[There’s a whole bunch of meandering academic pontificating and me taking myself too seriously. About two thirds of the way down it gets really good, though. I promise. Also, the woman is now online and back in school. -JC]
So apparently, someone was trying to take online courses, ordered the cheapest Dell with a CD—which happens to be running Ubuntu—she could find, and then couldn’t get online to her courses. So she withdrew from the University, and the Linux Lusers rushed in—talking about how dumb she was for not being able to slickly navigate Linux through customer support in a Windows-only world, and apparently, this degenerated into people harassing her on Facebook.
There are a couple takeaways to this for the world at large:
- Facebook works fine on Ubuntu (or the student in question has gotten a different Dell).
- If you aren’t raising your kid to be able to handle computers like a nerd, you are handicapping your children’s ability to prosper.
Obviously, the second is the controversial opinion. While the new imperialist geek overlords are kinder, gentler overlords than the robber barons of the past, technology is a big ugly mess. The de-facto reality this illustrates is that if you are attempting to live in a modernized country, but are unable to figure out how to purchase and use a computer, you are fucked. Those who cannot figure out how to scam Central Services to get online are destined to be crushed underfoot in the information revolution. It’s an ugly, brutal reality. Fortunately, when dealing with economy, reality is what you make of it. There are a couple points for the democratic wing of the new masters:
- There is a contingent of raving lunatics who have decided to immigrate to Linux as their chosen nationality.
- When you smirk at the clueless n00b, you are the sadistic prison guard tormenting the hapless inmate. By making your system difficult for others to use, you are actually hurting them—not only in terms of time and stress, but also in financially measurable ways.
But none of that works on the real issue of this story: What was it about the Ubuntu desktop as shipped with Dell that prevented her from going to school? If you haven’t already, find out why our OS didn’t work for her, publicize the problems, and fix them. If it’s a technical problem then it’s completely trivial to fix: we’re all geeks here. If it was a more mushy social reason—the bureaucratic pronouncements of overworked support staff at her Uni and ISP: you must use MS Word on Windows (because we won’t support anything else)—then that’s something we have traditionally sucked at, but something which community growth could address in an indirect way, and B2B schmoozing could address in a direct way. Remember, she’s not the only one going through these difficulties, she’s just the only one who’s difficulties were severe enough to warrant a newspaper article on it.