Linux Works Even for Total Newbies
From our "Linux is for Total Newbies" series, courteousy of Robert Milner for

Still hesitant to try Linux? I'd like to share a revelation with you. See, for me, Linux adoption always seemed a bit of a battle to get out there on the desktop. No, I'm not talking about getting it installed. The major flavor providers have made stellar strides in set-up, making it a breeze.
Take a look for yourself at the powerful and useful features in Debian, Fedora, Mandriva, and SuSe.

There are easy to learn graphical interfaces like Gnome, KDE, or XFCE to name a few. Installation today is often simpler than any Windows full install. Therefore, no I'm not talking about installation and use. I'm talking about winning the hearts and minds of the Joe-average user.

Normally, when you mention Linux to them you get an expression on their faces as if you had asked them the square root of 232,543. They just don't know it's there. More importantly, they don't know they have a choice. Even though they are not necessarily tied to their operating system from one particular big, famous vendor.

It's with this in mind that I tackled an infected desktop PC and a laptop. In the interests of anonymity (and just to keep things exciting) I'll name the owner Jen.

Jen came to me with her desktop PC, that she had never been too happy with. She had described its erratic behaviour and instability and its growing problems. She had this machine built and installed by a self appointed expert. As 99% of you have probably guessed by now, it wasn't just infected, it was crawling with viruses and spyware. The laptop had been acquired from said expert and this time the advice was that Anti-Virus, Firewall, and Anti-Spyware measures were not necessary under Windows XP. What's that? Not necessary under XP?

If you have a similar idea, then please review a few articles like this and this to understand the dangers. And you may want to review this article to see the difference regarding Linux use.

It was at this point becoming a bit of bug-bear that I had to re-build yet another two machines that were so compromised and so infected. Besides, I had several major question marks regarding their licensing, making them pretty useless PCs. See, I'm the type of bloke that keeps my nose clean. I don't do piracy. When I told her the price of buying two replacement, properly licensed copies of Windows XP, she wasn't impressed, and suddenly much more aware of the true cost of ownership of proprietary software.

It is indeed expensive paying for your operating system in the hundreds. The point not to miss is that she did not desire to continue spending money on OS licensing and software replacements -- indefinitely.

So here was my chance to share an insight with her no one else had done. I told her about an operating system that was free, secure, and stable. One that would significantly reduce her fears of another infection and that would get the job done just as well as anything else. And she did not have to pay hundreds to own it.

I could see that I was challenging the MS comfort zone. To help reduce anxiety, I also mentioned that there was always the option to go back to what she was used to. And to her credit, she said yes, she'd try it.

For those who caution this approach, perhaps I should briefly explain. Jen is not losing access to essential files and software by making such a move. She will not lose access to her essential programs like Photoshop (Linux GiMP handles PSD files and with GimpShop you get an interface similar to Photoshop).

"Jen is not losing access to essential files and software by making such a move."

She will also have full access to all her Microsoft Office files (OpenOffice works without issue with ALL Office formats). Even if Jen were to use more extensive things like databases, includes database importing for ODBC and JDBC -- if she ever got into all that.

She doesn't throw away access to her DVD movies (a few great Linux players include MPlayer and Xine) and she doesn't lose out on access to things like her work PDF files. Moreover, there are plenty of well written beginner documents on nearly every Linux subject. Whew. Okay, hopefully the point is made. She can try it out and see whether she likes it.

So what happened? Now writing this some time after the event, I'm please to say: unabashed success! On both PCs, Jen has taken to Linux like a duck to water. Jen is now more productive, the machines are stable and have yet to let her down. She is spending more time on her computer. For me, what summed it up brilliantly was the unprompted praise as I got from her one night. She said, "That Linux thingy is much better than Windows."

The downside? I've created a Frozen Bubble addict. If you are not familiar with the game, you ought to try it. It's one of thousands (actually over 10,300) of exceptional programs that run on Linux.

And this takes me to the revelation. No, not the Frozen bubble bit. The fact that a home user who was only ever a through and through proprietary addict, so seamlessly migrated to Linux -- and enjoyed it. What does she get? Reliability. Cost saving. Security. And what do I get in return for sharing this? Less call back. Less fear of another clean-up operation. Warm cosy feeling. Linux works, even for a total newbie.

Linux. Try it. You might like it.

AUTHOR BIO: When he's not making a noise on the drums, indulging in surreal multi-media urges or helping on, Manfromthezoo (Rob Milner) pays the bills by working in technical support for a U.K. Hospital, supporting thousands of users on different sites.

This article comes courtesy of Robert Milner, published by with permission.

This brief opinion piece should not be construed as factual information, and only contains the opinions and personal experiences of the author at the time of publication. Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds. Microsoft, Microsoft Windows and WindowsXP are trademarks or registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation both in the United States and Internationally. Notations MS and XP are included and refer to Microsoft Corporation and Windows XP. All other trademarks or registered trademarks in this opinion piece belong to their respective owners.