dcsimg

Elderly Ubuntu User Says Books Far Better than Forums

If you need Ubuntu help, pick up a “how to” book instead of surfing a forum, says a 75-year-old first time Ubuntu user.
[Editor’s note: in a recent article about Ubuntu, Linux guru Carla Schroder -- author of the Linux Cookbook -- noted that she had never met anyone who bought a “how to” book for their PC – though she recommended it. A Datamation reader wrote to respond.]

Dear Ms. Schroder,

In your article Linux for Newbies, you wondered who actually buys and uses computer books. Well, I do, and I’d be in bad shape without them! I don’t fit the profile of Incipient Geek. I'm 75 years old, and the last time I had more to do with a computer than emailing and surfing was in 1960, when I had to write some Fortran programs as a grad student.

About a year ago I read something about Linux by an author who had a fine and sophisticated sense of humor, and it occurred to me that if someone like that was a proponent of Linux, there must be something interesting about it that I might like.

I started – as any former academic would – with books: Ubuntu For Dummies (Paul Sery), Introducing Ubuntu (Brian Proffitt), Beginning Ubuntu Linux (Keir Thomas). I ran a couple of the live CD’s, which showed me an interesting new desktop, but of course they ran VERY slowly on my little old Compaq.

I also looked into some of the Help forums, but the endless accounts of unexpected crash and burn from people who seemed to know computers far better than I totally discouraged any notion I might have had of dual booting Linux with Windows on my only computer. You see, the forums are to offer help, so they are all about problems that can occur.

A few weeks ago a relative offered me an old eMachines with no operating system on it (she had had it professionally “wiped,” she said). I had no idea how – or even whether – a computer in such a condition could be reanimated, but I cheerfully accepted the gift. I figured that even the dumbest things I did on that box could leave me no worse off than when I started.

First I armed myself with what looked to me like the most authoritative book on the subject: A Practical Guide to Ubuntu Linux, by Mark Sobell. I was blissfully unaware it was intended for folks setting up and administrating servers, but it certainly went right to the nitty-gritty of Ubuntu for somewhat over 1,000 pages.

I was pleased to see that the machine woke up and ran a live CD of Ubuntu 8.10, so I tried the installation. It went smoothly for a while, but suddenly the screen went blank. I didn’t know that was just because the disk wasn’t saying anything to the monitor at the time, so I panicked and did a hard stop. (Shows you how clueless I am about this stuff!)

I was about to conclude the whole thing was far beyond my abilities, but since the machine had cost me nothing, I decided to try again.

It worked! Eventually (the box has only 384MB available memory) I had an operating system up and running! I played with it for a while, trying to decide on a type font that was small enough to get decent word count per page yet was easy on my elderly eyes. I tried to reset the screen resolution and – pow – diagonal lines, no response from mouse or keyboard, another hard stop.

I figured I must have created some problem when I aborted the first installation. On the second install, the ubiquity partitioner had indicated there was a 5.4GB partition already on the drive and it put the new version in the remaining space.

Could that have created problems? I decided to take my life in my hands and do a text mode install (me, the ultimate non-geek!), setting up my own idea of what partitions should look like.

I read Mr. Sobell’s instructions for doing that (read them at least 8 or 9 times!), took a deep breath, and went at it. WOW! In a lot less time than the other attempts had taken, I had a solid Ubuntu 8.10 desktop up and running with two primary partitions (/ and /home) and a great big extended partition where swap and /usr now live and there’s room for lots more company.

My point is this: a book is a more reliable source of answers than a forum or a Help icon – a book doesn’t go black unexpectedly, it doesn’t time-out a session, it doesn’t flame you as a clueless newbie when you ask a dumb question, and above all, the best of them give you a ”why” to do something as well as a “what”. An old gaffer like me wouldn’t stand a chance of gaining any geek creds without BOOKS!

Emery




Tags: Linux, Ubuntu, servers, desktop


0 Comments (click to add your comment)
Comment and Contribute

 


(Maximum characters: 1200). You have characters left.

 

 

IT Management Daily
Don't miss an article. Subscribe to our newsletter below.

By submitting your information, you agree that datamation.com may send you Datamation offers via email, phone and text message, as well as email offers about other products and services that Datamation believes may be of interest to you. Datamation will process your information in accordance with the Quinstreet Privacy Policy.





×
We have made updates to our Privacy Policy to reflect the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation.