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

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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  • 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.

  • 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 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 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?

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 magamiako1 ( 1026318 ) on Friday July 27, 2012 @09:31AM (#40789505)
    It's not that bad. Doing Windows IT is significantly easier than handling Linux IT. If you do Linux server stuff specifically it's okay; but handling user issues is significantly different than server issues. You can't just cough it up and say "We have an open ticket with support we're waiting a day to get back on"; it's "This has to be fixed NOW because this user has $deadline."

    There's no redundancy on users...
  • by Roadmaster ( 96317 ) <> 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): []

    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.

  • Re:Avoid Unity (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cupantae ( 1304123 ) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <llienoram>> on Friday July 27, 2012 @09:38AM (#40789589)

    I just wish they'd expand the control centre. Regardless of what they believe, there are a LOT of users that want to have tight control over their settings, while never having to use a terminal.

  • by cupantae ( 1304123 ) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <llienoram>> on Friday July 27, 2012 @09:42AM (#40789641)

    Well, if the Windows branding and marketing folks are doing their job right, people won't want to switch systems even if all that changes is the name and logo. People are very tribal in nature, and this effect is very strong; especially if the users have seen many versions of Windows and not much of anything else.

  • Re:Avoid Unity (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 27, 2012 @09:54AM (#40789805)

    I agree with Linux Mint, and I'd specifically go for the KDE variety -- Despite all the hate that was generated for it, KDE4 is now a very good desktop, plus makes for a good transition experience for a Windows user.

  • Re:Avoid Unity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by armanox ( 826486 ) <> on Friday July 27, 2012 @10:06AM (#40789949) Homepage Journal

    That nVidia card you have (the hybrid/switchable graphics) is the reason for Linus's now famous "F* you, nVidia" comment.

  • 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.

  • Xbuntu (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dr. Manhattan ( 29720 ) <sorceror171@g[ ] ['mai' in gap]> on Friday July 27, 2012 @10:20AM (#40790101) Homepage

    Anything that presents the familiar desktop experience to the end user. Unfortunately, this rules out the current versions of Ubuntu.

    Um, Xubuntu [] is a current version of Ubuntu. My elderly and not-technically-inclined parents are using it.

    This is not something I would expect a novice to do though.

    Note that 'novices' don't install operating systems, either. In practice, everyone who's not a techie leans on someone for tech support - family, friends, the neighbor's kid who's "good with computers". Windows sure doesn't maintain itself.

  • Re:Avoid Unity (Score:4, Insightful)

    by f8l_0e ( 775982 ) on Friday July 27, 2012 @10:52AM (#40790455)
    For the system freezes, you could check the kernel log. It might give you an idea of what is causing the lockup.
    You can try Ironhide or Bumblebee for solving your Nvidia optimus problem.
    The battery issue is mostly due to the Nvidia GPU being on all the time. If you get Ironhide / Bumblebee working it should mostly resolve your battery issue.
  • 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 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.

  • Re:Avoid Unity (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gauauu ( 649169 ) on Friday July 27, 2012 @11:36AM (#40791077)

    This guys is throwing up one of those "hybrid-laptops". He's found his corner case and he's going to troll it for everything it's worth.

    Really? So it's considered a "troll" for someone to explain clearly and calmly why his laptop didn't run as well under linux? He even talked about how it's improving over time and he plans to try again.

    I've had numerous machines that have problems with linux in one area or another, as well as numerous machines that work fine with it. Does that mean I'm a troll looking for corner-cases? Attitudes like yours, immediately dismissing and mocking anyone who has hardware that isn't perfectly supported, is one of the reasons that linux doesn't get adopted as quickly.

    I'm amazed that this got modded to +5 informative.

  • 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.

This process can check if this value is zero, and if it is, it does something child-like. -- Forbes Burkowski, CS 454, University of Washington