Five Tired Old Myths About GNU/Linux, and the whiney hackers that keep them alive

Five Tired Old Myths About GNU/Linux

I’ve been a casual supporter of Linux and free software in general for many years, but I don’t shove it in everyone’s face like a new fad religion. For sake of brevity, here are the 5 “myths” from the article, accompanied by my frank opinion as always.

1. On the whole, users aren’t all that dissatisfied with Windows

A myth is defined as “an unproved or false collective belief that is used to justify a social institution”. For a Linux crier to boldly state that the majority of Windows users are dissatisfied with the OS, that’s one hell of a stretch. Last time I checked, I used Windows because it does what I need without giving me headaches. For the same reason, I use Linux for servers because it works better for me and Windows Server (and Active Directory, and per-seat licensing fees, and everything else about Windows NT). Most people don’t give a damn because all they do is web surfing, email and Word/Excel/Powerpoint. Let me repeat that: Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. Linux has OpenOffice, which is great if all of your coworkers and managers live in a parallel universe where Microsoft Office isn’t the ten-year old established standard in the corporate and government world. If my computer lets me do the work that nets me a paycheque, I’m satisfied.

2. Too many distros

This one cracks me up. There are literally hundreds of Linux distributions, each one supported by a different group of developers. They all run the same software, but have different default settings or slight variances in the add-on tools. In the Windows world, we do backups. In the Linux world, hackers package their personal settings as a distro and name it after a penguin or a monkey. Someone please explain to me how that isn’t completely moronic.

3. People want certainty that hardware and software will work

Remember, they’re listing “myths” here, not truths. So Linux users don’t want certainty that they will be able to use their computer as it was intended… that’s an interesting angle! No, really! Linux can be made to work, and valiant efforts such as Ubuntu have shown tremendous progress, but you still can’t buy a cheap OEM gadget from the funny little asian computer guy and expect it to work on Linux without some heavy-duty tinkering, if at all. The very nature of the Linux kernel makes it extremely difficult for manufacturers to provide device drivers because they have to be compiled for each specific kernel revision. Don’t expect companies to release source code, as it would blur the lines between low-end and high-end products from a given manufacturer. This can apply to just about any mass-produced device, as it is usually cheaper to manufacture a single chip and cripple it with software to create a “value edition” product. With open sourced drivers, people will buy the cheaper product and unlock the deluxe features with a simple patch. Not good for the company, and eventually not good for the consumer as the cheap product will likely be discontinued to protect the more profitable sales.

4. As far as most people are concerned, the command line has gone the way of the dinosaur

Well, um, yes! The whole reason computers have gotten so big in the last decade is because they’ve been getting easier to use every year. It’s easier to point your mouse at an icon and click it, than it is to type the name of that same program and its long-ass folder name. Then there’s spelling errors and typos, or case-sensitivity. Few people know how to spell properly, and now you expect them to distinguish uppercase letters too ? Command lines can be tremendously useful to those who know how to use them, and have a justifiable reason to do so in the first place. The average web/email/office user does not.

5. Linux is still too geeky

It is. Even the guy who wrote the article is totally anal about writing “GNU/Linux” to distinguish between the Linux Kernel and related software. Would you like some Mozilla/Windows or some Adobe/Darwin with that ? Linux is too geeky, it’s all about following step-by-step guides to make even the most basic things work, where Windows/Mac would have you click a button or toggle a checkbox to do the same things. It has an overly complicated security model that’s overkill for most users, and it can’t run any of the software you’d find in a store. The geekiest thing of all, is that it has millions of whiney geeks trying to tell everyone how stupid they are for not using it. Heck, I’m a huge geek and I still think Linux is too geeky for its own good. It could be much better, and it certainly has the foundation to become quite popular, but without some kind of geek management it’s just going to keep growing in size and complexity while the most basic interface issues remain unresolved. Windows may be technically inferior but at least it gives the users what they want: usability, and if they’re still not satisfied there’s always Apple.

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