[geeks] And The Linux Weenies Wonder Why They Aren't Mainstream...`
Jonathan C. Patschke
jp at celestrion.net
Tue Feb 28 17:27:16 CST 2006
On Tue, 28 Feb 2006, Doug McLaren wrote:
> Out of curiousity, what does your rant have to do specifically with
> Linux? Sure, the post you're referring to mentioned `Linux
> OpenOffice', but I hope you're aware that OpenOffice isn't a Linux
> thing -- it's available on most of the popular *nix platforms, and it
> even works on Windows.
Because this mindset is pervasive throughout so many of the open-source
projects that grew up on Linux. All the world's an i386 running Linux,
every compiler is GCC, and if it works on the developer's box and not on
yours, -you- should fix it. And if it doesn't so what you want, you
have the source; why not change it?
The author of that article just wears that mindset so well. Silly users
don't know what they want; they're just sheep. We should be so kind as
to let those ignorant morons run our software.
> People just can't look at OpenOffice on it's own merits -- they have
> to start with how well it deals with Microsoft Office documents.
It doesn't have that many merits of its own. It's a halfway clone of
crap software. If I want Office, it's because I need -Office-. If I
want to write a document, I have vim and LaTeX. If I want a database, I
have PostgreSQL. If I want a spreadsheet.....well, no one's written a
halfway decent freeware spreadsheet program, apparently.
> (Though I do have to admit ... Microsoft Office seems to be a pretty
> professional product to me. You name it, it does it. But OpenOffice
> isn't too far behind for most users.)
Except that it's slower and eats up more memory when doing similar
tasks. Even StarOffice 5 (which was the first version I used) was all
but unusable execpt on the highest-end Sun workstations that were
available when it came out.
OpenOffice 2 on my fast PC at work is a lot more sluggish than Office on
my relatively old Macintosh at home or my even older PC. For anyone who
can touch-type above 40wpm and knows his way around the program well
enough to use hotkeys rather than mouse about aimlessly, those sorts of
delays are a constant nag.
> | the standard Windows/Office fonts. Rather than spending the
> | time to reformat the document myself, I just use Office on a
> | nearby Macintosh.
> Of course, if that Mac runs OS X, it's built off of an open source OS
> as well (FreeBSD)
OS X is OpenStep 7 with some FreeBSD userland utilities and man pages.
It's not built off FreeBSD any more than FreeBSD is built off GNU/Hurd.
And it's not like I don't use open-source software constantly (I'm on a
FreeBSD system right now). I just snicker at the Linux prophets who
scream "Linux will be mainstream this year" while they still have no
clue why end users -don't- run Linux. It isn't about how shiny you can
make the desktop or how many window managers you can have or how many
different ways you can animate a window iconifying itself. It's about
whether stuff works out of the box, with minimal fuss, and at an
My experience has been that OpenOffice and the recent releases of the
RPM-based Linux distributions miss that point entirely.
69473 jp 5 20 0 99M 71484K kserel 0:04 0.00% soffice.bin
That's OpenOffice with one empty document open.
2674 Microsoft 1.8% 0:02.79 2 80 441 17.3M 57.2M 34.4M 444M
That's Word 2004 for Macintosh with a long, complicated legal document
open. It's nearly half the size!
Here's Firefox with nothing open:
69921 jp 5 20 0 48600K 36656K kserel 0 0:02 0.00% firefox-bin
Here's Safari with nothing open:
2685 Safari 0.0% 0:01.52 5 113 182 4.62M 21.5M 12.7M 357M
I recall the numbers for WinWord and Internet Explorer being similar,
but I don't have the bandwidth to rdc to a box and find out.
At that rate, I have to buy twice as much computer to use the "free"
software than I do to run the "non-free" software! I'm willing to use
FireFox over IE when I'm on a Windows box just because IE is such a
flaming ball of garbage, but it always leaves me with a sinking feeling
of "-This- is the best we could do, over a decade after the web went
> I'm not sure how the Apple support model works, but with Microsoft,
> they won't talk to you on the phone without a credit card number.
I don't so much care. My usage of Office is mainly to read other
peoples Office documents and to print envelopes. Well, I use Excel as
well, primarily because there are no free software tools that fill the
same gap nearly as well. I haven't found so many bugs in Office for the
limited things that I do.
> I think people overestimate the importantance/usefulness of commercial
> support in deciding if they should go with free or commercial
> Yes, the `if you want it fixed, fix it yourself' mentality exists, but
> it's a lot better than the commercial alternative -- `yes, we know
> it's broken, but we're not going to fix it any time soon.'
But the sorts of things that are broken in the typical Open-source
equivalent program are much more fundamental than the things that were
broken in the original payware program. This is understandable, since
the clone program hasn't been out nearly as long and typically involves
end-users much earlier in the development process than the corresponding
commercial program would, but nont of that matters to an end user who
just wants things to work.
> (Unless you're a big customer, and you're deciding if you want to
> renew your $500k/year support contract, of course -- then we'll fix it
> right away.)
Not always even then, as $ork has discovered with a particular EDA tool.
I guess I should boil it down: When I want to hack code (either my own
or, lately, the FreeBSD kernel source), I don't really mind when things
aren't just-so; if they were, I wouldn't have anything to do. When I
want to do budget calculations, print address labels, or do other
mundane computer tasks, I want the box to be as unobtrusive and fast as
possible. FOSS only really "gets it" with regards to developer tools
(like vim, which is just perfect).
But vim won't put Linux on Grandma's PC.
Jonathan Patschke ) "Pain and misery always hit the spot,
Elgin, TX ( knowing you can't lose what you haven't got."
USA ) --Depeche Mode, "Lilian"
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