To Linux or not to Linux, that is a question

The local Linux User group mail lists have been flooded with rants over the woman who had to quit college because of Ubuntu (Original Story here). Then to add insult to injury, the Linux world responded with flame flame flame and on Slashdot and of course on DIGG.

I haven’t read all of the comments but I imagine they aren’t very flattering. What some Linux geeks don’t realize is that even though they themselves are somewhat experienced with computers in general, not everyone is. Nor is everyone so willing to spend their days and nights trying to figure out how to perform the most simplest of computer tasks in a foreign environment such as Ubuntu when all of the experience they have access to (friends, relatives, etc) are more than likely to be familiar with only Windoze. Personally I use Ubuntu at home on all of my computers. One of them I’ve installed Ubuntu server edition and the other two I got dual-booting, one with XP and one with Vista. All default boot to Ubuntu. My wife and family all have used it. It is more or less easy to use. With all of that being said, there is no way I would suggest to any of them to use Ubuntu on their own computers unless I could be totally available to them to support any issues that may arise, which with just about any flavour of Linux, is bound to happen sooner or later. Does this mean that I would recommend Windoze over Ubuntu? No, but it would depend on the person and their situation.

Most people these days just don’t have the time nor the inclination to learn something as complex as computers and their OS’s. They think of computers as a simple tool and just expect everything to be as simple as turning on a TV, or using a telephone. But they aren’t people! Computers and their OS’s are very complex things. You have to be willing to make an investment in both time and learning capacity to use them to any degree of competency. Thats the one thing about Windoze that you have to give Microsoft credit for, it is very very simple. Simple to the point that now people don’t learn most of the basics that they really require. People don’t understand what an OS is and what aspects of the overall experience are only related to the hardware and how it interacts with the OS (software). They just know simple generic things like surfing the web or checking my email. They don’t know what a browser is, or how to establish a connection to the internet, if one already isn’t there and automagically setup for them. This is where Windoze fails from my perspective. Instead of educating the masses with simple information and processes they have hidden all of the complexities of just about everything, just to sell more Windoze to more people. So when people hear of Ubuntu, and are told that its just as easy as Windows to use they automatically think that everything just works without them having to know anything. Which is just wrong.

So does this mean that Ubuntu should become like Windoze in that sense? Well, maybe yes, but hopefully no. Linux is by no means native to me but I am willing to learn alot more about how computers work and operate that anyone is typically when it comes to computers. So for me I don’t want everything to be as simple as turning on the PC and have everything work. You don’t learn anything that way, so I hope that Ubuntu (and perhaps other distro’s) don’t completely simplify everything in the way Windoze has.

So, getting back to the article in question. The Dell website should not default to Ubuntu, and the Dell employee should not be forcing his personal preferences on anyone without analyzing the customers’ experience and willingness to learn, first. I think the lady may have gone overboard with quitting school because of Ubuntu. She should have returned the laptop for one with Windoze. The Dell employee is also to blame in all of this.

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