The HeliOS Project is now.....

The HeliOS Project is now.....
Same mission, same folks...just a different name

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hope and Change Inside My Computer

In a thread on I became acquainted with a lady who I only know as chikauuno.  Yeah, I didn't know how to pronounce it either.  It's simply a modified Spanish term for one girl (una chica), and as she admits, not a very good one...

It's the only one gmail said wasn't taken but she now chooses to use it online for her nomme de Internets.

What drew my attention to her was the fact that she is a new Linux user and during email conversations, I discovered she has some insights many of us might find interesting.

The copy she has given me is just a bit long for one blog posting so I will post this in two parts, possibly three, one day apart.  She's given us the entire journey from Windows to Linux.  I normally don't like doing so but it's simply too long to publish at once...please bear with me.

One request before I paste her article and comments here and hit the publish button.  Let's put away our fanboy flags and just listen. She has no allegiance to any distro or desktop environment.  She simply talks about her experiences thus far.

You have the floor Chika.

I have used a computer since I was 10 years old.  You might say I was born into the Internet Age.  I am probably a bit younger than many of the people who will read this.  I am in my first job fresh out of college and I make my living as a staff reporter for a small newspaper in Texas.  I have the luxury of working from home as the paper that employs me is 70 miles away.  That's why a computer is so important to me.

To say it is important to me is an understatement.  The professional Me lives and dies by my computer so it goes without saying that I need a reliable internet connection and a system that stays out of my way and lets me work.

 Like many people, I grew up using Microsoft Windows.  I think the majority of people who sit down behind a computer did as well.  All throughout high school and college I lambasted every computer I used when things went badly.  I have probably done more re-installs of Windows than two-thirds of the people who use a computer.  Looking back on it, it wasn't a computer crash or a system glitch that made me look outside the Windows world for a solution.  It was a Windows update.

My poor computers did not deserve the trash I verbally dumped upon them.  They did their jobs perfectly.  It was the garbage installed upon it that failed.

A political story of fair importance was brewing and I had talked to the one person that could "blow the lid off" of a political candidate's run for office.  Remember, in small towns, big news is rare and this was, in ancient vernacular, "a scoop". 

I typed the story quickly, I proofread it to the best of my ability and was about to save the document when a dialog box popped up saying that Windows was finished installing updates and it needed to restart.

Checking my watch, I clicked restart and waited for the machine to reboot.

Instead of rebooting, it went to the "almost rebooting" screen and it told me not to shut down until 18 updates were finished.

"Wait"., I thought to myself.  "I thought you said you were done installing updates."

I strummed my fingers on my desk as five, ten, then fifteen minutes had passed and only 4 of the updates were complete.  Knowing that there was a good chance a competitor from one town away had the same information, I just held down the power button.

I can hear the combination of groans and laughing already.  Yes it was a stupid thing to do and yes, somewhere in the back of my mind was a voice screaming for me to not do it.  I didn't listen.  Needless to say, the computer rewarded my actions with a blue screen of death and I had no idea what to do.  I did the only thing that came to mind and used my "call a friend" option.

Mark was at my apartment in less than 15 minutes and sidestepped past me when I answered the door.  He went straight for my desktop, , inserted a CD and rebooted the machine.

As we waited for the computer to boot, Mark explained that he was going to recover my data and any shred of the document I had been working on.  He explained to me that a Linux live CD was a self-contained operating system and that it was every bit as good as Windows, if not better in some aspects.

Fortunately, the document I had been typing had auto-saved itself minus the last couple of sentences.  Mark opened the document in Linux and I then finished it, saved it to .doc format and printed it for me to fax.  He then saved it to his thumb drive.

I suppose what surprised me the most is that he did not have to install any drivers for my printer, or my mouse for that matter.  Keep in mind my resume could easily read "Professional Microsoft Windows Installer".  Drivers are a nightmare when you don't have them handy.  The fact that this Linux thing had mine already included was impressive.

I use an off-brand trackball wireless instead of a mouse and in Windows it works somewhat without the drivers but to get the full functionality, the drivers need to be installed.  Every feature worked while the CD was running and without installing one driver.

I was intrigued.  My first question to him was "How do I buy a computer with that already on it", that of course being Linux.  Mark explained that it not only acted as a recovery CD but that it could be installed as a permanent operating system and showed me the icon on the desktop.

I asked him if I could play around with the disk for the evening and he of course said yes.

After faxing in my story, I logged out of work via computer and began exploring my new digital visitor.  I would have occasional fits of "This can't be working." and "Can this be legal?"  Of course now I know it is but from my narrow perspective, I'll ask you to understand my doubts.

I can't tell you exactly when I made the decision but somewhere between playing with LibreOffice and the webcam software, I found myself dropping and dragging important files from my Windows world onto a portable hard drive.

It was about 6 PM that evening, roughly 9 weeks ago, I double-clicked the "Install Linux Mint" icon.


Scott-Gto286 said...

i have a similar story to this. but mine wasn't from another coming to fix my machine, It was out of frustration of almost loosing kids school work. and remembering my first encounter with mac as a kid myself i went looking and found linux. *fedora fc1 & Ubuntu*. saved the work and started me down the road to better things. I don't miss windows i was happy to toss it off my machine back in 03
furthermore my live cd/dvds have saved many of customers and family/friends from disaster.
So i can relate to this story for it closely resembles my own...

PV said...

Mine is a sort of similar story. Well, there wasn't any one event with Microsoft Windows that prompted me to install Linux Mint, but it was just the general sluggishness and degrading performance from doing normal stuff like browsing the web (with an antimalware program always running, which compounded that problem) and installing new programs (which were not malware, mind you). One day I was bored, didn't particularly feel like studying for an AP exam coming up a few days after that, and decided to follow through with a friend's advice a while before that to download and install Linux Mint. While I still have Microsoft Windows for gaming and "just in case", I haven't ever had a "just in case" moment yet, and aside from gaming, I have never looked back.
a Linux Mint user since 2009 May 1

Gavin said...

Ooh... I cringed at that part about holding down the power button while Windows was installing updates! I once saw a Windows computer survive that. Once.

I cannot wait to read more!

Anonymous said...

Bravo Chica! Will be eagerly awaiting (as Paul Harvey used to say) the rest of the story!

Morten Juhl-Johansen Zölde-Fejér said...

Well, my wife once closed the lid on her Vista machine while it was closing down. It proceded to suspend *while* shutting down...
On reboot, the system was restored. No metaphor, it was completely restored - it had tried to rescue the system and had copied a full default installation from rescue partition. Work gone poof.

santam said...

A very similar story here. Was finishing my dissertation when the motherboard went kaput. Replacing/ repairing was out of question as it would have taken two days and I dont have the hardware skills. Borrowed a friends computer and jacked in the harddrive - of course windows would not boot up. Finally downloaded a Ubuntu (9.04 at that time), burned it on a cd and ran it as a live CD. Luckily the ram in my friends computer was ok (1 GB - a luxury in India in 2004). Opened openoffice writer copied the whole word document, imported my zotero library in firefox and had the thesis ready on the flash drive in 1.5 days. Did not need to reboot the live CD even once. Once the motherboard was repaired after those horrible two days windows refused to start up - saw the warning just once. Installed that Ubuntu live CD in 20 minutes time after a full format of the windows partition. Took me a days worth of goggling to find out all the stuff I wanted. The only thing that I need and dont have still is SPSS. Just to get the spite out on windows I used that OEM copy of windows (In India they the computer vendor will give u these OEM multiinstall CDs rather than coming in and reinstalling the OS - yes thats piracy)for a virtualbox install - that is living happily with SPSS since then without any issues or updates and runs a lot faster than it did on the primary desktop

Anonymous said...

You should always disable automatic updates in Windows! I have heard many complaints like those above. Windows updates at inconvenient times, wants to reboot when you are in the middle of an important task etc... And more often than not updates cause errors that require a restore or complete re-install. Like others here, I dual boot (with WinXP PRO), but mainly use Windows for gaming and streaming Netflix video.

There was no one thing that got me started using Linux, mainly general frustration with a variety of problems with Windows, and a deep dislike of M$'s business practices. I started out with Knoppix, moving on to Kanotix, Sidux, and Aptosid. I have tried other distros, and recommend Mepis to new users. Aptisid is not for everyone, but I like it.

Chicka, your story sounds similar (so far) to mine and others that I have read. Can't wait to read the rest!

Anonymous said...

I have always been a staunch champion of the underdog, so that's why back in 2001 I started playing with Linux... and it became an ongoing hobby. I had had my share of Windows woes, but nothing earth shattering... I just found Windows to be sooooo unproductive. I spent more time chasing it and its multitude of painful updates around and around until I said heck with it... I am done wasting my time, I'm going all Linux where and when I can (have to have some Windows VM's to help my clients, though).

My first exposure to computing was a Commodore VIC-20 that my father had bought. Something comforting there was about that monochrome display and typing commands... I guess that's why I gravitated towards Linux and still do much from the command line... :)

Kevin (Whizard72) said...

I've said it over and over to people I know and I'll say it here. Windows is obsolete technology. The kernel, filesystem and underlying system components haven't changed much since NT. Updates, software, and driver installs leave garbage lying around in your system. Uninstalling software is worse.

Meanwhile, Mac OSX and Linux leave little to no refuse lying around in your system and programs to uninstall are truly gone without a trace. Not to mention the fact that system updates do not need restarts unless there are kernel updates which aren't frequent.

Why do we need to purchase defragmenters, anti-malware programs and registry tweakers to fix problems Microsoft caused and refuses to truly fix? What's even more vexing is the fact that those costs are on top of the exhorbitant (blackmail) price of Windows to begin with.

Yet, I can walk into an Apple store or go online to and purchase the full version of Snow Leopard for just $30. If Apple can afford to sell their OS for that much, MS sure as hell can.. oh wait, Apple's stock is growing while MS stock has been flat-lining for like 7 years and showing no signs of life.

So that's $180 for Windows plus aforementioned utility programs in the faint hope of staving off the inevitable system catastrophe?

I say adopt a Reaganism and...


NotZed said...

I feel sorry for these people that grew up with this rubbish. I had the option of commodore and amiga, and fortunately took it. Then straight to gnu/linux.

I routinely hit the power button if something is pissing me off (by ordering me what I can't do for instance) - if the system can't survive something as simple as the power going off, it is worthless for storing any data.

Anonymous said...

"I typed the story quickly, I proofread it to the best of my ability and was about to save the document when a dialog box popped up saying that Windows was finished installing updates and it needed to restart."

Yeah, right? Microsoft Windows noses it's way into almost everything you try to do, especially when you are trying to work. Good point though on shutting off auto updates.

I'll repeat something helios has said often. If you actually read the MS EULA and STILL use their crappy software, then you deserve to have every freedom taken away from you that MS says they will take.

Outrageous doesn't even cover it, and their audaciousness in actually thinking it's ok to make you agree to that is amazing.

Welcome to our neighborhood Chika. You are going to fit right in.

Gavin said...

Anonymous #2 - "Outrageous doesn't even cover it, and their audaciousness in actually thinking it's ok to make you agree to that is amazing."

Hey, people still click on it, right? Besides, they cannot take away any rights that are granted by governments, etc. Probably why they have so many regional EULAs.

Although, oddly enough...

Ok, so someone buys an off-the-shelf computer at Best Buy (already I say they get what they deserve!) and accepts the Geek Squad offer to "optimize" their new PC. The GS then goes to work on the PC, accepting the EULAs in the process. By the time the customer gets the computer back from the GS, the EULA pop-ups are gone. Has the GS effectively accepted the EULAs on behalf of the customer?

Nope! The computer box has some legal lines on there saying that buying, opening, and using the computer means you have implicitly accepted all EULAs. In addition, MS is covered by the whole "this software has a EULA that you accept in running this software regardless of whether or not you actually saw it with your own eyes" legal catch.

To be fair, MS did not invent this contract trick. Neither did HP or Dell or any of them. This trick dates back to before Bill Gates was even born! But still, an interesting legal manouever about which very few people know. Probably why a lot of Windows users are so clueless about the legalities of software in general. Who knew about these things?? Well, most of the lawyers for the past few generations, for one...