Zealotry [was Re: how to install lxml in window xp?]

Steven D'Aprano steve+comp.lang.python at pearwood.info
Fri Jan 13 06:22:32 EST 2012

On Thu, 12 Jan 2012 21:41:29 -0800, alex23 wrote:

> On Jan 13, 3:02 pm, Steven D'Aprano <steve
> +comp.lang.pyt... at pearwood.info> wrote:
>> Why is it that only Linux and Mac users are accused of being "zealots"?
> Oh please. Don't tar me with the Windows brush. I'd have used the same
> term no matter what OS was being recommended.

I didn't tar you with anything, let alone being a Windows fan-boy. I took 
great care to avoid making any accusations about you. Perhaps you're a 
tad over-sensitive?

>> If I ask how to install (say) MYOB or Photoshop on Linux, and people
>> tell me that I will have to use Windows if I want to easily run that
>> software, I don't accuse them of being a zealot.
> And if lxml didn't have Windows binaries, then maybe this would be the
> case.

The Original Poster was attempting to build lxml binaries under XP. 
Apparently this is difficult enough that the best answer anyone can give 
is "download some pre-built binary from some guy on the Internet, and 
hope it is up to date and works". (I'm paraphrasing from memory.)

It isn't clear to me whether the OP doesn't give a monkey's toss where 
the binaries come from so long as they get installed, or whether he is 
hoping to build them himself (for fun, for education, because he doesn't 
trust some guy on the Internet). If the second case, then "download 
binaries" is no more helpful than "INSTALL LINUX!!!" would be.

> [snippety snippety to the rest of your straw men]

I really get frustrated by people who use "straw man" as a meaningless 
term of abuse for any argument they don't like or disagree with. "Straw 
man argument" has a specific meaning, and it doesn't apply to what I 
wrote: I did not attack a weakened or extreme version of your argument, 
but made a complaint about the double standards in accusations of 

If you want to accuse me of anything, it is use of weasel words like 
"some Windows users" [citation required]. But not straw man.

>> That may be true, but the advice remains reasonable advice. If somebody
>> asks you how to get from Iceland to Norway by car, it is perfectly
>> reasonable to tell them that they will find it much easier to use a
>> plane or boat.
> In what way is downloading pre-built binaries and then installing lxml
> on Windows like driving across the ocean?

Now *there's* a straw man.

It is *building* the binaries under XP that are like driving across the 
ocean: difficult enough that the best advice given is "leave it to 
someone else".

> This is a new low in pedantry for you.

And misuse of the word pedantry too, tsk tsk. <wink>

>> Some Windows users are so used to being the centre of the computing
>> universe that any time they hit a problem that is easier to solve on
>> another OS, and people dare remind them of that fact, they get their
>> nose out of joint.
> Because suggesting people ditch their environment whenever they hit a
> single bit of friction - whether it's one they've chosen or had forced
> upon them - is absolutely ridiculous. 

Perhaps. It depends on how important the task is, and how much friction 
is there. If the task is important enough, and the friction great enough, 
then it isn't ridiculous at all. My wife ditched KDE 4 as her desktop due 
to a single point of friction: the inability to get Bluetooth working 

> And believe me, _no_ user of
> Windows' Python would ever make the mistake of thinking they were the
> centre of _that_ world.

Oh I don't know, I long ago have ceased to be surprised by the narcissism 
of some computer users. 

> Recommending another OS to a clearly phrased problem is the IT
> equivalent of the old joke about the doctor saying "well don't do that
> then". It doesn't do _anything_ to address the actual problem the person
> is trying to solve.

On the contrary, it prevents the symptoms of the problem, which very 
often is good enough, or even the best that can be done.

Look, I'm not and never did defend the *specific* argument that upgrading 
to Windows 7 or cross-grading to Gentoo Linux was the right solution for 
the failure to compile lxml under Windows XP. I've never tried to compile 
lxml at all, and for all I know, it might be *more difficult* under Linux 
than Windows. (Stranger things have happened.) I'm just making a point 
about perceptions of zealotry.


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