If Linux was a car (Hater’s edition)

There have been several humorous variations of the “If Linux was a car…” theme, but a recent rant against Linux made me wonder, what would the stereotypical hater’s opinion be on our modern automobiles?  Here is how I imagine it would go:

I’m giving up on cars.  Every few years I test-drive a car, to see if they’ve reached the point where they are usable to every day people, and every time I am disappointed.  Sure, maybe coverall-wearing mechanics and uber-elite NASCAR drivers can figure out how to operate them, but they’re just too damned complicated for your average joe.

To start off, there are literally hundreds of different kinds of cars, and they’re all different.  How do car makers expect a non-expert to be able to select one?  Most manufacturers even make different “models” of their car, so it’s not enough to just say you want a Ford, now you have to decide which Ford you want.  I don’t know ahead of time whether I’m going to want to move furniture, go off-roading or cruise the Autobahn, why should I have to pick one?  Why can’t they just make one car that does everything?

And once you finally do pick a car, it’s nearly impossible to maintain.  You can’t even replace the air filter without opening the hood!  My Grandma isn’t going to open the hood. Even regular maintenance can ruin your car if it’s not done in exactly, EXACTLY, the right frickin’ way.  After test-driving the latest version of some Toyota, a light came on telling me it needed more fuel.  Okay, I thought, there’s a fueling station right down the block, this should be easy enough.  But no.  First of all, I don’t even know what side of the car the fuel opening is on, so I pull up to a pump only to discover it’s on the other side! (I later found out that there’s a nearly hidden message on the dash indicating what side it’s on, but it’s certainly not made abundantly clear).  After pulling around to another pump, I’m greeted by not one, not two, but four different kinds of fuel.  At this point I probably should have spent an hour reading the car’s manual to discover which of these mystery liquids is the right one, but I just want to drive, I don’t want to become a freakin’ mechanic!  So I pick the one with the nicest looking handle (a pretty green one called “Diesel”), and don’t you know it, the stupid thing doesn’t even fit my car!  Luckily the convenience store sells fuel containers, so I can at least pump five gallons at a time into that, then pour it into my car.  It’s a horrible user experience and an lot of work, but at least now I have a full tank right?  Well not so fast, evidently this fuel sucks, or my car sucks, or something, but it’s making an awful lot of smoke and driving slow.  Who’d have thought that something as simple as refueling could wreck this thing?

So that car is a lost cause, but I want to finish my review of automobiles, so I borrow one from a colleague who is always telling me that his works just fine.  Luckily for me it has a full tank already, so I don’t have to try and navigate that minefield again.  His car runs fairly well, but it doesn’t have much “bling” if you know what I mean.  I decided to install some features that I’ve seen on other cars, so I go to my nearest big-box store and immediately I’m hit with another huge list of options.  Seriously,  how many different CD players do we need?  I just want one that plays music.  I don’t really know which one is best, so I just grab the cheapest one they have only to discover that, yet again, it doesn’t “Just fit”.  This thing is about an inch too tall for my co-workers dashboard.  This time I consult The Google, and find a video tutorials for installing this thing.  So I grab my Sawzall and some plywood, and follow along.  The end result isn’t pretty, and it has a faint burning-plastic smell when I turn the volume up, but at least I got something working.

So now I am cruising around town with my Katy Perry blasting and the windows down (because that darn burning plastic smell makes me dizzy), only to be stopped by the “traffic police”.  What nobody bothered to tell me when I was looking at using a car was that evidently there are rules you have to follow.  There are so many rules, I later learned, that there’s an entire manual devoted to them.  And a test too!  Do people really expect that their parents will be able to remember all of these crazy rules?  Any why does my car even have the ability to go 120 MPH if I’m not even allowed to do it?

So that’s it, I’m giving up.  Cars are just too damn complicated for normal people to use.  There are too many choices, most of which will end up breaking your car.  There are too many rules, and by the time you follow them all driving it’s even fun anymore.  To top it all off, my brand new CD player ended up causing a small fire even though I followed every single one of the YouTube video’s instructions.  So I returned this smoldering pile of junk to my co-worker, and as he was muttering something about “theft” and “pressing charges”, I promised myself that from that point on I was sticking to my good old trustworthy horse and buggy.

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60 Responses to If Linux was a car (Hater’s edition)

  1. IdleOne says:

    Was it a automatic or manual transmission?

    • Michael Hall says:

      I wanted to bring that up, maybe make an analogy to Apt vs. Yum, or packages vs. compiling, but couldn’t think of a good way to word it.

      • anon says:

        You could bring up the car analogy to halting your Linux system before turning the power off:

        ‘And guess what, when I tried to park my car on a steep road, the moment I tried to leave it it started to roll from itself, almost wrecking the car next to it! Turns out, as another small print in the manual mentions it, when turning your car off you have to pull this so-called “hand brake” for it to stay put safely. Ridiculous – do you really think your parents will be able to remember all that??’

  2. Pingback: If Linux was a car (Hater's edition) | Michael Hall's Blog | Linux Supersaniya

  3. Revenant says:


  4. PBomars says:

    That’s what happens every time I drive a Ford. Real drivers know that Chevy is the only real car out there. It just works.

  5. LinuxRants says:

    Now this was funny! Would you mind if I republished it on my website (with proper credit of course)?

  6. Hahaha, very enjoyable read :) Thank you.

  7. This is unfair. Cars really are garbage.

    They’re expensive and complicated, their electronics were manufactured in Hell, and the only reason anyone puts up with them is because most people in the States need one to do everything.

    I don’t appreciate having my beautiful Ubuntu machine compared to anything that has an internal combustion engine. But moreover, the alternative isn’t a “horse and buggy” for most people. It’s more like an electric moped, or Euro sedan, or Star Trek transporter.

    This isn’t 2005 anymore. Macs and the iPad are mainstream. They got that way by empowering users and giving them choices worth making. We’re not going to do that by making fun of people.

  8. Pingback: If Linux was a car (Hater's edition) | Michael Hall's Blog | What is Linux

  9. whiic says:

    “They got that way by empowering users and giving them choices worth making.”

    Apple’s marketing genius is taking away choices, not giving them. People are more comfortable when stripped off choices they could make. That’s why they can sell a single model of iPhone that has inferior hardware to competitors, with a higher price than their competitors who also waste more money on R&D and bringing multiple smart phones to market.

    They also take away liberty to choose where you buy your software for iPenisenlargement and you guys love them for it, and even make excuses denying the nature of Apple’s success by claiming the opposite.

    Michael Hall’s “horse and buggy” hit quite a bit closer to Apple than Microsoft. Or, if you insist thinking of Microsoft as “horse and buggy” you can think of Apple as a pair of jogging shoes, available only in white colour and only in size 44 (or 10 depending on numbering system).

    • I’m no Apple fan, but you seem to overlook something: if a product is too complicated to make optimal use of, all it’s great advantages are moot. Apple made their products so much simpler, removing so much choice, that the average person actually could USE the functionality that was there. In effect, empowering them to use things the wouldn’t be able to figure out on an average Nokia or Samsung Phone!

    • Wouter Verhelst says:

      Or, put otherwise: the iPhone is available in any colour, as long as it is black.

  10. Ross says:

    That was a very enjoyable read, thank you! :)

  11. marcelo lotif says:

    That’s brilliant! the best comparison ever!

  12. Pingback: If Linux was a car (Hater’s edition) « Linux Rants

  13. Very funny, I like this.

    Of course, cars have been around for over 100 years, and Linux well below that. And most people have a serious reason to use a car every day (not so much with Linux). It’s for those reasons that people have invested time in learning how to operate and maintain cars.

    I could also mention that “some” OS manufacturers do make (and market) their software relatively hassle-free. So while you may not get the flexibility of Linux, you also don’t have to maintain the engine.

    So good reversal of the argument, though it takes believability on a bit of a stretch.

  14. Daeng Bo says:


    I think the analogy was supposed to be that cars are as “ready” for normal people as they reasonably can be, which is true, and that you need to learn something about the car you’re driving. If Linux is a car, we might make comparison to public transportation — only goes where they tell you it can go; have to sit with the unwashed masses; etc. (For the record, I’ve been a big user of public transportation for most of my life.)

  15. Ken Ham says:

    Linux hater here. Obviously this is a parody, so there’s no need to point out this is not what haters think.

    However, there is a problem: while you’re laughing at your users’ inability to use a computer, Linux (on the desktop, as that appears to be your target here) is sitting at 1% market share. In the past Linux’s market share managed to creep up to 2% during the Vista fiasco, only to drop back down again when everyone tried it and realised what a turd desktop Linux is. While you, and all the guys on Slashdot, were busy wanking over car analogies the pre-release of Windows 7 overtook Linux’s market share, this was before Windows 7 was even advertised: desktop Linux can’t even beat Microsoft on an even playing field.

    I was going to point out the ways this analogy is flawed, then realised pointing out your contempt for users on the one hand yet desperation to get them using desktop Linux on the other is the best counter-argument I can think of.

    • Niall O'Connor says:

      Obviously market share is a clear indicator of engineering prowess. Windows must be a better system if more people buy it. Pretty cars that drive themselves are always going to be better that those complicated cars with the doors and the steering circle ( gets me every time!! It doesn’t even have an arrow on it to say which way you should turn. My digital watch didn’t help with clockwise ( thank your Toyota!))

      Coca-cola have a large market share over water and McDonald’s have a fairly large market share over fruit and veg. This is because their product is better than real food.

      .. . .. . .

      Is someone feeling a little hurt that he can’t work Stup-Ubuntu (linux for dummies)? If so you have been bested by My father(65) and my niece(5).

      And my niece can’t even drive :-D

    • Marco says:

      It’s 1% on the desktop. Very different on the server side.

      • Scaine says:

        [citation needed]

        No way, currently, of accurately knowing what “market share” Ubuntu has, since it isn’t actually sold. All those “1%” figures come from a mild sampling of User Agent info across a few websites. It’s a wild, blind stab in the dark.

        Like I’d care about market share anyway. I use Ubuntu because “it just works”. By comparison, I got sick of re-installing Windows. And as for Apple, their company ethic is in many ways worse than Microsoft. And that’s saying something.

        • Gian says:

          I don’t know about servers, but there is a way of knowing for supercomputers. According to this, 447 of the top 500 supercomputers run Linux.

    • Michael Hall says:

      You’re misinterpreting the point I was trying to make. I’m not trying to poke fun of Windows users, or novice users, or any kind of users. I’m pointing out that all too often when people go off ranting about how bad Linux is, it’s because they’re doing things horribly, horribly wrong. And moreover, the point was that it isn’t Linux’s fault that they didn’t know what to do, since you couldn’t just grab a car and assume you can operate it properly without some level of knowledge about how to do so.

      The problem isn’t that Linux is hard to learn, the problem is that Windows admins seem to think that they will inherently understand it without learning it. People think “Oh, I’m a Windows Power User, so I can easily figure out this Linux thing”, but that’s just not the case. Being an expert equestrian doesn’t automatically mean you know how to drive a car, let alone race one. And trying to operate a car like you would a horse will be every bit as disastrous as trying to operate Linux the way you would Windows.

  16. Harry says:

    In case anyone here hasn’t read it, I strongly recommend Neal Stephenson’s “In the beginning was the command line”, which is all about operating systems, and contains an extended metaphor based on cars about operating systems (maybe this is one of the “several humorous variations” you were thinking of Michael?). Essentially, most people drive boring Windows station wagons, which are a bit crappy but easy to get serviced, some people drive expensive Mac sports cars, which work great but you can’t open the hood or look inside… And on the outskirts of town there’s a bunch of Linux hippies under a sign saying “FREE TANKS”, but everyone thinks they’re a bit weird.

  17. Baggers says:

    Well, that made my morning, cheers!

  18. wewa says:

    Thank god I’m getting a Nissan Leaf next month!

  19. Robin says:

    Oh boy!

    Wouldn’t a better analogy be OS X and Windows are cars. Linux is a truck! I can’t drive a truck and I’m sure there is a lot to it as well, but trucks also keep everything running.

    90% of the internet is linux servers, but the average joe doesn’t need a truck to go to the store. Better.

  20. Russell says:

    this is a very narrow minded article, its funny and clever..but.. what alot of people like myself have zero problems and never have to do anything fancy to make desktop Linux work. you cant judge an orange on the fact that its not an apple. you must look at it for what it is. fast, secure, cutting edge, infinity customizable and open.

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  22. Chopmo says:

    Hehe, great read :-)

    Maybe consider adding a +1 button?

  23. Niall O'Connor says:

    Linux was created to be Unix clone. It was written so the world would have an open source version of Unix. Free BSD the same idea ( except really good :-D ). Apple had a similar idea except usability was the goal for them. So OS X does have a few linux like bits to it but its really really tailored for a top UI experience ( even though I personally hate the way it works ).

    If you go through a computing degree ( in particular Software Engineering ) your first class in “Operating Systems” will tell you how Unix was planned and how windows happened. The architecture is not as well laid out in windows and the holes within expose severe security issues. This is for engineers to debate and I do ( regularly ).

    BUT the market argument is not about quality. Marketing is about making people want to part with money for something. “Dell laptop with i7 quad core and ATI 1GB graphics, 8GB ram, windows 7 home 64bit… for $299” f** me thats cheap! I’ll buy that and I can go online and download tonnes of s**t for nothing and be on face book. Why would you want to spend over $1000 on a mac when this PC will do. Windows will always have a market share of desktops or laptops because people will buy whats cheap and easily available.

    I want to run a web server and put all of my django applications on it. I want to use Nginx and fast CGI, and I want MongoDB and redis cache. Windows is not going to cut it for this usage. Not ever. And I can roll this out on Debian in less than 4 hours. So when I buy my cloud server I want to have a free distro of Linux and open source software that I don’t have to pay a cent for. NOT ONE CENT in licencing. WIN!

    I don’t bash windows. Its not designed for what I want. It is designed for the millions of people who want access to the web and some gaming. BUT the mobile and tablet market is showing some interesting trends. Android and IOS are far more desirable than windows tablet or mobile. And even within windows 7 Firefox, Opera, Chrome are becoming more widely used.

    Microsoft invented and enforced the rules when PC’s and windows were the only way to get through university courses. But now there is more code being written outside of Microsoft’s control and the standards they tried to enforce are being abandoned. Python, Java, Ruby, PHP, Javascript, Erlang, XML, JSON, HTTP, Postgres, Mysql, redis, Memcached, MongoDB, GAE, Amazon, Linux, Apache, Nginx, Lighthttpd. All open source technologies that are common place in the world. Each with its own plethora of frameworks readily available with large communities of support.

    • Michael Hall says:

      4 hours? You should do some Juju or cloud-init setup, you’ll have it down to 4 minutes!

      • Niall O'Connor says:

        Thats setting up all the packages I need on debian, configuring users, configuring nginx from scratch, and getting a basic django site up that takes comments. After that I can clone the machine image. I was planning to do a an image with all the key points of interest commented in config files so that someone can clone and have a django site running and integrated with all these technologies within a few mins. if you want to contact me next week when the sales system is up you can check out the cloud servers your self

        • Michael Hall says:

          You can script most if not all of that using cloud-init, and run it on any image. Check out https://try.cloud.ubuntu.com, you get the choice of running a vanilla Ubuntu server, or one with WordPress, Drupal or Moin on it. They all use the same cloud image, just different scripts to auto-install and configure those services. You can get a working WordPress site in the cloud in less than 5 minutes (Drupal and Moin take a bit longer to install).

  24. Rambo Tribble says:

    And why won’t it just do everything for me? What’s with this “thinking” nonsense?

    • Michael Hall says:

      I don’t want to single out any specific person or post, since the point I was making was a generalization about why individual people and posts ranting against Linux are silly.

  25. Anto Vimal says:

    Awesome :) and Thanks for the post.

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  27. Chel says:

    Shouldn’t GNU/Linux -by definition- be compared to public transportation? ;)

  28. Alex Besogonov says:

    The post is very insightful and comparisons are quite apt (or yum).

    The only thing is, cars give real advantage to users. If you have a car you can do a lot of things more efficiently (taking kids from school, shopping, daily commute, etc.) so for an average Joe it makes sense to learn to drive a car.

    But what about Linux? What would average Joe get from switching to Linux? Not much. So people just don’t bother.

    • Michael Hall says:

      I think the average Joe would gain quite a bit from switching to Linux, since it does indeed let people do things more efficiently. Perhaps that will be the subject of another post.

  29. Very enjoyable reading. Sarcastic and true at the same time. Thanks!

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  31. Pingback: I’m done with cars, they are just too complicated. (follow up to “Done with Linux, going back to Windows”) | all these things that i've done

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  35. Salarzae says:

    Reminds me of leaving my Mercedes to a Honda boy while he never drove on before.. after a few minutes he reaches me on cell and asks me “Where the hell is the handbrake?.. How do I put it reverse?… Tried starting it once, now the key won’t budge… blah blah blah”

    Also reminds me of my own drama when I rented a Peugeot and went to refuel for the very first time. I was not able to find the fuel lid opener inside the car. Had to open the manual to find out that I need to shut engine off, give the keys to the attendant to open it from outside and refuel :D

  36. Shlomi Fish says:

    Great post! I’ve linked to it from my home site’s links page.


    — Shlomi Fish

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