Technology, Learning, and the Digital Divide

This is a modified paper I wrote for one of my college classes. But it belongs here on Confessions of a Technophobe because technology in the classroom is becoming a really big deal. And as an aspiring future educator and ardent advocate of free and open-source software, I propose it’s use in the classroom as a means of crossing the great “digital divide:”

Technology is a great learning tool for students, but requires the same judicious and skillful use as other tools of learning. When audio-visual tools such as television and motion pictures were introduced into classrooms, teachers and students needed to be trained in the proper use of these technologies so that they would be an aid to learning rather than a distraction or a hindrance. We have all seen – or been – the student nodding off in the classroom during a movie rather than interacting with the material, and teachers were encouraged to use movies and videos with care to avoid that unfortunate result. Some teachers became dependent upon these new tools because they made it possible to provide the required access to learning materials with little or no effort by the teacher to actually convey the content themselves. The same can be true for the newer technology that enables access to material through the Internet, but there are ways to avoid it which should be implemented in every school. And there are ways to make this technology available in ways that minimize the “digital divide” between “haves” and “have-nots” in today’s classrooms. Both considerations are vital to the success of our students. This discussion seeks to address the following:

  • Integration

    of technology into instruction

  • Student

    safety on the Internet

  • Technology

    standards for middle school students

  • Choosing

    appropriate technology


My cooperating teacher, Mrs. P., integrates technology in her 7th-grade Civics and 8th-grade US History classes using an interactive web portal with downloadable assignments, readings, study guides in pdf format, and webquests; and e-mail links for communicating with students and parents. A closed television network at the middle school is accessible in every classroom so that teachers rarely need to purchase outside videos or other audio-visual aids for their classes. But Mrs. P. has brought in some documentaries on video from her own library to supplement the network library for her own classes. “There are resources available besides the ones offered by the school that include valuable material that is omitted or inadequately covered in the textbooks and video library,” she says. “Once I obtain approval for their use, I give my students the benefit of these extra resources that they wouldn’t otherwise have” (V. P., personal communication, February 6, 2015). One of her students uses a tablet as an accommodation, and is able to submit classwork digitally either by showing it to Mrs. P. or directly uploading it.


Mrs. P. is able to address both the “digital divide” and Internet safety by providing her students with access to the school library’s computers, which offer filtered access to the Internet using built-in hardware as well as software safety features in a safe environment. She falls short, in my opinion, by not adequately integrating research skills into the instructional material. Perhaps teaching research skills is considered to be beyond the ability of middle school students, but I share the opinion that research skills should be introduced as a necessary part of accessing information on-line. One educator writes, “While they’re learning to be good researchers, students will also be solidifying key Common Core competencies, like the ability to integrate knowledge, identify truthful reasoning, and use evidence to make a point” (Shwartz). If research skills are not included as part of the actual lesson, the research process becomes irrelevant to the students. A Google search can easily lead to unreliable, biased information or outright false information. Students must learn to identify good academic sources from bad ones. It is not enough to simply forbid students from using Wikipedia “because it is unreliable.” Students need to know how to tell whether material is reliable or not. Such skills are not beyond the ability of middle school students in my opinion. Any student that is mature enough to use the Internet is mature enough to learn basic research skills. A link from Ms. Shwartz’s article provides an ideal summary of what to look for in an easily applied acronym, “the CRAAP test” (Unknown). The acronym stands for:

  • Currency:

    The timeliness of the information,

  • Relevance:

    The importance of the information to your research,

  • Authority:

    The source of the information,

  • Accuracy:

    The reliability and truthfulness of the information, and

  • Purpose:

    The reason the information exists or is published.

It is not necessary for students learning to do Internet research to be left to their own devices in discerning which sources are good for their research or not. By integrating research skills into the subject matter itself, teachers in even the lower grades can give their students a big head start for the later years when they will be expected to put those skills to regular use.

Technology Standards for Middle School

While I have touched on what I think ought to be included, I have not been able to find a concrete and measurable statement of middle school grade-level technology standards in the Florida Standards, but only a vague reference in the Language Arts Standards to “the use of technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and link to and cite sources as well as to interact and collaborate with others, including linking to and citing sources” ( Clearly, there remains much work to be done in order to make such a nebulous “standard” concrete enough to make it more than a wishful aspiration. Using or adapting the CRAAP test and other simple tools can help “put wheels on the cart,” enabling students to learn research skills as part of the subject matter so that it makes better sense. It also puts responsibility for learning firmly in the hands of learners rather than teachers. “The technologies that can be used to help students take ownership of their learning include blogs, wikis, online quizzes, and VoiceThread,” according to an article on making use of technology in the classroom (Bart). Mrs. P. makes use of some of these tools on her own web portal, but they could be made more interactive through the use of online puzzles and games rather than the burdensome printed crossword puzzles she hands out in class. One of the reasons she does not is because several of her students use older computers with unsupported operating systems like WindowsXP®, which lost support for security updates last April. Purchasing a new computer to replace a perfectly good one that doesn’t have the resources to run the new version of Microsoft Windows® is an unreasonable hardship on families. It is one example of what our textbook calls “the digital divide.”

Crossing “the Digital Divide”

“Technology offers hope to many, but it does not always offer opportunity to everyone,” our textbook asserts to introduce “the gap between technology haves and have-nots” (Sadker & Zittleman, p. 195). Even with the dramatic drop in prices for computers and Internet access, much vital technology is simply out of reach for many families. Even here at the College of Central Florida it is an issue for students who are not wealthy or who work during the hours that computers at the school are available in the Learning Center. One wonderful bridge over this great gap which has made huge advances in recent years, is the development of free and open-source software (FOSS) and free operating systems like GNU/Linux. This writer uses an ancient relic of a computer – one step up from an abacus – kept out of the landfill by means of a simple, elegant, point-and-click operating system that is absolutely free of charge. Loaded with a free office suite that does everything that it’s expensive proprietary Microsoft counterpart does, I have been able to get almost all of my school work done without having to spend hundreds of dollars to replace a working computer and upgrade massively expensive office software. The only glitch has been a requirement in two of my classes to use only Microsoft format in some assignments. LibreOffice, the most popular FOSS equivalent of Microsoft Office®, is able to convert documents into Microsoft format most of the time, but it should not be necessary since LibreOffice works on every platform including Windows. Keeping modest computers working well with free operating systems like Linux, and using no-cost software like OpenOffice or LibreOffice, the Evince pdf reader and other free tools has become a great bridge over the digital divide in many underdeveloped nations, impoverished schools, and even government agencies. It has been neglected in favor of expensive proprietary systems for far too long. The time is long past that public schools should have stopped holding their students and teachers hostage to mega-corporations which lock them into a single format. Access to information on the Internet is far too valuable a resource to be kept from students merely for the sake of appeasing a corporate giant.


Bart, M. (2011). How Technology Can Improve Learner-Centered Teaching. Magna Publications.

Retrieved from


Sadker, D. & Zittleman, K. (2013). Teachers, Schools, and Society. (10th edition). New York, NY.


Shwartz, K. (2013, October). Teach Kids to Be Their Own Internet Filters. Retrieved from

Unknown. (2012). The CRAAP Test. Retrieved from the North Carolina A&T University Library web



A Kid Wins Linux Converts

I found this gem on line and repost with permission of the author, a14-year-old home user of LXLE:

My Parents Want LINUX!
by “Jamie”

How cool is this? I came home from school today to find my mom sitting in front of my computer on the phone with someone, asking questions about Linux. She and Dad go on my computer alot so I wasn’t worried they would find anything embarrassing (yet, but I just started high school so maybe soon lol), but I’m thinking maybe she thinks she broke something. Really though, I don’t think Mom and Dad could break anything on my computer on accident anyway because they don’t know the root password. So I sat down and listened.

“Well then why is my computer so much slower than my son’s when it has 16 gigs of RAM and a quad-core processor?” she thundered at some poor Indian guy on the other end.

“We gave him that old boat anchor six months ago because it’s old and underpowered and won’t run Windows anymore. He’s done something to make it run circles around my brand new one! I have stuff to get done and I have to borrow my son’s – what do you call this Jamie?”

“It’s Linux, Mom.” I said, trying not to grin too big.

“Linux! I want that on my computer!”

A long pause, then Mom’s face starts turning red. “What do you mean you can’t do that? You’re the professional and I have to have my computer work done by my 13 year old?”

“I’m 14 now Mom…”

“Shhhh!” Back to the phone, “Well?”

Another long pause, a quiet end to a frustrating phone call, and then Mom drops this bomb:

“Your father and I want you to make our computer do what yours does. Please.”

Stunned silence


Big huge grin that won’t go away. I don’t even think a root canal could take this smile off my face right now! So I have to do some reading and make sure I know how to do this dual-boot thing. But in the meantime Mom is running LXLE on her computer from a live USB drive and singing a little song that goes like ZOOM ZOOM ZOOOOOOOM!

This makes me a happy boy!

#Linux #Ubuntu #Windows #parents #happy #singing #dancing #iamsofreakingoutrightnow

This is better than anything I’ve posted to this blog. Maybe I’ll recruit this kid as a co-contributor!

Adopted Sidekick’s Linux Blog

Formerly published at, I’ve decided to put all my Linux stuff in it’s own blog rather than mix it with all the personal stuff I’ve posted there.  Some of my readers were sick and tired of wading through “all that Linux stuff” to find the newsy and musey personal stuff they like.

I call it Confessions of a Technophobe because, believe it or not, I’m still skittish about technology and still frustrated with stuff that is supposedly simple for most people, like “smart” phones and GPSes and programmable appliances. But I’m also dirt poor, a starving college student who has to do a bunch of school work on a computer, but I can’t afford to run out and buy a new PC, much less one of those super-cool Macs!  So to get all the mileage I can out of what I already have (now that Windows XP is no longer supported and my poor old dinosaur won’t run any newer version of Windows), I started messing around with a free operating system called Linux!

Not very smart for a guy who is terrified of technology. But I just didn’t have any choice but to at least try it, and it’s better than borrowing other people’s machines or doing all my work on the computers at school.  So this blog is just to share my lessons learned with other people who might be in the same predicament – financially handicapped, hating to throw away a perfectly good (albeit slow) computer that they finally got used to using, and, like me, maybe even scared of anything new and technological.

Posts from the old blog will be moved here, and my other blog may just fade away into cyber-ether, I don’t know. But this one is strictly for all the Linux stuff that my friends and family don’t care about. M’kay?

More later.  Thanks for reading!


Linux Vs Windows

Most of you know I’m finally going back to school after more than 30 years. I don’t mind telling y’all that I’m not a little scared about it. My first class is Freshman English Composition 1. It made sense to me to take that one first so I’ll know how to write papers for all my other classes.

This is my second essay, a “comparison & contrast” essay. It’s probably not hard for my readers to guess what I wanted to compare and contrast, since I think the majority of my posts here have been about my desktop operating system. Borrrrrinnnnnng for most people, I know. And for this essay we were instructed “to inform and entertain,” which means I really couldn’t write a boring, technical comparison. I think I succeeded – a little late in the essay though – in making it “entertaining.” We’ll do peer reviews of each other’s work next week, but I’d like to start mine early, so please, offer some feedback as to how I can make this essay better, and especially more entertaining!

Desktop Operating Systems

Linux vs. Microsoft Windows®

Most computer users are content to use whatever operating system “comes with the computer” when they buy it, never giving their operating system a second thought – until it slows to a crawl, gets a virus, or freezes. They think about the operating system when the Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) appears in Microsoft Windows®. Then the only operating systems most people are aware of are Windows and Apple’s Macintosh system. Now with support for Windows XP ending next month, many users have resigned themselves to buying a new computer that can support the new versions of Windows. That, however, is not actually necessary, because most Linux desktop and laptop operating systems support older, modest hardware and are available to most PC users free of charge. For most users Linux does everything that Windows can.

Home users use their computers for writing, spreadsheets, web browsing, e-mail, sharing music and pictures, and keeping up with Facebook. Since many Windows users are heavy gamers, Linux may not fully satisfy their needs, because the majority of people who write computer games have Windows users in mind when they write them. Yet players of many popular Massively Multi-Player Role Playing Games (MMPRPGs) are able to play World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy on Linux machines. Non-gamers are likely to have an even more satisfying experience on Linux than they had on Windows.

Almost all Linux desktop operating systems are available at no charge! Released under the General Public License, Linux and most of the software it uses are Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). Thousands of coders from all over the world collaborate continually to maintain Linux and keep it updated. This is in stark contrast with Microsoft Windows®, which is proprietary and closed-source, and lavishly expensive; as is the “bloatware” needed to maintain it.

The term “bloatware” refers to software that is not intended for the user, but just for the operating system (OS). Anti-virus / security software, registry cleaners, and other optimization software is considered “bloatware.” Linux, by contrast, has no registry to clean and has virtual immunity from known viruses, spyware, and other forms of malware. One of the reasons for this difference is simply the fact that Windows users ordinarily operate with “Administrator” privileges, while Linux users have to enter a password and log in as “root” (Administrator) to access the vulnerable bits of the system. No need for “bloatware” whatsoever. It is an easy choice: Pay lavishly for an expensive, resource-hogging system, and for expensive “bloatware” to keep Windows happy and cooperative, or pay nothing for a virtually virus-proof system, saving your hard drive space for your pictures, videos, documents, and favorite miscellaneous digital treasures.

FOSS offers free (as in cost) alternatives to most applications that Windows users pay big money for: Evince does what Adobe Reader does; Firefox, Chromium, Opera, and Midori do what Internet Exlporer does. Thunderbird and Evolution do what Outlook does; and Open Office and Libre Office do almost everything that Microsoft Office® does. GIMP does what Adobe Photoshop® does. Pidgin is an all-in-one FOSS application that replaces AOL’s Instant Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, MSN Instant Messaging, and Skype®. Most of the 300-plus free Linux distributions include all this software on their free and downloadable installation CDs and DVDs.

Linux users are able to keep their older hardware out of the landfills and lend their computers years of new life simply by switching from Microsoft Windows® to one of the completely free distributions of a Linux operating system. It makes good ecological sense to use Linux rather than to discard a perfectly good computer simply because the operating system has become obsolete. Linux is also more energy efficient, making full use of the computer’s resources without needing to run a half-dozen instances of “bloatware” in the background, robbing the user of the use of those resources for applications. Computer users want to run applications, not the operating system! Linux lets users do that, staying out of the way; while Windows is a resource hog that reserves vast resources for itself, keeping them unavailable to the user. In an interview with PC Magazine, the inventor of Linux, Linus Torvaldes, put it better than anyone before or since: “Computers are like air conditioners,” he said. “Once you open Windows, they’re useless!”

In the blockbuster film The Matrix, one if it’s major characters, Morpheus, describes the Matrix’ grip on the minds of its victims in terms that exactly and perfectly describe the majority of computer users victimized by Windows:

“You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.” Microsoft counts on that sense of dependency and fosters it by discounting their system to original equipment manufacturers who agree to sell Windows and other Microsoft products on their new computers. Windows has become an institution in itself: The default format for most documents is .doc and .docx, used in Microsoft Office®. Drivers for printers, monitors, and other peripherals are written overwhelmingly to operate on Windows. The grip of Microsoft, both on manufacturers and users is almost palpable. Yet as the most-used operating system worldwide, Windows XP, reaches the end of its life, more and more people, institutions, and governments are switching to Linux and saving millions by doing so. Among the most notable of these, according to Wikipedia, are the city government of Munich, Germany, which chose in 2003 to migrate its 14,000 desktops to Linux. The United States Department of Defense has switched all the servers for the US Army to Red Hat Enterprise Linux, the Federal Aviation Administration is currently making the switch, and the National Nuclear Security Administration is using it. The city of Vienna, Italy scrapped Windows for Linux. The French Parliament has switched its desktop computers to Ubuntu Linux, as has their police force, the National Gendaremie, and France’s Ministry of Agriculture as well. The federal employment office of Germany has switched to OpenSUSE Linux. Several school systems in the United States and abroad are saving thousands by switching to Linux, and Daytona State College / University of Central Florida’s Writing Center is promoting Libre Office in place of Microsoft Office.

Put side by side, the two operating systems are so unevenly matched for cost, security, availability, support, and ability to function speedily on modest hardware that in the years to come, the Microsoft Matrix-like grip on the desktop computer may be loosened. One computer and one user at a time, a new standard may emerge to dominate the desktop.

The Lubuntu Adventure Begins

Updating the kernel solved my major issues with PCLinuxOS, but as I wrote in my previous post, I wonder if I’ve just been kidding myself about getting this old relic to run these spectacular modern desktrop Linux distributions.

Even my most favorite and beloved Xubuntu seems to outrun this old hardware at times. And according to the Xubuntu team’s Strategy Document, that wonderful Ubuntu flavor is not specifically intended nor designed for older hardware like it once was:

Xubuntu does not explicitly target users with low, modest, or high powered machines but instead targets the entire spectrum. Xubuntu’s extra responsiveness and speed, among other positive traits, can be appreciated by all users, regardless of their hardware.

Although I must admit if I had a computer that could handle Ubuntu’s fancy new Unity interface, I think I’d give it a shot. But my computer can’t carry heavy loads. It’s over 10 years old for goodnessakes! So instead of trying to make these awesome modern Linux distros run on this old relic, it’s time to get real and choose one of those “ultralights” that is designed for hardware like mine. I am so grateful for Linux! It has already given this old dinosaur years of new life! But the Big Popular distros are outrunning my hardware.

So yesterday I promised to write about Lubuntu, the only remaining Ubuntu flavor that is actually intended and designed for older hardware. There isn’t a Long-Term-Support release of Lubuntu yet, but one is coming in April, and I suspect it’s going to become hugely popular as more and more former WindowsXP users find it a wonderful alternative when support of WinXP ends at the very same time as the new LTS editions are released.

There’s even a way to add a little eye candy to Lubuntu while still being as miserly as Scrooge with resources:

Ain’t it pretty!? This is Lubuntu 13.10! That’s no special fancy icon set, those are the Lubuntu default icons! My only additions are the wallpaper – a photograph taken out the window of a big ol’ jet airliner (can you hear the song?) of Mount Ranier towering over the neighboring mountain range – and a cute little application called gdesklets. I couldn’t find a weather applet for it in the usual places but I bet there is one to be found. Less resource-hungry, I’m told, than most of the alternative screenlets. I’ve got a calendar and an old-fashioned analog clock on the desktop since I’m always forgetting what day it is and where I’m supposed to be. :-[

Fully updated, Lubuntu is absolutely the fastest, most responsive operating system I have ever had on this computer. It performs even faster than the ultralight AntiX (which doesn’t even offer a full desktop environment) and is much more up-to-date. Is it stable? Well, I haven’t been using it long enough to know that yet, but so far nothing has crashed or hesitated or slowed down or frozen up. Unlike many of the Ubuntu-based spin-offs, multimedia codecs need to be added manually either during or after installation, since it is illegal in many countries to include that software in a freely distributed system. The only little glitch I have experienced so far was that choosing to include them during installation of Lubuntu didn’t work. But after installation of Lubuntu, adding them was a simple matter of a few mouse clicks.

This doesn’t seem to be as customizable as the Xfce desktop, but I’ve managed to get the whole desktop looking great, including the panel opacity and desklets, without the frustration I anticipated with learning a new desktop environment. That’s huge to me, since I ordinarily get bogged down in that kinda stuff. So I guess it’s intuitive enough, for me at least.

I recommend this Ubuntu flavor for ‘buntuers with computers having from 256 to 512 of RAM. Less than 256 is probably impractical for Lubuntu. But a lot of those old machines with WindowsXP on them fit in that range, and Lubuntu will be there to save countless numbers of them from an agonizing death in the landfill.

My Technophobia

Any fan of the Star Trek movies will remember this little guy from the movie Star Trek – Insurrection:

That’s Artim, of the Baku. His ancestors came from a planet where technology had developed weapons that threatened to destroy all life. Determined never to allow that to happen again, some of them decided to colonize a new world where most technology would be forsaken, and to build an agrarian society where machines do not do all the work of the people, leaving the idle to make mischief. Despite being technologically advanced, Artim’s people have rejected technology.

“Artim” is the moniker (and image) I chose to identify myself by in the wonderful forums they have at PCLinuxOS. Because I’ve always been pretty scared of technology. I’m an artist, and the last thing I ever imagined I’d be doing would be repartitioning a hard drive and installing and configuring my own operating system! “Linux is only for techno-geeks,” I had always assumed, and whenever I had computer problems I simply took the machine to a Microsoft Certified repair geek and paid whatever ransom was required to get my computer running again. I didn’t want to have anything to do with fixing my own tech stuff. I was scared to even open the tower cabinet to blow dust out of it! When the new smart phones came out, I asked for a “regular” phone, preferably one like this:

Please, just keep it simple! I don’t want a fancy one that can track the orbits of planets and comets, or predict the weather, or tell me what my dreams mean and whatever else those “smart” phones do! I just want a mobile telephone for goodnessakes, can’t I just have a phone? Noooooo. They don’t even make those anymore. And the old bricks that once served only as phones won’t work anymore with the current technology.

I really do get freaked out by technology. But like Artim’s people in the movie, technology was imposed upon me by outsiders, and I had to overcome my fear and distrust of all things technological. When I joined the fire department it was all techno-stuff. In college it was techno-stuff. Lifesaving techno-stuff, good and beneficial techno-stuff. But no less frightening to me than the walking, talking android Starfleet Commander was to little Artim at first.

So am I some kind of tech guru now? No way. Have I lost my fear of technology? Not entirely. I’m still just an ordinary reluctant user of computers and smart phones and technology by necessity. And frankly I still fume at having it imposed upon me. I am far from embracing this new world I find myself in now, where – like Artim’s ancestors – technology threatens to destroy all life. “When you build a machine to do the work of a man, you take something away from the man,” Artim’s father explained to Captain Picard.

Linux is not the fearful technology I imagined, though. It is simply the means by which I have overcome the tyranny imposed by Microsoft, just as the Enterprise’ technology liberated Artim’s world. In fact, Microsoft’s operating system is a lot more complicated, confusing, and bewildering than desktop Linux is. And look at the prices! Microsoft’s bloated, high-risk operating system: Two to three hundred dollars by itself, plus the cost of all the bloatware needed to maintain it (antivirus, anti-spyware, etc) and the cost of whatever software you need (Microsoft Office – $100 or more), and of course, the repeated cost of having a Microsoft Certified techno-geek repair the damage of ordinary use. Compare to Linux: Free. Completely free of charge for the operating system, no need for bloatware to maintain it, and free, open-source software like LibreOffice to do what others charge big bucks for. Maintaining it is also free of charge. Safe updates from software repositories maintained by volunteer developers, packagers, and maintainers. My Linux installs effortlessly in about 25 minutes. Try that with Winblows or Mac! I point-and-click my way through easily navigable screens, choose a name and a root (administrator) password and presto, done.

The only confusing thing for me has been all the different “flavors” Linux is available in, and the different desktop environments to choose from. But trying them all out costs nothing, and one can’t help but learn along the way. It took me a year to finally choose a favorite desktop, and two new ones have come along since then! Such wondrous variety, and all free.

More Reasons Not to Fear Linux

Linux has no “registry,” and thus no registry errors to slow it down to a crawl and no need for more software to “fix” it.

Linux is not susceptible to most viruses and malware like Winblows is, for two reasons: First because there aren’t many ‘Nixers as compared to ‘Dozers, so not much malware gets written to attack this “obscure” operating system. But second, because executable files don’t run in Linux like they do in Winblows, and the user doesn’t ordinarily operate in Linux as “Administrator” like Winblows users do. Viruses simply don’t have access to the system, and even if they get it through some act of deliberate stupidity on the part of the user, they may not even be executable there.

Linux works on just about any hardware nowadays, and it’s ideal for keeping older computers running better than new instead of replacing a perfectly good computer because Winblows doesn’t support the version that was installed when you bought it. Did you get that, WindowsXP users? Next April you don’t have to spend big bucks for a whole new machine just because support for WindowsXP is ending! There’s a completely FREE alternative that should not scare you like I was scared at first. Like Artim was.

I’m no Linux guru or techno-geek. I’m not running off to join Starfleet. I’m just an appreciative Baku boy with a better perspective of technology (and a new android friend). A little less bewildered and scared of it, and better able to help others just like me, who try to avoid technology and have been willing to pay tribute to a tyrant (Microsoft or Apple) rather than live free and on their own terms. Technology is meant to serve us, not the other way around! Remember Artim when April gets closer and your XP machine is about to become obsolete and more threatening than ever. Even a little sidekick can handle most desktop Linux distributions without any special geek-training. You can too. Don’t be scared.

A Linux Hitchhiker

When you think about it, computers users like me are just hitchhikers. I don’t have much to contribute, I’m just along for the ride and happy to have a ride at all. A hitchhiker usually finds himself or herself at the mercy of those he or she takes a rides from. That’s not really true in Linux like it was in Microsoft’s car. Microsoft held me for ransom. The only contribution they wanted from me was money – lots of it. And of course, I had to be a willing slave to their operating system. I found it’s demands excessive and got sick of the bullying. It’s my computer, it should do what I tell it to do, not the other way around! So I hopped out, said goodbye and stuck out my thumb in search of an alternative.

As a hitchhiking computer user, you’re not so independent unless you have skills at coding and programming and such. But fortunately not all those who offer rides are in it for the money or expertise. Many are looking for riders who are simply willing to ride along and evaluate the vehicle and it’s features from a non-technical, ordinary user’s perspective. Some Linux developers, particularly those who work in desktop projects, want to know if it’s something their friends will use, that won’t scare away technophobic parents and grandparents, that children can intuitively navigate. They need to know what unskilled hitchhikers think.

There are other things that people who pick up hitchhikers want. It’s the reason that hitchhikers suppose they have to flash some skin and act a little flirty since we think we have nothing else to offer. Like all geeks, Linux developers need affection, appreciation, and love. Fangirls and fanboys to sing their praises and make them feel successful and appreciated. Fan blogs get lots of readers and devoted fangirls and boys are rewarded with hits and listings on Linux Planet, Launchpad, Linux News and whatever else. ” Linux cheerleaders” are popular with “Linux jocks” I guess. I could be one of those if I wanted to be, and if I were to become a cheerleader and poster fanboy for a Linux distro right now, I would choose Xubuntu Linux to dance and cheer for. Because for right now, it’s awesome for me on my old hand-me-down Dell which Xubuntu has rescued from the landfill. I absolutely adore Xubuntu! But I’m not going to become one of those fanboy / cheerleaders for good reasons:

  • I may not always have this computer.
  • Xubuntu may not always work on this computer as awesomely as it does today.
  • Xubuntu has changed a lot since I first took a ride and fell in love. I still adore it, but let’s just say I’ve had to make some adjustments to our relationship.

I don’t need to be a cheerleader or have a popular, widely-read “Linux blog” to get rides. Besides, I can get rides without sacrificing my dignity, because I can write honest, articulate articles about my Linux experiences as an ordinary casual home computer user. That and an occasional donation to a worthy project is all I have to offer, and it ought to be enough. I’m not ever going to learn coding and programming because I have neither the time, nor the skills, nor the passion such work requires for boring stuff like techno-appliances and their peripherals. I just need them to work so I can pursue the things I am passionate about. My computer is just a tool, a means to other ends. I’m grateful for those whose passion provides me with such awesome tools to pursue my passions with. I have other interests but on occasion in this category I like to to chronicle my journey and tell about the rides I have shared with generous drivers, some that were wonderful fun and some that were duds. Your mileage, as they say, will certainly vary.

But remember, if you are a casual user like me, that you’re just a hitchhiker and don’t piss off the nice driver who is helping you out. Of course that doesn’t mean you have to put up with rude drivers, unsafe drivers, nasty, smelly or even boring ones. Just say thank you and hop out, unless you’re in the middle of nowhere without any other option. But with Linux it’s so darn easy to collect LiveCDs / DVDs, and you’re never out of options.