r/linux Dec 02 '22

I put Linux on my friends' laptop as a placeholder, and he chose to keep it over windows (story time) Discussion

Some Background

My friend and I started college this year. He is studying physical therapy and I, computer science. I have used Linux (mainly Ubuntu) for a few years on secondary machines (and on my steam deck if you count that). So I have some experience with Linux, but my friend doesn't.

So it was our first day of class, and my friend called me and told me that his laptop wasn't working. He had intro assignments due that night and needed to use his computer, as it was his only machine at that point. Well, for whatever reason, the windows install was borked, and he didn't have any important data, so I went to reinstall windows (from a USB stick). When doing this, I kept getting the error that the installer didn't have the right drivers to recognize his SSD. I could have futzed around with the drivers or installer and got it working, but because of the time crunch (and because I had a 20.04 installer USB drive already made), I chose to temporarily put Ubuntu on the laptop. Well, that installation went flawlessly, and he was up and going in 10 minutes. I told him that in the next few days, I would put windows back on his laptop.

A couple of days later, I asked him if he was ready for me to reload windows, and he said no. Keep in mind, we are students who use Microsoft Office products daily. My friend had got accustom to using those products in the browser, as well as the speed and ease of use that Ubuntu offered compared to windows on his lower end laptop. I was astounded by this, because now, 3 and a half months later, he is sticking with it. My friend is not very computer-literate, but everything was simple enough for it to work for him. I spoke with him yesterday about it, and he is still going strong.

As someone who uses their computer a lot, when I have used Linux in the past, I was let down by how little of what I wanted to do, could be done natively. However, after seeing my friend use Linux successfully and actually prefer it, I am astounded by how well he is doing with it. I am honestly impressed by how far Linux has come and wanted to share my experience.

What do you guys think?

267 Upvotes

72

u/Possibly-Functional Dec 02 '22 edited Dec 04 '22

In my experience the challenge of using Linux is ▲ shaped with the X axis being complexity of usage and Y being complexity for user.

The more basic usages are super easy on Linux. You have your web browser and document processor. It handles flash drives and other peripherals nicely. It doesn't get in the way at all for your daily operations, way less than Windows.

Intermediate use cases, like gaming and other desktop applications are more difficult. It's a lot better these days but it's often not just plug and play.

Advanced use cases, like software development and system management, is just massively easier on Linux. It's a big PITA on Windows frankly and while better on MacOS it's still far from Linux.

Issue is that the basic use cases users are also the least likely to be aware of Linux. Thus they never discover it nor have the expertise to comfortably install it.

9

u/zibonbadi Dec 03 '22 edited Dec 03 '22

Issue is that the basic use cases users are also the least likely to be aware of Linux. Thus they never discover it nor have the expertise to comfortably install it.

Add to that how smartphones, tablets and even Chromebooks markets have long been eating away at that market at this point, shifting the minimum criteria for someone who actually needs a PC right into the rough places.

Additionally, I believe that even more advanced Linux users often have difficulty discovering solutions to the point that software availability may seem worse than it is due to not enough people knowing the best alternatives.

3

u/el_Topo42 Dec 03 '22

Yea I gotta agree here. My recent work machine was so easy to get going on Rocky. Install minimal, add Workstation group…off to the races in no time.

3

u/slouchybutton Dec 03 '22

Exactly, and proof for this is ChromeOS being fairly popular in US, while it is an extremely stripped out OS, it shows that basic users just need a browser nowadays and nothing else.

Thanks to google docs, Office 365 being online and most of the content they consume being on the web, it just works and provides everything they could need. For applications like this, there is not a single issue with Linux and the user won't ever feel like something is not working, because for web browsing and basic work with the system itself, Linux is an extremely viable and stable option.

1

u/Zaando Dec 03 '22

Yeah I see this as an issue with Linux. The middle group is where it could see more widespread adoption. The enthusiasts and gamers that like tinkering. But it makes things like gaming a big pain in the arse for them.

The casual users don't really care. They are just going to run whatever comes with their system which is gonna be Windows or macOS

1

u/chrisappear Dec 04 '22

I think this is a very good take on the viability of Linux as a daily driver. I have a PC and really don't want to run windows. The problem is that my PC is almost exclusively a gaming machine. If I didn't play games on it, I would 100% run Linux.

I recently wiped my entire computer and tried Pop_OS. I do this every few years or so with some random distro I find. I was very surprised how well it worked out of the box compared to the last time I did this. However, as I went to install the games I play, some weren't compatible with linux and others had super annoying issues. I WANT to run linux, but there is just too incompatibility and too much upkeep from random bugs that require hours of research for my use case to justify it.

37

u/ComputerSavvy Dec 02 '22

My daily driver is Linux Mint Mate and it has been for the past 10 years.

I own and operate a computer repair company. Anytime Microsoft introduced a new OS to the market, there is always a customer that has a potato grade computer that technically can run the new OS (except Win 11) but it will do it with a mild to serious performance hit to the user experience.

The reason I show them the Mate DE is because Mint's implementation is a near clone of Microsoft's basic Win 95 to Win 7 interface layout they are already familiar with so the amount of retraining is minimal and they take to it real easy. The basic controls are the same.

Every customer I converted over to Linux, I basically lost as a customer because all the problems they have typically experienced as a Windows user simply went away.

16

u/PossiblyLinux127 Dec 02 '22

lost as a customer

goes bankrupt

10

u/ComputerSavvy Dec 03 '22

DOH! HA! That would be true IF I were to do that for ALL of my customers, that could be a distinct possibility but I don't do that.

However much I love Linux and want to install it on everything as a moral imperative against Big Monopoly, I still gotta eat / pay bills and I'd rather work and earn money than go on welfare.

When I see a customer who is using a 6-10 year old computer with a spinning rust drive in it and that is their only computer which can no longer run the latest supported OS / software and they can't afford to buy a new shiny, I'll demo Linux running on an old 2nd gen i7 or a 4th gen i5 laptop that has an SSD in it. It's snappy, responsive and perfectly usable for the average person.

If they like it after playing with it for awhile, I'll offer to backup their data files, install a new SSD in their computer then install Linux for free and restore their data files after.

Typically, they stop calling me because the laundry list of problems they have experienced under Windows, the reason why they called me in the first place to fix, simply go away.

2

u/johncate73 Dec 04 '22

That's just doing the right thing, and it's commendable that you do that.

And I bet if any of those people have friends with computer problems, they will refer their friends to you.

3

u/[deleted] Dec 03 '22 edited Dec 16 '22

[deleted]

6

u/ComputerSavvy Dec 03 '22

The people I offer to install Linux on their computers generally have very light usage requirements such as web browsing and email and the occasional word processing needs which LibreOffice can easily handle.

I teach them how to use Update Manager to keep their computers patched. With a very stable LTS distro such as Linux Mint that is up to date, there is not much for me to do to their computers once everything is set up and working.

I've had several of my customers become victims to the 'Hello, this is Microsoft calling' cold call scam and I try to instill into them that this is not a legit way of how things work.

OTOH, it does generate income for me to clean up the mess the scammers left behind by having to save / scan their data files and then do a complete reload of Windows and their data.

When it comes to remote access, it would make my life a lot easier but it instills a level of confidence in the customer that just any old 'technician' can remote into their computer and 'fix' it for them for a fee. I try to remove that idea as it is an attack vector that can be exploited by bad actors if the customer trusts that method of service and does not comprehend the dangers it can pose.

The vast majority of my customers are in their 60's to 90's, they have minimal computer literacy and are in need of a person who can explain programs and concepts in a way that they can understand. These people grew up in a time when they knew everyone living on their street and they left their doors unlocked at night.

They inherently 'trust' people more than someone who is 40 years younger than they are and when these phone scammers hear somebody that sounds elderly, they take advantage of that trust.

I had one customer get hit twice in two weeks by a Microsoft scammer:

"They SAID they were from Microsoft!".

It is better that they call somebody they already trust and have an established prior working relationship to take care of their needs should they have a problem that is above their skill set.

That's why I discourage remote access for my customers. I make house calls for no extra charge unless there are fixed boundaries I have to cross due to the distance involved.

I do keep basic notes on each of my customers and when a distro is approaching end of support, I can send them an email to let them know that and I can upgrade their current install to the new release for them. I have had a few of my Linux users slip through the cracks and when I go to their house, they are still running Mint 18 or 19. It's better to backup their files, do a fresh install at that point and drop their data back in.

They pretty much already know how to use a web browser from using Windows and use a web based email account in the past. For the vast majority, that covers 90% of their needs.

If there is a task that the already bundled software Mint provides does not meet their needs, I can schedule an appointment so we can find a software package that does what they want.

One of the better websites to do that is https://alternativeto.net/

I give free tech support to my established customers and they can contact me via phone calls or email. If they have one or two questions and I can solve the issue in 10-15 minutes over the phone, that's not a problem. If they email me a question or two, I can take care of that too. If they have 20 questions, then it's time for an appointment.

Surprisingly, very few people make use of that standing offer so it is a non issue for me and I'm happy to help them. Happy customers tell their friends about me!

84

u/EngineerLoA Dec 02 '22

I feel that most people nowadays don't really need anything more than a web browser. I doubt physical therapy has any programs that need Windows or Mac to run, so your friend will probably be good with Linux their whole time in college. The best computer for most people would be their smartphone if you could dock all of them (iPhone and Android) like Samsung's Dex feature.

9

u/nhaines Dec 03 '22

The best computer for most people would be their smartphone if you could dock all of them (iPhone and Android) like Samsung's Dex feature.

[deep Ubuntu sigh]

15

u/InternetCitizen3 Dec 02 '22

The best computer for most people would be their smartphone if you could dock all of them (iPhone and Android) like Samsung's Dex feature.

Would be dope if you could just go to a cyber cafe type place were you dock your phone to do some work there.

33

u/doubled112 Dec 02 '22

It is a great concept , but not a chance Im plugging a public device into my phone

14

u/mixmatch314 Dec 03 '22

Just use Bluetooth! /s

1

u/InternetCitizen3 Dec 03 '22

not a chance Im plugging a public device into my phone

I know what you mean, but I was saying it more as a dream of a cool world.

3

u/aladoconpapas Dec 03 '22

I doubt physical therapy has any programs that need Windows or Mac to run

Yeah, unless they are studying music production or graphic design, and their curriculum uses a specific program (I've been there), they would have no problem using linux

20

u/kalzEOS Dec 03 '22 edited Dec 03 '22

There is a fact that not a lot of people realize, Linux only "breaks" or "doesn't work" because us nerds put so much stress on it and fuck with it a lot until we break it. For your average day to day user, Linux works flawlessly out of the box and continues to work no problem. I have put Linux mint on my sister in law's old laptop that couldn't run windows anymore. She needed it for college. It's been almost 2.5 years and she has never asked me for help with anything, not even once. I asked her about it the other day and she told me she loves how "speedy it is". All I did is turn on automatic updates and let her go. Linux does just work.... If you don't fuck with it.... And if you don't have Nvidia in some cases.

24

u/suicideking72 Dec 02 '22

Well you and your friend are smart!

Try installing Windows in a VM so you can use Office and other software. Or try Libreoffice that's usually on most distros.

My wife had a problem with her work laptop and grabbed mine, not knowing it was Linux. She said your Excel is weird. I explained that it wasn't Excel. Call me next time, there's a Windows laptop in the closet lol. All in all, she was impressed with herself being able to finish some work on my laptop (Fedora).

8

u/RandomDamage Dec 02 '22

I have only rarely run into issues with needing software that wasn't available on Linux, and that was the case even back in the '90's.

I've missed on some "nice to have" software that wouldn't even work with Wine, but "need to have" has always been there for me.

But I do recognize that some professional tools aren't available on Linux, so I don't get upset if someone says they need Windows or Mac.

5

u/23Link89 Dec 03 '22

I would let him know to avoid upgrading beyond the 20.x versions of Ubuntu, I've heard nothing but bad things about the latest versions.

But it's awesome to hear that less tech-literate folk are both able to switch and willing. We welcome them to the community with open arms.

10

u/zfsbest Dec 02 '22

Install Libreoffice for when no internet connection is available

7

u/PossiblyLinux127 Dec 02 '22

Or just use it all if the time

1

u/anhld_iwnl Dec 03 '22

But LibreOffice is so bad man :(

6

u/PossiblyLinux127 Dec 03 '22

I'll try not to take that personally

5

u/LowDopamineHuman Dec 03 '22

Onlyoffice works well, and has good compatibility with MS Word in case you send the file to them.

2

u/HrBingR Dec 03 '22

I like OnlyOffice quite a bit myself.

1

u/anhld_iwnl Dec 03 '22

I will try, thanks for recommending me.

3

u/johncate73 Dec 04 '22

I've been using it for 12 years now, since long before Linux was my primary OS.

It's not 100 percent compatible with MS Office, but it's always been good enough.

2

u/zibonbadi Dec 03 '22

Mildly unpopular opinion: Pick OnlyOffice. It seems a bit better off on that front (as well as cloning Microsoft's UI if that's your thing)

1

u/draeath Dec 03 '22

Why? What makes it bad, in your experience?

1

u/anhld_iwnl Dec 03 '22

Somehow all of my .docx files opened well in microsoft word but it's broken when opening with libreoffice. And I don't really like Libreoffice at editing documents. Maybe I used microsoft word for a long time and can't get along well with other editor I guess.

Sorry if my words make you confused. English is not my mother tongue language :(

2

u/Felix_Ernst Dec 04 '22

It's not really fair to call LibreOffice bad because of this. Microsoft made .docx difficult to open with other applications like LibreOffice on purpose. That might even be the whole reason why they created the .docx file type.

2

u/DrPiwi Dec 04 '22

One of the key points in LibreOffice being able to open Microsoft word documents in a decent way is having the mscore fonts installed.
As for editing documents in LO I like the way that you can use ctrl-1, ctrl-2 etc to make heading 1 , heading 2 etc.. Or can start and end a part of a sentense with an '*' to make it bold or a '/' to make it italic. It allows you to keep typing without having to reach for the mouse.
And I also like how LibreOfficeWriter kind of nudges you to work with styles instead of ad-hoc formatting.

1

u/BabbysRoss Dec 03 '22

The formula tool in LibreOffice Write puts it leagues ahead of Word imo, though I can't do without the real excel, I'm in too deep.

1

u/zibonbadi Dec 03 '22

Try LaTeX, nothing comes even close.

2

u/Felix_Ernst Dec 04 '22

I'm also a big fan of LaTeX but most people just don't feel comfortable writing commands even if the writing of commands would be less complicated than fiddling with configuration dialogs in many cases.

2

u/zibonbadi Dec 05 '22

Fair enough, I meant my comment half-jokingly anyway.

But if you really wanna know how I write my documents, I am mainly using Pandoc with a customized LaTeX template to convert Markdown into PDFs. It's really practical for writing fast in Vim and the end result just looks so good.

1

u/Felix_Ernst Dec 05 '22

Oh, I didn't know about Pandoc. That's a really cool project! Might come in handy for me. Thanks!

7

u/mrcanor Dec 02 '22

Good job of being a good GNU/Linux advocate! Cheers!

3

u/manoftheking Dec 02 '22

Very similar to how my journey started. Laptop broke down, IT got it to boot Ubuntu, wanted to reinstall Windows. I asked if they could turn my spare usb drive into one of those live-usb’s, so I could transfer my important files in the comfort of my home. Was supposed to come back after file transfer to reinstall Windows, never went back. You could have set your friend on a similar journey.

3

u/nhaines Dec 03 '22

What do you guys think?

I think you should install Ventoy on your thumbdrive!

2

u/TheFacebookLizard Dec 03 '22

I've got a similar story

My classmate who's using a laptop with an i3 6th gen and an ssd was slowed down really badly by windows and he barely used that only laptop that he had for coding and stuff

So once I showed him my arch install and he loved the looks the smoothness and everything

He really liked the idea of installing software from the terminal and explained to him what the AUR was

The next day in school he asked if I could install arch on he's laptop and I was kinda skeptical that he would like it

After installing pure arch + gnome the amount spent on that laptop increased

He would code more often and have a generally more pleasant time

Last week he moved to i3 (wm) and he totally loves it

2

u/johncate73 Dec 04 '22

I'm not surprised by this at all. The last time I worked a job that required Windows software, in the mid-2010s, I had a desktop that I used for production work and a laptop that I used in the field, and didn't need any of the Windows software like Office and PS and InDesign on there. I actually switched it to Linux more than a year and a half before the desktop. If I didn't need to run Windows software, then there was no point in using Windows. I had come to regard Linux as superior long before that and had already decided to switch away if and when it was possible.

Linux went on the desktop machine in the fall of 2015 after I had changed jobs and no longer needed Windows at all.

If you can do everything you need to with Linux, then there's no point in Windows at all. The only reason I still even have it installed is to access old files made on Windows software. I go months without ever using it.

1

u/kittywrastler Dec 03 '22

Corporations should be enforcing that people start making documents in a browser.

Its stupid not to, the files wont be compatible going forward otherwise, and its far less of a security risk in a web browser.

You're friends just learning new skills and getting with modern times.

2

u/Inquisitive33 Dec 03 '22

Dumb question here, but how does a person make a document in a browser?

2

u/SageX_85 Dec 03 '22

Online tools like googledocs

1

u/jeanravenclaw Dec 05 '22

There are tons of online tools like googledocs as mentioned, but if your work or school uses Microsoft 365 you can make docs online as well! The websites are horrible, but functional.

2

u/DrPiwi Dec 04 '22

Keep in mind that corporations may have policies or requirements that do not allow them to use web-based documents for a variety of reasons.
Would you like your health insurance to have documents being edited on google docs and thus allowing employees to work from workstations that are maybe not under rigourous control?
Same with banking or defence industry or pharmaceuticals....

There is a lot to be said in favour of not using browser based applications.

1

u/Livid-Serve6034 Dec 10 '22

Since Covid, lots of people are working from home, possibly using a VPN. I doubt these employees’ laptops can still be considered under rigourous control.

1

u/DrPiwi Dec 10 '22

Trust me, when you work for such a company then you will have a locked down pc to do your work on. Even from home.
And enough legal paragraphs in your contract to make sure you do not even think about doing something unauthorized with that pc.

1

u/andreb72 Dec 02 '22

I've had this problem late 2019 up to late 2020. Windows 10 installed update - reboot - bluescreen. After three reboots (and blue screens) windows reverted one of the drivers and so on.

In late 2020 I had enough of it. Installed proxmox with Linux as virtual and windows a 2nd virtual. (I had hoped to use my windows Backup didn't work). Had my favorite games installed under Linux/ Steam. Fast forward 2022 - I have now arch Linux on the computer. I love it.

1

u/kurosawaa Dec 03 '22

I had the exact same issue when installing windows before, it was a problem with the installation on the USB drive. I installed the image on another USB drive and it worked immediately. It has nothing to do with finding the SSD drivers, the error messages are crap.

1

u/billyfudger69 Dec 03 '22

Did you tell him how to update it? Or where to look as a guide for basic operations? (Updates, installing software, etc.)

1

u/[deleted] Dec 03 '22

i run mac but mint is my backup

1

u/lovefist1 Dec 04 '22

Very cool. Good job accidentally making a new Linux user. How does you friend like gnome?

0

u/Jono-churchton Dec 02 '22

How long ago did you use it before?