Originally Published: Saturday, 6 May 2000 Author: Basil Lalli
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Std View]

A Clarification... to What the World is Coming To

"What the World is Coming To" was my first article, and many of you agreed with it. Thank you to those who did. Not to say that those who don't agree with me aren't to be thanked; they helped me realize where I didn't explain what I was trying to say completely. So here's my rebuttal-slash-clarification to Wednesday's article. It might change a few minds, and at the very least, you'll have a better idea of what you're disagreeing with.

I know what you're all thinking. "Oh, look, it's that Basil freak again. Why doesn't he just shut up?" Well, "What the World is Coming To" was my first article, and many of you agreed with it. Thank you to those who did. Not to say that those who don't agree with me aren't to be thanked; they helped me realize where I didn't explain what I was trying to say completely. So here's my rebuttal-slash-clarification to Wednesday's article. It might change a few minds, and at the very least, you'll have a better idea of what you're disagreeing with.

Because anyone interested in this article has probably read Wednesday's, I'll skip explaining it again and just go straight to what I thought were the most common misconceptions with what was thought and what I really meant:

1. "To the elite - You seem so worried that the influx of people is a bad thing"

Oh, no. More people is always good. At the very worst reason it gets companies to put money into Linux. What IS a bad thing is people that come in for the wrong reasons. Newbies in general are great for Linux, and I often visit Linux news groups to give them help. Yes, I too was a newbie, I haven't forgotten, and to tell you the truth, I haven't completely outgrown it yet. Contrary to what many people say, however, there are times when the free, open OS is a bad idea. My father has Windows, and when I'm at his house I use IE5 and Word2000 all the time, and I can't believe anyone could honestly say Linux is better for simple tasks like e-mail and word processing. It just isn't. And neither of those programs crashes anymore than Linux's counterparts. To my dad, therefore, Linux would not be a good choice. It's just another OS, with more rules and quirks he'd have to learn, only to come out with about the same performance.

2. Many of you said that I was a hard-core elitist (one even called me a pinko, lol), and that I expected everyone to become a guru.

Once again, no. I'm not a guru. I don't code, I never said I did (and just for Mr. Anonymous over there, I was far from being born when 'pinkos' were around). What I do is I use my computer at home. I use it out of pure curiosity, and we all know Linux is just great for that. Like I said, I don't code, yet. What I do to contribute is test beta programs and write bug reports, advocate Linux, etc. So, of course I don't expect gurus out of every single Linux user. What I would like to see is some sort of contribution. After all, for all of you who said I don't understand the open source concept, user contribution is, in essence, your payment for open software. It's open for the sole reason that you can contribute. So yes, I expect people to contribute to Linux.

3. "Linux can be user-friendly and retain its power and versatility..."

No, it can't. Taking a rather well-known example, how could we make the tar program easier? Make a front-end? No, a front-end of tar with every feature the original tar has would be just as hard as the text-based, and slower. We could strip the program of some of the less commonly used features to make things easier to remember, but that deprives it of versatility. We could add in drag-and-drop, or self-guiding "wizards", but they too bloat the program and take away from tar's power and simplicity. No one argues that a standard desktop/command line instead of many would simplify things and force users to only have to learn one, right? Well, no one argues that Mac is more flexible than Linux either. There are instances where computing can be made easier, but logically user-friendliness and program flexibility act against each other, not together. One person said that Linux is easy once set up. System upkeep on Linux and UNIX is the job of the system administrator. Sure, Linux would be real easy for Joe if there were always a sysadmin there to help him out, but Joe wants to use it by himself, and system administration is something Joe can't handle.

4. Some said that I believed that new users should not use Linux at all.

Back to #1, if you want to sit and learn it like all the other people did, please do. If you want to sit and wait for us to bring Linux down to a level you want, it isn't going to happen. Linux adapts to people's wishes by being changed by the people. This is why a greater understanding of the OS is necessary compared to other systems. In Macs, there is a company whose success depends on your satisfaction. They will change the system for you. Here, you don't get to complain until your wishes are met, you have to go out and meet them yourself.

5. People claim it is the elitist who is keeping Linux from being the communal, equal-rights system they want.

It's Joe's fault that the OS has been divided into the informed few and the uninformed many. Do you expect the informed to dull down to your level? Elitists aren't telling newbies to go away, they're telling them to learn and become elite. If our goal is to make everyone equal in the community, we have to educate everyone. This is why I don't appreciate people who don't want to learn. They have their place somewhere else.

6. A few said things that pointed to a belief that I was against distributions.

I'm not. Distributions do nothing except save us the time we would have to spend hand-picking the software necessary for an operational system. Different distros do different things, and I have nothing against any of them... except when they do false advertisement. Not false in the legal sense, but false in that their claims that Linux is a very easy, intuitive, desktop OS attracts people that didn't really want Linux. This was my point in the last article. This advertising attracts people who expect ease, intuition, and a viable desktop OS. When they realize that Linux isn't what they expected, they complain. So I'm not mad or disgruntled by those people that hold misconceptions, I'm mad at us for giving them those misconceptions. If only we'd be more frank when telling people about Linux, we'd drive away the hype, and attract the people that could really benefit from it.

7. (Last point) A couple people said that Debian and the more "robust" distros should be reserved for the more educated Linux users, and that RedHat and Mandrake and others should go their separate way to bring Linux to the Joe's everywhere.

It would be a good idea, but something like that happened to UNIX, and it wasn't pretty.

I just have one last point in an attempt to drive away the most extreme flamers out there. I have nothing against Average Joe's. I believe Linux is run by elitists, but I also believe that people wishing to be elite should be openly and enthusiastically taught and allowed to contribute. I welcome this. What shouldn't be happening is that many people want to be nothing more than bare-bones users. I and no one else can stop you, but the entire goal of open source is the contribution of the masses. If anyone is reading this that is one of these people, please, learn more about Linux. Ask questions (intelligent ones), play with your system, try new programs, and give back to the community that selflessly made this fantastic OS for you.

Basil Lalli (BasilLalli@hotmail.com) didn't really like his last "about the author" line. This is his new one: Basil Lalli is an elitist. He likes knowing what he's doing, and probably gets more fun out of watching people argue over his articles than he should (he'd still dedicate it to Ashley though :).