I have rather nice little story to share with you all.
My mother in law, Sue, has what can be best described as a dog-earred mess of a laptop. A reasonably modern Lenovo Thinkpad with Windows Vista, it was painfully slow to use, crammed with all manner of bloatware and pre-installed rubbish that came with the machine and the applications she installed, and likely hiding some spyware, viruses and other uglyness.
Now, I am not a fan of Windows at the best of times, but this was beyond software preferences: the machine was barely usable. Sue though, being the trooper she is, gritted her teeth and just got on with it, going about her business as usual.
Recently here in the USA it was Mothers Day and I had an interesting idea. We had an old Dell Inspiron that has been kicking around for the last four years or so, and I decided to install Ubuntu 12.04 on there for her as a surprise.
So, I downloaded the ISO, put it on a USB stick and the installation went flawlessly. Ubuntu 12.04 detected all of the hardware perfectly, and I rebooted. I was a little curious to see how Unity was going to fare on a machine that to my knowledge is at least four years old, possibly five or six years old, and it was slick and fast. Now, I am not being generous here…the performance is genuinely snappy; I was really quite impressed. Nice work, Unity team.
On mothers day I met up with Sue and her husband and my brother in law (Erica was out of the country) and I gave her the laptop. Naturally, she was overjoyed, but whereas I planned on sitting down with her after dinner to show her how Ubuntu works, we ultimately didn’t get a chance to and she took the machine home with her. As such, all I did was tell her the password for logging in and then she was pretty much on her own with the option of calling me if she got stuck.
Now, Sue is very much a computer novice. She has no outside interest in computers…for her it is a tool, pure and simple. I was a little nervous how she would get on.
A few days later I heard back from her and she was absolutely overjoyed. She was browsing around the machine, installing software, accessing websites in Firefox, creating and saving documents in Libreoffice, and the last I heard from a few hours ago…signing up to Ubuntu One so she can ensure her files are backed up to the cloud.
As just one cog in this Ubuntu and wider Open Source and Free Software machine, I am really proud that we as a community could deliver this experience to her. I am confident that a few years back the experience would not have been so smooth and consistant, and it is fantastic to see Free Software thrilling regular people who just want get things done with their computers, safely and enjoyably. Thanks to everyone who contribute to make this little success story happen.