So I've been using GNU/Linux for a few years and have (mostly) learned my way around things that come up quite often. I've seen a few reoccurring problems again and again such as "Which Flash plugin should I download?" and "How do I turn off that beep when I shutdown?" I've even walked my girlfriends 14 year old sister through a dpkg-reconfigure of xorg over the phone because the ATI drivers she had were broken. She was an excellent listener and it was a success.
I've learned a lot about different sorts of hardware on laptops (most students at the University have laptops), which drivers work the best, which flash plugin to use and how to remove others, etc.
I've spoken to family and friends about GNU/Linux and why its my OS of choice. I explain how open source works, why its different, and why I use it. I've had quite a few friends want to know more, see it in action, a few have dual-booted, and some even drop Windows altogether.
So far, the reaction has been great. There's a few small problems that friends run in to. For instance, my girlfriend, Brittany's iPod touch still isn't natively supported with Rhythmbox and syncing with her music library. I know there's a way to jailbreak it and sync over wireless over SSH, but I'd like to keep the 'hackiness' down with her hardware in the event something were to go awry. This past Tuesday required a BIOS upgrade on a HP Pavilion dv9700 for a friend because it apparently wasn't giving the correct voltage to the wireless radio switch (rendering his wireless dysfunctional), also the lights on the volume button ceased to function. After the upgrade, Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope installed the restricted drivers from Broadcom and it worked like a charm along with the lights on his volume buttons.
Some of the great points that get people interested is the lack of viruses. The University requires all Windows computers to have Cisco Clean Access Agent installed to verify they have the latest Windows Updates along with Symantec Antivirus and latest updates. This sofware has been quite problem-ridden for a lot of residents and the Resnet Office's solution is a clean install of Windows (hope you had your stuff backed up). *Nix computers accessing the network do not require the software, we only have to provide credentials through our browser. I've seen RAM usage on startup go from 1.33gbs to 128mb on startup between Vista and Ubuntu. They also like the speed compared to their current XP or Vista installs. One particular girl exclaimed, "I used to turn on my computer, dry my hair, and when I came back it would be started up completely. Now I can't even make it to my hair dryer!"
Along with friends, my mom and sister have been able to use and find open source alternatives to the software they had been used to running and have been able to keep compatability with their workplaces. The Gimp is an excellent alternative to Photoshop (let alone the free MS Paint that ships with Windows), OpenOffice.org has them compatable with the latest Microsoft .*x documents, (and even saving to PDF without a $449 install of Adobe Pro), Rhythmbox, Exaile, Banshee for managing their mp3 players, Brasero for audio/data CD/DVD's, etc.
I will be sure to talk to anyone that asks me about GNU/Linux and share my experiences, thoughts, and oppinions. It doesn't take one person to make differences, it has taken the entire community to do what it has done so far, and I would like to be a part of this community and give back more than I have taken.