Yesterday, I and Fedora QA guys were helping new students at Brno University of Technology to install and start using Fedora. On Thursday, I had a presentation in front of 300 students in a “Basics of Programming” class, gave away some DVDs, stickers, and offered them to come to our Red Hat lab on Monday if they need any help to install and use Fedora.
Morning was pretty boring. The only attendee we had was an old retired guy who saw the announcement on the Internet and came to solve several smaller problems he had with Fedora. What was interesting was that he asked how to get into the magical command line everyone had been talking about on the Internet. He had been maintaining and using Fedora for over a year and hadn’t had a clue what the command line was.
After lunch, students started coming and it was an interesting experience for all of us. They all came because they couldn’t install Fedora themselves. We had to tackle many UEFI-related problems. Our specialist for it was Kamil Parál who I now call the Master of GRUB. There is a big improvement in UEFI support between F20 and F21, so in two cases we didn’t have a choice and had to install F21 in the end although it is still just alpha. Another very frequent problem was dual graphics cards. Unfortunately both things are very common on Windows laptops nowadays. And I must say installing Linux into dualboot on a standard Windows laptop is often a struggle, much bigger than it was like 3 years ago.
Nevertheless, we were able to get Fedora working on all laptops except for one that had a broken partition table and the owner didn’t want to format the hard drive.
Several findings from the event:
- it’s a really good idea to advertise Fedora at universities and introduce it to new students because many of them are tempted or even encouraged by teachers to try Linux. And if you introduce Fedora to them there are high changes it will be the Linux of their choice. I introduced Fedora to another group of 300 students yesterday which makes it 600 in total and because the student are strongly advised by the teacher to use Linux for their C projects I’m pretty sure we’ve achieved tens, maybe even hundreds of installations.
- it’s a great experience to interact with the users. Computer science students are the target audience of Fedora Workstation and it’s very beneficial and eye-opening to see how they interact with Fedora, what they struggle with. It’s something every Fedora developer should try from time to time, to get out from our shells and go see how our target audience use our software. That would definitely help user experience of our software.
- it was a very beneficial thing for the QA guys because they could see how Fedora (mostly Anaconda in this case) worked on real life hardware. Most of the testing is done in virtual machines and if they test on real hardware it’s mostly ThinkPads with an empty hard drive. Our ThinkPads usually have Linux-friendly hardware and no crazy Windows installations. But the world is full of Acers, Asuses, Dells with all kinds of Windows setups. BTW we’ve invited an Anaconda developer to the next installfest that will take place next Monday.
- installfests still matter. We’ve solved problems with wireless network drivers etc., but UEFI and dual video cards have come to the scene and a lot of people struggle to install Linux on their computers again.
- DevAssistant should be our big thing for developers. Something others don’t have right now. I’ve been explaining it to devel beginners and have been observing how they interact with it and unfortunately I have to say it’s not very useful to such target audience. It has many design flaws. It doesn’t explain what it is doing and why, what is the result. I think Mo nailed it very well.