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These posts are the creation of Doran L. Barton (AKA Fozziliny Moo). To learn more about Doran, check out his website at fozzilinymoo.org.

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My dad the Linux geek (in the making)

Posted: 22 October 2007 at 13:44:00

A couple weeks ago, my Dad’s home computer had a familiar problem. Every once in a while, his computer — which runs Windows 2000 — would not boot. It would go a few seconds through the boot process and then stop with a blue screen and a message about the boot device not working.

This annoying problem has always been solved by booting off the Windows 2000 install CD, going to the Repair console, typing chkdsk /p, and rebooting. Works every time... or did.

This time, after going through that process, his computer went into a reboot loop, getting to a point in the boot process and then starting over with the computer POST.

I had told my dad before the next time I had to reinstall the operating system on his computer, it would not be Windows I’d be putting on it, unless he wanted to shell out the $100 or so for Windows XP.

Knowing how frugal my dad is, I knew that wasn’t going to happen.

So, it was time to migrate my Dad’s home computer to Linux. Fedora 7, to be exact. I already moved his office computer to Linux a couple years ago and he’s been fairly successful at getting work done on it. Part of the reason for that is that he really only does a few things on his computers:

  • Composes documents (OpenOffice)
  • Reads e-mail (Mozilla Thunderbird)
  • Browses web pages (Mozilla Firefox)
  • Plays Freecell... a lot (kpat)

On his home computer, he also does a few more things:

  • Scans of photos and documents
  • Downloads digital photos from his camera
  • Prints digital photos
  • Genealogy

Another problem I had to deal with is, running Windows, he’s been using WordPerfect Office as his office suite and has a large collection of files created in WordPerfect and QuatroPro.

In the past, OpenOffice did not handle WordPerfect files at all, but KOffice’s word process (kword) did a decent job of reading .WPD files. Since then, OpenOffice 2.2.x now has the ability to import WordPerfect documents, but not perfectly. For example, embedded graphics seem to be ignored completely. Since my dad doesn’t use very many embedded graphics, this is only a minor issue.

For scanning, I set him up with kooka which aims to be a fairly easy to use and is pretty intuitive. The OCR support is there, but I haven’t played with it very much yet.

For dealing with digital photos, digikam is very nice. When we tried to print digital photos to his HP photo printer, we could not get them to come out right. One frustration was that digikam uses the KIPI printwizard plugin which only offers a couple page sizes to choose from, none of which matched what we were looking for (4x6 photo paper).

I borrowed some 4x6 paper and told my dad I’d experiment and find a program he could use to print photos.

After experimenting with a bunch of programs (ksquirrel, gwenview, showimg, to name a few), I ended up going back to digikam. I discovered along the way that one of the page sizes digikam offered (10cm x 15cm) was actually what we wanted. That’s roughly 4-inches x 6-inches! Works great.

PAF 5, the program my dad used under Windows to do geneaology, is said to work fine under Wine. It installed fine, but I haven’t played with it to see how well it actually works. If the installation experience is any indication, it may work splendidly.