Post by SomeBloke
Does anyone else feel that DFS (Dirty Fun Sock) should get out more and
get a life?
It's interesting to watch the progression of many of the "fundies" in
alt.atheism or similar groups. There's a remarkable sameness to almost
all of them, although some details differ.
Most, for example, come in apparently under the assumption that the only
reason we're not believers is that we haven't "heard the truth", so why
not come in and tell us?
This, of course, tends to get them the equivalent of a smack on the nose
with a newspaper, as their religious crap is simply unwanted in the group.
Of course, this leads them to conclude we non-believers are all nasty-
tempered bastards, without stopping to consider their own reaction to
someone barging into their "homes" and peeing on the rugs.
Once over their initial snit, they tend to progress to tell us all the
wonderful "proofs" they have of their pet gods. These range far and
wide, yet inevitably boil down to arguments from incredulity, fiat of
assertion, or tired old hand-me-downs such as Pascal's Wager.
When informed that these arguments were refuted long before they,
themselves, were ever born and they should get some newer ammunition,
they proceed to regale us with tales of changed lives, miracle healings,
that sort of thing.
To this we point out the complete lack of objective supporting evidence.
Many simply wave their hands about, screaming "is too! is too!" but the
other common reaction to this is to suggest that we - the non-believers -
either simply refuse to accept any evidence (untrue, we simply ask that
it actually _be_ evidence) or that we won't tell them what sort of
evidence qualifies. (Hey, it's *your* claim, it obviously convinced
*you*, so just trot out the same evidence that compelled you to switch
from healthy scepticism to active acceptance of the claims. Cue crickets
About this point they go into "fundy meltdown", which comes in one of
several typical flavours: stomping off in a huff, never to return, as
we're all just evil heathens bent on going to hell, endless repetition of
the "is too!" mantra, or descent into babbling idiocy, often spewing
threats and the like in the process - even death threats, in some cases.
Meanwhile, in all of this, there is a strong undercurrent of "you must
believe as I do, or one of two things will happen: one of us will get
you, or our god will get you." In other words, a distinct tone of
extortion, yet all the while telling us that theirs is a religion of love
and forgiveness, and that morals and ethical behaviour (apparently such
as death threats, Crusades, witch burnings and the like) can only come
from adopting the belief.
Contrast that to the likes of DFS. As I recall, when he first showed up,
he seemed at least somewhat reasonable, though others may disagree.
However, his views were challenged, his arguments refuted and rejected,
causing him to proceed down the path of the typical type II fundy
meltdown - the type that seems to embody the belief that if you repeat
the same thing often enough, it magically becomes true.
What is particularly remarkable about the parallels in the cases is
First, the apparent belief that numbers or age establish validity.
Second, the complete absolute conviction of right(eous)ness in the cause,
yet with virtually no supporting evidence of the claims involved
The first is typified by the arguments that since there are some 2.2
billion Christians, they can't all be wrong, it must be the "correct"
religion. Notice any parallels with the oft-quoted line about Windows
being used by some 90-plus-percent of desktop users?
Of course, such an argument falls on its face for a number of reasons,
not least of which is that it simply doesn't establish anything valid.
However, to give a more concrete example, it was (supposedly) believed,
in the dark ages before the Greeks, that the earth was flat. Yet
Eratosthenes calculated the curvature of the earth to something like 3%
of its actual value. Today, few if any actually believe the earth is
flat (I'm not convinced the Flat Earth Society, for example, actually
believes this, but even if they do, they're a distinct minority).
What this implies, if we accept the "numbers makes reality" argument, is
a truly miraculous event: at some point, majority belief went from a flat
earth to a round one, and since belief establishes reality, it follows
that the earth actually *did* change from flat to round.
I defy anyone, anywhere, to actually seriously promote such an argument.
I rather suspect even the most fanatical believer would balk at such
nonsense, yet it is an absolute requirement of their "numbers determine
reality" argument. If they are not prepared to stand behind such an
event occurring, they have no honest choice but to abandon their
numerological claim that numbers establish anything but numbers.
Do 2.2 billion Christians exist? Do 90-plus-percent of desktop users use
Windows? Perhaps. The obvious question becomes "So what?" The numbers
establish nothing but the numbers, and even the most ardent
fundamentalists won't stand behind the arguments when examined... yet
here are the Windows fundamentalists, making the same arguments day in
and day out.
As to the second point, we must consider what the claims on the table
are. On the one hand they're claims such as "God exists" and "you'll go
to Hell if you do/don't do X" while on the other, they're claims such as
"Windows is safer/cheaper/better/whatever than Linux."
How does one establish such claims? There are two ways to approach such
a problem. One is to collect random personal experiences, anecdotes and
the like, apparently on the theory that if one has enough anecdotal
evidence, it somehow becomes compelling: "We prayed for six weeks
straight while Janey was in hospital, and thanks to God she got better".
We'll neglect the impact that modern medicine might have had on her
recovery, of course; this was God, all God, nothing but God.
The same holds true of the Windows fundamentalists (Windumentalists?): So-
and-so used Windows to run their entire business for 10 years, that
fortune 500 company migrated all their desktops to XP without incident.
Collect enough of these and my, isn't it a compelling case?
Except it's not, for the simple reason that it *is* anecdotal and
personal. Your experiences, whether of God or of Gates, are not
transferable to me, nor are mine to you. Nor do they show a complete
picture. Did some company convert 500 desktops and 50 servers to
Let's say they did. Was it effective? Let's say it was. How much
effort was involved? How much expense? How much does it cost to keep
things running? How much redundancy is involved, to ensure maximal
effectiveness? How many people does it take to support the systems? How
much effort or cost is involved in expanding?
Such issues are rarely detailed in full; what we get, instead, is the
"newsbite" - Company X migrated 500 desktops and 50 servers to Windows,
with few or no problems. Sure, and one can do the same with 50,000
desktops and 5,000 servers, too; with sufficient manpower and money up
front, almost any problem can be achieved with minimal impact.
So where is the complete story? It rarely, if ever, comes to the
surface, as the Windumentalist is not interested in details, he's
interested solely in anecdotes. Recall, he's a numbers guy; like the
Christian convinced that 2.2 billion believers can't all be wrong, he's
convinced that enough anecdotes of successful Windows deployments makes a
I mentioned two approaches; I dealt with the first, the anecdotalist
approach. The other is the objectivist approach.
In this approach, one examines not the numbers but the details of both
sides. You want to claim God is real? Fine - show us the evidence. The
objective, testable evidence. The data which would compel even a
complete non-believer to take the idea seriously. Or, in our case here,
don't tell us about the umpteen companies who use Windows, show us how
Windows is objectively a better choice.
Such an examination would involve comparing two or more popular options.
In our case here, it would involve comparing Windows and, say, Ubuntu,
one or two of the BSD variants, OSX, Solaris, possibly another
alternative or two. Given that this is a Linux group, however, chances
are it would focus on Windows versus Linux - so where is the objective
evidence Windows is better?
It can't be in terms of purchase price; Windows - legal Windows - costs
more. It can't be (solely) in terms of ease of installation; while
Windows generally comes preinstalled, one cal also get preinstalled
Ubuntu systems; each has a zero installation effort.
How about "out of the box" utility? Ubuntu comes with an entire office
suite bundled; Windows doesn't. Ubuntu comes with development tools,
which may not be useful to Joe Sixpack, but are definitely useful to
many. Same for things such as web servers, mail servers, DB servers and
the like. Ubuntu comes with several varied anti-spam measures to deal
with unwanted commercial emails, for everything from single-user desktops
to entire ISPS. Windows comes with one desktop option, Ubuntu comes with
several. Ubuntu bundles graphics tools far beyond anything included with
Long and short, what constitutes "Windows" is anemic and limited compared
to what constitutes "Ubuntu", so it cannot be a case of "out of the box
functionality"; Windows doesn't hold a candle to the competition.
How about ease of use? This claim often raises its ugly head, yet when
examined there's little validity to it. Take the most basic aspect of
using the machine: getting the software onto it to start doing useful
things with it. Ubuntu, with its package management tools, makes this
process a breeze. Windows does not so much make the process difficult,
rather it makes it tedious. Where in Ubuntu I can select a dozen or a
hundred packages to install, walk away and let it do the work, in Windows
I have to do each package one at a time, wading through pointless dialogs
for each, babysitting the machine throughout the whole process. No, it's
not *difficult*, but it is *tedious* - and nowhere near as friendly as
the Ubuntu option.
So what else could they mean by this? It can't be the integrated help.
However one feels about Linux's included help, the help for Windows is
not much use, either. Much of it consists of a series of diagnostic
steps - "try this, did it work? Try that, did it work? Contact your
Don't believe me? Try this: fire up XP, bring up "help" and enter
"DHCP". Of the options that comes up, only one seems relevant to sorting
out DHCP issues - "Using DHCP with Internet Connection Sharing"... but if
you're simply trying to diagnose why your DHCP isn't working, that's not
So, it's not installation... not "out of the box" functionality... not
help... what is it?
On examination, about the only thing one can think is meant by "user
friendly" in regards to Windows is not properly a matter of "user
friendliness" at all, but, rather, simple familiarity: Windows does
things the way the user is used to. Perhaps, but that doesn't make it
user friendly, it makes it familiar, which is a different animal entirely.
Yet we keep hearing the mantra repeated: "God is too real!" "Windows is
too more user friendly!" It's religious zeal, to be sure, unsupported by
any sort of evidence in either case.
Perhaps then the proper thing is to examine not what Windows itself does,
but, rather, what one can do with Windows. Can one run an enterprise on
it? Can one run a data centre on it? Can one run a desktop with it?
Well, yes and no. One _can_ use a server edition of Windows as a desktop
machine, though this tends to be both expensive and somewhat frustrating;
some popular desktop-class applications simply will not work on a server
version, or require you to upgrade to a "corporate" version of the
application, usually at considerable expense. Using a server version as
a desktop is not really a viable option.
Of course, going the other way isn't really viable either. For example,
trying to run an enterprise database server on a copy of XP just doesn't
work terribly well; even worse is trying to run a multi-domain web server
on such a machine. Never mind that the included tools simply don't
support this, the underlying OS doesn't really support such a setup -
connection limits alone prevent it being a really effective solution.
So "Windows" suddenly becomes not a singular entity, but a divergent,
multi-tiered group of entities, each tailored in some way to particular
types of usage, combined with a hefty increase in price to simply allow
you to do certain classes of tasks which there's little technical reason
to suppose cannot be done by any version of it.
Meanwhile, the same singular instance of Ubuntu, modifed by adding a few
popular repositories, can manage anything from a singular desktop to
enterprise-level server farms, complete with cluster management and the
Which has the greater ease-of-use value, the one which lets you use it as
you intend, simply by checking off a few extra entries in its package
manager, or the one which forces you to use two significantly different
versions, dividing up your task set by the limitations of the OS?
So it's not installation, not out-of-the-box functionality, not even
functionality at time of use... what's left? Oh, yes, familiarity. Yes,
we'll readily grant that Windows may be more familiar, but the statement
was that it had the greater ease-of-use. "Is too, is too" is no more
meaningful about OSen than about deities, yet the fervour seems to be no
The objectivist is left with the obvious quandary. On the one hand,
Windows is - according to the pundits - somehow better. Yet when
pressed, those same pundits can offer little if any reason for the
statement. They, like the theist assuring us that "God is too real!"
back it up with little, if indeed anything.
As far as I can see, about the only advantages Windows has are in two
areas. One is bleeding-edge hardware; if you insist upon getting the
video card released five minutes ago, rather than one released last year,
it is likely you'll only get Windows drivers for it, and if you do get
Linux drivers, they'll be somewhat limited in their capabilities compared
to the Windows ones.
This is, however slowly, changing, meaning that this supposed virtue of
Window is eroding, but it also ignores the other side of the coin:
Windows often *loses* support for existing devices in the process. I
know, the Windumentalists tell us we should all run out and buy new
machines every six weeks just to ensure we're compatible with Windows,
but isn't it the job of the OS to support the hardware, rather than the
other way around? If my video card was good enough last week, why not
this week? It does everything I need it to do, except run under the
latest release of Windows. (Substitute network card, sound card, CPU,
whatever is appropriate).
The other arena is gaming. Windows still is the leader in terms of sheer
number of halfway decent games, and new games coming down the pike almost
invariably work in Windows. Again, however, this is, however slowing,
changing; between tools such as wine and/or Cedega, a number of Windows
games work in Linux, and at least some games developers are supporting
Linux directly, meaning that however much of a lead Windows has today in
this regard, it, like the hardware support, is less of a lead than it had
yesterday and more than it will have tomorrow.
What these Windumentalists have done, in effect, is recreated a "God of
the Gaps" argument, but for Windows rather than God: "You cannot do X in
Linux, therefore Windows is better." When someone comes along and
figures out how to do X in Linux - whether by convincing a developer to
release a Linux version, or updating wine/Cedega to support X, or
offering a viable alternative, thus removing that gap, the Windumentalist
pops up with "Yes, but you can't do Y in Linux".
Like the theistic God of the Gaps argument, it persists in forcing the
object of worship into an ever-smaller box, without apparently realizing
that this can only, inevitably, lead to a box small enough to be
disregarded entirely, thus effectively eliminating the very reason for
the belief in the first place.
Except this isn't really the _reason_ for the belief; it is simply a poor
way in which to try to show the belief to be valid. The _reason_ for the
belief is unclear; it seems that some minds have a need to hold something
- anything - to be an absolute truth and base their views on that one
Whether it's a Christian fundamentalist with an absolute conviction,
despite a complete lack of evidence, that their god really, truly,
honestly exists, uh huh, is too, or whether it's a Windumentalist with an
absolute conviction that Windows is better, just cuz, is too, the result
is the same: an absolute conviction, based on little or no objective
evidence, of the validity of their stance.
And like the Christian (or Muslim, or other religious) fundamentalist, no
argument will ever convince them otherwise. Those who believe other than
by reason will never be convinced by reason. Their view is, to them,
just and right, whether held purely by faith or not; indeed, for some,
holding a position by faith rather than reason is actually seen as a good
St. Ignatius Loyola (founder of the Jesuits) said, among other things,
"To be right in everything, we ought always to hold that the white which
I see, is black, if the Hierarchical Church so decides it".
The Windumentalists are doing much the same thing; instead of looking at
X and Y objectively and realizing there isn't quite as much difference as
they'd like to think, and where there is, the tendency is for the actual
winner to be other than what they think it is, they simply choose to see
white as black, as this is what their beliefs require of them.
It is religious, even fundamentalist, but there's little one can do about
that. The best one can ever hope to achieve is to show them - or others
- that simply because their religion or another is popular does not make
it right. Or, as one pundit put it so aptly, "Eat shit; a trillion flies
can't be wrong."
So where does that leave us?
It leaves us with (as pertains to our little group here) two distinct
options: Windows and Linux.
Each is, on the whole, usable for most purposes. Each has areas where it
betters the other alternative. Few, I think, would argue with that.
What the Windumentalists persist in failing to grasp, though, is that the
number of areas Windows betters Linux is small and shrinking, where the
number of areas Linux betters Windows are many and growing.
Taking the oft-quoted "ease of use", we can, for example, examine certain
areas of operation to see this in action.
Installation of each is about equivalent if one purchases a system with
the OS preinstalled. If one does not, Linux has several distinct
advantages, in that it tends to detect and support more hardware directly
than Windows does, and the typical install of Linux, despite taking about
the same time as the typical install of Windows, also includes many
useful applications, as compared to Windows which installs the OS and a
paltry few tools of limited utility.
Adding and updating software, of course, gives Linux a distinct win over
Windows; anyone trying to install several applications at a sitting, or
even update a newly installed machine to the current level of available
updates, will very much appreciate Linux's approach to the matter.
Keeping the system safe is, of course, much easier in Linux. One does
not even need a firewall in a default install of, say, Ubuntu, as there
is nothing listening for network connections: if there's nobody home to
pick up the phone, you can call all day with no results. Nor is there
need for AV and the like. Nor does one need worry overmuch about files
sent via email, or about malicious websites, or about most of the threats
the user faces today. Linux definitely has an edge there.
Nor does Windows win even in the frippery department. Despite Vista's
attempts to make Windows prettier, it still doesn't compare to Beryl/
Compiz and the new KDE 4 coming down the pike offers more eye candy than
a whole shop full of Windows add-ons.
Even the little usability features make Linux more pleasant to work
with. Konsole, with multiple tabs instead of multiple windows, makes
working on multiple CLI tasks vastly more pleasant, and the same is true
of things such as Kopete, where a dozen chats means a dozen tabs in one
window, rather than a dozen windows strewn about the desktop.
Of course, we cannot overlook the obvious win, the sheer flexibility of
Linux over Windows. As a simple example of this, my development machine
(this one) needs to be able to do all sorts of things: testing and
developing PHP web code, doing DB work, preferrably without messing with
the production DB servers, etc, etc, etc. For me, this is trivial, as
there is no distinction between "desktop" and "server" here; if I want to
run a DB server, I can, if I want to run a multi-domain web server, I
can, if I want to clone our production mail servers for testing purposes,
I can, yet I can still use the machine for more typical desktop uses -
word processing, email, etc, etc, etc.
The flexibility of being able to use the machine as I need to use it,
rather than having several machines split between "desktop" and "server"
class operations, makes the system not just cheaper, but vastly more
effective and productive.
Yes, Windows has the lead in games, and yes, Windows has the lead in
bleeding-edge hardware support. However fine that may be, that's about
all Windows has going for it, and that advantage is eroding constantly.
Don't, however, bother telling the Windumentalists this. They already
know it, but their religious convictions will not allow them to accept
it; green grow the rushes-ho, white is black and evermore shall be so.