Being a Linux Advocate that is. It's harder than it sounds.
I'll eventually get around to making my point, so hang on.
Back in 2004 - 2006, I was heavily involved in a particular Linux distro. While I was less a technical advisor than a social one, I still had an important part to play. My unofficial task was to bring more new users to Linux, and specifically to this distro.
I also spent an inordinate amount of time in the various forums, helping out when I could or pointing people to the resources that could help in the event I could not.
I don't know when it finally struck a nerve...Heaven knows I had seen it enough over the past couple of years, but on this occasion, it rang sour enough for me to respond to it.
"If I don't get some help for this problem, I'm just going to go back to Windows."
And every time I would see such a tossed-gauntlet, there would be a stream of apologetic forum members, chiming in their advise for the particular problem at hand, hoping someone would solve it so there was one less Windows user in the world.
One that last day...on the day that this type of posting produced a personal pain-point, I responded with an answer of my own:
"I have a copy of the Haxord WyndoZ DiSk if you like. Let me know if you want the link to download it.".
I would then offer the link to astalavista dot box dot sk, in hope that they were running windows when they clicked it. There are so many java exploits on that page, I have given them all names.
To which was replied...?
Crickets chirping.... deafening silence.
I even received a "warning" from the forum moderator, that my responses should be more "helpful".
You know what? Screw helpful.
I'll bend over backwards to help anyone who wants it, but I will not tolerate some snot-nosed kid attempting to use our own collective insecurities against us.
So no...maybe my talents can be better harvested outside of user forums. The older I get, the less I am willing to suffer fools.
But we, while not reaching that level of arrogance, have made mistakes of our own. All of them innocent enough...sure, but mistakes none the less. And if our goal is to bring new users to the Linux Desktop, then there are a couple of practices we need to stop. Here's one of them:
Handing out Live Linux CD's without a means of support.
The Live CD - Beware.
I did this for years...flippantly handing someone a Live Linux CD and walking away, thinking I had contributed my share to saving the world.
Uh, no I didn't. On a chance encounter with someone to which I had given a Live CD, I got this feedback:
"I put the disk in, I clicked on every icon in the box and it didn't do anything. I guess the disk was bad."
Despite the fact that I had given the person explicit instructions on how to boot to a live CD environment, he still placed the CD into the CD ROM drawer while in Windows and awaited for auto run to produce the expected icons in the file manager.
I told him to try it again and if it gave him trouble, he could call me and I would walk him through it.
To my surprise, he did call.
"OK, I did what you said but nothing happened, it just went into Windows like it normally does."
I mentally gave myself a Gibbs-to-Dinozzo slap to the back of the head and corrected myself.
"Oh wait...I know what I missed. Reboot the computer and when you see the first black screen with white writing on it, push the F12 button a few times and it will give you the option of which device in which to boot."
"The what key?"
"The F12 key. It's on the very top row of keys on your keyboard, right next to the print screen key."
"Ok, I'm pressing it but nothing is happening."
"Did you reboot the computer and press it while the white letters are appearing?"
"Uh, no. Do I have to do that? Never mind...this is just way too much trouble."
With that he hung up the phone and I set a new rule for myself. From here on in, I would start "qualifying" people as candidates for Linux use.
* If they described their browser as FoxFire, they were not a candidate.
* If they could not distinguish between memory and hard drive space, they were not a candidate.
* If they did not know how to shrink or close a browser and open it again, they were not a candidate.
* If the difference between left and right mouse clicks mystified them, they were not a candidate.
* If they actually wanted all 11 toolbars on their Explorer browser....
Well, you get the idea.
The plain truth of the matter is this...it's not everyone that can run Linux. If you give the disk to someone that doesn't know the difference between an operating system vs a browser, you are going to single-handedly increase the stock price of antacids by 50%.
As elitist as it sounds, most everyday computer users are not computer users at all...they are task-set mouse clickers. They can do two or three things on their computers...probably taught to them by their kids or learned at work, but outside of that, the box at their feet is filled with Voodoo and Majik.
So, these days, I am much more careful about who I introduce to Linux. To my experience? Kids are the easiest. They pick it up in a matter of 30 minutes and they just want you to go away and leave them the hell alone. But adults?
Chances are, if you run across someone who is serious about their computer, they have already discovered or at least heard about Linux.
Those are the people we should target. My liver cannot take much more abuse...self-imposed abuse from people who want me to help them install FoxFire.
-- Ken Starks