Hi Michael,

Michael wrote:

               It's not a matter of thinking we're superior, but of
having had our eyes opened to infinite possibilities, while Mickeysoft
keeps adding more blindfolds.  You have to understand, I've watched
computing go from a fully stocked, fully equipped gourmet kitchen to a
McDonalds drive-thru.

 My reply:

Well, as a Linux user myself I certainly understand where you are
coming from. I've been there done that, and there is no argument from
me that Linux gives the power user "infinite possabilities" so to
speak. Although, I will admit I'm not as much a fan of the Linux shell
environment as I am with using the Gnome graphical desktop. I am much
more comfortable in a graphical user interface and tend to use that
more than the shell. Although, I had Unix admin courses in college,
and know my way around the Bash shell pretty well. However, that's not
really my point.

The thing I wanted to stress, the point I wanted to get across, is the
majority of computer users are not power users in any way, shape or
form. I work in the private sector as an independant tech support
person/computer programmer, and many of the cliants who call me for
help are fairly inexperienced computer users. It might be a middle
aged couple who just perchaced their first computer from Wal-Mart,
Best Buy, etc for the soul purpose of reading/writing e-mails, getting
on Facebook, and more or less staying in touch with their kids who
have grown up and moved away from home. Such people aren't interested
in hearing about how they  can type a long string of commands and find
out how many mp3 files they have on their computer or to print out a
list of music tracks etc. Most of the time the computer is a glorified
web browser/e-mail client. Nothing more and nothing less. What I'm
talking about basically is Mr. and MRs. Smith who are comfortable with
what Microsoft is doing because that is all they know.

For example, the most common issue I have with cliants is security
related issues. Most people don't know spit about system security.
Especially, if they are new to computers. They aren't aware of
viruses, spyware, trojans, addware, and all the other garbage that
infects millions of Windows PCs daily. I usually get called to go out
on site to clean up the mess. I've seen enough of messes like that to
not hold any respect for Microsoft Windows, and think the operating
system is a piece of trash. However, I don't believe it is my place to
start in on my cliants about their choice in operating system. What I
do is make suggestions and let them pick up the ball or not.

For example, I come in, install a screen reader like NVDA on the
computer, use a free antivirus program like AVG, clean up the mess,
and then sit down with the family and discuss security options. I of
course give them a list of good antivirus programs, spyware cleaners,
and things like that. However, I also mention there is another
operating system like Linux that is more secure, and if they want me
to install and train them for the OS I would be available to do it.
Those who seam interested ask me to show them what Linux looks like
and I boot my laptop, log into Gnome, and show them what a fully
operational Linux PC can do from Gnome. I'll show them some of the
flagship applications like Firefox, Thunderbird, Evolution, Open
Office, Totem Movie Player, etc. The one thing I don't do is come in
acting like this is superior than Windows, but treat it as a
possability or option. People are more receptive of that approach
rather than the Linux guy who starts bragging how great and awesome
his favorite operating system is. A big reason for that is Mr. and
Mrs. Smith isn't necessarily interested in the same things you and I

Here is a case in point. Let's create an average couple called Mr. and
Mrs. Smith. Mr. Smith uses the computer to read the news paper online,
checks the latest sports scores, maybe reads the weather report, and
copies his cds/records to mp3s. Mrs. Smith likes to get on Facebook,
share pictures with her family, sends and recieves cookbook recipes
with her grown daughters and girlfriends, and plays games like
Solitaire, Freecell, Hearts, and Mahjong. Admitedly these are general
activities that Windows and Linux can do equally well. If they like to
use open source applications like Firefox, Thunderbird, Open Office,
etc it doesn't really make that much a difference weather it is
running on Windows or Linux from a general operational standpoint. So
how are you going to convince the Smiths, just your average American
middle aged couple, that Linux is better for them?

Well, to begin with I don't start off by telling them all of the
things I personally like about Linux. I'm admitedly an advanced power
user so there are certain aspects about the OS I like that would not
be of any interest to Mr. and Mrs. Smith. I like the fact the
operating system is fully open source, I can modify any application,
recompile it, and fully create a customized OS from the ground up.
That is something that is certainly of interest to me, but would be of
no use to a non-programmer. Especially, to a couple just looking for
normal day to day activities like playing card, board, and puzzle
games and chatting online. So talking about that with Mr. and Mrs.
Smith is absolutely the wrong approach.

Also like you I know my way around the shell. Although, I prefer the
Gnome graphical environment I often will exit Gnome, drop into the
Linux shell, and work in the shell with Speakup. I'm aware of the fact
that the shell is hundreds of times more powerful than any graphical
windows interface, and certainly do take advantage of it when I want
to. However, since I know Mr. and Mrs. Smith, like most people, only
know Windows so that is what they expect to see. They want to see the
flashy graphics and a user friendly point-and-click interface not a
shell prompt.

So what I do is change my tact. I explain Linux to them in terms that
they might understand, in terms of how it would benifit them
personally, and not from my own experience. I might point out that
some of the apps they are using like Firefox, Thunderbird, etc are
available on Linux so that makes the learning curve a bit easier. If
they have something like MSN Messenger or AIM I'll show them Pigeon
Instant Messenger for Gnome that can handle most chat protocols, and
that is fairly familiar to what they are already using now. If Mrs.
Smith wares glasses and has troubles seeing the screen I might show
her Orca and the Gnome magnifier to help her see things clearer. I
might show them the Gnome Art website where they can download
wallpapers, desktop themes, etc to change the look and feel of the
operating system visually. That's a big hit with sighted people
because there are some extremely pretty desktop themes available for
Gnome. I'll explain to them the difference in cost in owning and
maintaining Microsoft Windows and Linux. I will discuss how Linux
security is better and that it is much less likely to have problems
with viruses, spam, trojans, worms, addware, and so on. This I feel is
a much more convincing argument because it takes them where they are
right now, and compares the differences fairly and I don't try to come
off like Linux is the absolutely greatest software on earth. Instead I
let them come to that opinion on their own.

Michael wrote:

I hate to see crooks prosper.

My reply:

Yes, I don't think anyone who really knows what Microsoft is up to
likes them too much for their business practices. I certainly don't
but I consider myself an educated computer user. Using Mr. and Mrs.
Smith as an example here they are far too easy to be confused by tech
talk, and what Microsoft is doing sells. If Microsoft takes windows 7,
puts a newer flashier user interface on top of it, and sells it as
Windows 8 they'll buy it because it looks new and they'll believe they
got something different. Even though it might be just the same old
thing with a few bug fixes, in new packaging, and sold for $200.
That's how business works unfortunately. Its crooked, dishonest, and
not really fair, but as long as people remain in the dark about it
Microsoft will continue to make Billions of dollars on their product.
Other operating systems like Linux aren't in it for prophet so there
is no need to try and con anybody into buying their product. The one
reason Linux hasn't grabbed the market share though is because they
aren't agressively advertising their product like Microsoft, and they
haven't been able to get all the sweet manufacturing deals to ship
their operating system on PCs. One of the only ones I know who does
this is Del who has an agreement with Ubuntu. Plus there are some
smaller less known PC manufacturers who custom build PCs with Linux on
it. Still Linux hasn't been able to grab the public attention even
though the OS is worth more than the cost to own it.

This all brings me to my point. When you try to talk to Mr. and Mrs.
Smith they often have some really tough questions to answer. Here is
some of the questions I've been asked. If Linux is as good as you say
how come allof the computers at the store only have Windows? How come
I never heard of Linux before? Will my friends and I be able to
exchange e-mails if I use Linux? Where can I buy games for Linux?

As I said these kinds of questions are rather typical. They are often
uncertain about Linux because to them it is not a big name brand
product. They are afraid if they switch to Linux they'll not be able
to run this or that piece of software, or be able to find quality
games for their OS etc. All are fairly good questions/concerns, and it
requires a lot of educating. Usually, if it isn't something
specifically for Linux like some special greeting card program the
wife has I'll have to show them a Windows emulator like Wine or
Win4Lin and try the software out to see if it actually works with the
emulator. If it does they are set. If it doesn't they tend to get less
interested in Linux. Either way because Linux is not a big name
operating system, there aren't Linux PCs sitting side by side with
Windows PCS on the store shelves, it is easy to assume it is infurior.
Most people tend to buy name brand products not because they are
better but because that is what everyone else does. I tend to call
this the follow the leader principle.

For instance, back in the early 1980's, perhaps around 1984 or 1985,
when Madonna was a rising super star there was a common fad I want to
call Modonna Mania. I certainly knew who Madonna was, and probably
everyone did who watched MTV. Thing is I remember for a long time
everywhere I went with my parents like the mall, super market, etc I
could pick out Madonna's fans just by the way they were dressed. I can
remember constantly seeing young women, perhaps high school to coledge
age, dressed in the exact same outfits Madonna was seen in straight
down to the boy toy belt buckel Madonna frequently wore. Quite a few
had blond hair making me think many probably died it. When she died
her hair black for the Like a Virgin album quite a few girls died
their hair black too. I'm sure Madonna kept hair die companies in
business just by the way she colored her hair. Lol!

This kind of behavior isn't exclusive to young women crazy about some
super star they want to imitate either. I've seen full grown adults do
similar things when buying products. Oh, it isn't as obvious as
dressing up like someone popular, but they buy products and services
based on popularity more than anything else. My brother-in-laws
purchaced a new Droid phone not long ago, and the next time I saw my
father-in-law he purchased a Droid phone also. There wasn't anything
wrong with the cellphone he had, but after seeing the phone his sons
had he wanted one to. That's how trends get set in the marketing

Basically, what I'm getting at is that on some basic level we do not
like to be individuals. We as a race, species, like to imatate others
we see as our betters. Sometimes that might come out as dressing like
someone popular, or we see what someone has and want to keep up with
them by purchasing the same products they have. Market trends tend to
be based on getting to people first, hit the market with constant
advertisement telling them how much better your product is, and once a
large majority of people take the bate, so to speak, a lot of
undecided people will just follow the croud wherever it leads.


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