domingo, 9 de octubre de 2011

Different computer users, one common Linux complaint

There are several types of users in the world of computers. Most of them are simple, non-technical users; they are the kind of people who learned to use a computer without any formal training or they took some application courses (falsely called "computer courses"), so their understanding of a computer is simply too basic. These are naive users who tend to perceive the system as a magic box--sometimes the contemporary equivalent of Pandora's Box and, because of that, their learning is often thwarted by fear or anxiety ("I clicked here and the computer showed me a message box, so I panicked and turned if off").

Some other people belong to the opposite category: the power users. Their computer expertise makes them gurus and, therefore, the systems hold no secrets for them. My impression of these kind of people is that they speak binary code and can diagnose a computer problem rather effectively because they have more than one idea of what might have gone wrong.

There is a third group that frequently overlaps the two categories above. These people have developed skills to use several programs in a level that most computer users cannot, yet they lack the technical knowledge of power users. As a result of their expertise, they become sort of picky with their applications and the way in which their computer behaves. I call them gourmet users. This post here by Gene (ERACC) describes very well the difference between a power user and a gourmet user, whom he calls "niche user".

When the option to switch to Linux is presented, the nay-sayers of each group generally round up their reasons to something like this:

1. Simple users: (Without even trying it) "It's too difficult! It took me a lot of effort to learn to work with the computer and now I have to start it all over again?"

2. Gourmet users: "But if you cannot run ______________ (insert name of their favorite application), this is not good".

3. Power users: "Mmm. The thing is that I prefer to work with _______"(insert name of MS programming tool).

The basic issue underlying those claims is recalcitrance. Yes, those individuals are not willing to lean to work in a different way. Regardless of the arguments, unwillingness to learn is normally the bottom line, which is sad, because very rarely is it that learning something new hurts you.

I guess I fall in the gourmet user category. I decided not to jump into the MS Office 2007 wagon because I could use the previous version quite efficiently. Well, since the version I bought did not include PowerPoint, I had to learn how to use electronic presentation software in StarOffice. Additionally, I didn't like the Ribbon interface...and they killed "Linxs". To modify pictures, I used Satori (never liked Photoshop), not MS Paint. And I didn't use MS Movie Maker to produce videos, but VirtualDub. I required my OS to be able to handle Japanese input. Finally, I also wanted my OS to handle text-to-speech synthesis, to fire all sorts of alarms (music, alerts, actions) and to keep me protected from malware. I managed to learn how to do all that in Windows (with the obvious exception of the latter, which is virtually impossible). To do everything I required, the computer depended on many, many third-party programs to add functionality to the MS OS.

I never shy away from learning. That's the reason why migrating to Linux was not so difficult for me...not to mention that I found a friendlier environment in which all tasks I require from the OS can be performed more easily than in the MS operating system.

4 comentarios:

  1. haha nice one! I guess I'm a gourmand as well.. ehh meant gourmet user xD

    Well truth be told, at home since I use one pc for MS windows and another for linux I have no problem turning the one I need on.

    The only moment I have to choose is when I'm outside with my netbook and have to choose which to boot... But I've grown used to it. Sometimes I still get frustrated but I can say I'm not that much of a baby anymore bouncing from one place to another.

  2. Very nice one, indeed! Now, what do you call a user who, because he/she is able to master a few applications, believes he/she is a power user but lacks the technical ability to understand the system a whole? :P These are probably the most reluctant to learn because they are full experts in their own eyes!

  3. @ Megatotoro,

    I call those SCUMs: self-conceited unrealistic minds, hahaha.

    @ Fenrir,
    I like your "gourmand" category! :D

  4. I'm a little tired (drunk) right now. It's sunday night for me (after several beers). I didn't read carefuly your poste (lazy) but the overall I (think) understand... The best computer/OS I know is my car's ignitions or injection system. I don't even know if it is Unix, Novel, Bosch or ling-ling. But it is electronics, micro processor driven, and works fine: it boot fast in the morning and brings me back home every day.
    P.S. I like your writing style and expected a few words about Jobs. My very first computer was an Apple ][.