Religion in computing: Macs, Unix and death to Windows
I would have thought that if anywhere was going to be free from decisions based on faith rather than facts then it would be the world of IT. How wrong that seems to be. There seem to be a particular set of zealots in the computing world, especially around the internet, who have a reglious attachment to certain types of software or hardware. For most, this is usually a crusade against anything that is generally accepted by the mainstream, and therefore finds easy targets in big business. Current popular targets are:
- Windows, in particlar
Set against this are a number of "white knights" which the IT "expert" thinks sets them above the "average" computer user. Popular flags to rally behind include:
- Open source in general
- Web standards (in reality, CSS-frenzy under the guise of web standards)
Apple are an interesting case in that they are a very big, very corporate business who are seen as the "little guys" purely in reflection to Microsoft.
The characteristics of the zealots are fairly easy to spot for the general utilitarian computer user. (In this case, a utilitarian computer user will make purchase decisions based on a lowest cost/hassle equation as long as the tool they are buying does the job.)
- A desire to convert others to their cause
- A desire to actively distribute any publicised flaw in any of the main "enemy" protagonists
- A willingness to overlook the flaws in any of the systems or products to which they are emotionally attached.
- Enthusiasm about new releases of a product range (whether containing new functionality or not)
- A somewhat contradictory willingness to accept that previous versions of software were not completely satisfactory, but the latest version is, of course, nearly perfect.
The presence of these characteristics leaves me to take a conservative view of any new software that is recommended to me. As an example, if I hear "Outlook is rubbish, I'm using XXX now and it's loads better" I tend to give it a few weeks and listen out for the telltale "this spellcheck doesn't work that well", "how do you archive old posts?", "oh no, it's deleted some of my e-mails!" calls, and finally the "I'm going back to Outlook because it seems to work" before I make a change. In fact, looked at it this way, these zealots can make good beta testers for the rest of us, as long as you listen to what they *mean* rather than what they *say*.
Personally, I'm not a fan of Outlook, but I'd rather have my appointments and addresses on my handheld and phone than worry about an e-mail list that I rarely pay much attention to threading properly. I use Homesite (quite an old version) for most of my development work despite the fact that many others around me have gone from "Homesite's rubbish because..." ("it's Macromedia", I think they never say) to "PHP Edit is great..." to "PHP Edit doesn't work that well..." to "I've gone off PHP Edit", then rinse and repeat with the next IDE.
So, I'm going to stick with my bug-ridden, virus-vulnerable Windows XP and leave the latest "release build" of "Emporers New Clothes ver 0.99412.b" until people stop having to spend 2 days to get things to work before they're any use. If the Apple zealots want to pray at the shrine of Jobs, then they're welcome to, and if one day Mac's become as powerful for the price, as expandable, and have the same range of affordable software as a PC, and I can e-mail attachments to people without them going "WTF?" then I might buy one. (Incidentally, I used a Mac for three years before I even saw a PC.) Oh yes, and they have to get rid of the bouncy toolbar...