Morons are so annoying. Even the ones that are just passing by, the ones you don’t really have to talk to.
These days I often have lunch in a public dining area where most of the patrons are scientists or geeks, or students learning to become scientists or geeks. The other day two geeky scientist guys were walking by my table talking to each other too loudly for me to ignore. So one guy, he says: “You know we can solve this problem. I have a lot of faith in our Open Source solutions.” (hmm, cool, I thought). The other guy responded:
“Yea, well, I guess it all depends on how much effort you want to put into it.”
Now, maybe I’m being paranoid, but I’m pretty sure that guy II was referring to the fact that Open Source solutions are harder, require more effort, than the usual commercial solutions. That would make him a moron.
Think of it this way: Get two identical blank computers. By blank, I mean no system or software of any kind. Carry out the following tasks on each computer:
1) Write a letter to your grandma about how great computers are.
2) Include a spreadsheet with a model to estimate the amount of grass seed she will need to buy for next spring’s reseeding.
3) Include a vector based drawing of anything you like.
4) Include a couple of photographs of your cat, cropped and scaled appropriately.
5) Send it by email, check your email, and open any and all attachments you may have recieved because they might be important documents or pretty pictures.
6) (after a few weeks) Upgrade all of the software on your system, including the system itself.
Obviously in order to even get to step one, you need to install a system and some software. On one computer, install Ubuntu’s standard Desktop distribution, on the other computer, install Windows XP and Microsoft Office, a commercial vector drawing program, a commercial “Photoshop” like program (Photoshop itself, if you like), and any other software you will need to carry out these tasks.
How many buttons do you need to press to get up to step one? How many times will you have to reboot the computer? How many times will you have to restart the process because it didn’t work? Will you have to make any phone calls to ask permission to continue to make this work? How many nag screens will you see?
How much money will you spend?
The difference between the two computers just getting to step one is enormous. You can install the Ubuntu distro by putting in a CD and providing very little additional guidance … a bit of information about your time zone, that sort of thing. Then you can go away and come back a while later and you’ll have an office suite and most of the items you will need already installed.
The Windows system will not be so easily implemented.
When you get to Item 6, for the Ubuntu system, you click one button then choose “upgrade” and enter a password, and you are done. Done. All of your software is upgraded, including your system, and the upgrades will work. When you try to carry out step 6 with the Windows system, many bad things are likely to happen, and it will be a lot of work. And it might cost you some money.
Eventually, over time (months, possibly weeks) you will come to the point, with the Windows system, where you decide on your own or someone on the telephone tells you that it is time to “wipe the hard drive.”
I have installed dozens and dozens of Windows systems, and they all eventually got to the point where it was best to wipe the drive and reinstall from scratch everything. I’ve installed far fewer Linux systems, but have only done this once, and that is because I did some really bad, stupid things that I shouldn’t have done but could not resist (I was pushing it) and starting from scratch seemed the easiest thing to do. I probably didn’t have to.
The fallacy that open source solutions are more effort is simply untrue.