If You’re Not Happy, Why Not Switch?

Every single day at the office, I hear people complain about their operating system. Most of the time, these comments are aimed at Windows. I’m not biased at all when I say this, it’s a simple fact that I can prove empirically. People complain that the system gets unbearably slow after a while, that their hard drive space disappears even though they’re not using it for anything, that the machine does things they don’t want it to do and that they’re not sure whether it’s some sort of malware doing this or whether it’s a malfunction of the system itself.

Very small thought: If people aren’t happy with their operating system, why don’t they switch to a different one? Why do they just complain day in and day out instead? Human nature?

6 thoughts on “If You’re Not Happy, Why Not Switch?”

  1. Are they required to use said operating system by their workplace? I know at my own office, I need to work on Windows because we sell a Windows product.

    However, something else worth noting, I think, is that you generally get out of something like an OS what you put into it. I’m not saying Windows is perfect, but the amount of crap I see people load onto their computers these days is a little insane. Computers, regardless of OS, are like cars. If you fill it with crap and treat it like crap, it’s going to respond in kind. Even a Pinto will run well if you take care of it(we can draw comparisons between the exploding rear-end collisions and blue screens ๐Ÿ˜€ ). These people that are complaining, would switching to another OS stop them from loading all sorts of crap onto it and slowing it down(assuming, for whatever reason, that there was no lack of crap to load for each OS)?

    I think, what the world needs, is licensing for computers. You want to buy a computer, you sit down and take a basic test. Nothing advanced, but honestly, if people knew what they were doing, you wouldn’t have highschools(in America, anyways) dropping $45k a year on virus software for the teachers.

    All that notwithstanding, though, people do seem to enjoy bitching. It makes them feel important.


  2. Very good points. Yes, if someone forces you to use a certain product, I can understand the complaints. I hadn’t thought of that distinction at all when I wrote that, probably because the people I meant have free choice of what they use. It’s even worse: The place where I work offers official and full in-house support for GNU/Linux, Mac OS X *and* Windows as client operating systems. These people have free choice of hardware too — they could switch at any time, from and to whatever they like.

    In Europe, there is actually a driver’s license for computers (the ECDL, European Computer Driver’s License). If I knew whether this is any good and if I were an employer, I’d demand this from all potential employees who need to use computers daily. From looking at their concept page it doesn’t seem too bad.

    Unfortunately, the ECDL can’t prevent your computer from being a brainless victim if the operating system it runs is fundamentally flawed in the first place. Look at that story of Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer’s unsuccessful attempts at removing spyware. Apparently it took a team of expert Microsoft engineers ten man-hours to return the computer to a usable state. If it takes the maker of the OS so much effort, I’m not sure if an average user (or even a reasonable expert out there in the wild) could do it.

    If you wanted to prevent this from happening, you’d have to teach every average user so much about the subject that they’d be full-blown IT security experts. On the other hand, security software could just improve, taking the user more or less out of the equation. However, companies making security software will always play cat and mouse with malware authors, and those have the added motivation of criminal energy, which probably can’t be sneezed at.

    Of course it will be interesting to see how other and newer operating systems fare once they have larger market share and become more of a viable target for malware authors. Only then will we discover how deeply flawed the existing systems such as Windows are. On the other hand, nothing prevents any program from wiping out all the writable files in a user’s home directory on Mac OS X or GNU/Linux, which brings us back full circle to user responsibility, capabilities, training.

    So I guess you’ve pointed out that we can’t consider the complainig in isolation, but that it’s only symptomatic and cuts into so many things. The more you follow them, the more complicated it gets.

    I feel like I’m repeating things that were surely said in countless Slashdot discussions about computer security, so I’ll just leave it at that ๐Ÿ™‚ “Very small thought” indeed, now it’s longer than my usual postings ๐Ÿ˜›


  3. Well, like I said, I’m not trying to stick up for Windows or anything. I’ve had my share of issues with the software, but, at least with XP, it’s always been really stable(for me). I keep a close eye on things, though. Also worth noting(perhaps) is that my next computer will be a Mac; I’ll install XP for work and use OSX for pretty much everything else.

    As for teaching the average user, I think if everyone followed a short list of simple rules, we’d avoid most problems. Rules like “If you don’t know what it is, don’t install it.”, “Defrag your harddisk drive once a month.”, “Run a virus scan every couple of weeks.”, “Scan archives before you open them.”, etc.

    They make a really good point in that article, though; it’s why I keep all of my data on a separate, external volume. If I had to reformat tomorrow for some reason, no important data would be lost. That’s something most people won’t consider until it’s too late, though.

    The ECDL thing sounds nice, but the world needs a standard that is enforced, everywhere.


  4. Yes, that’s true (both points).

    Separating user files from the system is something that’s been part of the UNIX philosophy since magnetic storage came up, I think, and it’s a reason why many UNIXlike operating systems will at least suggest it to you — but many people don’t understand why. The better GNU/Linux books and manuals of the olden days were consistent with that and recommended it to people — THEY knew why!

    I can only speak for the GNU/Linux side of things, but I’ve upgraded systems through several releases and even completely different distributions without ever even touching my home directory. You can easily go through a decade of upgrades like that. I’m guessing the hardware will fail before your files are ever in danger (assuming you back up regularly of course, but who doesn’t :P)

    The users weren’t too happy to split off their system partitions in the days of 2 GB hard drives, because it meant sacrificing a lot of space for the system and not having it available when you might want to use it for data. Although even then people recommended it, and for any OS at all. We even did it on Mac OS 7.

    Now that you can buy 1 TB in one chunk and the system is very unlikely to ever grow beyond 10 GB, there isn’t any excuse anymore IMO.

    I’ll try to find out if there’s an international version of something like the ECDL.


  5. Ah yes, there is an international one: the ICDL. Quoting: “The ECDL / ICDL is the worldโ€™s largest end-user computer skills certification programme, with more than 7 million Candidates in 146 countries.”

    Let’s find out if it’s worth anything and if it is, maybe it would pay off to convince HR people to look for it when employing computery people.


  6. I am getting really fed up of spyware and stuff like viruses. There doesn’t seem to be a regulatory body that can find these people and prosecute them for the waste of man-years. The site I link to is a good starter for free internet security to defend yourself with. Basically – Firefox, a free virus checker, Spybot and Spywareblaster coupled with a good firewall policy will stop most rubbish before you notice it on your machine. Stopping attacks on a website is where I would need help.


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