Why I Like Linux

…. Or, Re: Mhd Badi Latest Mac Post.

Apple fanboys are annoying. This is a mouthful to say for a guy who really hates generalizing. Yes, I hate generalization and I hate blind prejudice, but I’ll talk about that in a later post.

This ranting post was triggered by Mohammad Badi‘s recent post, however it is directed at all Apple fanboys (and girls). I don’t mean to pick on Mohammad, he is a really nice guy and I enjoy his blog (he actually did say that an OS is a matter of personal choice, and I agree with him).

For the record, I have used Windows, Mac, and Linux. Right now, I use Linux. More specifically, I use openSuSE Linux and I have been using it as my main OS for the past 4.5 years. Also, to be more upfront about this, I am a computer science graduate student. That means that I write code and documents by profession. Before anybody accuses me of such, I am not a hacker. Repeat: I am not a hacker. Not by a long shot. I have not written kernel code and I do not plan to do that anytime in the near future (unless my advisor forces me to :-D). However, I am a power user. That is, I like (and prefer) to use the command line shell, I automate many things, I mess with and write configuration files, and I have repeatedly messed with drivers and configs to crash (and sometimes even recover) my machine. I also like nice aesthetics . I like my operating system to look good. Actually, I initially only switched to Linux because it looks good. I use a persona on my firefox, and a theme on my Google chrome.

Again, I am replying to Badi’s post here, but I think this applies in general.

Alright, done with the prelude. Onto the main event:

Mohammad,

Almost every time I open your blog you have a different theme. It has gotten to the point that today I opened your blog to find a theme different than yesterday’s, then when I left a comment the theme changed again! Pick a theme man! Every time I come to your blog I have to check if I am at the right site because it looks different. And these are not small or subtle changes, when you change theme you change big! All the power to you, I like change, it’s the spice of life. But everything within limits, create a distinct look for your blog that let’s people recognize it. However, for the record, I admire your passion for customization.

What does your blog theme have to do with Mac? For a man who really likes to continuously customize his theme, isn’t it a bit odd that you so madly love an operating system that does not even let you customize it beyond what saint Jobs has decreed? Tell me, how many options do you have for changing the windows decoration (title bar and such) in Mac? two? Even crummy old Win95 allowed you to choose any colors you want. What about that menu bar at the top, can you remove it? How many coloring options do you have for that? two? three? Praise Jebus! (and here).

You said that Windows is not that powerful. Excuse me, was there something you wanted to do there that it didn’t allow you to? Have you encountered the elusive “oops, that is beyond my power” error message? I already know what you are going to say next: freezes, crashes, bsod, blah blah blah. Here is the truth. Windows does crash (more specifically, the versions of Windows that i tried do crash). But more than 90% of the time it is not because of Windows but because of faulty (nay, shitty) drivers. Here is the thing, Windows runs on other people’s machines. Each of these machines will use a different set of drivers. Microsoft says, ok, if you want to run Windows on your machine, you should write a driver that tells Windows how to use your proprietary hardware. People write these drivers, but don’t write them well, and that causes the machine to crash. But why can a driver crash the machine? Easy! Because they have to run in kernel mode, so they can do pretty much whatever they want. Apple on the other hand controls everything. They sell you the machine and the software running on it. Thus they have a limited number of hardware vendors and drivers to deal with. As you can see, this allows them to centrally reject shitty drivers. Each approach has its advantages, but I personally prefer openness because I believe in choice & competition.

I don’t deny that Apple makes fine products. No doubt about that. They pay attention to details and the hardware is generally of great quality. But it is important here to distinguish between software and hardware. It is also important to distinguish between the Operating System, the hardware, and the rest of the software application stack that runs on your computer.

You say that Linux’s design is poor. I assume you are talking about the graphical aspects right? If so I challenge you to see one of the well polished distros. Check out KDE on openSuSE or Gnome one LinuxMint. Here is one the main things I love about Linux: It gives me choice. If I wake up today feeling like using KDE, I do that. If I feel like Gnome, that’s fine. If I want to geek-it-out and use Fluxbox or Rat-poison, that’s fine too. Not only that, but I love that it is highly customizable. It tries as much as it can to fit you rather than the other way around. In Linux there are a million ways to do anything. In Mac OS or Windows there is only one way. Their way or the high way. For example, on my machine I have at least 3 file managers. I use which ever I feel like. I can customize my system just the way I like it. I can have as many (or as little) panels floating on my desktop as I want. I can have my kickoff menu be where ever I want it to be. On my desktop I can show the files of any folder that I want, or any combination of folders (not just the files from the “Desktop” folder). On my Linux machine I can customize any shortcut for anything I want and I do mean anything. I bet when you switched to Mac you had to learn their shortcuts for doing things, right? For example, AFAIK, you have to use a different shortcut to switch between windows of different applications than that for the same application. What if I want a shortcut to maximize a window vertically only? or horizontally only? or move a window to a certain area with just key press? Can i do that? While we’re at it, If i want to truly customize my Mac and get rid of the menu bar on top, can i do that?  No!

Notice that all my examples above were only about superficial user interface issues. At the core, I think all three OSes are superb. However, here is the point Mohammad, I think machines have to adapt to us, and not us adapting to machines. I feel Linux has that mentality. The default settings in Linux are merely a suggestion, but everybody customizes it the way they want. That is why people race to post screenshots of their Linux desktops, and that is why you have so many linux distributions.

In this rant I have defended Microsoft, praised Apple, and explained why I love and use Linux. Personally, I think all 3 of these operating systems are fine, and each has its own strengths and weaknesses. After all, (and this is something that I totally agree with you on), this is a matter of personal choice. You think Mac is superior, I respectfully disagree and think that Linux is a better option.

Update: Just to drive home the point that Linux has nice GUI, check out this video introducing KDE 4.3 (a Linux desktop environment):

Leave a comment ?

11 Comments.

  1. Dear za3tar.. this is the longest reply i have ever had before but i am really happy for this post… it’s really helpful and more real than mine.
    about the theme, I always pick a theme and say that i will never change it, but when i see someone blog I say, with a small code and developing i will make it like a heaven. it happens often if not always 🙂 You are so so right about this point.. I need to pick a theme and leave it. The current theme is the immortal one enshallah 🙂 wall yhemak.

    About windows and it’s power, i wrote my post simply and in general, i didn’t mention that the power of windows is 0%. a super sensitive point about Windows is the security part, I certainly mean “viruses, worms and etc” in windows, i need to use a security software (kaspersky, nod32 or etc) to protect myself from thousands of bad pieces of software which either harm my widows or make it like a turtle playing marathon with a rabbit !! imagine that 😀 you cannot ignore this part because it controls everything in windows, what is the benefit of doing my work with 50% possibility of having tens of harmful pieces of software?
    I love to apply changes and to access some features from Linux terminal and I REALLY DO THAT NOW BECAUSE MAC OS X (((ALLOW ME))) TO DO SO. and i also want to learn (AppleScript) which give me the power to control my OS!!! you cannot deny this as well.
    Let’s talk about the part of Command line, you said that you are a “Power user” but why do you assume that everybody should be a power user? employees and student whose their studies and word is not IT, what should they do? I cannot give my nephew a computer with Linux, she will say “Mo, I don’t know how to use command line” install packages and updates and sooooooo .. this is a fact i have been fighting to convince everybody around me including friends and family about it but when they say we want to to listen music and to do regular process but we don’t want to write CMD lines!!!!!!

    Apple sells you a perfect software (the greatest hardware) which will not ask you to do anything, simply because they give everything.. just do your work and let beat rock 🙂

    about the design part, yeah i meant the GUI of Linux, actually i didn’t see many distributions, i worked only on Fedora since fedora 9 and till now 12 (NOTE: Snow Leopard 10.6 on my Macbook Pro, Windows 7 and Linux Fedora 12 on my desktop computer) the interface of Mac is much better then windows then linux, but the things you can play with on Linux are much more and better (I admit that dude) .

    What i wrote on my blog is a personal view and nothing else, my post was about what i see and use. eventually, i prefer to use Mac for everything but there is no problem with the other OS 😉

    As they say and i repeat and believe, there is no OS perfect at all. still what you love and what you see is what you get 🙂

  2. Mohammad:
    I am glad you liked my post, and thank you for commenting back. Let’s address your points one by one.

    First, viruses, worms, exploits ..etc. Of course these things are there for Windows. However, the reason you see them there is because so many people run Windows that hackers have a higher “return on investment” if they write viruses for windows machines rather than Mac or Linux. As a matter since Mac OS X has been becoming popular, Mac OS viruses have started to pop up too. I have actually started seeing some of my friends install an anti-virus on their Macs too.

    Viruses, Worms, and other exploits are a real threat. But the answer is simple, install a decent anti-virus software (which looks like something that you might need regardless of which OS you use).

    You mentioned AppleScript. Scripting languages in fact exist for every single operating system. There are even cross-platform scripting languages.

    Regarding “power users”. I did not assume that everybody is a power user, and I did not assume that everybody should be a power user. Where do you get that assumption from? 🙂

    Additionally, your comment on how Linux forces everybody to use the command line is simply not true. As a matter of fact, the opposite is the main reason for the success of today’s most successful Linux Distro (Ubuntu). Your experience with Linux was with the Fedora distro which is not for newbies. Actually, I hate Fedora :-). If you really want to see a truly newbie oriented distro check out LinuxMint or Ubuntu (actually LinuxMint is better in this situation).

    Just to make my point concrete. My little sister uses LinuxMint on her computer. She is by no means a power user. Actually I don’t think she even knows what a command line is :-). She always uses the graphical interface to watch videos, play music, go online, and do school work. To make my point, you mentioned installing packages is hard. I invite you to check out how it is done on the user-friendly distros such as LinuxMint, Ubuntu, and openSuSE’s One-Click Install (here is an example). Installing software on Linux can be as simple as that on any other OS. For example, check out how did i install Google Chrome, or Skype.

    Finally, if you want nice GUI, I invite you to check out this video for a brief intro to KDE 4.3. Also check out this video of the features of KDE 4.3. If you want even more eye candy, check out the 3D effects with compiz and beryl: here and here.

    Yes, I know that you were expressing your personal views about Mac OS X. Nothing wrong with that. As I said, it is a fine product and well written code.

  3. i’ll give you an advice za3tar please consider it,

    i know you adore OpenSuSe, i used to when in my linux age, just change the links color, sabni 3ama alwan ya zalameh !

  4. Mesh: hehe. Thanks for the advice. I agree the links are too bright. I am contemplating changing the entire theme.

  5. 3ad wallah el theme tage3, wo el header pic is wonderful, i Sigh actually when i see it or see Roba Al Assi Header ( i miss Amman)

    btw did they bring Compiz Fusion into KDE 4 ? i recall they had issues at first

  6. Mesh: Thanks. The header is actually in Ramallah 🙂 Although for some reason the picture looks “too blue” in Firefox. I think it might be due to their fancy image correction they rolled out.

    As for Compiz fusion, no I actually don’t use compiz that often any more. It depends mostly on my mood. Sometimes i am in the mood for fancy graphics, but mostly i don’t care for high levels of fanciness. So the normal KDE is fine by me. By the way, KDE 4 includes native desktop effects, so compiz is not needed.

  7. za3tar it has been ages since i went around the blog world! good to be back! nice post i will comment late.. too sleepy now 🙂

  8. I’m an Apple fan! Their product is very addictive and once you switch it’s very hard to find reasons to go back…

  9. How did I miss this drama? 🙂 I had couple of things to say …
    Oh well, not a biggie. But at least, I would take your word [Za3tar] since I know how DEEP you’re involved with Os(es). At least you know what it is the hell yoou’re talking about 🙂

  10. I see posts all over the web by Linux people complaining about how Windows users don’t switch to Linux. I can tell you why. As someone who uses linux and knows many people who have tried the various incarnations, in most cases Linux is a PIA. Do you really think that the average Joe (or my mom) can fiddle with settings using compiles and makes? c’mon! When I installed my Win7 it worked. No issues. When I installed Ubuntu it took me a week to get the various drivers installed and working. Then came the Ubuntu 10.04 upgrade and I had to do it all over again. Sure, Linux is cool to play with, but it will never be able to replace windows until it works out of the box. A virus laden OS that works is better than a safe one that no-one can figure out how to get working. Oh. Wait. Just sudo in and type xclint -jumbo /more jumbo. Then run some other command line stuff. And pray.

    Nope. I love Linux, but I can see why everyone else I know gave up on it a long time ago.

  11. In my effort to find helpful blogs about Israel and Palestine I was happy to read this post about mac/linux/windows. In Germany it is very common since quite some years to “be cooler than cool” by going to some café (which, of course, has to be considered as “cool” too^^) and look really bored, a macbook pro or something standing before you. This doesn’t mean more than a half of all mac-users were fragile egos – but well, a few of them surely are^^.
    I tried 3 times to use Linux, using my computer mainly for writing and for making music with sequencers, guitars and vst-instruments. There are sequencers out there now that can load vst-instruments (which you have to buy, expensive but nice instruments; I buy them, a majority of users use stolen “cracked” versions). But alas, I found nobody who could setup a great music studio with linux as OS :-(. I couldn’t – and so switched back to Windows. Vista after sp2 came out works just superb…since XP I cannot say Windows was unstable. Using a customized version, with all processes deleted you don’t really need, it works fast and reliable.
    But this thread will surely lead me to try my luck with linux again. Thank you :)!

    Now for finding reliable news concerning Israel and Palestine :). My family was jewish until the Nazis came (I write from Germany), and I can tell you it is near to impossible to find really good information about our topic in Germany. There is only black and white at the moment.

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