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Computer Dating, Linux Style

Look…let’s face this together. Dating can suck.

When you’re young, it’s an adventure. One has relatively little baggage, the emotional scars are few and you haven’t even begun to think about dating’s therapeutic value yet. In other words, the dating world is your oyster.

Then you find yourself at midlife, when you’ve accumulated a large pool of of crises. You know, stuff like that divorce or two under your belt, some strong political or religious beliefs that are deeply ingrained and…oh yeah…that messy conviction for hacking that’s still on your record. These are things that tend to narrow down the potential list of candidates for life-long bliss.

Linux datingThen, toss your obsession with Linux into the mix and what do you get?

More than likely a room at your mom’s house and a NASA-level computer bank in her basement. The neck beard and questionable hygiene habits don’t help matters either.

Eventually, you come to realize that there’s more to life than Bash scripts and LAN parties with your Linux geek buddies. Well, maybe you do…or maybe not. If you do, you might decide to put yourself back on the dating market. Where do you start? I think we can all agree to rule out LUG meetings, Linux Foundation events and the laundromat. The ratio for men to women at these locations is bleak.

Let’s say, just for argument, that you miraculously run into someone who bothers to look at you twice…I mean without pity or fear or the strong urge to call the law. What’s your next move? How does a Linux geek approach someone?

“Hi, wanna see my raid array?”

“Did you know that over half of Cray supercomputers run Linux?”

“So…your home directory or mine?”

You realize, returning to your mom’s basement, that these lines didn’t provide the desired results. Combing the internet for dating tips, you decide that just maybe the tech passion of your life isn’t congruent with finding someone that will touch you…I mean aside from accidentally or by the emergency room nurse who has to touch you because that’s her job…and because she’s protected by latex gloves.

Let’s further assume that you are able to cast off or conceal your geekness, get a haircut, trim your beard and join the rest of society…

Yeah, I know it’s a stretch but work with me here.

What if you actually find yourself on a third date and she hints that she wants to develop a relationship? What the hell are you going to do then?

You probably haven’t been able to completely hide the fact that you are good with computers. Some things bubble to the surface regardless of how hard you try to keep them secret. Like the song says, you can take the boy out of the geek, but you’ll never take the geek outta the boy…or something like that.

Anyway, she’s running Vista on her home computer and is complaining that her computer is running slow and that she keeps getting these annoying popups. She wants you to come over and fix her computer.

You remember right away that the last time you were alone with a female in her home was when you had that disastrous misunderstanding with your cousin’s best friend. That whole “I’m-sorry-I-was-just-trying to-get-the-cap-off-my-thumb-drive-that-popped-and-landed-in-your-lap” thing didn’t work out so well for you. At least she slapped you…the last time you were actually touched by a woman other than Mom.

That counts as female contact…kinda. No?

So there you are, just you and her alone in her apartment, sitting in front of her computer. You can smell her perfume (it’s actually just soap but it smells wonderful to you just the same). You can’t help but notice her long hair and how it flows across her shoulder. You focus again on the screen in front of you, clicking on the start menu. You know it’s going to take three minutes just to open the dialog box. After all, this is Windows.

This is your chance.

“You know, if you didn’t use Windows you wouldn’t have these problems.”

Here it comes, but you are used to it by now…the blank stare, the look that communicates, “Uh…what?”

You go on to explain that there are different operating systems for a computer, that Windows is only one option. She bites her lower lip in contemplation then smiles and nods enthusiastically.

“Oh no, I have an operating system. It’s called Facebook.”

You patiently explain that Facebook is just a web-based interface that allows her to share some of her life with her friends and that the operating system is simply a means she uses to interact with her computer.

She seems a bit exasperated. “I have that already.” she says. “It’s called Internet Explorer…I use it all the time.”

You take a deep breath and reach for your laptop. You pull a live CD from the case and tell her that you want to show her what Linux is. You explain that Linux is free and that she can use it without any real worry about viruses.

She refuses.

“Hey, I don’t want you putting things on my computer just yet, I mean, I don’t even know you very well. Those popups say that I have a virus and all they want to do is help me take it off. All I have to do is click the button and they will take care of it for me for $39.95. I just met you. I don’t know what kind of stuff you are going to put on there. You might put on spyware or something.

“I think you better leave now.”

The last word she says rings in your ears.

“Jerk.”

Back home in your basement you slam down your third Red Bull and wonder what in the hell happened and how it went south so quickly.

“That’s it,” you mentally exclaim, having an eureka moment. “Facebook! I’ll meet someone on Facebook.”

Maybe she’ll even post a picture less than 5 years old.

Or maybe you will.

Or not.

And for this you’re even going to shave.

Which brings us back to where we came in. Dating sucks…

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Ken Starks writes and publishes The Blog of Helios, a finalist in our Best FOSS or Linux Blog competition. In addition, he's the person behind the Reglue project that refurbishes older computers and gives them to disadvantaged school kids in the Austin, Texas area.

Latest posts by Ken Starks (see all)

19 comments to Computer Dating, Linux Style

  • tracyanne

    Not all of the geeks that read your blog are male. Which probably means, not all of us have kneck beards… Just saying.

  • tracyanne: then just change sex :p

  • dating+linux

    This exactly the kind of prejudiced sexist bullshit the world needs less of. Stop blastering your prejudices and social problems onto other people. Interest in free computing in no way stops anyone from dating and in having a social life.

  • Uncle Ed

    Agree with you that dating sucks, at least part of the time. Being human sucks part of the time, too. Getting old sucks. Medical problems suck. But there are lots of things that are more important that make up for them, including friends.

    A few years ago, I dated a lady who lived almost 200 miles away. Sometime long after the first date, she told me her daughter was dominating the family’s XP computer with World of Warcraft and LimeWire. And her son-in-law would come over and use it but always close the page when he heard her coming and he kept installing stuff. When she could get on it, it tookk forever to…and there were all these…you know the drill.

    Seeking to be a hero, I offered to build her a computer out of parts and pieces I had accumulated. (She was vehemently against my spending my money on “things like that” for her.) So I put some stuff together and installed Mepis 6, which gives some idea of the era. (Single core, 1.5 GHz–a screamer)

    Delivered it to her home and installed it in a corner on an old table I got somewhere. I told her it was my old computer, two computer generations behind, and wasn’t running Windows. If it wouldn’t work for her, I’d change it. Had never tried to introduce Linux to anybody else, so I was didn’t have much confidence and figured I’d be getting a lot of calls. We had a lot of calls, but she said the computer was working fine for her, so we talked about um, other things. She liked that I had put a password on it and nobody else could get on it. When she let her son-in-law use it for a minute to show her a website, he was impressed at how fast it was.

    Lots of time and water under the bridge and we’re married now. Don’t think Linux had much to do with it, but who knows?

  • That’s really funny. So much of that rings true for me. Yes, I do tend to bore people (men and women) with my enthusiasm about linux. But before linux was out in the wild I was the same way about other cool things. If you’re really into something, anything, and other people are not … it’s boreing. Being boreing can’t help you with dating.

  • blackveils

    “Stop blastering your prejudices and social problems onto other people. Interest in free computing in no way stops anyone from dating and in having a social life.”

    haha, indeed, one thing has absolutely nothing to do with the other.

    but i assume the article was meant as a trivial, detached rant on a life issue.

  • TxtEdMacs

    I was expecting to learn how you dealt with dating sites. For me the essay was too short. I cannot quite understand the rancor I read into the tone of most of the early responses. Perhaps I am too warped, since the level of humor was just right on a real problem.

    I just wish I were that much of an expert in either Linux or any other Unix type OS … just maybe it would be better for me.

  • Yer right TxtEdMacs and blackveils. This was meant to be nothing but a humorous piece to lighten up your day. Glad you enjoyed!

  • Andrew Malcolmson

    Funny but cringe-inducing too. This would be me, trying to fix her computer as a way of avoiding the boy/girl reality at hand.

    On the topic of bad things that happen when you provide free computer repair, read this:

    http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/10-things/ten-reasons-not-to-fix-computers-for-free/

  • Kiran

    I thought Ken’s post was funny – I have the same problem, but I’m a girl geek. Guys run away as soon as they figure out I am a geek and are smarter than they are, lol… :-P Most guys think I’m some kind of hacker or something… I try to keep my mouth shut and hide my obsession, but its a bit hard eventually a guy is going to see me typing something at a command prompt and then the questions will start… Let’s face it – most guys do not like tech geek girls… :( And the ones that do are walled up in their mothers’ basements with a microwave and two year supply of hot pockets and energy drinks…!!! lol From the way I look and the way I live (I have my own house, don’t live with mom) guys would never suspect that I am a hard core linux geek, or any KIND of geek period…

  • Raphael Sanches

    Great article Ken… So true!
    … When she said “…Oh no, I have an operating system. It’s called Facebook…” you should have taken this a sign to back off !!!… ; )

  • SomeDude

    Be more interesting. Be able to talk about things other than IT. Learn how to listen. Wait to push Linux until after you’ve established a relationship and stop acting like a Linux Jehovah’s Witness. It’s not so hard.

  • Frd Flinstone

    Geez, SomeDude… The only reason I date at all is to push Linux on ppl… ;-)

  • Duncan

    Interesting time for this to show up, particularly along with Uncle Ed’s comment, as there’s some rather interesting potential developing at work right now between the mom of two of my (brother and sister and two young) coworkers and I. She says she likes geeks, the whole family is (almost too) friendly, and we both survived and came out of victim syndrome earlier in our life, one of the reasons religion shapes both our lives as well.

    I have to keep telling myself that the look I see in her eyes when we talk is just friendliness (she really is friendly to I think everyone, so it might be) and I gotta slow down if I don’t want it to end badly…

    Still, for the first time in literally decades I’m beginning to contemplate the possiblity that old age might not be so lonely after all… then this article shows up! With a bit of luck I’ll end up like Uncle Ed, not like Ken’s article.

    I guess I got it bad! =:^) Oh, well, I’m comfortable in my own skin now, something I couldn’t say back a few years ago during that victim thing, and if it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, well, like Ken I get an enormous amount of satisfaction in helping others, in my case on various Linux related mailing lists, and should I die today or 20 or 50 years from now, as long as that remains the case I can honestly go resting comfortably in the knowledge that I’ve helped many many people over the years, which as I’m sure Ken will agree, is as addictive a feeling as any high out there! =:^)

    Thanks for the article and the time to read this. It’s the first time I’ve actually put it down anywhere. Maybe it’ll pan out, maybe it won’t, but it’s a fun ride!

  • @Duncan I’m rootin’ for you, feller. For a little inspiration, try listening to “Hey Jude.” :-)

  • josh

    @Duncan, good luck! It might help if you’re a little more assertive. Being assertive helps in two ways; first, you get more accomplished. Second, women are generally attracted more to assertive men. “Hey, I wanted to ask you something. Feel free to tell me to get lost if I’m out of line here, but I feel some kind of attraction between us. If you feel the same thing, is this something you’d like to pursue further?” She may be flattered. If she’s seeing someone, it gives her a graceful exit opportunity. If she’s not, she will either want to pursue things further, or it will plant a seed in her mind for future opportunity. But more importantly, if she tells you she has no interest whatsoever, you can start looking at other women who might fill those shoes. If you skate along without knowing for sure, you could miss out on a lot of other opportunities.

    Dating Linux Style? What does that even mean? This isn’t “dating Linux Style”. This is “the attempts of someone who is socially awkward to date”. (And I don’t mean awkward as a value judgment- that’s not a bad thing to be, if you can grow out of it.)

    All of the things you noted in this blog post are changeable. You can become suave instead of awkward, and you can eschew the video games and move out of mom’s basement.

    Let’s imagine something not changeable; for example, widowhood. A few years ago, my first wife died unexpectedly; I was 34 at the time. I eventually started dating again. Not only did I have to start from scratch (I was terribly awkward in high school and college so I never dated), I had to deal with the fact that very few women in their late 20’s and early 30’s weren’t mature enough to interact with someone in my circumstance. Sure, they knew “how to handle” guys who were divorced, or separated, or who never married. But they had no idea how to deal with a guy who had a good relationship but whose wife died. And they were afraid, so they just chose not to interact.

    But I was able to overcome this. How? I used my brain. And I had an excellent attitude.

    Dating _does not suck_. I never, ever had a bad date. I always focused on the present, and my goal was to entertain my date. Sometimes my dates went in a really bad direction- like the time I spun out on ice and totaled my truck into the side of a condo. But in those cases, I derived value from the lessons I learned. So I either was traditionally successful at wooing my date, OR if I wasn’t, I was successful at learning valuable information about what to do and what not to do.

    As a guy who was basically a recluse during high school and college, I had to learn how to date from scratch. And learn I did! Logic is a great thing… it allows you to write a program, or discuss philosophical ideas, or learn how to woo women. (And to address those who will say that women/men don’t follow logical thought patterns, I’ll say that you can absolutely apply logic to statistical probabilities! But it takes confidence to act on incomplete information and be willing to accept whatever comes of it.)

    I went from being a total recluse to being a guy who got dates with women that would have been “out of his league” by several orders of magnitude in college and high school. I had no problem chatting up women I didn’t know in bars and at parties.

    And I didn’t shed my techie background, either. I still worked as a software developer and I did websites and other programming on the side. But that techie side was only a part of me. I went in to that adventure with only confidence and a good attitude- no knowledge or experience socializing- and therefore, navigating the waters of socialization became a big part of my life as well.

    Never once did I talk about installing Linux on a potential sweetheart’s computer. But also, never once did I impose my vegetarian diet on a date. Never once did I demand that they go to the shooting range with me. Those things are just common sense.

    And to again address the title of this post, I know quite a few Linux using folks who are very socially suave. So saying that this is “Dating Linux Style” is a mischaracterization.

  • josh

    Oops! “I had to deal with the fact that very few women in their late 20′s and early 30′s weren’t mature enough to interact with someone in my circumstance.” That should be “very few women… WERE mature enough”. Unintended double negative strikes again!

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