The FOSS world must understand “just install Linux” won’t cut it. We must make “the whole widget” as Jobs would say.

But don’t listen to me, let Stallman make the case:

Richard: I’ve never installed the GNU plus Linux system on a computer myself.

Me: Really?

Richard: I always found someone who knew how to do that. Got someone to do it for me.

Me: So it was so difficult that you have not installed…

Richard: No, it's just that I was so busy, I didn’t wanna learn how.

People do not “just install Linux” not because they’re too dumb or because they don’t care about their freedom or privacy but because they have brain surgery to perform in the morning and they have three kids. When people get a car, they expect to drive it, not to have to replace the engine.

@ciaby I have a lot of respect for Richard. We wouldn’t be where we are without him and the free software movement. But it’s time we moved beyond some of its limitations in order to meet the challenges that weren’t necessarily present 30 years ago. And it’s great to see that with initiatives like @Purism, we are starting to.

I hope you never had to share any kind of space with him more than briefly.
Or talk about funny things like abortion jokes or having sex with underage kids.
Other than that, yeah, great guy.

really? I thought he was a great person and some kind of admiration for him, makes me so sad to hear that :(

@aral @Purism

Oh, he did good work with GNU, but he's been a terrible person one too many times to just forgive me again.
Free software is great but we should really move beyond him...
@Purism @aral

I completely agree with you, I was simply not aware of this, and I am very glad you mentionned that! it is actually extremely sad that women decided not to join the free software movement because of him :(
@aral @Purism

@aral That's something I am talking a lot with people, here in France. "People have not the energy to rise up and handle their fate, even if they HAVE to."

Managing energy loss should be, IMO, the main concern of anyone who want to change people behaviors.

@booteille @aral This is why shorter work hours is such an important issue! People need more energy and time in their daily lives to be able to meet the mentally taxing challenges we meet in society today. If not, we fall for the good sounding, simple ideas of advertisers, hoaxers, demagogues and strongmen. I'm glad the Green Party (at least here in Norway) takes this seriously, and I hope more politicians do and will soon.

I am all with you! I totally think having a "full-time job" is a scam. We need to be less employed and have more time to work on many other things like how to become better, as a society.

@aral This is why manufacturers like System76 are so important, so that people can buy systems that already run Linux out of the box.

@aral What do you suggest? Starting a PC manufacturing company and trying to take over the market just to sell desktops with Linux pre-installed doesn't seem viable (and is already being done by Purism and others), and I don't see switching OS's getting any simpler than has already made it. There are several distros that are already almost as user-friendly as Windows, like Mint, and if anything technical support is even easier to get from the Linux community than from Windows or Mac IT. I don't see any room for major improvement

@socalledunitedstates @aral my view: the act of switching is only one challenge, but it’s certainly a big one. There are myriad other common challenges, such as connecting printers, webcams, and various software that only support Windows or Mac. My wife, for example, uses a vinyl cutting machine that has a design app not available on Linux. I use Lightroom. My dad has a CNC machine, and so on. Lots of headwinds to address.

@aral I've been using Linux for over a decade, and it's been well over five years since I've ever had a case where everything didn't just work.

Sure, there are Linux distros that require a lot of tinkering to get everything just right, but there are also several where everything is just there for you already, and if you do happen to have the time and want to tinker, you can do that, but are by no means required to if you just want to sit and get to work.

@aral The argument that it takes too much time to get working shows an ignorance of the Linux ecosystem. How long does it take to double-click on an installer, reboot your computer, and fill in your name and choose a password?

Because that's what it takes to get a lot of distros up and running. And your friendly little web browser, where most people do what they need to do on a computer, is sitting there waiting for you.

@aral I knew exactly zero other non-windows/macOS users when I got up the courage to "try" installing this Linux thing I'd recently heard of. It was a terrifying leap into the void. If it didn't work, I figured I'd probably need to buy a new laptop -- and at the time one of the primary reasons was saving money.

I've since been able to assist other people in need -- but I'm the parachute and safety net in those scenarios. I'm still amazed, frankly, that it worked out. (and happy it did).

@K_REY_C @aral thank you for helping others.

I know that tech help, even to friends and family, can be very thankless. It’s rough sometimes especially when people are flipping their crap because “my pictures!!!! My email!!!!”

Thank you so much for helping (and, assumedly, educating) others.

Your post has also inspired me to write more about how Linux isn’t permanent in the Adélie docs, so people aren’t afraid they’d need a new laptop if it doesn’t work out.

I feel GNU/Linux is like a manual shift gear car.

Need to learn about shifting gear before driving.

When you do that, you become a 'transporter' 😀


Many people expect everything to be handed to themselves on a silver platter.

@bllrdyldz @aral you're missing the point.

It's about acessibility! Aral gave the example of someone who doesn't have time. I'll give you the example of someone who can't even manage to shower every day because they end up sweating in the end of drying up as if they just ran. There's also the case of brain fog. The chronic and disabled community doesn't want things in a silver plater.

They just want things that doesn't make them choose between Linux or cooking!

@aral I always say the same about the web. And that's why so many end up on FB.

@aral I would add that in my experience, most people buy a computer and start using it right away. As they generally have no backup strategy, moving to another operating system later is hell - finding all the user's files, passwords only saved in browser/email client ("I never needed a password for email on Windows"), ...
So yes, pre-installed is the way to solve that.

@aral Heck, I see Google do workshops at my local library to help integrate into people’s already overwhelming lives. People need to be able to buy a Linux/libre computer, follow a few setup screens and go. Apple got pretty close with OS X around 2009. ( @Purism ❤︎ )

I installed and configured Linux to my liking and once in a while it STILL hangs whenever it feels like for no apparent reason.

Ubuntu should be installed by default. Microsoft has a tradition of trying to prevent that on most of the market...
(and I'm not talking about fair competition...)

@aral Have you heard of "free as in helicopter"?

Someone gives you a free helicopter. Awesome, right? But if you don't know how to fly a helicopter it's useles to you.

@ebel Haha, I hadn’t heard that one before. Might have to yoink it ;)

@ebel @aral I'd sell the chopter and prolly be set for life! :ablobsmile:

But yeah, nice analogy! :D

@ebel @aral @ebel @aral argh, I'd love to be given a free helicopter and I'd begin flight lessons in a millisecond.

If anybody is handing out free helicopters in southern europe drop me a line. 😃😃

Jk, I get your point entirely.

@ebel @aral Also, you probably now have to pay for maintenance and a place to put it while you're not flying it 🤷‍♂️

@amenthes @ebel @aral
...on top of the fuel and the licences for yourself, the machine and the place your're taking off from, all of which have to be renewed regularly ... learning to fly and getting a licence alone is expensive enough to buy a very indecent car, or 2-4 sensible ones.

@ebel @aral lol good one. And it applies to so many good softwares unfortunately.

@ebel @aral You can pay someone else to drive it for you, you can rent it, you can sell it, you can learn to fly it avoiding rental cost, you can sell it in parts, you can pay/learn to modify and repair the engine, you can even crash it on purpose if you want. It depends on you, not the giver or the helicopter itself. You are, indeed, "free as in helicopter".

@aral this is also my main argument against “patches welcome” culture and if you like I’ll link you to my article when it’s finished.


@aral People don't install Linux because people don't install operating systems period. It has nothing to do with ease, user-friendliness, etc.

At this point, Ubuntu, for instance, is far easier to install, run, and maintain than Windows 10. That doesn't prevent lots of people from having Windows 10 machines: BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T HAVE TO INSTALL THE OS THEMSELVES.


So true. I still vaguely remember installing linux for the first time as a student. It was genuinely scary. Since then I've installed several linux distros and don't think I've ever run into serious issues. Back then I spent tons of time on the computer and it's not fair to expect that from someone with a day job, family etc.

@aral a very superficial point of view in my opinion. If you, perhaps unwittingly, purchase a car with serious safety flaws the replacing the engine or perhaps the whole car must become an option, regardless of personal circumstances.

But that's kinda a reason against Windows too. I was migrating small and micro businesses to Linux and they were barely able to do their job with Windows without any room for optimisation because things rarely worked.

If you don't know how it works, both worlds are bad for you. My sister and my mother both hate to use PCs, that's why phones are replacing a big part of them.

Windows isn't successful because people buy and install it, neither is android. You buy a device and its there, simple is that. If smartphones would have come blank, they would have had no success because most people would have failed to install the OS.

We life in a community, we should help each other out. That is the whole reason behind why RMS founded GNU in the first place.

And we should teach our children and not force them into consumer slaves.

@aral So this implies that we need more new hardware companies supporting GNU plus Linux. That would be nice, but it's difficult to compete against existing companies which heavily leverage lock-in tactics and crapware bundles with a free system which doesn't do that. It's harder to escape from systems which don't respect your freedom and so this is why they tend to become entrenched.

@bob @aral

Hard to argue with that logic. At the same time, both System76 and Purisim are making a strong go of it, and both are really exciting (though for separate reasons)

@aral @bob

Kids use Windows or Mac at schools. They're familiar with those OSes. People tend to buy familiar brands

Oh and Windows still dominates gaming

@ninja @codesections @aral @bob A tonne of students also run Chrome OS, as that's what the laptops they are supplied with or are instructed to buy have

I think it will continue to get at least a little easier to motivate change on the desktop partly because so much is now on the web or otherwise becoming platform agnostic (as with Electron desktop apps & such). Compatibility with the desktop OS is becoming less of a switching cost

@michelamarie @bob @aral @codesections

I'm a big fan of web apps - They truly are "set up once, run anywhere"

My work PC runs Linux, and using Office 365 web app to open files sent from my Windows-based colleagues is by far the quickest way - Yes, sadly LibreOffice is still slow and clunky in 2019.

But IMHO it's still hard to convince mainstream users to buy something non-Windows, non-Mac. Chrome OS is very well made, but most users would want to spend a few hundred $ more on a machine that let them run, say, Photoshop, Blender, games, etc.

I agree that more can be done in making these things accessible, but most Linux distributions aimed at average users has no learning curve for installing it.

Especially not for someone like RMS. Insert USB drive, boot, follow the prompts. I don't care how busy you are, that's only 2 short steps more than a new windows or mac PC.

@jeffalyanak @aral But you have to realize people are comparing to:

1. Buy computer.
2. Use computer. have the right idea.

Yeah, but it's a negligible amount of extra work. I just don't think that the install process is the issue.

If the Linux experience was significantly better than it currently is, people wouldn't have any issues taking that minor step.

The problem is both in the user experience and the familiarity gap, not the ease-of-acess.

@freakazoid @aral
And when I talk about "better", I mean that in relation to users who are not interested in learning about their OS.

Linux is great for people who *are* interested in learning to configure and operate it, but that's not the use-case for the majority of people.

@freakazoid @aral
Most people these days spend the majority of their time in 1-5 programs, with the web browser in the number 1 slot.

To that end, what can Linux offer an average person to make them switch? I would argue that there isn't much you can use to sell Linux to that average user.

@jeffalyanak @freakazoid Indeed. My point isn’t about enthusiasts. They will happily install an operating system and sometimes, the harder the better because it means you get to spend more time learning about the intricacies of your hobby. What we mustn’t do is conflate enthusiasts with people who use technology as an everyday thing.

@jeffalyanak @aral @freakazoid

The vast majority of users have no concept at all of “installing the operating system”.

That’s where the best divide is. The Linux world saying “installation is easy” and the average user saying “what’s an installation mean?”

Worlds apart.

@aral @freakazoid
I think that most people know what installing something is, otherwise mobile apps wouldn't sell.

What I will agree with is that most users don't know what an OS is or why you would want a different one.

@jonw @aral @freakazoid
The average person understands that there's a difference between Windows and Mac and could easily understand that Linux could replace either as a "third option", but I have no idea how you would convince these average people why they would want to.

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