State of Affairs: The Linux Girlfriend Project – Two Months In The Trenches

About 2 months ago, I convinced my girlfriend to try out Linux for a month after a really nasty bit of spyware infected her computer. This isn’t a bash on Microsoft, but it happened twice in about a month.

Unfortunately, a roommate who pays a portion of the internet bill (and thus welcome to use the computer, which is located in the living room) likes to browse nefarious websites, I’ll let you speculate what type of websites he visits. Browsing those kind of sites by itself is completely fine by me, as long as it doesn’t fsck up the computer. The spyware/adware/etcware attracting behaviors of the roommate got some nasty sh!t on the computer – TWICE in a month. I tried to get everyone in the house to use Firefox, and that went over well.

Even if the shady websites are surfed upon using Firefox, if you install software from said websites, it’s all over anyways. I can’t help stupid user syndrome. Quite simply, I had enough at that point, I’m sure as hell not going to backup, fdisk, format and reinstall Windows every two weeks. Plus, I really don’t want to have that uncomfortable conversation with the roommate about his online behaviors, to be honest.

Push came to shove, and my girlfriend let me install the operating system of my choosing, since I would be the one supporting it.

We tried out Puppy Linux because it has good performance on older computers. That didn’t go so well. Getting wireless to work with ndiswrapper was a real pain in the neck in Puppy.

Eventually, I ended up settling on Linux Mint, and a few customizations later, the computer had an uncanny resemblance of the Windows XP operating system it replaced – “Start Menu,” Bliss background and everything. It was good enough to fool both roommates… they’ve NEVER mentioned a peep about any problems at all. As a test, I asked one of them (who were unaware of the switch) if they noticed any problems with the computer since I had been working on it.

“No problems at all, it’s been great. Ever since you changed it to Firefox it runs faster once it’s loaded up.”

I don’t even think they know they’re using Linux, to be honest.

There have been a few issues that presented themselves over the past two months after the switch, but they were minor cases of vendor lock in – both Blackberry and the iPhone don’t happily sync or upgrade firmware easily on Linux. Technically, it is possible to get them working. Are those righteous hacks usable by a mere mortal? No way in hell! So we ended up settling on a dual-boot scenario.

There have been a few issues other than the phone synchronizing, such as an Adobe Flash or “IE Only Website” render problem here and there, but other than those, nothing notable has come up in quite some time.

Overall, I’d say it’s been a success. These .exe files keep popping up on the desktop every once in awhile… but as the saying goes… No harm, no foul.

Addendum: She loves The GIMP, and has spent many hours playing klickety, which is an addictive bejeweled-ish color matching to clear the board game. Also, there seems to be a graphical driver issue where the computer seems a little bit sluggish. I think a video card change would fix that up nicely.

  • <>

    “Hey Eric, why won’t it let me import my bought songs into iMovie?”

    “Because you’re a PIRATE!”

    “And why does my iPod say that it doesn’t have any songs on it?”


    Nup, you don’t need to do Macintosh tech support.

  • Gman

    some screenshots would be nice, I would like to see how close you got it to look like xp.

  • atrain

    IE-only sites: Don’t bother w/IE-Tab and wine etc. Most of these sits work fine with firefox. Use User-Agent-Switcher. Once in a blue moon, they may render a drop funny, but they are 100% usable.

  • be4truth

    I hope your girlfriend never finds out that you changed the OS. She might want to change the boyfriend too :-) and get an open source one ….
    I think with good initial support many users are better of on Linux. Security has become a real consideration.

  • ikd

    Have already tried the switch trick. The first step, and most important, was the OpenOffice app, and I can say it went like a charm. Then came Firefox. She now uses ubuntu like I do.


  • Gman:


  • Dustin


    “Apple…. cause throwin’ money at the problem always fixes it!”


  • Well, i never understood what the problem was. When i got together with my gf (7 years ago), she was still using win95, i installed 2000 once for her but that didn’t last long and soon the pc was foobared. Never wanting to deal with this shit again i installed linux and she’s been running it ever since.

    listen, this is a home pc, a little surfing, a bit of mail, writing some letters to friends, playing the most simple games which even a c64 can handle with ease. _NOTHING_ a linux pc can’t handle perfectly since _YEARS_. My life is easy now, the only time i sit behind her pc now is to upgrade ubuntu.

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  • StefanC

    Installed Debian and KDE on my gf’s laptop. Put aside the configuration I have to do for her from time to time (well, once in 2 years :-)), she’s pretty pleased with Firefox, OpenOffice, Digikam,… Works pretty well for her.


  • PD

    Linux is great, and most people with decent computer knowledge can run it like a charm. I have never had any spyware/virus issues in the 2 years ive been running Ubuntu.

    Though on the other hand since i got my laptop (about 2 years ago) ive been the only one installing stuff and the main person using it and when i run xp on it (less and less as time passes and i use more and more linux) i havent gotten any viruses or spyware with xp either.

    I agree XP can be rock solid if you dont use it like an idiot, but its allmost impossible to get spyware and viruses on linux if you try.

    I like xp and linux but linux really is better at preventing all that crap from happening in the first place.

    Oh and by the way… while antivirus and antispyware do work, they also slooooow…

  • chemicalscum

    Where are all these IE only sites you keep referring to. Recently I have only come across sites that don’t render properly in IE but render in Firefox. What am I missing. I haven’t even had to use the user agent switcher while browsing in Linux, maybe it’s the sites I visit or something.

  • Anonymous

    I plan on upgrading my GFs operating system from Windows XP to Linux.

  • Great goin man!

    Personally I switched my family a year ago.

    My wife and 5 year old son do just fine on Ubuntu.

    My wife plays World of Warcraft via WINE.

    In addition to this I’ve converted my mother, mother-in-law, and 5 local senior citizens over to Ubuntu.

    They’ve not had many troubles really. Definately less tech support work for me over Windows. I was doing virus scans and re-installs all the time. Now they just call when they’re ready to learn something new.

    To the Windows fanboy(s):
    No, you can’t play all the great windows games, but you can play some of the better ones. Some games (such as Doom 3 and Quake 4, which both have a linux native version) run BETTER on Linux than they do on Windows, USING THE SAME HARDWARE! And there are some games on Linux that you can’t get on Windows. The games you can play, you can keep on playing them month after month without fear of needing to re-install due to some momentary lapse of protection in an endless security war that wouldn’t even exist if Microsoft would program their stuff right the first time.

    and to the Mac fanboy:
    I have never been able to afford a Mac, so I couldn’t really recommend one to others. They’re overpriced and over-simplified. I like what apple has done with the Ipod… it truly shows design genius, but I would never trust one company to be able to preemptively guess all my needs and preferences. I like customizing my own stuff. For that matter, I prefer building my own stuff. Thats not an option with a Mac. And they have less games than Linux. Other than that, I don’t have an opinion on them. But I would say you’re probably right in that they are a better bet for nooblets who don’t know anything about computing… I mean, hey, you obviously like it, right?


  • steviant

    Wow, someone made a *project* out of this? I just left a Linux machine in the lounge, my girlfriend, friends, and even my neighbor come over and use the computer when I’m not, and I never hear any questions about it.

    A friend came over and edited his resume in OpenOffice Writer, and never even had to ask any questions.

    Linux has been ready for the desktop for a long time, it’s just not ready for mass-marketing, apparently.

  • Steviant: I also made fancy charts and put them on a posterboard with a glue stick and used words I don’t even know what they mean, such as “hypothesis” and “deduction” –

    Just kidding… I read this somewhere, good quote:

    Linux is ready for the masses, the masses aren’t ready for Linux.

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  • Killer Elf

    My wife’s laptop (windows XP) has remained at room temperature for nearly a near. She uses my Linux machine exclusively. So much so that is no longer *my* machine but hers.

    Well, I have this nifty new Linux Netbook (ASUS eeePC) that I will soon be loosing possession of to my daughter. Who also has a windows laptop (Vista) that has remained at room temp since I bought this Linux Netbook.

    OK, It is pretty apparent that there is *something* wrong with an OS when even an 8 year old girl realizes that a Linux solution is better.

    And I really envied her new lappy when I bought it for her the past X-Mas. Of course, thefirst thing I would have done for myself is put Linux on it.

    Yeah, OK. You’re right. If I had done that in the first place for her, I probably would not have to concede my Netbook to her. But, then again ….. >:-]


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  • aNxello

    niceee, my girlfriend loves KDE, she is using kubuntu and she didnt have problem until now that the wireless is working really bad, but she still has duall-boot with xp…she prefers linux tho =)

  • Patrick

    “Blackberry- RIM’s fault, no apps for Linux.
    iPhone – Apple’s fault, no apps for Linux.
    Flash does work generally, any issues are Adobe’s.
    Websites work generally, any issues are the Website Developer’s fault.”

    Tell that to the author’s roommates, I’m sure they’ll understand as long as it wasn’t linux’s fault.

    Also, when Linux makes it big, the aforementioned “stupid user syndrome” will hit. Unless every software possible gets covered by repositories… no, that still wouldn’t stop people lapping up files from dodgy websites.

    Also, I assume the author had to set up ndiswrapper again in the second distro. Good job you were there to ‘prepare’ Linux for the ordinary users.

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