This hack on open source from John Dvorak is just that: a hack. One intended to get page views. By linking to it I assist him in his quest, I suppose, but I do think his post serves as a reminder that open source needs to continue to improve its ease of use.
But see, there I go: like Dvorak's system administrator (who actually wrote the piece below), I'm treating all open-source software under a blanket description and all Windows software under its own blanket description. The truth is far more complicated: some open-source software stinks, and some open-source software is manna from heaven. (Handbrake is so easy to use that even Dvorak's system administrator could use it.)
Still, there's some truth to what he says as it relates to community-developed software:
My theory is that when people use VI it lowers their standards as to what good software should look like and causes their minds to physically alter in a way that leads to VI syndrome leading to delusions that their little piece of [expletive] software is the greatest program in the world and that they are just so superior to Microsoft that it?s just a matter of days before Microsoft collapses and everyone accepts Linux as God.
But what the open source world doesn?t get is that Windows programs actually WORK! If you want to install a windows application you download it, click NEXT, AGREE, NEXT, NEXT, NEXT, FINISH and the program is running. In the Linux world this almost never happens and when it does you?re almost sure that something has to be wrong. In Linux you have to edit cryptic config files with poor documentation. Then you try to run the application, get an error, Google the error, and go back and edit again. After many hours you might have it working or you might have to give up.
Maybe. I actually have found plenty of open-source software that is much easier to use than Windows-based software, and vice versa. The blanket distinctions - all Windows software is easy and all open-source software is hard - is goofy and pointless. Regardless, even where it's true sometimes the added power of open source makes it worth the added complexity.
But not always, or even usually. Which is why let's take a cue from Dvorak's system administrator's comments, get a little better, and move on.