17 May 2012

Kindergarden Linux

I get approached with the classic question "will Fedora X (16 in this case) run on my PC?" Sure, why not, the user has a P4 class computer with enough RAM. Then the next question, equally classic "what should I run, 16 or Ubuntu 11.10? or any other alternative?". My honest answer is as a Fedora contributor I obviously prefer Fedora, but the best distro may depend on the user's needs. Time to learn he does Ruby programming and some internet navigation. Then I guess trying a live image can't hurt and the ultimate choice, as as a desktop user, would be drawn from the desktop environment: Unity/Gnome Shell/KDE/Xfce.

But it seems me saying "contributor" triggered a "last question", "what means being a contributor to Fedora?" and then I expand, talking to various types of contributions, from packaging to programming or administration, drop a link to the join page and so on. After we clear the part about money (Fedora is Free project based on volunteering) I get another one, about the age limit... and learn my interlocutor is 13. Well, he can be a contributor, we had and have other underage contributors, but he has to understand the consequences of using a Free license and his parents must allow it. He things translations may be a good starting point. And may do some design, based on previous experience with Illustrator and Photoshop.

After a short "what is better, Linux or Windows?" (it depends on your needs, freedom versus Diablo III) there is one more issue, the actual install, even if is just running a live image (he prefers CD over USB, despite my arguments for the contrary). So I have to give an explanation about what a live image is, how a device will be booted and won't affect the installed system, even what BIOS is and how you change the boot order (he never entered the BIOS setup before). All while insistently asked for my phone number, which I refuse to give away.

Fast forward one day, it seems like trying Fedora 16 Live was a failure: he gets a wallpaper and a mouse cursor, nothing else. I am showing a random screenshot from the web, trying to understand if he has a normal GNOME Shell empty desktop or is a deeper problem and this drives me to a large explanation on what GNOME, Unity, KDE, Xfce, LXDE are (and a statement of my desktop preference). I am asked again about my phone number and ignore the question. Then he wants to give Ubuntu a try, I don't have a problem with that but he has: the same empty desktop with no panel, no right-click menus, no nothing. If is not the display, then it may be video drivers (ATI), so I recommend either a newer Fedora (F17 RC1 is online) or VESA parameters for boot (me blaming AMD).

But this will happen another another day, today he has an important math test at school. Not before being asked again for my phone number (no, I won't be available this evening and in the week-end will be away in a photography trip) and since the download folder for F17 RC1 isos have two files, Desktop and KDE, I am supposed to recommend one. I can't, so I am ambiguous. To be continued.

Speaking about phone numbers, is not wise to give them easily... I gave my number recently to an another possible contributor under promise it will be used only for emergency (he's slightly older, at the age of 16, and a bit more experienced, with actually having run Ubuntu and Fedora before) and now I am called even for spam alerts or Deep Freeze problems, no matter the hour or the day.

PS: I am not even an Ambassador


  1. You don't wanna know how many of these kids we get on the Romanian Ubuntu Forums...

    Don't get me wrong, it's a good thing that they want to experiment with any GNU/Linux distribution, but they don't read any documentation, they just want you to do it for them. And after you help them a couple of times they ask you anything computer related as if you know everything or you are the only one that can read the f...f... fine manual.

    1. I know... we used to scare them away from Fedora by clearly targeting our distro at advanced users. Now we seem hungry for marketshare.
      Yes, we have a forum too, but I for one do not have the time to go there, I usually reply then I am approached by mail or IRC.