Thursday, September 13, 2012

Lin-dows FO (Fake Out) edition

For all my Linux friends out there, this post is for you.

Do you have a techno-phobe in your life/family? If so you've probably heard a lot of "This doesn't look like Windows. Why doesn't this look like Windows? Leave my Windows alone, I am happy with it." The truth is that most people are creatures of habit. They are simply not like us Linux geeks.

If you are computer geek of any stripe, but particularly if you are a Linux geek, a new device, machine or even screen makes us swoon. We gleefully start tapping buttons and dragging icons and menus around, trying to figure out what this new system can do.

For many people learning a new computer system is hard work. When suddenly confronted with a screen that looks different from what they are used to they get terrified. When they can't find a program or file where they expect it to be they get frustrated.

There is good news and bad news. Let's start with the bad news. If you live with a technophobe brace yourself. You are going to be hearing the above refrain a lot. Why? Because Windows 8 isn't going to look much like Windows. They have a whole new desktop that they will start unrolling next month. It's going to freak a lot of people out.

Now for the good news. It's the perfect time to try lin-dows FO, the linux-windows fake out.

This is a screenshot of Ubuntu with the LXDE desktop installed. I've put a nice traditional blue background on it and added icons to the desktop for all the common program a non-technical user might want, web browsers, libre office, etc. You've got a nice little pop-up menu in the lower left corner, exactly where Windows XP users expect it to be. They can double click icons on the desktop to open programs, just like classic Windows format. As long as they don't do anything crazy (like try to configure something or download a new program) without consulting you first they should be fine. They can surf the web like it's 1997!

Seriously I am not suggesting you trick your non-technical family member into thinking they have an old version of Windows. What I  am suggesting is that every time Microsoft does a big upgrade, like it's about to with Windows 8, Linux has a moment of opportunity. 

Once again their will be computers, older computers and lower cost computers that won't be able to upgrade successfully. They won't have enough RAM, or fast enough processor speeds or something. Some users will limp along, running XP but complaining the whole time because it won't run the latest software. Some will go out and shell out several hundred dollars for a new system. The old computer will sit in a closet gathering dust even though it works just fine. Why not breathe new life into an old machine with Linux? Linux is easy on resources. Many older laptops that won't run the latest Windows will run just fine in Linux. 

Once again we will have Windows users complaining about having to relearn the system. Before spending weeks relearning Windows so you can use 8, why not spend a little time testing out Linux. Contrary to the myth, Linux is no harder to learn than Windows or Mac. Distributions like Ubuntu have large and active help forums. As the screenshot I've shared shows, if there is even one geek in the family they can easily set the system up so that non-geeks can easily find web browsers, email and other commonly used programs.

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