Open Letter to Linux Geeks

Thursday, September 10, 2009
Posted in category Just Stuff

Dear Linux Geeks:

You drive me crazy.

Though I am being facetious, I am also being practical. Please don’t write me and tell me how great Linux is, why I should run it, and why it is libertarian, just because I published this article on PC vs Mac. Fact is, every single time I have ever mentioned something about Mac or PCs or NetBooks, in a blog post or article, because I thought it was an interesting point, Linux Heads jump right on the ‘convert-her’ bandwagon, and so I get tons of email from Linux enthusiasts/hobbyists telling me that Linux is my only means to technology heaven.

Why is it that Linux geeks don’t get it? Do you guys not read the part about service – my needs - in my article? I am really, really trying to appreciate your thoughts (and I do), however, you have no idea how many Linux people (dozens and dozens) write me and tell me to “run Linux.” These people always seem to ignore the opportunity costs – after all, resources, such as time, are limited.

I can appreciate that Linux is your hobby, and I am sure it’s downright fantastic. I have a full-time job and a business. Between my job, my business, all my hobbies/passions, and family stuff, my days are filled to the brim. I don’t want to pour myself into another hobby that I don’t have time for, and I don’t want to be a Linux expert. There is a major opportunity cost to becoming a Linux geek/expert, and that is, I have to stop doing other things I have chosen to take up, or I have to learn to get by with no sleep each day (a tad difficult). Is this not obvious?

Though I am a fairly advanced computer user compared to most people, I don’t want a souped up Mac with wheelie bars and aluminum heads, and I don’t want to spend hours “playing” with it. I don’t want to rebuild my PC (or learn to do it) to accommodate advanced computer geekery. I want to be able to run the software/programs/add-ons that are suitable for my purposes and make my life/business/hobbies more accommodating and enjoyable. And only I have the inside scoop on my needs.

Some day, if I should win a lottery or sell a profitable start-up (that I don’t even yet have) for millions of dollars, and no longer have to work for a living, perhaps then I could take up the Linux/computer geek hobby and join you all in Anarcho-LinuxLand. I would probably love it. But until then, I am forced to obtain the services of others to do some of my “dirty work.” Every once in a while it is entirely necessary to invoke the division of labor concept and let someone else provide service for a product that I don’t have time to invent, build, rebuild, and/or maintain. Or perhaps someday I can afford to hire a ‘Linux Butler’ to build, tinker with, and maintain my household full of Linux machines?

Of course, you know I am jesting ’bout all this, because I happen to know that Linux folks tend to be very resourceful, independent people who are the opposite of the helpless masses. But we resourceful folks all have our specialties that we choose to focus on, which is why I don’t tell people to learn to do their own S-Corp taxes, or take up, say, cycling, and put in a zillion miles per week, like I do. But, that said, don’t tell me to run Linux when I make it clear that I’m not in a position to be a full-time geek, that is, unless you can move into my home and become the household Linux Butler at very cheap rates that hover close to zero.

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34 Responses to Open Letter to Linux Geeks

  1. Dean says:

    September 10th, 2009 at 9:15 am

    Now that you have a Mac, you don’t need really Linux. Most everything that would run on Linux can be installed on a Mac (of course, you’d then need a Mac butler :)

  2. da01 says:

    September 10th, 2009 at 10:35 am

    I’m with you. I would never recommend any Linux alternative to friends and family, even though I use Ubuntu. (Which many Linux advocates look down upon.) I would be using a Hackintosh myself if I could afford it.

    If you decide to take a more “proactive” approach in limiting your pro-Linux email, try finding out what text editor each of your Linux advocates use. Then, forward all Vim editor users to Emacs users, then all Emacs users to Vim users. Let them fight amongst themselves in another never-ending war.

  3. Capitalist says:

    September 10th, 2009 at 11:26 am


    I’m someone who just use Linux as a tool, just because it works for me. But I never used to recommend for anybody, just for free. Only if somebody really searches for a solution and is willing to pay for my advises.
    I know that it could happen to be treated as a “Butler, for very cheap rates that hover close to zero”.
    We are capitalists and we want cheap labor costs, which tend to rates close to zero and if it is possible with working hours close to 24/7.

    So a good advice for all Linux Geeks, also from me, is that take care of your knowledge and don’t sell for free!

  4. Foote says:

    September 10th, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    The geek in me wants to give you a rant on why you should use Linux.
    It’s my opinion that MAC OSX’s modified Unix kernel is proof that Linux is ready for the end user. The problem is once you make it proprietary it’s no longer linux. (Note: If you’re a capitalist this isn’t a bad thing. It’s just not in the spirit of Linux)

    The FOSS advocate in me wants to rage and rant that anything is better than succumbing to the wiles of the copyright cops dynamic duo, Bill and Steve, and the army of lawyers they keep on taught leashes.

    The MS guy rattling round in there says hey at least you can use your own hardware without angering the copyright cops. The apple guy stays quiet, because he knows as long as he stays quietly just below the mainstream that he’s safe from the much maligned devilish denizens of the deep web who’d seek to exploit him to no end.

    And yet… there is one last voice. It seems he’s a communist because he’s willing to share all that he has for nothing in return. He only desires to be acknowledged as a value to society. He doesn’t care about the petty squabbling of the others. He doesn’t see Linux or Windows or OSX. He see’s knowledge and the power that it creates. He hopes that one day everyone will learn that Power like Knowledge is never meant to be kept to oneself.

    He’s also looking for work as a butler. ;)

  5. KN@PPSTER says:

    September 10th, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    Karen de Coster and Linux…

    Please note up front that I didn’t name this article “Karen de Coster versus Linux. There’s a reason for that….

  6. cousin lucky says:

    September 10th, 2009 at 7:17 pm

    Dear Ms De Coster I would just love to be a Linux Geek but I am 65 and I know very little about computers and very little about Linux. What I do know is that All Microsoft operating systems are security nightmares and I spent a fortune trying to plug up all of the holes in their operating systems. I have relatives who use Macs and their computers seem to need a lot of repairing.

    I was forced into using Linux to be able to safely use the Internet. I have found the ” Open – Source ” mentality to be quite ” Libertarian “. No one has to be a ” geek ” to use Linux; it helps, but it is not a requirement at all.

  7. Josh says:

    September 10th, 2009 at 8:54 pm

    From your article, I get the impression that you haven’t actually tried Linux. I got this impression because you only mentioned vague reasons (you aren’t a hobbyist, you have work to do, etc) instead of any issues you had. If so, your opinion is based purely on prejudice.

    Most importantly, your tone is condescending to those of us who just get things done using Linux. I have a wife and a child. I have better things to do than to constantly fix a computer system that I overpaid for. And THAT is why I use Linux.

  8. JJ says:

    September 10th, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    While I don’t run Linux, I would assume since you call it a “hobby”, you’ll also concide that OS X and Windows are “hobbies” as well.

    Considering I’ve been using FreeBSD for over a decade, in Windows only companies, as well as mixed OS X/MS enviroments and it’s my only desktop/laptop operating system, I wouldn’t dare call it a hobby, it’s my life blood, my work depends on being able to do everything that needs to be done.

  9. clark says:

    September 10th, 2009 at 10:52 pm

    This was the Hilarious! This was The funniest thing I’ve ever read of yours, and so very true. I’ve torn apart many PC’s and often wanted to learn Linux, the price was always perfect and I disliked Windows often. The trend towards endlessly updating the OS and various programs – maybe at a cost – plus perhaps a charge for their .Net deal after enticing many users to use it, I thought would spell the end of MS. I thought businesses and everyone else would switch. If only it weren’t for the high opportunity cost. Between you and Lew Rockwell’s, “…let us prey” you both got us busting up lol’ing. Thanks.

  10. Craig says:

    September 11th, 2009 at 12:56 am

    Talking about Windows Vs Mac Vs Linux is basically a religious war. Similar to a lutheran trying to convery a catholic and vice versa.

  11. Lakshmipathi.G says:

    September 11th, 2009 at 1:00 am

    “Global Survey Shows Linux Desktop Easier to Deploy Than Expected”
    Please check out what IBM words on Linux here

  12. Karen De Coster says:

    September 11th, 2009 at 4:31 am

    What does it take to get you guys to stop bugging me with Linux shit? “Global Survey Shows Linux Desktop Easier to Deploy Than Expected.” Well gee, that just eliminates the learning curve, maintenance issues, software compatibility problems, and my time spent learning and running a 4th OS in the house, doesn’t it? I DON’T WANT LINUX. Is that difficult to understand?

  13. Karen De Coster says:

    September 11th, 2009 at 4:32 am

    Craig, it is a religion to these people. In fact, I NEVER EEVER brought up Linux, not once, only Mac and Windows, for years, and yet still got badgered by these people because I DIDN’T mention Linux. God forbid! Thus my “open letter,” the 1st time I ever brought it up.

  14. Karen De Coster says:

    September 11th, 2009 at 4:35 am

    Linux is a hobby to people. They write me, for years, though I never mentioned Linux, and tell me all the neat things I can do with Linux, all the stuff I can build. Gee, really? No, Mac and Windows are not hobbies. I don’t play with them – did you read what I said? They are TOOLS.

  15. Karen De Coster says:

    September 11th, 2009 at 4:40 am

    No Josh — you people have been condescending to me for years, every single time I mentioned Mac or Windows, and didn’t get on me knees and bless the great God of Linux in the same breath. SOME OF US just want to get things done using our Mac and Windows, and we’d like you guys to leave us the hell alone. Prejudice? Are you smoking crack? I’m “prejudiced” against Linux because I choose to run Windows and Mac? I guess I’m prejudiced against gangsta rap because I choose to listen to bluegrass and classical. Try choice, dude. Personal choice. My choice. And you Linux people are manic, condescending, overbearing whackos.

  16. Karen De Coster says:

    September 11th, 2009 at 4:41 am

    Lucky, learning to use/maintain/work with anything new involves opportunity cost. I wish you guys would get that.

  17. Rob says:

    September 11th, 2009 at 9:52 am

    Karen, I know how you feel. I work in IT consulting and run into these Linux freaks once in a while. Not all but most of these people are fat slobs that don’t seem to know about general hygiene. Since about 99% of Linux people are male, they seem to have a hard time meeting women with similar interests. Their obsession with machines is what makes them strange, and like you said they don’t get that other people actually have lives and just want their computing tools to work so that they can get on with living a productive life. For me I just want to get my job done quickly, and Linux will not allow that since Windows and Mac are easier tools to use.

  18. cousin lucky says:

    September 11th, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    Kind folks have sent me disks with fedora, mint, suse, and mandriva linux distributions to try out but I do not have the time to deal with that right now. I use Ubuntu 8.04 which was sent to me free by their company. Some linux distributions do require a lot of computer knowledge but Ubuntu, like windows, can be used by someone that has never used a computer before. I regret any discomfort that I have caused you, Ms De Coster, but the open-source and Libertarian communities, to me, are of the very same mentality.

  19. Charles Cheney says:

    September 11th, 2009 at 9:46 pm

    Hi Karen,

    I’m not a Linux Geek™, so I’m not sure I’m entitled to respond; but this is less a response and more a saying “I think this is goodbye”.

    I really, truly couldn’t care less what OS you want to use. You don’t want Linux — I get that. You’re tired of the True Believers trying to convert you — I get that, too. I’m sort of an OS pantheist: They all shine in their own way, and they all suck in their own way. Go with what makes you happy.

    You’re of legal age and this is still America, sort of, so you’re free to make your own decisions and spend your own money. You chose to spend your money to buy a Mac and run OS X. I’m fine with that … and if I weren’t, well, it would just have to suck to be me, wouldn’t it, because it’s really none of my business.

    Have I mentioned that I get that you have a right to your opinion? Have I mentioned that I get that you don’t want Linux, and are happy with OS X? IMO, you should have left it at that, rather than making this purely voluntary, strictly optional attempt to explain/justify your choice with what at certainly appears to be a straw man or twenty, with a side order of ad hominem, and, perhaps, a palmed ace. I could put up a wall of text, if you’d like, but it doesn’t appear that you’re interested in discussing it. It’s my loss, I’m sure.

    But I will say that I had hoped for better from you: I’ve been coming here for /informed/ opinions, you see.

    That’s only my opinion, of course. If you’d like to discuss it, you’re free to use the email address supplied — it’s free, genuine, and no proselytizer will return your call. [wry grin] If not, goodbye and be well. I’m sure you’ll survive without me.

  20. Karen De Coster says:

    September 12th, 2009 at 5:44 am

    “Hoped for better?” Like …? Like, uh, should I have said, “Hey guys, feel free to keep harassing me, sending me angry emails, each time I mention Mac or Windows without mentioning Linux…”

    Charles, you guys are manic. This comment ….. well, no, I don’t care to discuss it. I don’t give a shit. Let’s see: “Oh, I’m a Linux Head who didn’t like your comments (even though you felt compelled to compliment us in your open letter), and I’m pissed, I’m emotional, and so goodbye. I liked your work but now I am boycotting it because you told Linux people to stop harassing you.” [hear sound of feet stomping in the distance.] Please go, and have a great weekend. Unlike you guys, I haven’t demanded that you worship my God, undertake my hobbies, and live my life.

    Charles, I’m so sorry I felt it necessary to tell people TO STOP HARASSING ME. What nerve! The “open letter” was posted, because, for years, you guys have badgered and bothered and harassed me, without my even mentioning the goddamn word LINUX. I should have “left it at that?” After hundreds and hundreds of emails, for years, telling me I ain’t libertarian if I don’t run Linux? Every one of you should be embarrassed. You people can kneel at the gold god of Linux, and worship your little world of “anarcho” technology all you want, but leave me alone. The majority of you Linux fiddlers (who write me) are whackjobs. Your emails are almost unlike anything I ever receive – and that includes from the lunatic fringe groups like plastic patriots, feminists, and EnviroCommunists. Your emails are always hyper-emotional, and I get zillions of questions from you guys: “Why don’t you…..?” “How can you possibly……?” “What do you mean you like Windows…..?!?!?!!!” I’ve been called a “cunt” from a Linux head, who wouldn’t stop harassing me, because I wrote about the good Bill Gates has done.

    p.s. — to readers of this: I am, along with other libertarians, constantly accused of being a “statist” because I use/like Windows or Mac. I am not libertarian because I haven’t joined the Linux religion. Yeah, you read that right.

  21. Rob says:

    September 12th, 2009 at 9:38 am

    Karen, these Linux people that harass you obviously have no life and like many live with with their Mother. They are just pissed that they have wasted their life on something that has consumed so much of their time that they have turned into fat, ugly geeks, and have never kissed a girl. Grown men getting emotional about electronics is truly pathetic. Hey Linux people. Go outside and take a walk, ride a bike, meet a girl, make friends, do something other than wasting your lives.

  22. Brad R says:

    September 12th, 2009 at 11:04 am

    Karen, let me first apologize for the behavior of my fellow Linux enthusiasts. Such behavior is both rude and counterproductive, but there is a certain subset of Linux users — as there is a certain subset of libertarians — who are excessively zealous and downright offensive in their attempts to “convert the unwashed” (in their opinion, not mine).

    Let me modestly suggest, however, that you are the victim of a self-selecting sample. The vast majority of Linux users of my acquaintance are *not* crazed proselytes; they quietly use Linux becuase it works for them, and they try to be helpful to new users without being obnoxious. This is a form of the “seen and unseen” problem: you are exposed to the zealots, but the civil Linux users don’t bother to send a comment.

    I would not have commented myself on your Mac vs. PC post, other than to write and ask if I could reprint it. My first thought on reading about your new computer was “congratulations!” Though I am not fond of Apple’s corporate policies, I recognize that the Mac is an excellent computer. I have friends who are Mac users for various reasons, and I myself recommended that my mother buy a Mac (though she ultimately chose not to). I thought your post was a powerful and clear articulation of many good reasons to buy Mac (and I’d still like to repost it on my site).

    Indeed, I now would like your permission to repost this Open Letter, as well. A fair number of “Linux geeks” visit that site, and this is a perfect explanation of what’s wrong with the “sales pitch” that many of them choose to employ. It needs wider reading.

    Meanwhile, I hope your Open Letter brings you some relief from the radical fringe of the Linux community. Do enjoy your new computer; congratulations again on your choice.

  23. Martin OB says:

    September 12th, 2009 at 11:36 am

    Hello, Karen!
    I’ve read and very much agreed with many of your articles on libertarian issues, and I really like your writing style. I’m also a regular GNU/Linux user (but I never wrote to you).
    I’m very sad that you are being, or feeling, harassed by GNU/Linux enthusiasts who keep on trying to convince you to switch. That’s always a counter-productive attitude. Anyway, I don’t know the tone of the e-mails you get, but please consider the possibility they mean well, they just admire you so much they think you will switch as soon as you learn “the facts”. I don’t know where you stand on “intellectual property” issues, but I think many (most?) libertarians are against them. So, if you agree with that, using Free and Open Source software (like Firefox, OpenOffice and, of course, GNU/Linux) is indeed a good way to support libertarian goals. Then again, it’s not the only way, and no one should be telling you how or to what extent you should support those goals. It’s as if they told you to use gold for everything and never support the Federal reserve by accepting a dollar bill, or to never call the cops or the firemen. The point is, if IP laws were abolished, you would be always running Free Software, whether you are a “geek” or not. In the meantime, you have every right to use dollar bills, call the cops and run proprietary software, all the while you express your opposition to them. It’s not contradictory. You have a life to live.

    Just to let you know that many of us principled, libertarian Free Software enthusiasts understand this point.

    That said, I believe that if some day you feel like trying out that Linux thing, chances are you’ll find it easier and much more fun than you think ;)

  24. Martin OB says:

    September 12th, 2009 at 11:56 am

    PS: I was talking about respectful, reasonable and civil insistence when I said they might “mean well”. Now I see that many have been downright insulting, which is inexcusable and I don’t think they are representative of average Free Software geeks (at least I hope not). If most of them were as you described, then I guess it’s just a noisy minority, and most geeks simply abstained or didn’t feel inclined at all to write to you on that subject.

  25. Ari Block says:

    September 12th, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    cool blog

  26. Capitalist says:

    September 15th, 2009 at 6:47 am

    I know a lady over 50, working successfully in developmental psychology. One day she get stuck on her computer and had to reinstall Windows.
    Something went wrong again and again. Since she had to finish something in the same day, she decided to do a trial with Linux. I know that she never used linux in her life. She called me if I can help. I promised that after a couple of hours I’ll bring with me an install media and do the things. Before I could start, she called me back that she managed to install. Moreover, she found the solution to install Corel Draw with emulator which is not so easy. By the way, she finished her task.

    I was so curious how she get her mind to do that trial by own and how fast she could manage everything. She told me:
    “You know, I work in developmental psychology and I know how people are thinking when they are creators and I found Linux as a tool build exactly in the way as the mind should work unhampered by external interferences. That’s why I found it intuitive to manage everything without too much learning.”

  27. Craig says:

    September 16th, 2009 at 12:00 am

    “I am, along with other libertarians, constantly accused of being a “statist” because I use/like Windows or Mac. I am not libertarian because I haven’t joined the Linux religion. Yeah, you read that right”. I thought being a libertain was about the ability to make free choices, and the liberty to choose? If anything, these linux nutjobs are a bit on the tyrannical side. I believe in free choice, but you must make the same exact free choice as me!!!!!!

  28. Rob says:

    September 16th, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    It is just a computer program people! Who cares what people use. Just focus on yourself.

  29. PhysicistDave says:

    September 17th, 2009 at 12:33 pm


    I think I can honestly claim to be a geek: I hold some patents on computer technology (hard disk controllers), for example. (Parenthetically, having actually dealt with the patent office has helped convince me that Kinsella is right about the absurdity of “intellectual property.”)

    I have left an empty partition on my hard drive to install Linux.


    It ranks about thirty-fifth on my list of “amusing hobbies to take up when I have some spare time.”

    But, for now, I’m busy homeschooling my kids, trying to keep up a bit on my old academic field (theoretical physics), and a few other things.

    The Linux geeks mean well. Think of them as sort of like young kids who just got an Etch-a-Sketch and want to show everyone their “beautiful” pictures.

    All the best,

    Dave Miller in Sacramento

  30. helios says:

    September 24th, 2009 at 11:41 pm

    Let me show you your “hobby”

    There are 976 disadvantaged kids in Austin today that have a computer that would normally ever have one. We run Linux on them because MS has refused our plea for assistance, as far to ignore us.

    We do fine without them. And if I may…We bathe, have happy marriages, have no neck beards and can actually hold a conversation about somthing other than Linux.

    What I find most amusing is that 12 year olds pick this system up in about 30 minutes, to include apt-get -y install foo.

    Anyone above having problems with it, I am sure on of our kids can stop by and give you a hand.

    Ken Starks
    The HeliOS Project
    Austin Texas

  31. Karen De Coster says:

    September 25th, 2009 at 8:58 am

    Ken, there are no OPPORTUNITY COSTS for some kid who gets a free Linux computer. There IS a major opportunity cost for me to SWITCH to Linux …… (which is something I don’t want to do anyway.) WHEN are you folks going to get it? You are comparing the time of a bunch of non-productive brats with my time? You can’t compare opportunity costs between individuals, for starters, because they are completely subjective and can be valued only by the actor faced with the choices. Second, ya think there’s a comparison between my time and life and the time/life of a disadvantaged child? Good for your program – hoorah. Great. This is where a free OS shines – what a great niche for Linux. But it has nothing to do with my life and my choices and my time and my needs. I don’t care what Microsoft isn’t willing to do. I can _afford_ Microsoft or Apple – I am not a disadvantaged child with nothing to do all day but play games at a computer and watch cartoons, and wait for someone to give me a free computer to do absolutely nothing on it.

  32. helios says:

    September 25th, 2009 at 11:28 am

    You are comparing the time of a bunch of non-productive brats

    I will make sure to pass your kind words onto as many as I can.


  33. Karen De Coster says:

    September 25th, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    Ken, with 100+ Linux people consistently after me to see/write about/glorify the benefits of Linux, specifically after I asked to NOT hear from them, I am done being nice with them and their uninvited and irrelevant comments. Your comment was irrelevant – no matter how nice, or worthy, your project is – because it completely ignored the very important thesis of my post. After 100 people doing the same, yeah, I’ve become pissed with it all.

  34. Tommy says:

    September 28th, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    Hello Karen. I’ve been running Linux for the last ten years, and have made a living off of Administering it. I appreciate and respect that you do not have enough time to learn another operating system. Linux is not the easiest thing to run simply because it’s different than what we grew up with. Also with Linux, it’s an ever changing environment. There are many tools to use in life, many skills to learn. I’m not telling you to “go install linux.” However I will tell you that it is one of the most powerful tools you can learn from a personal standpoint and a business relationship.

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