For those of us who use Linux on the Desktop, it’s probably fair to say that we live in interesting times. Having sat on the fence that is Gnome 2, whilst looking on as the relative merits of Gnome Shell, Unity, KDE and XFCE are hotly debated, I was recently given a fresh perspective on this particular debate by the lovely Debbie.
What follows is the story of how Deb converted to Linux, told (for reasons which will become apparent) through the medium of fairytale.
Once Upon A Time
Princess Debbie was having a difficult morning. It had been a rapid promotion. In the previous post, she had been merely the Welsh Ambassador. Elevation to the status of royalty had been, she was told, due to narrative causality – i.e. fairy tale heroines have to be Princesses.
Debbie herself, suspected that her change in station had rather more to do with an unfortunate lapse of memory on the part of the author, resulting in a shortage of Valentine’s cards.
How ever she’d got to this point, Debbie was feeling particularly frustrated. Standing between her and her favourite shoe shopping website was the seemingly ever-present Windows wheel, “spooling”, as she called it, whilst Internet Explorer laboured to load the objects of her affection.
It was whilst gazing around her, wondering if Windows would ever get to the point, that she noticed the Frog. It was gazing back…although not directly at her. It was looking at her computer with, what Debbie judged to be, unusual interest…for a frog at least.
“Well, they say you have to kiss a few frogs”, said Debbie to herself. More in hope than expectation, she scooped up the irate amphibian and bestowed upon it, a royal peck,
There was a puff of smoke….
Debbie was mildly disappointed but not entirely surprised. Standing before her was not the hoped-for handsome prince, come to rescue her from Windows drudgery with a shiny new Mac, but what could best be described as a Geek.
“Not so much handsome as passable in poor light”, thought the Princess. Oh well, now he was here he could make himself useful.
“Is there anything you can do to make this computer go faster ?” she demanded of the Geek, “Windows is driving me mad.”
“You look like you’re pretty well set here, what with living in a palace, have you thought about getting a Mac, you highness ?” he asked.
“Have you any idea how many pairs of shoes I could get for the cost of a Mac ?”, the Princess replied haughtily. Then she sighed, “I had an Apple many years ago. It was my first computer. Unfortunately, Apples in fairy tales always spell trouble for princesses.”
“OK, so Windows is too slow and Mac is too expensive, let’s see if we can find something that’s just right”, said the Geek, getting into the fairytale spirit.
“I know where you’re going with this”, warned Debbie, “and any attempt to compare me to some blonde bimbo with a penchant for house-breaking will have consequences !”
Whose the fairest of them all ?
The Geek knew when not to push his luck. Instead, he wordlessly pulled a bundle of Live CD’s from his pocket ( yes, this being a family fairytale, his transformation from frog to human had left
him fully clothed).
“Right, we’ve got Mint, Ubuntu, Fedora and SUSE. Let’s try them out and see if anything takes your fancy.”
A quick reboot later, the Princess was looking, rather critically, at Mint, complete with the more traditional Gnome 2.3 desktop, the Geek’s personal favourite.
“Too green” was the Royal Proclamation. At a stroke, our raven haired heroine had firmly put the kybosh on any further Goldilocks references.
Ubuntu with Unity
Slightly taken aback at the summary nature of this setback, the Geek was somewhat surprised by the reaction to his next offering.
The Princess was immediately taken by the colour-scheme, having something of an affinity to purple.
Also, she couldn’t help noticing the enticing shopping bag icon on the Unity dock.
“Looks a bit like a Mac”, she said aloud. “We’ll give that one a try”.
At this point it’s worth reflecting upon the difficulty of writing a decent fairytale when the characters insist on ignoring the most basic rules.
In fairytales, things come in threes. Three witches, three little pigs, three wishes … three furry burglary victims. Apparently, this rule does not apply to Linux Distros.
Installing a Happy Ending
So the Geek huffed. And he puffed. And he…dual-booted the machine.
Some finishing touches by Royal Command…the background image was changed to a picture the Princess had taken sometime earlier and quite liked…even though there was a fair amount of green in it.
Clicking on the enticing shopping bag, the next step was to find and download the Ubuntu Restricted Extras package to get access to all those naughty but nice proprietary video and audio codecs.
Next up, he configured Thunderbird to access her web-mail – a task so easy that he didn’t even have to remember the default port for SMTP (25).
Finally, he copied the music library across. Banshee was ready to go.
And the moral of the story…
Simply this. If you want to live happily ever after without shelling out a small fortune for an Apple, give Linux a try. On the evidence of this sample of one, that Mark Shuttleworth knows what he’s doing ( although for my part, I’ll wait for a bit, at least until the Long-Term Support version comes out).
Oh, and if you are going to take the word of a fairytale princess when she says “let’s not bother with Valentine’s Day”, be sure to check out the strength of the Wi-Fi signal in the Garden Shed.