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The HeliOS Project is now.....
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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Linux Adaptation - The Backdoor Method

Confrontation is rarely the best path to communication.  Fact is...confrontation is by my understanding, a one-sided communication with the expectation of a singular response.

Not exactly the best conduit for dialog.

But there are exceptions to every rule and some patterns need broken to establish new ideas.  Sometimes the act of denying someone a specific thing evokes a stronger desire for that person to possess it.

How do you think the whole "play hard to get" thing got traction throughout the years?

Seems to be, as far as I can tell, it's the complex and contradictory intangible we call human nature.

There were 7 of us gathered at a local watering hole down on 6th Street in Austin.  Just a few friends and associates who had run into each other and decided to pull a couple of tables together and share some time.  A couple of them I knew, one was someone I ran into professionally on a regular basis...we all had links to each other in one way or another by various degrees of separation. 

but none of those links had much to do with technology or computers.

Until then.

Several of us had recently gotten off work and had our laptops or mini's with us.  There were three on the table and one of us mentioned a particular clip on  I opened my laptop and opened a browser to the mentioned link.  It was some contentious exchange between help desk technicians that devolved into a pushing match and ultimately...high-pitched screaming.

Modern-day warriors among the cubicles.

While my Acer was on the table, I absently spun to the next desktop on  my machine and opened a document that I wanted to share with one of my table-mates.

The guy next to me stopped cold.

"What did you just do"?

I glanced over at him.  "What do you mean?"

That spinny thing on your did you do that?"

I manipulated the touch pad and dropped the desktop to a cube with Atlantis in the background.    I spun it and angled it so the top and bottom cap could be seen.

"You mean this?"

The guy on the other side of me heard the conversation and looked over.

"What program is that.  Is it freeware?"

I shook my head without looking over at him.

No, it's not a program.  It's Linux.  It's an operating system with 3D capability.

"Like AutoCad?"

I shook my head again and answered a bit impatiently.

"No, not like AutoCad.  It isn't an application or program for Windows.  In fact, your Windows computer can't do this.  These are different desktops, all individual from one another and I can do different things on each one of them at different times." 

I opened the desktop configuration gui and expanded the number of desktops to 8 and then started flipping between them as I opened different applications on each environment.  By then, everyone at the table was trying to get into position to see the Acer.  They were talking about how nice it would be to encapsulate a number of tasks and leave them in various states of completion without worrying about losing their work when they switched between them.

Then I hit the shortcut for the water drop effect.

Simple things capture simple minds...or so it would seem.

I didn't much feel like doing the whole welcome to Linux thing...I do appreciate some time outside the box so to speak so I switched it back to "no effects" and closed the lid.

The guy who first noticed the desktop asked me how he could make his computer do the same thing.  I just shrugged.

"Unless you are willing to use a system without training wheels, you probably can't."

I just left it hang there.  I didn't mean a word of it, It just felt good to say it.

He scowled for a second or two.

"What the hell does that mean"?

I laughed and held up my hands in a disarming manner.  "It doesn't mean anything really.  Most people who use Windows are stuck in that mindset and can't fathom that there are different ways to use a computer.  Mental laziness on our part'd probably play with it or 30 minutes then give up."

Paul, the one guy at the table I did know grinned and took a pull from his beer.

 "You're givin' him 15 more minutes than I would."

 A couple of the guys laughed.

But that's the point...whether it's mental laziness or any other excuse, the majority of people presented with change, even for the better; will status quo themselves into inertia.  At least to my experience.

Paul called me early yesterday morning and reminded me about this little exchange from last week.  He seemed amused.

"You remember that yuppie throwback that liked your desktop at the bar?"

I mentioned that I did.

"Him and that tall guy are brothers and they work in Asset Development here.  We had a meeting Monday and I noticed that both of them were using Linux on their laptops.  He was showing me how easy it was."

I just smiled to myself and told him he needed to bring more of the female staff on the next boys night out.  He said he would.

Sometimes the direct sell method isn't the best way to close the deal.

How do you think the whole "play hard to get" thing got traction throughout the years?

That method is successful in any number of applications.

 All-Righty Then...


Anonymous said...

In a way, it's a shame that it takes 'that spinning cube thing' to get people's attention. Still, the 'oooh shiny thing!' followed by a little hard-to-get is as valid an approach as any, I suppose.

It'd be nice to think the laptop I'm typing this on would also get noticed. Only from the point of view that it's the best part of 10 years old but has a full blown KDE3 system running on it. It's a Dell Latitude CPx that even my kids have discarded. LOL. With a little thought into what apps I run on it and as Linux allows me to run heavy apps across my home network from my much beefier desktop, it's a perfectly useful tool. You'd like to think that there are people that appreciate those capabilities above eye candy...

As an aside, good to see a Helios blog post again!

Unknown said...

Shocking people out of apathy is very delicate art. I wonder if the great experience you have or the beers you (or they) drank had more influence. :-) Either way, very cool as always. Both story and effects.

Anonymous said...

Dude, you inspire me. Rock on!

Cytrs said...

How could they not know about Linux?

I'm 16 and a year or two ago went to a gentoo based distro with gnome for ~8 months (needed win apps that didn't work in WINE or virtual machine, so forced to switch to a win machine as main). And, although i'm pretty sure you weren't serious when you mentioned the difficulty, it was rather easy and only required a small amount of time in the command line. sadly, the packet manager was unusable, so i just ended up using the command line to do the whole tar ball thing. which did take a bit to get all my apps up.

Anonymous said...

You are the greatest! While I haven't exactly gotten even close to your level, I have actually had someone ASK me to install Linux on their system. "I'm tired of how slow Windows runs" was their comment.

Keep it up and the small battles will win the war.


PV said...

This is probably the most enjoyable blog I read by a mile. I simultaneously manage to LOL and be inspired; it's something only you can do.
That said, I have 2 questions for you. I have already turned 2 people to Linux (one Ubuntu, one Linux Mint) and they haven't turned back; that said, if I could get more, that would be great.
Your comments on the spinning desktop cube reminded me that because of the admittedly poor Linux support for ATI Radeon R200 cards, though my graphics card could theoretically handle the cube, it can't do it. Is there anything else you would recommend that I do that would easily hook apathetic Windows users onto Linux (when demonstrating on my computer)? I feel like everything else (besides Compiz effects) is pretty mundane to the regular user.
The other thing is that my school's community service club does an annual computer drive. I thought of the Helios organization and thought of convincing them to install Linux on the donated computers. As it turns out, the computers are donated to another local organization which does the refurbishing and redistribution; I can't say this for sure, but they probably install Windows on those computers. I have asked a manager of this organization what operating system they use, and the manager won't say for sure. I know about the whole cost-effectiveness and ease-of-use cases FOR Linux, but is there any particular method I should employ when making my case? You know best, as you have been making these cases to people for years.
a Linux Mint user since 2009 May 1

Allison Crawford said...

I understand exactly what you say. It took me some time to get used to osx after using windows all my life, but now I`d never go back.

Amenditman said...

Great approach Ken.

We need to get Christian involved and do this as a setup. Like the old 'You're on Candid Camera'.

Hey, that's a great idea. I just came up with for THE Linux commercial.

Anybody besides Ken got the skills to pull it off, he's got enough plates spinning. I know I couldn't keep a straight face long enough to put this over on poor, unsuspecting computer users.

As always, it's fun hanging with helios.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree with you more about laziness. Just look at all the people who simply ask others for the answer even before trying to analyze the situation by themselves, whatever the problem might be. It's the default behavior for so many people. Good post mate.

Anonymous said...

How could they not know about Linux?

Spend some time in the corporate world and you would see the answer to your question. The Enterprise is driven by Windows and home users who work generally use the same thing they use at work. I've seen people with computers so fouled up, so tainted with viruses and spyware that they had to reinstall. Some do it as a matter of course every six months or so. Why don't they switch? Either they don't know they have a choice OR and is mostly the case, they are too stinking lazy mentally to change. They rather go through the time-consuming routine they know than learn something that would show them how to avoid all of that.

I say let them wallow in their ignorance. I don't mind charging them 75 bucks an hour to repeatedly fix the same problems year after year.

Anonymous said...

While visiting my bro in Canada last year (an IT specialist) I bought a new Vaio and installed Debian on it with Icewm. He was eager to see a modern Linux system, but when he saw mine, his face dropped like his curiosity, and that was the end of it.

He emailed me a little while ago and he mentioned a system failure. I told him about Live cd's and, to my astonishment, he had never heard of them! This exchange led to mentioning compiz. He's now running Linux...

Point is; compiz sold him!

Mr. Doran said...

I am an 8th grade science and math teacher who has used Linux for about 4 years. I can tell you that the resistance people demonstrate towards using Linux has the same roots as the resistance my students show towards learning new concepts in math. Each day I try to get students to move beyond viewing math as nothing more than addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Not a day passes without a student telling me that the first step in solving a problem is "Multiply". Students make this type of response because it is easier to calculate than to think about and analyze a problem, even if it means they will more often than not get the wrong answer.

Most Windows users will resist moving to Linux because it is easier to just point and click as they always have than it is to think about using a computer in a new way. Malware, viruses, high proprietary software costs, continual hardware upgrades are all less threatening to them than the threat of leaving the comfort zone of just pointing and clicking like they have always done.

In teaching math, I have found only a couple of ways to get students to move from just mindlessly calculating to really thinking. The first way is through the threat of failing grades. The second is when I am able to present a concept in such a way that the response is "Cool", not "Multiply". I think the posts here show that getting people to adopt Linux operates in much the same way. System failures due to Windows defects are the equivalent of getting an F. Compiz obviously elicits "Cool".

Helios has the best method, though, of getting people to adopt Linux -- get kids to use it. If kids grow up using Linux, they won't be locked into the Microsoft point and click mentality. The more projects like Helios there are, the more likely we can move beyond the Microsoft monopoly.

Anonymous said...

I was thinking about "Most Windows users will resist moving to Linux because it is easier to just point and click as they always have than it is to think about using a computer in a new way."

Actually, when you think about this, Windows is not that easy to learn. EVERYTHING has to be learned. People take Windows as a "given". Kids will learn anything, because when you're young, life is all about learning. That's their "given".

It's similar to classical music. Not every kid is going to like it, but if they're never exposed to it, it's guaranteed that they won't know about it.

And they are naturally curious. Spinning cubes not required until they become adults, and lose most of their natural curiosity.

Gavin said...

The "tough love" approach, huh? Haha! I love it! Bruise their ego and watch them fly on their own. Only you could do that and not get in a fist fight, Ken!

I often like to show people Linux using live CD's. It amazes people that their computer can run from a CD. They incredulously ask, "It doesn't need a hard drive?", to which I respond, "Why would your computer need a hard drive?" I am testing a system at home right now without a hard drive installed. Puppy 4.31 is cranking away just fine. Connects to the internet, surfs the web, plays some basic games - what more do most people really need?

The IT field is another matter. There are so many topics under the blanket term of "IT" that it is unreasonable to expect every "IT Pro" to know of the existence of every computer technology. Developers often do not know of the existence of storage HBA's, network architects often do not study OpenGL specs, CIO's often do not test every mobile phone platform, and IT project managers often do not use more than one browser. Just because someone is "in IT" does not mean they keep their eye on everything that passes through a transistor. Dozens of different titles and job descriptions exist for a reason: there is too much for one person to learn.

Now, that being said, it is 2010. GNU as a project turns 30 soon, and Linux as a kernel turns 20 soon. (By the way, how old is Windows?) Any respectable person who is "in IT" should by now know of the existence of free software, and open source, and freeware, etc. It is inexcusable to NOT know by now. As a bonus, IT people should also by now either have first-hand experience with a non-Windows operating system or know someone who does. It is in the best interest of every company's bottom line to have solid information on alternative software by now, even if a company decides not to use it. NYSE knows. Does your company?

Mathematics is fun! Everyone knows that! Right?...

One of my favorite math problems:

"Two trains 150 miles apart are traveling toward each other along the same track. The first train goes 60 miles per hour; the second train rushes along at 90 miles per hour. A fly is hovering just above the nose of the first train. It buzzes from the first train to the second train, turns around immediately, flies back to the first train, and turns around again. It goes on flying back and forth between the two trains until they collide. If the fly's speed is 120 miles per hour, how far will it travel?"

Variations of this problem exist, but the overall approach is the same. This is a question of time, not distance. Likewise is the sum of the first 100 non-zero integers - quite a story there! Or the elegant geometric proof of the Pythagorean Theorem:

Or perhaps you are more of a fan of parametric equations? How do you turn a circle into a spiral?

Need something more advanced? Keep up with the latest in number theory! Explore the relationships of numbers, especially primes:

Oh the fun never ends! How about a basic introduction to fixed-point mathematics as they relate to UNIX/Linux load averages?

Or maybe you just need to kick back with some binary FPU fun? Single-precision vs double-precision, anyone?

Mantissa ftw!!

SirYes said...

Ken, Ken, Ken. A couple of years ago you would evangelize the guy from the bottom to the top. Now, you've just left him curious, after stepping a bit on his honour.
You sound like you've grown up (even though you're older than me IIRC). I'm proud of you, sniff...

Unknown said...

"Malware, viruses, high proprietary software costs, continual hardware upgrades are all less threatening to them than the threat of leaving the comfort zone of just pointing and clicking like they have always done."

Thats a very sad but true fact. Great entry! I've had a couple encounters like this that have helped me sway users to Linux and yes - compiz is a wonderful eye catcher and sales tool :)


Larry Henry said...

Good morning...your blog and coffee...I use Puppy Linux Lucid Puppy 5.2.8+500 on my PC. I tried various Puppy derivatives and this one seems to match my hardware the best.

I spent all day yesterday redoing my roomies PC BACK to Windows Vista with her recover disk, which i couldn't use at first. I fired up my Puppy Live CD and took a look at her "C" partition. it had an error (triangle with an exclamation mark in it. Message said the file table was corrupted...her fault she did a hard boot with an install printer cd in the drive. The recover CD would not work because the partition was corrupted and nothing i could do would read it. Used every trick i knew to recover her files but the partition was so damaged it could not be read.

I used "G-Parted to re-format it back to "NTSF" and tried the recover CD worked this time. By the time I reloaded Vista and let it grab all the "updates" from Microsoft 4 hours had passed. It took another 2 hours to grab Service Pack 2 and it's subordinate software from "Upgrade" to install Explorer-9. I had showed her the latest Puppy (5.7.1) on a USB stick and tried to get her to let me put it on her PC...No No No..."I want Vista"...ok....whatever....LOL
(note she thinks PCs are "possessed" for a better word...)

Well i am back on my Puppy syster writing this and it's like a breath of fresh air after Vista...

I want to do what you do in Austin but start it in Indianapolis...

BTW I spent 26 years in Mainframes at a local factory. Y2K lost me my job to a server system and i learned on the job and had no degree so i don't get hired. Gotta have a sheepskin these i "putter" with PCs and help my friends when they screw up theirs...

Larry Henry.