I was asked by an acquaintance of mine recently to run a Linux workshop at a youth club in Pazin because they were starting a computer section in the club and the people asked for it… I agreed to do it – I'm no expert on Linux, but I'm competent enough to run a class for people who want to be introduced to FLOSS and Linux.
I held the first "class" on Tuesday and started with a gentle (well, at least gentle from my POV :)) introduction to Linux and FLOSS. We didn't do much on the computer (just something to show them how it feels). There were 9 people present, and I handed them out a few of the Ubuntu 5.04/5.10 CDs I ordered through ShipIt that were lying around on my desk unused. To my surprise, almost a half of them tried to install Ubuntu by themselves a few days after – all successfully, and they already had some questions about some of the apps (OpenOffice.org Math, to be exact) and some of the features of Ubuntu.
Now, I'm not that much surprised with that fact because I think the installation is oh, so incredibly hard, but because I wasn't expecting the people would be so willing to accept the relatively new things I said them on the workshop and try them right away. This can only lead me to believe that the software itself being hard to use or install isn't really the problem (with the modern distributions like Mandriva and Ubuntu, who are much more desktop-user oriented, this isn't the case at all – and this only proves it) – the problem is spreading the word, making people aware of the alternatives, educating them about these alternatives and making them aware that they have a whole community around them to help them with any of the problems.
I have yet to see how many of the people will really decide to stick with Linux and use it for some serious work to confirm this. It looks promising for now – we're carrying on with the workshop next Tuesday.