Those of you who have seen me in recent months know that all I want for Christmas is that one front tooth. My unfortunate dental situation has led me to a friendly relationship with my periodontist, and more importantly, his staff. Faxing them a copy of the gazpacho recipe that I came up with when they had me on cold foods for two days didn't hurt. As I pulled into the parking lot outside their office, I realized that I needed something to read in the waiting room. The staff has befriended me, but they still have too much work to do to spend all day chatting. Fortunately, I had a copy of Ubuntu Hacks sitting in my backpack, so I brought it in with me.
I ended up being the last person to leave today, and so ensued a pleasant conversation with the staff as we talked about insurance and made my next appointment. At one point, it came up that I wasn't running Windows at home. The secretary gave me a confused look and asked what I was using instead. When I told her it was something called Linux, her eyes lit up. "Oh, my son told me about that! He told me that it would be better for me than Windows, but it takes so long to download!"
I informed her that there was a version of Linux out called Ubuntu, and showed her my book. I informed her that while many versions of Linux required several CD's, Ubuntu only needed one. I told her that they've cut out all the fluff, and that they only ship with a few basic applications that you really need. Even better, there was also a Live CD version that was available, which would allow her to test-drive Linux without having to wipe out Windows first. If she liked the Live CD, then she could back up her data, format her drive and install Linux, and then chances were most of her documents would still work in Linux. She told me that she really only uses her computer for word processing and email, and I told her about OpenOffice.org, which can read MS Office documents, but costs hundreds of dollars less. We moved on before I could tell her about Thunderbird.
With her excitement rising, I let her know that Ubuntu will actually ship you a copy for free (using shipit.ubuntu.com), and that I still had a couple of spare copies laying around that I could give her. Since the current versions on ShipIt don't come with a Live CD like the last one did, I also offered to make her a Live CD. I told her to remind me to grab them when she calls me for my appointment reminder the day beforehand, and I would make sure to grab them for her.
This isn't the first time I've done this. Just a couple of days ago I gave an Ubuntu CD to a co-worker who had considered installing Linux, but just hadn't gotten around to it yet. Close to a month ago, my brother (who is an EE student at Utah State University) expressed interest in building his own MP3 player (among other projects), and I recommended Linux to him, running on Gumstix hardware. He told me that he had been running SuSE Linux in the past, but had been disappointed with it. I also directed him to Ubuntu's Live CD so that he could try it out risk-free.
There's a lot of ways out there to let people know about Linux, especially my flavor of choice, Ubuntu. With free CDs from ShipIt, the proliferation of Live CDs in several flavors, and killer apps such as OpenOffice.org and Firefox, it's easier than ever to switch to Linux, and to help a friend do so.