Frustration with Uncommon Sense

This is being written in LibreOffice on a Linux-only computer, and is being written with some frustration. Not that I am frustrated with either LibreOffice or Linux — I am frustrated with some of my clients. Behind me sits a newly converted computer that started its life as an XP machine. It worked for years and then its owners tired of waiting for it to do whatever they wanted, so they got a new computer with Windows 7 and had me set this new computer up for them. They gave me their old computer with my promise to scrub the hard drive and see that it either got a good new home or that it was scrapped for parts.

After scrubbing their personal data, I installed Linux and re-formatted the hard drive. While it is not an over-clocked gamer’s special, it is a good little machine that zips right along. It can play videos and download from the Internet with the best of them. Trashing XP also meant deleting a perfectly good copy of Microsoft Office, so I thought about it first, but the benefits to whoever gets the re-conditioned computer seem to outweigh the losses. This seems obvious to me.

Frustration with Uncommon SenseYet none — yes none — of my senior clients use Linux, and only a few use LibreOffice. Most of them have bought some version of Microsoft Office. With the exception of a few Apple people, they all use Windows.

During my first meeting with a new client, I try to assess how they use computers and what their expectations are. It takes only minutes to ascertain their current state of computer literacy. Only a small minority approximate power users. Some do write code or use spreadsheets, and some play games, but generally not fast-paced video games. One or two edit HD video. In other words, why do they buy quad core computers with 8 gigabytes of RAM? If you just want to have email and be able to surf, why spend so much money?

Something else must be going on. Perhaps I am seeing a subset of the users, and that subset thinks of their computers differently than I do. For instance, more than once clients have told me they need a new computer because the old one is worn out and getting slow. Sometimes that is nearly a valid observation. As Windows updates take more memory, the initially installed RAM might become insufficient. Adding another stick can do wonders.

So I occasionally am given older computers; I convert them to Linux and donate them. Maybe it is a Johnny Appleseed syndrome. Windows is a very good system, and I have no issue with it, but for the money, people on a fixed income are often better off with quality freeware. That is the basis of my frustration.

By the way, I was recently corrected on my pronunciation of LibreOffice. Being from Southern California, I naturally gyrated to “Lee bray Office,” but that seems to be wrong and the right way is “Lee breh Office.” The derivation is apparently from French, not Spanish. I had just recovered from being corrected on this when a stunned silence followed my reference to Calibre eBook manager as “Cal lee bray.” “Surely you jest,” I was told, “it is ‘caliber’ as in ‘theater!’”

Oh, well, sometimes you just have to suck it up.

Article Written by

  • http://twitter.com/TechLogon TechLogon

    You can lead a horse to water… I rate LibreOffice – for those used to the horror of MS Works it should be a no brainer but  a lot of people don’t like ‘free’ because they really believe you get what you pay for. So they buy MS Office and then use 1% of its functionality, go figure…

    As for Linux, great idea but I can see why seniors etc prefer to blow $100s on a new W7 PC – it’s what their family/friends know and if they want to add a printer/scanner/webcam etc it will just work whereas with Linux they’ll be stuck with it as is – no coincidence that early Linux netbooks got thrown out/returned in their thousands and now they’re all Windows.

  • http://twitter.com/TechLogon TechLogon

    You can lead a horse to water… I rate LibreOffice – for those used to the horror of MS Works it should be a no brainer but  a lot of people don’t like ‘free’ because they really believe you get what you pay for. So they buy MS Office and then use 1% of its functionality, go figure…

    As for Linux, great idea but I can see why seniors etc prefer to blow $100s on a new W7 PC – it’s what their family/friends know and if they want to add a printer/scanner/webcam etc it will just work whereas with Linux they’ll be stuck with it as is – no coincidence that early Linux netbooks got thrown out/returned in their thousands and now they’re all Windows.

  • Lassie

    Ask not what your computer can do for you but what you can do for your computer :P  I keep trying to tell college IT courses to use opensource for 3D Modelling and Raster Image editing etc.  They complain that they can’t afford loads of windows licences with commercial 3D software licences but if you even mention a linux flavour like Ubuntu with blender and gimp installed they get a look of FEAR :D  I think Ubuntu desktop is brill and really easy to install.

  • Lassie

    Ask not what your computer can do for you but what you can do for your computer :P  I keep trying to tell college IT courses to use opensource for 3D Modelling and Raster Image editing etc.  They complain that they can’t afford loads of windows licences with commercial 3D software licences but if you even mention a linux flavour like Ubuntu with blender and gimp installed they get a look of FEAR :D  I think Ubuntu desktop is brill and really easy to install.

  • Anonymous

    While I agree on using Libre Office (or similar free variants) versus the costly MS Office, you don’t HAVE to switch to Linux to use them.  Free alternatives to MS Office are readily available for Windows – as well as tons of other applications/utilities.
     
    Unless you’re building a new computer yourself, the incremental cost of the Windows OS is typically negligible with a new computer.  My sister just paid $250 for a new small HP AMD E350-based desktop with Win7 Pro.  It would have been impossible to build a similar computer using all new components (case, motherboard/CPU, memory, power supply, 500GB HDD, DVD burner) for $250…  let alone adding $150+ for Win7 Pro!

    Also, if your ‘senior’ clients have computer experience it’s most likely using Windows.  The learning curve to switch from Windows to Linux for most people is much steeper than just picking up a different office suite.  The average non-power user (especially a ‘senior’ one) isn’t eager to learn a new OS.

  • Anonymous

    While I agree on using Libre Office (or similar free variants) versus the costly MS Office, you don’t HAVE to switch to Linux to use them.  Free alternatives to MS Office are readily available for Windows – as well as tons of other applications/utilities.
     
    Unless you’re building a new computer yourself, the incremental cost of the Windows OS is typically negligible with a new computer.  My sister just paid $250 for a new small HP AMD E350-based desktop with Win7 Pro.  It would have been impossible to build a similar computer using all new components (case, motherboard/CPU, memory, power supply, 500GB HDD, DVD burner) for $250…  let alone adding $150+ for Win7 Pro!

    Also, if your ‘senior’ clients have computer experience it’s most likely using Windows.  The learning curve to switch from Windows to Linux for most people is much steeper than just picking up a different office suite.  The average non-power user (especially a ‘senior’ one) isn’t eager to learn a new OS.

  • http://profiles.google.com/techie.geek.girl Tracy Fortune

    You’ll end up preaching to the choir here…I agree 100% with all you’ve said. I guess what ends up happening is that people (and especially people who have only used MS) are hesitant to change. They finally have enough of a grasp to do their surfing/email/photos/music, etc…and the concept of possibly seeing something different is terrifying.

    I started using Linux years ago via live CD’s. Now, my own machines run Linux, exclusively (though I do keep a MS system for Windows customers I service). My desktop is an i7 running Mint 9, my laptop is an older Toshiba running Mint 11. I love Mint & it’s straight-forward ability to fetch new programs whilst taking care of dependency issues~ awesome! I know everyone is gushing over Ubuntu- but I just like the way Mint is laid out & it feels more polished than Ubuntu (& yes, I do realize Mint is based on it).

    Open Office (Libre) is a wonderful program. My only gripe with using something other than the ubiquitous Office- is that if you create a document in one & try to open it in the other…you generally end up with formatting issues. If, however, you use it to basically print from the host machine or to do simple jobs that are created/used on that machine- it’s fantastic. Ditto Blender, GIMP and the myriad of incredible software available to Linux users.

  • http://profiles.google.com/techie.geek.girl Tracy Fortune

    You’ll end up preaching to the choir here…I agree 100% with all you’ve said. I guess what ends up happening is that people (and especially people who have only used MS) are hesitant to change. They finally have enough of a grasp to do their surfing/email/photos/music, etc…and the concept of possibly seeing something different is terrifying.

    I started using Linux years ago via live CD’s. Now, my own machines run Linux, exclusively (though I do keep a MS system for Windows customers I service). My desktop is an i7 running Mint 9, my laptop is an older Toshiba running Mint 11. I love Mint & it’s straight-forward ability to fetch new programs whilst taking care of dependency issues~ awesome! I know everyone is gushing over Ubuntu- but I just like the way Mint is laid out & it feels more polished than Ubuntu (& yes, I do realize Mint is based on it).

    Open Office (Libre) is a wonderful program. My only gripe with using something other than the ubiquitous Office- is that if you create a document in one & try to open it in the other…you generally end up with formatting issues. If, however, you use it to basically print from the host machine or to do simple jobs that are created/used on that machine- it’s fantastic. Ditto Blender, GIMP and the myriad of incredible software available to Linux users.

  • JP HACK

    Agreed. i have used alot off free apps, i hate how Microsoft charges so much money for NEEDED applications, but with the power of the internet your a short click away from FREE apps.
    and have u done the research on which program is the most tormented (illegally obtained?)? its photoshop, its been torrented 65% of programs combined. thats 1 in 3 copy’s is not legit. i said to the company, maybe people will stop pirating it if only they made it CHEAPER! not $1k. maybe for 250 dollars i might get it….

    • ‘Tis Moi

      They already did that, JP- it’s called Photoshop Elements. A lite version, yes, but capable of doing pretty much everything the majority of users require.

      For the few who require & utilize the full version of Photoshop, well, I don’t quite see how anyone can complain about the price. It’s a world-wide accepted opinion that nothing else comes close to PS. To complain that you don’t think it should be that price- well, I think lots of things are overpriced- does that mean I ought to have it for whatever price I feel it’s worth? Or that I ought to have it- for free- as in, steal the car I feel is overpriced because I don’t agree with the asking price?

      My main computer runs Linux Mint. Within my OS I have installed numerous “free” programs. Of the ones I’ve installed & kept because I found them useful, I donated to the creator via Paypal (or did, to those who provided a way to donate).

      If you want to support the creation & upgrading of good software- you either buy it or donate to it.

  • http://velofille.com Liz Q

    Interestingly, over here in NZ a lot of older people are taking it up. Mostly men, but retired men who spent their life tinkering over cars, mechanical things, and building things.

    They love to be able to educate each other on ‘new’ technology and have a reason to meet up with their mates and explain basic tasks in excruciatingly simple ways.
    The Waikato Linux user Group has no become mostly men over 60, with only a few younger people coming along nowdays (and this is a great thing!)