Time to enter the Wayback (WABAC) Machine to an experience I had with a new Linux user and compare it to today's more tech savvy audience. The year was 1997 and I had settled in for the evening with my favorite beverage and a bit of channel flipping, when I received a telephone call from a guy who'd installed Linux on his computer. He didn't know what else to do from there, except call someone who did know what to do, me. The conversation began with him saying, "I've installed Linux, now what?"
I was in business for myself, at the time, as a computer consultant. I, along with two of my friends, installed networks, repaired computers, setup servers and desktops and did end user support.
Evening calls were standard fare for me at the time and so I answered the ringing without hesitation. This one time, I wish I had ignored it. But, why should I have felt that way when Linux, then and now, is my favorite computer topic?
It was the kind of call that you only see in movies or read about on Dilbert.com. To say that this individual was thick-headed and belligerent is an understatement of the facts. But, he was both.
And, what's worse? I felt that I had to be nice to him and show him that Linux people are friendly, loving people who really want him to succeed at learning this awesome operating system. I was also in business and thought that my good behavior might lead me to a paying gig. After all, I didn't know who the guy worked for or where he worked. It could have resulted in being able to pay my bills for another month.
But, it didn't.
As I gave him all the fine points of what he could do with Linux, he became more upset. I couldn't understand why. I was helpful. I was polite. I was sincere. What could it have been that made him so angry at me and at Linux?
I walked him through using the graphical interface (KDE), connecting to the Internet and downloading new applications and updates.
Still he fumed.
I told him about open source software, the freedom of free software, the stability, the multi-user capability, multitasking. The whole thing. I could feel his pulse pounding over the phone.
I was brilliant. I felt as if I were Napoleon, Shakespeare and Richard Stallman all in one package with my incredible explanations, my oratory on the greatness of Linus Torvalds and how Linux would change the world.
Heavy sighs came frequently into my self-absorbed ears.
Finally, I dismounted the soapbox and asked, "You seem awfully upset at your new system, what's wrong?"
"WHERE ARE MY FILES?!"
I guided him quickly and skillfully to his home directory.
"THEY'RE ALL GONE!"
"No" I said with reassurance in my voice, "You just don't have any files yet."
I had him open Abiword.
I had him open OpenOffice's Write program.
He was still convinced that he'd lost all his files.
Curse words flew through the phone and into my Guinness-soaked brain.
"WHERE ARE MY DAMN FILES?"
"Well, you've just installed Linux, you don't have any files yet."
"YES, I DID. I DID. THEY WERE ALL IN MY DOCUMENTS."
I gulped so hard that my Guinness curdled in my throat.
"My Documents?" I asked, hoping beyond hope that he hadn't done what I think he had.
"YEAH, MY DOCUMENTS."
Trying to decide whether to laugh or to feel his pain, I asked, "Did you have Windows on your system before you installed Linux on it?"
"I SURE AS HELL DID."
"Oh. Ummm, do you have your Windows files backed up somewhere?" Although I knew, or at least suspected that I knew the answer; I had to ask.
"NO, I DID NOT. BUT I NEED THEM BACK."
How do you deliver the bad news to someone who is upset, technically unsavvy and has just overwritten their Windows system with Linux?
He had installed a second hard disk in his system and wanted to put Linux there. The problem was that when he installed it, he did so to the primary (Windows) disk.
I looked up a PC Recovery business in the phone book for him and politely told him, "Good luck." I unplugged my phone until the next morning.
I'll never know what happened to that guy or if he ever recovered his files or his Windos system. But, it makes me wonder if that scenario could play out today with our newer, cooler, smarter installers. Could that happen on Ubuntu, for example?
Write back and tell me your "war stories" about your nightmare user experiences.