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HOWTO: Convert A Friend To Linux


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Warning: You should proceed with caution using this Howto, if you do not know what you are doing you could damage your relationship with Friend 2.0 or totally break it. Also, using this Howto extensively with multiple Friend 2.0’s may damage Life 4.5, and end up as a sorrow lonely geek.

Prerequisites :

Before attempting to convert Friend to Linux, there are some major tweaks you need to do. If you already done these tweaks and living by them then good for you, if not then doing this is a MUST:

First of all you need to have a Friend first to convert before attempting to convert. And in order to have a Friend you need to have a Life right? Let me try to make it simpler for you my fellow geek: Now you have a package named whatever-3.42.tar.gz, what will you do? Untar it, then configure, make, make install right? But you will need a compiler first right? Now think of Life as your compiler, all of us have Life, but we need to recompile Life first using the -lessgeek and -moreoutgoing flags in order to create Life suitable for Friend. So in Life directory do the following:

sudo make install -lessgeek -moreoutgoing

This will take sometime, just like any compilation. What I am saying here isn’t STOP being a geek, you and I are proud of our geekdom. What I am saying is get out more, meet new people, reestablish old relationships. Be tactful with your Linux evangelism, don’t come off so hard! If you find uninterest from others don’t push it, there are other fish in the sea. You might want to run this command to help you get this done:

sudo umount /media/geek1
sudo mkdir /media/social
sudo mount /dev/social1 /media/social

After a while, and if you are doing things right, a couple versions of Friend will be installed and ready for conversion. :D

Luckily this step will not ruin or break Life, in fact it will probably advance it, and advance Linux popularity as well.

Before You Proceed:

All kidding aside, this is the most critical step, converting a friend and not doing it right could damage your relationship with your friend, and if not it WILL damage Linux’s image. It will come off as an unfriendly, complicated, and archaic OS. Letting this happen is a disservice to Linux and it’s community and will impede it’s acceptance among others. Word of mouth could make or break any product, ask me I am a marketeer.

I understand how new converts tend to be overzealous about Linux and want to convert everybody. But if you haven’t got all your major problems ironed out then how do you expect to iron out other people’s problems? So unless you got all your wireless, printing, multimedia, networking, display…etc figured out and have a fair understanding on how to get them working on your system. Please don’t try it out on other people’s systems.

Now this might sound a bit condescending, but let me set the record straight. I am no Linux whiz or genius, in fact I believe I know less than 10% of the amazing world of Linux, but I think I got the basics figured out.
Probing:

Most of us already have an abstract sense of how “tech savvy” people around us are. Some seem to be technically proficient while others drown in an inch of water. The latter should be immediately excluded from your “conversion sample”. Focus on those people that you feel have the interest and the expertise to wade into the waters of Linux. Set your eye on 3 or 4 of them and start preaching.
Preaching:

As I already said earlier, don’t come off so hard, be tactful. Don’t talk about Linux all day long, there are other cool stuff besides Linux you know. Whenever a technology subject comes up, talk about how Linux can make it better, not the other way around. Don’t get offended when someone berates Linux, just calmly argue with him and make your point clear, you don’t want to come off as bigoted fanatic do you?
Tools:

As Linux geeks, we know the true potential and power that Linux could offer. But let’s face it, lots of it is just way to geeky for regular folks. Your friend probably won’t be impressed if you talk about ssh and how “cool” it is. Nor will he care if you tell him that you can access the source code and manipulate it the way you deem fit. This stuff is just way to complicated for regular folks to get their heads around.

Instead talk about stuff they could relate to. Security, is a major concern for most people, and Linux has so much to offer in this department! Just telling them that there are no viruses, no worms, no trojans, and no spyware and that you don’t have all your valuable juice sucked up by Mcafee or Norton, will definitely raise a couple of eyebrows.

People are suckers for eyecandy, the guys at Redmond probably were banking solely on this when they came up with Vista, and they didn’t even do a good job at it. So have Compiz installed on your machine! I know that we geeks don’t really fall for such eyecandy, its just a resource hog, but keep it installed just don’t auto launch it. Whenever you wanna dazzle a potential convertee, fire it up. Whirl the cube, wobble, minimize, and shade the windows and they will be gagging for the Linux CD. ;)

In short, keep it simple, don’t get too technical! Talk about GUI’s not CLI’s!

The Conversion:

Find out everything your friend needs in his/her machine. This will help you formulate a rough plan on what exactly to install. Be frank and honest, if your friend is a PC gamer, tell him that gaming is Linux’s Achilles heel. If you are aware of any other limitations that will reduce your friends productivity say it straight out. DON’T CONCEAL!!

If or when you get the nod, proceed to installing everything they might need or require in the future. Setup everything for them. I know you will probably do it from the command line, which will probably intimidate your friend, but politely explain to him that everything you are doing could be done from a GUI (Synaptic, Kuroo, Adept…etc) it’s just that you prefer doing it this way. Also, install wine and set it up, but don’t tell them about it just yet. Leave them explore open source programs before letting them into this little secret. ;)
After Thoughts:

  • Do not leave them high and dry! They will probably call because something “isn’t working” and/or have other general questions. Arrange for a second meeting to solve them and answer all their enquiries.
  • Do not belittle any of their questions or actions. If they download an .EXE file and complain that it doesn’t work, just politely explain why it doesn’t work, and show them to the way to the package manager. :)
  • When you feel that they are comfortable with their new environment, encourage them to learn the command line, and try to simply explain how powerful it is.
  • Encourage them to Google!
  • Encourage them to tweak around, and explain to them that even if you break your system, you will be there to do it all over again.
  • Finally, FOLLOW UP! Take the initiative! Don’t wait for them to call you. You call them and ask if there are any problems they are facing or if they have any questions.

I tried to summarize my experience in conversion, while adding some tongue-in-cheek humor at the beginning. So far, in two year I have successfully converted 6 friends to Linux, and many more attempts that were less successful, but dabbled with Linux nonetheless. I hope you find this an interesting read, and if you have any suggestions or ideas that could be added to it please say so ;)

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