But by night, I'm... Conan the Cybarian!

Eight Linux Myths that are ready to be dragged to the Trashcan!

Date/Time Permalink: 03/15/06 06:20:45 am
Category: General

Ask anybody wearing a suit what they think of Linux, and likely as not
they'll repeat one of these tired old cliches. These one-liners get
repeated over and over, until Slashdot repeats CNet repeats ZDNet
repeats Wired repeats LXer. This is not an opinion piece I'm doing. I
could care less if anybody but me uses Linux. These are just tall
tales that fall apart under the merest whiff of common sense, and I
hope readers will correct them when they pop up. If you don't like
Linux, don't use it...but dislike it for real reasons of your own, and
not what some talking media head told you.

1. "Linux isn't ready for the desktop."
Linux was ready for *my* desktop. Linux is ready for some *other*
people's desktop. Whether it's ready for the *speaker's* desktop is
strictly up to the speaker. Once upon a time, everybody was saying the
same thing about Windows 3.1 Remember that? Bare pattern background
with a single icon you clicked to open a window with the whole system
in it? Remember the folders - File Manager, Control Panel, Games? Ugly
black-and-white pop-ups with big clunky borders and buttons and
sliders? Today anyone can write something in Glade that looks better
than a Windows 3.1 program did, but that didn't stop Windows.

2. "Linux is too hard."
Yeah, if you don't read, won't listen, won't learn, won't experiment,
then everything's hard. Granted, Linux *is* big, and Open Source *is*
a vast field. Parts of that vastness *are* some very nonintuitive
applications. Critics who mouth this line immediately head for the
oldest living example of a program steeped in heavy wizardry (vi, man
pages for system calls, awk and sed) to point to as a "typical
example". In fact, about half of all Linux users never touch these
programs. They all date from the early Unix days. You know what's
hard? Reverse-engineering a .dll file with the DOS "hex editor" to
find out which system call is making Windows crash, after you've
rebooted Windows in safe mode. Now, I think you'll agree, *that's*
hard! "How many people using Windows do that?" So, if you're using
Linux, use kate or gedit or XEmacs or ABIWord or Beaver to edit files
instead of vi. And so on. Leave the power apps to the power users! And
they're there in case you want to learn about them someday and become
a power user yourself.

3. "Linux zealots hurt Linux."
Linux zealots are mostly the people who *built* Linux. Are you
passionate about the fruits of your own labor? Linux "zealots" who
insist on open-source licensing are merely trying to keep Linux going
the same way it *got* here in the first place. Richard Stallman is
certainly a goofy character, but I think if you take him with the
proper sense of humor, he's about as harmless as any other. Yeah, he's
passionate about the fate of GNU. Because it's his life's work!!! He
*wrote* most of it, and he wanted it to be free forever! So, I say,
Linux zealots, go right on being zealotous! You made Linux what it is
today. It's yours to guide, control, and even take away if you choose

4. "Linux needs to do (blah, foo, and poof) before it'll capture
market share from Microsoft."
This isn't a myth in itself, but the question that it begs is. You'll
never hear this told by the industry's spokespeople, but in fact,
Linux was never started with the aim to "take over market share from
Windows". Linux was started to be a free implementation of Unix, a
system well aged before Microsoft was ever *founded*, and Linux was
originally influenced by Minix. Linux has done that well. Microsoft is
Microsoft; it has never had anything to do with Linux's development.

5. "Linux just attracts users because it's 'cool'."
Some people are attracted to Linux because it's 'cool'. Some are
attracted because it's stable and secure. Some people like it because
they can get it free, and they're cheapskates (count me in here). Many
people simply like Linux because they can have it *their* way. My main
motive for using Linux is that it lets me be as smart as I am. My kids
like Linux because it comes with all the free games they can possibly
play. Who cares?

6. "All those choices are too confusing. Linux should be
Sure, and all those different kinds of automobiles really hurt the
automaker industry. SUVs, pick-ups, sedans, compacts, vans - bah! Who
has time to stand there answering all those questions in the
auto-dealer lot? And there should be only one kind of food, too.
What, are you telling me cigarette companies are losing out big time
because each one makes one hundred different brands? Find a flavor of
Linux that suits you best and stick with it - and thank your stars you
aren't forced to use what *I* consider a good distro, because to you
my choices would seem pretty kinky...as some of yours do to me!

7. "Until Joe Sixpack can use it, Linux will never make it."
Since when is Joe Sixpack the most desired demographic? I honestly
wish Joe Sixpack the best of luck with whatever operating system he
chooses. Tell the truth, there's no such thing as this stereotype. The
"average casual user", as we might say, has approached *all* operating
systems with the same lack of faith in their own ability to learn. But
they've overcome it before, and they'll overcome it again. Ditto with
the "gramma" stereotype. When gramma's ready to learn it and wants to
learn it, she'll learn it.

8. "The money you save using Linux in your business gets eaten up in
training people to use it."
As if no one on the planet knows Linux to start with? Just hand out
copies of "Linux for Dummies" the same way you did "Windows for
Dummies" a decade ago. Poll your employees - you *will* find one or
two of them who know it already. Transfer them to 'training'. What
happened to the business world motto: "The only constant is change."?

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