FOSS: A Linux Conversion

My friend Jerry is 70+ years young. Jerry has also been a client of mine on and off over the past several years for on-site support calls at his home office. Recently he was telling me how his aging Dell Dimension 2400 with Windows XP was running so very slow it was frustrating. We all know the story, the Microsoft OS was suffering from crud creep after several years of use. A cleanup and/or reinstall was needed to get it back to running faster. The other option is a new PC. Jerry is on a fixed income and cannot afford to replace the PC with a new one running “Microsoft Latest OS!” at this time. I talked with Jerry about his options, and he decided to give Linux a shot on this old Dell.

The system has 768 MB RAM and a 30 GB hard drive. The CPU is a single core CPU and “not fast”, but decent enough for a modest Linux install. I went over to Jerry’s home and backed up his Firefox bookmarks and his files in the Microsoft “My Documents” directory. These were placed on my 16 GB USB flash drive. Then the system was installed with Mageia Linux, online sources were added and all updates were applied. I did this for Jerry while he sat in and watched. I also set up his system with LXDE at first. Jerry saw that it looked like “Windows 95” and wanted something different. I know heavy GUIs like KDE 4 or Gnome 3 are out of the question unless one does a lot of tweaking to strip those down for a low resource PC. So, I installed Xfce4. He liked that much better, I am glad to say.

Jerry had already been using LibreOffice on Windows XP, so his documents restored from backup “just worked” when I opened them in the new LibreOffice install on his “new” Linux desktop. Jerry’s e-mail is web based through Yahoo! Mail, and that “just worked” too when I showed him where to find Firefox to get to the web. His printers and scanner were set up and “just worked” too. He now can use Xsane to scan his documents and can print what he needs to print.

I showed Jerry the ‘root’ access to “Mageia Control Center” and to “Install & Remove Software”. I explained privilege separation and how one uses ‘root’ only for administration tasks such as installing and removing software. Jerry had no problem understanding this concept. However, Jerry did not like having to login to his desktop every time he started the PC. So, I set up “auto-login” for his account and that was exactly what he wanted.

Now Jerry has a PC that is running “faster” than it was with the old, aged Windows XP install. It is also a modern OS and will serve his needs until the PC finally quits working. His only wish so far is for a plain old Solitaire card game. I guess I need to find him one.


Published by

Gene A.

Gene is a "Unix Guy", network technologist, system trouble-shooter and IT generalist with over 20 years experience in the SOHO and SMB markets. He is familiar with and conversant in eComStation (a.k.a. OS/2), DOS (PC, MS and Free), Unix, Linux and those GUI based systems from Microsoft. Gene is also a follower of Jesus (forgiven, not perfect), and this does inform his world view.

6 thoughts on “FOSS: A Linux Conversion”

  1. Ace Of Penguins comes to mind. There are several GUI card suits for Linux, I’m sure you’ll find one that he likes.

    Two weeks ago I had a story much like this one. An Asus EeePC which was getting more and more errors and disk checks, etc etc etc, from its WinXP install.

    After using a thumb drive as you did to save the user’s files, I installed Debian (since the disk on the EeePC is 170GB there was no reason not to) and set up Xfce just as you did. The owner is very happy with it, and it is much “faster” for them.

    With the crashing economy, such useful and expedient uses of perfectly good hardware will only become more common. Linux to the rescue!

    As an aside, the Linux install is actually far more useful than WinXP was, due to vlc being a much more flexible media player than Microsoft’s.

    1. Hello Bob,

      Thanks for the comment. I appreciate your anecdote about your similar experience. I do need to point out that VLC is also available for those Microsoft systems. 😉


  2. Very nice story, one that repeats: GNU/Linux saving people and PCs from getting useless!
    Mageia is a very nice distribution (although I don1t use it, I know it). Ans XFCE is mode mature now, and being a perfect half way in terms of resources, needs and beauty between the “grand” KDE and the smaller brothers like OpenBox.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Follow the directions below to post a comment if you are human. After 3 failed tries reload the page to start with new images.