Mac vs. Linux support for Windows users

Mac and Linux supporters need to show some empathy when working with potential Windows converts.

Over the weekend I struggled to get Flash working on my Ubuntu 9.04 Netbook Remix build. I turned to Twitter and Google for support, and was dismayed by the response.

Some, like Canonical's Jono Bacon, were very helpful. The rest offered the somewhat standard Linux supporter's line:

"What are you talking about? Linux is as easy as Windows."

After trying to get Flash installed for hours - using Firefox's extensions directory, the command line, and everything else I could find - this wasn't super helpful.

Not that I'm much more helpful when others ask me for assistance. I'm a Mac user, and my typical response tends to be,

"What are you talking about? Mac OS X is even easier than Windows!"

In either case, telling the drowning woman that it's really easy to swim ("Just type "apt-get swimming lessons") or, worse, yelling at her for incompetence ("I can't believe you're telling me that you don't know what to do with a .dmg file! It's soooo much easier than Windows!"), really doesn't help to win people over to Linux or the Mac. Learning a new operating system is like learning a new language: talking louder doesn't improve communication.

Here's a hint for the Mac and Linux faithful: you won't convert Windows users by talking down to them. Focus on the positive aspects of your own operating environments and then demonstrate empathy and patience while showing newbies how to get around on Linux or Mac OS X.

Using such means they, too, will come to have the same superiority complex that we Mac and Linux users have.

Follow me on Twitter @mjasay.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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