Open Source Cloud Authors: Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan, Yeshim Deniz, Zakia Bouachraoui, William Schmarzo

Related Topics: Open Source Cloud

Open Source Cloud: Article

The Trials of Getting My Wife to Run Linux

The Trials of Getting My Wife to Run Linux

My wife runs Windows 98 on her little 300mhz computer and it basically does what she needs - some photo editing, writing of documents, spreadsheets, e-mail, and Web surfing. It works well most of the time, but she gripes every now and then when Word crashes, or the machine requires a reboot to fix something. I had volunteered to convert the machine to Linux for her and let her give it a try, but I wasn't about to push it.

After one particular hair pulling week with Word, she let me do the conversion. I thought it would be a good experiment. Linux isn't my grandmother's operating system, but can it be my wife's operating system? First, a little about the computer - it's a 300 mhz AMD processor book PC with built-in ethernet and video. The video isn't very good, but she doesn't use it for games. The machine is small and only has room for a single hard drive, which is close to being full.

I was unsure of how she would do with the conversion, so I replaced her Windows hard drive with a Linux hard drive. That way if the project failed, I would be able to put things back the way they were before Linux appeared. I decided to put Redhat 7.1 on the machine because I was more familiar with it. I heard that Mandrake makes a better desktop distribution and I've fiddled with it in the past, but I'm more familiar with Redhat's quirks and I would have to come up with answers quickly when my wife ran into problems.

First problem was that the graphical install wouldn't work, and I had to use the text install. The Trident Blade chipset didn't seem to be as well supported by the install. I also had trouble setting the video resolution and ended up going down to 16 bit color. 24 bit color was freaking out the screen so I don't think the drivers for the chipset are all that good. Otherwise, the install went smoothly. She settled on KDE and I showed her the replacements for the Windows applications she used. She seemed to do okay until I got called over and found out that Kspread can't import her Excel file. "That's why Linux will never be mainstream", she tells me. So I tell her to try gnumeric and it loads up. Of course, she doesn't like gnumeric because she can't figure out how to change the toolbars. Running in 800x600, the toolbars take up one third of the screen. I told her we can try StarOffice later. Naturally, she wanted to play some mp3 files just like Windows. So the first thing she did was go up to tucows and try to find a player. Then she complained to me that when she unpacked the downloaded file, it had this readme that told her to run "./configure" and "make install".

"Where's the install program?" she asked me, expecting one of those GUI install programs that typically displays when installing Windows applications. "This is why Linux will never catch on. People aren't going to be able to do this." I told her Linux comes with an mp3 player. I opened up xmms and played her mp3 files. At some point the sound died and the music stopped playing. I had no answer for her since I hadn't experienced the problem before. She mumbled something along the lines of "I thought Linux had fewer bugs."

I knew it was going to be difficult but I pressed on. I had forgotten that she did some video conferencing with her parents and I didn't know anything about Linux video conferencing software. I started searching for something that would work well with Netmeeting. I found the Openh323 site which has binaries for Linux. They didn't work so I had to pull down the source. There were a lot of dependencies, but I finally built a version of the video conferencing software.

I tried to get it to work here within the LAN, but the software was too hard for her. to use There was no GUI with a pretty menu and options that can be clicked. The options were all command line options, and I knew I couldn't sell that to her.

We encountered another problem when it came to printing. Linux printing is great when you have a printer that's supported by Linux, but our printer is partially supported and the driver won't do the 1200x1200 mode that it used for printing photographs.

At this point, I knew it was not looking good for Linux. Some tools she's used (like one of her Windows GUI FTP utilities) had good Linux GUI replacements, so many of the smaller things went well. Web browsing was just as easy under Linux as was e-mail, and since they were the majority of her time, those parts of the transition went well. When the weekend came she asked about her video conference, and I ended up putting back the Windows hard drive. It's been in her computer ever since. She still gripes about the crashes but I'm going to wait for a few things before I try again.

It was interesting to watch a non technical person work in Linux. My tendency to use the command line is very different from her use of menus to find everything. I won't put Linux on the machine until I can get some good video conferencing software and a new printer, or working printer drivers for the existing printer. I've been watching the GnomeMeeting project with interest and have installed the software on my Linux machine, but it doesn't appear to support my USB camera.

There is one more thing I learned - it's difficult to migrate a non technical user to Linux. Windows users have a certain comfort with Windows.The transitions from Internet Explorer to Mozilla and Excel to gNumeric went well because the applications look similar. Configuration and hardware support were a little shakier.

I will say that my wife is willing to learn, but she *expects* the computer to be able to perform all the duties it currently does under Windows, such as video conferencing, Web browsing, e-mail, printing, spreadsheets, document processing, and graphics editing. While Linux came close, it isn't currently met by the last Linux install. As she adds more applications on her Windows machine, I fear my next attempt will have more hurdles.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

Comments (3)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

IoT & Smart Cities Stories
Every organization is facing their own Digital Transformation as they attempt to stay ahead of the competition, or worse, just keep up. Each new opportunity, whether embracing machine learning, IoT, or a cloud migration, seems to bring new development, deployment, and management models. The results are more diverse and federated computing models than any time in our history.
At CloudEXPO Silicon Valley, June 24-26, 2019, Digital Transformation (DX) is a major focus with expanded DevOpsSUMMIT and FinTechEXPO programs within the DXWorldEXPO agenda. Successful transformation requires a laser focus on being data-driven and on using all the tools available that enable transformation if they plan to survive over the long term. A total of 88% of Fortune 500 companies from a generation ago are now out of business. Only 12% still survive. Similar percentages are found throug...
At CloudEXPO Silicon Valley, June 24-26, 2019, Digital Transformation (DX) is a major focus with expanded DevOpsSUMMIT and FinTechEXPO programs within the DXWorldEXPO agenda. Successful transformation requires a laser focus on being data-driven and on using all the tools available that enable transformation if they plan to survive over the long term. A total of 88% of Fortune 500 companies from a generation ago are now out of business. Only 12% still survive. Similar percentages are found throug...
Dion Hinchcliffe is an internationally recognized digital expert, bestselling book author, frequent keynote speaker, analyst, futurist, and transformation expert based in Washington, DC. He is currently Chief Strategy Officer at the industry-leading digital strategy and online community solutions firm, 7Summits.
Digital Transformation is much more than a buzzword. The radical shift to digital mechanisms for almost every process is evident across all industries and verticals. This is often especially true in financial services, where the legacy environment is many times unable to keep up with the rapidly shifting demands of the consumer. The constant pressure to provide complete, omnichannel delivery of customer-facing solutions to meet both regulatory and customer demands is putting enormous pressure on...
IoT is rapidly becoming mainstream as more and more investments are made into the platforms and technology. As this movement continues to expand and gain momentum it creates a massive wall of noise that can be difficult to sift through. Unfortunately, this inevitably makes IoT less approachable for people to get started with and can hamper efforts to integrate this key technology into your own portfolio. There are so many connected products already in place today with many hundreds more on the h...
The standardization of container runtimes and images has sparked the creation of an almost overwhelming number of new open source projects that build on and otherwise work with these specifications. Of course, there's Kubernetes, which orchestrates and manages collections of containers. It was one of the first and best-known examples of projects that make containers truly useful for production use. However, more recently, the container ecosystem has truly exploded. A service mesh like Istio addr...
Digital Transformation: Preparing Cloud & IoT Security for the Age of Artificial Intelligence. As automation and artificial intelligence (AI) power solution development and delivery, many businesses need to build backend cloud capabilities. Well-poised organizations, marketing smart devices with AI and BlockChain capabilities prepare to refine compliance and regulatory capabilities in 2018. Volumes of health, financial, technical and privacy data, along with tightening compliance requirements by...
Charles Araujo is an industry analyst, internationally recognized authority on the Digital Enterprise and author of The Quantum Age of IT: Why Everything You Know About IT is About to Change. As Principal Analyst with Intellyx, he writes, speaks and advises organizations on how to navigate through this time of disruption. He is also the founder of The Institute for Digital Transformation and a sought after keynote speaker. He has been a regular contributor to both InformationWeek and CIO Insight...
Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settlement products to hedge funds and investment banks. After, he co-founded a revenue cycle management company where he learned about Bitcoin and eventually Ethereal. Andrew's role at ConsenSys Enterprise is a mul...