Becoming a completely Linux household

Tux That’s something I’ve been wanting to happen for a while. Until recently, we were 2/3 the way there – with the laptops and mobile devices that my daughter and I use all running Linux or Android. But I finally got my wish of living in a completely Linux household a few weeks ago, all thanks to my wife’s laptop.

It all started one Saturday morning when my wife wanted to scan some documents. Her laptop went into rather scary boot-shutdown loop, and the hard drive started clicking. This had happened a few months ago, and as it turned out the particular model of hard drive used in her laptop (which the manufacturer replaced) is one that’s prone to failure.

So, our choices were either to send the laptop back to manufacturer and get another dud drive (and hope that we got the computer back before we moved overseas), or get a new drive and install it ourselves. We went to latter route – I had to hold my nose and purchase the drive from a retailer that I don’t particularly like. But it took under 10 minutes to remove the old drive and install the new one.

But the question of operating systems reared its head. My wife’s laptop ran Windows 7, and there are a few pieces of software that she uses for which there are no Linux or free/Open Source equivalents. On the other hand, we didn’t have any Windows 7 installation CDs (or are they DVDs now?).

After some deliberation, my wife said To hell with it, install Linux. I duly downloaded an ISO for Linux Mint 13, created a bootable flash drive, and installed it. Overall, things went well. It took my wife a little while to adapt, but making the switch wasn’t as trying as she expected. We did, however, run into two problems.

My wife is a graduate student in East Asian Studies and as part of the research for her thesis she needs to download and read PDFs in Chinese. Evince, the default document viewer on Mint, wasn’t rendering characters. At all. I tried a few workarounds, but eventually had to install Acrobat Reader and its Asian language pack. That solved that problem.

The second problem had to do with software that my wife uses called Wenlin. Supposedly, a Linux version is in the works but there is no ETA. So, my wife installed WINE and used that to run the Windows version of Wenlin. That works, although she can’t play the sound files that go with the application. That’s not a huge deal, though.

This experiment shows that a long-time Windows user can move over to Linux. The transition might not be seamless, but with a little preparation, a little thought, and some adjustment of expectations it can be done. Once the initial teething pains are gone, you’ll find that using Linux becomes just as easy as whatever other operating system you used.

Photo credit: barunpatro

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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  • Douglas Jenkins

    In my family, two sons, grandchildren and one set of in-laws the final count is this: 2 windows only, 3 dual-boot, 7 Linux only (Mint primarily). The age range is 65 – 3 yrs.

  • John

    I switched to linux in 2009. All our laptops and desktops are running linux, Zorin 6.0 lite on the laptops and Mint 13 on the desktop. I help my neighbors with pc problems. They converted to linux and are very pleased. Even got my brother-in-law running linux. He is an IT person and gotten away from Widows and OSX. We have an iMac and it sits idle. I keep thinking of putting linux on the iMac.

  • Scott Nesbitt

    With that age range, it shows you that you don’t need to be an uber geek to use Linux.

  • Scott Nesbitt

    Nice! I’ve been using Peppermint OS on older laptops; my daughter loves it. Never tried Zorin. What are your thoughts about it (good and bad)?

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  • CJ O’Reilly

    About Wenline: I hear there is a way to fix playing the sound files. My problem is input. Did you get it to work with ibus? Or are you using scim?

  • Scott Nesbitt

    According to my wife, it works fine with ibus. She didn’t install scim or any other IME.

    But thanks for the info about the fix for playing sound files. I’ll have to look into that.

  • CJ O’Reilly

    The fix is actually as simple as downloading them, but you have to put them in the Wenline3 folder (even for Wenlin 4).

    Hrm… It really doesn’t work with ibus for me. *shrug*

  • Scott Nesbitt

    Sorry, can’t help you there. Maybe try installing a Chinese IME?

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