Today, I say don’t bother

I’m in a curious mood today, and it has manifested itself in a rather peculiar way — today I am suddenly no longer interested in evangelizing for free software. Moods come and go and no doubt this one will too, but for the moment, I feel rather ambivalent toward which software you use, or what computer, or even if you consign your entire well-being to the whims of a multibillion-dollar corporation.

Part of my indifference stems from the interview between the BBC’s Gary Parkinson and Ubuntu director of business Chris Kenyon. The interview itself is nothing particularly noteworthy — it runs barely three minutes, a little more focus on the desktop itself would have been nice, etc., etc. — unless you count the fact that, aside from casual jabs about Linux’s viability as an OS, it’s nice to have mainstream media at least acknowledge Tux exists.

No, what has me in a funk is really just the fact that most of the interview seemed to be spent asking what chance there is running Windows programs on Ubuntu, or Apple software on Ubuntu. The last question that I remember offhand was whether or not iTunes is available in Ubuntu.

What happened to Ubuntu software on Ubuntu?

I am not criticizing Parkinson in this post, because really, from a complete newcomer’s point of view, those are the right questions to ask. Do I have to start over from scratch? Do I have to abandon the software I know and understand? Do I have to reinvent the wheel?

But my mood today says, “If you have to ask those questions, don’t bother trying it out.” Today my mood says, “If you’re not interested in trying something new, don’t try it.”

Today, if you’re new to Linux or Ubuntu and you want to use the same software you have already, then I say just keep using Windows. If you can’t bear the idea of living without iTunes, then stick with your Mac. The erstwhile rambunctious voice in my head that usually fuels my passion for free software is, today, rather grumpy. Unless you’re interested in change, it says, don’t trouble yourself.

Linux is not for everyone, and that is an inescapable truth. I know people who have started it, played with it for ten seconds, and said, “No thanks.” There’s nothing wrong with that, and nothing I can do to change it. Principles, purposes, practicality be damned, there are just some folks who are better off sticking with Microsoft or Apple. On another day, I might try to talk them out of it.

But today, I say don’t bother. Sorry. 😐


14 thoughts on “Today, I say don’t bother

  1. CorkyAgain

    I agree. I’ve never understood the Linux zealot’s desire to get *everyone* using Linux. I’m quite happy being one of the elite few who know and love software that implements the Unix philosophy.

    I’m *not* happy about the way the Linux world has often aped some of the worst things in Windows in a misguided attempt to lure more users away from Microsoft.

    If those new users aren’t interested in learning how to do things the Unix way, they’re going to bring demands for “user friendliness” that will take us even farther from our Unix roots. I think that would be a bad thing.

  2. Brett D

    “Today, if you’re new to Linux or Ubuntu and you want to use the same software you have already, then I say just keep using Windows.”

    That’s actually how I managed to open up the minds of many of my ‘linux convert’ friends so it goes both ways. I showed them better FOSS alternatives to software they were already using (Firefox, Thunderbird, Pidgin, OpenOffice) and eventually they asked me the same conclusion I came to – If I’m already running all this software on Windows, why not give it a shot on Linux? Most found that nothing about Windows in particular was keeping them around and have switched, others (mostly those focused on gaming or frustrated due to poor wireless support – which I can’t argue with) have turned back but still use and support much of the FOSS software – at least it’s something. 🙂

  3. CorkyAgain

    Brett’s comment clarified something for me: there’s a difference between advocating FOSS and advocating Unix and Unix-like operating systems and software.

    I often get the impression from FOSS advocates that they’d be happy to use Windows exactly as it is, if only Microsoft made it free and open source. I.e., they don’t really have any objection to its design or implementation.

    1. Brett D

      They’re practical pieces of software and real alternatives to ones that people use every day. I don’t understand the questioning of them.

      1. CorkyAgain

        My point is that they’re not good examples of software designed in accordance with the Unix philosophy.

        Read ESR’s “The Art of Unix Programming” or Gancarz’s “Linux and the Unix Philosophy” for a detailed discussion, but Wikipedia’s entry on “Unix Philosophy” gives a good overview of what I mean:

  4. Renan

    I also don’t evangelize. I will be happy to show someone the way, but this assumes he or she is interested in learning and not just in ‘looking different’.

    And I absolutely despise people that want everybody to migrate to Linux, even if they can’t/don’t want to. Where’s the freedom they preach so much when someone just force people to use what you want them to use?

    “Today, if you’re new to Linux or Ubuntu and you want to use the same software you have already, then I say just keep using Windows.”

    I can’t help but keep agreeing forever with this one. If one is not interested in actually learning a new OS, or don’t want to change, I believe they should stick to what they know and enjoy.

    I hate forced change. I think everybody that reads this blog also hates it.

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  6. twitter

    Let those who claim to hate “forced change” eat Vista. There is no continuity in non free software. Vista failed in the marketplace, despite massive OEM and retail force. Now comes Windows 7 with all sorts of change for change sake. Both of these systems force users to start all over again, trashing favorite old programs and muscle memory. Everyone is better off with free software replacements, where change comes when the community wants it. Tell your friends that they are going to be forced to learn something new, so they might as well learn something better.

  7. poss

    fair call let em come on there own back. i think linux’s strengths are its configurability but is that what also keeps the wider populous away from its cause it too nerdy with the terminals and commands etc?? i dunno who really cares anyway.

    the ubuntu guy in the video did a pretty lousy job spruiking ubuntu imo. i guess he was just trying to pitch it to a conservative audience thats why he was just trying to emaphise everything should just work without altering it. but the thing is altering and changing it is half the fun. technically he wasn’t that correct saying windows programs won’t run on ubuntu, he should probably of said well you can if you need to, but there are loads alternative software under linux also. and what is the problem with ipods don’t they drag and drop like everything else?? my cheap and nasty chinese one works fine. anyway…

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