OK, we've all heard it: Linux is too hard, Linux sucks, Windows
is easier than Linux, yadda, yadda.
People who have such feelings need to ask themselves a simple
Why am I using Linux?
Because at this point at least, maybe they shouldn't be.
Really, I think most of these folks should be asking
themselves "Why am I using Windows", but we'll pretend that they
actually really tried Linux. I can't understand how anyone can USE
Windows for any period of time and not hate it, but these people
claim to. And they claim to have tried Linux.
And of course they ran into problems. Problems which they
couldn't solve by searching Google. And, to be fair, that's not
completely unreasonable: it's very rare that something you find
will DIRECTLY apply to your problem. You need to apply the
knowledge you find to the current situation. However, that can be
very frustrating when you first start out because there's so much
you need to know that none of it makes sense. It can make you feel
very dumb. We've all been there.
But we get people saying silly things, where it is obvious that
they haven't even read applicable HOWTO's, because if they had,
they wouldn't have the problem they say they have.
However, not everyone has the "dig in and fix it" mentality.
They want to use their computer, not hack with it. And that's
Years ago I used to do my own auto stuff- tuneups, oil changes,
even more. Backyard mechanic concept. With the new computerized
everything, and the tight engine compartments, and the specialized
tools you need nowadays, I don't. My car is just something that
gets me from point A to point B and I know not and care not how to
fix it if it doesn't. Fortunately, cars today are pretty darn
reliable, and you don't need to know much- you chances of needing
to adjust your points (not that they have 'em anymore, of course)
while out on a trip are nil.
Windows is a lot like that. Prepackaged, protective, mostly
works- it crashes pretty regularly, but everybody thinks that's
normal so nobody cares.
And honestly - it doesn't crash as much as it used to. The
old blue screen of death is pretty infrequent now, so that's
no reason to run Linux. Windows is a pretty good OS now, if
you don't mind doing things their way.
Maybe that's what you want? All you do is browse the web and read email.
Maybe Windows is fine for your needs. That's OK.
But it's very difficult when you want to do something unusual,
like find all the files that end with ".txt" or ".dat" AND contain
"foo" somewhere in the third line, and then ftp whatever you find
to xyz.com and delete them. Amazing as it might sound to a Windows
user, that's pretty easy do do in Linux/Unix and is what I mean by
USING the computer. I don't mean just browsing the web and
In Windows, it's childishly easy to do simple things. However,
it's horribly complex or completely impossible to do any more than
that. There are so many things I can do in an instant at the
command line that you either cannot do at all in Windows or can do
only with great difficulty. I don't understand how anyone who
really uses a computer can ever stand to run Windows- it's so
The difference is learning to drive a car vs. taking public
transportation. The subways and buses take you where they go, but
only to those places, and only under certain conditions: you can't
tow a trailer with public transportation, you have to travel on
their time schedule, etc. Your involvement is minimal; you need
barely be smart enough to read the most simple signs, and you need
remember almost nothing. Learning to drive, however, takes effort,
requires more involvement and intelligence, and will probably
require much more memorization: "How do I get to Pittsfield from
If the subway takes you everywhere you need to go, use the
subway. It's cheaper and far easier.
Linux doesn't suck. Linux is not an appliance OS. If you want a
brainless, "I'm just going to use it, I don't want to know anything
about it" OS, you should be running Windows.
That's not a put-down of Windows or anyone who uses it. It's
like taking the train to work vs. driving a Harley. The train gets
you to work, rain or shine, same time (or at least in theory- and
Windows is very much like a badly run transit system!). The Harley
will get you there too, but you didn't buy it because you wanted to
get to work. You *do* buy a train ticket just because you want to
Windows users sometimes get really upset about things like
having to "mount" a disk. Why get upset? If you do decide you want
to stick with it, learning WHY Linux mounts a CD or floppy might
help you appreciate it more: /Unixart/newtounix.html explains some
of these things.
Linux doesn't suck. It's a Heath kit. It doesn't suck, it's just
more work than some want to do. Nothing wrong with that. However,
if you *did* want to make the effort, you can do a LOT more with a
Linux (or any Unix) machine than you'll ever do with Windows and
have more fun doing it- if adjusting your points and setting your
timing is your idea of fun.
It's like going out and killing something for dinner. The thrill
of the hunt, the skill of tracking, subduing the beast, and
enjoying the meal :-)
Some people get rabid about Linux's GUI. Gosh, that's so silly:
find a GUI you like and use THAT instead. Try THAT with Windows!
But, again, until that newbie knows a bit about this and that,
replacing the GUI is like replacing spark plugs: easy if you know
how and have the tools, frustratingly difficult if you do not.
Panners and virtual screens are a particular irritant for
Windows users - they are apt to find those very confusing. I used
to dislike GUI's period. Even today, I still spend a lot of time in
character mode. But GUI's are now fast enough to be useful, and
while command line is and always will be where the power (and the
fun!) is, there are things better done with GUI's. Once you realize
and accept that, then virtual GUI screens and panners just make it
even better. That stuff *is* confusing at first, but if you give it
And then there are the language complaints for those who do want
to dig into the source. A lot of source is C and a lot of people
hate it. Well, I used to write assembler. That was a long, long
time ago though and today, I mostly use Perl because for me, it
has the right balance of giving me the power I need while still
making it easy for me to get done with what I need quickly. Your
needs will, of course, be different. But neither C nor C++ nor Perl
nor assembler are awful, crappy, shitty or whatever- if the tool
meets your needs you use it, if not you use something else. But if
you want to work with most source, you need to grok C. Get over it
- at least you HAVE source.
And then we complain about the millions of switches for Linux
commands. Well, they just don't get it. This is a control issue:
people who like to control their machines like Unix/Linux, people
who just want to use the damn things don't- and there's nothing
wrong with that. My stereo has almost a dozen knobs and gizmos that
I have absolutely no interest in- I want to just push the "on"
button and have it work. Fortunately it does, but Linux doesn't
quite, at least not yet- it still requires a fair bit of tuning and
If you hate switches,you really ought to seriously think about
WHY you think you want Linux. Is it because all the cool dudes run
it and you want to be a cool dude? OK, but cool dudes (at least
cool Linux dudes) fiddle with switches and knobs. Or maybe you are
just fed up with Microsoft's crap? Good reason, but there is a cost
involved in getting away from it, and that cost is the switches and
knobs and learning how to control the damn thing. At least if you
want to USE it.
Then there are the complaints about docs. Always, it's "they
don't tell you enough". OK, they don't. Now and then somebody will
bring up the "good old days" (the late 60's, usually), when
"documentation was COMPLETE!". Well, I'm old enough to have had
experience with those docs. Somewhere I have a 401 (402?)
accounting machine manual- the things you programmed by plugging
jumper wires from hole to hole? Those were simple, simple machines-
of course the docs were good. Even my VCR is 100 times more complex
than that tabulator- there's just no comparison and naturally it's
more difficult to write the docs. More importantly, the docs HAVE
to assume prior knowledge, or that you'll go elsewhere to figure
out what you don't immediately grok. If they didn't do that, your
VCR manual would be a 400 page book and any given Linux HOWTO would
be similar, and some of them would have to be encyclopedias!
And then they complaIn about unstated assumptions and flat-assed
errors in man pages and HOW-TO's, I can't disagree. But it ain't
easy, bub. I write a lot of that kind of stuff, and it's hard, hard
work. You have to find a balance between being too sparse and
writing that encyclopedia, and what seems perfect for me is not
going to be perfect for you because our backgrounds differ. I do
agree that a lot of Linux docs are written by people with horribly
poor communication skills, but that's still better than what you
usually get in the Microsoft world- a beautifully written piece of
uninformative fluff that tells you just about nothing. That's the
trade off we usually have to make: tech people usually can't write,
and people who can write are usually technical boobs. But it isn't
ALL crap- there are useful HOWTO's, even well-written ones, and you
certainly can't complain that there are no Linux books you can turn
to- there is shelf after shelf of everything from beginner level to
true hacker books.
Maybe Linux is not for you? That's OK, isn't it? Nobody says you
have to invest the time and effort necessary. It has gotten easier,
and no doubt that trend will continue- maybe you should give it a
rest for a year or two and then try it again. I first looked at
Linux way back when , but it was more work than *I* wanted to give
it then, so it was only a few years ago that I started into it
seriously. And it is still an effort, more effort than Windows, but
-for me- it's reached the point where it's fun. If it's not fun for
you, don't do it. It's as simple as that.