domingo, 10 de octubre de 2010

A Mac User's Opinion of Linux

When talking about Operating Systems, I always develop my rants mainly around GNU/Linux and Windows. I've criticized Linux fans, some Linux distros, and I've been harsh on Windows. However, I've never talked about Apple's MAC OS X. The reason? Well, I've never been near enough a Mac and I doubt I'll buy one any time soon. Besides, I don't really like to talk about what I ignore...that spells trouble! The same reason motivates me to keep silent about FreeBSD, Chromium, UNIX, and other Operating Systems, although I feel somewhat more willing to try those.

Now, some days ago, I was reading a post that compared Linux and Windows Vista/7 and I found among the comments one that caught my eye. It was a criticism towards Linux made by a Mac user named Jwcorey. I cannot say that his opinion stands for the way all Mac users view Linux (neither did he claim to be doing that), but I decided to transcribe it here because both his appraisal and criticism of Linux are level-headed and worthy to be read:

I can only speak from a personal perspective. There's no evangelism here in my comment; just me chatting. I use OS X, but I'm familiar with both Windows and Linux.

Where Linux works well: The stability and resistance to viruses or hacking is really nice. You're not going to enjoy anything even close to it with Windows. After 15 years of "modern" Windows builds, I have given up on expecting something from Windows that can rival Linux in these areas. It just plain doesn't stack up.

It's also way faster and can breathe new life into old machines you'd think would never return from the dead. A lot of people switch to Linux just so they can pull out an old PC and make it feel like a new one.

If I had to sum up the Linux experience in a concise way, I'd say it's like using a basic os, but without the bullsh*t. You can do what you feel like doing without having to worry about some corporation blocking you because of some money or license-based reason. With both Apple and Microsoft having very dark histories of trying to catch the user by the throat and take away all his options, Linux is a breath of fresh air. Nothing is ever forced on you. As long as you don't mind taking the time to figure out how, you can do anything or use anything you feel like doing or using. The system is made by users, not by businessmen. And some of those users are pretty damned smart, too.

There were two really huge problems with Linux that I encountered. Linux fans don't particularly love hearing them brought up, but they need to be said.

Linux generally comes with a nice cross-section of useful applications, such as browsers, chat programs, mail, text editors, MP3 players, movie players, etc. And that's great. But, as you know, many of us like slightly specialized software from time to time... and this is one area where Linux has trouble meeting the challenge. There are certain things that just plain don't exist on Linux (like, for instance, World of Warcraft. No matter what you're told, there's nothing on Linux like that), or the Linux equivalents just don't give you everything you need. They may plug some holes, but it's just not the same (GIMP comes to mind). I've heard Linux advocates argue that you can do everything on Linux that you do on other systems, but don't believe it. Depending on your needs, you may be able to do more than enough... but not the same things.

The other thing you'll notice is that Linux is almost never "done". There's always something not quite finished. Sometimes it's menu items that aren't there but should be. Sometimes it's support for certain hardware. The missing stuff often gets done and added over time, but you have to bear in mind that the work is performed by volunteers who do it mainly in their spare time when they can. It's very different than the team of monkeys Microsoft (or Apple) have on the job who are constantly whipped until they get it finished. You can't just say "God dammit, Linux. Fix this problem or I'm taking my money elsewhere" because there's no money, and there's no one specific person to yell it at.

I keep getting this feeling about Linux that, as the years go by, it's only going to become more and more important and powerful... and definitely an alternative to the mainstream systems. I don't think we're there yet, but its potential is very high. I always keep an eye on what Linux is doing, but I stick with OS X for now for personal reasons. No matter which operating system you pick, there will always be someone telling you that you've made the wrong choice... so you might as well use the one you like.

Hope that helps.

He made a valid point, I'd say. To his last words, I'd just add "and the one that best fits your needs as far as its performance and your use of it keep other people's computers safe enough." Nobody likes his/her equipment to be infected because of another person's poor security standards, believe me. I always stress the idea that using a computer is not purely a matter of personal comfort, pretty effects, fast performance, or nice games. Computer users must be aware of the threats the OS of their choice may be victim of to act accordingly. That "I didn't know my USB had a virus" excuse is a real problem for others, you know?

14 comentarios:

  1. Honest criticism should always be welcomed.
    About "I'didn't know my USB drive had a virus", I think that Windows security (or its lack of security) establishes a nice paradox for Linux users. I mean, civility demands us to be careful when sharing files or devices with Windows, but sometimes I ask myself, "Is it my fault that people chose to use an unprotected system? Why should I protect it?" After all, I actually migrated to Linux not to be constantly worried about viruses...
    Of course, it's not that I am going to sabotage all Windows computers in sight, but this perennial cleaning of USB drives "for the sake of Windows" DOES get tiresome from time to time.

  2. Well put. My own concise description of Linux, whatever the falvour: a work in constant progress. Whether this is good or bad depends very much on the user.

  3. Thank you for including these comments! We need to hear this, both the good and the challenges.

  4. I disagree with the first point. Theres nothing Linux can do from a development standpoint to fix missing software. Thats either one the job of the original vendors to port to Linux or a community of people that need this functionality to build equivalent software. Nobody says "Apple needs to fix Mac so that it will be able to run Guild Wars 2 when it drops". Its not built for Mac so its understood that you won't be able to use it.

    The second point I'm neither here nor there on. I really can't say I run into that much thats not finished.

  5. A Mac user arguing about windows programs that can't be used in linux? That seems kind of hypocritical. How many windows programs can you run in OSX? There are programs that have the 90% of the same features that a Windows user would need. Unless you're targeting professional graphic artists that work in an Industry setting, it's pointless to throw GIMP under the bus. "Most" regular users don't need a full featured photoshop suite, I've seen people use Photoshop for just a cropping tool, something that a number of other programs can do just as easily. Open Office and others can open up just about any MS Office document and save to it as well. So really the only reason not to switch is if you are deadset on using that LotusNotes software... unless of course you use WINE, which also allows you to play WOW on your Linux box. While the mac user may have had some good points, it seems uneducated.

  6. Let us see you say "God dammit, Microsoft. Fix this problem or I'm taking my money elsewhere."

    Good luck. Actually, you have to pay a whole lot of money upfront even in order to put your complaint through. It is not every Tom, Dick and Harry who may file a bug report to Microsoft.

  7. First he says: "As long as you don't mind taking the time to figure out how, you can do anything or use anything you feel like doing or using."

    Then he says: "I've heard Linux advocates argue that you can do everything on Linux that you do on other systems, but don't believe it."

    Contradictions like that are just nasty little buggers. I've been using Linux for 15 years now and I happen to believe the latter is the more accurate statement. The catch with Linux, as this guy said, is that the common programs are all available and sufficient, but even slightly specialized are not. Because of that, I have no choice but to use Windows for work.

    "you have to bear in mind that the work is performed by volunteers who do it mainly in their spare time when they can" Um, not so much. Most, if not all, of the big projects and the kernel are all developed by the usual market players.

  8. Since business computing began, the prescription for success has been, find the software you need to run then obtain the platform to run it. Not Windows, nor OS X, nor Linux, nor BSD has or will change that. What's lacking for Linux are individuals in the business desktop application assessment space that can validly qualify whether a particular need can be met with Open Source solutions.

    Sadly, Jwcorey repeats a falsehood that has long since been retired by statistical fact: Linux is not being developed by legions of amateur volunteers. The lion's share of its development comes from organizations as "amateur" as Intel, Novell, Red Hat and IBM. There often volunteer contributions, but most come from such "amateurs" as university doctoral and masters candidates.

  9. @ BaristaUno,
    I agree with you: Linux is work in progress. Personally, I view it as an advantage.

    @ revdjenk,
    Thanks to you for reading them. I think that what makes Linux stay afloat and grow in spite of the unfair treatment from companies, users, and OEMs, is precisely the level of education it involves.

    @ Phil H,
    Yes, I agree with you on the first point. However, you and I know about that...most users are not informed about that situation. That's why it is important to be open to dialog and criticism...hopefully, more people will learn.

    @ David,
    I see him more on the side of honesty than on that of hypocrisy. Remember that people tend to see computers as either Mac or PC (Windows, Linux, etc). Even though you can install and run Linux on a Mac as you do it on a PC, people just see Apple products as a separate world, so his use of Windows programs as examples respond to that paradigm. Even so, I agree with you: I know Mac and Windows users who use Photoshop in simpler ways that I'd use KolourPaint. The author may be uneducated, but his opinion is still valuable, I'd say.

    @ dak,
    Hehehe! True. Microsoft is not the fastest company to respond to customers' demands. I don't know why Windows fanboys always use "company support" as one of their first arguments.

    @ Erick,'s typically human not being clear-cut on some issues. I also think that with Linux, you can do anything you want. However, sometimes it is hard to learn how when one comes from a world in which they tell us that there is only one way to do things. About the volunteers issue, I am well aware of the stereotyped and uninformed nature of that argument, but hey, that's how many people see Linux. It is up to us to inform them because most of them will rarely do that by themselves.

    @ Ricky Mujica,
    Yes, I agree with him, too. Not because I think he spoke the truth in all his arguments, but because he spoke his mind out, and that's what I find valuable. He didn't throw Linux to the trashcan even if he was off the mark in some points.

    @ Rambo Tribble,
    Right. I couldn't agree more with you. But in that sense, he is indirectly speaking for a lot of computer users who are uninformed (or maybe misinformed...M$ evangelists love to brainwash potential migrants with that "argument"). As Linux users, we need to understand that and, instead of taking offense (as some Linux fans do), we must open dialog vents and inform them...especially those who are willing to talk with us and see potential in Linux.

  10. To say that "there's nothing like WoW" is not exact enough. At least say how it's so special that nothing compares. If it's that it's the biggest, yea how could anything compare? But still, it works with Wine.

    Also, people really don't know what Gimp can do. It had that magical feature that the newest was advertised with long before for example... But it's true that it's not Photoshop.

    Missing menu items? :o That's never happened to me. I'd say it's not Linux, but your desktop environment of choice.

    Last, if you want, you totally can make people fix your pet peeves, by _paying_ them. You could go to irc-channel of the project, like for the missing icons problem you'd go to that DE's channel, and say "hey, I'll pay 50$ for the guy who fixes this bug within a week" for example.

  11. @ ojm,

    To tell you the truth, the author of the comment left me intrigued with that, too. I'm not a fan of modern gaming, so I've no idea what all the noise surrounding WoW is all about. I've heard that it runs with Wine, too.

    About Gimp, I agree with you. It does lots of true marvels, but people just don't know. I guess the author meant it doesn't behave like Photoshop.

    Concerning the irc idea...hey, that sounds well. I'm sure many programmers would be motivated that way. Besides, motivation tends to get better results than whipping them.

  12. And Windows isn't a work in progress? Window 1.0, Window 3, Windows NT, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista, and finally Windows 7. And it goes on and on and some things never get fixed while other things get moved around. I guess I missed Windows ME and Bob and probably 10 or 11 other invocations. Windows 7 is much better than the original Windows 1.0 circa 1981, but is is finished?

    Also today there is better device support for Linux than Windows 7.

    Evolution is something that every OS must embrace or vanish from the playing field. All three of the OSes mentioned have evolved and will continue to evolve. I prefer Linux (Ubuntu) but I like Mac OS-X. I am retired now so I don't have to program using Windows any more -- and don't.

  13. @ barton,
    No, Windows is not work in progress. They promote it as a finished, polished product. However, people know better and many prefer to wait for SP1, SP2, and so on.

    To me, work in progress is highly positive. It means issues will be dealt with. Microsoft prefers to hide issues until someone discovers them in their "finished" products...and only then they work to fix them.

    I agree on the idea of evolution. Unfortunately, I see no security evolution in Windows (not at least on behalf of the users...Win7-SP1 is an example).