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Friday, October 02, 2009

The Twisting Path To Linux

We all have our tolerance for pain...

some of us have higher limits, some just won't deal with something that causes us discomfort at any level.

Life's too short.

Dave Kaplan, a friend and colleague of mine who spearheaded the Portland Lindependence event, emailed me a few days ago and told me about a successful switch to Linux.

There were a few surprises to say the least...none as surprising as how it came about.

Bill Mathis is a computer user. His old machine just wasn't doing what he wanted so he did what most people do.

He bought a new computer...

It came with Windows Vista tm.

Now that wasn't the agent of change for Bill. Oh, let's talk about the path that led to the current situation.

Bill is a retired graphic designer. Bill did most of his work with pen and ink...there were no "graphics programs" to do what Bill did. Bill worked for an ad agency and his work was hand drawn. By the way...have I mentioned that Bill Mathis is 85 years old?

You might want to take that into consideration...especially if you know those that argue against Linux because it is too difficult to learn.

I would hazard a guess that any 85 year old person is fairly well set in their ways.

Unless something becomes t0o painful or inconvenient to maintain...

So Bill settles in with his new computer, but something bothered him about it. He couldn't get the fonts to look right, he didn't like the available color combinations and he found that making the computer do what he wanted entailed either downloading third-party software or purchasing said software.

Bill did what most Windows Users do when they are not sure how to proceed.

He called Microsoft.

Go ahead...groan, it's ok. I did too.

Bill was summarily told to call Acer...it was their problem. Since there was nothing "wrong" with the operating system, the ball was in Acer's court, not theirs. He called and searched until he found the right number for their support...the support that deals with new and warrantied computers.

Guess what he was told...told a few times actually because the tech agent had an accent that Bill found hard to understand...?

Take the computer to a local repair shop and let them deal with it.

Pain threshold reached.

Bill Mathis boxed up the computer and shipped it back, demanding a full refund, which he received.

Hang on, this twist will pull a few G's. Dramamine for the squeamish available.

Bill frequents a book/record/CD store. The owner, Scott; knows Bill well. Bill was complaining to Scott about the recent events and asked Scott if he know anyone that might look at his old computer...the one he had prior to purchasing and returning the new one.

Scott looked up and around the store aisles and then pointed...

To Dave Kaplan, who The Fates had dictated be there at that precise time.

Dave went over to Bill's house later and assessed the situation. Running 256 meg of ram, Dave 'splained to Bill that a memory upgrade was in order. For a small fistful of one dollar bills, Dave upgraded the machine to one gig and installed SuperOS on it. As well, since he had his money back from Acer, he bought a new LCD flat screen.

Good move.

SuperOS
along with Linux Mint are the two standards for our HeliOS Solutions and HeliOS Project installs. No muss, no fuss...everything works out of the box...no futzing around with enabling Multiuniverse repositories...the average computer user wouldn't know where to look.

Hence, our choices of distros.

Bill was at home with the Gnome Desktop within minutes. He didn't care for the color theme so Dave showed him how to change it, modify it to his liking and get new themes to play with.

Bill was pleaseantly surprised at his ability to control his environment. That is extremely important to him.

So...for those that still want to carry on the argument that Linux is too hard to use?

Please...with a few minutes of personal support, we have 10 year olds using it as part of our project and they don't need any more help than Bill did...probably less as they have not been indocrinated yet.

Seems the Windows Way can be unlearned...

And I don't care how old you are.

Bill Mathis, my hat is off to you.

All-Righty Then...

33 comments:

A said...

Well, since i don't like the Gnome environment because of what the guys at Novell/Mono are doing with it, i would suggest to this handsome senior gentleman to use Kubuntu, or any distro KDE based.
But, it's just my opinion. It's good he's now at our side. Better would be if he was using KDE. But, it's ok for now...

Anonymous said...

Dude, that is so wrong, and it's a strong weather vane pointing to what is wrong in our community and drives people away from Linux. Our politics.

Why can't you just be happy that he's a Linux user? Why do you have to actively drive a wedge further into the community.

Listen. Sure you drive a car but it is a Ford. I want you to drive a Dodge and if you don't start driving a Dodge, then you obviously don't know anything about cars and shouldn't be driving.

Let the man do what he will do on his own. If it works for him it works for him.

If you use KDE 3.x you are too lazy to learn anything else. If you use KDE 4.x you show anal retentive need to over-control you environment.

I don't mean a word of that but it shows how your opinions can be turned against you.

PV said...

I WILL use this with regard to anyone who throws the excuse of difficulty in learning at me.
By the way, I love both Linux Mint (I use that now) and SuperOS, but what happened to PCLinuxOS?
Cheers!
--
a Linux Mint user since 2009 May 1

Anonymous said...

"i don't like the Gnome environment because of what the guys at Novell/Mono are doing with it"

I don't particularly like what some of Wall Street is doing either but I still invest in those companies I trust.

Mono isn't welded into Gnome. I've used Gnome since this whole Mono thing started and have never been forced to use it. If it's there by install, I simply uninstall it.

Are you opposed to flash? How about libdvdcss?

kozmcrae said...

This is not the place for a discussion on the Mono issue. There are more than enough Blogs and news sites that will welcome such a controversy. Unfortunately those sites have no concern for children who are stuck between a rock an nothing when it comes to being a part of our connected society.

gagy said...

This is a wonderful story.
Believe me, I fully understand how a few minutes of one's time spent explaining to someone the basic features of a friendly OS can make all the differences in the world.
Window$ is in all shops, where so-called experts can bamboozle you into using it, as it unfortunately comes bundled with just about any computer you can purchase. But good luck if you try to modify the setup to your liking. Any help comes with a dollar sign...
Linux is free, but you do not necessarily know that it exists, is freely available, is “user friendly” and will perform on just about machine you have. The problem is to find someone who will lend you a friendly hand, and be a mentor for a few precious moments.
Fortunately there are many of you out there and I, for one, am very thankful to you all.
Please keep up your good work, and long live linux!

Gagy

PS: I'm only in my mid-sixties but I dearly hope to be able, like Bill, to fire up my linux-driven computer in my eighties.

Adam Gonnerman said...

I like Gnome. I don't like KDE. Wanna fight 'bout it?

Silliness. Glad this gentleman found a good solution in GNU/Linux.

The Troll said...

Anyone can learn Linux. I just sat down with my mom who is 65 the other weekend and reinstalled her Ubuntu desktop after my dad messed it up. She told me she was really missing her games on it. I explained that there was much more to do and that I could show her. After about 1-2 hours of just showing her stuff that a user needs to know and how to do other things, she was amazed how easy it was. Dad also thanked me for fixing and showing her stuff because she wouldn't let him live it down that she couldn't play her games after he messed up the install. HAHAH! Parents, got to love them.

JRaz said...

I am truly inspired by this piece. Since my Mom is coming this Christmas season, I wanted her to bring the lapptop and I want to change her over to Linux. It truly looks like Linux Mint will be in her future. She is 77 and not allways the best computer student. But she is already at home with OpenOffice's Writer and gets email on the web. I don't see anything stopping this conversion and I can setup a SSH to login and keep it updated. Thanks for the inspiration.

neonblue2 said...

I was wondering what OS you were installing for everyone.

Good story, Windows Vista and 7 are terrible at this. In fact, the last three versions have all had something wrong with the UI.

Anonymous said...

Out here in Cross Plains, TX, the Senior Citizens Center has 6 public computers, each of which runs Ubuntu 9.04, aka Jaunty. The average age of the users of these systems is somewhere south of 75 years.

I have the privilege of being the keeper of the systems there.

I also currently have convinced a 60-something to run Ubuntu at home, via dialup, since we are still considered the boonies and can't get broadband more than 18k feet from the source.

To make it even better, a 72 year young lady has asked me to set up her system with Ubuntu and remove that Windows stuff. See the GRIN?

I have given the mayor of Cross Plains and 3 or 4 others live CDs to evaluate. The last CD went to a retired pastor who was complaining about how slow his WinMachine was running.

See a trend? Population 1100, target audience, 1100.

Choice is there and I am trying to make sure as many as possible know about Linux, whether it is Ubuntu, SuperOS, Mint, Puppy or whatever, just as long as it is Linux.

"age is mind over matter: if you don't mind, it doesn't matter" Don't know who said that but it fits.

RG said...

That is good to hear. Mint is doing great. I bought a new Acer 5515 laptop for $325, free shipping a few months ago with Vista Basic. What a pain to setup. I have learned over the years the Failure is not an option. It is bundled with every Windows OS so after three hours, I ordered a new identical drive for $49.00, free shipping and installed Mint 7. Everything works. After five years of using Linux, no problem and I am well into geezerhood., 70. Will keep the vista drive if I ever sell the PC.
My stepson has the identical PC and is always fussing about Vista.

Rich

Greg said...

I recently had a similar experience here in Australia. A friend volunteers as a helpdesk person for a local User Group. He rang me and said he had this octogenarian who wanted to use Linux and would I help as he is a Windows person and was out of his depth.

So, via email, we began an adventure into Linux. He had tried and failed in the past to use Suse and was now trying OpenSuse, but it was just not working. His older laser printer would not play the game. He has a good ADSL connection so I got him to download Ubuntu and he was hooked because it recognised and configured his printer automatically. I pointed him at the restricted extras and the Ubuntuguide web page and he was off and running and happy. He emailed me back a week later to report everything working and Windows gone forever. Clearly he is a very switched on eighty year old and willing to have a go.

Personally I use KDE 4.3, but it is hard to argue with the simplicity of Gnome and the automatic configuration of Ubuntu and it's derivatives.

cheers

BobK54 said...

I have not had one person sit down at my linux box and not be able to immediatly start surfing, emailing, word processing etc. Sure it took....oh....5 seconds to find what they were looking for in the menu but after that, not even one word except...."wow, this is FAST". Linux AIN'T hard to use.

@ PV - come look at PCLinuxOS now. They had a bit of a rough spot a while back, things are back to being bright and shiny again. Maybe even for the better. And they have more flavors that you can imagine...KDE (full and Mini), Gnome (full and Mini), and XFCE. KDE4 is in testing, "it will be ready when it's ready". PCLinuxOS goes for STABILITY, not bleeding edge.

It's all good.

SVartalf said...

Heh... I've NEVER called Microsoft, Ken... But then, I'd come to the conclusion watching other people do that waste of time chain of events you described a long, long time ago.

I'd hit my pain threshold back when the 0.9 kernels were out and I'd found this wonderful UNIX-like OS at about the same time Microsoft was coming out with this thing codenamed "Chicago" (I was one of their "developer" beta-testers...the pre-Beta was...interesting- and the RC was a better product than what they shipped...go figure.

Anonymous said...

I am also a Gnome fan running Ubuntu 9.04 on a 3 and a half year old PC. Runs spectacular. I just wanted o say that I really enjoyed this story and long live Linux. I will never go back to Windows after using it for 10+ years and not even knowing their was an alternative. Now I'm Linux all the way since 2007!

Anonymous said...

Positive story. I don't want to be negative; but shouldn't we do better against Win 7? Else, most users (like this gentleman) will never hear of open alternatives.

We need XP (most) users! They (by in large) are NOT technical.

Eric Penne said...

My neighbor is 82 and I switched him this spring. I switched him because viruses and malware took over his computer so bad IE wouldn't even surf the web. 2 virus scanning programs and all updates to WinXP stopped nothing. Only had 2 issues so far. He posted on Facebook that he couldn't send email. I went through a full list of exactly how to send email. A couple minutes later I got an email that said, "I forgot to hit Send/Receive."

His camera wasn't recognized. He plugged it into a different USB port and it worked fine.

Ubuntu 9.04
P4 2.4GHz
2GB RAM

einfeldt said...

Ken, you are becoming the Linux Mark Twain. Your ability to tell concise, pithy, funny, interesting stories is building and becoming really remarkable. I think you should think about collecting them in a book.

So that's what I am going to start calling you -- the Linux Mark Twain.

Shannon VanWagner said...

Nice Work Mr. Starks.. You truly are a symbol of Freedom, and like Defending our Constitution and way of life - you continue showing everyday Americans what technology and the spirit of Freedom can do for them.

My hat's off to you Sir.

Sincerely,

Shannon VanWagner

Rich_C said...

A little while back I was asked by a colleague about my recommendations for a replacement for her parents old, slow PC. She was wary of my 'refurbish it with Linux' suggestion for the 'too hard' reason. (Despite knowing full well that'd be what I'd suggest!) I've forwarded this post!

A said...

Whoa... Easy down pals, i've never said i am not happy this gentleman is using Linux.
Even if he would use Hanna Montana Linux, for us, Linux and Floss lovers/supporters, is better any day than win you know what.
But, regarding technical aspects, i've come to love KDE because, for me, it's very good to tweak it and to get the most out of it, with little work.
I am using and deploying KDE 3.5.x, one that i trust and know gets the job done. I have no experience with KDE 4, but soon i'll have to watch it with a closer look, since all reports say it's getting damn good.
Well, salute my Linux friends.
Best regards!!!

Blog of helios said...

@ A

I do agree you were treated a bit roughly but I cannot apologize for the comments of others since their opinion weaves the texture of what we do here.

I will tell you though that we, as a business and a charity always let people know that there is a choice in environments and most times boot either a PCLInuxOS live cd to show them the KDE setup. about 25 percent ask to look at kde further but it would probably work the same way if we were to show them KDE as their install and then show them Gnome. The Primacy Effect prevails in most of us.

h

A said...

Well, a final thought here:
The example of this senior gentleman dispels the myth that Linux is difficult and windows is easy. It's just a matter of getting used to the linux environment, and everything runs fine once you do.

Best luck for all!!!

Best regards,

Anonymous said...

We've been using Linux to run our medical clinics since 2000. There are no Windows desktops here. Do you know how many training issues have come up in that time?

None.

Michael

Gavin said...

"and drives people away from Linux. Our politics."

- Anonymous (#1)

To be fair, politics exist within any OS/platform family. Windows has been undergoing some rather extreme politics since Vista was released, and even Win2K has its adamant cult following. Mac OS X has its ups and downs every time a new version release hits the shelves, and there is still some resentment over the PPC vs x86 divide. I think it is natural to have quite a bit more political potential on the *NIX side of things because of the great variety that exists. Linux alone has more options and configurations than Windows and Mac OS X combined, to say nothing of the BSD family and GNU apps ported over to proprietary UNIX/System V.

I agree that we should not be slinging mud in a new house, but it is understandable that such issues will arise. The root of this problem is not politics or people, but rather the fact that there are so many options. And since there are fans of every single option ever available, it is difficult to initiate new members into the community without facing the problem of "over-choice".

In this increasingly global attitude of presenting "solution packages" to consumers, having a choice at all for most people is more than they can handle. HD-DVD vs BluRay? Hey, we just want to watch movies at home. Which side would you like with your meal? Hey, we just want to eat. Regular or premium gasoline? Hey, we just want to drive our cars. Most people are forced to make so many decisions every day that the last thing they want to hear is, "Which desktop environment would you prefer?" How much does it truly matter?

To a techie, it can matter a whole heck of a lot! But then again, how much does it matter to you if your meal comes with a side salad or a fruit cup? Every decision has an impact on our lives; it just depends on how long and to what extent that impact can be seen and felt and heard. I usually prefer a side salad, but if a certain restaurant only had fruit cups? I have bigger problems to attend, thank you very much...

- Gavin

Rovanion said...

My grandmother recently picked up interest in Linux because she had heard on the radio how many communes in Sweden had deployed Linux instead of Windows and how that was saving them a lot of money.

So when it was time for me to maintain her computer this summer I choose to introduce her to Linux. I gave her the choice between Mandriva and Linux Mint, and she choose Linux Mint because of simplicity I guess.

So I let my grandmother install and introduce herself to Linux Mint under my watch. She's 73 and went trough the install without any problems.


And on another note. Why does the first image in the blogpost link to freephotos.com?

Blog of helios said...

Why does the first image in the blogpost link to freephotos.com?

I wanted to use that photo in particular and the license asked that the link be provided...just complying with license stipulations.

h

Anonymous said...

First things first, I like both environments, I just like GNOME better.

I noticed KDE fans consider every other DE to be evil and want you to use KDE. GNOME people, however don't care what environment you use. I don't mind Mono either. Stop stealing rms' tinfoil.

Like the second commenter said, if he's running Linux, he's good.

JRaz said...

I must comment one more time on this post since it is directly responsible for getting Linux Mint on another computer. You see I was asked to help someone avign issue with their computer. In this case it was nothing more than lack of hard drive space. So we went to a local store and purchased a hard drive and some RAM. After getting everything setup the conversation somehow turned to Linux. ") I let them know of how secure ad easy it was. They start with I'm too old and that's when I brought them here. Now they dual boot and I hope to have Windows off their computer some day. By the way Mint install and runs on this rather old gx260 Dell rather nicely. It even installed the printer automatically. Try doing that with Windows. Keep up the good work in Austin it even has an impact here in AZ.

JRaz said...

I must comment one more time on this post since it is directly responsible for getting Linux Mint on another computer. You see I was asked to help someone avign issue with their computer. In this case it was nothing more than lack of hard drive space. So we went to a local store and purchased a hard drive and some RAM. After getting everything setup the conversation somehow turned to Linux. ") I let them know of how secure ad easy it was. They start with I'm too old and that's when I brought them here. Now they dual boot and I hope to have Windows off their computer some day. By the way Mint install and runs on this rather old gx260 Dell rather nicely. It even installed the printer automatically. Try doing that with Windows. Keep up the good work in Austin it even has an impact here in AZ.

FelixTheCat said...

This reminds me of the grandmother stories you were telling when I first began reading your old blog. :)

cheap computers said...

In this increasingly global attitude of presenting "solution packages" to consumers, having a choice at all for most people is more than they can handle.