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.


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.

@jeffalyanak @freakazoid @aral

I’m not sure people do understand that. I’m pretty sure they think they “buy an Apple” or “buy windows”. I really don’t think they understand that they’re buying hardware that has software installed on it.

At least, that’s the feedback I seem to get from the small pool of extremely non-tech people in my life.
@jeffalyanak @freakazoid @aral

Hmmm. Maybe. But you have to admit there’s a really big gap between “click on app in App Store and do nothing else” and “download something, make some bootable media, get your bios to boot from
It (sometimes) and then launch into a full blown installation process which invariably has a number of questions they’ve probably not seen before”

If installing Linux WERE like installing app, it’d be highly adopted.

@aral @freakazoid
Well, the path you outlined is not the easiest one, though. You can buy laptops pre-installed with Linux or all manner of install mediums (USB, CD) on the internet and have it arrive the next day.

@jeffalyanak @freakazoid @aral

Yes. That’s true. And that’s probably the path to wider adoption. At least it worked for Apple and, in a slightly different way, Microsoft.

But we see that’s not really happening despite some Linux vendors having been around for years. Probably for the reasons you state: people can’t figure out why in earth they’d be bothered to use some other OS.

@aral @freakazoid
I don't think it will matter how easy it is to install, even if it was a one-click install, people wouldn't forsake the familiarity of their existing OS for a bunch of lofty nerd ideals.

You'd probably see some amount of additional adoption but for most people there's a very large inertia to overcome and not much pushing on them to move.

@jeffalyanak @aral @freakazoid

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

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

Worlds apart.

@jeffalyanak @freakazoid @aral lemme put it this way. a lot of people have zero free time to burn an install medium and sit through the installation, then configure all the basic system settings and install their programs... that is a non-zero investment of time and effort. you may think it is "negligible", but trust me, it's not about lack of knowledge. and it doesn't compare to having a working computer out-of-the-box.

@freakazoid @aral
Lots of companies sell install mediums that are as simple or simpler than the onboarding for a new Windows PC.

Lots of companies sell laptops with Linux pre-installed.

Very few people buy these products.

It's not about accessibility, most people wouldn't switch to Linux right now even if you made it a one-click install.

@jeffalyanak @freakazoid @aral there are a *lot* more factors to why someone doesn't buy a specific laptop. awareness, ignorance, preference, features, build quality, etc etc. but the primary observation is that the vast majority of people never install their own operating system -- windows included.

@jeffalyanak @freakazoid @aral The desktop experience on Linux is really quite fantastic at this stage (at least it is on KDE, & probably Gnome too). I can't imagine that's a barrier for folks either.

I suspect the reasons for not switching are different for different types of user. For most people, technical & non-technical alike, however, I imagine people are very accustomed to what they have. They probably often think, "why change?"

@freakazoid @aral
I do think it varies between desktop environments, but I haven't experienced one that works out-of-the-box for general use as the Windows or Mac environments, but I generally gravitate towards desktop environments that are highly customizable.

I think you hit the nail on the head, though. The operating systems that people use already work for them. The "why change?" question is hard to overcome.

@jeffalyanak @michelamarie @freakazoid @aral but it's Steve Jobs and his obsession with hiding how things work has given birth to surveillance capitalism. Don't follow his ideas. They created the class of "normal" users you see today.

If the same ideas were put to cooking we'd only have microwave dinners: which are notoriously unhealthy.

Teach people to install their choice of OS. Make it as easy as installing a browser.

@jeffalyanak @michelamarie @freakazoid @aral because the "sell the whole thing" stops nowhere. No OS updates except those we bless? Only one browser? A predefined email provider? No installations outside the store?

No. Keep the users in control. Help them learn how things work. If they do the first installation when they get a shiny new computer then they will know to make another later on instead of throwing it out because it's OS is obsolete.

@jeffalyanak @michelamarie @freakazoid @aral and to refute the Richard Stallman argument, if somebody else installed his GNU over Linux, how does he know there aren't any binary blobs in there? What if his trusted installer tomorrow goes corporate? What if Google buys Purism and pushes chrome as default in the next update?

@qwazix @jeffalyanak @michelamarie @freakazoid Of course, teach people. But don’t assume you can compete with convenience. And neither is that a dichotomy. We must have beautiful defaults and layer the seams.

@aral @jeffalyanak @michelamarie @freakazoid you are right about this being a false dichotomy. Convenience is good for power users too. Who wants to battle with graphics card drivers?

We just need to be careful not to reinforce the idea that software cannot be replaced, it hurts everybody.

@qwazix @jeffalyanak @freakazoid @aral Honestly, I don't think we can give Jobs credit for creating a class of users, as you say. I'm quite convinced it's more that Apple developed products that gave everyday users what they needed or wanted, rather than the other way around.

@qwazix @jeffalyanak @freakazoid @aral In other words, Apple "met people where they are," instead of pushing them into the developer's own way of doing things. This, in addition to appealing to consumers aesthetic tastes.

Surely, Linux too can facilitate "low friction" user experiences, but without taking away the power and ability to customise and extend them for more advanced users, different needs, or varied use cases.

@michelamarie Apple is notorious for not moving an inch to meet their users. Their users had CD's. They removed the drives. Their users had USB drives. They removed the ports. They had wired headsets: 3.5mm jack gone. They shape the market whether we like it or not. Chiclet keyboards, check. Clickpads, check. Slim laptops, check. Everything Apple does sticks, whether the users like it or not. @jeffalyanak @freakazoid @aral

@michelamarie don't get me wrong, I like most of their innovations. I have a mac. But I cannot ignore the fact that their business practices are hostile to user freedom, and this is exemplified by their recent war on the "right to repair". And the bad thing is that everybody else follows them even in bad decisions, such as the abstraction of the filesystem on iOS. @jeffalyanak @freakazoid @aral

@qwazix @jeffalyanak @freakazoid @aral Ya. I totally agree that they restrict what their users can do with their own property -- it's absolutely true, and wrong.

I like the looks, quality, and security of Apple products but can never bring myself to buy one because of all those restrictions, and of course, because of the sky-high cost of everything Apple. 😳

@michelamarie I beg to differ. Phones had removable batteries. Then the iPhone came. The same with laptops. Jobs waged a war against user freedom and won. And now users demand that level of non-involvement. Design choices are political: european cars never lost the stick. American cars did. The same with the yearly updates. Printer inks. Messengers. Decisons of companies shape the market and (de)educate users. @jeffalyanak @freakazoid @aral

@michelamarie everybody is familiar with (federated) email, it seems simple. However every time I tried to explain the fediverse nobody listens after the words "different servers" and dismisses it as too technical. Why? Because people aren't at any given point, they are trained by their peers. @jeffalyanak @freakazoid @aral

@michelamarie @aral @jeffalyanak @qwazix The experience on Linux is not great if one needs an application that doesn't have a decent open source version or isn't packaged for their distro. AppImages are pretty Mac-like, but that's one of dozens of ways packages are distributed on Linux, versus a couple each on Windows and Mac.

I think there's no question Jobs was fulfilling a market desire. But I don't think his approach to ease-of-use was the only one possible, and I think it was on net harmful.

@qwazix @jeffalyanak @aral @michelamarie I think personal computing devices should be self-teaching rather than intuitive, which can only go so far. And not through a separate "new user experience", but by having the whole user experience be a gradual ramp to advanced use. Jobs and Wozniak could have done this easily, especially if they'd paid more attention to Alan Kay.

@qwazix @jeffalyanak @freakazoid @aral Yah. We disagree on this point. I believe that firms do influence society, though it's more that they are a part of society (products of it, if you will) & are influenced by it, just as individuals are

I don't think Jobs waged a war on freedom, at least not when it comes to batteries or disc drives. He did, however wage wars over intellectual property, which, is definitely a rights issue (a more serious one).

@qwazix @jeffalyanak @freakazoid @aral Nevertheless, I hear your points and acknowledge that they are valid. 🙂

@jeffalyanak @freakazoid @aral

Have you tried KDE Plasma on a polished system like Fedora or OpenSuSE in the last couple of years? They work out of the box, like Mac does. It's a very smooth and refined desktop experience.

@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 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 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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