[Blogger’s Note: From time to time I will step off the soapbox for a moment to let someone else step up and speak. Today, I am letting VastOne, who is a CrunchBang moderator on the forums, take the microphone and post this blog that comes in response to my last blog item. Take it away, VastOne! –LC]
In the blog post “One way or another,” there were several great points made about the need to learn a bit of terminal and bash skills to be effective within any flavor of Linux. These skills are invaluable and after years of using Linux, most of us take our own expertise in these matters for granted when advising a new user.
In another world, there are users who are jumping on the Linux bandwagon out of necessity. A majority are just fed up with the amount of viruses, worms and attacks on their machines. Some are coming over due to financial or fiscal reasons that stem from no longer being able to afford proprietary software’s steep licensing costs.
I work in this world every day. My clients are usually a small business, a non-profit group, church or school district. Since the majority of the work I do is done pro bono, I have an easier time convincing these clients to switch to Linux.
For years, I used Ubuntu as the easy choice for an installation. It was intuitive, popular and was pretty easy to manage a cookie-cutter installation. The objective for me is to have limited return calls and to leave the client with enough resources and knowledge that a simple daily process would guarantee success.
This worked great until Unity arrived. It was such a radical change that the clients I deal with had no clue how to use it and on a dime their worlds changed. I had to revisit every client and start over. I made a decision to find a new platform to work with, where changes would not be so drastic.
A few friends of mine, also in the same line of work, had been telling me about CrunchBang Linux for quite some time. For whatever reasons, I had it in my head that CrunchBang was a terminal-driven distro that was for power Linux users, not far from the Arch world. Once I installed the Xfce version of CrunchBang, the platform I was looking for suddenly opened up. It was nothing that I expected and by far the easiest and lightest Linux distro I had ever seen and a very easy drop in replacement for my clients. The fact that Crunchbang is based on Debian Stable was the icing on the cake, guaranteeing long term stability.
With my client base, I have found that for a new Linux user — coming from a XP, Vista or Win7 world — the Xfce desktop is a perfect leap to a comfort zone in a short period of time. Its menu driven setup is perfect for a user who is accustomed to right clicking the desktop and applications. The fact that most of the new applications installed show up on the this menu makes my long term job easier with the clients. I have not had a single client reject the Xfce desktop and generally after a weeks time they tell me that it is the easiest desktop they have had to use.
The final pieces in a new client install is a simple lesson with Synaptic, how to open terminal and an understanding of how to search Google effectively. As soon as the client grasps how easy Synaptic is and how easy it is to install software, my job is almost done.
I use .bashrc and .bash_aliases to create a cheat sheet of the standard commands that needs to be done for standard Linux tasks. They are basic commands that we take for granted in apt-get update, apt-get install, apt-cache policy etc etc etc.
The aliases are structured so that when I get the call for that important application that is needed, I simply guide the client to a terminal session and have them type
Once they have entered their password, they are done. After the second or third time doing this, most clients grasp how easy it is and begin to understand. One of these aliases is an alias to print to the screen what all of the aliases are by typing al in the terminal and getting a list of aliases and what they can do.
Now one would ask, “These new clients have no problem with these commands?” No! Most clients are looking for stability and an easy way to get their jobs done. They couldn’t care less what an apt-get is, but they do care that there is a simple method to the madness.
Is this the best method for client conversions? For my client base it is. Everyone is happy with CrunchBang Linux, although most would look at you funny if you asked them about it. It also keeps the return calls and visits I need to make at a minimum, which is my most important objective.
Moving each client to Linux with CrunchBang Xfce, Synaptic, terminal and aliases is as easy as it gets. My client base could care less as long as they can get their work done with minimal changes.
Sounds like a perfect world to me.
(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)