An Ubuntu Linux Experiment

Earlier this year, I had the privilege of teaching a basic computer course to 2 classes at a local career training place. The first class was really great as I had a group of students who wanted to learn skills to better themselves and their career choices.

The only downside was that the IT guy for the company had unfortunately ordered a mixed batch of Lenovo and a couple of Acer laptops – all running Vista. To make matters worse, the Acer’s were only running 512MB of RAM, which made Vista perform unbelievably slow. All the laptops had trial versions of MS Office, and the class was centered around office-type application skills. This was done prior to my arrival so I was left to deal with the situation as best that I could. We installed and used Google Docs extensively.

There were plenty of other issues including bandwidth problems at the facility, spyware (no Vista is not safe), and a host of other technical issues. Of course, it is normal for these types of things to happen; however, the worst part was that it was and still is frustrating to the students. They just want the technology to work.

Unfortunately, after the 2nd class, my business schedule just wouldn’t let me commit the time needed to make the classes exceptional. I was left with no choice but to inform the owner that my training days were over. I offered my skills for IT support as needed though.

So what does this have to do with Ubuntu and Linux?

A couple of weeks ago, one of the students called me. Her Lenovo laptop had crashed and Lenovo’s support was not up to par. They basically sent her the laptop back with a set of restore DVD’s (the originals were lost) and informed her that her hard drive was possibly failing. To make matters worse, the recovery application from the DVD’s just wouldn’t work. This meant that she would be without her laptop for at least 2 weeks – not acceptable.

I was immediately able to get her laptop to boot up to an Ubuntu LiveCD and see her hard drive – it certainly wasn’t failing. However, there was a serious issue with some system files or whatever that was causing Vista to endless reboot. After discussing the situation with her, I suggested that she try Linux.

Most of what she does on the laptop is web-based. She doesn’t rely on any Windows-only applications and right now neither does the classes she is taking – most of which revolve around meetings anyway. I installed Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron.

Within about 90 minutes, we had Ubuntu running, wifi working, Skype installed for voip, and of course for an office suite. We setup audio playing and CD ripping software using Juicer and Rhythm. In the future, she wants to install Limewire for “independent” music, and we need to install Gyachi for Yahoo voice and video chat.

According to her, the other students want Linux. The training company owner wants her to go back to Vista and appears to be upset over change, but she refuses. This is an average computer user that wants a smooth-running system. Linux just works.

2 weeks later – She loves it. Period. Her friends love it. She doesn’t miss Windows and hates Vista. Now that is a good experiment!