Now, I recently dug out an old 500MHz pII computer that I had lying around, and installed Ubuntu on it for my parents. I must admit that the initial setup with Gnome was a bit too slow for this old computer, but after installing XFCE and tweaking it a bit, I believe the old thing might shine once again!
My parents don't have much experience with computers.. their knowledge goes about as far as playing solitaire and checking Gmail on WinXP. I wanted to make the switch to Ubuntu as simple as possible for them.. so I made the desktop look similar to the traditional XP (one taskbar at the bottom, a few desktop icons) and I copied the classic windows version of solitaire to run under wine. My mother absolutely hates the AisleRiot Solitaire that's bundled with Ubuntu. But so far they've been fine with the setup, and the computer has been running smoothly.
In the bigger picture of all this, how do we go about switching the typical PC user from windows... when all they really care about is playing their solitaire and checking their email? Most of the time these users don't want to have to learn anything knew, or for that matter even have TWO panels on their screen. How do you go about breaking that stale model from windows, without scaring away the user from Linux? AND, how do you best introduce the concept of packages, and a central package manager? People tend to just want to double-click on any downloaded .exe file and expect it to "just work," whether it's actually beneficial or just some spyware crap. "Good things come in small PACKAGES," perhaps?
Just a thought and discussion provoker.... I know I'd like to share experiences with such cases so that I can easily switch people to Ubuntu in the future.
Let me know what you guys think.
UPDATE: I've been keeping up with this thread and all the great ideas that we've come up with. Here are some lists:
Issues for the typical user:
- Driver availability and support: Certain device drivers, mostly for obscure and 3D video hardware, are hard to find, if they exist, and are just as difficult to install.
- Improve the native card games. The average convert from Windows wants to play “pretty” versions of Solitaire and Spider Solitaire.
- People use Windows because that’s what they’re used to, and it probably came pre-installed on their machine. Until a significant dealbreaker comes along, they’ll remain satisfied.
- Lack of application support: there are replacements for many commercial Windows applications in Linux, but most of them are not as good, not user-friendly, lacking in features, and not designed for Joe User. Others just don’t have native replacements (i.e. Tax software)
- Proprietary applications: People pay money for Windows, anti-virus software, and tax software, so it goes without saying that they will pay money for applications on Linux. Availability of proprietary applications does not corrupt the philosophy of Linux, it simply provides certain users with a way to get what they really want from their system. It’s not fair to tell them they cannot have these things.
- The last thing a home user wants to do is learn an entirely new operating system, that is, unless they are fed up with their current OS.
- Upgrading software: new users have difficulty understanding the packaging system and software repositories.
- Hardware vendors have a financial advantage in supporting Windows.
- Pre-installation of Windows operating systems prevents most people from seeking alternatives. “Hey, I’ve already paid for Windows, I may as well go ahead and use it.”
- Linux has too small a market share and too fast an update cycle to attract and keep major software vendors.. not to mention the division between Gnome and KDE desktop environments.
- There are many things you can do with the GUI that users just don’t know about.
- Command-line: Get rid of the console. Most users should not have to deal with the command-line to install anything. And this includes telling new users how to do things in the GUI, instead of the command-line (i.e. Use synaptic or Add/Remove Programs to install new software).
On spreading the word (“Soldiers of the Open Source Movement”):
- Continue to spread the word that there are alternatives to Windows. Host install-fests, distribute Live-CDs, and show new users how great the community really is.
- Linux works great on current, existing, and outdated hardware. Vista requires cutting-edge upgrades.
- The desktop structure between Windows and Ubuntu (both Gnome and KDE) is basically the same.
- ScreenCasts: This concept will definitely help new users. People watch TV more than they read. If they can watch how to do something then it will be easier for them to implement themselves.
We’re making progress:
- Dell, already, is selling almost all their small-business hardware with FreeDos installed instead of Windows.
- You can, occasionally, get money back on your Windows license if you never intend to use it.
- Linux desktop vendors like System76, though still a minority, are becoming profitable.
- Linux on the desktop is gaining momentum every day. We just have to keep up the good work.
Keep 'em coming... and if I've missed anything, let me know!