Converting a Windows 7 user to Xubuntu 13.10 & Miscellaneous Observations about Xubuntu 13.10

raleigh rivers raleigh75 at
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 
have problems.

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.

More information about the xubuntu-devel mailing list