It’s time to face it: Linux is not coming to the desktop. Ever.

While it was great fun trying to convert my mother to Ubuntu, this experiment ended up in a complete failure. Linux is not ready for the desktop, and never will be, too.

After I installed Ubuntu, she did give it a few tries. However, as can be expected when one gets to know a new operating system, she was not immediately at home at her new system. For example, as she was used to from Outlook, she expected new emails to automatically appear in her inbox, while Evolution expected her to click a button. Sure, Evolution can probably be configured to check for new emails automatically, but what did she know?

The problem was not that she found the way Ubuntu did things better or worse than the way Windows did it. No, the biggest hurdle was that she did not at once know how to do what she wanted to do. And instead of asking me how to perform certain actions, she quickly rebooted into Windows to do whatever she wanted to do.

As time passed by, she would no longer even bother booting into Ubuntu – she’d rather go straight to trusted ol’ Windows. Occasionally, she’d use Ubuntu per my request. However, not having used it regularly, she’d already forgot how to receive new emails, giving her yet more reason not to boot into Ubuntu next time. I’ve now reached a point where I no longer even bother trying to make her give Ubuntu another shot, as I know it is not really voluntary anymore.

So, Ubuntu is not the promised Linux distribution that will bring open source to the desktop. However, I do not think this is because Ubuntu is not good enough. Heck, even if Microsoft were still shipping Windows ME Ubuntu would not conquer the world.

On the other hand, I am sure that in a few years, my mother will have shelled out a lot of money to purchase Windows Vista and a computer that can handle it. In fact, she will even get to learn how to use it.

Why? Because Windows Vista will be forced upon her. Heck, she, and most “normal consumers” with her, never expected anything else! In a while, a lot of her applications will no longer work on Windows XP (e.g. virus scanners), and even Windows XP itself will no longer be supported. She will start receiving .docx documents that she cannot open in XP. Slowly but steadily, Windows Vista will be shoved up her throat.

When that happens, the easiest step to take is to buy a new computer. With Vista. Without her data. It probably is a lot of work to transfer all her documents, and I have already decided that I won’t be the one to do that. However, data or no data, she will be using Vista.

She will also have to put up with the quirks of Vista like she does with XP’s now and didn’t with Ubuntu’s. She will get to learn how to retrieve her newest emails and she will learn to click the Windows logo in the bottom left-hand corner instead of the “Start” button.

Bottom line: most people, including my mother, are not going to switch operating systems unless they have no other choice. It’s just more effort than their computer is worth to them, which they’d rather solve by coughing up a lot of money. Better functionality is not desired as their current setup just “works” (i.e. it does what they have learned to expect it to do), and ideological superiority is not worth the effort either.

I will keep maintaining the Ubuntu installation on my mother’s computer, though. When her Windows XP installation starts to deteriorate and she is thinking about buying a new computer, she might use Ubuntu as a temporary solution until she bought herself a new system. And perhaps, just perhaps, she will like it so much that she will abandon the idea of a new pc for a few more years.

Besides, a friend from my football team approached me of his own accord, asking which Linux distribution I’d recommend to him as he’d like to give one a spin. I recommended Ubuntu, but 7.10 did not work for him due of some graphics driver problem with which I cannot help him either. However, he is willing to try again in two months, when 8.04 is released. There still is hope 🙂

In reply to comments

The following comment by byrningbunny is a very accurate illustration of my conclusions:

Vinno, the old do want to learn new things. A few generations ago, we were the ones that pushed the production of desktop pcs, video games and personal apps. (Not to mention your bosses who created the departments and some of the companies you work for.) I think he’s on to something here. I’ve been interested in changing for years (enough so that I clicked on this link), but my experience with Windows has been so fraught with frustration that the idea of trying something new, with which I’ve had no experience, and with which I have little prospect of support if my computer doesn’t work properly, is clearly enough to keep me from making the move.

Who really has time to do the research and discover all of this info? And why would they? What would prompt them to do so? Honestly, Linux has never been presented to the general populus. It’s a techie secret and I’m guessing you all enjoy that. Step outside for a sec and reread these comments from an “old person’s” perspective. A dual-boot OS?!! Really. How many of your parents have any need to know that is even possible? It sounds very condescending. So now imagine you are a non-techie, old person who needs support. You don’t know the correct terminology and the first question anyone ever asks you is, “is it plugged in?” How anxious would you be to join in the fray?

I’m just saying . . .

This article also resulted in a few comments, the general gist of which I am a bit disappointed in. They mostly seemed to be motivated by a personal preference for a certain Linux distribution. I’ve tried to reason why I thought Ubuntu has not convinced my mother, and concluded that this is a problem with any Linux distribution, or every operating system that is not Windows, for that matter.

Also, I do not appreciate comments about my intellectual capacity. Thanks.

Anyway, I’ve replied to all the points made that I read up till now:

To all those who are saying I should’ve used a different distribution: you didn’t get the point. I can repeat this experiment for ever if I were to use all Linux distributions/BSDs. It wouldn’t have mattered, my mother wouldn’t be convinced.

Perhaps KDE might be more familiar with the menu in the bottom left, but it is still greatly different. It wasn’t just the email retrieval problem – she also didn’t know were to find her documents, etc. All other operating systems are just inherently different.

Plus I think that you are judging by one user experience whether the Linux desktop is ready or not. That’s just rubbish man – talking crazy here.
It’s all about habit. People are creatures of habit.
Your mom was probably using M$ Windows for all of her life. Its not that easy to just switch to Linux a long time Windows user. And believe me Linux is ready it is the Windows users who are not ready because of their monolithic minds

Exactly. Even if Linux is “ready”, it’s not coming to “the” desktop. Right as it says in the title.

If you are trying to push an operating system on someone, you could at least find out how to freaking open mails automatically in a program and help them out with it. How hard would that be?

Yes, I have supported my mother helping her to do things as much as possible. However, this meant that she first had to call me (if I even was around), which means waiting, which she didn’t want to do. I did a lot of configuration, I really did, and you can read about that in the previous posts.

Also, I wasn’t really trying to “push it on her”. In the beginning, she seemed open to the idea, so that’s how it started.

Technology is still new, the old wont want to learn new stuff but few generations and we all will be using linux.

A few generations and we won’t even be using computers the way we do today 😉

In fact, I’m really wondering how I’m going to keep up once I’m 50 years old 😛

My mom uses only Linux. SuSE 10.1, because that was what I was using at the time. She had used Windows 98 for FreeCell and the Internet. She enjoys more games on Linux and uses Thunderbird and Firefox. I’ll be back home for her 80th birthday this summer and will set up a web-cam and ssh so I can log in remote to add new features and games. Her PC is dual boot but she never uses Windows.

But that’s not really average, is it? Most people nowadays (or at least, here in the Netherlands) are used to Windows XP, being the only system they have ever used. It’s vendor lock-in that is hurting Linux’s uptake.

Also since your article was about ubuntu wouldnt it have been more accurate to title it “ubuntus not coming to the desktop ever” rather than linux.

No. In the article I’ve clearly outlined why I think Ubuntu did not manage to convince my mother, and it wasn’t because of it being Ubuntu. It was because it wasn’t Windows, because it wasn’t forced upon her. This holds true for all Linux distributions.

Unfortunately, what you said is true: Most people will default to their familiar OS/technology. That’s why we still have fax. But hopefully, that’ll decrease more and more, and the barriers become more broken down.

I hope so too 🙂

Just one question: Why did you want your mother to use linux? If she is fine with using Windows it’s allright. You’re talking about OS not religion. There’s nothing wrong with using Windows. People are used to and that’s OK. They probably even like the danger of viruses and wasting time for systemadminastration like defragging etc.

If you really wanted to make her switch to linux you would have had to talk to her: About FOSS, Restriction, Community, Security etc.

I did. I tried to make her use Ubuntu because she was open to the idea in the first place. Unfortunately, she has changed her mind now that she knows the effort it requires. Apparently, even if she might like the ideology behind open source, she does not think it is worth it.

However, rest assured that I will keep stressing the moral advantages of open source 😉

About those cheap computers…

A few people have pointed out that Linux might still enter homes through being pre-installed on cheap PC’s, and I have to admit that that does sound viable. In a few years, this might be a way that my mother still gets to use Linux.

When people buy a cheap computer, they are expecting to have to invest a bit more effort and thus might be willing to get to know their new system. The danger is that the experience on these low-end machines will be associated with the operating system, thus making them unwilling to run it on their high-end machines. But let’s not be pessimistic and assume their is a bright future for Linux ahead 😉

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32 Responses to “It’s time to face it: Linux is not coming to the desktop. Ever.”


  1. 1 SayNoToUbuntu 22 February 2008 at 1:40 am

    Wrong Linux distro and wrong window environment. Let’s face it, Ubuntu does some nice things, including an “out of the box” experience. However, it falls on is face after that with new users. A better distro for someone coming from Windows is Mandriva, OpenSuse, or PCLinuxOS because of the nice GUI tools that distros like Ubuntu fail to provide.

    Also, KDE is far more familiar to Windows users. Gnome is fine, but it takes getting used to coming from someplace you’ve spent your entire computing life using. It’s too much of an adjustment. KDE, however, feels right at home. Sure, it’s a little different, and there’s no escaping that you’re using a completely different OS, but it still feels much more familiar.

    I recommend you give it a second try with PCLinuxOS and KDE. I’m sure you’ll get a more positive result.

  2. 2 UBUNTU????? 22 February 2008 at 3:11 am

    I don’t understand why people think that Ubuntu is the solution for the right Linux distribution. And by choosing Ubuntu they are making the biggest mistake. I completely agree with the guy above. PCLInuxOS is the right one, fast easy and user oriented tools.
    Plus I think that you are judging by one user experience whether the Linux desktop is ready or not. That’s just rubbish man – talking crazy here.
    It’s all about habit. People are creatures of habit.
    Your mom was probably using M$ Windows for all of her life. Its not that easy to just switch to Linux a long time Windows user. And believe me Linux is ready it is the Windows users who are not ready because of their monolithic minds 🙂 (no offense here). I as a long time Linux user find it easier to work in Linux than in Windows (got the point).
    As for everybody out there Ubuntu sucks – PCLinuxOS the best distribution for now and I believe that in time will be even better.

  3. 3 R 22 February 2008 at 3:29 am

    If you are trying to push an operating system on someone, you could at least find out how to freaking open mails automatically in a program and help them out with it. How hard would that be?

  4. 4 Vinno 22 February 2008 at 3:42 am

    Technology is still new, the old wont want to learn new stuff but few generations and we all will be using linux.

  5. 5 Ridgeland 22 February 2008 at 4:23 am

    Amusing.
    My mom uses only Linux. SuSE 10.1, because that was what I was using at the time. She had used Windows 98 for FreeCell and the Internet. She enjoys more games on Linux and uses Thunderbird and Firefox. I’ll be back home for her 80th birthday this summer and will set up a web-cam and ssh so I can log in remote to add new features and games. Her PC is dual boot but she never uses Windows.

  6. 6 itsgregman 22 February 2008 at 4:26 am

    I agree with the first two replies that ubuntu is not a good choice for people new to linux. Also since your article was about ubuntu wouldnt it have been more accurate to title it “ubuntus not coming to the desktop ever” rather than linux. There are many far superior distros for people moving from windows. In all honesty ubuntu was the first distro I tried and had it been representative of linux in general Id still be running windows. The simple lesson here is dont judge linux by a single distro especially if that distro is ubuntu.

  7. 7 Mic 22 February 2008 at 5:35 am

    Try the following :

    unless your mom happens to be a 15 year old geek-wannabe, don’t try ubuntu.

    try something like pclinuxos, mepis and setup the desktop with icons of

    Firefox
    Thunderbird (properly setup)
    Konqueror (with bookmarks named as C: D:)
    Games (if she prefers)

    things shouldn’t be so difficult.

  8. 8 jyc 22 February 2008 at 5:36 am

    Unfortunately, what you said is true: Most people will default to their familiar OS/technology. That’s why we still have fax. But hopefully, that’ll decrease more and more, and the barriers become more broken down.

    To paraphrase Mandriva (I think), it won’t be long until more people start comparing Windows to Linux than vice versa.

  9. 9 anonymous 22 February 2008 at 7:34 am

    I agree with the first few posters – wrong distro. Ubuntu is definitely not the best distro out there. Does a lot of things very well, but ultimately isn’t the solution to everything. Try a KDE-based distro as many have suggested. OpenSUSE, Mandriva, PCLOS, Mepis, etc…hell even Kubuntu if you like Ubuntu. I personally use Arch, but the point is try KDE instead of Gnome. Since you don’t mention it, I assume you had her using Evolution. IMHO Kontact / Kmail is a superior solution to either Evolution or Outlook. The other point you demonstrated here is that Linux itself is not the shortcoming – it’s the users who are not willing to learn something new and adapt. It’s human nature to stick with what’s familiar. The switch from XP –> Vista is the perfect opportunity to switch since it’s learning a new OS anyway.

  10. 10 Lake-end 22 February 2008 at 9:10 am

    My parents are pretty happy using OpenSuse 10.0, it is ancient 450mhz Pentium machine and serves really well in the simple role that is required from it -> surffing platform. My mom is a long time Windows user, but I setup everything in a familiar way, KDE looks like windows and icons are changed to more familiar IE icon for “The Internet” (firefox really) and so on.

    I would not recommend Ubuntu of Gnome to anyone, OpenSuse, PCLOS and Mandriva (with KDE) are much better choices!

  11. 11 guest 22 February 2008 at 10:09 am

    Just one question: Why did you want your mother to use linux? If she is fine with using Windows it’s allright. You’re talking about OS not religion. There’s nothing wrong with using Windows. People are used to and that’s OK. They probably even like the danger of viruses and wasting time for systemadminastration like defragging etc.

    If you really wanted to make her switch to linux you would have had to talk to her: About FOSS, Restriction, Community, Security etc. Ask her, why she want’s to buy expensive software, that doesn’t work and isn’t stable and secure instead of using the products of a great community, that are secure and simply work (most of the time….). Linux isn’t better than Windows, is just about choice. Hey, there are people, who are programming a whole OS and it’s still for free. It works, is secure and stable. You don’t have to pay or even worry about licenses, it’s all legal. You can give it to friends, even change it etc. That’s great, i wanna be part of it…..

    AAANNNDDD: Do some configuration: You can’t expect people that were using windows for many years to even consider learning it all over again. You’re mom is used to autocheck for emails? Allright, YOU certainly can configure that in less than 2 minutes, but she doesn’t know how to do that and she doesn’t even want to think about it, because her “windows” does that automatically for her. If you are not willing to help people find their way aroung linux, don’t make them switch. Doesn’t matter which distro….

  12. 12 Vincent 22 February 2008 at 10:36 am

    I’m going to update the post in a sec, but I guess I’ll add the reply here too.

    To all those who are saying I should’ve used a different distribution: you didn’t get the point. I can repeat this experiment for ever if I were to use all Linux distributions/BSDs. It wouldn’t have mattered, my mother wouldn’t be convinced.

    Perhaps KDE might be more familiar with the menu in the bottom left, but it is still greatly different. It wasn’t just the email retrieval problem – she also didn’t know were to find her documents, etc. All other operating systems are just inherently different.

    Plus I think that you are judging by one user experience whether the Linux desktop is ready or not. That’s just rubbish man – talking crazy here.
    It’s all about habit. People are creatures of habit.
    Your mom was probably using M$ Windows for all of her life. Its not that easy to just switch to Linux a long time Windows user. And believe me Linux is ready it is the Windows users who are not ready because of their monolithic minds

    Exactly. Even if Linux is “ready”, it’s not coming to “the” desktop. Right as it says in the title.

    If you are trying to push an operating system on someone, you could at least find out how to freaking open mails automatically in a program and help them out with it. How hard would that be?

    Yes, I have supported my mother helping her to do things as much as possible. However, this meant that she first had to call me (if I even was around), which means waiting, which she didn’t want to do. I did a lot of configuration, I really did, and you can read about that in the previous posts.

    Also, I wasn’t really trying to “push it on her”. In the beginning, she seemed open to the idea, so that’s how it started.

    Technology is still new, the old wont want to learn new stuff but few generations and we all will be using linux.

    A few generations and we won’t even be using computers the way we do today 😉

    In fact, I’m really wondering how I’m going to keep up once I’m 50 years old 😛

    My mom uses only Linux. SuSE 10.1, because that was what I was using at the time. She had used Windows 98 for FreeCell and the Internet. She enjoys more games on Linux and uses Thunderbird and Firefox. I’ll be back home for her 80th birthday this summer and will set up a web-cam and ssh so I can log in remote to add new features and games. Her PC is dual boot but she never uses Windows.

    But that’s not really average, is it? Most people nowadays (or at least, here in the Netherlands) are used to Windows XP, being the only system they have ever used. It’s vendor lock-in that is hurting Linux’s uptake.

    Also since your article was about ubuntu wouldnt it have been more accurate to title it “ubuntus not coming to the desktop ever” rather than linux.

    No. In the article I’ve clearly outlined why I think Ubuntu did not manage to convince my mother, and it wasn’t because of it being Ubuntu. It was because it wasn’t Windows, because it wasn’t forced upon her. This holds true for all Linux distributions.

    Unfortunately, what you said is true: Most people will default to their familiar OS/technology. That’s why we still have fax. But hopefully, that’ll decrease more and more, and the barriers become more broken down.

    I hope so too 🙂

    Just one question: Why did you want your mother to use linux? If she is fine with using Windows it’s allright. You’re talking about OS not religion. There’s nothing wrong with using Windows. People are used to and that’s OK. They probably even like the danger of viruses and wasting time for systemadminastration like defragging etc.

    If you really wanted to make her switch to linux you would have had to talk to her: About FOSS, Restriction, Community, Security etc.

    I did. I tried to make her use Ubuntu because she was open to the idea in the first place. Unfortunately, she has changed her mind now that she knows the effort it requires. Apparently, even if she might like the ideology behind open source, she does not think it is worth it.

    However, rest assured that I will keep stressing the moral advantages of open source 😉

  13. 13 Catharina 22 February 2008 at 11:28 am

    The failure has nothing to do with Linux or Ubuntu not being ready for the desktop. You caused the failure yourself when you made the choice to give her the dual boot option. Of course people then go for the well known way in stead of sorting the problem out.

    So what about a new experiment? Keep the dual boot situation but do not install any virus or spyware protection. Then wait and see how long it will take until she boots up Ubuntu again.

  14. 14 jonatankot 22 February 2008 at 12:27 pm

    I can understand your dissapointment but personally think that you should just change the title a bit. It should be: “Linux is not coming to my mom desktop. Ever.” 😉

    I’ve been a windows user for more than 10 years. I’m still using XP at work or for playing my games. But my main desktop is Ubuntu/Xubuntu. It just works for me. What’s more, it just works for my wife and she’s not a computer geek. She just wants to have her things done: surfing the web, be in touch with friends via e-mail or IM, listening to the music, watching dvds… She’s playing with webdesign now so uses Gimp, Inkscape and Bluefish everyday. As far as I remember she complained only once: when I broke badly my Ubuntu installation tinkering with the system and we returned to XP for a few months last year. She hadn’t understand why I could be so lazy not to repair things immediately and why we had to use this ugly windows for such a long time again 😉

    Talking about my mother she is far less computer savvy than my wife but she also hasn’t any problems with running Firefox on Ubuntu. As my parents are thinking of buying a notebook I’m gonna to look for a linux friendly notebook for them. Knowing their needs I don’t expect them having problems when using linux desktop. And expect to have far less problems myself. No more broken windows. Oh, how can I grew tired with rescuing windows for all the people for all of these years…

    I think the convertion problem is… a convertion itself. If someone is used to do things in one way, he may have problem when trying to do them the other way. Or may not – as my wife, for example. But if someone is a computer newbie – as my parents are – he can find it equally easy/difficult to learn how to use it, anyway.

    The funny thing is that linux seems to be more difficult to learn for windows power users (as me) than to computer newbies (as my parents) or people who just want to have their things done (as my wife), unless they have some specific needs which are still unsolved (but seldom from linux developers fault…) on linux platform (commercial video games for example). But things are changing and linux has really amazing potential. So who knows what the future will bring to us?

    Let the hope be with you, Vince 🙂

  15. 15 tizzcandy 22 February 2008 at 1:19 pm

    I disagree with the statement that it’ll never be a desktop standard.

    Windows cannot compete in the budget market. We’re seeing £99 laptops coming out sporting Linux, £199 desktops that have a fair amount of power in them. People are going to see these great deals and seize on them.

    Yes it’s going to take time. Yes, there’s going to be pain along the way. But one day, Linux will be a viable alternative for most people.

  16. 16 Vincent 22 February 2008 at 1:55 pm

    @Catharina – you are, of course, absolutely right. However, I did not want to force Ubuntu upon my mother. She had agreed with giving it a try only with my reassurance that this wouldn’t hurt her Windows installation and her data. And I’m quite sure it works this way for most non-technical people.

    Though I have to admit, saying “Linux is not ready for the desktop” is a bit inaccurate wording. Better would be to say (as I did in the title) that Linux is never coming to the desktop.

    @jonatankot – the problem is that this applies to most non-technical people. Your wife is probably using Ubuntu because that is what you installed (without the Windows option) and, as she trusts you in your choice, she is willing to go through the hurdles. However, when people buy a new computer, they expect Windows, so that’s what they will use, even though they’d be very much capable of using alternatives.

    @tizzcandy – I actually think you might be right there, and it also is what my hope is aimed at. When people buy a cheap computer, they are expecting to have to invest a bit more effort and thus might be willing to get to know their new system. The danger is that the experience on these low-end machines will be associated with the operating system, thus making them unwilling to run it on their high-end machines. But let’s not be pessimistic and assume their is a bright future for Linux ahead 😉

  17. 17 SayNoToUbuntu 22 February 2008 at 2:30 pm

    Look…she’d be lost if she used a Mac, even. It’s a different OS, it uses different apps, and the file structure is different. It’s the nature of the beast, no matter what the OS. When anyone changes OS’s there will be a learning curve. However, I stand by what I stated: PCLinuxOS uses GUI tools to handle system configuration, there is pretty much no commandline stuff needed, and KDE feels more at home than Gnome, XFCE, Fluxbox, or any other environment coming from Windows. Even then, there will still be some adjustment required. Just put her on a Mac and try the experiment again. She no doubt have the same reaction. She won’t be able to find her files, be lost in the GUI…

    Your mom is too stuck in the ’90’s with Windows. She probably didn’t even really want to bother at all with this experiment but wanted to appease you. Most casual computer users can’t see why you would even bother with switching OS’s at all. They have an opinion that if it works, why mess with it? What they don’t understand is that Windows only works with a lot of work to keep it going and a lot of money needed to lock the vault and secure it. This is why users are looking at switching. However, she probably has no interest in knowing any of that, but just wants to download her pics from her camera, do some email, and possibly shop online or read some news articles. You state that she was open-minded, but apparently not open enough.

  18. 18 Vincent 22 February 2008 at 2:36 pm

    SayNoToUbuntu, you hit the spot right there regarding her reaction. She was not open-minded enough indeed, and this holds true for most people. Indeed, for the same reason most people won’t switch to OS X. And no PCLOS is going to change that.

    (Btw, no command line was involved in this experience at all)

  19. 19 JohnMc 22 February 2008 at 3:41 pm

    Well I won’t comment on your ‘assist’ to your mother. What I will point out is that your thesis is based on a single observation. But the industry is proving your wrong.

    250K units of the WalMart-Everex desktop sold with gOS loaded. (Linux)
    400K units of the eePC sold with Linux as the std OS.
    100K units of the Cloudbook will hit the pipeline shortly — with Linux loaded.

    The low price point market devices will all have some variant of linux installed. It is the only way that the price points can go lower without paying the microsoft tax. This effect will expand. In fact an effect is going to take hold. When a PC is now ~$100 its a throwaway device. You don’t repair it any longer. You get a new one. But in that kind of market a Microsoft can’t survive. They would have to sell their apps at $5 a piece which is unsustainable.

    My point is Linux on the desktop is already a fact. It will expand as he price points drop.

  20. 20 Vincent 22 February 2008 at 3:47 pm

    JohnMC, I’ve already “admitted” above that indeed, cheap PC’s might be the way Linux enters into homes. I’ll add it to the post.

  21. 21 imduff 22 February 2008 at 4:08 pm

    I’m a .NET developer, I live in a Microsoft enviroment at this moment and I don’t agree… Perhaps not now, but it could change, as I say, the only constant thing is the change.

  22. 22 openwaves 22 February 2008 at 4:26 pm

    Change is always difficult, especially when what they prefer and are used to is still an option. I think most people would not change even if they were convinced something else was better just because of the inherent learning curve. I tried switching to Ubuntu and had a hard time getting my wireless to work, among other things. If I was the only one using my computer I would’ve stuck it out but eventually I was outvoted into switching back to XP.

    Also, you can open “.docx” files in XP, you don’t need Vista. MS Office ’07 is compatible with XP, or you can even set the default save preference to a ’97-’03 compatible file, meaning “.doc” in ’07.

    PS – I wonder how she’d feel about using a MAC.

  23. 23 byrningbunny 22 February 2008 at 8:57 pm

    Vinno, the old do want to learn new things. A few generations ago, we were the ones that pushed the production of desktop pcs, video games and personal apps. (Not to mention your bosses who created the departments and some of the companies you work for.) I think he’s on to something here. I’ve been interested in changing for years (enough so that I clicked on this link), but my experience with Windows has been so fraught with frustration that the idea of trying something new, with which I’ve had no experience, and with which I have little prospect of support if my computer doesn’t work properly, is clearly enough to keep me from making the move.

    Who really has time to do the research and discover all of this info? And why would they? What would prompt them to do so? Honestly, Linux has never been presented to the general populus. It’s a techie secret and I’m guessing you all enjoy that. Step outside for a sec and reread these comments from an “old person’s” perspective. A dual-boot OS?!! Really. How many of your parents have any need to know that is even possible? It sounds very condescending. So now imagine you are a non-techie, old person who needs support. You don’t know the correct terminology and the first question anyone ever asks you is, “is it plugged in?” How anxious would you be to join in the fray?

    I’m just saying . . .

  24. 24 Satchmo 22 February 2008 at 9:57 pm

    I think you have simply drawn the wrong conclusion from this experience. Let’s face it. The reason has already been told in the previous comments, and it’s quite clear when you focus on the Mac. Clearly your mother would have had the same difficulties, if not more, with OSX. So what? Are you saying “the Mac is not coming to the desktop, ever”? I think not, because everybody would make fun of you with a title like that.

  25. 25 Gizzmo 23 February 2008 at 12:07 am

    I would essentially agree. Tried pretty much the same experiment on my folks and it was the same thing. Where is the Start button? How come I can’t use Outlook Express? I can’t find my files, where are they? You get the idea. Some people are happy with Windows. Some people are happy with Linux. To each his own. I use both. C’est la vie.

  26. 26 concerned 23 February 2008 at 12:40 am

    PCLinuxOS, PCLinuxOS, PCLinuxOS!

    Good Lord man! Trying Ubuntu? Do you have ZERO brains? PCLinuxOS is far and away easier to use than Ubuntu and always has been.

  27. 27 be4truth 23 February 2008 at 1:38 am

    Judging Linux by one user – well. If you have to move your mum over to use a cell phone you will encounter the same problems. I agree that Linux is not an OS that works without support. If Evolution doesn’t do it why didn’t you install Thunderbird which is much better for end users?
    There is hardly anybody in my community who manages to be on Windows without having troubles sooner or later. It is not a question about Ubuntu or any other distro. If you want an end user machine it is certainly different then when you install a network with lots of computers.

  28. 28 Vincent 23 February 2008 at 9:18 am

    @openwaves – thanks, I’ve updated the post. It probably still holds that she won’t be able to open them (with her version of Office). But then again, I guess one of my brothers will install an illegal version of Office ’07 for her. Sigh.

    @byrningbunny – thank you. You put in words what I wanted to say. I’ve added it to the post so it stands out more.

    @Satchmo – well, actually, I’m quite sure that Macs are not coming to the desktop. Sure, it can conquer a niche part of the market (and I think it’s doing very well in that), but it won’t make massive inroads against Windows, not with people like my mother. And most people are like my mother when it comes to technology.

    If Evolution doesn’t do it why didn’t you install Thunderbird which is much better for end users?

    It’s not that “Evolution doesn’t do it”, it’s that it didn’t do it immediately, the way she wants to. Thunderbird wouldn’t do that either, because that, too, is a program unknown to her.

    Also, if Ubuntu were to come pre-installed, most people would be using the default email application, which is Evolution.

  29. 29 ikkefc3 23 February 2008 at 10:16 pm

    This also happened at few years ago with my parents (suse 9.3 and Windows XP dualbooted). A few years later (2007) we bought a new computer. I installed it as a Ubuntu/Windows Xp dualboot.
    On an evening when the electric power fell away in the middle of a Windows boot, Windows wouldn’t boot anymore, so they tried Ubuntu. They figured out how they could “internet.” Now, a year later, my mother organizes her photo’s (and e-mails them to friends, which she never did in Windows), and listens to internetradio(on shoutcast with Elisa Mediacenter), my father can read his own E-mail (instead of asking someone elso to read his e-mail) and finding documents with Beagle ought to be much easier than Windows Explorer. My father uses only a Windows Vm to play checkers.
    Conclusion: Your mother could still be going to use Ubuntu if she wants (e.g. when Windows “breaks down.” (and this does almost count generally).

  30. 30 Chris Lees 24 February 2008 at 5:56 am

    Linux is coming to the desktop, but in a different form to the way you tried it.

    I had a similar experience; I installed Ubuntu onto a friend’s new laptop as a dual-boot with Vista. She said that she doesn’t like Vista, so I excitedly arranged to install Ubuntu on it.

    Even though I spent two whole nights getting the hardware to work properly (bleeding edge cheapo laptop) and installing useful programs for her, she will only use the Ubuntu partition for pirating DVDs in K9Copy. Everything else, she boots into Vista for. Ubuntu’s foothold on her computer is under threat too – the other day I caught her looking up “DVD Shrink” for Windows.

    As the above poster testifies, someone who has no pressing desire to try something new will just stick to Windows. When the barely-computer-literate (BCL) switch to Linux and actually use it, it’s because their choice of using Windows has been removed – either through OS damage, intentional removal of Windows, or through buying a Linux-preinstalled computer.

    That’s the lesson I’ve learnt. It doesn’t matter if you’re using Ubuntu, PCLinuxOS or Mandriva – Linux just won’t get used by the BCL unless there’s no choice.

  31. 31 Vincent 24 February 2008 at 10:35 am

    ikkefc3 and Chris Lees, that’s exactly what I thought! If someday Windows breaks down then, for the time being, Ubuntu is “forced upon her”, and then she might really find out she likes it 🙂

    Unfortunately, most people don’t have a dual-boot set up by someone else, so when their Windows breaks down they just don’t have a computer until they buy a new one with, again, Windows 😦


  1. 1 Thinkpad - Linux Compatibility « Blogs will be Blogs… Trackback on 22 February 2008 at 10:47 pm

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