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REPOST: Linux is a toy.

This is one of the longer posts I've made regarding Linux's viability as a Windows replacement. I've edited it a bit from the original for things that have changed since then:

Linux is a toy. A powerful toy. An-almost-infinitely-customizable toy. But a toy nonetheless. I say this because the people who use it do so because they enjoy fiddling around with config files. Even if they actually like using it--and of course they do--using it requires one to fiddle with config files in ways that one would only know how to do if he enjoyed learning about such things. I'm sorry, but that is a tiny subset of the computer-using public. Most people don't want to fiddle with things to get them to work or use weird, off-brand knockoff software developed by groups of people who do it as a hobby. It is a toy.

Invariably, this comment upsets a lot of people and there's the obligatory "It runs the internet!" and "dont be rediculous i use it for my business!" (sic) replies. But none of that means it's not a toy. OpenOffice or Crossover Office do not a real computer--as most people actually use them--make. Most businesses do more than type and make spreadsheets.

Here is a quick list of software my parents' company, for whom I do IT from time to time, uses. These are industry-standard applications:

PowerClaim []

Xactimate []

Internet Explorer (for dealing with the head office)

Without these, their business does not run.

Now, let's go to the applications I use for my job (university lecturer / researcher):

RUMM 2020 []


Facets []

DIFPack []

Micrograde []

Do you see a single item in that list with Linux compatibility? Most of them don't even have Mac versions. Most of these are heavy-duty software packages designed to handle specific tasks for business and/or research, and they are mostly only available for Windows. I'm sure that in the case of the stats packages, I could find something that could limp along and provide most of the functionality under Linux, but why would I do that? Everyone uses these packages, and that means if I send my RUMM.mdb file over to a research partner in another country, he'll be able to open it and see if he sees what I see in the data.

None of these packages are a hassle to install. All of them work on any Windows system. Windows is not a toy. It works well with little fuss, it has unrivaled developer support, and you can play Battlefield 2 on it.

Don't get me wrong; I like Linux. I have Ubuntu running on my laptop here at home. [Not anymore; I replaced that laptop with a Mac --Ed.] I love installing software off the net. I like some of the FOSS apps better than their proprietary counterparts. I enjoy that sense of calm you get from knowing that, if you ever get wifi to work without getting a new PCMCIA card that has better driver support and have it hanging off the side (banging into everything all the time), you could use this thing forever, free of all the problems associated with having software on your computer--because you'll never really have any. Until the argument for Linux isn't centered on how little you'll miss Windows, and goes to all the really great software available for it, Linux will remain as it is--a toy.

See, you don't install Linux to get things done; you install Linux to install Linux. It is an end in and of itself. That is not true for installations of Windows, and not as true for installs of MacOS. Those OSes are for people who have something other than codemonkeying to do; Linux is for the codemonkeys who do most of their work in a text editor anyway so why bother having access to anything else? Further, they are a self-selected group of people who have spent years of their lives learning how to write code because they wanted to. So of course those people don't mind--they even enjoy--getting under the hood of their OS and tinkering.

Most people don't really care what OS they use, as long as it does what they want it to do--i.e. run the apps they need and sometimes run a really great game. They're not proud users of Windows; they are proud of the work they do or the mad frags they rack up on the big board.

Hey, I'd love to see Linux dethrone Windows. I'd love to see every one of those software packages listed above available for Linux. But it ain't gonna happen, because... Linux. Is. A. Toy.