Matthew Rosewarne on 19 Jan 2008 16:20:46 -0800

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Re: [PLUG] One True OS

On Saturday 19 January 2008, Stephen Gran wrote:
> 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.

When Windows breaks, people grumble and curse at Microsoft, maybe calling for 
some poor support monkey to come tell them that Windows is broken and there's 
nothing anyone can do.  People are resigned to this, and the admins do not 
get chastised for almost any problem they can pin on Microsoft.  In a sense, 
it's almost like a darker version of "Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM".

Linux (and to some extent Apple) is another story.  While people see the 
Microsoft upgrade+break cycle as inevitable, they can instead blame the tech 
staff if they switch software.  It's not fair, but it is real and must be 
accounted for.

> 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.

Many of us have seen, and probably been, a Linux enthusiast pushing for a 
Linux rollout at their school/work/organisation/etc.  Usually, the enthusiast 
sees only Linux and doesn't take into account the users' needs or concerns.  
The result is an effort that collapses part-way through, often getting in the 
way of people doing actual work.  Munich and Extremadura eventually 
succeeded, despite almost stalling, by having complete support from higher 
authorities and by being willing to bear any problems that arose.  There were 
other efforts that didn't succeed, such as the one in Birmingham (England, 
not Alabama).

In the end, many of us have seen what happens when Linux users get too 
enthusiastic and try to convert everyone to Linux without enough planning or 

%!PS: The last version I even had installed on my machine was Win2k.  I've 
since been using various flavours of Linux exclusively.  I even have a family 
member running Debian+KDE and, for the most part, liking it.

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