Talking about Linux

Forum: LinuxTotal Replies: 26
Author Content

Mar 15, 2006
1:32 PM EDT
I had several goals in mind when writing "How to give Linux Away". 1. To explain the steps I go through and questions I ask when bringing up the subject of Linux and Open Source Software. 2. To give those who have had challenges with what to say or how to enter into a conversation about Linux, some examples that have worked for me. 3. To engender others to share their own positive experiences, examples and ideas that have worked for them. It is the last item that this thread concerns. If you have ever had a positive conversation with someone who was new to, or has never heard of Linux or Open Source Software in general, tell me what you said, what you did and how it went. I want us to share our positive experiences with each other and give those who have not had success or feel like they "just don't know what to say", a place to come and find good ideas and examples that have worked for others.

Please remember this is for the cultivation of positive experiences and discourse. Not war stories.

We all have war stories. This thread is not a place for rants about how mean or stupid the people you talked to were. I will be the first to say that one can learn as much or more from a bad experience as a good one. It is what you take from a bad experience that determines its worth as a learning experience.

What I am trying to get at is, sharing a bad experience is fine as long as you have some constructive ideas about how it could have been avoided or how you turned it around and overcame it. That kind of information is invaluable to someone who has been in a similar situation and wants to know what they could have said or done different.

So, talk to me. Tell me what you say and what you do that helps you in spreading the word about Linux.

I have all kinds of cool stories to tell, I'm sure you do too.

Scott_Ruecker, aka sharkscott

Mar 15, 2006
2:57 PM EDT
I figure I'm the one who should 'season the pot' and share a couple of interactions I have had recently. These are expanded posts of mine from other threads that I thought would do well to be here too.

Recently a gentleman came in and told me he was setting up a computer for his 10 year old son and wanted something that could get on-line and had "controls" so that his son would not intentionally or accidentally damage the computer. I explained how Linux is a true multiuser system and that with the root/super-user/administor profile that he would be the only one who could add or delete programs and be able to set-up "controls" for what his son has access too. I also told him that with the root profile that he would most likely be able to fix anything that his son might do.

Another gentleman came in looking for MS-Office but was put off by the price. I told him about and took him to where the retail Linux boxes were to show him what the program looked like. I showed him the SuSE-10, Xandros and Linspire selections and he walked out with the Xandros-Deluxe box. He figured that if he could get an entire operating system for less than the price of MS-Word, it was worth a try.

In conversation with both of them I mentioned the documentation that comes with Linux systems and the resources that forum websites contain. I explained that all Linux Distributions come with "Help Centers" and that they would be able to look up tutorials and such for every program on the computer and most of the functions as well.

When I mentioned the forums to the first gentleman, he told me about when he recently fixed up an old motorcycle and how he went to forum sites to get information and advice. I was pure luck, but if you can get someone to be able to connect it to their own personal experiences, it makes them much more comfortable with the idea.

Mar 15, 2006
4:34 PM EDT
A friend bought a computer which naturally came with that eXtortion Protection OS on it. I had warned him beforehand. It only took a couple of days before he brought it to me and disgustedly asked, "Can you fix this?" Naturally my reply was, "You know I don't do windows." "I don't want Windows, I want it fixed." I looked it over and assessed the hardware, "You have a winmodem that may or may not work. You have a Lexmark inkjet printer that is a paperweight. Everything else looks fine."

He gave the printer away and bought an HP printer-scanner-copier thing. The winmodem turned out to be one that works only partially, but he as no Internet connection yet, so it's not a show-stopper at all.

My initial attempt was a rush job, due to time constraints for both of us. I simply popped in a Mepis [ ] CD and scrunched his MS partition for the installation. (He had used GNU/Linux a little before because I had installed a couple of boxes where he worked. I did not want to leave him stranded in case he couldn't figure something out and didn't have time to contact me about it. Dual-boot left him an out.)

That lasted about a week. He brought it back with the complaint that all those icons bothered him. In his opinion, it was as bad as MS. The default KDE desktop was just too cluttered to suit him. He wanted a desktop like mine. The kindest thing you could say about my preferred desktop is that it's simple. The most common reaction is, "Eww. That's ugly."

Here's what sets the background, if you want to see: exec xsetroot -solid burlywood

I used fvwm [ ] but it's nothing like any of those fancy screenshots you'll find at the link. It's just a plain goldish color with a column of 10 buttons, 16x16 pixels, stuck in the upper right with a 16 pixel wide pager in the lower right and xdaliclock in the lower right corner. That's it. 6 desktops arranged 2x3, all alike, with active borders. I set his up the same way except with 4 desktops in a 1x4 arrangement. I also replaced Mepis with Debian Sarge.

He was happy for about 2 weeks, then had me change it to 2x3 desktops. He wanted more to avoid the clutter he used to have in MS Windows. I showed him which line to edit in his .fvwm2rc file and how to restart fvwm without restarting X.

I also took the time to correct an oversight on my part. He doesn't leave his computer running all the time and had been using alt-ctrl-del to shutdown so he could power off. He had forgotten his root password but hadn't had time to contact me. (All that time with only user access and no complaint about it!) He didn't want to just power off, so he experimented and discovered it responded to the 3-finger salute. I set up sudo so he could use /sbin/shutdown without entering his password. It poses no hazard in his particular situation.

He appears very well satisfied with (mainly for the spreadsheet), Firefox, Pysol, Xmms and some KDE personal calendar thing. I didn't remove the KDE apps when switching to fvwm. He accesses them via the pop-up Debian menus.

He got what he wanted and is happy with it: simple, stable, completely customizable. Another penguin in the wild!

Mar 16, 2006
3:39 AM EDT
The best advice I can give is that you must deliver a product that is superior to what the user has. In one school, students went from running Windows 98 on 400MHz/64 MB boxes to using them as thin clients running applications on a 2500MHz beast with 1.5gB RAM. Students loved it! In another school, the lab had been converted to XP on new machines but there was a stack of the old lab PCs that were 200 MHz. I took them and used them as thin clients in the classrooms. Most of the high school no longer had any need for using the lab because the old machines were now apparently just as fast as the new machines.

Besides speed, memory and storage, inducements to love a new Linux installation could be better keyboards, mice and displays. I love LCD displays with compact thin clients. Users have so much more flat space on which to place stuff. Going from a $20 keyboard to a $50 keyboard can increase typing speeds 20%. Laser mice are much more reliable than the ball mice. If these add-ons not related to the OS seem like a cheat, consider that the biggest problem faced in a transition to Linux is resistance to change. Everyone likes something better and you must make it look better, too. The extra cost involved will be recovered in future savings on licensing and system management. The thin client server takes much less effort to maintain, especially if you can use fanless/diskless thin clients.

One thing I would avoid is dual booting. Your job of maintenance is now increased because you have two software systems, and the change will be as difficult as herding cats or pushing water uphill. Dual boot only for a test or demonstration, not in the actual migration.

Mar 16, 2006
5:42 AM EDT
The criteria you impose, Scott, is a bit restrictive so I shall broaden a bit to include a positive experience that falls a bit outside the specs:

I advised a Windows developer to try Firefox as his browser. While IE remains due to his bank, otherwise he remains happy with the change. Moreover, he called me to tell me how much better it was in performance over IE. The latter was a surprise to me, because even on the Mozilla forum threads when version 1.5 was under beta testing I kept reading that on Windows Firefox was slower.

Regarding Linux, OpenOffice and Thunderbird this person thinks he is trapped into the MS environment, because that's what many of the developers think and repeat to each other. You can't fight Microsoft (well what happened to City Hall?).

Hope this makes the cut.

Mar 16, 2006
8:19 AM EDT
I am going to follow Herschel_Cohen and talk about a recent experience with getting someone to try OpenOffice. My Technology teacher really liked my paper on Malware and asked me to e-mail her a copy. I asked her if she wanted a PDF or if I should convert it to MS format. She was very surprised but this question and asked what I had used I told her, to which she responded, "You really don't like Microsoft do you?" I told her that I don't like supporting monopolists, and I like the freedom of OSS. She said just send me the paper and I'll give OpenOffice a try. I hope she likes it, maybe I'll put a link to download linux as well.

Mar 16, 2006
10:39 AM EDT
I'm not sure how to break this to you Herschel, turning a Windows developer on to Firefox?..

(sigh) Yeah, I guess it makes the cut, this time. LOL!

Seriously though, major kudos to you for turning him on to Firefox. The fact that he was even willing to try it says a lot about how you approached it.

Firefox was the very first OSS program I ever used, and look what it did to me?

Its a crying shame I tell ya, a crying shame. :-)

grouch: A couple of months ago a friend of mine called me and asked me for help because his computer had become practically unusable. My friend is not a techie at all but he knew that I used Linux instead of Windows because I had offered to fix his computer before when he had complained about it a couple of times and had politely rebuffed me.

I said "You know if I fix it the first thing I'm going to do is switch it over to linux?", he said "I know but I don't care anymore, I just want it to work." He told me later that it was because I didn't get mad about him saying no to me all those times that he asked me instead of someone else.

I showed some patience and it paid off. For me and Him.

Mar 16, 2006
11:28 AM EDT

I have so many examples, I don't really know where to start. I started converting NT servers to Linux with samba around eight years ago. Then I discovered Cobalt's RaQ 2 and people liked it a lot. I didn't even have to tell them it was GNU/Linux and then I did. So, most of what I did focused around the server area.

When I started our 1-800 pay-per-incident call center, almost everyone was a server customer. I didn't start seeing desktop customers until KDE came out. we had very few gnome users in the beginning.

Sam Hiser and I decided to write a book that was strictly about how to use a Linux Desktop. We didn't have any command line tasks in it. We chose to use Sun's JDS Desktop and put their Lice CD in it. (That's not a typo). They took Morphix and used it and forgot to tell the Morphix people.

That was my best conversion tool. I used it to get into many doors, especially at Universities. I would suggest they sign the free Sun StarOffice deal and then put firefox on their download servers.

I've also stopped people from buying Office in the isle of stores like OfficeMax and told people about

I should get some business cards and make some CD's of and put Firefox on it and hand them out.

Mostly, I talk about Linux and they say they use another brand of air conditioning system. Maybe we should carry a few Lennox press releases.

Mar 16, 2006
12:29 PM EDT
pogson, You're my hero. If only I could get the local school system to try such things. They do have some ancient versions of Red Hat hiding in the back room and they have (finally!) spread around.

Regarding dual boot, the time I described was a special situation. His computer was not going to be connected to any network. There wasn't time to do a proper custom installation to make sure he had everything he needed _and_ knew how to get to it. He's a mechanic and launching his own business. It's fairly easy to anticipate typical computer needs, but not so easy to anticipate the needs of a novice computer user who is also a novice at running a business.

He was familiar with using MS Windows for looking up specs and parts in a jobber database, printing diagnostics charts, etc. from that, and kicking that OS in the head in various ways when it went comatose. His only experience with GNU/Linux was in using Firefox and Pysol a few times. Providing the option to dual boot gave him a more familiar environment to fall back to until he had time to contact me.

After showing him how to enter formulas in a spreadsheet, he's now using to record transactions until we can come up with something better. (GNUCash is too little; sql-ledger is too much). Knowing how specialized his computer usage has been in the past (that one custom jobber database 'app'), I was impressed with his use of that KDE calendar thing to serve as a customer database.

Neither of us will be happy until he can remove MS from even his old computer and find some supplier of the parts and diagnostics data without requiring MS.


tadelste, How about: Linux -- it's cool Lennox -- it cools.

Mar 16, 2006
1:13 PM EDT
Quoting:Linux -- it's cool Lennox -- it cools.

Gotta do it. Must do. sending this to Lennox corporate headquarters.

Mar 16, 2006
1:22 PM EDT
Too bad Lennox corporate will never get it :(

Mar 16, 2006
2:43 PM EDT
Yes they will...Let me know Tom if you do not hear anything back from them..



Mar 16, 2006
3:49 PM EDT
So if I buy a 'Lennox Linux' computer will it keep me as cool as it is?

Oh I'm good..LOL

Mar 16, 2006
5:13 PM EDT

> Oh I'm good

Yes. And when we figure what for we'll be sure to let you know. :)

Mar 16, 2006
5:22 PM EDT
You got me. You got me good. :-)

So jdixon, Do you have any stories to tell? And I'm not taking the "I don't have any" excuse either.

You gotta have at least one good one?

Your good for something, right?


Mar 16, 2006
6:32 PM EDT
I prefer Carrier, myself. Horrible name for an OS, though.

Mar 16, 2006
7:20 PM EDT
> Your good for something, right?

Well, that's a debated subject. :)

I work at for a Windows centric company, and I'm not high enough in the food chain to have any real say in matters. So implementing Linux at work is out. I've mention Linux to a dozen or so coworkers and handed out a half dozen or so CD's, but the only person I've had any luck convincing to switch so far is my wife. She's now running dual Slackware and Windows boxes, Slackware for Internet tasks and Windows for games. That's working fairly well. Of course, we've been running a Slackware box as a firewall for 7 years or more, and I've been running a Slackware desktop for about the same amount of time (ever since I saw what Microsoft had done with Windows 98).

Mar 18, 2006
5:54 AM EDT

Here is a thread that cubrewer started when he read the "How to give.." article. I copied it over to here because we spoke of exactly what we talk about there.

Its all about the info people! :-)


cubrewer Mar 14, 2006 1:55 PM

I have tried giving away older PC's with Linux, for all the reasons Scott outlines. I found that many people who don't already have a computer (of their own) are put off by not having the same thing as everyone else. They think that it's inferior because it's free. I think a partial antidote to this is to (1) re-assure the person that you use Linux every day (you do, right?) and (2) to offer to help and coach them when they have trouble.

There also will come a time when you have to explain why their Linux PC won't run program X (whatever X is, it may have a Linux analog or it may be something esoteric and Windows-only like the St. Jude's Math-a-thon CD or the latest cool PC game). Not having an AOL email client used to be a problem for people who wanted .. "email with training wheels" but web-based email is getting so easy to use...

When this happens, it never hurts to mention how restrictive Windows licensing is...


sharkscott Mar 14, 2006 2:37 PM

Quoted: "They think that it's inferior because it's free. I think a partial antidote to this is to (1) re-assure the person that you use Linux every day (you do, right?) and (2) to offer to help and coach them when they have trouble."

cubrewer, Yes I do.

1. I make sure to tell them that it is the ONLY operating system I use as many times as I can. If I get the chance I will talk about everything I use it for. I ask them what they use their computer for and find something I do on my computer that is similar to what they do on theirs, which is key. Being able to talk about something that the customer can relate to drastically increases the chances that they will remember what you talked about, and that it was about Linux.

2. I offer my phone number and e-mail to everyone I talk to about Linux that buys a retail box or takes a burned CD I give them. I always make sure to have several copies of a good 'live' distro to give away to the people that are interested but to afraid or indecisive about buying a retail box.

Don't tell anyone about the CD's though, OK? :-)


helios Mar 14, 2006 5:17 PM

Having been in the advocacy business for less than two years, I will share with you a tactic that may seem counter-productive, but has worked more often than not.

People HAVE heard about Linux. They have heard that it is difficult, that it is buggy and that it is only for geeks. People also have a strong aversion to change. This is what I do. When I enter into a conversation with anyone about computers I ask them if they use Windows. Most simply say yes. I then do a facial "cringe" and then say something like "man, I am sorry." That will provoke many to inquire as to why I would react that way. I then tell them that I used Windows for 10 years and it almost ruined my business. I then tell them that I and my business and all my family members/household computers only run Linux. If they ask about it further I tell them. If they just nod and do not pursue the matter, I act as if I am ending the conversation by saying something like, "It's a shame someone would take advantage of you like that." This normally rejuvenates the conversation and I fairly well follow Scott's model of introduction. People hate to think they are being left out of something or are being played for a sucker.

All is fair in love, war, and market share. I do my best to take a chunk of the latter on behalf of GNU/Linux


sharkscott Mar 14, 2006 5:33 PM

Helios: You have stated a tactic I DO use, I was just unsure of how to present it. I do the facial cringe without trying I have been told.

You are right that it rejuvenates the conversation, You talk of your business, I talk about my "everyday problems" and how it made me feel. I usually say something to the effect "I got tired of hating my computer". The phrase changes a little from conversation to conversation but it usually works.

Thank You for the vote of confidence.."I fairly well follow Scott's model of introduction", its nice to know I am not all the way out in left field.

For the record, and I am sure you would agree, I DO NOT and WILL NOT EVER try to 'dupe' or lie to someone, this is about trying to get and keep someone engaged in a conversation. The Truth has its own power of persuasion.

Quoted: "All is fair in love, war, and market share. I do my best to take a chunk of the latter on behalf of GNU/Linux"

I could not have said it better myself.


Mar 19, 2006
4:53 PM EDT
I have to preface this story.

At the store I Rep out of everyone who works there knows that I use Linux and in all the time I have been at this particular store(almost a year) not a single person has asked me for any info about it, ever. I have never tried to push Linux on any of the employees just as I have not pushed it on customers, I don't need too. If I did it would just get me 86'ed and/or fired anyway.

Today at work one of the store employees pulls me aside and says "You use Linux right?". He tells me that he really wants to check it out but he doesn't want to "damage" his computer.

Without skipping a beat I say to him, "I have a version of Linux that will run from your CD-ROM drive and it will not change any of your Windows settings or delete any information off your computer."

I did not repeat the word "damage" in my description of the Live-CD I spoke of. I am certain that the word "damage" was put in his head by someone or something but by not repeating it and instead just explained to him how he could boot into it and check it out. He's like "really?".

What kills me is that he is one of the "techies" at the store and here he is asking me of all people what Linux is, like I know what I'm talking about!

If he only knew, If he only knew. :-)

Mar 23, 2006
9:10 PM EDT
Hi. As you can see, this is my first post here.

Well, I have two brief stories for you. One is about how I was converted to Linux, and the other is about how my girlfriend is finding out that computing can actually be a pleasant experience.

I've been using computers for years, the first one being a legendary Commodore 64 (which I still have :-D ). I don't really know how it is that I hadn't tried Linux before, I guess I found out about it too late, when I decided I didn't want to be a Software Engineer but a piano player. The thing is, for a while I got "disconnected" from the computer scene; eventually I came back. A couple of years ago I took up a subject I guess I could translate as "Computers in Music". We had a young professor who showed us many exciting things, including how to turn a SB Live! into a SB Audigy with just a few, cheap electronic components, and Linux. It was just one class, with a Live CD, but it was enough to hook me. So, what Linux did to get me was that it allowed me to feel something I though I'd never feel again: the excitement of tampering with my MS-DOS configuration, of trying new things in my C64's Basic, of learning how to use a computer. By the way, I'm sort of a graphics designer as well, so I'm one of those guys who LOVES good-looking desktops. Linux also got me because of its looks and customization capabilities. KDE rocks.

My girlfriend, on the other hand, knows very little about computers (she got her first one barely three years ago). She's a child of the Windows Age. Words such as 'directory', 'executable', and many basic facts about how a computer works are alien to her. I haven't got her to use Linux yet, but I've got her interested on it by telling her that she'd be forever free of spyware (a blissful situation as alien to her as those concepts mentioned above). These days, she is learning to use it on my box. I change XP's skins all the time and she knows it, so sometimes, at first, she complained that I had uninstalled IncrediMail, when in fact she couldn't find it because she was using Linux. She laughed at this and reckoned (in amazement) that it was very comfortable to use (We're talking about SUSE + KDE 3.5 + My customizations) (That's for people who claim that Linux is too different and that no novice user can bridge that gap).

Well, that's it, actually. Hope you liked it :)

Mar 23, 2006
11:07 PM EDT
Quote: "Well, that's it, actually. Hope you liked it :)"

Liked it! I think its great!!

Your talking to the King of "disconnected", I have been a semi-professional drummer for twenty years, along with doing the "jack-of-all-trades" routine to keep myself alive. I got my first computer in 1999. I am writing to you from the second one.

If you have any examples of conversations you have had that have helped you to explain or turn someone on to Linux, I would love to hear it.

That's what this is about, sharing experiences and ideas and you have done just that.

As my 'boss' would say, "Go forth and Conquer"

If you are able to get your girlfriend to switch, tell me how you did it. I have had my own issues in getting the 'women' of my life to check it out. Then again, I don't think that Linux was the issue. :-)


Mar 23, 2006
11:15 PM EDT
Tip: make it fit the user. Don't just dump a generic desktop on her. Find out what she wants to do with it, first. Make it _look_ the way she wants it. Hang around and find out whether she prefers simple and stable, or decorative and easily changed.

Mostly, nail down what she actually does with a computer.

1. Observe. 2. Customize. 3. Support.

The benefits after you do that will be self-evident to her.

Mar 23, 2006
11:42 PM EDT
Yes, Yes, Yes! Grouch said everything I did not DP. Thanks for picking up my slack grouch. It was in my mind but did not make it to the page. When I am talking with someone the first question I ask is, "So, what do you like to do on your computer?" or, "What is it that you do the most?" When I ask about what they do the most, I always refer to functions, not program names. Most people do not think of the name of the program they are using, only what it does. There is nothing wrong with that at all. Humans think of what they are doing before they think of what they are using to do it. Example: "What did you do today?" - "I cleaned the living room and put up some pictures" Not: "What did you do today?" - "I used the vacuum, hammer and nails in the living room today" I hope I helped.


Apr 18, 2006
1:24 AM EDT
Hello all, I stumbled into the same thread as these two LXer's, talking about some of the experiences they have had with family members.

Its rather syncronistic that after all the time that I have used Linux that my Mom just today e-mailed me and asked if I would "set her up with Linux".

I told her I'd think about it. :-)




Apr 10, 2006 9:18 AM

I put Ubuntu on my Dad's computer a few months ago. I set him up with firefox, thunderbird (he was using crappy webmail), openoffice, configured his printer and sound and now he's happy! I had to do something because his windows box got so corrupted with viruses and it was so slow to surf the web that he didn't use it anymore. He kept insisting that I install a virus scanner on Ubuntu, but I kept telling him he wouldn't need one :-)

My dad only uses basic functionality and so I knew it would be fine for him, but the rest of my family I don't feel confident recommending it to yet. My brother works in an office with a bunch of other people. I think he'd be scared to use OpenOffice. He should start by using that on Windows and if that goes well, then he could probably make the switch. I do agree with Bob and people are ready to switch--we just need to make Linux ready for them!

I believe that FireFox + Thunderbird + OpenOffice + multimedia & accessories is all that is required to convert people. Most people don't use more than that, and many don't even have Office because its so expensive! Linux can provide much more with apps like Inkscape, Gimp, Audacity, educational games for kids, etc., but we just have to meet the minimum bar first.

And again, I just think there are weirdnesses to be fixed, as richo123 mentioned. We all have our own list, but the list isn't that large and it just needs to be done. Fixing bugs is grueling work, I know.

It could take 2-3 years, but that is a long time in the 21st century. Google is only 7 years old. Linux is gaining momentum, doing very well on the server and in the embedded space and I believe it is at an inflection point on the desktop. We just don't realize it because Windows and Microsoft have been such a dominant force in computing for so long.

I hope you found my article some food for thought,




Apr 17, 2006 2:12 PM

My mother recently was wrestling with her laptop, and said, "My next computer you can install Linux."

I told her, "No problem. When you're sick of Windows, we'll make *this* computer your *next* computer by installing Linux."

Her favorite game runs under WINE already, it's trivial to test the rest of them first. :^)


May 02, 2006
3:20 AM EDT
'redneck'-humor .... lol... -->

May 02, 2006
7:12 AM EDT
Off-topic to Scott_Ruecker:

A long, unbroken string of '---' creates a long horizontal scroll-bar for me. Apparently the comment handling routines here are like most elsewhere in that they don't force a whitespace in very long lines to avoid this problem. Some of us have old, abused eyes and have to use large fonts. Some people use tiny fonts. When those who use tiny fonts assume that everyone has the same screen-width available, by character count, it results in long horizontal scroll-bars. Browsers use whitespace as breaking points for lines.

IMO, the comment-handling routine(s) should insert a space every certain number of characters in any long, unbroken string of characters that are not within an

May 02, 2006
7:01 PM EDT
A friend of mine, a complete and utter technophobe, came to me with a request: get him online. He needed to "do" e-mail, because he had been appointed General Manager for a local hockey league.

He had a fairly top-of-the-line-when-purchased IBM Pentium II running Win98, which had last been online about 4 years previously. That would have been the last time it had been patched and its antivirus software had had its definitions updated. At the time of purchase, firewalls were not generally available on home PC's, so he didn't have that.

Both of us realized his poor little PC would be meat on the table for any hacker. He knew I used Linux, and knew I didn't have to worry about viruses or worms.

As he'd still need Windows for one program (he's an elementary school teacher and the local school system has their teachers use a Windows program to do their report cards), I dual-booted his machine, installing a larger hard drive and an ethernet card. He still doesn't use his browser - no need, yet - but he has no problem sending and receiving e-mail. Took me about four Sundays to train him how to USE his e-mail - he'd never used it before, and was too terrified of "doing something" that would destroy the computer to experiment on his own. After a year, he's a happy (if still technophobic) Linux user. He boots into Windows three days a year: to do report cards.

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