Ruminations on the Digital Realm

Jan Stedehouder

"But I use…."

Doesn’t it annoy you as well? In a forum or on an IRC channel someone asks a question about a program in Linux. “How do I change the settings in xorg.conf? “. The answer is swift. “Open a terminal and type $ sudo gedit /etc/xorg.conf and….”. After that it is a matter of time and someone will say: “Why do you use gedit for this. I use nano. Much better.”

Next example. A user has a problem with adding podcasts to Rythmbox. Instead of helping he or she will get a list of alternative programs that are much better.

Another one. You try to explain the innards of GRUB to newbie users and -you could wait for it- there he is: “But I use lilo…”.

What is wrong with all of these responses? Answer: they don’t do a darn thing to bring the solution any closer. Is there really a difference between gEdit and nano for a simple editing? Why is Amarok better than Rythmbox? No no, I don’t want to go there. Linux is about choice and for every application there is at least one alternative.  The issue is that if someone has a question about Rythmbox the answer should focus on Rythmbox as well.

Personally, I am a complete agnostic when it comes to applications. I consider all of them like a huge toolbox and I pick whatever I need to complete a task. I use Amarok because I want to listen to Last.FM and there is no Last.FM client for Dapper (last time I checked) and I like the link to Wikipedia for some extra artist information. However, I use XMMS to listen to my congregation’s public talks or to any station that is available through StreamTuner. I also use XMMS to listen to my Tangerine Tree collection (a series of legal bootlegs from Tangerine Dream concerts), because they are in a lossless format called “shorten” and I only found a .SHN plugin for XMMS.  And that is just for music.

When it comes to writing text I alternate between gEdit, Abiword, Writer and Microsoft Word (yes, under Linux). Webbrowsing? Firefox, Swiftfox and Opera. Spreadsheets? Gnumeric and Excel.

To take it one step further: I hardly care about the operating system anymore. There are so many cross-platform applications that in day to day use there is no difference between Mac OSX, Windows XP, Ubuntu Linux or Windows Mobile 2003. As long as I can share my files between all of them I am a happy man.

That is why I am not impressed when a response to a question about management tools in distro A gets an answer like “But I use distro B, because their tools are much better”. There is no one size fits all. Why do you think people keep thinkering with their Windows boxes?

My point: when users ask a question on solving a problem with a specific applications or function, they have the right to get an answer that is more helpful than the “but I use…” nonsense. Most of the times it is a matter of taste anyway.

Tags: Linux


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2 thoughts on “"But I use…."

  1. Martin on said:

    Sp: ‘thinkering on their Windows’ tinkering

    Great post.

  2. Hear, hear

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