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.comment: Be Careful What You Wish For

Two Weeks Do Not a Linux Tryout Make

  • January 5, 2001
  • By Dennis E. Powell

There was a very interesting article in the Los Angeles Times recently. In it the author, Mark Kellner, wrote of having tried to switch to a Linux desktop for 14 days. All that he found admirable in Linux was StarOffice, and there was a lot he didn't like even about that. He hit a lot of snags, and asked all the wrong people who, like Mr. Kellner himself, hadn't a clue.

Kellner's piece was linked on Linux Today, and it drew just about the range of comments what we have come to expect: a few from the "Microsoft paid him off" contingent, and some from the "mine is bigger than yours" children, as well as some fairly reasoned responses from those who do not cheerlead for cheerleading's sake. These fell into two categories. The first is that had he done a little research and looked for the things he needed and looked in the right places for help, he would have made out much better. The second is that much that he said was accurate. Both of these points of view are, I think, correct.

Kellner's article, for all its flaws (and I think it had many), is just the kind of thing that those of us in the Linux community ought to look at, think about, and at the end ask two questions: What are we trying to bring about? How well are we doing it?

Imagine, if you will, that Kellner had pronounced Linux sound in every way and had encouraged all his readers to fdisk their hard drives, head down to Fry's to pick up a Linux distribution, and have at it.

Imagine.

His phone would ring off the hook--his mailbox would be safe, because nobody would be able to send him email--with threatening calls from enraged readers. There would be talk of a class-action lawsuit against him (which in California is the kind of thing that happens). And in fact he would have been guilty of tremendous irresponsibility. Telling Windows users, many of whom look upon their computers as household appliances, to just up and switch to Linux would be tantamount to encouraging them to rewire their television sets. Bad idea.

Fact is, Linux requires more of users than Windows does. And fact is, there is no general desire that this state of affairs change. Sure, there are lots of areas where we'd like to see improvements because there are a lot of things in Linux that are more inconvenient than they ought to be. But that's far different from a cry that Linux be made accessible to the clueless.

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