Guest Editorial: Exploring the Psychology of an OS Zealot

I’m going to warn you now – this editorial is as much rant as anything else, you have been warned! One of the things that really bugs me in the comments often found in articles is the “my OS can do this better/bst” type stuff, it’s not just Windows or Linux Users, it comes from a lot of camps. And puts me in mind of Usenet at times it gets so bad.

Editorial Notice: All opinions are those of the author and not necessarily those of

My first attempt at this whole Editorial was, well quite frankly laughable, it was too short, didn’t explore the subject enough and was flawed in more ways than was pointed out to me. (thanks Eugenia for being as polite as you did).

One of the points that was raised was this should be a more scientific article than its original creation. But I asked myself, how can one be trully scientific about something as unscientific as personal preference, that is a tough nut to crack, but being scientific about peoples reactions in these forums, that is I think less of a challenge so I’ll take that on first I think. πŸ™‚

When I sat down and thought about this, I came to the initial conclusion that many people in attacking others choices was simply a defence mechanism for protecting their investment, often these would be in the form of outright attacks, whilst at the same time more thought out discussions were seemingly based on greater understanding of the subject matter.. I started to look for websites and usenet articles about this aspect of computer user behavior, initially I found information a tad thin on the ground, but then again, I often find this when initially searching out for a specific or speciallist item or peice of information. But as is often the case, the internet holds many jewels deeply hidden, just waiting for someone to come searching for them… funily enough it was on IRC.

Of the forty or so people I asked the question to, quite a few simply disliking change and not liking others having a go at them for their choice. Some pointed out that certain groups of particular OS users simply irritated them to the point where they would never be seen dead using that OS, this was often the case from windows users regarding some of the more… ahem vocal linux users and vice versa. Most people didn’t know what BeOS was but admitted that they’d be interested in learning more about it. Those that did know about it were either users or ex users…. And the Ex users brought up another point to all of this – some simply had fond memories for what was for them a “dead” OS, whilst others did nothing but rip it to pieces, this is true also of Ex Amiga users that I asked. I think that some of it is because the remaining supporters sometimes don’t give the users who are leaving the platform an easy time, in point of fact I have been branded a “Traitor” for having left the Amiga myself.

I found it interesting reading usenet groups of various OS help groups, it gave me a feel for how each group in general deals with new users. In general all of the major and most of the minor (I have not looked into every OS out there so I won’t say All of the minor) groups were helpful and welcoming. There were idiots in all of these groups who did nothing but point and laugh but you get that no matter where you go or what you do. I found sometimes that the Linux usergroups were often better at catering to established users, sometimes dismisive of new users to the point where the new user stopped posting. I’ve also noticed this much more in forums where OS’s of differing natures (such as OS news) meet. Linux wants to be the “next big thing” and take over the desktop market, great, I wish it well, but quite frankly it isn’t designed for people with no experience of operating systems and some of its vocal supporters make it very clear that if you aren’t a guru, then don’t use Linux. Windows tends to be more trivial than most of the other OS’s with regard the problems that are put forward, “my driver stopped working” “my hard disk is b0rked” etc.

And usually they are pretty good, but in recent months I’ve noticed a large group of people within the windows comunity that simply turn and say “get windows 2000/XP and that’ll sort it all out” which is fine provided that the people who are having these problems are planning to upgrade their hardware in the majority of cases. BeOS user groups (and Mac users for the first point) tend to be more straightforward in answering users pleas for help. Though there are a number of users who insist on making any discussion about any other OS turn into a discussion about BeOS… its a trait that wrankles with many, including myself as it does nothing but put peoples backs up and we get back to the whole “I’ll not use that OS, look at the usergroup” thing again. AmigaOS, well, quite frankly the usergroups in there are fighting against the most viscious breeds of trolls there have ever been, they do answer questions and give out good advice to anyone who asks for help, but for anyone just popping in to ask something, the flame wars in these groups are enough to scare off any protential user, its a shame really because at one point the Amiga’s usergroup were one of the Amiga’s most possitive aspects about owning one.

About Linux, A great many people are scared of linux’s complexity, and in some cases this isnt’ helped by users who’s only reply to straightforward questions is RTFM, especially when a lot of these manuals are written for and by very linux savy people. Come on guys, you want to knock Microsoft off its thrown yes? Well you got to make your OS more accessable to beginners. Most of the users of Linux are well versed in other OS’s as well.

About Windows, to most people today this is the only OS they have ever heard of, some will have heard of Macs but not much more. These people are basically the backbone of the computer industry at the moment, without their accepting Microsofts upgrade when we tell you policy, our computers would likely be much slower than they are today. A great many of them are not computer literate per say but do want to get the job done with the minimum of hassle.

About Mac(OS), Great hardware with a nice OS thats easy to pick up and use, most first time computer users wouldn’t go far wrong with one of these, shame about the price though…. Linux take note, this is a good case for Linux/BSD for the masses, it proves it can work.

About BeOS, its a great OS that has a lot of nice features, its easy to use and simple to fix when things go wrong, needs a bit of an update to be fair, so perhaps wait for Zeta to fix some of the current issues with it. Frankly its one of the easyest OS’s I’ve ever used, things just flow. Its a shame that its app base is so cripplingly small.

About AmigaOS, well its supposed to be getting a whole new lease of life with the dawn of the AmigaOne and OS4, but as the OS isn’t even out yet I cant really comment on it. Many of todays computer programmers started off with one of these. They’re still ok to use and show what computing should be about: Fun. The current “Classic” hardware though is getting seriously long in the tooth and quite frankly it shows.

In general I think that many people use what they use because of need rather than want, if they need dtp or media manipulation then Mac would be the best rought, or failing that a wintel box. Windows is a jack of all trades OS, and it does everything pretty well, but when certain OS’s are geared toward a particular aspect of computing then the master of none part comes into play, BeOS showed what modern hardware was truly capable of with regard media.Many people moved over to this platform simply to start a fresh, free from Microsoft but without Linux’s complexity or the Macs exorbitant cost, a lot of people were seriously let down when Be Inc took a swan dive. Amiga well, quite frankly I feel sorry for the Amiga, its a damned fine platform, but after over a decade of neglect it really does deserve more. Linux despite what some would say about it is the king of servers, but as a desktop replacement it still has a way to go yet, but its getting there.

There were many things I learned whilst I worked on this article, but the one thing that kept comming back was this: Whats right for you is right for you, and that whats right for you doesn’t necesarily mean that its right for others. So by all means discuss what this or that OS is doing, but don’t go around slagging everything else off, its pointless and feable, or in the words of some of the IRCers that I met “slack”.

About the Author
Born in 1980 in Plymouth England. Avid Amiga user (verging on the fanatic at one point) from 1991 through to 2002 and then switched to BeOS and currently run a dual boot system with BeOS and Windows 2000 pro. With BeOS r5 Dano and PhOS running on an old laptop I have.


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