I was just switching from Windows to Ubuntu and I started to read this.

And there were quite a few things I did not understand. One was:

"OpenOffice decided not to have a learning curve"

Another was:

"Firefox tries very hard to make sure pages written in 1995 look like they did in 1995. "

And finally:

"Windows isn't a poor man's Linux."

In that final statement, shouldn't it be the opposite?

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    I don't think you should read too much into those three statements. They're just one person's view on things. The answers below might help you see where that author was coming from, but that author wasn't necessarily "right". – 8128 Jun 4 '12 at 7:31
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    I've sent a message to the original author of that page, pointing them towards this question :) – 8128 Jun 4 '12 at 7:39
  • There's a lot of the stuff on Ubuntu's wiki, is not very organised or monitored. – Flimm Jan 24 '13 at 19:25

"OpenOffice decided not to have a learning curve"

The OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice office suites have retained a traditional interface that most users (of them or any other office suite) are likely to find familiar and pretty easy to use, without having to learn it or get used to it first.

In contrast, some other office suites, including newer versions of Microsoft Office, have implemented substantial interface changes, often again and again with each version. These changes arguably introduce some substantial benefits, but at the cost of confusing users and making them learn something new. Learning new things is great, but most people don't use word processors and spreadsheet software for its own sake.

While making sure users continue to be able to migrate from Microsoft Office is a substantial consideration that goes into the development of OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice, it's worth taking note that these office suites have deliberately not changed their interfaces to mirror the newer Microsoft Office interfaces. It's more important that OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice users be able to use OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice without interruption, than for people who have only used new versions of Microsoft Office to be able to switch to them without having to figure anything out.

Fortunately, the OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice interfaces are designed reasonably intuitively and they are well-documented (with pretty good help materials), so people who have only used office suites with different interfaces should be able to learn to use them without too much difficulty, even many years from now.

"Firefox tries very hard to make sure pages written in 1995 look like they did in 1995."

The Firefox web browser is written in such a way as to maintain backward compatibility as well as possible with old web content. Not only should old web pages load and function as well as they did with browsers that were current when the pages were created, but they should do so seamlessly (without the user having to enable any sort of "compatibility mode") and they should look as close as possible as they used to look...or at least as close as possible to the way they looked with previous versions of Firefox.

"Windows isn't a poor man's Linux."

Either the reverse is intended ("Linux isn't a poor man's Windows"), or this statement is unclear and needs to be modified and/or further explained. Either way, this should probably be reported as a bug in Ubuntu's community documentation. Perhaps you would be willing to do this? In any case, if we wait for some more answers here, maybe we can gain more insight into what may be intended by that statement, which could help in reporting the bug.

EDIT: There's been a great deal of speculation in comments and answers as to what "Linux isn't a poor man's Windows" means. Several peripherally similar but ultimately different ideas have been proposed. I think this shows even more strongly that this sentence is unclear, and that its current form in documentation for novices constitutes a bug.

  • I don't think poor was referring to monetary in that context. I think what whoever wrote that intended to mean was "unfortunate" or "uninformed". As to the rest of it, spot on. – RobotHumans Jun 4 '12 at 5:49
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    @aking1012 It may be that Windows isn't a poor man's Linux was the intended phrasing. The problem, in that case, is that only someone deeply knowledgeable about the history and culture of Windows OSes and Linux-based OSes could actually figure out the intended meaning. In documentation targeting novices who have just adopted, or are considering adopting, their first Linux-based OS, that's ...a bug. – Eliah Kagan Jun 4 '12 at 6:41
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    I suspect the intended meaning is to dissuade the zealots who claim Windows is a poor man's Linux. They are different operating systems with different roots - neither should be considered the "poor man's" version of the other. – Izkata Jun 4 '12 at 14:00
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    @Izkata If that is the intended meaning, then it should be clarified by being changed to something like Windows isn't a poor man's Linux any more than Linux is a poor man's Windows or Just as Linux isn't a poor man's Windows, Windows isn't a poor man's Linux or Linux isn't a poor man's Windows, and neither is Windows a poor man's Linux. – Eliah Kagan Jun 4 '12 at 17:53
  • I guess author meant that Windows is costly as compared to poor man's free Linux. – atenz Aug 8 '12 at 17:53
  1. It means that OpenOffice decided not to move away from what is familiar; if you are familiar with the Microsoft Office suite, you should not need to learn anything new with OpenOffice. To be fair, there is a learning curve with OpenOffice but it isn't very steep (i.e. it's not difficult).

  2. It means that whatever problems existed with web pages in 1995, Firefox will make sure that those problems still exist. What you should take away from this is that Firefox will try to draw things the way they looked like in 1995.

  3. You need to look at the whole statement to understand this:

Linux isn't just Windows with funny colours, and Windows isn't a poor man's Linux. Both represent decades of hard work by people with different opinions about the world, and both need to be treated differently if you want to get the most out of them.

What the author means is that you shouldn't judge Windows/Linux from the perspective of the other. Specifically, one shouldn't deride Windows as a cheap and poor substitute for Linux (i.e. a poor man's Linux) because it wasn't designed to do the things that Linux does. The paragraph is trying to say that both operating systems have their place and are designed differently. They should be judged on their individual merits, not from the perspective of another operating system.

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    I think taking a Windows perspective to judge Linux, and taking a Linux perspective to judge Windows, isn't bad at all. In fact, I'll go further: I think it's morally obligatory, if we are serious about improving things for users. A notion that we can't compare would be nonsense. And I don't think that community documentation page is telling us not to judge Linux and Windows from each other's perspectives. I think it's telling us not to limit ourselves to a Linux perspective when judging Windows, or to a Windows perspective when judging Linux. I think that's very different, and very wise. – Eliah Kagan Jun 4 '12 at 4:49
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    As far as my English goes I believe a poor man's <Insert Object> means a cheap substitute for a thing. Cheap as in not monetarily demanding. As far as i know the Ubuntu-12.04 costs nothing for a digital download The same is not true for a Windows 7 distribution. Maybe...that's what i think...basically the question is what...a poor man's <Insert Object> means. Maybe a question for English.SE – The-Ever-Kid Jun 4 '12 at 5:02
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    The expression just means "not as good", not "not as monetarily demanding". See this for example. – Chan-Ho Suh Jun 4 '12 at 7:23
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    @The-Ever-Kid In English, the word "cheap" is used to mean "shoddy" or "poorly designed" just as often as it means "low monetary value". – Izkata Jun 4 '12 at 16:25
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    @EliahKagan You described the poor man's idiom as meaning "cheap" yourself. Neither one is exclusively about monetary value in the English language, context means everything. – Izkata Jun 4 '12 at 17:59

Windows isn't a poor man's Linux.

I think that is emphasizing the fact that there is no need to look down on windows. Windows is good, and is very suitable for lots of people and business. Saying windows is a poor mans linux does not aid anyone's cause (or vice versa).

(the other points seem well explained in other answers)


I tend to agree with Eliah Kagan's answer, except for the third statement.

I think the explanation of the third statement (Windows isn't a poor man's Linux) should be found in the paragraph named Linux has a long, smooth learning curve:

Windows programs generally recognise two types of problems: those that they were specifically designed to handle (which they make unbeatably easy), and everything else (which they make unbearably difficult). Most Windows users find everything very intuitive except “that incomprehensible geeky stuff”, which usually means the contents of the Windows folder, the registry, or DLLs.

Linux doesn't make that big of a distinction between the two areas (except maybe ensuring operations in "danger" area are made after safer authorization). Because of this I think we can say that Linux treats users as more intelligent people, compared to windows (in fact windows discourages the understanding of how it works in its deep, which is the opposite philosophy than the GNU/Linux one).

As a closing paragraph it's understandable that the article tends to clarify that its statements are not dogmas (there's a part of Linux that made the opposite choice, ibidem).

Even if it says that Windows aims to keep latest versions of 20-year-old applications working like they did when they were first created and Linux looks to the future, nonetheless there are applications (like Firefox) that look to the past too, taking care of backward compatibility.

Even if it says that Windows likes its users to think less while Linux likes its users to think more, Windows is not a poor man's Linux where poor (as far as I understand it) might stand for "dumb" or "of poor intellect" (I couldn't find the english expression that correponds to my native language's one, so I translated it literally, I hope it's as effective as it is in italian). The article's explanation seems to be that each OS's flaws should be contextualized chronologically and philosophically (which means: would you consider medieval people stupid for gathering water from wells using buckets, instead of building aqueducts? Or would you consider wrong the eskimos way of dressing compared to papuan people way of dressing?)

The conclusion to take seems to be: Everything needs context.


Instead of concentrating on the specific three question quoted from the linked document, I'd like to remark that Linux is an Open Source environment, and the consequences of this matter are more destructive than a typical PC user can think of.

That page seems very cool, but (IMHO) it doesn't explain the REAL soul of the Open Source community, where Ubuntu comes from. It explain the superficial effects of what the collaboration of hundred (probably thousands) of persons, each one with its attitudes, thoughts, competence and history. Each mentioned project (i.e. Libre Office, OpenOffice, Firefox) have a developers community (which has decided what and how develop) and a user community (which is used and giving feedback); nobody can summarize what a Windows user can expect on a Linux-based system.

I feel to tell you that, by using Ubuntu (and generally every Open Source enviroment), the major change is that you are free, in every way and shades you can think. Often this freedom is confusing most of the new user in this universe, and this is the reason because there are pages like the one you have linked; sadly, it represents the opinion of few people inside a very (very) large community.

Have a nice free beer, since here the beer is always free.

  • Exactly. Have a nice free beer, since here the beer is always free. But beer brands never tell you what they put into their beer nor do they let you customize the beer. Anyways Love your interpretation.. you are free That's exactly what I felt being a PC user for about 12 years now. when i installed Ubuntu on my external HDD at 6 this morning. – The-Ever-Kid Jun 4 '12 at 20:48

I think the statement 'Windows isn't a poor man's Linux' is a deliberate prod at most peoples' mindsets, who think in terms of Linux being a poor man's Windows (because it costs nothing). I agree with Eliah Kagan's comments in this thread. The reversal of roles in the statement forces people to think a bit about what is meant by 'poor', and it clearly is not talking about money.

  1. It means openoffice is meant to be easy to migrate from MS word to, so you don't have to have a "learning curve"

  2. It means that Firefox has compatibly with older web pages.

  3. ????


"Windows isn't a poor man's Linux." is meant to make a joke and make you think by using the opposite of the opposite of what people would expect.

Because Linux is free, people might think, that Linux is a poor mans Windows, so if you can't afford Windows, you would try Linux.

But there are some points against this view. MS made a huge marketing campaign about "total costs of ownership", arguing that people are used to Windows, and teaching them Linux is more expensive than a Windows License, which is of course not a fair comparing, since you could start with Linux as well (and maybe should in public schools).

But often you have paid already for the Windows License, since cheap hardware offers come in huge numbers, and Windows is preinstalled. Try to get a Laptop without preinstalled Windows - it's nearly impossible. Few dealers offer them, and rarely big ones like Dell sell a single model.

But Windows is cheap, compare it to MacOS and Apple! But it isn't a poor mans Linux because it fails short in reaching the usability of Linux, it only runs on few plattforms and isn't customizable. Windows is less than a poor mans Linux. ;)

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