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Experiment: Neophyte versus Windows XP & Debian Woody

Out of personal curiosity, I will be conducting an experiment this
weekend that may perhaps turn into a larger project.

My very cooperative wife will be attempting to install Windows XP
Professional and then Debian Woody--both from scratch--on one of our
home computers.  

The impetus for this experiment hearkens back to my early days of Linux
use, less than a year ago.  At the time, I was using Microsoft Windows
(XP at work, 98SE/2000 at home) for all of my computing needs, despite
constant problems with crashing, BSODs, and general unproductivity.
Eventually I resolved to try GNU/Linux.  

Unlike most *nix newbies, the first distribution I tested was Debian
Woody.  After forty-five frustrating minutes, I gave up and headed to a
local bar for a pint of Guinness. Or five. 

After trying RedHat, SuSE, and Mandrake, I settled on the latter, as it
proved the easiest to install, finding and configuring all of my system
components without err.  Why the hell had I wasted my time with Woody's
archaic text-based installer?  Why would anyone want to use such a
hideous distribution?

Two months later, I--like so many others before me--came crawling back
to Debian, my hands weary from long hours spent fighting RPM dependency
hell, instability, package conflicts, and a general lack of consistency.
 Why the hell had I wasted two months with a distribution backed by no
clearly defined policy, that favored "newness" and sex-appeal over
stability and performance?  Why would anyone want to use anything *but*

Since my return to Debian, I have used it exclusively at home, on both
desktops and laptops, without regret.  For the first time, I can
actually <gasp> get things done with my systems, rather than constantly
fighting just to keep them functioning.

My wife is now in the same boat that I was a year ago: fed up with
Microsoft and ready for something different.  As a result, I will in the
coming months be teaching her what I have learned from personal
experience and from, especially, the inimitable Debian user community.

One of the biggest complaints lodged about Debian is that the
installation process proves difficult for most users and that Windows XP
is infinitely easier to get up and running.  Well, this weekend I plan
to test that claim.

My wife has only general experience with computer technology, using PCs
at work and home for word processing, email, and internet access.  She
has never installed an operating system from scratch, which makes her an
ideal candidate for such an experiment.  Is Windows XP truly easier to
install than Debian? What parts of each are the most confusing? The most

Time providing, I'll also follow how she progresses with getting each
system configured for her use, i.e. installing a word processor,
configuring a ppp dial-up connection, etc.

I'll post the results to this list (perhaps a weblog of sorts as well,
again, time providing) following the initial experiment.

I *must* be a geek to be excited about this already.  It's only Wednesday!

me Kirchhoff - "moai"

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