December 17, 2003

Biculture

In Biculturalism, Joel Spolsky has written an insightful little article on the difference between Unix and Windows programmers, and by extension the reason Unix is so clunky to use on the desktop.

What are the cultural differences between Unix and Windows programmers? There are many details and subtleties, but for the most part it comes down to one thing: Unix culture values code which is useful to other programmers, while Windows culture values code which is useful to non-programmers.

This is, of course, a major simplification, but really, that’s the big difference: are we programming for programmers or end users? Everything else is commentary…

The cultural schism is so sharp that Unix has never really made any inroads on the desktop. Aunt Marge can’t really use Unix, and repeated efforts to make a pretty front end for Unix that Aunt Marge can use have failed, entirely because these efforts were done by programmers who were steeped in the Unix culture…So here we are, 20 years after Unix developers started trying to paint a good user interface on their systems, and we’re still at the point where the CEO of the biggest Linux vendor is telling people that home users should just use Windows.

Filed under The Computer Vet Weblog

Comments (3)

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  1. Eric says:

    I don't believe the interface is the problem. If consumers had the choice of a preinstalled Linux OS at a discount equal to that of Microsoft's License then a few would start trying it and grow from there. Of course, the chicken-egg problem starts here. OEMs won't sell it till there's a base of consumers and consumers can't buy it unless the OEMs sell it.

    Posted December 17, 2003 @ 8:29 pm
  2. Kalrac says:

    They've tried. Isn't Wal-Mart still selling the Lindows PC? And aren't most of the people buying that wiping it clean, installing Windows on it, and using it as a cheap second computer?

    Posted December 18, 2003 @ 11:08 am
  3. Eric says:

    It is not that difficult to install Linux anymore. Using Mandrake, all of the office applications, browser, mail client, etc were installed completely in the GUI. Using Wine makes it possible to run that must-have Windows application.

    Posted December 18, 2003 @ 2:57 pm

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