Do we have a "Vista for Dummies" yet?

Do we have a "Vista for Dummies" yet?

Ryan Cartwright wrote an excellent article, Don't compare GNU/Linux with Windows or MacOS – they are not in the same game.

I ran across the same blog he is referring to, while gathering potential stories for FSD and my reaction was very similar.

Ryan questions, “I mean how can you tell how many Ubuntu installs came of a single CD?”

I always download the Kubuntu ISO onto my hard drive and usually only burn off one CD. In the relatively short period since Kubuntu 8.04 came out I have used that single CD to do about a dozen fresh-installs, on four different computers, for various reasons. On all the other releases of Kubuntu, since 6.06, I have done at least as many fresh-installs on numerous computers from the one CD throughout the release cycle.

Try that with Vista and you might soon get to meet some of Microsoft's nastiest lawyers, upfront and very personal.

For the life of me I can't see why the blogger complains about playing MP3's in GNU/Linux. None of the recent releases of the Ubuntu family has any difficulty with MP3's--and you don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out, either. In fact, by all accounts, playing music and other entertainment, is the very area in which the hapless user is most likely to run foul of Vista's ruthless DRM, so that the OS ends up closing up shop on you altogether. That simply never happens in GNU/Linux.

Admittedly, GNU/Linux has some problems with hardware when the manufacturers refuse to divulge driver source-code, often at Microsoft's instigation, but there is always some sort of work-around. When Vista decides it doesn't like your hardware it just cuts you off and you are left with very little recourse to ever get it working again.

Complaining about GNU/Linux's documentation was pretty rich. I still remember the world of mystery surrounding Microsoft documentation and shudder to myself. If you had to go to the Microsoft site, to get driver information, the problems increased by several orders of magnitude.

Finally, I remember those wonderful how-to manuals, “Windows for Dummies”. I had one and I jolly well needed it in order to translate Microsoft's lamentable documentation. I don't know if there is a “Vista for Dummies” yet, but it will either be very, very long, or else very, very short, depending on the author's personal sense of humour.

Like Ryan, I have no knowledge of the MacOS, but I surely would have, if there was no GNU/Linux.



Ryan Cartwright's picture

Nice post with some good points. Did you mean the title to read "Do we have Vista for Dummies yet?"

Oh and yes that book does exist - not that I've read it. There are dummies books for pretty much everything now including Ubuntu, Fedora and Debian. Even "non-technical" subjects -- like Fertility -- get Dummies guides!


Laurie Langham's picture

Thanks Ryan. Actually, I was only going to post that as a comment to your article, but I noticed this - write a post in reply - feature. FSM didn't have this when I took off for the bush last summer, so I thought I'd give it a try to see how it works.

Fertility for Dummies; at my age I'll just stick with Free Software.

tracyanne's picture
Submitted by tracyanne on

quote: I always download the Kubuntu ISO onto my hard drive and usually only burn off one CD. In the relatively short period since Kubuntu 8.04 came out I have used that single CD to do about a dozen fresh-installs, on four different computers, for various reasons.

I do exactly the same with Mandriva Linux, and I've done that since at least the year 2000 when Mandriva Linux was Mandrake Linux. In addition I have a small part time business installing Mandriva Linux on re purposed Windows Computers, machines I've upgraded from various versions of Windows, including Vista, to Mandriva Linux. On top of that I also sell machines pre installed with Mandriva Linux, all of these come from CDs burned from the same original download of the ISO image (currently Mandriva Linux 2008.1)

I do have knowledge of both Microsoft Windows and Mac OS, and Macs are not as intuitive as they are made out to be. And there are many things, at least in my experience of the KDE desktop, that are trivially easier on Linux than they are on Windows (where to do the same things you need to know a set of correct incantations - well actually CTRL+KEY - to achieve the same result as is achieved on KDE by simply indicating your preference).

GNU/Linux, at least (in my experience) in the configuration I use and sell - Mandriva Linux with a KDE desktop - is way more intuitive than either Windows or Mac OS, and the people I sell it to pick it up quite quickly. I say this because I had expected to make a nice little income off the top of my sales, but that doesn't seem to have eventuated, and those new Linux users, the ones often referred to as the Dummies, report that they don't really need much help, thank you very much.

Laurie Langham's picture

I got into it in exactly the same way; Mandrake with the KDE desktop. KDE is a very Windows-escapee friendly introduction to Free Software with hardly any learning curve in order to handle the basic functions.

craigTFD's picture
Submitted by craigTFD on

The simple answer to the number of installs that come off of a single Linux (any distro) CD is zero. Nobody uses it, and it quickly gets forgotten, perhaps used as a coffee cup coaster. Linux cannot be counted because there is nothing to count. It is quite impossible to download bazillions of CDs and DVDs, yet only have 0.8% of the PC market. People must be early on discovering how defective the (non)product is, and returning to the tried and true software that actually works.

And if you believe ANY of that, I have a bridge to sell you.

craigTFD's picture
Submitted by craigTFD on

I hate to nit pick at such a concise and well written article, but there is a fact which needs to be fact checked.

Free versions of Microsoft Windows are available for download. And no, I'm not talking about pirated or cracked copies. I'm talking about officially licensed, working versions.

Yes, they are time limited trials. But the practice has been part of Microsoft's behavior since at least Windows/2000 (I still have a 120 day trial CD).

The only way to get decent Microsoft documentation is to buy their programming products and subscribe to TechNet (which also provides trial software).

I hope we see more articles down this road. I had a dentist client years back, who bought a system for his wife and had a limited budget. I put Red Hat on it,and while the system worked very well, it didn't work well for the wife. He eventually bought a copy of XP for the box, even though I'd given her lessons and helped her set things up (for free). I think that with the versions of Linux we have today, the result might very well have been different.

Perhaps the question is not Vista for dummies, but "Do we have a Linux version for Dummies yet"? Can normal people use Linux, or is it only for mutants?

Laurie Langham's picture

craigTFD, constructive discussion of a point is always most welcome and I thank you for your kind comments.

No, I hadn't realised that M$ offered shareware versions of their OS, but it stands to reason, I suppose. Their main objective is to get the user hooked, then permanently tied in, so any method that works will be on offer.

I sympathise with your problems getting people to discard Windows, but I've been in that tied-down frame of mind for too many years, not to understand their fears.

I used word processors and various Windows desktops throughout the 1990s and I always felt an intense loathing for Windows, but could do nothing about it. I actually started using the internet with Windows 2000 in 2002.

I actually knew about Linux by then, because some academic friends were using it. I thought it would be too 'hard' for me, but I could also see huge security problems looming for Windows users.

One day I was watching my friends using Mandrake on the internet and suddenly thought, "Hey, even I could do that, easily", so they kindly set my laptop up with a Mandrake and Windows dual/boot.

I took it home and started using Mandrake straight off. I never did go back to that Windows partition, not even once. It was my happiest day in computing. I started to love Linux as much as I'd previously loathed Windows and I actually started to learn a bit about computers, something I'd never been tempted to do as a Windows user.

I got another notch on my Kubuntu disk last week. I setup a new Thinkpad t61 for an academic who needed XP to run certain academic programs, but needed to be able to use the internet in some degree of safety. Now they can still run their programs and then use the Kubuntu partition for the internet.

I apologise for the title of the above article. It was originally posted under the working title of, "Windows for Dummies", but got confused during the editorial process.

Author information

Laurie Langham's picture


A retired, recent Kubuntu fanatic, who has graduated through Microsoft, Mandrake, Debian, Ubuntu,and now to Kubuntu.