My friend Dave just built a machine to run CentOS. Last night he lamented that he didn’t like the video player. I cringed, “Is it well-known free software video player? I’ve not had much luck dealing with the developers and I recommend another well-known free software video player.”
Another friend, Jim, snickered. “This is what I hate about Linux. There’s just too much choice.”
I rolled my eyes. Today I realized why that’s a silly argument (sorry, Jim–but you don’t use Notepad.exe for text editing).
Today my co-worker Allison repeated something I said a couple of years ago. “I bet these people paralyzed by choice starve to death trying to buy breakfast cereal.”
Of course, if you choose the wrong cereal you’re out $4 and some milk. If you choose the wrong piece of free software, you’re out… probably less than $4, but that’s not the point.
Unless you’ve never put any thought into the computer you’re using, you’ve already performed the necessary analysis to find something that meets your needs. Do you prefer LCD to CRT? Do you need a DVD burner? Is memory an issue? Which version of MS Windows do you want pre-installed, if you’re that sort of person? Do you need a fingerprint reader, or TV-out, or an SD reader, or low power consumption? Even people who don’t care about features may care about price.
Unless you buy the most expensive Apple laptop with all of the upgrades religiously every January, you’ve already invested critical analysis of your perceived needs and preferences into your computing. Unless you’ve never installed any additional software and always used exactly the defaults as pre-installed, you’ve already applied that analysis process to choosing which software to use.
Why is that so difficult to do with free software?
I can accept that it’s unfamiliar, or that you don’t know where to start, or that it’s different from the way you might normally work, or that these differences seem confusing, but I can’t accept that you’ve suddenly drawn a line in the sand where the existence of multiple options is just too daunting.
What makes software different from brands of toothpaste, types of cereal, potential significant others, places to live, brands of socks, or anything else with multiple sources?
Is there anything to this argument at all?