[kwlug-disc] interesting piece on the power of open source

Charles M chaslinux at gmail.com
Thu Dec 3 17:51:19 EST 2009

>> On the desktop, the 70% working is not FLOSS's fault but HW vendor support. As FLOSS is more

As both a Community MAR (http://www.techsoup.org/mar/default.aspx) and
a point of Linux support we've seen an increased demand for Linux the
past couple of years on the desktop. We're pretty much all
volunteer-based and many volunteers come in with pre-conceived notions
about Linux because of FUD or a bad experience with some piece of
hardware. They often get surprised by how much easier they end up
finding Linux is to support.

For example: one of the initiatives we recently started was
refurbishing inkjet printers. I asked one of the volunteers to plug a
Canon i850 into one of our Karmic Koala machines. Karmic found the
printer without the volunteer doing any clicking and became available
almost right away -- no driver to install. To support that printer
under Windows XP we'd have to download the drivers, burn them to CD,
and either set up autorun to automatically run the installer when the
CD is inserted (taking more of our time) or print something explaining
how to install the drivers. Yes, we run into problem
printers/equipment. So what I did was set up an internal search-able
Drupal site with some CCK fields and created a custom content type for
"Printer Support." Volunteers can search the site to find out things
like whether the printer is supported under Ubuntu, how many ink
cartridges the printer takes, etc. Of course there are existing
databases like this on the Internet, but sometimes they don't talk
about what was done to actually get the device working... which is
where having an internal portal helps volunteers, because it's work
done in the shop.

Another example: We had someone buy an Ubuntu system a few weeks back
and they called me asking if they could change it for a Windows
machine. I asked about the problems the person was having with the
machine and it turned out that they couldn't figure out how to chat on
MSN. Once I talked them into setting up Pidgin and explained that it
could also be used to chat on Yahoo within the same program the person
was happy. I also mentioned that if they had other questions to feel
free to do exactly what they did, call us or drop in.

Of course not everyone can offer free phone support, but we try to
make sure we take care of questions people have with Linux boxes
within a certain period.

> enough force to overcome that inertia.  We have to be better.

The biggest problem we face is FUD/Marketing. Linux isn't a perfect
solution in all cases for everyone, but we're using and trying to
support it more. Volunteer skill isn't actually as much of an issue as
having some checklists and procedures down. And it definitely helps
that all our machines in Computer Recycling except one run Linux.
We're not just talking about how great Linux is, but using it on
almost all our machines. Where we do tend to fall down is my actually
time to do some of the checklists and testing, but even that's
improved quite a bit the past few months with more and more volunteers
coming in with Linux knowledge. Just today I walked past a new
volunteer who was helping another set up something under WINE.

I agree that upgrades are sometimes a royal pain, having run into it
myself with Myth-boxes, and some of my own home boxes where software
broke after an upgrade, but it's not nearly as frustrating as working
with machines filled with malware day after day. I joked once before
with some of the volunteers that we needed a sliding scale for the
cost of fixing malware machines, bring it in once and we won't charge
a whole lot, but each subsequent time we're going to double the
price... some days I really want to implement it. Installing
antivirus/antimalware doesn't help when bad habits lead people to
reinstall the malware. Education helps, but we still get clients who
reinfect their systems (and blame it on the kids *wink*). Of course
these kind of problems keep us busy, so we certainly can't complain,
but if I had my choice of problems to solve I'd rather try to get some
obscure piece of hardware working with Linux than fixing malware

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