Something that really bugs me that happens a lot among my friends is this practice of installing the next cool OS. That’s not to say that installing cool OSes is bad, because you’d want to have a cool OS for your cool computer. But there are some effects that this habit brings along.
Back near the beginning of last term, the in thing was to install Ubuntu. Everyone wanted to learn Linux because they wanted to be leet and so off they went to grab their copies of Edgy Eft or whatever it was back then and started to partition their drives, eagerly anticipating the magic of Linux sinking into their hard drives.
Now the thing about Ubuntu is that I find it hard to feel leet about anything after finishing an installation, because it consists of it doing everything for you. That is, unless something went wrong, in which case the typical response was that Linux was being gay and fleeing off to Windows again. In the event that Linux was running well, most people got tired of dual booting and just stuck with Windows again within the month.
And on to the problems. During the period that those people use Linux, they go on about how great it is and how productive they are and how it absolutely destroys Windows in every conceivable way you can measure it. They are now Linux experts, because installing Linux successfully it enough qualification to label yourself as knowledgeable in how every operating system works.
After this period, they’ll return to Windows and start spouting out how garbage Linux is, and again, because they had it installed for three days, they are qualified to pass obviously impartial judgement upon operating systems.
This is damaging to prospective Linux users for two reasons. First of all, Linux users come off as arrogant jerks, especially the ignorant ones who say ridiculous things regarding memory usage and performance in quantitative terms as if they were quoting some hard data. Second of all, these experts who’ve returned from Linux let loose the same torrent of arrogant bashing against Linux, again involving ridiculous claims and figures.
This is true of any operating system. This is why I’ve stayed out of OS debates in the software lab. This is why I wish some of my friends would shut up, because some of the stuff they say is pure misinformation and ridiculous crap.
So under what circumstances should you be allowed to speak critically about operating systems?
First of all, I’d suggest not dual booting. I think dual booting is the number one cause of people who are eager to learn not learning. For one thing, it’s a hassle, and for another, you always have somewhere to run off to. You can always go back to the familiar, the easy. You never actually have to learn. And so, your alternate OS becomes stripped of purpose, and there really is no reason to boot into it.
Second of all, in addition to not dual booting, I’d suggest actually using the OS for some length of time. See, not dual booting actually leads into this because you’re less likely to reinstall your OS than just nuke a partition. Also, you’re forced to actually learn how the OS works and understand the philosophy behind how it’s been crafted.
All of those people who say that switching was easy are lying. Until you’ve learned how to switch and adapt to a new OS, it will never be easy. Learning and using a new OS is a significant commitment and investment. People need to learn to treat it as such.