Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Minting the Girlfriend

A few weeks back the girl I have been dating for awhile now had idly made a complaint about her laptop being poky at certain tasks. I'd used the thing once or twice to check my email and recalled it was running Vista - no surprise there. I like this girl a lot and figured it was time to take that next step in our relationship:

I offered to put Linux on her laptop.

She had used my many computers which all run various forms of Linux several times and was open to the idea. After reassuring her that none of her data was going to be lost by installing Linux and in fact I would even leave Vista on the computer should she want to go back to it, she was ready to let me get Linux installing on her laptop. Thankfully she had a 320gig hard drive in the system, most of which was unused, so I was able to give Linux 80gigs to reside on.

For a long time I have always installed Ubuntu on friend's computers who where interested in moving away from Windows, however as I recently stated I now feel Linux Mint is better suited for this situation. Thankfully I keep a 1gig flash drive in my laptop bag that boots a Linux Mint LiveCD (Created using unetbootin - if you have never installed from a flash drive before I highly recommend it, much faster than installing from a disc). Around half an hour later I had the operating system fully updated and installed. I spent another five minutes creating a mount point and fstab entry for her Windows partition. And lastly for the sake of easiness I created symlinks in her /home directory so she could easily access her pictures/documents/music stored on the Windows partition.

Then came that fateful question: What about Microsoft Office?

Personally I had grown up using Office 03 for a short bit and then mostly OpenOffice.org, so when I made the move to Linux just having OpenOffice on my own systems was fine for myself. She was used to the ribbon setup of Office 07 though, beyond that she also had all of her calender dates residing in Outlook and she used OneNote a few times a week. The solution?

Thanks to this wonderful GUI front end for the Wine Project, Office 07 can be installed under Linux just as easily as on Windows. In fact, after I had installed Crossover on the system and she saw the GUI she took the computer from me and installed Office 07 herself because "anyone can follow an installation wizard". Which is very true, the point of the Crossover products is that you don't need to be a Linux Guru or even a computer tech to install Windows software on Linux and it does a fantastic job to this end.

Was the move to Linux successful for her? More than three weeks later and I can say with confidence:

Yes it was.

Is Vista gone from her laptop? Not yet, but maybe someday (Move Media Player not installing on Linux or through Wine is the last hangup). She is booted in Mint more often than not and has found her way around the Ubuntu Software Center to install Frostwire (among other things). She also used the Linux answer machine to hunt down the driver for her Cannon MP190 printer when it was not auto-found by the printer installer on Mint.

All in all I must say though, the best part about installing Mint on her laptop is that now when I use it to check my email I no longer have to use Vista :)

~Jeff Hoogland


  1. Webcam support. How did that go?

    I did the smae with my neighbour and she wants Windows 7 on it again because Linux Mint won't work with her laptop.

  2. not Vista, but it sounds like you're still using Gnome. To check EMail, I guess that wouldn't be overly painful... ;)

  3. Did you succeed in taking your relationship to the next step?

  4. I bet she loves the fact that your title refers to her as "The Girlfriend."

  5. Lol, I figured that was the best way to do it without posting her name on my blog.

  6. When I write about my wife, I refer to her as "my wife," not "the wife."

    "The girlfriend" sounds like she's just a stick of furniture in your life.

  7. I've been through this... and we have been using GNU/Linux since.

    Webcam - we use tokbox.com/google-chromium for video conferencing

    Movies - mplayer and vlc

    As for watching content that requires movenetworks player, we use flash-based hulu.com instead. FOX/ABC are movenetworks, but their shows are also on hulu.com, which works great with Linux - there's even a hulu player for Linux. What's the move networks using company that you're having a problem with? I'd be glad to send them my "encouraging" comments.

    One time my wife was taking an online CPR class and they had said that windows was required.. what was funny though is that once we went to the site - turns out it was using Java (open source software) and worked just fine on GNU/Linux.

    Other than that, my wife actually really likes using GNU/Linux because it's fast... she tells her friends about it all the time.

  8. @Shannon The culprit is "cwtv.com" they do not actually post their videos on hulu.com but link back to their own website where move player is required :(

  9. @Jeff - I sent cwtv feedback.. I see what you're saying about http://www.hulu.com/search?query=the+vampire+diaries

    We were having this same issue with abc.com and fox.com shows, particularly daytime soaps - and they showed as "watch at abc" on hulu for a time, and then after a few months of complaints - now they are ported over to hulu.com. Shows like "lost", "general hospital", "all my children", "one life to live".

    I had launched a mini-revolution on digg.com trying to get these soaps off the move player.. I even wrote my congressman because the DNCC was using the movenetworks player for speeches from politicians, which should be open and accessible to anyone on the Internet.

    I had even been in contact with an engineer at movenetworks and he unofficially "assured" me that their player was being ported to GNU/Linux. The problem is that they've been saying that for over a year in a half! I also did some research and found out that movenetworks is funded by microsoft... not that I'm saying that has anything to do with the player not working on Linux or anything....

    Well, as for us, we finally got what we wanted!

    Now for cwtv.com. (insert diabolical laugh here) /cue the crapstorm

  10. Well crafted letters can go to network contacts at:

    e.g., There is an email link there for contacting the CEO of cwtv.com (Dawn Ostroff).

    I think I'll take this opportunity to email all of them.

  11. Here's the applicable portion of the canned response to my feedback email to hulu.com:

    To request specific shows or movies, you may post your suggestions on Hulu's Content Request discussions board, available here: http://www.hulu.com/discussions/6. While we cannot answer every request, we do read and note all of them.

  12. Hey Jeff, did you use Crossover, or Wine? Btw, congrats on getting your girlfriend to use linux. Although personally, I would have used Ubuntu instead.

  13. Jeff,

    I thought about moving to Mint and relented. Mint really has no right to distribute proprietary packages to end users. To resolve this problem, I created BleedingEdge. http://sourceforge.net/projects/bleedingedge/ It allows the user to easily install all of the lovely crap that Ubuntu can't ship due to licensing issues.


    Paul Fedele

  14. @Wolfen69 I used Crossover, Office07 takes a bit of tinkering to get working under Vanilla Wine and I have a Crossover license so I just used that :)

    @Paul If you are going to install all that extra stuff anyways why not just save yourself the download/install time and use Mint? To each their own though, choice is the wonderful thing about FOSS :)

  15. You might want to reconsider the choice of Linux Mint in the future. It's not much more than Ubuntu remixed with extra codecs. Plus the fact that the creator uses a default search page for firefox that goes to a google account and any money made from that plus donations to them go to Hamas, a terrorist organization.

    Google it for yourself.

    You could have done just as well picking Ubuntu Studio plus Ubuntu-Tweak for extras.

  16. The ignorant comment about Linux Mint's connections to "terrorist organizations" is, of course, not true. Indeed, "Google it for yourself." And get an education while you're at it.

  17. Heh. I just did the same thing for my girlfriend (for the second time). Started with Kubuntu Karmic, but Ubuntu's KDE4 packages suck the fat one and it was unstable at times. Sucks, since KDE's apps are badass. Installed vanilla Karmic, which she seems to like a lot better. Dropped in the extra codecs from MediBuntu, installed Office 07 with the vanilla wine, and let her at it.

    So far, everything works well, although I had to to more tweaking for her specific stuff than with K. She uses a Juniper/SSL based VPN for school, which I got set up, and a shared drive at school - this makes me want to punch a baby, as it uses ONLY NTLMv2 auth, which for some reason isn't on by efault in Samba/GnomeVFS.

    Begin rant: GNOME devs really need to add a toggle somewhere in the control center to easily enable NTLMv2 authentication from the client in the GNOME VFS/SMB. One click in the KDE CC and it worked, but GNOME had to be a punk about it. Got it fixed with some minor hax and a lot of Google-Fu, but still. Sheesh.

    Regardless, I'm one step closer to not having to listen to "RAWR! MY COMPUTER IS SLOOOOWWWWWW" every three hours.

  18. Here's a breakthrough... After years of "feedback" for abc/fox - they have switched off the movenetworksplayer and have converted to flash. Now you can watch abc and fox full episodes on their respective sites. This is a perfect argument to provide to cwtv for doing the same.

  19. @Jeff,

    what particular show was it that your girlfriend was trying to watch? I'm able to watch smallville, e.g.

    Found it on this page:

    But not melrose place

  20. @Shannon Thanks for the info! I think the main one she was interested in was "One Tree Hill" which is indeed on hulu now... :)

    But seriously, if hulu can stream media via flash there is zero reason all the other companies can't do like wise.

  21. Erp. Looks like I spoke too soon, Hulu only has season 1 of "One Tree Hill" so annoying.

  22. @Jeff,

    there's been another major breakthrough... but not for cwtv just yet, unfortunately.

    For a long time(perhaps a year or more), I've been sending my "constructive comments"(via the feedback button) to abc and fox about their Full Episodes not working with Linux. The first breakthrough was that they started porting their shows to hulu.com.

    But now, ABC and Fox full episodes work perfectly on Linux at their native sites. It was really funny how I came to find out.. I was having one of those "Why the hell doesn't abc/fox let me watch without movenetworks on Linux" conversations with a colleague of mine (mac user), and then I went to the site to show him, and instead of the familiar message of "you need win/mac", the episode magically started playing. So it blew up my conversation point at the time, but then I was like "Yes!", then I started doing a happy dance right there at my workstation. My colleague is standing there saying WTF? Then I went and checked Fox and same thing.

    So there's proof, just keep the Feedback turned up.. eventually you get what you want.

    I'll become a regular visitor of cwtv.com now.. lol Oh and also, I tried sending an email to the cwtv CEO(Dawn Ostroff) via the link I posted before and it bounced... dern.


  23. Very good to know! I bounce to their website every once in awhile as well just to increase their traffic from *nix based systems. I also sent them a detailed message to their customer service :)

  24. @Jeff,
    I went to CWTV.com today and One Tree Hill, and other shows, are working! So I guess after providing them some feedback, they listened. I had written a quick blog about it before (http://www.humans-enabled.com/2010/04/abc-and-fox-full-episodes-now-linux.html ). Guess I'll need to update my entry.

    Check it out for yourself:


  25. This is fantastic news Shannon! Thanks for the update - http://jeffhoogland.blogspot.com/2010/08/cwtv-adds-support-for-streaming-to.html

  26. I've been married for 5 years and I still have yet to convert my wife from Windows XP to Linux (yes, she's still using XP LOL)

  27. you can use playonlinux to install office 07 for free

  28. I carry a live usb of bodhi every were so i NEVER!!!! have to vista :)