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Re: Debian Desktop for a Joe Average

on Sun, Sep 28, 2003 at 11:19:06AM +1200, Edward Murrell (edward@murrell.co.nz) wrote:
> Hi there,
> A friend of mine has had Windows installed for over a year. He's getting
> somewhat sick of it due to the recent spate of virus and spyware that's
> rendered his machine unusable. He's asked me to reinstall Windows, and
> Linux in a dual boot configuration.
> The problem is this; while I've been running Debian on the desktop for
> over two years, a large proportion of the average Joe desktop stuff has
> never graced my machine. I've never seriously looked at any hotplug,
> automounting, gui configuration tools, hardware auto-detection, or any
> of the other little things that make an OS 'easy' for non-tech people.
> I'm hoping for a list of applications and software that people have come
> across which has worked (properly) every time. I am doing my own
> research, but I'm hoping other people may know something that I don't
> find.
> I'm aiming at a GNOME desktop, but am perfectly happy to recommend KDE
> if the applications support is better.
> * Things that I'm seeking information on specifically;
> * Automount of CD's for KDE. (Gnome has magicdev)

apt-get install autofs.  Edit /etc/auto.misc to automount CDROM and
floppy devices on access.

> * Automount / appear on desktop, of USB / firewire devices.

Not sure.

> * Video editing/collection applications. The guy has a Sony digital cam,
> and likes to rip and edit movies. Connects via USB and/or firewire.

> * Versions of GNOME 2.x, and KDE 3.x that are stable - and that goes for
> the bundled applications as well. I like the bleeding edge, but the
> average user is not so forgiving.

You're going to have to compromise between "stable" and "cutting edge".
I'd stick with the current stuff, and upgrade to 2.x / 3.x when they are

This and other "upgrade when it's available" issues are why I'd
recommend a Debian-based distribution.  If not Debian itself, then
Libranet, Lindows, Xandros, and the now-defunct general-public
distributions from Corel, Progeny, and Stormix. 

A more complete listing, though it includes a number of defunct
products, is here:


> * Automagical detection of hardware.

Look into kudzu, available for Debian.

> * Something to handle screen resolution changes.


Unfortunately, until very recently, not something handled well by X11.

> * DHCP for the network, overridable by the ppp (dial-up modem)
> connection that doesn't hold up the system if no DHCP server is
> available.

dhcp-client or pump.

> * An apt-get shell that lists applications, rather than packages (this
> probably doesn't exist).

Currently your best bet is Synaptic.

> * Basic image editing software (preferably not something as complicated
> as the GIMP).

Well, there's the GIMP.  And I'd recommend it.  Or TuxPaint, which is
aimed at kids.
> * Those apps and libs you don't notice until you discover you forgot to
> install them - like gnome-spell.

Viva la apt.  That's the magick of Debian.

> * Anything anyone else can think of.

Your friend sounds like a good candidate for a prepackaged distribution.
I'm hearing good "reviews" (e.g.:  installation diaries) for Lindows.  I
don't know how readily it converts to full-on Debian.

Some of the stuff you don't mention:

  - Fonts.  You'll want the msttcore fonts (installer in Debian, fonts
    are on Sourceforge).  And the freely available fonts someone
    packaged for GNU/Linux and free software.

  - Multimedia support.  Patents are the major issue here.  mplayer
    supports pretty much anything, but has legal issues.  3rd party DEBs
    are available.

  - Sound daemon.  Getting a daemon installed means handling sound from
    multiple sources at once.
  - Browser.  There are several choices.  Starting anew, I'd probably
    look hard at Firebird and Konqueror.  I've been a *VERY* happy
    Galeon user through 1.2.5.  More recently, Galeon has done some
    incredibly brain-dead stuff in the name of GNOME compatibility,
    largely being feature removal.  about: is your friend.

  - WINE and/or Crossover Office.  Realizing that binary Win32
    compatibility has its place, you may want to look at a compatibility
    tool which lets you run legacy MS Windows software on GNU/Linux.
    Crossover Office and/or WINE go a long way to this goal.

There's still a bit of work to go before an absolute drop-in replacement
is available.  GNU/Linux absolutely *can* be used as a primary user
desktop.  It shouldn't be pitched as a legacy MS Windows replacement
because it's not -- there are some things it doesn't do as well, and
there are a large number of things it does far better.  View it for its
strengths, be realistic about its weaknesses.


Karsten M. Self <kmself@ix.netcom.com>        http://kmself.home.netcom.com/
 What Part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?
   LNX-BBC:  Bootable GNU/Linux -- Don't leave /home without it.

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