Linked by Nathan J. Hill on Tue 24th Oct 2006 10:43 UTC
Linspire In the midst of the busy semester here at school, my fiancee's laptop, running Windows XP SP2, picked up some friends - adware, trojans, etc. It was a pretty nasty sight. I worked on it for at least two hours every couple of days, wiping it clean, doing my best to lock it down, and so on. Avast! and Ad-Aware had their limits it seemed, for only a day or so after I cleaned it, pop-ups and weird stuff would show up again. She was getting sick of it. I was getting sick of cleaning it, so I suggested, offhand, installing a different operating system that is a bit more impervious to those nasties. To my surprise, she agreed.
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RE: Article is hilarious
by StephenBeDoper on Tue 24th Oct 2006 17:46 UTC in reply to "Article is hilarious"
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Or maybe the user was at fault.

I don't think that blaming the user is a really valid position to take. In this case, the user went much further in his attempts to get it to work than the typical computer user would - most people would have given up when it didn't work automatically.

And in the general case, I think that position is - for one - rather disrespectfully-dismissive of valid problems that users experience. For another, it rests on some absolutist pre-suppositions. The main one being the pre-supposition that, if someone has difficulty using their computer, then it's due to some fault on their part. And more specifically I've commonly seen it implied that, if someone has difficulty using Linux, it's because of ignorance/unwillingness to learn on their part. Almost invariably those opinions come from people who are either computer professionals or computer hobbyists, or otherwise in possession of some specialized computer-related expertise.

Nothing wrong with that, of course - suspending humility, I probably fall into that category myself. But I also had the benefit of spending about four years teaching basic computing to adults who were absolute computer novices. One of the things that forced me to realize was that there is a lot of knowledge that "geeks" possess because of their interest in/passion for technology - and that much of that knowledge is far from intuitive for non-geeks. Having a solid grasp of how computers work gives us an inherent advantage, and not everyone is willing to become a computer expert in order to simply use a computer - nor should they be required to. If that were the case, then an English professor would be perfectly justified in arguing that only those with perfect grammar/sentence structure should be allowed to use written communication.

I'm certainly not trying to affect enlightenment/supriority here - before that instructing job, I held a stereotypically-low opinion of those who knew less than I about computers. And not that this is limited to computer geeks by any means either, we don't tend to be very good at being understanding/patient with those who have difficulty with things we find easy - try to genuinely empathize with a functionally-illiterate adult, for example.

And yes, there is a tendency for non-technical people to experience a "suspension of common sense" when they come into contact with technology. But after spending hours and hours with people who were educated, intelligent, and successful (by any contemporary measure) - yet had trouble with computing tasks that most of us probably consider trivial - I don't think it's valid to dismiss all user difficulties with computers by saying "Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair."

Supposedly "korean language support" is a "Linux-wide problem," but that's looking at Linux from a Windows user's perspective. If you look at Windows from a Linux user's perspective, application and driver installation (to say nothing of stability, flexibility, or security) are "a Windows-wide problem", (in the sense that they haven't been corrected to Linux users' satisfaction in the 16 years Linux and Windows have both been around).

As someone who has to support Windows machines regularly, I entirely agree with you about driver installation being a pain. It has become much better with 2k/XP (at least Windows no longer asks for files that are already installed when you make network settings changes, as it did in 9x), but it can still be pretty onerous for non-geeks.

I don't see what it has to do with the language/input method support, though. The two problems aren't really comparable either - most typical Windows users (that I've encountered, at least) don't install new hardware that frequently, so - while driver installation can be an annoyance, most users won't run into related issues that often. Being unable to use one's native language and associated input method is much more fundamental problem, in my opinion, and is likely to directly effect more users.

For the record, I don't mean to bash Linux: I spend much of my time managing two Linux servers, an OS X/Webstar server, and Windows-based virtual-hosting, so I'm pretty OS-neutral at this point. And there are many things that I do like about Linux - working with the Windows servers, I regularly curse the lack of built-in remote shell, support for .htacces options, all the useful things that can be done with symlinks, etc. I think that "right tool for the right job" is the most sensible philosophy - but I also think that we ought to be realistic about when something is the right tool and when it isn't.

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