Converting a Windows 7 user to Xubuntu 13.10 & Miscellaneous Observations about Xubuntu 13.10
raleigh75 at bellsouth.net
Fri Dec 6 04:50:52 UTC 2013
Hi! I'm new and thought I'd share a story with the mailing list. I feel
like we all have to do our part to evangelize for Linux. Last night, I
converted a Windows 7 user. My methodology was simple. I took their
laptop from them, erased Windows, and installed Xubuntu!
Okay, there's actually more to the story. My customer, the Windows 7
user, gave me a laptop to fix and a $100 budget. I noted her computer
was slow, Windows Update was broken, Norton360 anti-virus was broken,
and the customer complained wireless no longer worked. I suspected a
rather intelligent virus had done all these things. To be sure, I
downloaded and ran Microsoft Security Essentials and did a full scan. It
found the Alureon virus. At that point, I informed the customer, and she
agreed that it was best to wipe the drive clean. However, there was no
Windows install DVD available. This was one of those bloatware-laden
Hewlett-Packard laptops that come with Win7 preinstalled. Either it
didn't come with an install DVD or she had lost it somewhere along the
way. I do not stock Win7 install dvds and buying one would break our
budget, because the $100 is supposed to compensate me for my time.
My solution? I installed Xubuntu 13.10. I knew the customer used the
laptop just to browse the Internet and access the occasional Word
document, and Xubuntu can handle those things without breaking a sweat.
I don't think she cares what operating system she uses. She just wants
to surf the web and write a letter once in a while. She trusted me to do
whatever I thought best to get the computer working again. What I think
is best is replacing Windows 7 with Xubuntu.
The way to sell Linux to the customer is not to talk about Linux, but
about Firefox, because people recognize Firefox. It turns out the
customer had indeed used Firefox before. I reckon 99% of her time on the
laptop, she will be interacting with Firefox, not Linux and not Xubuntu.
So why preach about Linux? All I needed to mention was something along
the lines of, "oh yeah, no viruses on Linux," and maybe add that Linux
is free. These are two huge selling points. LibreOffice covers the
Microsoft Office angle, the last killer app in Microsoft's arsenal. Once
people know they can open and modify Office documents in LibreOffice, an
important bridge has been crossed. These two things together will
convert a lot of Windows users, just not the high-tech gaming crowd.
More and more, the only reason to stick with Windows is gaming, but
that's a fortress that can be breached too.
Now my customer is not a technical person--far from it--but I think
Xubuntu is more user-friendly than Windows. Windows is cruel to
non-technical people like her. Suddenly her computer slowed down,
wireless stopped working, Windows Update stopped working, the anti-virus
stopped working, and she didn't know why. How could she know why? She's
not a computer person. She resorted to using wired ethernet for several
more months. Meanwhile, cybercriminals may have been siphoning off her
usernames and passwords on various web sites. I mentioned that
possibility to her and advised that she change her passwords.
I help people who have malware infections. All those people are Windows
users. The problem with Windows is there is no software repository. The
reason *buntu is safer from malware is that only the technorati will
stray from the safe and secure repositories accessed via Software
Manager. The way users learn to install applications is via the
repository, and this is safe, and thus the operating system is safe.
That is why I was able to tell my customer that she would not need an
anti-virus. "Viruses are a Windows thing. Linux does not have much of a
problem with viruses." She was glad to hear that.
I had to stray from the repository just once to install Skype on her
laptop, because I know she will need it. Using Software Manager, I
installed LibreOffice to replace Microsoft Word, which she had used
before. I also installed VLC, if I remember correctly, K3b, and
Ktorrent, because I am used to and prefer Ktorrent, and she might ask me
a question about torrents one day, and I don't want her to be looking at
Transmission while I'm looking at Ktorrent. I know about xfburn from the
Windows world, but K3b is pure elegance. Xubuntu had everything else
I made a couple of other tweaks. I set Firefox to load at startup, so
that she is presented with a familiar internet browser immediately. The
home page is a local file, something I coded in html and css that
renders several popular search engines accessible on one page without
using any bandwidth. It's like having the Google search field, except
there are a lot of other fields for sites like Youtube, IMDB, and Google
< 30 day results, which I find indispensable, because Google's old,
tired, wrong results are irrelevant and misleading for most technical
questions, which require up-to-date answers. The only extra add-on I
installed was AdBlock, which I consider essential. With more technically
agile users, I like to also install NoScript and FlashBlock for added
security and greater control over web pages, but with a novice, I feel
these add-ons may be too difficult to deal with. They add complexity
along with the security.
Some performance tweaks I made include adding "noatime" to the fstab, to
eliminate unnecessary hard drive I/O, and setting vm.swappiness = 10,
which is recommended for desktops. I wonder why Linux distros don't
already have these as defaults. I could have set /tmp to tmpfs in the
fstab, as well, like Fedora does, but I forgot. It was late. The only
startup service I disabled was Bluetooth.
I think that Xubuntu is about the best choice in Linux today. I have
used many Linux distros: OpenSuse, Linux Mint Mate/Cinnamon/Xfce/KDE,
Kubuntu, PCLinuxOS, and SolydXK. Why do I like Xubuntu? Mainly because
it works. I have noticed problems with Kubuntu lately. I like to have a
distro that I can recommend to non-technical people. And I see no value
in a distro that is going to give me problems, even if I have the
capability of dealing with them. I also like the speed of Xubuntu and
the fact that Xubuntu does not include all the strange stuff that has
been put into Ubuntu. What sets Xubuntu above Linux Mint *.* is simple:
the upgrade button. Presumably I will never have to reinstall again. I
can just select "Yes" when asked to do a release-upgrade. I really like
that. It means that I don't have to think twice about installing 13.10,
which has only a couple months of support left. When 14.04 gets
released, I will just click the upgrade button.
The installer is excellent, also. It is about the smoothest experience
I've had installing Linux.
The update utility stays out of the way and invisible, which makes me a
little uncomfortable. Maybe I've gotten used to Linux Mint's little
check-mark. I expect a little icon signifying that updates have/have not
been checked for, as in Linux Mint. However, Xubuntu is only hanlding
Updates in the same manner as Windows. Overall the update utility is
also excellent and I have had no serious problems with it. One time I
opted against doing an update due to the fact I downloading on the same
connection and had limited bandwidth. I clicked Cancel, and I think it
offered to send an error report to Canonical, which seemed a little unusual.
I certainly hope xscreensaver remains available via Software Manager and
compatible with Xubuntu, because I use it heavily, although I don't use
a screen locker. Perhaps it is a good idea to replace the screen locker.
What I like about xscreensaver is the slideshow. I just haven't found
anything comparable to it in the Linux world. I don't think there is a
screensaver/slideshow in existence for Linux that works as well and is
as configurable as xscreensaver. I've tried many of the others, and they
Thunar is a powerful file manager, and I like that I can make custom
actions. I made a couple of custom actions for my customer last night
and feel they should be included in Xubuntu. One is "Edit file as Root,"
although I named that one "Edit file with Administrator Privileges" to
make a little clearer for a Windows refuge. Another is "Open as Root"
("Open with Administrator Privileges"). One of the frustrating points
for a Windows refuge is how to edit, move or copy a file in Linux. These
simple custom actions can remove an obstacle for them. The security
remains intact, but now there is a GUI option so one does not have to
have a crash course in the command line.
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