Non-nerd upgrading intolerable Windows 8... to Linux Mint

My brother (from the US) left today after a quick visit with our family tacked on to a business trip. He'd brought two laptops with him - a big old near-death workhorse (running Windows 7) and his small, new Asus (running Windows 8.1). My bro didn't know what OSs or versions were on the laptop - unlike me, he's no tech geek, he's a biologist and ornithologist... he just knew he hated the new laptop. He never used it while it was here, despite it being more powerful than his old one (and hey, it has a touch screen! Upon reflection, my bro can't figure out why you'd want one, but apparently seemed like a good idea when he was buying it).

Eventually, almost in jest (he's really not a tech guy) I said, "well, we could just wipe Windows 8.1 off it and install this Linux Mint that I run on all our computers in the house... it's pretty sweet!" To my surprise, he said "Yeah, all right. Just get rid of that Windows rubbish." (despite his resigned tone, I was bursting with fraternal pride to hear him talk like that. Also, to be fair, must of the annoyance with Windows 8.1 was the vendor-installed "crapware" his machine was riddled with, but that's the reality for most computer users).

So, about 10 minutes later, I had a USB key with the latest Mint (17.3) iso (64 bit, Cinnamon) and was installing it on his machine (after asking him several times "are you sure you want to do this?" Sort of like getting a tattoo, I suppose... He was unwavering). The install was uneventful and done in about 10 minutes (he even did most of it himself as I worked nearby).

Afterwards he started looking at the software that came with it, and I showed him the Software Centre and explained some of the many ways in which Linux differs from Windows, particularly the idea that all the software on it is open source, is installed from known trusted "mirrors" (servers world wide which hold trusted copies of the 70,000 or so Linux Mint and Ubuntu software application packages (Linux Mint is a relatively minor modification of the underlying Ubuntu system, which in turn, is built on the Debian Linux system - you get that sort of thing in the open source world, where people can share good ideas) you can install with a few mouse clicks or a single command line if you're that way inclined) rather than going to various websites and installing stuff willy-nilly (typically after paying for the privilege) like happens in the Windows world.

The biggest niggle early on: the touch pad didn't properly "disable" while he was typing. That might require a bit of configuration tweaking. Interestingly, the touch screen (and everything else) worked very well, out of the box.

Then he said: "so how do I access my iTunes?"...

Ugh. Frickin' Apple and their horrible iTunes.

Luckily the solution was remarkably straightforward... In a few minutes, we'd installed VirtualBox and an image of Windows 7. Now all he has to do is go back to the place where he bought the computer and argue to exercise his right for a "downgrade" to a Windows 7 activation code. Will be interesting to see how they respond... Yeah, it's a hassle, all this proprietary licensing artificial scarcity stuff - in my experience, life's far better just not using software that puts its users through that pointless rubbish.

So the experiment is now set up - I'll be interested to see it run its course. I'll report back when I hear more...


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