Linux vs. Linux Users

By Shamus Posted Sunday Jul 14, 2013

Filed under: Rants 170 comments

They say that to explain a joke is to ruin it. And to a certain extent, it’s not worth ruining a good joke for the sake of the stupid people. But after half a year of madness, I think I need to spoil the joke to save my sanity.

Back in January, I wrote this ridiculous comparison of Linux and Windows, where I took some of the annoying disadvantages of Windows and listed them as advantages. It was silly, absurd fun and if there was anything wrong with the post itself it might be that I made the satire too obvious. For crying out loud, it had images like THIS:


That’s hitting you over the head with the punchline for sure. But that’s fine. We all had a laugh and some people joined in on the joke, listing other Windows shortcomings as “features”. Then the fun ended and everybody moved on.

And then the crazy people showed up.

A few days after that post slid off the front page, it had gone quasi-viral and new readers began showing up. Linux users were reading the article and sharing it on forums and social networking whatnots. These new readers were reading it seriously, and then getting very angry about it. They began leaving bizarre, profanity-laden comments that flung hate and bile at me, the site, and Windows. I deleted the really vile ones because that’s how you run a good site, but if you go to page 2 of the comments you can get a feel for how people behaved. Basically, like this:

Wow is this guy for real!? This is probably one of the most retarded reviews of anything technical I have ever read. The issues this guy has is an absolute joke. I do use Windows, Linux, OSX and even Android regularly. They all have their strengths and weaknesses. This guy managed to miss on all of them. My sugestion would be to find something a bit simpler to review like music or tv shows where abnormal opinions are the norm.

Think about how hard it is to make this blunder. To leave an angry comment on this post you have to:

  1. Miss the humor in the silly events of the post, such as rebooting one computer to make up for the lack of rebooting on another, unrelated computer.
  2. Ignore the huge, ridiculous, and OBVIOUSLY photoshopped images that accompany the article.
  3. Overlook how everything positive listed about Windows was actually something really terrible.
  4. Scroll right past tons of comments that applaud or explain the joke.

You might be tempted to invoke Poe’s Law, suggesting that comments like these are from people trying to be funny. That’s certainly what I hoped at first, but that’s a really tough position to support. If these posts were going for ironic humor, then there should be something ironic about them. The above comment isn’t a parody of Linux users, since Linux users aren’t stereotypically known for talking like that. These comments aren’t “accidentally” praising one OS or insulting another. They’re just dumb and angry. I’ve even got a few emails over it. I think it’s safe to say that if someone is writing a private email then they’re clearly not trying to amuse the crowd.

Understand that this is the worst behavior I’ve seen on my site. I’ve started flamewars on all kinds of things over the years. Halo. Console wars. Casual vs. Hardcore. We’ve discussed Objectivism. We’ve talked about the housing crisis. We’ve had comment threads drift off into debates on programming languages, sexism, and religion. We’ve hit lots of hot-button topics and I have never seen a single group of people on this site behave with such irrational anger and vigorous stupidity.

I suppose it’s a credit to the operating system itself if drooling imbeciles like these can make use of it, but still. I’m a nominal Linux user myself. I use Windows more than Linux, but since I’m a videogame pundit that’s sort of unavoidable. I was lucky enough to have some smart, patient people there to help me along while I was learning my way around Ubuntu (and later, Mint) and trying to figure out how to make it all work. My wife and my friends were there to answer questions so I didn’t need to post to a forum and wait six hours just to have some jackass tell me to RTFM.

Aside from gaming, Linux is basically ready to go toe-to-toe with Windows. It can do it all, and it can do it faster, cheaper, and and sexier. Windows 8 is a mess and while Windows 7 is pretty spiffy, it’s also a hundred dollars. Given the shape of the economy right now, lots of people would probably be willing to endure a bit of a learning curve to save that kind of money.

The point is, the biggest barrier to the spread of Linux is not functionality. From here on, it’s a cultural battle. And the biggest impediment to winning that sort of thing is having a community of unrepentant assholes. The usual claim is that while some Linux users might be rude, arrogant, elitist, condescending, pedantic, and obtuse, at least they’re smart people who know their stuff. But here we have a crowd of people who not only have all of the stereotypical flaws, but are also manifestly, maximally stupid. This is horrifying.

I know these people don’t represent all Linux users, and I hope the sane people outnumber the jerks, but I would be very surprised if I was the only person on the internet to have a run-in like this. For this thread to have gone so wrong, for so many months, with so many different people, says that this isn’t just an isolated little group of uncharacteristically difficult people.

So congratulations, idiots. The biggest problem facing Linux isn’t the software itself. The biggest problem is you. Knock it off.

EDIT: I stand corrected. The Linux post is actually the second worst comment thread, behind this one.


From The Archives:

170 thoughts on “Linux vs. Linux Users

  1. Bryan says:

    Well, as someone who uses Linux exclusively on my own machines (which, yes, makes gaming hard — and the native client is why I pay good money for stuff like Doom 3, UT2k3, and Arx Fatalis, even despite the … uh, terrible :-) … story in the first two), and on “a lot” of machines at work (which is all I’m allowed to say on that), about all I can say is “I got it? Does that even help? No idea?”. Sigh. :-/

    On the other hand, I don’t know if these are actually Linux users. (Not having paid attention to most of the comments on that particular post.) The one you quoted might almost be explained by them seeing and understanding the satire, but getting insulted by it. Maybe?

    Or maybe it’s just the old “90% of everything is crap” thing, as applied to people? Maybe that’s a bit harsh. Hmm.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      “Or maybe it's just the old “90% of everything is crap” thing, as applied to people? Maybe that's a bit harsh. Hmm.”

      Id call it too lenient.I go by benders logic “Everyone is a jerk.You,me,this jerk”.But then,Im a misanthrope.

      1. Deoxy says:

        I think “jerk” is a bit unfair – really, some people are quite nice, even to complete strangers who mistreat them.

        But he had the right idea, in that most people are jerks, and for a reason that does apply to everyone: every human being, without exception, is stupid. In most cases, that does indeed produce at least some level of jerk-ness.

        Yes, I include myself there. Welcome to the club.

        (Einstein? Yes; intelligence is not the opposite of stupidity – in fact, it ENABLES greater levels of stupidity!)

        1. Wonderduck says:

          PEOPLE are jerks. Individual PERSONS may not be.

    2. Warrax says:

      Theory: The people that didn’t recognize the humor in Shamus’ article are the same people that believe every news story they see posted to the internet on April Fool’s Day.

      I don’t understand them, they don’t understand me (or “us”, as the case may be). I’m not sure how to describe it; maybe “unable to recognize subtlety in humor, or possibly anywhere?”

      I don’t know how people get to be that way, if it’s nature or nurture. I’ve known a few of them in the real world too and they tend to be odd in a disturbing way.

      1. The Right Trousers says:

        It could be because highly technical hobbies and jobs tend to attract overly literal people. These people spread their ideas – such as which operating system to use – among their families and friends, who also tend to be overly literal, even if they’re not computer geeks.

        It’s not that these people are stupid in general. They’re just particularly stupid in social things. This makes them terrible at reading between the lines, because it requires understanding context and identifying cues.

        I count myself as one of these people. Fortunately, I somehow figured out in my early 20s that there was a complex system (interpersonal communication) that I was totally rubbish at working within, and mentally mapped out the most common parts that year. 15 years later, it almost comes naturally…

    3. potemkinhr says:

      In my experience, 50% of the population are morons, and the other 50% are even bigger ones…

      1. SomePunk says:

        Actually, that is a wrong assessment.

        50% of the population are morons, and the other 50% are trolls that get off on being morons …

        that honestly explains why politicians are such a mess and all the stupid laws and regulations that get passed. They enjoy the pain they cause to others.

  2. zob says:

    It’s a population problem. Every community has it’s vocal morons and their numbers increase proportionally with the size of the community. Unfortunately their noise level increase exponentially. Past a certain point their voice becomes so loud that they distort the signal to noise ratio and become the signal.

    I think, Linux crowd has reached that critical mass couple of years back.

    1. Felblood says:

      This is manifestly untrue, though it is deceptively similar enough to a truth that I can see how you could become confused.

      Population size is proportionate to population size that is morons naturally, but this is not the only factor in the formula.

      You can have a large community that is policed well enough that people tend to, overall, remain civil.

      The Linux community’s insistence that it cannot be policed by outsides, and will not police itself, is the reason that it’s idiots are both numerous and vocal.

      Observe that Shamus is a Linux user, and is taking important steps to improve the quality of discourse in that community.

    2. Miguel Bernabeu says:

      I am a usual Linux user. I have been and am an Open source advocate and defend migration from windows to linux for many motives and for certain uses, such as government and educational institutions.

      I have found many of those stereotypical linux users on the internet and usually they weren’t the knowledgeable and intelligent linux users but they mainly were idiots lurking in beginner and entryways to linux trying to pose as knowledgeable by repeating arguments from other users and usually misunderstanding all reasoning behind those.

      I think the linux users like me who picked it up out of interest and need for something more flexible isn’t in that group of jerks (at least after we see what there’s really behind all that). When you begin to deepen a bit, you find lots of smart, helpful and educated people. The problem is that the entryway is plagged of morons and haters, be it entryway to linux, to MacOS, to MS Office or whatever you try to enter.

      1. And then that entryway community actively acts as a barrier not only to interested parties but to people outside of that group. If anyone were interested in trying Linux, they might very much be turned off by the behavior of the community shown here.

    3. ENC says:

      How do you explain PCs and Consoles then? Consoles got bigger, people were happy, but some few saw that as a blight on the shining beacon that is ‘PC gaming’. Now you get comments like ‘PC Gaming Master Race’ (from Yahtzee’s satirical video) spread as serious words. I can’t even point out how horrible saying ‘master race’ is (unless it’s referring to Doctor Who), but the fact that people think they’re better than someone for their choice of platform is just mindbogglingly stupid. Games are games!

      I remember leading up to the DE:HR release how many people were saying how ‘consolised’ the game was and how ‘linear’ it was. I honestly couldn’t believe how stupid those people were that were saying those things.

  3. Tomas says:

    That post is hilarious! I love the photoshopped images! That comment from the guy who didn’t get the joke sort of made it even funnier. Not so funny though that you ended up being flamed by the Internet low-life.

  4. Jacob Albano says:

    I posted the original article to /r/linux when you first wrote it, so I’m partially to blame for the idiot influx. My apologies. :(

    1. swenson says:

      So long as you weren’t doing it because you thought it was serious, I’m sure Shamus can forgive you. :) You’re not responsible for the stupidity of others.

    2. X2-Eliah says:

      So those were all redditor Linuxists?

      Well, that explains it.

    3. Erik Malm says:

      It did get me to start reading the blog though, even though I’ve been lurking up until this post.

  5. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “Understand that this is the worst behavior I've seen on my site.”

    Wait,worse than the fallout 1 vs fallout 3 discussion?Or are we all trying to forget about NMA guys.

    1. Shamus says:

      You’re right! Well, it was actually the RPG Codex guys, but yeah. I’d forgotten all about that.

      1. Ciennas says:

        Wait. I don’t remember this. Was there a post on this specifically, like the Halo fans who got a call to go back from whence they came?

        Or did it just happen in the comments for Fallout 3 Spoiler Warning?

        I imagine it was similar to linux guy up there, just Fallout themed.

        Am I about right?

        1. Syal says:

          I think it was the Rutskarn post where he was apologizing for calling a site a bunch of idiots because he’d meant to say a completely different site were a bunch of idiots.

        2. Here’s what I remember:

          There was a SW episode where Ruts took a few minutes to take a fallout forum to task for being a wretched hive of scum and villainy. One of the admins from the site posted either apologizing for behavior he wasn’t aware was happening or defending his sites reputation against the claims. I can’t remember which, but the guy was perfectly civil as I recall and Ruts replied apologizing for what he said, and clarified that he’d actually been thinking about the RPG codex when he made the remarks.

          Someone from the Codex found out and posted a link on their forums to the SW in question. Then the fun began… Though do note this is all the recollection of a senile 32 year old. It’ll be entertaining to click the edited link and see just how far off the mark I am. :P

          1. Zukhramm says:

            The worst thing was that the original comment from Shamus in the episode was actually fairly positive towards them. Of course, they wouldn’t know if they hadn’t watched the episode.

      2. somniorum says:

        Ugh… the Codex. I don’t believe I’ve ever been to a worse forum in my life (I’m 32). I hung around that place for a handful of months a few years back, as it had a reputation for being very serious and tough-to-please about their rpgs. I didn’t realise that “serious, tough-to-please” mostly meant “irrationally hateful and insulting, frequently sexist racist homophobic etc”.

        Perhaps they’ve changed – their news articles on the front page seemed to have toned down last I looked, anyway – but it was abysmal back then. And seriously, if you’re a woman, good luck trying to post there, because they’ll be insulting you every post you make – everything they disagree with you will turn into a sexist comment.

        1. Michael says:

          At 30 years old, Superdickery’s forums come to mind as a greater hive of scum and villainy. Though, Superdickery was trying to turn itself into the next Somethingawful, only without… well whatever it is that keeps SA ticking.

          I’ll admit, my recollections of RPG Codex weren’t that bad, but that was back in… I want to say, 2001 or 2002. So it could have deteriorated after that, it could just be I wasn’t on any of the games that had an actual population, or it could just be that I’ve purged the hellhole from my memory, mostly.

          Funny thing was, when Ruts took that potshot at NMA, it sounded credible to me because they were pretty freakin’ rabid back when I stuck my head in (also around 2001 or 2002).

          EDIT: Going through the old thread reminded me, the only thing I ever went to the Codex for was the Arcanum mods… >.<

        2. Zukhramm says:

          I can’t helpt but liking the forums at least a little bit. And I’ve definetely seen worse: The Escapist forums come to me.

      3. To be fair, I recall the Codex debacle being an active attack rather than a wave of ignorance. I remember the posts and they were out and out trolling. From the way you described it here, these Linux posts were by guys who missed the point, but were sincere in their hyperbolic retaliations.

    2. Eric says:

      RPG Codex is my favorite forum precisely because it’s full of cynical hyperbolic trolls. It’s a place with extreme opinions but you will not find an Internet forum out there where people can argue for those opinions better/more logically/with more evidence, and where people aren’t afraid to call each other out on their BS. It’s literally the best place to have detailed and insightful discussions about RPG mechanics and systems design on the Internet (and some of the best Let’s Plays out there too).

      Of course, you do have to have somewhat thick skin to tolerate it, but usually you have the benefit of knowing you’re either not as smart or correct as you think you are, or that you’re being trolled. And usually the ones who have bad experiences there are precisely the ones who go there insisting KotOR is the greatest RPG of all time, so I’m not too sympathetic.

      1. Lalaland says:

        I used to lurk there for a while too as I love me some snark and snark is the first language of RPGCodex, unfortunately abuse is it’s second and vile abuse it’s third. What I find odd are the number of RPGCodex heads who will immediately wander off to random sites to defend the honor of the site by spewing the same filth to refute an allegation that they spew filth at RPGCodex.

        I used to be able to enjoy the well reasoned debate and exploration of RPG mechanics that the site generated and it was a great antidote to the DA2 and Fallout 3 hype. The problem I found is that eventually the numbing grind of mentally filtering out the racist/sexist/nationalist/anything-ist crap (Poles = Potatoes being one of the more common slurs on any CDProjekt Red thread) just got too much. Now I tend to drop in for big RPG releases to read the reviews but have stopped regularly lurking.

      2. Infinitron says:

        The RPG Codex:

        Sexist! But wait, the editor-in-chief is a woman.
        Homophobic! But wait, the top moderator is gay.
        Antisemitic! But wait, the top newsposter is Jewish.

        tl;dr Don’t believe the lies.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Which lies would that be?That a group cannot be bigoted against A,if one of them is A,or that there are no people bigoted against a group they are a part of?

          1. Disc says:

            While I’m not involved with the Codex, the first scenario would make the group a bunch of hypocrits and the second would just make the individual or “people” either crazy or really really desperate. I don’t really see why they would keep up with either assuming they have a choice in the matter..

            ..unless it’s somesort of cult of self-hate and misery where they feed and sustain themselves on negative emotions.

            1. Hargrimm says:

              Another possibility: It could be that the Codex has a wide userbase from every part of the world, each with their own opinions and ideologies they are not afraid to express and that do not necessarily line up with western central left ideas.

              But that’d be just ridiculous, amirite?
              Yeah, it’s much more likely that they all hate themselves or something.

              1. Lalaland says:

                Or that there is a group of horrible people but it’s an open forum? Seriously the bile that gets spewed there in the name of ‘comedy’ is repulsive at times. Individual A or individual B says very little about the community but read a few threads and tell me it’s not a hive of abuse. Different strokes for different folks but don’t be surprised if a majority of the world is repulsed by the place. Oh and having members from all over the world does not make racism any less racist.

                Free speech != Free respect

                1. Eric says:

                  Perhaps you should consider that the vast majority of “racism” and “sexism” boils down to Codex memes. It’s completely non-serious and everyone is in on the joke, except for outsiders. People aren’t banned for their opinions on the site, so that does tend to attract a few nutcases, but it’s nothing you can’t ignore (just stay out of the politics forum).

                  1. That sucks. Racism and sexism memes suck.

            2. Zukhramm says:

              ..unless it's somesort of cult of self-hate and misery where they feed and sustain themselves on negative emotions.

              Oh, it is definetely that.

  6. Phrozenflame500 says:

    Yeah, your article was pretty blatantly mocking Widows rather then Linux. It’s like Reverse Poe’s Law: rather then somebody mistaking a serious article for a clever parody it’s somebody mistaking a blatant parody for a serious article.

    I’m baffled why the OS debate garnered more bitching and moaning then the objectionist debates People really have their priorities out of wack.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Well, I believe Poe’s law is just that parody and fanatacism are indistinguishable, so it goes both ways. But yeah, pretty crazy.

      1. Tizzy says:

        Unfortunately, it’s very hard for your satire to hit home when what you write ends up indistinguishable from what some people write seriously… Sometimes, it’s almost impossible to overdo the joke, if you really want your intentions to be understood.

  7. anaphysik says:

    I've started flamewars on all kinds of things over the years. Halo. Console wars. Casual vs. Hardcore. We've discussed Objectivism. We've talked about the housing crisis. We've had comment threads drift off into debates on programming languages, sexism, and religion.

    Also, I recently made a comment so thoroughly exhaustive and biting about my views on Japanese orthography-to-phonology connections that the site preemptively deleted most of it for being so controversial (and possibly saucy; the world will never know). (And I find it frankly OFFENSIVE that one might suggest that vast swathes of my text got borked because of any of the numerous text-code interactions that could have occurred with the large number of angle-bracket-including emoticons, characters from non-ASCII character sets (hiragana, katakana, and IPA), large numbers of slashes due to omnipresent IPA transcriptions.)

  8. Daniel says:

    I had the same exact problem you do. Mine came when I wrote a satirical article during the elections. An astonishing number of idiots read the article and simply didn’t get the joke, thinking every single paragraph (even, dear God, the fish paragraph) was serious.

    The most ridiculous comment was from someone who read the entire article and saw the satire – but was convinced she had been mistaken, and that the article was serious, once she read the comments left by the idiots!

    1. anaphysik says:

      “I” was my favourite illumination until you revealed the horror behind “do.”

      Also, I’m worried about references to this British “Beat-Eels” (THE FISH CONNECTION APPEARS AGAIN) band that seems to be getting so popular these days; many racists employ the names of British bands in their codes, so could those bands be implicitly supporting racism by continuing to be British?

      Btw, biggest cover-up in music: Phish is actually a British band.

    2. swenson says:

      People… took that seriously?!

      That’s it, there’s no hope for humanity. None whatsoever.

      1. Trix2000 says:

        Keep in mind, there’s a very real chance people saw the headline, didn’t read the article at all, but decided to comment on it anyways (not even beginning to consider it could be satire). So I’d like to imagine that a significant proportion of them just TL:DR’ed the thing.

        But maybe I’m just being hopeful…

        1. Syal says:

          I don’t see how people completely ignoring everything after the first sentence they’re exposed to would give you more hope.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Lazy is better than stupid?I guess.

            1. Ciennas says:

              Well, lazy’s easier to fix than stupid.

              I just wish they’d have read the darn thing and gathered local context before spewing, but then we wouldn’t have this page if that were the case, would we?

    3. I didn’t even bother reading after “I”. I just started snickering.

  9. Cordance says:

    Two thoughts on this.
    It depends where the links where posted to the site as to what the people came into reading this thinking. If the link was posted with a tongue in cheek “serious review of Linux vs windows” on a linux forum where it is possible people have not used windows recently enough to know the photo shopped images. The person who made the post got the joke the people reading the post, then the link missed it. I suspect your work has been taken out of context by the linkers and the view has been carried by the linkies.

    Second thought was a post on the escapist a while ago about trolling. Researched showed that a good troll would cause people to void valid works arguments and people would go back to their predetermined view point before reading it. Which is why now there are professional political trollers you may have found your way to these people only windows related. Although it doesn’t count for the emails.

    1. Syal says:

      No matter the context it was presented, they should have been able to figure out it was satire by reading it.

      1. Bryan says:

        …Reading? We don’t need no stinkin’ reading!

        Or, uh, something?

  10. Paul Spooner says:

    Fantastic! I’ve felt this way too for a long time. When I have problem with Windows, I bring it up and am immediately surrounded by consolation. “Yeah, it’s silly and annoying huh? Luckily there’s a workaround.” the community says. Windows is for everyone, and the community bears its faults with a certain self-deprecating grace. “It’s a mess right? Oh well.” Is the attitude.

    Linux is so very different. Whenever I have tried to get into Linux, I have had the very distinct impression that the Linux People do not want me. It’s an exclusive club, with exclusive rules. Like Mao, if you can’t figure them out on your own, you’re out of luck.

    Now, I’m not the smartest guy around, but I know enough to get myself in trouble. I dual booted my computer into Linux, tried to install some updates. This was in college, and whenever I asked for some help the response was something along the lines of “Who is this poser? He needs help? Just figure it out.” So, fine, I read the manual, messed around with some text files, and somehow managed to delete the kernel. Not good right? But now it would be obvious that I actually needed help. Maybe I’d get some education on who to ask, and how to ask? Had I passed the entrance test? No, turns out deleting your kernel is not the way to impress the Linux People. Turns out, there is no way to do this. “Linux is perfect, you are the problem.” is the community motto.

    So, I’d say it comes down to an inability to admit fallibility. The Linux community wants to believe that they use something perfect, and above criticism. The Windows community knows it is centered around a flawed piece of software, and admits it with some good-natured eye-rolling. One of the communities has a better piece of software, and the other is being honest with itself. I’m going to side with honesty every time.

    1. Ciennas says:

      That… that right there is the biggest issue I’ll ever have with anything.

      If anybody’s read it, the Dark Lord of Derkholm made fun of this philosophy with dragons a while back.

      There’s valid and interesting reasons for this behaviour, (By which I mean the mechanics make sense, not that being deliberately obtuse and unhelpful is valid,)

      Y’see, they had to climb the mountain with no assistance, and they made it to their plateau, therefore everyone should be able to manage, and we’re going to mock those down at the beginning. This same philosophy plagues MMO’s, as I understand.

      (To which I generally get to say, screw the ‘mountain’ I wanna just have an occasional handhold. Also, screw the ‘mountain’ I’m just trying to have fun.)

      I think the worst problem is being given a fix the problem command, but not being told what all it does.

      (I think a handy file to bundle Linux Distros with is a little dictionary. all it does is translate the various console commands into plain english, with examples an everyday user might need a command for.

      Like ‘grep’. And ‘sudo’ because a lot of people have needed the acronym explained, and why it is not a command call to take lightly.)

      Seriously, that would make every distro a LOT easier to work with.

      1. McNutcase says:

        Once you’ve learned enough to understand their dense, chewy prose, manpages are that dictionary. All you do is type in “man sudo”, and you’ll get a handy explanation that is laid out well – first, you get the list of options for it, because a majority of man lookups are for “what’s the frob to do this?”, then you get the description of what it does in plain English, followed by the detailed explanation of exactly what each option does, and all the known bugs.

        Unless it’s GNU tar, in which case “man tar” will get you a refusal to maintain a manpage because “info” is considered Better, even though it’s harder to read, uses an abstruse interface unlike anything else, and is less widely supported.

        1. Khizan says:

          The problem is that those are documentation for a skilled end user who needs a quick command reference. They are not a reference for the casual user.

          1. McNutcase says:

            Between man and apropos (which helps you figure out which manpage you ought to be looking at to do something) I managed to take myself from mostly clueless to only slightly clueless. They’re hard to begin with, but if you read past the first page they actually do give you enough help, so long as your approach is “I want to find out how to fix this” rather than “I want a set of steps to follow to fix this”. For those who are looking to find out how to solve problems, and who are thinking that way, manpages are invaluable.

            That said, helpful friends are more useful. Many times, I would wind up trawling manpages, and then ask friends with more experience something along the lines of “I have these symptoms going on, and I’m thinking doing this with these options might help. Am I moving in the right direction, or totally off-base?”

      2. Peter H. Coffin says:

        Y'see, they had to climb the mountain with no assistance, and they made it to their plateau, therefore everyone should be able to manage, and we're going to mock those down at the beginning. This same philosophy plagues MMO's, as I understand.

        See, the thing is, they didn’t. *I* didn’t, and I’ve been running linux boxes professionally (as in, that’s part of my day job) since Biltmore was newish. There was a strongly supportive community and nobody with USENET access was out in the cold. There were email lists and newsletters, magazines gave in-depth details, and in bigger cities there were user groups. Sometime around 2005, though, things kind of changed. That’s when the people that thought running linux gave them panache and net-cred started popping up, and concidentally, that was the same time that linux itself started a pretty long phase of both ease (installation and package management started actually being good) and random brittleness (those very package management tools started getting so sophisticated that it was hard to actually do anything without them anymore). So success or failure, for probably five years, wasn’t so much a matter of knowing anything but more a matter of starting from the right place. If you installed the office suite AFTER you installed something else, it worked. If you installed the office suite first, it would do something that would set up a dependency or a condition that the installation of the other software would fail. Etc. That’s gotten a lot BETTER in the past few years, but it lead a lot of people to concluded that either using linux was either dead simple (because their particular installation happened to work easily) or they were hot shitf because they magically fixed something through reinstallation and poking things that “baffled the experts” because nobody else had the exact same combination of hardware and software that happened to cause that exactly failure that the user was experiencing. Either way, it makes for some pretty unhelpful bases of experience when it comes to supporting someone else.

        Personally, these days, I’m still using Windows for the actual terminal machine. It works and as long as you keep things backed up and ready to be blown and reloaded occasionally, you can get yourself functional again with the least amount of work that way. The workhorse servers are SUSE because it’s a little bit more conservative than Fedora, so less stuff breaks when you turn on SEL, and anything outside-world-facing is OpenBSD. Because the people that put that one together are paranoid bastards and I love ’em for it, even if it does mean that getting things working is a about 40% more difficult that on SUSE.

        1. Paul Spooner says:

          Ahh, interesting. Around 2004-2005 was when I had all these experiences.
          So, it’s possible that the “experts” in this case were merely lucky, and their reticence to help was actual ignorance masked as snootiness. Gives me a bit more perspective and associated empathy for how that kind of situation could arise. Still though, a “Sheesh, I have no idea, it just worked for me.” would have been helpful at some point. Of course, I say that rarely enough myself, so, logs and eyes and stuff.

          1. Felblood says:


            I had a roomie in college whose actual, full-time hobby, was posting RTFM on message boards, and then never looking at the thread again. He had a chilling way of giggling while he did it.

            –usually, without actually knowing the answer to the question himself.

            This has the same root cause as the grammar nazis and semantic pedants, who turn every discussion they are permitted to participate in, into an argument about nothing. It’s not about the content of the message they are responding to, it’s about patting themselves on the back.

            2005 was a terrible year for Linux, and it has never really recovered, because of self-important newbies, like him, trying to show the “community” that they deserve to be in with the in-crowd, more than these unwashed n00bs.

            Perhaps fittingly, it seems that guys like Peter, up there, were never fooled by this act.

            I expect that this group of people now has been largely absorbed into the SA Goon Squad. Which is probably best for them and us. Now that they are properly organized, that particular horde of rampaging orcs is never again likely to be mistaken for bad tech support.

      3. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

        I have similar problems when I try to teach stats software. There does not exist a well documented stats program (most documentation, for example, tends to skip right over “how to get the data into the machine”).

        But there are very serious communities which will complain endlessly about how “anyone using xxxxx is not a serious methodologist.” You know -I really just wanted some instruction of formating the data, not instructions for jumping to an entirely different (and several hundred dollar) program.

        As for climbing the mountain, I should think it far better to share the view with others than to commiserate on the pain of getting up there in the first place.

        1. Abnaxis says:

          What software have you used?

          My personal favoritest stats software packages are Stata and R, precisely because the documentation in them is extremely easy to access and understand for both. I would say Stata is more accessible and easy to use, but R is an exceptionally powerful, extensible tool, and it’s free.

          If you need help moving data around in either of these packages, I might be able to help. I have spent many an hour working out ways to properly import and describe data from some of the horrific formats it’s commonly stored in.

      4. Bryan says:

        Up until about 2008, when I moved out here and ran out of time, I was helping mod the justlinux forums. The one thing we always tried to do was avoid the “rtfm, stupid” response, — which was a holdover from when it was called linuxnewbie, and was one of the places that specifically catered to people who really didn’t know what was going on, but wanted to figure it out.

        There were occasional “this is a really common question, so instead of repeating ourselves, here’s a link to a google search that has a bunch of information at the other end” responses, but we figured that at least pointed out which manual to read, which is sometimes the only thing required.

        A lot of it is the same thing that generally applies to comment civility on this site — when 90% of people just follow what they’re seeing, and the other 10% really care about being friendly to people who don’t know what’s going on (and kick out the tiny fraction of people who show up and refuse to do that), the whole site ends up acting that way.

        Not sure if those forums are still like that though, since I haven’t been in there in about five years now. :-(

    2. X2-Eliah says:

      Can I +1 all of this post? because that was my experience with Linux (and why I promptly decided to not even bother with it lateron).

      Well, Okay, I didn’t get to the kernel deleting bit, but the rest of it – pretty spot on.

    3. Zukhramm says:

      And of course, I will have to say I’ve had the exact oposite experience. Linux people have generally seemed glad to help, and seem to be happy that people want to use their system. Any problem with Windows and you get a bunch of “It’s working as Microsoft wants it to, why would you ever want to do it any other way?”.

  11. anaphysik says:

    I think this is my favourite whoosh-right-over-their-head comment from the closed thread:

    July 8, 2013 at 7:16 am

    who the fuck are you to criticize linux?

    Who the fuck do you think he is?! He’s THE NITPICKER, secret identity Shamus Young. Dude can criticize /anything/.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      He is the goddamn Shamoose!

    2. Jarenth says:

      You must be at least level twenty-two before attempting to criticize Linux. Dual-classed.

      1. Felblood says:

        –And I hope you downloaded the very latest errata for the Epic Level Handbook, because this is serious business.

  12. mdqp says:

    At last, you drop your mask, Shamus! Clearly your previous post was written with the goal to upset the righteous Linux users, whom you knew could not stay silent after what you wrote! And then, you windows-lover fox, had the chance to finally spring your trap, and condemn the whole community of Linux users! You are clearly a devious, evil mastermind!

    Or even a bare bone understanding of sarcasm/irony/whatever is becoming a rare thing around the world, which is really sad… -_-

  13. Ambience 327 says:

    Wow. So much concentrated hate and stupid in one place. If we are not careful, there will be a new Chaos god formed. I think his name will be Fanboi the Unforgiving.

    1. Adam says:

      I wish this was facebook, so I could like this comment.

  14. Tse says:

    Does 3DSMax have a Linux version? I think VRay does… What about Revit? ArchiCAD? AutoCAD? The Adobe suite?
    Yes, I know that there are alternatives, but I have to keep up with these programs in case the financial crisis ends and I get a chance to get hired somewhere. Everyone uses at least some of these programs.
    P.S. BTW, just went to check the comments on that Windows vs. Linux article… Some Linux users have no internet experience, it would seem.

  15. Harry says:

    A brief selection of some of the comments that Shamus is talking about, for people who didn’t check it out for themselves:

    “Maybe the author is employer of microsoft or he is using Linux first time.” (Give this guy credit, he at least is being civil. Then again, he is accusing Shamus of employing Microsoft – much as I like Shamus, I don’t think he holds that kind of power.)

    “Uh… Chrome is the most popular browser on the planet smart guy. You are severely ignorant.” (Irony… killing me…)

    “I feel like this article is a very biased opinion piece.” (No shit. It’s an opinion piece. Also, it’s biased in your favour, ya moron.)

    “did you know that your efin site is running on linux?” (He saw that this was the case, and was still unable to get the satire.)

    “anyways this windows fucker should die..” (And here we get to just outright juvenile, ignorant nastiness.)

    I can’t help but read these comments and be baffled. I just can’t understand how anyone could read Shamus’s piece and just not see the blatant satire. I mean, no offence Shamus, but in that piece you’re not even being SUBTLE.

    1. The thing is, they don’t care if its satire or not. This is about getting attention and proving how smart and elite they are. Shamus could have ended the article with ‘seriously though, Windows sucks and Linux is awesome,’ and these idiots would still spew their nonsense.

    2. Thomas says:

      My favourite is actually

      ‘I'm sorry this whole article is a joke right?’

      Because unlike the troll-scum, he seems like quite a nice guy but I cannot understand why he can be uncertain about this and feels the need to include the ‘sorry’.

      EDIT: Or ‘this article sucks…and btw all the so called advantages mentioned here are backfiring right back at windows… boots up slow???’

      Followed by a lot more ranting.

      With one final comment by the same guy
      ‘as i read deeply all the article deeply… i feel stupid…’

      1. silver Harloe says:

        Ding Ding Ding! We Have a Winner!

        “With one final comment by the same guy “˜as i read deeply all the article deeply… i feel stupid…'”

        By “winner” I mean an explanation of the bizarre hate.

        The linux people didn’t read the article, they quickly skimmed it. At least, that’s my new theory, based entirely on the anecdotal evidence of one who seemed to have posted first, then edited later.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Some did,yes,but there were those really stupid ones that read it,and simply thought it true(like the “all the advantages you list are disadvantages” guy).

          Then again,this goes to what I wrote above:Is lazy really that better than stupid?

  16. Akri says:

    I remember you tweeting about this awhile ago. Didn’t understand it then, don’t understand it now. People be dense, I guess.

  17. Blakeyrat says:

    Obligatory link to Dave Barry’s “Help for the Humor Impaired”. The essay that explains that the real problem with humor isn’t people who read the joke and don’t find it funny, but the people who read the joke and *don’t understand it was a joke*:

    1. Zukhramm says:

      Personally, those jokes that create this kind of reactions are the best jokes. Perhaps it’s just because I love acting like an idiot on the internet and having people thinking I’m serious.

      1. tengokujin says:

        The best thing about the above faked quote is that I spelled “Zukhramm” correctly, without looking back to check, on the first try.

  18. ACman says:

    Comments closed on the RPGCodex thread?!!!!

    Censorship!!!!!! You are teh bias im videagaems!!!!

  19. Mike says:

    I had a a brief romance with Linux a couple years ago. I have nothing against it and applaud most of the tenants behind open software and challenging an entrenched business.

    But, good lord, the people that come out of the woodwork. Something like enjoying the color blue will make you a “M$ shill”.

    I was on the Star Citizen forums a while back when there was an encounter with a “Linux” user (do not call it that, it is wrong, as the user will be glad to inform you). Now, for context, Star Citizen is a mostly crowd funded space sim using Cryengine3, and there is talk of it having a Linux version.

    So this person makes a thread lightheartedly, albeit a bit melodramatically chastising Star Citizen for using CryEngine, and not supporting free OS’s. It was polite and was not malicious.

    The first community response simply said “Have a look in support section there are Linux threads and so on.” Indicating that it was a possibility and was being discussed.

    Now, instead of a simple “thanks”, or “good to hear!” in response to that benign comment, instead was a perfect maelstrom of pedantry and arrogance. (RPG Codex users would kowtow to this level of elitism.)

    Read for yourself and weep for the beleaguered islands of normal people using Linux:

    1. Trithne says:

      Ah yes. There they are. The ‘Linux stands for your FREEDOM’ crowd.

      Here’s the thing. I love OSS, and I get very pissy at software that tries to restrict my behaviour (The trend for programs to try and protect the user from themself). But some portion of the Linux crowd has some really absurd ideas. Like *all* software should be free and OS. It’s not like developers need to eat, no.

      1. bucaneer says:

        “Free” in the phrase “free open source software” usually means free as in free speech and refers to licensing that allows code reuse and modification. People who argue that software should never be sold for money or that developers should not be paid would have to be a fringe group of a fringe group, especially considering that most FOSS proponents are programmers themselves.

        1. Anorak says:

          I’m a bit conflicted about it, personally. I use a lot of OSS stuff, and I generally believe that opening the source leads to greater application security than not doing so – but I don’t believe software should be free as in beer, not all the time. Developers have a right to be paid for their work.

          But…..but….but…..Damn. It’s a hard one to think about.

          Red Hat’s approach is good. The source is free and open, and you can download it free of charge. But you can’t download the compiled binaries from RedHat, you need to pay a subscription fee. With that you get proper support.

          1. Bryan says:

            From 14 years ago, and written by ESR, so for whatever that’s worth:


            Section 9 has a bunch of business models around open-source, several in use and a few speculative (…though that was in 1999; there are probably people doing them now, though I can’t think of any offhand).

      2. Jabrwock says:

        Most OSS companies don’t make money selling software, they make money from the services attached to it. Installation, setup, maintenance, tech support, etc.

        Most companies using OSS don’t have a large group of OSS gurus on-hand to “make it work”, so they contract out. This is how Red Hat & Ubuntu makes most of it’s money. Service & Support contracts.

        1. Tizzy says:

          Indeed. And obviously, this is a model that works for certain software types and not others. In particular, it supposes a product that requires a lot of tech support.

          1. Jabrwock says:

            No different from commercial software though.

            How many companies outsource their IT to the company that wrote the software?

            Microsoft Certification allows a company with a big IT department to internalize some of that support. Smaller companies just pay MS a service contract to handle it for them.

    2. Fleaman says:

      Off-topic: In the first paragraph you use “tenant” (an occupant) when you probably mean “tenet” (a principle).

  20. Sadly, as anyone who’s had a run-in with Linus knows, the idiocy comes straight from the top. The cultural norms are an ugly blot on what is otherwise a very livable ecosystem.

    1. Tizzy says:

      hmmm… details?…

      1. Brandon says:

        Linus Torvalds, the man who single-handedly decides what goes into the official kernel, thus shaping the development of the system, is kind of an ass. He’s abrupt, insulting, and can’t be bothered with suggestions pointing out that that’s not a good way to go about building a community. Slashdot just posted something today that illustrates this all too well.

        1. Tizzy says:

          Nice, timely link. Sad story. Thanks, I guess… I’ll go and mourn the loss of sanity and civility in my corner then… (Sigh!)

  21. burningdragoon says:

    I like the comment telling you to learn how to program and make your own notifications, also completely ignoring the programming section of the blog.

    It’s pretty amazing how miss-able satire is for some people. I think part of it comes from really wanting to believe what you’re reading is true for whatever reason (wanting to feel superior or something, I dunno).

    A while ago (sometime last year I think), there was a post on more obscuring Onion-like satire site called the Daily Currant about Bill Nye the Science Guy, who seems to be someone Mr Rogers-like, using very foul languange regarding some non-scientist’s views on science. On some TV news segment. More than one of my friends had posted the article on Facebook thinking it was real, despite the fact that it would be super easy to verify if it happened *and* that the site literally described itself as a satire site in it’s header.

    And these were some generally not stupid people doing it.

    1. Syal says:

      There’s a sizable portion of the world that takes “freedom of speech” to mean “freedom from listening”.

      1. MelTorefas says:

        I am going to use this quote forever, okay? Okay.

      2. Trix2000 says:

        Agreed. This quote just made my day.

  22. Trithne says:

    My favourite GNU/Linux weirdos are the ones in the mould of RMS. Heavens forfend you mention Mono (an OSS clone of the .Net framework) to them. Suddenly it’s all secret conspiracies to take over Linux with patent wars.

  23. Supahewok says:

    Think you forgot the Final Fantasy fanboi rage in your list of flame wars there. Something about vieras and moogles and joking about how moogles were really male moogles. Although I think a good chunk of it ended up being deleted or something.

    1. The Rocketeer says:

      I don’t know how to tell you this, but about half of moogles really are male moogles. I feel like a bigot and a sexist just saying it, but I did my time in Ivalice and I know what I saw.

      Joking aside, there’s some truth in what you said. If you want to talk about politics, meet me somewhere casual; if you want to talk about religion, meet me alone; and if you want to talk about Final Fantasy, whisper down a dry well at night.

      1. Supahewok says:

        I really shouldn’t make comments on the internet, ever. The editor part of my brain just turns off. Meant to say that Shamus made a joke that the moogles were male vieras.

        I’d meet you at that well but I’m allergic to lamias.

        1. The Rocketeer says:

          I thought mithra were male viera. *trollhat*

          You don’t want to go to that well anyway; last time I was there, I dropped my key right down and a volcano erupted.

  24. Anonymouse says:

    I actually think this bodes well for Linux mainstream penetration. I mean, this is like the good ol’ net days of yore in the nice warm puddle of the Internet, and then wham suddenly 90% of the users were AOL.

    Now I’m stumped. Cannot decide if the above was sarcastic. Ugh.

  25. Dev Null says:

    You know this.

    I know that you know this.

    And yet, in the defense of some of the genuinely brilliant and supportive Linux communities out there, I feel the need to repeat the one ironclad Law of the Internet: “The 1% of loud arseholes will always drown out the 99% of genuinely nice helpful people.”

    I’m probably as close as it comes to a 50-50 Linux-Windows user; I’ve been working in and around *nix-based systems for decades, but I’ve always maintained Windows machines at home, because people write games for Windows machines, and my home machine is a toy. There are things I hate about both. At their best, I find operating systems to be tolerably invisible; they exist to make the stuff I actually care about go. But there are some amazing communities of people who – apparently of their own free will and for no recompense but kudos and karma – have expended a significant amount of effort to help me debug my problems on Linux over the years, and that is not a statement that I could make about any Microsoft product. They are, of course, out-volumed by the loud-mouthed elitist jerks.

    Mac users, on the other hand, would be fine if they’d just stop knocking on my door at 8am on a Sunday morning and asking me if I’d been saved.

    (Ok, that was sarcasm. I was kidding; Jobs did it once, so its kosher. You do not need to hunt me down and burn me at the iStake. Really.)

    1. MelTorefas says:

      iStake: For all your modern witch-burning needs. (Only compatible with official iFire products.)

      1. Syal says:

        Vampire-slayer app sold separately.

        1. Mintskittle says:

          Does it have in-app “micro” transactions so my unobserved child can buy Wagonload of Garlic for $99.99 a pop?

    2. Asimech says:

      If you haven’t heard it, you’ll probably like what my brother said about operating systems (paraphrase):

      “You use the one you tolerate the most.”

      I personally change it to “I use the one I hate the least”. In practice this means multi-boot Win7 & Linux Mint so I can get some rest from the stupid of one by using the other.

  26. HiEv says:

    FYI – You might want to remove the trackback on the “Linux vs. Windows” article if you can, since the blog post it links to no longer exists, and you get directed to some marijuana-based Internet radio station now instead.

    Also, some of those comments there… Gawddamn… Makes me just want to smack people through the Internet with a rolled up newspaper that has the headline “IT’S SARCASM, DUMMY!” My favorites are the ones that disparagingly refer to the article as being a joke, totally missing the fact that, yes, indeed it is a joke.

    This is why my signature on Usenet for many years was, “The difference between intelligence and stupidity is that intelligence has its limits.”

  27. Zak McKracken says:

    This reminds me of the story whre some Blog post became the top Google result for “facebook login”, and was covered in tens of thousands of comments complaining about why the login page looked so strange and now they couldn’t get to their accounts… Nothing to do with the contents of the post, only with which kind of user was directed to it, and with which expectations.
    When someone looses it so unexpectedly, it is mostly due to something brewing in their head and waiting to get out regardless of what you were saying. Basically, this would mean that there are lots of people who are touchy about Linux and don’t think it gets the credit it deserves. And who have seen people bash it for all the wrong reasons often enough that a headline alone will trigger their reflexes.
    I guess you’ll find this behaviour in support of a number of “underdog” software, computers, football clubs, political views, music… You name it. And some link to he article must have appeared wherever these people gather.

    … an occasionally vocal Linux user myself, I still feel embarassed.

  28. Neko says:

    Waves Hello, member of the sane but silent non-asshole group here.

    Yeah, I remember when you first posted this. I thought it was hilarious, personally. Then I noticed someone had posted it to The Reddits /r/linux, and quickly facepalmed after reading the comments there.

    Even taken in isolation, by someone not familar with you and your blog, there’s really no excuse to miss the satire. But the same idiots who would miss that are also the same idiots who post their obnoxious hate-drool on the internet.

    When I first discovered and then really got into Linux, yeah, I’ve been a bit resentful of Microsoft and Windows. I may or may not have spelled it using a dollar sign at one point. I think it’s a reactionary move to being confronted with the Anti-Anything-That’s-Not-Windows crowd you can run into; maybe you’re talking about games you like, and it comes up that “Actually, I use Linux (or Mac OS)”, and their immediate response is “OMG just use Windows, noob”. Or you’re on the line with some ISP tech support. These are the people that are baffled that you would take Windows off a computer to replace it with something else, that won’t listen when you explain that there are features you like about it. So instead of promoting the good attributes of one’s own OS of choice, it quickly devolves into bashing the other side.

    I got over that, though, and tried to become more OS-agnostic when I’m talking about them simply to avoid those flamewars and not provoke the “burrr y would u do that” crowd. I’d tell my friends that I’m happy to try and help them with their problems, but that I’ve happily forgotten all my Windows-specific knowledge and can only provide more general troubleshooting directions – they had to be in the driver’s seat, they had to find wherever the networking configuration window lives today.

    When Portal 2 came out, and my aging Mac OSX 10.5 wasn’t good enough to run the damn thing, and Wine hadn’t been patched up for it yet, I caved and got Windows 7 for my desktop. I’ll admit that it’s a big improvement on XP. But now that I’m actually having to use it again, my alignment has drifted ever so slightly back towards the Linux camp. There’s just so many things that irk me about it. And since I am using it, I feel any minor bitching about the OS that I do is more justified than if I were ranting about an OS I don’t even use.

    So yeah, that’s my stance. I imagine there’s plenty of Linux users who have a subtler, more nuanced opinion than “M$ SUX”. But as with everything on the internet, it’s the loud jerks whose opinion is amplified and echoed.

  29. X2-Eliah says:

    On the whole, this is an interesting example of a wider situation – the rabid, elitist “fans” will nearly always shape the impression you get of their “community”.
    For example, the recent SFWA debacle with several authors and editors being outright sexist. Sure, they are/were the minority, but it cast a major pall on the whole organization.

    Another example, Star Citizen’s outspoke “elitest” fanbase are crazy about joystick superiority, etc. Frex, this thread: (excerpt of OP: “Personally I would like this feature [mouse control] disabled completely… only joystics, gamepads and keyboards keys (for low end users).” … Yeah. Lovely impression, innit?

  30. Thomas says:

    I reckon people must have been coming to the page from somewhere that didn’t provide context (it’s the second hit on Linux vs Windows), started reading the first paragraph (which seems sincere), saw the page of text and decided they couldn’t be bothered reading it and then skimmed down the page reading the headlines. If you did that, I could see people being caught up in the heat and moving straight on to posting angry comments without seeing the satire

  31. bucaneer says:

    As a Linux user, this is my daily routine:
    1. google “linux vs windows”;
    2. open all the results;
    3. spend up to 1 second evaluating the contents of each article/post/comment;
    4. respond accordingly (use large amounts of vitriol).

    Since this blog post contains something other than breathless praise of Linux, I must inform you Shamus that lol ur dumb.

    More seriously though, I’ve always been confused about the reputation of Linux community. People often describe it as hostile, unhelpful, fanatical and elitist. Yet when I was learning my way around Linux (5-6 years ago, roughly), it was with the help of detailed, understandable and accessible guides and people who are genuinely eager to assist newcomers.

    But then I realized I never interacted with the community, at least not directly. Sure, the help I got came from the Ubuntu forums, wikis and various blogs, but I used them to search for answers rather than ask for help, which does make a difference. Most of the problems and questions a new Linux user may encounter have been answered hundreds of times, often in extensively detailed guides. Taking the time to look for these – and reading the fine manual, as it were – I managed to completely avoid the hostile crowd (I must assume it exists since it is so often talked about) and form a different, almost entirely positive view of the community.

    As for these humorless trolls, are there any referral statistics for that post? They must be single-time commenters that came directly to post, so knowing where they found the link (and how it was presented) should help.

    1. Anorak says:

      There are indeed many fine resources and guides. The community is actually one of the most helpful ones out there, but it can sometimes hard for newcomers to realise what questions they need to ask, and what the etiquette is. The hostile, fanatical, and elitist bunch don’t tend to hang around the more newbie-oriented places, and to be fair, someone who is just making the jump from Windows probably shouldn’t be starting with Arch of Gentoo – a certain level of knowledge is assumed when you go there.

      I’ve said already – the ubuntu forums are actually pretty good most of the time.

      1. Lalaland says:

        +1 on no Gentoo for beginners

        As much as I loved ‘Learning Linux by Failing to Build Gentoo’ I only found it rewarding as I’d played with SUSE 6.0 or 8.0(?) in the late 90s and was familiar with the base concepts. Building Gentoo though straightened a bunch of misconceptions I had and cleared up what was disti specific (such as library and app locations) and what was baked into the O/S.

        Still if you’re advanced Windows and beginner/intermediate Linux (i.e. have used the CLI and can read ‘man’) in search of a challenge then a Gentoo build will reveal more about how Linux works than you probably want to know (also build flags and the abuse thereof).

        1. Anorak says:

          Haha yeah. Failing to build Gentoo is actually extremely instructive.

          1. Bryan says:


            I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist. That site may or may not actually be safe for work, depending on where you work. (Mostly language.) :-)

            (I actually use LFS on my main machine. I think building it — three or four times, I might add, back when I had time in college to screw around with this stuff — taught me a lot more than Gentoo’s ebuild setup would. But that’s just an impression; I can’t actually say it for sure. My brain could also just be really weird.)

    2. Thomas says:

      I’d second the referral statistics question, I’m really curious if there was one major source people were coming from, or how people were still leaking onto the blog ages after it should have settled down

  32. Knut says:

    As a Linux user myself I feel embarassed on behalf of these jerks. Much in the same way I feel embarassed when some PS3 fainboi starts ranting about Xbox or Wii.

    I’m afraid I will never understand what drives people, sometimes smart people, to behavior like this. And I really really really can’t understand how anyone can misunderstand the original post.

    Also, for the record, I haven’t had many bad RTFM experiences when I have asked for help, neither when googling with a specific error message, nor a more open question. Maybe I’m just lucky?

  33. Mr Compassionate says:

    I made the mistake of using bleedingly obvious sarcasm on the internet once too with exactly the same results.

    1. Syal says:

      Although, people here have missed it too. I’m remembering ENC’s Sim City ‘defense’, and my Starcraft post mocking.

  34. Jake Morse says:

    A fun problem I have is that I fail on spotting satire… Even when I am told about it before hand. In person or on paper.

    Something awful puts out horribly wrong reviews in the name of satire, just to get the responses of that same subset of people. and knowing about it before looked at the article, I assumed it would be cool. Not so.

    I frothed at the mouth like any Internet rager.

    But I usually check the comment thread for those posts to make sure. It doesn’t take much work to find “wow, this was satire that went right over my head”

    So, when you put out the linux post, I was pretty much put off by it until the comments section. I however, know the problem is on my end, so I won’t get on a website and comment “poorly” about it.

    1. Peter H. Coffin says:

      I apologize before and after the fact for causing future and past internet rage. I’m one of those jerk-asses that bases almost all of his humor (some would say whole personality) on that fine line between “Oh that is RICH!” and “Wait… is he SERIOUS?”, and a lot of my internet culture still is where humor is not marked by little smile-faces. My version of Shamus’s “Notifications” image would have one balloon saying “Come on! It’s been three days! Reboot already!”

      1. Jake Morse says:

        Nah, its cool. I would rather see more types of humor around then try to force people into what is more obvious for some.

        I vaugely remember that my fist thought while reading Shamus’ satire was “Did Shamus get a Concussion?” I was genuinely worried for a bit. Then I finished it and saw the comments and figured it out.

        In any case, when I do get the “it’s satire” message, I do get a chuckle out of it.

  35. Anorak says:

    This saddens me.

    As others have already pointed out – vocal minorities exist in every community. Anyone remember Jerry Lee Cooper?.
    It’s just a shame they sometimes come and post where you can read them.

    When steam for linux launched to the public, I spent some time posting on the steam community forums, trying to help out new linux users. It quickly became obvious that a lot of them were just trying to get the Tux item, and many of them were running Ubuntu in a VM, just to do this. It was a massive shame, because they’re throwing away an opportunity to learn something, and a lot of them were ignorant of the problems of running a VM. They’d come on the Linux sub forums and post angry long ranting posts about how shit Linux is and demanding help.

    It’s a real shame.

    I tried to help a few people who’d create posts like “TF2 Black Screen”. This is a very common problem for people with older video cards, and I tried to be polite, and it normally just came down to linking them to other posts and / or the Valve github bug reports. Sometimes you got obnoxious people who just expected everyone to drop everything and do it for them, while providing them minimum information necessary.

    There are also a weirdly large number of people moaning about Windows problems, despite it being the linux subforum. These people should be required to pass some kind of test before being allowed on the internet.

    There are actually hundreds of people willing to help, and I’ve actually found that the best places to go to are the Ubuntu forums, because for many people that’s the first distro they try. And when they encounter any problem, they post there and not a generic linux forum, so there’s a lot of useful info there.

    I think people like the poster are so obsessed with the idea of their own superiority that they’re never going to help new users at all. RTFM is their rallying cry, and they probably despise other people who attempt to enter their perceived domain.

    An honest question for help should be seen as just that, and for new users, they have no idea where to start, and not even any idea of what search terms they should use to help themselves.

    It pains me to admit it, but as Linux grows (which I think is only a good thing – competition among operating systems is excellent), the moron factor will increase.

    Add that to an OS that used to revel in being difficult (for some distros), you attract morons with god complexes.

    It’s funny. I had someone tell me “linux will never be a proper OS because only nerds use it”. I was dumbfounded. Even if he was right (hint, he isn’t) Didn’t he realise just how many nerds there are? I wrote a short article about that here.

    Rambling done, I think.

  36. Jacek Marchel says:

    I’m a Windows user for many good reasons but I loved the satire in your original article. It was smart and funny and gave me a good laugh. I fully agree with your comments about the impact of few morons on the acceptance of Linux. I have tried Linux just to check it out and encountered few glitches beyond my knowledge. The experience that I went through trying to get help from the online community was extremally poor. Few morons were enough to stop me cold asking for any more questions and I gave up on the whole Linux exercise. I guess, the big Ubuntu popularity was driven because mostly you did not needed to ask for help from Linux community.


  37. Smejki says:

    Well I am not surprised by any level of stupidity since some people were getting angry when we repainted our Fallout fansite with pink and unicorns and realesed a semi-pro article (full of void links) stating that pink-ish colors raise number of clicks and revenue from ads subsequently, all of this on April Fool’s Day. No they weren’t subjects of Poe’s Law – they apologized later.

  38. Kelhim says:

    I apologise on behalf of all other sane Linux users, which are the vast majority.

  39. TSi says:

    So some people actually don’t get such concepts. Is it because we have to be trained to understand them ? Isn’t it innate ? Do some people have their neurons connected in some way they don’t understand things the same way other do ?
    It seems weird it mostly affects some groups of people like this Topic seems to state. Maybe it has something to do with nerds/geeks ? Introverts ? I don’t know.

    Anyway, I enjoyed the comparison and even my Portuguese cousin who has some trouble understanding English had a laugh so i should thank you for that at least.

  40. Phantos says:

    The two things I’ve learned about the human race from being online, from personal experience and as a witness to events like the one Shamus described:

    1.) People are impossibly dumb.

    2.) They Always. Get. Dumber.

    1. Trix2000 says:

      I kinda think the problem is less with people being dumb (because we’re all dumb at SOMETHING, unless you know everything in existence) as it is not recognizing and/or thinking that they aren’t and responding accordingly. Or maybe it’s just a question of common sense, which sometimes doesn’t seem all that common…

  41. Nathan says:

    I’m going to propose a hypothesis: Some single individual posted a trolly link to your article on some forum frequented by rabid, foaming-at-the-mouth fanboys. Maybe it was titled ironically: “Luser thinks Windows is great because it reboots so much.” Maybe it tried to jump in on the satire, but wasn’t as obvious about it. Anyway, some trolls from that other forum read the executive summary, failed to see irony in it, and jumped straight to the comment thread. I see people write comments on other forums all the time without reading the article. Usually they’re just dumb, not malicious.

    It’s consistent with a sudden rush of idiotic comments (mixed with some new posters with normal comments) a while after you posted.

  42. Scampi says:

    Reminds me of an old aquaintance of mine. He used to think of everyone using the internet as “the elite”, of course including himself, usually declaring them to be the “future rulers” of the earth. He also used to think of many peer groups that in some way included him in this way: programmers, catholics, physicists, linux users, swimmers…if he belonged to any group, he automatically assumed the people who currently belonged to that group must of course represent some kind of elite within the human race. It got ridiculous after a while and nowadays I barely even talk to him anymore.

    1. Syal says:

      But if you don’t talk to him anymore, you won’t be elite!

      1. Scampi says:

        Now you’re being ridiculous. Of course I’m still the elite-I’m on the internet-nobody can take that from me. I’ll soon conquer the world from here.

  43. Dreckmal says:

    The problem with Linux… Linux is such a great tool. But the problem I see with Linux is the same problem with much of the internet. There are little to no consequences when it comes to posting. A lot of angry people act like trolls because they can. No-one will come to their house (or apartment) with a ball bat or shotgun demanding vengeance for a post to a forum. A lot of weak people use this to troll or incite flame wars.

    I know that I personally have a hard time reading sarcasm (this site is one of the absolute few exceptions… Hats off to Shamus for writing so well). But that is little to no excuse for blowing up on someone.

    It is really sad that the vocal minority of Linux users will consistently “yell” RTFM. I have to wonder why these folks are so angry. I mostly assume it is an age related thing, but doubt that is the sole reason. It is the same thing with Starcraft’s community. There are a lot of great members out there that foster newbs, and welcome new players. There is a vocal minority that will get very angry with you, and tell you about it.

    1. Jabrwock says:

      *If* the answer is resolved in the manual in a clear and concise way, I am guilty of shouting RTFM myself. Especially when getting the same question over and over. “Did you read the manual? No? Why not?”

      However, I hate when RTFM is used, and the manual does NOT actually explain how to resolve the issue. Like say an undocumented config, or cross-compiling when that configure script was not set up to support it, or skips over the bit about the wire they expected you to have hooked up because “everyone knows you do that first”, etc.

      1. Dreckmal says:

        I don’t have a problem if the man page is pointed to tactfully. There is a difference between RTFM and have you looked at the manual? There are a tremendous amount of lazy people, and a lot of people are afraid of Linux. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that most people don’t understand that Linux is fairly well documented (at least some kernel versions are…). I don’t see a problem with pointing to the manual, if it is warranted though.

        Personally, I grew up on a Tandy 386, and learned how to use DOS pretty fluently. I believe it is because of this that I fell in love with the terminal. There are also quite a few people that are beyond being afraid of the terminal though (which is too bad, really). It is kind of funny, in a way. I also feel like the Linux terminal is much more ‘conversational’ than DOS was. That said, I am not surprised when people are intimidated by terminal usage.

  44. AsphaltMyGarden says:

    Ouch, I do believe that reading some of the comments made me quite a few degrees dumber.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      That’s why I never read the comment before responding to it!


  45. john says:

    so is this satire?

  46. Jabrwock says:

    Number one pet peeve when trying to solve an issue in Linux:

    Finding posts like this:

    “I have a problem X.”
    “EDIT: Fixed it”

    No explanation, no link, not even a hint of what they figured out was wrong.

    Number two pet peeve:

    STFU n00b GTFO

    Why yes, thanks, that’s EXACTLY what I was looking for to resolve my problem. Of course I’m a n00b, that’s why I’m asking the question in the first place!

    1. Raygereio says:

      My number one pet peeve is finding useless posts such as you describe in your number one pet peeve on the top of my search results.

      I don’t know what malevolent madman at google is resposible for this, but this happens without fail when I’m trying to look for information on a problem.

    2. Dreckmal says:

      It is so sad that there are users like that. Every one is a n00b at some point. Apparently it is easy to forget that. I have to wonder how many of those people where treated well versus poorly. It’s almost like asking Linus how to do something (I get that he is busy, but he is also over-the-top adversarial a lot of the time).

  47. Asimech says:

    “The only one worse was the RPG Codex one.” Dang. That really puts it into perspective.

    I’ve mostly had “worse than Windows, but not enough to offset Microsoft’s attitude” impression when Googling for help, but I have to mention one example that covers two attitudes I find infuriatingly commonplace while not being malicious as such in the FLOSS community:

    My Linux distro kept announcing that mounting the floppy failed. I have no floppy. But BIOS can’t tell if it is there or not, so Linux can’t tell if it’s there or not either.

    1st infuriating thing: Apparently according to some developer’s logic it makes sense to then just decide to auto-mount it just in case I have a diskette in that I want to access. And then have it give an error message when it fails. With no obvious option to tell it to shove it.

    The problem in short: The new attitude that the devs know better than the user and everything must be automated without thinking it through.

    While looking up for solutions I found a suggestion to turn off floppy support from BIOS and one that, IIRC, explained how to disable to attempt.

    But before the latter the 2nd infuriating thing came. “Recompile kernel without floppy support.” Yeah. Just recompile the kernel.

    1. Dave B. says:

      “Just recompile the kernel.”

      But that’s easy! You just have to know exactly what you’re doing, and make no mistakes at all, ever.

      Seriously though, I do get annoyed when very skilled/experienced people answer technical questions as though *everyone* knows how to write their own device drivers or something.

    2. Tizzy says:

      That’s a big problem with a lot of open-source users, that also appears in the comment that Shamus reproduced in the article: the notion that you need to be technically hyper-competent to even be allowed an opinion.

      Indeed: assuming that Shamus’s original opinion piece was serious, what is the commenter’s reaction? Not to refute it, but to argue that Shamus should not be allowed to have any opinion at all, because he is not -allegedly – sufficiently technically competent.

      Now: What does technical proficiency have to do with the description of the experience of the end user? The end user is supposed to be anyone!

      The open-source world ends up with this schizophrenic attitude where the communities ostensibly aims at spreading open-source solutions in the world, and bemoans people’s reliance on expensive, comparatively poorly secured software. Yet… when the less savvy come for help, they are more than likely sneer at the noobs’ ignorance, and look down on any attempt to make their little technical world not accessible. It’s really sad.

      Don’t believe me? Even noted open-source advocates have tackled this embarrassing subject.

      Back in 2004 or so, Eric S. Raymond wrote a piece called The Luxury of Ignorance: An Open-Source Horror Story about his struggles with CUPS, the Common Unix Printing System, meant to illustrate how hard to navigate the open-source world was for non-technical users (and, apparently, even for a software developer and unofficial open-source spokesperson). We can hope that this will lead to a growing awareness in the open-source communities for more user-friendliness and out-of-the-box readiness, but don’t be too sure. In his
      follow-up , ESR wrote that the most common response to his column was not agreement or hostility, but rather relief (“I thought I was the only one struggling with the high level of technical savvy required”), suggesting that denial of the problem, even at one’s own cost, is currently the prevalent attitude.

  48. The Rocketeer says:

    “But it’s not the majority of Linux users.”

    Fantastic. I’m so happy for you all. You know, I once broke a bone in my arm. Not the majority of the bones in my body, though, so it was really a total non-issue.

    Honestly, what are these statistical blinders that inform people that such persistently notorious behavior can characterize a community, yet shouldn’t color outsiders’ perceptions of it as long as the offending elements don’t compose at least 51% of the whole?

    Everyone already realizes that it isn’t the majority, because any group that comprised a majority of combative, angry jerks probably couldn’t function as a group in the first place. The majority of 4chan users are decent, affable people. If that’s the best you can claim, think hard about your association with such a body.

    The toxic minority doesn’t wait for a consensus to act foully. They harass, aggravate, and belittle to the extent that they are able, as long as they exist. And yes, Linux has worked long and persistently to cultivate a steadfast little corps of these types, whose actions have deservedly colored the reputation of the whole as exclusionary, condescending, and arrogant. Protests about the proportion of these folks to the whole are a non-starter to me, because there are a lot of communities out there that don’t have these problems to any detrimental extent- the majority do not. In fact, it’s rather remarkable for a community to be regarded so perniciously. They have grown to, if not a majority, at least some sort of critical mass. Of jerks.

    So, goodhearted and earnest majority of Linux users, what is it about your community, in particular, that attracts or grows these folks to so remarkable an extent? If you figure it out, can you please stop it? Until you do, not many people are going to find much affection for your hobby. In fact I’d wager quite the majority will not.

    1. Asimech says:

      Well, that’s a needlessly hostile way of saying what Shamus was already saying.

  49. muelnet says:

    I used to be a member of a few Linux Communities, but not so much anymore. I got tired of infighting and a community that was often hostile to its end users. Then again, a lot of technical communities fall into these same traps.

    Getting help on forums was possible, but only if you knew what you were doing. The result is this weird paradox where the more you know the easier it is to get help. If you can say up front “I tried these arcane steps and spent 2 hours googling and couldn’t find anything that worked” people are much more likely to be helpful. Not that that necessarily helps new users who don’t know about that stuff.

    Besides the lack of helpfulness, there are other problems. Community infighting being a huge one (is it Linux or GNU/Linux, Open Source or Free Software), hostility towards commercial applications of open source. Oh and the dual problem of needing proprietary software to entice people away from Windows, yet hatred of having proprietary software on Linux.

    I really could go on, but I think I’ve written a long enough comment as it is. In the end I still use Linux because I have a preference for the tools that come with Linux. I have a gaming computer that is Windows, and my other computers run Linux. I’ve gotten to the point where I know enough to solve 99% of the problems I come across meaning I no longer have to worry about the forums anymore.

    1. Tizzy says:

      A point that many advocates and fanboys seem to miss on any side of the debate is that what OS you should be using really depends tremendously on what exactly you are trying to accomplish. Many things are multi-platform now, but multi-platform is not the same as equally well supported and performs equally well.

      Would you rather run a program under cygwin, or have the same under Linux? I rest my case.

    2. Keith Miller says:

      “The result is this weird paradox where the more you know the easier it is to get help.”

      Ain’t that the truth?!? I’m sure if a beginner can get over the hurdle they’ll be set, but getting over that hurdle is a PITA.

  50. Atle says:

    I’ve been using a couple of Linux forums, and I’ve never encountered a hostile crowd. Only a few individuals, like in any other forum.

    Also since it’s Windows that is mocked, I must ask, how do you know the quote comes from an angry Linux user and not an angry Windows user?

  51. Lord Nyax says:

    Isn’t it funny how just a few days after this post the Escapist puts up this article about Linus Torvald’s support of people acting like douches?

  52. wererogue says:

    I remember enjoying the Linux vs. Windows post so much that I showed it to my wife, who unconditionally hates Linux (although she’s grown to love the media server I put together). She thought that it was hilarious.

    If a Linux-hater can enjoy the joke when she gets that Windows is the butt of the joke, something something idiots.

  53. Nik Pfirsig says:

    You missed some very important problems in Linux:
    Windows always knows whats best for the user. especially if the use thinks otherwise. It protects the user in so many ways.
    Linux on the other hand doesn’t make the user save their files in a library, or safely store the files in a shadow folder, It lets the user put the file where ever he or she wants.
    And there’s the creepy side of Linux. Unlike Windows which gracefully hides the extensions it uses to associate files with their application, so that when you double click on the file named “Doggy-Style” it can run media player if its a Snoop Dogg hit, or Internet explorer to take you to Jan’s pet Spa website, or even open photo viewer to display the virus laden jpg file Jr downloaded from the “kinky pet lovers” website.
    Sure Linux can use extensions, but the files open in some weird program yo never heard of, and if you don’t put an extension on the file, Linux “look inside” the file to figure out what program opens it. Is that like invasion of privacy or what?
    I’ve even heard that some brands of Linux even include a program that reports back to the people that made it what programs you got installed on your computer
    Microsoft would NEVER do such a thing, but if they did, it would only be for making Windows work beter with those programs.

    Also all those programs in those proprietary download sites seem to come from a bunch o foreigners. We don’t know what their agend might be, unlike Microsoft, an American company in Redmond WA that we know we can trust.. you don’t have to ask them if they can be trusted, just read about their “Trusted Computing” initiative.
    I hear a lot of thes Linux people are in Commie and Socialist places like Sweeden and …. dare I say … FRANCE!!!.

  54. Author says:

    Regarding the “aside from gaming, Linux is ready” comment, one Gabe Newell made contradictory statements today. He basically claimed that gaming is one awesome area of success on Linux, in part because his own company ported something called “Steam” to Linux. I’m wondering how that meshes exactly, if at all. Mr. Newell may just make self-serving comments, for all I know. It would be swell to hear Shamus’ take on his credibility.

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  57. Rash says:

    I am a GNU/Linux user and open-source advocate, and I know a lot of GNU/Linux people. I disagree that a lot, or even a part of the GNU/Linux community consists of jerks.

    GNU/Linux has no relation to jerks, and neither does the Microsoft Windows OS (or so I believe).

    Being a jerk has no relation to the Operating System or software one uses. You can manage to be as much of a jerk using Windows as well.

    Also, I think those angry users weren’t actually proper GNU/Linux users, but those super anxious kids who just discovered GNU/Linux, got impressed by the “open-source” buzz word and all, stumbled upon the article, and behaved the way they do in anxiety. We can only wish they mature soon.

  58. Keith Miller says:

    I’ve been on the Debian-users mail list for about 3 weeks. I have been using Debian for about the same amount of time, but still use Windows more and have been for a long time.

    I am looking at Linux, because quite frankly after Windows 7 I do not intend on installing Windows (other than 7) on another one of my machines. You’d think a pissed off Windows user looking to Linux would be something well received by the Linux community.

    So far I have made two legitimate posts about two things that are both real bugs. One a minor bug and the second a “known limitation” (aka bug they don’t want to fix) but one that does generally seem asinine to me and I didn’t hold back from making that point known.

    So far I have encountered some helpful people, some people who I suspect are taking the piss out of me (although it’s borderline). I have also had private messages accusing me of being a troll and have been patronized. I get the feeling already that I’m quickly being singled out, for whatever reason.

    This is just my own experience and I’m not trying to say or insinuating in any way that this is the norm, but I found this article after googling “are all linux users a$$ holes” so I can rather relate to it. :)


  59. Cassie Jones says:

    I loved your satirical Linux review. I was also very shocked at the number of people that did not get the joke.
    I am rereading DM of the Rings years later and have been spending way too much time each night reading several of your other articles. =D
    I am leaving a comment because I wanted to share one of my own Linux experiences:
    At the time, long ago, many of my friends were using Linux so I decided to try it out myself and installed… Mandriva? I think. Been a while. Anyway, having no idea what I was doing, I was having lots of fun with the freedom Linux was giving me (WAY too much of it) and I was rooting around where I definitely did not belong and I found the Kernel and thought something along the lines of, “That doesn’t seem important,” and promptly deleted it. Yup. Linux actually let me do that. Needless to say my OS stopped working and one of my close Linux friends was suitably impressed and appalled. “You broke Linux? How did you do that?! Who breaks Linux?” My friends still bring this up when they want to insist I manage to break all my computers somehow. Ah, good times.

  60. Yujiri says:

    I just want to say that when I first read the Linux comparison article, I also missed the satire. It was probably because I was only skimming it, already had a strong bias against Windows, and quit after I became convinced that you just had no idea what you were talking about, but I didn’t read the popups in the image and the joke about rebooting the other computer I completely didn’t notice, I must have either not read that sentence or not noticed you were talking about a different computer. I do feel stupid after reading this, but I am definitely not an “unrepentant asshole” or “manifestly, maximally stupid”, and had I been more motivated to comment at the time it’s not unlikely I would have left a similar comment.

  61. Caska says:

    I’m someone who took that post rather seriously when I first saw it. Now I admit, I’m not the smartest tool in the shed. But in my defence,

    1) I was skimming the article. I didn’t take the time to thoroughly read everything.

    2) I haven’t had the same experience with Windows as you. Windows has worked pretty well for me on all my computers. On the other hand, it was Linux that repeatedly ended up breaking my computer every time I tried installing it. Because of that, I missed the satirical aspect of you criticizing Linux, and assumed that there was some truth to it.

    3) I had just found your content. I didn’t know about your dislike for Microsoft, nor was I familiar with your style of humor.

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