how can we make Linux more accessible for a bigger public?

Bas Roufs basroufs at
Mon May 31 13:56:00 BST 2010

Dear everybody

Recently I installed a dual boot system at a laptop of friends of me:
Kubuntu 10.04 LTS next to Windows XP.  The friends in question are no
computer experts, but also not totally computer illiterate. Moreover,
they both have a beta background - biology, physics,  mathematics,
etc. That's why, I thought the configuration I worked out for them
would work for them. However, this was not the case.  One of the
problems they mentioned was their difficulty to convert .odt files (OO
Writer) into .doc (Microsoft Word 97-2000). In theory, they correctly
acted: File > Save as > Microsoft Word 97 - 2000 - as I always do ever
since I work with OpenOffice. But the difference between those 2
friends on one hand and me on the other hand is apparently the way to
deal with computer problems. In the case of conversion into .doc, I
quickly managed to find out how to do it in such a way that it works.
But this is apparently more difficult for those who do lack a certain
"feeling" with computers. On the other hand: an ability to work with
computers apparently does not automatically imply an ability to
effectively clarify something to someone who has less feeling with
computers. The basic problem is in fact, that the friends in question
do not have the patience and creativity needed to solve the countless
number of little problems which are still in Linux. Even though I
cannot consider myself as an expert, I do manage to solve about 95% of
such problems myself and about 4% via "Kubuntu users" and other Linux
communities and 1% via other Linux users helping me directly. But
still - not everything works "automatically" or "out of the box".
That's why, I do not manage to convince those friends - they are going
back now to Windows XP.

I am afraid many computer users are like those friends - if an OS does
not quickly work "out of the box" at daily level, they will not be
able and willing to experiment with it. That is probably one of the
reasons still about 90%? of the computers world wide work with an
inferior system like Windows. That's why, I propose to shift our
priorities with respect to open source software development -
technical renewal is good, but making Linux more accessible for less
experienced users is better. The main question is now: how can we make
Linux more accessible for a bigger public?

Respectfully yours,

Bas Roufs.

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