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 question:
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 perfectly legitimate.
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 doing email.
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 pathetically weak.
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 Boston?" etc.
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 get somewhere.
Another way to look at it is /Opinion/gdunix.html
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 a chance..
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 fiddling.
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.
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More Articles by Tony Lawrence © 2011-03-22 Tony Lawrence