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How to convince desktop users to embrace Linux

davidcarass profile image davidcarass ・1 min read

How to increase the market share of Linux on the desktop. What are the barriers? Is it unfamiliarity, does it seem too complex? Is it the sometimes unhelpful responses on the support forums?

Would users consider a dual-boot scenario, or would this be considered too complicated? Or perhaps trying linux as a guest-OS within their familiar Mac or Windows environment?

I first tried Linux back in 2003 and found it too challenging myself back then. More than 15 years on, my experience is different today - and I believe Linux has come on in leaps and bounds and is now better placed to entice desktop users.

Do you agree?

What is your experience of Linux on the desktop?
Which (if any) is your preferred distribution - and why?
Which is your preferred development platform -and why?

I am very familiar with Debian now, and I really like it. But I am beginning to learn OpenSuse and Manjaro in the hope that one of these distributions will convince users of the virtues of Linux, according to their needs.

I have a genuine sense that now is the time for Linux to spread it's wings beyond it's dominance on the server and into the desktop world also. Am I dreaming?

If so, what are your experiences of integrating or indeed migrating to Linux? Did you persevere and overcome them - or give up? Would you consider a re-try?

Thank you for your input.

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8ucik profile image
8ucik

To be honest there is no certain way to do so. I have seen people try to use different distros but none of them stayed with the selected OS. They just chose to move to Windows or OSX.

I have always liked how Linux feels and looks but for some reason never moved through that barrier. It ended up installing, setting up the environment, selecting proper packages and that was it. I tried new software and loved the idea of how it felt - nevertheless did something more on the OS. Then again moved to Windows.

All of it has changed when I started working with networking in a new company. They had no "must" for an operating system. So I had chosen Ubuntu. I am using it today. It is a 16.04 LTS and it does work with no thrill for a year+. No reinstallation required. I have also pushed myself to learn bash and python to do more on it.

That is the real deal for using Linux. Of course, Windows has the same functionalities but Linux just feels right and working.

I have tried to show it to several friends but they still don't see the big picture and what it has to offer to do more. Although they just need the OS for Web browsing, YouTube, Office stuff and so on - they still can't use it.
I think that there should be more distros to show around and possible to configure with a Notebook or PC. In the US it is possible with System76 and others. In my country - Poland there are none to choose from.

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davidcarass profile image
davidcarass Author

Hi 8ucik,

thanks for your response.

So, it's about familiarity then - maybe even inertia?

It seems a pity if user needs are quite modest that Linux wouldn't be considered. I was wondering if a more stealthful approach might be better? That is, install a linux distro as a virtual machine to begin with, or a dual-boot scenario. Both would require that users choose to investigate further - would they simply ignore the option?

Even in a basic user requirement environment I guess there could still be workflow issues? E.g. as good as LibreOffice is, there may be an essential feature offered in MS-Office that isn't available in LibreOffice?

I didn't understand this:

'I think that there should be more distros to show around and possible to configure with a Notebook or PC. In the US it is possible with System76 and others. In my country - Poland there are none to choose from.'

There are lots of linux distros available for download in any country, all that will install on to a laptop or desktop computer. I'm probably misunderstanding your meaning?

Well, it seems as though I will have my work cut out for me! How to overcome people's principle objections, how to help them overcome their barriers with some training perhaps?

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

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8ucik profile image
8ucik

Ok so let me clear things out a little. By more distros, I mean to have those available on proper machines. Even if there are lots of Linux distributions possible to download (too much in my opinion) people do not tend to download them. Most of the non-technical users will buy a PC with Windows or a MAC OSX, NOT a Linux cause it is not delivered with the machine.

System76 is a good example here. You can buy a fully configured Linux machine - PC or notebook with proper drivers and all media installed. You get a package where you have everything out of the box.

In my country, you can either get a used notebook with Linux because it will be cheaper to buy or a new notebook without an operating system. Of course, you can build one yourself and make it Linux friendly but yet again those non-technical people would choose Windows over Linux.

Another example is Dell. They do produce notebooks (XPS as I remember correctly) that support Linux out of the box with full control over driver support.

The most important thing is support. Not everybody needs it nowadays but people as I found out use it all the time. Apple is a good example here. They have those "genius" people or a bunch of support divisions which do answer the calls and help people with their OSX software and hardware. They have specified the product line. With Linux, you are a little on the downside. If you chose Dell or System76 you do get that support but for other distros, you are stuck with the problem. If your hardware is one of the newest there is less chance that you are going to have everything working and yet again no one of non-technical persons is going to use a proper build to have everything working.

People these days need support for their hardware. Even if Linux does work on everything it does not work correctly all the time. This is a driver problem - my problem which occurred when I had the not correctly selected machine. I had a Lenovo 320 notebook which was sold with different hardware then my colleagues exact Lenovo 320. My WLAN driver was crashing and I was in need to use the service network-manager restart command all the time. Cause Lenovo delivered it with different hardware. Even if I was updating and compiling the driver for WLAN it was not able to connect to 5GHz network or after crashing it was being provisioned all around the office at my work. I had to get it replaced with a new Asus notebook due to the fact of WLAN card issues.

Moving on. Using VMs seems a good start but you will not be available 24/7 to show it all the time. Also, I have noticed that when people see that you are configuring so much stuff for that VM then they do not want to use it because of the difficulties.

The proper approach would be to sell a Linux distribution which would be designed for that exact hardware and would have the proper solutions (drivers) which would make it for everybody. Then it would deliver proper support and updates.

People mostly argue that the issue lays in the software but using commands and even dedicated software shows that Linux does deliver it all. The thing to issue here is the hardware and the lack of support. Even when you buy Windows you get some sort of support. If you download a distribution from the internet you do lack the support. Of course, the internet is helpfull but not everybody wants to look around and lose time.

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davidcarass profile image
davidcarass Author

Thanks 8ucik for your detailed and thoughtful response.

You have certainly given me some food for thought, and I wasn't aware of system76 - so thanks for that info too.

You're right, support is a vital issue for businesses and I can see the attraction of buying new systems specifically build for Linux and with the Linux distro already installed and fully configured.

I was envisaging a situation of perhaps extending the productive life of existing, older hardware with a cautious/stealthful transition to Linux.

That's one scenario. But if new harware is being sought, that could be an ideal time to consider Linux specific PCs. But who would do that without any previous exposure to Linux whatsoever?

I have read a great deal online about driver issues, especially as relate to more modern hardware. Your 5G wireless issues sounds like it was a real pain. It's a pity you couldn't resolve it, without needing to purchase new hardware.

I need to do detailed market research in respect of support services for business, find out exactly what it is they are currently paying for, and what they might consider paying for.

You're right of course, I can't be available all the time - but that is where some in-house training might come in, if only at a basic level? But even that could be a risky proposition. With a little knowledge you can do a lot of damage!

I know from my own experience that relying on online support forums can be a hit and miss affair. But I have my learning computer, my 'sacrificial lamb' - if things go wrong, I reformat and start again. Businesses can't afford to do that.

I know from my own experience that things can go disastrously wrong with closed source solutions also. For example: when Apple first introduced HFS+ into MacOS v8 - I ran Norton Utilities and it blew holes in all my data on my hard drive. I contacted Symantec - they informed me they were aware of the problem and would be fixing it in due course.

I'm thinking - I.T. is no different to other aspects of life ... it's about managing customer expectations? Communication and transparency incl. support fees and structure (what you get for your money) would be paramount.

Or, I could just remain a Linux enthusiast for entirely my own interests. Early doors I guess.

Again, thanks for your input.