I hit my first Linux wall. A client wanted me to fix his older model laptop. I mean, really older model: IBM ThinkPad iSeries 1400: Pentium 300 MHz, 32 meg ram, 4 gig hard drive. It came with Windows ME installed. It had no virus, spyware, or malware protection of any type on it. None. As you can guess, it was loaded up with malware. Broadcasting it, in fact. It may have had all the really big malware problems on it. All at once.
I was able to find a 128 meg memory chip that would work in it. The poor little pink mac won't really miss it. If I need another chip, I'm sure another will come along soon enough. So, now the computer had 160 meg of memory.
I Boot and Nuked the hard drive. I didn't want to risk any malware on that computer spreading around. Then, I installed Xubuntu 7.04 Feisty Fawn. I used the alternate install CD. I was hoping that the older Linksys 802.11b pc card was supported, but it wasn't. If it had been, I think we'd be in business. I had to uninstall Xubuntu, reformat the hard drive, and install Windows 2000. I have Windows 98SE, and even Windows ME, but both aren't really worth using.
The main issue is this: this user isn't particularly tech savvy. He use to Windows, and might not use the computer if it booted to something different. Even putting Windows 2000 is a risk. This point makes me realize the challenge in my Central Florida Free Geek efforts; users with a little experience might be reluctant to change. Even if its free.
I could probably use the computer. I'd put DSL (Damn Small Linux) on it, and use that. But DSL isn't for the light hearted casual user. It will run on almost anything, but requires a good bit more knowledge of the system to use it. Ubuntu doesn't require that. But, Ubuntu, and even Xubuntu, is just too much for this system. I could probably get Xubuntu to work. I'd just have to find a different wireless pc card. But, the user for this system might not be willing to bother working with it so much to get it working.
In this instance, Microsoft still has the upper hand. Mostly because of their 95% stranglehold on the market. People like the familiar. That's why there are so many franchise stores. People like to know their Big Mac, Whopper, or Taco will taste the same in San Francisco as it did in Orlando, or New York, Or Los Angles. People like the familiar, and for the less tech savvy, Windows is familiar.
At the very least, I'm glad I was able to fix and update the computer. While my preference is Linux, I realize that might not work for other. My job is not to preach open source, force my ideology on someone else, or sneak something on someone. My job is to get their equipment to work the way they want it to work. That simple.