Freedom to choose
I live in Jamaica, and my first computer was a rebuilt Intel 386SX (16MHz) with a 16 colour video card and 16 Meg of 30 pin SIMMS RAM. I had built my computer to do one thing and one thing only...
PROGRAM FOR MY ROBOTICS EXPERIMENTS
I had Windows 95 installed on it (320 Meg hard drive), because I heard rave reviews about it, and it was supposedly better than Windows 3.1. This was September of 1995 and it was supposedly a revolution in software and operating systems design. It was supposedly the best at whatever it does. Then came the time to PROGRAM and after many months of trying, I just could not get the WORK DONE. Not for lack of skill, but for want of the necessary commercial software to program for my experiments.
I needed more functionality in my TOOLS which, unfortunately, was Visual Basic 4.0 at the time. I couldn't get anything else on my meager pocket and Visual Basic came with a book I had bought, but it was crippleware. Even some of the OCX's I had downloaded (9600 bps modem) to interface with my projects were also crippleware. I got fed up, every turn I took, MONEY was the thorn in myside. I am poor and US dollars were not growing on trees for me.
I had the choice of becoming a raving pirate or switching to a little "obscure" OS called GNU/Linux.
I was peeked, because it was ALL FOR FREE. The person that recommended it, swore by it and I took his words like gospel because he was a mentor to me.
So I switched to Linux in 1996(slackware). Now I was really shocked, all these tools to PROGRAM, I COULD NOW GET THE JOB DONE, and I didn't have to pay ONE RED CENT. Hell the GPL was very enticing because as I had experienced hardships I would gladly contribute my code to any other poor programmer.
SO I got busy, and coded like mad and it ALL, JUST, WORKED. But I yearned for a GUI, because I liked the Windows 95 gui.
Even though I hated the overall system for crashing 100 times in 2 weeks (I counted) I liked the gui, it somehow, felt nice (this is what I now hear being touted as user experience) and working in emacs, really got to me after many moons of memorizing key combos. So I decided, I should install the XFree86 gui, and I did, and I was horrified. XFree86 ver 3.0 sucked royally. It was UGLY, but I tried to use it, beggars can't be choosers. I spent many school nights configuring fvwm2 scripts to setup my menus. I had to take the time to configure fetchmail and sendmail and write a ppp script to connect to my University server and I had to hand edit XF86Config. I wanted to play my reggae CD's while I was coding and that was another battle to get oss built into kernel 2.0.30 to run my sound card.... and I realised I was I spending a lot of time writing scripts and configuring things. It was as if GASP, my robotics projects got placed on hold.
I realised the original aim was being consumed with something else; setting up an environment the way I wanted it. Eventually I left emacs (hate it) and I finally got ppp to work and downloaded Netscape from my University server. But after all that effort... I had few working experimental programs. Who's fault is that ? Mine ?, Maybe, but Windows sucked, the commercial software i needed was too expensive and Linux NEEDED work before I could USE IT THE WAY I WANTED.
Now OSX is out and around and it looks EXCELLENT. BUT at one point I hated MAC's simply because I couldn't afford it at the time and the goodly teenagers in online chat rooms made no bones about my poor mans computer "a PISS CEE". "Buy a mac !!" was their answer to my every problem. Remember all I wanted was to program my robots... these guys couldn't tell me how to do so, but they told me to buy a frelling mac any chance they got. Of course I became resentful. Ignorance breeds ignorance.
I DESPISED anything apple because my experience of the users, was horrifying. (I gloated when the newton died) These guys were the equivalent of petty digital bourgeois. Pretty soon I learnt that apple was in dire straits and was dying and I WAS HAPPY. Death to the petty bourgeois. I loved my "cheap" hardware that was affordable to me.
So what if I am poor and live in a third world nation, even if I could afford a Mac, it was NOT supported in Jamaica at the time. I needed SOLUTIONS; NOW and with support. Not some petty zealot solution that is unworkable in my environment.
Eventually I finally got exposed to a Mac (my accountant friend had it). It was slow and could not do things quickly in the background, I then learnt that Mac OS was co-operative as opposed to pre-emptive. It could not multitask properly. These petty bourgeois were using a gui version of DOS as far as I was concerned. Just like Windows users. Where was the elite difference ?.
Naturally there were also the windows lusers that got on my back about using "upstart Linux". I can't afford to use windows and its tools and it crashes too often and thats unacceptable. But apparently they didn't hear this. All I got was "WE have a gui" What good is a gui, if it is a gui to a slapshod system that is unstable and eats my work for fun?. I need reliability and Linux gives me this. My statement fell on deaf ears... all I got was "Yeah but Linux is old technology." So if it is old and WORKS is that a problem ? or do you think new and volatile is better." Yeah but we have more 'appz' ." Which you all steal because you can't buy them anyway. "Yeah but everybody uses them, were normal... not fringe like you Linux guys" Since when do nerds and geeks care about NORMALCY ?. I digress
Anyway, I began to use this mac trying hard to find the superiority that the bourgeois spewed. Why did they feel so good, and I realised it was the interface and the experience. It was so simple to use, and the hardware never gave problems, it all just worked, better than Windows in my view, but slowly and clumsily. Then I tried to program for it. Not only was getting hardware info on a MAC like pulling teeth but the tools I wanted, were RARE and VERY EXPENSIVE. Overall the experience was better on a mac than a Widows box , in comparison windows felt CLUNKY and i feared its instability.
Eventually I learnt that most of these mac and windows zealots I met online were mere teenage idiots. These guys, most of them hid behind a computer screen and they fought wars online as a social outlet. They had no life. They were average computer users posing as "leet". Most have never done anything interesting with their computers except "d/l pr0n" and flame. Their sole existence was INSIDE THE MATRIX. They couldn't handle the real world. I pittied them. but again I digress
My eventual conclusion was "There is hardly any difference between the Windows 95 OS and Mac OS 7.0" To me they were all the same thing. An interface to getting things done with a computer. They provided minimum fuss and minimum under the hood tweaking. The MAC was better at it. And at that point, if you remember my initial objectives in using a computer, I realised that if MAC ever got a true multitasking environment, if hardware became cheaper, and if hardware interface projects was less effort than it is for PC, then I would save and buy one, simply because I could have more FOCUS on my ROBOTS. But MAC platforms (even today) can't provide me with that SOLUTION. I would still have to fork out more money (even now as I am working) that I cannot afford.
As an aside I also noticed that all things good and competitive in the computer world was being killed by Microsoft, who at the time I cared nothing about, except that they wanted lots of money for their software. All I CARED ABOUT was coding for my experiments. But that lead into a whole differnet arena. At the end of the day, I learnt that so many geeks and nerds take this computer thing too far. Dudes, it makes no sense. Some of you need to lart yourselves.
Now my skill level with a computer is excellent simply because I used Linux. Most people do not want that. At first I didn't want that, but I chose to learn things i didn't intend to learn so I could get what I wanted to do done, and oddly enough I am grateful for it. The overall experience is enlightening. I have pushed the limits of my homebuilt projects and my Computer well beyond what they were supposed to do, and Linux provided this avenue. But Joe average does not want that, and you CANNOT curse him for it.
How many of you want to learn to bake pastry, knit or gourmet cooking ?. How many of you will learn how to wash a babies clothing properly ?. How many of you want to learn how to PROPERLY change brake shoes or the inner tube of you car ? How many of you would want to sit and learn "Japanese" and the over 300 Kanji alphabet so you can effectively converse with a cute "Japanese" girl ? It looks simple doesn't it ? The last one I am sure got many hands, but the point is made, it has to interest you for you to LEARN IT, and the more interested you are the quicker and better you learn. I digress
Anywho MAC OS X rocks. I still cannot afford it with its requisite platform. If OSX ran on x86, I probably would switch. Windows XP is sweet but I don't like being spied on nor do I like being EASILY cracked. I especially do not like buying virus software and paying for "updates". And the programming tools cost more than before. So what I am left with... Linux. It does what I want, but if you could not guess from before I am not the average computer user. After years of under the hood tweaking and fiddling with config scripts and bash scripts, my knowledge of the overall system is almost "kung fu like". There is very little I cannot accomplish on a linux box, but average users, my friends who are doctors or accountants cannot do what I would take for granted (witting up a script for cdrecord). So Linux is not for them. And I sure as hell know Linux is NOT for a lot of posers who whine about OS-X not being true Unix. You just like the brag factor among your idiot peers. It is because of lusers like you why hackers have a bad reputation, for you its all about show.
"I can do this. Can you ?"
Ignorance breeds fear and contempt in so many different ways. So get a clue, a computer is not a BATTLE GROUND FOR HOLY WARS. It is not yet an addition to your brain. It is not religion, it is just a tool. For the majority of people in the world if something just works... then they are happy. For some of us knowing HOW it works and how much further we can take it is an addition to the happiness. But for those of you who complain about how something works... the solution is simple.... MAKE YOUR OWN. That why I love and use Linux, I can make my own or modify programs if I NEED to.
So to end the war online that I see getting more ridiculous every day, why don't most of you just code, and shut up. Make KDE and GNOME really something to be comparable to OS-X Aqua. Give Linux users a better user experience. Give Doctors and Kindergarten Teachers a reason to CONSIDER using Linux. Just because people in general cannot use Linux in its current state now and so they opt for Mac OS-X (like Ellen on the commercial) DOES NOT make them INFERIOR. Computers are tools and for most people how a tool works is IRRELEVANT, it is how it does the job, with ease, with comfort and with minimum cost both mentally, physically and financially.