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De-Programming Windows Refugees

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Way back in the last millennium, in the very olden days of Linux, most Linux users were grizzled old Unix graybeards. They saw Linux as a cute little toy Unix, but it was Free and free and fun. And so it was that there was no anguish at the sight of a raw nekked command line, and learning and progress were rampant, and life was good. Now Linux is the easiest of all operating systems to use, and yet anguish abounds in the land. Too hard! Too hard! Make it easier!

What the heck happened?

What happened was the supply of Unix gurus was all used up and Windows and Mac refugees poured across the borders, driven by curiosity and desires for something better. Naturally their expectations were shaped by their experiences, and even more by the relentless propaganda spewing forth from the halls of Redmond and Cupertino, the non-stop claims that Mac and Windows are easy and intuitive, that computing is pointy-clicky and no knowledge required.

What nonsense, and what a disservice to computer users. If Apple's products are so easy, why is O'Reilly's best-seller list full of OS X and iPhone books? For over a year the #1 book was "Mac OS X, the Missing Manual."

Neither the Mac nor Windows are intuitive, and I wish the word "intuitive" would go away entirely because the poor thing is so misused it needs a long vacation. Here is a dictionary definition of intuitive:

"Known or perceived by intuition."

What is intuition?

"The act or faculty of knowing or sensing without the use of rational processes; immediate cognition."

Some synonyms are clairvoyance, innate knowledge, instinct, premonition, presentiment. Some antonyms are knowledge and reason.

So "intuitive" has nothing to do with computers. It's all learned. Duh. But the poor huddled Mac and Windows masses have been fed this line of bull for so long that they believe it even though it directly contradicts their own experiences, and it even leaks into our nice little Linux world, and we see all kinds of exhortations to make Linux more "intuitive."

Of course we must always continue to improve ease-of-use; computers are supposed to serve us, not the other way around. But I do wish this "intuitive" nonsense would stop, because it is nonsense. The last thing we need is even more willfully ignorant computer users.

Our Mission

Our mission, for those who choose to accept it, is to understand that de-programming these proprietary refugees is Job One. It is not a job for the impatient or faint of heart because there are so many layers to penetrate, especially for Windows users who think PCs are Windows computers, that malware, instability, DRM, insane EULAs, and overpriced under-featured crud are facts of life. That we have no right to control our own property or data, and it is perfectly OK to commit all manner of invasions into our personal lives. Somehow we must communicate that some actual study and learning are required for all platforms and devices, and that whining and wailing in despair don't accomplish much.

That last one is especially difficult because no matter how many years people have been pounding on their PCs in frustration (Windows users in particular) they still believe that it is "intuitive". Such an intense level of indoctrination is not overcome overnight.

Have patience, brave penguin, and you will succeed, and great will be your glory. OK probably not glory, but hopefully personal satisfaction and happy new Linux users.


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