About Me

  • I'm a former teacher, now working for IT Services at the University of Birmingham
  • I'm married to Steph (a teacher), and we both spend far too much time sat in front of a computer.

About my Computers

I currently own several functional computers, three of which run Ubuntu as their only operating system. My main workstation is a Sony laptop, and I also have an EeePC 701 and a Dell Mini 10. I also own two Macs - one running OS X and one running Debian. At work I use Ubuntu at least 75% of the time as well (not always easy in a Windows centric environment). My 8 year old Thinkpad was retired a couple of years ago now, so I'm probably not the best choice of person to answer questions regarding the T22 or Thinkpads in general (except to say "buy one if you can afford it").

My OS of choice is Ubuntu (and has been since 2005), I prefer Gnome to KDE (and in fact prefer a lot of things to KDE), I use Firefox (with a million extensions) as a browser and access mail via Evolution at work and Thunderbird at home. As such the core Ubuntu packages serve my basic needs perfectly.

A Few Notes on Advocacy

There has been a lot of talk over the UK Ubuntu list this week about effective methods to spread the word about Linux in general and Ubuntu in particular. We have a large and active community, but at present we seem to be lacking a strategy as to how to “sell” the product to a user base that by and large doesn’t know we exist. This is something I think about a lot, especially as one of the main parts of my job is providing IT support to staff and students in a University that could really benefit from a move to a secure, modern operating system that is easily customisable to their needs. Some departments embrace Linux with open arms, but in general there is still a lack of information, and a prevailing fear of learning something new. Perhaps it’s just me, but learning new things is all part of what motivates me to get up in the morning in the first place.

There are three types of people who I think we need to expose to Ubuntu. The first is primary age schoolchildren. I used to be a primary school teacher, and one thing I remember very clearly is that the children interacted very well with a variety of learning environments, providing they had no real preconceptions about how these environments were meant to work. If we introduce them to Ubuntu as their first operating system, then they should start to become productive from a very young age. The Edubuntu project is doing a very good job here, but I am sure there is more we can do on a practical grass roots level.

The second type of user is one who likes something new, cutting edge, and basically different. This target audience would consist of university undergraduates, who have just left home for the first time and will embrace anything that represents the principles of change and self-reinvention. I think we should be setting up stalls at fresher’s week, and giving away free CDs, especially as a lot of these students will have acquired new PCs to use during their course. Some may say that Ubuntu is not ready for educational use, but as someone who works for a major university I can happily say that a great number of academics are wholly Linux based, and that wiki pages such as give a lot of useful information on approaching the academic world from a Ubuntu perspective.

The third group we need to target are those who really don’t care what operating system they use as long as they can perform a few simple tasks. Many people acquiring their first computer quite late in life fit into this category, and providing they can surf the internet, send email, and edit photographs of their grandchildren they are quite happy. My mother (who is 62) happily uses Firefox for web browsing, because she has never used anything else. Sometimes a lack of education in a subject can lead to a far more open mind than an overload of conflicting data.

I think what we need is a strategy to target these potential user groups, and to make use of those people we have in key positions to implement a change that makes good sense on so many levels. This is a project I wholly intend to get more involved in, and these scribblings are hopefully just the start.




AndyFerguson (last edited 2009-08-16 07:47:00 by 92-236-188-249)