The Move to Linux – “Daddy’s a penguin!”

It might come as a surprise that terms like Linux and Open Source and epithets like bloody Microsoft and it shouldn’t be this hard are fairly common in my household. And not always spoken by me!

Back in 2009, we acquired two Asus netbooks, one for me and one for my nine year-old daughter. It was not her first computer. Her first computer, now ready to come back to me is an old Packard Bell that has barely enough capacity to start Windows, but might make a good firewall, which is probably where it will end up once I get around to excavating it from the toy room. The netbooks came with Windows XP on them and one of the reasons I got it was to be able to put Linux on it, which I did almost immediately. But I left my daughter’s machine alone.

By the end of the year, I had already spend several hours beyond what I expected working with the January 2010 issue and our household was more Open Source focused than anything else. It was around this time that my daughter announced, I want the penguin! And she was not talking about a stuffed animal. She wanted me to convert her netbook to Linux, which I did during the Great Snowstorm of 2010. (The first couple of weeks in February 2010 in the Metro DC area saw more than 30 inches of snow dumped on them, which is more snow than the region had seen in years, if not decades. The final snow totals, of over 56 inches was a record for total snow fall in a year.) After her first day back to school, she said to me I told our computer teacher that I was using Linux at home and I asked if she could change the school PCs. She said they couldn’t because they had a contract with Microsoft. I nodded sagely and gave her a big hug for trying.

With each new convert, Linux joins the mainstream, but even that statement is not fair. Linux is mainstream. It is viable and it is used in hundreds, if not thousands of businesses, schools and governmental agencies every day. Yet we keep talking about the day the desktop will take over, or the day…

Maybe, instead of plotting the overthrow of Redmond, we should just be focusing on our own systems, one at a time. And let the nine year-olds tell us they want the penguin.


David Lane, KG4GIY is a member of Linux Journal's Editorial Advisory Panel and the Control Op for Linux Journal's Virtual Ham Shack


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crazy winter

koroshiya's picture

that was a crazy winter indeed, i can't remember the last time ive seen so much snow, (northern va resident) glad you and your daughter have made the switch, i think most current distribution of linux are just as if not more user friendly than windows.

Boys and girls

Antero's picture

I stopped using Windows almost 2 years ago. It looks like my 18 years old older son is still living with mainstream Windows while youger son has adopted Linux-distros pretty well. My daughter said immediately after first weeks with Linux that "Linux works much better than Windows".

The point is that my older sun is a mainstream bandwagoner who can't make his own choices. He has rather poor self-esteem. And still he should have remember what terrible and unstabile OS Windows Xp was. And Win98 before that.

I'm not gonna enlighten my childen coz i believe in theory of "burned hand as the best teacher". But somehow i feel sorry about the oldest son being to painfully naiive believing all that M$-Wov-bullshit.

Windows free, at least personally, for almost 5 years

aitd's picture

I gave Windows the final boot about 5 years ago. All of my personal machines are Linux; Ubuntu servers, Kubuntu, Linux Mint populate the production boxes. I also admin 7 Linux servers at work. My bride still uses Windows 7, but that is OK. I advocate open source, linux, and choice, her choice is valid.

At work it is a different story. I get paid to provide Windows support, but even there I use Linux to get things done.

ive been using windows for

CoolAmp's picture

ive been using windows for years now, it just so happened that last week i came across a copy of Linux Journal. it was almost a sign as just prior my pc went on the fritz. ive decided to fore go fry's for my next pc. this time im gonna start from scratch and install ubuntu.

re: I've been using windows for...

SkippyX's picture

If your old pc is anything even relatively modern I'd suggest Linux Mint. Mint has the multimedia codecs already built into it.

Multimedia can be a pain in the butt for *nix n00bs. With Linux Mint you don't have to sweat that, at least.

Regarding the "relatively modern" bit:

I just did a Linux Mint install for a friend of a friend. She only intended to use the PC for web surfing, paying bills online, exchanging e-mail (via webmail), some typing, some printing & the store digital photos. She has an HP all-in-one printer, an HP digital camera.

The computer is a 2.4 GHz P4 w/ 512 MB RAMBUS. An old Dell Dimension. The install was a breeze and she was thrilled w/ the result.

I don't know if I'd run it on anything less than 512 MB, and I'm not too sure how it will run on a sub-2.0 GHz machine. I do know that I just did a debian desktop on a 1.7 GHz Celeron w/ 512 MB PC133. It runs fast enough for my purposes.

I hope you have fun. You'll be amazed what you can do w/ it if you want to. Your only limitation will be your desire to pursue learning - not your pocketbook.

That's what open source is all about.

The Friendly Neighbourhood Geek !!!

Ankit's picture

In my house we have two laptops, one netbook, a lovely lady (who for some unknown reason (she likes to call it love) agreed to marry me) and our 3 year old daughter. All converted !!!

Switching to Linux was a conscious yet gradual decision for me. I admire the concept of Open Source and truly believe that this is the best way to serve humanity at many different levels.

Now my daughter seems to like the penguin a lot as in her own words - "Penguin is soooo cute daddy"...and then all the great stuff on Edubuntu attracts her and she experiments with the netbook more often.

My wife has become fond of Ubuntu and now only boots into KUBUNTU more often as it boots quicker and browsing is a breeze and she does not have to worry about virus or spyware while looking for new recipes online.

For me, most important and useful bit was KMyMoney. What a wonderful piece of software to manage and keep track of finance and way better than it's windows counterparts.

I have one of my neighbours converted too. He got into virus problem on his machine and I told him while I can fix this u will land in similar situation unless u put some money on a decent Antivirus and take excessive care while satisfying your fantasies or I can install ubuntu and you wont know the difference. He liked the idea of no spend and asked me to go ahead with ubuntu.

He has been using it since new year and is very happy. He checks with me every now and then but his use it did not matter what OS he had. It took me 15 minutes to explain how to login, access mozilla and use facebook and access his fav sites in anonymous mode. :)

News flies...and here I am "The Friendly Neighborhood Geek"....LOL

How I switched to LINUX

Abbey's picture

Well thats an interesting story, back in November 2009, I joined a new job, I work at a Reception. its a boring job when there is nothing to do. My supervisor was not giving me windows password. I had heard about linux live cd, so I downloaded Fedora live cd and booted that computer from live cd and it worked for me, since then I've switched to Linux. I like ubuntu. Still my supervisor doesn't know that I use that computer daily. Linux Rocks!!!!!!

Family all using Linux and (Mac)

Anonymous's picture

We have 4 Ubuntu Koala's in our household.

They are very friendly and don't make a mess

Linux is limitless. Sure

sell gold's picture

Linux is limitless. Sure Photoshop has no equivalent for ease of use. Gimp is there but interface is kinda geeky.

Another Oldie Using Linux

Another Oldie Using Linux's picture

Love that Linux Mint. I have been free of Windows for about 2 years now. If only I could get my wife off of Windows! Free at 56.

The Linux Switch

Dane's picture

I am currently working on my MCSE/MCSA certification through Mikersoft, and about a month ago, I decided to take the total tux plunge. I have since converted each of my computers at home over to Linux, and I must say that I'm extremely pleased. Of course, not everything worked exactly right out of the box, but I must say that I have not really had to work too hard at getting it to work. GO TUX!!

You want "right out of the

Anonymous's picture

You want "right out of the box" freshness? The KDE flavor of PCLinuxOS and the Gnome flavor of Linux Mint beat both Windows and Mac in an unpublished Consumer Reports taste test. Get yourself a sip from a LiveCD.

Penguin from Downunder

Anonymous's picture

I am the Penguin guru for two grannies and two of my grown kids, all of them have been 'Ubuntued' since Jaunty. Guru life for me is very easy at the moment which is vastly different to battling the constant malware issues of the faulty Microsoft systems foisted upon us for years.I have set up the kids with Wine and VMs for those absolutely essential windoz applications they can't live without.The two grannies are happy to not have to be eternally vigilant for viruses/malware etc ... they can concentrate on craft and working .... one granny is learning how to drive Joomla to help out her community arts group (she is now my Joomla guru),two years ago she had never heard of Linux. All this reliability and stability is important to me, one granny is 50 km away, one son is 1600 km away and my daughter is 2200 km away, I can't afford to see them so often, to be hands on so to speak.Thanks for reading, I hope my note is of interest.

year of the linux desktop?

Sassinak's picture

2007, if you ask me! My 2 daughters are sure to grow up on linux. I put WinXP in a Virtualbox for school. I must admit I use it for printing too since my canon printer's linux setup is very convoluted. My next printer will be linux-compatible! When I get to upgrade my computer, I will be sure to carry my favorite live-cd with me to test out the hardware. I'd like to see the store clerk stop me!

Would Like to Convert my Laptop but...

Current Windows User's picture

I've yet to find good information on the web that can reassure me that when I convert I won't lose EVERYTHING saved on my laptop, and walk me through the process. I can back up my hard drive unto my external drive, but again, how can I be sure that I'll be able to re-install everything on my laptop post-conversion. Anyhow, if anyone can point me to a good guide on how to do this, I'd be game to switch ASAP.

I am not sure I really

Anonymous's picture

I am not sure I really understand your concerns. A simple google search (migrate from windows to linux) or visit of newsgroup will bring you the answers to your worries. Coming from Windows world, reading instead of clicking "Next" or "Restart Now" will certainly be a different experience. A positive and learning one.
I think there is an abyssal misunderstanding here: "how can I be sure that I'll be able to re-install everything on my laptop post-conversion." If you do mean will I be able to play my video or read my word document, yes. Surf the web, watch my online and all Yes. You can even do more than you can think. Linux is limitless. Sure Photoshop has no equivalent for ease of use. Gimp is there but interface is geeky.
Good luck in your google search and reading. Learning is a long life experience.

Be Bold!

Sassinak's picture

Back up data. Insert live-cd (go with Mint, it's easiest). Boot. Follow instructions. If at first you don't succeed, find a linux user group (a LUG) near you and ask one of the Geeks to help you.
Enjoy yourself immensely from then on and brag about it to all your sheepish friends. Then contribute back to the community.

A Linux-MOM.

Using Linux

anonymous's picture

Nice article...
I am 78 years old, and have been dual booting for a little over four years. I use Ubuntu and MS Windows XP pro. In the beginning (for me) there were things that Windows could do better and easier than Linux. Over the months and years, that list has been drastically reduced. In fact,from my outlook, the only thing left in which MS out-performs Linux is in the gaming area, and I am not too sure if that isn't because most of the great games are written for Windows.
Open source, what a grand and wonderful conception.

Yep the two teenagers, the 6-year old and I use it exlusively

Anonymous's picture

Yep the two teenagers, the 6-year old (alls Edubuntu) and I use it exclusively (CentOS) now for some years now; they don't even use the WinXP VM's placed on the machines at all either though they know these are there. I needed something to run FORTRAN tools well and I was sick of the kids registry/malware corruption and cleaning revolving door. The 6-year preferred the GCompris suite, OO for Kids, and the warm colors of Edubuntu over WinXP. The wife is back in in the dual-boot stage with Win7 and OpenSUSE "Lizard Linux", with more and more time doing things in the peguien (and after a Win7 corruption incident last December on her just 2-week old laptop, having all the data stored in the Linux side...The sister-in-law is frustrated with her XP machine's registry rot on her rather dated machine, so I handed her a Puppy, Lubuntu, and Damn Small Linux CD's and stated try these just boot with them in the CD drive and try things. Seems like she might be starting on the dual boot path soon....

Years later...

Interpolated Waffles's picture

Here's betting when she becomes a teenager she'll switch back to Windows just to spite you. This whole thing reminds me of something else. Gee... you take your child to church every Sunday, tell them Jesus loves them, and guess what? They're a Christian! Hardly a unique event, but fellow believers can share the joy of knowing that yet another person is following in their choices. After all, isn't that what life is all about anyway? Oh, and of course feeling morally superior to those on the outside.

That's completely back to front

Gerry's picture

As a member of the church of Microsoft and the catholic church for two much of my life, I can tell you that releasing my mind from both of them was quite a similar experience. I suddenly was aware of the reality of the world and going back to using Windows would be on the same level as starting to go back to believing in an invisible man in the sky, it just ain't gonna happen, I'm not going back to the pain or stupidity of either and neither will his daughter unless she is a masochist.

The only indoctrination happening to his daughter is by the school who is forcing it's students to use Windows because of a bribe from Microsoft. If this man was trying to indoctrinate his daughter he would have forced her to use it, not leave Windows on the machine and send her to a Christian school... sorry I mean Microsoft school. She was the one who came to him and asked him to install it.

Conveniently ambiguous

El Perro Loco's picture

Is your comment an invitation to discuss religion here?

9 and 4 years old (plus two 40ish) using Linux

Anonymous's picture

Our three PCs (on netbook, one laptop and one desktop) all use Linux (in various distros). These PCs are used by my wife, and my two daughters (4 and 9 years old), for surfing the Internet, using e-mails, offices applications, ... and games.
For Window$ games, I use virtualisation (so at least I can revert back to a stable stage when Window$ is crashing, which happens more than there are snow flakes in the last Great Snowstorm of 2010 :-))
We still use Windows and Macs (at work or school)...


LS's picture

My wife has an old XP notebook she uses. My 2 year old thinks computing is Ubuntu and my wife often uses Linux for Internet.
OO .docx import saves her trouble. Netbook now with Lucid 10.04
HD TV, printing, 3G .... everything 4 out of 5 machines all Linux. No pc security worries either.

Our children are tomorrow's adults

apexwm's picture

Great article. I too use Linux solely in our house, except for one PC which is Windoze. I only have this one PC left, because of the kids' games. Unfortunately, some of the Windoze games for kids are coded so horribly, that they do not run in Wine. However more advanced games for older kids and adults seem to work fine. I migrated from Windows XP on 2 of our computers over 2 years ago to Fedora Linux 10. Since then, I couldn't be happier. I got fed up with having to maintain our Windows XP machines. Constant problems. Now that we are on Linux, it's smooth sailing.

The key here is to introduce our children to Linux. Let them get used to it, they are the ones that will be growing up into tomorrow's adults. Children are excellent learners. Even though many adults are scared of Linux, our kids use Linux like the back of their hand.

The best kind

Dragonbite's picture

If nothing else, the fact your daughter brought up running Linux to you instead of having it handed to her with no input says a lot!

We have one Windows 7 machine in the house, and the only person other than me to "ask" for it is my 7 year old son. I asked him why he likes it, and he says "because it's new". We'll see how long that sentiment holds out when the next version of Ubuntu is installed! ;)

Ironically, one thing that helps to maintain Linux on the desktop is.. games! Most of the games the kids are using are Flash based, otherwise they don't really have an opinion about specific games yet.

The funny thing I've found is that when they are on Windows, the applications the kids are drawn to is Paint and Word. Why Word? Because they like to mix text with clip art!

Meanwhile, my wife is "making friends" with OpenOffice, but the program she misses is MS Publisher, especially for different forms and handling text/picture layouts. Scribus is not as "easy" to put things together.

Meanwhile I'm hopping between 3 linux distros on my laptop. :)

The Move to Linux – “Daddy’s a penguin!”

Jean Chicoine's picture

"Windows is stupid!", that's what my 9 year old says. She's been on Ubuntu Linux for almost two years now. She plays her Zoo Tycoon 2 games, a Microsoft product, on Wine, she manages her iPod with gtkPod, "iTunes is dumb!", that's another one of her sayings. At her school they use Windows and like your daughter she told the teacher that it be better if everybody switched to Linux. Her friends who come to visit always marvel at the way she customized her Ubuntu (à la Princess Pink!) and how easy it is to navigate through the system and the programs. She tried to convert her mom to Linux (my daughter lives with me and visits with her mom on weekends), but to no avail, her mom is "stuck" on Windows, like my daughter says.
Children and the penguin: they get along very well!

Happy pictures make dada crazy

David Lane's picture

When the Windows 7 Happy Pictures campaign came out (the kid had to be cute because the ad was just so ... I wanted to break things), my daughter kept laughing at it and saying that happy pictures make dada crazy, because I had just converted a couple of systems to 7 from Vista and was less than impress with its performance.

I would convert mom, but she has compatibility issues with work and occasionally brings work home (in the form of Project and Visio, two of my more favorite programs that sadly we really do not have good solutions for yet), so there you go.

David Lane, KG4GIY is a member of Linux Journal's Editorial Advisory Panel and the Control Op for Linux Journal's Virtual Ham Shack

Linux for Mom

The Wife's picture

And since the likelihood of my company going to Linux is right up there with African countries winning Winter Olympic medals. Heck, got a brand new laptop on lease for the next 2 years...they wiped the Vista it came with and installed Windows XP...cause of compatibility issues.


elec's picture

I just wanted to say that your daughter is awesome. The day I have kids, I'll be sending them to you for their upbringing :)

Blue Painters Tape

David Lane's picture

'nuff said ;-)

David Lane, KG4GIY is a member of Linux Journal's Editorial Advisory Panel and the Control Op for Linux Journal's Virtual Ham Shack


El Perro Loco's picture


I know I'm acting like a fastidious, picky, finicky, fault-finding curmudgeon, but the first paragraph of your post is kinda... well, faulty.

"It might come as a surprise that terms like Linux and Open Source and epiphytes like bloody Microsoft and it shouldn’t be this hard are fairly common in my household. And not always spoken by me!" Read it without the italics, as it appeared on the home page, and try to make sense of it. It is difficult, and maybe single quotes should have been used instead of italics, so the distinction of the relevant words and expressions would be preserved with the upright typeface/font.

And, second, you really mean "epitets", right? An "epiphyte" is "a plant that grows above the ground, supported nonparasitically by another plant or object, and deriving its nutrients and water from rain, the air, dust, etc."

Sorry, I am just in a very bad mood today and I think I decided to take it out on the first available victim - which happened to be you... :-) But I really appreciate your writing on LJ! Thanks!

you're weird

Anonymous's picture

You knew what he meant, but wanted to correct/publically humiliate him anyway. You're that crazy OLD troll that comes to these pages to complain about everything Linux and Linux Journal.

We're onto you, El Perro Loco, and your negativity/hate that you throw around here.

Grump, grump, grump...

David Lane's picture

But thanks and yes, I meant epithets.

David Lane, KG4GIY is a member of Linux Journal's Editorial Advisory Panel and the Control Op for Linux Journal's Virtual Ham Shack


David Lane's picture

You're right. I should have, but I did not. And there were a couple of games at the time that she was playing that did not run on Linux. But now she is converted. And converting those around her ;-)

David Lane, KG4GIY is a member of Linux Journal's Editorial Advisory Panel and the Control Op for Linux Journal's Virtual Ham Shack

The Move to Linux

smotsie's picture

I almost agree, but why did you let your poor daughter languish in Windows World when you could have upgraded her computer straight away? I bought my (then) 9 year-old an Acer Aspire One with Linpus on it, and then switched to Ubuntu Netbook Remix a while ago.

She, like so many others, doesn't care what the OS is, but really appreciates that when she tries to do something, it is usually quite easy to do in Linux. I haven't really taught her anything since the first "this is a mouse and it moves that pointer" at age about 3, and she is far from geeky, but kids just "get" Linux because they don't get hung up on "Where's the start button I'm used to?".

Next up I am moving my 80 year old Dad to the delights of the Penguin. No dual boot, no live CD, just swap the hard disk and keep his if he really can't cut it after a month, and begs me. Somehow, I know that he won't!


Grey Muzzles Using Linux

SkippyX's picture

A few years ago I got tired of regularly "fixing" my fathers PC, so I suggested he give Linux a go.

I stuck another hard drive into the box and installed Ubuntu Edgy. I then instructed him how to select the appropriate OS at boot-up and left him with a stern warning to only us Linux when online and only take the MS OS online when he absolutely had to. He was in his mid-late 60s at the time.

He's 70 now, and is still running a dual-boot. MS is only up when grandkids are over and want to play one of the educational games grandma loves to pick up. My father uses Ubuntu (Karmic) exclusively now.

An added plus is he has old-guy geek cred w/ his buddies.