The woman who dropped out of MATC after mistakenly buying a Ubuntu laptop from Dell

I know I’m probably the millionth person to comment on this (is millionth even a word?), but I have only two things to say.

1. To the anti-Linux folks and tech “journalists” who blame this on Linux not being “friendly” enough for new users or being for only those who want to tinker with their computers, how exactly would Ubuntu (or any Linux distro) have been friendlier or easier to use in this case? Does Ubuntu have any control over the fact that Verizon gives you the impression its software is necessary to set up an internet connection? Or that Verizon’s CD provides Windows-only software for it? Does Ubuntu have any control over the fact that Microsoft has made Microsoft Office closed source and not made a Linux version? Does Ubuntu have any control over MATC’s requirements misleading people into thinking they need Windows when Linux will do just fine? Did this woman really have to drop out of college because of the laptop?

2. To the supposedly pro-Linux folks who feel the need to harass this woman through Facebook or whatever, shame on you. Should she have known better to research what computer she was buying before plunking down $1100? Sure. Is she an idiot? No. She’s just an idiot when it comes to computers, and I know a lot of otherwise brilliant folks who are idiots when it comes to computers (I was a computer idiot only five years ago myself). There’s no need to send hate mail her way when the people really at fault are the “journalists” who don’t actually do any kind of investigative reporting and rely solely on catchy headlines and misinformation to gain readership and website hits.

A friend of mine recently went back to school for interior design and previously had been a Mac user. Surprise, surprise—she got herself a Windows computer, because she knew AutoCAD wouldn’t run on her iBook. Somehow, though, I can’t picture WKOW 27 running a news story on Mac OS X forcing her to drop out of college because it doesn’t run AutoCAD, even if she had stuck with her iBook.

Edit: Here’s an example of a Mac user on Yahoo! Answers who is having trouble with the .exe file to set up her Belkin wireless router. Anyone going to run a news story on it? Doubtful.


  1. I feel like I came in half way through a conversation here.

    MATC is:

    * Madison Area Technical College?
    * Milwaukee Area Technical College?
    * Mountainland Applied Technology College?
    * Manhattan Area Technical College?

    Is there some more background on this story that would help understand it all?

  2. @ Adam:
    MATC= Madison Area Technical College
    For the full story:

    I just wonder…
    Inability to get the internet connection working under Ubuntu(and therefore not being able to log on for her classes) has been cited as one of the main reasons for her dropping out. If she’d gotten a Windows laptop and the CD hadn’t worked(scratched CD, or a defective optical drive), would she still have ‘dropped out’? And would WKOW still have carried the story blaming it on the OS, or would they have blamed Dell or Verizon?

    And as for the response from Ubuntu/Linux fans, ranting or name calling will not solve any problems(not hers, not yours, not WKOW27’s). The trouble here may not be Ubuntu’s fault, but it can be solved by the Ubuntu community. If you want to do your part in helping Linux succeed, instead of calling her ‘lazy’ or ‘stupid’, and sending hate mail to her/WKOW27, offer to help, find out what the issue is and suggest a solution. Telling her how to solve this problem would do more for Ubuntu’s reputation than screaming at her or at WKOW27. It might even win over a new convert.

  3. “Millionth” is a word. It’s the ordinal number corresponding to the cardinal number “million”. (It even appears in Firefox’s en_US dictionary).

    I don’t have anything to add to the actual topic – everyone’s at fault.

  4. balaknair: That you for the link – that helps make sense of it all!

    Actually the WKOW story was relatively fair and balanced, but it seems no one is a match for an uninformed consumer.

    I am not sure how she accidentally bought a Dell running Ubuntu. Have you looked on their website? It is very hard to find!

  5. @Adam

    “I am not sure how she accidentally bought a Dell running Ubuntu. Have you looked on their website? It is very hard to find!”

    I know :D

    You click through two links and past a warning that ‘If you’re here by mistake and you are looking for a Dell PC with Windows, please use the following link.’ before you get to the Ubuntu page. The only Ubuntu machines on the actual laptops page are Inspiron Mini 9 and Mini 12 netbooks.

  6. She bought it two semesters ago, back when they were selling 7.10 and before the Minis were even available. Back then it was even harder to find the Ubuntu laptops.

  7. “She bought it two semesters ago, back when they were selling 7.10 and before the Minis were even available. Back then it was even harder to find the Ubuntu laptops.”

    AY: That is interesting. I did look through the Dell website back then looking for Ubuntu and I had to do a search to find it – I couldn’t locate it by clicking through options, no matter how hard I tried.

    Also, if she bought it that long ago, wouldn’t she have learned how to use it by now, or was this just a stale story?

  8. Well, it’s not a stale story, because the story just came out. But I think that’s what a lot of skeptics are wondering about. Why would you drop out of two semesters of college instead of taking an hour or two to get to know the system?

    I understand many people are afraid of computers and don’t consider themselves “tech savvy,” but these people usually have power user friends they ask for help… or call companies (Dell, Verizon, MATC) instead of news stations (WKOW) for help. Clearly, though, she’s smart enough to know she’ll get better help after calling the news station than after calling Dell.

  9. The problem is that the casual user (the computer illiterate, if you want my *real* opinion) assumes that, since everyone else can use a computer, it must be simple, so if something isn’t working right, it must be someone else’s fault. (Hang out in for a while to see what I mean. “I want to have a free website where my friends can upload videos. Someone give me the code.” I kid you not, and that’s a fairly intelligent request.)

    Some day, either computers will become self-aware, and anyone will be able to operate one with 2 minutes of instruction, or people will come to realize that they have to expend at least a *little* effort to learn how to use one. I suppose that, back in the first decade of the 20th century, many people thought that anyone could drive a car safely without having to learn how.

    Where do you buy chill pills by the railroad car full? Booze isn’t strong enough any more.

  10. AY: Again, interesting information. The story just doesn’t add up to a satisfying whole somehow – there seems to be some elements missing that might explain how she managed to even find the Ubuntu laptops, ignore all the warnings posted on the pages associated with the sale, buy it anyway, own it for two semesters and then have to drop out of school because she suddenly discovered it wasn’t Windows.

    Heck we both learned to use Ubuntu by trying things, reading the Ubuntu Forums, your website. Neither of us had to call Dell (our first Ubuntu PC is running on a used Dell Optiplex GX260 that came with XP, I don’t think they would be pleased to hear from us!) or even any media outlets.

    Heck I still giggle to myself every time I do an optical character recognition (OCR) on an XSANE-produced “.tif” file using Tesseract from the command line. It is that easy, that much fun and all self-taught.

  11. This is really surprising to be honest. Ive just started using linux mint as i’ve found it to be simpler than any other linux type at the moment for me. Why can’t people just spend some time learning how to use computers and playing around with them a little rather than wasting two semesters of a college course?
    It seems devolution is hitting the world and the margin between the clever and the stupid is widening.

  12. I don’t care what anyone says, as far as I’m concerned that woman is mentally retarded for dropping out of college over a computer.

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