Introducing Your Honey to Linux
"A couple years ago, I bought my wife a new Thinkpad," Slashdot blogger Chris Travers recalled. "She made a specific request: 'I don't want to use something weird, like Linux.'" Though the laptop came with Vista, it "never worked right. It had video card issues, power management issues and networking issues." After a few days, Travers' wife asked him to "'do anything you can to make this work or return it,'" he said. "So I installed Fedora Linux."
Mar 21, 2011 5:00 AM PT
Linux geeks are a generous sort, it seems fair to say, always eager to share the joys of their favorite operating system. So when a Linux geek enters a new relationship -- with a fellow human, that is -- it's only natural to encourage that new flame to adopt Linux too.
Makes perfect sense, right? Of course it does. Unfortunately, said partners don't always see it that way.
The School of Hard Knocks has done a good job of teaching Linux Girl that lesson, so her interest was naturally piqued when she came across a post from a while back on just that topic by Thoughts on Technology blogger and Bodhi Linux lead developer Jeff Hoogland.
"A few weeks back the girl I have been dating for awhile now had idly made a complaint about her laptop being poky at certain tasks," Hoogland began in the post from roughly a year ago. "I'd used the thing once or twice to check my email and recalled it was running Vista -- no surprise there.
"I like this girl a lot and figured it was time to take that next step in our relationship," Hoogland continued. "I offered to put Linux on her laptop."
'Was the Move Successful?'
Now, at this point, many readers are no doubt cringing inwardly, expecting nothing but the worst -- Linux Girl certainly was. She's glad to report, however, that that was not how things played out.
"Was the move to Linux successful for her? More than three weeks later and I can say with confidence: Yes it was," Hoogland wrote.
Of course, in the grand scheme of things -- particularly where relationships are concerned -- three weeks is but the blink of an eye, most would surely agree. So Linux Girl took it upon herself to check back with Hoogland last week to see how things have progressed over the past year.
'The Conversion Has Gone Well'
"I must say, the conversion has gone quite well!" Hoogland enthused in an email. "For the last six months her laptop has run in a single boot of just Linux, and for the last three months that single boot has been the Enlightenment desktop via Bodhi."
Windows is "still present on the system via Virtual Box VM due to the fact that she needs Microsoft Office and a couple other closed source, Windows-only softwares for school currently," Hoogland added.
Asked if he had any suggestions for others attempting the same sort of conversion, Hoogland had a few words of advice.
"The most important thing with any Linux conversion is to remember that most people don't care what their computer is running, so long as it runs," he told Linux Girl. "The key to a successful changeover is making sure everything the user did previously on their system they can still do on that system with Linux.
"Computers are tools," he concluded. "They need to be able to work properly."
'I'd Be Sleeping on the Couch'
Knowing just how fervently many Linux geeks dream of similar success, Linux Girl couldn't resist seeking out more such advice down at the blogosphere's Broken Windows Lounge, where the conversation almost never slows down.
"Man I can imagine what would happen if I tried that -- I'd be sleeping on the couch!" Slashdot blogger hairyfeet choked.
Whether Hoogland's strategy will work depends on "if she is one of the mythical 'only uses the web' types, which while they do exist I've found them to be quite rare," hairyfeet opined. "More likely, even though she SAYS she only uses the web, in actuality there are 3 to 4 programs that she considers 'must haves' that are Windows-only."
'The Little Nigglers'
By way of advice for other Linux users hoping to convert their significant others similarly, "if there is one lesson I could pass on, it is this: it is NEVER Windows and MS Office that keeps them on Windows, never!" hairyfeet asserted.
In fact, "Windows users frankly don't ever use anything that comes with the OS," he explained. "What they do use is the 'little nigglers,' as I call them: half a dozen or more programs they've collected CDs to over the years that they love and simply won't do without.
"In the case of my Brenda it is her Mah Jong games, the software that came with her Easyshare that lets her simply push a button and shoot her new pics to her email and FB (Windows only of course), and a half a dozen or so little purchased programs she's collected over the years," hairyfeet pointed out.
Tales of XP Horror
For blogger Robert Pogson, success took some work, but it wasn't unattainable.
"My wife is the least competent human being I have ever met with regards to using a PC," Pogson began. "She started with DOS and for many years kept written notes of how to do anything. My son and I were always called in to authenticate any new operation."
After spending an ensuing time on XP -- which messed up for "the umpteenth time" -- "we determined she no longer needed IE to visit any of the sites in her history and switched to Debian GNU/Linux," Pogson recounted.
'A Roaring Success'
"Apart from how to find files, a camera and one scripted site that did not have full functionality, she is just fine," he asserted. "There are simple work-arounds for everything."
Pogson's wife now uses Google Desktop "to find stuff, and we found an app to download her pictures from her PTP-only (Boo! Nikon!) camera," he explained.
"When XP was new it crashed weekly; when XP was mature it picked up malware like dust," he added. "About once a year it needed re-installation because it failed to boot or sloowwwed down.
"Now she and I are free of that other OS forever," he enthused. "That was the last machine run by M$ in our house."
In short, "it took my wife months to learn to use XP and a week to learn Debian GNU/Linux + XFCE4," Pogson concluded. "I would say the migration was a roaring success. I feel I could have done Munich in a few weeks... ;-)"
'Something Weird, Like Linux'
Chris Travers, a Slashdot blogger who works on the LedgerSMB project, also enjoyed what might be called a roaring success.
"A couple years ago, I bought my wife a new Thinkpad," Travers recalled. "She made a specific request: 'I don't want to use something weird, like Linux.'"
Though the laptop came with Vista, it "never worked right," he explained. "It had video card issues, power management issues and networking issues."
'So I Installed Fedora'
After a few days, Travers' wife asked him to "'do anything you can to make this work or return it,'" he said. "So I installed Fedora Linux."
All the problems "went away," Travers recounted. "I made sure she could do everything she needed to."
In fact, "a few years later she dropped her laptop and it had to be replaced," he added. "She made a request when I replaced it: 'I don't want Windows on it. Make sure it runs Linux.'"
Travers' advice? "Focus on solving real problems," he suggested. "Don't just do it because it's cool."
'You Can Always Replace a Computer'
Slashdot blogger Barbara Hudson, who goes by "Tom" on the site, had a very different tale to tell.
Rather than Linux, "I introduced my last significant other to something much better: the sight of me packing my clothes and walking out the door with the dog," Hudson told Linux Girl. "At least the dog didn't come home at 4:30 in the morning and then lie about it."
Things "like computers and operating systems are of secondary importance," she explained. "You can always replace a computer, just like you can replace the furniture and all the other 'stuff' in your life."
As for Hudson's next relationship, "I'm not so concerned about what operating system SignificantGuy 2.0 runs on," she asserted. "I just don't want him to leave the kitchen a mess when he 'helps' with the cooking, or settle for just 'trying' to put his dirty clothes in the hamper."