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Top 10 Things Linux Users Don’t Understand

Uh-oh, it’s Thursday and time for another Top 10 list. We still haven’t heard from Mr. Letterman’s lawyers, which means so far, so good.

A few weeks back when we did our list on the Top 10 Reasons to Switch to Windows, we were taken to task by a commenter for being too hard on the Microsofties. Well, as Three Dog Night said a long, long time ago, when it comes to Redmond, we find it “easy to be hard.” Anyway, this week, we’re taking that commenter’s advice and, in the interest of equal time, we’re going after our own kind, Penguinistas.

So, here it is, just to prove that we don’t always pick on Windows, ten things that Linux users don’t understand.

  1. “This program has performed an illegal operation and will be shut down.”
  2. Blake Stowell.
  3. Office suite upgrade for $149 plus.
  4. The registry.
  5. Antivirus software.
  6. Install software then reboot.
  7. Darl McBride.
  8. Operating system upgrade for $149.
  9. Defragmenting a hard drive.
  10. Why everybody isn’t running Linux.

Well, that’s the top ten things Linux users don’t understand, from our viewpoint. Perhaps you’ll have a reason or two of your own to post below…


  1. salparadise salparadise August 11, 2011

    Hopeless list. I understand all of them except Blake Stowell, who I’ve never heard of.

    Some things I don’t understand (as a Linux user).

    1) What Canonical is playing at with Linux?
    2) What Gnome is playing at with Gnome 3?
    3) Why this new level of idiocy is regarded as “what the user wants”?
    4) Why anyone who uses Linux wants the ordinary man in the street to also use it (because that means massive dumbing down and locking down in order to protect said users from their own ignorance and unwillingness to learn).
    5) Why anyone thinks that a 6 month release cycle is anything other than absurd and anti-user.
    6) The Cloud.
    7) Why people pay for software without even looking for a free alternative.
    8) Why anyone trusts Google.

  2. Christine Hall Christine Hall August 11, 2011

    @salparadise I love your list. Maybe some folks will start a conversation around it. I’ve never used Ubuntu, so I have nothing to contribute to your first question, and I use KDE instead of Gnome, so I can’t help you with the second either. However, I do agree about the too, too quick release cycle and while I think “the cloud” can sometimes be a useful tool, I’m loath to trust it too much. Google and read what RMS has said about the cloud.

    BTW, Blake Stowell was director of corporate communications for SCO back when that fiasco was going on.

  3. chris chris August 11, 2011

    “7. The registry.”

    GNOME and XFCE users should be able to understand it. They have been using one.

  4. Christine Hall Christine Hall August 11, 2011

    @chris There’s a registry in Gnome? Similar to the one in Windows? I’ve never cared for Gnome as a matter of personal preference, so I wouldn’t have known, but that surprises me since the registry in Windows is a complete mess. I assume that the Gnome and Xfce registries are somewhat more functional?

  5. Anon Anon August 11, 2011

    We need a GNOME 2 fork!!

  6. ace102 ace102 August 11, 2011

    @Christine Hall

    gconf-editor…not at all like a windows one!

  7. Christine Hall Christine Hall August 11, 2011

    @ace102 Whew! Thank goodness! All my reality tunnels were going haywire thinking there was something like the Windows registry buried anywhere in GNU!

  8. 2s4u 2s4u August 12, 2011

    10. Progress in design and usability is not “dumbing down”.
    9. You are allowed to use Linux even if lacking a degree in CS
    8. EMACS is not state of the art.
    7. Sects are for the religous ones.
    5. Pragmatism is not heresy
    4. Making money is not neccessarily evil
    3. Software may be an asset
    2. State of the art graphics can actually work out of the box
    1. It is achievable, that all harware in your box is actually usable and does work.

  9. zorno zorno August 12, 2011

    Only have one: i cant enter my password (no stars πŸ˜€ )

  10. Mohammed Arafa Mohammed Arafa August 12, 2011

    10. why rebooting your ms windows desktop takes more than 180 seconds
    9. why only 1 person at a time can use your windows desktop
    8. what do you mean its a desktop not a server?
    7. why installing patches delays start up
    6. why the root user cant uninstall
    5. why a saved setting doesnt stay saved
    4. why is there more than 1 version of .net installed
    3. why does a basic install take up a huge percentage of the disk
    2. why does a super speedy linux box crawl when windows is installed over it
    1. why do i have to use windows in the corporate environment
    0. why does .asp sound like a vulgar word

  11. Mateusz Mateusz August 12, 2011

    The registry in gnome is not like in windows. The data in gnome is stored in separate xml files for every category.

  12. DrKay DrKay August 12, 2011

    I’m a geek and I love Ubuntu Unity!

  13. JustAnotherOpinion JustAnotherOpinion August 12, 2011

    10) Microsoft paying Novell to not press a patent suit against Novell.
    9) Novell’s support of .net
    8) Consortium purchase of Novell.
    7) Oracle’s inability to understand Sun’s licensing before purchase.
    6) The broken patent system in the U.S. (One Click? Really?)
    5) Microsoft’s fight against I4I patents while threatening the Linux community with patents.
    4) KDE4, GNOME3, Unity, and Compiz.
    3) Mac / iPhone users paying for UNIX.
    2) Android users trusting random repositories.
    1) Women (in general).

  14. Linux user Linux user August 12, 2011

    what is crack.exe ?

  15. linuxlover linuxlover August 12, 2011

    Advantages of Linux

    1. App bugs will get fixed when a new student takes over from the one that graduated and got a job.
    2. The packaging chaos will get fixed, since the Darwinian process works (only needs a few million years).
    3. The desktop chaos will get fixed for the same reason.
    4. Linux distros will stop competing with each-other and start focusing on Microsoft.
    5. Ubuntu’s 80,000 open bugs will make them releasing when ready instead of every 6 months.
    6. Instead of dozens of half-finished programs for a given application, there will be 1-2 really excellent ones.
    7. Unity may get modified to be effective for monitors over 800 pixels.
    8. Compiz may get fixed for high-speed window updates.
    9. A serious standards body will develop and enforce sensible standards (packaging, desktop, libraries, binary API, GUI API).
    10. If you are having problems, you can choose from hundreds of distros that will have different problems.

    I actually use and enjoy Linux, but let’s face the problems honestly.

  16. theoldfellow theoldfellow August 12, 2011

    I would like to place on record that I WILL pay for software when I find some that is worth money. I’ve been looking since 1968.
    I remember SCO too. Just…


  17. Mac_is_4_cool_kids Mac_is_4_cool_kids August 12, 2011

    A linux guy spends all his time tweaking and writing scripts. A mac guy parties 24/7 because everything just works on his shiny macbook.

  18. Mike Mike August 12, 2011

    I love this list so much, and the humor masks the fact that I legitimately do not understand many of these things, or more accurately, why anyone would tolerate these things, especially from a proprietary operating system. I can add few more things that I do not understand:

    1) Letting a company treat me like a criminal when I obtained a license for its software legitimately.
    2) Knowingly and willingly financially supporting a monopoly, especially one so harmful as Microsoft’s.
    3) Not recognizing Microsoft as a huge patent troll & bully. If you do not want to give your users freedom (is “libredom” a word yet?), Microsoft, then don’t, but don’t threaten to bury the work of thousands of people, work worth billions of dollars, because it is free/libre competition. And for goodness’s sake, don’t threaten Linux users (again)! Compete, and do so fairly for once.

  19. Caesar Tjalbo Caesar Tjalbo August 12, 2011

    “”10. β€œThis program has performed an illegal operation and will be shut down.”””
    Today I opened a picture on an otherwise legitimate website. I crashed my browser (Iceweasel 5) and X, back to the KDE log-in.

    “”7. The registry.”” It’s not so much the registry that’s at fault, it’s the Microsoft implementation of it.

    My list (in fairly random order):
    1. EULAs.
    2. Perl.
    3. Bash scripting.
    4. Directory structure (why isn’t Gobo Linux ruling the earth?)
    5. GNU Automake.
    6. (lack of) Governmental use and stimulation of Free Software.
    7. Patent legislation.
    8. KDE Activities.
    9. Amarok 2 developers.
    10. Why ‘FOSS Force Staff’ is still so upset about SCO.

  20. Christine Hall Christine Hall August 12, 2011

    @Caesar Tjalbo We’re not. We just threw that in to see how many would get the reference:-)

  21. daemonz daemonz August 12, 2011


    Fixed your screen name for you. Also, Mac users don’t have time to party 24/7 because they’re too busy color coordinating their Macs with their shoes, refrigerators and Gucci handbags.

  22. David David August 12, 2011

    Linux users don’t understand why MS doesn’t fix Windows registry (and other things)? The answer is simple; MS doesn’t want or need to fix everything. 90% of PC users buy Windows with all it’s faults. Why should MS fix everything and risk having the loyal user base stop buying upgrades every couple of years. MS employs some of the best engineers available. They know exactly what they’re doing. They fix one little problem and create another. That takes great skill. It keeps the money flowing like a river towards MS.

  23. Scot Scot August 12, 2011

    @David Nice …

  24. alekgr alekgr August 12, 2011

    We Linux guys tweek our software because we can mr cool kid Mac Guy.

  25. xutre xutre August 12, 2011

    @David “MS employs some of the best engineers available”
    There’s a saying that goes something like “The best engineers always work for the other guy”. I could also perhaps say that paracetamol must be the MS engineers’ favourite tonic, but I won’t πŸ˜‰
    Talk of registrys brings to mind Firefox’s.

  26. ar ar August 13, 2011

    There is no registry in linux, configuration files are not located centrally, this is one of the most secure aspects of linux, the absence of a central location means a virus or a trojan finds it very difficult to corrupt vital system files.

  27. Rune Rune August 13, 2011

    A mac guy parties 24/7 because everything just works on his shiny macbook

    Since ‘everything just works’ on mac why does apple have a phoneline for people to ring when they have problems with their macs?

    And why do sites likes exist?

    Incidentally, what use is mac’s support phoneline when it’s staff were recently told not to help mac users remove a malware infection because (a) it makes their salesmen who claim macs can’t be infected liars, and (b) because ‘if we help them remove this infection our customers may think it’s ok to ask for help removing future infections’

  28. Robin Robin August 13, 2011

    I don’t understand:

    Distro hatred. Especially from users of a distro that is a derivative of the one they hate.

    Distro zealotry.

    Distro snobbery. Question: How do you know when a person is using Arch Linux? Answer: They will tell you.

  29. braeburn braeburn August 13, 2011

    My mac works and has always done so with few if any problems. I’ve even used the terminal on it many times when adding or needing to do things quicker in unix, something most mac cool kids have not or cannot achieve. But I now grow tired of the lock down environment that has crept in over the past months.

    I’d drop for any distro that would let me get a good cad program on it.

  30. Sum Yung Gai Sum Yung Gai August 13, 2011

    What I don’t understand:

    Why users of Microsoft Windows don’t just dump it after repeatedly getting abused and misused by the company, the OS, the malware, the reinstalls, the forced upgrades by file format changes…could it be the end-user version of Stockholm Syndrome?

    I used to be a total Windows NT fanboi back in the day. Now, there’s no way I’m going back to that junk. I am totally on Free Software, mostly GNU/Linux, and my computing life is far and away better than that of most people’s.

  31. Cushie Cushie August 13, 2011

    When you make a summary list please add:

    Pressing ‘Start’ to ‘Finish’

    Paying an ‘arm and a leg’ every three years for a word-processor, antivirus and a professional firewall!

    Why do public bodies and education establishments insist on making people ang students use MS programs?

  32. Christine Hall Christine Hall August 13, 2011

    @Cushie Great point. At most universities, students must use either Windows or a Mac, as they’re required to work within the MS Office environment, and some of their work will require formatting too complex to translate well into MS’ format from OOo or LibreOffice. Oddly, the university is the last place I’d expect to be a shill for big business.

    @Sum Yung Gai I think M$ maintains their hold simply because most people are already intimidated by computers and are afraid of having to learn a new OS and new software, even though you and I both know it isn’t that hard. M$’ FUD seems to be paying off for them, unfortunately.

  33. Kevin Benko Kevin Benko August 13, 2011

    I recently changed jobs and now *must* use WiNdOwS. I haven’t touched a WiNdOwS OS since Win98 (I’ve gotten by on other computers via a live Linux CD/DVD/USB). This list hits home for me more than many people can imagine, as the “official” solution to many WiNdOwS problems is to uninstall/reinstall an application, or even the OS, or to “create a new profile”.
    It seems to me that the longer one is free of WiNdOwS, the more painful it is to use it again, especially when surrounded by people who think that all of the inherent WiNdOwS annoyances and shortcomings are “just the way things are” and don’t even imagine that using a computer can be a peasant experience.

  34. Christine Hall Christine Hall August 13, 2011

    @Kevin Benko I couldn’t have put it better myself. People have been trained to think that Windows is the only computer experience, and that Linux is “too hard” for casual computer users. Maybe mobile devices and tablets will reeducate the public.

  35. Alejandro Alejandro August 14, 2011

    You don’t need Windows or Mac to have Office on your computer. You can use Office with Wine/Playonlinux or other programs.

  36. Christine Hall Christine Hall August 14, 2011

    @Alejandro Totally true. But this begs the question: Why would you want Office on your computer. As an admin, I have to oversee several Windows machines, and Office isn’t on a one. So why would you want to put such proprietary bloatware on a Linux box when there are such great alternatives as LibreOffice,, AbiWord, KOffice and more?

  37. Joe Molloy Joe Molloy August 15, 2011

    Surprised nobody mentioned how Linux users can’t understand how Windows can have only one desktop πŸ˜€

  38. Chris Chris August 16, 2011

    You can’t do that with just one system.

  39. Chris Chris August 16, 2011

    I use LibreOffice (used to use OpenOffice) to help my Windows users convert documents, repair lost excel passwords, etc.

    It was amazing how previous versions of MSOffice did not import to the newer version, and the converter MS came out with was not 100%.

  40. JohnP JohnP August 22, 2011

    What?! I can’t RDP because I only bought “Home”?

    Where’s cron / at? Schedule is a joke.

    GUI doesn’t mean “better”, it just means if you can’t remember how to do something then you are guided.

    man -k {topic}
    locate {file}

    POSIX shells. Usable and useful CLI.

    Single desktop.

    Why can’t I run a program on that computer over there and have it display over here thru an ssh tunnel … out of the box?

    Web = slash.
    Windows = backslash. Every time a newscaster says it wrong, I cringe.

  41. Christine Hall Christine Hall August 23, 2011

    @JohnP Totally agreed with your last point. I’m constantly having people tell me that their web site is at backslash this and backslash that. When I try to correct them, they tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about. I’d love to see them trying to navigate through the directory structure in a Linux console.

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