I just realized I'm certified as a Master now. I don't think that was the case just a few days ago. I'm not sure who put me over the top, but looking at my certifications, there are a significant number who call me a Master.
But just to be honest, I have written hardly any Free Software for quite some time. Most of my contributions to the community are in my writing - writing prose, not software. While I do contribute a little to ZooLib's sourcebase, I haven't even done that much of that. If you want to call me a Master for my writing (or my activism) well that's cool with me.
Turning a Family On to Free Software
Here's a seven-day plan to world domination - if every linux user took the trouble to install linux on a computer owned by someone who'd never used linux before, the number of linux users could double overnight. Of course it's important to teach them how to use it too.
I spent Canada Day preparing to install Debian Woody on my brother- and sister-in-law's PC. I say preparing and not actually installing because I wanted to leave their Win98 installation intact, but I was going to shrink the partition with GNU parted and I felt this was a dangerous thing to do. I also had never used parted before.
What I decided to do was backup their drive with Norton Ghost, a disk-imaging utility. While it's not in any way free, it's really a pretty good piece of software. You run a Windows utility that creates DOS boot disks that contain the drivers needed for accessing your archive device (a CD burner, or you can archive over a TCP/IP or USB connection), then boot off the floppy. Even though it's a DOS application, it has a pleasant GUI that you work with the mouse, and it understands FAT, NTFS, and ext2, and can make sector-by-sector archives of any partition.
Except I couldn't get it to work. I never had trouble with it before. But the CD's would burn for about a minute and then fail. So then I tried to make an image over ethernet with a crossover cable, but Ghost didn't come with a driver for my DEC Tulip ethernet, and I couldn't find one anywhere! For DOS I needed an NDIS2 driver for DEC 21143, and I couldn't find one. I even found a lot of old DEC drivers at HP's site (remember they bought compaq, who previously bought DEC) but there were no drivers for the Tulip. I spent an hour or two searching with Google, and couldn't find one.
Aha! I though, I have a CardBus ethernet card, a 3Com 575. I had the installation CD, which even had an NDIS2 driver - but it still wouldn't work, I think because I didn't have software to run CardBus on my DOS disks. Can anyone tell me how to make CardBus work under DOS?
I don't think I really need the DOS that Ghost installs, I could use DR-DOS, and I tried the dos that Win98 installs with "sys a:".
What the Heck, Let's Just Do It
So finally I suggested to Bruce that I resize his partition without backing up first. And he said "that's up to you". I was surprised, but it didn't seem to bother him. So I plunged ahead and resized with parted, and it worked fine, took just a couple minutes. A few more minutes and I had all my Linux partitions created, and I quit for the night.
Last night I went back and installed with an
unofficial woody netinstall CD and had very little trouble. The most time was taking up with a bad block scan, which the installer recommends you skip, but I always run anyway. I had previously downloaded
basedebs.tar and left it on the FAT partition which I mounted after I loaded the vfat filesystem module (so I could get the long windows filenames).
This all went very straightforward, but I got hungup on an all-too-familiar problem - Bruce's WinModem. I had given him a U.S. Robotics external modem a few years ago, but he had been using it on a 486, that had a 25-pin serial connector. When he got his new machine, I think it's a Pentium III or Celeron or something, it came with a WinModem and the newer style 9-pin serial cable. His old cable didn't fit, so he just used the WinModem. I didn't realize this or I would have brought a cable from home, where I have many cables.
No problem, I pop over to Radio Shack - it's right next door to Bruce's house in Grand Bank. They had a fair amount of computer stuff, but no serial cables! None at all! They had VGA, ethernet, USB and parallel cables, but no serial. How could this be, you ask? Because everyone around here uses windows, and they all use winmodems. Bruce is likely the first person in Grand Bank to get Linux, maybe the first person on the Burin Peninsula.
There's a couple computer stores a 40-minute drive away in Marystown, and when my wife gets up this morning we're going to go look for a cable. Bruce also has a couple of computer enthusiast friends who might have one. But I might have to order one to get express-shipped here. It's hard to buy uncommon things in rural Newfoundland. I once bought a $5 Mac serial cable for use here in Fortune, but couldn't find one for sale anywhere in Canada, so I paid $30 to have it FedExed from the United States.
Once I got the base install done, I sat down with Bruce to show him what you could do with the base system. There's actually a fair amount of software there - no GUI yet, and no emacs, but there is vi, and I could show him how dselect, man and info worked.
Everyone else in the family had been thinking me and Bruce were off onto some nerdy tangent until I gave them all accounts and asked them all to pick out passwords. Then I had them all practice logging in and out. They all seem pretty skeptical about using Linux, but it piqued their interest when I said they could get thousands and thousands of programs for it, all free.
Once I get it installed, I'm going to set up everyone's X startup script so it launches Mozilla when they log in, and I'll give them all a homepage that links to helpful resources both on the local hard drive and on the net. Among these will be
Linux: Rute User's Tutorial and Exhibition and
The Linux Cookbook, which is available as a Debian package in both HTML and info formats.
Finally, I'm going to buy Bruce a copy of
Running Linux. All these books were recommended on the debian-user list for beginners. I tried to buy Running Linux when I was in St. John's, but it wasn't available anywhere. Bruce and Brenda and their two daughters are coming down to Maine to visit us soon, and I'll get Bruce a copy down there.