[sf-lug] Linux install on Older Laptop (Ubuntu??)

Christian Einfeldt einfeldt at gmail.com
Thu Sep 27 15:49:23 PDT 2007

I am probably the least skilled of everyone on this list, and perhaps
therefore the most qualified to answer this thread.  heh.

Seriously, everyone who has replied so far has deep skills as sys admins,
AFAIK.  From my experience in using FOSS as a simple end user, and from my
experience in supporting lots and lots of other simple end users with FOSS,
I must tell you that I believe that your experience with FOSS on the
particular old machine that you are talking about is going to be highly
unpleasant.  Most end users want really powerful GUIs, as a couple of other
people have pointed out here.  IMHO, XFCE is just a wee bit too difficult
for the average simple end user to enjoy, unless they have really really
close support (same household or neighbor) from a guru.

I have spent a LOT of time trying to get XFCE working for simple end users
as part of our local LUG's support project for a local public middle
school.  I found that I was constantly having to turn to higher level
support leads on this list and other lists, such as the WFTL-LUG.  Plus IRC
support.  I really really really wanted old hardware to work for us at the
school, because it was our goal to have every kid in school take home a FOSS
computer, and we just didn't have enough 1.x ghz 512 MB boxes for everyone.
We tried the lightweight desktop environments, and the simple end users were
just running into problems and then stopping.  That's it.  They just give
up.  So if you have just one friend that you will be supporting, and you
stay in close contact with your friend, then it will work.

I no longer use boxes slower than P3 800 Mhz and 256 MB RAM or higher, and I
would not consider using XFCE with a friend unless I was sure that my friend
understood that they really do need to call me if they have problems, and
not give up.  It will take lots and lots of patience and lots and lots of
time with that person.  And don't think that you are going to be able to get
away with phone support, either, at least not at first.  You will probably
be well advised to be able sit with that person and point to the various
icons on the screen.  It is also really really positive if you are
sufficiently close friends with the person that you can just hang out with
them and socialize while you are both listening to digital music or doing
word processing or web browsing, because then it will actually become
enjoyable for you to support him / her.  That is key.  The secret to
successful FOSS migration, IMHO, is not a technical issue, it is a social
issue!!!!  It's all about relationships!

For example, at our school, we always do best with teachers who have an
actual need for FOSS computers, and who will either restrict their use /
their students' use to known simple uses; or if you have a teacher who is
committed to learning the technology.

For example, we have a 58 year-old African American woman teacher who was
really motivated to use Edubuntu and GNU Denemo for teaching music to her
students.  But she is someone whose life experience showed her that
independence and self-reliance and determination are virtues.  Plus she has
an incredible passion for teaching music.  She was not going to let any old
obstacle get in her way of teaching music to her students, and she even now
can use the BASH shell for simple, task-focused purposes of killing runaway
timidity and denemo processes.

And this is NOT a FOSS issue!!  Windows users have the same problems!!!  I
can't tell you how many of our teachers come to me with Windows issues that
are nothing more than sheer laziness.  They just don't want to learn.  They
want to have everything in technology handed to them on a silver platter
because they are soooooo overworked and overwhelmed from being at school at
6:50 am and staying until 5:50 pm that they have no bandwidth for learning
new computer stuff, or so they think.  So if one of their assigned Windows
computers goes down, they will just abandon it and start using their
personal Windows or Mac notebooks until it, too, gets problems, and then
they just abandon it for a new box.

In fact, I would say that one of the reasons that I think that there is
going to be a digital tipping point is that the broad FOSS community is
soooo passionate about working with simple end users and making them
comfortable.  Those Windows users who are too lazy or too intimidated or too
overworked to learn new skills are potentially prime targets for Linux
conversion as our communities grow, and as we get more people who will bring
in others and support them.

So I am very excited about your efforts, and I hope you succeed.  But you
might want at some point to consider going over to ACCRC.org on a Saturday
afternoon, volunteer a bit for James Burgett, the owner of ACCRC.org, and
get your friend to come along, too.  At some point, you will be able to
probably get a FOSS box for your friend that has a wee bit more muscle, and
they you can let your friend use GNOME or KDE, and I think that your friend
will have a much better computing experience.

There is always going to be some video application or other graphics program
that your friend is going to want to run, and it will be painfully slow on
that notebook.  That notebook is going to be fantastic for taking notes with
a lightweight word processor or doing lightweight spreadsheets and maybe
playing some lightweight video and audio, but I predict that your friend
will soon want to leave their lightweight applications and will want to use
some resource-intensive videos or music, and that's when the notebook will
no longer seem adequate.  I wish that were not true, but that is my
experience from providing literally more than 1,000 hours of end user tech
support since 2001.

Good luck!
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://linuxmafia.com/pipermail/sf-lug/attachments/20070927/33367f3a/attachment.html>

More information about the sf-lug mailing list