NeedsJune 24, 2006
Because I know a thing or two about computers, folks frequently ask for my advice when picking out a new one. The first thing I always ask is, "What do you want to do with it?"
Same should go with this Linux business. What do I want to do with it? The answer might help determine how successful I feel about using it. Can Linux really do anything Windows can? Will it always do those things better? I'm about to find out.
First off, I need to do all the stuff you all do with your computers: surf the web, write email, write and print documents. That's pretty basic. But I also have a couple of specialized needs.
I'm trying to finish up an advanced degree, so I need to write papers and annotate references. Endnote has been great at making that a much less painful process. I need to have something like Endnote and it would be nice if a Linux version could read my Endnote databases. The Cite and Write feature is a real winner in that regard.
Part of my academic work involves making some charts and graphs. I've gotten good at getting what I need from Excel, but Open Office has not been quite as handy for that. I think if open source really made a concerted drive to make stuff for students, we are the real future of open source adoption. We're not lazy, we're just poor!
On the other end of the spectrum, I have two young kids with family spread across the U.S. Making DVD's has been a great way to share with relatives, plus the boys love watching themselves. In addition, video modeling is an emerging technology for teaching new skills to students with exceptionalities. I have an analog capture card in addition to a firewire capture card. Since my DV recorder crapped out, I've been using our VHS-C and converting to DVD. Now that Windows is crapping out, it isn't even able to capture from the analog recorder without dropping gobs of frames. Finding something that will do the job in Linux is a high priority for me.
In addition to video, my wife likes to make slide shows of still images paired with music to send to relatives. She's huge into taking pictures, but she gets lost in any editing that is too sophisticated. Adjusting brightness, cropping and red eye are her main needed tools. And ripping CDs provides the music for these little slide shows, so I need something that can handle that.
As far as games, our needs our few. However, the boys do have some Reader Rabbit type games they like, my wife is addicted to spider solitaire and I like The Sims and a few other sim-type games. These are not high power games, but we like to have a wide variety for both kids and adults.
I've been using MS money 2003 for several years to track our finances and I have been using software to do our taxes each year. I do most of my banking online and it would be nice to be able to download statements from the bank and integrate them with some financial software. We have the typical credit cards, home loan, car loan, student loans and and loans to track. Debt reduction is a major goal and Money has a few tools towards that end.
So there you have it; some very basic needs of a typical computer-literate family. Can Linux meet these diverse needs the same way Windows has these past years? Can Linux do it all better?
That is the challenge that I hope to document here.