What is stopping us from using free software?
I had a funny day yesterday
I'll start with the evening, that I spend as tutor in the RoboLab; a workshop for kids aged 10-18 to build their own robot with some 3d printed parts, an ESP and everything you need of electric equipment to make some wheels move. It's a great project and I have much respect for the people who initiated and still maintain it in their free time with the children.
The space we can use for the project is called Digitallabor (digital lab) and offers anything you would want from a well equipped maker space, including a shelf full of laptops to use while you're working there.
I should not be surprised anymore, but I can't help it
Of course, all laptops run Windows. I picked one, booted up and and saw the fully bloated and ad-loaded standard installation of Windows 10. Last time a search for updates had been performed: early 2019. No customized privacy settings, nothing. Just the standard installation in all its ugliness.
I asked the people running the space why. Why? As this would be the perfect place to introduce the children to free software and even shed some light upon the difference between Free and Open Source Software and proprietary, user despising spyware (of course I did ask in a somewhat more diplomatic manner).
The answers: "The children are used to it.", "It's easier to maintain."
Yes. So last search for updates 2019. That's well maintained.
Regarding the "the children are used to it": I can confirm that children don't give a shit. If it runs Minetest then it's fine. If they have access to a PC or laptop at home at all, because in my experience most of the kids nowadays have exactly two digital media skills anyway: tapping and swiping. So this would be the perfect place to introduce them to free alternatives!
The morning was different
We're a small company with only ~12 employees, most of which are rather non-technical. So there is no IT department. Or in other words: I am the IT department. And our IT department finds it is no longer responsible to run Windows on business PCs (at least in the world outside the US). So yesterday I prepared a new PC with Fedora 38, brought it to my colleagues and asked: "Who dares to try this Linux Desktop?"
Guess who stepped forward instantly and said, "I can do that"? My ~60 year old colleage who was a medical technical assistent when I wasn't even born and a life-long Windows user. We did the initiall configuration, synced her mails and calendars, set-up printers and network drives and went through the most important peculiarities of the GNOME3 desktop. It took about 90 minutes and then she said "I guess I'm fine from here. I'll play around with this a bit to get used to the new apps". I promised her first-level support but she was working without any issues the whole day.
I'm really proud of her
So many people keep telling me it would be too hard, too much reorientation to switch operating systems, but moments like that show me that the problem may lie somewhere else. People are afraid of changes. People want to spare the effort. But I think that daring to make a change instead of doing nothing despite better knowledge will be rewarded. The next desktop PC is already prepared, so next week I will ask the question again :)