Conversion Tales From the Land of Linux

For those of us on the Linux side of the fence, it can be hard to keep quiet about our favorite operating system. After all, there’s no multimillion-dollar marketing budget at work to counteract all the promotion that comes out of Redmond, in particular, so many of us feel it our duty to sing Linux’s praises loud and clear.

Are such efforts successful? As with any marketing campaign — formal or informal — the results can be difficult to measure. The TuxRadar blog recently took it upon itself to try, however, through an open poll in which it asked readers, “Have you ever converted anyone to Linux?”

As is generally the case here in the Linux blogosphere, geeks had no shortage of answers.

‘It Just Works’

“I’ve converted my wife to Linux,” asserted Eric Mesa among the 100 or so comments that soon appeared on the topic. “Installed Ubuntu on her computer. She is OK with Linux 90% of the time. But that 10% of the time when she isn’t — she hates it.”

Pete M had a more encouraging result.

“My next door neighbour the policeman had an old Toshiba laptop with Windoze XP, that was black screening and not booting at all,” Pete M wrote. “Live Ubuntu CD rescued all their data.

“Weirdly Ubuntu or Mint would not get past the disc partitioner during install so i went with Fedora,” Pete M added. “He’s happy, and i quote ‘it just works’ and its saving him 30 a year in antivirus.”

‘Won’t Go Back to Windows’

Alternatively: “I convinced my youngest daughter that Linux was a better option for her — more free games!” began BobTheLinuxHacker. “Originally on SUSE, then moved to Ubuntu. Won’t go back to Windows — despite her elder sister pointing out that ‘Linux is for geeks.'”

That older sibling, ironically, “won’t have Linux, but she’s very keen to get an Android phone like mine,” BobTheLinuxHacker added. “At what point once she’s got one should I point out that it runs Linux too? (cue evil laugh).”

The tales continued on from there, amounting to a pile of success stories any marketing manager would be proud to claim. Aiming to do her part, Linux Girl headed down to the blogosphere’s Broken Windows Lounge to record some stories of her own.

‘They Began Using Their Computer More’

“In 1999, I was a temporary worker assigned to Microsoft’s Product Support Services operation,” began Chris Travers, a Slashdot blogger who now works on the LedgerSMB project. “I had recently gotten into Linux — I believe Red Hat Linux 6.1. My parents were using Windows 95 and calling me for tech support twice a week.”

Travers bought his parents “a barebones computer as a present, loaded Red Hat Linux 6.1 on it along with StarOffice and a few other utilities,” he went on. “I spent some time looking at how they used their computer and set up the desktop accordingly.”

The result?

“They began using their computer more frequently and calling me for tech support far less frequently — every other week instead of twice a week,” he recounted. “Moreover, the calls became less frequent both in terms of requests for me to help them fix something and also in terms of requests for me to help them figure out how to properly accomplish a task.

“Over the years, they have moved up the versions and are now on the latest Fedora Core,” he concluded.

‘Quick and Painless’

Slashdot blogger Barbara Hudson, who goes by “Tom” on the site, had similar success in the workplace.

“At a previous job, the boss asked that I get the new hire up and running quickly, so rather than download and install a WAMP stack, perl, python, a c/c++ compiler, ftp client, mail server, ssh client, etc., I wiped down his machine and installed linux,” Hudson told Linux Girl.

Though the new guy had never used Linux, “within a few hours he was up and running, writing code and testing it,” Hudson recounted. “Because clicking on a few icons and checkboxes on a fresh linux install to set up a compete server and development environment that ‘just works’ is quick and painless compared to downloading everything to fix up an existing Windows install.”

Another coworker, meanwhile, “lost everything to a hard drive failure, so out came the opensuse dvd,” Hudson added. “It turned out that his IDE crashed less running under WINE than it did under XP.”

‘Pay for It or Use Something Else’

Montreal consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack has made a few conversions too, “either by pointing out things Linux can do that Windows/Mac can’t or, in a few cases, simply not providing pirated software when asked for it,” he explained.

“It seems that a lot of people want professional features, but not at the price the software publishers want to sell it at,” he pointed out. “Those people can often be converted to free software without much trouble using the simple phrase, ‘Either pay for it or use something else’.”

Slashdot blogger David Masover recounted the tale of a former roommate.

Wine Trumps Windows

“We were both playing a little-known 2D MMO,” he began. “While I would occasionally have minor issues, it mostly just worked under Wine, and I got some additional features, like the ability to (easily) run the game in a windowed mode — especially useful with my huge monitor.”

The Windows-based roommate, by contrast, “would often get interrupted by Norton Antivirus on his XP laptop,” Masover recalled. “I think the final straw came when a particular patch worked fine for me and failed for him.

“After trying everything we reasonably could, we finally just copied the installation out of my fake Windows installation (under Wine) to his actual Windows installation, and it worked,” he explained. “In other words, we had to use the installation on my fake Windows to fix the installation on his real Windows.”

‘Linux Makes More Sense’

Though Slashdot blogger hairyfeet is generally a Windows fan, “there are cases where Linux makes more sense,” he told Linux Girl. “For example, I will often take in older used machines which I refurb and give away to those that can’t afford a new computer, and there Linux makes more sense than blowing $100 on an XP license.”

Linux is also “great for what I call ‘one off’ PCs — that is, older PCs rebuilt for a specific purpose,” he added. “I have taken old 400MHz PCs and with Puppy Linux and Open Office Base they make a great way for a charity or church to keep databases for donor lists, inventory, mailing lists, etc.”

Blogger and educator Robert Pogson, however, has been “in the business of converting people to GNU/Linux” for the past 10 years, he began.

‘No End in Sight’

“GNU/Linux is a perfect fit for education, and the young people are very accepting,” he explained. “Ten years ago, converts loved GNU/Linux because it just worked and did not crash. Now, they love it for the applications, flexibility, performance and still not crashing.

“Did I mention NO MALWARE!? GNU/Linux has it all for youngsters,” Pogson said.

What’s more, “young people who have met GNU/Linux in school can now buy stuff installed with GNU/Linux and/or encounter GNU/Linux in some form at work,” he added. “I see no end in sight for this growth.”

It has been “a great ride,” Pogson concluded. “I look forward to the day when there is competition in every facet of IT so that all kinds of technology will be affordable and efficient everywhere.”

‘Cast-Out Refuse of Windows of Yore…’

Perhaps the best summary of many Linux geeks’ inspiration came from Hudson, who expressed her enthusiasm with nothing short of pure, poetic grace:

“Give me your tired boxes, your ram-poor,Your techno-junk yearning to run free,The cast-out refuse of Windows of yore.Send these, the old, about-to-be-tost to me,I’ll install a LAMP stack and you’re golden, you’ll run 4 years more!”


  • Just bought a new Windows 7 Dell laptop. Had it not quite a week before I concluded that it is unusable for doing anything beyond email and web browsing. I’m running Fedora now but just decided to replace that with Debian when Squeeze has been out for a week or two.

    Microsoft didn’t know what they were doing with Vista, and I see very little improvement with 7.

  • yes, i am convert from windows 7. read about ubuntu, thought i’d give it a try so dual booted my computer with 7 and ubuntu 9.04. after about three weeks i realized i was no longer using windows. in addition i was able to enable effects and download programs that would have cost me a fortune using windows. dumped windows permanently. had my daughter try it, same story. obviously, you are interested or you wouldn’t have posted.

  • That’s all I hear from Linux users. But if its so great, then why is it adopted so little in the world? If Windows is so bad, then why is it so popular? Most of the time I read these Linux stories its somebody fed up with XP? Yes, I’m fed up with XP too. In fact I ditched it a long time ago. Saying Linux is better then a decade old Windows OS like XP is not saying much. Now if I had read someone switching to Linux from Windows 7. Now that would be something to brag about. Or a Mac user switching to Linux. I don’t see much of that happening. So I don’t think Linux is going far on the desktop.

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