[ubuntu-uk] Leaflets

Mark Harrison Mark at ascentium.co.uk
Fri May 4 11:00:08 BST 2007

Ian Pascoe wrote:
> One question that's been missed off all of this valuable discussions is:
> "Why should I try this Linux thingy?"
PROLOGUE -  I'm going to be contentious.

I ought to explain that TheVeech and I exchanged emails offlist last 
night, in which we agreed that a bit of "violent discussion" would both 
lead to a better result than any individual could come up with AND 
hopefully spark contributions from people who have sat on the sidelines.

BTW - if you want to carry on sitting on the sidelines and just reading, 
that's absolutely fine with me. However, I do find that many more people 
say nothing because they (wrongly) don't believe that they know enough 
than say things when they they are actually misunderstanding the issues. 
We generally get to better answers if more people join in.

On that basis, if you all join in to tell me I'm wrong in what I'm 
writing below - that's FANTASTIC - it's the kind of thing I can use to 
improve my understanding and arguments in the future.

MAIN ACT - I don't like "free" as a selling point unless I'm talking to 
someone where I know I have a minimum of 5 minutes to run through the issue.

"Free" works very well in a longer format, like the recent BBC radio 
programme mentioned on the list a week or so ago.

However, in a "moment of truth", one of the hardest problems to overcome 
is what happens to potential users when you mention the word "free", and 
most people will make a "snap decision" inside a ludicrously short 
period of time, rather than bothering to listen to the arguments.

When most people hear the "free" word, they think "zero cost":

So for people thinking about an existing PC, it's a non-issue. They 
already have a copy of an O/S and continuing to use that is "free" in 
the money sense. The "no money" issue only applies if people were 
thinking of changing to Vista [1] or thinking of getting a new PC [2]

Note 1: I suspect that another few months of horror stories about people 
who try to upgrade from XP to Vista will stop people wanting to do that.
Note 2: Oh for a UK "household name" manufacturer who could ship Ubuntu. 
See other thread(s) about why we need to keep the pressure on Dell to 
offer this in the UK as well as the States AND why we need to make 
D*&mned sure that the price of a PC with Ubuntu is less than the price 
of a PC with Vista.

The problem with saying "free" and meaning "freedom" is that you then 
have to explain the difference. There are two issues that arise with this:

Firstly, some people get put off and think "that you're deliberately 
misusing words", and all the other things that _I_ get accused of :-)

Secondly, most people aren't programmers, and therefore don't understand 
(short of a long conversation) why freedom to modify source code is 
overall good for them EVEN IF THEY THEMSELVES NEVER DO IT.

Most people think "I'm not a programmer, I'm never going to change the 
code, so it's of no benefit to me" rather than "Because lots of 
programmers can see what's really going on, the total community of 
skilled people available to fix bugs and add new features is far bigger 
than any single company, even one as big as Microsoft, could ever afford."

Personally, I always like tables that say "When should you use X, when 
should you use Y" that deliberately come up with circumstances when 
using a competitor's product is better - they come over as honest (even 
if they are always self serving.)... and you also make the reasons to 
use the competitor sound very niche.

Why Linux?

- It's stable - most of the world's web servers and email servers run 
Linux because it crashes much, much less.

- It's more secure - Linux was developed with a sophsticated security 
model from the ground up, and Ubuntu applies a set of defaults that mean 
that, even if a user clicks on a virus by mistake, they won't make it 
infect the PC. (As an aside, most viruses are written to only work on 
Windows - because it's a lot easier to write a virus that attacks Windows.)

- There are a huge number of applications specifically designed to work 
together. In the Windows world it's very easy for a programmer to write 
one program that accidently causes another program to stop working. On 
Linux, because of the way that the code used to write programs is almost 
always available, it's very, very hard for a program to have these 
problems. Indeed, one of the things the Ubuntu community does is 
specifically check that things won't interfere with each other before 
they are included in a distribution.

Why Windows?

- At the moment, more PC vendors ship machines with Windows 
pre-installed than have Linux as an option. (However, many small local 
manufacturers offer Linux - it tends to be the big US multinationals 
that are pro-Microsoft, and Dell have recently started shipping Linux as 
an option, though today that's only available in the US.)

- Some applications are written to only work on Windows. In most cases 
(email, web browsers, spreadsheet, word processing, audio editing, video 
editing, blogging, web-site creation) there are either versions that run 
on Linux, or Linux alternatives that work as well. However, quite a few 
Games are only available for Windows, so if you're a hardcore gamer, 
then you may be better buying an £800 Windows "gaming specification" PC 
than a £300 Linux "work, homework and web browsing PC".

- If you use NTL cable broadband in some areas, then only Windows 
software will be provided. It is possible to get this working with 
Linux, but quite fiddly and you may need to find a local linux user to 
help (there are Linux user groups in all parts of the UK.)

- If you are on a company email system that uses the Microsoft 
"Exchange" server, then this is designed to work with Windows only. If 
you use email from the likes of Google, AOL, Hotmail, Virgin or the like 
- these email servers actually run Linux (though they do work with 
Windows machines.)

Reasons why you could you use either?

- Linux and Windows both run "OpenOffice.org" - an application that can 
edit "Word, Excel and Powerpoint" files.

- Both surf the web equally well. Indeed, the Firefox web-browser, 
originally written for Linux, has now been made available for Windows. 
This includes audio and video playback, as well as things like "Flash" 
and "Ajax" that some websites use for more sophisticated effects.

- Audio-editing, graphics and video-editing packages are available for 
each. Generally, the Windows versions cost a few hundred quid and the 
Linux versions are free.

Reasons why you should "pirate" a copy of Windows instead of using Linux?

- Because you like breaking the law and being prosecuted.

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