Geek fatigue

I heard a great term the other day: geek fatigue. Being a geek often means doing things the hard way, at least in the short term. There’s usually some long-term advantage, real or imagined, to justify doing things the hard way. But even a die-hard geek gets tired and wants to take the easy way out.

Thomas Gideon — a self-described “die-hard technology geek” — used the term geek fatigue on his podcast to describe why he bought a Mac a few years ago. He was tired of using Linux and fighting driver issues. (Thomas has recently decided to move back to Linux.)

If geek fatigue is exhaustion from doing things the hard way, there needs to be a corresponding term for the relief that comes from joining the mainstream. Any suggestions?

Sometimes the geek approach is just extra work. There’s no advantage other than the personal satisfaction of doing something within self-imposed limitations. But sometimes the geek approach pays off, especially in the longer term. What has your experience been?

17 thoughts on “Geek fatigue

  1. It is more than just fatigue. I think age enters into the equation: priorities change over time. As I grow older, I value my time a lot more. It feels I have less of it. So spending an afternoon debugging a driver is a big no-no for me right now… yet, it was an acceptable use of my time 10 years ago.

  2. Macs are *not* the easy way out, if you want to do anything remotely productive with your computer. Then it helps to know command-line UNIX.

  3. Joe: I think what Mac (and Windows) does well and what Linux has traditionally done poorly is support mundane consumer computing: playing games, buying and listening to music, plugging in new hardware and expecting it to work immediately, etc. On the other hand, Linux has gotten much better as far as a consumer platform.

  4. Geek + Capitulation = Geek-itulation

    I think Daniel has it right; time is valuable. Doing it the hard way needs an increasingly big payoff to keep up with improvements in standard products over time.

  5. As a ‘geek’ matures he learns to pick his battles.
    Working on cutting edge OS (latest linux), desktop environment (KDE?), and software means you get to spend less time on the things you really care about.

    By the time you had finished configuring the system for your liking and find the right drivers for whatever hardware you have — you have not actually achieved anything useful.

    Yes, my macbook is not perfect and installing an esoteric compiler is more difficult than on a debian Linux system. But most of the stuff I need just work.

    It’s called “growing up” (or getting old…)

  6. Stefan De Boey

    i’d say retired/en retraite … no, for programmers/developers, mac os vs linux is almost irrelevant. ubuntu nowadays is a piece of cake, with little or no overhead. you won’t receive a geek medal anymore for installing/using ubuntu.

    if you mean geek as in for example: someone who explores other ‘less production-ready’ programming languages then for example Java, then i’d say: it pays off to be a geek. the same for exploring HTML5, different mobile platforms, …

    besides that, i don’t understand why someone with at least basic experience in (computer) technology would have such a hard time setting up, for example, ubuntu. and then consequently decide to buy another (operating) system.
    i have only basic experience with mac os, so i’m probably missing some of the advantages, but at the moment the only advantage i see is that it looks cool, slick (which is also a valid argument for me).

  7. @Stefan, @Nimrod,

    I’m not expecting a medal for installing Ubuntu. I’ve been picking my battles for a long time now. I’m using Linux because with a distro like Ubuntu, it actually is pretty easy. My OS stays out of my way. Instead, I direct my efforts at building a couple of things that I’m actively working with directly from their repositories.

  8. i don’t understand why someone with at least basic experience in (computer) technology would have such a hard time setting up, for example, ubuntu. and then consequently decide to buy another (operating) system.

    If there were “designed for Ubuntu” system, with all hardware carefully tested, in all possible ways… with a vendor that would ensure that when I buy an iPad or other gadget, the OS will work nicely with it… then I would agree with you. However, right now, Ubuntu tries its best, and mostly succeeds, at coping with a diverse ecosystem of hardware that was not designed for it.

    It works… most of the time. But you see… at some point, you are going to connect a new monitor to your machine, and Ubuntu won’t pick it up. You won’t know why exactly. After hours of research, you’ll figure out that you need to install some extra module.

    Or maybe you’ll have a nice Nvidia card, but Ubuntu won’t be able to support 3D acceleration for it without some proprietary driver. And then, when you install said driver, you start having a weird bug where after a few hours, your windows go “black” and you have to restart the X server. (True story.) Then you start doing research, and find out that the bug is in something called Compiz. And that you have to go into Compiz source code, change a line of C code and recompile it.

    Nah. Sorry. I’m too old for this.

    (But Linux is great for servers, where you don’t have to worry so much about drivers.)

  9. “sheep relief”? for getting back into the “herd” and enjoying the cosiness and warmth from fellows ? Please don’t misundertand me: I don’t use the word “sheep” or “herd” in a pejorative way. I do a lot of things just because others do it too, find it easier and enjoy the extra-time to do geeky stuff…. Even geeks can be social creatures.

  10. You should read “”In the Beginning Was… the Command Line” from Neal Stephenson… There is a chapter entitled “Geek Fatigue”…

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