How to Make People Love Linux

There are two kinds of Linux people in the world, those that will help people fix their Windows spyware problems, and those that will not. I land squarely in the former camp, and I think that it's important for us all to consider doing the same.

First, I have to clarify what I mean by, "Linux Person" -- because there is a difference between a Linux user, and what I coin as a Linux Person. Most people I consider "Linux People" are very well versed in technology. They can usually fix any computer problem they're presented, regardless of operating system, and have an inherent ability to logically solve computer problems in general. We're geeks. We're also knowledgeable enough to realize that Linux is a good thing on many levels. We want Linux to be the operating system of choice, because it makes the most sense. We understand the idea of Free software, and we also understand the advantages of free software (beer vs speech thing). As a group, however, we tend to stink the place up when it comes to evangelism.

How We Make People Hate Linux

  • By telling people how much their Windows computer sucks.
  • Instead of helping a Windows user fix their computer, brag about how Linux doesn't have those problems.
  • By being smug. Admit it. You've been smug.
  • By bragging about how awesome Linux is, and then when someone tries it, and has problems, accuse them of being dumb.
  • By pretending Linux has no shortcomings, and claiming other OSs are worthless.

Here's the deal: Everyone knows Windows has problems. Rubbing it in to Windows users won't make the like you (or your OS) any better. The end result should be that people want to use Linux, not that they're forced to use it because Windows breaks and no one will help them.

How to Make People Want Linux

  • Fix their spyware problem. Share with them that spyware is one of the reasons you don't use Windows.
  • Admit that using Linux has a learning curve, but it's one that you think is worthwhile.
  • Show them Compiz. Microsoft marketed an entire operating system on worthless visual thrills. Compiz is free, and cooler.
  • Give them a LiveCD. Offer to help them. Follow through on the offer.
  • Remember Wubi, it's an easy way to try Linux.

That's it! As with anything new, people will be resistant to change. Make them curious, not offended. Make them excited, not defensive. In the end, Linux is all about choice. I'm a computer user that can use Windows, OSX, Linux, Unix, etc, etc -- and I choose to use Linux as often as possible. If we really want people to love Linux, we must give them the choice to use something else as well.

______________________

Shawn Powers is an Associate Editor for Linux Journal. You might find him chatting on the IRC channel, or Twitter

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How to make love to linux people

chewy's picture

When I first read the title I thought it said "How to make love to linux people"
I got very excited because this meant that it was possible to run linux AND be sexually active.
You can imagine my disappointment.

Oh well. Back to partitioning for debian.

Why do we want more dumb people to use linux

Anonymous's picture

Why do we want more dumb people to use linux

Arrogance

Cibbuano's picture

Good points in this article - being arrogant about your OS is not going to convince anyone. The indirect method is so much more effective...

...that's how I was converted to Linux. I resisted for some time, but, every time I visited a colleagues office, he'd show me something else you could do in Linux, including Compiz. I was really amazed, especially when he told me about package repositories.

I dipped a toe in, and loved it. My Windows machines was jammed full of odd software and was rather slow - the sleekness of the Linux dist was so compelling.

Then I used LaTeX to write a document - and I never looked back.

I did the same for my girlfriend last night... I wrote a letter for her in LaTeX and she cooed over how elegant it looked.

Well Written

Eric_1982's picture

Great article. It sad how some people have to prove to the world that they know something about computers and bash some one that needs help or if they are running a different OS. This article did a great job of taken a step back and look at things in a different light.

BARF!

Anonymous's picture

Fix theira computers spyware problem? ha! you have alot of time on your hands.
they're already behind the times... (stupid and lazy)
git with it.

how many people eat unhealthy food? use inferior products, have fewer ideas. smoke packs and packs of useless leaves, cling to dead ideas, refuse change pr renewal.

Its not linux, its humanity. humanity is so mediocer that when some idea or product is really good, it will absolutly not become standard. protectionism strangles our possible discoveries and creations.

frack this world, make your own, and dont invite THEM.

Try grabbing a dictionary

Anonymous's picture

Try grabbing a dictionary before you call people stupid and lazy...

unsuspecting tech support for evil incorporated!

Jayadev's picture

i too have stopped helping people with windoze problem..
it is still a tough choice though..some of them really hate me for that(for being a dick ;-) )..
But I have started 2 think its immoral to help people 2 further sink themselves in the world of restrictions and taking away their freedom(tough they may be unaware of what freedoms they lost)
By restricting advice and support to free software in friendly neighborhoods..
it may lead them to two paths:
1) They will learn how pain it is to deal with all the virus,spyware and restrictions..and eventually make a switch to gnu/linux
or
2) they learn to fix blue screens of death by their own by reading ..
enlightening registry editing articles to the path of being "power users"

Good sentiment

Thomas G's picture

I agree with your article completely. It is to the Linux community's advantage the more the user base grows-- the more users, the more hardware and software will be made to work with linux out of the box. Sure, it's fun to overcome the challenge of making something that wasn't specifically designed for Linux to work anyway, but it is also cool when things just work from the get-go. Linux's user base grows because it is a great OS, but think how much faster it would grow if we all worked to be good representatives of the Linux world and eschewed the air of superiority. And yes, I have slipped into the "no Windows for me" arrogance trap myself.

C'mon, isn't the ego boost of knowing how to do something on a computer better than someone else a bit of a Pyrrhic victory? It is something of an admission that you have spent more time on your computer to the exclusion of other important areas of life. I pour many hours into fiddling on computers and thus know more than a casual user, but that casual user may know more about, say, car repair, American history or what have you than I.

My point is I learned about Linux from reading about the experiences of others and learning from the more knowledgeable. Now it is incumbent upon me to share my knowledge with others. It is a great thing that a community of enthusiasts and professional software developers donating their time have created such a superior OS. I am thankful that the vast majority of the community is gracious with spreading the wealth.

Good sentiment

Thomas G's picture

I agree with your article completely. It is to the Linux community's advantage the more the user base grows-- the more users, the more hardware and software will be made to work with linux out of the box. Sure, it's fun to overcome the challenge of making something that wasn't specifically designed for Linux to work anyway, but it is also cool when things just work from the get-go. Linux's user base grows because it is a great OS, but think how much faster it would grow if we all worked to be good representatives of the Linux world and eschewed the air of superiority. And yes, I have slipped into the "no Windows for me" arrogance trap myself.

C'mon, isn't the ego boost of knowing how to do something on a computer better than someone else a bit of a Pyrrhic victory? It is something of an admission that you have spent more time on your computer to the exclusion of other important areas of life. I pour many hours into fiddling on computers and thus know more than a casual user, but that casual user may know more about, say, car repair, American history or what have you than I.

My point is I learned about Linux from reading about the experiences of others and learning from the more knowledgeable. Now it is incumbent upon me to share my knowledge with others. It is a great thing that a community of enthusiasts and professional software developers donating their time have created such a superior OS. I am thankful that the vast majority of the community is gracious with spreading the wealth.

I agree totoally!

Charlie Bradley's picture

I have a hobby/business (open software solutions). I don't advertise, except the BIG 5'x 2' signs on my truck with a Tux right in the middle. I stopped helping people with their windows problems last year. All I do is Kubuntu installs. I don't make much money, hence the hobby aspect, but I get a couple of people a year switched over. Just recently, a friend of mine who builds custom windows boxes called me in to help him learn how to use the eeepc with Xandros because on of his clients bought one.

Charlie Bradley
Open Software Solutions
We Don't Do Windows!

you've written exactly what

Anonymous's picture

you've written exactly what i had in my mind.

rescuing a PC and making someone happy

Ken Z's picture

On several occasions I have run into friends that have had Windows machines that were practically useless because of malware, pop-ups, viruses etc. In all cases, they were at their wits end and ready to just go out a buy a new machine to make the problems go away. One of these friends, a 45 year old woman, was actually used to having to wait about 30 minutes before she could use her PC because it was so laden with problems. Even after she could use it, it was pathetic because it barely would do anything for her at all.

I offered to update her machine, but it would be quite different I told her. She would no longer be using Windows. I also told here that she would most likely never have the kinds of problems she has been living with for so long now. I spent some time discussing Linux to her and her husband and described how it has worked so well for me and my family. They agreed to give it a try. I let them borrow a hard drive to which I installed Ubuntu Linux. I pulled the data from the Windows drive (family documents and what-not) and added it to the Ubuntu system. That was about 2 years ago now. They have not had a single problem with that machine since and use daily. Every time I visit, the machine is running. They tell me that it is truly amazing and they never power it down!

The same story has played out several other times with other friends, who are now happy Linux users. Once you let them know that you are on their side and get them started, they take to it like a fish in water.

Some people will take ages to do what we did ages ago.

xutre's picture

I've just spent the better part of 3-4 hours trying to fully resurrect a windowsXP machine (circa 2002) that would not boot; it is now booting but the users accounts are all unconfigurable and the admin account appears to be garbled and refuses to show up. To make the fun even all the more consuming, when a user logs in, a box appears, telling that user that an error has occurred and windows will reboot in 60seconds. If the user ignores this and works away anyway, the box disappears, and windows just carries on as though nothing happened. I've told them where I think the problem lies (the registry is bound to be a mess (isn't it always??), and only very old user accounts seem to be stable) and that without the admin acct, my hands are tied (I feel that the best resolution would be a complete reinstall- a review of the sam under linux tells me that all accounts are admin, but under windows, they are all limited accts). Telling the owners the above makes me feel somewhat inadequate at resolving computer problems despite my abilities in Linux and despite getting it to the stage of actually booting without reinstall (most repair Coys would not go that far), and I wonder if they are more interested in blaming me rather than the windows OS. In other words and for them, windows cannot be the problem, because they just do not know any better ie technologically illiterate.

Two Improvements

dbcooper's picture

MS Cleartype/Apple OSX quality font rendering, and better driver support/integration (esp video cards).

Make them and you've got a convert.

Oh, proper (and easy) ICC colour aware apps and support in the OS would be great. Especially as so many monitors have extended their colour space("wide gamut") beyond sRGB.

And I'd pay for a linux OS that gave me that.

Driver Support

Casey's picture

The main reason that MS has better driver support is that it is a monopoly. To the average user PC=Windows. I told someone that I put Linux on an old laptop and they just gave me a blank look and said "What's Linux?". As for apple I've never had a bad experience with them. I have an old apple computer and it still goes and runs at full speed. Apple just need to get rid of that whole safari security thing.

I'm running Ubuntu 8.10 AND I LOVE IT! I've never been so free!

Well said!

barryp's picture

Bravo, Shawn! Nice article.

Paul Barry

I've tried your method for a

FredR's picture

I've tried your method for a day. And I must say, it's nice not to have eggs/garbage/carcasses thrown at you!

Seriously, one of the ways I've tried to combat what I like to call "tech-casting" is to have a nice well rounded cert collection. I actually have more MS and Cisco certs than Linux. Scratch that, I have *no* Linux certs.

Where does one go to get a good Linux cert these days? I know what I know, and I know what I don't know, but I would like to have known what I know on paper.

-- FLR or flrichar is a superfan of Linux Journal, and goofs around in the LJ IRC Channel

http://www.lpi.org/

Anonymous's picture

I Am A Linux Person...

daysleeper_ed's picture

And it's a great feeling to know that I am not alone. I help people with any kind of PC problem, including Windows problems. I often joke that I provide tech support for family and friends. I recognize that I don't give best "tech support", but for friends and family who are less technically-inclined I am the best they could get. And for free (as in beer). It's just the way I am.

You hit it right on the mark, Shawn :-)

I think I fit into your

Anonymous's picture

I think I fit into your 'Linux Person catgory', I am definitely a geek being a professional embedded linux developer, but the last time I got asked to help out with a windows problem I just told the truth. I haven't used windows for 10 years, I don't really know how to fix it. Yes I admit that I could probably fix their problem but it probably wouldn't be quick and it would cause me more hassle than it's worth. I wasn't smug (although I have been in the past when people ask me to fix things) and I didn't gloat about GNU/Linux I just told the truth, that they'd be better off asking someone who uses Windows.

Another non-MSFT capable "Linux Person"

A Flying Gideon's picture

I've not really used an MSFT product since a DEC Rainbox (which ran a version of MS-DOS). Before a Linux machine on my desk, I'd a Sparc 5 running Solaris. How am I supposed to help people with the pain caused them by their own ignorant choices that I've never shared (never mind what their choices do to the ecology in which I live and work with their polluting trojans, spam zombies, port scanners, and the like)?

I simply point out that - as a professional - I've never used low-end gear, explain with a comparison between a SLR and one of those cardboard cameras given out at parties, and people understand. The brighter (or perhaps more desperate) ones point out that they've a "consumer grade" SLR, at which point I discuss Linux.

Had I the background to help MSFT users, I'm still not sure that I would. Consider my "pollution" comment above. How is helping them any different from helping a firm creating the next superfund site?

The author is worried about what people will think of him as a result, worried that he'd look smug. I'm sure any polluter would be annoyed by someone acting on their ethics; it would be like trying to participate in a conversation in an unknown foreign language.

Those making an honest error would be willing to listen and learn.

My experience has been the

Anonymous's picture

My experience has been the same.

That's fair. :)

Shawn Powers's picture

I think that's a perfectly legitimate answer. Many of us, however, are all too familiar with Windows, OSX, etc. in our day jobs. (Heck, for a large number of us, it's our day job exposure to Windows that converted us in the first place!)

Shawn Powers is an Associate Editor for Linux Journal. You might find him chatting on the IRC channel, or Twitter

And show them how to set proper monitor resolution!

Yahmdallah's picture

I'm a power-user, meaning I don't/can't code, but have been using computers a long time. I don't have a spyware problem because I'm careful with what I install on windows, and I use firewalls.

I have ONE bit of important advice on helping a new linux user (in addition to the above), because this has bit me in the butt every time I've installed a linux distro (7 Ubuntus and 2 Redhats thus far):

Show them how to immediately get their monitor resolution to a usable level - at the very least 1024x768, if not better. Every single time (since typically some time has passed between installs) I spend no less than a day or two trying to get my resolution fixed because the paradigm for doing so in linux is different from windows and macs.

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