August 23, 2002

Grassroots organization hopes to sway retailers with Linux survey

- by Tina Gasperson - says the common
perception that Linux is hard for the average user to install or configure is
nonsense. Nicholas "Blake" Couch, the front man for the group, believes that if
consumers had the chance to test Linux in a retail environment, they'd find out
just how easy Linux really is.Couch says that is a group of about six IT professionals and
businesspeople. "We've sort of gotten to know each other via the message boards
on Yahoo!, where we all spend a little of our leisure time defending the honor
of GNU/Linux and Open Source software." Couch doesn't offer much information
about the identity of the other members of the group, simply calling it a
"virtual grass-roots organization. We have no corporate affiliation as a group,
and no budget."

Couch himself says he is a consultant looking for work, developing in his spare time. "My experience with the computer has evolved
from paper tape and punch cards to GUIs and enormous power sitting under your
desk for very little cost.

"In recent years, I came to realize that the mainstream evolutionary path in
personal computing is going wrong, that it shouldn't be closed, proprietary,
unreliable, insecure and expensive."

So what do the people want? Mostly, they'd like for you to complete a
short survey posted at the Web site. The purpose of the survey
is "to find out if people would really be interested in seeing GNU/Linux demo
boxes in stores, and if being able to see a Linux box in the flesh would make a
difference in how they perceive it," says Couch.

"We would like to get a significant response to our survey, and if the numbers
we obtain support it, we would like to present the survey results as evidence of
Linux demand. We believe the retail channel would benefit from knowing that they
could actually stock a Linux box or two and expect that it would do more than
gather dust."

But even Couch admits that it would take more than just a few thousand survey
responses to change things at big retailers like Best Buy or Circuit City -- two
of the stores that the site mentions on its front page. "We're
not really focused on that sort of thing, however," says Couch. "I think we will
continue to gather data as long as we're still getting hits, and we're getting several
hundred a day. At this point I'd say the sky's the limit. Each day since we
launched we get more responses than the day before, so right now I'm just
sort of sitting back to wait and see where this takes us."

Couch looks forward to the day when anyone can walk into a local computer store
and take Linux for a test drive. "The consumer who tries out a Linux box at the
store is going to see that it's not some scary monster of a computer that only
techno-nerds can use. He's going to see a user-friendly machine with a nice GUI,
like KDE or Gnome, that can do everything he needs a computer to do, and chances
are he's going to see a lower price, too."

Couch realizes that the results of the survey are completely unscientific at
this point. "We are relying on the ubiquity of the internet to give us a
broad-based sampling of the computing population. Of course, it matters how
and where we promote the survey, and up until now our exposure has been
pretty much limited to the Linux press. We're working on getting the word
out to more non-Linux users, but we could certainly use the help of the
general press in doing that! We definitely want and need to hear from the
entire spectrum of computer users."

To "limit ballot box stuffing," collects
respondents' email addresses, only allowing each email address to be used once.
In order to validate a response, the system automatically sends an email to the
listed address and requires a reply from that address.


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