuration option and the daemon started just fine.

Now, I am thinking if such methods are smart of stupid? On one hand, it made me look through the configuration file with more attention. But on the other hand, I quickly found the solution the problem with Google and not with my own two eyes.

There are pros and cons, as usual. I am more against such methods, than in favor. If there are some really important options in the configuration file that you want your users to edit, just say so – “This section is very important! Please read carefully and edit all options.”. Introducing special options that prevent software from running, just because the user hasn’t found them (or haven’t understood the instructions) is mean.

5 thoughts on “Smart or stupid?”

  1. I just installed the same daemon this evening and came across the same problem. I read dutifully through the first two or so hundred lines and was satisfied that I’d found all of the necessary configuration options.

    However, upon noticing the logfiles, I quickly became irritated. Forcing me to read through 1500 lines of poorly arranged config data is not a great way to get me started with a new server. I think crap like this is what gives open source a lot of its bad name.

  2. I vote for “stupid” (with expletives) and share JD’s comments above. Use the sample config file from Postfix as an example. Works out of the box. This one starts out misconfigured and makes you slog though it.

  3. Stupid. Waste of time. Read through 3 times, and missed it. I can imagine the snide remarks from the IRC ops about that. It suites their style: pointlessly cliquish.

  4. Stupid, and very frustrating after already having spent hours trying to get an ircserver running. My config now says:

    /* REMOVE ME. The following line checks you’ve been reading. */
    # fuck you!!
    #havent_read_conf = yes;

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