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Coaxing Your Relative Into Linux

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supermike's picture
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Joined: 2006-02-17

I've actually got a relative who might be a good candidate for Linux and she doesn't know it. She's got: a. An old machine -- about 7 years old, in fact. However, it was a high-end system at the time. b. Ran Windows 95. c. Doesn't want to pay for a new OS. d. Can be talked into understanding the importance of system security and doing updates, but wants it to be really easy. e. Doesn't want to pay for a new copy of MS Office. Kinda got used to Claris Works at the time. f. Did Quickbooks work on it. g. Used to get on the dial-up Internet without a firewall. Doesn't need DSL for what little Internet she does use. However, she would like to have fast dial-up if possible. h. Likes to change your desktop bitmap into pretty scenes, especially of clouds. i. Likes the XP theme that another relative has. j. Would like to have a profile for her to do Quickbooks and docs, occasionally catching the mail or browsing the web. Would like another profile for the grandkids who come over to play a cute little game from the menus. k. Doesn't really use the CDROM that much. l. Might not ever install another program, although I'd have to think about what to do when she would. And now my answers: a. An old machine -- about 7 years old, in fact. However, it was a high-end system at the time. >> Ideal Linux candidate! Show the power of Linux to work slightly faster on older hardware. b. Ran Windows 95. >> Wow, that's old. No tech support options available. No drivers. No upgrades. Linux is the only other option. Even XP might not install on this klunker. However, it's important to save her files and write down her interrupt settings, device driver choices (down to the filename would help), and device settings. Question is -- without proper USB drive support in Windows 95, how the heck do you mount a USB drive and back up her stuff? I might not have to. Another option is to give her dual-boot capability by adding a second IDE hard drive and putting Linux on that. c. Doesn't want to pay for a new OS. >> Again, Linux is perfect. Just don't mention Linux unless you have to. Just say "desktop". The word Linux may inspire her to ask too many questions. d. Can be talked into understanding the importance of system security and doing updates, but wants it to be really easy. >> Ubuntu Linux is probably a great candidate for her. e. Doesn't want to pay for a new copy of MS Office. Kinda got used to Claris Works at the time. >> OpenOffice should be a snap. I wonder how well it reads the old Office and Claris Works docs. Can't be that many of them. One could print these out and retype them for what little she used of this. f. Did Quickbooks work on it. >> Now that's where I'm stuck. Perhaps gnu-cash might cut it. Don't know. Might have to use WINE and the old Quickbooks CD, if that would even work. And then there's the matter of getting the old data to load unless I had no choice but to start over. g. Used to get on the dial-up Internet without a firewall. Doesn't need DSL for what little Internet she does use. However, she would like to have fast dial-up if possible. >> Dial up is a snap in Ubuntu. My handy "roll your own firewall" script should keep her locked up fairly tightly. We can use a third-party ISP vendor for dial-up compression, but I need to find that even works with Linux?? Meanwhile, Firefox with its popup blocking and Thunderbird with its mail filter -- both of these will bring a great experience for her. And if I ensure that Java and Shockwave are working in it, then much of her experience should be just fine. I could also enable Tinyproxy so that she is proxied through the Internet at least minimally, keeping little grandkids from going to the wrong places in case she doesn't log out properly. h. Likes to change your desktop bitmap into pretty scenes, especially of clouds. >> No problem. i. Likes the XP theme that another relative has. >> I have the know-how to completely lift the XP theme's look and feel and almost copy it, pixel-by-pixel into GNOME. One Saturday, I pulled that off. In its unclicked state, it looks just like the XP desktop. But click the menu and up came a GNOME menu. j. Would like to have a profile for her to do Quickbooks and docs, occasionally catching the mail or browsing the web. Would like another profile for the grandkids who come over to play a cute little game from the menus. >> No problem. Just create another user ID like "kids" or "games" and let them login with that. Another option that I might be able to pull off with a special thumb recognition keyboard and some scripting is the ability for her to login and logoff superfast with her thumb, and anyone else who tries this without her thumb signature would end up in the "kids" profile. I could also jazz up the kids profile so that it looks inviting and fun for the kids. It could also utilize a tighter Tinyproxy configuration for her browser than the regular profile this relative uses. k. Doesn't really use the CDROM that much. >> But if she did, she wouldn't be able to install anything. However, she could listen to music quite well if Beep Media Player is installed with all the right illegal codecs. l. Might not ever install another program, although I'd have to think about what to do when she would. >> I would need to write a script that detects she has doubleclicked an EXE and make it pop open Firefox to a local HTML page. In the page it would explain that the program is not supported on this upgraded operating system, but then provide her a menu of alternative programs to choose from that she could click on to install, separated by categories. Might take a good bit of time to build this, but would work. And I could also have the option, "Call Mike's House for more help." hyperlink, which would show my phone number and email address. If this all falls through, I found that you can get a Walmart or Dell PC for something like $300 (as a loss leader, of course). I can install that with Linux. As for the old PC, I can attach it on a network to this PC and stick it in a closet without a monitor or keyboard. She can connect to it with an rdesktop shortcut on her Linux desktop. I could also map an SMB drive to it. Therefore, she could run her old stuff and her new stuff.

supermike's picture
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Joined: 2006-02-17

She tracks a rental property business with Quickbooks. I read that Moneydance, although a payware program with a freetrial, has a Windows, Mac, and Linux version. Looks pretty neat, but don't know if it could help her track rental properties.

supermike's picture
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Joined: 2006-02-17

A lot of businesses used to use dBase, Clipper, or FoxPro before they used Quicken to manage a business. It was easy to use but didn't have fancy icons and graphics. People could install the product and then either get a geek to make the database or the geek would go find a public domain one on the college Internet (the only way to get there at the time) and customize it. That is still an option today. I think such a thing in Linux is probably still available and more than likely without DOS-emulation.

I see a great product niche here if one could pull it off in PHP on their Linux PC. Instead of console text, you'd just use the web browser as the interface.

And, if one really wants to get robust, it looks like OpenMFG is a great program, although proprietary. It's sort of Quickbooks like and sort of non-intuitive, 50/50. It takes some getting used to. However, the cheapest it sells for is $15,000! Nope, can't go with that.

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Joined: 2006-03-28

There are some options for PPP-compression in the kernel.

  │ │ <*>   PPP Deflate compression                                       │ │
  │ │ <*>   PPP BSD-Compress compression                                  │ │
  │ │ <*>   PPP MPPE compression (encryption) (EXPERIMENTAL)              │ │

These can be found in Device Drivers -> Network Device Support.

free-zombie's picture
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Joined: 2006-03-08

The catch with that is that dail-up is not PPP Eye

AndrewB's picture
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Joined: 2005-12-18

Here is a very nice desktop enviroment.....Well I say nice, it will do the job.
You will need to heavily modify the config files to load the applictions you have, otherwise it is very like windows.
I used it for about....1 day....
When it was under heavy devlopment.

free-zombie's picture
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Joined: 2006-03-08

pretty dead though... I'd use icewm with one or two GNOME componenents (especially the volume manager) to spice things up on an old machine...

Whistler's picture
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Joined: 2006-01-03

Well it seems I will have to compile XPDE with non-free software (Kylix). It's also not translatable and no one except me in my family can understand English Sad I have heard there is a free Delphi from FreePascal guys, but I'm not sure if it will actually work.

But I guess it's still a little useful for those who are too used to Windows. Smiling

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Joined: 2005-12-20

FVWM95 would also be ideal for a family with a old computer who are used to a old 95 look Smiling

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Joined: 2006-03-28
"free-zombie" wrote:

The catch with that is that dail-up is not PPP Eye

Hmm, then how could I use pppd to connect via modem? And my dial-up device also was ppp0.

dylunio's picture
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Joined: 2005-12-20

May I point out that tricking people into using Free Software could be detramental due to the fact it makes the community look dishonest, and give the software it strives to make seem dodgy.

dylunio

supermike's picture
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Joined: 2006-02-17

Ah, well, it's more like tongue-in-cheek that's sort of half serious.

libervisco's picture
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Joined: 2006-05-04

I'd say go for it supermike, but try to avoid proprietary software. Why not just give gnucash a go and see how it goes? Another alternative is to simply use OpenOffice Calc. I imagine that with a little creativity you can get most of money management stuff with that.

Also, I think it wouldn't hurt to tell her something about that Free Software desktop you've just installed. If she is a person that can listen and be open minded enough, she might even appreciate the fact that not only she got a better system, but one which by simply using it she supports a good cause.

Thanks

a thing's picture
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Joined: 2005-12-20

The reason there's no online free software banking is because the banks refuse to give the needed information.

Sometimes people just refuse GNU/Linux, even if they use the exact same programs the exact same way on Windows (my mom).

supermike's picture
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Joined: 2006-02-17

Boy, GnuCash has a weird widget set. Why couldn't they upgrade to GTK2+? And who does tear off menus anymore? That's soooo 1997.

Whistler's picture
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Joined: 2006-01-03

Not sure if Grisbi will be useful.
Some cool screenshots

And if some people just reject GNU/Linux for no reason, give her FreeBSD! Laughing out loud

supermike's picture
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Joined: 2006-02-17

Whistler! Wow, you've done your homework here. It is beautiful! It's also multi-language and GPL, which should win many hearts here.

I may have to download a copy of Grisbee.

supermike's picture
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Joined: 2006-02-17

I just installed the English version in Ubuntu by enabling universe, multiverse, and backports. I then did 'apt-cache search grisbi' and there it was. I installed it with apt-get install and ran it from the menu. It appears to be a swell-written GTK+ app, perhaps written in GCC. A lot of thought has gone into this.

I also see it can import QIF files (Quickbooks files)!

It will take some getting used to in learning, but it sure does look extremely intuitive to some degree.

supermike's picture
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Joined: 2006-02-17

Corbet at LWN.com has posted a fairly decent review on accounting/finance managers used in Linux. Also, many comments have been left behind about his comments, so this was very useful.

libervisco's picture
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Joined: 2006-05-04

Seems like another little reason not to switch is being squashed. Quickbooks is one of the applications most cited as something keeping people from going to GNU/Linux full time, and now we have a great viable alternative to that. Way to go!

I don't really need something like that right now, but I imagine I could at some point. I'll give it a shot. Smiling

Thanks for finding it Whistler!

Whistler's picture
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Joined: 2006-01-03
GNUCash 1.9 now supports

GNUCash 1.9 now supports GTK2 Smiling Just apt-get'ed it.

Whistler's picture
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Joined: 2006-01-03
for Windows-like interface

for Windows-like interface for GNU/Linux:

The guys from Red Flag have a modified version of KDE, which has make the interface more Windows-like. I don't like this anyways, but this may be useful for someone as this requires no non-free software like Kylix.

http://yapb.51.net/test1.jpg

You can extract the KDE source from their source disk: (sorry but they don't offer separate source packages)

http://220.194.60.89/ftp/dt5/RedFlag-dt5-disc1-src.iso

http://220.194.60.89/ftp/dt5/RedFlag-dt5-disc2-src.iso

waylandbill's picture
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Joined: 2006-07-13
Why trick them?

You shouldn't need to "trick" them into using Linux. It should be able to stand on its own merits. If it does what they use a computer for, then it is a logical choice and they shouldn't be too hard to convince. If not, then it may not be the correct choice for them.

libervisco's picture
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Joined: 2006-05-04
That looks pretty good

That looks pretty good Whistler, though I tend to agree with waylandbill. No need to trick them.. However, no tricking has to happen anyway. I can understand some people may simply appreciate a familiar look so for that at least, making these lookalike could be useful.

Just my 2c. Eye