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.

@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.

@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 @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.

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.

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