Because Linux is open source and nearly everything about it is free to the end user, the community must rely heavily
on its members to sustain itself and help achieve it goals.
If you enjoy using Linux (and/or other free/open source software), support the community by helping out where you see
a need. Here are some ideas on how you can help.
General Advocacy Introduce your friends, family, and cooworkers to
Linux. Show them that there is an alternative to whatever OS they are using. If you participate in online forums,
place a link to some Linux information in your signature to get new users interested. You don't have to go out and
win converts like a damn cult, just raising awareness about Linux is a good enough start.
Don't Scare Off the Newbs Online forums have become a great way to
share information and seek help. There are countless online message boards that are dedicated to the use of Linux.
New Linux users will often come looking for help on these forums. A lot of the time they install Linux and the first
place they go is the message board of their choice to ask their first stupid question.
So "PanteraRocks69" (or whomever) shows up at your favorite message board and makes one of those posts where you just
shake your head at how dumb he must be. He should have used Google, he should have read the man pages, he should have
looked at the other 100 threads on that forum where the same question was asked and answered in agonizing detail; he
should have, but he didn't. Now everyone who has been using Linux for more than a few hours are falling all over
each other to rip this guy a new one with "RTFM, Newb" and "Go back to Windoze". Depending on what kind of person
this guy is, he may uninstall Linux and never come back. If you like having Linux ignored by hardware manufacturers
and investors who have the kind of capital who can bring Linux to the next level then keep running off new users.
Instead of just kicking the newbs in their electronic balls, just reply with a link to a Google search where they
can find the answer to their question, a link to some of the other posts where their question has already been
answered, or instructions on how they can find the answer on their own. Then tell them that if they are going to use
Linux, lesson #1 is about taking personal responsibility to learn how to use it.
Don't Be An Idiot This is really a sub-section of the bullets above,
but I thought it was important enough that it deserved it's own bullet. Don't act like a lunatic in your advocacy
of Linux. Realize that Windows and Linux have at least two things in common: neither is for everyone and neither is
perfect. If you think Linux is perfect and that it doesn't have any faults then from this point forward don't
install or update a single package on your machine.
Spouting "Windoze Sucks" or "Micro$oft is crap" makes you sound like a buffoon because a rational human being has to
face a few realities about where Microsoft excels (wow, that was almost a pun). If for no other reason than
more people use it, Microsoft products support more hardware than Linux, there is more online information about
Windows than Linux, more vendors support Microsoft products, more software is compatible with Microsoft than Linux,
Windows-compatable software is sometimes superior to their Linux counterparts (though the opposite is certainly true
often enough). I have an entire page where I try to clear up
Linux misconceptions spread by Linux advocates so that when new users try Linux they don't get pissed when they
discover the truth.
Instead, if someone assaults the honor of your beloved Linux, ask yourself if there is any truth to what they are
saying. If they are wrong, politely point out where they are mistaken supported with facts, if they are just spouting
opinion, offer a well thought out counterpoint with the intent of informing the original poster or subsequent readers,
not with the intent of proving your intellectual superiority. Mindless, rabid Linux support is counter-productive if
you are at all interested helping the users and developers behind Linux. If you do nothing else, read
this article, which explains my point much
clearer than I can.
Report Bugs Linux owes its legendary stability to strenuous software
testing and responsive developers. To be part of the process, you need to report the little glitches you find as
well as any ideas for future features. I would suggest focusing on one or a few of the applications you use most, are
new, or only have a small user base. Your frequent use and intimate knowlage will work in your favor when reporting
bugs or crashes. Just do some googling on your application of
choice to see how you can participate in improving the software. Often developers will have a website, forum, and/or
mailing list where you can find out how to submit bugs and feature requests. This kind of interest is always greatly
appreciated by developers.
Donate Cash If you've got the money, shoot the developers of your
favorite applications a few bucks. Nothing says "thanks for producing this great software and releasing it for free"
like a few crisp Benjamins. Sometimes these donations go directly into future developments, sometimes it goes to
help with the cost of hosting the project, sometimes it goes into the developers pocket; if it makes a difference to
you what they do with your donation, make sure you ask before you donate.
Make a Little Green All of your Linux support does not have to be in
the form of volunteering your time. Love makes the world go round, but money buys you an Escalade (from what I see
in rap videos anyway, I wouldn't know, I drive a damn Cherokee). If you are a programmer, provide custom software
to businesses. Provide Linux tech support to your local community, burn ISO's to CD and sell those rascals on eBay
to dial-up users (check any legal restrictions first). Computer vendors, offer to ship your boxes with Linux already
installed. Resell Linux products on your website, on eBay, at the flea market, or in your brick and mortar shop.
Create and sell Linux shirts, hats, bumper stickers, pens, sticky notes, beer bottle openers, whatever (again check
for legal restrictions on logos and trademarks first). Offering professional Linux support and products (when done
correctly) will only help the greater Linux community.