Introducing friends to GNU/Linux

I have the possibility to install PureOS on a friend’s computer (and maybe not only his) but I know he is not ready to give up his “comfort” and “convenience” for a secure OS. And so my question is, do I do good or bad by installing PureOS on his PC and all the proprietary software an usual windows user needs? I’m thinking that windows is more suitable because it knows its audience and thus the infrastructure protects it’s users in a way, maybe? Whereas maybe Linux expects its users to know a little more than that and so they just don’t “do” some things, assuming that no one will do something else because “by default” it’s well-known not to do so? Hope that makes sense…

I think this is a very important subject, and maybe a reason for you to create a separate blog post for it? Linux lacks information. We need information, step by step perhaps to educate and teach everyone (myself included :blush: ) on a lot of topics. Btw, I think people would love to see blog posts from Purism that would educate them, you could be the Digital Ocean of Linux (what I mean here is that Digital Ocean are the best in offering a lot of well-structured information and instructions that any of their users would need).
The Linux community has to grow somehow, so is it a good thing to make our friends and family switch to it with the knowledge base they have and the “dangerous” software they want to install?

You will ask what difference does it make? Well I’ll make sure to install the best free software alternatives to theirs proprietary (for example Librem Office) and teach them how to use it (btw a huge issue here are translations, a lot of free software just doesn’t have all the translations and so it makes it super hard for non-English speakers). They also will get familiar with Linux and they won’t be “afraid” perhaps of THE TERMINAL!!! I could see some reasons as to why to, but is it worth it?

Thank you very much!


I suspect that casual, mainstream personal computer users (ie. most people) would need a lot of help going from Windows or OSX to any flavor of Linux, and I think PureOS is at a point in its development more suitable for early adopters and people with a willingness to endure frustration and spend a lot of time learning about system configuration. I don’t think you’re going to do any harm by trying it out. If you are patient and willing to do some hand-holding, why not give it a go?

That said, if you’re apprehensive about it, you might try a “gateway OS” first. PureOS is built from a branch of Gnome. I was using Ubuntu Gnome for about 6 months before I started using PureOS and found it tremendously helpful.

I completely agree that Purism would benefit a great deal from a major effort helping potential mainstream users cross over. (I’m also certain they are aware of this fact.) As early adopters, we can generate a lot of content on our own and at some point we just need to begin owning some of the responsibility for sharing our beliefs, our knowledge and our best practices.


You might consider Linux Mint or a KDE based distro for that first taste. The desktop looks and feels more like a “traditional” desktop on a Microsoft OS than, say, Gnome.

Get them started with something familiar that will be more comfortable and intuitive to use. Introduce the security issues slowly, lest your friends think you’re wearing a tin foil hat.

My friends teased me about the “NSA bait” keywords in my signature years ago, but they haven’t been laughing at me recently.


it’s hard to find a windows software which does not have an equivalent in the GNU/Linux world.
Office -> LibreOffice/Google Drive/AbiWord
Photoshop -> GIMP/Krita
Desktop publishing -> Scribus
Illustrator -> InkScape
VLC -> VLC :slight_smile:
Movie Maker -> OpenShot

I think the issues isn’t so much about non-availability of software as education. People who have used Windows and the software that only come on that OS find it difficult to move to a new tool where they have to relearn to do what they already know how to do. I know of school kids that have grown up using the GNU/Linux environment and are clueless on a a Windows machine.

The good thing with open-source is that most of the tools are compiled for Windows and can easily be installed on your friends current setup. If they are able to wean themselves away from the closed-source software then switching to a GNU/Linux distro will be much easier.

Really? Maybe not in a single website location, but with google and youtube its rather hard not to find a tutorial/help, unless you are using on lesser-known software.

I self-thought myself GIMP/Inkscape/scribus to create beautiful brochures/pamphlets and other graphics for websites… all using youtube and google. I don’t think I have ever had to ask in a forum for help as all my questions has already been answered somewhere.

Today there are plenty of paid online courses (which is the way most open-source projects make money) and I would simply recommend investing in your money in these if u need to use these software to earn a living.


the issue is that the GNU/Linux ecosistem is vast and it is the wild west. it’s quite difficult to find something that represents your needs in a HONEST way.

for the librem 5 i would look into

it should offer better performance/snappiness/resource-usage/battery-drain compared to the default setup as-is from purism.

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hi there! :slight_smile:

id also like to suggest u to give him an easy distro for the 1st taste, my preference is for this purpose, its lightweight stable simple and neat! :slight_smile: better than the official gnome imho! :slight_smile: otherwise, if u really wanna do that, then 1st of all show him ur system! show similarities, and show everything for the basic usage, ask his will about what he wanna do, how he would like to have his partitions, whatever… install and config it very well! dont b greedy on the time for the post install stuffs, test out everything, apply all the best practices, make a nice layout, install everything that could b good, unselect some apps that are starting in the background… config firefox, qbittorrent, terminal emulator, panels, touchpad whatever… its not that much actually… u can install stuffs like binutils jumpnbump bless teamviewer or any better remote control and some more fun as well that one day he will find a nice to have when he will discover his new world :smiley: and dont forget to teach him some very basic stuffs like sudo, run an app from terminal, ownership, file permissions, the basic places of the fs, how to mount/unmount, some nice shortcuts here and there, but only the essentials from these, and mayb not for the 1st time… :smiley: tell him some goodies about freedom and security instead of throwing him into the deep water by showing ur terminal skills! :smiley:

good luck, have fun for both of u! :smiley:


in a nut-shell your saying “show don’t tell” -

if thats for me, then not exactly… 4 sure, thats a good point, but im mostly about making the stuffs comfortable, and to take away newbie-gotchas from the way…

a newbie will feel better if everything works out of the box and they dont even need to touch anything thats conf/install related other than the updates… newbies will discover a well-crafted stuff thats alive, and they dont need to find out how to make their wishes happen, and how to bring alive whatever stuff thats not fine as it stands…

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what you are describing is just a regular of-the-shelf oem instalation of macOS/windows or ubuntu or linux mint on a regular black-box-hardware computer. on such sistems freedom and privacy/security are second-thoughts or non-present at all … perhaps you are posting in the wrong forums ?

purism clearly states that pureOS is based off of debian testing (not stable) and that also implies that at least *some *basic *knowledge of gnu/linux/*nix command line editing is to be expected if not more. sure you have great support but that doesn’t mean it’s windows. also security by design is not something most people coming from the Apple/Micro$oft ecosistem understand.

you have to be willing to learn something and in return you will be rewarded … at some point … IF you do it right

theres some relation, but those are still not the same.

a first taste is kinda important to get anyone on the board. ppl could live without a bunch of goodies for many years that no1 showed them before they find them accidentally. lazy ppl will live with what they have, enthusiasts/geeks will discover their stuffs anyway, but for both, imho no matter what they have, the 1st wont discover much, the latter will do the homework. probably the 1st will beg u instead of live with the thumb rule of “stfw”, and thats hopeless as well. that way ppl could shape their silicon with bare hands and start their cyber life by installing gentoo from some printed howto, thats written up to the browsing ability. for sure, its really important to learn stuffs around, fixing a bleeding system and installing a gentoo are very much enlightening, but learning on a working machine is much better than groping in the dark. on the next session they can discover that tech, they have all the ease for making studies together online utilizing all the goodies that have beens set up properly instead of waste an afternoon by trying to make themselves able to do whatever they wanted to do so. errors will come, that will b the best session to teach him how to fix stuffs on his own, but its not necessary to start with that. they can try an installation in a vbox and whatever if they didnt have time to explain everything in the meantime of the installation cuz of any reason, so he will be able to reinstall or repair anyhow his computer on his own without begging the op. anyhow if uve got enough years behind u without having an own mature distro, ull know what to look after immediately on a fresh install, and probably that can be more than what the other can learn immediately. im totally not against learning, but it dont have to be painful for the 1st time, nor it must happen at all at once. if his friend is interested, then he will be willing to learn, but happiness is a thing for the interest! theres always enough stuffs to learn, dont worry about that! :smiley: yes, it can be hard, to force ppl to learn, but it can b just potent to make ppl want to learn. it was enough for me to blame windows, i wanna love my system instead of that, and i really wanna share this feeling with others, but not the image that u must live in a dark cave eat cold pizza when the sun rises and try to figure out whats wrong with a bleeding nose. btw i still know that feeling very well, cuz im an engineer, that i started like 14yrz ago, and started to use linux like 12 yrs ago. anyway ppl really want this, as linux is getting friendlier, slowly more ppl start to like it, and theres nothing surprising in this. they says on linux u can do everything u can imagine, but this is the theory only. no, u cant! its extremely complex, and no human can handle in the sense of capacity. u cant learn everything, and u cant make everything u can imagine. u dont even know whats running on ur machine, u wont ever be able to learn what u have, and its also moving forward insanely fast. its really needs to be simplified! and im not about taking away the potency in it, but taking away the duty that dont serve u, even if it teach u. u know what u wanna learn, but its much better if u have time to learn that instead of kill ur time on duties that just pop into ur way. i think even if not everything, but a lot more could be achieved from all of those dusty dreams that we all have if the linux world would be overcomplicated. (sure, its complicated anyhow, but can u imagine how much overhead we have?)

btw how u give/show the linux experience for newbies? what about those who are not sure, but u want them to stay on the board for any reason? (like ur mum for example.) does the linux experience really have to mean that u have to b alone in the dark with a screwdriver, a bleeding system and some smoke and fire here and there? for me its mainly freedom security and reliability, and, for sure, also diy, but more in the sense of engineering than firearming.

sorry for too much words… have a nice day buddy! :slight_smile: and im really interested in how u imagine the linux experience! :slight_smile:

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My observation is that power users in Windows won’t switch to Linux. I have more luck when I install Linux for a person who doesn’t care very much about the technology or just learning how to use computers.

If I install Mint which has an interface similar to Windows 7, most newbies are happy.

The problem is when you have people who have significant experience using Windows/Mac OS X. They have often spent years learning to use certain programs and they don’t want to change. Those sorts of people see no reason to ever change and they love to argue why what they already know how to use is better. I understand, because I have no desire to learn how to use Mac OS X or BSD, although I’m sure that they are fine operating systems.

In my experience, the more I try to explain user rights and the concepts of the free software movement, the less success that I have in getting people to use Linux. I have no success when I talk about WHY people should use Linux, so I focus on HOW to use Linux.

I installed Linux in the laptop of my ex-girlfriend, and I was amused to hear that she kept using it after we separated. When I was no longer around, she figured out how to install Mint on her own and she has become a real believer in the ideas of the free software movement.

I was convinced just by reading the GNU manifesto online in 1996 without ever using any free software, but most people need to use it for themselves before they will believe, so focus on getting them to use it. For people who can’t give up Windows, I start by installing Firefox and LibreOffice in Windows and showing them how good they are.


give them dualboot! :smiley: best if the linux is encrypted.

In my experience dual boot quickly becomes booting into whichever is most convenient/easiest and is an easy way to fall back to what is known instead of a way to easily switch to something new. I am opposed to dual boot. VM of windows/osx if you need it but no dual boot.

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ur right, id never do it for myself X’D i was thinking in older machines that wont b happy with virtualbox/whatever

Well here’s a few pretty big arguments in favor of GNU/Linux for powerusers:

  1. It’s lighter than what they’re used (unless the distro’s maintainer shoves a whole lot of things as a base “just in case”)
  2. It’s more stable (not like Windows 10 that breaks every months due to a bad update)
  3. You control your system (no one forces you do update if you don’t want and you can modify your system to you heart’s content).
  4. It’s safer (Linux is secure by design).
  5. No one spies on your system (well Ubuntu does but if I remember right it’s something you have to opt-in if you want to “improve the user experience”, but I don’t know any distro that spies on their users)(that doesn’t exempt you from having a good Internet hygiene).
  6. Most of the programs they would use on WindOSX either work out of the box, have a FLOSS alternative or can be used through Wine (games included).
  7. You can choose your Desktop Environment.
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for the no. 5: it was that the serch engine included amazon search by default so it became a botnet in everyones eyes, while it was possible to opt-out any time, and it became inactive by default very soon after this incident…

most of the ppl who dont wanna change are afraid and/or lazy. the next line is made out of those, who stuck there cuz of school/job requirements, cuz shared machine with family, and cuz whatever missing app. the bigger half of the latter would be able to use linux in whatever form. my best practise is to laugh on them when they cry about their s**t, so they can feel how much superior linux is. X’D i believe they are waiting for an out of the box superior experience, while know/think (better said) that linux is for geeks. otherwise its always good to show them some neat poweruser stuffs to make them feel like they are really missing something… :smiley: however they just wont change til it not hurts enough! then u can install happily a neat, well configured linux on their 10yrz old machines, and they will feel like linux sucks cuz it just didnt make fb and yt smaller and faster (significantly), furthermore, they are watching u, while u have to sweat blood for finding a driver for their ancient fossils right after a hour or more of cleaning that never happened before cuz of their hw issues… :smiley: :frowning: on the contraly, i gave my notebook with italian setting everywhere to a hungarian girl (im also hungarian, just im learning italian the hard way :smiley: ) to mess around it a bit, and i was deeply impressed how she handled it for the 1st time!! she felt the system! :smiley: a reinstall for myself took 20mins (from boot to reboot) the last time, and mayb 30 more for every postinstall stuffs that i know after ~12yrs on linux, but ppl with those fossils with something like 1g ram wont ever feel this, they doesnt even know how the same goes for a windows… i believe it must work like how templeos works! :smiley: (thats a really brilliant piece of art, just its not suitable for real life needs…)

@hippi your walls of text are really hard to read. my head hurts but i get what you’re saying … we all want a reliable and easy gui experience and great support for beginners and it will get better over time. we are all learning and no one is perfect. it is also quite difficult if english is not your first language …

that’s why i’ve said - SHOW don’t tell ! seeing is believing.

about learning - nowadays for 11 bucks you can get a pretty good picture of the strengths and weakneses of the command line interface in linux and if it really is a financial problem then there are other ways of obtaining educational materials online …

and even if the lessons are given in an ubuntu environment they also largely apply to other debian based distros such as PureOS.

my point is that if you take a person that has never had ANY contact with a computer or operating system before and you try to teach windows/apple/gnu-linux to that person for the first time they will prefer and actually consider gnu/linux to be more intuitive and more attractive in the beginning.


Here is another link to a gratis course for beginners:

I have not taken it, so I cannot enumate its merits or deficiencies. I just remember bookmarking it a long time ago.

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“walls of text” - i hear u! i already work on that issue… :smiley: feel free to ask me any time to make my texts cleaner! :slight_smile:

the not so important part:
i try my best to be understandable, to use the most simple words and phrases, and also to put some new lines here and there; but as i always write much, it would be very hard and time consuming, to write everything immediately in such a shape, that people would like to see in newspapers. making short sentences is incredibly hard for me; i need to break my sometimes extremely complex “thought-bunches” into unreasonably small fragments; while i could describe my mind as “holographic”. whenever i try to make some corrections and the like, then it also have its negative effects, such as much growth for an already long text, and possibly i repeat myself, and make some other contextual glitches… but i try, and i will to listen to others’ wishes! :slight_smile:

otherwise u wrote good points, thx for them! :slight_smile: i could argue only about looking for learning materials, that are non-free, while i can totally find whatever topic i can wish for, for free. the other thing, is that im not sure that a complete newbie, who never seen anything, could appreciate gnu+linux stuffs more, than the others. people must see the depths of the others to be able to appreciate this world. however im not sure about this, but i say it, cuz they will want to “play”, but not build. they will need later to see the depths, and only after that they will see the most important, fundamental differences, but freedom is mostly/currently not ease of use.

do you expect to be able to drive a car safely and efficiently without first getting proper training ? or getting a proper job without an interview ? a computer is arguably even more complex than a car - and we are so fortunate to have gnu/linux and FLOSS software beeing able to run on modern hardware

it is easy to use but you have to understand the concepts first - you can NOT get something for nothing - freedom as in ‘free speech’ not as in ‘without cost’