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Author Topic: Which Linux For Non-Techie Windows Users?  (Read 6685 times)
zridling
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« on: February 21, 2010, 11:11:36 AM »

A Slashdot user asks a good question: Which Linux For Non-Techie Windows Users??



Having at last gotten Linux to run satisfactorily on my own PCs, I'd now like to start transitioning friends and family from XP to Linux instead of Windows 7. The catch is that these guys don't understand or care much about computers, so the transition has to be as seamless and painless as possible. Actually, they won't care for new things; even the upcoming upgrade to Windows 7 would be a pain and a bother, which is a great opportunity for Linux. I'm not too concerned about software (most of them only need browser, IM, VLC, mail and a Powerpoint viewer for all those fascinating attachments). What I'm concerned about is OS look-and-feel and interface — system bar on the bottom with clock, trash, info on the right, menu on the left, menu items similar to those of Windows. Is it better to shoot for a very targeted distro? Which would you recommend? Are there themes/skins for mainstream distributions instead? I've been looking around the web, and it's hard to gauge which distros are well-done and reasonably active.
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And off they go! The usual suspects are heartily recommended -- openSUSE, Mint, PCLinuxOS, Ubuntu -- but the broader discussion of what to do with users moving from XP but not to Win7 is quite interesting.
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« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2010, 07:44:13 PM »

I would be interested in other peoples opinion on Linux's speed and footprint. We hear a lot about what a fast and light OS it is, but whenever I've tried it (and I mean a distro like Ubuntu, Mint, Mandrake etc which has a full KDE/Gnome gui) it just does not seem any faster than say Windows 7 or even Vista. Even on a netbook Win7 seems to win over Linux distros such as Jolicloud (recent Lifehacker comparison), so I'm not sure what it brings to the table for a Windows user.
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Lutz_
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« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2010, 05:45:37 PM »

Is there a Linux distribution in which the drives can be accessed without a code like:
/dev/fd0 ; /dev/scd0 ; /dev/hdb ;/dev/sda3 ; root & home ???
This distro would then qualify automatically as the easiest for windows converters.  The standard Linux device name system will simply deter the majority of curious windows users immediately.
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« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2010, 01:38:01 PM »

Look out for Lubuntu https://wiki.ubuntu.com/Lubuntu smiley They have official netbook edition but not yet a minimal for desktop so hopefully this project get adopted.
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MilesAhead
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« Reply #4 on: February 24, 2010, 06:03:53 PM »

Is there a Linux distribution in which the drives can be accessed without a code like:
/dev/fd0 ; /dev/scd0 ; /dev/hdb ;/dev/sda3 ; root & home ???
This distro would then qualify automatically as the easiest for windows converters.  The standard Linux device name system will simply deter the majority of curious windows users immediately.

You could create a bunch of aliases at logon.  For instance /dev/fd0 I used to call floppy and /dev/scd0 cdrom1. It doesn't really get you that much though.  To get the Windows users you need a whole bunch of applets in the window manager to configure stuff, rather than using scripts(usually the applets just write the stuff to the scripts but it's more intuitive.) But that conflicts with the smaller footprint and better performance you get with a lean window manager.

It's been awhile since I did a lot with Linux.  But for me the most disorienting thing that made it feel "foreign" while I was using it was the text editors. I remember when I put Kylix on how all of a sudden I could type in source code without thinking about it because the editor used the same keys as the Windows Delphi IDE.  When I was using it, around the time of Slackware 3.0, I could only find one free text editor that came configured with Windows style editing scheme by default.  And that one was kind of quirky and unstable.

If you use Windows most of the time I don't think you'll really feel at home in Linux unless they have a bunch of editors now with Windows style editing.

I did like Mandrake 9.1 on my Pentium III machine.  The nice thing about it if you had broadband was the single CD install.  First thing it did was get your network card going, then let you pick the packages you wanted.  It rebooted to a basic Linux install, then downloaded your packages and installed them.

Mandriva still has the same scheme going.

I guess it's like learning a foreign language without hearing it spoken at home.  You have to immerse yourself in it.  If you don't have to do it, you probably won't.  If you want the guy to learn Linux, lock him in a room with a PC with only Linux on it.  If he can boot Windows, forget it.
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zridling
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« Reply #5 on: February 25, 2010, 10:01:02 AM »

I would be interested in other peoples opinion on Linux's speed and footprint. We hear a lot about what a fast and light OS it is, but whenever I've tried it (and I mean a distro like Ubuntu, Mint, Mandrake etc which has a full KDE/Gnome gui) it just does not seem any faster than say Windows 7 or even Vista. Even on a netbook Win7 seems to win over Linux distros such as Jolicloud (recent Lifehacker comparison), so I'm not sure what it brings to the table for a Windows user.

Good point. That's because Gnome and KDE are the full monty of desktop environments on Linux. There are several lighter, faster ones, such as Xfce, Enlightenment, etc. To me, the big advantage is moving from proprietary software -- and all its related lock-in issues -- which then allows you to use open formats that anyone can implement, thus making it relatively easy to change suppliers. Neither your data nor your architectures are locked down by the proprietary vendor (Microsoft, Apple, RIM, etc.).

If you use Windows most of the time I don't think you'll really feel at home in Linux unless they have a bunch of editors now with Windows style editing.... I guess it's like learning a foreign language without hearing it spoken at home.  You have to immerse yourself in it.  If you don't have to do it, you probably won't.  If you want the guy to learn Linux, lock him in a room with a PC with only Linux on it.  If he can boot Windows, forget it.

They have several Windows-like editors. On KDE, both KWrite and Kate text editors are like any Windows text editor. And now UltraEdit is also native to Linux, with its UeX version. Immersion is great advice, because I strongly recommend it. KDE is most like Win7, only more flexible. Comes with a butt load of apps, all of them free, of course. And if you code, making the move is easier than you think with distros like openSUSE.
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« Reply #6 on: February 25, 2010, 10:13:33 AM »

On that note, opensuse just failed hardcore after sitting for 12 hours during a network install on my netbook :-/
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« Reply #7 on: February 25, 2010, 04:16:15 PM »

I agree if you're a programmer there's all kinds of freebies on Linux that I wouldn't imagine getting(at least at the time) under Windows.  Stuff like working CORBA implementations with test apps.  I think the build ran overnight to compile all the little CORBA test apps on my 486 back in the '90s.

I just think the "easy for Windows newbs" is pulling in the opposite direction.  It's like trying to interest people in jazz by playing elevator music.  Yeah, it's instrumental but people walk away with a totally distorted idea if they think that crap is jazz.

Slackware was way frustrating, but even though I never got to guru level, after messing with it, if I did an easier to handle distro, like Mandrake, when the little applet didn't work I could usually mess around below the /etc directory and remember which script I had to fix.

I guess it may be an inexpensive solution for a work setup where all you do is allow people to log on and run the word processor or other app to do their work and you don't let them mess with the core of the install. For people to voluntarily mess with it though, I think they need some interest in system configuration and at least a bit of script programming.

Of course there's always the "this app we have to use is on this system and not on that" reason for using an OS.  But for the home user I don't know why they would really want to get into all the nitty gritty. Not unless you sat the guy down and said "this is computing!" and let him have at it.  Don't tell him there's any other universe.

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zridling
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« Reply #8 on: February 25, 2010, 06:02:39 PM »

...for the home user I don't know why they would really want to get into all the nitty gritty. Not unless you sat the guy down and said "this is computing!" and let him have at it.  Don't tell him there's any other universe.

That's just it. Even I'm surprised at how far it's come in three years, heck, in the last year. If you sat an uninitiated (virgin) user in front of either Linux or Win7, I'd bet that today your top Linux distros would win on simplicity and ease-of-use among other things. You've got to remember that 90% of all Linux users are like me: former Windows users!
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« Reply #9 on: February 25, 2010, 08:10:12 PM »

If it feels good, do it.. as the saying goes. smiley

It's nice that it's still there.  For me it's a bit of been there, done that.

Unless there was something specific I needed to run that was only available there why would I go back?  If there's no smarts needed to configure it anymore then I might as well keep Windowing on down.

If you haven't done it then I definitely think it's worth the journey.
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« Reply #10 on: March 08, 2010, 07:11:56 PM »

I gotta vote for Ubuntu - I installed it on a 10 year old dell (xp pro) that had imploded... the install was automatic...  it was for my wife's pc - she would call a c prompt "that c thingy"

She loves it... Thmbsup
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« Reply #11 on: March 08, 2010, 08:32:26 PM »

I heartily vote for Linux Mint.  It's the first Linux install I did which ran like a Windows install--quickly and painlessly, with a pretty end result.  The vista-like searchable "start menu" and by-default-installed compiz are great, and it's built on Ubuntu, so it's compatible with anything which can run on Ubuntu.  It also looks a lot like a Windows system, so it's not confusing.  I've recommended it many times and the recommendations usually result in people changing their favorite distro.  Linux Mint FTW.
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« Reply #12 on: March 08, 2010, 09:02:53 PM »

I've been a fan of PCLinuxOS for the last few years. I even installed it on an old computer with 256 MB RAM and to my amazement it actually works.

NinJA999, I gotta check out Mint--I keep hearing good things about that one.
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« Reply #13 on: March 08, 2010, 10:11:55 PM »

Super Os is built on Ubuntu and it has priority drivers included, which makes the install easier. The catch to moving from Windows to Linux is does Linux have drivers for all your hardware. Once a techie does the install and all periodicals work then the user can find the menus for his programs easily enough. Browsers and most other internet programs look the same as windows anyway, especially if you are using google or yahoo email.
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eleman
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« Reply #14 on: March 09, 2010, 03:31:32 AM »

If I may change the course of discussion a little bit, which linux distro would be the choice for old computers (p2-500, 256mb ram etc.)?

XFCE or the like is the way to go apparently, but installing PCLinuxOS, and changing the window manager from KDE to XFCE does not sound like a natural option. Which distros are both reasonably lightweight and reasonably newbie friendly?
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« Reply #15 on: March 09, 2010, 06:37:52 AM »

Well . . .

I see myself as non techie, but I succeeded in installing Ubuntu on a Toshiba Satellite 100 lap top without difficulty.  The original poster said, "I'm not too concerned about software".  Just make sure that is really true !  For example - I am "into" Family History" and the only Linux Family History programme that I have found is Gramps - and that does things differently from the majority of Windows based FH programmes.  This is not insuperable - but it needs to be reckoned with.

So do make sure that if you install Linux, techie or not - you will be able to do what you want to do.
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« Reply #16 on: March 09, 2010, 08:41:48 AM »

Sadly, my Linux installs are a wayside, still a play thing for me.

A majority of the time I spend in front of my personal machine is spent in Adobe Lightroom, "developing" photos.  Since that software is only available for OSX or Windows, I am stuck until Adobe deigns to make a version that I could run on Linux.

Sure, there are substitutes out there in Linux-land that will do what Lightroom does... but let's face it, I'm not getting any younger or more willing to learn different stuff.  None of the substitutes do things the way I expect them to, and Lightroom is simply an excellent photo cataloging/development tool.  I do not intend to give it up.

I've tried to run it under Wine; in fact, one or two of the older versions of Lightroom will in fact run under Wine ... the problem being, they're older versions, and also don't do what I've grown to expect from Lightroom.

Anyone else a fan of Adobe products such as Photoshop or Lightroom?  We really need to push them to develop software that will run on Linux.
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« Reply #17 on: March 09, 2010, 11:17:43 AM »

Linux Mint and Mepis get my vote.

Antix Mepis for old PCs.

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« Reply #18 on: March 09, 2010, 12:12:52 PM »

A quick search on this site will show I have been advocating Mint Linux for quite some time, and I am hardly the only one.  On a rather old PC running and early Athalon processor (single core, don't recall the speed though), I use the XFCE interface version.  It has been flawless.  Apparently there is also an even lighter interface by using the Fluxbox version, but I haven't tried that.  I am quite happy with the XFCE version and it's development.

I have always heard a lot of good things about Mepis, but it has never worked well for me.

As to the argument about Linux not appearing to be better than Windows 7, that is because it isn't currently.  Windows 7 is very fast and streamlined for an OS.  The only way you will find a Linux version that is faster than Windows 7 at this point is to get one without a GUI, or at least without a GUI with all the same bells and whistles (you can accomplish the same thing with Windows 7 by the way - turning off the GUI and getting better performance, but who would want to?).  As Zane has pointed out - at this point you don't go to Linux for a windows-like experience with better performance.  You move to Linux for the flexibility, price, and/or desire to learn a new system.

Having worked extensively with every major OS type out there (except Mac, I have worked with it but not extensively), I can say that I generally like Windows best, but Mint is my preference due to cost and flexibility.  Windows has the best software base and is, therefore the most usable in my mind.  Mint, however, is nearly as usable, free (though donations are greatly appreciated by the developers), and has great support as well.  zO/S is a pain on a good day, but supposedly is one of the best for non-Parallel High Performance Computing (HPC).  The only good thing I can definitely say about it is it really helped me get a new, fuller appreciation for virtualization (something I have been strongly interested in ever since I first heard about it).  Sun Solaris is a nifty OS for Unix, but always crashes a lot for me.  I think it is because I don't use it to do the same thing every day, but rather fiddle with it all the time.  It is a "Cranky old man" OS, but I like it none-the-less.  Last but not least, Macs are simple to use and slick, but are very expensive and not nearly as useful as a general use machine from what I have seen.  Again, however, I have not used them extensively so don't blast me Apple-fanboys tongue , I just want to give my first impressions as it were.  Hope that helps any readers.  If not, you are done now. Wink
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« Reply #19 on: March 10, 2010, 09:22:30 AM »

I would never put linux on a non-techie machine. No matter how much linux has improved, you need to do some sysadmin... impossible for a non-techie on his own.

There are two other important factors
  • Flexibility makes it possible to break the system in creative ways. There are errors that would take hours of reading and days of troubleshooting to fix, even for an advanced user.
  • Buggy software. It's the norm. Not the exception. Add shared libraries, and the situation gets harder. Plus of course, even the more recent distros will have outdated software for fast-moving targets. Trying to have the latest version of everything (easy on win, as long as you like to click 'next') is extremely hard and dangerous.

I had a laptop that didn't take linux. A dell 1720. It has sucked many hours out of my life and two sysadmins. We changed hd trice. Win 7 works fine, and we stress-tested it for a week.

Still, I need some advanced stuff that is not easy to get working on win, but mainly for programming. Even though I'm full-time linux, I have to admit, there are huge quality problems.

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eleman
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« Reply #20 on: March 10, 2010, 09:28:13 AM »

I would never put linux on a non-techie machine. No matter how much linux has improved, you need to do some sysadmin... impossible for a non-techie on his own.

I don't agree. Non-techies are not a homogeneous group. There are computer illiterates, who don't even know what is a browser, and who think the "e" is the symbol of internet. And there are those who know one thing or two about computers.

I think linux won't feel different after 5 minutes to the completely ignorant types, for instance those who hold the mouse in a weird fashion.

Those who are somewhat used to windows are a whole other story though. Putting linux boxes in front of them is never a good idea.
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« Reply #21 on: March 10, 2010, 09:47:23 AM »

If you ask me, Kubuntu.
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« Reply #22 on: March 10, 2010, 05:46:42 PM »

I think linux won't feel different after 5 minutes to the completely ignorant types, for instance those who hold the mouse in a weird fashion.

You mean like Commander Scott pickin' the thing up and talkin' to it?


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zridling
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« Reply #23 on: March 10, 2010, 08:50:49 PM »

I would never put linux on a non-techie machine.... Flexibility makes it possible to break the system in creative ways. There are errors that would take hours of reading and days of troubleshooting to fix, even for an advanced user.

I also disagree. You can easily lock down any GUI elements you choose and hide all system folders. I don't expect a non-techie to be using powerful BASH commands or scripts. Same for the file managers. Software installation is automatic and impossible to screw up if your repository only includes the STABLE versions.

Buggy software. It's the norm. Not the exception. Add shared libraries, and the situation gets harder. Plus of course, even the more recent distros will have outdated software for fast-moving targets. Trying to have the latest version of everything (easy on win, as long as you like to click 'next') is extremely hard and dangerous.

Which buggy software? The apps within KDE 4.4 are a rock. I presume you mean apps used under Wine or Crossover Office? Or perhaps just some sloppy ports. For example, I consider Picasa a very sloppy port though many swear by it (I don't know why). I won't challenge your laptop statement since drivers are still not shared openly from the hardware companies.
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« Reply #24 on: March 11, 2010, 05:15:37 AM »

Quote
Which buggy software? The apps within KDE 4.4 are a rock. I presume you mean apps used under Wine or Crossover Office? Or perhaps just some sloppy ports. For example, I consider Picasa a very sloppy port though many swear by it (I don't know why). I won't challenge your laptop statement since drivers are still not shared openly from the hardware companies.
tbird 3
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