Wednesday, January 9, 2008

A brief exercise in FUD dissection

Sometimes you stumble across an article that makes you wonder whether people are spreading FUD or whether they are really that ignorant. When you take it down, bit by bit, it becomes more and more obvious how ridiculous their statements are. This one is from Adrian Kingsley-Hughes. It is a well written article and it seems as if he knows what he is talking about. Well, since I have an unexpected free half hour as I wait for a call to be returned, let's take this baby apart..
When you take a copy of Windows XP, Vista or Mac OS X and you install it onto a system with the appropriate system requirements, chances are (..) [it] will work just fine.

That implies that if you install Linux on a system that does meet the appropriate system requirements it will work not fine. Let's see what the system requirements of OS/X are:
Mac server or desktop computer with an Intel, PowerPC G5, or PowerPC G4 (867MHz or faster) processor; 1GB of physical RAM; 20GB of available disk space.

That's not a vanilla PC, isn't it? It's actually rather particular. Here are the system requirements of Red Hat. Does Adrian Kingsley-Hughes have an example of a system like that that did not properly run Linux?
While Linux communities like to believe that this 0.7 per cent user base is bigger than it is, and some companies are now paying lip service to Linux, no matter how you look at it, 0.7 per cent is a small number. And even with the best will in the world, the amount of effort that vendors can seriously be expected to put into Linux, given the low market share, is not much.

That is true where the desktop is concerned, but it is not true for the server market, which will be a whopping 38% in 2008. The desktop takes the same kind of hardware as the servers take. It has the same architecture. So the knowledge that vendors have can be applied to desktops as well with much ease.
Sure, you can buy software players, some of which are rather good, but the advantage of a free OS starts to be eroded if you instantly have to put your hand in your pocket.

I don't know why the moment you buy a piece of software, all the advantages of a free OS are instantly vaporized. Is all commercial software for Linux that much more expensive than that of their MS-Windows or OS/X counterparts? And I don't see the erosion as well. Are you put on a black list the moment you buy a piece of software, so you have to buy all the software? Is there more and more free software going commercial?

I know what Adrian means. He means to say that you get the Operating System for free and probably your only motive for doing so is because you don't have to pay anything. The moment you begin to pay for software that argument becomes null and void. First of all, I paid for most of my Linux distributions for the simple reason I like shiny CDs and nice manuals. Still, the most expensive version cost me less than half than the most basic MS-Windows version. Second, when using MS-Windows you have to buy a helluva lot more software than when you first login a Linux system. Unless you're prepared to search on the web for FOSS software, of course, like and Gimp. Talking about hidden MS-Windows cost ;-). Finally and most importantly, the main reason to run Linux is not because you don't have to pay for it. Security, performance and stability come to mind, to name a few. Oops, I forgot to mention to avoid harassing and spying on your own customers.
You've promised someone that Linux is so much better than Windows. If you get a really obscure error message or particularly weird problem, you could be waiting for help for a long time.

The same applies for MS-Windows. There are numerous examples on the web where people have to wait for official MS-support. When I wrote about this some time ago in a humorous way, there were even people who took it serious because of their own experiences. So, even if this statement is true, the only real difference is that Linux community support is free.
When Apple's ad campaigns focused on the single Leopard version being easier for consumers than the myriad Vista choices, the company was onto something there. Too much choice is a major turn-off.

Sigh.. Why do IT people love monopolies and dictators so much? Do we have a certain "totalitarism" gene that is turned on by default? This statement always makes me think of an extra feature on the Borat DVD, where Borat points out every single brand of cheese on the shelf and asks the stunned grocer whether this is cheese as well. After five minutes Borat blurts out: "Why do you need so many kinds of cheese?".

If you happen to find this funny, you will understand why I consider Adrian to be one of the worlds funniest people, coming only slightly behind the great Borat himself. Allow me to rephrase that: "choice is a bad thing, because choosing is confusing for the consumer". Hmm, I think we should consider another economic model, because Americans are denied the privilege people had in the former Soviet Union: no choice. Now I understand the true meaning of his last words "It's easy to allow that word 'free' to overwhelm the senses" ;-)


Anonymous said...

-> i m looking at my fresh new acer laptop with vista home premium with 2GBs of RAM, however, MSN Live messenger, crashes with video on. however ubuntu runs everyting ok..

-> in addition the time i spend to install and update additional software takes few weeks on windows.. and forget the upgrade (ohh windows lacks packet management, do you know??)

you said time lost?

Anonymous said...

Where you said:

'So the knowledge that vendors have can be applied to desktops as well with little ease.'

You probably mean '... with much ease.' (or similar).

Anonymous said...

Nicely done. Yeah that guy is starting to write so much sh*t. It does make me wonder where his pay packet comes from.

Anonymous said...

Now, I understand why some people feel more comfortable by staying with Windows rather than with Linux: no choice.

Unknown said...

Hi there,

thanks for the great post! I get equally frustrated with the complete lack of research and unbiased perspectives that people throw into the mix. When are people going to learn that comparing Windows and your typical Linux distribution is like comparing an apple tree to an entire tropical forest? They seem happy to see all the possible negatives of FOSS without noticing that a) many issues apply to whatever platform you use and b) the reason people choose a platform isn't based on the differences of things that go wrong, but rather on the actual value inherent in each option. I think most people will agree that Vista simply doesn't offer any value above and beyond XP for existing Windows' users ("the wow starts how?") and Vista has been the best thing to happen for Linux in a while time. People are starting to understand value and the world of FOSS has a lot of value to share for everyone :)

Unknown said...

What about the hidden cost of Windows maintenance?

If you watch the screen while doing an install of Windows XP, it says:

"The most secure version of Windows yet!"

Keep in mind, that was in 2001. Before SP2, so there was no firewall.

Still, how long does it take for an unprotected Windows XP machine to become completely compromised? About one minute!

Take a look:

RealPlayer format

QuickTime format

Windows users normally run as 'Privileged Administrators' all the time - even on untrusted networks like the Internet (convenient but VERY unsafe)

Unix (Mac, Linux, etc) users normally run as 'Unprivileged Users' all the time - especially on untrusted networks like the Internet (inconvenient but VERY safe)

Windows Vista has "User Account Control" (UAC) - meant to mimic how Unix does it (still too early to tell if it will work though). Too bad it took Microsoft so long to figure that part out.

Anonymous said...

I've got to agree- the funny thing is I moved to Linux *not* because of the cost (I own and run a small business, and I spend a fair amount on software each year), but because I could do things with Linux that MS Windows just cannot do.
Yes- it takes time to spec a system that is Linux friendly- but much less time than it used to, and I dare say that I spend far less time on system administration than I did when I ran Windows.
I like Adrian- but he's way off the mark on this- yes, Linux does take an investment, but the ROI is very good.

Anonymous said...

I'm in the process of simplifying the d20 roleplaying game system, to reduce the number of choices and make the existing choices more intuitive. The idea is to make it so that players can design their characters more easily, without having to dig through the manuals for ages.

If you're faced with a ton of choices, your options are to dig for ages or ask for help. I think it's a valid concern that some people have about Linux. The answer isn't to reduce the number of choices, though, so much as to market the existing ones, and to make sure that the people who could appreciate a given distro the most are the most likely to hear about it.

Anonymous said...

Such guys hang themselves with their own arguments. Some will accuse Linux of being Communistic, criticize the old Soviet Union for lack of choice as characterised by "You are free to choose any car you like as long as it's a Lada", then tell you choice is a bad thing in a democratic society.
Those who kneel at the feet of emperors cannot see far, it takes a climb on to the shoulders of giants to achieve that marvellous view, more difficult, but something gained.

Anonymous said...

Anybody who uses Linux knows that there are no "hidden cost." Instead, there are "out-in-the-open savings." I personally haven't had to buy any software at all for a couple years. :-) I can take that money and buy better, Linux-compatible, hardware now!

A lot of these so called "Linux issues" arise when people try to install Linux on hardware that has no Linux support. That's just pure ignorance. If you want to run Linux, make sure you do it on Linux compatible hardware. Don't try to throw it on a machine that came from the factory with Windows installed, 'cause that's not what the machine was designed to run.

Anonymous said...

Can someone please explain me what is the matter with this Kingsley-Hughes guy that makes him spew out endless fud? Secret funding from Microsoft or some really serious personal problems?

It's ok to criticize linux in order to make it better, but his posts are always just useless biased rants.

Anonymous said...

I remember reading his article, and thinking by the middle of the first paragraph something to the effect of "Here comes the FUD. This guy is going to get a real earfull by the end of the day on this one."

I've seen articles by this guy before. He thinks he has something to say about linux, but from all I've seen he just has some irrational dislike for the open source OS (perhaps some childhood trauma caused by a penguin with a chainsaw...). In particular he only sited 'benefits' of the major commercial OS's (most of which were shared by the open source OS) and 'issues' with the open source OS (most of which were either shared by the commercial OS's, or don't really even apply in linux).

Yet another article in the category "I don't know anything about what I am writing about, but I'm going to write about it anyway because I think that my opinion is worth something."

Anonymous said...

My computer has a "Windows XP Media Center Edition" sticker on it, but it will never be used. My OS (Kubuntu) installed very nicely. I did it because I want:

Freedom from tyranny (Genuine Advantage)
Freedom of speech (Front Page Licensing)
Freedom from persecution (BSA)
Freedom to control my system (Easter Eggs)
Freedom of privacy (MS taddleware)
Freedom from malware
Freedom from shopping at Best Buy

I would not object to spending a few bucks on a video game (although I haven't). That's not the "Free" that I am looking for. Freedom is priceless.

Anonymous said...

My friend showed me a list of recent AKH articles on Linux and even by just reading the titles, you could tell the bias.

Look, Im no fanboi. I dont get insulted if someone doesnt like Linux. i dont preach about its virtues UNLESS people ask me because I have more than enough people who want to run that Leenoox on their 'old' P4 or want to run those amazing eye candies (which I always turn off).

But when you read K-H enough, you notice the errors, the leaps of faith, the non sequiturs, red herrings and poor analogies.
Rehashing the 'there are too many distros' angle doesnt bother me. Doing it in this cheap, generic, lazy throwaway fashion does especially since everything is treated the same way. As a soundbyte. Is there a space constraint Im unaware of?

Intererestingly enough, those problems arent visible when he is in his Doctor PC mode.
Is it lack of understanding or something else?
Neither choice is reassuring from a tech writer.

Problem is AKH is like many bloggers that are click whores. They dont care if their ramblings are idiotic and if they piss off people; thats what they want. Dvorak and Randall Kennedy are at least honest about using the Madonna 'talk about me good or bad just talk about me' method.

And by writing about this (and me replying in a way) and linking to it, he has won again.

PS: I run Gnu/Linux, Mac and Win at home and work on Win, Mac and BSD at work. I participate in two FLOSS programs because of the GPLed benefits my work will have for others. Both my parents are in their 70's and run Win/Kubuntu and Win/PCLinuxOS dual boots but are on Gnu/Linux 98% of the time. My mom never used a computer until we got her a laptop 6 months ago.
I finished a project with some neighborhood kids where we installed various distros on the computers of about 3-4 dozen people at a retirement home (most of the machines had the usual spyware/malware probs and half were unpatched Win98 an Win2K!!).
In my wife's family, I have installed about 10 Gnu/Linux distros because I wasnt doing the usual Windows save routine for their frozen boxes anymore. The amount of time I saved every month is enormous, probably cut it down 90%.

This is just to say that I have a good deal of first hand experience these past 18months of how easy/hard Linux is for people especially with little or no prior experience.

Maybe AKH would like one of those retired folks to explain to him how it works.