Here's a quick update on my wife's computer. As you probably remember, an increasingly kludgy Vista Home Premium install finally irritated us enough that I installed OpenSUSE. The install went fine, but without a lot of fiddling, the Broadcom wireless card just wasn't going to do its thing. My wife, ever the aesthete, just couldn't tolerate the Ethernet cord, so I figured I'd give Fedora a shot. DVD-Rs are cheap, right? Besides, I haven't played with Fedora for quite a while.
Unfortunately, although it looked like all was going well (the fw-cutter software floating around on the Net in fora for folks like me trying to figure out why Broadcom won't open source their drivers installed without a hitch), the wireless never came up. Again, I could have dug in and Googled some time-consuming solution, but my emphasis with Linux has always been to find easy, mainstream, Windows alternatives for the broadest cross-section of users. That means minimal fiddling and maximum working. Don't get me wrong: I'm not averse to fiddling in the name of free (as in both beer and speech), but when it comes down to it, I just want something that satisfies as many requirements as possible out of the box.
It's one thing to fiddle with a computer at home; it's quite another to fiddle with 30 computers in a lab. I briefly flirted with the idea of just giving her Vista Business (an upgrade to Home Premium, at least), but then I couldn't resist pulling out the Ubuntu CD I had used for my oldest son's computer last night. 45 minutes later, Ubuntu was installed and updates were flying down. A quick restart and Ubuntu was telling me that proprietary drivers were available for a Broadcom wireless card. Enable the drivers, restart, and presto! Ubuntu did it again. Everything just worked.
This is why we still use Macs in Ed Tech. Yes, they're a bit pricey, but more often than not, they do precisely what we ask of them with no real fuss. As fellow blogger, Paul Murphy, noted recently,
MacOS X is the no brainer option...[it] mostly just stays out of the way of knowledgeable users. In fact, for many it meets the IT ideal: it works so well, they don’t know it’s there or doing anything to help them - they just click and expect it to work; because, well, it just does.
When Linux can do that too (and Ubuntu brings us pretty close), it makes it ever harder to justify licensing Windows. Now if the educational software vendors can just become platform agnostic, I'll be a happy camper.
For now, the wife should be a happy camper at least, since seat-of-the-pants impressions suggest a real performance boost on her computer, wireless is working sans problems, and mutlimedia support was just a few clicks away. Keep in mind, by the way, that this was all from a beta version of Ubuntu 8.10.
See update: It’s official - my wife likes Ubuntu, too