Sunday, September 17, 2006

My Children, My OS. Their choices...

Bridget Kulakauskas offers a keen insight in to the adoption of technology across generational boundaries in her authoritative article Didn’t God say “...and the geeks shall inherit the earth”?>

If you say stuff like “Linux will never take over on the desktop because people just aren’t into doing geek stuff—they don’t want to know how to do things and they just want usability” I will respond with even if that is true at the moment—and there isn’t conclusive evidence to suggest this is so—what about today’s six year olds?


Unfortunately I feel that Ms Kulakauskas has failed to acknowledge one important facet of her position: What does a six year old want?

All three of my children, R(16), S(14), and W(12) have been brought up with computers from the first day they came home from the hospital. I can say with fatherly pride that all of my children can use either Linux (Slackware at that) or Windows. In fairness I must acknowledge that none of them are called upon to do system administration nor are they obliged to use the CLI (Command Line Interface). I am sure in my assumption that if they had access to a MAC they would not have any more difficulty than I do using one.

So what is the important facet? Which OS do they prefer or want to use. Or, roughly transliterated; What [OS] does a six year old want? Experience shows us that no real amount of OS sophistication or stability is important to a young person as they begin to use computers. Instead the computer, which becomes synonymous with the OS, has to have the features and baubles that are common in a young persons world view. This can be summed up in one assertion: if the majority of their friends are using Windows then you can be sure they will want to use Windows.

I have demonstrated the merits and values of Linux on many occasions. I have shown the functionality of similar programs (AIM clients, IRC clients, browsers, et al) assuring them the same resources on the Linux box. In return I have gotten the "Yes Papa, we know all that but we like Windows better" response.

So I ask myself why would they like an OS that is so much unlike Linux. Linux being my OS of choice. The first observation that comes to mind is the fact that many (if not all) of the sites that my children are interested in demand, or only support, Microsoft's InternetExplorer. Another factor is the commonality of language that my children use with their peers when communication complex computer information. Again, most if not all are couched in the vernacular of Microsoft.

This is also seen in adults who insist they don't use a spreadsheet instead they use Excel. This is a clear case that I have stated in the past where the object (the OS) and the brand (Microsoft) and the behavior (computing) all have the same name - "using the PC". (See "Microsofting")

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