[xubuntu-users] Is there a list for *ABSOLUTE* beginners with Xubuntu?

Peter Flynn peter at silmaril.ie
Wed Sep 4 18:11:14 UTC 2013

On 09/03/2013 03:14 PM, David Walland wrote:
> I went onto this list, hoping to learn from it but I'm *SUCH* a 
> newbie with Linux/X/Ubuntu that it could mostly be written in Outer
> Mongolian without reducing the amount of meaning I get from it.

I've been using Unix-like systems for 30 years and I *still* get that
feeling from time to time, so don't despair: you're in good company.

Most such systems are written by C programmers for other C programmers,
and it's only relatively recently that the documentation has started to
cater for the end-user who is "just a user". The inherent assumption is
that you already know what you want to do, and can describe it in terms
that a programmer can understand.

Personally, I have this problem even worse with Windows, which I have
only used _en passant_ since it came out :-)

> I'm 66 and have worked with computers on and off since 1964, so I'm 
> no novice. I was fairly expert on BBC Micros in the 1980s and was 
> also programming in hex on the 6800 at that time. Since the PC 
> revolution, I've been just a user and I simply can't seem to get off 
> first base with Xubuntu, which I have on a laptop so ancient it 
> defaults to 1998 if the onboard battery fails (often).

That could be a major problem. While Xubuntu runs happily on all my
older machines, they are at least physically stable. Is there any way
that the battery problem could be fixed?

> It runs surprisingly quickly on an older version of Xubuntu (10.04). 

Not optimal, but usable.

> I can use it for ordinary "user" things but can't manage to get 
> Office Libre to load (it *downloaded* OK!) onto the machine 

Libre Office is pretty bloated these days. I really do recommend that
you try something much lighter like AbiWord, which should be in the
repositories where you can just install it via Synaptic, or from the
console with

  sudo apt-get install abiword

I deleted OpenOffice and installed Libre Office but I'm not a
wordprocessor user, and on the rare occasions I need to use it (usually
to open a Word file), I find it unnecessarily complex. AbiWord isn't
perfect, but it's small, light, simple, and reasonably obvious and it
opens Word files. The only problem may be that an older version (for
Xubuntu 10.04) may not handle modern Word .docx files nicely. But I do
feel you should give it a try.

There is an alternative, which as a former machine-level programmer you
might find attractive (or even remember): LaTeX. It's NOT a
wordprocessor, but a programmable typesetter with a reasonably
high-level markup language. It runs on everything, from smartphones to
supercomputers. It's big (over 1Gb) but once you get the hang of it
(about 2 days) you will probably never want to use a wordprocessor again.

> and the error messages don't use words memorable enough for me to
> record them (they flash on screen and then disappear before I can do 
> anything sensible!)

I haven't noticed that. Usually error messages are what they call "modal
dialogs": they normally stay there until you dismiss them. Do you know
if these are Libre Office messages or something from the Linux operating

> Is there any local group in the NE of England I could join for 
> mentoring? I really want to learn Linux/Ubuntu and run my XP
> machines on it from next year - all I need is some help to get me up
> to where I can learn alone.

I have been replacing XP on a bunch of old Dell laptops with Xubuntu so
we can lend them to postgraduate students in my university. So far no
problems, but they're only about 8-9 years old. Yours sounds older (and
Samsung isn't exactly a paragon of compatibility).

On 09/04/2013 05:54 PM, Paul Donlan wrote:
> On Tue, 03 Sep 2013 09:25:55 -0700, David Walland wrote:
> The machine is an old Samsung I was given as a freebie. It sports an 
> IDE 32GB SSD which I bought for trying out cheaply second-hand on 
> e-bay a couple of years ago and just discovered why I hadn't been
> able to access it with any other machine - I cut the bit of plastic
> off and it works fine when the pins can reach the socket (!!??!!) to
> plug in. Theoretically the max memory is 256 MB but I managed to get
> it to read one 256 MB stick as long as there was a Samsung 128 MB
> stick in the other slot.

Anything under 1Gb is pretty much a dead duck for any operating system
these days. I wonder if you might have more luck with one of the "tiny"
distrubutions like DSL (Damn Small Linux). Google for "tiny linux" --
there are lots of different ones, usually under 50Mb distribution to get
started, and you can download more apps. Many are designed to be burned
to one of those credit-card-sized rectangular CDs to be given away or
carried in the wallet for emergencies.

> I've already learned some things which aren't readily accessible to
> the uninitiated from Elfy's reply - thanks for this, I'll try them
> shortly.

It would be massively helpful to the documentation community if you
could list these. The trouble with working so close to the coalface is
that we forget what it's like not knowing the fundamentals.

> I've been trying to find a local group or list to contact. Somehow I
> can't have phrased my questions right on Google because none of this
> info came up when I looked for it.

I Googled for lugs northeast england and got what look to be useful
links. But knowing that Linux User Groups are conventionally referred to
as LUGs is part of the learning curve.

> But no Elfy, my reaction time isn't fast enough to take a photo. It
> was never good and has got slower with age. Presumably if I knew
> where to go there must be some way of making the machine leave these
> up. I just don't know where.

I doubt it: the modality of dialogs is coded into the program, and isn't
accessible via any kind of system setting.

> Oddly the microcode stuff made lots more sense to me as I was
> introduced to that in 1981.

That would indeed make sense.

> Next year a lot of people who have clung on to XP will be looking for
> somewhere to go. X/Ubuntu ought to be a natural home for people like
> that but it is so-o-o difficult to break into it direct from Windows.

There are windowing systems and themes which mimic most aspects of the
Windows appearance, but I have always felt them to be a bit
self-defeating. It's not the appearance, it's what it *does* underneath
that matters. Most [ex-]XP users have been brought up neither to know
nor care, so giving them traditional Linux systems probably won't work.
I think Android would be a much better idea, if it could be got to work
on older kit.

> We need a translation. If I once manage to understand what I'm doing
> in Xubuntu, I'll volunteer to help write one but...

That would be wonderful. Please do.

> On 3 September 2013 16:36, George DiceGeorge <dicegeorge at hotmail.com> wrote:
> IMO it's a lot easier to use Ubuntu or Xubuntu on a newer machine,
> at least the latest distributions. If you could possible upgrade to
> a newer model of desktop or laptop, I'm sure a lot of the
> difficulties would disappear. 

Very true. You can sometimes pick up perfectly usable second-hand
corporate laptops from companies who are upgrading (usually
unnecessarily, did they but know it :-) at auctions.

> In my experience Xubuntu works like a charm with relatively little or
> no mentoring needed.

Only if you are already fluent in using a windowing environment and have
the vocabulary to understand the minimal instruction.


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