A small rant about looking down on Linux users

August 31, 2012

Sometimes, in some quarters, it is popular to say that the reason people use Linux is that they don't know any better. If they had been (properly) exposed to the magnificence of the *BSD of your choice, Solaris, or whatever, these Linux users would immediately understand and switch. If they were exposed to these Unixes and did not switch, it would clearly be because they had been damaged by their Linux experience and did not understand the true appeal of Unix; they were clearly too used to the gimmicks and glitz of Linux to really appreciate good stuff, and should perhaps migrate to Macs for even more glitz.

This is various sorts of hogwash. It is also startlingly arrogant, since it presumes that Linux and Linux distributions have no actual appealing elements to anyone with any brains and taste, and betrays an ironic lack of historical awareness given that the Lisp people raised pretty much the same indignant complaints against Unix way back when.

One of the ways that it is hogwash is that its premise is demonstrably wrong, and I'm an example of that. While why I use Linux is a complicated subject and I may or may not have taste, my continued use of Linux is definitely not through ignorance of the elegant Unix alternatives. Rather the contrary, in fact. I've used and worked deeply with plenty of versions of Unix over the years, and I still like Linux. Although I haven't tried to conduct an ethnographic survey, I'm pretty confidant that there are any number of old Unix hands who think that Linux is perfectly fine.

(A certain number of those old hands will look at you oddly if you get very worked up over which Unix you use. They're all Unix, after all. I'm not quite one of these, but a lot of that is because I'm a sysadmin so the fine details of how systems work and are administered do matter to me.)

(Of course and as always, if you ignore how real people actually behave in the real world you are ignoring the real problems. This is part of what happened to the Lisp people way back when and in my view they've never recovered from the resulting bitterness; it would be a shame to see the general Unix community go down the same road. And yes, saying 'people behave like this because they're ignorant' usually is ignoring how real people actually behave.)

Written on 31 August 2012.
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Last modified: Fri Aug 31 01:14:55 2012
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