[sf-lug] Starting Out With Linux

jim jim at well.com
Sat Mar 12 08:17:02 PST 2011

    there are two types of people, those who ask about 
linux and those i approach about linux. 
    those who ask are generally open, sometimes 
enthusiastic, often fed up with windows. 
    those whom i approach are generally bored and 
resistant to the idea of using linux. i approach them 
again, a year later, maybe, and hope that over time 
they get curious and open up. 

    those who are willing to try out linux are scared 
that it's different. i regularly explain that linux, 
mac, and windows are pretty much all the same, their 
engineers steal ideas from each other--basically it's 
the same mouse-clicking no matter what you use. 

    newbies i encounter seem to want a book to cuddle 
with. my advice is that they should try using linux 
first and get a book later, cause the book will be 
meaningful after they've got experience, not before. 
i also advise newbies to skim over the book, glancing 
at all the chapters, to get an overview, and to use 
the index a lot. 

    most every newbie comes with a computer, almost 
always a laptop. sometimes its their windows machine, 
sometimes they've bought a new machine. either way, 
it's essential that they try out linux using a live 
CD to be sure the distro will work with all their 
machine's subsystems. of course wifi is the common 
failure point (thank you broadcom). that's the end 
of that. 
    sometimes everything works, in which case they 
want to install but are worried that they'll lose 
their windows files (and services). this takes 
explaining dual booting. that's not too hard, but 
they have a problem developing compensating habits 
of use. mainly, it takes dedicated training to 
teach them how to see the windows file system when 
they're using linux. generally i have them copy 
the files they want over to their linux partitions. 
    they generally don't understand the differences 
between data files and programs and services. it's 
not too tough to teach them that linux programs 
can work with windows files. 
    as to services, netflix is a good example: they 
wanna copy their netflix files. it takes repeated 
explanations to get them to understand that netflix 
is an internet service and they need a special 
program that works with that service and netflix 
doesn't make such a program for linux (i spend only 
a little time explaining that netflix may be scared 
that someone will reverse-engineer an app so's to 
sidestep DRM). skype is another service example, 
and that has a successful outcome. 

    people who convert generally have a dual boot 
system and over time seem to migrate to linux only. 
    some people go linux-only right away and seem 
happy with their experiences. those using old 
machines regularly appear for help with hard drives 
or their newly purchased used machines.... 

    the riskiest use case is that of the newbie who's 
bought a new laptop and wants linux--they had no idea 
of subsystems and device drivers and compatibility 
    the best case is that of a newbie who comes for 
advice before buying a computer--i try hard to send 
them to zareason: 
* zareason vets the machines to be sure that linux 
  works completely. 
* zareason installs linux on the machines and will 
  configure it per your wishes (i try to help them 
  learn what to wish for: RAM gives the best bang for 
  the buck.... 
* zareason sells at low prices, comparable to dell or 
  big-box stores.... 
* zareason has great customer support, generous, 
* zareason is local to the sf bay area; you can go 
  there and check 'em out and try comnputers. 
* zareason is a family owned and run store. that 
  means friendly policies and a pleasant sales and 
  service experience, working with people who really 
  care and are in a good mood. 

    newbies are particularly impressed when i show 
them applications > ubuntu software center, like 
showing a kid a candy store. 

On Sat, 2011-03-12 at 00:16 -0800, Grant Bowman wrote:
> Hello SF-LUGers,
> I would appreciate feedback on what your experiences have been
> introducing newcomers to Linux, particularly Ubuntu.
> Cheers,
> Grant
> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> From: Grant Bowman <grantbow at ubuntu.com>
> Date: Sat, Mar 12, 2011 at 12:10 AM
> Subject: Starting Out With Linux
> To: dvlug at linuxmafia.com, berkeleylug at googlegroups.com,
> ubuntu-us-ca at lists.ubuntu.com
> A question I hear sometimes is how do I get started with GNU/Linux?
> The question is difficult to answer as everyone has heard of and
> understands different pieces of the "computing puzzle" and start from
> different places. To me this boils down to a lack of knowing beginning
> keywords. I often start searches at wikipedia to get an overview of a
> topic and recommend others do too.
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ubuntu_(operating_system)  Adding
> additional keywords help. For newcomers to Open Source / Free Software
> there are many new terms to understand and to relate to the ideas they
> already know.
> Ubuntu is where newcomers often want to start and it's a great place
> to start. "Humanity towards others" is an attractive philosophy from
> Africa and as the most end-user focused distribution it is a great
> place to start. Version numbers and code names can be confusing, but
> once people understand the version number is associated with the date
> I often see a light bulb go off. Understanding LTS versions can help.
> I often describe what the Linux Kernel is and what a Linux
> distribution is, mentioning Ubuntu, Red Hat, CentOS, Fedora and
> Debian. Distrowatch.org can be a bit overwhelming to newcomers but
> it's a useful site to see the variety and flexibility of how Linux is
> used in many different ways. I often mention Mark Shuttleworth,
> Thawte, Canonical and the structures of the Ubuntu communities.
> Understanding that all the parts of a distribution are legally
> distributable is a big hurdle for some.
> Describing how a "live CD" works is important as this is where one
> starts. Understanding partitioning can be a scary thing for those who
> haven't backed up their machines or those that have never installed an
> OS themselves. Installers take care of installing and partitioning but
> it's always wise to be careful and not rush through installation
> screens without taking the time to understand what they are really
> asking you.
> With the help of BerkeleyLUG.com folks Jack has shepherded the
> creation of two tri-fold pamphlets as an attempt to summarize what
> people need to know about Linux before deciding to try it and where to
> go after they have installed it.
> http://www.berkeleylug.com/Contributions/  I think this effort is
> outstanding. Additional resources of this nature can be found at
> http://spreadubuntu.org/  Among other very innovative designs, this is
> a great quick reference for windows users to find software similar to
> what they use now.  http://spreadubuntu.org/files/Screenshot_0.png
> Windows and Mac power users come to Linux with widely differing needs
> to get started. A few Windows users may know that the Windows NT
> systems and following Windows versions trace many features to Unix but
> most do not. Some Mac users may know they are running a form of BSD
> (Darwin) but some do not.
> For those wanting a book or narrative form the best places I know for
> Ubuntu are http://ubuntu-manual.org/ online. For a dead tree (or
> kindle) option covering 10.04 I recommend
> http://www.amazon.com/Official-Ubuntu-Book-Benjamin-Mako/dp/0137081308/
> aka http://www.pearsonhighered.com/educator/product/Official-Ubuntu-Book-The/9780137081301.page
> of the many that are now available as Ubuntu becomes every more
> popular. Again the plethora of choices can be a barrier to newcomers.
> User groups in our local area are often a big key to encouraging
> people to try a Linux disc.  dvlug.org sf-lug.org and berkeleylug.com
> are great ones among a raft of others in areas further afield to me.
> Online resources abound, some good, some less useful to beginners.
> Our golden state has a group that promotes Ubuntu:
> http://www.ubuntu-california.org and
> http://wiki.ubuntu.com/CaliforniaTeam are our "external" and
> "internal" websites.  We hold IRC meeting every other Sunday night at
> 7 PM though people talk in the channel whenevery they want. As this is
> a real time form of communication, it is often useful to wait many
> hours for a response to questions you might raise to give people a
> chance to respond when they see what you asked. Giving up and leaving
> too quickly is a common mistake to understanding how to use IRC
> effectively.
> Understanding basics like what an Operating System does and what
> applications are available is where the boxes at the bottom of
> wikipedia pages really help me, understanding the context of how ideas
> fit together.
> Too much freedom can cause paralysis and leave people less satisfied.
> ( video: http://on.ted.com/8wIZ ) Opinionated decisions help things
> move forward for the most common cases at the risk of alienating some.
> One of the problems is the constant stream of new versions. This has
> been a problem for linux distributions for a long time, balancing the
> newest software with stability and reliability.
> Is there a "best" way to introduce people to knowing more about
> computing without limits?  Let me know what you think.
> Cheers,
> Grant
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