GNU/Linux Free Software & Open Source personal

Debian and the girlfriend

Ada with the laptop

We got a new computer for the girlfriend some months ago. Since her old laptop was running Debian Lenny and she loved it, but the software packages were quite outdated, I decided to install Kubuntu 10.10 on her new laptop. Assuming that it would be easier to use with all of Canonical’s and community customizations, handle and detect new hardware drivers better and will have more updated software.

Turns out that she barely used her new laptop, complaining a lot about it. First, she had to get used to the new KDE 4 environment, when she got so used to KDE 3.5 on Debian Lenny, but change is something we all have to face. But the real problems were that hardware was not working properly, the touchpad had no scrolling and since its a single button pad with virtual buttons, the right button click didn’t work. Also, the Dolphin file manager would sometimes not refresh the files on the folders, so she couldn’t see some files that were recently saved. When trying to shutdown it would freeze up or the KDE shutdown menu window would not draw any options. When finally shutting down, it sometimes hanged at the end of the process, thus not turning off the computer.

After about a month of complaints and frustrations, she demanded me to install Debian back. I explained to her my initial decision to go with Kubuntu and that a new version 11.04 was coming out in a few days and that might fix her problems. But her argument was strong: “I need stability, and I don’t like to be on the bleeding edge since I’m not technical, I can’t troubleshoot the issues. Its fine for me to stay with the same stack of software for two years until the next Debian stable release.”

Ada, ballet & GNU

So I went ahead and installed Debian Squeeze on her laptop, expecting a lot of time spent in forums to get her new hardware working, configuring files, compiling drivers, etc. To my great surprise, everything worked out of the box, with very minimum custom configurations. She immediately started installing all her favorite software and was very happy with her new system’s stability and fast responsiveness. Software was (to the time of this writing) decently recent, and very stable so now she has completely ditched her old computer, feeling perfectly comfortable. Although she still misses KDE 3.5, she’s getting used to KDE 4 and customizing it her way.

Oh, and she made it all pink.

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.

GNU/Linux Free Software & Open Source

My top 5 missing features on KDE4 on Ubuntu Gutsy


I’ve been using the KDE4 from the Ubuntu Gutsy repositories for two days now, and I know there are a lot of missing features but here are my top 5:

  1. Printers: they are missing from the kde4 settings manager program. I know its not a full all bells and whistle final release, but can this be skipped from a (any) release?
  2. Widgets: Okay, the fact that KDE4 can now have widgets is nice, but why are all the widgets useless? Why not show off the widget potential with cool things, like a full RSS reader, a system services monitor, or a blog publishing widget? Or maybe just have something plain simple but useful like a calculator. No, they give us a clock and a battery monitor. Sounds like the Windows 1 TV commercial with Steve Ballmer: “A clock!”.
  3. Copy and Move: One of the main reasons I started loving Konqueror was because it had a Move To and Copy To option on the context menu. Its very helpful to move files around without having to open windows or drag them. On Dolphin, this features is missing.
  4. Shutdown Menu: I felt kind of in Vista land when I pressed the Shutdown button from the new Kmenu and then got asked again if I wanted to shutdown or logout. The Kmenu already presented me those options, and I chose Shutdown, why ask again?
  5. Switch to Next/Previous Desktop Shortcuts: I mentioned it in my last post and even there’s been updates to the packages, this keyboard shortcuts are missing on the settings. Its annoying to use the mouse to do such a thing, and the Expose-like feature is still not responding 100% of the times.

Which ones are yours?