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Confessions of a Linux user

One of the popular criticisms of Linux users is that Linux users can’t take criticism well. This criticism happens to be true. And I happen to have, at one point, been one of those Linux users who could not take criticism well.

Why can’t Linux users take criticism well? Why couldn’t I before? Does using Linux do something to your brain? Does it cause you to have kneejerk reactions?

Well, I think it does at first. I can speak only for myself, but I wouldn’t be surprised if other Linux users had this happen to them, too. When I first “converted” to Linux from Windows, that’s exactly how I thought of myself—as a convert. I felt as if I’d seen the light. For decades, I’d been enslaved by Microsoft and now had finally seen the light in Linux. Praise Jesus! I wanted to share the “good news” with other Windows users. I wanted to tell them what they were missing. I was so enthusiastic for Linux that I couldn’t understand how anyone could level criticisms against it.

It was more than that, of course. Even after my new-convert zeal died down, I didn’t take criticism well because I knew many of the criticisms were not valid or constructive ones. If 95% of the criticisms people throw at you aren’t valid, it can be difficult to figure out which 5% are valid and give people credit for that little bit. In other words, you get in a defensive mode, the same way a dog who is used to being beaten will shy away from even an intended-to-be-loving touch.

Once the zeal went away and once the defensiveness cooled down, I started trying to deflect criticism into pragmatism. After all, what does it matter if I—a Linux user, not a Linux developer—hear your criticisms? How would I know how to fix things any more than you would?

A little bit of this I have retained, and I still will refer complainers to Brainstorm and Launchpad.

But I’ve stopped toeing the party line. It’s taken me three and a half years of Linux use to do so, but I’ve stopped. Yes, there are many things that are the fault of third-party vendors. Yes, there are many things that are out of the control of Linux developers. In the end, though, Linux developers are human—just like you and me. They make mistakes. That’s why some thing that used to work in an older release no longer works in the current release. That’s why that update broke your X server. That’s why that security vulnerability snuck in and took a while to get patched.

Linux isn’t perfect, not even for what is within the control of the Linux developers. And not all Linux developers are volunteers. Many are, and I appreciate their generosity of time and energy. But many are also paid. But they’re human, folks. They make mistakes. Is it okay for you to criticize? Sure. Criticize away.

I’ve had my fair share of problems with Linux. I’ve been a Ubuntu user for over three years, and I saw Ubuntu storing passwords in plain text (that has since been fixed). I’ve had all kinds of problems getting drives mounted and unmounted properly, and I’ve filed bug reports. Sometimes I get annoyed that they won’t fix bugs in the current release unless they’re security-related. That’s okay.

In the end, I don’t believe in conversion. I believe in using what works for you. If you believe Windows has fewer problems, then use Windows. If you believe Mac has fewer problems, use OS X. If you believe Linux has more problems than Windows and Mac but you just want to torture yourself, use Linux.

I happen to have experience with all three major platforms and have found problems with all three. I could level criticisms at all three. In the end, I choose Linux because I like it, warts and all. If you want to offer your criticisms, I won’t pretend I haven’t heard them all before, but I also won’t call you a troll or tell you that nothing is the fault of Linux developers. Use what works for you, and do your best to improve it with whatever’s within your power to do so.