When I go to visit my mother (as I will be doing shortly) I feel like tearing my hair out. "Oh," I hear you say, "one of THOSE stories". But no, it's not. She lets me enjoy my usual sleeping habits, lets me put my shoes on the couch, and eat whatever I want. But there is one huge difference between my house and her house, and for the two weeks a year that I stay with her there is just one point of tension. I'll set the scene:
"Mum", I'll say from the couch of her small apartment, "Would it be okay if I use the computer?" "Of course!" My mother will exclaim (hey, she only sees me twice a year, so she's pretty enthusiastic). "I'll just get it out."
Now what you should understand by this statement is that her apartment is VERY SMALL, and while there are visitors it is nigh impossible for the good computer (which is a laptop anyway) to have a permanent resting place. So she'll pull out her new laptop, put it on the table, plug in the cords, boot it up, and dial up. All this leaves me feeling alert, but not alarmed. My set up at home involves desks and accessories and monitors and wireless whatnots and broadband and it's all on twenty four-seven just in case I have the desire to, say, google myself at 3AM. (It hasn't happened yet. BUT IT MIGHT!) Basically, I am used to mooching over to the computer any time I want. But all that's okay. Until she's set it all up, logged in, does whatever she does and then announces that the computer is ready. And then I sit down and encounter...
Windows XP. Riiigggghhhtt. It's okay, I think to myself. I can do this. I've used all the Windows versions since 3.1. I tentatively peer at the screen. It doesn't feel very friendly. I point and click on the Internet Explorer icon. It's slow loading - I start imagining all the filthy little viruses I could potentially be contracting and I feel like washing my metaphorical hands. IE loads up and I want to load all my regular web pages so I can be in touch with the outside world... and I can't open tabs. Where is my firefox? Where are my friendly little icons? Where are all the bits I just know how to do? Where?
That's the problem. I use Ubuntu at home. And I love it. Put me in front of a Windows machine and I get a bit nervy. My breathing becomes laboured. And my mother accuses me of being hungover, when I'm really just suffering withdrawal symptoms.
And then I try to make a very important point to my mother. Again.
"Mum." I'll say. "You know, I really think you'd be happier with free software. Seriously. You have no idea how much better you'll feel. I have a live CD in my bag. You could just..."
"No." Insists my mother. "You don't understand, Bridget, that the major problem free software advocates have to combat is the inertia of people like me," she'll announce smugly. "People who KNOW free software is an excellent alternative. But just don't want to change. Because we have to learn a whole new system."
What she doesn't get is that I feel the same when I have to use her computer. It's all about what you're used to. I was used to Windows. Now I'm used to Ubuntu (and it really didn't take long!) and I find using Windows very tiring. Even if there weren't all the cons about using Windows, I wouldn't change back. I have the same inertia as my mother, but in the opposite direction. And so we've been at this impasse for some time.
So really, we all just need to hop out of our comfort zones and try something new. When I get there this time, I've decided to install Firefox, just casually, and leave it there... who knows, she might even learn to love it like I do.