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How to Encourage Use of OSS? 483

Marc Light asks: "I repair computers as a side line cause I want to keep up on what's going on in the world of computer technicians. When someone comes to me with a problem, if I have to reinstall I first try to convince them to install Ubuntu. For now I only have 25% of success, mostly because they usually use an app. or some hardware that would complicate their experience too much. When I install Windows, I also install Firefox, OpenOffice, VLC, Winamp (not open source but if they eventually switch to Linux, XMMS won't scare them), and CDex to drive them off Windows Media Player and DRM. I then take 15 to 30 minutes free of charge to explain to them the basics of their new software. For my part, I mostly got positive response. I'd say 80% of it is positive feedback. My questions to Slashdot readers: Do you think that computer technicians can make a difference in the adoption of OSS? And if they're for OSS, should they try to put some pressure on their users/clients?"
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How to Encourage Use of OSS?

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  • Converting (Score:3, Insightful)

    by silverkniveshotmail. ( 713965 ) on Sunday September 24, 2006 @11:19AM (#16175053) Journal
    I really don't like the idea of trying to convert people.
    • Re:Converting (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ThinkingInBinary ( 899485 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [yranibnignikniht]> on Sunday September 24, 2006 @11:38AM (#16175287) Homepage
      I really don't like the idea of trying to convert people.

      Why not? All they're trying to do is share something that they think is useful and good. It's entirely different from trying to convert someone religiously--it's not like we're saying "If you don't use this software instead, you're going to HELL!!!". It's just saying "Hey, in case you're interested, there is software that's free, useful, and developed cooperatively for the fun of it, instead of by companies." There's nothing wrong with it.

      I know it can be awkward sometimes, and I'm not really comfortable just shoving it into people's faces, but there's nothing wrong with offering it.

      • Re:Converting (Score:5, Insightful)

        by silverkniveshotmail. ( 713965 ) on Sunday September 24, 2006 @11:44AM (#16175355) Journal
        Why not? All they're trying to do is share something that they think is useful and good. It's entirely different from trying to convert someone religiously--it's not like we're saying "If you don't use this software instead, you're going to HELL!!!". It's just saying "Hey, in case you're interested, there is software that's free, useful, and developed cooperatively for the fun of it, instead of by companies." There's nothing wrong with it.

        I know it can be awkward sometimes, and I'm not really comfortable just shoving it into people's faces, but there's nothing wrong with offering it.

        If this guy is getting 25% of the people he deals with like he says then I have a hard time beliving that there isn't some heavy pressure here. These aren't the average /. users.
        These are people who are calling someone else to fix their computer because they can't.
        • Re:Converting (Score:5, Insightful)

          by BeeBeard ( 999187 ) on Sunday September 24, 2006 @01:12PM (#16176219)
          These are people who are calling someone else to fix their computer because they can't.

          That's right. And it sounds like rather than fix the problems, he suggests open source alternatives to the software they're already using and comfortable with? That's just ridiculous. I suspect that this is a case of the customers going along with it because "the computer guy said it was better" and not because they even care about something like Windows DRM. I like open source software, but the evangelism--even if it's conducted with a minimum of pressure--is misplaced, unnecessary, and a huge turn-off to most people who aren't part of the tech crowd. According to this guy's rough stats, 75% or about 3 out of every 4 people say "no" anyway.

          At least he is just turning his customers onto open source alternatives on the same platform, and in that sense what he's doing is fairly harmless. For instance, if you install Firefox on someone's Windows machine, and they discover they don't like it as much as you thought they might, at least they still have that trusty IE icon to click whenever they need to browse.

          I've heard horror stories of young, presumptuous techs who promise to "fix" a computer, and then proceed to nuke somebody's Windows 95B OEM / Office 97 installation that they've been using for years, and install Ubuntu with OpenOffice. If they worked for my company, I would promptly fire them.
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by thona ( 556334 )
            I've heard horror stories of young, presumptuous techs who promise to "fix" a computer, and then proceed to nuke somebody's Windows 95B OEM / Office 97 installation that they've been using for years, and install Ubuntu with OpenOffice. If they worked for my company, I would promptly fire them.

            Same here. If that would ever happen, it would be immediate termination, followed by asking them for full payment of the time it takes somene with common sense to redo all the work. Serving the customer is rarely
        • I also do a lot of on-site computer service, and although I've often dropped a suggestion that someone might benefit by making their next computer purchase a Mac, I don't attempt to change over their existing OS while I'm there to fix something.

          I have no doubt you could construct an environment in open-source that initially pleases at least 1 out of 4 of your clients who need help. (Many people don't know enough about their computers to really understand what "Windows" is in the first place. I find a lot
      • Re:Converting (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Tim C ( 15259 ) on Sunday September 24, 2006 @12:12PM (#16175633)
        Not to be an arse, but how do you know that's how he says it? I've known religious people who argue rationally for their faith, and why people might consider following it, and I've certainly known people who argue for OSS in the same manner as the worst, most zealous evangelical minister you could ever meet.

        There certainly is nothing wrong with pointing out to people that alternatives exist that may serve their needs just as well, while being less susceptible to whatever it was that broke things this time. However, I know from experience that that's not how everyone presents it - just read slashdot at a low-ish threshold, and you'll see examples what I'm talking about.
        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by sponga ( 739683 )
          So what you are trying to say is that Slashdot is the church, we have Rev. Taco and the Pope is Linus?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Personally, I think he should offer it that way. Offer to pre-install Firefox for them, with a few useful extensions, ask if they want OpenOffice, then give them a CD with the other programs on it so they can install them themselves if they're actually interested.

        Otherwise, if he's forcing his favorite set of OpenSource applications on them without their getting any say in the matter, he should be forced to use an OS/360 emulated environment with appropriate apps, chosen by an old IBM card-whalloper, fo
      • Evangelism is ultimately a form of sales. Computer Guys generally aren't trained in or otherwise naturally skilled in this area, and should save this conversation for users specifically looking for advice regarding a new hardware/software purchase, or expressing frustration with their current OS (spyware/malware, support expiring, etc.).

        It is important to understand that a user who's recently purchased an OS and corresponding software packages, and established a working knowledge of those products has littl
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        It's entirely different from trying to convert someone religiously--it's not like we're saying "If you don't use this software instead, you're going to HELL!!!".

        1) You must be new here.

        2) Having seen numerous Linux-vs-BSD-vs-Windows-vs-Mac flame wars on Slashdot over the past several years, I think you're right - the operating system arguments are nothing like the religious arguments, they're far more vitriolic. There's nothing quite like a young nerdling with his panties in a twist.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kfg ( 145172 ) *
      I really don't like the idea of trying to convert people.

      And yet isn't that exactly what an ad for a product is trying to do? At the very least people need to be informed of their options to even know they have them.

      I don't like the use of his word "pressure," but I have no problem with proseltizing things I like, particularly if I am the one being called upon to support them, but don't otherwise have a direct profit motive (which just make the issue "sales," and I've been willing to sell stuff in my life).
      • "Are you sure you want those brakes? They're junk. Here's why. Here are brakes that are twice as good for half the price. You're welcome."

        "twice as good"? "good" is 100% subjective in this situation.

        Brakes can likely save your life, if your brakes fail you may harm/kill yourself and/or others. If windows crashes, or you can't figure out how to run something you've just downloaded it's really not a big deal.

        so in short: your analogy is shit.
    • Yes/No/Maybe (Score:5, Interesting)

      by rbochan ( 827946 ) on Sunday September 24, 2006 @11:52AM (#16175449) Homepage
      It's entirely situational.

      Yes--If they have older hardware and a Win9x system that's no longer supported.
      I do 2 or 3 conversions like this a month. Usually it's a 300-450 Mhz box with 64 meg of ram or so. It ran 9x well enough, but it would be godawful running most of the 'Desktop Environment' based distros available today. I have a customized Debian package list with a set of light weight packages and WM. Total install space, with apps, is just under 300 megs. I've successfully installed it on everything from a Cyrix 133/32 meg to a P-II 450/64 meg. Every person I've done that for has been thrilled. They can do everything they were able to before (email, surf, word process, etc.) and not have to have the machine bogged down by anti-virus, anti-spyware, and application-based firewalls running all the time. And to top it off, the OS is updatable and supported.

      No--If they're using AOL/some other proprietary connection software.
      It's a god damn shame that after all this time, that AOL still hasn't come up with a software package for Linux, considering that their entire backend is *nix based. The 'AOL dialers' available for Linux are just that - dialers, and those used to using AOL aren't getting the same experience that they want. Some ISP dialers (i.e. Earthlink) are nothing more than just a standard DUN connection with some unnecessary eyecandy and other overhead... those can usually be set up pretty easily.
      FYI - winmodems are the tools of the devil. ISA sound cards and and serial mice are nothing compared to those damned things.

      Maybe--If they're on a highspeed line and have no idea about security measures with Microsoft Windows.
      This is a pretty typical case. I've wow'd enough clients with the likes of Knoppix and they've been interested enough to at least dual-boot. More often than not, they tend to stick with the Linux side of the machine because the machine runs so much faster. Unless they're heavy gamers, they pretty rarely boot back into Microsoft Windows.

      The key is no-pressure. It's their machine, and they shouldn't be forced into using something they're not comfortable with. I'm not a salesman, and I don't intend to be. I run Linux on a couple of laptops (P-II 233 Mhz/128 meg and a P-III 700/384 meg), and I carry whichever one most closely matches the client's machine, and let them play with it while I'm working on theirs to showcase its usability. They're always aghast when I tell them that all the software is _free_, and then show them the 15,000+ listings available in the repositories. Dual-booting is a damn nice option and allows people to try it out to their hearts' content and not have to commit to anything.

      • Is this a delayed post from 1999? You talk of P-II, Cyrix and 64 megs, these things called Mhz and you mentioned Debian, I thought all this died years ago?
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Kjella ( 173770 )
          Is this a delayed post from 1999? You talk of P-II, Cyrix and 64 megs, these things called Mhz and you mentioned Debian, I thought all this died years ago?

          You'd be surprised to learn what most people run - many people don't use their machine for anything resource intensive at all - web, email, IM, basic word/excel use, internet banking, p2p, playing mp3s, burning music cds, all sorts of board games / card games / other simple games can all be done with very modest hardware. That is not you but there's plent
    • by Dausha ( 546002 )
      I don't like converting people, either. I'm in my last year of law school (third career move). During my first year, peers complained about Word---they did not have it and could not afford it. Others were having problems with viruses and other IE issues. So, I persuaded several to convert to Firefox and OpenOffice, and most enjoyed the change. This year, I set behind several second-year students. I noticed one of them using OpenOffice and Firefox. I asked him how he came across these products. He told me th
  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday September 24, 2006 @11:23AM (#16175089) Journal
    And if they're for OSS, should they try to put some pressure on their users/clients?
    You may feel like you're fighting the good fight and putting up a valiant effort but the last thing I want is people who have bad Linux/OSS experiences out there telling everyone about them. I mean, I can think of several people that would actually be detrimental to your cause if you pressured them into using OSS.

    The beautiful thing about OSS is that it's free. And you're not forced to use it (like Dell forces people to use Windows). Let's keep it that way.

    Please only install this software on their machines if they give you permission. If their computer stops working soon after or they experience problems that they don't understand (file associations), they may just quietly blame it on those applications and tell that to all their friends and relatives.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by westlake ( 615356 )
      And you're not forced to use it (like Dell forces people to use Windows). Let's keep it that way.

      Dell doesn't force Windows on buyers.

      This is as egotistical and lame a Geek fantasy as talk of the "Microsoft Tax."

      Buyers in the millions flock to Dell because they know Windows, they want Windows, and they haven't the slightest interest in anything else.

      Remember the big push for OEM Linux at Walmart? The revolving door of Linux distros and systems sold through Walmart.com?

      Dead and buried.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Blakey Rat ( 99501 )
      And remember, the positive comments probably have nothing to do with OSS, but more to do with the fact that there's a friendly, knowledgeable person with a vested interested in their learning to use the software better. If you provided that with proprietary software, you'd get the same positive comments.
  • hmm, (Score:4, Insightful)

    by joe 155 ( 937621 ) on Sunday September 24, 2006 @11:28AM (#16175149) Journal
    I'm all for converting as many people as possible, and I think there are some areas where you can make a real difference, like Firefox, because it will do what they want it to and they don't have to think about anything new or different. I've not even been able to get my girlfriend to agree to only have linux PCs in the house. She thinks she only know windows and that's all she wants. It's the same with my mum. I've shown them new things, triend to encourage... all for nought.

    Some people just don't want to change - and they are the vast majority of people... These are also the same people who complain the second something doesn't work on linux and yet put up with endless crashes with windows (because windows never causes problems). I'm amazed that you have a 25% rate. Maybe you should be posting to use about how you have such a good level?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    and then you install an OS on their computers that will give you less work in the long term?

    Do you want to die a pauper?
  • Why not just do your job and fix their computer like they asked you to. Would you like your waiter to try and convince you to change your order because they don't think it's right to eat lamb?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Monkofdoom ( 928921 )
      I feel the difference between do and suggest is of great importance in such situations as this. No one can argue that the suggestion of new "free" software is a bad one to any user. Simply implementing your own personal choice on someone elses property is completely wrong though. When I give talks with presentations I always use open source software and it is amazing how often people come up to me afterwards and say "that looked so much better than powerpoint what is it?" or "What browser was that you used
    • It is relatively normal for techs to install anti-spyware/anti-malware software on client PCs. Some offer or require to install commercial programs to make a little extra money by selling a license. Others install freeware as part of their service.

      If a web browser was less vulnerable to spyware and malware, than I don't see any difference in installing it.

      If I go out for sushi, I would certainly expect the itamae to suggest the fish that is fresher than others.
    • by div_2n ( 525075 ) on Sunday September 24, 2006 @11:51AM (#16175435)
      Of course, there is nothing wrong with a waiter recommending something either. In fact, they usually do in a subtle way via "Tonight's special is . . ."

      "Fix" is such an ambiguous word sometimes when it comes to computers, isn't it? It isn't like a flat tire because often I hear "Can you fix my computer and make that never happen again?" or something to that effect. If they are sincere about that last part, can you really put Windows back on their computer? I usually reply with "I can't guarantee you something like that won't happen again, but I can offer you something that will come as close as possible to that. I want you to understand that going this path is a bit different from what you are used to, but it shouldn't take long to feel right at home."

      If they are interested, I explain further. It is with a tag line like this that you find out how serious they are about "make it never happen again" because as soon as they learn their favorite piece of software probably won't work (it might with Wine, but no guarantee), you find out what is really important.

      I would argue that as a technician, your job is not only to "fix" the problem, but to offer them a solution. Reinstalling Windows is a fix. Installing Linux is a solution. Not all solutions in the world offer one to one options. Sometimes, some things must be given up to truly solve a problem.
      • "In fact, they usually do in a subtle way via "Tonight's special is...""
        The waiter isn't trying to concert you out of principle.
        The specials usually mean "we got a good deal | this stuff fell off a truck | the chef's in a state | it's easier to make one dish than seven"
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Would you like your waiter to try and convince you to change your order because they don't think it's right to eat lamb?

      I would expect my waiter to turn me off of the spinach if there was an e-coli outbreak going around. I long ago told my own mother to never ask me another tech support question again if she continued using Windows. I just don't have the time or patience to deal with all the problems inherent to using shit software anymore. She bought a Mac. I still don't answer any tech support questio
    • When people get their computer fixed they probably want it to remain working for as long as possible. Nobody likes having their computer fixed any more than they like having their car fixed. If my auto mechanic suggested non-OEM brakes because they last much longer and work better I'd be ok with him using those brakes. Just like why I have non-OEM tires on my car.

      With computers many people don't realize why they need to be repaired when it's not a hardware problem. If you say to someone that you can make th
    • by kripkenstein ( 913150 ) on Sunday September 24, 2006 @12:01PM (#16175543) Homepage
      Would you like your waiter to try and convince you to change your order because they don't think it's right to eat lamb?

      No, this would be more like the chef telling you a certain food combination won't work well, and recommending another.

      (1. Waiters aren't experts. Chefs are. So are computer technicians. 2. Telling you not to eat lamb is a political action. Recommending a different complement of dishes for dinner isn't political, the chef probably knows what he's doing. Likewise, computer technicians know that certain open-source software packages are good to use because they have tangible benefits.)
      • Yes, except:
        - that the choice is on something you're most likely going to be stuck with for a while, and
        - that the waiter makes his choice based on legal matters, not on quality alone; while that's ok by itself, people who thinks legal issues like licenses are more important than quality and think dealing with the consequences is worth it are a minority
        - that usually the waiter doesn't mention any of this at all.

        Oops, I may have broken the analogy, sorry :-)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by karmaflux ( 148909 )
        If your waiter isn't an expert, you're eating at a shitty restaurant.

        Basically, a computer repair technician is not in any position to recommend software. He's in a position to fix the computer and shut the hell up. Evangelism is annoying as hell, be it from a computer nerd trying to convert you to his political ideology*, or be it from an old guy with a Bible trying to convert you to his particular denomination. If the customer asks about alternatives, that's one thing, but that last thing your average
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by gregorio ( 520049 )

        1. Waiters aren't experts. Chefs are. So are computer technicians.

        Computer technicians are not experts. They're at the bottom of the knowledge pyramid. They're maintenance monkeys, not experts.

        Experts do not work on standardized maintenance procedures that depend solely on encyclopedical knowledge. That's why we have low-wage technicians for, so we can save the experts for important, innovative jobs.

        Computer people are always confusing their position, because they think that computers are special. Gues

    • by waveclaw ( 43274 )
      Why not just do your job and fix their computer like they asked you to. Would you like your waiter to try and convince you to change your order because they don't think it's right to eat lamb?

      A waitress last night spent 5 minutes trying to convince me that I needed to buy pie. It was a more relaxed atmosphere than 'my PC is broke, fix it.' However, upsell is an important fact of life. You can order everything on the McDonadls Menu and get ask if you want more with that. That's part of why McDonalds sel
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by jopsen ( 885607 )
      Yes, I would like the waiter to warn me if the lamb is bad! That's what we call service, you job isn't to make money, but to give you client the best service. If you think that you client would be better of without windows, then help your client...
      • That's not what he asked.
        He asked if you would like it if the waiter tried to pressure you against the lamb, not because of the taste/quality, but because lamb is bad for you/the enviroment/animal rights/etc.
    • Would you like your waiter to try and convince you to change your order because they don't think it's right to eat lamb?

      I damn well DO wish that my waiter would let me know if they think an item is gross and that there is a better item on the menu. I usally ask the waiter if it's any good first. To continue the analogy even further, the waiter DOES promote the daily specials.

    • by dargaud ( 518470 )
      Would you like your waiter to try and convince you to change your order because they don't think it's right to eat lamb?
      Actually yes, somewhat. When going to a restaurant (meaning something better than a fast food joint), it's always good to listen to the suggestions of the waiter. You get to discover new tastes this way.
    • Waiters don't "convince" people to change their order based on their personal preferences. They "recommend" or "suggest" and are polite about it, they need not say anything else.

      Besides, who says he isn't fixing their computer by suggesting a different OS?
  • Careful (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tinfoil ( 109794 ) * on Sunday September 24, 2006 @11:30AM (#16175179) Homepage Journal
    You should suggest it, but don't try to convince them unless they ask for more information. Put together a sheet comparing the two operating systems and give them a live CD, but I would leave it at that. Besides, if they come back afterwards and say, I like this live CD, can you put it on the drive, you get more cashish.

    Technicians can play a role in getting the word out on FOSS and you seem to be doing a good job with FF and OO. Just remember that you don't know how they use their computer and perhaps Linux just is not right for that user.
  • Install it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by penguinbrat ( 711309 ) on Sunday September 24, 2006 @11:32AM (#16175193)
    If your installing all this other software for them, install something that is OSS and would do the same as VMWare and an image of Linux. Set it up so they can delete it VERY easy, doesn't take up TO much space and takes a simple double click to get a taste of this mystical creature.
  • consequences (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 1u3hr ( 530656 ) on Sunday September 24, 2006 @11:32AM (#16175207)
    Anyone who's helped a computer-challenged friend or colleague is tempted to prescribe sweeping changes. The problem is, that no matter how much better the methods, applications or even OS you recommend, you are responsible in their mind for every problem they encounter from then on.

    Long ago I helped a guy rationalise his laptop; upgraded DOS, and Wordperfect (shows how long ago this was...). Then weeks later I get a call "I can't save my file! You've messed up my computer! It worked before!!! etc...". Turns out he was trying to use an illegal filename. So a problem he created that had nothing to do with what I had done, had become my problem. And this continued for months. It only takes a few people like that to sour you on the whole idea, and you revert to "Reformat and reinstall; call MS if it doesn't work". Beware those who nod and agree when you make suggestions, often they have no idea what is going on and will come back to you time and time again to ask the same question and drive you insane. Unless you're either a BOFH or Mahatma Gandhi, don't be a suggester.

  • You could always keep a stock of older (PIII 700Mhz) computers around that have Linux or BSD installed with just Firefox so that when you take their computer to get fixed, they can still "surf the IntarWeb tubes" but they will get a OSS experience.
    But this only works for some people... Other people will just refuse to do anything with something that is different. So even if you set up the Linux desktop to look close to a standard default XP install, the tiny changes will be too much for some people.
  • The general computer users are either
    1. forced to use Windows by company or government job
    2. Don't want to switch because their software will no longer function.

    If you've got kids in the house - they want to play games and use programs available freely on the net. It's an unfortunate fact of life that most of these programs are developed soley (soulessly?) for windows only.

    I'm converting though... my daughter's PC will stay windows for a while until I can get educational / entertainment software working - b
  • by 3seas ( 184403 ) on Sunday September 24, 2006 @11:47AM (#16175393) Homepage Journal
    having the ability to boot linux or windows can be a plus. You can explain to them that should their windows system again get corrupted for any number of reasons, least of which is not online garbage, they can still use linux.

    I once created a triple booting system with windows98, windowx XP and Knoppix. I had to disallow either windows partition from seeing each others but had a common partition for anything that any of teh systems needed to access like user files. Of course Knoppix had full acces to the whole system as that didn't cause potential conflicts. I didn't create this system for myself but for a friend who had been running Window ME and letting all his friends and kids access the internet. It took over 15 minutes for it to boot, had over 600 items of spyware on it, and a few viruses. In trying to fix it I watched it deteriorate to the point of non-functional.

    Choice is a wonderful thing, but removing windows altogether can be a plus to, as it forces the user to get use to linux.

    Personally I prefer Linux, Ubuntu as of current, for general computing and even programming with python.

    My use of windows at home has been reduce a great deal and only use it when I need to use an application only available in windows.
    But I'm finding more that is not available in a windows environment. Linuxcnc machine controller, even just for simulation, uses the real time kernel and is not available on windows.

    OS I look to for the no to distant future include AROS, DragonFlyBSD and look over at the HURD and Minix3. Something has to give!!! As even Linux is not as user empowering as computing should be. And Windows is probably becomming the worst in terms of user empowering (The shell is a good indicator)
  • I think the poster has the right idea about promoting OSS.

    Also, I think it would help if he were female and had great tits.
  • You need some marketing, something that eludes most coders, unfortunately.

    A logo for OSS with a catchy saying is needed, like OSS-Read The Code, or No Smoke and Mirrors: OSS, or OSS- Tastes Good, Too! etc.

    Use a color code to denote whether the code runs on Linux, BSD, MacOS, Windows, etc.

    Use the logo on every OSS site, including the freaking owners of this one! Put the OSS logo on every home page run by OSS code. Stickers, bumper stickers, window stickers, whatever stickers. Promote because no one will sear
  • It's not your decision to make. Imagine someone fixes your computer and, being a MS certified tech, he decides that with MS soft you're much "safer" and thus removes all your non-MS replacements for MS software and installs the newest (and most DRM-ridden) MS replacements instead. Would you be happy?

    What you can (and IMO should) do is to suggest it. Offer them to install the other soft, point out the increased security and usability (and the fact that that soft doesn't give a damn about DRM), and of course
  • For my applications, I try to let the software speak for itself.

    Asterisk is a perfect example. You can either drop some serious cash on a system which isn't as featureful or flexible, or you can get asterisk which is a fraction of the cost and works better ( in most cases ).

    You don't need to really push this option. You just give them the options and they choose the one they want.
  • Consider that you are doing a public service. Most people are simply not aware there are better products out there. Most of what people know comes from biased sources.

    Salesmen are known to misrepresent. Would one expect a salesman to tell a potential customer to try Open Office for instance when there is a copy of Word sitting for sale on the shelf? Would the salesman's manager be honest enough to tell their sales staff to do their best for the customer?

    Since much of what people think they know tends to
  • by mjh2901 ( 570983 ) on Sunday September 24, 2006 @12:11PM (#16175625) Homepage
    I don't look at it as trying to convert them I look at it as making them legal. I refuse to install pirated applications. Most of the time when I re build for a home customer they have duplicated install cd's from a friend, child and so fourth. They dont have an MS office license or a photoshop license.

    I tell them that I wont help them break the law and then tell them I have free alternatives they can try legally if it doesnt work I will be more than happy to assist them in purchasing and installing the software they want legaly. Normally with the cost of MS office everyone is willing to give it a try.

    My load is
    Open Office
    foxit reader

    I know its not all OSS but it the load I find gives the most people what they want. Very rarely do I get called back to install MS office, and I have never come back to find an illegal copy of MS office after I load the OSS alternatives.
  • How do you deal with the increased amount of support calls for all these people you are converting? It's unlikely that they know anyone else who knows anything about Linux so you are now the "go to guy". How do you maintain your patience when you're watching a movie at 11pm and old Martha calls asking why she can't connect to the Net or that she can't install that software from work? I mean, as you convert more people how do you deal with being front line support for everyone because you can't just stick
  • On one hand everyone we switch over to OSS is one less spambot on the internet. Just that much less background noise in an already noisy ecosystem.

    On the other hand, why do I care? If users aren't smart enough to ask for OSS or spend 15 minutes learning about it, why is that my problem to solve? I can sit back and laugh at the Windows threats making the rounds, make appropriately sympathetic noises when my friends claim their computer is getting more sluggish every time they boot up. I make a lot of m

  • When I install software on a client's machine, I offer them options and give my personal recommendation based on what I perceive to be their needs. Sometimes that's OSS software, other times it's proprietary.

    At the end of the day, I think you should be promoting what will work best for the user. Pushing products without consideration for the user's needs is a disservice.
  • Charge for OSS (Score:2, Interesting)

    I have been trying to promote OSS for some time. I have found that the uptake is much better since I tried a different tack: using my GPL rights and charging a small amount for the software.

    In my experience people are put off by the word free, they assumed it would be crap, so now I simply say the software is more cost effective and as long as the charge is miles below M$ prices, they prefer it.
  • "If the truth can be told so as to be understood, it will be believed" -- Terence McKenna.

    I think it's very important that "ordinary" computer users are told about the enormous scam that is closed-source software. In no other field of endeavour would the standard practices of the closed-source software industry be tolerated. Whoever heard of a restaurant putting drugs into the food so you would return there again and again, or shoes that would not stay on your feet unless you were also wearing a particu
  • How to Encourage Use of OSS?
    No, you do not do that. A dude has a problem - you fix the problem. No need to be a zealot. Unless he asks "What's app X and What is linux distribution Y" - than you migh do something about it.
  • Free Samples (Score:2, Interesting)

    by phdel ( 1003412 )
    I worked as a computer tech at a small store for a few years, and at one point we decided to start distributing ubuntu cds (including live distros). We had them on display and anyone that was curious enough was allowed to take one for free. We also bought/sold used computers, and with older machines that didn't have an os there would be no way to make a profit if we installed windows. So we installed Ubuntu. Anyone who wanted an inexpensive machine was shown our linux boxes.
  • Do you think that computer technicians can make a difference in the adoption of OSS?

    If you can't make a difference, who can? You are the expert and the customer has come to you for advice. If you think free software can meet the customer's needs, it's your duty to tell them so and why it might be better for them.

    I've had better luck with Mepis [mepis.org] and Xandros than Ubunto or Fedora. Mepis is now based on Ubunto, so things might change, but it has been by far the easiest distribution to give a normal Wind

  • You are *hurting* the cause. You must apply zero pressure, barely even encourage them, and fully disclose the inconveniences they will face. Unless the motivation for Linux is their own they will most likely have a negative experience as they have to go through re-education and deal with quirks and limitations. Keep in mind that marketing folks have determined that someone with a negative impression is *three* times more likely to share that opinion than someone with a positive impression. Unless they are e
    • by BenjyD ( 316700 )
      Agreed, I would never think of trying to switch a Windows user to Ubuntu in one go, you'd be bound to cause more problems than you solved. Hardware incompatibilities, the fact that they can't install any of the commercial software they see at PCWorld, they are bound to have some trouble with a website or file someone sends them at some point etc. Much better to let them switch gradually through Windows FOSS.
  • by nuggz ( 69912 )
    Simply wait, what's the rush? It isn't like OSS will die without more marketshare.
    Quietly mention that you use something else, and let them make the first step.
    I'm using this approach of "I use something else, it works better, but it takes quite a bit of work to get used to"

    I think it is a better approach because then when they do come and ask, they expect they will have to put in some effort. Despite the ease of use of ubuntu, it's a change, and many end users will have some trouble adapting.
  • I think it's going to be a hard sell to have repair technicians providing something that'll reduce their profits. I have a few experiences with friends who've finally got tired of needing their computers/Windows fixed and I've switched them to Linux. I've only been called a couple of times over the years(2-3) for things like help replacing a printer, when the wireless mouse batteries ran out, or to help teach them how to use a spreadsheet or something like that. With Windows, my wife and I could count on at
  • I think that computer repair people, telephone support people and the like, are in forefront of OSS adoption. Just yesterday I was in some hardware shop, getting myself a new mouse (having to ask twice for a behind-the-counter model, because the ones they had on display all looked retarded to me (I said as much; I like simple mice)). In front of me was this somewhat older, but obviously educated (in some other field than CS, that is) guy, wanting something. He spoke bullshit like it was somehow a magical
  • I'd say 80% of it is positive feedback. ...you got 20% negative feedback? I guess the ultimate test is if they ever come back. Don't think it's because "Ubuntu/Firefox/OpenOffice/VLC/Winamp is working so great they don't need to come back", because I am certain they will need more help, particularly if you set them off on Ununtu. If they're not coming back, it's because they're not coming back to YOU, and instead went to someone who has reinstalled Windows for them.
  • Just use it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by macemoneta ( 154740 ) on Sunday September 24, 2006 @02:06PM (#16176645) Homepage
    The best way to encourage the use of open source, is to use it yourself. Run it on your laptop. Run it on your desktop. Run it on your server. Run it on your PDA. Run it on your cell phone. Put penguin/distribution stickers on everything.

    As more people - that others recognize for their technical ability - run a piece of software, the more it attracts attention. As other environments have problems, but your SELinux/ExecShield protected machine keeps chugging, people will notice. When they ask tell them, but don't try to sell them. Say "Linux" not Fedora, Ubuntu, Mandriva, SuSE, etc. Use a common term, so they can begin to associate the environment with the benefits in their own minds.

    When other people are watching, don't use the command line. Yes it's easier to do some things that way, even on Mac OSX or WindowsXP. But when you use the command line, that's the association that people make with Linux.

    Linux is already much bigger (installed base) than people recognize. It runs under the radar. No registration, no cost, no audit trail of downloads or copies. To help manufacturers understand that, everytime you purchase a product ask the vendor a question and mention Linux. Does it work with Linux? Are there Linux drivers? Is it Linux compatible? Even if the vendor is providing a product for another OS. Are the files this program creates compatible with "program X" on Linux? Can I move this USB device between "OS X" and Linux? Is the compact flash/USB/Firewire in this camera/camcorder/PDA/phone/etc. Linux friendly?

    It doesn't take much to change the world; you just have to do something to let the world know you're there.
  • by TheDarkener ( 198348 ) on Sunday September 24, 2006 @02:29PM (#16176877) Homepage
    Seriously. Well, whenever one of my customers has a computer they need data "wiped" from, because, say, they're going to pass it down to an employee or something, I will wipe the drive then install Ubuntu. Since I don't usually have the Windows license key (and they don't either) for that system, I just tell them "I threw a version of Linux on there. It's free, it has everything you need, but if you want to install Windows you can." I don't charge them for the install, just the wipe. That way, they'll probably at least be curious and might boot the computer up, and from then it's their choice.

    Let the software speak for itself. You don't have to push it.
  • by Zarf ( 5735 ) on Sunday September 24, 2006 @02:55PM (#16177133) Journal
    Everytime someone asks you for a pirated version of Microsoft Office give them Open Office instead. And tell them about how great Firefox is.
  • by rat7307 ( 218353 ) on Sunday September 24, 2006 @05:25PM (#16178067) Homepage
    We had a customer (a legal office) running a W98/W2000 site across a few hundred machines.

    We then went thru all the options with regards to running software.

    Without getting on my FOSS high-horse I explained the following

    * The cost of MS Office over 200 machines was $x and the cost of OpenOffice was $0
    * The fact that for the money you would get (alledgedly) better product support with the MS product, but there was a lot of info on the net re: OO/Firefox etc
    * The fact that they could go get a royalty free DVD of clipart and fonts from next door for $20 and the lack of clipart with OO wouldn't be an issue.
    * The advantages/disadvantages of differing email clients
    * The cost of an exchange server over the cost of a simple mail server on a linux box

    As the machines we were providing all came with XP I decided not to go down the linux path, although it was raised by the customer and we did discuss it.

    In the end, the customer is now running XP w/ Firefox/Thunderbird/OO and using apps like CDex and is quite happy.
    They were not convinced around and OSS or free virus scanning though, and we ended up having to install TrendMicro at their request. (Also there was an aborted attempt to run WordPerfect Mail 10, but it was a huge piece of ass and Thunderbird was rolled out site wide)

    All done without either zealotry or what I would consider over-advocacy.

    Sometimes the goods speak for themselves, there are some solid apps out there now that don't requre a lot of effort to promote.

    Just be calm, rational, listen to the persons concerns, explain your position and you'll be suprised what comes from that.

    No-one will listen to you if you go down the zealot route....it smacks of desperation .

    (and as someone above said, sadly most people DONT care about DRM, using that as your sole point is futile)

Syntactic sugar causes cancer of the semicolon. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982