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

Blake Haggerty Blake.Haggerty at Sapphire.com
Thu Sep 27 16:17:30 PDT 2007

Yes these are all concerns that I have. I also am a very novice user. So I imagine having issues myself.  Only having 1 year experience in the Linux world I don't know how well I will be able to support him. If it was just a matter of getting him a more powerfull box that would be fine I have the parts to build him a great machine, but I dont have spare laptops sitting around. His laptop is his only computer and he  he is basically sick of the Microsoft  pop ups telling him his product is not registered/authenticated and he is probably sick of me telling him to move to Linux.


His use is pretty limited MP3s and Internet. I am just hoping  with a little help here and there it should work out fine. I have looked at a bunch of screen shots for XFCE and it looks simple enough I think I can figure it out. His cube is next to mine so if he needs to bring it in to have something fixed it shouldnt be a problem. I am taking it home tonight to get started and do some experimenting so I will give the first update tomorrow mornign and let you guys know how it is going so far.



Blake Haggerty
Technical Recruiter 

Work: 415-788-8488 x215
Fax: 415-788-2592

Email: blake.haggerty at sapphire.com

Sapphire Technologies

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-----Original Message-----
From:Christian Einfeldt einfeldt at gmail.com 
To: "Blake Haggerty" ;
Cc: "sf-lug at linuxmafia.com" ;
Sent: Sep 27, 2007 03:49:27 PM
Subject: Re: [sf-lug] Linux install on Older Laptop (Ubuntu??)

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! 

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