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.