By Brian Small at Apr 26, 2009
Wasted (until this weekend) hours spent installing and messing with Linux paid off this weekend. A local 60 year old woman had an old Sony Desktop with Win ME on it. She's been paying for a cable modem service for years but was never able to make use of her mail accounts or move on her blog aspirations. I got her a gmail account but felt nervous having her wander the internet with Windows ME and Internet Explorer.
I tried installing Firefox but the version I downloaded from their web page wouldn't install on Win ME. So I dug out some old Linux magazines, the packrat in me couldn't throw out and had them (she has sisters) playing chess and arcade games off a Knoppix Live CD. Pretty neat but frustratingly slow for checking mail or even just inadvertantly clicking the wrong application Icon. Don't ever try to star up Open Office from a Knoppix CD on a challenged machine.
I tried Puppy Linux, and it was beautiful. The Sea Monkey browser was fast and let us see pictures sent to gmail. It was faster than Win ME off the hard disk. Impressive. We ran out and got a 4GB USB memory stick to save the configurations for both Puppy Linux (JA) and Knoppix with 3GB left over for regular use - and called it an evening's work. Not a bad 5 hours that included coffee and dinner breaks. It will feel good if this all really leads to a local blog and progress towards her ideas for a LD kid afterschool space, DV victim shelter and community tea break area. Hard to imagine right now but it's nice to just be out in the community regardless.
I ended up putting a Japanese distribution on the hard disck too. Puppy LInux (or Knoppix or ...) makes it easy to partitiona windows hard drive and format what you need for Linux. Once that is done Vine Linux goes on nice. I've had trouble getting Ubuntu and Fedora onto old laptops but Vine seems to go on any Japanese computer.
I'm feeling good about the whole thing now, but then I haven't tried to hook up a printer - much less a scanner, or see if I can get pictures off of a digital camera. It will be another couple hours to find the best way to set them up with something like iPhoto. They already started drawing pictures with Inkscape and saving the image as a .png but I can't see them figuring out Gimp to edit pictures before learning to type. I can't do Gimp yet - Seashore on the Max is intuitive though. Later we'll have to see if OpenOffice's offerings will let them figure out whatever it is they think they want to do with Excel. For basic stuff maybe less intensive, 'native' spreadsheet apps will do. There are still a lot of 'if's' - but still, Open Source Softward letting you recover and old computer to connect people to the internet, and the latest Japanese sites on Kenji Miyazawa and Bertrand Russel (all the sisters are liscensed teachers ...) is pretty good.
Oh, and GNU is not unix, or even Linux but I can't follow all that right now. Sorry. It's amazing the progress though, I spent a week installing Linux with a book 10 years ago, now it's a download, iso burn and hen peck at the enter key. Amazing.