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.comment: So You Think You Want to Use Linux

What Does It Take?

January 10, 2001

Last Friday in this space I took Mark Kellner to task for an article he wrote in the Los Angeles Times about a two-week experiment with Linux. At bottom, it seemed to me that two weeks is not enough time to tell anyone very much that's useful about Linux; even if one were in an enterprise and an expert came in and set it up and trained the brigades, it would probably be more than two weeks before people became sufficiently accustomed to it to form the beginnings of valid opinions. Qualitative issues aside, Linux and Windows are entirely different, and skills gained in one do not translate to the other.

In the days since that column appeared, Mr. Kellner and I have exchanged email. He's not an unreasonable guy. Nor is he clueless. Our communication has caused me to revisit a question that I (as many other Linux users, I suspect) have avoided even trying to answer: what is an orderly way of giving Linux a fair trial? What should we tell friends and associates who are thinking of taking our favorite operating system for a spin? What are the minimum requirements that a would-be user must meet?

With that in mind, I'm now going to try -- with no idea whether I'll succeed -- to figure out the advice I'd give to those who are not especially computer savvy, but who want to explore Linux for whatever reason, from wishing to be trendy to support of the idea of free software to a dislike of Microsoft. Mostly, I want to see if such a thing can be done without asking a great deal more of the user than is required by whatever came on the computer. Here goes.

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