[ubuntu-uk] Leaflets [long reply]

I C McNab icmcnab at googlemail.com
Sun May 6 11:08:05 BST 2007

norman wrote:
> ...My grandson, a windows user,
> bought a Freecom Digital TV DVB-T USB Stick Freeview receiver, plugged
> it in and off he went, no problem [SNIP] 

Norman >>> I think you're pointing to something very important here.  I 
started to make the mental shift towards Open Source/Linux when a few 
months ago, as an MS DOS/Windows power-user for years, I spent £200 on a 
SlimDevices Squeezebox and discovered that it had Open Source music 
server software, and didn't work as I wanted 'out of the box'.

At first, being used to the 'plug & play' simplicity of Windows, I got 
really annoyed at having to mess about in the innards of the software to 
  get the thing to work.  My mind ran on such thoughts as 'You sure as 
hell wouldn't buy one of these things for your Granny!' and 'How dare 
they charge £200 for something that doesn't work unless you devote your 
every waking hour to it for a fortnight?!?'  (I did get it working fine 
- and it is awesome!)

Then I gradually began to understand that I had entered a different 
country.  Here, configuring, tweaking, searching forum posts, reading 
'How-to' docs, and asking for help were the (acceptable) price to to pay 
for immense flexibility, and getting - or getting closer to - a device 
that I could endlessly adjust to my own 'wish list'.

So when I tried out Linux (because someone gave me an old computer with 
no operating system), I was surprised to find that the 'do-it-yourself 
and help-each-other' world of SlimServer was actually a small corner of 
a whole universe that worked like this.  And this changing 
consciousness, started by SlimServer, allowed me (just!) to get through 
the frustrating awfulness of trying to get my wifi PCMCIA card working 
with Dapper, which I had also installed on my laptop.  I tell you, I did 
come very near giving up on Ubuntu that fortnight.

But I didn't, because I'd imperceptibly shifted into a different 
relationship with the technology - just like moving to live in a foreign 
culture, and starting to appreciate and enjoy the different attitudes it 
embodied.  So it was no real surprise to discover a little later that 
Linux and the Open Source movement were not just about technology but 
were embodiments of a pervading philosophy (cf Richahd Stallman, Founder 
of GNU, 'Free software is a matter of liberty not price').

And it's this difference of culture - actually a difference of reality - 
that leads to the conflicts between the opposing MS and Linux forces 
(like  the conflicts among crowds of opposing supporters at 
international football matches, and for rather similar reasons).  No 
amount of rational argument, sound logic, being clearly right, will 
convince someone on 'the other side'.

What works, rather, is experiencing something of the quality behind 
Ubuntu. For me, that was almost accidental;  but the opportunity might 
be offered more systematically: an invitation to 'come and see' without 
being pressurised or given the hard sell;  noticing that Dell offers 
Ubuntu as an option when you're browsing their site;  seeing a cheerful 
and well-written article in a university paper;  seeing a poster for a 
free lunch-time talk, which, when you go, turns out to be lively and 
entertaining;  doing an article (and offering a free support service?) 
in the local free press.  My feeling, from my own experience, is that 
the key is offering people pleasant experiences associated with Ubuntu; 
  being friendly, respectful, and helpful;  giving people options and 
choices, rather than making them feel they have to sign up for something 
(live CD and easily-reversible dual boot are examples of this).  Because 
the problem is that you have to help them get through the change of 
culture when it gets hard - and it will get hard.  (If you've used Linux 
for years, or never had to make this change yourself, it's easy to 
underestimate this strength of this obstacle).

Sorry to have gone on so long - I guess, being a recent convert and, 
worse yet, a product of university during the late 60's and early 70's 
when we invested such hope in 'Community', I'm a bit fired up about 
Ubuntu and the open source idea!

Best wishes

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