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The fight for Open Source

Posted at 15:37 on March 24th, 2003 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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I recently read a theory how Microsoft products could be banished from most 'home computers' which I found quite amusing and also interesting, so I though I'd share it.

The basic idea behind it is that vast majority of all computer users know absolutely nothing about these machines. Most people simply have a computer to type some texts, use e-mail and the Internet occasionally. They're using Windows because it came with the computer or someone they know installed it for them 'by default'.

Now the people who came up with this originally said if a friend or acquaintace asked you if you could help him set up a computer, you should just install all free 'alternate' stuff without even discussing it with him. Then you just explain how to do the things which are important to him (just like you'd do if you had installed 100% Microsoft products) and he'll use it - without ever knowing what he has on his machine is not the 'standard'.


The 'moral' question of using basically the same methods as Microsoft (only on a smaller scale) aside, I find this thought quite intriguing. I can't quite see it working on a larger scale (even if people tried), but it actually made me re-think some things I have done in the field of 'helping others setting up computers' myself in the past. Quite often, I've simply 'defaulted' them to programs I'd never use myself without discussing alternatives with them! On the other hand, the described method worked perfectly with my parents who are using Mozilla and never thought about using anything 'inferior' even though it's not the 'standard' (all credits go to Tapuak there ;)). Good idea? Bad? Could be working? To what extent?
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Now you see the violence inherent in the system!
Posted at 05:38 on March 25th, 2003 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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Unfortunatelly, there's one problem with that theory - technical support. Once in a while, every software will have some problems. I will not discuss whether the Microsoft software is more problematic than open source software or vice versa, because most of those problems lie with the users. I remember a call I have gotten, from a friend of mine, who was unable to close Word, because an error message appeared, and she didn't know she had to close down that error message first. She was just about to do a cold restart, when she remembered to call me.

Anyway, back to the topic. The problem is that there is very little technical support for open source, mainly between acquaintances and friends. Unless you get the people who would usually offer help to your target audience switch to open source, they will be simply unable to help when there's a problem.
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NetDanzr<br />
-The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog-
Posted at 22:27 on March 25th, 2003 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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Well, this theory might work in some cases, especially if it would be applied to people who don't even notice that they're suddenly using a different software. However, even most dumb users will notice when you set up their computer and Word was replaced by an open source program, and that would cause confusion and helplessness. But I'm sure it would work if someone is completely new to computers and he/she was "forced" to work with open source from the beginning because someone installed this kind of software exclusively.

However, I don't think the lack of support Netdanzr mentioned would be the major problem. Actually, nobody has ever told me that he found help concerning Microsoft products (for example ;)) using a manual or a support hotline. Therefore, people using Windows and Word have to rely on the help of friends, too, or they even have to pay a professional service. That's the same situation you have when using open source. The most "problems" computer users have are no problems, it's just their lack of basic knowledge (such as the one Netdanzr described). Because of that, it won't be that hard to find someone who can close an open source software. ;)
Posted at 02:34 on March 26th, 2003 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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I think it was meant to use for people who aren't 'used' to any programs yet - not as 'shock therapy' for former Word users ;)

As for support, I agree with Tapuak. Normal users don't need any real support! They need someone with common sense to help them with the very basic things. I'm able to give my grandfather 'support' for Outlook over the phone even though I've never used the program myself - and it works!
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Now you see the violence inherent in the system!
Posted at 05:18 on March 26th, 2003 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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What I meant by support is what Tapuak said - getting help from your friends. However, unless you make them switch first and get familiar with the open source software, they are of no help. Thus, simply installing the software on a new computer won't solve anything, only add frustration for the user and further reinforce the belief that microsoft is the way to go (as happened to me when I tried to install RedHat 7.1 back in the days).
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NetDanzr<br />
-The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog-
Posted at 05:20 on March 26th, 2003 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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So you actually want to tell me you couldn't help someone having problems closing a program you don't know yourself? I must be doing something wrong then - from now on, I'll simply refuse any help with the reason "I don't use it" :cunning:

Edited by Mr Creosote at 13:25 on March, 26th 2003
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Now you see the violence inherent in the system!
Posted at 06:20 on March 26th, 2003 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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Well, the problems I've had were more complicated. For example, I could not walk somebody through lowering the security level in MSIE 6 over the phone, because I never used MSIE 6, and didn't know the correct steps. Or, I didn't know how to disable the "snap to grid" feature with pictures in WordPerfect 8, because I use Word. i'm sure if I was there, I'd find it with a little experimenting, but since most people who need help contact me over the phone, I am not able (even though I am willing) to help them, because I am not familiar with that particular software.
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NetDanzr<br />
-The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog-
Posted at 13:13 on March 26th, 2003 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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The same is valid in the reverse case though. As hinted at above, I've quite often just told people they should simply use the 'standard program', even though I, as their 'prime contact' don't use it myself and my ability to help would therefore be limited. I did it basically to avoid fuss for myself, because if I recommended 'my' programs (which less people use), even more of the workload to give 'support' would be dropped on me. It's just personal laziness. And I'm not the only one like that. Many people I know help others with programs they wouldn't touch themselves - but none of them simply tells the other person he should simply switch. Of course it always depends on the case, but in general, I think this is a mistake.
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Now you see the violence inherent in the system!
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