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Interview with a new Linux user

After countless, endless hours of nagging on my part, my girlfriend finally put Linux on her laptop. I thought it would be interesting to hear what a long-time Windows-using non-programmer thinks of Linux (Kubuntu in this case) after a few weeks of use. So I interviewed her. Read on. My thoughts and conclusions are at the end.

Q1: How would you describe your level of expertise or skill level when it comes to computers in general?

A: I think I'm better with computers (at least Windows) than the majority of my classmates (I'm starting third year accounting next week). I know my way around the internet, I'm decent with programs like Office and GIMP, and I know how to fix most problems that affect me as a lay user. As for Linux, I would know how to look for help, but I probably wouldn't understand it yet.

Q2: You used Windows for a long time in spite of my constant pestering. What kept you from using Linux until now?

A: A few years ago you tried to get me to use Gentoo. I was younger, and apparently Linux in general was more difficult to use, so I got frustrated pretty quickly. A lot of my reluctance was from remembering that time. I was also worried that I might do something wrong and lose all my schoolwork. At least in Windows I know it wouldn't be directly my fault if that happened (disregarding the fact that I'm slow at backing things up).

Q3: You decided to use Kubuntu. Why did you pick that distro instead of another?

A: I heard it was easy for Windows users to pick up. It's also the one you have on your laptop, so it's easier to get tech support.

Q4: Why did you pick KDE instead of Gnome, XFCE, or some other desktop environment / window manager?

A: I don't remember. Something about having multiple wallpapers on multiple desktops and being able to make them change randomly whenever I want. There might've been other reasons, but that one is the most enjoyable so far.

Q5: How hard was it to install Linux? Compared to Windows?

A: It was about the same.

Q6: How hard was getting everything set up the way you like it after Linux was installed? How long did it take you?

A: There's always a lot to set up on a clean install of anything. It took me a few days to find something I'm comfortable with. I mostly just ripped off your setup because I liked it, though, so that made it a bit easier. Getting SKIM to work was quite difficult, though, since I couldn't find good instructions for my version of Kubuntu (or Kubuntu at all, really). I think I just ended up making you fix it.

Q7: Does Linux have any features or applications you really enjoy, that Windows is missing? Can you do anything in Linux that you couldn't do (easily) in Windows?

A: Even just doing a small amount of image editing yesterday, I'm beginning to see the appeal of multiple desktops. I also like how easily it's detected various wireless networks so far. The package manager is pretty nice too. I wouldn't have a Gmail checker if you didn't write one for me, but the one you wrote is better than the one I was using before.

Q8: Do you miss anything from Windows? Is there anything you could do in Windows that you can't do (easily) in Linux?

A: It's easier to install programs in Windows than it is to install non-package programs in Linux. I still don't know the difference between a source and a binary. I don't miss playing games too much, since I'm more of a console person. But I do miss OtaClock. The default clock is boring and not cute at all.

Q9: How comfortable are you with using a command prompt?

A: Not very. I know how to chmod things, but that's about it. I need to look for a guide for basic bash commands that explains them in plain English.

Q10: How do you like the general look and feel of the Linux desktop compared to Windows?

A: It's a lot nicer looking overall. I like being able to use all the Buuf icons easily. At first I was resistant to using anti-aliased font, but it's growing on me. Windows displayed aliased fonts so nicely, and I still kind of miss it.

Q11: You have a dual-boot set up. What do you still plan to use Windows for?

A: I have a couple games that don't work in Linux. I also use my laptop for school, and my university is dominated by Windows, so I feel comfortable having it around for compatibility purposes if I ever need it.

Q12: It's been a few weeks since you switched to Linux. How has it been overall? Do you plan to stick with it long-term?

A: Overall it's been about the same as Windows. Something about Vista still creeps me out, so it feels good using an OS that doesn't feel evil. I like being able to get pretty much any program I want free and on demand.

Here are some Linux programs I know you've used... tell me something you like and something you dislike about each one.

  • Dolphin It's minimalistic, but it doesn't have the view options I like.
  • Konqueror I can get all the info on a file that I need just by mousing over it. It took me a while to figure out how to both display thumbnails and then sort them by size or date, though. I'm quite obsessive about collecting and sorting pictures, and in Windows that was how I used to see which pictures were new or duplicates.
  • Gwenview It finds duplicate pictures for me, making the above method obsolete. It even finds similar pictures, which is pretty intersting. So far I can't think of anything I don't like about it.
  • Amarok Win-B is my friend. There's too many unnecessary features for me, though. I don't care about album art or smart playlists. It's good that I can just ignore them.
  • Kopete It has custom themes. I really like the Metal Gear theme you made. For some reason I can't figure out how to make our text different colours, though. The text is different for my friends who use the real MSN, but for you it's the same colour is mine, so it's harder for me to read.
  • Kate It's like tabbed Notepad. I'm one of those people who actually likes Notepad, since I don't do much coding at all. I can see where Vim is better, but Kate is fine too.
  • KDE as a whole When it's set up properly, it looks really nice. The amount of stuff I needed to change to get it to look nice was quite overwhelming, though.

Thoughts and conclusions: I used to try to push Gentoo on people, and that was a mistake. Gentoo isn't for everyone. A bad experience can kill people's opinions of Linux.

It's a lot easier to make a big switch to a new operating system when you have knowledgeable people to back you up and help you out. This is one area where Linux shines: There are a LOT of people willing to help newbies. The community aspect of Linux is by far one of the best parts of using it. We're all doing this because it's fun and Linux people like to share the fun with others.

Is Linux ready for the desktop? I think so; I think it has been for a while now. A Windows power-user can find a lot to like in Linux. There are a lot of features and apps in modern desktop Linux that offer a lot of things many people would find very appealing if they only knew they existed.

August 30, 2008 @ 2:53 PM PDT
Cateogory: Linux


Citizen Bleys
Quoth Citizen Bleys on August 30, 2008 @ 3:04 PM PDT

Now if only FFXI--with Windower--would work under Linux.

Quoth Brian on August 30, 2008 @ 3:22 PM PDT

Dual boot, my friend. A spare 20 or 30 GB isn't going to break the bank nowadays. Reboot times are so minimal with modern CPUs that it's no bother at all to pop into Windows for a game.

If you use Windows only for gaming, you keep it nice and clean too, which is an added benefit. Maybe it'll save you from having to wipe and reinstall after a year.

Quoth anonymous on August 30, 2008 @ 11:20 PM PDT

Why would you ever try to introduce a neophyte to Linux with Gentoo? That's cruel, man. Mandrake/Mandriva, Ubuntu, OpenSUSE, PCLOS, or if all else fails, Fedora. Any of those would have been a kinder, gentler intro to Linux, and at least one of them had to have been around when you first tried with Gentoo. Gentoo isn't for beginners. It's for seasoned, grizzled veterans with masochistic tendencies. But that said, practically all Linuxes except the old guard like Gentoo and Slackware, etc. have gotten much more user-friendly over the past 3 or 4 years.

Quoth JohnMc on August 31, 2008 @ 1:17 AM PDT


An interesting 'inverview' was it done over wine and pizza? :) Never mind. But you and your gf is that Linux acceptance has to be a matter of mental preparedness.

1) As a Linux advocate DO NOT force Linux on someone. As soon as something is screwed up because of their lack of experience they blame it on the OS. That sets the wrong mindset. And bad mindsets travel fast, especially in business organizations.

2) It is clear that one of the core issues for new Linx users is 'which one?' as far as applications. Last time I checked Kubuntu was well on the way to 30000 packages for use. Yes most will hear of GIMP, OOfice, and Firefox. But after that? Few will know about wicd, phatch, ekiga, etc. Some how Linux needs to bridge that gap.

3)Want Linux acceptance? Be prepared. Vista has given Linux its best opening in years. When you hear that 'Grrrrrrrrr!' as the 100th blue screen of death that's the opening. That is when the Linux Advocate should approach the user. It is at that point that the end user is receptive.

But hey this was a great read.

Quoth anon on August 31, 2008 @ 9:04 AM PDT

"I wouldn't have a Gmail checker if you didn't write one for me"

You know there's KCheckGmail, right?

Quoth Brian on August 31, 2008 @ 9:09 AM PDT

Yeah, but it didn't work. It complained about GMail's protocol being incompatible. Could've been an old version in the repo. It only took an hour to throw together a little systray app using PyQt4.

Quoth anon on August 31, 2008 @ 2:40 PM PDT

That's why you use Gentoo: ;)

Quoth Nicole on August 31, 2008 @ 5:22 PM PDT

But I'm not a grizzled masochist. Yet.

John, are you saying I sound drunk? ;D