Abandon Ship!

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Abandon Ship!

Paul C. Brown, Editor in Chief

The folks over at Tux Radar [1] posed the following thought-provoking question: "Do you ever see yourself switching back to Windows or Mac OS X (or any other OS ) and leaving Linux behind?"

I have a bit of an issue with the fact that this question assumes you came to Linux from some other OS. Okay, so in my case, I cut my teeth on a PDP 8 and 11 at the beginning of the 1980s. Both computers were running Unix. I then owned a Commodore 64 at home (the PDPs were industrial machines) running something called KERNAL and Commodore BASIC, created by Microsoft of all people.

Then, sure, I went through my MS-DOS and Windows 3.1 and 95/98 phase. Finally, I started using Linux on what was originally a dual-boot machine in 1996, completing a 15-year round trip back to a Unix-like OS. But, surely, Linux is old enough now to have … er … "native" users. Many seniors in rural Spain, for example, haven't experienced anything else.

But, whatever: Let's play.

So, what would it take to jump ship, then? Linux is stable, visually appealing, and generally painless to install and maintain. It has clear advantages for the end user, such as a low cost of ownership; it is secure and boasts a wide range of applications – the majority of which can easily be installed via a wizard, often with one single click. Linux is a very far cry from what it was even five years ago.

As a consequence, many of the comments on the site that posed the question were very much in favor of not leaving Linux ever (surprise!) and were enthusiastic about the system's flexibility, stability, security, and all the other "ities." However, plenty of comments from other users expounded on the shortcomings of Linux – mainly on the absence of specific games and some applications (not being able to run Photoshop seemed a biggie). Most of these answers read not like these people would ditch Linux, but as if they hadn't really even made the transition yet, or at least not fully. And most people still had a foot firmly planted in a proprietary system.

Other users explained that they were not comfortable with having to micromanage their machines, often having to jump through many hoops to configure WiFi, printers, and such. That's not really a "Linux problem," because the hardware manufacturers decide what OSs to support, and nowadays, it's not much of a problem at all because in most modern distros, stuff tends to just work, but I get the point.

Then again, defragging hard disks; running daily antivirus checks that slow down the system to a crawl; hunting down and downloading programs from the web, installing them by hand, and inputting anti-copy codes; having freeware install extra crapware that you then have to hunt down again and figure out how to delete; clicking through dialogs entreating you to buy! buy! buy!; dealing with system rot; having to dial call centers to get support that is read from a script and doesn't help; keeping up with license payments; and on, and on, … . All of these annoyances associated with proprietary systems seem to me to be more of a chore than editing some random config file or compiling and installing a driver from time to time.

The fact is that people tend to stick with (and end up liking) what they get used to, and all the niggles and nags that you deal with every day fade out of your consciousness. Dealing with them becomes like breathing: an automatic reflex.

Change is hard; it requires an investment in time and effort. You need quite a strong incentive to switch email programs, let alone whole operating systems. However, having said that, I can think of a very good reason to quit Linux – a reason that would make me skip to another OS in a heartbeat  – and that is that a technologically more advanced and free (as in speech) system came along.

Say, quantum computing finally takes off and becomes mainstream some day in our lifetime. The operating system to make one of those devices work will be like nothing we have ever seen before, but as long as it runs free software (QNU/Linux, perhaps?), I'll be on board.

And you? What would make you switch from Linux to another operating system? Send me your thoughts to pbrown@ubuntu-user.com .

Paul C. Brown

Editor in Chief

Dear Ubuntu User Reader,


  1. What would make you ditch Linux?: http://www.tuxradar.com/content/open-ballot-abandon-ship

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