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Linkbait and exaggeration

Posted by Ricardo Bánffy at Jun 24, 2010 04:50 PM |

Every day I see lame articles I feel no reason to respond to. Yet, there are days I come across stuff that really demands an answer, even if it is for no other reason than to give some enlightenment to its readers and for the people that pointed me the article.

Today's example is a piece on ZDNet, "They exist now only in the minds of fanbois", that tries to examine a couple things that some consider to be myths while, at the same time, taking a jab and provoking fanboys of all types. Unfortunately, it falls short due to a certain degree of exaggeration and more than just a little eagerness to generate traffic. Let's see how it works.

"There’s a war between Microsoft and Apple"

He got this one right. Apple and Microsoft are companies, not countries. They compete in several areas, collaborate in others and will do whatever it takes to turn a profit and to protect their brand equity. As much as I regard collaborating with the backstabbing folks at Microsoft as foolish, Apple is big enough to survive. And has some previous blunders to learn from.

"Year of the Linux desktop is coming"

I think this one is pretty irrelevant. The age of the desktop is quickly fading. At home, the last desktop PC we had was donated to charity. I will not give up the mobility my netbook affords me, as much as my wife won't give up her Macbook. If you define "Linux desktop" more broadly, there will come a time people will use more and more mobile devices and, then, as the traditional desktop computer fades away, smaller devices will replace them, piecing the data they show on theit GUIs from remote servers. Interestingly, nobody does and nobody will care much what OS runs such devices. Right now the hype points towards the iPad, which runs a flavor of Unix. Android devices run a flavor of Linux which is, kind of, another flavor of Unix. Since the whole question doesn't make sense, I will give him the point - Linux will not dominate the desktop. Not that anyone will care.

One note here: that excludes my collection of interesting computers. There are many desktops in it and I will not part with them anytime soon.

"Open-source = secure code"

Of course not. Simply opening up crappy code will not make it secure. But, look closely: this guy is dealing with an absolute. Open-source is no silver bullet. However, the fact the code is easily accessible and fully disclosed, ensures that security problems can be addressed as soon as they are found and not when PR dictates they need to be solved. When the source is secret only the manufacturer - the one with access to the source - can correct the problem. Even if it's hurting you or your company, you can't just hire a consultant to fix it.

"You are safe from malware on a Mac"

Again, absolutes. No. You are not completely safe from malware on a Mac, but the point that should be made is that you are much safer from malware under OSX than you would be on a Windows box. At least, if for nothing else, because most malware targets Windows, not OSX. The article is correct when it says current malware relies heavily on a clueless user, so, you should as well get a clue. Malware is not, however, platform neutral and the platform to avoid for malware reasons is, definitely, Windows. I would also like to point out I use a package-based OS and I am much safer than Mac users (and orders of magnitude safer than Windows users) because all the software on my machine was delivered in cryptographically signed packages securely fetched from trusted servers. It's kind of an app-store, but without the hype. And happened a good couple years before Apple "invented" the iPhone app store.

"Users don't like walled gardens"

They shouldn't, but they do. It's a sad fact of life most people are dumb. Most users just want to use their gadgets and really don't mind to be forced to buy their stuff from a single supplier or to give up choice. Or to have their copies of 1984 removed from their devices. In the end, giving up control will come back to bite them. Maybe they will learn. Who knows... I don't care.

"Apple/Microsoft/Aliens paid you to say that"

Microsoft has been known to hire PR agencies for astroturf campaigns. Examples for Microsoft, some comical, abound. Apple is a more interesting subject. Since so many of their users are so amazingly passionate, I doubt it has to pay for them to defend the brand and its products. Fanboys, of all flavors (even Microsoft has them, believe me), live in a reality distortion field and no RTF in this industry is larger than the one emanating from Cupertino. Editorial interference happens - when Microsoft (or Oracle, or IBM) threatens to withdraw its ads, many publications listen. And let's not forget some blogs are openly not neutral and cater to supporters of a specific agenda.

Duke Nukem is coming back!!!!

Duke Nukem never went anywhere (and he has a link to prove). If he was mentioning Duke Nukem Forever, well, that one will, eventually, come up. This is one joke that won't die easily.

A conclusion

This is one article where I can't say he is completely wrong. However, hist broad claims are evidently aimed at generating controversy by being misread. It's, therefore, bad journalism.

And, since I am claiming it's wrong, that will label me as a fanboy.