October 18th, 2010


Bits And Bytes

I got an email.  The guy who sent this email is a longtime Windows user (not someone from the coder channel, obviously), perfectly happy with XP (well, okay, coders that have to mess with M$ do prefer that build).  His email asked me why people like me hate M$ so much.  I was starting to think up answers when I froze....

This is part of the influence of my teacher.  It took a long time for me to pick up on the lesson, but she taught me that, sometimes, the question you are answering is not the question you were asked.  I meditated on his question.  This guy already knows about M$' questionable dealings and shifty behavior to lock in users.  So, obviously, my reasons for hating M$ will not be news to him.  Therefore, that is not the question I have been asked.

I soon realized what his question actually was -- he didn't want reasons for my hatred.  He wanted to know what motivated me (and others like me) to make such a big deal out of it.  Why do we think it is so important to run Linux on any hardware?  Why are we constantly taking cheap shots at M$?  Most people don't give Shit One about this stuff, why does it inflame our passions so that we have to inform the world, whether it is listening at that moment or not?  So, that is the question I am going to endeavor to answer here today.

First, I want to say that, while I take cheap shots at M$, I don't hate M$ users.  If you truly believe in software freedom, that means allowing others the freedom to use what they want.  If they like Windows, fine.  If they like the Mac, fine.  Once again, freedom entails choosing your own path.  I use Windows myself sometimes.  Remember the pic of my dev machine?  The game engine I use will only compile under Windows, so I can't use the Linux version.  My tower for capturing video, likewise, is Windows, because the video capture devices don't work under Linux.  Denying others choice while I allow myself (whether or not it is based on practicality instead of principle doesn't matter, I'm still using Windows) makes me a hypocrite and demands I be attacked as such.

Now, the simple, no bullshit answer to why I talk about this stuff so much is because I can't not talk about it.  That leaves a lot to be desired from an informational standpoint, so let me clarify.  I am a firm believer that you learn more about a man by his enemies than by his friends.  Anyone can get along if they like each other.  But when that line gets crossed, when someone does something that so incises you, you can no longer just live and let live, that's when you learn what they are really like.  What makes them abandon live and let live, what makes them hate?  The reasons and the way they express that hatred tells you EVERYTHING about that person's values and humanity.

Everybody has these "X good, Y bad" impulses.  It's rivalry, which is part of human instinct.  Everyone wants to be better than they are.  This is expressed in two ways.  First is to be the best at something we appreciate, whether intellectual or athletic or geeky or whatever.  We want to be the one people come to for results.  The other way is by being a part of something bigger than ourselves.  Grass roots politics, military service, religious groups, that sort of thing.  It is an outlet for our energies to affect positive change on ourselves and the world around us.  No one can do everything.  No one can support every charity, no one can minister every person.  So you have to choose.  And what we choose directly corresponds to what is most important to us.

For me, my hatred of M$ and love of Linux is simple -- Windows, as an operating system, is just an operating system.  But the way it became the dominant OS offends my sense of order and fairness.  Linux corresponds with what I approve of and appreciate, the ability to tinker, learn, adapt, and be good to others.  These things are not just fanboyish interests, they directly relate to my values and ethics.

Now, in fairness, I don't expect everyone to share my passion.  I know, when I write about computers or open source or things like that, I'm going to lose key portions of my readers.  Likewise, I know I'll lose readers who don't like Stress Puppy, or think I really don't get politics, or see I'm about to rip on predatory religion and think, "Oh, God, not this shit again!"  I am free to speak my mind, and others are free not to listen.  I'm not going to be offended when some of my posts are skipped.  If everybody liked everything I liked and hated everything I liked, they'd be me (my teacher doesn't lie, but I do sometimes wonder if she really reads EVERYTHING I write).

So, the reason I go on about this is because I'm compelled to.  I can't keep my mouth shut.  I don't do it to challenge or spite anyone, I do it because...I have to.

Uh...did I make my point in any of that up there?