It has been eight years since I have started using Linux. I did continue to use Windows even after I installed Linux, but slowly, my love for Linux has grown and soon enough, I wiped my Windows partition clean to make more room for a fully fledged Linux system. I was young back then, and despite being tech savvy like other young teens in that time, it took me a while to understand all the quirks of Linux. I jumped back to Windows for most of the tasks, then came back to Linux, jumped again.
And while jumping back and forth, I learned a lot. Some stuff were complex, and some stuff were simple but did not discover at first. There are some obvious things in the Linux world just like Windows, and I learned those obvious Linux quirks down the path because those are obvious in the Linux world, so nobody talked about it. They should have talked about it, and that’s why whenever someone says I want to move to Linux, I state these small but important quirks.
For example, most tutorials online when showing how to install a debian package, they show you the terminal commands to install them. As a complete beginner, you may think “In Windows, it’s just double click and click install to install, why is it so complex in Linux?”. The reality is, every consumer focused distribution such as Ubuntu allows you to install debian packages by double clicking on it from your file manager. For a significant time, I thought installing software was complex.
And then I learned that not only can I install a package through double clicking, I can install any packages through a software store with a full GUI and search option! I started with Linux mint, and most of my problems, I have only searched specifically for Linux Mint, not knowing that Ubuntu and Linux Mint are basically the same, and the fixes for Ubuntu also apply to Linux Mint. Suddenly more options and fixes are available to me and I thought “why did nobody tell me that?”.
After using Linux Mint for 2 years, I learned a lot of things from the nice people of Linux Mint. And since Linux Mint had many newbies like myself, the questions were fresh and nobody belittled the questions even if it was seemingly basic. I have witnessed such lovely people and a community. The devs are too humble and they were for the users. Unlike Microsoft’s constant bullying with improper features and bad user experience of Windows 10. I felt like they respected me.
So even though I had a lot of issues, the respect I got from the people at Linux Mint as a user gave me the strength to continue using it. On one hand, I was being ridiculed by Windows 10 update policy for not respecting my choice, constantly pushing unstable updates, my user forum questions getting laughed at, Windows official email rarely responding and phone support was not localised even though I paid for it. When I booted into Linux Mint, I felt welcomed.
Windows had ads in the start menu, Linux Mint only had apps and a search bar that actually searches through apps and files. Windows 10 search was slow and unbearable in purpose, Linux Mint never implemented Bing or a search engine, only important searches. Windows forced me to use their browser and at that time Edge was the worst. Linux Mint respected my default choice. It stayed where I wanted it to be, it did what I wanted it to do. Nothing less, nothing more.
I never had a candy crush promo, nor wash pushed to an action, nor Linux Mint disobeyed my settings. I updated when I wanted, I updated without rebooting. I felt meaningful, and respected finally. I realised that all these time, I am in control, not the OS. I did not pay anyone, and the forums had volunteers who answered me for free. After getting the proper respect, I gave my heart to Linux and started to give it a chance properly. I learned all the quirks, sticked to it. I got mad at some stuff, some stuff never worked, but I searched for a workaround with love in my heart. This love I have gained from Linux.
Please instil love in the hearts of newbies
This is my request to every distribution maintainer, forum mods, online tutorials and magazines. Please do not hate newbies. Even if they come from Windows and rant about Linux. People have challenges, and not all people are extremely tech savvy. When we hear about people using Linux, and then hating it, then leaving, many of you jump to the conclusion that “he’s a dumb folk who can’t even learn”. But this is not the attitude. Instead, the real way is to instil love. Answer dumb questions, make tutorials less fearsome, use nicer words, use idiot proof design and documentations.
When they realise that Linux is different, and there is a reason for it, they will give back the love and respect and try to learn. And after a while, the initial challenges will become obvious and simple. Because they will learn the obvious quirks many online tutorials fail to cover. I think it’s time to also update heavily terminal reliant solutions. I know it’s a one line solution that requires a little more writing to describe to a newbie, but if a newbie managed to come this far, we may as well try a little more to make our instructions a bit dumbed down.
The great thing about Linux is that everyone can have whatever type of OS they want. I started with Linux Mint, but later switched to other distributions because I found out my use case would be more supported there. The con is that there are distributions specifically made for advanced users. And these advanced users are also present in many forums and groups where they can be seen helping other people. The majority of people rarely care about what other people use and try to help out newbies as much as they can.
But there is a minority group, who wants a separate system, and actively belittles newbies. And when a new user curiously wants to try their system, they immediately get scrutinised for presenting basic questions. EndeavourOS presents itself as a easy to install Arch Linux based distribution, but the amount of toxicity in the forums and chats is noticeable because of it being tailored toward advanced users. One may think “Oh, since it is GUI based and easy to install, it may be a beginner friendly version of Arch” but it is not.
I always give the new users a list of bullet points:
- Start with Linux Mint: It’s the friendly gateway to Linux world
- Join Linux Mint user groups: There are more people like you
- Join the forum: The ultimate place for exact answers for Linux Mint
- Use the software manager for installing apps: Search and install apps from Software Manager with a nice GUI
- Use Flatpak: The apps marked as “Flatpak” in the Software Manager are always up-to-date, and most software you would use daily comes as such
For searching basic controls, use the start menu. And 90% of the time, it will be there. If your laptop has control keys, 90% of the time, they will work to control brightness and volume. Your Wifi and Bluetooth device will work 90% of the time, if it is not an obscure or old device. But even if you have issues, there are fixes available. And that’s where my urge for the tutorial makers is. There are solutions, they are friendly but not friendly enough. Some things are obvious to long term users, but a wild foreign thing for many newbies. We must use friendly tongues.