...making Linux just a little more fun!


[ In reference to "Picking Fruit" in LG#173 ]

Henry Grebler [henrygrebler at optusnet.com.au]

Mon, 05 Apr 2010 11:53:28 +1000

Hi Ken,

Great article. And you sound like a beautiful person.

But enough of this man love.

Re melons. Someone of the medical persuasion taught me that the way to pick melons is to percuss them (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Percussion_%28medicine%29). I am not myself medically inclined, but I have applied this process for several years. To use your metaphor, I certainly do not bat 1.000. I couldn't tell you for sure how well I bat, but I'd guess up around .7 (I won't dignify it with 3 decimal places since it could be .6). But I am quietly confident that I bat much better these days than I used to.

I never bring home concrete blocks; the ones I bring home taste from ok to excellent.

On the subject of HeliOS, I probably could not be further from Central Texas. Your project captures my imagination, but at this distance I can only offer moral support.

I have some ideas related to picking candidates for Linux conversion, based on points raised in your article. I realise that I do not have a complete understanding of the environment in which you find yourself, but I respectfully offer these as possibly useful, perhaps with some adaptation.

We all have an investment in what we know. You said it yourself: "People get used to doing things one way." I'm writing this on a new platform (second-hand hardware). I got fed up with Fedora when I discovered that F10 needed a minimum of 512MB of RAM. I have a Redhat 8 firewall which until recently was running just fine on a 24MB Pentium 1 100. So I've installed FreeBSD. My /History file indicates that I started installing 17 January 2010. While I was building I still had my old Fedora machine. Eventually (16 March 2010), I decided to bite the bullet and move to FreeBSD.

But I'm stilling running my old Fedora machine. I've got at least a dozen xterm sessions SSHed into it. I keep discovering things I want to be able to do, things I can do on the Fedora box that I can't yet do on my FreeBSD box. Gradually I am installing the software I need.

And, boy, am I glad that I had the safety net. Recently, I rebooted my FreeBSD machine because I'd installed quite a lot of software and I wanted to be sure it would still work after a reboot - and it didn't! In the event, it was only off the air for a day. But I know that from the perspective of today looking backwards. Faced with a machine hung somewhere in the boot process, my first reaction was panic. And terror.

Further, without the ability to fallback to my other machine, I would not have been able to get onto the forums which eventually gave me a pointer about how to work around my problem.

Perhaps some of the prospects for conversion to Linux need the safety net of being able to go back to the familiar environment of Windows until they can be weaned off.

It may be stating the obvious, but someone who has a computer, no matter how bad the performance, has more at stake than someone who has no computer at all. I suspect that the latter would accept any computer running anything. The former usually needs a stronger reason to make the switch.

I do not know if any of these ideas are logistically possible. But, FWIW, here are some suggestions.

For some, perhaps the loan of a computer running Linux would be enough. For others, perhaps the possibility of coming to somewhere where there are some computers available for short-term use, like in a library or drop-in centre, might help spread the word. Is it possible to install one or two of your computers, loaded with Linux, in a local library? Of course you'd need some signage to explain things.

For those who are reluctant to boot off a Linux CD (like your stay-at-home mom), could they be tempted to install VNC? I'm thinking a special VNC configured to connect to a vncserver running on one of your organisation's computers. That could actually solve another problem. Depending on user requirements, it might be possible to provide some users with less grunty machines (think thin client) if all they do is VNC to a gruntier machine to do the actual work.

I provide a "solution" like this to my wife. She runs Windows 98 and refuses to change. She can no longer read some PDFs because I am unable to find a free PDF reader that handles the latest PDFs. So for certain PDFs, I download them and open them in xpdf running in a vncserver.

Perhaps your stay-at-home mom says too much trouble when really she means that she's scared to mess with the BIOS. I can understand that.

Finally, are the machines you provide sufficiently powerful to run virtualisation?

Last year I contracted to IBM. They provided me with a laptop running XP. (I admit this was pretty powerful: 2GB RAM, can't remember how fast, but it would have been late-model). I was ready to ditch XP and install anything *n*x. IBM pretty much agreed, with the proviso that this was my tool for work. It better be usable, or ...? No one actually said or what. But it was enough. I installed VirtualBox and F10 inside that. Now, if I needed something in the XP world I had that. Most of the time I spent in F10.

My preference would have been to run some sort of *n*x; and run XP inside a VirtualBox, but this was nearly as good.

It might work for your prospects.

Despite my suggestions above, I have to say that I do not take the subject of Linux advocacy lightly. I am the only one I know who does not use Windows for his personal machines. I have a large circle of friends and colleagues who work on Unix/Linux/BSD and for whom ease of use is not an issue, but they all have Microsoft on their personal machines. Go figure.

Cheers, Henry

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