There was just no way I was going to get my step daughter a Windows netbook for Christmas. No way, no how. I couldn't find a good way to articulate why, and so for a couple weeks I was just responding, "No Windows!" to my wife's questions. I hadn't expected it to be controversial but I did eventually have to explain myself.
Even after disregarding all of the security issues and the lame attempts at fixing administrative access, it was mainly an issue of freedom. Windows is proprietary and I was determined that her first computer would be more educational than a dumb terminal for homework.
I got my validation yesterday. Not more than an hour after she'd ripped off the gift wrap and screamed in delight, she was showing off a drawing in a program that I'd never seen before. I've been using Linux for ten years and she'd already managed to show me something new. She'd found it all on her own. (It sure wasn't me. The only time I'd been allowed to touch the netbook was to type the wireless password.)
Kids learn quickly. They're simply better able to pick up new computer interfaces and learn how to use them, long before most adults.
All kinds of Free
Adults hate new things. I don't know what my success ratio would be trying to switch somebody to Linux or Firefox or OpenOffice or whatever, and I really don't want to know. It'd be too depressing. There's no way to count the number of times I've seen superior software pushed aside for something more familiar, even if that meant putting up with crashes and viruses or spending hundreds of dollars.
After a long enough time, better software can begin to make headway but, man , it takes such a long time. The few times I've really been successful switching somebody they were either young, who will pickup anything quickly, or to adults who've had some previous exposure to other operating systems. Usually that means they used something else when they were young.
Actually, when I first picked up Linux, the thought ringing in my head was, "This is just like DOS! Except it doesn't suck!" Far from the horror stories of actually having to type commands (gasp!), I felt immediately at home. That's because the old clunker I'd grown up with had run DOS. It didn't matter how vastly different it really was, it mattered that I felt comfortable and wanted to learn more.
While I'm sure she will have to use Windows frequently in school and work, I hope that a dose of Linux now will help her be more open to new things her whole life.
Her main complaint so far is the netbook is unable to play Windows games. Fathers will be all too familiar with the Disney channel and probably Wizards 101. But I doubt the little thing even has the power to run that game. Anyway, she's not too heartbroken over it.
After all, she's already found the Disney site where she can watch videos without torturing the rest of us.
Still, people will sputter, "She'll have to use Windows at work!" They'll cross their arms and lean back as if working is the most important thing anybody will ever do.
Well, maybe she will. But she won't have to deal with that for probably another ten years. What OS she'll use then is completely unknowable. Even if it's Windows, it's unlikely to be what we have today. And just like I have to learn where the heck they put the network properties in every new Windows release, she will always need to learn new things.
Besides, she uses plenty of Windows at school and her Grandma's house. She already knows Windows plenty well enough.
So far the netbook as been a resounding success.