One interesting trend I’ve noticed on tech-related blogs and articles is a strange focus on Linux- for example, “10 reasons to switch to Linux” or “Why I Switched to Linux”. These sorts of articles and posts are fine, but I’ve noticed a disturbing trend whereby the articles have such a strong bias that it practically dilutes the legitimate content of the article, and even removes any real value from it -turning it into nothing more than somebody typing 1000 words about nothing and based on nothing just to make a few bucks off the ad revenue.
Sort of like what I do here, except I don’t call myself a journalist.
Thing is, the problem with such articles on tech sites is they are coming from allegedly qualified individuals who should know what they are talking about, but they continue to repeat ridiculous fallacies about Operating Systems. There are a lot of real, actual benefits to using Linux but these posts and articles deluge you with idiotic reasons that in many cases aren’t even true.
The best way is to consider a specific example. Unfortunately I don’t want to give them the satisfaction of having ad revenue, so I’ll just take some central points that such articles almost always profess, and why I find them to be inaccurate.
“Windows always requires constant tweaks”
I Find this to be a curious argument, because in my experience, it has been the opposite. Even the most easy-to-use Linux OS will require a good level of scripting experience to use with the same level of customization as Windows; and you don’t get that functionality out of the base install in most cases. There is also the consideration of the script being compatible as well as upgrades. A specific case in my instance was that I wanted a wallpaper slideshow- sort of like Win7 has. The package manager of the distro I was using had about a dozen programs claiming this ability, but not a single one worked. Turned out I was using Gnome 3, and they were built with Gnome 2. I found one program (Drapes) which had a Gnome 3 plugin- that didn’t work as is, but I was able to find a freely distributed patch file for the plugin to fix it- that didn’t work either. After a few days if trying to get this basic capability in the Linux distribution I was running, I had about 2 dozen programs for switching wallpapers installed and had no idea which files they changed on installation- bash.rc had changes, and some of them installed background services. They had the common theme whereby they didn’t work, though.
I managed to piece a script together which I discussed here. I them realized my distro didn’t have sound notifications when I plugged or unplugged USB drives. I wrote another script to try to get that to work, but I either lost it or don’t have it. It was after this I realized that this held to me no real advantage over Windows; I could write a Windows Application to do all those same sorts of things if I needed too, but in fact the capabilities I was writing scripts for was built into the OS.
Therefore I find the argument that “Windows requires constant tweaks” to be a bit misleading. First off, almost any System is going to require software maintenance, and Linux is certainly no exception to this- you can’t just load up 30 different wallpaper change programs and have them fighting with your desktop manager by constantly interfering with one another. Additionally, I find that Linux requires more tweaks; this is it’s weakness but also it’s strength. The idea is that for such new capabilities and tweaks the person who creates it shares it with the world at large so other people seeking the same capabilities can simply use an existing solution. The problem is that this exact model works perfectly fine regardless of the Operating System anyway- and Other Operating Systems often have more solutions and tweaks of this nature- and often the tweaks and programs written for Linux are Desktop dependent or even package manager dependent.
This is perhaps the most ill-informed sort of reasoning I’ve ever heard. It is far from stress free and to pretend that somehow a person switching from Windows will feel like they are prancing through an open flowery meadow of stress-free non-worry the moment they switch is anything but positive for the system being condoned. The only time Linux is “stress-free” would be after you have become very familiar with the system, but then you have just as many annoyances as you do when you are familiar with any system. It’s a sort of software infatuation, where you are so smitten with a system that you can see and possibly even elevate the positive attributes, while considerably downplaying real shortcomings the system may have.
“Linux is secure by design”
Every system ever designed has flaws, security problems, and exploits that can be used to get into those systems in the wild. Even FreeBSD, which has a meticulous security audit process, does not make you immune. As it currently stands the only reason Linux has any safety from maliciously-intentioned software is because there is no incentive to write malicious software that runs on Linux. If- as many people seem to want- Linux becomes a dominant Operating System, we will see serious exploits and malware being developed against and for that system and it will not be any different than the alleged “security nightmare” that Windows supposedly is.
“Fast And Gorgeous”
This is not a fallacy, though I find it to be rather irrelevant. It also depends on the distribution- if you want flash and pizazz you can get a distro suited for that taste; if you want something unassuming or simple, you can get that as well. One issue I find with much Linux software is that one thing that keeps getting done over and over again are desktop environments. It would be nice if there was more effort pooling being put into trying to make other environments better, rather than deciding to make a new one entirely.
There are a number of similar statements made in support of it, but one thing I find most disturbing is that a lot of the Linux appeal rides entirely on the waves of dissent for Windows; the people don’t really give a crap if the OS they are using is actually better than Windows- they just don’t want ot use Windows. That’s a fine reasoning on a personal basis but it’s a pretty damned crappy one at coming up with the actual Better System. At least FreeBSD and the other BSD communities don’t involve themselves in such idiotic slapfights, and instead focus on actually building good, usable software. It’s not perfect either- it can be tricky to install and there sometimes aren’t drivers or other software that you need, but the advantage is a lot more of the BSD is committed to making BSD better. They improve their systems over time, whereas a lot of Linux people just try to make Windows look worse.
Windows 8 has really sparked a movement in this regard- there are many people who, for whatever reason, have decided that somehow Windows 8 somehow goes beyond some imaginary line in their minds that Microsoft should not have dared cross. It is merely coincidence of course that this happens with every Windows Release ever– For example, 95’s release was the beginning of the end for Microsoft and people swore to never upgrade; Windows 98 was the beginning of the end for Microsoft, and people swore not to upgrade, Windows XP, Windows Vista, and even in many cases Windows 7. And now what we have pretty much the same thing. With Windows 95, people latched onto the Start menu and Windows 95’s evil way of organizing programs and it’s evil document-centric approach that was trying to do too much for the user, Users swore that they would never use Windows 95, that they would not stand this forced upgrade, and would stand firm with their copy of Windows 3.1. With Windows 98 people latched onto Active Desktop like bloodthirsty leeches, sucking it dry until they could no longer complain about it, and swore they would stick with Windows 95, which was obviously the last version made before some imagined downhill tumble… With Windows XP, people latched onto the default theme, saying it’s default theme’s colourfulness “fisher-price” was too playful for a serious OS, and they swore that they would stick with Windows 98- the last version of Windows released before Microsoft made the fatal mistake of abandoning the crappy ancient DOS-based codebase that was well-known for problems and instead decided to use their NT codebase which had already proven itself stable for the previous 8 years. “The fools” people said. “Why would they replace something that kinda sorta works most of the time with something that works all the time? And how will I run my 20 year old copy of Lotus 1-2-3? This is a forced upgrade!”, With Vista it was UAC. With Windows 7, it was how it hardly changed (more often people praised it for “fixing Vista” even though it practically changed none of the same problems people decried in Vista). With Windows 8, it is obviously the Modern UI that has been in the crosshairs of badly constructed arguments to ignorance. With each version, there were people who either swore to use the previous version, or swore off Windows and the evil Microsoft empire (The fact that people who had not really been a Microsoft Patron for years swearing off and boycotting Microsoft’s new products as if somehow that will hurt MS right then and there is a bit hilarious though).
IMO a lot of dissent with new systems- and this applies outside of Windows- to things such as Unity- is based simply on not being familiar with the new system. The interesting thing is that switching to Windows 8 from Windows 7 is going to be easier than switching to Linux, so I’m rather boggled at the logic, where Windows 8, by adding a new complementary user-interface model designed for providing a single development platform that can be used across various devices, has somehow ruined everything. People focus on Modern UI- usually referring to it as “Metro” because they have a case of recto-cranial inversion) and completely ignore pretty much every other aspect of the system- much of which is improved over previous versions, or entirely new.