Where Mark’s “Pilgrimage to Linux” Story Completely Falls Apart

Panel from “Everybody Loves Eric Raymond”.About this time last year, Mark Pilgrim announced that he was ditching Mac OS X for Ubuntu. The move was made for various technical and philosophical reasons. A number of people saw this move, which was echoed by Cory Doctorow shortly afterwards, as a possible “tipping point”, a harbinger of a massive exodus of desktop users from Apple to Ubuntu.

A year has passed and Mark has posted a “One Year Later” article providing an overview of his move.

Does he regret ditching Mac OS X for Linux? No. He’s quite happy with his system and pleased at both the level of control he has over it and the ease of maintenance — he’s only had to do the configure make make-install dance once.

However, there’s one part of his essay that completely undoes the argument that Linux is ready for the average user who just wants to get work done and can’t be bothered with all the yak shaving that we nerds like to do:

I still have a Mac in the house — my old laptop, which I gave to my wife

I’ve got more thoughts on the subject, which I’ll post later.

7 replies on “Where Mark’s “Pilgrimage to Linux” Story Completely Falls Apart”

My wife uses Linux. She’s also used Windows without any problems. If she bought a Mac she’d be able to use that too.

I think you’re underestimating Linux. Or maybe you just haven’t investigated how easy it is to use.

@Average User: I work for a company whose services — domain name registration, hosted email, managed DNS, secure certificates and so on — run on Linux. As for what’s on my desk: my laptop’s a PowerBook, and I;ve got two desktops, one running Windows XP, the other running Ubuntu (Edgy Eft). I get to compare the user experiences of these OSes in my daily work.

I think the issue of usability — which has come a long way in Linux — is only one factor in getting it to people’s desktops. As I mentioned in the article, I’ve got some thoughts on what these factors are, and will write about them later.

Would you prefer that I send the Mac to the dump? It’s a perfectly good machine. I set her up with NeoOffice and Eclipse and GMail (archived with Thunderbird), and she’s quite happy doing what she does. She is a very light user (compared to me) and doesn’t run up against the data retention and data format issues that I had.

That said, her next laptop will probably run Linux. Most of her focus is on development tools (mostly Java), and they all run natively on Linux anyway. And it’s not like hardware compatibility is a big problem; even Dell is selling laptops with Ubuntu pre-installed (and smaller vendors like System76 have been doing it for years).

I used to delight in getting Linux running on weird hardware; now I have two kids and a real job, and I have significantly less time and more money than I used to. :) Buy a machine that works well with your OS of choice; that’s the beginning and end of the compatibility story as far as I’m concerned.

Well, you’ve got me scratching my head then. I’ve converted a number of average users with Edgy, some even with Dapper, some with Mepis. Some moved on to different distros, but they’re definitely staying with Linux.

I guess I’m just not seeing the “completely undoes the whole argument” part. I’ll try to tune in later to catch it.

Thanks for the explanation, BTW.

@Mark: Never said nor implied any such thing about your wife’s intelligence, nor her hair colour. In fact, if I recall correctly, she and I could pass for cousins, at least in front of someone who scored poorly on the All Look Same test…

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