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[humorix] Evolution Of A Linux User
Evolution Of A Linux User
November 28, 1999
During the past year, the scientists in Humorix's Vast
Research Lab Of Doom have studied the behavior and attitude
of the typical Windows and Linux user. They have found that
the average Linux user goes through ten stages of
development from a "Microserf" to an "Enlightened Linux
User". An eleventh stage, "Getting A Life", has also been
observed, but only on extremely rare occasions.
The 11 stages of evolution are summarized below. Note,
however, that this life cycle is not universal. Many
pundits, Microsoft stock holders, and PHBs never advance
beyond Stage 0 ("Microserf"). Moreover, many extreme
Slashdot addicts are stuck between Stages 6 and 7 ("Linux
Zealot") and never evolve to Stage 9 ("Enlightened Linux
User"). And, unfortunately, far too many people are unable
to leave Stage 8 ("Back to Reality") and achieve Geek
Self-Actualization due to problems outside of their
STAGE 0. MICROSERF
You are the number one member of the Bill Gates fan club.
Your life revolves around x86 computers running the latest
version of Microsoft solutions: Windows, Office, Internet
Explorer, Visual Basic, and even Bob. You have nothing but
hate for those eccentric Mac weenies with their
click-n-drool interfaces and those stone-age Unix oldtimers
with their archaic command lines.
You frequently send angry letters to your elected
representative about Microsoft's "freedom to innovative".
You think lawyers are evil (unless they are defending
innovative companies like Microsoft). You own an
autographed copy of a book that was ghostwritten by Bill
Gates. Your blood boils when somebody forwards you a
so-called Microsoft "joke" by email.
In short, you are a Microserf.
STAGE 1. FEAR, UNCERTAINTY, DOUBT... ABOUT MICROSOFT
Your world-view begins to sour as you encounter a growing
number of annoyances with Microsoft products. The number
of Blue Screens increases, however you ascribe the problem
(at first) to conflicts with poorly written drivers that
came with your peripherals. Icons keep jumping around the
desktop unpredicatably. You spend 30 minutes one day idly
searching for an obscure configuration option in the
Slowly but surely, you begin to have doubts about the
quality of Microsoft software. Then, the Microsoft
Network, to which you have dutifully subscribed since 1995,
begins to double bill your credit card. You attempt to
rectify the problem, but are stymied by the burgeoning
bureaucracy of Microsoft's Customer Support Department.
Fear sets in... will you get your money back?
Meanwhile, something called "Linux" appears on the fringe
of your radar. You immediately dismiss the idea of a
viable and quality Microsoft alternative (Linux is
Unix-based and therefore must suck, you conclude).
Nevertheless, you wish something could be done for some of
the annoyances in Windows. But you do nothing about it.
STAGE 2. FEAR, UNCERTAINTY, DOUBT... ABOUT LINUX
You keep hearing about this Linux thing, and Open Source,
and Apache, and FreeBSD as well. One of your friends
installs Linux and says, "It's cool, dude!" You discover
that the selection of Windows books at your local bookstore
has remained constant while the Linux and Unix books are
multiplying like rabbits. You argue, "Well, this just means
Linux sucks... if there was such a large demand for it,
there wouldn't be many books on shelves."
Nevertheless, as time wears on and Windows becomes more
fragile, the temptation to give Linux a try becomes more
and more irresistable. While at your local
SuperMegaOfficeSupplyStore, you pick up a boxed version of
Red Hat on impulse.
With much hubris, you completely ignore the documentation
and attempt to install the OS by the seat of your pants.
The installation is a failure; Linux simply cannot work
with the WinModem, WinSoundCard, WinIDEController,
WinPrinter, WinMonitor, and WinDRAM that came with your
"Windows 98 Ready" machine from CompUSSR. You don't
realize this however, since you didn't read the FAQs and
HOWTOs. You immediately blame the problems on Linux and
give up. You ditch your Red Hat copy by selling it on
After the installation fiasco, you leave fearful,
uncertain, and doubtful about this "alternative" operating
system. Windows may have its problems, but Microsoft will
fix them in the next upgrade, you reckon.
STAGE 3. BORN-AGAIN MICROSERF
"Linux sucks" is your new attitude towards life. Windows,
all things considered, ain't so bad. You resolve to become
a better Microsoft customer by participating in the
Microsoft Developer Network and the Site Builder Network.
You buy a bunch of "study guides" to pass the MCSE
You launch a Windows advocacy site on some dinky free
webpage provider, utilizing the latest innovations in
VBScript, ActiveX, and other IE-specific features. Instead
of lurking, you now actively participate in Linux and
Macintosh bashing on various Usenet groups. Upon
discovering Slashdot for the first time, you assume the
role of the Bastard Anonymous Coward From Hell by posting
countless flamebait posts about how cool Microsoft is and
how much "Linsux" (as you call it) is a crappy OS.
You proudly wear an "All Hail Chairman Bill" T-shirt and
display numerous pro-Microsoft bumper stickers ("Honk if
you hate anti-trust laws") on your car. You never leave
home without your Windows CE-based palmtop computer. You
make a pilgrimage to Redmond to marvel at the glory that is
the Microsoft Campus.
STAGE 4. DISGRUNTLED USER
Your Microserf ways come to an abrupt end when everything
goes wrong. You lose a vital work-related document to a
Windows crash. You lose your job as an indirect result.
You find that applying for jobs is difficult... everyone
wants your resume in the latest version of Word, but you
have an older version that has an incompatible file format.
You waste more and more time tinkering with Windows and
other Microsoft programs to keep them in working order.
You encounter serious problems with Windows, but your calls
to technical support only yield the dreaded response,
"re-install the OS".
After much grief you finally land another job at a software
company, only to find out a month later that Microsoft has
announced a competing product to be "integrated" with the
next version of Windows. You soon lose your job.
You can't take it much longer. You are now an official
Disgruntled User, and are ready for a way to escape from
the depths of Microsoft Hell. You are ready for anything
at all... even a primitive, archaic, hard-to-install,
grief-laden alternative like Linux.
STAGE 5. A RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE
You resolve to install Linux now, for real. Your friends
say "It's about time", and tell you to RTFM this time.
After losing yourself in the documentation for several
days, you figure out why your previous encounter with Linux
was a disaster: you need real hardware, not WinCrap.
With a new computer at your desk, and a Red Hat CD-ROM in
hand, you embark on a voyage of discovery to the land of
Linux. Your life is changed forever; words cannot describe
the rush you feel when you first log in as "root" after the
successful installation. You stare blankly at the screen
in awe; you are unable to utter a word, unable to think of
anything else except "HOLY SHIT THIS IS SO DAMN COOL!!!!"
You spend hours, and then days, exploring the depths of the
Linux system: a filesystem layout that actually makes sense
(no "My Documents" crap), a command line so powerful it
makes MS-DOS look like the Stone Age technology that it
is... and best of all, no Blue Screen!
"Why have I wasted my life with Microsoft? I'm never going
back!" you exclaim wildly. You have thrown off the yoke of
STAGE 6. LINUX CONVERT
You still keep a copy of Windows around, but you find
yourself booting into Linux more and more. The meager
amount of diskspace you set aside for your first Linux
install dwindles; you decide to buy a second hard drive
exclusively for Linux.
You re-install everything, including the kitchen sink
(Emacs). Once you finally get PPP working (it was a nasty
challenge, but you're so enamored with Linux that you
hardly notice), you go on a Freshmeat Binge: downloading
and installing every piece of Free Software you come
STAGE 7. LINUX ZEALOT
Your enthusiasm for Linux is unbounded. You do anything
and everything to advocate Linux and spite your old master,
Microsoft. Usenet, Slashdot, and LinuxToday are your
hangouts. You have a strong opinion about the GNU GPL and
you're not afraid to share it.
Linux World Domination is your new life's ambition; you put
career, wealth, and dating on the back burner. You
participate in flamefests against those braindead Windows
lusers (stuck in Stage 3) that inhabit Usenet and ZDNet.
You purchase all kinds of tacky made-in-Taiwan Linux
merchandise (T-shirt, mouse pads, stuffed penguins, etc.)
to show your support.
You rearrange books in a bookstore so that the Linux tomes
are displayed more prominently. You get in trouble with
your boss because you spend all your time surfing Slashdot
at work. You petition your local government to migrate
their computer systems to free software. You move to
another residence just so you can say you live on Apache
Instead of a novel, you read the Linux kernel source for
pleasure. You establish your own regional Linux User
Group in the hope that you can invite a guest speaker in
the future and get their autograph. You learn Perl with
the goal of automating common tasks, but you spend more
time tinkering with "just one more perl script" than
actually getting stuff done.
STAGE 8. BACK TO REALITY
Your zealotry subsides as you are forced to re-enter the
Real World. Your boss demands that you submit documents in
the latest Word format, nothing else will do. Some of your
favorite websites become harder to use because they keep
incorporating features enhanced for Windows and IE. The
new peripherals you bought from BigEvilProprietaryCo don't
work with Linux and probably never will.
Your ISP is acquired by another company, a very
Microsoft-friendly company, to be exact. They "upgrade"
the system; however, the only change you can notice is that
Linux and PPP no longer work without extensive hacking.
Then, citing "customer-driven demand", your ISP makes more
"enhancements", and Linux no longer works at all. Calling
their tech support is an exercise in futility, they simply
say, "Linux? What is that? Whatever it is we don't
support it, and never will. Go use Windows like everybody
Reality sets in: you are forced to use Windows more and
more. Your blood pressure rises, you have more headaches,
you waste hours and hours due to Windows "issues", but you
have no choice.
STAGE 9. ENLIGHTENED LINUX USER
Then you have an inspiration: you do have a choice, you can
hack your own drivers for your hardware, you can find
another ISP, you can get another job. Everything comes
into focus, you have become a Linux Guru.
You kludge together drivers for your "Windows-compatible"
hardware. You finally (after much searching) locate a
local ISP that's actually run by competent geeks, not MCSEs
and PHBs. You find a new, better job at a Linux-friendly
In your spare time, you work on various Open Source
projects. You build up a reputation and receive "The
Letter" to participate in the IPO of a Linux business. You
join the bandwagon and create your own Linux portal
You're at the pinnacle of evolution for a Linux user. With
much joy, you become 100% Microsoft free. You ditch your
Windows partition and burn all of the Windows disks and
manuals that you own.
STAGE 10. GET A LIFE
You become bored with Linux, and computers in general.
You're still a hardcore geek, of course, but you wonder if
there isn't something better you could be doing. You've
been told to "get a life" countless times during your
existence on Earth, but now you wonder if maybe you should
have heeded that advice.
Unexpectedly, a media conglomerate (i.e. Andover,
Ziff-Davis, Internet.com, etc.) offers to buy your Linux
portal website and domain name for an obscene price that
contains a significant number of digits. Without
hesistation you accept; this windfall, combined with your
earnings from Linux stocks, is enough to retire on.
And that's exactly what you do. You move off to a small
tropical island, and get a life.
James S. Baughn
Humorix: Linux and Open Source(nontm) on a lighter note
Web site: http://www.i-want-a-website.com/about-linux/