posted by Charles Williams on Wed 16th Apr 2003 04:11 UTC

"First Steps, Part II"
I walked her through the Gnome menu as she guided the mouse to the Mozilla entry, and also pointed out the icon on her desktop. Before she would open Mozilla though, she made it a point to make sure the GnuCash window was closed, which I found rather odd. She then opened Mozilla and I explained what a search engine was. The bookmarks I had copied into all user accounts had Google on the toolbar, but she didn't know what a toolbar was, much less that it could contain links.  She guided her mouse to the Google link on the toolbar with a little prompting and the search page opened. I told her she might want to search on 'GnuCash home' which she typed. I instructed her to press the enter key. The GnuCash home page appeared as the first search result, which she then clicked. She was promptly whisked to the GnuCash home page. On that page, in huge bold letters on the left hand side, was the word 'Documentation.' The second link under it was for the manual. She had found the fine manual!  Next, she wanted to know if she could save it for future reference. So her very first bookmark ended up being the GnuCash manual.

I wondered if now would be a good time for her to learn a new Linux trick and asked her if she wanted to see something else. She said yes. I told her where Gedit was on the Gnome menu and asked her to open it. She nervously went and opened it, then asked me,

'Is it ok to have more than one window open at a time.?'
I said, 'Huh?'
She asked again, 'Is it ok to have more than one window open at a time? I have been trying not to have more than one window open at a time tonight.'
I said, 'What are you talking about?'

She proceeded to spill the beans. It seems her neighbor, who lives on the other side of her house, also has a computer. It turns out, she has watched him use  his computer. He has always made it a point to keep no more than a few windows open at once. He closes one window before he will open another. He had actually told her,

"If you have too many windows open at once, bad things will begin to happen on your computer, so it is best not to have too many windows open at once."

I busted out laughing thinking to myself, "Gee, I wonder what gave him that idea?" I didn't even bother to ask the most obvious question here. It was one of those that was just too easy & the lack of challenge made it not worth pursuit. I instead told her she really wouldn't need to worry about how many windows she would have open at any given time on her machine.

She now had Mozilla and Gedit open on the desktop. She had been introduced to click and drag, while making the GnuCash icon on her desktop. I told her she could do the same thing with text to highlight the text. So she highlighted a sentence and a half in Mozilla. (She never did manage to highlight a single sentence complete with a period, as using a mouse is neither intuitive, nor natural, but learned.)  I told her to now move the mouse to the Gedit window, and click the middle mouse key, which she did, and her highlighted text was dumped into the editor. She thought this was quite a neat trick and proceeded to highlight all the text in the page, then pasted it into Gedit. She then said,

'That reminds me, I need a dictionary. Where on the Internet can I find a dictionary?'

Diane likes to have a dictionary handy no matter what she may be writing. I explained to her she already had one and walked her through the Gnome menu again, but this time to the Dictionary. She was pleasantly surprised to find what she needed within such easy reach.

After going through these steps, and a few others that night, she turned and said to me,

'You know I will be calling you tomorrow, because I won't remember any of this.'

I told her that was totally unnecessary, that she could just hit me up in chat. We just needed to configure Gaim. So off we went to the AIM website to create her new user name. We finally came up with a user name that was not taken. She learned how to open up the program, and I guided her through adding my user name to her buddy list. I walked her through creating a desktop icon for Gaim.  I told her, if I was at home in the evenings, I would usually have Gaim running. If there was something she could not figure out how to do, she could just message me through Gaim and I would walk her through it, and her husband Mike could message me for help as well. I then asked her if she would like to setup Gaim for her daughter, Mary, the 6 year old. All of a sudden, she became very hesitant. Apparently she had heard some stories about what goes on in AOL chat rooms. She absolutely did not want her daughter to be able to enter AOL chat rooms. I told her never fear. Her daughter could not enter the official AOL chat rooms using Gaim. Her daughter could use Gaim to keep up with family members, friends from school and others she may already know, but there is no way to access official AOL chat rooms from Gaim. This eased her mind greatly.

The funny thing is, in earlier days of Gaim history, you could access AOL chat rooms. That functionality was removed many versions back. Ever since then, I had thought of Gaim as a 'less than' Linux app, since that functionality had been removed so long ago. Never in a million years did I think, this 'less-than' functionality would be seen as a feature by someone else. I guess now, Gaim is the safe, 'kid-friendly,' way to message. I guess newbies can teach too.

With that, Diane and I wrapped up her first night in GNU/Linux. I was impressed with her ability to quickly grasp the things she learned. At times she could be quite thorough in the questions she asked. I had no doubts she would eventually end up a capable user. The only remaining question in my mind was, would she be able to handle the system administration?

Table of contents
  1. "First Steps, Part I"
  2. "First Steps, Part II"
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