sábado, 5 de febrero de 2011

Don't give Linux to your mother

I'd like to give an honest piece of advice to those who are concerned about their parents and their computer skills. Whatever you do, don't give Linux to your parents. Yes, I know that sometimes their constant calls for help regarding security breeches,crashes, and virus infections might make you feel tempted to install one Linux distribution on their computer...but be strong and don't give in!

Of course, many readers might be expecting (if not demanding!) an explanation for my position. Well, let me spare you all the boring reasoning; instead of that, I am going to give you an illustration in the form of an anecdote which I believe will suffice.

My fifty-something mother, who had never used a computer until three years ago, took a course on Windows and MS Office and, as she grew confident with her new skills, she bought herself a nice computer. However, despite all the time and money invested on her courses, she could not advance in her computer usage because she would constantly get the familiar error screens that Windows gives to those who trust Microsoft, not to mention the common virus infections that made the machine act funny. It goes without saying that the episodes would normally end with her justified frustration ("I did not cover any of this in the course!") and our visit to her house to fix the problem...time and again.

Then my brother got truly fed up and installed Pardus Linux (Anthropoides Virgo, I think) onto her hard disk in 2010. The reaction was instantaneous: after a minor resistance on her part, the calls concerning computer problems dropped to almost zero. One of her last calls was to tell me that she was proud because she had been able to burn an MP3 CD using K3b. I felt really happy for her because she had terrible problems trying to do the same in Nero.

But here comes the most remarkable thing: since viruses were no longer a problem, she got an ASDL connection to the Internet last January 10. Everything went off quite nicely until two weeks ago. We got a phone call: something had happened to the modem and she could not log in. It turned out that it was an ISP problem, so they sent a technician to solve the situation and...the guy had never seen Pardus Linux! He was extremely surprised because a woman her age was using Linux, an OS that is supposed to be horribly hard to use.

My mother told me that the technician spent some extra time trying to configure the modem, but he succeeded and went away proud because he could...(wasn't Linux impossible to use?)

When I saw the computer, the guy had messed up with Plasma and deleted some applications from the lower panel, too; he also threw the desktop icons to the garbage bin and resized the screen size. To sum up, "no puppet kept its head", as written in the Quixote.

Returning the computer to its normal state was a matter of 15 minutes and my mother said "It's because Linux is easy". Well, she is right. In fact, Pardus 2011 is even more user-friendly. So is SimplyMepis. And Mandriva 2010.2 is easy too, according to this article.

Therefore, do not give Linux to your mother or father. They might end up loving it, learning what they never could and, worst of all, putting an unsuspecting technician accustomed to Windows to shame.

9 comentarios:

  1. It's great that your mother is finding Linux so easy. Also, I'm surprised that the ADSL technician actually agreed to solve the connection issue in Pardus; usually they throw their hands up and say "We only support Microsoft Windows" and walk away. Finally, with regard to messing up Plasma, wouldn't it have been better if the widgets and stuff were locked so that couldn't happen? Anyway, it's always good to see stuff like this.
    a Linux Mint user since 2009 May 1

  2. I have a solution.

    On Linux system I always create a guest user named Tech officer. Nice little account that resets itself when logged out. Prevents tech stuffing up the normal user interface.

    I am sorry to say most techs on Linux get into trouble.

    The We only support Microsoft. Answer come back with you laptop. Of course that costs them time and they normally try Linux to save explaining to boss why the double trip.

    Lot of ISP use Linux internally so explaining why you could not use a Linux machine can get you into big trouble and block you from possiblity of promotion.

  3. My mother-in-law, living in another country, has been using Linux for about 5 years. We went visiting here and as a test I brought with me an old IBM PC with a decent Intel P4 CPU, and installed was BLAG 5000.

    Everything went smooth, except that she forgot how to correctly shutdown the computer and hence for some months made a hard shutdown. Then it was time for a Internet connection, and about that there's a funny story.

    The guy from the IPS company came. The Gnome interface made him very insecure and he didn't know what to do. Before I the opportunity to talk to him by phone he made a very weird attempt to configure the network. He saw an icon on the desktop, "Windows 2000", which was a shortcut to a virtual machine run through Qemu with acceleration, and by instinct he saw salvation. He started the virtual machine and from there he tried to configure the network! I did help him, but my mother-in-law told me that the guy before departure offered her to install a pirated XP. She denied the offer with a response that "Linux is better".

    For the last three years she's been running Arch with KDE4. OK, I'm the reason it's Arch nowadays, not that she has become particularly good at computing. Still, no problems that hasn't been possible to remotely solve.

    Where do these guys from IPS companies come from? Sometimes I get the impression they got the job on merits of being able to play WoW 24/7.

  4. You are allways an interesting writer... continue if possible it is good to read about " Linux " with a particular prospettive... Linux it is How -To and other considerations too!!!
    I like so much " how to write " continue .... !!!!

  5. @ PV,
    The widgets were locked. The technician discovered how to unlock them...I am still wondering why he did all that if the problem had to do with the login, which is accessed with a browser. By the way, Mint is great, isn't it? ;-)

    @ anónimo,
    Good suggestion,thanks! Although the guy should have already told his peers that something is lurking in my mother's house. Hahaha, my mother must be a legend by now!

    @ Kim Tjik,
    Your anecdote is very good, thanks for sharing!
    When I stop chickening away from text-based installs, I'll give Arch a try. About your question, yes, the Only-Windows-supported answer shows their incompetence. Of course, employers have their share of shame, too.

    @ yunanideniz,

    Thank you for reading and, above all, for the invitation you sent to your blog. I enjoy your writing although sometimes I get stuck with the Italian, but it's good reading and a great language practice!

  6. That was a nice story. If mummy can do it we all can do it, is the bottom line. I've never used Mandriva and wonder what reason there can be to switch from OpenSuse to Mandriva? I've installed Mandriva but never used it. I always go back to the usual suspects: Fedora, Ubuntu and Opensuse. Perhaps there is somebody who could convince me to use Mandriva because it looks quite nice.

  7. @ anónimo,

    Thanks. Actually, I have read many times that "Linux is not ready for Mom and Dad" that I wanted to share this story because the assumption is simply a fallacy.

    About using Mandriva... well, if you feel satisfied with your distro, I see no point in changing. However, I do acknowledge the fact that Mandriva has gotten a lot simpler today than it was when I began using it (Mandriva 2009.1). Its control center is a great tool, too.

  8. The way I see it, if daddy can do it, then we all can do it. I also have a computer illiterate brother. And both my uncles can hardly switch on the PC let alone confidently use it.

  9. That solution of creating a guest account for the technicians is BRILLIANT!


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