Thursday, June 3, 2010

Passionate about ... Operating Systems

I have never been able to figure it all out. The Windows mavens that call Apple people names and insult their intelligence (and the reverse).

Maybe it is just me, but I care more about things like whether or not the place that makes my computer is so horrible that people are killing themselves rather than go to work, than what is actually made in the factory. Right now Foxconn is in the news in that regard, but behind that there are many many other sweatshops that are reportedly worse... I am thinking about the thing that pops up from time to time about where Kathy Lee Giffords clothing product line is made and the like.

If one is going to get passionate about an OS (as opposed to just liking to argue about it), how does one pick? When you get down to it, Linux, OS.X, and even Windows all can do pretty much the same things: They are all OS's, and platforms for OpenOffice, Firefox, Chrome, and other applications that are the things I really need. What would make me so passionate about it that I feel the need to post in forums that so-and-so is an idiot and her mother dresses her funny because she uses some other operating system than I do? Sure, I like center click to paste on Linux, and don't get why every OS does not have that.. but is that really the reason to question other peoples ancestry?

If one is serious about being passionate about the code that lives between the EFI/BIOS and the applications, then it seems to me that it comes back to the *way* the OS was generated and built. Was it built by a company that does good things: Is a good citizen of the world. Linux's answer to that is pretty easy. Linux is in and of itself a good work. It helps people the world over. You can learn how to write code from it. You can learn how an OS works from it. It powers things like the OLPC XO series of computers.

Still, you could point out that Apple makes green computers, or that MS donates money to charity..

Few enough people actually write the code that makes the OS's valuable that it is unlikely that the code editor or the debugger or the SDK is why folks are passionate about their OS. Sure, if you write code, whoever makes your life easier is probably your best buddy, but that seems insufficient for the wide-spread "Your OS sucks rocks, while mine just rocks" mentality.

Is it just that people feel the need to be competitive, even about stuff like what OS their computer runs? I don''t understand how I am supposed to pick my favorite baseball team either: I always just went with the fact that if I had been to a city and enjoyed it there, then I followed how well their team was doing: Thus I watch the SG Giants and the Boston Redsox with some interest, and don't follow Phoenix at all. The first day I was there it was 127 degrees.... yuch.

Maybe OS's are the same thing. Maybe it is not the OS itself, but whatever compels someone to line up on one side or the other that makes them pick an OS and stick to it.

Me: I just want something that works, and lets me do what I want to do, and right now that is Linux and OS.X. I may someday get over being angry about Code Red and Nimda, and the 2.5 weeks of my life I lost to them. It has been nearly 10 years and I have not so far. Not to mention all the infected PC's over the years I cleaned up for one person or another. I think it must be forget in order to forgive.

But even that is dislike, not the out and out name calling I see so often in forums.

I don't get it.


Paul said...

I would suggest you read Robert Cringely's take on the Foxconn story:

I don't know why pundits don't make this point more often. Not that it's the right opinion necessarily, but I find it to be an interesting point.

Steve Carl said...

Actually, Steve Jobs made that same point this last week, and I agree with it more or less: Foxconn has a lower suicide rate than what is average for China.

That it is in the news does not make it 100% factual... But I am betting you knew that already! I referenced it at all only to make a different point about what I think passion should be spent on when one talks about computers.

I love my iPad, but I would not diss people with Kindles...

KimTjik said...

I was thinking about this yesterday, while trying to figure out why a comment I made was interpreted as a personal insult. I don't have a clue.

I did decide some time ago to write less, since I'm tired of subjects becoming embodied by the ones involved in the discussion. My comments tend to be of quite some length, which probably has more to do with my nature and fast typing skills (is Das Keyboard good or is it good?), and less to do with passion. Maybe I erase myself from the cyberspace? I'm not sure. Trouble is I enjoy languages, and even if English isn't my preferred secondary language, I can't avoid playing with it rhetorically, which probably could be interpreted as argumentative, even how unintentional it is.

I rumble a bit now, but my thought is that even if you yourself view yourself as pragmatic and not especially passionate about your decision of operating system, it's still difficult to maintain that perception among your readers.

Steve Carl said...

You point about perception is very accurate. I know that many assume I am a Linux and nothing but Linux type of person, because I write about Linux over at "" and about Open Source in general from time to time here. There is some projection of other peoples thoughts and beliefs onto me that can not be avoided. Their point of view actually tells me a great deal about what they think rather than really being about what I am or think.

As for stopping writing.. That is a personal choice. Some write because they have to. It is literally a writers desease. Others write to practice, or to try and make one point or another, but then stop... all sorts of other types of writers in between.

I enjoy writing, and I enjoy having intelligent, well informed conversations with the people that read either of my blogs, and I am fortunate in that the people that read my material are by and large responsible and thoughtful correspondents rather than the naysayers I see so often on the Internet.For me it is not about hit rates or whatever, though I would be lying if I did not say that knowing my blogs are read around the world and by people I respect is very rewarding.