I know that Apple is enjoying a surge in its user base these days and gaining new fans all the time, but not me. I’m a corner case when it comes to Proprietary computers. I’m that zealot user always quoted by the fanboys who insists on owning FREE (as in LIBERTY) and OPEN software. I’ve been using Linux for over a decade now and consider myself a pretty savvy computer user. I use Windows every day at work and have to suppress my swearing at it all the time. I’ve owned a Macbook laptop for six years so I’ve seen what OS X has going for it. I know the competition and I know the alternative and this user is always going to go with the alternative.
I rarely trust anyone’s opinion on operating systems who has only used Windows or only used OS X and never used a modern Linux distribution on a regular basis. Because they just don’t have enough time on Linux to have formed their own opinion. Most people will repeat FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) that either Apple or Microsoft champions have been repeating ad-nausea for decades. Which I can totally understand. I mean who the hell has the time to reformat their everyday computer and learn something new and different? Well, I had the time. But that was long ago and far away.
When I took the time to learn something different it was because my current OS was just not working at all. I was running Windows 95 and OS-2 Warp at the time. Both OSes were new and shiny but neither one was perfect. Windows 95 was prone to crashing whenever I used it too hard. As in building huge, static web sites or writing a several hundred page novel. OS-2 Warp was more stable, but had no programs. Dissatisfied with both choices, I decided to spring for a boxed version of Red Hat Linux, desperate to find an OS that worked.
I had an extra PC and decided to load Red Hat on it to test it out. But I couldn’t get it to work. Worse than that, I found that all of my DOS knowledge was useless on a Unix variant. I soon realized that I would have to learn Unix if I were going to get it loaded. That was a huge road block that nobody I knew at the time was willing to push through. Seriously? Read books and learn all kinds of obscure commands just to make the OS useful? Hell no! Who has the time for that nonsense? I did. You see, nothing I had was working for me. I had a reason to leave.
Needless to say, I did make a concerted effort to learn Linux from the terminal up. It was not easy. I had to seek out other nerds to help me. But do you know what I found when I went looking for help? I found a community of shinning people who were eager to show me the ropes and to have me learn their obscure terminal commands. I found Linux User Groups or LUGs to help me get over that steep learning curve. It was at one of these LUGs that I began to learn about why Linux existed. Turns out there was a whole subtext to it that was fascinating and that I had never heard of before. I began reading such subversive books as The Cluetrain Manifesto and Rebel Code; histories of the Free Software Movement and Linux. Only then did I start to realize how powerful the free and open solutions could be. I’ve been a supporter of these ideals ever since.
These days people don’t have a reason to change operating systems. Windows and Mac OS just work. In fact, they work so easily, in most cases you can jump from one to the other and never miss a beat. So why would anyone ever bother to learn a third OS? Especially, if all those horrible FUD stories are true. Linux is for nerds and it’s hard to use and it doesn’t run software that I’m familiar with, there are no games and you have to build programs from scratch to use them, oh the humanity! It’s no wonder that people are scared to death to even try Linux these days.
Which is really ironic to me. Do you know why? Because all of those things are false now. Linux is not just for nerds anymore. It’s easier to install than Windows. Many of the programs you are familiar with either have Linux equivalents or have Linux versions and the way you load them on the OS is the exact same way you load them on OS X. Through a software store. Don’t tell anyone but Steam is coming to Linux soon and more game vendors are coming to the platform than ever before. So what exactly was that reason you were so afraid of before?
I’m not saying that everyone should turn in their Macs or reformat their Windows machines to run Linux. We all need to use what we like and what we are familiar with. But before you spread the FUD about Linux, you had better be prepared to try it out first. Because if you don’t, people like me will always laugh at your ignorance. At the very least, take the time to read The Cluetrain Manifesto or Free for All or Rebel Code. Understand why someone would want to use an Open system. You may start to second guess your own choice in OS. But probably not. What is more likely, is that you will respect my decision to run Linux and stop spreading the FUD, and that would be just awesome.