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Steve Scrimpshire

My Thoughts About Converting People

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Interesting post Steve. Here's my 0.02 Euro.


I'm new to Linux, but so far I like what I see in many ways. I currently triple boot my machine using XOSL. Win98SE (games) and Win2000 (work) share one HD, Mandrake 9.2 gets the other (smaller) one to itself. Linux is currently just for fun and education, but well, we'll see. I'm happy to run two different OS for gaming purposes (the 98SE install is very very stripped down and boots in a flash) so why not three? Incidentally, I find Win2000 to be very stable. Applications may sometimes crash, but not the OS.


So why don't people move from MS to Linux?


There's hardware. I have a TB SantaCruz soundcard that's not well supported by Linux, not for anything beyond 2-channel stereo (if anyone can put me right there, I'd be pleased). I understand why TB can't be bothered to write Linux drivers for this near-obsolete little gem, but it's an issue.


There's games, which is linked to hardware - the more Linux drivers become commonplace, the more interested games shops will be.


There's lots and lots of decent Windows-based freeware out there, and it's not easy to find replacements, or even find out whether they exist. For example, I'm very fond of Font Thing (http://members.ozemail.com.au/~scef/tft.html) and I haven't found a freebie replacement under Linux that I think is as good (GFontview is the best so far). That's just a one-off, top-of-the-head example. I probably have plenty more. Sure, there's lots of excellent Linux freeware too. But I find that it tends to have a different focus/slant from the Windows stuff. Maybe that's to do with Joel Spolsky's comments about Windows and Unix cultures. (http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/Biculturalism.html) And maybe not.


I think another big reason for people not to move is that they fear the learning curve, and they can't easily estimate how big a deal that will be. I'm techie enough to be able to code in C#, and I'm not scared of reading manuals. But I can't really tell how much there is to learn here (quite a lot obviously), and how much of it is necessary/useful/just for uber-geeks/etc. Anytime you're starting with a new anything, you're going to need an 'expert' at some point, to tell you the answers to stuff it would take you years to work out for yourself. My 'expert' is generally Google, but boards like this one certainly do a lot to make uptake of Linux more possible. (I think this is true of any hardware or software, and it's the reason I've no time for fanboys of any sort. If I have a problem with my ATI card, I want a board where users share their knowledge and experience, not one where everyone bangs on about how "nVidia sux". Boooring.)


I've noticed that Linux users get rather irritated when people suggest that if they want users to migrate from Windows, they should allow them to have a more Windows-like user experience. Why should Linux be more like Windows, they ask, reasonably. Linux is what it is. The problem is that when you have only used Windows OS, if you're a naive user, that's your idea about how a computer works. So moving to a different OS can be quite confusing, as now features that you thought were just part of how a computer worked (press F1 for help) turn out to be missing or different. Even if you know that you can't rely on things being the same, it's not obvious what parts of your knowledge will be useful in Linux, which will find analogies, and which will simply have to be discarded.


So my suggestion is that if you want people to move to Linux from Windows, there needs to be a guide that outlines how using Linux is going to be different from using Windows, in language appropriate to the level of user you're trying to reach. Unless you're able to give them a new mental model to work with, the whole thing is a step into the dark that only the most confident will attempt. A lot of Linux basic guides are either of the "How To" recipe type (useful but not illuminating) or else try to get people more comfortable at the command line (certainly a good idea). Nothing that I've seen tries to give them the big picture, a map to follow. Such a thing would be hard to write, not least because a lot of the people with the experience to write one can no longer remember what it was like to know nothing!


This is a long post... I'll round up by saying that I don't think anyone who's comfortable with disk partitions, has the money for another HD, and has the time to do a little learning should be put off trying Linux, and Mandrake 9.2 has certainly impressed me. I find myself thinking about how nice it would be if I could do all my stuff on this OS. Not so much because it's stable (2000 is stable) or secure (I have Windows reasonably secured) but because of the separation of concerns - OS here, apps here, hardware here, etc. I like its style, in short. Whether Linux is ready yet for naive users who have no idea what a partition is, and think that computers basically work by magic, is debatable, but I rather doubt it.


The one thing that will really persuade people to take up Linux is for there to be something they can do with their machines, that they really *want* to do, that can only be done with Linux. The killer app, in short. Linux is steadily munching into the list of MS killer apps, but it needs some (desktop) ones of its own before it can really persuade people to move from the MS OS they curse, but know, and have often already paid for. Want Linux to rule the OS world? Go write them apps. "Does what you can already do, only more secure and more stable" is not a great marketing slogan. "Does what no other OS can do" - that's more like it!

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Yeah, win2k is quite stable...and very, very expensive for a poor student like me.


now "clustering" could be a killer app...it could be the future of the internet, and win can't do that. It has some way to go in terms of simplicity, but, it could be the one we're waiting for.

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Nice explanation there. dave

More often than not (like last night) trying to advise GF of a friend I come across computer 'users' who don't know what a disk is, let alone a partition.


I used to do a basic course at work where I handed out all the parts!


My company recently changed to notes, as an email client (from outlook), but you wouldn't beleive the number of people who are lost just by some different icons and shortcuts, its just an email client, its presetup etc.


Its rather easy to forget that 90% of the world using PC's don't know what hardware they have OR have ever seen a bios screen!


Again we have 1001 reasons we KNOW linux is better than windows and perhaps 3 of them can be explained to a non-techy. They just aren't interesting in the HAL or technicalities.

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One reason why linux is better: no such crappy viruses or worms. And no, they won't come if more people use linux (that's a bogus argument, 2 things are needed: lots of machines on one hand, and insecure systems on those machines on the other -- mswin is insecure by default, and in the serverspace there are more linux machines - still not more viruses or worms).

But people don't realise that linux will protect them there.


Anyway, I agree with Dave a lot.


The time people have to invest today, to get linux to a point where it is nice to use, fully functional and you actually don't care about it/notice it (which is the way to be for an OS), it takes effort and time.


Most people don't want to put this in.


The only solution for those, who don't mind not running MSWin but don't want to put in a big effort, is preinstalled preconfigured systems.


Until then, linux is not for the masses.


It is quite some time ago that I wrote my 'switch with success' article, but even today it is still mostly valid (see my site).


Another thing I feel that is more valid than ever is my learninglinux story -- things are different, and people will have to learn this/adapt to that. I do think that things should not be made to mimic MS, for the sake of easing the transition. All good things should be incorporated and all bad things should be discarded. Lots to discard... :P

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I personally have been on linux about 3 weeks now...never looked on the site or anything for any info...knew about partitons, but didn't need to...the only problem I have with linux is that the 'taskbar' type thing in IceWM or windowmaker doesn't have all the progs...even run program in GNOME doesn't have all of them...that and software installation are the only things I see making linux much different (based on looks and fell) than windoze...

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I guess I could have put that a little more clearly, but it was getting late. If you just start from a blank HD and the Mandrake CDs, no you probably don't need to know about partitions, so long as you're happy to accept the defaults, and you don't go wandering into diskdrake saying "I wonder what this button does...".


If however you already have a working MS installation that you don't want to hose, it would be good to know something about partitions before trying to install Linux, IMO. Of course, you *may* be able to just trust the install software to take care of you (shudders) and survive OK. But that's not the way I prefer to do things! I've seen too many posts of the "I did this and then that and now nothing will boot" kind. Naturally, YMMV.

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and you don't go wandering into diskdrake saying "I wonder what this button does...".

That's actually quiet fun...I do that all the time...unmount stuff...remount it...try to move it around...try to resize it...try to make new partitons...

none of it ever does anything...except once...I unmounted something...and it crashed the comp...but when I booted back up it was fine :-P

Linux is n00b-proof :-P

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Linux is n00b-proof  :-P



Let me hear you say that after 2.5 years of linux....brain fried from cooker and patching/compiling kernels.....apply patches to the nvidia installer...along with everything else and being majorly sleep deprived and oops...you do

rm -fR /usr/*

instead of

rm -fR usr/*

in the another bkup dir.

:D :wall:


No such thing as n00b proof. We all have our :wall: moments :lol:

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lol...yea...but a n00b isn't gonna do that stuff...they're gonna stick with the desktop mostly...

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Not really urza, they are going to want to do something with it other than just play with it. Your attitude is young and idealistic, and thats not a criticism, its a compliment.



Like they want to write a DVD in format X and find they need version Y of something.


All of these adventures can be quite fun for you and me but to 90% of people they just dont wanna know.


Patching and compiling kernels is a way of life at the moment just to get hardware to work. This is a whole subject in itself. You buy WebCam X (becuase a freinds selling it or its on promo) then find you need to patch the kernel to make it work.

etc. etc.


Also, real people have real data. If you loose your tax data a week before the deadline your kinda screwed. Your still at school, if you loose your coursework a week before its due to be handed in (and the teacher knows you are basically honest and not just pulling a fast one - the dog ate it...) you might reasonably get an extension.....

The real world just isn't like that. If you mix your tax you get a huge fine or go to jail (unless you are very rich :D)

If you don't complete the assignment at work you loose your job and your company looses the contract.


The real question of the thread is converting people.

The 'majority' of available converts by licensing are probably home desktop users.


Whereas Linux might fulfill the basic wordprocessing and spreadsheet functions it is woefully inadequate in other areas.

Have you tried video conferencing ???

I have 2 webcams.....

One is a phillips, the other a Creative ...

I gave up on the phillips becuase AFTER recompiling the kernel, making the drivers etc. I tried to use in in GnomeMeeting and it just doesn't work.

So based on creative having opensource drivers for other products (soudblaster and awe, DXR3 etc) I bought that one.

So far it STILL refuses to work.....


If I had winBlows i could just plug-it in and start netmeeting!!!


Thats just one example....


How about Wifi.....802.11G

So far as i can find NO-ONE sells a linux compatible 802.11G NIC.

Even b is poorly supported by CLI only tools with little documentation.

So lets say I do find drivers... like the madwifi or whatever....


great we are back to kernel recompiles....

and AFTER we do that we find only 50% of the functions actually work through the linux driver.


None of this is impossible, Ive done it ALL. However when I upgraded (reinstalled becuase the upgrade doesn't work in Mandrake) I LOOSe all this work....

hours of piddling about with kernel patches and recompiles ....


I can type make clean in more keyboard combinations than I wish to think about!!!!



Alternatively, this time I bought the linuxant driverloader.

I just couldn't be bothered patching and recompiling every damned kernel I had AGAIN. been there, done it and bored with it.


The point is as soon as the noobie wants to do something other than wordprocessing they quickly slip into a world of kernel recompiles....


Linux overall is absolutely PATHETIC in this area.


So why do I use it ????

Because Im a geek, Im a techy.... like most of the people here ....

Because I understand that although getting a webcam or wireless working in linux is a pain linux does 99% of things better than windows ever will.


But it is still woefully inadequate for MANY PEOPLE with DIFFERENT NEEDS and DIFFERENT INTERESTS.


some people might come to linux for security, as already mentioned (good choice), others for personal privacy (good choice) and others becuase of unethical business practice by MS (good choice). Yet others might just be curious and like bandwagons... (poor choice) and others for technical reasons (best choice)


The problem is that Linux is technically superior but it is time consuming to do it.

You can make a very fast car two ways:

You can tune the engine that is in it and make it technically better or you can put in a big engine.

If all you want to do is a standing quarter then the big engine works well so long as it doesn't invlove corners. The advantage is its just a big engine, technically no more difficult or complex than a smaller one.

On the other hand the race tuned engine is a difficult beast. Its tempremental, needs specialist attention, fuel and oil but technically it can be a beautiful thing.


You can't take a big American muscle car and put it into a rally. Its too big and heavy and doesn't go round corners.... however if you want a car that just does a fast standing quarter and doesn't require specialist tools and maintainance its a better choice. If the engine breaks you just put in a new one. (reinstall)


However some people just like the fact that a car can be made to perform to its best and are quite willing to spend every weekend under the bonnet tuning it and replacing parts. If you break the engine you can't just put in a new one because it doesn't exist. You have to start from the original engine you started modifying and work on that or repair the existing one.


99% of people couldn't own a race tuned car. Apart from the safety aspect they just wouldn't want to spend the time under the hood... when all they want it to go out and pick up groceries.


This is where linux is right now.

Its not really suitable for people who don't want anything from their computer other than it just works....

Actually the real basics are covered .... its the addons that are lacking like video editing or sound recording.....

Everything (nearly) is available under linux, its just a questionof how much time you want to spend getting it working.


In the last 10 years Linux has progressed exponentially faster than Windows.

The install is largely taken care of

Basic office applications ....

For internet/networking use it is so far ahead of MS its not even comparable


However there are two paths.....

1) The blue pill is that it concentrates on making the install easier, bullet proof and getting you back to where you were before ... so that for instance after reinstalling you dont need to patch and recompile a kernel....

2) The red pill is that it works on upgradability..... that your patches are carried forwards that your running mysql database can be upgraded safely and restarted ....


I believe the two need to be running in parallel.

The blue pill is the userland linux area and this is largely commerical. For instance commerical drivers like linuxant or Lindows.

The red pill is mainly non commerical...


This is the debian school. You install once and after that you upgrade.


It is probably equally important for linux to have both. They are symbiotic in nature.


More users = greater market share.

Better upgrade routes (which are almost commercial suicide) are the future.


The problem is if you make money by selling distro's it doesn't make sense to have your users continually up to date for FREE or picking and choosing.


Like you might have an app using mysql3 that isn't available for mysql4 yet.

Oin the bought CD distro world this is a pain becuase your unlikely to ever get a whole new distro (like Mandy) that the upgrade actually stops mysql-checks that every package will still work with mysql4 and then doesn't touch it in the upgrade but restarts it for you.


However this is the aim, if not completely achieved by say Debian.

The point is debian cannot ever exist commercially... its non viable becuase their aims are non commerical.

Noone is interested in the installer becuase you only ever install once according to their philosophy and its a nightmare for noobies.


Commercial stuff on the other hand like Suse (now RH are out of the equation) are interested in putting new functionality into the new version and therefore getting you to part with your cash to get it. So its not in their interests to backport KDE3.2 to some Suse 5 years old.

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I see a chance to learn something here. Recompiling the kernel so that your hardware works... what's that about? Why does it need to happen? Is it universally acknowledged as a problem, or do some people claim it's a feature? Please send all info here to Newbie Central...


PS I agree v. much with your comments. The real reason I have Linux installed on my machine is because I like to play with my PC, much to the bafflement of my wife, who is an IT professional and has a far more functional attitude to hers!

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If your hardware is not (yet) well supported you may have to resort to recompiling the kernel.


I have not had to do so since almost two years, only had to do so once since I stupidly decided I would buy the first mobo out there with the kt333 chipset, my asus a7v333.

Apart from not having dma (and so, not being able to watch dvd's), I killed it after a week due to a bad bios flash.


No matter what OS, don't buy a mobo with a brand new chipset that just got on the market -- give it 3 months. At least.


For the rest, I bought all my hardware to be compatible, the pieces I was careful about are: my webcam, also philips, works after plugging in. Never worked in windows (win98se, my last windows), except during install. Even reinstalled (first only the webcam driver and software, then the whole OS) once to try again, no luck.

My tv-card. Also never worked properly on win98se. Also reinstalled windows without luck.

I know that these pieces will work fine with xp, but I don't have xp and don't intend to buy or pirate it. Even if MS would give it to me for free...

My scanner: mentioned very clearly that even winxp was going to get severe problems if you connect it without first installing the software and drivers.

All pieces I used worked very very well on linux.


Buy supported hardware, and do yourself and the linux community a favour. The more people pay attention to that the better.

BTW, hardware support: have an AMD-64? Which is the only (64bit) OS that runs properly with best hardware support. Hint: not MSWin64beta.

This is the power of open source/FLOSS.


Linux had Bluetooth support way before windows. There are 802.11g cards that work fine with linux: prism? chipset based models.



For the rest: we need preinstalled and preconfigured machines on the shelves or it is not going to happen.

With the right hardware, there is no CLI or config necessary for full use, sometimes merely for awkward things -- like getting the webcam not to use the LED when functioning..


About this linux preinstalled preconfigged, I'll be looking into that with mdk10.0 final -- once again.

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Thx, both of you, that was helpful.


Gowator, your post was particularly illuminating. The kernel being composed of modules - that's good. I have a feeling I may not understand the answer to my next question, which is: why do the modules have to be compiled into the kernel? I'm sure if it was easy to make it so you could swap around modules with only a reboot, those wise gurus who actually write Linux kernels would have done it by now. So there must be a reason, but I wonder what it is. Maybe it's just performance...?

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