[Ubuntu-ch] Linux Install Event Experience

Wolf Geldmacher wolf at womaro.ch
Mon Nov 2 10:27:48 GMT 2009

Hi all,

even though most of you are busy preparing for Karmic, I'd like to share
some experiences I've made doing Linux install events in the past two weeks.

The Setup

I took the Windows 7 release on October 22nd as trigger to offer free Linux
Install Events as an alternative. I got 20 Ubuntu 9.04/Swiss-Remix DVD's,
basing the event on a proven release rather than on the upcoming new one.

In total I offered 16 possible time slots, three hours each. The program
for the event had three parts: (1) A short presentation on Linux and Open
Source Software, (2) Exploring Ubuntu from the DVD and (3) Installing Ubuntu.

I advertised the events in a local newspaper, on my home page
http://www.womaro.ch/linuxevent and we (i.e. My wife, my children and I)
sent email to a lot of local friends and acquaintances and put it up on

The Execution

All of the 22 responses I got were due to the emailings - none to the
advertisement in the newpaper. One response was outright negative: "Been
there, done that - doesn't work for me", 10 people could not make it in
the time frame provided, but would like to attend at a later time.

Out of the 16 times offered the event actually took place 8 times. Of the
12 people who attended the events, 4 left without running Ubuntu on their
machines: One of them was still running Win2k and the machine neither had
enough memory nor sufficient disk space for an install; the second needs to
be able to use Active-X in the browser to do his job; the third could not
handle the added complexity of a different GUI; the fourth really wanted to
run Ubuntu, but we could not free enough space on the disk for an install.

One person decided to run Ubuntu in a (VirtualBox) VM under Win-XP, mostly
for experimenting.

Seven participants decided to go for dual-booting Windows and Ubuntu and left
with the intention to give it a real try.

Problems encountered during live-sessions / installations included: audio not
working (solved since), built-in webcam not working (participant never useѕ
webcam anyway, so this didn't bother him at all), graphics card not working
well in live-session (this is the person who did a VM install afterwards), too
little memory (256MB - shared graphics...). Surprisingly WLAN worked
out-of-the-box on all machines that had such hardware.

The feedback I've received up to now can be summarized as follows: two
participants are quite happy with the dual-boot and use it regularly; 1 person
has decided that Linux is not for him and has switched back to Win-XP only. The
main reasons given are essentially "too much choice", "no support for (some
very special) hardware out of the box", "too different from what I'm used to".

Food For Thought

Here's some food for thought - please feel free to comment and suggest

- I've been using the Swiss-Remix DVD for this experiment. The amount of
  software available on the DVD is staggering and quite a few "first-timers"
  are just overwhelmed by the choices they suddenly have.

  Having this much software is nice for showing off (there is something for
  everbody), but I got the impression that for actual use less would be more.
  Your non-expert user finds it really hard to cope with a choice of 5 web-
  browsers, 4 email clients, 3 different GUIs, ...

- The average user is *really* upset by the mix-in of foreign language (i.e.
  English) interfaces, documentation, even links to English support pages.

  I got the impression that this is an area that requires additional attention
  and work - maybe up to the point of providing a tool that allows spontaneus
  translation (e.g. you get an English dialog - you can right click on it,
  select "translate", do the translation (with support from the web,
  suggestions of terms to use, a.s.o), save (and optionally publish for
  review to the offical LoCo language teams) and use the translation right

- Even more testing is necessary! Having cutting-edge software on the DVD is
  nice, but stability is even more important. Even though the user might
  forgive program crashes and unexpected behaviour in his customary Windows
  environment, he is not as tolerant when in an environment that he is not
  used to. KDE4 on 9.04 is especially weak in this area.

- Don't change user interfaces without necessity. I know this is rather
  controversial, as we as developers like to experiment and develop with
  the new stuff and we are frequently changing/reimplementing/improving
  things to make room for all the goodies that will come, but for Joe L. User
  it is really hard to adapt to a new GUI, Amarok2 being a prominent point
  in case - see also the ongoing discussion there. Sad as it may be, users
  seem to like interfaces they know better than shiny new interfaces.

- The support of accessibility features (especially screen magnifier and
  support for one-handed typing) turned out to be one of the strong points
  for considering Linux.


Just when you discovered the meaning of life, IT changed.
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