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Where does Linux (and its users) fit in?

Happy New Year my fellow Tillamookians! It's been a bit since an update, I've been on involuntary sabbatical and Jeremy has been kept busy with the job(s) that pays the bills. We've kicked around a post like this for a while, but after reading this article from Linux Journal I decided to get on it. Besides, what else am I going to do while watching football?

I use Linux on my laptop, which I use more than my home desktops. I have one desktop with Linux, and one with Windows XP Pro. My parents have 2 computers with Windows 98 and 4 with XP Home. My fiancée uses XP Home on her desktop and Vista (does it matter which version, they're all painful?) on her laptop. So you could say I'm an OS outcast. I set up a desktop for my mom's classroom with EONS on it and she loved it, she preferred it to XP or 98. Then I told her it was Linux and she said she didn't know how to use it. Where is this going? I ask the same of Linux sometimes.

Most average users think they can't use Linux. They already do in a lot of ways though. It's used in car computers, phones, broadband routers, HD receivers, wireless devices, PDAs, and public computers. I've been doing some testing, I let average users try out a computer with EONS on it, and they always like it, they think it's a new version of Windows. When I ask them if they would want a Linux computer they always say they don't know how to use it and don't want to learn a new system. I find that really interesting.

Linux is more secure, so for careless users who are more at risk of getting viruses and spyware it should be advantageous. It's free and so is most of the software for it, which is good for users but bad for software companies. Unfortunately for most Linux distros though, their UIs are poorly designed and unintuitive for even those of us who have been using Linux for a while. That's where Windows, up until Vista, was far superior. My grandparents finally learned to use Windows 98 last year, I'm not about to hand them a Linux distro with a greatly different UI. For Linux to fit in and thrive in the desktop market it must adapt to the well designed Windows desktop and menus, and add built-in Win32 program support.

Where do Linux users fit into the desktop world? As a free software community most Linux developers are unpaid and are working in their spare time. It then falls on the users, not out of obligation but out of desire for better free software, to help report problems and do what they can to help. If a user wants to support a project they don't need to donate money or code, they need to donate documentation and support. Support isn't enough, the documentation needs to be tested and make sure that it is accurate on more than one computer. Linux needs the How-To books and the Quick-Start guides that Windows has had almost from the start. Sure there have always been these guides for server environments, but desktops are where most users are.

So what need does Linux fill now? It gives you all Windows does and more, but for a pricetag of $0, and last I checked that was less than Windows. And where do its users fit? They act as developers, users, writers, and testers. We want to encourage users of FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) to always help however they are able, even if it's just spreading the word. Now go do some good and have a safe new year friends.

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