Regarding GNU/Linux installation and usage, prejudices are still hard to fight (at least in my environment). Yesterday, we had the usual Christmas dinner with some friends and family. At one moment, talks went on technology, computers, peer-to-peer, etc. One of the boys just bought an Apple Powerbook and his wife got a laptop PC from her work (MS-Windows only, of course). We ask them to put GNU/Linux or, at least to try free software. For their general usage, OpenOffice.org (writer, calc and impress), The Gimp, FireFox, Thunderbird, … are sufficient. They don’t need more: specific applications they might use are already on dedicated computers in the laboratory.
The three main prejudices, reserves about GNU/Linux are:
- It will be difficult to install
- It will be difficult to use and they don’t want to type 1000 lines of commands
- They won’t be able to communicate and share documents with other people
First of all, GNU/Linux is not difficult to install. Free software are related to freedom and choice. You have to the choice. You can choose a GNU/Linux “flavor” (aka. distribution) that is very easy to install and yet powerfull enough (e.g. Fedora Core, Mandriva, SuSE, …). I personally installed the Fedora Core on two computers of mine and my wife’s laptop. The only thing that I needed to know is to click on the left button of my mouse and to enter my name and password at the right moment (that is: when the computer asked to do it). Of course, you can choose to have a more difficult installation. Just choose the “advanced installation” option while installing the distribution cited before or you can also choose a distribution often considered less easy to install like Debian.
And GNU/Linux isn’t difficult to use and you have the choice for the 1000 lines of commands. Everything you can do with a mouse with MS-Windows, you can also do it with a mouse with GNU/Linux. In my opinion, you can even do more with GNU/Linux since there are a lot of free software available. I am sure that at least one of them will fit your needs.
Finally, why an operating system will deprive you from sharing your documents with other people? If you think that MS-Word documents are a “standard”, you are wrong. But if you still want to open .doc files other people sent you, just open them! OpenOffice.org writer can do it, Abiword can do it, antiword can do it, …
Just try GNU/Linux (Ubuntu and Knoppix are GNU/Linux flavors that doesn’t need to be installed on you computer). Try it for at least one month (I am not saying to use it 24hours a day, 7 days a week, go progressively if you want or if you don’t have time). And then choose. And whatever you choose, please give Microsoft or the GNU/Linux community your feedback. I don’t know if Microsoft will listen to you. But I know that the GNU/Linux community will hear your well constructed arguments against or pro GNU/Linux and try to improve it.
P.S. Oh, yes: Merry Christmas to you all! 🙂