Stephen Gran on 19 Jan 2008 14:33:42 -0800

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Re: [PLUG] One True OS

On Sat, Jan 19, 2008 at 03:25:23PM -0500, W. Chris Shank said:
> I'm sorry if I'm ranting. I'm really not anti-Linux. I use it to a  
> tremendous extent and even commercially support about a dozen Linux  
> desktops. So I know from experience, Linux itself isn't the answer to  
> a poorly designed network or untrained users or crappy hardware or an  
> inadequate IT budget. It will in fact will make your life miserable  
> and make users skeptical about using Linux in the future when it truly  
> has overcome the few remaining hurdles. I guess I'm jaded because I've  
> been there - done that, and it sucks to see your effort fail. This  
> hits close to home for me because I've been in James position and  
> attempted to do just what he's trying to do about 5 years ago. Back  
> then, instead of Vista as the problem OS it was XP and Windows 98 as  
> the incumbent. But the story is very similar. Linux is more mature  
> than it was then, but XP is also far superior to Windows 98, so the  
> starting points aren't that far off.
> What these schools need is a real _comprehensive solution_ that  
> addresses all their needs and pain points. Just sticking Linux in the  
> lab is only going to make his life harder because he'll have more  
> complexity to try to manage.

You make some very good points, but I have to admit I'm always a little
confused by people making these arguments (not just you, I've seen this
time and time again).

Your argument is, effectively:
Linux is good, but people want feature A that may or may not work.
Poorly set up and indifferently maintained networks and machines lead to
a poor user experience and sour people on Linux adoption.  Additionally,
people who expect Linux to behave exactly the same as some other OS will
just be disappointed.

What always strikes me about this line of argument is that no other OS
is any different.  People who are used to Windows 98/2K are unhappy with
XP, since the admin interface is completely different.  MS Office is
not compatible across platforms or versions.  Indifferently maintained
Windows machines are if anything worse than indifferently maintained
Linux machines.  The only argument that is difficult to refute immediately
is that people who expect different platforms to behave exactly the same
will be disappointed.  But by your line of reasoning, it's safe to offer
them XP in place of Windows 98, but not OK to offer them GNOME or KDE,
and that makes no sense to me.  They are about as disparate in UIs.

I am not picking on you.  I see this over and over in people who are
otherwise Linux advocates.  Why are we so defensive about Linux rollouts
and so hesitant to recommend it whole heartedly?  It's good enough for
Munich, it's good enough for Extremadura, and many many more.  Why isn't
it good enough for you?  Of course there will be some rocky moments.  Of
course a poorly done rollout will reflect poorly on the OS as well as
the admin.  Of course there will be a few odd complaints.  None of those
are particularly compelling, at least to me.

There will be complaints on a Windows OS upgrade.  There will be rocky
moments when transitioning versions of Windows, since applications will
behave differently.  Maybe the only thing that won't change is that a
poorly planned rollout won't be blamed on the OS?  That is all I can
think of, as it seems to be the only difference that matters.  That just
means that you, as the admin, have a responsibility to actually think
about what you're doing before you do it.  It is not a reason to pretend
that Windows is useful desktop OS, and it is not a reason to act ashamed
of what Linux has to offer as a Desktop tool or as an educational

</blatant advocacy mode>
|  Stephen Gran                  | Even historians fail to learn from      |
|             | history -- they repeat the same         |
| | mistakes.   -- John Gill, "Patterns of  |
|                                | Force", stardate 2534.7                 |

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