First Impressions

How do you tell others that you've discovered Linux? Do you "preach the gospel of Linux" or apologize for your choice of operating system? How you tell others about Linux can make a big impression on how they perceive Linux. As a long time advocate for an often bashed, orphaned operating system (C64/128), I've dealt with operating system "prejudice" for many years, and have a few thoughts on how t
Don't Fall into the Prejudice Trap

Every now and again with my other favourite platform someone will come along and ask "Why bother?" (usually followed by a snide remark or two). If the comment seems to be of genuine interest, I'll answer. I do the same when dealing with prejudice with the Linux platform. What I don't do is give my time to the defense of something I like, enjoy and prefer to use. I don't mind spending time when it comes to helping to inform someone about what we can do with our systems (Commodore or Linux), but I don't see any point in having a long drawn out argument with someone closed minded. I have better things to do with my time, and I've found that these remarks are often made to see how much of a rise they can get.

Holy Cow, It's Not a Holy War!

It's one thing to have a preference for what we like, it's quite another when we start arguing with others over which is better. This is something that seems deeply ingrained in our psyche--people argue over Republicans vs Democrats, vi vs Emacs, KDE vs Gnome, Linux vs Windows. Having a choice is important; forcing your choice onto others isn't.

Respect is earned. It isn't something you can receive by way of apology or by preaching that your OS is better than any other. Your goal should be to let others know that you use Linux, not to convince them to install Linux at their first opportunity. The reason? People who are only casually interested will be turned off with a hard sell approach. Instead, plant a seed of interest and wait to see what develops.


My opportunities to introduce others to Linux generally come in one of two different ways. Sometimes a client will be in the workshop, notice the desktop on my monitor doesn't look anything like they've ever seen, and comment "What kind of computer is that?". The other common scenario is when I am out somewhere and the conversation turns to computers.

How far I go in taking "advantage" of introducing Linux depends on what happens after the initial few moments. In the first scenario, if the person tells me they're computer illiterate and don't know a thing about them, I generally go back to work and don't worry about it. If they show an interest and mention some aspect of computing they enjoy, I'll try to show them what software I use to accomplish the same, or simply give them a brief demonstration of some of my Linux favourites. Much depends on the attitude expressed and the amount of free time I have. In the second type of scenario, I generally comment that I use Linux and wait for the response, "Oh, I've heard about that, is it any good?", and carry on from there. If the casual comment hits a nerve and the other person doesn't want to know, I don't waste any further time on the subject. On at least one occasion, this has worked very well, as a few months later the person who told me Linux wasn't a real operating system rang me up and asked about Linux software. If I had argued with them in the first instance, chances are they would have looked elsewhere for support.

1) Be Constructive

Consider it against the rules to say anything against "the competition". The competition speaks for itself each time your friend has to reboot their computer or when they get the dreaded "blue screen of death". Talking down the other person's choice of operating system isn't going to endear you to them.

2) Show Don't Tell

It's by far easier to demonstrate some of the cooler things about using Linux by actually showing your guest what can be done. If possible, try to show something that you have plenty of experience using. I tend to make use of a few of my favourite GIMP script-fu scripts, or the ability to have multiple virtual windows in Enlightenment. If it's appropriate, be sure to show how long your computer has been up without a reboot. Go with the interest of your guest--show them things they have an interest in.

If you've never used a particular type of software, now isn't the time to take a crash course. Murphy's Law can strike at any time, and it's my experience that this law is magnified ten-fold when there's someone watching what you're doing.

3) Be Honest

If asked about some aspect of Linux that you can't answer, don't try to bluff. And if there's something you really don't like, say so--first of all, it gives you credibility. I don't tell people installing Linux is easy--it may be easier with current distributions, but my first experience was a long six week learning period. I enjoy learning, so it wasn't a terrible experience, but I wouldn't call it easy either. Was it worth it? Oh my, yes.