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An Experiment

January 17, 2007

Last summer it was kind of exciting talking about all of the various Linux distros coming out and trying them.  But lately, Linux has lost some of its luster.  Many are waiting for Vista to take over all the tech news.  Amazon sent me an email offering to sell me copies for as little as $149.99 for the basic home version.  I do not think I will be buying the newest malware magnet anytime soon.

 

Okay, my experiences with certain distros may or may not be typical for true newbies.  I’m talking people who are not power users of any sort.  The type who turn on the computer and just expect it to do stuff.  Like my para educator team.  I think I’m going to switch distros on them and see what happens.  They’ve been using Puppy Linux 2.10 for a couple of months now and I haven’t heard a lot of complaints.  They are mainly surfing the web and checking their web-based email accounts and might occasionally write something or print it out.  Sometimes they run across some cute animation, video or song they want to see or listen to.  So I’m going to see how they like and respond to different distros.  As long as it doesn’t get too disruptive, we’ll give each one a week’s worth of try-out time.  That should be plenty for them (and me) to discover any potential issues.  We’re running live CDs at the moment but will see about installing maybe later on.

 

System Hardware

 

This is a new Intel D processor machine running 2.67 G with 512 M RAM.  We are plugged into a network and the machine is also hooked to an older HP DeskJet 694c printer.  The machine has a DVD-CDRW and a floppy drive.  I’m not sure the specs on the monitor but since it came with the machine, it is new.  It is not LCD or flat panel but the older, regular 17″ type.

 

Subjects Participants

 

These are not geeks by any stretch.  They do not know or care what they are using as long as it works.  They know they are using Puppy because the screen has a giant puppy face on it.   But otherwise could care less.

 

Queen is around 50 or so, and knows the internet and email.   She has a computer at home but I don’t think uses it that much.   She’ll play an occasional game of solitaire or an online game.  The advent of the cell phone has turned her into a technophile, but computers are something she only knows so much about.

 

Patience is in her 30’s and is fairly savvy when it comes to surfing the web and technology in general.  She has a laptop that she uses at home where she gets email, plays games and writes on occasion.  She’s brought it in a time or two for me to look at in order to diagnose various annoyances and problems.

 

Coach is in his 20’s and is totally comfortable with computers and technology.  He’ll be the one wanting to download music or watch movies on his computer at home.  Here, he is mostly surfing the web.  He might actually have a fantasy football team somewhere and would play any sports game we had, if we had any.  I’m not sure what kind of game console he has at home except that he does have one.

 

But he’s obviously not a power user.  He was telling about how his computer died last night while he was surfing the internet:

Yeah, I was surfing away when it just went blank, so I rebooted it and it got stuck on the Windows 98 screen.” 

Win 98? HELLO?!?  Why don’t you just paint a sign on your virtual back that says “INFECT ME!” Ha!  Seriously, I see a new old desktop in my future.

 

Oh, and there’s me.  In my 40’s, I take apart computers and put them back together.  I do much of my reading and most of my writing on my Zaurus PDA.  But of the 4 of us, I was the last one to get a cell phone.  I’ve been fiddling with Linux for about a year now.

 

Distros

 

Puppy was the first one, and they have not complained much about it, at least to my face.  They may have issues they simply haven’t shared.  By switching the interfaces, it should give them something to complain about!

 

Mepis 6.0 and Ubuntu 6.0 will definitely be tried out.  Freespire and PCLinux are not booting up for some reason on this machine.  They both get so far in the process and then just stall.  I haven’t tried the SuSE DVD, yet.

 

I also went ahead and ordered a couple more distros that I’m interested in looking at.  One is Kubuntu 6.10.  I keep hearing how wonderful it is so I’ll see for myself how good or bad it is.  I admit my expectations are low so maybe I will be pleasantly surprised.

 

I’m more looking forward to Dreamlinux 2.2 which is supposed to be targeted for multimedia applications.  It has some new features that make it especially appealing.  One is that it has an installer that will install apps like Google’s Picasa which has given other distros I’ve tried severe indigestion.  It also has WINE preinstalled, which is a winner for me if it works.

 

Finally, I ordered Linspire 5.0 to see if that does what Freespire isn’t doing for me at the moment, mainly functioning at all. 

 

All in all, I’ll have several different distros for the paras to try out plus a few that I’ll be playing around with on my own.  Until I get that second desktop, I won’t be trying a full install anytime soon. 

 

D.

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