Helaine And The Penguin: My Wife’s Linux Laptop

Just a few feet to my left Helaine is sitting with her laptop. I can’t see what she’s doing, but whatever it is she’s doing it without complaint. Her laptop no longer runs Windows. She’s running Ubuntu Linux.

After a few pointed questions I’ve come to the conclusion she doesn’t care. That’s great.

To Helaine Ubuntu and Windows are functionally equivalent. To a hacker or virus planter there’s a huge difference. Their voodoo won’t harm her!

The anticipation of this switchover was more painful than the switch itself. I backed up her critical files, inserted the Ubuntu disk and it just installed. Both the sound and WiFi were recognized and proper drivers installed.

Beyond logging onto our encrypted wireless network there was nothing to do. The laptop just worked on the first try!

That’s not to say there weren’t challenges. The current Linux version of Picasa has a well documented glitch that kept it from running. Of course the well documented glitch wasn’t seen by me until I installed it three times!

Some of what I did wouldn’t be obvious to a new user. That’s a Linux problem, though new Windows installation from scratch would bring some similar concerns.

I understood WINE needed to be installed for a few Windows only programs to run. No problem for me, but it must be frustrating to someone who can’t conceptualize why and just wasn’t expecting it.

Converting Helaine’s email files demanded some scrambling. She’s an Outlook Express user. I set up Thunderbird as her mail client because it’s quite similar.

Unfortunately Thunderbird won’t import Outlook Express files natively. There is a separate command line program that does the conversion. Files then have to be manually renamed. Again, not a big deal, but only if you know you have to do it.

I’m pretty impressed with Thunderbird. I hadn’t configured an email program in a long time, but as soon as I told Thunderbird Helaine’s mail address it went into its database and set all the server parameters automatically. Sweet.

The default Ubuntu look is a little utilitarian and dull. The default type is very small. I reconfigured the fonts and colors and even added Helaine’s desktop background from her Windows machine. It’s a little more finished now.

So far it’s running like a champ. It boots quickly. It’s been stable. All the functionality she wants and needs is there.

By the way, all of this is free! Where have I gone right?

4 Responses to “Helaine And The Penguin: My Wife’s Linux Laptop”

  1. Heather says:

    I was forced to switch to Thunderbird when Outlook Express quit working on my laptop. I would never go back now.

    It was pretty idiotproof setup for me as well, I believe I input my Gmail credentials and it took care of the rest.

  2. Jim says:

    I’ve been using thunderbird since it was called “Netscape Mail” back in the early 90′s. It’s almost exactly the same since then. That’s a marque of a great program. Best is that you can run it on windows and linux, and point it at the same profile. Great for dual boot systems.

  3. Rick in Putnam says:

    Last year, I installed Linux on a laptop. Biggest mistake I ever made. Why? I am inexperienced at linux. Had I known what I was doing, it would have been more pleasant. I’ve read a LOT about Ubuntu and I *really* want to learn it. That present time wasn’t the right time. :)

  4. Mike says:

    I’ve used Ubuntu myself for years, at least the last five releases. It’s fairly flawless, easy to use and secure. Much better than Windows 7 or that mess Vista.

    I my personal laptop is dual booted with Ubuntu and XP. (Unfortunately, there are some Windows programs that will not run under Wine)

    Not having to worry about viruses and malware is great, and the speed at which my five-year-old laptop runs at blows away my wife’s brand-new Windows 7 machine.

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