Ever since I discovered the ruthless freedom of GNU/Linux I have wanted to evangelize to every possible PC (and Mac) user. I began with several flavors of LiveCDs that allow you to try without touching the system you’re testing on. But although some Live systems even let you add your own modules, it is still not the same feeling as the first time you install a Linux distribution from scratch. Or the first time you compile an application from source.
You ask yourself: But if I do decide to install, will it really work?
The answer, unfortunately, depends on the kind of Live CD we are talking about. Some let you install directly from the CD while others ask you to fetch an installation disk that in turn may differ from the Live CD. In my experience most things do work, but need to be configured. After that, they mostly work faster than the Live version because of the limitations of running from CD/DVD players.
My first installed system was Ubuntu 6.06 Dapper Drake (which makes me believe the "Ubuntu hype" or popularity is working), then I switched to its variant Xubuntu, before I took a leap into the Slackware world and installed Zenwalk Linux. Zenwalk is not aiming to be just another distro but a complete OS for desktops and servers, with a philosophy of simplicity. Instead of X number of media players and Y text editors, it selects one application for each task. With the improvement of netpkg, I have heard that it is easier to add/remove packages than it were before in slackworld. It also has the fastest boot-up time on ancient hardware (my lovely Leeloo boots at ~1 min.), a title I think it will keep until the day the first Haiku OS is released.
I am no programmer by heart, but I do occasionally code from necessity. But being a *nix novice I can’t contribute much to the Great Open Source Project with anything but feature requests and bug reports.. until there was a call for translations. Spreading the word about Linux to the masses and showing them how use-able, compatible and stable a modern Linux system is, is somewhat limited when you can’t offer documentation in native languages. And being the lingo nerd I am, having translated several types of documents professionally, it sounded like a job for — Me!
So if you want to contribute in any way to the open source projects, don’t give up if you don’t know any code. There are lots of things you can add to your favorite distribution, ’cause what any open source project needs is not what you don’t know, but what you do know; your devotion, talents and opinions.