I've been using Linux for about 6 years now. I see a lot of commentary about how it's too hard for the "average user", there's no good place to get started or to find help, etc. I work in tech support full time and I work with techs every day, so it stands to reason that I'm more tech-centric that most of the people I meet on the street. I think, as tech people, we tend to overlook the fact that the "average user" never wants or has to worry about installing Windows, or installing very much in the way of software, or resolving printer issues, etc. They just want to use their computer. They buy Windows machines pre-loaded, take 'em home and plug 'em in, step through the very few, very basic initial setup wizard, and just proceed to use the machine. Let's face it, this is an option that doesn't really exist in the Linux world. I know there are a few vendors selling and supporting pre-loaded Linux systems, but unless you know where to look, you'll never find them. I have yet to see a Linux system for sale at Wal-Mart or Best Buy. And oddly enough, even though Dell does preload Ubuntu, you have to pay a $200 premium to buy a system pre-loaded with a free OS! I haven't quite figured that one out yet...
Truth is, if you take an already loaded and tweaked Linux box and put it in the hand of a non-techie and spend about 30 minutes going over the basics with them, they will be able to do almost everything your average user needs to do. Case in point, I have a real good friend who is extremely non-technical, and who has two teenage children who like to do the kinds of things with computers that almost guarantee malware infections on a Windows box. I take care of his computers for him, and a while back he brought me his desktop, which was suffering from a crippling infection for the third time in as many months. I didn't have available time to work on it as the moment, as a complete wipe and reload was the only cure, so I took him a Fedora box that I'd been using (I have several around the house), plugged it in to his network, set up a user account and printer for him, and showed him how to navigate Gnome 2 well enough that the could get around on the box. It took about a month and a half before I could find the free time to reload his system, during that time he called twice with simple questions that I could easily answer over the phone. When I finally called him to tell him that I had his system ready, he kinda hesitated for a minute, then asked me what I had put back on it. When I told him I had reloaded Windows on it, he hesitated again and then asked, "Can you put this stuff on it? The kids and I have done anything we wanted to do on it since you brought it over, and we haven't had a minute's trouble out of it." I loaded Fedora on his desktop and took it home, and the only time it's been worked on since then was to add a new printer he bought. It's been running trouble free for over two years, where before I was having to disinfect his system at least every 3 months regardless of whatever antivirus and antimalware software he was running.
I think that's why Linux is catching on much faster in the enterprise world than on the home desktop. The enterprise has IT staff to handle the difficult stuff and a phone number to call when things go wrong, and all the user has to do is use the machine. If some of the larger vendors would get serious about supporting the Linux desktop, instead of the few that sell Linux preloaded systems acting like they're embarassed to do so, the percentage numbers on the Linux user base would skyrocket.
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