Much like "The Boy Who Cried Wolf," if you see the same claim made in every argument, time and time again, that claim starts to lose credibility. I don't think there’s anywhere in modern life where this is more visible than in the Linux/Mac/Windows flame wars currently taking place throughout the Web. With that in mind, I'd like to present a list of phrases that are as overplayed as your least favorite Nickleback song.
- Constantly referring to the opponent's choice of OS platforms in "witty" and disparaging language I can't think of a better way to describe this, but when you can't call it "Microsoft Windows" but must, EVERY time you mention it, call it "M$ Winblowz," you're just destroying your credibility. It isn't building your "geek cred" – instead, it’s making people as uncomfortable as it does when you rant over the specific details of your favorite counter-culture Manga graphic novel. Oh, you didn't know that creeps people out, too? It does.
- Insisting that "Security through obscurity" is a myth
I'm willing to entertain that there are physical design features of *nix based OSs that from a security perspective, when administered by a highly-skilled, competent, and dedicated *nix admin, are simply superior to the security design of Win32 and Win64 architecture. However, I'd be willing to bet that the careful qualifications in the sentence above disqualify roughly 98% of Linux boxes out there and probably even MORE Apple boxes from being thought of as "inherently more secure than Windows."
With those truths in place, then the remaining reason that *nix based OSs enjoy fewer exploits, attacks, and compromises is specifically due to security through obscurity. If you’re a security expert with advanced Linux and/or UNIX hardening experience, and all of your *nix boxes are as secure as is possible, don't take this as a personal attack on you. It’s all the OTHER morons who haven't patched the glaring SSH exploit on their Ubuntu install or who upgraded to OS 10.6 but didn't fix the Flash downgrade who are to blame.Fortunately, the odds that these people will ever actually feel the impact of their sloppy security administration are astronomically slim, because even when an Ubuntu or OS X box is wide open, the script kiddies are 999 times out of 1000 more likely to go after a secured Win32 box first, simply because there are so many more of them to choose from.
- Calling your opponent a "Fanboy" This is especially true if you use some cute misspelling of the word to try and make it seem more... I don’t know, punk and edgy? And, here, let me raise my hand on this one. Guilty. I've done it. We've all done it. It is played out. Stop. Just stop. To be honest, when your opponent starts taking YOUR slur and using it with pride, it’s time to hang up using that word at all in your arguments. And if you're one of the people adopting the term "Fanboy" as a term of pride... don't. Drop it. Let it die.
- Responding "methinks"... to *anything*
This one applies in general to every aspect of your life. If you want to ensure that everyone around instantly understands that you are a desperate, lonely, awkward nerd who is liable to end up in a bell tower with a high-powered rifle, then just go ahead and start a sentence with "methinks." It doesn't have to be technical, and it doesn't have to be particularly nerdy. Here’s an example:
"Methinks that Jiff is likely a better peanut butter product than Skippy."See?!? There is nothing nerdy at all in the observation above – until you add a "methinks" to it.
- Calling anything – anything – “FUD"
This attack instantly shows that you're biased and live for seeking out and partaking in flame-bait discussions online. Now, for those of you who aren't forum flame warriors, FUD does not stand for something obscene – it actually means "Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt."
We all know that FUD is one of the oldest tricks in the book, in matters far more important than if OS X Snow Leopard is Apple's "Windows Vista." Politicians, generals, and dating singles all successfully use FUD on a regular basis to increase their odds at success. For these folks, when the opponent or target of the FUD starts screaming that FUD is being used against them, how good does it make them look? How credible do they appear? How well does it defend their position – especially if that is their only response? So, why should it be any different in discussions about OS preferences?Listen, if someone makes a claim against your position, whatever it is, and you believe it’s "FUD", don't simply call it "FUD" and leave it at that – because that’s how I most often see this stupid phrase invoked in these arguments. Instead, make your counter arguments, point-by-point, that discredit the claim being made that you think is designed to create "FUD."
So, what are your thoughts? Do you agree, disagree, or think I'm just spreading more Winblowz FUD to try and make it easier for the M$ fanboiz to defend their lame OS choice? Is there anything that I missed? Let me hear your thoughts.
Sonja Thompson started at TechRepublic in October 1999. She is a former Senior Editor at TechRepublic.