I’ll introduce the story a bit. About 4 to 5 years ago I really got bored of dealing with Windows so I looked for alternatives. I found Linux and I happily migrated. As I’m the only computer geek at home, out of 8 people!, I progressively moved every computer at home to Linux with KDE. The rest of my family just moved with me and eventually loved the change. This is not to say that they haven’t had issues from time to time but they can always get help from me. With Windows it was just the same, so no change here. They felt the change was for good, they found KDE easier, prettier and less intrusive. Seriously. In fact right now the only Windows installation at home it’s my sister’s dual boot that has a Vista… and it’s there because I told my sister not to deleted it, just in case she might needed it. She really hates Vista (something I don’t). She wanted to have it deleted but I insisted (I completely deleted Vista 15 days after having bought the laptop, by the way).
So, the story is that my nephew, who’s 5 y.o right now, has been using Linux and Windows since always and can explain you what’s the difference between them and how to select one or the other in GRUB’s menu…. The first day he had computer classes at school teachers simply got amazed of his computer abilities. The kid asked – Teacher, don’t you use Linux here? – as he saw XP on the screens. I don’t even think the poor teacher knew what Linux was. As you can imagine, he can’t read yet. He knows the numbers and letters and he’s just started learning how to pronounce groups of letters (Galician and Spanish have regular orthographies so one grapheme nearly always equates to one phoneme). To brief up, very basic reading skills. While still a baby we’d let him play with mouse, then with two y.o we opened a web browser and have him playing simple games at BBC kids web page and so on. Progressively I taught him to switch on and off the PC and to select the OS in the GRUB menu (he couldn’t read but knew that windows was third), I taught him how to select a user and write the password in KDM (yes, his mother has passworded login 😉 ) and how to open firefox (the fox ball, he calls it) and use bookmarks (which I set up for him). I think you get ti, he knows that kind if things. Some times he even tells me – hey, look what trick I know! – and changes the virtual desktop or something alike.
But the other day I just perceive how much his “computing” skills had advanced and how pathetic some people, that has been using computers since they had been invented, seem in comparison. He switch on the laptop as always, typed in the password, and went on to launch a web browser. He basically uses the laptop for playing flash games. He launched kickoff (yes, kickoff); for some mysterious reason he ignored Firefox, which is bookmarked as a favorite, move to the ‘recently used’ tab, looked for Opera and launched it. Then, he moved to the direction bar, or whatever you call it, pressed the button that shows the recently typed web pages (that small triangle) and scrolled through the list until the found the one he likes. I’ve no clue how he recognized the domain, by the way. (Shape recognition?). The page loaded and then he clicked in a game which triggered the opening of a background tab, to where he immediately moved to happily start playing. It is not that he knows how to do all that things individually, it’s that he has discovered them through use and now uses all them routinely without doubting about what he has to do next. Oh, he said Opera was better than Firefox for games 🙂 . Don’t ask me why.
Besides that my nephew might be brighter than the average, to my head came all that futile debated about kickoff, how bad it was, people counting clicks and so on. It suites the need of my nephew and It’s just right for most of people. My experience is that average users don’t care about learning applications names and don’t even know or care about what applications are installed. It isn’t different if the user has gone to the university or not. Most user simply don’t care about anything computer related. The question type I’ve been made the most is ‘what do I use for …?’ and ‘where do I find my….?’. Kickoff does well at helping people finding applications and folders. I might not be a perfect tool but does the job well. I have the impression that users most opposed to changes are long term users that simply don’t want things to change because if they change they have to learn a new series of habits. But new users easily adapt, especially 5 y.o KDE users 🙂 .
Nice, isn’t it?