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.

@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.

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 @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.


Fine points, but who are you talking to who cares about online privacy or security? In my experience, average people don't care, even when you explain it to them. It's all imaginary and poppycock until they find themselves on the business end of malware, ransomware, or identity theft.

Humans are naturally lazy and won't adapt unless forced to. We've spent decades making computers easy to use, but have done little in the way of educating people on how to use them responsibly. We don't teach discretion in communications, and our culture reflects that.

Some won't budge on something until they suffer for it. Those people can't be helped.

So sure, it's true people just want to get stuff done and don't want to tinker or put any effort into understanding a tool that more and more of their lives are depending on. But their apathy or unwillingness to learn will lead to suffering. The same way that refusing to learn how to maintain a car leaves you open to unnecessary repairs or high prices at the mechanic's.

I've changed my approach to simply not bring Linux or libre software up any more. When they're tired of being a victim and want to be in the driver's seat, I'll happily help them. But not until they've convinced themselves.

If people want to ignore risk, it's ultimately their computing or online life suffering, not mine. Sure it's selfish, but why waste your breath on someone who's already sure they're safe and everything's fine? How do you get normies to understand the security impact of data breaches? How do you show them that using the same password everywhere is bad? How do you show them the power that comes with the ability to modify source code? (All rhetorical but feel free to give your own answer)

They don't care, because convenience trumps everything else in modern culture. If it's not convenient, they won't use it. Libre software isn't about convenience; it's about freedom. The issue is that average people don't know what computer freedom is or why it's useful.

Misery is a far better teacher than I could ever be, so I'll leave it at that. Apologies for the length.

@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.

@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 There is always a laptop-specific (I think) key you need to press in order to run the installer. And most don't want to go through it anyways. It's always best to have it preinstalled.

That said System76 and elementary have been working on some interesting improvements to these installers.

That's fair, that can be an extra instruction they need to be given.

I just don't think that the installers are the problem. People just don't see a reason to use Linux. It won't matter how accessible it is until people *want* it.

@jeffalyanak @alcinnz People don’t want iOS, macOS, or Windows. People want to share their photos with their friends, chat to their loved ones, maybe write up a paper or play a game. No one ever wakes up saying “I want that operating system.”

I 100% agree. That's the whole problem, though. How can you convince them to move away from their familiar platform when they can already do all of the things they want to do?

There's a really strong inertia for most people, changing their OS means finding new software, adapting to a new UI and new terminology and a whole slew of other things.

How would you #PitchTheSwitch to Linux to an average person?

What works in my experience is they asking me how to speed up their very slow laptop, me trying a live debian that goes so fast they don't believe it, they beg me to install that damn thing because they usually have to wait 3 minutes for the browser to open and 1 hour for the updates when they shut down.

@aral @alcinnz

@arteteco @jeffalyanak @aral @alcinnz

This is not necessarily a stable approach (geeky pun intended).

Linux is growing slower and slower...

Oh, it was really meant to be a personal experience more than an approach advise.

I have the feeling that FOSS software, linux included, is getting more and more mature by the day actually... to the point that when I install it on people's machines they barely notice anything, beside the increased performance (and occasionally some game not working).

Just my perception though

@jeffalyanak @aral @alcinnz

@aral @jeffalyanak @alcinnz I don't know about that, most mac owners I know are totally in love with the macyness of their mac.

@aral @jeffalyanak @alcinnz IT is now so ubiquitous exactly because people don't have to wake up to such questions anymore. The problem is that everything surrounding them is built as invisible surveillance infrastructure, and all the former safeguards (like regulation on the old telecomms) have been lost.
On a completely different level, we're also losing a lot of decentralized infrastructure in the form of small, local service providers, since no one develops to enable those anymore, either.

@aral @jeffalyanak @alcinnz ...and some sections of our governments are currently in collusion with the data collectors, since they want to have a go at all that information too.

Most people don't even wakeup saying "I want a fair economy" or "I want a welcoming society" or "I want Peace"...

They have real stuff to do.

Haven't them?


This is a very bad argument about technology, @aral: it says much more about (lack of) #education and cultural #hegemony.

People will keep wanting what they are trained to want.

And if you give people what they want, they will never realize that they are... minions.

Hacking kids are our sole hope.

@galaxis @jeffalyanak @alcinnz

@Shamar @galaxis @jeffalyanak @alcinnz We have many hopes, let’s not limit our options unnecessarily.

@aral @galaxis @jeffalyanak @alcinnz

You are a good diplomatic. ;-)

My point is that surrogates are fundamental to capitalism justification. By giving people what they want, we will never free anyone: we could build a business, though!

Which is the entire point of #Capitalism: embrace, capitalize and extinguish any will.

So, don't cut promising options but don't feed the beast either.

#Focus, in a war of #knowledge, is good.

@aral @jeffalyanak @alcinnz

I guess that means I'm not a people. I often think about the operating system I would like to have - and why.

@jankoekepan @aral @jeffalyanak @alcinnz confirmed. I am not a people, either.

At least not where tech is concerned.

@jeffalyanak @aral Well you know what would be ideal?

If people walk into their local electronics store and see laptops running free operating systems. Maybe that'd lead to a purchase.

I don't want to be pessimistic, but if you give the average person a choice to buy a Linux laptop without an accompanying understanding of why they would want it they won't pick Linux.

I honestly think that the difficulty is in conveying that understanding and I don't know of any effective ways to approach that yet.

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