People often say certain software is "not ready for prime time." But in reality, those people actually have a fear of the unfamiliar. Take my wife. for instance. When I started using Ubuntu, she was dead-set against me installing it as the lone system on our laptop.  She couldn't bear the thought of being without Windows because "it's what I know!" But she finally came around to Ubuntu. Here's how.

I tired of having a third of my hard drive formatted to NTFS (NT File System), so I started on a quest to help her realize that all she really was worried about was being able to perform usual tasks -- and that Ubuntu was just as good if not better at doing those things.

I first customized her Gnome desktop to resemble Windows, with a single bottom panel and XP-style window borders and controls. Then we moved to a regular Gnome desktop. Eventually she admitted that Windows or Linux didn't matter so much to her for what she needed to do. She did notice though that it's more stable and runs faster on the same hardware.

Handy Little Device: The eeePC

Next, I bought her an eeePC 4G Surf this year as a congratulatory gift for beginning her Master's Program (in early childhood intervention specialist, because she's awesome and wicked smart). She was a little hesitant about the modified Xandros at first. The tabbed interface was **almost** too different. Several times she exclaimed "I don't like this!" And while she's easily distracted or frustrated sometimes, she played around with it for a couple of days, mostly due to the size. She's very petite and therefore really enjoyed how well the keyboard fits her hands. (I can't touch the thing without hitting three letters at once.)

As she grew familiar with the interface and asked me questions, she was cruising on her own in no time. Initially, she was so unsure of the interface that I asked her if she wanted me to install another distro on it (Ubuntu, of course) but she declined. She had learned the interface, learned how to move documents around, how to use the network connectivity tools, and everything was right in the world.

Interfaces and distros aside, between her eeePC and my Ubuntu 8.04 Gateway laptop, we've more than effectively integrated into the "Windows world." In another post (you'll see it on this site soon), I detail how I work in a law firm with a large MS Active Directory environment which I administer from my Ubuntu laptop. My wife works in a school that has Mac OS X as well as Windows machines. They use Google Docs and Calendar, and other web interface tools, so her ability to integrate into that environment was a non-issue, especially since Google Docs was built right into the desktop.

Lingering Concerns

The only real problems we've had at all are because of hardware manufacturers. My laptop's wireless card refuses to work so I have a USB dongle. Our printer is a Lexmark x5470 all-in-one. Lexmark refuses to write real drivers for Linux, and therefore we have an XP box still around as a print machine.

So in my not-really-that-humble opinion, it's not whether Ubuntu and Linux in general are ready for the prime time, it's whether or not people can recognize that different just might be better. My wife did.

(And whether hardware makers will pony up to a more solid and efficient operating system. But that's another discussion altogether, right?)

Works With U Contributing Editor Toby Deemer runs Ubuntu 8.04 to manage a large law firm network. WorksWithU is updated multiple times per week. Don't miss a single post. Sign up for our RSS and Twitter feeds (available now) and newsletter (launching January 2009).