Wow! I just got back at work a couple of days ago and I’m already behind! This article passed through my email today and I thought it was worth mentioning:
I’ve used Linux on my laptop for about 10 years now. I’m pretty mystified at all of the problems that people have with it. My personal theory is that every attempt to put Linux on a cheap laptop has been accompanied by some weird distribution of Linux that people have never heard of, which is tied to the notebook manufacturer. I never saw one that came out with Ubuntu or something that was a little more mainstream. (I know, I used “mainstream” and “Linux” together. Weird.)
I really would like to see a successful Linux device like this, mainly because I want to own them. All of my computers run Linux, but they’ve either been home-built systems, or laptops that I am snidely told that I would receive no support on. I figure I am support. It would be nice to have something that was intended to be a Linux box from… well… out of the box.
Pundits tend to put the blame on the failure of Linux in that people don’t enjoy open source software. I don’t know if that’s as true as it might be. I think of it like sushi. I know a number of people who can’t handle the idea of sushi. The idea that there might be raw fish in there somewhere is just too weird for them. Let alone that there are many kinds of sushi that are fully cooked. There is also a tremendous amount of peer pressure against using open source software. Fully grown people will resort to the sort of middle-school-level taunting when you are using something different. Sometimes when I get one of these people to actually try sushi, they love it. Sometimes they don’t. I can’t do much about people who won’t even try it.
I think it also has a little to do with how people learn about computers. For myself, I love a good tutorial to help me deal with something new. I find all kinds of helpful information like that online for every major tool that I use. However, it seems that many people learn how to use their computer from colleagues, neighbors and children. If those of us who use open source solutions take time to show people what’s available and how to use it, I think that you get more adoption. If our response is that use of open source software has to be “earned” then I think people will go other directions. I know that this works because I have a number of people that I know personally who have started using an open source tool here and there because I introduced it to them and got them started. You don’t have to move them to Linux to do this either. Many open source tools are multi-platform, so they can start with the tools on whatever they use now and then when the get to Linux it will have something familiar.
Firefox is the only tool I know of that has really taken off with people… though many people still refer to it as “Foxfire” or “that fire browser thing.” Yet, even as broad as it is, the latest stats that I found showed it at 24.63% of the browser marketshare. I’m not discouraged by any means. User behavior has demonstrated that people are more interested in doing what they want to do than showing loyalty to a particular software company. Look at the number of areas where people have switched to web-based solutions rather than buying desktop software to load on their computer. (Here’s something with numbers in it.) To a user most functionality is an icon with results in a window full of software. As long as it does what they need they way the want to do it, that’s all that matters.
So, I’ll wait and see how this one goes. I would like this one to work out. If not, there will be another, and another. It’s not going to go away.