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I am sure that a lot of people here are often in the same position as me. (People think of you as the computer guy, or computer girl for that matter). So they often come up to you with questions or for assistance in getting their first computer. Use that opportunity to introduce them to operating systems besides Microsoft Windows. It is much easier to teach someone who knows nothing than it is to convert the average windows user once they become dependant on Microsoft.

Give em FreeBSD, Linux, BeOS, or QNX right off the bat. They will thank you later on. Explain to them that programs for a Windows computer cost money, and programs for their computer are free for the most part.

Here are a few examples from my own life.

My aunt and uncle use BeOS, it is all they have ever known and they love it.

A couple of years ago I worked in a small restaurant. When I started there none of the 12 employees, (except me), had a computer. When I left they almost all did, and everyone of them was using Redhat Linux. The stability of Linux is great for new users. (Plus it is hard for them to hork over their box when they don't even know the root password). There was an added bonus in that Linux is free so I did not have to spend money on Windows CDs for each one of them when I sold them their computers.

Bill, (a current co-worker), came to me with a Pentium 100 that he received for free. He wanted me to get him "hooked up on that internet". So I whipped out my trusty QNX CD and set him up. (I picked QNX because of its excellent performance on slower PCs).

Save money and do the right thing by introducing new users to alternative operating systems, (before it is too late).


In response to several people.

When someone with no computer knowledge comes to me looking for a computer that doesn't automatically mean a Windows computer. I doubt you would bother to try and explain the alternatives to someone you were setting up with a windows pc, (if you were the type of person who liked windows). So why should I act any different. I choose the OS based on what would best suit the needs of the person. I have sold windows computers to 3 people. (2 of them wanted AOL, and the other was a big playstation fan, so I figured he would enjoy the large variety of games for windows).

If someone uses Windows at the office, than that is what they will want at home too, (no disagreement on that point). This node is much more about what to do when Aunt Betty, cousin Bob, or Jim the pizza guy comes to you for help with their first computer. The vast majority of computer users only use their web browser and Solitaire.

< ************** the great self imposed rewrite*************** A very wise editor had started to audit me, and I quickly realized (from his msgs), that I have a lot more bad nodes then I thought. So I am going to rewrite almost all of my nodes (at least the first 500 or so). I will starting at my very first node, and redoing them in order. I will list them here as I redo them. Even my best nodes could probably use a bit of work. So I will leave no node unturned (except my daylogs, which I will simply spellcheck). Comments with stars next to apply to this writeup. This node was rewrote reformatted***** added to glared at***** untouched by human hands at server time Friday, March 29, 2002 at 09:53:45 ******End commentary*******>
While this approach has its merits (promotion of alt-OS's and Free Software, stable boxen for newbies, new life to older systems) what are you going to do when one of your converts asks why they can't play that new game all their friends are raving about (and/or their systems don't work the same way as their office PC)? It seems that this "alternative OS's" campaign of yours would work better if you ASKED people to make an informed choice, and then helped them implement it, even if they choose Windows. Dual-boot if possible, but still, Windows fills a lot of people's needs.

One other thing. I REALLY hope that crack about the users not knowing their own root password was a joke. Yes, it's harder for them to hose their system, but if you're not the root on your own box, you might as well be running Windows.

I know this is going to be a little odd of a point, but how alternate is alternate? An OS that's not Mac OS, Windows, or Linux is going to severely limit a user's technical support options, software choices, and ultimately usability of a platform. Linux is on the fringe end of every-day usability, since there is some software for it (including a browser, office suite, and a few other needed items). There is a reason why Windows and MacOS do well; market share and user base are not to be sneezed at. They have stood the test of time, and have the history of user-end software to show for it.

In a research situation, people should be exposed to all sorts of alternate (and non-alternate, under the same token) operating systems. Be, QNX real-time platform, BSDs, etc. should be included in the choice of a system for learning, however, for doing work, it may be best to stick with a platform that has the features, software, and hardware support that you desire. It makes no sense to set up your AOL-using parents with something other than Windows or Mac just for the indignant sense of "going against the grain", and giving them a "learning experience". A computer is simply a tool; would you give your parents a tool that they could learn a lot about, or more easily use; given simply that this sort of learning does not interest them?

Alternate OS's are great for many things, and even better for the learner, as it forces them to think outside of the mold, and to break convention a bit (Be is a great example). Windows and Mac especially are designed to bring computing to the masses, both at home, and in the workplace.

When a co-worker asks to be "hooked up to the Internet" do you think he simply wants TCP bits coming in across routers and through the gateway? No, he wants to see sports scores, chat with his buddies over AIM, and maybe visit a few *ahem* sites. How would QNX help him in a squeeze? How would he get support for that? Wouldn't Windows 98 SE be a more sensible choice given your range of user, given the common user scenario?

Usually when users come to me and ask what kind of computer they want, it comes down to a simple choice: Windows or Macintosh. People who are using the computer just to use it as a tool (not as a way of life) do not care who builds their software. If people want a better user experience, easier setup, and don't mind the higher price, then go with Macintosh. Otherwise, Windows makes perfect sense. Sure, there are other choices, but when a problem comes up, Joe Schmo the computer guy off the street or around the corner is not going to be able to help them. Let's not try to raise the user bar when it has no where to go; most users will sign on, leave their computer on, and check a web page now and again, or type a paper. Until the average user wants to mess with their mail routing, set up cron jobs, and feels like patching their kernel every now and again, then I'm going to suggest Windows or Mac* every time.

* Even now Mac OS X is a really great blend of the power of Unix, the control given to a consumer OS, and the amount of software needed to be useful and productive.
I absolutely agree that "not even mentioning Windows" is a stupid approach, but I also think that Linux would in fact be a far superior choice for people who just want to use the Internet. Think about it: No danger of viruses. Far, far lower probability of them hosing the entire OS due to some mistake. Fewer crashes.

It's all about choosing the right tool for the job, and Linux is a damn good tool for websurfing and emailing.

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