Sometimes you just have to "bite the bullet" and do what needs to be done, rather than what you would prefer to do, or what you would really like to do. That's what happened to me with my friends' laptop over the weekend.
As I have previously mentioned, a friend contacted me Friday morning with a dead laptop - major graphic hardware problems. This was a system that I had worked on before, so I knew the most likely case was that there would be no saving it this time. So I told her to bring it to me, and I would extract her data and prepare another system for her to use while she decided on a new purchase.
My plan was to prepare my mini-ITX dual Atom 330 desktop system with the latest Ubuntu distribution (10.04, Lucid Lynx). After transfering her documents and data, she would be able to surf the web (Firefox), email (Thunderbird), and work on MS Office documents (OpenOffice.org). From experience I know that loading from scratch, transferring her data, and showing her the high points of using those programs instead of the Windows programs she was accustomed to, would take me about two hours.
After she arrived with the "patient", and I confirmed that it really was dead for good this time, I had a long talk with her about what she used the laptop for, and how important each use was. Although she seemed willing to try the switch to Linux, it became clear to me that there were a couple of very critical things that she had been doing with Windows, and this was not a good time to introduce the confusion of changing to a new operating system and new applications.
I finally decided that the best thing to do, in her interest, was to set her up with Windows XP again. No fooling around with Vistaster or Windows 7, if she was going to have to learn something new, then it might as well be Linux. She is very, very good about keeping all of the original CD/DVD media for the computer and her applications, which made the decision a bit easier. Again, if I was going to have to go digging around for MS Office or whatever, then I might as well install Linux.
I started on it Saturday morning quite early, loading from an XP Professional SP2 DVD. Even with that as a head start, it still took about 6 hours to load Windows and Office, with all updates, and a couple of other applciations. Another hour or so to transfer her documents and data, and setup the configuration for network, email and such. By mid-afternoon I was done, and she was happily on the way home.
It took me about five times as long as it would have if I had set her up with Linux. But she can continue her work now without a lot of new distractions, and she is not under a lot of pressure to select and purchase a replacement system. That's a good thing, because decisions made in haste and under pressure often don't turn out very well. I have also probably saved myself from quite a few "why isn't this working / why can't I do this" kinds of calls in the near future.
I would love to have switched her over to Linux, but there are times when short-term needs and requirements outweight long-term gain. I think this was one of those times. Sigh.