I think I’ve just realized how liberating it is to be a not-Windows user. I’ve been a not-Windows user for over two years now, but I’ve discovered this only recently, now that I’m a Mac user as well. Keep in mind that this discussion is limited to real life and not on the Internets, because the number of not-Windows users you come in contact with rises sharply.
First of all, let me rant. I don’t believe anyone gets to criticize another operating system until they’ve used it extensively. That is, where do all of these Windows users come from, talking about how Windows is the only worthy OS when that’s all they’ve known? You don’t go around saying how awesome English is and how it should be the only language man should ever speak. If you do, I’m pretty sure everyone around you shouts “racist” as you go on your tirade.
For instance, Windows users crying about how hard other OSes are. “Wah wah wah, I have to manually bootstrap my system.” Alright, sometimes it’s justified, but usually, it’s more like this: “Wah wah wah, OS X doesn’t use Ctrl for its shortcuts, it’s so hard.” That’s not hard, that’s just muscle memory. It’s “hard” because you think that you’re using Windows.
Here’s a secret: just because you know how to use Windows doesn’t mean you know how to use a computer.
All of my computers at home are running Linux. The computer my parents use runs Ubuntu, actually. I had no choice, actually, because the only other thing it could really run was Windows 98. So, I opted for Ubuntu. My parents don’t really use computers that much, just once in a while to go on the Internet or check some e-mail. So I set up and everything and I made one large icon in the middle of the desktop and called it Internet which was for Firefox.
I told them how to go on the Internet, and they did. Wait, what? They’re using Linux? But Linux is hard. That is some hard stuff. I mean, they can even type in OpenOffice and print stuff.
There are people who are new to computers and they learn how to “use” a “computer”. They learn that the taskbar and the start menu are at the bottom of the screen. They learn that to make a new document in Microsoft Word, they click the little piece of paper in the toolbar.
But what if it’s not there? Then they’re screwed. Then they call technical support and tell them that the little row of pictures are gone. On the other hand, my mom is so noob that she doesn’t have any of those preconceived notions from those awful ‘learn how to use a computer’ classes. My dad has been able to recognize similarities once I point them out and he *gasp* learns.
So back to power users. The problem with power users is that they are so knowledgeable about Windows that they’ve come to associate Windows’ peculiarities with all computers. Restarting your computer solves most problems. Restart your computer after you’ve installed something. You need to format your computer once a year. Programs close when they have no windows open.
Then there’s the arrogance: they think they know how to use a computer, and when something doesn’t work like windows, it’s either broken or stupid.
Of course, when not-Windows people question why things are broken or less efficient, Windows users shrug them off as crazy, because that’s the way it’s always been. I mean, drive letters are the only way to denote different volumes. How could you live without drive letters?
This applies universally of course, power users of any sort. The other offenders are those Mac zealots. The only difference of course is that there are much fewer Mac and Linux fanboys than Windows fanboys.
I didn’t really run into that many people who were interested in my Linux adventures. Once, I got a Mac though, everyone became all “So you got a Mac, eh?” I guess it has to do with the image that Apple has built up as being the provider of pretty, expensive machines for artists and rich snobs.
It’s interesting how people react to the fact that someone they know is one of them, those weird people who don’t use real computers. They start asking you how it is and sometimes throw in something like “But you can’t use Office” or “But it can’t read Windows files” or “But it doesn’t come with any Internets.”
For whatever reason, people think that Macs are even slower and less stable than the Windows machines that they’re using. They think that if they switch, they’ll have to say farewell to their loved ones and never look back.
I have now used Linux, Windows, and Mac extensively now. Outside of my class (those crazy software engineers), I’m the only person who knows all three well (well, not Windows so much nowadays). I can see the flaws and shortcomings of all three. I can see the strengths that all three have. I can use all three much better than a lot of people I know who’ve concentrate on one platform all their lives.
Windows users tend to think that the destiny of computing is tied to that of Windows. Of course, it hasn’t always been like that and it won’t always be like that. Mac and Linux users know that this isn’t the case, because they’ve been computing fine for years. They aren’t dependent on the nuances of their operating system and know how to adapt to new environments. Windows users are wondering how anyone can use a computer anymore without a GUI.
I think that Windows users are very much like our neighbour to the south, the United States of America. They pretty much rule the world and think their way is how it should be done. Non-Windows users are a lot like Canada. We do things a bit differently, but in a lot of ways, we’re like our neighbours. Of course, we’re not as loud and collectively, our minds are a lot more open and we know a crapload of stuff about our neighbours while they know nothing about us.
Oh, and I guess Windows users are always talking about moving up here if they lose the next election.