Dependence, entitlement, victimhood

I still believe that part of the beauty of Linux is your ability to dive in and customize things how you like. The average Linux user has a measure of freedom and flexibility that most Windows users can’t even comprehend, because they’re boxed in so tightly by their frame of reference that their imagination is limited and stunted. No really, I believe that.

Even better, with perhaps only a little bit of help, you can actually build and compile versions of software before they’re released. In effect, you’re getting a snapshot of a program, as it grows, organically and methodically. The measure of freedom offered there is beyond description. It’s almost like being able to taste a meal while it’s being cooked, and experiencing all the new flavors as they come together.

So it’s always a little alarming to see that freedom refuted or denied or even just ignored. It’s not a new phenomenon (dare I say it surges a month or two after every Ubuntu release?), but there’s sometimes a petulant undercurrent to complaints about software readiness, or the time it takes to get new software releases.

And it’s not just Ubuntu users who occasionally get sassy. Ubuntu has a reputation of drawing new Linux users, and with that comes a fair amount of dependence on packagers, maintainers and developers. Occasionally that dependency is coupled to an attitude of entitlement. And in a worst-case scenario, that entitlement borders on victimhood.

But I’ve seen it in Arch users too — the perspective that, as an end-user, someone is “owed” a better degree of “service” from the volunteers who make these things happen. Arch users tend to be a little more experienced and a little more tech-savvy, but it doesn’t immunize them against an occasional whissy hiss fit, as some of my American friends used to say.

Let me counter that occasionally juvenile behavior with an allegory and a quote. First: Demanding immediate software updates from volunteer crews — particularly when, like I mentioned, you have all the tools at your disposal to create your own software updates — is a little like having a kitchen full of food, and complaining because no one will make your dinner for you. Is something wrong with your feet? You can’t walk to the kitchen and cook something for yourself?

Sure, not everyone is a great cook. And maybe the software you “cook” up isn’t quite … perfect … but if it works and it satisfies the update you demanded, who’s complaining? You did it yourself, and you didn’t rely on someone else for once. Most cultures applaud a degree of independence. I will applaud you too.

But more importantly, Linux comes with no service guarantee, unless you purchase one as an outside deal. It’s not in any contract or any terms of use or end-user licensing agreement or stipulation prior to download. Very simply, you got something for nothing, and what you do with that nothing is up to you. Don’t moan over slow updates or substandard “leadership” when you have all the pieces you need to solve the puzzle yourself. Linus said it best:

The Linux philosophy is ‘Laugh in the face of danger.’ Oops. Wrong one. ‘Do it yourself.’ Yes, that’s it.

You want an update? Build it. You want better hardware support? Write it. You want solved bug reports? Troubleshoot it.

Perhaps I sound like that proverbial old guy yelling, “You kids get out of my yard!” but really, people: You’re sitting on a gold mine and complaining about the glare. March yourself into the kitchen and start cooking.

Either that, or be content that someone, somewhere, is cooking your dinner, and they’re probably doing it for free. :evil:

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8 Responses to “Dependence, entitlement, victimhood”


  1. 1 waltharius 2008/05/27 at 11:46 PM

    I think that there is a lot of users who wants system not philosophy. They want to work on this computers not with the computers. They want to work fast and easy. They want rock solid programs, not dev snapshots. Linux is not for all people and companies. I’m a sys admin and I see that Linux server give me a lot of fun, but Windows servers give me a lot of easy work. I’m a Linux fun, but I’m not a Linux maniac who have a pink glasses on my eyes.

    Sorry for my poor English. I hope you understand me.

    Best regards

  2. 2 Dr Small 2008/05/28 at 9:59 AM

    I completely agree with you.
    Now if only I could get my sister to realize the fact, that the food is in the kitchen. Go COOK! :D

  3. 3 penguin 2008/05/31 at 10:31 AM

    How can you compare cooking with compiling and hacking? While cooking may well be considered essential and common skill, installing software from source is not. I disapprove of demanding attitudes, but the thing to understand is that a lot of it comes from the lack of knowledge and understanding. Software for Windows is pre-compiled for one or two versions of Windows, so it is ready to install on the release date. When software for Linux gets released, it’s not ready for any one of the numerous distros, since it wasn’t specially made for one. New users have no idea this is the case and apply standards acquired through Windows experience. We really can’t expect them to know about the diversity of Linux in advance, and least of all, starting to build software from source.

  4. 4 Ugh 2009/01/09 at 10:23 AM

    Is it an attitude of entitlement in the users who just want to use their computers to get things done, or an attitude of arrogant self-righteousness in people like the author of this article?

    It’s all about perspective, I guess.

    Here’s how I see the typical Linux migration:

    1. User is frustrated with Windows (not OS X, of course)
    2. Linux users tell frustrated Windows user that Linux is soooo much better. It’s sooo fast and stable, it never gets blue screens of death like Windows, it never gets viruses or malware like Windows. Everything is free and open and wonderful. Come over to our side and see the light.
    3. User installs Linux.
    4. Nothing works out of the box, programs crash, and getting the computer working normally requires non-stop studying and learning a new language.
    5. User is disenchanted/pissed off.
    6. User complains to developers that nothing is working right, asks for help.
    7. Developers get pissed off.

    After being promised the world, they receive it and find out they need to assemble it themselves.

    You elitists make it sound like all it takes to write and compile your own software is to work at it a little bit. Like the only reason your aunt couldn’t compile software is because she’s lazy. It takes *years* to develop these skills, not hours.

    Yes, anyone could cobble together something edible from a kitchen full of food, even if they don’t know much about cooking. But only a very small proportion of the population can compile software, or even read and understand a configuration file. It’s just not possible for most people to understand things they did not specialize in, even if they read the manual a hundred times. Compiling software is more like giving someone a kitchen full of car parts and expecting them to build a sedan.

    This “build it yourself, asshole!” attitude is the reason Linux has a 1% market share. Ubuntu is a great force for change in this realm, with its codes of conduct, ubuntero pledges, “Thank you for filing this bug report and helping to make Ubuntu even better”, etc., but it still needs a lot of work if Linux is ever going to be useful to the masses. Most people haven’t even heard of Linux.

  5. 5 eksith 2009/01/09 at 6:25 PM

    @Ugh

    These people have spent literally years in man-hours online helping people (for free, I might add) and there is a justified sense of frustration at the complete lack of tact on the part of people asking for questions.

    But with all that I still see people being courteous, calm, and collected even when the novice Linux user asks a seemingly silly question. The same variety they would as from MS.

    How is it the developer’s fault that they were promised an OS that would serve them breakfast in bed? Shouldn’t the person who recommended the system been more specific about what exactly it is they would be getting?

    Here’s the real difference in MS and Linux tech support from then on…

    When the MS tech responds, he/she is required by the company to maintain a certain degree of professionality and detachment. Afterall this person is helping because of a meal ticket. They don’t have any vested intrest in the product at all beyond its ability to help with bills. Now, no matter how tactless the customer is, and no matter how rude (perhaps due to frustration) the tech is supposed to respond with the same attitude.

    When the Linux tech responds, you get what you give…
    These are everyday people with day jobs who are using part of their free time to respond to questions and help with solutions. And, thanks to their feeback, Linux has been turned a self-healing platform on par with commercially available solutions.
    I’ve yet to see any developer respond to a user with legitamate problems with build it yourself, asshole!. Though the garden variety troll might.

    “It’s all about perspective, I guess”

    And yours is, tragically, myopic.

    I have no idea what distro you used, but I’ve never seen anything as broken as in your description. I would think Linux developers have more pride in their work than to release such a broken system.

    Or is this an experience from a few years back from a garage distribution?

    Virtually all commercially available Linux distributions have professional support included as part of the bundle. That includes a hassle free installation and phone tech support. So when you “buy” Linux, you get exactly what you pay for. Unlike with MS, most of the time.

    The rest of the time, I’ve been very happy with GUI package tools available in all different flavours. Of course, that was before I learned anything in-depth about the OS and learned how I could customise each package prior to installation. The last time I had to “build it myself” was when I built an LFS system.

    …And then I learned about Ubuntu.

    “User is frustrated with Windows (not OS X, of course)”
    You give me a video editing job requiring that I actually “use” the full capabilities of the system, and I’ll show you a crashed Mac.

    I’ve spent hours building video sequences in Blender, only to have the system crash on me with a few seconds left. I’m sure if all you do is do some office work or browse the net, then your overpriced Mac will do just fine. After all, why not use a shovel as a tooth pic.


  1. 1 Howto: Build software updates in Ubuntu « Motho ke motho ka botho Trackback on 2008/09/16 at 8:58 AM
  2. 2 A little cheese, for your whine « Motho ke motho ka botho Trackback on 2009/07/08 at 9:41 AM
  3. 3 Sometimes a problem is a good thing « Motho ke motho ka botho Trackback on 2010/04/20 at 9:00 AM

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