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[2]: Article is hilarious
by twenex on Wed 25th Oct 2006 15:53 UTC in reply to "RE: Article is hilarious"
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OK, as I said I posted a long response which got lost in OSnews 800-word restrictions. I can't really be bothered to type it all again, but I'll try to cover the main points.

Or maybe the user was at fault.

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.

True enough. However, to me the article came over as an excuse to diss Linux and evangelize Macs - that's fine, but I prefer articles that work through a problem and come to a conclusion, rather than deciding on a conclusion and writing an article to fit.

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.

Yep, and that's because if Linux were ubiquitous and Windows were the upstart, it would be as hard for Linux users to adjust to Windows as it is for the reverse. I know, I go for long periods without using Windows and then have trouble when I come back to it.

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.

I don't really see how hobbyists can be "accused" of "specialized computer-related expertise". Many people just refuse to accept the fact that a computer is not a single-use tool like a knife or even a tv, and that is inevitably going to be more complicated. I don't think computers will ever be truly "easy to use" unless someone invents a way to talk to them like they do in Star Trek.

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.

That may be true, but (as I see from later comments that we both agree), a lot of people throw common-sense out the window ritualistically before sitting down at a computer.

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 don't expect people to be able to describe the innermost workings of a computer or OS to be able to use a computer - hell, even I don't understand much of that - but I do have a somewhat more strict interpretation of "the innermost workings of a computer or OS" than most people. I think it's pretty clear that although you don't need to be Shakespeare to communicate, unless you have a basic grasp of grammar, attempting to communicate anything much more complicated than "me go plop-plop" is going to be difficult. That isn't snobbishness, it's a (perhaps unfortunate) fact of life.

I also think it's unrealistic to expect computers to do all the adapting - people are, by nature, infinitely more intelligent and adaptable than computers. Fred Brooks (in The Mythical Man-Month)makes the point that whereas in 50's people would write custom bookkeeping applications to fit in with their company-specific accounting, nowadays people buy off-the-shelf accounting programs and adapt their internal bookkeeping to the software.

... I don't think it's valid to dismiss all user difficulties with computers by saying "Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair."

Nor do I; nevertheless, I think people should realise that if Linux were identical to Windows, people wouldn't use it. The only reason to use Linux is because, in the opinion of the user, it provides several advantages over any of the other OSes or even available Unix implementations. That doesn't mean that they are all the "Anything But Microsoft" crowd, but it does mean that there's no reason to run Linux if the only difference between it and Windows is the presence or lack of "Microsoft" on the box.

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.

The point was simply that although there are issues with Linux, there are issues with Windows, too - and I don't see the point of including by default zillions of different language packs "just in case" 1 in a million people needs to use an obscure one. But yes, they should be available and as easy to install as possible.

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.

Perhaps my use of computers is somewhat limited, but for me Windows just doesn't provide enough advantages to prefer it over Linux - that doesn't mean other people can't disagree; what it means is that there's no justification for being called a "fanboy" or a "moron" just because I don't use something that 95% of the world does. If I chose things purely on the basis of "greatest number of users", I'd be a Muslim. IMO I have plenty good reasons to have beef with MS and Win, but this post is getting rather long, so perhaps another time.

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