16 August 2008

Linux isn't for everyone

I've wanted to write this entry for ages, but I keep forgetting. Fortunately, there's plenty of people on the Internet that helpfully remind me. There's a massive misconception about why people should adopt Linux, and I see it over and over again (because I still read Digg comments; the drama is just too enticing). Quotes like this pretty much sum up the problem:

people want an OS that works OUT OF THE BOX - they don't want to tweak with the kernel ... and no flavor of Linux is getting that done properly.

NO. "they don't want to tweak with the kernel" is 100% wrong, and that is the issue. The inevitable banal response to this is somebody saying "Ubuntu means you don't have to mess with the kernel", which is completely the wrong tack to take. The right answer is "If you want things to work out of the box and you don't like fiddling, Linux is not for you". "I just want it to work" is not the attitude of somebody that should be using Linux, that's not what it's for. Yes, it is entirely possible for things to work out of the box on Linux, and Ubuntu is very good at that, but what's the point? You might as well use Windows, you're not getting the main benefit of Linux: infinite flexibility. You can make arguments for security and reliability, but obviously Windows users (or at least the 87 that dugg up that comment anyway) don't particularly care, or have no issue with Windows in those areas.

I understand the Linux community's desire to convert people to Linux: the more people that use Linux, the more supported it has to be by hardware and software companies. But harrassing every Windows user you find and telling them they should be using Linux if they know what's good for them is nonsense. Linux is not for everyone; it really isn't for most people, since most people are fine with the default configuration of everything and don't particularly need it to change. Leave those people alone and stop getting in arguments with them; if at any point in a Windows/Linux argument the Windows person says "I just want it to work", just let it go -- they'll be happier with Windows


hoppzor said...

I would argue that a lot of things with Windows don't work right out of the box either. Case in point: Vista. I switched my mom to Ubuntu two years ago and she's been really happy with it, despite not using the ability to customize. Yeah, I did have to tweak it a little to get it to work, and then again when she got a new monitor with a funky resolution, but these are problems that are easily fixed and there is good support for them. And its really the same shit you'd be dealing with for Windows. And its free.

Michael Mrozek said...

Well, your mom falls into the group of people that will never customize anything about their computers ever. Those people will be happy with anything as long as it runs the programs they use, they probably won't even notice the difference if you theme it right. The problem is the middle group of people that want to change stuff but aren't competent enough or interested enough to actually figure out how on Linux. Fiddling with stuff on Windows is easy, except "stuff" is a tiny subset of what you can fiddle with on Linux. If you want to fiddle with stuff and don't care that you only have that subset available to you, Windows is probably your best bet