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And you thought Linux was just for geeky boys!

I never expected to become such a Linux fangirl, especially because I'm not technically minded at all. I'm a teenage girl, into dance and cheer and gymnastics, not computers. Not until a few days ago that is.

I have read several articles on multiple forums about "getting women and girls into Linux," with several suggestions (mostly from guys, by the way) on how to do it. I want to tell my story because I think it may offer something new to the discussion.

I discovered Linux by accident. There is this very cute boy in my dance school who uses a laptop to teach a beginner's class. I borrowed his laptop for a few minutes between classes. I surfed the web a little, checked my e-mail, listened to some music, and did a little school work. When I returned his laptop, I commented on how fast and easy it was. That's when he told me it was Linux!

What??? Robin is not a geeky boy at all - but he uses Linux?! And oh my gosh, I had unknowingly used Linux effortlessly to do all the things I ordinarily do in Vista. I was amazed.

Not long after that, when Vista updated, I got more security warnings, expired license warnings, and a few little things stopped working. I decided to ask that cute boy about Linux, and he lit up, trying to hide his enthusiasm. He introduced me to Linux and I became an almost instant fangirl.

Now how does my story help in "recruiting" more women and girls into Linux? Here's how:

First, I might never have "converted" if I had felt no need to leave Windows. Just don't "recruit" people to change what they don't need to change! If it ain't broke, people are not willing to turn their whole operating system on its head just to gain some unknown advantage.

Secondly, the "geek mystique" that surrounds Linux can't be dispelled easily. Don't try. Just let her borrow your computer for something, and for goodness sakes, don't scare her away by "warning" her that it might be unfamiliar and for goodnessakes, don't say it's Linux! After she has successfully done what she needed the computer for, then tell her, if you must. Her own experience will go farther than your words or any article you could point her to.

If you are a tinkerer and your wife/girlfriend/daughter sees you constantly "fixing" your computer, she may infer that you are "fixing" it because it's broken! That doesn't look good for Linux at all. Sure, you're only customizing it and tweaking it because you can. But most Windows users are not aware that you can customize an OS to such an amazing degree. She won't understand.

Thirdly, to her, the computer is just a tool. Not unlike a car or a toaster. She doesn't feel the need to learn how the car works and how to diagnose and repair every little thing, she just wants to turn the key and go (shopping!). How it works doesn't matter as long as it does. "Linux for girls" should be the same way. It doesn't have to be super-simple. But it does have to be dependable, reliable, and useful.

Linux is ready for the desktop - but the Linux community may not be ready for desktop USER. Here's what I mean: In my first few days using Linux, I ran across this arrogant sentiment in a couple of "help" forums: "Learn the command line or go back to Windows, little girl." Just because I'm a little girl doesn't mean I can't look for a simpler way to accomplish a task I'm not likely to repeat very often (like installing software). In fact, the command line is an awesome secret weapon that I never would have attempted in Vista! But let her discover that on her own if she's a newbie, by suggesting only when it is the simplest and easiet option. There are plenty of occasions when the CLI is alot simpler than browsing through directories to find a file and edit it, for example. She feels dumb enough as it is asking technical questions, without the condescending (or downright disrespectful) attitude. Remember, to her it's just a tool! She wants the fastest way to get it running again. She wants to run her applications, not her operating system!

You don't have to be a gorgeous hunk of sweet awesomeness like the beautiful boy who brought me to Linux (but it helps!).Just be good at whatever it is ordinarily do as you interact with women and girls in the workplace, the classroom, and even the playground.

And thanks for listening!
Rate This Article: poor excellent
Comments about this article
writen by: aperla on 2009-07-21 21:23:30
Fantastic article with great insight. Many newbies such as we should read this and pass it around.

Well done!

A Perla
RE: Amy written by aperla:
writen by: rokytnji on 2009-07-21 23:31:47
I am still grinning.
RE: Smiling written by rokytnji:
Not just "little girl"
writen by: danhanly on 2009-07-27 05:09:29
I'm a newbie to Linux myself, and that sentiment you mentioned applied to me. I've never used terminal, or had the need to do anything in command line in windows, so it was unfamilliar territory for me. Some things in Linux require the Terminal, and I'd not got used to that. It's strange how some Linux users employ the ALL or NOTHING approach, but I, like you, are a recent convert and we've not quite reached ALL just yet. :) It was a great article :)

RE: Not just "little girl" written by danhanly:
This stuff really works
writen by: Bemk on 2009-07-29 15:10:45
I might be using GNU/Linux for 1.5 year now, but I still feel like I'm a newbie. That might be because of the things I like to do with the PC, (and yes, I like to customise code), but I just am learning heaps of stuff every single day.

I recently converted a friend of mine to a Linux user. She became known on the forums as MMAG (She actually used the same nick name making approach as I've used). She's into the stuff now. I actually used the approach described here, and it actually works.
RE: This stuff really works written by Bemk:
This stuff really works
writen by: Bemk on 2009-07-29 15:10:46
I might be using GNU/Linux for 1.5 year now, but I still feel like I'm a newbie. That might be because of the things I like to do with the PC, (and yes, I like to customise code), but I just am learning heaps of stuff every single day.

I recently converted a friend of mine to a Linux user. She became known on the forums as MMAG (She actually used the same nick name making approach as I've used). She's into the stuff now. I actually used the approach described here, and it actually works.
RE: This stuff really works written by Bemk:
Excellent stuff
writen by: linuxthomass on 2009-07-29 19:26:00
Several times back in school we tried to lure the ladies into dual booting Fedora Linux with Windows. They kept running because most guys were scaring them with stuff like "regex, grepping, awking, tracerouting ...". They gave up. This direction is excellent. The Marketing lady at my office uses Ubuntu and she's got it all pink and loves Thunderbird for her mails. It all started with,"Try it".
This direction is a very good one.
RE: Excellent stuff written by linuxthomass:
great going
writen by: susenj on 2009-08-01 22:04:16
That sounds cool..Amy!
nice article.it will surely make a girl mass for linux!
RE: great going written by susenj:
great article!
writen by: asilentmurmur on 2009-08-08 10:49:39
Skimmed it cuz I am like half asleep but nonetheless GREAT ARTICLE AMY! :)
RE: great article! written by asilentmurmur:
Girls?... ...Girls?...
writen by: monday90 on 2009-08-13 17:05:19
GIRLS? Aren't they those weird creatures who keep spraying me with mace?
RE: Girls?... ...Girls?... written by monday90:
A fresh perspective
writen by: usr_local on 2009-08-13 21:44:43
Absolutely a great read Amy. This also brought to my attention some pointers on bringing new users (including girls) over to the Linux community of users. I also did a (hopefully) complimentary post of my own at http://www.slackstuff.com
RE: A fresh perspective written by usr_local:
Awesome is as awesome does!
writen by: Rubberman on 2009-08-16 23:35:56

I have been following/responding to your postings on these forums for awhile now. You are a real inspiration to a lot of folks. My grandson kind of "backed into" linux when he "let the smoke out" of his Windows laptop. His passion these days is the design and building of radio-controlled aircraft (planes and helicopters), and has adopted Linux to do all of his design and remote control systems. Your observations are right on the $$ and I have to thank you for your participation in these forums. Keep it up, girl!


RE: Awesome is as awesome does! written by Rubberman:
The right approach
writen by: Ziplock on 2009-08-28 00:19:04

Thanks for the great article. It is very easy to scare people off with all the new concepts like using the command line etc. Your approach of getting new users to try the daily tasks (email, web browsing etc) and letting them discover the rest at their own pace makes a lot of sense. In my experience, the first step is always the hardest :)


RE: The right approach written by Ziplock:
thumbs up
writen by: cis on 2009-08-29 00:12:12
Nice article Amy. Very well written and on the mark.

I'm a new member on this forum since getting into Debian about six months ago.

My very soon to be wife Belinda (getting married in three weeks) has a notebook with Vista on it. Someday when Microsoft tries to force us to pay for an upgrade, I may convert her to GNU/Linux. She's a little bit geeky but she'll never use a command line interface. She mostly just uses Word, Excel, Live Messenger and Internet Explorer, so as long as I can get her wireless working (easier said than done) it may happen some day. I use OpenOffice.org and Epiphany on Debian Lenny, and I'm sure there are equivalents for Live Messenger.


RE: thumbs up written by cis:
Easiest way to convert
writen by: corktowner on 2009-09-01 18:19:50
I have found through experience that PCLinuxOS is the best solution for converting Windows users to Linux. It has never given me any problems with installation, configuration (there's not much if anything to configure) or in daily use. Wireless seems to be a non-issue with this distro; having installed it on many different PCs and Notebooks, new and old, all using different wireless cards, have been complete successes. Start with the LiveCD. All of your hardware will most likely be recognized. You simply answer one question during the LiveCD boot and that is the keyboard layout you use. For the wireless I only needed to provide the essid and security key. Forum support is very helpful. If you decide to install it, the whole process takes about 10-20 minutes on older systems. On my newest PC with an AMD Phenom 9150 quad core processor and 4GB ram, it installed in just under 3 minutes! Just about everything needed for everyday use is installed, but should you find you need some additional software Synaptic is used to locate, download and install just about anything else. Kopete Live Messenger is installed by default if using KDE and it is incredibly easy to setup and use.

P.S. Please be sure to donate money to developers of Linux software and your favorite Linux OS. That way they can continue to provide the latest technology and earn well deserved income for their outstanding efforts!
RE: Easiest way to convert written by corktowner:
My girl likes linux too
writen by: SeanFalloy on 2009-09-01 18:22:03
My girlfriend was introduce to Linux while she was using my machines. She is in no way a geeky girl at all but the day that she bought her laptop she asked me to get Vista off of the damn thing and install Ubuntu (Ive never had a bigger smile in my life). When the beta of window 7 was release we decided to dual boot the thing so she could play the sims. I didnt have time to reconfigure grub that day so she was stuck using windows for a little while. For the next few days she was begging me to fix it so she could boot into Linux. She still refuses to boot windows unless she has to. She may never touch the CLI or use all the "hidden" stuff in linux but she wont ever go back to a windows machine again. Im glad to see people stepping out and trying something new even if it is brought on by their old stuff not working (thanks Vista).


RE: My girl likes linux too written by SeanFalloy:
writen by: niffcreature on 2009-09-02 00:01:00
this is all very true and valuable... i used to talk to girls about linux just because it was something i was able to talk about, or just computers in general trying to be helpful. i probably usually gave them too much random information.

i dont talk about computers as much anymore cause whenever i did i would get too into it and just be like "and the ram and the other stuff and thats ridiculous unethical cause its dell and microsoft or thats awesome cause its an extremely counter intuitive extreme use of really really complex technology"... stuff like that doesnt really communicate much to someone who is just a user.

i also stopped talking about it cause although sometimes i could make that stuff make sense and impress people, im a girl myself now... a transgirl. and it just makes me feel too male to just do that. its so hard... i wont even go into all the things about my personality that inadvertently change just because its technology and "guys like it" or whatever. but yea...
i really just wanted to say this made me realize and think about a lot of ways i can be a somewhat technological oriented person and talk about it in a female way. which is something i thought i would never be able to do ever. even just the idea of customizing linux which i have neglected since i got my new computer to be super girly lol. and overall the idea of not being into technology pointlessly, but for a really clear purpose which is something ive just realized ive been doing more.
anyway. maybe im just in a mood. but probably not. i read this like twice. thank you much. its a really good article.
RE: yeah! written by niffcreature:
Just a tool.
writen by: Johnke7cw on 2009-09-02 08:54:48
Hi Amy, Your are right the computer is just a tool. I have been around in computers since 1968. I have been using linux on and off for the last 5 years. I have started using Ubuntu 9.04 and think I have found a Distro that I really like. I have it installed on my new Acer Extensa 5620Z. This verison recognized my WiFi card up front. I have not used the CLI very much for fear of really screwing something up.

I consider my self a Nubee as I do not get in to the nitty-grity very often. Last week I needed my HP Photosmart 1115 to use an option of printing on both sides of the same sheet. The old driver software worked under XP but not under Vista. Cups worked but could not print on the other side without much handling of the paper. HP's site says that they do not support Vista or Linux for this printer. TOO old. Perhaps like me.

I downloaded CUPS latest version. It was a .bz2 file and needed to be unpacked and installed. A short trip to the "How To's" section and a print out enabled me to install CUPS and the new version works just as the old XP printing software did. I did a happy dance.

It was a not hard or difficult. Easy infact if the typos did not get into my Terminal ( who could have put them in there? ). When I saw all the work that was going on through the terminal I realized that I would have had no idea how do all that stuff. I am glad some on else had done all that work. Thanks guys who ever you are.

I recommend that any user use the HOW TO's

I did enjoy your artical and keep up the work.

I have to sing the praises of Ubuntu 9.04 and do not see the need to switch linuxes any time soon, just keep upgrading.

Best of luck.

RE: Just a tool. written by Johnke7cw:
writen by: Kvadriga on 2009-09-02 20:29:13
Check out all the boys tripping with compliments ! Great job, Amy :)
RE: Compliments written by Kvadriga:
Simlar story
writen by: Michael.B on 2009-09-05 19:58:42
I got my sister, she is 13, into Linux in a similar way. I had got a new computer, and she was going to have the old one. I asked her what she wanted installed on it. Her first question was "If I use windows will I have that DVD problem" referring to the fact our brother has changed the region code on his drive too many times so he can't play half his disks (most of the ways around this involve buying expensive programs). When I said yes, she wanted Linux. It was a as simple as that.

RE: Simlar story written by Michael.B:
Which one?
writen by: gurudev1000 on 2009-09-10 23:25:39
Hi Amy,
Needless to say, your articles is great, and straight to the point. But what interests me, is which distro was it that the 'cute boy' have on his laptop that got you so into it. And what is the distro that you install? I have been using Ubuntu for a couple of weeks just due to the 'most user friendly' tag to it, and I must say, it hasn't made me fall in love with it yet, in spite of spending hours on it trying to make it look a bit more sleek.
So, what was the one that attracted you?
Congratulations once again.
RE: Which one? written by gurudev1000:
Yes, It's Ubuntu!
writen by: teenytinylinuxgrl on 2009-09-15 20:00:02
@ gurudev1000: That awesomely cute boy's distro is his own little Ubuntu remix: Minimal Ubuntu the LXDE desktop and easy-to-use applications. Lubuntu should be that good when it comes out next month! I was "attracted" to its SPEED and EASE. We're using "Robin's Remix" on a desktop PC at the studio now. It's sleek and lightweight and super fast even on that old, old Dell. Of course the very first thing that attracted me was the boy! :)

@ Michael.B: I'm 13 too!

@ Rubberman: Thank you! I'm really glad I found these forums too. There's always something new and helpful here on any distro, any Linux issue. And lots of help on open-source software too!

RE: Yes, It's Ubuntu! written by teenytinylinuxgrl:
Ubuntu is a good desktop version...
writen by: chickov on 2009-10-10 08:00:39

Wonderful Amy for your nice article... I myself started experimenting this Linux around 1 month ago.... I defeated my arrogance against Linux and discovered that Linux is much simpler and easier than Microsoft and of course Ubuntu is a good desktop version for the newbees but I found a great comfort in the Debian. Just wonderful that I started using Linux with open mind and am still learning an amazing things that are not possible in other OS.

And the surprise is that I was first introduced by the power of Linux by a 13 year old kid from Philippines, and I by the way much elder than him, he never showed-off his skills or how noob I am and he is very polite and funny. By the way thanks to such people in the Open Source Community, that are always ready to help people that are blindly hooked to Windows or any other OS. I want to specially thank this forum and amazing people that are contributing such a huge community as I have joined just recently a few days back.

Thanks LinuxForums !!!
RE: Ubuntu is a good desktop version... written by chickov:
... not just for 'geeks'
writen by: vrkalak on 2010-04-09 18:48:29
I know Robin from other distro Forums.

You make some valid points, young lady.

You are wise beyond your years, as is Robin.
RE: ... not just for 'geeks' written by vrkalak:

Comment title: * please do not put your response text here