Converting your techno-resistant loved ones

Converting your techno-resistant loved ones


The techo-resistant person in my life is my own spouse. See, my wife loves to work with her hands. Her favorite activities involve knitting or crocheting. She takes balls of yarn and converts them into items of beauty. So, her instinctive reaction to computers and software was “why do I need that” and “what would I have to show for my time”.

However, in the last few years, I converted her into a bona-fide computer user just as I converted her to Chinese food. She is now a frequent user of free software, primarily Edubuntu 6.10 and Firefox 2.0.

So how did I activate her latent geek genes? By following this four step program:

Step #1: Make the most of an opening—The chink in my wife’s armor wasn’t opened with free software, but with a PDA. She had been a faithful user of a Franklin Covey organizer. One year I pointed out that given the cost of the yearly calendar update, she would pay off a PDA in about two years. Her natural frugality led to purchasing a Sony PDA and a weekend lesson on Palm OS. The “repeat” function on calendar events would be my friend all weekend. Thus, the first tentative steps into the Digital Age were taken.

Now onto widening the breach in her defenses where both free software and Microsoft would be my allies.

Step #2: Make it work—The next stage occurred when my wife wanted to research a few knitting patterns on the internet. Using IE6, led to a series of frustrations around how often IE6 shut down with no warning or failed to load a web-page. Throw in a few Blue-Screens of Death and the situation was ripe for change.

Fortunately, a friend had pointed me in the direction of Firefox. With Firefox loaded, she could pull up knitting patterns with minimal browser crashes. Soon multiple bookmarks were saved for knitting websites (and suspiciously for house plan websites too).

Step #3: Make it faster—Patience is not a virtue in ample supply around here. So Microsoft gave me the next conversion opportunity. Waiting for Windows XP’s excruciatingly slow boot up times or waiting for the security software to load or waiting for the security software to check/download updates or waiting for Windows to check/download updates, or, or, or. Simply too much waiting for this household.

I had taken my own next step into free software by setting up our computer to dual-boot Edubuntu (beginning with 6.06 and upgraded to 6.10) and Windows XP. After she started using Edubuntu, my wife responded with a “Wow! This is fast!!” With faster boot times, availability to use the desktop when shown, increased speeds on loading web-pages and faster downloads on email, there is a lot to like on the speedometer.

Step #4: Make some space—This step really meant me shutting up unless asked a question. Then, answering the question without embellishment. If asked how to bold the font in OpenOffice.org, I’d show her the bold button and nothing else. At this point she didn’t care how to set up the document as a brochure. Yes, I walked out of the room a few times, but patience and a quiet tongue were the best approach. I had to allow my wife the space and time to explore the new software on her own.

The end result is my wife primarily uses Edubuntu instead of Windows. She regularly checks her favorite knitting websites and blogs. Print-outs of knitting patterns and house plans seemingly appear out of no-where. She smiles and says “I’m sorry” at the few times I use Windows XP. Sometimes, I even have to wait before using the computer (oh, what webs we weave).

So, you may ask, what areas has my wife converted me? Let’s just say that long list is outside the scope of this article. My question to you is, who do you plan to convert to free software? Pick someone and try. They may be more open to change than you think.

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Comments

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

This was a few years ago now. My sister is a sucker for a good game of solitaire, so I left the excellent KDE Solitaire open on my laptop one day where she would see it. Like a moth to a flame.... "This is heaps cooler than Windows Solitaire, can I have it???". Linux installed the next day, and she was regularly rebooting just to play. That was the hook. The line was Digikam for her photos which had her staying in Linux for longer. The sinker was getting all her web-mail accounts downloading into KMail, she's in for life now :-)

John.

Terry Hancock's picture

I like PySol, which includes a number of "hanafuda" games, which are a nice twist when you get bored with the standard Western card deck!

Pagoda is nice and easy, albeit slightly mind-numbing. I think it's virtually impossible to get an insoluable game (I personally find "no win" games very frustrating).

On the other hand, Onsou is much more challenging. So far as I can tell, it has fewer soluable hands than Klondike, but that could just be my skill level with it. Four Winds is similar.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

We've always been a multi-computer household, and I prefer to pick up used hardware and make new boxes from it rather than buy a new machine. My steps were about like those given in the article. The holdout of the household was my wife as well, while the kids breezed onto Linux and loved it.

I made the only machine in the house that was still running Windows into a dual-booter, showed everybody how to switch between Windows and Red Hat, then gently stood back. This allowed my wife to gradually get familiar with Linux at her own pace, and she now swears by her Firefox in Mandriva running not in Gnome or KDE - but Window Maker!

When I checked the uptime on Linux, and found out it had been running continuously for six months, I asked around one last time and got indifferent shrugs when I asked if we were ready to say goodbye to Windows. We were, and my life has since had 14% more free time, now that I don't have to sit down once a week and scrape malware and viruses out of a computer to get it running again.

By all means, get the youngest people in the household onto Linux first. They will convert the older ones for you!

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Well after repeated attempts of duel booting xp and slackware my wife was just not getting the point so i figured that the only way to get her to convert was to remove a pc from the equation so one night while i was "upgrading her pc" i left the case open i told her that i had to leave the case open because of possible heat issues with the new hardware and she bought it well to make a long stories short she woke up the next morning to a long haired tuxedo cat sleeping in the case and a dead computer :) she was mad but being an animal lover would never blame the poor kitty she asked me to install xp on my pc and i laughed and told her that would never happen and that she would just have to get use to the idea of learning to use Gnu/Linux.

4 years later

She now loves Gnu/Linux hates windows which she has to use at work every day.

Steve

see here for tuxedo cat.
http://www.christymarx.com/images/sly_pallets.jpg

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I was expecting a huge article detailing the whole process. The story got straight to the point; this was quite refreshing.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

How can you pretend that linux boot is faster than Windows ? The whole process of starting my computer to a fully working operating system takes less than 25s with my Windows XP, the fastest linux I have tried (dual boot on the same computer) takes at least one minute !

Now linux has other advantages, but don't lie about its drawbacks, you'll only get disappointed people...

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Boot speed is one area XP definitely wins hands down. Assuming you don't have buttloads of software launching at startup, but even that can be fixed with the freeware Autoruns: http://www.microsoft.com/technet/sysinternals/utilities/Autoruns.mspx

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

most Windows users wouldn't have a clue how to prevent all of those applications that on install default themselves onto launching at startup. Linux is the other way round. You have to force a lot of apps to launch at start up (if you want them to).

Terry Hancock's picture

The catch is, we don't really remember how long it takes to reboot Linux, because we hardly ever have to do it!

It could take 10 minutes, for all I care. :-)

ben davis's picture
Submitted by ben davis on

article was okay: easy to read, not too long, witty, understood what the point was, gentle encouragement, maybe (maybe) inspirational.

The article certainly WASN'T a RANT or UNOBJECTIVE, DIATRIBE, or telling everyone how EVIL MS is.

Just a simple story of how the author influenced his wife to try something new, and how she prefered the new!...

So why are there so many Windows JUNKIES screeming about this?!? They complain about "Linux Geeks" being obsesive, but they appear to be equally so.

I agree that Linux enthusiasts can loose their cool sometimes, but this wasn't one of those times, and it has exposed that windows enthusiasts can be equally zealous!

I also would say before going further that all OSes are made by human beings, andso are not perfect and will crash, and will do funny things, and be difficult to use in one way or another. This includes Windows, Linux, MacOS, BeOs, NextStep, and whatever else. What you prefere out of these imperfect OS's depends on your experiences, values and ideals.

The interesting point that this raises in my mind is:
I can understand why people become Linux Evangelists for the simplest of reasons- competition is good,(monopolies are ALWAYS bad for Citizens), therefore increasing awareness of "fringe" products to reduce a monopoly and increase awareness of an alternative.
There are other Ideological arguments: Open source = freedom = choice & can be as robust and functional as proprietary software, blah blah blah.. (sorry, just meant I don't want to use this to stand on my "soap box", just I understand the arguments)

What I can't understand is what MS People get so hot about? Why do they care so much about what a fringe of IT Enthusiasts want to put on their (and their family's) boxes? Why are they SOOoo offended by someone sujesting you have a choice, and there are good reasons for exercising that choice in an informed way? Do they have any conceptual or Ideological arguments to disparage Linux, and the call towards Linux? The only points that I hear is that Windows is "better" and Linux is S**T and Linux users are A**H***S. Do they even realise they are also being Evangelists? These peeps just come across agressive and closed to any choices or differences and think everyone should be like them, and like what they like, and think how they think...

please remember that competition from Linux can also be good for passionate windows users! MS will have to respond to Linux as a serious competitor and up their game, provide better service or offer more "value for money". Why would anyone resist a possible change like that?

sorry for going on (and on)
Look forward to reading your thoughts. (no flames please, I'm British) ;)

This post was really meant for the digg site, where alot of peeps appear to be getting HOT about this article, but maybe they'll read it here anyway.

Dave Guard's picture
Submitted by Dave Guard on

"What I can't understand is what MS People get so hot about?"

What I can't understand is why there are "MS people" at all.

Windows is just an OS. Linux is not. Linux is the flagship of the free software movement. Linux, in representing free software, means so much: "freedom", "openness", "community", "honesty", "trust", "non-zero-sum gameness".

If you try to find other meanings in Windows you find the opposites.

It's easy to understand how people can be so enthusiastic about Linux and free software. But, on the flip-side, why do people get so enthusiastic about using an OS that everyone else uses. When I used to use Windows and other proprietary products, I never saw any reason to be enthusiastic about it. What makes people become MS zealots? I just don't get it.

Terry Hancock's picture

Nobody likes having their assumptions challenged. Windows users like to assume that Windows is "the standard" and the O/S for "end users" and "novices".

When you promote GNU/Linux as a viable alternative, you are threatening those people's preconceived notions, and they are reacting against that. Nobody likes to find themselves in the wrong, and many people will fight tooth and nail against that kind of attitude adjustment.

In fact, in many cases, the people who will be the most outspoken are the ones who, deep down, know you're right. That's why it bothers them so much. They're basically externalizing an internal conflict.

Mind you, some people just post to be contrary to anything, and some people probably are projecting retaliation against a specific person onto you.

But most people are just being conservative.

Dave Guard's picture
Submitted by Dave Guard on

After I wrote that comment, I started thinking and came to pretty much the same conclusions that you have offered.

However, they weren't anywhere near as well formed as yours. And I hadn't yet reached the point where I could express them without using terms that Windows users wouldn't like.

Thanks for that Terry.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

The key to resistance against technology especially in reference to computer use is functionality.
What does this item or software do to help me in a big way in an easy to use manner that is not threatening is key.
Look at the current Microsoft Vista product as the exact opposite.
The only thing that users and testers of Vista can point to as a use of the product is the "cool colors " .
www.vintagecomputermanuals.com

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

'It's easy to understand how people can be so enthusiastic about Linux and free software. But, on the flip-side, why do people get so enthusiastic about using an OS that everyone else uses. When I used to use Windows and other proprietary products, I never saw any reason to be enthusiastic about it. What makes people become MS zealots? I just don't get it.'

The reason you don't get it is because there aren't any. There aren't any people that we would describe as Windows 'fans'. Sure, there are people that use Windows (quite a lot of them actually). There are even people who have compared Windows to the alternatives (not so many of them!) and decided that it is still the most appropriate OS for their needs. But I cannot think of one single person (who isn't a Microsoft employee being paid to spout soundbites) who actually likes Windows (as opposed to 'I use it because I need Device A or Program B', which is my situation)

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

There are a ton of people on digg who HATE free software. They act as though Windows should be the only OS ever.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Ben Davis wrote: "What I can't understand is what MS People get so hot about?"

Here are a few reasons:

1.) Richard Stallman and his free software movement wasn't diplomatic from the start. They seem to think all software should follow their definition of software freedom. Note, they do not argue in terms of "competition == good, monopolies == bad". Otherwise their conclusions and their methods would be different. They argue that free software is good, and proprietary software is evil. It's not a funny thing to find yourself in the (moral) company of killers and drug dealers, you know? What's worse, they seem to have no valid arguments for their position.

2.) Users are usually not trained to sell stuff diplomatically. When they started preaching to other people, they sometimes did so in a rude manner. They called Windows users clueless, for example. The attitude spread by Richard Stallman wasn't helpful either. Some Linux users were calling Windows users "unethical" and how could they know about the differences between a Linux user and a free software activist? They just attributed impolite behavior to Linux users, and responded in a similar way. As a result, there's a history of not being nice to each other.

3.) The sales force of a usual company is bad enough, but when your friends and family starts selling stuff, this is sometimes even worse. Did you ever get a call from somebody you know who tried to sell you insurances or other stuff at home? Then you get the idea why most people don't like a certain sort of selling.

However, you may like to check your own view, too: Out of 80 comments on Digg.com right now, only 2 comments from Microsoft users had a negative number of diggs. At least two other comments from Microsoft users were voted up. Given how much Microsoft users are out there, maybe your impression about them getting hot is not quite accurate?

Note also: The very first comment on the story was a user accusing 90% of Digg users to have no open mind -- is that OK?

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

"Note also: The very first comment on the story was a user accusing 90% of Digg users to have no open mind -- is that OK?"

Read that comment again:

"Conversion doesn't work if they don't have an open mind, which 90% of the Digg users reading this will be up against."

cr125er was saying quite clearly that 90% of digg users will be up against closed-minded people when they try to convert their loved ones.

But just like most people on digg you haven't bothered to read what you are then about to complain about. Digg is full of nasty childish "haters". Haters are people who seem to live to tear people down in any way they can.

BTW, I agree with points 2 and 3 from your comment. However, free software's strongest form of marketing is word of mouth so those are always going to be problems.

On point 1: the free software movement may have been started by RMS but that doesn't make it his. He may be very wise but he is not very charismatic. We need a new leader for free software. I think Mark Shuttleworth may be the one to do it. He's young, pleasant looking, and is far more charismatic.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Missed that one. So the guy was "just" accusing 90% of the friends, wifes, and relatives of Digg users -- that is: their loved ones -- to have no open mind? Is that right? And you think this is somehow better than my earlier misinterpretation? This is interesting.

Additionally, you try to impress me by accusing "most people on digg" to not trying to read comments correctly. Of course, when Digg is "full of nasty childish haters", it's an evil place. I understand that everybody not sharing your opinion just wants to "tear people down in any way they can". It's absolutely impossible that this was just a misunderstanding due to a non-native speaker or the late hours, isn't it?

I see.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I own a sony clie. Well, Sony gave up on the clie and then Palm pretty much gave up on its OS. And i realized that if I had a free open OS for my clie, I would still be able to keep up with it. Now I'm locked in to memory stick and old apps.
That's why I tend to support free open software. I'm not ready to go all the way like dump Windows for linux. But I go where I can, like Firefox. The most important thing is not to let your software lock you in so that it's hard to switch to something better down the line.

Linux should be a victory in the smartphone area

Ari

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Something must have been wrong with their Windows install, because IE doesn't crash that much. It can, for sure, but it's rare that IE would repeatedly crash when just opening normal web pages.

Other than that, this was a great article. As a long time user of both Linux and Windows, I enjoy perspectives that show Linux as a viable alternative without the "MS is the devil" type rants.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I became friends with Eric in the Fall of 2000, when I started college. We hit it off pretty quickly once we found out we were both into 3D graphics design. I first told to him about POV-Ray (www.povray.org) back then, but the lack of interface kept him on his pirated version of Maya. Sometime over the years, I had told him about Blender but he didn't budge.

Fast forward to last Friday. I finally remembered to check out the latest release changes to Blender that occurred back in June or July and sent him an email about them, remarking, "pretty damn good for free, don't you think?" Eric's reply consisted of a lot of "Wow"s and a "Can I run Blender in WinXP? I think you've finally sold me. Is it still free?" Hopefully he really does try it, but for now I'm still cheesin.

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Chris Mostek's picture