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.


BREAKING NEWS: Girlfriend Agrees To Use Linux For A Month

A few months before I started writing about Linux, I convinced my girlfriend to switch to using Firefox. This was the first step I took to getting her warmed up to the idea of using Open Source software.

At the time that she switched to Firefox, she absolutely hated Internet Explorer, and really enjoyed the tabbed browsing feature. She said even though it took longer to actually start Firefox, it ran much smoother and was more efficient. Since I’ve started writing on a regular basis about Linux, my girlfriend has shown a moderate amount of interest in Linux and has been reading most of my articles. (*wave* Hi baby!)

About 3 weeks ago, her computer had a MASSIVE infestation of some really, really nasty adware. It took over the TCP/IP stack, and redirected all URLs through about:blank, and was not something I could fix. I tried about a half-dozen different anti-spyware programs, manually removed things, and even in windows Safe Mode, the damn ads kept popping up on the screen, making the computer useless.

I had to backup her documents, pictures, etc and reinstall Windows. I mentioned at the time that we could try installing Linux, and see how that goes, but she adamantly declined.

Fast forward to last night. I asked if we could try Linux out as an experiment. I’d setup the computer to automatically boot up in Linux after 30 seconds of waiting at the bootloader menu, and if she had problems with Linux, she could simply reboot and use Windows. She said, “Ok, I’ll try it.” I nearly had a heart attack.

I decided to try using Linux Mint as a “switcher” distribution for the time being, as it is a very full-featured distribution that has a menu similar to the default Windows XP menu. I originally thought that Puppy 3.0 would be a better option, seeing as she has a little bit older computer, since Puppy Linux runs completely in RAM it would run faster that most other distributions out there. I decided due to some reviews I read that it would not be the best option, especially since I am most comfortable with Ubuntu – and Linux Mint is a “downstream” version of Ubuntu.

Linux Mint Menu

Next, we changed the background to the default Bliss desktop wallpaper, renamed the “Celina” menu to the “Start” menu, and when I woke up this morning, she was browsing the web without any issues in Firefox

What I’ll do from now is provide a weekly “progress report” of things that she needed to reboot into Windows to do, and how she subjectively feels about the switch. I think it will be a successful conversion, seeing as she has expressed just three primary needs in an O/S: Browsing, Picture Editing, and BlackBerry firmware updates.

In other news, Hell freezes over.

By popular request, her picture has been added. 😉


Games Linux

What do you do when your girlfriend wants to play N64 games on Linux?

Answer: Get it working. No matter how much time or effort it takes. Then blog about it, and finally have her read your post.

About 2 months ago, before I made the switch to Linux full-time, I installed the Project64 emulator when I was running Windows.

I started up Mario64 with a Saitek USB joypad and the girlfriend came over and asked to play. She absolutely LOVED it. So much in fact, that she has mentioned it about it every few days for the past two weeks or so.

If you know anything about women, this means she REALLY wants to get her game on.

As far as legality goes, I can’t get much more legal than Mario 64 – I’ve got a Nintendo 64 sitting in my closet with a plethora of games including Mario 64, which was included with the game system. Unfortunately the process of backing up a ROM is the legal grey area here. I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. You are on your own.

You might be asking yourself this question: If you’ve got an N64, why the heck are you using an emulator?