Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!
Hi, everyone. Leo Notenboom here for askleo.com. I have referred to myself as being “platform agnostic” a number of times over the years, and I want to talk a little bit about how I got here and what it really means.
As you may or may not know, I use all major different platforms. I’m currently staring at the camera sitting on top of my Mac; I have Windows machines; I have Linux servers; I even fired up a Chrome operating system for a Chromebook for the first time this morning to see what it was all about, and it looks pretty interesting.
So as you can imagine, I find all of these different platforms really interesting, and I enjoy playing with each of them for what it is they do for me. I hear regularly from people that I will call “platform zealots”: people who feel specifically that their platform, their favorite platform is the only platform that people should be using – period.
And that usually comes from either of two directions: Either they are so enamored with the platform that they don’t quite understand that the other platforms can do some of the same things, or they are so anti-some-other-platform, so as to let that cloud their judgment, again, about what that platform may or may not be useful for.
Usually the anti-platform scenario has to do as much with I’ll just say “policies and business practices and politics” as it does with technology, although there are definitely technology issues pro and con for every platform that there might be.
So what’s interesting about it is that each one of these zealots regardless of how they get there will tell you that other platforms suck (to put it bluntly). Other platforms can’t do whatever it is they enjoy doing on their platform. And I find that really, really interesting, because to me, it’s really clear. They don’t suck. They’re fine platforms.
All of them have really, really – all of them are really, really capable. They’re really, really good, and what’s really telling is that each of the major platforms: Microsoft Windows, Apple’s Mac OS, Linux, Google Chrome, even Windows 10 right now has a really, really passionate, happy user base.
There are people who are very, very happy with each of these platforms that they use every day. Now I realize that with Windows 10, it’s a good example of how things get muddy, because what people are most upset about is how it was delivered.
But in fact, Windows 10, a lot of people, once they get it installed, once they understand what it’s about, they’re very, very happy with it. And yet you’ll find tons and tons of people who will say, well no, Windows 10 sucks or Windows 8 sucks or Mac OS or Linux sucks, I can’t understand it.
You get the idea. There’s a lot of different opinions about each one, but those opinions while they feel absolute to the individual, in practice, they’re not. All of these platforms are good. All of these platforms have their pros and cons. What I find is that people tend to get mired in the details, that they will find themselves annoyed at what ultimately are little differences.
They can by annoying differences, don’t get me wrong, but they will be little differences in how a platform operates as compared to a platform they are more comfortable with. Now, what I stumble into all of the time when I switch from Windows to Mac is that the control and command keys are two different keys on the keyboard, but they’re used in roughly the same way.
So for example, on a PC, I might use Control C and Control V to do a copy/paste, whereas on my Mac I have to a remind a Command C and a Command V. That also brings up something else that’s really, really interesting, again to me, and that is that the fundamental concept we’re talking about here, they’re actually all the same across all of these platforms, be it files and folders or copy/paste or any number of different things.
They’re the same concepts; they’re exactly the same concepts. They’re just exposed in slightly different ways. So, how did I get here? How did I end up becoming someone who is so comfortable using all these different platforms? Part of is innate. I like to play with technology; it’s what I do; it’s what gets me out of bed in the morning.
As you might imagine, after working at Microsoft for as long as I did, I left there with a fair amount of Windows and MS-DOS and command line expertise, even using the Windows-based web services, IIS for a few things that I played with while I was there.
What’s ironic about my time at Microsoft is that the day I showed up, literally the very first day that I showed up at Microsoft, I was given my email account, and that email account happened to be on a Xenix server. Well Xenix is one of the predecessors, it’s an offshoot of Unix which is a predecessor to Linux .
So in reality, the very first thing I played with at Microsoft was a predecessor to Linux. Now, when I went to do Ask Leo! after leaving Microsoft, when I went to do Ask Leo! at around 2003, I elected to start using Linux for my web server for a couple of different reasons. One, it was cheaper. It didn’t have the same licensing issues that you do when end up purchasing Windows.
It’s also, in my opinion, it’s a little bit lighter weight; it’s a little bit more efficient at doing web services, but it was also, like I said, an opportunity for me to learn more about something else that other people were using as well, and I had a lot of support for that, and by support, I mean people that I was interacting with who were able to help me with getting on board using my Linux web servers.
So, today even, askleo.com is, in fact, running a Linux variant to serve up the web pages and hopefully the web page you’re looking at right now. In addition, I’ve been using Linux here at home. It’s a great way to extend the life of some older hardware.
My old desktop machine currently sits in the basement running Linux Mint. It has I think about 6 or 7 external hard disks attached to it and that’s what I’m using it for. It is connected on my local area network as a form network attached storage. It’s a great way to keep that machine productive for longer, because Linux generally can be configured to be less resource intensive, and I’m less concerned about some of the more modern, some of the requirements of the more modern versions of Windows.
So it’s a great way to reuse it, and if there’s something I want to play with in Linux, I’ve got that machine, I can go do that. The Mac came to me a different way. I’d not used a Mac for a long, long time. I mean years, I had never, ever touched a Mac, and I became aware of a feature in some video editing software that was available only on the Mac.
The feature is one that allows you to synchronize multiple videos taken of the same event in such a way it’s like you had multiple cameras going into the same mixing board, and you were doing all of the different things to do multiple camera angles on the same event, except that the different cameras could be cell phones or video cameras or even just plain audio recording.
In fact, many of the other videos that I do, I actually use that technique. I will be recording using a camera, the video, but then I will actually be recording the audio using a pocket voice recorder or audio recorder, and then I will synchronize those two streams in the software on my Mac.
So that feature caused me to want Final Cut Pro, the software that had it at the time, and that caused me to need a Mac so I got a MacBook laptop to play with to learn how to do that kind of thing, and since that worked for me and worked well for me, I then moved on and my desktop machine is a Mac Pro, a twelve core Mac Pro. I got that machine specifically so that I could do more video editing more quickly and run virtual machines.
I actually run Windows in virtual machines on my Mac Pro. Right now, in fact, there’s a Windows 10 machine sitting here in a window, and it’s a machine where I wrote the notes that I’m using to record this video. Now, again, a little bit of irony: in that while these are my first Macs, I never used a Macintosh until I experienced needing that Final Cut Pro, my very first computer, the very first computer I ever owned myself was an Apple II, so what goes around, comes around in a lot of different ways.
The bottom line for me is that computers, as powerful and as wonderful as they are, are just tools. Platforms are just the way you use a particular tool. Now, obviously I enjoy using all of these different platforms and all of these different tools to do all sorts of different things.
I understand getting passionate about tools, about the tools you enjoy using, but all too often, I see that passion getting in the way of opportunities and getting in the way of perhaps being more productive or just generally being happier, because that passion is excluding you from looking at other possibilities.
Now, of course, I really enjoy this stuff, and I get that perhaps I enjoy it more than most, but to me, it’s really awesome to see all of these different things at my finger tips, to be able to record and publish videos, to be able to write the articles that I do, to be able to connect with so many people that I am able to connect with across all of these different platforms, across all of these different technologies.
Who knows what tomorrow’s going to bring? I really don’t know, and I really, really am excited by the possibilities, but the possibilities aren’t restricted to a platform. Who knows what my desktop machine will be in five years. It may be something that hasn’t been invented yet. We just don’t know, and I’m open to that possibility, because I’m platform agnostic.
So, here’s my question for you: “What’s your philosophy on platforms?” Are you a platform zealot? Are you platform agnostic? Do you have a specific platform that you love? Do you have a specific platform that you cannot stand? Why? Do you have specific platform that you have, I’ll just say a moral opposition to and again, why?
I’d love to hear these different views, these different ideas as to how and why people arrive at the platforms and the decision and the feelings that they do when it comes to them.
As always, if you’re watching this anywhere but on askleo.com, here’s a link to this article. You’ll find it there. As always, I read all of the comments that are posted there. The comments are moderated to keep the trolls out, but other than that, disagree with me all you want. I love disagreement. I learn a lot from disagreement, but what I would really, really love to hear about are your experiences with different platforms and how they have and have not impacted your ability to get done what you need to get done.
So until next week, I’m Leo Notenboom for askleo.com. Remember, have fun, stay safe and don’t forget to back up. Take care.
If you found this article helpful, I'm sure you'll also love Confident Computing! My weekly email newsletter is full of articles that help you solve problems, stay safe, and give you more confidence with technology. Subscribe now and I'll see you there soon,