Letter to a Non-Believer

Update 18-Sep-2002: After seeing enough comments from people who clearly did not understand a word of what I had written, but who chose to ramble on “wisely” about everything ranging from a psychological analysis to applying a completely wrong meaning to my usage of the term “usability”, I decided to add the following text to the top of the article – the original mail that I responded to.

Note that this has *nothing* to do with what you may or may not consider to be “the truth about Linux”, and has *everything* to do with how I and a lot of people across the world use Linux in our everyday lives – it simply addresses the point of “you can’t get there from here” implied by the original poster.

If you are looking for “contempt for Windows users” here, you are in the wrong place, and if you are trying to use this as a basis for a flawed “usability study”, you need to get a life. ;-)

I hope Sigmund Freud and his merry men will now give it a rest. –AC

This note appeared on a mailing list I used to frequent:

I really would like a Linux for lazy people like me.I mean sometimes you dont want any choices because your main aim is not to run an OS but do other things like write an article for a mag, or send mails or some such thing.

Though I use Linux (I now have a Red Hat running along with a Mandrake) for my tech work, I still use Windows/Windoze whatever you like to call it, for my email, word processing etc etc.

Apart from other things, it also loads much faster.

You can call me whatever (even throw me out from this list — I feel that this list is not as objective as any reasonable person is) but those are the facts. For more info/queries/ caveats, please send me email.

What follows was my reply to him.

I have been a professional writer and consultant for more than a decade now.

My work, my livelihood, depends on writing and making presentations to clients.

I handle more email in a month than many people will see in a lifetime, and I have been using email as a professional tool since the late 80s. Yes, that is years before many people here had even *heard* about the internet.

I am also an amateur musician, and listen to a *lot* of music, both as MP3s as well as CDs.

I am also a Science Fiction movie buff, and enjoy watching movies on my notebook when I travel, or when I sit on my balcony or on the lawn.

As my main work tool, I use an IBM Thinkpad 770, that I purchased in 1997, and use to this day. Not because I have to (my business is doing very well, thankyouveddymuch) but because I can.

My notebook runs a Pentium 1, 233 MHz, with a 5GB hard disk that doesn’t even support DMA transfers.

I was first exposed to Linux in 1994, and by 1996 was working half in Windows, and half in Linux. By early 1998, I was working completely under Linux. By mid-1998, Windows was completely off my notebook and work PCs.

Today, I run the latest version of RedHat Linux (actually later than latest – since we maintain our own distro), run all the applications I talk about in the preceding paragraphs, including watching movies, listening to music, writing articles, creating and making presentations, etc.

I use KDE as well as Windowmaker (I prefer the latter for its clean feel, but I love the former for its functionality – I often run both together), I rarely (if ever) boot into text-mode (why should I?), and the machine boots in about 15 seconds more than it takes a P4 running Windows XP, that’s all.

This notebook cannot run any version of Windows later than Windows 98, it is too slow to do so.

On the other hand, Linux works just fine – fast, snappy, responsive, reliably (no crashes) and has never let me down.

On this notebook, I have written the articles you have read, created and presented presentations you may have watched. I have used it to master and create the PCQ Linux CDs you may have used. I have planned and executed events like Linux Bangalore/2001 on it, just as I did in 1999, when I planned and executed the Linux presence at Bangalore IT.COM ’99.

I read and write DOC, PPT and XLS files and exchange them with clients and editors.

I literally live on the internet, using web-browsers, email clients, instant messenger programs, file transfer programs, video-conferencing, and more.

I also use it to compose music – such as


which has been created entirely under Linux.

My tools may be old (this notebook is now approaching 5 years) but they work for me – I do not have to upgrade it every time there is a new version of my OS to be installed, every time a new version of my office suite appears. If something is slow, I wait for the next version – because I know it will be leaner and faster.

I can do things with my old axe and Linux that you can only dream about, and I can do them until this machine physically disintegrates.

I am one of several million people who work like I do – productively, and happily – under Linux.

And you have the gall to tell me that it can’t be done?

With warm regards,

Atul Chitnis

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