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Dangling the Linux Carrot

There were seven of us gathered at a local watering hole down on Sixth 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 run 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.

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

Modern-day warriors in the midst of cubicles.

While my Acer was on the table, I absently spun to the next desktop and opened a document 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 spin thing on your computer…how 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, maybe a bit too tersely.

“No, not like AutoCad. It isn’t an application or program for Windows. In fact, your Windows computer probably 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, expanded the number of desktops to eight 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. Contrary to what some believe, 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 new operating system without training wheels, you probably can’t.”

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 mostly. You’d probably play with it 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 fifteen more minutes than I would.” A couple of the other 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. He seemed amused. “You remember that yuppie throwback that liked your desktop at the bar?”

I affirmed 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. And really, I wasn’t wearing my Linux Advocacy hat that evening…I was just a guy relaxing after a day’s work.

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Ken Starks writes and publishes The Blog of Helios, a finalist in our Best FOSS or Linux Blog competition. In addition, he's the person behind the Reglue project, which refurbishes older computers and gives them to disadvantaged school kids in the Austin, Texas area. Follow him on Twitter @Reglue

9 comments to Dangling the Linux Carrot

  • Elder-Geek

    Ken, what desktop/distro were you running that still runs compiz well?

  • Yep, I’ve been there too. The windows guys drooling over the eye candy, and asking how to make their peecee do that. The bad news, the tough love, in reply.

    To the one who asked what distro worked so well on compiz, my opensuse 10.2 desktop had a killer compiz setup in 2007. I imagine most distros could do it well, and it’s probably more a matter of video card and drivers, more than distro.

  • Abdel

    Zorin OS 9 Core or Ultimate runs compiz very well and out of the box.

  • Unbeknownst

    First, Kwin does everything Compiz does (or most interesting things, I’m really more a Kwin guy than a Compiz one). Kwin is KDE’s window manager. Pretty nifty, but it seems to me Compiz is a tad nimbler. I tested Ubuntu some time ago (12.10? 12.04? can’t remember) and it used Compiz.

    Secondly, Ken, I’ve learned “showing” works a lot better than “teaching”. If you show like you did, even acting bluntly (and sincerely IMHO), people will be more curious than if go out of your way to teach them. There’s something rebellious in human nature. Not all disciples hear the Zen master. Rather sad, I think.

    This is but a little speck of Linux benefits, there’s so much more. In the end is like you said, 30 minutes and everyone says: “Cool, but my document is looking different than what I’ve done in my other text processor. Bye!” The right mindset would be to view it like learning to drive: everybody thinks it’s daunting at the start, but when ponders how useful it is, there’s no possible decision other than to learn it.

    But people naively think they can learn later. Sometimes, for some, later takes too long to come.

  • Jerry, I was running the 6.4 LTS version of Zorin OS Education version on that machine at the time. It really is a great little distro.