[clug] Re: Software Feedom Day - Linux problem-solving guide

Rodney Peters rodneyp at pcug.org.au
Mon Sep 17 06:35:02 GMT 2007

I believe that many of the replies to this posting are missing the fundamental 
point, which is that, for the overwhelming majority of Windows users, moving 
to Linux is "a bridge too far".  They can achieve a lot without having to 
take that step.  Indeed, the big risk is that by attempting to take it and 
getting to some impasse, they are deterred from trying any FOSS again and 
will pass on their experience to acquaintances.

The sample of 8 was interesting and the stats not encouraging.  I would not be 
surprised if it's ye olde 80/20 rule:

80% of Windows users would: 
get 80% of the benefit of "Linux" by installing and using FOSS applications 
within Windows

save 80% of their software costs in the process

In most instances their systems would remain grossly undersecured on the 
Internet - but the owners are oblivious to that anyway; indeed often difficult 
to convince of it.

Many of these people purchased pre-assembled PC, having pre-installed software 
from a department store or computer shop.  They are reluctant to install 
anything on it.  At best, they will follow a one-click installer.  Most 
commercial software and Windows drivers can be installed that way.  
Fortunately, the major FOSS titles can be too.

As the co-ordinator of the PCUG's Linux SIG, I have seen many aspiring Linux 
users come and go.  Those without a fair understanding of operating systems 
generally drop out.  Even some who are relatively computer literate fall by 
the wayside, because they won't accept that their favourite (non-essential) 
piece of hardware is not supported or some (low priority) application is not 
available and they are not prepared to put the money/time into sorting it out.

The other phenomenon that I strike too often is the "shed PC".  Many people 
are reluctant to risk taking their main PC out of action with a failed 
installation of Linux.  Instead, they resurrect a retired Win98 PC from the 
shed.  If Linux does install, it runs like a dog in 128 MB of PC66 RAM, with 
the result that the owner becomes disillusioned with Linux.

I'm not persuaded that concise installation documentation is a viable 
solution.  I've penned some guides for the newbies in PCUG's Linux SIG.  Just 
describing how to setup an DSL connection from Linux, taking all likely 
scenarios into account, ran to several pages.  It's beyond the attention span 
of those used to buying a PC "ready to go" and receiving a one-click 
installation CD from their ISP.

By all means let's continue actively supporting Software Freedom Day - but 
let's do so in a way that is likely to achieve a much higher success rate - 
with Windows based FOSS, demonstrated on Windows PC.   


On Monday 17 September 2007 11:15:46 
linux-request at lists.samba.org wrote:
> [clug] Re: Software Feedom Day
> From:
> Ian Bardsley <ifb777 at tpg.com.au>
>   To:
> linux at lists.samba.org
>   Date:
> Today 09:36:26
> G'Day fellow freedom fighters
> I enjoyed my visit to the Software Freedom Day table on Saturday and
> echo the accolades of others to the guys who organised and participated.
> I thought I would just share an observation or two.
> I spoke at length to 8 people during my time on the stand.  All of these
> had tried Linux in various flavours and all had failed to pursue open
> source software because of:
> a.  Problems with hardware not working
> b.  Difficulty with understanding Partitioning, File Structure and File
> Navigation.
> c.  Accessing software that isn't installed by default when the chosen
> distro is installed.
> It's interesting that my early ventures into Linux were hampered by the
> same issues.  The only difference between me and these people is that
> Linux became a challenge and I took the time to ferret out solutions
> where others gave up or put the issues in the "Too Hard Basket".  An
> example of this, in Ubuntu, File Manager (Nautilus) is not place in the
> menus by default so at first glance there appears to be no way of
> looking at the files on the computer in the GUI.  That in it's self is
> enough to make a new user give up.  It must be remembered that every PC
> user is looking for "My Computer" or "Windows Explorer" to get them
> where they want to be.
> Perhaps a worthwhile project for the active Linux community in the ACT
> region over the next 12 months would be to develop a "How to make Linux
> work on your computer" tutorial written in simple language for the
> average home user and based on a single distro.
> A debate on this would be interesting.
> Have a great week
> Ian Bardsley

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