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Weblog:   Open Source vs. Mac vs. Windows
Subject:   support...
Date:   2004-02-09 03:45:23
From:   jwenting
What sets companies aside from the Linux "community" is support.


While there ARE good Linux users, many of the hardcore ones have only utter and complete contempt for those who are less proficient than they themselves.
I believe it's called a god-complex?


When asking for advice on getting something to work at all (let alone properly), the typical answer will be something along the lines of "RTFM, noob", in other words "don't waste our time and go play elsewhere".
Of course the manual referred to is the manpage of the program in question, which is all the documentation the gurus claim is needed for a perfect understanding of the operating system and its concepts.


Now, if the system were as userfriendly in its installation and use as is Windows or MacOS (for the average user) there would be little problem with such an attitude (how many people call Microsoft tech support asking how to get their printer to work?) but Linux is anything BUT that simple.
I spent 5 months (from september last year to january this year inclusive) attempting to get my laptop set up with Linux.
After about 3 weeks I stumbled upon a website that gave me some crucial hints which got it working, sorta.
I still had no network and the video was unstable, but at least I got a prompt where I could type the reboot commands when things went bad again.
Then I found out that the source for my troubles: the network, USB and video modules I needed depended on incompatible versions of core libraries AND were broken in different versions of the kernel.
In other words, there would be no way whatsoever to get the machine working at any time.


I decided to pull the plug at that moment and reinstall Windows 2000.
Not needing any support from anyone I had the machine installed, running, and fully updated with all needed servicepacks in under 2 hours (most of which was spent waiting while it copied data from the installation CD or the internet).


I've been working professionally in IT since 1997 (and as a hobbyist and student since the late 1980s), and I can't get a simple machine (no ultramodern hardware, it's 4-5 years old) working despite knowing my way around the only source of information available: the internet (and that with a second machine running Windows to access that information, remember one of the problems I had was with networking...).
How is someone who has no other computer connected to the net, no experience with arcane command prompts (mind, I like command prompts but many people have never seen them and don't want to), and not versed in the spitting inside sourcecode and logfiles going to get even as far as I did?
If they give up in frustration after a day or two I can perfectly understand that.

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Showing messages 1 through 6 of 6.

  • support...
    2004-02-10 03:12:30  sequitur [View]

    I'm sorry, but this really looks like utter BS to me.

    What sets companies aside from the Linux "community" is support.

    I have an open source project (Quanta Plus) with a mailing list. On it are developers and over 200 users who typically respond to user questions in a matter of minutes. Developer answers are rarely more than a few hours away and if a problem is not readily resolved it becomes a priority to fix. Please tell me a commercially supported project with an average of 10 bugs or less open at any given time where you can talk directly with the developer and get a response besides "reboot and reinstall" from a telephone in less than 10 minutes. What are you smoking?

    I've been working on computers since before the microprocessor and I watched the rise of MS. They reject the "goto" statement in code but that is all their manuals are. This is to get you to buy books from MS Press. But when you call them what do you get? Wait, run around, condescending treatment. Everything from the little nagging wizards to the obfuscated install procedures is all designed to insult your intelligence and make you feel stupid.

    When asking for advice on getting something to work at all (let alone properly), the typical answer will be something along the lines of "RTFM, noob", in other words "don't waste our time and go play elsewhere".

    We have probably well over a million users of our software. We also have a very good and through manual for our program which answers most questions. Since you didn't pay me for it can you explain to me how I can answer questions for several thousand new users this week who are too lazy to take step one and read the docs? Kiss the project goodbye, as well as my having time to put a roof over my head. Some developers may lack a little tact but I should point out that there is nothing wrong with being a n00b. Only someone with ego problems intent on leading a boring life considers ever being noticed as a neophyte at something again to be an insult. I'd rather be a green growing new sprout than a petrified stuffed shirt.

    I spent 5 months (from september last year to january this year inclusive) attempting to get my laptop set up with Linux.

    I'm guessing you didn't do much reading before either. I've installed Linux on dozens of PCs from 1999 on and had very few problems. Nothing really out of the ordinary that wasn't resolved in a day or two. I know a lot of people who've put it on laptops too. However there are some very non standard systems out there. For some time newer ATI video boards just weren't supported and a friend of mine was unable to get it to run, but fortunately ATI has taken a turn for the more enlightened and now they are much better supported. This is pretty standard, though some companies insist on using one off weird hardware that is not supported they are fewer and fewer.

    You can't blame an operating system kernel (which is what Linux is) or volunteer developers for not supporting what companies refuse to make available to them.

    I've been working professionally in IT since 1997 (and as a hobbyist and student since the late 1980s), and I can't get a simple machine (no ultramodern hardware, it's 4-5 years old) working despite knowing my way around the only source of information available: the internet (and that with a second machine running Windows to access that information, remember one of the problems I had was with networking...).

    I'm going to recommend that if you see any news items talking about the relative levels of software expertise between *nix and Windows admins that you just pass it by. Pay it no attention. It's got to be as difficult to believe as you and I talking about the same software. There is a reason that all those yellow "for dummies" books sold so well... Using MS software seems to somehow gum up your cognitive processes.

    My guess is that your IT postion must be supporting people having problems with windows continuously breaking. My up times generally run between kernel upgrades and have exceeded a year. I don't get windows viruses. I only use the command line when I feel like it because I have KDE and webmin. I also don't make a point of saying bad things about others because I lacked the common sense to do a little bit of up from compatibility research. Something is supported or it isn't. Considering you can download and burn Knoppix on a CD, load it in your system and boot and see exactly where your support level is and try out Linux without touching your hard drive it's a real head scratcher how someone would torment themselves for five months without their notebook. At least it gives you something to rant about. Make sure not to rant to anyone with a cluestick handy though.
    • support...
      2004-02-10 21:08:07  techcynic [View]

      Linux is a great, robust and fun operating system to use. However, your arguments are indicative of why the Linux community as a whole doesn't get it. I understand why you hate Microsoft. They own the desktop and Linux never will!. This is not a issue regarding theology. It is an issue of support (desktop support) from business professionals, which you obviously are not - even though you claim to be. Attitude reflects reality in all cases, including yours.

      Then again, we OS X users scoff at both Windows and Linux users. Our operating system actually works, is built on a killer Unix/BSD kernel (which is open source), runs apache and other open source applications, and has better office and desktop applications. Excuse me while I turn up my iPod...

  • support...
    2004-02-09 09:00:20  jinjelsnaps [View]

    Thank God I'm not the only one who's had those same issues with Linux. To be fair to Linux fans, I don't believe I've ever heard a distro to be touted as "easy to use," or at least "easier to use that MacOS or Windows."

    I've been working in IT since '99, and have gone the "Windows has crashed on me for the last time!" frustrations and tried to go to Linux...only to have it crash more often than Windows did. And that was on a basic, "let Red Hat take over the disk and do it for me" type of setup!

    Also, they tend to claim Linux will run really well on old hardware...which I guess is true if you're not going to run a GUI. Most of my attempts to run KDE or Gnome have been...issue-prone, at best, when the same hardware will run Win98 or Win2k just fine.

    Oh well. I like the author's attitude about where Open Source should "fit in" in "corporate environments." I wish more people would see the benefits of a best-of-both-worlds kind of blending...
    • support...
      2004-02-10 03:44:48  sequitur [View]

      To be fair to Linux fans, I don't believe I've ever heard a distro to be touted as "easy to use," or at least "easier to use that MacOS or Windows."

      Mandrake and some other distros like Xandros and Lindows would like to assert that. In reality there are variables that could make it more or less true. If you had to learn the computer without knowing either and you had needs the installed software would fulfill I think you might be surprised that it would be very close. If you really know a piece of software it could be lousy but you would prefer it for a period of time even if you suspected the other was better.

      I've been working in IT since '99, and have gone the "Windows has crashed on me for the last time!" frustrations and tried to go to Linux...only to have it crash more often than Windows did. And that was on a basic, "let Red Hat take over the disk and do it for me" type of setup!

      Gee whiz. What crashed? Your GNOME desktop? I switched from OS/2 to Red Hat in 1999 and was mortified by the desktop crashing. Then I switched from GNOME to KDE (in fairness GNOME has gotten better since then) which was much better and showed promise. Then tried other distros and it got good. I use Gentoo now which is all from source, however I liked Mandrake a little better than SUSE. Note that the CEO of Red Hat said recently Linux was not ready for the desktop and they have since dropped their desktop distribution in favor of a community developed project... Translation... Red Hat said they came to the desktop at version 8.0 and left it after 9.0. They never really cared for the desktop and were the worst solution for the desktop.

      Also, they tend to claim Linux will run really well on old hardware...which I guess is true if you're not going to run a GUI. Most of my attempts to run KDE or Gnome have been...issue-prone, at best, when the same hardware will run Win98 or Win2k just fine.

      Come on... win98 and W2K don't have anywhere near the same hardware requirements. KDE 2 used a little more resources than KDE 1. You needed 64 MB of RAM. (Processor is secondary for speed until 644-128 MB) KDE 3 was faster using less resources as was 3.1. 3.2 is noted for being so fast that it is supposed to be faster than lightweight desktops like XFCE. I've seen people say they were happy with it on 500 MHz systems even with low RAM. You can run win98 with 64 MB fin but try W2K without 256 MB.

      Note also that speed will be affected by how your kernel is configured (everything under the sun makes anything slow), processor optimizations (Red Hat is actually compiled for 386 believe it or not), running processes and daemons, compiler version (gcc 3x is faster than 2x) and a variety of other factors. Gentoo rus several times faster than my previous distribution because it's tweeked for speed. Try doing that with W2k. (When IBM licensed windows for OS/2 their initial version ran 10% faster than MS' because they used a Lattice compiler which was more efficient than the garbage MS was producting.)

      Oh well. I like the author's attitude about where Open Source should "fit in" in "corporate environments." I wish more people would see the benefits of a best-of-both-worlds kind of blending..

      There's nothing "best" about a company that refuses to ship their software with macros turned off by default and request user confirmation on executing certain actions, or any actions generated by software that has just been downloaded. On Linux it would have it's executable bit unset and the current directory would not be on the path so the user would have to want to execute it. Not so in Windows land, and this brings us tons o' spam to harvest email addresses and choke mail servers. Gates has an answer he says. Who wants to bet it's a proprietary system that requires their software, locks out everybody else and exposes your private information to them like Passport?

      There are some companies you just can't live with because they just can't stop their criminal abuses.
    • support...
      2004-02-09 11:49:15  cascadefx [View]

      There are distributions that work, and work well, right out of the box. I use SUSE Linux daily as my primary (sole except for rebooting into windows to walk users through solutions to their problems) desktop.

      It is rock-solid. It never crashes. It comes with a ton of software (multiple office suites, multiple browsers, tons of games, great email applications, and chat programs that talk to EVERY email client out there -check out gaim and kopete). AND it is pretty easy to use and more powerful than any proprietary OS out there.

      Maybe it is because I have a few years on you as I have been working in IT since 95, but with a little reading (in the early days), I could get a barebones Slackware system up and running in about an hour. My SUSE install took 30 minutes before I had a login screen and I could do my initial online updates and keep working without having to reboot. That includes installing all the software that I use on a daily basis (office suites, email, chat, etc). Windows, Mac OS, and all of their accompanying apps take hours... and you generally have to reboot when done.

      While not all distributions and windowing systems will run on really old hardware, there exist MANY that do. If you have old hardware, run Fluxbox of Xcfe as the window manager and you will go far. You can't do that with Windows.

      I don't think you have to go all or nothing. Open Office and Mozilla run on Windows, as do Cygwin, Abiword, the GIMP, and a host of other apps. However, you get the full power of the Open Source design and philosophy running the entire suite of applications and OSes that exist under that mantel.

      While it is erroneous for me to say, "Because I could do it, it is not impossible." It is equally erroneous for your failures to forbode doom for others.

      Linux/BSD is powerful and increasingly easy to use. Most time invented will pay off. That is a promise that I can make.
      • Linux support...
        2004-02-09 15:04:52  klinux [View]

        The point that many of these people are making is not that they couldn't ever under any circumstances get Linux or BSD to work, but rather, that it wasn't worth the time required, when they could quite simply reload Windows or Mac OS. I know that myself. I had lots of fun running the early LinuxPPC distros and also fooling around with BeOS in the 90's. However, when it came time to actually get work done on my computer, I switched back over to the Mac OS. You see, I'm not a programmer or a network guy. I'm largely involved in photography, some small web stuff, and research. I find that it is much easier to get that work done on a Mac than on Linux. If I want to tinker and have fun, I pull up the Terminal and get out my Unix manuals. I enjoy that, but when I need to get the job done, I want the computer to get out of my way, or maybe even assist me in my tasks. I expect the computer to understand certain things about the way I work, and work with me on them. This I get from many proprietary software packages from Apple and other companies, and I don't get from the Open Source side as much. Open Source is improving, and one of the best things happening right now, is when the developers get recompensed somehow. I wish that more Open Source projects would go the Shareware route. Then there is a little more incentive on the developers to make it user friendly, and they get something back for their hard work as well.
        But in the meantime, those of us who want a computer that seems to understand us, and doesn't always try to make us understand it, will continue to use Macs.

Showing messages 1 through 6 of 6.