With Linux becoming more popular and easier to use, more and more people are adopting it as their primary operating system. But the transformation from Windows user to Linux user can be a tough road to take. Most new users become long-term users because they have friends that introduce Linux to them, and help them through the first few weeks of rough-patches. Here are ten steps to help you introduce Linux to a would-be convert.
Let’s face it – Linux isn’t for everyone. Your grandmas, your uber-gamers, your technophobes; all of these are bad candidates for Linux conversion. You want someone that’s interested in computing, and someone that is decently tech-literate. The ideal candidate is one that has heard of Linux, but for whatever reason believes it would be too complex for him or her to use. Another important quality in a mark is someone who’s willing to take some time and work through the initial phase of changing to a new operating system. If a candidate doesn’t have these qualities, it might be best to look somewhere else.
Once you’ve selected your potential convert, introduce him or her to free software on the Windows platform. It’s likely that he or she is already using Firefox (if it’s an IE user, you might want to pick someone else to convert), but there’s a chance that he or she doesn’t realize that it’s free software. Drop a hint about how Firefox was written the same way Linux is written; by a community of developers, rather than by a giant corporation. Explain why you think this is better: more eyeballs equals fewer bugs, more features, and more developers. For a full list of free software that runs on Windows, check out this page.
One of the reasons that people get the “gotta have it” syndrome over Linux is the eye-candy of the Compiz-enabled desktop. Sure, it’s superficial, and we all know that there’s more to Linux than just a rotating cube and windows that minimize in a ball of fire, but it’s a great way to quickly grab someone’s attention and get them asking questions. “What is that?” “How did you do that?” “How can I get that?” Your answers for all of these questions will be points towards Linux.
You don’t want your to-be-convert to rush into things and get frustrated. This is a quick and easy way for them to go running back to Windows. Instead, give them a LiveCD; it’s a great way for them to become familiar with the Linux desktop, the interface, and the features included in the installation. Think of it as a toy that they can play with in their spare time. Don’t push it on them, just say “if you want to check it out, you can boot off this CD without making any modifications to your hard drive.” It’s a great way for the mark to get their feet wet.
Hopefully, your mark has been impressed with what he’s seen on the LiveCD, and is ready to take the initial plunge. Great for him! Encourage him that it’s really no big deal. Walk him through the installation, and explain that he can keep his Windows partition and duel-boot with Linux, picking whichever he prefers to use at the moment. This is a great way for people to slowly become accustomed a new operating system. It’s imperative that you be around to help out the new user. The most important thing about Linux is that it has great community support – by sticking around and being a helpful hand, you’re encouraging your mark to use community channels to find solutions to problems.
Again, you must, must, must remain helpful even after the operating system is installed, but let the new-convert try to figure things out on her own. Let her find her way around the desktop, check out the included programs, browse the web, and do the things she wants to do with her computer. Your job now is to sit back and just remain available when she has questions. Show her how to add and remove software; recommend programs when she asks, “what program do I use to do ?” But throughout all of this, let the new user do her own thing.
If all goes well, the newly-converted user will be enjoying her first Linux experience. But of course, there will be problems. Remain available to help work her through the tough times and the initial shock of a completely new desktop experience, but don’t force your advice when you aren’t asked.
This is a good time to start explaining other ways of getting help with Linux. The idea here is to make the user self-sufficient in trouble-shooting and problem solving, but still try to be the most valuable resource you can possibly be.
If your convert is still using her new Linux desktop at this point, it’s probably safe to declare success! Congratulations! You’ve turned someone on to a free-software operating system. By this time, her desktop should probably be well-configured, and all the programs she needs should be installed and working properly. By this time, you’ll probably be starting to get more advanced questions than before; things like, “How do I customize function [x]?” or “What does it mean when the update manager does [something]?” If you’re lucky, you’ll know all the answers; otherwise, use these valuable resources to find out some solutions! It’s always important to learn more yourself, so that you can proceed to step 10:
If you’ve been lucky enough to successfully convert a Windows user to Linux, you should definitely try it again with someone else! Use what you’ve learned with your previous experience and adapt it to fit your style and your mark. If all goes well, you should have your own personal army of Linux converts in no time at all!