GNU/Linux Free Software & Open Source

My girlfriend’s migration to Debian

my gnu girlfriend

After years of talking about it and her coming with me to my free software talks and meetings, she finally let me replace the proprietary OS on her laptop with Debian GNU/Linux.

I think it took us both much time to migrate her laptop for several reasons. First, she barely has time to sit at the computer for other "normal" stuff that’s not urgen school projects. So for her, the computer is just a school tool. In contrast, for me, the computer is part of my daily life.

So after lots of procrastinating and "not now because I have urgent stuff to do", she finally allowed me to do the migration.

I’ve prepared her for the migration years before, giving her open source alternative software for almost all her tasks. Firefox for browsing, audacity for her audio editions (she does a lot of this), pidgin for instant messaging. She tried several times on Windows, but couldn’t end up adopting it because of some bugs in past versions with the spanish spell-checking dictionary not getting installed.

I selected the Debian distribution over the typical choice of Ubuntu for a new user. First, since I’m a member of KDE Mexico, it was logical for me to suggest the use of KDE. Then the decision was KDE3.5 or KDE4. I went for KDE 3.5 because of stability. I don’t want things to start crashing or behaving weird and then dissapoint her. This point also made a point towards Debian stable over Ubuntu, stability is a lot better. And finally, since I’m going to be giving her technical support, I wanted her to have the same stack of software that I have so I can guide her through screens and commands.

After we backed up all important files on DVD and my terabyte hard drive, we started the installation. Ada got angry at me after I installed it for her. She really wanted to do it herself from beginning to end. So, we started over.

After a long while of downloading updated packages with a relatively slow connection, the system was all set. I explained her the new desktop manager and how to install packages from commandline. A few more minutes downloading audacity, audio and video codecs and other applications, she was all ready to go.

She quickly went through her frustration phase as every change in someone’s life produces. A few complaints later, and the next day she was back into audio editing for her next dance festival.

Its been three days now since she migrated and all I’ve heard is good things about the change. I hope everything keeps going well. Next step: using Emacs.

By Gabriel Saldaña

Gabriel Saldaña is a web developer, photographer and free software advocate. Connect with him on and Twitter

5 replies on “My girlfriend’s migration to Debian”

…And doing great! I was kind of surprised when I found this on your blog and yes I’m really happy (until now) with this change. Just have to add that for the next step we’ll need a better picture 😛

Jejejeje, I really love to know that kind of stuff! Debian (I’m also a Debian User) has to be spread all over the world 🙂 (I gotta stop being that geek XDDD). And about the pic, no!, I think that’s a nice one 😉


I’ve failed to convince my father so far. One of my brothers has been using Ubuntu for more than 6 months and my mum is open to change…once my father stops messing with her computer.