Over the past year I have been pushing my co-workers to allow me to setup test installation of Linux alongside windows (at no cost) when I repair their systems, for this I thank canonical for sending me the free installation CD that I have put to very good use. This process has been slow and painful, but now that many of those people are experienceing the stadard windows issues again on their computers they are forced to use Linux until the windows installation can be fixed. This forced use is the blessing for the cause, after only a couple of days those users start ranting to their friends about how fast, clean and safe it is, many of the users are so proud that they voluntarily show off their installation to those that they speak with. Please keep in mind that these are true users who only care if they can complete their tasks and are generally afraid of administrative actions.
This work of mouth has finally paid off, within the past week I have been asked to install Ubuntu Linux on 9 machines and have another 4 (that I know of) machines on the list for the next week. In addition to that I have several people that are planning to purchase a new computers or are waiting for their new systems to arrive so I can install Ubuntu on them and remove and windows. I have one more users that had been forced to return their computer to Best Buy and Geek Squad because of hardware issues and upon getting the pitch from them about reinstalling Vista the owner actually told them to return the computer with a blank harddrive so I can install Ubuntu for them to use.
After long patient work and displaying my true colors to the users they are finally listening to my recommendations and spreading the word as an average user rather than the rants of a computer savy admin, which can scare some way. I am successfully spreading Linux to the masses and being saught out my new user just for the installation, my mission has finally succeeded. The burst of requests I have been receiving is so great that I am starting to train an appretice to assist with the installations.
Within this post I have referred to Ubuntu many times, it is not because it is my favorite distro it is because in my opinion it is the best for normal users (so far). I have also setup a couple of Slackware system for friends who are willing to learn.
To conclude, sitting back and telling people online that Linux is good has a limited audience that do not necessarily trust you. However, by being honest and giving the users a chance to not only see it run, but also to work with it unassisted is the best way to get them to agree to convert. These single conversion may not seem like much but with the assistance of word-of-mouth advertising from trusted individuals we stand a chance to claim signifigant market share from both apple and microsoft.
If we can get a well timed public marketing campaign to correspond with our individual efforts, then I feel we can make a definate impact on the market and help many people resolve their expected computer woes by having them request to remove the inferior software.