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Linux Dudes

July 6, 2010
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My day-to-day computer – indeed the one I’m typing this post on – is a two-year-old Asus Eee 900. It runs Windows XP. It has never crashed on me, never frozen on me, has yet to collect a virus and the number of times it’s given me serious trouble can be counted on one hand. It works fine.

You can also buy Eees which run Linux, the main selling point in this particular context being that it takes up less space. (For reference, you can get iPods with more hard-drive capacity than this computer.) For a laptop being sold to the general market, that’s probably as much as most people care or want to know about the specifics of a particular operating system. The key words there are ‘general market’ and ‘most people’.

Every so often – often enough that the residual pissed-off-ness has finally reached critical mass and boiled over into a post – I get my Eee out and somebody goes “Oh, is that an Eee? D’you have Linux or Windows?” and I say “XP” and then (and this is the bit that induces the pissed-off-ness, people) they laugh.

I don’t care what you think about my choice of OS. Honestly, I don’t, and if the thought of someone not caring about your opinion pains you to the core then, well, tough shit. I do care, very much, about not being fucking patronised in public by people who don’t even know me for no reason.

It’s offensive, and that’s what it comes down to. You don’t randoms on the street, regardless of how mockable they may seem to you, because there’s such a thing as common courtesy.

I would bet that at least some of the Linux Dudes* who feel the need to laugh at us mere mortals’ choice of computer system have, at some point, been laughed at for a perfectly reasonable and in any case personal choice, e.g.: style of hair, text of T-shirt, taste in music, preferred school subject, preferred leisure pursuit, whatever. In that kind of situation it’s desperately tempting to try and salvage a sense of self-worth by finding some axis on which you can consider yourself superior to Those People; I know, I’ve done it, because being an acne-prone, unsporty, unfashionable, bookish size 18 teenage girl was many, many kinds of not fun, and one of the things that helped me through those years was the deep conviction that they’d all crash and burn and who’s laughing now, you bastards? I have the deepest sympathy for anyone in a similar position.

Being convinced of one’s own superiority, though, isn’t the same as voicing it, and voicing it in private isn’t the same thing as voicing it in public. Seamus and I had a brief exchange on this post as to whether self-celebration is ever appropriate; my personal view is that it can be, but it’s also something you do in your own space, on your own time, rather than getting in unconsenting people’s** faces about how omgwonderful you are. For example, if you want to present your thesis that anyone running Windows (or voting Labour, or going to church, or whatever) is some sort of inferior drone-person/woefully misinformed/both, do it to either a) the ever-open ear of the Internet, or b) someone who you have established ACTUALLY WANTS to hear your views on the subject.

And finally, if pissing people off seems like a small price to pay for making clear your huge intellectual superiority, please consider that pissing people off tends to have knock-on practical effects. Such as, in this case, making them a lot less likely to listen to, let alone subsequently follow, any valid computing advice you may actually have. Reflexively disregarding the advice of people you do not like (and/or perceive do not like you) is something everybody does. You may even be doing it right now.

Assuming you are a Linux evangelist because you genuinely think it’s a better option, alienating the very people you’re trying to convert is not only unproductive but counterproductive. (If you’re a troll out to piss people off, congratulations, well done.)

*

*Linux Dudes have, so far, always been male dudes, though I think that’s more to do with the distinctly unbalanced ratio of men to not-men in the field of obsessive computer geekery than anything else. Smugly patronising/insulting behaviour to complete strangers is depressingly common amongst all sexes.

**It probably won’t happen for a while given how long it’s taking for the CONSENT IS IMPORTANT bit to propagate even on the one subject where most people already know about it (in theory), but I would love to see it become a principle not just of sex, but of social interactions in general that they don’t happen without all participants’ specific consent. Invasion of privacy is called an invasion for a reason.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Paul permalink
    July 6, 2010 8:47 pm

    The only reason I’d laugh is because you paid* for Windows XP when its beyond old** and you should’ve waited for Windows 7 which will be supported for longer.

    *I believe, but could be wrong, that the Eee is cheaper if you buy with Linux installed
    **It is over a third of my life ago it came out 🙂

    /poking fun

    I find it odd how people get wound up over what is essentially banter to these sort of people though. I enjoy taking the piss back that they can’t play any decent games and should’ve bought a Mac instead 🙂 That makes them explode.

    But then I probably am one to poke a sleeping lion.

  2. July 6, 2010 9:23 pm

    When I bought it the prices were identical – I remember that. That may well have changed since, though, especially if they’re trying to shift Linux ones. (Which could well be the case, considering that even knowing what Linux is already puts me in a higher geek bracket than quite a lot of the rest of the world, and the vast majority of people with laptops just want something semi-reliable that won’t explode.)

    XP may be old, but it works. Still compatible with everything, doesn’t fuck up, and I wasn’t about to wait the two years for 7 to come out with no computer (or worse, one running Vista.) I fail to see the value in having something simply because it’s newer, when the old version is still working just fine.

    The point at issue is that you have no idea what constitutes ‘banter’ to the person you’re aiming it at, and so caution is always the best course. It rapidly ceases to be hilarious banter when the recipient has had the EXACT SAME THING HAPPEN in the exact same stupid and condescending manner at least a dozen times. You have no fucking idea whether your opinion is wanted or welcome, and pissing some random stranger right off just for the chance to air said opinion is the act of an asshole. Seriously, how hard is it to keep opinions to yourself until you’re asked?

    I can put up with the ribbing from friends. It’s the unsolicited, patronising shit about Linux from strangers who have no idea of me, my life, my circumstances or needs that has to go. (And you can substitute ‘absolutely any subject in the world’ for ‘Linux’ in the above sentence.)

  3. knightofthedropdowntable permalink*
    July 7, 2010 12:09 am

    When I was studying/failing Computer Science, I had this from half a dozen people every single day. It was ridiculous, they kept repeating the same mantra to me over and over, when they knew they had already told me and I had already given them my reasons, as if some how by repeating it again I might ‘see the light’ or something. The various flavours of Linux are very good at what they do, and legitimate free stuff is better than paying for something very similar, but as a computer user, I am primarily a gamer. Linux can’t run games itself, dual-booting is pointless because I would never use the Linux partition (restarting my computer to switch between gaming and programming!?), and running a Windows emulator to play games on Linux is just… well, sad. That kind of reasoning has long since left behind logic and gone into desperate unnecessary hatred.

    I can completely see why they think Linux OSes are better, and on some points I agree, but they seem to show the same ignorance to problems with Linux and to situations where it wouldn’t work that so many people on the internet have for their product/opinion/belief/game/etc. This infuriates me, especially when they claim to have come to the logical or rational conclusion when they are clearly being intentional ignorant of any opposing views. I have read that the difference between real science and psuedoscience was that real scientists try to find holes in their arguements, in their theories, to see if it can be disproved and therefore be wrong, because the whole point of science is to find the truth. Obviously with opinion, there is very rarely a true correct view, yet so many people seem to think that theirs is. Is it really so difficult to accept that we can be wrong about things?

  4. Paul permalink
    July 7, 2010 12:18 am

    I guess my only real point was that support is due to end in 2014 for XP. But I don’t really believe it will end then as they kept shipping it with netbooks until Win7 came out. So it’s bound to get pushed back. I was just taking the piss really.

    I believe the people you’re talking about have a specific collective name; that being “wankers”.

    I want XP to die because that would finally mean the end of people using Internet Explorer 6 and would make my web development job much simpler, so as long as you’ve updated the browser version (or use something else) I promise to not be one of the zealots that hunts you down to ridicule you.

    If not though, be warned: My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

  5. Seamus permalink
    July 7, 2010 6:52 pm

    Quite agree with you on Linux Dudes and anyone who presumes to be attended to when they haven’t earned it. Militant atheists are a particular annoyance; many’s the poor unassuming Christian I’ve seen berated when they’re not looking for it at all. (The same goes for religious evangelists and poor unassuming atheists, of course.)

    This reminds me of a friend of mine whom I told, “I’m thinking of getting Firefox,” and who responded, “Oh don’t, you’ll turn into a wanker.” A few months later he got Ubuntu and will not shut up about it.

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