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Ask Slashdot: the Best Linux Setup To Transition Windows Users? 448

Posted by timothy
from the please-answer-for-2012 dept.
First time accepted submitter Quantus347 writes "I am trying to convince a number of people to give Linux a chance, arguing that it has come a long way on the road of consumer usability. Can you, oh Wise Ones of Slashdot, recommend a Lunix setup that will be as similar as possible to a Windows environment (Windows 7 or XP). These people hate and fear change, and so will latch onto nearly any noticeable differences, so I'm thinking in terms of both front end functionality and the look of the interface. It would also be very important for them to have to go to the command line as little as possible during daily use (meaning as close to never as can be managed)."
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Ask Slashdot: the Best Linux Setup To Transition Windows Users?

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  • by macemoneta (154740) on Friday July 27, 2012 @09:14AM (#40789291) Homepage

    I suggest giving showing them Windows 8 first. After that, the change to any of the major Linux distributions will seem trivial.

    • by Mashiki (184564)

      Yeah the only problem is, if they play a console, they might just be okay with Win8.

      • by Nerdfest (867930) on Friday July 27, 2012 @09:22AM (#40789397)

        Metro on the XBox sucks immensely, both with the controller and Kinect gestures. (IMHO, there are major usability flaws)

      • Yeah the only problem is, if they play a console, they might just be okay with Win8.

        Then they aren't change averse, and Windows is the right environment for their use.

      • by The Moof (859402)
        The general consensus about Metro no the Xbox is it sucks. It's an enormous pain to use, and a step back over the previous dashboard - more button presses/menus to do the same things, less information on screen than previously, removal of filtering options, caching bugs, etc. The guide menu, in all of its limited hideousness, is more functional than the Metro dashboard.
    • by whoever57 (658626) on Friday July 27, 2012 @10:57AM (#40790543) Journal
      Give them Ubuntu 12.04 and tell them it is Windows 8!
    • by AngryDeuce (2205124) on Friday July 27, 2012 @11:02AM (#40790609)

      Why the fuck do they have to switch from what they're using now anyway? Is there some law against using an older version of an OS when the new one comes out or something?

      There's all this hysteria right now, "Oh noes! What are we going to do?!?! Windows 8 sucks!!!! We're so screwed!!!!!!! How will we ever upgrade?!?!?!!?!"

      Non-retarded answer: Don't fucking upgrade. Keep on trucking using Windows 7. Seeing as how it's the modern day Windows XP, and will likely have a significant market share a decade after it's release (just like Windows XP did), it will continue to be supported by any non-retarded hardware or software producer for many years yet. There's no fucking reason to upgrade at all. Shit, how many people out there are still using XP and getting by these days, and how old is that now, 12 years old or something?

      I'm all for transitioning the less technologically inclined to Linux, don't get me wrong; the more people switch (especially non-techies) the more attention the platform will get for development, particularly in the gaming arena, which is solely needed. What I just can't understand is all this urgency to switch now. Windows 8 sucks. Fine. So don't use it. Problem solved.

      Besides, when Windows 8 flops (and it will) we'll be up to Windows 9 that much sooner, and it'll be a moot point anyway. By the time Windows 7 is starting to really show it's age, there will likely be a much less shit-tastic Windows version out there to upgrade to, and if not, then maybe it really will finally be "the year of the linux desktop". Either way, I think it's safe to breathe a little.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Is there some law against using an older version of an OS when the new one comes out or something?

        Yes, yes there is. Developers abandon the old platform or at least deprecate it. In my last attempt to be a Mac user I was forever discovering software that required a later release of OSX, sometimes the very next point release. Windows is a bit less like this; usually the software will work on the last version, but you will have an inferior experience. For example, Silverlight doesn't support sync to vblank on XP, so you get tearing with video.

  • Ubuntu (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 27, 2012 @09:14AM (#40789293)

    With great hardware support and a polished UI, Ubuntu seems to just work in any case I've implemented it.

    Can even go as far as to change out your themeing for an Aero/Win7/WinXP look and feel (Window Theme/Icon Set/Cursor Theme).

  • Don't bother (Score:4, Insightful)

    by h4rr4r (612664) on Friday July 27, 2012 @09:15AM (#40789297)

    The simple fact is they will latch onto something and go back. Even if it was a perfect replica they would.

    You are wasting your time.

    • Re:Don't bother (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 27, 2012 @09:24AM (#40789421)

      You'd be surprised.

      I'm a best tool for the job kinda guy, so I have a MacBook Air as a laptop and Arch Linux on my desktops. Anyhow, I'm mostly non-evangelical because I mostly don't care what other people use, as long as I use what I think is best.

      A couple of years ago I unpretentiously forced-installed Ubuntu 8.04 onto a friend's computer, simply because I wouldn't support Windows when asked.

      He not only enjoyed but has become extremely evangelical. He convinced most of our friends to switch over. Last month he installed Ubuntu Studio on the laptop of a friend of ours which is musician. He's a history/military-nerd and recently he's been getting acquainted with Backtrack.

      Afters two years of me telling Unity sucks and cringing everytime I ued his computer he recently installed GNOME 3. By himself, without even telling me about it.

      I'm the only technical guy of our group, he's a historian, the other is musician, two others are biologists. Sometimes it just seems when people find ou "THERE IS A BETTER WAY??" they simply don't go back.

      Games have been dual-booted with Windows and this is the final frontier.

      • by Nerdfest (867930)

        This is pretty much the experience I've had with installing Linux for people. I usually set them up as dual boot, and a couple of times they've come back and asked if I can show them how to get rid of the Windows partition ... they never used it and wanted the space back.

    • Re:Don't bother (Score:4, Insightful)

      by arth1 (260657) on Friday July 27, 2012 @09:28AM (#40789465) Homepage Journal

      Indeed. When TFS says "I am trying to convince a number of people to give Linux a chance", the question is "why?"

      Help them if they want to transition, but don't be a door-knocking Jehova's Witness or Mormon missionary. No matter how good your intent is - nay, especially if your intent is good, refrain from proselytizing.
      Don't hide how happy you are with your choice, but don't try to cajole them into decisions.

      • by Jawnn (445279)
        No shit. Life is too short to spend time on that. Then again, life is too short to read yet another entry in the endless and stupid Slashdot "Which OS rulez?" circle-jerk. D'oh!
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Tanktalus (794810)

        Indeed. When TFS says "I am trying to convince a number of people to give Linux a chance", the question is "why?"

        Simple: if they want my continued support on their computer issues, they need to be running something I can support. I've used Windows so little over the last ten years that trying to find the right dialog buried somewhere in the control panel is incredibly time consuming. And practically impossible over the phone.

        Linux, regardless of distro, can generally be supported over the phone. Even if I'm not running the same distro, most config is the same, in /etc, and I can often see the text file locally. Ye

    • Re:Don't bother (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ilsaloving (1534307) on Friday July 27, 2012 @10:08AM (#40789961)

      I want to confirm this as well. While your intentions are noble, it just won't happen. Period. Having tried this myself several times, every single attempt resulted in failure. If they themselves arn't interested in changing, then it ain't going to happen.

      As an alternative, I would suggest using Linux openly in their their presence, and let them take an interest. Work from there.

  • Zorin OS (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ynot_82 (1023749) on Friday July 27, 2012 @09:15AM (#40789303)

    Never used it, but it's designed for exactly this
    http://zorin-os.com/ [zorin-os.com]

  • by Hatta (162192) on Friday July 27, 2012 @09:15AM (#40789307) Journal

    They sound like awful people. Why do you want to do this?

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      They sound like awful people. Why do you want to do this?

      The vast majority hates and fears change. If you want to argue that the vast majority is awful, I can get behind that... But let's just be clear on what we're saying here.

      • by Hatta (162192)

        Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying.

        • by nschubach (922175)

          Great... then I'm going to change the pedal arrangement on your car and switch all the hot and cold pipes in your house! It's only a minor change and you'll get used to it.

  • by PrescriptionWarning (932687) on Friday July 27, 2012 @09:16AM (#40789317)
    Personally I find Linux Mint to be the best one, as I prefer my desktop to be more similar to traditional desktop Gnome 2/Windows. Also its very fast and doesn't seem bloated.
    • by Threni (635302)

      Linux Mint 12 LXDE. Really small, fast, easy to install, doesn't have the ghastly Ubuntu colour scheme or ridiculous, ironically titled Unity interface (which has seen otherwise happy Ubuntu users leave in droves), but yet benefit from the wealth of Ubuntu-related help online.

  • by jeffmeden (135043) on Friday July 27, 2012 @09:17AM (#40789333) Homepage Journal

    Best case scenario, you are right and they can "get used to" the new Linux desktop in front of them. That still saddles YOU with being tier 1, 2, 3, n support for basically the rest of your life. Worst case, things go horribly wrong, days/weeks of work are lost, and you are on the hook for that too.

    Just playing devil's advocate, but is supporting Windows 7 and MS office really that bad?

    • That is a great point. I have had friends and family ask for free support in building a PC, upgrading hardware, installing and/or fixing software. I have told them, I will do it for free, but if they run into big trouble because they changed something or could not figure something out, to hire paid support. Invariably, I get the call for more free service anyway. So I don't do it anymore or I tell them I need to charge them.
    • by sl4shd0rk (755837)

      That still saddles YOU with being tier 1, 2, 3, n support for basically the rest of your life.

      How is this any different from supporting Mac or Windows platforms? Same problems either way. And don't give me that line about "Phoning tech support" because most of the time the lackees on the other end have no clue how to fix the problem unless it's on the check-sheet they're reading off.

      is supporting Windows 7 and MS office really that bad?

      All of these platforms (Linux, win, mac) have their share of problems. The last mac upgrade turned my laptop into a block of molasses, Ubuntu/Nvidia can't get their Video drivers right - ever. Windows is just a psychopa

  • Should you? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 27, 2012 @09:17AM (#40789337)

    Before you do that ask yourself this: what is the benefit to them of changing? Obviously you're a big fan of linux on the desktop so the benefit to you is great but is it more useable? Does it have compelling features that windows doesn't have? Is it going to make their lives better? Or are you just an evangelist trying to convert them to your religion?

    • Re:Should you? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Nerdfest (867930) on Friday July 27, 2012 @09:27AM (#40789457)

      I think Linux actually is easier to use than Windows, although 7 made a few improvements and borrowed some of the features. The ability to have a central facility that updates all your software without being tied to a single 'walled garden' repository is a huge plus as well.

    • My father's WinXP installation was completely hosed. I didn't want to bother with all the add-ins, drivers and other issues that would have made a re-installation take a whole day. Trying to fix WinXP can actually take longer than a re-install too. So Dad now has Linux Mint 12 with Cinnamon installed. I did it a few months ago, but I would have used Mint 13 KDE were I to do it today.
  • Free BSD (Score:2, Funny)

    by Grindalf (1089511)
    Free BSD 5.0 command line only. That way everybody wins!
  • KDE is about as close as you can get to a Windows clone. I know some people who use Kubuntu and seem to like it, and they are primarily Windows users.
  • People won't change because you think they should, they will change when they need to, for example when they think they need a new computer but don't have the money to pay for it, or when their virus-infested Windows machine is giving them headaches.

    So, wait until they have a reason to change, and at that point the best thing you can do is install the most mainstream Linux installation you feel comfortable with (e.g., Ubuntu), even if it looks different from Windows. You might give them a choice between G

  • by Dog-Cow (21281) on Friday July 27, 2012 @09:21AM (#40789393)

    If these people are satisfied with Windows, why change?

    There's nothing special about Linux that warrants the frustration that both you and these users would experience. What happens when you have to tell them that their favorite pet program or game won't run? What's the point of switching? There's nothing available for Linux that doesn't have an equivalent on Windows, while the reverse is most definitely not the case.

    • by jedidiah (1196)

      > There's nothing special about Linux that warrants the frustration that both you and these users would experience

      Sure there is.

      Simple things are simple. You don't have Linux trying to overcomplicate something simple like plugging in a hard drive or an Android device and just using it.

      Windows is still a malware magnet. Your most troublesome "free tech support" users are probably still getting themselves infected with viruses even with Windows 7. Linux stops that.

      No. The real question here is "why bother

  • by dskoll (99328) on Friday July 27, 2012 @09:22AM (#40789401)

    I put my parents on Debian running XFCE. It looks a bit different from Windows, but the basic concepts are the same. "X" to close the window, box to maximize it, task bar to launch programs, etc.

    I should add, though, that my parents never used Windows. I took them straight from MS-DOS to Linux. Going from DOS to XFCE isn't any more disruptive than DOS to Windows, I guess.

  • Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by swsuehr (612400) on Friday July 27, 2012 @09:23AM (#40789407) Homepage

    My first question is: Why? Why, if they're both hateful and fearful of change, would they need to change? Why not a newer version of Windows or a Mac?

    Users aren't oriented towards their OS, they're oriented towards their tasks. Their typical question will begin with "How do I..." and then continue into "but then how do I...". So your first issue is to determine what they use and how they use it and then find out the best way to solve each of those individual use cases or problems. For example, "How do I manage my finances, I currently use Quicken?" or "How do I upload pictures from my camera?". You need to solve each of those use cases in a sane manner that's easy to use and just as good or better than what they have. Typical users, especially the ones you describe, don't want to spend any more time with their computer than they need to.

    Don't underestimate a user's ability to forget things that they do on their computer. Again, they're task-oriented and so they won't necessarily remember that they need a certain program to update some infrequently used spreadsheet twice a year.

    Only if you can help them complete their tasks should you switch; you shouldn't switch them to Linux because you perceive it as better; it might not be better for them and then they'll have a tainted view of Linux when in fact the problem was that they couldn't use their silly banner-creation software from 1999 on it.

  • Cinnamon (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheSpoom (715771) <slashdot@uberm00. n e t> on Friday July 27, 2012 @09:24AM (#40789429) Homepage Journal

    Linux Mint with Cinnamon [linuxmint.com] would be one of your best bets. "Everything" button in the lower left, system tray in the lower right, just like Windows, and yet you're still running (a fork of) Gnome 3, so you get all the latest bells and whistles.

  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Friday July 27, 2012 @09:25AM (#40789435)

    Check there hardware and software needs first.

    There can be wifi issues (drivers) and on laptops not all stuff may work.

    • by AntEater (16627)

      That would be my recommendation too. Not just drivers but the many other external devices (ipods, gps, video cameras, etc) and software. While most devices run through USB now the issue is really with the supporting applications. I love all things Linux and Free but the reality is that many of functions that people "need" are a major hassle under Linux unless you have the tech. skills to sort out. I've been running Linux, Slackware in particular, since 1994 and I have had a Mac for several years - I just

  • GUI (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blind biker (1066130) on Friday July 27, 2012 @09:26AM (#40789455) Journal

    Whatever you choose, I suggest you keep them away from Unity and whatever happened to Gnome as of late.

    IMHO, KDE is the closest, in its current incarnation, to a Windows experience. So, maybe Kubuntu will do. Another nice KDE-centric distro could be OpenSuSE, and they have also an awesome (and very underrated) control panel.

    • by Osgeld (1900440)

      I always here that from KDE users, and back when I started using linux as a windows replacement KDE was the first place I went. Besides the fact it bogged the computer it was on down to a crawl, I really just had to constantly fight with it from a UI standpoint, being someone who really only used mac and windows up to that point.

      Frustrated I went back to windows 2000, a few months later when I tried again I got mandrake which had a new gnome 2 desktop, and wow I started forgetting that anything was differe

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Friday July 27, 2012 @09:31AM (#40789501)

    Make sure you've found out what it is they do, and that you have apps lines up that can give them EVERYTHING they want. If you can't do that, then don't bother. I don't mean a program that "Does the same thing but maybe has some problems," or a program that "Is under active development and will totally support that real soon now." I mean applications that are either the same program, or otherwise 100% replacements for what they use now.

    One problem I find with a lot of "You should just switch to Linux," advocates is that they think severely compromising your workflow is going to be a-ok with users. That users should be willing to make big tradeoffs in what they can do or how they do it just for the amazing privilege of using Linux. That, of course, goes over like a ton of bricks with the users.

    For example it seems like if someone uses Photoshop and Illustrator it takes about 2 seconds before the knee-jerk "Use GIMP!" gets screamed. However what that says is that you aren't actually considering their use case, just finding a program that is nominally in the same area and deciding it is good enough. Not even close. For some people, GIMP is a fine Photoshop replacement. For others, not at all. GIMP is not at all on Photoshop's level so depending on what the person does it may not be an adequate replacement.

    So that is step one: Evaluate what they do, what programs they use and what they use them to do. Then see if you can find replacement software in Linux that does ALL of that. If you can, ok then you can move on to the next step of finding something to make the transition as easy as possible. If you can't, then pack it in and don't bother, because you cannot in fact offer them an easy change. Any change you offer would be one where they would have to make compromises. That's ok for someone who is interested in changing and willing to compromise, that's not ok for someone who is happy and you are trying to convince them change for its own sake is good.

  • KDE, OpenSuse? (Score:5, Informative)

    by pinkeen (1804300) on Friday July 27, 2012 @09:32AM (#40789513) Homepage
    I would go with KDE, it's kind of similar (but way more powerful) to Windows in many ways. With a bit of tweaking (ie. double-click) you could make it pretty cosy for ex-MS users.

    KDE is very polished now, no show-stopping or other annoying bugs. Personally - I use Arch, but thats not viable for someone who is not a power user.
    You should search for a distro that has KDE by default (as the main DE), because offshoots like kubuntu have pretty poor integration and many features are broken. Taking this into consideration I think that OpenSuse would be a good choice.
    • KDE is very polished now, no show-stopping or other annoying bugs. Personally - I use Arch, but thats not viable for someone who is not a power user.
      You should search for a distro that has KDE by default (as the main DE), because offshoots like kubuntu have pretty poor integration and many features are broken. Taking this into consideration I think that OpenSuse would be a good choice.

      I wholeheartedly agree. I'm glad I wasn't the only one to mention OpenSuSE in this discussion.

  • by bazorg (911295) on Friday July 27, 2012 @09:32AM (#40789519)

    If these people are willing to give Linux a chance, then let them try out a live CD of something popular, like Ubuntu. If they like it, good, if they don't, no harm done. The idea of trying to accommodate Windows ways of doing things on Linux feels quite counterproductive. If people are really interested in giving some proper consideration to changing their computer tools they should start with a blank slate rather than expecting you to make Linux look and feel like the computer they are used to.

    Chances are, they agreed to your "trial" of Linux just to be polite when you insisted, and may have little motivation to carry this through.

  • by v1 (525388) on Friday July 27, 2012 @09:33AM (#40789531) Homepage Journal

    Considering the wide variety of responses you're getting, I'd suggest submitting this as a poll. There are a number of suggestions getting tossed out right now, and I'm seeing more posts offering different alternatives than subthreads splitting off to support already suggested options

    Though this may simply be their way of saying "there really isn't any one answer that has a significant and obvious advantage over the others". :( But either way, I don't think you're getting the results you needed by posting this question, because people are simply providing you with a broad list of all the options you were already aware of without really helping you nail down just a few with useful comparisons to focus your decision on.

    Take the top ~8 suggestions (though you are likely already aware of what they are going to be) and resubmit this as a poll. Then do your own research on the top 2 or 3 for a final decision on what will work best in your specific circumstances.

  • by Roadmaster (96317) <<roadmr> <at> <tomechangosubanana.com>> on Friday July 27, 2012 @09:33AM (#40789543) Homepage Journal

    I'd start by reading this (and if possible, having them read it as well):

    http://linux.oneandoneis2.org/LNW.htm [oneandoneis2.org]

    Bottom line is, they *have* to want to change. If, as you say, they will latch onto any differences to decry the fact that Linux is not *exactly* like Windows, then, well, you're screwed and may as well not waste your time, because the fact is, Linux *is* different from Windows (the very reason why e.g. I use it).

    One thing I've always found funny is that these same people have possibly gone through many changes in Windows and MS Office, always without complaint, because it was fed to them by Microsoft as "the next step". It will probably be the same once they get Windows 8 on a computer; they may think "this is hard to learn" but they will learn it without complaint. But put them in front of Linux and they'll cry foul and refuse to use it because "it's different". This mentality is very hard to beat; I stopped trying a few years ago and just let them writhe in their malware-infected sewers while I continue being able to work on Linux.

  • by RudyHartmann (1032120) on Friday July 27, 2012 @09:38AM (#40789591)
    There are a few things we would need to remember about asking people to change. They are going to be naturally resistant to it and they will complain when they have to use effort to accomplish change. I would choose Linux Mint 13 KDE. Why? (1) It works right out of the box. (2) KDE's appearance is very much like Windows (3) KDE is very easy to customize (4) There is enough eye candy to impress, but not overwhelm (5) Mint is likely to continue in business for the foreseeable future I do not work for or have any financial interest in any Linux company either. But Mint 13 Cinnamon also has many of these same attributes. I just think KDE does it better.
  • Since users will have a hell of a time upgrading to the next Linux version. Ubuntu for example routinely drops support for various hardware devices (video cards mostly) on new releases so just because you can get a distro running on your current machine, there's no guarantee that you'll be able to upgrade it. Not to mention the fact the /usr directory is destroyed on most upgrades anyway....

  • by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Friday July 27, 2012 @09:43AM (#40789655)

    in VMs, since Zorin doesn't require that I rewire my brain to its interface requirements. It's my surfing/writing/spreadsheet/media machine. I do everything but development on it. When I no longer need to develop for windows, I'll chuck the Windows VMs. The transition was remarkably painless.

  • Okay. Once, when distro hopping to find a system that would install onto a very old PC, I stumbled onto PCLinuxOS [pclinuxos.com]. Where others had failed to even install (Ubuntu, Vector, RedHat) this distro installed sweetly, loaded quickly and, much to my amazement, found all the crusty hardware on the POS MOBO that I was reviving in a case mod. (The reason is that the MOBO was installed into the case mod in a customized way. Easier to upgrade the OS than swap the MOBO.) Anyway, I still run this distro on the case mod (a

  • Serious, don't do it. Trying to sell someone on a platform they are not self motivated into investigating on their own is a thankless job.

    You may get them to listen and try a few things, but it is rare you will ignite sustained enthusiasm in them. After a while your will go out, you will get tired of being their personal IT guy for every little thing, their system will rot, they will give it up, go to something else and you will feel disappointed.

  • I've used Debian, Ubuntu and Mint. Switched to KDE because of the mess that Unity/Gnome Shell is and am loving it. NetRunner is the most polished KDE distro in my opinion and it comes from the company, that now sponsors Kubuntu.
  • It will never be Windows. It won't have the icons, the fonts, the widgets, the Control Panel, etc. etc.

    Make it different enough so that the differences are interesting and engaging and valid. If your people will latch onto a font and then decide they don't like it, they'll never move over to Linux anyway.

  • Before switching someone to a different operating system, switch them over to applications that work on both. Switching someone from Windows to Linux is going to be much more difficult if they're used to Internet Explorer or MS Office, and especially if they have some software for which there is no good Linux equivalent. Switch them over to Chrome or Firefox, LibreOffice or OpenOffice, and so forth, first. Then you can switch them to Linux. Good luck!

    But as many posters point out, if Windows works for them,

  • by grumbel (592662) <grumbel@gmx.de> on Friday July 27, 2012 @10:10AM (#40789989) Homepage

    I find that the desktop environment or distribution really doesn't matter that much in the end, what matters is that you have the application that you need. So if the users you want to switch over just need a browser, any popular distribution will do (i.e. Ubuntu), but if your users want to play games or use Photoshop or whatever, forget it, it's a waste of time, as Linux doesn't really have anything in those areas that can match the quality of products that Windows offers.

    Also know what you are up against. Windows98 did had some issues with stability and such that made Linux an interesting alternative. Newer Windows do not. My Linux boxes crash a heck of a lot more (mostly thanks to buggy GPU drivers) then my rusty copy of Vista, which I don't think I have ever seen crashing. So there is no benefit in switching over for stability. Only areas where I still see Linux having a big advantage is in old hardware support (i.e. drivers rarely become obsolete with a new version) and lower system requirements when you display all the OpenGL desktop effects.

    So in the end Linux is good for poor people and Open Source hippies. For everybody else there really is not much reason to switch on the desktop.

  • The configuration of the systems will be the most important factor in easing the transition. No distribution will come fully configured to meet the use cases of individual users or a task-specific group of users. I'd recommend Linux Mint KDE for the greater depth of configurability that KDE offers and the relatively finished state of configuration offered by Mint in the initial installation. Alternatively, Kubuntu will give the same basis with more of a blank slate to start. I'd suggest looking at UCK to pr

  • Believe it or not, desktop environment doesn't matter that much for your average user. Unity or Gnome Shell is fine if the hardware supports it. (Well at least now that they are both less prone to random crashes). LXDE, XFCE and KDE all would likely work fine. Make sure it's one that you can help them with. Personally I would go with Gnome Shell, with extensions, which can give the user the feeling of actually being in control of their computer.

    Make sure everything just works on their hardware (use t

  • Android. Seriously.

    It's the most successful consumer Linux Distribution out there and has apps for just about anything. The only drawback is that x86 versions are a bit lacking, but there's plenty of Arm devices on the cheap to be had.

  • by ternarybit (1363339) on Friday July 27, 2012 @11:19AM (#40790813)

    I once enjoyed the thought of 'liberating' my friends and family from the shackles of Windows in a similar way. I even installed Ubuntu on a client's computer when I worked in a repair shop, when a desperate mother came seeking a way for her daughter to avoid viruses.

    After installing Ubuntu, the client responded positively. Shortly after, I got a call asking how to get their printer working, and how to install MSN messenger. I scrambled to find a *nix clone...ah, aMSN, bingo! OK, install from repos, done.

    Now, printer. OK, bring it in with the computer so I can install it. It's a Canon, but it's not in the default CUPS package (at the time). Hit up Canon's website. They have a binary, but it doesn't install right. Crap. I don't remember how it worked out, but I think I got it working after several hours of free labor.

    Moral of the story is: don't do this unless you're 100% OK with hand-holding each one of these people with every issue that arises, and are willing to take responsibility for failure if you can't fix a problem.

    IMO, desktop Linux is currently appropriate for two audiences: tech-savvy, capable adventurers who want to try something new and don't mind finding answers on their own, or the very computer illiterate, who use machines for literally just getting online and checking email. Even then, you run some risks.

  • don't (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tom (822) on Friday July 27, 2012 @11:45AM (#40791271) Homepage Journal

    Can you, oh Wise Ones of Slashdot, recommend a Lunix setup that will be as similar as possible to a Windows environment (Windows 7 or XP)

    Yes, I can: Don't.

    What you are trying is creating a rip-off. No matter how much better Linux is, no matter how close you come to the experience your test subjects have now, there will be some tiny little detail that is different and that will convince them that Linux sucks.

    "Humans are funny", in the words of Tim Minchhin.

    You should face their fears. Give them something that is different, but so well set up that they appreciate the difference. Look at Apple - every single one of their successful products for the past years worked like that. It was different - and better - than what else was on the market at the time. Getting used to an iPhone when you had a Nokia for several years did take a short while, but very, very quickly you wanted to do it, because it was the better experience.

    You will not succeed in convincing someone that Linux is better by making it look like a cheap rip-off of their old windows environment. In the workplace, retraining costs are a factor that might justify such a decision, because most office drones have no intrinsic motivation for a change.
    But that is exactly what you need to tap. Don't find out what your test subjects like about windows, you shouldn't care. Find out what they hate about it, and make sure that your Linux system is better in that regards and put this advantage in their face. If they hate the start menu (and who doesn't?), find a nice launcher application that opens automatically when they log in. If they hate how long it takes to boot, do everything to speed up your systems boot process and window system startup. If they hate UAC and all the other thousand notifications windows throws at you every other second ("scan started", "mouse found", "keyboad in different USB port this time", "someone posted something on the Internet", "look, I have WiFi!", "driver out of date", "are you still reading this?"...) then make sure that the notification system on your Linux box is set to be as unobtrusive and silent as possible.

    Don't make the same mistake that some Linux freaks have been making for 10 years, probably the main reason the year of the Linux desktop has never happened and never will. Don't try to provide a better windows. Convince them of Linux, including the fact that it is different. Fear of change is vastly overrated. People don't fear change per se, they fear loss (of skills and knowledge) and disorientation. Address these fears instead of trying to avoid them.

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