joepie91's Ramblings

home RSS

Why people think Windows 'works fine'.

28 Mar 2013

I frequently have discussions with people about Windows. Sometimes including the topic of Linux, sometimes not. Two questionable claims in particular are made by almost every Windows user that I talk to: “but Windows works fine for me”, and “Linux just costs a lot more time to keep running, Windows works out of the box”. I hope to explain in this article why these claims are in fact often not true, and why people still make them - and genuinely believe that they are true.

First, let’s talk about the claim that “Windows works fine”. By far the most commonly heard argument, it’s used particularly often by users that are not very tech-savvy. These users claim that they ‘never’ have issues with Windows, and that there’s no need to change to a different operating system. Yet, when watching these users use their computers for a few hours, you will see that these same people that just told you “Windows never causes issues”, frequently get frustrated because their applications slow down, crash, or otherwise stop working.

So, why do people claim that Windows works fine, when they are clearly having issues with it? The answer is not, as you would expect, that the frustrations they are experiencing ‘aren’t bad enough’. The answer lies in how people cope with constant frustration.

Many of these users are locked into using Windows (or believe that they are), because they use some kind of software that only runs on Windows, their employer mandates it, or they simply feel uncomfortable with an environment they aren’t used to. At the same time, these frequent frustrations make it hard for someone to focus on doing their thing, whether it’s work or entertainment. To cope with this tricky situation, their brain will have to figure out some way to make the frustration not interrupt the ‘workflow’.

Because it believes there is no alternative option, it chooses to do this by convincing itself that ‘it works fine, and there are no problems’. Because the distraction of these constant frustrations can be alleviated by this belief, the user can focus on what they are doing, and basically ignore the issues they run across - even if they do, in fact, still interrupt the workflow. The effect is not unlike learned helplessness.

The problem? This belief remains even when that user is not using their computer! The result is that the user is absolutely convinced that Windows ‘works fine’, despite causing constant interruptions and frustration.

The idea that Linux somehow requires more time to keep running has two reasons: the misconception that is similar to the issue described above, and a failure to understand that various Linux distributions have various characteristics and work differently. Usually, the people come up with this argument have used one or maybe two Linux distributions that took time and effort to get running, and then conclude that this must be a characteristic inherent to Linux - when, in fact, it has to do with those specific distributions. 

Personally, I very strongly dislike compiling or having to solve problems with the machine I work on, which is why I use openSUSE. It has a very extensive package repository, and unless you’re trying to do absolutely crazy things, everything just works out of the box.

As a result, I practically never have to compile anything, despite trying new things all the time, and I don’t have to spend time worrying about anything that keeps me from getting work done. In the time I used various versions of Windows - from Windows 95 all the way to Windows 7 - the problems with Windows that I ran across consumed much more of my time than openSUSE has ever done.

Finally... don’t believe that you have simply learned to ignore issues with Windows over time? It’s very simple to prove - simply keep a tally on a piece of paper of every time you get frustrated by your computer, and every time you have to spend time on solving a problem. Do this for two weeks, and you’ll see what problems Windows really has.