Sat Apr 9, 2011

This won't be a long entry, but I still have to get it down out of my head before long.

I had this 24 inch iMac around for a few years. Got it back when 2GB of ram was a lot and a 2.4 Ghz single core was blazingly fast. Played around with it for a while and it served well for various design tasks. When I switched gears to more development than design a couple of years ago, I also put together a modest Linux machine. It actually started out with worse specs than the Mac. A much smaller hard drive, 1GB of ram and I forget how fast the processor was. Definitely not very; I remember getting the cheapest AMD I could find. It could grow though. I've always liked tinkering and building machines, but having used Macs through my university years made me forget how much fun it was for a little while. Before long, I was tuning and tweaking again. A slightly better processor here, a bit more ram there. Eventually, SSDs got cheap enough that I could afford a small one. The Linux machine began to rival, and eventually surpass the shiny giant.

I kept the Mac as a design machine, just to run Photoshop/Illustrator and (occasionally) Flash. After about half a year of this, I realized that my time was spent primarily in Emacs on the Linux machine and secondarily in a browser/terminal (on either machine). The miniscule remainder was actually using Photoshop/Illustrator. I had also taken up GIMP for smaller jobs, just so I wouldn't have to switch back and forth between computers. It became obvious that as shiny as it was, the Apple desktop wasn't doing much for me, so I gave it to my fiancee. She fell in love with it, not that she would admit that as a former Windows user. And I mean "user" in the sense of "end user". A computer is a tool that lets her do the stuff she's really interested in. She doesn't care how it functions on the inside, as long as it does what she wants it to. In any case, she got quite comfortable with the Apple setup in short order.

Well, earlier today, the Mac died.

She was doing something with her Kindle when it shut down randomly. It wouldn't come back up, or respond to any of the start-up keys, and it wouldn't boot from its installation DVD either. So we were staring down the OS X equivalent of the blue screen of death. The problem potentially wasn't as simple as the hard drive getting borked. Given that the mere process of replacing a hard drive for one of these units involved supplies we'd have to go shopping for, she decided she'd just switch1. She wouldn't go back to Windows, so I got her onto Ubuntu without much convincing.

Ok, that was the background. Here's the story.

I mentioned being a graphic designer. Actually that should probably say "Graphic Designer" because I have the degree to back up those capitals. So when I say that I underestimated the importance of UI on the decision making of end-users, understand the implications.

She was intensely disappointed by pretty much everything she's seen of other Linux machines, so I more or less gave up on turning this into a house that respects the four freedoms2. The thing that ended up placating her is, and I shit you not, [cairo-dock](http://glx-dock.org/) set to auto-start at login with the spaces widget removed and the trash icon enabled. OpenOffice is close enough to Word for the stuff she does, rhythmbox syncs with her iPod and her browser of choice is available. She still wants Photoshop, so I may need to resort to some VirtualBox shenanigans, but I'm hoping to get her using GIMP instead. Those are nitpicks though. It turns out that dock and the iPod syncing were the deal-breakers.

This isn't meant to be funny, by the way. It's here to serve as a reminder of how small a change it takes for an end user to willingly switch.

  1. It's still not incidentally. As I said, she owns a Kindle, and an iPod from a while back, but our desktops are now all open source software and commodity hardware.

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