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Editor's Note: Users Are Not As Stupid as the FUDsters Say

Jun 06, 2009, 00:02 (36 Talkback[s])

by Carla Schroder
Managing Editor

I confess to getting impatient at times and ranting about how stupid some PC users are. But that's more about me being old and crotchety. It's a good thing I'm not a grandmother because I'd be the kind who sends the kids out to weed the nettles or organize the barbed wire.

In my younger days I was nicer and even had an official motto: "You're never too old to try something new; computers are a heck of a lot of fun; and anyone can learn to do anything." I still believe that, and most of the time it's true. The only people I've ever met who had serious problems with learning how to use a PC were the ones who didn't believe they could learn anything, and wouldn't even try.

Some of the grumpiness comes from the endless torrents of anti-Linux FUD, propaganda, misinformation, astroturfing, and just plain whining that keep pounding on the same theme: that Windows is easy, Linux is hard, and expecting computer users to spend more than eight or fifteen seconds in study is a sin. It has never been true that learning to use a personal computer is easy; that is a plain lie. Conversely, it's not that hard.

System Administration, Applications User

There are two different categories of skills needed for running a desktop PC: knowing how to use your applications, and knowing how to do system administration. It is perfectly OK with me for a user to never be clueful with system administration. They'll need help on occasion, but that's all right. On a well-configured Linux PC with good hardware, system administration skills are not going to be called on very often, and users can concentrate on learning their applications. For anyone who wants to learn basic system administration there are all kinds of great howtos and help. Nothing mysterious, just a bit of effort and time.

My first introduction to personal computers was in 1994. Back in those days there was no automatic hardware detection and configuration; it had to be done manually. Gamers were always pushing the bleeding edge of hardware, and if you wanted to know how to get sound working, or accelerated video, or CPU overclocking, you hung out on gaming forums. They didn't sit around wailing how it was too hard, and why didn't someone else fix everything for them.

In these here modern times gamers don't need to work so hard to get their PCs tuned just right, but there is new frontier of PC performance, and that is audio and video editing. On both Linux and Windows you need to care a lot about drivers, system tuning, and selecting the right hardware. Should that be something to complain about? I guess it's everyone's right to gripe, but it's more effective to dig in and learn what to do. And that is exactly what thousands of A/V enthusiasts do.

It's a Command Line. Get Over It

User A asks for help. User B offers "Run this command: $ foo do something". User A has a nervous breakdown. What the heck is that about? Hello, has it been THAT long since Windows 3.1 and MS-DOS? Is the entire United States growing senile, or is this yet another astroturf/FUD tactic? I know that with the people I support, which includes some friends and family members, copy-and-pasting commands from an IRC session doesn't bother them at all. The impatient ones love Alt+F2 for quick-launching applications. It is not a big deal, even though certain elements in the industry are working very hard to make it a big deal.

Sure, Linux has some growing up to do. So what? Buy some books, read some howtos, and get on with life. The whole PC industry is in its infancy, and unlike Windows, Linux is advancing and improving constantly. It may not always be easy, but it is always possible.