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Napalm Llama 06-22-2006 12:57 PM

Advice requested for Linux installation (more interesting than it sounds!)
Hey folks, sorry about the non-catchy title.

I'm thinking of making a bit of cash over the summer by preying on people's irritation at Windows and installing Linux for them. My plan is to stick up flyers around my local area, which would read roughly like this:

Is your computer getting you down?
Fed up with constant viruses, spyware, adware and security warnings? There is another way!
Discover the world of (legal) Free Software - no subscription, no extortionate price, just rock solid stability and security.

Even if you think your computer's past it's sell-by-date, you'll be amazed what can be done to improve it.

For a free consultation with absolutely no obligation, call or email me on:
(contact details here)

(tear-off contact slips at bottom)

My plan is to talk it over with people, find out whether they'd really benefit (I know Linux isn't for everyone... yet) and explain the principles of Open Source and its pros and cons. If they're up for it, I'll do the installation, for a small labour fee.

BUT - I need the advice of you fine folks. What distros would be best (ie. n00b-friendly, easy/low-maintenance)? What questions should I make sure I know the answers to? What OSS projects are good substitutes for common Windows programs? I have experience mostly with Gentoo, but with a dash of SuSE and Fedora thrown in, and I've been a dedicated Linux person for about a year and a half. What do you think?

homey 06-22-2006 01:24 PM

I think maybe you aught to practice on family to see what you are up against and get some more experience.
Linux has been totally functional for a long time and most recent "improvements" are meant to dumb it down for clicky click users.
I would not recommend installing Linux for anybody who is not smart enough to do it for themselves or you may have a long hot summer ahead of you.
You may just find that stupid people reproduce faster than smart ones.
IMHO, of course! :)

FreeDoughnut 06-22-2006 02:35 PM

It sounds like a good idea, but you better be able to explain tech things in regular people terms. I hear Kubuntu is noob friendly and low maintainance, so you might want to go with that.
Here's a list of M$ programs and replacements:
M$ Office-Openoffice or Koffice
AIM-AIM, Kopete, Gaim
Frontpage-Quanta plus

So there's a replacement for just about everything, except Flash. :(
I don't think there will be too many dificult questions, so go for it.
Now, about my share of the profits...

Napalm Llama 06-22-2006 05:42 PM

Cool - I didn't know about Quanta.

I guess my main concern is that the installation'll somehow break, and I'll be blamed. I won't be able to provide support (except via phone/email/ssh) because I'm going off to University in September if all goes well.

Also, what are the configuration utilities for Kubuntu like? There really do need to be good graphical frontends for practically everything the user's likely to want to do.

JBailey742 06-22-2006 07:28 PM


Originally Posted by homey
I would not recommend installing Linux for anybody who is not smart enough to do it for themselves

I agree. When I started getting into Linux, I was obsessed with it, and told some people at my last job, even some other people I talk with. The big downfall in telling them simply to install it, is that it's not like Windows.
People install windows, the software to the hardware, games, programs, etc, it's just that simple.
I fear that if I tell people to install it, they'd have a load of questions, as I have when I started with linux.
It was different with my dad, because I'm right here in case he needs help with anything. It also helped some that he had some interest in it before.
If I'm not mistaken, he was the first that bought a linux OS, long ago, Suse 4.0 or something, on floppies.

Agrouf 06-23-2006 04:04 AM

Mandriva 2006

Just put the icons on the desktop : Internet (for web browser), aMSN, openoffice writer, Kaffeine and amaroK plus maybe a photo viewer.
That's all they need.

dickgregory 06-23-2006 09:04 AM

A lady I know told me several months ago that her computer was dead. I told her about Linux and she was interested. I quizzed her on what she used it for. She said Word, Excel, Internet, period. I asked if she was sure that was it and she said yes. So I build her a system with Mandriva 2006 and configured her internet and a printer/scanner. She liked it -- for a while. A few months later I got a call that she had to have certain software that was MS centric. Could I get that to run under Linux. She had already tried Wine and VMWare. I checked her configs and I couldn't get it to run either. So I ended up installing XP and rebuilding the boot sector so she could dual boot.

The bottom line is -- If you want them to be happy, be sure you can be there to help them later. Even moderately computer literate people like her will need help at times. I would not encourage you to do an "Eat and run" blitz. It could create some very negative attitudes about Linux.

Now if you could contact a local LUG and get some agreements on continuing end-user support, you might have a winner. Just be sure you are willing to share the pie with those who continue the grunt work.

FreeDoughnut 06-23-2006 09:37 AM

I don't use Kubuntu, but from what I heard you barely need to go into the command line. I think they have a graphical dialog for just about everything, but don't take my word on it-ask around.

Napalm Llama 06-23-2006 10:01 AM

Hmm, I guess you're right - post-install support is definately important. Maybe it'd be a better idea to wait 'til I'm settled down for 4 years at Uni, and set up the business there.

Then again... these people already have Windows installed, so if I set their machines up to be dual-boot from the start they won't be locked out of any Windows-only apps they might want to use. Also, if their computers are out-of-date or totally virus-crippled (and they've lost their Windows install CD) then an injection of open-source could be a blessing - it'd appear to miraculously rejuvinate their PC, which they'd be very happy about.

Maybe I could do it now, but put more emphasis on marketing it to people whose machines appear to be dead or near-dead, as an extra (possibly long) lease of life before they shell out for a whole new system.

I'm really greatful for all your thoughts on this, by the way - keep them coming! :D

Emerson 06-23-2006 10:19 AM

I just installed XUbuntu for someone. He is not going to install anything by himself. He just wanted secure online banking, credit card ordering and such. Well, that's what he got. He was impressed and told me I should start a business installing Linux for people who are afraid to use computers for online banking. I didn't share his optimism though because I've found non-techies do not trust Linux either. Somewhere above was said Linux is not for people who cannot maintain it by themselves. I'm not sure if this holds. Many folks out there are similar to my friend. They use a web browser, an email client and that's it. Maybe some word processing and printing too. These are simple tasks and no extra fiddling is required.
I encourage you. Take a distro you know well (and can support over phone) and try it. Keep us updated how it's going.

Agrouf 06-23-2006 02:58 PM

I'm a computer literate man living is a computerphobic environment. As a result a lot of people are calling for me whenever they have a problem with their computer (and they cry at me that computers are evil and that is because of the computer techies like me).

Here are my observations :
People have heard of linux as a techie-only application that you use on top of window or, when I recue their computer using a rescue liveCD, they think I'm installing Windows on top of linux or they think I'm entering in the system and that linux lives on their computer at the lowest level or that it is the ancestor of windows. Some people are impressed and ask some newbie questions like if I can hack a bank with that. As a general rule, they are scared about it. The get lost by the text mode messages at boot and think their computer already crashed (because text mode = crash). They also think linux is all in english (that is probably not an issue for you).

What I usually do is that :
For fixing windows, I almost always reinstall. I install linux as dual boot, booting on Windows by default quick (3 to 5 seconds) and tells them they can boot linux next time their Windows crash of virii or for no reason. I install Mandriva or PCLinuxOS (with KDE in french) because there are no text mode messages at boot. I put all the icons on the desktop (they won't go to the command line or use the KDE menu and usually have their Windows desktop full of icons). I also make a share FAT32 partition for their data.
Usually they never boot on linux until their computer becomes unusable (spywares, virii, crash...). When they do it, they feel like they are hacking something and are proud of it (using the arrow to go to linux at boot makes them feel like that). They can surf the internet and use asmn, but it doesn't cut it. They ask that I come to reinstall windows because they lack some absolutely necessary apps like a mickey mouse that is walking on their windows when they don't touch the mouse for 5 minutes or the cute adverts in MSN. I've tryed everything in linux to make it as cute as possible, superkaramba, eyes following the mouse and stuff, but they get adicted to the killers apps they are used to have in windows, like that mickey mouse that I didn't found for linux (if anyone knows where to find a mickey mouse that walks on the windows, please let me know). I could try to install MSN with wine, but it doesn't work so well.
The bottom line is that they won't change their habbits and they will blame you for any crash that happens, even in Windows just because you touched their computer (seriously, this is true ; I get people whom I rescue their data, reinstall their computer and everything and after 1 month their computer crashes out of a virii they innocently installed via email, but they get angry at me because they think linux that I installed on their computer did that).
I say the hell with that, I now only support linux and tell them to go to Microsoft for their windows problem once linux is installed and that whether they think it is because of me or not doesn't change a thing. Their computer, their problem. Either they will learn to use their computer or not use it at all. They usually say something along the line that they are no computer scientist, but I say that I am no mechanics and still drive my car (plus filling tank and parking it).

Napalm Llama 06-23-2006 05:38 PM

Gah, that sounds bad. But I guess if I'm doing anything to people's computers I can expect the occasional person who blames every single problem on the last person to touch their machine (because of course it wasn't their own fault).

It seems to me that most people are saying Mandriva would be best. If I'm going to get used to a non-Gentoo distro, I'm only going to want to figure out one - at least to start with.

I think the single most important thing is never, ever, ever having to use the command line. After that, there are things like the number of pre-compiled packages in the distro's repository, and also the whole boot-text thing, which I find essential but which can certainly be a major turn-off for non-techie people.

You know, I reckon I might go for it. I originally partitioned my own hard disk for dual-boot between two Linux distros, so I think I'll install Mandriva in the spare slot - that way I can learn its ins and outs, and I'll also have a working install here as a reference in case I have to give phone support.

I probably won't be doing this for another few days, so if anyone has any further ideas or suggestions I'd love to hear them.

Thanks again for the great response so far,

NL :)

JBailey742 06-23-2006 08:19 PM

I started off with Mandrake, and asked what an easy and/or friendly linux OS would be. They listed a few, and most say "mandrake/mandriva".
To me, I like it. I tried Suse, but haven't gotten around to it to see if it's really a cool OS, easy and friendly, or more for linux experts.

Napalm Llama 06-24-2006 05:51 AM

Mandriva it is, then. I started off with SuSE, (9.1 Personal), and I'd recommend it to anyone just getting into Linux. It has graphical utilities for everything - except for installing packages, apparently. (Maybe they've improved YOU by now, I don't know.) So I don't know if it's suitable for the task at hand.

I've downloaded some Mandriva ISOs now, so once I've decided where to install them I'll give them a go - I'm thinking it might be better to stick them on a spare machine, so I don't have to reboot my main one every time I need to have a look.

Emerson 06-24-2006 06:15 AM

This seems to be a common trap - everything you try seems great(est). When I used Debian I was sure it's the most wonderful distro ever made, then switched to Gentoo - it cannot get any better (I think). I suspect if I tried Slack or *** I'd think the same. Latest I've seen was Xubuntu and I was impressed again. So I recommend look at a few more before you decide. *buntu series may give you easy choice between KDE, Gnome and XFCE depending on the hardware used and it's deb-based.

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