Linked by Charles Williams on Wed 16th Apr 2003 04:11 UTC
Debian and its clones In the previous article, our computer newbie family, Mike, Diane, Mary and Carla, had decided they wanted GNU/Linux installed on the new family/business computer. Debian, via Libranet 2.0, was installed on the system, with appropriate business/office software, as well as the Gnome desktop environment. The next steps involved getting the system configured for easy use and adding various minor tweaks. Mike, Diane and the kids were not involved during the configuration phase of the system.  
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again...very nice article
by debman on Wed 16th Apr 2003 04:27 UTC

you should write a book about this...just do it 20more times and you should have enough material to write it :-)

but as it stands, you could send this to Linux magazine and see if they will pay you for the article.

by KCardoza on Wed 16th Apr 2003 04:46 UTC

A very nice article indeed. The thing about not having more than a few windows open at once nearly made me fall out of my chair laughing.

I have to say, while it can sometimes be a pain during the install, Debain and it's derivatives are a dream to maintain in my experience.

Great :-(
by SmallStepForMan on Wed 16th Apr 2003 05:24 UTC

[i}Great, now that Linux has become viable for the unwashed masses, its time to start using a more exotic OS to fulfil my l33t fetishes. FreeBSD, here I come...[/i]

Seriously now, do you really want to run a mainstream OS? Where is the fun in that?

by Adam Scheinberg on Wed 16th Apr 2003 05:56 UTC

This is like one of those books that come in monthly installments. I can't wait for the next section. Not quite as exciting as 24, but it's got me glued nonetheless.

excelletn article.
by Dopey on Wed 16th Apr 2003 06:40 UTC

so when is the next part ? dont keep us in suspense it is probably the most enjoyable read in osnews.

And it dispells a lot of the myths about what an average user is capable of doing.

by nisse butt on Wed 16th Apr 2003 07:02 UTC

I look forward to the next one already, I find myself hoping Diane will make it through without getting burned. You seem to be a good tutor matey ;)

I looked at the GnuCash manual and wow, that looked really nice with hints and tips and all, really professional! I wish all Linux apps were like that!

RE: excelletn article.
by nisse butt on Wed 16th Apr 2003 07:05 UTC

I bet that all but the lamest users can learn. Even those who coome from the wonderful world of Windows - IF they WANT to learn. Most articles about migration I have read here are rants about how the author has to learn new stuff. Most of the times, we are just lazy...

Go libranet
by Richard Fillion on Wed 16th Apr 2003 07:29 UTC

Love the article. I hope for them that all goes well. The fact that she asked for the manual...huge plus. Means she's willing to learn, very good quality.

The thing that worries me the most..
by Prentice on Wed 16th Apr 2003 07:43 UTC the fact that the machine's running Debian Sid. I thought Sid wasn't recommended for newbies.

Other than that, the article is a joy to read, and it brings smiles to my face whenver I look at it.

Keep up the good work, please!

by John Blink on Wed 16th Apr 2003 08:11 UTC

>> nisse buttwrites...
>> I find myself hoping Diane will make it through without getting burned

LOL it sounds like a Soap Opera.

But seriously it is a good article and reinforces the fact people can use linux to be as productive as they need to be.

But it also reinforces my claims and others that Linux can be complicated to configure, eg. You set the system up for them.

It is the same with Uni, the admins set up the Sun labs, and we simply use the software provided.

by John Blink on Wed 16th Apr 2003 08:14 UTC

She asked for a manual which is good.

Then again us Windows "no it all" switchers never ask for a manual because we think just because we have learned a certain platform, that every other platform should behave the same.

kernel patches?
by nick on Wed 16th Apr 2003 08:37 UTC

You start with "The kernel was rebuilt with a couple of patches, to provide a smoother and quicker desktop experience"
What patches? (and how did you do it)


Kernel patches
by Anonymous on Wed 16th Apr 2003 09:03 UTC
Next part(s) should tell
by Anonymous on Wed 16th Apr 2003 11:04 UTC

While you are obviously a great tutor, until we find out how well the family continues with the distro on their own I feel we won't really be learning anything from this.

Yes I understand the need that completely newbies do need to have their hands held (especially during installation) and do need to be given a run-through of how to do things, but until we see how well they get on by themselves we won't know how successful this has been.

I hope there is more to come, so don't take this as a "bad" comment or anything of the sort, I'm just typing my view.

Great revue
by Stonehelm on Wed 16th Apr 2003 11:12 UTC

I am really convinced that learning to user GNU/Linux isn't more difficult than learning Windows.
Of course, a newbie won't be able to configure a debian, but most of the distro are really easy to configure now.
To all the people that thinks that GNU/Linux is so difficult : just remember le first time you tried windows...
Of course now it's obvious for you that changing the background is on the desktop, the configuration of the network is done by a right clik on the network neighborhood... but think about it : do you really think it's logical? If you don't know how to do it you're screwed, you have to look in 10 different place to configure a system. In most distros, the configuration is done in only one place.
As said in an above comment, people think they know things because they know it on Windows, you have to make the effort of learning. For sure it's not really funny at the beginning when you don't know how to do anything, but it worth the challenge.

Great article, look forward to the next installment. Can't wait to see how they do installing software THEMSELVES!!!! ;)

re: as the world turns, these are the days of our OS
by ewinemiller on Wed 16th Apr 2003 11:41 UTC

> Great article, look forward to the next installment.
> Can't wait to see how they do installing software

Actually that is what I was hoping the article was about, not a "I set up your machine and here it is" kind of thing. It's easy to try anything new if everything is preconfigured. I started to install debian on my Mac once, when it came up asking how many sectors of my hardrive to allocate to a particular partition I threw it away. There is no reason for any OS today to be that arcane.

Very enjoyable!!
by Kreek on Wed 16th Apr 2003 12:57 UTC

I really enjoyed this article just as I did the first.
I look forward to reading the next one. I wonder how many there will be? I hope more than just three. I wouldn't mind this going for at least a year. It's much better than reality TV!

by MGD on Wed 16th Apr 2003 13:11 UTC

>I started to install debian on my Mac once, when it came up >asking how many sectors of my hardrive to allocate to a >particular partition I threw it away. There is no reason for >any OS today to be that arcane.

Partitioning is generally required by the majority of OSes including windows and I assumse MacOS. There is usually a way of specifying sizes in MB instead of sectors, something I know was in the Debian installer when I used it.

Personally I think the article is spot on - if you buy a PC with Windows or a Mac with OSX you don't have to install the OS yourself. I've built machines with windows for people and from the sounds of it this family is asking the same amount if not fewer questions than those newly introduced to windows.

It just goes to show that Linux is definately usable by a newbie ;)

by Anonymous on Wed 16th Apr 2003 13:12 UTC

These newbies would've been much happier with XP. Why waste time using Linux when XP and even MacOS X are so far ahead? The world would be a better place if Linus had cloned Windows instead Unix... Unix is 30 year old technology.

RE: Well
by it_should_be_possible on Wed 16th Apr 2003 13:16 UTC

"The world would be a better place if Linus had cloned Windows instead (of) Unix... Unix is 30 year old technology."

Let's through out the wheel and replace it. The wheel is 5,000 year old technology.

Damn it..
by MGD on Wed 16th Apr 2003 13:17 UTC

Didn't realise the post was wider than this box - all my >'s are in the wrong place now ;)

Clone windows?
by MGD on Wed 16th Apr 2003 13:23 UTC

You are aware of what windows was like when Linus started his hobby?

It still ran under DOS. It wasn't an OS in itself.

I'm really not sure how you can claim that Windows is so far ahead either - in what way? Find something you can do in windows that you can't do in linux...

It would be like saying FreeBSD is way behind - sure it's not as easy to set up as windows machines - it's got some stuff windows isn't gonna have for a while though.

tbh - everything is still playing catchup with BeOS. MicroSoft are loving their new FutureFS! Erm... it's just a clone of BeFS which has been around for a fair while now ;)

switching my father to Linux...
by Dave on Wed 16th Apr 2003 13:37 UTC

This weekend, I'm switching my father's Windows XP system to a Mandrake / IceWM system (though I'm also considering Vector)



My fricken 486 33SX never had sound crackles and BSODs (on windows 3.1) from a fricken sound card, yet my father can't get through 1 mp3 without either slow down, crackling, skipping etc (my dad calls it: "It's like when the motor on a record player [whatever that is] gets warn out."

Creative labs sucks for drivers, I understand this--but WTF the sound card is an SB16--Hello, legacy drivers??

I'm hoping Linux + Mplayer + Xmms + ICEwm + Mozilla will run smoothly. I've already switched him over to OpenOffice on windows--he loves it.

The system it's going on is an Abit KT7A-Raid with Duron 1GHz, 184MB SDRAM, 30GB drive.

I've run ICEwm on a Pentium 233 and it ran quite nicely, while Gnome & KDE ran (crawled is more like it.) I prefer ICEwm anyway, it's a hell of a lot faster.

I can't imagine why the hell it's not included in RedHat or many other distros.

He's porkin' Diane
by anonymous coward on Wed 16th Apr 2003 14:12 UTC

I think we should have a new OS News poll:

Is Charles Williams Porking his neighboor Diane?

a) Definately, he's showing her some GnuPositions
b) The husband watches the videos
c) Nah, he's in it for their daughter
d) Never in a million years would a linux fiend be starved for sex. There's no way he'd do that.

Sounds to me like you're pushing each others buttons when the husband isn't around.... *soft bassy music starts to play*

re:The thing that worries me the most..
by debman on Wed 16th Apr 2003 14:32 UTC

there is nothing wrong with sid. it is as stable as a suse or redhat fianal release...realy it is. unstable is a relative term and in relation to debian, unstable is what a redhat or mandrake or suse system would be.

you get all the latest apps, and 95% of the bugs are worked out by the time it gets into sid....experimental is where it gets hairy.

re :well
by debman on Wed 16th Apr 2003 14:36 UTC


by all your linux on Wed 16th Apr 2003 14:47 UTC

debian should rename their package repositories from "unstable" "testing" and "stable" to "good" "better" and "damn-solid" respectively.... seems that too many people think unstable is like a gram of plutonium, ready to blow up or something...

i run of unstable on my desktop, it hasnt' given me any problems... i dont see unstable any less stable then gentoo's stable branch. they are both running off of up to date software and such..

as for those optimized kernel patches that the author installed? are those the same patches that some user a few posts ago gave a link to? can't you jsut recompile the kernel with those options? or are those options not available in the 2.4.20 kernel yet....

Good info, but not what's advertised
by Russell Ivey on Wed 16th Apr 2003 15:42 UTC

This is a good article, and might I add, a good project. But it's not really a newbies meet linux article, it's an expert does everything for the newbies article.

I'd do a lot more with linux if I had a guru at my desk a couple hours a day showing me how to do things, informing me of patches that I didn't know existed, and setting things up for me while I was gone so I didn't have to do the work.

Linux will remain a hobby OS with regard to home machines as long as

(1) Users can't walk into Walmart and buy software for it
(2) There is no repository of information which shows the average user how to setup and fix things that are not working , i.e. not having to visit 10 different linux sites to find the answer
(3) There's more to installation than the initial installation process, i.e. "well you install this first, but then you need this patch and change this config file and ....."

Linux is great. It is improving with every new release of every distro. The community is great. Please keep focusing on improving the OS so that newbies can actually install, use , and maintain the system without the help of experts, then we'll really be getting somewhere.

Softeare availability
by Chris on Wed 16th Apr 2003 15:54 UTC

If you want to be able to easily get software for Linux, take a page from the Apple playbook and establish a program whereby software titles are burned to CD(s) in the store.

Pick an OS distro, pick a software bundle, wait maybe 10 minutes while you do some other shopping, come back, hand the cashier your credit card, pick up your CD(s) in attractive jewel case(s), and leave.

Re: He's porkin' Diane
by Richard Fillion on Wed 16th Apr 2003 16:08 UTC

ROTFL!!!!! That made my day.

progress report
by runtime on Wed 16th Apr 2003 16:19 UTC

This article is not about newbies using Linux. This article is about a Linux guru installing Linux. The newbies barely even touched their new Linux systems. They watched as the Linux guru installed software and updated the kernel.

I would like to hear a progress report six months from now.. written by the two newbies. MoneyDance and GnuCash are cheaper than QuickBooks, but were they adequate? What unexpected problems did they have? Are they still using Linux?

re: runtime
by dwilson on Wed 16th Apr 2003 16:28 UTC

This article is not about newbies using Linux. This article is about a Linux guru installing Linux. The newbies barely even touched their new Linux systems. They watched as the Linux guru installed software and updated the kernel.

The point was to give them a pre-installed OS just like they would get from Dell or HP. The article details how he set up their system so that everyone would know exactly what they were starting out with and all the steps that were taken.

Of course someone has to make assinine comments about someone helping out their neighbor.

I would like to hear a progress report six months from now.. written by the two newbies. MoneyDance and GnuCash are cheaper than QuickBooks, but were they adequate? What unexpected problems did they have? Are they still using Linux?

Well, seeing as how this is a serial article you probably will get more progress reports (though the newbies writing them is doubtful). However, since Charles Williams seems to be their only tech support I'm sure he will write about any problems that were had.

He's porkin' Diane
by Good Grief on Wed 16th Apr 2003 16:34 UTC

*LOL* Man.. That's the first time this week that an online post made me literally laugh out loud.. my cat's staring at me like a weirdo[1].. Nice one, AC!
[1] Moreso than normal, that is.

Too much time
by Interested Party on Wed 16th Apr 2003 16:40 UTC

Your either brave, or have too much time on your hands. It is taking hours upon hours to get these folks going on Linux, and who is going to be able to do this for very long? The last installment will be: Diane needs to print those damn checks, so she will succumb to QuickBooks and WinXP. Once she's in an environment that does what she wants, who will want to dual-boot into another one that doesn't do what she wants. Soon the Win32 version of Gaim will be installed, and it will be all downhill from there.

by SSA on Wed 16th Apr 2003 16:52 UTC

I found the article rather interesting, but I think the big thing that holds back a lot of people is the install and certain myths about linux. I have a feeling that a lot of people would be confused by even the "user friendly" distro whereas debian! I would be interested to hear the thoughts of some individuals using those lindows based walmart machines. I am told walmart has been selling them for while. Are these people having a good time with their machines? Most tech neophytes don't have a next door neighbor who they can ask about problems they may enconter. I think the moral of the story is that if preinstalled linux boxes were more common I believe that there would be a lot more newbie's using linux.

why does a newbiemeet linux have to be
by debman on Wed 16th Apr 2003 17:50 UTC

hand the newbie a linux cd and a computer and watch through the one way glass?

in real life you buy a windows or apple computer with the OS already installed and optimized. then if you are a newbie you get training on how to use a computer.

this is what is going on people, not "guru sits down and becomes personal secritary of newbie" which is what you seem to think is going on.

Re: Good info, but not what's advertised
by jan on Wed 16th Apr 2003 19:00 UTC

Having attempted, off and on, to install some version of Linux over the past 18 months or so, I finally had an "idea".
Knowing nothing about computers or Linux I saw a website that was offering businesses Linux services. I phoned them, explained that I was an individual and that I had been trying to install a linux OS,and asked them how much they would charge to install any Linux OS. I said that the install HAD to work; i.e CD burning, internet connection, dvd playing etc.
They said that it might take 1-3 days.
I replid that this , at their rates, would cost a fortune.
They were very pleasant to talk to.

How to bounce mail in Kmail?
by Z_God on Wed 16th Apr 2003 19:52 UTC

This might seem to be a weird question, but I am also using Kmail and I would like to know how to bounce mail with it. I never knew such a feature existed. Thanks in advance.

Re: Too much time
by Rudolph Nureyev on Wed 16th Apr 2003 20:05 UTC

"Interested Party" wrote:
...It is taking hours upon hours to get these folks going on Linux, and who is going to be able to do this for very long?
About two years ago I set up my then 68 year old mother-in-law with an old Pentium and a (legal) copy of Win 95 b. At the time I considered Linux, but rejected the idea because IMHO none of the Linux distros was ready for use by a newbie at that time. Ever since that time, I have essentially been her only tech support.

My mother-in-law is an intelligient lady and enjoys learning new things, but she had never used a computer before this, though she had seen friends and relatives use them. It took more time than I anticipated to teach her the basics - using the menus, connecting to the internet, fetching and reading her email, using a search engine, bookmarks,saving email messages for future use, and keeping all her data within a single folder on a separate partition. I consider this last thing mandatory to permit for relatively painless system upgrades, and I knew it would ease the migration if someday she switched to Linux.

While she was happy to have email and web access, she was constantly stressed over the arrival of the usual reams of computer viruses, email worms, BSOD's, an other all too familiar parts of the Windows experience. Not having enough technical knowledge to differentiate the annoyances from the serious threats, she stressed out over every one. Updating her anti-virus software was a constant event, and despite this she received adware and spyware, and had her browser hijacked and forced to web sites not of her choice.
I, of course, had to deal with most of this.

When Mandrake 9.1 was released, I decided the time had come to ask her if she would consider switching to Linux. I explained some of the security advantages. She was willing, and about two weeks ago I upgraded her computer and installed Mandrake 9.1. So far she is extremely happy with her new computer; using Kmail instead of Eudora, and Konqueror instead of Internet Explorer, is not much of a challenge.

I expect more challenges in future - moving from Office 97 to Open Office may be more of a challenge, and cd-burning, scanning, etc, are things she has never done on any OS. But at this point she is able to do everything she currently wants to do on her new Linux box.

My point? It takes time to teach a total computer newbie ANY operating system. Also, it takes me much less time to keep her Linux box running properly than it took to maintain her Windows PC formerly.


it just takes time and help
by davebsr on Wed 16th Apr 2003 20:53 UTC

To get good at windows, you need help. Learning the in's and out's of an OS takes time. Having good help makes it much easier.

On the other hand, once you get going, learning the ins and outs of Linux, learning what went wrong when it blows up, or tweaking it, is much, much easier than windows.

So...we need user groups. We got 'em. Apparently, some people think we need to have "software in walmart." I like the quantity and quality of free software that's available. But when linux grows (and it will and is) we'll get people selling software for linux. Wait for it. Hopefully it will be great stuff.

We also need support for hardware. I don't like the idea of binary drivers...but it's better than no driver at all - and they will come when linux grows too. You can see hardware companies providing drivers and info already.

No, linux isn't BEOS. It isn't HURD, it also isn't perfect. But it is free, and it is open, and it is quite usable and quite stable. It's got application support, and a growing user base. w00t.

Re: How to bounce mail in Kmail?
by Ana OŽNeemus on Wed 16th Apr 2003 21:42 UTC

Dear Z_God,

Actually itŽs KMail. You wouldnŽt like to be called Z_god, would you? So please call KMail by its proper name, KMail.

I have no idea how to bounce mail with KMail, I suppose youŽll have to either read the KMail Handbook, check the source code (Read the Source, Luke - isnŽt that hilarious?), or write to the KMail developers.

As a last resort, you could press the right button on your mouse and select the Bounce option, but I am not sure this is what you meant by How to bouce mail in Kmail?.

Ana OŽNeemus
Technical Writer
The Garfield Group

Great work.
by David Hunter on Thu 17th Apr 2003 05:42 UTC

Now all we need is for distros like RedHat to bring functionality that is similar to APT to their respecive products. I already use Synaptic <> for my RH 8.0 box, and find its great for maintaining the packages on my system, both RH supplied and third party applications.

Re: Great work.
by Bruce on Thu 17th Apr 2003 12:28 UTC

He, David. apt-get already exists for RPM. I've used it on RH 7.3 and RH 8.0 systems. RedHat also has their up2date. However, it only works for RPM's that come from the installation CD or RPM's that are updates/fixes. apt-get will work for any RPM that exists in one of the apt-for-RPM repositories.

re: Good info, but not what's advertised
by rusty on Thu 17th Apr 2003 15:33 UTC

to be honest i tried linux several times but never really had the time to explore much. however it seems you think an OS like windows is a piece of cake, i tell you it can be frustrating as hell at times.
i am the "tech support" for my mother and her aging computer running win2000pro sp3. lately she wanted to see a big .avi file of her wedding a friend salvaged from 8mm. i spent 4 hours including updates to MP9, Divx and what the hell lets throw in a nimo codec pack because i dont know what the problem is any more. btw the file checked ok on my computer (win9x). so what the fuck?
you say thats nothing? got to set up a usb adsl modem for my sister in law. she can handle computers all right. at first the computer was set with winME (anybody say yuck?).
she installed the bugger in no time off the cd. an example of windows ease of use? yea probably. but as the decision was made to switch to winXP it turned out its no go. seemingly every thing would go smooth except the part when you wish to actualy connect. and of course once somthing is installed and didnt come with a bullet proof uninstall the only way to pry the .inf files out is with your teeth. i did notice the the install cd was installing something more that looked like some update. didnt help me though. after installing XP two or three times that night and trying every resource i could find on the web (scattered on many many different sites) i gave up set up winME and in less than an hour was set up to download winXP SP1. yes once i had that i set up XP with SP1 and it all worked fine but for getting this tiny upgrade of ~130MB i had to have the adsl that cant aperantly work without it. A FUCKEN USB DEVICE !!!!. pnp down the drain.
so yes, windows is easy to configure and set up.

My prediction
by Ryan on Thu 17th Apr 2003 15:35 UTC

I've got $10 bucks Diane sees a friend using quickbooks printing checks and they end up with a dual boot into windows, then they discover all the programs windows has that *nix doesn't and wipe off the linux entirely.

Re: Re: Good info, but not what's advertised
by yclept on Thu 17th Apr 2003 16:41 UTC

"Having attempted, off and on, to install some version of Linux over the past 18 months or so, I finally had an "idea"..."

You just need a better neighbour.

Neighborly tech support
by Calvin Priest on Thu 17th Apr 2003 17:54 UTC

Ok, several people have suggested that there is something unusual about a newbie relying on a neighbor for tech support or configuration. This is total crap.

There is nothing unusual about it all -- it is very common, if not typical. Personally, I am tech support for half a dozen or so friends and relatives. One of these people also relies heavily on her next-door neighbor. Most of these people aren't newbies at all, they just don't want to learn any more about computers than they absolutely have to.

Most aren't even comfortable installing their own application, as easy as running Windows setup usually is. Debian actually has an advantage over Windows in this area, because there are generally fewer, if any, prompts during install.

But Linux is still more challenging for a newbie than Windows. Though, as many of us are well aware, it has improved by leaps and bounds in a short time span. Windows hegemony is very much at risk, regardless of how incredulous many people are on this point.

Linux will really take off when it becomes every bit as intuitive as Windows. When I talk about Linux with newbies, the first thing they generally ask is "what's the advantage"? Since most of them use pirated copies of Windows, the cheap/free aspect is only marginally attractive. And their interest is immediatly dashed once I fess up that it isn't as user-friendly. But when I can honestly say it's every bit as user friendly, many of these conversations will end very differently.


Re: How to bounce mail in Kmail?
by Z_God on Thu 17th Apr 2003 19:11 UTC

Thanks, I found the option. It's translated as 'undeliverable...' in the Dutch version of KMail I'm using. I had already tried searching the handbook for 'bounce', but it couldn't find anything.
Sorry about the name, I won't do it again :-x

pirated XP
by Fred on Tue 22nd Apr 2003 23:58 UTC

Only a few people say it aloud: piracy is the real reason linux doesn't gain much ground on home desktop pc's. Without pirated copies of windows XP, Office, photoshop and Unreal Tournament a lot of home users would be stuck with awful software like windows ME or 98, ms works, wordpad, paint, because they are more willing to pay for that game than for a real productivity suite or photoshop etc. Certainly here in Holland there is a lot of piracy but countries like Russia, China or the phillipines are practically running there entire IT sector on pirated software. Without piracy lots and lots of people would be forced to either get used to linux or invest twice the money they have a budget for, on software. I have no prove, but I this is the truth.

Future project
by Brendan Orr on Wed 23rd Apr 2003 06:14 UTC

I can't wait till they start using the console. Then they will see the true power of linux. Its all about stdout/stdin

As I always say
by rsff on Thu 24th Apr 2003 02:58 UTC

Well, as I always say,

if we want a better world, we need better people. To make better people, you need activies which will make them better. An OS doesn't have to be perfect, but it DOES have to encourage you to always learn more.

So, yes, GNU/Linux is good for this! Now, its proven that it is a better system int his sense, and it does encourage users to learn! So, work is ahead of all of us!