Parents on Linux

So my parents, like most of yours I bet, have the spy-ware. Their computer was in shambles. The last time I went home, which was in November for my mother’s 50th birthday, it was only for a few days. So I did some ad-aware, windows update and a defrag to make the PC last until Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving I realized something evil called Cool-WWW was still there, even though I removed it. What a bastard this was, it forced IE to visit a crummy search page no matter what you did. Firefox helped them get through those tough times.

So, if you don’t know me I have giant balls. I pretty much forced my parents to go Linux. I was like “back up all your files on a CD, I’m comin’ a formattin’. And that’s what I did. I was even really lazy, I did a 5 minute default fedora core 3 install. I made sure Firefox and OpenOffice were working and I made sure the gimp was working for my sister. I gave them a choice of gnome, KDE and Xfce and made sure they knew how to change between them. I upgraded all the packages to the latest versions and I set up the DSL to keep connected no matter what they did. I also set up some nice screen-savers and GDM stuffs. Then I left to go back to college giving them only the simplest of instructions.

Oh my god! You must be thinking I’m living in a world of hurt. You are imagining thoughts of parents calling with questions like “I don’t have the Internet anymore! The blue E is gone!” or “How can I get my e-mail without Outlook!”. Well I was worried too, but I didn’t care like most of you would. And you know what. Those worries were completely unfounded.

My mom called the other day and she said “the computer is wonderful.” Imagine that. In a world without spy-ware, a very limited selection of pre-installed software and a very simple default GUI my parents are getting along better than ever. And this makes me a happy camper too, for obvious reasons. Once I took away the pain of setting up the networking and printing they needed nothing more. Being able to have a fast computing experience free of spy-ware and virii was great, they just didn’t believe me until I forced it onto them.

There were two problems however, I will admit. The first problem was that their scanner did not work with sane. They have a CanoScan lid50, which is not yet supported, but the driver is under development. So when that driver is finished I will set it up for them. The second problem was that my mom has no tax software, which made her sad. At first this was her number one reason for not wanting to go when I told her there really isn’t any tax software for Linux. But now she realizes that using a friend’s computer or doing it the hard way is worth it. There was another problem, their hard drive is dying. I didn’t realize it in windows because it never told me. But smart told me about the bad sectors mighty quick. I’ll have to get them a new drive next time I go home. Sadly some gnome libraries were on top of the bad sectors so some things in gnome are kind of broken.

The moral of the story? People resist change. People don’t want to put in effort to switch from one thing to another because of perceived difficulties and consequences outweighing benefits they have not experienced. But, if you go in and force people to change they’ll thank you for it. Take as much of the effort onto yourself as possible, if you’re a nerd the effort of installing fedora is a walk in the park. Not so for others. Once its set up all nice for them everything from their on out is smooth sailing.

I would also like to point out I did this with a very lazily setup fedora core 3 install that had 3 problems. Imagine if I took the time to setup Gentoo or Debian for them on a working drive. Installing those two distros is a pain, but the finished product is leaps and bounds ahead of FC. Getting someone to install it for you is about as good as it gets. Moral of this story: grab your Knoppix Cd’s the day of victory is upon us. The way to switch the world to Linux is clear, force them into it.

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