“Just install Linux on it” is the “just change the engine of your car” of tech.

Not everyone is a mechanic, not everyone wants to be a mechanic, and, if we want a world where freedom is the norm, we must stop expecting everyone to become a mechanic.

Note: this is not because these people are too dumb to be mechanics. It’s because they’re brain surgeons and space-shuttle pilots and they have three kids and they care for a loved one and they don’t have time to also be a mechanic.

We are not going to compete with the mainstream car industry by promoting engine replacements. We are going to compete with the mainstream car industry by building better cars that are safer and more sustainable. But those cars aren’t going to grow on trees. We must fund the organisations that will create them from the commons for the common good.

@aral I disagree. We're not going to compete with the car industry with other cars. That's still just the car industry being in competition among themselves. The type of drive-train/motor is irrelevant to that.

What we really need is less individual transport using cars and subsequently less cars. Most cars are used by 1.2 persons when in use and most of the time they just occupy public space. That public space must be reclaimed for humas.
Transportation must be public/shared.

@aral obvious problems of the car analogy aside, I think the difficulty of improving on the state of a new laptop regarding privacy (e.g. by installing Linux) has reduced a lot over the last years, more like "get new tyres" at the moment. But the default state has worsened rather than improved, and I agree that improving the default state is what needs to happen.

@aral Unfortunately, in order to compete with the status quo, you'll first need to create some awareness and demand. Right now, PCs with preinstalled Linux are either Chromebooks (pretty infested) or cost significantly more than regular old laptops. They need to move from the "artisanal organic" price category to a point where you don't pay extra and "I heard somewhere these are good" is enough to get someone over the threshold.

It's more like driving stick instead of automatic, honestly.

Install Linux on it is a perfectly reasonable answer when people can't easily use their current tech. "I want my car to compete in the Baha 1000" Well, you ain't doing it with that engine or that suspension.

Sure daily drivers such as Camry or Civic work at being daily drivers, but if they want to take it off-road or compete in F1...

If you are a mechanic, help your friends out once in a while instead of just directing them to do it themselves.

@aral This speaks volumes to me, considering I've been trying to use Linux since the year 2000, failing miserably as I am a mere Humanities person. Now, however, I am using dual-boot Ubuntu Budgie and Windows and will slowly master.

@windruffle @aral i made (and still do) good experience to have 1 Windows (dual boot) system (PC), rest Linux only devices. And we are quite satisfied with that since a few years.
So in case oft gaming or driver trouble you can 'fall back', but enjoy your freedom in the others devices :)

@aral However, the brain surgeon could be interested in having Linux installed and go to a mechanic, who does it for them. Or they buy a device, which comes pre-installed with it.

But here is the fact: They are not interested. And this has obviously multiple issues, and they are hardly a problem of Linux itself.

So our actual problem is not the Linux installation. This is just a technical act. It is meaningless. What matters, is to spark interest
in Linux.

@rugk > the brain surgeon could be interested in having Linux installed and go to a mechanic, who does it for them. Or they buy a device, which comes pre-installed with it.

Those two options are worlds apart. Again, no one goes to a mechanic to install an electric engine in their gas guzzler, they buy an electric car.

So the first option is the problem, the second is the solution. We need to stop conflating the problem with the solution. And we need to stop victim blaming. People do care.

@aral Well… yeah, certainly the easier solution. But I guess these are the limits of this metaphor.

Because switching an OS system is relatively easy. Actually people kinda do, when they upgrade from Win7 to Win10. – You could not that easily upgrade the engine of your car.

So the real upgrade path is Win7 -> Linux. And major Linux distros do offer Exe-"Installers" for Windows that you can use to burn a DVD/USB. So while it may be hard for the average user, a "mechanic" can easily do it.


I wouldn't expect a brain surgeon to have an interest in linux. Most people (I think) have very little interest in how computers work, and certainly no interest in tinkering with it themselves. They are trying to use computers like the tools they should be to get work / art / surgery / whatever done. They are a means to an end for most people (I think)


Ok, fair, conversion is not the way forward long term for sure. Vendors like sell these things. I agree that supporting sellers who sell gear-thats-not-spying-on-you is important. (I'm interested to see if their phone takes off (I hope it does))

While we're waiting though, I don't see the harm in doing the occasional conversion for a friend. (also less wasteful of existing hardware)
@aral @rugk
I used to help out at a non-profit that took old computers, stripped useable parts, built new ones, installed lightweight linux distos and re-sold at minimum prices.

That was a wholesome place and I enjoyed it.
@aral @rugk People care more now than they did in the past, after years of scandals and the last couple of years of heavy criticism of silicon valley.

A decade ago it looked as if the battle for the desktop was about to be won. The new netbooks were shipping with GNU/Linux by default, and they were selling in numbers. Often they ran some Ubuntu derivative. Companies like Dell also started shipping with Ubuntu. But the hopes for netbooks didn't last long.

Today there aren't many companies who will sell you a new GNU/Linux laptop. A quick search reveals Dell, System76 and Purism. Dell is probably still the only vaguely mainstream supplier with the others being very niche and typically expensive.

The GNU/Linux desktop battle never really ended. It merely became unfashionable to talk about. Microsoft still mostly has a monopoly and still mostly has horrendous business practices and low quality software. The growth area currently is ChromeOS, which lacks GNU and is arguable worse than Windows in terms of lack of control over personal data. Canonical messed up their convergence strategy and are no longer focused on the desktop or "Linux for humans". Sure, Ubuntu still exists but the desktop isn't their main focus anymore. So it's still quite a bad situation.

@rugk Most people care about operating systems just as much as about the company which built the engine in their car. They care about things that work for them. That's our challenge. 😌

@z428 @rugk @aral

This right here. The underlying OS is not the issue, it is the fact that people get locked into ecosystems and once there don't see a path out. You can switch back and forth between Windows and MacOS easily enough because most programs are made for either one. Linux doesn't have that luxury because why would you make a program for a free competitor?

Office applications on Linux won't happen anytime soon, for the same reason Apple won't release iMessages on other platforms.

@jeff @z428 @aral While I agree with the general thought, you can actually use many applications from Windows/Mac on Linux, it just depends on what you use, i.e. Firefox, LibreOffice etc. However, i get your point that you likely talk about commercial applications.

@rugk It depends, and I'd try / suggest another route: Make people sensible for reasons why to use FLOSS software, not necessarily just Linux. And enable them to do so as much as possible. If you're in example supposed to work with CAD or a lot of planning software, Linux is no meaningful option but you still could use a lot of FLOSS on top of your current platform. That already would help in some cases. 😉

@jeff @aral

@z428 @jeff @aral

In any case, I think the end of update support of Windows 7 in 2020 can be a chance to bring people to Linux.
I mean many people still use Windows 7…

Due to the lack of a real cross-distro discussion platform I've written up some ideas here, now:

@aral You dont need a mechanic or special skills to install GNU/Linux. It has been said many times that grandma level of awareness is enough to use/install GNU/Linux. Its the people who require special software, they are the ones facing difficulties making sure their windows partitions stay intact. 😒


1/2: I think the problem is three-fold:

1. Linux isn't delightful to use like other OSs are. But projects like Elementary OS are working to fix that using #ethicaldesign which is awesome. I can honestly say that anyone can use Elementary.

2. The problem isn't that Linux is hard to install, it's that it's really hard to boot from a USB stick. That's why people need techs like myself to get past that part at the very least.

3. Linux needs to be on more PCs by default.....

@aral 2/2 ... and people need to be aware that these options exist. This is probably the hardest part because there's no budget driving it's promotion. This could be funded from the commons but until that happens, we need to be making people aware of these alternatives as best we can and help people move there if they want to.

@aral Fun fact which I discovered this year: In Romania, most PCs for private customers are sold with Linux preinstalled. Which Linux you ask? Nobody cares because the customer will just install Windows themselves. It's cheaper that way and easy enough for most.

I agree you shouldn't have to ask consumers to fix their devices themselves, but switching OS can be way easier than changing engines on a car

@aral this was maybe true a few years ago, but compared to windows 10, ubuntu is easier to install, use, and just overall less frustrating even for the non-computer-people

@uint8_t Just the fact that Windows doesn't have to be installed at all, because it already came with the computer they bought. The fact that *for*you* Ubuntu seems easier to install doesn't even apply. The effort would be > 0 which is beaten by Windows effort of exactly 0.



I agree with the spirit of this, but I think a lot of linux distros are getting to the point that they are just as easy to use as windows. Specifically linux seems to really have the edge with older hardware because microsoft and apple seem incapable of not bolting on more and more stuff.

The problem is drivers and hardware but if more companies treated linux seriously like dell does then I don't think linux is just a tinkerers toy at this point. Its a viable alternative.


I use manjaro and I was shocked at how easy it was to install off a flash drive. Granted I have a thinkpad so it the drivers are probably more likely to work well then some other obscure consumer model but I don't see why a future where companies sell a small selection of high quality linux laptops can't seriously challenge apple or microsoft for usability.

Maybe not quiitttte yet, but it feels like that point is very close.


In a world that wasn't overrun by near monopolies I think linux would never have a chance to match the usability of a product created by a large software company. However the fact is a lot of the design decisions microsoft makes (maybe apple too, I dont know cus I dont use their products much) are either hostile to users or just completely divorced from the actual effect upon them because it really doesn't matter to them. You have to buy their computers no matter what.

@aral absolutely. I’ve been using Linux on various servers and pi’s for years but I still don’t feel comfortable enough to use it as my main OS

@drewcassidy @aral what is your use case? I work full time in Linux and only use Linux at home. No Windows on any of my systems unless doing penetration testing or writing something hostile. What work do you do that mandates Windows over Linux? If you don’t mind sharing. Very curious.

@retro64XYZ @aral I don’t use Windows I use macOS, and it’s mostly just all the million little pieces of software I would need to find replacements for, and the fear of fucking up a Linux install on my main machine and being unable to repair it

@aral this argument is the “control my life but give me freedom” argument. You want me to develop and design a computer for you that does 99% of the things but also do it for free and never once exploit your ignorance? It doesn’t work like that. People who can’t work on or understand their car get ripped off by mechanics all day. If you cannot be assed to master computers, don’t be shocked when Microsoft stuffs a digit in you.

Linux is the shade tree mechanic OS.

@retro64XYZ Right. So let me get this straight: unless you have a lab in your own home, you deserve to get food poisoning (didn’t you test those eggs for listeria? What are you, an idiot?)

No one deserves to be exploited. No one deserves to be ripped off. No one deserves to be violated.

No one is asking you to design anything for free. We design things for ourselves, for the way we want to be treated & for the world we want to live in. Go stand in the corner and think about what you just said.


As Volkwagen and others have just demonstrated, when you rip of your customers on a brand new car, that is actually called fraud and it's illegal in most countries.


From my experience with Linux the problem is with everything but Linux.
It' because software vendors join in only half heartedly. nVidia anyone?
New PLAN kit? Sorry, no Linux. Foto book app for grandma, sorry.
There are thousands of Windows based niche apps people use day in day out. Everyone got at least one, no?
Totally not the fault of Linux and somehow you can make it work. But that requires the mechanic...who will find, compile (!) and present a clunky 10 year old UI 😀

@aral just change the engine of your car to one that runs linux

@aral good thing there's plenty of techies, that will happily change that engine for you. :)

I see what you are getting at, but in all fairness the skills required compare better to fixing a flat bike tire

@aral Glad you say this now. Sometimes it looks as if there are two separate worlds, techs and non-techs. The techs are becoming extremely powerful. Two 'classes' too: spying people and spied-upon people.
We cannot expect everyone to be technical, yet I expect politicians and leaders to be more competent in this. They should have more knowledge so they can stand up to the big companies.

Yeah, you're right. Just like how it's perfectly fine to say "I care about the environment" and then eat meat every day. Puh-lease. Everyone can stop eating meat as well as use !fs. If not, we should all get together and make sure that organisations and civilians don't depend on proprietary technology because they "have three kids" as an excuse. Having people excuse themselves is counterproductive to the cause. Remember that essentially no tools that people depend on are older than the developers that maintain them. We've barely gone through one generation of software development - it's far too early to declare hypocrisy as justified.

@aral Exactly, assuming you have a car and engine that you can install in 20 minutes and have it running like buttah.

@aral i develop OpenBSD in my "spare" time. I very do not want to sysadmin my phone.

@phessler @aral with a jolla phone you get both: A phone that you do not have to sysadmin and a linux box as your mobile. It works. You actually can have your cake and eat it too 😎

@rigo @phessler I thought Jolla was closed source. Has something changed?

@aral @phessler it has parts of closed source that you do not have to use (e.g. android support) I also haven't looked into the base chip e.g. But the rest is just linux. If you want to be pure, ok, that may be already too much. But what is your alternative? Android? iOS? What else?

@aral reasonable sentiment but i observe that it's been over ten years since installing linux required any knowledge exceeding that of the average computer user.

(though there's still a usability learning curve for running the OS and finding equivalent software for ones people are used to in microsoft/apple land)


Right, what's important isn't individual use of certain operating system, it's the collective movement towards open software, so it eventually becomes the norm. (Making it as simple as possible to install Linux is the first step)

If we build it they will come.

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