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The decline and fall of the Linux forum - Episode III : The Microsoft 'x86 Monopoly'

Posted 08-11-2016 at 08:45 AM by cynwulf
Updated 07-02-2018 at 11:19 AM by cynwulf


And here we go again with another opinion piece and long awaited 3rd instalment in this acclaimed series... As with the award winning "decline and fall of the linux forum" and it's sequel, this is merely a platform for some theorising and surmising and exploring just what drives people to participate in such mediums. The fact remains however that we can surmise and theorise all we like and it won't change a damned thing.


Windows hatred was once one of the 'pillars' of Linux fanboydom. It often, though not always, went hand in hand with Richard Stallman worship or militant 'GPL terrorism'. Nowadays it's been going out of fashion along with those latter two - and as distros try to distance themselves from the old school GNU imagery and users follow suit, the latter also try to stay apart from the windows hater club - to the extent that they probably overcompensate. Much like someone with serious political or religious views tries to distance themselves from the lunatic fringe.

Microsoft's early role in the "open platform"

It's quite arguable, that if it wasn't for MS's clone of Digital's CP/M, computing would be in very different state today - and not necessarily a more favourable state to Linux users (or users of any alternative FLOSS OS). MS' actions, though certainly in no way altruistic, indirectly forced the x86 platform to be 'unlocked' and open to the installation of the operating system by the user, rather than a platform solely for IBM. It also indirectly opened up the possibilities with regards to building IBM compatible PCs from parts rather than buying a personal computer with an operating system installed (a la Apple Mac) and in many cases 'locked in' to run that operating system only.

Paving the way for 386BSD and Linux

Early UNIX-like free and open source operating systems took advantage of these open systems which were not in any way locked down. It should be obvious as to the target platform for 386BSD and Linus wrote his kernel for the same architecture and later ported it to others. It would probably not have gotten off the ground if it were being written for a few very specific locked down operating systems, with locked down firmware as opposed to one very open system which could boot pretty much anything you could throw at it - and which was often built from parts. MS gained their position in the world out of this situation - it's ironic that they've now changed direction and are creeping back towards a locked in system.

google are good because they support Linux, Microsoft are bad because they don't

It should now be obvious to most that google are in the ad business. And anything google develop is just a means to an end when it comes to capturing more data and shoe-horning more adware onto a users system to increase profit margins. This is why google got into browsers and Linux -> android -> phones. google, like MS are just out to make billions of dollars for shareholders and in the process create high paid careers - they're very good at this. It's not a simple thing to install some other OS on an "android phone" and it's not a simple thing to install one on a chromebook. MS Windows 10 is a move by MS which clearly indicates an attempt at a more google-like approach - rather than MS being their typically nasty old school selves (which they still are despite the "we love Linux" poppycock). In bundling spyware and sly "phone home" services, MS are simply aping google android.

Windows is slow and full of viruses/malware, etc

Speaking as someone who doesn't use or like windows, but who used windows 3.1 through to XP (and before that MS-DOS), I can assure those with no experience of windows that these kind of blanket statements are mostly the product of FUD spreaders. Yes windows has a malware problem, but to actually get a malware infection, you have to be someone who is inherently careless, disinterested in security (and probably privacy) and pretty much clueless. Immediately you have the paradox that such a person will probably find a *nix system to be too much of a learning curve.

The slowness is subjective and another symptom of user ineptitude or poor maintenance. The person who just clicks off errors, clicks ok and accepts everything, will soon end up with a system bogged down with utter crap running at start up and on user login. Again the kind of user who has such bad habits and disregard for "housekeeping" will probably not switch to another *nix.

So in reality, the kind of people complaining about windows on a Linux forum are probably not the kind of people who used windows or had those kinds of issues - more likely they're just relaying the experiences of others or just repeating what can amount to urban myths.

"Damn MS, it's my god given right to install whatever OS I choose on the Microsoft subsidised, mass market OEM hardware I just bought with Windows pre-installed!"

And let's not even get into the "MS windows tax"... it comes back to the age old adage of "buy supported hardware". Or buy intelligently and work around problems, find solutions and share with others - because that's what Linux users do. Whiny consumers rant and complain and voice their outrage and sense of entitlement. Users of free and open source operating systems roll up their sleeves and contribute something. If someone doesn't want to do that, then the OS they abandoned in the first place is probably where they will end up returning to.

You're entitled to nothing except working hardware with the preinstalled OS and your statutory rights - in this case a Windows PC.

"I should be able to dual boot! [etc]"

The good news is that you probably can, with varying amounts of effort from you. The bad news is that there is never a "works out of the box" user friendly approach to dual booting, because installing an OS is traditionally the job of a sysadmin. Dual booting is also not recommend to new users because it's very easy to mess up partitions and destroy data. It's not stupidity it's called "human error" and happens to most of us at some time. For new users it's even more likely. Add "multi-booting" and it gets even more complex.

Windows won't accommodate or acknowledge that your alternative OS exists or is installed.

Accepting this from the off will save you a lot of pain. Expect the worst and you don't be disappointed. Expecting MS not to e.g. rewrite some boot blocks and kill your bootloader or reconfigure some partitions is carelessness on your part. Without a backup plan - e.g. a USB stick which can boot your system in these cases - you're simply trusting a company which cares nothing for Linux and has in fact spent a lot of money on lawyers trying to kill it. Treat the windows install as a wildcard and ensure it doesn't touch your data. i.e. use a second hard disk. If it has to be on the same disc - you need a contingency plan (but you need one anyway).

Ranting about MS products on sites like this one

Sometimes forum users will have a sly dig at MS for whatever reason, much of this tongue in cheek banter, but there is a difference between this and the full blown "microsh*t"/"winblows" puerility we often see from the less mature users, who seem to believe that they've joined some kind of fan club and feel that they need to vociferously denounce Redmond to prove themselves worthy. These latter types of users may have difficulty discerning the difference between banter and outright foaming at the mouth hate.

You are obviously free to rant (obviously within the rules of the site in question), but you should bear in mind what kind of impression this will give of you to other users. In general, mature and reasonable people don't join club B just because it's perceived as the polar opposite of club A. They join club B because they like how it does things and what it has to offer.

Welcome [back] to Windows 10

Ultimately the vast majority of the so called 'fan boys' doing most of the complaining about MS will end up back with the OS they claimed to despise so vehemently (that u turn will likely be a quiet one). That's the real irony and it's because this kind of zealotry is often fickle in it's nature. Inability to administer one's system and the complexities and cumbersome nature of dual booting are likely to be a big factor in this. At the end of the day, hating MS is not really a good enough reason to switch to something else - especially when the OS you're used to and which runs the programs you need is the OS you depend on to get work done. It's often the case that users are mislead into switching by reading some of the posts made by "missionaries" (See episode II) or by mildly misleading marketing speak from certain distros e.g:

...comes with everything you need to run your organisation, school, home or enterprise. All the essential applications, like an office suite, browsers, email and media apps come pre-installed and thousands more games and applications are available...
You can't blame them for advertising it like this, but to the uninitiated that can be interpreted in several ways.

'Anti-' sentiment in general

Nothing good is ever based purely on the opposition to, or worse still, the hatred of something else. Linux has it's own merits as do the BSD derived operating systems but none of these are for everyone. The merits are often ignored and focus for many is being a drop in windows replacement, while being come kind of "movement" against MS dominance.

On the expectations of new migrants from Windows/iOS/Android

Anything remotely command line driven is interpreted as backward by many users - even by some long term Linux users - and needing replacement with graphical tools a la windows. While we continue in this vein we slowly erode away the reason as to why we're here in the first place. Initially we wanted this, as it was, as it is, because it's "better". We get to take back control, see what's going on and participate. Graphical tools for the sake of graphical tools blur this somewhat - they mean that newer people often don't bother to learn the stuff that more long term users like myself and others had to learn. If we sleepwalk back into yet another age of OS obscurity and the gulf between users and devs continues to widen, the whole thing will go full circle and we will be back where we started. We will have web forums full of clueless people repeating the same old "click, click, click ok" nonsense.
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    Posted 08-18-2016 at 07:04 AM by error_401 error_401 is offline


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