My kid hates Linux

My kid hates Linux

Summary: This one irritated quite a few folks, so I figured it was worth a repost while I'm on vacation. Enjoy!


This one irritated quite a few folks, so I figured it was worth a repost while I'm on vacation. Enjoy!

My oldest son is a fairly typical 15 year-old end user. He's on the computer all the time, has a decent idea how to get things done, and is largely not interested in the inner workings of hardware or operating system. He, like most other users, just wants the computer to work.

This isn't actually a bad expectation. We don't usually expect our computers not to work, do we? Unfortunately for him, he recently inherited my tinkering machine. It's a beast in every sense of the word: 17" screen, big hard drive, Core 2 Duo, 2GB of RAM, and all the usual multimedia goodies. It's also running 64-bit Ubuntu with XP in a virtual machine.

As I said, this was my tinkering computer, the laptop I used to install various operating systems, bits of software, test configurations, etc., such that by the time I received my Mac and passed it on to my son, I really should have done a clean system install. I also should have dumped the 64-bit operating system since, while it screamed for the sorts of computation I was doing (go 64-bit Maple!), Shockwave and Flash still require too many hacks and don't work universally.

For my purposes, the Flash support I had running the 32-bit Swiftweasel browser was more than adequate. For a kid who wanders the Web looking for fun Flash games, the 64-bit user experience left something to be desired.

So where do you think he spends most of his time? That's right, in the VirtualBox Windows XP virtual machine. The other day he asked if I could just (GASP!) install XP on the laptop and get rid of Linux because "Linux sucks." I thought about grounding him and taking away Internet privileges until he had completed some significant open source coding project, but realized that his initial experiences with his new (to him) computer had defined his view of Linux in general.

He didn't remember the two aging Linux computers he had used for Internet access and typing term papers that used to live in our basement. They were 32-bit Mandriva and Edubuntu installs that met his needs perfectly at the time. All he knows is that his current computer running Linux doesn't meet his needs.

So what's the moral of the story here? Don't even think about rolling out Linux for your users until you're sure it will meet their needs. Test it with groups of users, avoid 64-bit distros (for now) with your mainstream users, and provide plenty of training. As many of us know (even the Windows fanboys know it), Linux can meet the needs of those mainstream users quite handily and on the cheap. However, most of us also know (even if the Linux fanboys won't admit it), how easy it is to kill time tweaking and fiddling with a Linux box, getting it running juuuuust right. This is not something that those average users have any desire to do. For them, it needs to be placed on their desks and it needs to work.

As we know, first impressions are lasting impressions. Don't let your users' first impressions be that Linux doesn't work. Get the deployment right before it appears on their desktops and many won't even notice the difference (unless they were using Vista; then they might thank you). I've convinced my kid to give it another shot when I do a clean install of 32-bit Ubuntu 8.04 as soon as it comes out. I'll report back on his impressions.

Topics: Hardware, CXO, Linux, Open Source, Operating Systems, Processors, Software

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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  • My own kids (15 and 16)

    I felt some unholy glee while reading your blog.... :-)

    Fortunately I have taken care of a smooth experience for my own two kids (15 and 16), whose PC's I transferred over to 32-bit Ubuntu Linux more than a year ago. I haven't heard any complaints, although the eldest has no interest at all in computers.

    Come to think of it: just one complaint, from the eldest: she is afraid to tell at school that her PC runs Linux, for fear of being considered a geek..... :-)

    What helped at the time of the OS change, was that they didn't have internet access yet at their own computers. I told them that I considered Windows to be too vulnerable for internet access, so it was up to them: either Windows without internet, or Linux with internet. Their decision was made in seconds!

    But your son will certainly change his mind. Kids are very flexible, and when confronted with a smooth Linux experience he will simply love it.

    Greetz, Pjotr.
    • Good strategy,

      go Pjotr!
    • All kids are immature

      That's how it works ;-)
      • So are most adults from my experience

        • hear, hear

          Most people never graduate from the eighth grade. Emotionally, intellectually or any other ally you can name.
        • Including the the one above making the comment...nt

          but he's fun to read - you should see his Mum.
          • Putting ...nt and then going ahead and typing text...

            what grade did you finish.
      • pot calling the kettle black?

        have yet to see a mature post from you.
        • now that's mature...[NT]

          • Actually he's right...nt

    • With Vista ...

      ... your security concerns regarding Internet access go away. Besides, the real threat regarding the Internet is not from attack (any cheap router will take care of that problem) - its from children being drawn in by predators on social networking sites. Linux buys you nothing there.

      You got no complaints because you gave them what they wanted -- Internet access beyond the view of mom & dad. Until they run into a roadblock (because there is something that they cannot do with Linux that they want to do - and can do with Windows), oyu will get no complaints.
      M Wagner
      • Not Vista, and no predators

        They haven't encountered any roadblocks in over a year. They have to use Windows Vista and Windows XP machines at school, and they dislike them for being so slow (both in boot time and in starting up applications). With hardware specs that exceed those of their own machines at home...

        As to predators: they have been warned and instructed. Furthermore, they know that I periodically check their browsing history. Wiping the history is no option for them, because that would mean that I would pull the plug on their internet access.

        Greetz, Pjotr.
        • Xp runs rings arround Linux.

          Especially when it comes to boot up!
          • Good thing

            Since you have to boot XP a lot. Actually, that's not fair. It only has to be rebooted every Tuesday or so. Ha!
            Adam S
          • thats funny... if you are

            an ignorant idiot. its been years since ive had a crash on my xp machine, and my vista machine thats been running it since launch has yet to experience one.

            linux is fine assuming someone doesnt tinker with the wrong things and fubar it. but you can stop throwing the "lolz crashes nonstop!" stupidity around now. its been inaccurate and become a groaner for years now. seriously, it gets non ignorant people groaning everytime you say that.
          • Funny, not my experiance

            I have a lot of different computers. I use them for lots of different things and yes my Windows 2000 box has not been rebooted except for installing new patches in 3 years. But my Windows XP box, I can crash it at will if I want. Just fire up the right app with the wrong document (and the app is of course MS Word) and BSOD, every time.
            I have colleagues that crash up to 3 times a day, every day.
            We are just sick and tired of Windows crashing.
            Vista, please, if XP crashes like this with SP2 then Vista without an SP or with SP1 will not be as stable and the people I know who have it ask me how to stop it from crashing. (pull the plug from the wall and don't start the system works best.)
            Now Linux is a bit better, but for real performance and no crashes use Solaris (Or OS/2 :-)
          • I don't consider myself to be an ignorant idiot

            I reboot my kid's XP system daily. Mostly because it gets turned OFF when not in use. Same with my router.

            Doesn't matter if you have the world's greatest firewall and anti-malware applications, and change your 12 unique character password every time you log in. If you leave your system on all the time, it's available for attacks.

            Sure, they may never get in, but they know you're there; and if you're interested, you can even hear them knocking on your virtual doors as they prowl around your home looking for a way in.

            But a system with no power to it at all is just as invisible to the Internet as a system that isn't connected. So I never have to worry about being zombiefied when I'm not there.
          • bleh missed the point i think

            when they mention "reboots" they mean when they are forced to reboot due to crashes or whatnot. not someone turning the machine off when they are done.

            as for sysop, i really have no idea why you are having issues with XP, especially if you have it patched up. and seriously, the only thing i do to avoid problems is not download software from places i dont know and trust.

            it really is that simple. and its not even a "windows" problem. if you are downloading crap from places that you dont know or trust, you can cause problems for any os you are running.

            my vista install actually doesnt even have sp1 on it yet, since i have a bunch of language packs installed that prevent the current sp1 from installing. actually the full sp1 version should be out soon now that i think of it.
          • You missed the clue

            The last two patch Tuesdays have required a reboot. This is not uncommon. Shadetree said that XP excels at booting up. I was just agreeing that that was a strong point since installing patches require a reboot quite often. I didn't say that XP crashed. I have a lot of XP machines running that don't crash. That's great. But when I have a lab in the middle of testing and XP wants to reboot, I appreciate it when it is done quickly.

            And I didn't mention Linux in my post. You might be caught up in the heat of the discussion. But for what its worth, my experience has been that Linux patches get installed without much interuption compared to XP. Yes, Linux crashes. All OS's do for one reason or another. The only computer that doesn't is one that you don't fiddle with.
            Adam S
          • Crappy nVidia Drivers ....

            ..... put me through hell,

            Can Ya Say BSOD .... I Knew You Could =)

            along with CA eTrust Conflicting with my Sound Blaster software .....

            ultimately I replaced eTrust and my older SB for AVG and an XFI SB .... but leaving off the buggy 500mb extra crapware and just going with the basics APPs and Drivers ...