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Re: Getting people into Linux
- From: William Case <billlinux rogers com>
- To: Robert_Chapman maximhq com, For users of Fedora <fedora-list redhat com>
- Subject: Re: Getting people into Linux
- Date: Wed, 03 Jan 2007 19:08:38 -0500
Hi this is a never ending but very interesting thread.
I would like to take a crack at it.
I am going to top post because I won't be directly addressing the points
made even though I heartily agree with most.
To me, the first question is 'Why does everyone want to get other people
into Linux?' Let's keep it to ourselves. -- No. -- 'The sharing of a
general good with the rest of mankind should be our first
consideration.' Well then.
Linux's/Unix's strength is it's openness and the utilities that have
been developed over the last 30 or so years to take advantage of that
The utilities are the best in the world developed in self-interest by
programmers, administrators and information technicians. It appears
that the same kind of interest has not gone into building and creating
usability for the user.
By far, the greatest number of people out there just want to write
reports or novels, draw or create industrial designs, solve problems
that require higher level mathematics or do their bookkeeping, etc.,
etc., They want their computers to 'just work'. They don't want to
waste valuable novel writing time futzing about with Operating Systems
or Application Configuration. The same way computer techies don't like
to waste time delving into the kernal or god forbid writing
If I may say, it also seems to me that no other operating system has put
the common man or ordinary user front and centre either.
MicroSoft builds platforms that to me seem to be centred on the boss's
needs or the corporation's needs --after all they are the main customer,
not necessarily the needs of the guy that's got to use the stuff.
Mac has striven to build a unified system, heavily based on graphics (at
least they used to be that way). They manage to meet some of the user's
real needs with attractive evolving computer hardware design -- that
happens to meet the retailers needs as well.
There is a niche left. A niche which can be fulfilled by a direct
appeal to the end user.
If Linux wants to take a real run at other OS es, they have to blow
users socks off with something extremely attractive to use (attractive
in ALL senses of the word), that just works, that is uniquely innovative
and that has been built with all of the same love and care that went
into creating the IT masterpiece that Linux now is. It needs a Torval
of the gui, or a Stallman of the context menu or a Kernighan & Ritchie
of the Interface. There is no reason why an Operating System can't
appeal to techies and ordinary users. There is no need for a war
between the mouse and the keyboard; a word processor and a text editor;
a desktop or a xterminal. In fact, a good operating system should be
able to slip back and forth between the two without notice.
I have had the opportunity to teach 3 or 4 people how to use computers
(mainly older people) who have never -- I emphasize never -- used
computers before. One thing I learnt, no operating system around today
is intuitive. We often mistake Windows-like for intuitive, but it is
I would like to see:
(and I am just popping suggestions. I have no concrete idea how to go
about accomplishing these suggestions)
1) A foundation or institution with free information for developers and
others that provided statistics about computer use; that looks at the
human computer interaction in the minutest detail; that examines what
people said they wanted and compared that with how they actually used
computers as a tool.
2) Get rid of the desktop metaphor. Simply click on the screen and
start typing -- context would handle the rest.
3) Revisit voice commands. Throw away attempts at dictation but work on
making computers understand commands. "Get the Woodstock file"; "Open
my emailer"; "find me a picture of a hippo"
4) Build a lot more symbols into a keyboard that can be used in
programming . Write a basic, not BASIC, programming language that uses
those extra symbols and that has a chance of becoming universal.
5) Make use of the new composite 3D ability to do things that are
beautiful and eye catching on the screen (revolving cubes is a small
6) Revisit translating languages (small phrases first almost like a
spellchecker). I am constantly amazed and astonished by the
internationalism of the Internet and the boldness with which non-English
speakers communicate in English. Surely we can build something to help
them write in English and help me write to someone in German, French or
Spanish. I would personally like to communicate with and get to know
people from Africa and Asia.
7) Make the Linux core (kernel and main utilities as small and efficient
as possible for older smaller machines, but then pour it on with extra
stuff that uses the biggest, boldest and baddest new machines.
8) As has been mentioned, Advertise. YouTube seems to be a model Linux
volunteers could steal from. I personally would like to see a riff on
the Mac-PC ads with a Marlborough Man type character representing Linux
in the middle settling the PC/Mac debates.
That's a whole lot about Linux potential. I got more, but that's enough
On Wed, 2007-01-03 at 13:02 -0800, Robert F. Chapman wrote:
> On Wed, 2007-01-03 at 14:27 -0500, Michael Wiktowy wrote:
> > I have run into many little road-blocks when promoting Linux to
> > friends, family and coworkers. But two really stand out as
> > particularly difficult to overcome since they are not particularly
> > rational positions.
> > Primarily, since they haven't heard of it, they don't trust it. No
> > matter how many virtues you point out about something, if someone
> > hasn't heard it mentioned in the newspaper, on TV, by a celebrity, by
> > their friends, etc. they are not going to adopt it. The majority of
> > people are conformists and they feel comfortable when other people
> > around them are doing the same thing they are. MS and Apple are
> > primarily marketing companies that spend a great deal of money making
> > sure their brands are shown on every street corner and making sure no
> > one using their products feels alone. Linux doesn't (yet) have that
> > kind of marketing push behind it to achieve the self-perpetuating
> > critical mass of users familiar with "the brand". You would have to
> > somehow convince them that they are part of the greater Linux
> > community ... even if it is just bringing them to a LUG or pointing
> > out enough popularity statistics or big groups/corporations that are
> > using/supporting/promoting Linux.
> > Secondarily, people tend to value things they pay a lot of money for
> > and they take for granted things they pay nothing for. So if you are
> > going to someone and saying "Throw away that OS+apps you spent a lot
> > of money to buy and do they same thing with this free stuff" you are
> > going to be fighting uphill since they have a vested interest in
> > making use of this thing they spent a lot of money on ... no matter
> > how painful it may be. If you manage to catch them before they pay the
> > MS-tax or after their MS installation has horribly broken or won't run
> > on their old system anymore after updates then you have half a chance
> > to get Linux on their system but you still run into the first
> > roadblock I mentioned.
> > I have found both of these very difficult to surmount since they are
> > psychological hurdles rather than technical ones.
> I have encountered these same road-blocks, as well as, the support
> "card". I would have to agree with the masses though, as where most
> other consumer OS / applications are geared toward Multi-Media, and
> Linux distributions / applications are still a bit behind in this area.
> Out of the box, most Linux distros don't support Mpeg/MP3/Dvix etc...
> If a vested interest is the issue, charge the user $300.00 for the
> distro and put the money back into projects / marketing / support to
> improve Linux. Redhat already does this, but it's market is directed
> toward SERVERS and not consumers.
> The best way to sway the end-user is to show them the goods. Set-up a
> system and show them what it can do.
> Robert F. Chapman
> Senior Manufacturing Test Engineer
> Test Systems Development - WWTS
> Maxim Integrated Products (Sunnyvale, Ca)
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