Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Who’s Afraid of a Learning Curve?

When I told some friends of mine that I was now using Ubuntu instead of Windows, they warned me that it might not be easy. “There’s a learning curve,” they said.

“Learning curves used to scare me, but they don’t anymore,” I answered. “I got all my computer literacy over the past twenty years by just jumping in and doing it. I can handle learning curves just fine. They’re part of the job.”

I’ve already managed to solve quite a few problems in customizing my new computer. It hasn’t always been easy—or, to be more honest, it hasn’t always felt easy. For example, when I downloaded jUploadr (an open-source tool that uploads photographs to Flickr), I found that it doesn’t create its own launcher. I had to do it myself— and I had a problem. I couldn’t get the command line to work. And let me tell you, I felt so dumb! This is supposed to be a simple thing, right? So why couldn’t I do it? Finally, I right-clicked on the launcher for another program in the task bar, a launcher that the program itself had made, and took a good look at its command line. Oh, that was what I needed to do! OK, slight modification, copy and paste. Problem solved.

Then there was the fact that Picasa (2.7, for Linux) wasn’t sending photos through Thunderbird, my email client. A search for “Picasa not sending emails through Thunderbird on Linux” yielded quite a few results. Apparently, this was a known problem. A post on the Ubuntu forums provided a solution. Again, copy and paste, with slight changes to the command line. Another problem solved. Thank you, Ubuntu forum members!

All this is not to brag about what a great problem-solver I am. I know next to nothing about programming and could not have written these solutions to save my life. For me, it’s about being willing to try something new and learn as I go, and knowing that I’m not alone. There’s plenty of help out there, and lots of wonderful people who are willing to lend a hand.

So if you’re thinking of trying Ubuntu, I’m here to tell you that there’s nothing to worry about. Sure, there’s a learning curve. So what? Don’t most things in life come with learning curves? Come on, jump in. The water’s fine.

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