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Cars and Planes


Originally written 20060206 for ZDNet

Responding to Readers
"It's the same as if someone thought my accident free [automobile] driving record gave me the hours in type needed to drive a 747: it doesn't, and in aviation no one makes that mistake, but in computing it happens every single day. And yes, it does it cut both ways, but lets face it: as a group Linux people are more likely to be able to run Windows well than the other way around - after all, with Linux you spend most of your time learning to do things right the first time, with Windows you just spend most of your time doing things again."

I like the subtle metaphor of Windows users driving cars and Linux users flying airplanes. And I would trust a pilot who has never seen a car to drive before trusting an automobile driver who has never seen an airplane to fly.

If something goes wrong with the car, you check the usual suspects: fluids, tires, etc., then check them again until it starts; occasionally calling a mechanic. If something goes wrong with Windows, you reboot, then check the file permissions and extensions (because Windows likes to hide the real filename), then reinstall programs, occasionally calling a nerd.

If something in an airplane is even suspected of having a minor issue, the plane is grounded until everything is investigated and fixed. If something goes wrong with Linux (and other Unixes), you tear it apart and fix it so the issue cannot recur.

The latter often takes longer, but you feel safe with a hundred people where anything going wrong is fatal. I was just (Saturday) in a 50 mph car accident, and "something going wrong" injured five people. That "minor" result does not happen with planes. (I am not suggesting the results are minor in relation to anything other than a plane crash. We could easily have died, and my best friend will be in the hospital for weeks.)

Windows is fine as a single-user computer, but when used on millions of computers connected to the Internet, you regularly have massive loss of productivity due to its normal usage problems and inability to survive minor attacks. Linux require better engineers, but you can trust it to work and survive.

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