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Sunday, May 02, 2004

I gave my aunt Gentoo

Converting the Non-Savvy



About a week ago, my aunt had some problems with her computer. Windows 2000, 4GiB hard drive (amazingly, 4.00GiB, not 4.00GB), lots of ram. It was loaded with spyware, including a popup blocker/antivirus malware program (a well designed trojan). On top of that, the hard drive was 80% full, and 79% fragmented files, some with hundreds of thousands of fragments. So I did what anyone stuck with Windows would do: ran ad-aware to dump all the spyware, and defragmented the hard drive. That. . . kind of fixed it.

Anyway, she asked me if all that was stuff I did at my house, and i took the opportunity to point out that I don't use Windows. So we got into a little conversation about Linux, and she started asking what it was. I tried to explain it out, and told her that it'd be easier to show her than to try and explain it, and easiest if she had a spare machine.

. . . ever meet someone who knows nothing about computers but just happens to have 1Ghz pentium 3's lying around in odd places? They're out there, it's scary.

So I borrowed it for a week. It had 256M of ram and a 20GB hard disk. I put 8GB on /, 2GB on swap, and 10GB on /data. / and /data are reiserfs. I set it up with gentoo-dev-sources, supermount and all; and ~x86 Gentoo. It took a week, yes. A LONG ASS TIME.

I equipped that computer with AbiWord, Gnumeric, Gnome2, KDE 3.2.2, XFCE4, Mozilla Firebird, gDesklets, X-Chat 2, abcde, vorbis tools, Anjuta, XMMS, GnomeMeeting, Gaim, Gimp 2.0.1, and xorg-x11. I gave it back to her and showed her the ropes.

First, I showed her how to use LeftCtrl+LAlt+F* to switch terminals. I then explained that GDM starts three (3) displays, and that it invariably leaves itself on the last. These three are on L[C-A]-F[7-9], and so the display automatically starts on TTY9. She grasped these concepts with relative ease; there were no questions, and she absorbed it quite easily.

While she was off doing other things, I quickly set up Gnome2 with the Crux theme, 8x2 virtual desktops, and the alien-night wallpaper from KDE; and turned off spatial browsing on Nautius. Then I put the GoodWeather and LTVariations CPU, Memory, and Disk monitor desklets on her desktop, and set up GoodWeather for her area. When she came back, I explained that the GoodWeather desklet would constantly get current weather conditions from the net every 10 minutes. She thought that was cool. :) I then showed her the virtual desktops, one of which was running Mozilla Firebird. She thought that was cool as well. She says 'cool' a lot. :/

Next, I walked her through Webmin's user adding process. She grasped the process with ease. It gave me an opportunity to explain the DAC system as well; it set the wrong perms (755) on the new user's home directory. So I used chmod -R to change those, and then explained why I set them the way I did. I then showed her her own home directory permissions in Nautilus' properties window, and explained what each meant. Then I showed her how the DAC would block access to her folder from the new user's login, and vice versa. After she had grasped that (it only took one run through the explaination), I explained the further implications of the DAC: since the entire core system is only writable by root, viruses and trojans have no way to spread; and stupid users can't screw with your system. She liked that. :)

I didn't show her how to shut it down, but she said not to worry about it because she never turns 'em off anyway. For now, she seems to grasp the DAC, the switching between display managers, and virtual desktops pretty easily. Once she's got the net up, I'll show her how to turn on DHCP for her adaptor, update her portage tree, and upgrade everything. In the mean time, she said she'd just mess with it (hey, there's menus there) and see what it can do.

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