Calm down dears, it’s only an operating system

When you write about technology, you get used to a certain amount of hate mail: god forbid you should say anything bad about Apple, or PlayStations, or… you get the idea. However, this report in The Inquirer is particularly pathetic: an analyst writes a report suggesting that in some respects Windows Server is as good as Linux, so Linux fans go ape – and some of them call her at home, late at night, to express their displeasure.

The analyst describes these people as “nut jobs” and “an extremist fringe of Linux loonies”; naturally, she’s understating things.

16 thoughts on “Calm down dears, it’s only an operating system

  1. Stephen says:

    I used to run Linux, before I went back to the Apple fold, so I know about its shortcomings; but I find these sorts of comparisons a bit stupid. If you’re a Unix person you will simply never use Windows in a production environment: the very ethos that produces it is antithetical to your entire being. (Yes, I have just been reading Penny Arcade: how did you know?)

    For some of my friends, who know of no other environment than that of Microsoft, the world begins and ends with ASP and IIS and clicking little widgets, and they will probably never know the power, the freedom, the sheer joy of a craftily-constructed grep or the quiet pleasure of researching and producing a new PHP doodad without even thinking about taking an “approved course” to get some more letters after your name. Does this make them bad people? Of course not. Some people will always do things in the advertised, approved way, and will always be cannon fodder for Microsoft and companies like it. Maybe they like the sense of being part of the mainstream. Maybe thinking for themselves hurts.

    My point? Oh yes; well, it’s a plea for tolerance, really: Linux is good for Linux users, who don’t seem to mind having to spend two hours twiddling with the damned thing for every hour they spend actually working; Windows is good for those people who like to do as they’re told; and OS X is good for those people who like the power of Unix delivered in a stable, good-looking and easy to use package (the subject of a recent post on my blog, ahem).

  2. Gary says:

    > Some people will always do things in the advertised, approved way, and will always be cannon fodder for Microsoft and companies like it. Maybe they like the sense of being part of the mainstream. Maybe thinking for themselves hurts.

    Hmmm, I have to disagree with you there – you’ve wandered into a pet hate of mine: software snobbery. Characterising all windows users as MS cannon fodder is as wrong as characterising all Linux users as spotty, bearded, star wars-obsessed virgins with bad personal hygiene.

    Sure, some people choose a platform by default, but that doesn’t mean everybody does. My laptop runs Windows because I can’t be arsed hunting around the web for obscure code to get the wireless card to work under linux; in Windows, it just works. My laptop is a tool, not an article of faith: I want to switch it on and do stuff, not piss about with its configuration.

    On my powerbook, I run Microsoft Office. Not because I don’t have alternatives – I review software for a living, after all – but because it’s the right tool for the job. I like the way it works, the way it renders text and the way I’ve configured it, and I can’t find an alternative program that hits all of my want-list. So the MS software is an informed choice rather than ignorance or inertia.

    A good analogy: kitchen knives. Some people swear by horrifically expensive, ceramic, Japanese knives – but a cheap knife from Tesco does the job perfectly well for a fraction of the cost.

  3. ms. mac says:

    Cheap knives from Tesco are exctly that, cheap! Stay away!

    Linux, Windows etc I have no knowledge about but knives and other kitchen utensils? I could dissertate for hours……

  4. gusto says:

    “Windows is good for those people who like to do as they’re told”

    Profound, but perhaps the reality is that Windows is good for people who like using Windows.

  5. mr. mac says:

    Look out Gary, your blog is turning into a slashdot-style OS fan boy rant page. I agree with you that Windows is not always an uninformed choice.

    Sometimes, you end up so far down one path that you can’t justify the expense of changing course. Personally, the number of games and other Windows-based SW I run precludes the use of Linux, even if I wanted to. Not all of us have the luxury of having the time and energy to configure each of our PCs with the individual HW support necessary to run the alternatives.

    I like to build my own hardware and am well versed in setting up MS OSes but don’t even know where to start for a Linux solution. I would gladly run a free, open-source, secure and bug-free OS if it was a turn-key installation that would allow me to utilise my current SW investment.

    If there is a way to do this, the Linux fan boys should let us mindless, MS-based automatons know. But while ever you bash us over the head for our obvious stupidity, you’re not going to get our undivided attention when you get around to presenting the alternative.

  6. Gary says:

    It really depends on what software you’ve got. For example OpenOffice 2.0 is a good MS Office alternative, there’s the Firefox browser, GIMP image editing programme, etc etc etc. And of course if there’s a program for which there’s no linux alternative, you can always run a dual-boot system with Windows.

    Ultimately it comes down to time, I think. Finding alternative programs (and in some cases learning them) can take a while, particularly if you’ve customised your existing software to fit your way of working.

  7. Stephen says:

    OK, seem to have sparked something with my confrontational ways! Just for the record, I’m not a software snob: in my first post I pointedly said that Linux was for those who enjoy tinkering with the OS more than actually working, and the reason why I favour OS X is because, just like you, I want the bloody thing to just work (I also run Office on my PowerBook, and I wish Word wouldn’t crash every five minutes, unlike every other app I have). Case in point: today I started a new assignment at a City insurer, and after firing up the PC (running Win2k thank goodness) I decide to browse their website for some press releases relating to my job there. Well, after getting a popup a minute, I decided to install the Google toolbar, because it has a popup blocker. It didn’t make the blindest bit of difference. First clue that something more serious was afoot: Microsoft’s anti-hijacker informs me something called “Farmmext” just tried to install something else in the Startup menu. A quick Google reveals that this is the source of the popups, and that removing it will require much communing with Hijack This, much booting into safe mode, and many restarts… I haven’t got time for this! Meanwhile Microsoft’s pathetic little Spyware Blocker reports the machine as clean as a whistle, obviously as deeply in denial as its creators. So tell me again I’m being a snob. Go on, I dare you!

  8. Gary says:

    You’re a snob ;-P

    > I also run Office on my PowerBook, and I wish Word wouldn’t crash every five minutes, unlike every other app I have

    I’ve found it perfectly stable. Have you installed the latest updates?

    > Microsoft’s anti-hijacker informs me something called “Farmmext” just tried to install something else in the Startup menu.

    Yeah, that kind of stuff’s a pain. I’m not entirely convinced it’s MS’s fault, though – I’m more inclined to blame the spyware creators. Same way I want to murder the sods who’ve found a way round Safari’s pop-up blocker. Grrrrr.

  9. Stephen says:

    >Have you installed the latest updates?

    Updates to OS X? Religiously. Updates to Office? Ah, now there’s a tale (always is with me, isn’t there?) I bought Office X in South Africa shortly before the new, proper version for OS X came out (you know, the one where you can use file names longer than 12 characters?) and wasn’t going to pay what I considered a ludicrous upgrade fee (close to £200 I think). So no. But I paid for what I thought was a perfectly good Office suite, and it isn’t. Saying “yes, but the new one works” doesn’t help me much.

    >I’m not entirely convinced it’s MS’s fault, though – I’m more inclined to blame the spyware creators.

    Oh come on: if Windows had been designed with decent security in mind (like, say, oh Unix) then the spyware creators wouldn’t be able to get a foothold. If anything tries to install itself on my Mac, OS X asks for my password to allow it. Windows just says “great, go ahead, I’m sure the user won’t mind if you trash the place”. Not to mention the registry, which is just heaven for malware of every description.

    Maybe “software snob” = “not in denial about Microsoft” :-)

    Oh, and your site don’t half look bad on IE 6 under Win2k, I’m sorry to say (although of course it would be unfair to blame poor Microsoft for this). ;-)

  10. Gary says:

    Fair point about spyware/malware – it’s too easy to be admin on a windows box compared to the mac.

    Is the site problem the “weird borders/boxes” thing? Bloody IE and CSS :-)

  11. Stephen says:

    Yeah, the borders of the white boxes are sometimes missing on the bottom of the box, or sometimes, weirdly, detached and pointing the other way (ie with little stubs pointing downwards instead of up).

    IE CSS support drives me nuts too: it’s the main reason I still have my win2k box at home: to check my sites! (And to use as a big external hard drive for backup: go Samba!)

    Praying hard for Firefox to take over the world: it already supports those cool rounded-corner boxes without doing any of those convoluted CSS hacks to get the effect.

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