Introducing Your Honey to Linux

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.”


  • All your software WILL RUN I repeat WILL RUN on Windows 7, you simply need to use XP Mode. In Win 7 X64 they removed a lot of the legacy cruft to make the OS faster (which it is and how!) but if you have legacy apps that won’t run on X64 you’ll have to use XP Mode. If you have Windows 7 Pro or better it is a free download from MSFT, if you have Home or Starter it is an "anytime upgrade" of $80 to Pro. Nice thing is all your apps and settings will stay the same and the upgrade takes less than 20 minutes.

    But frankly with a little Googling I’m sure you’ll find that most if not all will run just fine on Win 7 X64 with just the built in WoW (Windows on Windows) emulation that comes with ALL Win 7 editions. out of nearly 100 conversions I’ve done for customers I’ve found exactly ONE app which I had to get them XP Mode for, and that was QuickBooks 05 which demands a funky old version of Flash which doesn’t run on anything newer than XP.

    As for Wine, can you get it to work? Well let me put it THIS way: How many weekends do you have free? Wine I have found is good for Office 2K3 and games, everything else be ready to work your rear off. Then of course when the 6 month upgrades come it’ll break and you’re back to square one. If you are gonna go Linux better to just toss all your Windows software and start fresh, otherwise you are better off with XP Mode.

  • I read the feedback from the Linux believers. I need advice. i am so mad at Microsoft, I could spit. I invested a fortune in Office Pro and other very expensive programs like Photoshop and Paperport Pro. All for win XP. When I thought I would finally see an OS in win7 which would be the best thing since sliced bread, After I bought the laptop, I find I can not run most of these on WIN 7 64 bit. So the move up was worthless for me. I can not invest in all new software. Will Linux run these? or can I set dual boot? Where does one go to learn more about Linux and the open source programs. I’m sure I am not alone in needing educating. Thanks.

  • My girl friend also use Linux every day now!

    She used to make drawing every day, sketch etc.

    And when she saw this video … she told me "I want this!"…

    She bought a Wacom tablet and now use her Ubuntu every day for Internet / Mail / drawing etc. without windows… just one OS.

    I use Debian since 10 years and guide her at the beginning.

    But she’s autonomous now, makes a lot of stuff… and I was very surprised by the speed and facility of the transition… she’s more an artist.

  • My wife has been using Ubuntu for a little over a year. I was tired of having to spend so much time fixing and maintaining her Windows XP system when it locked up, crashed, or became malware and virally infected. It was slow, unreliable … you know: a typical Windows installation.

    I started her on Linux Mint to allow her the luxury of a Windows-like interface. When the display controller on her system’s motherboard went kerphlooey we had to make the decision of trying to fix her 10 year old system, or buy a new system. We decided to buy her a new system.

    Upon bringing it home, the first thing I did was get rid of the Windows 7 and install Ubuntu 10.10.

    She loves her computer, uses it for her grad school work (she’s almost finished, now, with her Masters Education and her teacher’s certification). She has had no problem with submitting her work in M$ Office format, and takes advantage of the fact the allows her to easily create Adobe Reader format files which she often uses to submit her various papers and other work.

    My wife has become a Linux advocate at work, and frequently complains when the systems at school (she is a paraprofessional instructor) go down, slow down, jam up, or have to be taken off line because of viral infections. She has even discussed the advantages of Linux with one of her employers (who she babysits for) who is on the Board of Ed.

    My wife is not a technocrat, but she loves the speed, ease of use, reliability, and that Linux saves us money and hassles, and that her PC is always available to her whenever she needs it, which is always.

    Oh, and she also loves the fun apps (music, games, photos, and Internet stuff) which I set up for her on her system.

    I love that I have locked down her system so only I can install applications, which keeps her from installing malware … one less source for aggravation – both hers, and most especially, mine.

  • My kids have been using Ubuntu for 4 years. My wife for almost 2 years. She knew she was making the switch I had prepared about 6 months in advance. I’m a FOSS supporter and linux user for 7 years. When using Windows we installed GIMP, OpenOffice, Firefox, and other FOSS software. She was used to it and when she made the swap to SuSE she couldn’t care less. I had to answer 4 or 5 questions mostly regarding Evolution. Now she cries, & complains when having to use Windows. Something about slow, waiting, unavailable. If I didn’t apply updates to your system every 90 days, and ask her to reboot I’m not sure how long her laptop would have been on by now. I think she’s most impressed with, it just works, all the time. No updates, no magical 3am reboots, no slow logons. She has no patience and I love that windows drives her nutz. Yes I’m very lucky.

    • What you need to do is switch her to Windows 7, which if her computer isn’t so old dinosaurs roamed the earth with it (I’ve converted several old P4s and they run just fine on 1.5Gb of RAM with Win 7) it will not only run fine but ALL of your headaches will magically go bye bye!

      I had the same problem with my dad, I’d fix it, he’d break it. So finally I got tired of it and dropped off a new quad with a copy of Win 7 HP which I told him I’d set up on the weekend. Well he got impatient and decided to do it himself and IT ALL WORKED right out of the box! Not only that but he is getting more use out of his PC in a week than he did XP in NINE years! Now he is constantly finding new features like voice recognition, simply because the new Win 7 Search will help guide you to related features, and thanks to UAC , ASLR, and DEP I haven’t had to clean up a single bug nor fix a single thing, yay!

      So while I’ve always said Linux is great for embedded and servers, and okay as a desktop if you don’t mind fiddling to fix things when the updates break drivers, For those that aren’t geeks Windows 7 is like manna from Heaven. It has gotten to the point any XP boxes I sell come with only "as is" support because XP is just too much work compared to Windows 7, it really is that good.

  • Relationships are difficult enough without bringing the penguin into them.

    My wife is a reluctantly tech savvy person. She used DOS and BBS’s, all while denying any competence. At one point she was on a BBS and the sysop started chatting with her. She pleaded ignorance, but he pointed out that she had accessed his board using Bitcom. (not the friendliest terminal)

    Computers have been my other love. She has been dragged along.

    She has witnessed my embrace of OSS and Linux.

    She is not a person to change for change sake. She did embrace Chrome almost immediately.

    She uses XP. I clean it, she uses it, I clean it.(rinse and repeat) I use linux 95% of the time. I only use Windows when it is time for Netflix.

    I tried to bring her to the light, but I became tired. It was not just her. I felt after a while of trying to persuade people to use Linux, that I was almost justifying myself. I decided to keep it my own special tool.

    Life is too short to decide what OS to use for your partner. There are important things to decide like "Who’s turn is it to clean the kitchen?"

Leave a Comment

Please sign in to post or reply to a comment. New users create a free account.

More by Katherine Noyes
More in Community

LinuxInsider Channels